West Palm mayor: Climate accord withdrawal ‘downright troubling’


Muoio

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — who recently chaired a Senate subcommittee hearing in West Palm on sea level change — raised their voices against President Trump’s decision Thursday to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alexander Acosta, who Trump recently appointed U.S. Labor Secretary, supported the President’s decision.

Said Muoio:
“The announcement that the U.S. is withdrawing from the historic Paris Climate Accord is more than a disappointment. It is downright troubling. This move signals that the U.S. will no longer be a leader on climate change and rolls back the commitments made to protect South Florida and the world from the harmful effects of CO2 emissions that lead to climate change. The City of West Palm Beach will continue to move forward as a model of resilience. We will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.”

Muoio, along with the city’s Office of Sustainability, has been a strong supporter of city measures to address climate change and sea level rise.

A release from the Mayor’s office noted that, in anticipation of the White House announcement, she:

  • Signed a joint letter by the Global Covenant of Mayors in support of climate change action.
  • Signed a joint letter by Climate Mayors to the UNFCC in support of climate change action.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, in April chaired a two-hour-long hearing in West Palm Beach city hall of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, of which he is ranking member. Nelson introduced the hearing by noting that, with 1,200 miles of coastline, and three-quarters of its residents living near its coasts, Florida is more vulnerable than any other state in the continental U.S. to rising sea levels already causing increasingly frequent flooding.

On Thursday Nelson decried on the President’s decision to withdraw from the climate agreement:

“This is a huge mistake. Sea-level rise caused by the Earth heating up is a real threat to Florida. If the U.S. isn’t going to do its part to combat climate change, then the rest of the world won’t do theirs and millions of Floridians living along the coast will be at risk.”

Congresswoman Lois Frankel, former mayor of West Palm Beach, echoed those sentiments:

“Leaving the Paris Climate Agreement is both dumb and dangerous. Americans should lead the way in the mission to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our planet for future generations. Abandoning this agreement ignores the fact that an overwhelming number of scientists believe that human beings are significant contributors to global warming, a condition that will negatively affect our health, economy, and national security.

“Rejection of the Paris Agreement puts us at odds with and sends a message of contempt to the nearly 200 countries that signed the treaty. It also puts the United States at a disadvantage in the race to produce green technology and the millions of American jobs that would come with it. I am hopeful that our local and state governments, businesses large and small, and individual citizens of good conscience will rebuke this ill-advised action by President Trump with their own efforts to meet what many call the greatest challenge facing human survival,” Frankel said.

Standing with Trump was U.S. Secretary of Labor Acosta, who said he and the president are committed to supporting policies that grow jobs and stimulate the economy.

“The United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord is this administration’s bold commitment to promoting pro-growth principles and rebuilding America’s manufacturing base, which was under siege by the Paris accord,” Acosta said in a prepared statement. “The U.S. Department of Labor remains laser focused on ensuring all Americans have access to good, safe jobs and will continue standing arm-in-arm with the American worker.”

 

Festival del Mar at science museum June 17

Festival del Mar, on June 17, starts at 11 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. at the South Florida Science Center. (contributed)

The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, in partnership with the Caritas Smile Charity, invites locals to splash into sea science during the third annual Festival del Mar on Saturday, June 17.

The event aims to engage the local Latin American community and promote ocean conservation and education worldwide. The day will include cultural performances, arts and crafts, family Zumba, bilingual planetarium shows and a story time.

Festival del Mar also aims to encourage Latin Americans to pursue a career in a science field.

“Statistics show Latinos are significantly less likely to earn a degree in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields, compared to their Caucasian peers,” said Lew Crampton, museum president and CEO.

Caritas Smile surprises children in need with gifts at hospitals, schools and orphanages as well as offering service mission trips to Dominican Republic and Nicaragua for university students and volunteers called Take a Trip Change a Life. The charity empowers, educates and provides programming to communities around the globe.

Festival del Mar starts at 11 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. at the South Florida Science Center, 4801 Dreher Trail N. Admission is $15 for non-member adults and free for children under 12 and Science Center members. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Admission includes access to the latest traveling exhibit, Amazing Butterflies.

‘Point A to Point B’ traffic forum set for Monday

(Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

West Palm Beach City Commissioner Shanon Materio, Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard and Town of Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio are hosting “Getting from Point A to Point B,” a public forum Monday, May 22, to address growing public concerns about traffic.

The event starts 8:30 a.m. at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. Attendees are encouraged to preregister.

The forum seeks to identify factors contributing to traffic in West Palm and the town with a collaborative, solution-based approach. The interactive discussions will include pedestrian safety, factors contributing to the growing traffic congestion and future development. The Florida Department of Transportation will join the workshop, as will the county’s engineer.

Many agencies are involved in West Palm’s traffic issue, from the state, which controls Okeechobee Boulevard, to the city which controls the lights, and roads north and south, the town, which needs access through the bridges, to the Coast Guard, which controls bridge openings, Materio said Wednesday. Then there are the trains, whose crossings affect traffic many times a day — and more, when Brightline service begins.

 

“We’re showing we can work in a collaborative effort and we’re encouraging community to be active participants, she said.

West Palm has hired a consult to undertake a mobility study of Okeechobee Boulevard and downtown, also to seek solutions in light of continuing development. The results of that study are due out later this year.

“The mobility study is just part of this and that’s just one piece,” Materio added. “There’s no one silver bullet.”

 

“As a community, we have seen an increase in traffic and congestion that desperately needs to be addressed,” Coniglio said. “Getting from Point A to Point B is about identifying and addressing the issues that are clearly impacting all of the surrounding communities as well as finding long-term solutions.”

“Traffic issues have been a rising problem along the Okeechobee corridor,” Bernard said. “The city can’t function during rush hour when a bridge goes up or a train goes by. There has been a growing voice from the public asking for local officials to take action to improve the traffic situation in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. The county is proud to participate in what we hope will be a fruitful discussion resulting in realistic solutions to the complex traffic problems that plague our community.”

The public is encouraged to preregister for Monday’s event by visiting http://www.PBCtraffic.com. Attendees can also submit questions and concerns to be addressed during the workshop.

Boost for pollution-fixing Everglades protection plan

 

Kimberly Mitchell

The Everglades Trust is hailing as a major victory the Florida House passage Tuesday of  Senate President Joe Negron’s plan for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to filter and feed water to the parched River of Grass.

The House passed the plan 99-19, following in the Senate’s footsteps.

“With the passage of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan’s reservoir, which was approved and authorized by Congress in 2000, the legislature advances to the Governor the long-awaited and urgently-needed Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir legislation for his signature,” the nonprofit, led by former West Palm Beach Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell, said in a statement released this afternoon. “Today marks the most significant victory for Everglades restoration in more than two decades.”

“This is a very big day,” Mitchell said.

Keep Florida Fishing, advocates for the American Sportfishing Association, also hailed passage of the plan, saying it would provide money to speed creation of the reservoir to reduce fertilizer-contaminated releases to coastal estuaries.

The vote also drew praise from U.S. Sugar and Florida Sugarcane Farmers, who strongly opposed earlier versions that would have required more farmland be taken out of production to build the reservoir.

“Senate Bill 10 has been greatly improved, takes essentially no privately owned farmland and even removes the threat of eminent domain,” Judy Sanchez, Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for U.S. Sugar, said.

“The House deserves credit for quickly passing legislation that can provide some protection for our water resources while also protecting our farming communities and vital food production.”

She added: “U.S. Sugar always supports solutions that are based on science, which, in this case shows the source of the water significantly impacting the coastal estuaries flows from north of Lake Okeechobee, not the south.  Obviously, you’re going to have to build some solutions north of the lake to finally fix the discharge problem.  We look forward to working with legislators in the future to get that done.”

Florida Sugarcane Farmers also issued a statement praising the lawmakers for not taking private farmland out of production.

“While not perfect, Senate Bill 10 will ensure the planned reservoir is eventually completed on existing state-owned land,” the farmers group said. “Having turned the page on buying additional land south of Lake Okeechobee, the Florida Legislature in a future session can focus on plans that will address the excess water and nutrients originating north of the lake, which science shows can reduce the frequency of discharges by more than 60 percent.”

Not happy with the process was another landowners group, Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers, Inc.

“Farm families like mine were very concerned when government leaders, out of the blue, announced a plan to take our private land without even speaking to us,” member Keith Wedgworth said.

“Fortunately, they ignored an ill-intentioned, flawed plan championed by the anti-farmer Everglades Foundation and rewrote Senate Bill 10 to protect our private property,” he said. “We urge the Legislature to now focus on plans that will actually tackle water problems at their source, which is the only way to reduce discharges, clean pollution and avoid future algae blooms in the estuaries.”

 

West Palm wants you for Great American Cleanup

West Palm Beach is seeking volunteers to play a role in the Great American Cleanup on Saturday, trimming vegetation and picking up litter.

The effort takes place April 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers can register at the Evergreen Cemetery, 2825 Rosemary Ave. Volunteers must be ages 8 or over and anyone under 14 must have a parent or guardian volunteering with them.

The Great American Cleanup is the nation’s largest community improvement program, engaging more than 5 million volunteers and participants every year to create positive change and lasting impact in local communities. For information, contact Rhonda Barona, Department of Parks and Recreation at 561-804-4906.

What did the consultants say about your neighborhood?

West Palm Beach’s urban planning consultants, Gehl Studio, this week released recommendations on how to bring the downtown and neighborhood scenes to life. For downtown, the challenge the consultants saw was that, the second you step off Clematis Street, or away from CityPlace, walkways are uninviting and that breaks up the connectivity that makes it fun to go from one place to another.

Not enough shade trees, street lighting or bicycling facilities; too many obstructions like utility posts blocking the sidewalks. Big roadways like Okeechobee Boulevard and Tamarind Avenue act as barriers. Flagler Drive blocks the waterfront.

The urban planners came up with proposals for pilot projects for six areas, from just south to just north of downtown. The city commission will be considering these recommendations in the weeks to come. We plan a full story about this for this weekend, but for now, here’s a neighborhood-by-neighborhood summary of the challenges and “potential moves” for the six areas, culled from the Gehl presentation:

  1. Complete Clematis. Challenges: Clematis’ eastern and western edges could use some love. On the west, crossing Tamarind Avenue from the Tri-Rail station is difficult, and the end of Clematis has little shade or pedestrian interest. On the east, everyone loves the waterfront but it’s empty most of the time, there’s no way to  interact with the water, no shade and few everyday activities. Recommendations: Create an artistic gateway tot he city at the TriRail Station; make Tamarind easier for pedestrians by adding a signal and pedestrian islands; Add shading to make walk up Clematis from the station more comfortable; run bike lanes from Tri-Rail to Rosemary Avenue; String lighting from Tri-Rail to the waterfront; add movable seating to the Flagler Drive green, so people can follow the shade; make the FEC rail and Quadrille Boulevard intersection feel safe and comfortable; widen the waterfront park by taking under-used space from Flagler Drive and install docks that step down to the water. Include eye-catching lighting to draw people to the waterfront.
  2. Historic Northwest. Challenges: Need to stitch this neighborhood and downtown back together. Banyan Boulevard acts as a barrier, too many dark sidewalks, sidewalk obstructions, lack of shade and few things to do. Getting downtown on foot is tough. Rosemary Avenue, once commercial heart of Historic NW, has fallen into vacancy and disrepair. Need to leverage city’s investment in the Sunset Lounge, the historic jazz bar, and set stage to renew Rosemary as a ‘Main Street.’ Recommendations: Create a gateway to the neighborhood at Banyan and Rosemary, with art and bright lighting and redesign intersection to make it safer and more appealing. Paint vacant buildings and sidewalk obstructions bright colors to create an eye-catching pathway on Rosemary. Install artistic lighting along Rosemary leading from Clematis to the Sunset Lounge. Install traffic calming and pedestrian and cyclist improvements on Rosemary. Create a ‘Vacancy Lab’ to test different uses for vacant lots such as sports fields, community garden, food truck pop-ups, plant nursery, tree grove. Consider adding trolley stop. Improve connection across the tracks and to the water along 3rd Street.
  3. 15th Street: Safety and comfort from school to pools. Challenges: 15th crosses both railroads, connecting schools with Pleasant City, Gaines Park and the waterfront. Need to make 15th “a truly great pedestrian and bike street that is safe and enjoyable for school children and all WPBers.” Recommendations: Promote walking and biking to school with mural-painting and other events and traffic school for kids. Add shade, lighting, continuous bike lanes, improve intersections, add ‘rest stops’ with seating, shade, ‘playful interventions,’ bike pumps and the like.
  4. Pleasant City: Challenges: It’s a food desert, with few outlets for affordable food, whether in stores or restaurants. Northwood Village has great restaurants but they’re too expensive for many neighbors. Getting to the water from Northwood and Pleasant City is challenging because it feels far. Recommendations: Give Pleasant city residents something to do in Blum Park while helping address shortage of affordable food in the neighborhood. Connect the neighborhood to the water and Currie Park while creating a new destination: the Sunset Pools. Sunset Pools would be a ‘mobile harbor bath in the Intracoastal Waterway that allows people to get into the water and can be moved to serve different neighborhoods. Add activities to Blum Park by building barbecue pits, a weekly or biweekly food truck program with local entrepreneurs, add picnic tables and shade. Build on the community garden on Spruce and connect to a kitchen. Create a community/commercial kitchen in a vacant building or repurposed shipping container to supply the food truck program and provide job training. Install pedestrian and bike improvements on Spruce, leading from Northwood to Merry Place. Add a trolley stop at Dixie Highway and Currie Park.
  5. Tamarind Avenue: Challenges: It’s a commercial street plagued by vacancies, illicit activities, a tough stigma, lack of lighting and shade. Locals say bus stops are uncomfortable, and though there are hang-out spots near corner stores, there is nowhere to sit and nothing to do. Recommendations:  Bring amenities to the Coleman Park neighborhood along Tamarind, where no one should ever be more than two minutes from comfort, services or neighborhood shops. Create clusters of activity around existing, organic hang-out areas at corner stores and bus stops and put eyes on the street by adding services the neighborhood needs. Add shade, lighting, seating. Add ‘pop-ups’ to energize Tamarind, such as a mobile library, WiFi stations, bike repair shop, computer access points, outdoor exercise equipment, street games. Make cycling between 15th and 23rd streets more comfortable by clearly marking that this is “a neighborhood green street/commercial main street.”
  6. Howard Park: Challenges: The under-used northern end of the park is potentially a great amenity for the southern part of downtown, but with Okeechobee Boulevard in the middle, it’s hard to navigate between the park and downtown.  Recommendations: Improve Okeechobee crossings by tailoring crossing times to pedestrians, widening ends of medians to make the crossings shorter. Add shade, lighting and other pedestrian improvements between CityPlace and Howard Park. Add a SkyBike bicycle rental station. Create “a playful connection” through the park, with features like Los Trompos, the big “tops” formerly located on the waterfront. Try putting a trolley stop at the park, and if there’s demand, a trolley stop at the Art Walk in the Warehouse District.

 

 

 

 

Sustaining the effort for West Palm’s sustainability

Talking sustainability strategy. From left: Retired teacher Jacquelyn Taylor; Mayor Jeri Muoio;  Kevin Vollbrecht, director, engineering services; Jon Ward, executive director Community Redevelopment Agency; Scott Kelly, assistant city administrator; Liz Perez, president of Collective Water Consulting engineering firm.

On the heels of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s West Palm Beach hearing Monday on sea-level rise and climate change, the city conducted a workshop Tuesday aimed at getting staff and residents focused on sustainability.

The event in the Lakefront Pavilion was conducted as part of the National League of Cities’ Leadership in Community Resilience Program, a pilot effort to bring 10 cities together to share experiences and advance efforts to counter the impacts of climate change.

Idea boards. Among other questions, participants were asked: “When you think about transportation in West Palm Beach, what are the first three words, images or phrases that come to mind?”

West Palm has been working on a number of fronts to respond to climate change, from increasing its tree canopy to shifting its fleet of cars and trucks to alternate fuels, and encouraging mass transit, bike riding and walking as alternatives to cars.

SkyBike stands have been set up downtown, part of the city’s effort to encourage riding and walking.

Want to know more about Florida’s roseate spoonbills?

“Roseate Spoonbills in Florida Bay: A Pink Canary in a Coal Mine” by Dr. Jerry Lorenz: Thursday, April 6, 6-8 p.m.

The Palm Beach Zoo, at 1301 Summit Blvd., invites the public to the final Conservation Leadership Lecture Series event of 2017. The evening includes a cocktail hour featuring animal encounters and hors d’oeuvres.

Florida Bay expert and state research director for Audubon Florida, Dr. Jerry Lorenz, will take listeners on a journey with one of Florida’s most recognizable species, the Roseate Spoonbill.

Purchase tickets in advance, at http://www.palmbeachzoo.org/roseate-spoonbill

West Palm tightens downtown curfew

(Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Minors are now banned from downtown streets after 10 p.m., seven days a week.

The City Commission this week took its final vote to tighten the curfew, which previously started at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

 

The commission tried out the earlier curfew during a three-month pilot program, which ended Feb. 17.

Have your say, as West Palm peddles bicycle plan

West Palm Beach is working on a Bike Master Plan to link bike routes throughout the city and get more people on bikes and out of cars, and the city wants your help.

Consultants McMahon Associates is conducting a Bike Master Plan study and will make recommendations as to where the routes should be. The City will host a series of public meetings on the study and solicit public input, starting tomorrow.

Meetings are scheduled in the northern, central and southern parts of the city:

  • March 15, 2017, 6-7:30 p.m., Manatee Lagoon on North Flagler Drive.
  • March 22, 2017, 6-7:30 p.m., Flagler Room at City Hall.
  • March 29, 2017, 6-7:30 p.m., Conniston Middle School.

The City also plans to host events in support of Bike-to-Work Week, scheduled for March 27-31.