Hot-button waterfront plan to be discussed by West Palm reps

Materio smiles after being appointed to the commission

UPDATED:

Word that Mayor Jeri Muoio’s staff was moving ahead with a plan that could put an office tower near the waterfront sent city commissioners’ phones ringing this week.

Commissioner Paula Ryan said she’d fielded 700 emails on the hot-button issue. The mayor said she also had a folder filled with inquiries.

Problem was, the commission hadn’t been filled in so there wasn’t much they could say on the matter — the mayor’s Development Services staff had been treating it as an administrative matter* at this stage and planned to bring it to the commission in the months ahead, after going through the Planning Board and Downtown Action Committee.

That’s going to change.

At Commissioner Shanon Materio’s request, Muoio this week agreed to schedule a mayor-commission work session on the plan, which would allow developer Related Cos. of New York to build a 25-story office tower on a site near the waterfront now limited to five stories.

It was Related that came up with the idea, but the city took the ball and ran with it, citing a shortage of first-class office towers with which to attract employers.

Since spot-zoning —  changing the zoning to favor a specific parcel, even if at odds with current zoning — isn’t Kosher, Related proposed that the city create a whole Okeechobee Boulevard business district that would include its site near the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

Materio said the point of her request was to slow the approval process down a bit, so commissioners, the city’s policy-making body, can have a better sense of where the administration is headed before the plan goes to the other boards.

“We have no idea right now of what is being put together,” she said.

*Note: The Mayor’s Office objected to this characterization. Here’s what spokeswoman Kathleen Walter said in an email Wednesday:

“Your blog post states, ‘the Mayor’s Development Services staff had been treating (the Related Cos. project) as an administrative matter.’ That’s not accurate. To clarify, the City has not been treating it as an administrative matter. The City’s Development Services Department stated from the very beginning that the changes that the City was going to require were the creation of a new zoning district and a comprehensive plan change. Neither of these requirements is an administration matter, and public input is required. The matter requires a formal review by the Downtown Action Committee, the Planning Board, and two public hearings with the City Commission. In an effort to publicize and receive input on these proposed changes, the Development Services Department  held a workshop on April 12, 2017 with the Downtown Action Committee and on April 18, 2017 with the Planning Board. Both of these meetings lasted approximately four hours, and the City received a lot of public input. The meeting agendas are publicized and shared with board members and commissioners to inform everyone of what is being discussed in each of these meetings.”

Who’s running for office in West Palm Beach?

Sylvia Moffett

It’s that time of year when campaigns grind into gear for the March 18 city commission races.

Three of the five commissioners are up for re-election: Sylvia Moffett in District 1 in the North End, Paula Ryan in District 3, which stretches roughly from the El Cid area to the Northwest, and Shanon Materio in District 5, in the South End.

Ryan

So far only Moffett faces a challenge, from pastor Martina Tate Walker, who ran unsuccessfully against her in 2016.

Martina Tate Walker

Materio is holding her campaign kickoff at 5:30 p.m. today, June 28, at the Palm Beach Zoo, 1301 Summit Blvd.

 

How do you want West Palm Beach to spend your money?

Mayor Jeri Muoio and City Commissioners are inviting the public to participate in a series of Community Budget Workshops, as they make decisions about which projects and programs get how much money.

The new budget year starts Oct. 1 and the planning process has begun. Time for the public to weigh in.

The workshops will be hosted by Mayor Muoio, Chief Financial Officer Mark Parks, and Budget Manager Linda McDermott. They will be held in each of the City’s five districts:

  • July 24, 6 p.m.: Fire Station #3, 5050 Broadway (District 1).
  • July 26, 6 p.m.: Fire Station #5, 500 N. Congress (District 2).
  • July 27, 6 p.m.: Flagler Gallery at City Hall (District 3).
  •  Aug. 1, 6 p.m.: Fire Station #7, 8011 Okeechobee Blvd. (District 4).
  • Aug. 2, 6 p.m.: Location to be announced, in the Northwest (District 3).
  • Aug. 3, 6 p.m.: Fire Station #2, 4301 S. Dixie Highway (District 5).

    For more information, contact Budget Manager Linda McDermott at 561-822-1342.

“Hello Sunshine” theme for West Palm gateway art

West Palm Beach will greet you with rays of morning sunshine, starting next year with the city’s latest Art in Public Places addition.

The city commission this week approved five gateway works of outdoor art, together titled “Hello Sunshine,” by West Coast art collective Aphidoidea.

Each of the city’s five commission districts will get its own cluster of yellow sun rays. Each will include the city’s logo, as well as an individual representation of its district.

The District 1 piece will be at 45th Street and Australian Avenue. District 2’s will be in a new roundabout at Cumberland Drive and Saratoga Road.

District 3’s work will be in the Okeechobee Boulevard median. District 4’s will be on the sidewalk at Northlake Boulevard and Grassy Waters Preserve. And in the South End, District 5’s will be either at Phipps Park or the intersection of S. Dixie Highway and Gregory Road, still to be determined.

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.”

 

West Palm weighs incentives for tech HQ relo prospect

West Palm Beach is poised to approve incentive dollars for a corporate relocation prospect that would bring 80 jobs.

Under the code name, “Project Bright,” the unnamed technology company would create those new, full-time jobs over the next three years, with an average salary of $52,000, and invest $1.5 million in construction, and in manufacturing and research and development equipment.

The city commission is scheduled to vote May 8 to pledge $24,000. The county would add the same amount and the state would contribute $192,000, or 80 percent of the $240,000 total incentive package.

 

Vice Admiral Jan Tighe to Discuss Cybersecurity, Cyberwarfare

 Vice Admiral Jan Tighe will join the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches on Friday, May 5, at the Palm Beach County Convention Center to share insights on the United States’ use of technology to enhance our military operations and combat cybersecurity attacks. She will also discuss the new methods being employed to not only exploit our enemies but defeat them.

Tighe assumed duties as the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare and the 66th Director of Naval Intelligence in July 2016. She is one of the highest ranking women in the U.S. Navy and the highest ranking female Information Warfare Officer. She was also the first woman to command a numbered fleet (U.S. 10th Fleet).

This event is open to the public, and tickets may be purchased online at forumclubpalmbeach.org or by contacting Wendy Norris at 561-881-9977 or wnorris@forumclubpb.com. For more information about the event, visit www.forumclubpalmbeach.org.

 

The event takes place at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd. Doors open at 11:15 a.m. and the program begins at noon.

Cost:  $40 for member tickets; $50 for guest tickets ordered by members; $75 for public tickets; $450 for a table of 10 ordered by members.

 

 

 

 

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.

Frankel guest: “The ACA saved my life”

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U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel

A Treasure Coast woman who says she owes her life to the Affordable Care Act will accompany U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, to today’s Joint Session of Congress speech by President Trump.

Sherry Riggs, 55, a Fort Pierce mother of three who suffers from a life-threatening heart condition, hopes to meet with members of Congress and let them know what the ACA has meant to her and her family, Frankel said.

Trump and congressional Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace the law.

Riggs a barber, moved from Michigan to South Florida. Following her divorce two years ago, Riggs found her health deteriorating and no longer had health insurance. “Her attempts to get coverage that she could afford through the private market were unsuccessful until she discovered the Affordable Care Act Marketplace,” according to a release from Frankel’s office.

“Despite her serious pre-existing condition she was able to sign up for insurance for a small monthly payment,” the release said. “Five months after enrollment she suffered major heart attacks and underwent two surgeries, including an open-heart bypass. She is still recovering and unable to work full time. For affordable medication and continued care of her ongoing heart conditions, Riggs’s life depends on the ACA.”

 

 

 

Muoio and Mascot….The Astros are coming

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Mayor Jeri Muoio, left, with Orbit, the Houston Astros mascot.

They say the appearance of a robin is a harbinger of springtime. But Thursday’s harbinger was the green alien mascot of the Houston Astros, Orbit.

jeris-jersey+

Orbit beamed into city hall to present Mayor Jeri Muoio with an Astros jersey with her name on it, in time for the start of spring training at the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The major leaguers — Astros and Washington Nationals — hit the practice fields on Feb. 18 and a month of spring training games starts on the 28th.

The Nationals’ mascot, an eagle named Screech, likely will be swooping in for public appearances soon, as well. Not to worry, Jason Wooden, Vice-President of Marketing for the Astros, said: Orbit and Screech get along well. “It’s a very very friendly rivalry,” he said.