Blog

21 Feb
0

What Do We Value as a City?

February 22, 2019

Something we can all be proud of is The City of Boca Raton has established a rich history starting with its earliest settlers followed by architect Addison Mizner with the Boca Raton Hotel, and continuing with the city’s contribution in WWII with the development of radar. In the sixties came IBM with ten thousand jobs and what many would say, put Boca Raton “on the map”.  Progress continued with well-planned communities inspired by the corporate namesake of Arthur Vining Davis, Arivda. Those communities include Broken Sound, Boca West, Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club plus the formerly named Arvida Park of Commerce.  Those well-planned developments made Boca Raton a desirable location to ‘Live, Work, Play’.  Beyond that, we have now established ourselves as an educational hub with several universities and colleges.  We proudly tout our thriving and growing business community and have accomplished a growing reputation on the world stage.

Being an elected official in Boca Raton is a privilege and an honor and it comes with the responsibility to honor our history, to be a visionary and to make the appropriate decisions that guide Boca to a beneficial future for all.  Sometimes difficult, I make it a practice to take in stride the decisions that my colleagues and I differ on.  Often this involves lengthy public discussions on the dais where decisions have to be made and the majority prevails.

Recently, an issue came before the City Council that spoke to my heart as no other has. It was the result of an appeal of a decision rendered by the Community Appearance Board to not approve an identifying (wall) sign for a significant and well respected business in our city.  The sign was to be placed on the Original IBM Building on the former IBM Campus, now branded as “Boca Raton Innovation Campus” (BRIC).  I feel it is important to share the details as I perceived them.

The Community Appearance Board (CAB) is a board appointed by the City Council for their professional knowledge in the field of architecture, landscape, design and construction etc.  The board is tasked to make decisions regarding the outward appearance of all signs, buildings and landscape proposals that come before them.

A recent submission to the CAB was a sign approval denied by the all-volunteer members in a 1-6 vote.  Exercising their right, the petitioner then appealed the CAB decision to the City Council who granted the appeal on a 4-1 vote, of which I was the dissenting vote.

What was at stake?  From my perspective it is sometimes just as important, if not more important, to preserve certain elements of our history as it is to build for our future.  This was a case of preserving a building of historical significance in its original state and avoiding setting a precedent with potential negative ramifications.

This landmark building was designed in 1968 by Marcel Breuer one of the most well-known and iconic figures associated with the Bauhaus School. He was one of the early pioneers of the International Style and became known for his affinity for concrete which later made him a key figure in the emergence of an architecture style known as Brutalism.  Breuer is an internationally famed furniture designer of the Wassily Chair and the Cesca Chairboth easily recognizable as classic, ever-lasting furniture designs. His architecture is seen globally in buildings such as UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France and the Whitney Museum in NYC.  What an honor to have a Breuer building in Boca Raton!

Not only is this Boca building significant architecture by a respected architect, it is the landmark site of the invention of the PC, along with other groundbreaking technology such as Ctrl+Alt+Del, the Simon and much more that came out of this IBM/Boca building in the 1980’s. The building itself was hailed by numerous sources.


Among those was this from TheArtStory.com“The project architects were Marcel Breuer and Robert Gatje (longtime partner at his firm).  When Breuer received this commission he was at the height of his career.  He was an established, respected, well known architect…”.  And this comes from the Boca Raton Historical Society website under the title “IBM: Boca”:  “The main complex was modeled after IBM’s research center located in LaGuade, France on a rugged slope…Marcel Breuer and Robert Gatje…adapted the design for Florida’s flat terrain and hot sun.”


So what was the disconnect between the City Council and the CAB that created a reversal in the CAB’s decision?

Again, from my perspective, it was city staff interpretation of the Code vs. CAB interpretation of the code and CAB’s efforts to preserve an iconic building of historical significance for our City.  Believing the City Code was on their side, the CAB was protective of the exceptional importance and historical significance of the issue at hand – a request to mount a (wall) sign on an original Breuer building, a building we should not
deface but laud. One of the main arguments for denial was the permanent and irreparable damage to the building’s unique concrete structure.

                    

Sadly, other than one local architect and several people from the CAB, the representation to preserve Boca’s history and this unique structure was lacking.  We did not hear from other local architects, ex IBMers, (which are many in our community), nor our Historic Preservation Board or the Historical Society. My guess is they were probably not even aware this was happening.

When I (emotionally) spoke out at that meeting, pointing to the importance of the building’s history, the architecture, and preserving an inspirational structure that is a true symbol of our community, I was later criticized for being “anti-business”.  Just as the CAB attempted, I offered to explore collaborative, alternative options for allowing a sign, without defacing Breuer’s architecture. I pleaded to preserve the very building that was the headquarters of the first ‘important’ business in Boca Raton. This was a company that brought jobs by the thousands to our community and helped build our economic prosperity. How ironic!

Which brings us to the main point – Who is preserving our historic legacy?  And what do we truly value as a city?

I pose this question: Why must those who wish to create, and preserve a legacy with historical significance, face the callous name calling done by individuals that choose to falsely label anyone that dares stand in their way as “anti-growth” or “anti-business”, when those labels couldn’t be further from the truth?  The name calling does not further the discussion.  It destroys the discussion. Preserving Boca’s special qualities are the very thing that attract high-level businesses and headquarters to Boca Raton and to this very location of the original IBM campus.  There’s a bigger picture here.

One can only hope in the future that discussions will be based on the merits of the topic rather than the chosen descriptive of the targeted person.

I welcome your feedback on this topic.

Sincerely,
Andrea Levine O’Rourke

Boca Raton City Council Member – aorourke@myboca.us

 *cover photo-Architect Marcel Breuer

Read More
20 Feb
0

Kicking Off 2019 Report

February 8, 2019

Wishing a Happy New Year is reserved for the first two weeks of January. According to etiquette I’m a good several weeks late. None-the-less I wish you a happy, healthy and productive 2019.

Here’s a quick update on several things important to our community.

BOARDS & COMMITTEES
A great way to begin the new year is to be part of the community. Please consider serving as a board member. Choose your area of interest, or follow your passion.  Here’s a list of current board vacancies.  Openings run the gamut from art and culture, to downtown and pedestrian safety, to marine advisory.  Applications are available and appointments will be made Tuesday 2/12 at the City Council meeting.  Please call our Clerk’s office at 561.393.7743 for detailed information on how you can participate

CALL TO ARTIST
As I have reported previouslyArt in Public Placesis one of my personal passions. We have completed our first mural project at Red Reef West.  Take a walk, bike or ride down there and take a peek.  What a colorful addition to our already beautiful city.  Just past the golf course and before Gumbo Limbo on the west side of A1A, look for the colorful gatehouse that takes you to the walls.
On to the next project… A “Call to Artist” has been put out for The Tunnels at Spanish River Park to the beach.  Deadline for artists to apply is February 22nd. The artists will be introduced at Boca Raton’s Spring Feston April 6th at Spanish River Park.  The BIG REVEAL of the tunnels will take place on May 18th. Mark your calendars.

ONLINE GARAGE SALE REGISTRATION
This falls under the category of “Good to Know”.  No worries, garage sales are welcomed in Boca Raton.  There is now an ordinancewhich governs the rule when planning your sale.  Simply register with the city…it’s easy and costs nothing.  Sadly, we had some residents who abused the process with little regard for their neighbors having garage sales every week (as a business of sorts).
Here’s what you need to know without reading the whole ordinance:

  • No more than four permitted garage sales are allowed at the same residence each year.
  • Hours of operation: 8:00am–5:00 pm.
  • One sign permitted on the premises.

PEDESTRIAN SAFETY AND MORE

As a downtown resident, your concerns are mine.  I am an avid walker in the area and personally am faced with the challenge of addressing safety, walkability and a sense of place.  By that I mean, way-finding signs, marking crosswalks, addressing speeding traffic, adding public art, benches and shade trees.  Places that are said to have a strong “sense of place” have a strong identity that is deeply felt by inhabitants and visitors.  The city staff is working on strategies.  Please see this most recent staff report from December 2018.

EYE ON DEVELOPMENT

2600 S. Ocean Blvd, a potential beach development on private property of a 14,270 sq. ft. duplex recently came before the Environmental Advisory Board (EAB). This project will now come before City Council in the near future as a quasi-judicialmatter. At this time, it would be improper for me to comment.  As an Elected Official it is my obligation to listen to all sides of the testimony as in a court of law.  I would suggest, if you would like to review the highlights of the EAB meeting check out the article presented in The Coastal Star.

Camino Square, is a proposed development of twoeight-story residential rental buildings on the Old Winn Dixie site. This development came before Community Development Agency (CRA) at the first of the year. The council chamber was filled with residents representing approximately ten different neighborhoods. The main concern voiced was traffic flow and congestion. After hours of presentations and public comment, the CRA decided to postpone the vote. The developer and city staff agreed to work together to consider traffic solutions at Camino Real and S. Dixie Highway before coming back to CRA on the April 8.

SCHOOLS

We have moved mountains this year addressing the future population of our schools.

A major accomplishment was identifying and securing a location for a new elementary school (called O5C) in Boca Raton. Property next to Don Estridge Middle School is being donated by the city to the Palm Beach County School District.  The sequence of events is as follows…

A temporary school is now being built close to site where the new O5C will be placed.  Once completed, Verde Elementary students will attend the temporary school.  This will then allow the rebuild of Verde to accommodate an expanded K-8 school.  What follows next will be Addison Mizner students temporarily moved to the new schools to allow construction of a new Addison Mizner at its current site, which will also accommodate a K-8 student body. Finally, once both rebuilds are finished the new permanent O5C school will be built.

With limited land available, this ‘one step at a time’ approach is necessary due to younger families now moving to Boca Raton in numbers that were unanticipated.  People want to be here, and who can blame them?

Regarding the High Schools…The District has combed the enrollment and was able to reduce the population of Boca Raton High School by several hundred. They also went to a two lunch periods. There will be some boundary changes moving students to Spanish River High School in the future.

THE PERKS IF THE JOB

I was fortunate enough to read to students at Boca Elementary and Coral Sunset Elementary in observance of Literacy Week. Wonderful to be able to interact with these children.

On a separate note, and thanks to The Rotary Club of Boca Raton, the City hosted students from Boca Raton High School and Spanish River High School for Youth Government Day.  After a Q&A with the Mayor and City Council Members the students took over the dais for a mock council meeting.  It was not only fun, but interesting observing the leadership qualities of the students and perhaps viewing the potential future leaders of our city.

Check out Mizner Park for lots of events such as Friday Lunch on the Lawn.  Take a look at DowntownBoca.org for loads of info.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More
24 Nov
0

Lots of News…and Holiday Wishes

 

November 24, 2018

 

As we bask in the afterglow of our Thanksgiving celebrations…It’s hard to believe that summer has come and gone and the holiday season is here!

This is the perfect time to share with you my gratitude for living in such a wonderful city and getting to know so many community neighbors. Thank you for all of your input and support through the year.

Let me bring you up to date by summarizing topics that I am most often asked about.

SCHOOLS
If you remember, a while back I reported that Boca Raton High School was in dire need of surface repair and a paint job. I asked our Palm Beach County School District Rep., Frank Barbieri to please address this long overdue problem. He took it to Dr. Fennoy, the new Superintendent, who gave it his thumbs up. I am delighted to share a picture of a fresh new school. Big thanks to the PB County School District for addressing this problem.

Before


After

MORE ABOUT SCHOOLS
To keep you updated on the rebuilds of Addison Mizner Elementary School and Verde Elementary, here’s is the latest news…
In 2019 Verde Elementary will be rebuilt. Following in 2020, will be Addison Mizner’s rebuilt. Both schools will be K-8’s, making more room for both elementary and middle school students. With safety being our top priority, it has not been an easy feat figuring out where to move the students. After much discussion, we have identified city owned property for the PB County School District to place a temporary school. The location is next to Don Estridge Middle School. The temporary placement of students will not in any way interfere with the current student’s education or activities and is the best compromise to assure our students quality of life.

Change is never easy.  Whether we like it or not, Boca Raton has growing pains and we are looking for solutions. Our priority is to maintain our outstanding “A” rated schools and provide our children the safest and best environment along with the best education.  I can assure you that the City Council and our School Board Representative Frank Barbieri are working hard to make this the best transition possible.

ART IN PUBLIC PLACES
I am very happy to share this new initiative with you. It has been a dream of mine to bring public art to Boca. That dream is now a reality. I could go on for hours telling you why I think Public Art is an important element in a community…here is my short version.


• It enriches our physical environments, bringing a sense of place to street-scapes, parks, plazas, town buildings.
• It creates gathering places and special memorable moments. It’s a great tool for civic engagement, building social capital and encouraging civil discourse.
• It provides professional opportunities for artists and cultivates an environment in which the creative spirit thrives.
• It boosts local economies and brings cities to life.


This past year, with the full consensus of City Council, we introduced an ordinance to make Art in Public Places official in Boca Raton. A Board was appointed and immediately got to work. They started by working on a long-range plan to identify locations on city owned property to place outdoor art. As an immediate task, there were a few locations identified to place murals this year.  The first being maintenance containment walls at Red Reef Park West (by the back entrance to Gumbo Limbo). It was a blank canvas waiting to happen! The board and the staff kicked into high gear. They put out a ‘call to artists’ and in two short weeks had 47 applicants. The artists were high caliber with beautiful portfolios. Six were chosen for this first project...Ivan Roque, Craig McInnis, Tom D’Auria, Georgeta Fondos, Kristin Pavlick and Peter Agardy. Each worked independently on their portion of the wall. It’s interesting to see how the environment inspired all of them to make a beautiful and cohesive mural…our first in Boca Raton. Make sure you head down there to see it for yourself.

Thank you to the City of Boca Raton and the Boca Raton Beach and Parks District for funding this project with seed money, which has allowed public art to get underway.

Here’s a sneak peak. From this…to this.


Stay tuned! The next Mural Project will be the Tunnels going from Spanish River Park to the beach. Looking forward to an event this season.

WILDFLOWER – SILVER PALM PARKS
As part of the Waterfront Master Plan, these two parks have been an ongoing process. The planning portion has been steadily progressing. Through community outreach, consensus was decidedly reached that Silver Palm Park will remain a boat ramp and become part of the overall concept with Wildflower; including connectivity of the two.  The renovation of Lake Wyman/Rutherford will allow non-motorized boating only. Here’s a news report.

The City has held several publicly advertised community outreach meetings conducted by staff and consultants EDSA.  At least 100 citizens attended each time. There was opportunity to share views and opinions. People representing all parties including; boaters, business owners, architects, developers, P&Z members, Beach & Parks District members, Beautification Board members, Downtown Advisory Board members, Marine Advisory Board members, Friends of Gumbo Limbo, City Council members and residents have been in attendance. Also involved have been representatives from across the community making up the Visionaries of 2020 Vision.  It has proven to be a very successful collaboration for moving forward with Wildflower and Silver Palm Park plans.


As part of the Waterfront Master Plan, consultants EDSA will be representing the potential future plan of Wildflower/Silver Palm Park, at the City Council Workshop on Monday 11/26/18 following the 1:30pm CRA meeting.


NEW GOLF COURSE
Boca Raton Beach and Parks District (BPD) is still working on plans for the new Boca Raton National, the first 18 hole championship municipal golf course within the city limits. It will be on the old Ocean Breeze course in Boca Teeca. The National Golf Foundation has compiled a market and financial analysis.  The designer  was chosen and basic course design has been selected. We are waiting to hear more from the BPD in the near future regarding progress and costs. Anyone wishing to have more information is welcome to attend BPD meetings.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT
2500 & 2600 Ocean Blvd – I have heard from numerous residents regarding these beachfront properties. The city’s Environmental Advisory Board scheduled a meeting for mid-October to analyze and provide a recommendation (one way or another) for 2600 to City Council. That meeting was canceled in the eleventh hour due to a change in plan from landowners.  Most recently the property owner of 2600 reached out with an offer to negotiate a sale of the property to the City. City Council agreed we would be willing have that conversation and staff has provided a property appraisal to the owner. As of this time it appears these two properties will come forward for review in January and February. I will keep you informed.

Midtown – Our Development Services staff is working on the elements of a “Small Area Plan” for that part of the city. As promised, there will be a Community Presentation Tuesday, December 4th at the Spanish River Library. Please mark your calendars and attend if you are interested in the future of Midtown.

Concierge Adult Senior Living – Located at 22 SE Sixth St, this project was originally denied by City Council 3-1 based on concerns of density, demand on EMS services and a significant variance for parking. It is important to remember that landowners and developers have rights. Personally, what I look for when a new plan comes forward for approval is:  First – that they meet our code requirements; Second – I hope it will bring something special and adds a positive dimension and contribution to our community. This particular development will enable our aging community a choice of independent living.  After the first denial for approval, Group P6 went back to the drawing board and returned with a better project.  They reduced the number of units, therefore reducing the number of beds. These changes eased the original concerns of City Council and the project has now been approved. This is a perfect example of collaboration for the best outcome.

Via Mizner & Mandarin Oriental Residences and Hotel – Approved several years ago, this project is underway.  We recently approved a well thought-out parking and valet plan.

Camino Square – This is one to keep your eyes on!  It will be coming before the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) at the December 10th,1:30pm meeting. This is a mixed use project with two nine story rental apartment buildings and future retail. It is located at the old Winn Dixie site on Camino Real. Against the recommendation of City Development Services and Traffic Departments, along with outcry from neighboring communities, the Planning and Zoning Board recommended approval of the project in a 4-1 vote. The concerns expressed by staff and residents was lack of proper infrastructure and added intensity to already troubled roads and intersections.

NOW FOR SOME FUN!
WE PROMISE TO KEEP YOU BUSY!!!
UPCOMING EVENTS…

Saturday, November 24th, 7pm & 10pm – The Mizner Park Comedy Festival showcases some of the funniest comedians with headliner Daniel Franzese from Mean Girls. I’m looking forward to being a judge at this one! There are shows all year. Check here for details.

Wednesday, December 5th, 7:30pm – A Boca tradition, The Holiday Street Parade. This is the ultimate family affair. You’ll think Boca is a small town again as you watch the parade go by on Federal Hwy between Camino Real & Mizner Park.  More details.

Friday, December 7th, 5-9pm – Chanukah Under the Stars hosted by Temple Beth El at Mizner Park. More details.

Monday, December 17th, 5:30-8:30pm – Join the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl Pep Rally at Mizner Park. See the marching bands and cheerleaders as we get ready for the main event. More details.

Tuesday, December 18th, 7pm – THE MAIN EVENT – Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl – Yes we have our very own football bowl game hosted by ESPN at FAU. Get your tickets now. Teams to be announced December 2nd. Lots of fun and one of my very favorite community gatherings!  More details.

Friday, December 14th, 6– 9pm – And every 3rd Friday night through season. Come out to experience the Art Walk at RocUrban. This is Boca’s emerging Warehouse Arts District – RocUrban. The monthly Art Walk features music, food trucks, art, vendors, a community garden and live painted murals. They’re bringing the “cool” to Boca – 4160 NW 1stAve. More details.

December 22nd, 6:30pm – 42nd Annual Boca Raton Holiday Boat Parade is the perfect way to experience the Holiday Season Boca style! More details.

And there’s more…
including live, free entertainment, jazz brunch, movie nights, community yoga. Check here.

From Our Home to Yours…
Wishing you a safe holiday season,
with good health and much happiness.
Warm Regards,

Andrea Levine O’Rourke
Our mailing address is:
317 NE 3rd Street, Boca Raton, FL 33432
aorourke@myboca.us
561-859-4931
Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

 

Read More
04 Jun
0

Latest News Update

June 4th, 2018

AFTER THE MARCH ELECTION
As protocol demands after a local municipal election, the swearing in of new and reelected councilmembers occurs. Immediately following the April 2nd swearing-in ceremony the council then conducted an organizational meeting where the various duties and responsibilities of each member was determined.  Councilman Scott Singer was appointed Deputy Mayor. I am proud to announce that I was selected as the new Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Chairperson.  Congratulations also, to Monica Mayotte (CRA Vice Chair).

SO WHAT IS THE CRA?
For those that don’t know, the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) oversees a specifically defined area we know as Downtown Boca.  It is worth noting that some cities have multiple CRA districts, whereas Boca Raton has just one. In 1980, Boca’s City Council designated 344 acres in downtown as a Community Redevelopment Area under the Florida Statutes. As a result of this legislation, the Boca Raton CRA was subsequently established. The purpose of this action was to stop the deterioration of the downtown area and give people added incentive to visit downtown Boca Raton.  In the early 1980’s the downtown area was considered blighted with dilapidated shops and the old Boca Mall. As stated on the city’s website… “In 1986, the Agency undertook a public initiative to stimulate redevelopment by developing a master plan, which included numerous infrastructure improvements (Visions 90), and provided a detailed framework within which redevelopment could occur. A great example that came out of this plan is our community’s great gathering place, Mizner Park.  The City Council members serve as the CRA members. Members select the Chairman of the CRA from among their members. The mission of the CRA is to advocate, administer the policies, and assist the public, downtown property owners and businesses in order to achieve the CRA Vision of the Downtown.”  I will dive into more detail regarding the CRA in future communication.


Don’t miss the the Summer Series at Mizner Park
Click Link


NEWS REGARDING THE MAYOR’S SEAT
Due to the suspension of Mayor Susan Haynie, which came down to us from Governor Scott’s office, Deputy Mayor Scott Singer is now serving as Mayor until the special election is held on the August 28 ballot (national, state primaries). With the help of staff, all of us on City Council handled this unexpected and unprecedented situation as expediently as possible. The City Council unanimously passed resolutions for the special election to fill the vacancy in the office of the Mayor. Since Mayor Singer has officially qualified to run for Mayor in this August election, it now leaves his Seat (A) open as well.  I will report more on candidates at the end of the qualifying period (June 12th). The terms for these newly elected seats will end March 2020 to complete the original terms of vacated positions.

STRATEGIC PLANNING SESSION
In early May, our city held their Annual Strategic Planning Session, also known as “Goal Setting”.  Along with staff department heads, the City Council reviews this past year’s work and set goals and objectives for the upcoming year. Our main goals are always is to be a financially sound, safe and secure city, and that we are.

Top three priorities for this year:

  1. School Strategy, to include; advocacy, over-capacity, boundaries, new builds, rebuilds, traffic patterns, impact fees, support safety and security as needed.
  2. Comprehensive Waterfront Plan with focus on Wildflower/Silver Palm Boat Ramp in collaboration of 2020 Vision.
  3. Downtown Development, specifically a review of Interim Design Guidelines/Pattern Book and Building Order 4035.

Other top priorities this year:
•FAU Town & Gown Relationship.
•Dixie Hwy Revitalization (exploration).
•Support Boca Raton as a Technology hub through new Office of Innovation, and possible funding for high tech incubator business growth through support to FAU Tech Runway.

Projects to be continued (to name a few):
•Lake Rutherford/Lake Wyman master plan.
•Government campus master plan.
•Midtown small area plan.
•Art in Public Places Implementation.
•Complete downtown parking study.
•Red Reef and Gumbo Limbo master plan.
•Sustainability plan.

The city has accomplished much this past year regarding goals, such as maintaining our high level of service and staffing levels. We have moved forward in creating an Office of Sustainability/Resiliency as well as an Office of Innovation.  Support was given for the Beach and Parks District in their purchase of valuable green space to create “Boca National Golf Course” along with initiating the sale of the western Municipal Golf Course.  An “Art in Public Places” ordinance/advisory committee and an Education Task Force was created. We streamlined the development process and implemented a plan for new, brighter lighting and way-finding signs in our downtown.  There is much more, however, too numerous to list, and we forge on…

PROUD TO SHARE A MUCH NEEDED UPGRADE
Palm Beach County School District responded to a much needed plea for help. Boca Raton High School will be cleaned and painted this summer. I had raised the question to the School Board asking what it would take to get our school looking presentable. In the past few years the roof tar has leaked onto the face of the buildings leaving an unsightly look.  After making this request, I was thrilled to receive a quick response from school board member Mr. Frank Barbieri.  The response was a resounding YES. Boca High will be repaired this summer. A special thank you to Mr. Barbieri for acknowledging this much needed maintenance, and to our new Superintendent Dr. Donald E. Fennoy for making this one of his first (great) decisions! Can’t wait to share before and after picture.

UPCOMING AUGUST ELECTION
Stay tuned for more news of our upcoming local Special Election which will be included on the last page of a very long ballot of the National Primary Election August 28.  If you are away this summer, make sure to get your absentee ballots.  Some of us may feel election fatigue…and this one came upon us unexpectedly! Nonetheless, it is as important as any. I personally believe “Local Politics” is the most important form of government. Here are ten reasons why: (excerpt from US Represented)

  1. Local politics affect our everyday lives.
  2. The folks elected to local positions in our cities and towns act as our first line of government.
  3. Participation in local politics can prevent tyranny.
  4. If and when your local system is hijacked by those who are considerably richer than average citizens, your local government’s charter is written with safeguards to allow the People to change the laws, rules, and even the functions of government simply by exercising your right to petition, right to vote, and right to freedom of speech.
  5. Local politics and local issues often set the precedent for political moves on the state and national level.
  6. With local politics, it’s a lot easier to rally support or opposition for local issues.
  7. Local politics, especially at the state level, determine what happens in schools.
  8. The easiest place to change laws you don’t like is with the local and state government.
  9. As concerned citizens, it’s easier to hold politicians accountable locally than nationally.
  10. Think globally, act locally.

IN CONCLUSION
Back in the 80’s when I worked as Director of Communication for the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce…we called the upcoming months the “Dog Days of Summer”.  Those days seem to be long gone!  With so many more all-year residents, young families and students, Boca is buzzing throughout the year. Whether you’re near or far…stay in touch with the happenings around town.  I wish you all at least a couple of lazy days of summer.

Read More
23 Mar
0

Downtown Post Office- Making Lemonade out of Lemons

Is discussion of the closure of the Downtown Post Office creating a unique opportunity to solve two problems at the same time? Perhaps, but it will take a joint effort.

First, Let’s Identify the Two Problems:
Problem number one…The announcement by the USPS that they intend to cease operations at the current downtown location; This comes at a time when our downtown population is growing. Problem number two… The increasing need for PUBLIC parking in the downtown.

The Opportunity
If, in fact, the Post Office building is vacated, a willing property owner who happens to be seeking additional parking opportunities for his many retail properties may consider construction of a multi-level public parking facility. A win-win solution would include a ground floor, full service modernized post office to replace our existing one, keeping it in a central location. A public/private partnership may help to move this forward.

The downtown post office property is presently owned by the largest commercial property owners in Boca Raton, James and Marta Batmasian. The Batmasians’ also own the strip center next door to the post office property. As was reported by news outlets, the Post office was forced to close for a few weeks in February due to structural impacts from the construction of adjacent property, Tower 155. It is worth noting that the City of Boca Raton owns the small parking lot to the east of the post office building.

The Challenge
Making this happen is not without its obstacles, beginning with coming to an agreement with all parties including the USPS. Each journey of one thousand miles begin with a single step. Our first step is to begin the discussion. Is Opportunity Knocking? What do you think?

Read More
19 Mar
0

IT’S BEEN ONE YEAR – TIME FLIES

March 12, 2018

The season is upon us! It’s a busy time…with guests, events, holidays and this beautiful weather in our little piece of paradise. I am happy to have a few minutes to catch up with you.

Let’s get to it…

SCHOOLS AND OUR CHILDREN
Last month we all experienced the horrific murder that took seventeen precious lives from us, right next door, at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. This was so close to home. Everyone seems to have six degrees of separation, if not closer. I believe I speak for most of us when I say “enough is enough”!

Immediately after this horror, I introduced a Resolution to be sent to our State and Federal Legislators asking to review our laws on gun control, address school security, mental illness, background checks, and active shooter training. I presented the completed Resolution #39-2018 on February 27th. Please watch video. The resolution was well received and passed with a 5-0 vote from my fellow Council Members. We heard from students, parents and our School Board District Representative Frank Barbieri that evening as well.

THERE’S MORE…
Just two days later I accompanied two passionate parents, Kim Bremer and Luke Sherlock, on a visit to speak with Boca Raton Middle School Principal, Peter Slack. The parents were representative of many parents and expressed, not only their concern for the children’s safety, but also suggested solutions. Mr. Slack was responsive to their concerns and suggestions for solutions. The parents have since received the support of Boca Raton High School Principal Susie King and School Superintendent Dr. Avossa as well.

What quickly followed was a meeting at Boca Middle School, where Sargent David Nissionsohn from the School District Police addressed a group of parents. Frank Barbieri, Principal Slack, Assistant Principal Hodgens and I were present, along with PTA representatives from Boca Raton and the County. All parties were very receptive to the parent’s suggestions regarding safety and security. Initial implementation may include opportunities for interested parents to be trained to assist in school security. This leadership action will hopefully reach all of our schools. For more information contact parentsafetycoalition@gmail.com.
Parents Safety Coalition Mission Statement: “The Parent Safety Coalition is to support the School Administration, School Resource Officer/school police and campus security. We want to be the extra eyes and ears for school security”.

There is another important component. I also invited our local, and now nationally known, Denis Estimon who, as a student, created We Dine Together at Boca Raton High School, to join us that evening. Denis is also involved with a more comprehensive program for children of all ages called BeStrong.Global.  BeStrong Director, Ashleigh Cromer also addressed the parents and presented information on this valuable program that helps children deal with problems from within the schools. Personally, I was so impressed by what I heard that I have invited Ms. Comer to speak before the City Council to help bring awareness to the community about BeStrong.

Even though our schools are not under the jurisdiction of the city, I am pleased to willingly take a leadership role that encourages our School District to implement programs with the necessary resources to better provide safety for our children in city schools.

On a separate note: There is a march being organized for March 24th, beginning at 10am from City Hall to Mizner Park. Our walk joins nationwide awareness supporting the “March For Our Lives” rally in Washington DC and Parkland, FL. Please check in for more information to follow.

MIDTOWN DEVELOPMENT
Plan your Work and Work Your Plan! I am proud to share that I was the most vocal voice on our City Council at the January 23rd City Council meeting that has ultimately led to a real plan for Midtown. Crocker Partners and representatives from other landowners came forward to request a change to existing zoning. This change could allow for up to 2,500 new residential units in the area. As the meeting progressed, I was adamant that there should be NO zoning changes without a full Master Plan of the area.

MidTown is not a yes or no question – it simply calls for proper planning. We must look at the area holistically and consider the impacts as well as guidelines for; streetscape, building heights, transportation, walkability, open green space, setbacks, impacts on traffic, public safety, schools, mixed use opportunities, etc.

After what turned into a 5 1/2-hour MidTown discussion, three of the four other Council Members finally agreed to my motion to have the City, not the developer, provide a Master Plan study, which we are officially calling a “Small Area Plan”. This will lay out the rules of the area and incorporate the desires of the community. Please stay tuned for a Community Outreach meeting which will be an important part of the process.

REGARDING ALL DEVELOPMENT
Land development and redevelopment is a fact of life throughout Florida. It is an economic engine that serves us well when done right. My purpose for serving on City Council is to do my very best at “getting it right”. I have not approved all the projects that have come forward, nor have I voted against all projects. My purpose has always been about being fair and balanced. What I have done, and will continue to do, is get the very best product from a landowner/developer. I will look at the reality, location, the beauty, the density, the parking and all other impacts. What does it contribute to our community? How does it affect our school capacity? How much open space balances the proposed project? By holding the land owner, developer and architects to the highest standard, we get a better product. The goal is to gain more green space, more parking, less traffic, more art and creativity – The components that enhance our quality of life.

Yes, I could vote “no” for every development project that comes our way…in spite of that it would most likely pass by a majority anyway. What I have learned in my year on City Council is to ask for more giveback from the development community and to expect more. Once changes and zoning are granted, it’s near impossible to get it back. I liken it to trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube!

MARCH 13TH CITY COUNCIL ELECTION
This Tuesday, March 13th is a local election. Without question, local elections directly impact our everyday quality of life more than other elections. It is your duty and obligation as a citizen and resident of Boca Raton to cast your vote. It will take five minutes. The polls will not be crowded. Please vote!

ENDORSEMENT
I am endorsing Monica Mayotte, City Council Seat D…and I’ll tell you why. I first met Monica several years ago as we were individually doing community service – serving our city on various boards and committees. What impressed me most about Monica was her dedication to work on behalf of the city and its residents for the greater good. Monica raised her children here. She served as president of the local PTA. She is your neighbor. Monica understands what quality of life truly means to the residents of Boca Raton. She has been an avid protector of our green space and our best natural assets – our beaches, our parks and our waterfront. Monica understands the need for “smart growth” and will take our quality of life into consideration when making decisions about development: traffic, parking, density, school safety and overcrowding. Please join me and vote for Monica Mayotte for city council this Tuesday.

A QUICK NOTE ON A FEW OF MY PRIORITIES
The newly formed Education Task Force, focusing on school over-capacity, new schools and school rebuild issues will hold their first meeting in the Community Center Annex, March 26th at 6PM. The public is welcome.

The Art in Public Places Advisory Board has not set their date yet. I am hoping to see the meeting scheduled in very near future. To start with I would like to ask for input and direction on the Art Tunnel Project at Spanish River Park. This project is already a strong initiative and supported by the city’s Parks and Recreation Board, which make sense to use as a jumping off point.

The City conducted a community outreach workshop presenting conceptual plans for the renovation of Rutherford/Lake Wyman Park. The concepts included opportunities for non-motorized boats and activities such as kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, walking trails, new boardwalks, along with additional parking for boat trailers and launches/ramps for motorized boats. The meeting was very well attended. Residents representing the boating community, neighborhoods and organizations were present. The consensus was loud and clear that evening. People loved the idea of all the improvements, except boat ramps for motorized boats. I will encourage the city to move forward with the renovation plans as quickly as possible, taking resident input into strong consideration.

FINALLY
My first year dedicated to being a public servant has been challenging, yet rewarding. I am so grateful that the community trusted me enough to provide this incredible platform that allows me to affect change and purpose. My objective is to represent all of the residents of our community. I will continue to do my best in that regard. The support of residents showing up for meetings and emailing your elected officials about concerns, or support, is crucial to the end purpose as well.

THANK YOU!
Andrea Levine O’RourkE
aorourke@myboca.us
561-859-4931

Read More
29 Jan
0

MIDTOWN – Highest Priority is Good Planning

Midtown Boca

After five plus hours of deliberation at Boca’s City Council meeting on January 23rd, three of the four other elected officials agreed with my motion approving the creation of a plan first. Instead of approving zoning and granting vested rights to build potentially 1000’s of residential units, I am happy and proud to announce there was a 4-1 decision made to go forward with a City generated vision of Midtown Boca (Mayor Haynie was the dissenting vote). This allows us to have city planners establish perameters with a workshop of the overall vision of this area, including community input. I look forward to considering, roads, traffic, mobility, heights, parking, schools, distribution of units, pedestrian safety and walkability, cyclist, cohesion with neighboring communities, green space, entertainment, and more. Basically planning everything that makes for a “livable city”. This will include proper city planning called a “Small Area Plan”. To clear up any confusion…
A small area plan is any plan that addresses the issues of a portion of the city. Small area plans can cover three different geographic scales – neighborhood, corridor, and district regardless of the size of the area.

Read More
29 Jan
0

APPLY TO NEW ADVISORY BOARDS

Important New Advisory Boards

I have personally advocated for, and am thrilled to announce that the City Council recently established two new volunteer committee opportunities: The Art in Public Places Advisory Board and the Education Task Force.

Art in Public Places Advisory Board will review and recommend policies, programs and actions regarding art in the public realm. The Board is comprised of seven (7) members who are residents of the City with knowledge, experience or an interest in art. This is a newly created Board and all positions are currently open. Please use this application link to apply.

Education Task Force will review the status of City public school facility capacity, construction and renovation and reports their findings and recommendations to the City Council. The Task Force is comprised of seven (7) members who are City residents, at least three (3) of whom have children attending public school, grades K-12, in the City. This is a newly created task force and all positions are currently open. Please use this application link to apply.

I believe these two boards represent the heart and soul of Boca Raton. Public Art adds a layer of humanity and culture as well as building a sense of pride and place in a community. Boca was lagging in that area. I also believe that we can’t just build buildings without looking at the legacy and what the contribution is to our community. The importance of focusing on our culture and history will add great value to our community. As it has in surrounding Palm Beach County, the impact of art and culture will stimulate the economic growth of our city.

The future of our children depends on the Educational Experience we provide today in Boca Raton. Although our schools are managed by the Palm Beach County School Board we have a major responsibility to oversee the level and standards of education expected in our city. There are concerns regarding school capacity, as well as development and redevelopment of Boca Raton schools. It is important to have a Task Force focused on our current and specific concerns with a look toward the future.

Please share your experience and passion with our city. Consider applying for one of these boards. The city is accepting applications now (links above).


The public interview will be held at City Council Workshop on Monday, February 12, (approx.) 2:00 PM or City Council meeting, Tuesday, February 13, 6:00 PM at City Hall.


 

Read More
29 Jan
0

BOCA RATON SCHOOL UPDATE

School Update
City owned property on the grounds of Don Estridge Middle School has been identified and plans for a new elementary school have been accelerated. Palm Beach County School Board, the Superintendent and Local Officials are working to make this a reality. See the recent press release for details.  The redevelopment of Addsion Mizner (AMES) and Verde Elementary will happen as well. The decision for the location of AMES has not been finalized at this time.

We have recently made great strides in addressing our elementary schools dilemma. Moving forward however, we cannot take our eyes off the over-capacity issue of both Boca Raton Middle and Boca High School. Addressing this situation is key of what is best for our children, Boca standards and our quality of life. I look forward to the new “Task Force” having the foresight and vision to focus in and point the way with perspective and productive ideas.

Read More
29 Jan
0

Local March Elections – Endorsement

Upcoming Boca Raton Municapal Elections

Let’s talk about local politics for a moment.  In Boca Raton, local government is non-partisan.  The purpose is to set the overall direction through long-term planning and implementation of policies to carry out our vision.  All elected officials including the Mayor have equal voting power.  All officials represent the community at large, as opposed to districts.  It is this level of government where the decisions are made that truly effect your everyday life.  Most importantly, YOU have an opportunity for your voice to be heard and make a difference. Elected officials are accessible and meetings are open to public viewing and comment.

March 13, 2018 is the date of our next city election.  With two seats on City Council up for grabs, it is important for voters to educate themselves on the issues and the candidates who are willing to step up and represent the citizens of Boca.

The campaign that is likely to get the most attention will be for Seat D. Council Member Robert Weinroth recently withdrew his name for re-election to this seat at the last minute in order to run for County Commission District 4 against Boca’s current Mayor, Susan Haynie.  The County election will take place in November, 2018.  As a result of the changing political landscape, Seat D now has three candidates:

Candidates for Seat D:
Monica Mayotte who filed her intent to run back in mid-October and was thought to be the main challenger to Mr. Weinroth due to her community involvement, participation on city boards and frequent attendance at city meetings. Ms. Mayotte has previously focused on numerous city issues, most importantly, schools as past President of the PTA, and as an advocate for sustainability and green initiatives where she has served as Chairman of the Green Living Advisory Board. Ms.Mayotte is an empolyee of JM Family Enterprises and a graduate of FSU.

Paul Preste is a Boca Raton political new comer. Dr. Preste is a Broward County area doctor who recently attempted to purchase the Boca Municipal golf course for redevelopment.

Armand Grossman, is a commercial real estate broker and developer.  Mr. Grossman, who entered the race to run in the final hours of filing, is a long-time Boca Raton resident and graduate from FAU.

Candidates for Seat C:
Jeremy Rodgers, current Deputy Mayor, is running for re-election to Council Seat C. Mr. Rodgers, father of four, is an IBM employee in computer security, FAU alumni and serves as an officer in the US Navy Reserve.

Ms. Kim Do, is a political newcomer to Boca Raton. Ms. Do has a CPA and law degree and two children in the Boca Raton public school system


ENDORSEMENT:  I am endorsing Monica Mayotte for City Council, Seat D.  I met Monica when our paths continued to cross as volunteers on city boards and advocating for the community in several areas. Monica has a proven track record of being involved, sensitive to concerns of the citizens, and showing an interest for quality of life issues in Boca Raton. Monica is the one true candidate for this seat that has shown her dedication to serve for what I believe to be the right reasons. If you would like to meet Monica you are invited to attend her event on Monday evening, February 12th at the Biergarten. For more information please reach out to her through her website. http://www.mayotteforbocacouncil.com


 

 

Read More
123