Observer Corps – PBC BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

BY Andrea Weiss

 

The December 19, 2017 PBC Board of County Commissioners meeting included three significant policy issues and was characterized by passionate public participation and some controversy.  

 

PROHIBITION OF CONVERSION THERAPY

The Board approved a motion to prohibit licensed therapists from engaging in conversion therapy with minors by a vote of 5-2.

  • Conversion therapy is a highly controversial practice of seeking to change, through therapy, an LGBTQ individual’s sexual preference, orientation, or expression to heterosexuality. It is currently banned in 9 states and numerous municipalities throughout the US.  
  • Before the Board vote, the County’s legal counsel had urged the Board to postpone action pending the outcome of a legal challenge to the ban in Tampa, warning that PBC could expect a similar challenge if it also adopted a ban.
  • The Board also heard comments from the public.
    • The majority were representatives of Christian institutions and affiliated organizations and individuals, citing religious, free speech, and parental rights as reasons to vigorously oppose the ban.  
    • Speakers in support of the ban raised evidence of harmful outcomes associated with conversion therapy, professional standards of care, and the rights of LGBTQ minors.

Following the public comments and subsequent discussion among the Commissioners, the Board voted 5-2 in support of the ban.  Commissioners Steve Abrams and Hal Valeche voted in opposition to the ban, citing litigation concerns and doubt that conversion therapy posed a significant problem in the county, respectively.  

 

PURCHASE OF McMURRAIN FARMS IN AG RESERVE

Commissioners approved a third amendment to an interlocal agreement with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) for the county’s purchase of the district’s 60.6 percent interest in the McMurrain Farms property in the Ag Reserve.

  • The county and the district jointly own the 571-acre property. The county will pay a total of $8,926,380 in three installments of $2,975,460, each time acquiring one-third of the district’s holding.
  • The purchase is intended to preserve agricultural use of this parcel, prevent unwanted development of this land for other purposes, and help protect water reserves from the intrusion of salt water that threatens fresh water habitats and agricultural use.  

The action received a vote of 5 – 2 in support, with Commissioners Abrams and Valeche opposing adoption.

 

FUNDING FOR CHANNEL SIDE APARTMENTS PROJECT

In a surprising turn of events, the Board approved State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Program’s conditional funding of $567,500 to the Richmond Group of Florida for the Channel Side apartments project. The multi-family housing project will serve special needs residents. The award was originally to be granted to another developer but due to procedural issues, that developer did not receive the grant. There was some drama at the Board meeting in reaching that conclusion. A recap follows below.

  • The county’s Department of Housing and Economic Sustainability (HES) had issued the Request for Proposal (RFP), making $700,000 in SHIP funds available for a grant to multifamily housing developers seeking tax credits under a Florida program.
  • At the conclusion of the RFP process, HES recommended that an award be made to Berkeley Landing, Ltd, but due to “procedural issues,” HES subsequently recommended voiding the award and canceling the RFP.  
  • At the meeting, the Board requested HES review the concerns and return within an hour. Upon reconvening HES still recommended that the process be voided and a new RFP be issued later.
  • However the Commissioners concluded that an error in Berkeley Landing’s application was “fatal,” while an error in the application from the Richmond Group was excusable, therefore awarding the funding to Richmond Group in a 7-0 vote.     

 

The next PBC BCC meeting is January 23, 2018.

 

DELRAY BEACH

By Arlene Ustin

Even though I have not attended recent Delray Beach commission meetings, the following is an update regarding the proposal to have Delray join the national Welcoming Cities initiative.

 

Delray Beach has just appointed a new City Manager, Mark Lauzier. I’ve been in conversation with both Mayor Glickstein (who wanted Mark involved since he has experience with this effort), and with Mark. Delray City’s leadership is managing this decision diligently.

  • Since the summer, three of us (Jill Hanson, Barbara Eriv and I) met individually with each of the five commissioners (including the mayor) who unanimously supported our proposal.
  • When we met with the city staff, the City Attorney (who stated that undocumented persons are simply breaking the law) and the Police Chief (who didn’t want to put a ‘wedge’ between local and federal government relationships) opposed it.
  • However, Lauzier has been central to having Tacoma, the city from which he came, designated as a Welcoming City and the designation was reaffirmed in 2017! He sent me four documents attesting to these actions.
  • Jill Hanson, Barbara Eriv and I are going to meet with Mark early in January.

Whichever way Delray City votes, the process has been thorough and will produce a sound rationale.

 

*On Wednesday night, for the first time I was involved in a conference call regarding the Welcoming Cities issue in Boynton Beach (and Delray).

  • Activist Bob Hudson urged Boynton Beach Commissioner Christina Romelus to postpone bringing up the proposal in early January, and she agreed.
  • Since the hostile display at the last regular meeting was unproductive, it seems far more preparatory footwork needs to be done to lay the groundwork before a civil discussion can take place publicly, e.g., meeting with each commissioner individually, include Boynton Beach teachers and members of diverse communities, etc.

 

*Caveat: my experience with this issue in Boynton Beach is limited to only what I’ve read in the Palm Beach Post and what I heard on this call.