Thursday, August 26, 2010

Campaign update #16


On Tuesday, West Palm Beach citizens voted against a mayor-sponsored proposal to ditch the voter-approved five-story height limit.

Soon, if sufficient signatures are collected, West Palm Beach citizens may be asked to vote on a mayor-sponsored proposal to ditch the voter-approved eight-year term limit.

Dare we suggest there is a connection between these votes? And that the result at the ballot box would be similar?

There certainly is a connection. Both are attempts of the Mayor Lois Frankel to carve out special exceptions from voter-approved laws to accommodate personal projects of her own.

The vote on the height limit was limited to a single property -- the old city hall -- which the mayor is trying to sell. Similarly, the proposal to ditch the eight-year term limit is a carve-out for her to run for mayor again. In fact, rather than have it appear on the March ballot, the mayor has suggested through proxies that she may sue the city to force a special election earlier so she could (if the anti-term limits proposal wins) run for a third term in March.

The public's desire for a lower skyline is not the only reason for Tuesday's vote. Part of the reason is a growing mistrust of politicians trying to bend the rules in order to serve themselves. That the rules are popular ones orginally imposed at the ballot box only makes this showdown between the people and the politicians more stark.

Since the ultimate decision will be made via petitions and the ballot box, the people's victory is certain. The question is, how much time, effort and resources will be wasted by the city and her citizens to reach this inevitable end?


The Palm Beach Post beat me into print with an editorial making the connection between the height limit vote and the mayor's plans for municipal monarchy. As they have from the start, the editors (Joel Engelhardt, here) offer additional insight and background on Frankel's capers:

"Voters may have doubted that a hotel would be built there without hefty city subsidies, a trade-off jeopardizing the mayor's profit story line. They may believe that spreading low-rise development would ensure that downtown's vacant sites fill in, creating more than a downtown of waterfront high-rises and a hollow core. Mostly, though, they are saying that they don't trust the mayor ... That should be a decisive factor in deciding whether to continue a divisive and self-serving fight over term limits."