As a destination, Delray Beach is hot. How else to explain its recent Rand McNally ranking as the "Most Fun Small Town in America."
But the city's budding prominence is putting pressure on local government as it balances a small-town "Village by the Sea" feel with burgeoning growth and development.
A string of controversial decisions have dominated the March 12 elections, which feature city-wide contests for mayor and Seat 1. Commissioners did themselves no favors by approving a $65-million no-bid garbage contract. Neither did they help themselves last December when they approved the Atlantic Plaza II project, a major mixed-use development on the east end of Atlantic Avenue that many believe is too big for that tony section of town.
Throw in the decision to dip into reserves to plug a $4-million deficit — and the lingering disparity of city services between the posh Lake Ida and Marina Historic communities with the less affluent, predominantly black neighborhoods along West Atlantic Avenue — and you begin to wonder whether this city of 61,209 residents needs a course correction.
Fortunately, voters have good choices among the five candidates. Because of their experience, vision and leadership potential, the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board recommends voters choose Cary Glickstein for mayor and Kurt Lehman for Seat 1.
Elect Cary Glickstein for Mayor
This contest features two attractive candidates who have been longtime friends: Tom Carney, a former commissioner and interim mayor; and Cary Glickstein, former chair of the city's Planning and Zoning Board.
The two share similar views on economic development, government transparency, public safety and fiscal responsibility. The last issue gives Glickstein the edge and makes him the better choice. He would be a more independent thinker on spending matters and more vocal with fellow commissioners and the public in making sure the city meets its fiduciary responsibilities.
Glickstein, a 54-year-old attorney and businessman, has worked on enough community causes and city advisory boards to understand the workings of city government. As a trustee of the Beach Property Owners Association, he worked with city leaders, homeowners and developers to draft regulations to limit construction of oversized "McMansions" that threaten the character of seaside neighborhoods.
Glickstein would bring that same zeal to preserving the city's character by better regulating development, responsibly balancing the budget and finding ways to boost transparency at city hall.
Carney, a 59-year-old attorney, has served the city well. To his credit, he voted "no" on the massive Atlantic Avenue development and as a commissioner, opposed the no-bid garbage contract.
One vote that raises red flags, however, was Carney's support of a contract to rake the beach. After the vote, the firm's owner held a "meet and greet" event for Carney. The acting mayor has defended his vote, but the optics suggest too much coziness with a contractor.
Glickstein offers voters a better choice, and they'd be wise to take it.
Vote Kurt Lehman for Seat 1
Public safety remains a big concern in Delray Beach, which is why Kurt Lehman is making a run for city commission.
If elected, the 39-year-old real estate broker and consultant would make public safety a priority, ensuring resources are allocated to areas where they are most needed to curb violent crime and drug activity. He'd also work to enact stricter regulations to control sober houses.
Lehman would work to boost the city's tax base by attracting and retaining small businesses, particularly Internet and technology firms. He'd also focus on ways to boost property values, which would mean more revenue for city services.
A mugging at a downtown restaurant prompted Lehman to become more active in the Delray Beach Chamber and Young Professionals of Delray. He later won a seat on the city's Code Enforcement Board, where he's learned about neighborhood preservation and maintaining property values.
Lehman is one of three candidates vying for the open seat vacated by acting Mayor Carney.
Alexander Christopher, a longtime resident and president of Delray Shores Neighborhood Association, hopes to divert more resources to fighting crime in the city's predominantly black neighborhoods and streamline regulations that govern small businesses.
Shelley Petrolia, the third candidate in the race, is a 49-year-old real-estate broker making her second bid for the commission. She would work hard to find alternatives to tapping reserves and promises to bring an independent outlook to the dais.
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