Palm Beach County is for the most part, run by Democrats. Only 2 members of the county’s state delegation (senators and representatives) are Republican, one of the county Constitutional Officers (Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits – a club member who was present today), and 2 of the 7 county commissioners. The latter includes newly elected district 1 commissioner Hal Valeche, and today’s speaker, Chairman and Mayor Steven Abrams.
Appointed to the district 4 seat in 2009 by then Governor Crist to replace Mary McCarty, he was unopposed in the 2010 elections, and now serves as the agenda-setting Mayor of the county.
In his remarks, Mayor Abrams touched on his record opposing tax increases in the yearly budget cycles (not always successfully as it takes 4 votes to prevail), and how he has pushed for spending where it is necessary, such as road maintenance. This year, as the Administrator wants to raise the tax rate to bring in $25M more than last year, blaming it mostly on the Sheriff and his $510M budget (8.3% increase), the Mayor has asked that the Sheriff “sharpen his pencil so the taxpayer doesn’t have to sharpen theirs”.
His outlook on the county economy was upbeat, as he sees rising property valuations, and evidence of economic upturns as disparate as Tri-Rail ridership (he is on the Tri-Rail board) and divorce filings in the courts.
Taking some questions, the Mayor addressed beach replenishment funding (asked by Town of Palm Beach Councilman Bill Diamond), moving to non-partisan elections at the county level (not enough votes for it), who pays for the Singer Island sand pumping plant (Town of Palm Beach), federal sequestration (not much of a county impact), putting the IG under the Clerk’s Office (just an idea – would have to go to the voters), how to rein in the Sheriff’s budget (commission has limited ability in this area).
On the somewhat controversial topic of 7/50 (the 7 county, 50 year plan), he said that some regional planning is a good thing (for Tri-Rail expansion for example), while some other areas are better decided locally. Kevin Foley, a former chairman of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, cautioned that 7/50 is not “Agenda 21”, and should not be confused with that much maligned program. (For more information on 7/50, see: SE Florida Prosperity Plan ).
Prior to Mayor Abrams, we heard from Florida’s GOP National Committeeman Peter Feaman, who painted an upbeat picture of the national party (beating the Democrats in fundraising) as well as local (don’t believe everything you read in the papers). He cautioned us to stop “eating our own” and please give Marco Rubio the benefit of the doubt, even if you oppose his immigration reform plan.
Also present were district 18 congressional candidates Alan Schlesinger and Ellen Andel, and district 23 candidate Ilya Katz.
There will be no club lunches in July and August. The November meeting will feature American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas.