By: County Commissoner Robert Weinroth Special to the Boca Newspaper
November was a month of transition. Nationwide, midterm elections were closely watched to determine the temperament of the electorate. The balance of power shifted in the US House of Representatives giving many if our locally elected Members of Congress a greater say on the items to be considered over the next two years.
Locally, as a result of term limits, a number of races were held for open seats. Florida House District 89, previously represented by Rep. Bill Hager was one such seat. As of this writing, Mike Caruso appears to have won the bitter contest waged between him and former Ocean Ridge Mayor James Bonfiglio. However, due to a paper-thin margin of victory, a hand recount will likely occur. Win or lose, Bonfiglio was required to step down from his position on the town council effective November 20th(the date the new state representative will take office).
Another change resulting from term limits was the departure of Steven Abrams as the District 4 member of the Board of County Commissioners. Abrams has been a long time public servant, having been first elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 1989 and mayor in 2001. In 2009 he was appointed to the commission by, then, governor Charlie Crist and was re-elected twice to four-year terms.
Abrams was recently named executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, succeeding Jack Stephens, who will retire at the end of the year.
Abrams served on the SFRTA board for eight years before he stepped aside to offer himself as a candidate for the position of executive director. He became known as the “commuting commissioner” because of his regular use of Tri-Rail to get to his office.
During his tenure, Abrams represented the SFRTA in negotiations with Briteline, which led to an agreement to bring direct Tri-Rail service into downtown Miami.
Palm Beach County prides itself on its ability to attract new and relocating businesses to our city. Several years ago we added a business development manager to help facilitate this effort. It has been a collaborative effort with the state and municipalities, which has resulted in greater economic opportunities for our residents.
Public transpiration will become increasingly important to the future mobility of our residents and visitors to our state. With Abrams at the helm of Tri-Rail and the Board of County Commissioners the board of directors for Palm Tran, a comprehensive review of our regions public transit will, hopefully, provide alternatives to the predominant use of private passenger vehicles to move about.
With the departure of Abrams, I am pleased to have been elected to assume his seat as the District 4 representative on the Board of County Commissioners. I am hopeful my experience as a member of the Boca Raton City Council will help me as I transition into this new role.
Florida is likely poised to enjoy a surge in businesses relocating from the northeast as they respond to recent federal tax code revisions. That being said, unless we ensure an adequate supply of workforce housing in our community, it will be difficult for companies to justify relocation fearing the inability to find homes for their employees.
Attracting new businesses and employers to Palm Beach County is essential to continued economic growth. On the commission, I plan to focus on keeping our region competitive to bring and maintain high-paying jobs.
I am also committed to addressing the mental health needs of our residents. Our community has been plagued by the opioid epidemic, a growing number of suicides, gun violence and homelessness. The root cause of each of these (and other) issues is inadequate mental health resources. Prevention is much less expensive than dealing with the results of neglect.
Palm Beach County must become a global leader on the issue of climate change. That starts with acknowledging the threat of sea-level rise. Even our inland communities are low-lying. The risks to property and life itself are enormous. Over the next few years I intend to direct county dollars toward green investments, push to add solar panels to county-owned properties, and continue my support of public transportation.
Transition is healthy and as part of that transition I commit to being an able representative for our community, the county and our region. I am at your service and hope you will reach out to me if you are faced with a county issue.
Feel free to contact my aid, Lucia Bonavita, at 561.355.2204 if there is a county issue we can help you resolve. You can also email me at RWeinroth@PBCGov.org for a county issue that we might be able to help you resolve.