Council Corner Election Insights, Waterfront Next Steps, And Sober Homes

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By: Councilman Scott Singer Special to the Boca Newspaper
America just concluded an election cycle that was the most watched and discussed by far in our history. Some common themes from pundits in assessing the results were feelings that government was out of touch, controlled by elites, slow to act on problems, and not responsive to the citizens. Fortunately, this common national refrain is heard less often in Boca Raton, and we work hard to make it so.
On the Saturday after the national election day, I walked door to door to talk to residents to hear their thoughts for the March 14, 2017 municipal elections, where I am running for re-election. Instead of voter fatigue, residents were happy to talk to me and share their thoughts on what makes our community special and what more we can do together. The biggest concerns should be no surprise: traffic, development, jobs, and long-range planning. Boca, though, is blessed that so many residents care about more specific details – beautification, landscaping, garbage pickup. These concerns inform my service every day, and I’m proud to work with such dedicated city employees and colleagues to provide world-class services.
Washington may feel out of touch, but town halls, walking neighborhoods, and listening to residents concerns have kept me in touch with residents, and fortunately, the other way around as well. Local government truly matters and impacts our lives more directly than any other level of government. It’s vital that residents continue to feel that their leaders are accessible and responsive, and I’ll keep working to maintain the high level of satisfaction with local government at this level.
Also, on the November ballot, Boca Raton voters resoundingly spoke in favor – by a 2 to 1 margin – of a citizen-led petition to confine city-owned waterfront properties to public recreation, boating, streets, and utilities. Regardless of how you voted on this question, the task now falls to the City Council on how best to utilize our waterfront parcels, including the Wildflower site. In light of this ordinance, Hillstone Restaurant Group will not be proceeding with a possible lease and construction of a Houston’s.
In recent columns, readers have seen my report on the Downtown Waterfront Visioning Session I held with planners, architects, and residents to discuss community-driven ideas for our waterfront. This session gives the city a potential jump start into creating vibrant uses for the downtown waterfront. We can move forward as a community to create a signature space, with a waterfront promenade, recreation opportunities, and attractions, particularly during the weekday and weeknights when our two parcels are hardly used. I look forward to more discussions with neighbors and my colleagues.
Finally, we turn to sober homes. Palm Beach County is the epicenter of the nation’s heroin and opioid addiction crisis, with hundreds of recovery residences attracting patients from across the country. The multi-billion-dollar recovery industry has many scrupulous operators, but unfortunately, a number of shady and lawbreaking ones as well. In 2015, there were 216 heroin-related deaths in the county, and tragically, the figure for 2016 projects as much higher.
State Attorney Dave Aronberg leads the state’s first Sober Homes Task Force, and I’m honored to serve with other electeds, business representatives, and community leaders. The goal is to propose legislation that will end unethical practices of patient brokering and kickbacks for referring patients to particular facilities. Federal law limits opportunities for cities and towns to regulate in this area, so greater state legislation and action are needed to make our communities safer. State Senator Jeff Clemens and State Representative Bill Hager have been instrumental in the legislature’s efforts to address these problems, by sponsoring voluntary licensing laws, and their continued support to deal with our area’s growing crisis will benefit us all.
The Task Force recently heard a heartbreaking story from a mother of a 24-year-old woman who died from a heroin overdose while in a sober home, that was supposed to be free from drugs and alcohol. I look forward to continue to work with State Attorney Aronberg and his team, and our elected state leaders, towards putting a stop to senseless tragedies like this one.