Councilman Robert Weinroth take on Boca’s relationship with Beach and Parks District

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By: Councilman Robert Weinroth Special to the Boca Newspaper
The honor of serving on the City Council of Boca Raton over the past two years has required me (like the Mayor and my fellow Council Members) to be nimble and able to make decisions on a broad range of issues impacting our residents. In addition to the issues we address directly, there are a continuing litany of opportunities to collaborate with our partners at the county, state and federal government.
It is not always smooth sailing but, for the most part, we engage in a process of give and take, between ourselves and our partners, to arrive at solutions the parties feel best serve their constituencies.
A little over a year ago at our annual strategic planning session, the Mayor, Council and City staff spent several days taking stock of our progress on achieving past goals and, ultimately, establishing our priorities, going forward. During that process, we agreed we needed to re-establish a strong partnership with the Boca Raton Airport Authority and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Parks District.
When we met a year later to, again, review how we had done in addressing our priorities, we could take pride in the fact that our partnership with the BRAA was markedly improved. Through hard work and clearer lines of communication, misunderstandings were replaced by the Authority and City working collaboratively to ensure the airport continues to serve as a gateway to our City and an economic driver for the future.
Unfortunately, as we turned our attention to the priority of rebuilding a strong partnership with the Beach & Parks District it was clear little, if any, progress could be reported.
The strained relationship with the District, which had earlier resulted in this being identified as a priority by the Council, had, if anything, deteriorated. This is particularly frustrating since our constituencies are virtually identical.
The City enjoys a level of parks and recreational amenities not typical of many communities in South Florida. Our miles of natural beaches and numerous District, community and neighborhood parks are among our City’s most valued assets.
That being said, the current stalemate that has existed for my entire tenure on the Council, and prior, is not fair to the City staff, trying to deliver first class services and, ultimately, is unfair to residents of the District.
I am reminded of a cartoon depicting a vehicle with two drivers wrestling with the steering wheel, each trying to overpower the other to steer a course to their destination only to veer off the road and crash into a tree. This is clearly the situation where we find ourselves and that tree is still off in the distance – but it’s getting closer.
Attempts to get issues resolved have stalled as the City and District have been unable to even agree on a date and time for a joint meeting for a year and attempts by City staff to negotiate an Inter-Local Agreement (setting out the roles and responsibilities of the City and District) were recently dealt a crippling blow when the District chair hand delivered their response to a draft agreement it had received from the City many months prior.
Rather than offering a document with suggested edits (clearly marked to indicate where language was either deleted or added) the document delivered provided no guidance as to what has been changed sending the negotiations back to square one!
The creation of the District over 40 years ago was due, in large part, to the perceived inequity for residents (predominantly those living in the east) shouldering the expense of our abundant recreational facilities. One must wonder whether the forces necessitating the creation of the District justify today’s dysfunctional oversight of our recreational amenities.
It is abundantly clear this impasse must be broken in short order and an Agreement executed to place the needs of our residents above those of the individual governing bodies.
Unless and until the two independent governing bodies resolve to collaborate, our residents will be shortchanged by diminished recreational offerings.
I for one still hold out hope that meetings can be scheduled in the near term and resolutions to break the impasse found.