Monday, March 21, 2022

Confusion About Craig Frost

Tuesday March 22, 2022, is a runoff election in Lake Worth Beach. The PBCEC is asking you to vote and volunteer to get others out, by making phone calls/texts, waving signs, and working your social media network.

All districts vote. Polls open from 7am to 7pm. 

As you may have noticed by now, there is a problem with Craig Frost. You might have read about it in the newspaper, or gotten mail, calls or text about it. Some of it has gotten confusing, and its possible there is a straight up disinformation campaign attempting to garner support for Frost by making people feel bad for him. Its a pretty weird strategy, but it seems worth taking a closer look at before going to the polls.

It should be made clear that, in our opinion, the problem with Craig Frost is not that he didn't answer the Post or Sentinel questionnaires or respond to the requests for interviews. It's not that he has a criminal record (which is very common), or that he said he didn't know about it (which is pretty strange). And it's also not about there being too much trash in the garbage can from the picture there on D Street. 

Craig deserves the sympathy and support for his battle with cancer that he has shared publicly. And he deserves respect for his community involvement despite having a criminal record. But that doesn't mean that he should have a position of representing the people of Lake Worth. 

The problem with Frost as a commissioner has little to do with Craig at all. It doesn't really even have much to do with the Gulfstream. (While that is certainly a project worth scrutinizing from various angles, we feel it is also being overplayed to drive division between neighbors. There is a much bigger picture to be thinking about. Props to former candidate Daniel Morgan—who is supporting Diaz—for giving voice to that position.)

The problem with Craig is who is behind him, and who he will be beholden to; who is contributing funds, putting up yard signs at the properties they are speculating on, who is pushing for him to get elected in order to further their business interests. The problem is people supporting candidates that will make them more money at the expense of driving people out of neighborhoods in pursuit of the twisted demographics changes that previous commissioners have heralded, and long term impacts to the planet, that shortsighted real estate greed and overdevelopment result in.

There is no shocker here. It's not a conspiracy theory. Every election year, we see yard signs pop up in vacant lots. These serve as the initial indicators of real estate speculators attempting to influence election results. 

Such as is the case of the photo here, property on the corner of D Street and Lucerne owned by real estate speculator Greg Rice displays signs for Frost. (This is confirmed by the PAPA record pictured below.)

The campaign contribution forms here show donations from the Realtors PAC and CDS Int'l

These are the type of entities that funded the commission majority over the past 10 years, facilitating corporate giveaway to developers in the form of variance, zoning increases, "sustainability" bonuses, tax abatements and selective code enforcement policies.

In response to having this pointed out, Craig Frost's campaign strategists have attempted to divert attention to a local architect, environmentalist and smart growth advocate, Anne Fairfax, who has donated to the campaign of Reinaldo Diaz. 

Craig Frost's, pro-development supporters seem to be feigning concern about this supposed conflict to confuse voters on the fence. Or they may be taking a cheap shot at Fairfax, a part-time local who helped found a group that is challenging downtown development, because she has been an outspoken critic of the CRA planning process, presenting counter visions of development plans that better integrate with the existing neighborhood. (Note: PBCEC doesn't necessarily agree with Fairfax proposals.)

While a commissioner's relationship to people in the real estate industry should certainly be scrutinized, activists with PBCEC have worked with both Diaz and Fairfax on local land use issues, and found them to be well-informed and strong allies of greater community control over the direction of development. 

Hopefully that helps you decide how to make your decision tomorrow.  

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Info on Lake Worth 2022 Elections: District 4 and Ballot Items

[UPDATE: There is a runoff election on March 22. The fundraising deadline is March 17th at 11:59 pm. You can donate on his website. Please kick in $25 today, and spread the word. Follow his social media for more info on volunteering. With Reinaldo elected, this would give us a more solid commission majority for pro-environmental and community-centered decisions. It's much harder to turn out less engaged voters in a runoff, so we need your help, on the phones, knocking doors, and donating funds, ASAP. Report on 3/8 Results.

As local environmentalists and community activists in Lake Worth Beach may have noticed, our success in re-electing Christopher McVoy for District 2 was not contested by a pro-developer candidate, so he will thankfully continue to hold that seat. It was a major sigh of relief after all the work we put in engaging voters to show up at the polls last year.

But the District 4 seat is now up for grabs, as Herman Robinson leaves office. There are three names on the ballot. There are also some important ballot questions to vote on. We succeeded in creating a major shift last year, unseating four developer-backed, socially-conservative candidates, three of which had been in office for a decade+, but the pressure of real estate greed continues to impact commission decisions. 

For example last year, a significant upzoning for the proposed Deco Green development passed in a 3-2 vote, requiring neighbors, environmentalists and local affordable housing advocates to file a lawsuit aiming to send it back to the drawing board for a reassessment of the city's "sustainability bonus" and deeper input from surrounding residents. (Details on that fight here.) Who gets into office this year would have a real impact on decisions like this one, which affects the cost of housing and the quality of life for the low-rise, working class neighborhoods that make up most of the city.

Here's a little about the candidates and the ballot items to aid in casting an informed ballot.
Diaz works with kids to clean the Lagoon

District 4 candidates

Reinaldo Diaz: He has an extensive background in land use law and policy, as well as the management of a non-profit, public interest organization. Born and raised in the city, he is the founder of Lake Worth Waterkeeper, advocating to protect water quality in the lagoon and surrounding watershed. He could be an excellent asset, bringing valuable skills and experience to the commission. Learn more about him here. The Sun Sentinel did a good write up in their endorsement of him, which you can find here

Morgan speaks on public health at press event
Daniel Morgan:
As a former employee of the Guatemalan Maya Center, and a current case worker for refugees, he has relationships with central figures in the local community of immigrants, many who have been here decades with little to no representation in the city's political affairs. He was a member of the City's Charter Review Committee. While he is a relatively recent resident of the city, he brings a fresh energy that could be a great addition to the commission. Learn more about him here.

Every year, we see yard signs pop up in vacant lots
during election time, as real estate speculators
attempt to influence results.
In this case, property owned by Greg Rice,
which should be a city park,
instead piles up with garbage
...and campaigns for Frost. 
Craig Frost:
Craig seems like an alright guy, owns a local upholstery business and participates in the neighborhood associations. Unfortunately for him, he has the support of the previous commissioner and is the choice of many from the pro-development, chamber of commerce, real estate speculator crowd. His campaign literature has the tired old cliché about running city hall like a business. According to his campaign's Facebook page, he worked at Capri Pizza when he was in high school. They have pretty good pizza, but that's not enough to overlook where his primary support is coming from. 

When people say "the city should be run like a business," we think the response should be "sure, a nonprofit business, where public interest is the driving force rather than profit-making." To that end, Morgan and Diaz both shine. Frost, not so much.

Ballot Questions:

Voters in Lake Worth Beach also will decide four ballot questions. 

Question 1 is about term limits: Vote Yes. 
The city currently has none. This item would limit commissioners to two consecutive three-year terms in one seat, and 12 consecutive years in local office. You wanna go longer than that, you gotta take a break for a term. There are mixed feelings among some about term limits for higher office, like in Congress or the State Legislature because of "losing institutional knowledge and shifting power from novice legislators to entrenched lobbyists and staffers," as the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board put it. But it's very different on this level. We want a variety of voices coming into the commission.

Question 2 is about runoff elections: Mixed feelings, but No.
The reality of local elections is that a very small number of people actually show up for them. A candidate should be able to show that they have 51% of the those votes, without the runner up being made to feel that they are wasting time or money, and being pressured to concede. On the other hand, a run-off candidate conceding may offer insight about that person, so you can take note of it in case they come back and ask for your vote in the future. Either way, the fact that it happened in 2019 isn't reason to worry too much, as it doesn't happen often enough to warrant stress over which way you vote on it. Flip a coin, leave it blank, not a major concern.

Question 3 single-member districts: Vote No
This would result in each commissioner being elected only by voters in that district. Currently they run city-wide (or 'at large'), and all voters vote in every race. Single districts may make sense in larger cities, where there are vast differences from one district to another, but in Lake Worth it is misguided. It would most likely exacerbate the existing segregation in this small town, where the wealthier, whiter pockets hold a concentration of votes. Districts 1 and 2 may become easier elections to win for community activists and grassroots folks, but easier doesn't always mean better quality. And securing broader community representation for districts 3 and 4 could become much more difficult, which would make the campaign for mayor higher stakes, concentrating developer influence on what would become the primary swing commission vote. This would further polarize the town along race and class lines, rather than pushing us out of our comfort zones to cross town and work in various neighborhoods to figure out solutions to common problems in this relatively small geographic area. 

Question 4 fill a commission vacancy before the next election. Vote Yes
This is basically a low-stakes technical issue. As the Sun Sentinel put it in their endorsement: "Unfilled seats disenfranchise residents, leaving them without a voice."

That's our two-cents on the matter. We encourage folks to make up their own mind, and then get out in the streets and engage with your community.

Oh, and if you still have a Vote By Mail ballot, mail it soon or bring it directly in to the Supervisor of Elections office. If you are undecided up until the end, bring your mail-in ballot with you to the polls, otherwise you will have to vote by provisional ballot, which slows down the final election results.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Lake Worth Beach needs term limits... Until then we can vote them out on March 9

The Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition has devoted much time and energy over the past 17 years to pushing back against the interests of developers in the Lake Worth area seeking to overpower the interests of the local residents in this community that is predominantly a collection of low-rise, working class coastal neighborhoods

But development and real estate greed in what is now called Lake Worth Beach is not just about pavement and pollution, its also an environmental justice issue.

Even the 2010 census (which was thought to have significantly under counted immigrant residents) reported that 60% of the city was made up of Black, Latinx and Indigenous people, largely from Central American and Caribbean countries, many of whom have been making their homes in Lake Worth since fleeing wars and repression in the 1980s.

While there has long been a tension between the residents of the city and the people seeking to maximize profits through real estate investments, that has come to a head in recent years, with an increased effort to push people out by abusive code enforcement policies, even exploiting the pandemic to shut off unpaid utilities of these same residents and their families.

This commission has sought to refute these claims on a very superficial levels, using red scare tactics reminiscent of the McCarthy-era, claiming that the community activists monitoring and exposing these efforts are just getting in the way of progress.

If greed, racism, exploitation and evicting families to make room for high-rise luxury condos are the definition or progress, then the PBCEC is proud to join residents standing in the way of it.

While we are not endorsing candidates in this election, as shown above, we are seeking to educate the public about the current incumbents and show an example of those who are running for their seats. In that spirit, we note the following:

In District 2, Christopher McVoy is a former City Commissioner with a solid record of voting favorably on issues of climate, environment and water quality, as well as social concerns related to immigrant rights and racial justice. His main opponent, Carla Blockson, claims to be independent of the current commissioners but was appointed to fill the District 2 commission seat by the incumbents listed above after the election cycle had already started, and is seen driving around town in the current mayor's personal golf cart.

In District 3, Kim Stokes and Drew Martin both have strong track records and vocal commitments to community activism for environmental and social concerns. Their main opponent has generally voted as a shill for developers for the past 10 years.

In District 1, Sarah Malega has expressed concerns surrounding development, affordable housing, immigrants rights and police accountability. Her only opponents has a 20 year legacy in public office as a deceptive far-right bigot (for example, speaking out recently against community IDs intended to ensure the safety of undocumented residents). He led efforts to shut down a day labor resource center, disband a police oversight board, and end the city's energy conservation program. While he once appeared independent on development issues, he has long since proven to be a tool of developers. Not to mention, he's a MAGA hat-wearing chairperson of the Palm Beach Republican Party's Political Committee

For Mayor, Betty Resch has joined her neighbors in opposing a multimillion dollar handout to developers threatening to forever change the character of the downtown neighborhood she lives in. While we have had disagreements with Resch in the past over some development issues, it is quite clear that the current mayor is a right-wing PR agent for real estate flipping junkies, and it's long past time to kick these fiends and their pushers out out of town. 

That's our two-cents on the matter. We encourage to make up your own mind, and then get out in the streets and engage with your community. 

Oh, and if you still have a Vote By Mail ballot, bring it directly in to the Supervisor of Elections office. Its cutting it too close to mail it.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Environmental activist challenges notorious settlement between Lake Point and South Florida Water Management District for violating Florida’s Sunshine Law

Lake Point Ranches development on the south side of Kanner Highway one mile east of Lake Okeechobee in this photo taken in November 2013.
Read the full lawsuit, filed March 11, 2019, here 

After years of contentious litigation involving a suit filed by Lake Point Phase I, LLC and Lake Point Phase II, LLC against the South Florida Water Management District, the District’s Governing Board held a meeting with its General Counsel Brian Accardo behind closed doors to discuss the case. Moments after the closed-door meeting concluded, and without advance release of the settlement agreement or public discussion regarding its merits, the District’s Board voted unanimously to settle the case on terms that were at the time undisclosed. [Additional background on this case can be found here.]

According to a lawsuit filed Monday, March 11, 2019, the first day of “Government in the Sunshine Week,“ this sort of ceremonious pageantry to formally accept an agreement that had already been decided upon entirely behind closed doors blatantly violates Florida’s open government laws.What actually transpired in that “shade meeting” is not known because the District has refused to release the transcript of the closed-door session with its attorney, in spite of a legal requirement that it do so as soon as the litigation was concluded.

In fact, the District was so anxious to keep the discussions that took place behind closed doors top secret, it sued an environmental organization, Everglades Law Center, for having made a public records request for a copy of the transcript. Initially the District claimed the transcript could not be made public because there was still on-going litigation between Lake Point and another party. In later pleadings, the District claimed that the transcript must remain secret not only until all the related litigation ends, but forever, because the closed-door meeting included discussions of what had happened at a prior court ordered mediation, and such “mediation communications” are confidential.

The complaint filed earlier this month on behalf of local activist Pangioti Tsolkas alleges that the District’s Board “privately decided to settle the Lake Point litigation, as well as the specific terms upon which the lawsuit would be settled.” This, according to Tsolkas, is antithetical of Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law, which requires public business to be conducted in the public, not behind closed doors. Tsolkas says the settlement agreement obligates the District to buy a minimum of 50,000 tons of rubble mined by Lake Point, whether the excavated materials are needed or not, and allows Lake Point to sell water, a concept contrary to the basic premise that Florida’s water is a public resource managed for the public’s benefit.

According to Marcy LaHart, the attorney representing Tsolkas, “while avoiding the uncertainty of litigation is often in the public’s interest, the lengths to which the District has gone to keep secret its reasoning behind entering the Lake Point settlement agreement is unprecedented. Regardless of whether entering the settlement agreement was a good thing or a bad thing, every penny the District will spend implementing the agreement and complying with its terms is the public’s money, and the public has a right to know why their public officials chose to settle the case when and how they did.”

Media inquiries contact Marcy LaHart, marcy@floridaanimallawyer.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

PBC Green Party Activist Samson Kpadenou Running for FL House of Representatives

The Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition urges you to get active in the District 87 race

See a map of District 87 below

Samson LeBeau Kpadenou is running as a Green candidate for the Florida House, representing District 87. Learn more at  

It's rare that an authentic grassroots community activist steps forward to engage in an electoral system dominated by corporate interests. This campaign represents one of these rare moments.

Samson (who many of us know as LeBeau) has been involved with the PBC Environmental Coalition and other environmental/social justice efforts for several years, attending meetings, hearings and demonstrations. He is the co-chair of the county and state Green Party, which had been one of the most active organizations in the PBCEC, offering support for local efforts to challenge over-development for the past two decades. On top of that, District 87 includes the northwest portion of Lake Worth, a long-time stronghold of environmental activists in South Florida.

In his own words:
As American discontent and deep political corruption and ineptitude in both of the major parties spilled onto our front pages and news feeds, I realized that almost across the board our political system had been corrupted to serve the wealthy few over the working many. I discovered that we have few honest actors in our government. I observed that our political class with their ivy league and business school degrees are no smarter than us, just better connected. I suddenly knew that if the people did not come together, hold government accountable and take our government back, things could only get worse for average Americans.
When I became civically engaged I found it to be my passion. I joined organizations that were fighting to make the political process answer to the people, or founded them where necessary. I began attending city and county commission and school board meetings and speaking out to them about issues that most impact our communities, like immigrant protections, environmental racism and gentrification. I took several trips to Tallahassee to argue for union rights, fracking bans, protections from wage and tip theft, public school funding and more.

I currently serve as co-chair to the Green Party of Florida and the Palm Beach County Green Party. I am the founder of Black Lives Matter Palm Beach County and the treasurer of the Palm Beach County Democratic Socialists of America. I am also an active member of the Palm Beach Tenants’ Union and the League of Women Voters.
Check out a great interview with him from CBS Ch 12

Here is a map of District 87. Please reach out to any friends and family who can vote and are residents in these neighborhoods. Contact his campaign to volunteer.
FL House of Representatives, District 87