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 Samson2018.com.  

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

March 1st: Defeat the Racist Riviera Beach Bleach Plant Plan

On February 9th, residents of Riviera Beach and environmental justice activists across the county were successful in compelling the Planning and Zoning Board to make a recommendation that would stop the Odyssey proposal and to encourage the City Counsel to deny any future plans to locate in the City of Riviera Beach.

Odyssey bleach plant in Tampa, FL
This Wednesday, March 1st, 6pm at Riviera Beach City Hall, the City Counsel meeting will take a final vote on the matter. But residents are concerned that the Counsel will pass this proposal in spite of the Planning and Zoning Board's conclusion.

The proposed site is zoned General Industrial with a "special exception" requirement which means that the plan can only be approved if it can show that it will do no harm to the community.

The site is adjacent to a large apartment complex, surrounded by low-income, African American residential areas, schools, churches, and a large food company. All of these are within the 1/2 mile evacuation zone required by the US Emergency Responder guidelines for facilities handling liquid bleach, which is a code 1791 product. This requires an evacuation plan and a hazmat plan. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Feb 9th Meeting on Massive Bleach Storage Facility Next to Residents of Riviera Beach

From the Environmental Assessment by ERMI
The Riviera Beach Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) will be voting on approval for a massive bleach storage and distribution center this week, Thursday, Feb 9, 6:30 p.m. at the Council Chambers in Municipal Complex at 600 West Blue Heron Boulevard, 33404
 
News of the proposed facility, which seeks to store and 40,000 gallons of bleach and transport tankers during all hours of the day, only surfaced in December, and has received minimal coverage aside from a single story last month from CBS 12.

The conditions for approval (which can be viewed in the P&Z packet) say the plan must show that it will not harm the public interest, but the Environmental Assessment report conducted by a consulting firm, Environmental Risk Management, Inc (ERMI), lacks a cumulative impact assessment which shows all the other industrial facilities surrounding Riviera, all of which individually swear they are doing no harm, but collectively pose an environmental justice nightmare where racism is undeniable.

The Environmental Assessment also gives minimal information about impacts from a large accident in transportation, both on public health and on the waterways which drain into a sensitive and already overburdened coastal ecosystem.

The bleach plant would sit adjacent to a residential community, including home day care facilities.

PBCEC supports residents of Riviera Beach in asking the P&Z Board to conduct a series of public meetings to fully inform the community of this proposal.