By Jane Smith
Unfair. Disrespectful. Insulting. Deceptive. Racial undertones.
Several black community members have spoken those words at Delray Beach City Commission meetings since the beginning of April when commissioners voted to take over the city’s redevelopment board.
A few hours before the June 5 meeting, where Community Redevelopment Agency board expansion was on the commission agenda, the politics ramped up a notch.
Reggie Cox, a former agency board member, called Mayor Shelly Petrolia “the most divisive mayor in the last 30 years” on his Facebook page. He also shared his post to the Concerned Delray Citizens group page on Facebook, a social media platform.
In addition, he wrote, “The Mayor destroyed a black board.” The old CRA board had four black and three white members.
But it was Deputy Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson, the commission’s only black member, who called for the takeover. The four other commission members are white.
The City Commission approved expanding the agency board by a 3-2 vote on June 5. It then voted to add former Commissioner Angie Gray and Pamela Brinson, both black women, giving the CRA board three black members and four white.
Bill Bathurst and Ryan Boylston, both elected to the commission in March, voted against the expansion because they wanted to discuss what their roles would be on the agency board. “We are just getting our feet wet,” Bathurst said.
Boylston agreed and said he wanted to have a workshop first to discuss the commission’s vision for the agency. He also wanted to have a few more agency meetings before deciding whether to expand the board.
“We haven’t put it out to the public,” Boylston said. He wanted to wait a week to give the public an opportunity to apply to be board members.
But the city clerk has been taking applications since late March, a few weeks after Johnson had said she was interested in a takeover vote. The commission voted to take over the CRA board on April 3, the first commission meeting since the election, but left open the possibility of adding members of the public.
By June 5, 30 people had applied to become board members. Nineteen either live in the agency district or have businesses there.
The pool of applicants from the Northwest/Southwest neighborhood, where the commission wants to focus redevelopment, was smaller.
Boylston nominated Connor Lynch, whose dad was mayor. The son has an insurance company on North Federal Highway, which is in the district. Only Bathurst supported the appointment, so it failed.
Johnson then nominated Gray, her campaign consultant, for a four-year term on the board. Gray also had served on the CRA board before her election as a city commissioner. Boylston was the lone no vote.
Vice Mayor Adam Frankel then offered Brinson to serve a two-year term. Brinson had run against Gray in 2014 when Gray lost her re-election bid to Jordana Jarjura.
Brinson was appointed by a 3-2 vote with Bathurst and Boylston voting no.
“It sounds like this discussion has already been had,” Boylston said.
The mayor said, “No, sir. There has been no discussion.”
Boylston then said, “I just hope Delray Beach is paying attention.”