Delray Beach/Boca Raton: State intervention sought in regulation of sober houses

By Tim Pallesen

    Delray Beach is asking the state to regulate sober houses after the city failed in its own effort to prevent the Caron Foundation from opening two coastal houses for recovering addicts.
    Delray Beach and Boca Raton will share the cost for a Tallahassee lobbyist to persuade legislators that the state Department of Families and Children should license and regulate sober houses.
    “Let’s start this from another angle,” Delray Beach Vice Mayor Tom Carney said of the issue for coastal residents in the city’s upcoming mayoral campaign.
    Carney faces another coastal resident, Cary Glickstein, in the March 12 election for mayor.
    “Tom as a commissioner failed to get any results,” Glickstein said. “Now, as a candidate for mayor, this is his priority all of a sudden.”
    The City Commission at Carney’s urging agreed to pay $15,000 to hire Joe McCann, senior vice president of the Tallahassee lobbying firm Ballard Partners, to be the city lobbyist. Firm owner Brian Ballard is the brother of former County Commissioner Mary McCarty.
    McCann will meet with legislative committee leaders before the April legislative session to gather support for state licensing and regulation of sober houses.
    “The real issue is the proliferation of sober houses that don’t give you the treatment that they promise,” Carney said. “Government’s role is to make sure businesses in the community do what they say they’re going to do.”
    The Florida League of Cities, also concerned about sober houses in residential neighborhoods, has proposed less costly legislation because it doubts the legislature will pay for DCF enforcement.
    “The law won’t be changed just for Delray and Boca,” Glickstein said. “The more economical way is to get other cities on the same page.”
    Glickstein became a figure in the Caron Foundation’s lawsuit against the city when a federal judge said his outspoken comments showed Delray Beach was discriminating against recovering drug addicts and alcoholics. Glickstein, the planning and zoning board chairman at the time, had called sober houses a “cancer” on Delray Beach.
    “The key is not to be the loudest, but rather to be the most effective,” Carney said, as the mayoral campaign heats up with sober houses still a concern for coastal residents.
    Federal housing laws prevent discrimination against recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.
Both Glickstein and Caron Foundation attorney Jim Green cautioned Delray Beach that federal courts could overturn a state law to regulate sober houses, just as a federal judge blocked Delray Beach ’s attempt to do so.
    “The fact that Delray Beach is attempting to spearhead state legislation with its history of discrimination against people in recovery would be viewed with suspicion by the federal courts,” Green said.              

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