1. #1
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    Post Boca Raton--Firefighters Oppose Annexation

    Firefighters protest Boca annexation


    By John Murawski, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, September 4, 2003



    BOCA RATON -- Palm Beach County firefighters Wednesday demonstrated in the streets against the city's effort to annex 494 acres of the county's prime real estate around the Town Center shopping area.

    The sign-waving against the annexation of 3,255 residents and 422 businesses will continue daily until a special vote on the issue Tuesday, said union representative Fred Angelo of the Professional Firefighters/Paramedics of Palm Beach County.

    If Boca Raton residents support annexation Tuesday, county residents in the annexation areas will vote in a Nov. 4 referendum.

    But if city residents vote against, as the firefighters union hopes, then the proposal dies.

    About 55 county firefighters turned out for a city-sponsored presentation Wednesday at which Boca Raton officials said that annexation would improve police and fire services and reduce property taxes in the annexation areas of Santa Barbara, Town Center mall, Via Verde, Coach Homes, Boca Center and Fairfield.

    The city would come out ahead $1.9 million a year, after all expenses.

    Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams said those savings could be used to pay for the extra cost of bypassing Red Reef Park in an upcoming beach reconstruction project.

    Residents want the park out of the project to save near-shore reefs from being buried under 9 feet of sand.

    Reducing the size of the project will reduce corresponding state support.

    If annexation passes, the city would add five firefighters and one fire inspector, as well as 12 police officers, three investigators and 19 police cruisers.

    The owner of a home valued at $150,000 in the unincorporated would save $183 a year in property taxes and fees by joining the city, Boca Raton officials say. The owner of a $500,000 home would save $203 a year.

    County firefighters oppose all annexation because it reduces the county's property tax base.

    "It just raises the fire tax to the other residents," Angelo said.

    At Wednesday's meeting, Abrams read questions submitted by audience members.

    "Is this annexation an old-fashioned cash grab at a high-revenue area?" asked one.

    Abrams replied: "The unemotional answer is that it is beneficial to both parties."

    john_murawski@pbpost.com
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    Default Follow Up

    Firefighters spark war over Boca annexation


    By John Murawski, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, September 7, 2003



    BOCA RATON -- For months, the topic of annexation was a sleepy issue here headed for certain approval.

    Boca Raton's proposed annexation of the 494-acre Town Center mall area and adjacent neighborhoods had not only the unanimous support of the city council but also the backing of two politically influential groups that don't always agree: the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowners Associations and the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce.

    But in the final stretch before Tuesday's citywide vote, Palm Beach County firefighters, who now serve the area, have come out blasting the city's proposal to annex 3,255 county residents and 422 businesses.

    The county firefighters union, concerned about losing prime real estate from the county's property tax rolls, is calling residents, demonstrating in city streets and putting up 500 signs to urge Boca Raton residents to vote against annexation.

    "It's money out of the county budget that other taxpayers are going to have to absorb," said county firefighters union representative Fred Angelo.

    To counter those efforts, Boca Raton firefighters have swung into action with their own campaign to defend their professional reputations and to support their city government.

    "You know what it is? It's sad," said John Luca, vice president of Boca Raton Firefighters Local 1560. "Because firefighters are brothers. And they crossed the line."

    A mailing from the Professional Firefighters/Paramedics of Palm Beach County warns that annexing Town Center, Santa Barbara, Boca Center, Fairfield, Via Verde and Coach Homes would "forever change the unique character and charm of Boca Raton" and "lead to uncontrolled growth."

    "If approved, this could be just the beginning," the mailing warns. "Eventually, proponents of the annexation want to expand Boca Raton all the way to the Florida Turnpike!"

    The postcard shows a highway clogged with traffic and predicts: "If you allow annexation... the future of Boca Raton might not be pretty."

    County firefighters promise more mailings, recorded phone messages, "and there will be more phone work all the way up to the day of the election," said Angelo, their union's legislative vice president.

    City firefighters, with the support of Boca Raton's Fraternal Order of Police lodge, are countering with mailings to 6,500 registered voters and putting up 500 pro-annexation signs throughout the city.

    "Initially, both parties were going to stay out of this," Luca said. "But they have chosen, in an act of desperation, to try to deceive people."

    Josh Mindick, president of the local FOP lodge, said: "We resolved to step up, based on" the county union's opposition.

    Angelo countered, "That's purely political. They're getting pressure from their council. They were not involved before."

    One of the raw points of contention here is the city's claim that residents in the annexation areas would receive better fire and police services from Boca Raton than they get from the county.

    The city's primary motive is financial. Annexation would give Boca Raton an extra $1.9 million in property tax revenue. And that's after hiring five new firefighters/paramedics and a fire inspector and buying an automobile. The net financial gain for the city also factors in 19 additional police personnel and 19 new police cars.

    The average business in the annexation area would save $354 a year in taxes and fees, and the average homeowner would save $183, according to a city analysis. The area has city water and sewer service.

    One of the early skeptics was former City Councilman Jack Davenport, chairman emeritus of the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowners Associations. The group, which represents 32 neighborhoods, voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to back annexation.

    "I have given a lot of speeches on it," Davenport said. "I studied it. I looked at it. I decided it was a good move for the city."

    Chamber of commerce President Mike Arts said the activities of the county firefighters union nudged the chamber to push publicly for annexation, which the chamber endorsed last month. The chamber will send mailings to about 11,200 registered voters and run newspaper ads today and Monday.

    As for the county firefighters: "They're a little self-serving themselves," Arts said.

    Annexation supporter Joan Upshaw looks forward to using the city library and getting discount access stickers to city parks. Upshaw, president of the Coach Houses of Town Place Condominium Association, said she is vexed by the county firefighters' fierce opposition.

    "I'm very worried about a large group like that going after the city residents," she said.

    If city voters approve annexation, voters in the proposed annexation area will cast ballots in a Nov. 4 referendum. If the city voters oppose annexation, there will be no referendum.

    john_murawski@pbpost.com
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    Post

    Boca groups rally to battle anti-annexation stance of firefighters union

    By Kathy Bushouse
    Staff Writer
    Posted September 8 2003

    Palm Beach County's firefighter union may have incited some groups to action when it promised to fight Boca Raton's effort to annex the Town Center mall area and more than 3,000 residents.

    It also may bring out some people to the polls who otherwise wouldn't have voted.

    In the days before Tuesday's special election on annexation, groups such as the Boca Raton's firefighter union and the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce are doing last-minute get-out-the-vote efforts in favor of annexation to counter the county union's anti-annexation movement.

    All the mailers, sign-waving and activity can only help draw attention to an election where it's likely that fewer than 5,000 of the city's 47,000-plus registered voters will cast ballots. "People are getting a little bit more interested," said Armand Nault, president of the Firefighters of Palm Beach County. "People are telling us they didn't know about it. They're telling us that on the phone, telling us that on the street corner."

    He's hoping they'll vote against annexation. John Luca, vice president of the Firefighters of Boca Raton, will urge people to support it.

    "There's a lot of brotherhood that comes with firefighters. At the end of the day, we'll stand side by side," Luca said. "This weekend, we have a different perspective."

    Boca Raton residents will decide whether to extend the city limits to take in the mall, nearby office and retail buildings and some neighborhoods. If they say yes, county residents in the affected area will have the final word in a Nov. 4 vote.

    City officials expect a net gain of $2 million in revenues from the annexation, while residents and business owners in the area to be annexed would save on their tax bills. By joining Boca Raton, the owner of a $175,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption would save $183.14 a year, while the average business would pay $354.16 less, according a city consultant's report.

    The county firefighters' union said that savings comes on the backs of county residents, who will have to make up the lost revenues.

    "It sounds good for Boca Raton, but for everybody else in the county it's a shame," Nault said.

    The city's firefighter union, along with the local Fraternal Order of Police union, will send out mailers, stake out polling places and wave signs on Election Day, all in support of the annexation effort. They say they can provide better service and that people in the city as well as the area to be annexed will save money.

    "I think that the citizens in this city have always supported their firefighters and police officers," Luca said. "It's an important message, one I think they'll consider."

    Whether people will take that support to the polls remains to be seen. City officials aren't forecasting the turnout for Tuesday's election, but recent City Council elections rarely have drawn more than 20 percent of registered voters.

    Last March, just 18 percent of the city's registered voters cast ballots.

    Turnout for elections where there is a single issue on the ballot is "typically paltry, at best," said David Niven, a Florida Atlantic University political science professor.

    Even as the annexation debate heats up, that's unlikely to change. Jack Davenport, a member of the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowner Associations who is leading the group's annexation committee, doubts more people will get inspired to vote. He expects turnout to be about 12 percent to 15 percent.

    "There's nothing else to vote for," Davenport said.

    Mike Arts, chairman of the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, said he expects only 10 percent of the city's voters to go to the polls, but he thinks a strong majority will vote for annexation. His group, as well as the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowner Associations, has endorsed the annexation.

    "The city really needs to make an effort to get the voters out," Arts said. "It's a special election at a time when it's really hard to get people to focus on that."

    The city is sending out information sheets and had a town hall meeting last week.

    If the firefighters can stir up enough interest against annexation, the low numbers at the polls could tip the vote against the proposal, Niven said.

    "If there's an organized interest, in this case the [county] firefighters, it does give them an advantage vs. if this was an election in November on an election day," Niven said.

    But he still thinks annexation will pass.

    "Annexation can inspire passion and tempers," Niven said. "But this is not a particularly controversial annexation."

    Kathy Bushouse can be reached at kbushouse@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6641.

    Copyright 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    Post Editorial--The Battle Continues

    Annexation opponents want to hold back Boca


    Palm Beach Post Editorial
    Saturday, September 13, 2003



    The vote is more than seven weeks away, but it's not too soon for Boca Raton to start campaigning among a few thousand people who don't live in the city.

    This week, Boca voters told the city to pursue annexation of the Town Center mall and the communities within nearly 500 acres just west of the city boundaries. Annexation got nearly two-thirds of the vote, and it would make sense for Boca Raton and the areas to be annexed. But the opposition has indicated that it will keep fighting for its selfish agenda.

    The opposition would be the county firefighters and their union, and the selfish agenda is that the union would lose some turf if the areas go under city control. The firefighters have tried to hide their true intent. When they were out waving "No" signs over the weekend at key intersections, especially along Palmetto Park Boulevard, they were telling motorists that their real concern was the potential cost to city residents. Annexation, they warned, would increase taxes and lead to a decline in service.

    In fact, just the opposite is true. The city estimates that, after expenses for adding fire and police protection and other services, Boca Raton eventually would gain nearly $2 million in tax revenue. Residents of the areas would save about $184 in taxes if they approve annexation Nov. 4. As for questions about service, there is a city fire station at Glades and Butts roads, which happens to be across the street from the mall. In November, voters approved a renovation of the station.

    Though only about 3,300 people and a small area are at issue, the annexation is about more than that, where the city is concerned. For years, the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowners agreed on almost nothing. The chamber wanted more growth, the federation didn't. On this annexation, however, both agree that the city would win. They support it.

    On the other side are two ex-mayors, Carol Hanson and Emil Danciu, who seem to think that any change would be bad for Boca Raton. That's a selfish agenda, too. Perhaps they fear that this small annexation would lead to the massive push west to Florida's Turnpike that the city council once discussed. In fact, the public rejected that idea, and the council showed that it had heard by holding Tuesday's vote. By law, it wasn't necessary. But if annexation had lost, the council was ready to dump the idea.

    Over three decades, Boca Raton has become less of a town and more of a city. That upsets some people, but the city has kept better control of growth than many. This next, sensible move should not be missed because of people who want to block it for all the wrong reasons.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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