Ya win some; ya lose some. That's how our horses ran in two municipal races in Palm Beach County yesterday. One was a testament to the power of negative campaigning; the other was proof of its shortcomings.
First the bad news. Interim West Palm Beach City Commissioner Shanon Materio slimed her way to victory over challenger Gregg Weiss, capping a string of misrepresentations with a last-minute blast of mailers and headlines over Weiss' delinquent payment of $400 in city and county fees (for a years-old e-commerce venture that was more hobby than full-blown business enterprise). Materio carried the day by a margin of 429 votes out of 5,079 cast.
Materio's WPB victory keeps her prime ally, Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell, in the driver's seat of the City Commission (notwithstanding her key role in the Digital Domain student exploitation fiasco), and Mitchell's ex-husband, lobbyist Richard Pinsky, as the eminence grise of WPB civic affairs. Woe unto Mayor Jeri Muoio, whose mettle will be sorely tested in the days to come.
Now the good news. A grassroots effort to preserve the low-rise, Key West-like character of the City of Lake Worth by limiting building heights in the city's downtown corridor beat back a well-financed challenge by real estate interests using revival of the city's historic Gulfstream Hotel as a red herring. The supporters of "Respectful Planning," as the grassroots PAC was called, prevailed by 402 votes out of 2,264 cast.
The referendum's opponents claimed passage of the measure would doom plans for a proposed 12-square block "hotel district" in the city and ruin chances of reopening the Gulfstream, a signature civic landmark currently in disuse. If the money behind the opposition really believed that, they'd kick in for a counterreferendum in support of an exemption for such a district. They don't, and they won't.
The Lake Worth result is a warning to the present majority of that city's commission. As it stands, the 4-1 majority reflects the city's "paver" constituency (pro-development), who took power two years ago, ousting a 4-1 majority of "cavers" (pro-conservation and preservation). Three pavers are up for reelection next year, and the city's bloc of caver voters has to be reinvigorated by the referendum's outcome. The question is, who will step forward to run?
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal bite -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.