This just came in from the Palm Beach Post:
For Jupiter residents who prefer a town in which developers do not control decisions, Tuesday's election presents a stark choice. To keep Jupiter the kind of town most residents want, The Post enthusiastically endorses incumbents Karen Golonka for mayor, Jim Kuretski in the North Council District and Todd Wodraska in the South Council District.
The central race pits Mayor Golonka against bar owner Jimmy Burg, who had raised more money by Feb. 12 than all three incumbents combined. The two other mayoral candidates, Kevin Johnson and Susan Arena, have little hope of winning but may force a March 23 runoff if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote. In the council races, Mr. Kuretski faces lawyer Tom Ryan, and Mr. Wodraska's opponent is retired community-newspaper chain owner Lew Lax.
Mr. Burg's campaign is openly appealing to Tea Party voters, emphasizing Mayor Golonka's long tenure — 24 years — and making the false charge that she plans to raise taxes 20 percent over three years. For his part, Mr. Burg can't decide whether Mayor Golonka is too pro-growth — he blames her for doubling the town's population since 1990 — or too hard on businesses — he blames her for holding up builders with "ridiculous" demands. For voters, the question to ask is "Has Jupiter grown better than other South Florida communities?"
Mayor Golonka has worked to stop big-box retail stores and auto dealers from clogging Indiantown Road. She won voter support in 2004 for a land preservation program that has spent $13 million to buy 42 acres, with $5 million remaining.
All three incumbents strongly supported the decision in 2006 to get migrant workers off Center Street by providing town-owned space to Catholic Charities. The challengers have backed off demands that Jupiter try to close the day-labor resource center, known as El Sol. The "Golonka 20 percent tax increase plan" came from town documents showing what would happen if the town didn't reduce spending. It was a routine projection, not a plan. Efforts continue to cut spending, and the town's tax rate remains third-lowest among large cities in Palm Beach County.
Mr. Burg's real beef with Mayor Golonka is over how the town has treated his bar, the Square Grouper, which has amassed code violations and had run-ins with environmental regulators over sea-grass bed destruction. Mayor Golonka and Mr. Kuretski voted against allowing the bar in 2003. While Mr. Burg's supporters hyperventilate that Jupiter's actions to force the bar to follow Jupiter's rules have been excessive, the town actually has been lenient.
Mr. Burg turned a hole-in-the-wall bait shop into a thriving outdoor waterfront bar, with live music and a marina, without first getting the proper approvals. Rather than shut him down, the town that Mr. Burg claims is overly tough on business approved the changes retroactively. The bar, at the end of a residential street, since has drawn complaints about noise, parking and unpermitted special events.
Worse, Mr. Burg has no real plan on how he would avoid conflicts if he had to vote on a dispute concerning the cost of parking for his patrons, noise complaints from neighboring Jupiter Inlet Colony and on issues that apply to competitors. He attacks Mayor Golonka for taking money from the Rendina family, a major developer in Abacoa. But through that Feb. 12 campaign reporting date, Mr. Burg himself had raised money from real estate agents, builders and the marine industry.
Mr. Lax, who lives in Admiral's Cove, hasn't taken much time to review the budget. Also, he falsely alleges that the incumbents want a commuter rail extension that would add four tracks to the Florida East Coast Railway line that runs past Admiral's Cove. While adding separate commuter and freight tracks is one potential solution, the incumbents do not advocate it. They want freight moved to a different line.
Mr. Ryan, who promises to make life easier for small businesses, criticizes Mr. Kuretski as "dead wood," a council member who is incapable of building consensus. Admittedly, Mr. Kuretski can be cantankerous. He often seems happy to be the sole dissenter on 4-1 votes. In fairness, though, he does more than complain; he proposes solutions. Mr. Kuretski opposed the 3.7 percent tax rate increase that went with this year's budget, but he persuaded the town to adopt several cost-saving measures in a 21-point plan. To avoid future tax increases, Mr. Kuretski's plan will prove vital. Mr. Kuretski also deserves credit with Mayor Golonka for limiting development that would have crowded Indiantown Road.
Business owners and developers get frustrated with Jupiter's methodical, and at-times maddening, approach to development. Yet Jupiter can boast of a quick response that helped bring Scripps Florida and the Max Planck Institute to Abacoa. The town that supposedly is unfriendly to business also reacted rapidly to land the North American headquarters of G4S Wackenhut after Palm Beach Gardens flinched.
When Mr. Burg won the right to open his bar, a different majority controlled the council, one that put business interests over residents' interests. Mr. Burg, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Lax would represent a return to that time. Mayor Golonka makes the better argument: "Jupiter has high standards. We don't make excuses for that. But it's a reflection of what our residents and a number of our businesses want. If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't have been reelected."
Mayor Golonka said in an interview with The Post that she wants this to be her last term. The campaign against her, Mr. Kuretski and Mr. Wodraska has been driven by misleading claims and self-interest. We believe that the criticism of the incumbents is unfounded. We believe that Jupiter is tough only on bad business, not business in general. The incumbents have put the residents first, and the residents should return the favor on Tuesday.