First I must respond to Jess Santamaria’s full page political advertisement in last week’s Town-Crier warning both Martha Webster and I about encouraging residents to attend Royal Palm Beach Village Council meetings and speak out about a project that will impact their neighborhood.
Mr. Santamaria, this country has a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that protects free speech at public meetings. Yes, at times, it can be loud, boisterous and the people speaking may not agree with you, however most Americans call that democracy in action.
You also insinuate that I ignore the legal advice of our village attorney. All the statements I made at the RaceTrac meeting were discussed with our attorney prior to the meeting. Prior to the vote, I asked our attorney, “Does the council have the legal right to reduce the number of fuel pump stations?” She indicated that we had that right as long as we could show that the project does not meet Special Exception Standard No. 7 (the special exception is compatible with the character and living conditions of the existing neighborhood in which it is to be located). I provided six pages of testimony indicating why the project does not meet that standard. Councilman Jeff Hmara used that legal argument to reduce the number of pumps from 20 to 16.
And finally, Mr. Santamaria states that in 1998, he won the Saratoga lawsuit against the village. He lost that lawsuit and paid the village $15,500 in attorneys’ fees (check #40188, dated Sept. 9, 1998).
The intent of his advertisement was to smear the reputations of both former Councilwoman Martha Webster and myself for speaking up for our residents at a public meeting. Ms. Webster is running for mayor, and Mr. Santamaria is concerned that his next hand-picked mayoral candidate now has some real opposition.
I am endorsing Martha Webster for mayor of the Village of Royal Palm Beach. For some, that may seem odd, since we have campaigned against each other in past election cycles. What I have learned is that we both share the same concern as to where this village is headed in terms of future development, and we cannot continually elect our mayor based on the wants and needs of the largest landowner in town.
I have been impressed with Martha’s ability to engage our residents and have them attend meetings — that is always a good thing. In fact, in my 29 years on the council, I have never received so many phone calls, personal letters and e-mails from residents concerning a proposed project. I applaud Martha’s advocacy for our residents.
I would like those residents who have supported me in the past to seriously look at the upcoming mayor’s race and choose the person you think would listen to your concerns and best represent all the residents of our village. I believe Martha is your best choice. She has five years of experience as a councilwoman and vice mayor in Royal Palm Beach. She is well-known to our residents and local business community, and has represented the village as a Palm Beach County League of Cities board member; but most importantly, she is not beholding to any developer or special interest group. Please consider Martha Webster on March 15.
Councilman Dave Swift, Royal Palm Beach