Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto is seeking a second term with the gavel, asking residents of the village to return him to the dais on Tuesday, March 13.
Pinto faces a challenge from former Councilwoman Martha Webster in a rematch of Royal Palm Beach’s 2016 mayoral election.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the citizens in this village,” Pinto said. “I feel that I understand what their concerns are about, and I think I’ve always been able to address that and articulate that.”
Pinto was first elected to the council in 2003. He recalled how he was encouraged to seek the open seat at the time, winning a four-way race. He believes his Wall Street experience has served him and the village in business decisions made during his time on the council, and since he was elected mayor two years ago.
“I looked down in the future of the village and where the village was then. I anticipated some major business decisions needing to be made for the future of the community,” Pinto said, proud of where the village stands today because of those decisions.
His greatest concern lies with the safety of residents.
“We talk about quality of life. The key component to a high quality of life is people want to feel safe,” Pinto said. “They want to feel like their children are safe. They want to feel their parents, their grandparents are safe. Everybody wants a safe environment.”
Pinto is confident in the work he, the other council members and village staff have put in to bring safety to the village, stressing that the crime statistics decrease with each passing year.
“Unfortunately, we have people who want to emphasize anomalous events that may happen and try to paint that as, ‘Oh, we have a problem.’ That simply is nothing more than someone who is doing fear-mongering,” he said.
While Pinto wants to address safety in Royal Palm Beach, he does not believe there is a major problem with crime in the community.
“Crime is ubiquitous. It can happen anywhere, anytime, no matter where you go in this world,” Pinto said. “Overall, we don’t have problems in this village that big cities have.”
Pinto wants to maintain the village’s current finances.
“Right now, the village manager and I are talking about the fact that in November, the citizens will have a right to vote on an additional homestead exemption,” he said. “I’m quite confident that’s going to pass, because people will determine this is a good thing individually.”
However, he foresees that potential vote having an impact on village revenues.
“We’re looking at a $300,000 to $500,000 shortfall,” Pinto said. “So, the village manager and I have been talking about, ‘OK, how do we accommodate that shortfall.’”
Moving forward, Pinto is confident in village finances as a whole.
“Our current finances are excellent,” Pinto said. “The fact that we have no debt. We have what we call an operational expense budget. Last year it was about $21 million. This fiscal year it’s about $21 million. We got another $21 million of our CIP [capital improvements program], and you put that all together, it comes out to about $43 million.”
Pinto seeks to find ways to mitigate the impact of development happening nearby.
“Let’s make sure that we can go with a strategy where the road development goes on the south side of State Road 80 to the north side of Northlake,” Pinto said. “They’re going to have to do a lot of expansion on the Northlake corridor. They don’t have a choice.”
Speaking about development to the west, Pinto said it will bring traffic.
“I’ve been very critical of [the Florida Department of Transportation’s] analysis of the State Road 80 corridor, and that’s because they came to a conclusion and a recommendation of putting more lanes in place for more cars to get from east to west and west to east.”
Pinto said that everyone needs to change their mindset regarding traffic and transportation.
“We need to start thinking about the dollars that we are pouring in to build more roads and more lanes for more cars, should be invested in a mobility model, where light rail is a solution that’s employed,” Pinto said. “It encompasses a lot of potential solutions. There’s a lot of technology that has been deployed, not only in this state but around the country. They’re providing these tram-type solutions or monorail-type solutions, even if it’s an express bus solution.”
For traffic problems within the village, Pinto said there have been traffic issues forever. He said there are heavier traffic patterns during rush hours in the morning and in the evening.
“Last year, we did something significant. We created a traffic-calming policy in the village that permits local neighborhoods to petition and request we do an analysis to determine if we put traffic calming like speed humps or something in their local streets,” Pinto said. “We’ll see how the people feel about it after it’s in.”
Part of being mayor is having a working relationship with the village manager, and Pinto is more than happy with the time he has had working alongside Village Manager Ray Liggins.
“Ray has grown incredibly into his role, and he’s doing an excellent job,” Pinto said. “I’m very happy with Ray and very happy with the working relationship we have.”
As for the council, Pinto wants to continue in the direction that the village has aimed for.
“More importantly, though, is not getting into business that we shouldn’t get into,” Pinto said. “We’re a local government. There are certain issues we cannot and should not try to take on.”
Pinto brought up the matter of education in the village.
“We can talk to the people at the school district, but at the end of the day, they have a very large budget to run the school district, and I want to hold their feet to the fire,” Pinto said. “I’ve been telling citizens this for 15 years, ‘If you’ve got a problem with the school district, go down there, and tell them your problem as a parent.’”
Pinto still has the motivation to serve as mayor and believes he has made important decisions for the village that have made positive impacts on its citizens.
“We didn’t just get here overnight. It was a lot of hard work, a lot of hard decisions and making decisions that are about good governance and not about politics,” Pinto said. “That’s who I am. That’s who I’ve been, and that’s who I will continue to be.”
Recently, Pinto found himself in the news for a less-positive reason. He was arrested in November when his wife called the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office after a dispute at their home. No charges were filed against him, and he recounted what happened.
“We had an argument. It was verbal. We had no altercation, or anything that was going on,” Pinto said. “[My wife] called 911 and wanted to defuse things, and they had a policy based on their protocol… They followed the policy, which I endorsed, of erring on the side of caution.”
Pinto said he will be addressing residents, sending mail to all voters to address the arrest.
“I’m sending out mail to the voters to address that specifically. It’s nothing political… It’s ‘here is what happened,’” Pinto said. “It was just a verbal disagreement, and there was nothing harmful or physical that went on. No charges… were filed. It’s unfortunate, and I apologize for that.”
Pinto wants to maintain the quality of life and value that he believes the village provides for its citizens. “My vision for the future is that all the decisions we make going forward take into context where we want this village to be, look like, in 10 to 15 years down the road,” he said.
Pinto is confident in his ability to continue serving residents as mayor.
“I’ve served them in an excellent way, and I want to continue serving them,” Pinto said. “There is still work to be done. I’ve demonstrated my leadership. I’ve demonstrated my ability and my skill set in terms of applying intelligent governance to how this village should be run, and I would like the opportunity to continue serving.”