By Eve Rosen
On Monday, May 21, the Village of Royal Palm Beach hosted its annual Citizen Summit at the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center. The meeting allowed residents to voice their opinions about matters that are important to them regarding the future of the community.
Opening comments were made by Mayor Fred Pinto, as well as consultant Lyle Sumek, who moderated the meeting and announced the rounds of the different questions.
Pinto explained that the evening was an opportunity for the citizens to make their voices heard on key issues in Royal Palm Beach.
“This is an important night for us, and it is one of our favorite nights here, because we get to hear from you, our citizens,” Pinto said. “We get to hear your mind, your thoughts, but more importantly, we get to share with you tonight some of the concepts and strategies that we have been working on [regarding] what direction we need to be going in.”
Along with the importance of hearing these opinions, there were also some basic rules of the Citizen Summit: everyone’s ideas are important; treat everyone with respect, even if you disagree; record everyone’s ideas on the provided large sheets of paper; and highlight the items deemed “most important” by a majority vote with a star.
After the introductions were made, residents broke off into different groups that would discuss each given topic. A member of the Royal Palm Beach Village Council would rotate around each group as each question was being asked in order to personally hear the citizens’ concerns and opinions.
The first group of topics consisted of two questions. First, “During the last two years, 2017-18, what has the village government done to enhance the livability of Royal Palm Beach?” and “What actions can be taken by the village government to enhance the livability of Royal Palm Beach, and are you willing to increase your taxes?”
Denise Hopkins sat at a table with two younger children at the summit, who voiced their own opinions for question number one, their names were Dexter and Calvin Powers.
One of the items that this group came up with was more places for pedestrians to walk. Hopkins mentioned the three poles that were installed to prevent cars from going into these places so that there are more areas for pedestrians. The biggest issue this group had was reducing traffic on Crestwood Blvd.
Dexter Powers added his opinion on the natural walkways present throughout Royal Palm Beach. “[The natural walkways] are not in the obvious spaces,” he said. “They are kind of like back in the trees and behind developments.”
For round two, new questions about the future of Royal Palm Beach were posed. The questions were: “What would make Royal Palm Beach a ‘hometown’ for you?” and “What would make Royal Palm Beach a more ‘family community’ for you?”
Vice Mayor Selena Smith sat with group number one for the duration of round two in order to hear their opinions on the future of Royal Palm Beach. Theresa Zaehring voiced the opinion that if more people came out of their houses and spent time with their community, then it would feel more like a hometown to her.
On the topic of a “hometown community,” Susan Weinstein discussed the local library and how she does a lot of volunteer work there.
“The library has all kind of events, its wonderful, but people don’t come. There should be a lot more people at these events,” Weinstein said. “You can’t force people to do what they don’t want to do; all the events are publicized.”
The group came up with the idea of lowering the prices of recreation programs, such as ballet and baseball, so that there is a higher amount of participation. This answer won in the majority votes as to what is most important to them.
For the third and final round, the two questions posed were: “During the next two years, 2018-19, what does the Village of Royal Palm Beach need to address or complete (actions, ideas, issues or projects) to enhance Royal Palm Beach as a beautiful, convenient community?” and “During the next two years, 2018-19, what does the Village of Royal Palm Beach need to address or complete (actions, ideas, issues or projects) to enhance the abundance of leisure choices and options in Royal Palm Beach?”
Group number one recommended finalizing the changes being made to Royal Palm Beach Commons Park, to not only improve leisure choices, but to also promote more outdoor options and more options for families.
Ross Shillingford suggested changing the “Welcome to Royal Palm Beach” signage on Okeechobee Blvd., as well as reducing the amount of pavement and increasing the amount of green areas present, which won the majority number of votes.
“There are too many parking lots that only get filled up when there are big events every three months, so why not just leave it as grass? It wouldn’t be the end of the world,” Shillingford suggested.
After the Citizen Summit, the suggestions of the residents who attended will be reviewed by village officials so that changes can be implemented.