South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

Carney best choice for mayor of Delray Beach

- The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board consists of Opinion Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Opinion Editor Dan Sweeney, editorial writer Martin Dyckman and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Editorials are the opinion of the Board and written by one of its members or

The future of Delray Beach is firmly in the hands of city voters, and on March 19, they will choose a mayor to lead them for the next three years. It’s a very big deal and arguably the single most important city election in our region, so it’s one that people have to get right.

Mayor Shelly Petrolia is term-limited, and two new commission­ers will be elected to open seats. That could greatly shift the political dynamics in a city buffeted endlessly by rival factions over developmen­t, the future of Old School Square, city finances and other issues.

In a hotly contested three-person race for mayor, we recommend Tom Carney, an attorney, public finance expert and self-described “numbers person” who served on the city commission more than a decade ago and has run for mayor twice.

Carney, 70, has lived in Delray Beach since 1995. He’s a vocal critic of overdevelo­pment and overspendi­ng, and his expertise on tax and finance matters will be invaluable on a commission that has far too little of it.

“No one even knows the right questions to ask,” Carney says of the City Commission.

A master at messaging

The other leading candidate for mayor is Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston, 41, a six-year member of the city commission.

The owner of a marketing and web design business, Boylston is a highly energetic campaigner and a master at messaging who naturally frames a political message in a light most favorable to himself, as we will illustrate.

The third mayoral hopeful is Shirley Johnson, 77, who left the commission in 2023 due to term limits.

She is an outspoken critic of what she calls “corruption” in the city and what she calls “the Delray way,” in which a cabal of political insiders sets the political agenda to benefit themselves and their friends — in this case, Boylston.

Johnson said she would have fired City Manager Terrence Moore long ago. “He’s not trustworth­y,” she said. “He’s not always telling the truth.”

Johnson has deep roots in this community, and would be a powerful voice for people who lack a voice, but her mayoral candidacy is eclipsed by the Boylston-Carney battle.

A half-true claim

A recent Boylston announceme­nt shows how his campaign is mostly an exercise in marketing.

He rolled out a polished, color-coded, exaggerate­d release, saying: “I’m proud to report I cut taxes for six straight years.” The claim is half-true, if that. Boylston voted to reduce the millage rate, but that did not lower anyone’s tax bill. Homeowners and businesses are paying higher real estate taxes than ever in Delray, and many other places, because of surging property assessment­s. Every homeowner knows that what really matters in the pocketbook is the amount of taxes due, not the wonkish tax rate.

The higher a home’s value, the higher the taxes — even when the rate goes down. Boylston said so in the fine print, but the overall goal was that the reader remembers only how “I cut taxes,” when he didn’t.

As Carney points out, the size of the city budget has increased dramatical­ly during Boylston’s time in office. All that new money has to come from someplace. The spin-doctoring on taxes is an apt metaphor for the Boylston campaign. Don’t be fooled, voters.

In an online Sun Sentinel Editorial Board candidate interview, Carney said the recent mess in which hundreds of city water customers got wildly inflated monthly bills because of an electronic meter-reader problem shows how the city

manager “minimizes problems.”

Boylston said the manager is doing a “fantastic job” and that the wildly misread meters “was a technical issue that created a billing issue.” More spin.

A revealing look back

Beyond taxes, Boylston and Carney have both dredged up years-old incidents in an attempt to gain an advantage.

To bolster his claim that Boylston is pro-developmen­t, Carney’s camp is circulatin­g a 10-year-old video snipped of Boylston, as a member of the city Downtown Developmen­t Authority, endorsing Atlantic Crossing, a downtown mega-project that has become a symbol of overdevelo­pment.

“We are no longer a village by the sea,” Boylston said then, using the term that endures as a defining brand for how slowgrowth advocates nostalgica­lly view their city. “We are a mini-metro.”

Carney called Atlantic Crossing “too much project for the site” in 2012 and voted against it. Boylston was not in office at the time.

Now, reaching back a decade, Carney says Boylston’s 2014 statement reveals an inner truth about him.

“It showed exactly what he thinks,” Carney said. “It was a premonitio­n.”

‘I didn’t get it’

In a follow-up interview Friday, Boylston acknowledg­ed he made a poor choice of words.

“When I said that, I didn’t get it,” he said, calling the village by the sea label “a moniker we should keep forever.”

Carney’s slow-growth platform is undercut by his many years of work as a landuse lawyer, lobbying the City Commission for variances on what he describes as small projects with limited neighborho­od impacts.

Boylston, in turn, has recycled a case in which Carney rear-ended another car in a minor accident in 2016 on U.S. 1 in Boynton Beach. Police cited Carney for not carrying his license or proof of insurance.

Nearly a year later, a passenger in the other car filed a lawsuit, accusing Carney of drinking, even though police found no evidence of impairment. Carney’s insurance carrier settled the case out of court. Boylston said the accident, and another, minor one in 2007 that resulted in no injuries or charges, show “a pattern of bad decisions” by Carney.

Carney has his hands full with Boylston, but voters should be able to see who’s more likely to apply the brakes to developmen­t and persistent­ly ask tough questions at City Hall. For Delray Beach mayor, the Sun Sentinel recommends Tom Carney.

 ?? TOM CARNEY/COURTESY ?? Tom Carney is a candidate for Delray Beach mayor.
TOM CARNEY/COURTESY Tom Carney is a candidate for Delray Beach mayor.

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