Palm Beach Civic Association 2015 President’s Report

By: Ned Barnes -- April 20, 2015

The Civic Association plays a major role in protecting Palm Beach.  Our community is a better place because our members care deeply and give generously of themselves. 

Click Below to see the President's Report Video including additional remarks:

This season, we took bold new steps to get the word out about “who we are.”  

We presented over 20 different programs including:

  • Festive holiday party for 300 at the Breakers.  
  • Bus tour of the Town’s newly renourished beaches
  • Garden Club guided tour of the spectacular Four Arts Gardens.  
  • Eldercare luncheon forum Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church
  • Debate on the medical marijuana.
  • Speaker events in partnership with the Society of the Four Arts featuring James Clifton, president of the Gallup organization, and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

 

Our Marketing Committee (Brian McIver, chair, Dave Duffy, and Burt Manning) helped us clarify our mission and rebrand ourselves.  Our upbeat new look complete with logo, new design, hats, shirts, etc. was unveiled in November at a special reception for directors in the Paramount Courtyard.

The Civic Association was very fortunate to partner with First Republic Bank as our grand corporate sponsor this season.  The exceptional, community-minded bank underwrote most of our Civic Association special events including our directors’ luncheons at the Beach Club, our annual awards event at The Breakers, and a glamourous reception for our major donors under the stars at Bob and Suzanne Wright’s beautiful home.  

NBC’s Brian William was scheduled as the keynote speaker at the Association’s annual Awards Luncheon in February.  When Mr. Williams was unable to attend, the planning committee (Michele Kessler, chair, Bob Wright, George Cohon and Bob Nederlander) invited former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to address the gathering at the Breakers.  At the last minute, Mr. Mulroney stepped in with a powerful inspirational message.  

That evening, 50 event underwriters were treated to a delicious dinner and stimulating conversation with the former prime minister at Michele and Howard Kessler’s home.  The captivating event was generously underwritten by the Kesslers.

In addition to former Prime Minister Mulroney, the Civic Association hosted a wide variety of speakers in 2014-2015 including Mayor Gail Coniglio, former Town Council President Robert Wildrick, newly appointed Town Manager Tom Bradford and Palm Beach Post Publisher Timothy Burke.

This season, Civic Association Committees were active and engaged:

  • Our Port Committee resisted plans to deepen and widen the Palm Beach Inlet.
    • Port Committee Chair Robert Holuba and Civic Association consultant Karen Marcus visited port commissioners to express Palm Beach residents’ concerns.  
    • The Association formed the Save Our Inlet Coalition of environmental and business groups, elected officials, and concerned individuals opposed to inlet expansion.  
    • The Save Our Inlet group, chaired by Civic Association Director Bobbie Lindsay and Keith Beaty, took a proactive role in halting the original deepening and widening plan.
    • The Save Our Inlet Coalition and the Civic Association engaged the Port on other issues including the scrap pile on the Port docks and plans to export liquid and compressed natural gas.

 

  • Our Palm Beach County Committee, chaired by director Jack Borland, met one-on-one with each of the County Commissioners and the County Administrator to discuss the county budget.

  • Our Tax and Finance Committee, chaired by Treasurer Pat Cooper, reviewed the Town’s budget.

  • Our Water Committee, chaired by director Harvey Poppel, worked with the town to eliminate the registration fee for smart irrigation systems and encourage residents to adopt water conservation measures.

  • Our Bridge Committee, chaired by director Llwyd Ecclestone, supported the mayor and worked to keep traffic moving smoothly on and off the island.

  • Our consultant, former County Commissioner Karen Marcus, provided invaluable service with her vast knowledge of Palm Beach County government and Port of Palm Beach dynamics.

  • Civic Association directors Pat Cooper, Llwyd Ecclestone, and Jerry Frank served on Palm Beach’s Shore Protection Board and guided the town in implementing the $88 million beach restoration program.

  • Director Michael Ainslie arranged for Civic Association directors to meet with All Aboard Florida President Michael Reininger to understand the pending state-wide intercity passenger rail project. 

 

The Civic Association played an educational role in the primary, general, and local elections this season.  We hosted two forums for Town residents to meet the candidates, produced comprehensive voters’ guides, and assisted countless residents with voting procedures, absentee ballots and general election details.  

In November, the Civic Association sponsored a public forum featuring Civic Association director Judy Goodman who explained the Children’s Services Council referendum, the Port Commission candidates, and a debate on the proposal to legalize medical marijuana.

In February, the Civic Association presented a standing-room-only Town Council Candidates Debate at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea.  The event was moderated by former WPTV anchor Jim Sacket.  The Civic Association Executive Committee also met individually with each of the candidates to discuss important Town issues.

This season, the Civic Association surveyed the community on a wide range of issues including the quality of medical care, water conservation, medical marijuana, and Uber car-for-hire regulations.   Civic Association directors Harvey Poppel and Jeffrey Levitt were especially helpful in developing the polls and analyzing the results.
 
In 2014-2015, the Civic Association contributed to the Town employee’s picnic, the employee of the year award, the annual scholarship for the child of a town employee, and the Memorial Fountain restoration project.  Former Town Manager Peter Elwell received the Association’s prestigious Bill Brooks Community Service Award for improving the quality of life in our community.  

The Civic Association web page received an exhaustive overhaul and upgrade this year.  We integrated our brand design, introduced new mobile web site capabilities, and implemented the most up-to-date technology in our ongoing effort to be a primary resource for citizens. The Association now is actively engaged on social media with over a thousand users on Facebook and over 2,800 followers on Twitter.  The popular “This Week in Palm Beach” is read by over 1,800 weekly.

At the recommendation of Civic Association director George Cohon, the Civic Association designed and mailed pet decals to everyone in Palm Beach.  These stickers, placed in the windows of residents’ homes, alert fire-rescue staff and police that pets may be inside.  

I would like to personally thank our Chairman Bob Wright for his visionary leadership, our directors and executive committee members for their enthusiasm for our mission, and our exceptional staff for making the Palm Beach Civic Association so vital and alive.