County leaders fire a final brush-back pitch at West Palm Beach

Aside from preserving spring training on Florida’s east coast, the Major League Baseball complex south of 45th Street appeared to have accomplished something else to the local community:

The negotiations helped thaw the frosty relationship with the governments of Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach.

In happier times, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and Palm Beach County mayor Shelley Vana at Governor's Baseball Dinner in February.)

In happier times, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and Palm Beach County mayor Shelley Vana at Governor’s Baseball Dinner in February.)

(Remember that fuzzy moment at the Governor’s Baseball Dinner on Clematis Street last February when County Mayor Shelley Vana hugged city mayor Jeri Muoio?)

But in a bizarre move Tuesday, two county commissioners couldn’t resist taking final jabs at the city, just minutes before the commission voted on final approvals of the baseball project.

It started when Commissioner Steven Abrams, who hasn’t been shy about criticizing the city for not contributing enough to the baseball project, asked for assurances that all county residents would be allowed to use a 12-acre city park that the teams will build next to the complex.

The park, off Haverhill Road, will be open to all county residents, he was told.

“I still think the city of West Palm Beach should have contributed toward this. In fact they are bragging that they didn’t,’’ Abrams said.

Abrams then held up and read from a mailer from Mayor Jeri Muoio’s re-election campaign in March.

CAMP LITThe mailer showed a baseball player swinging a bat next to sentences praising Muoio — who defeated City Commissioner Kimberlly Mitchell in the race — for refusing any land swap deal until the county agreed to give land to the city.

Abrams said, “I commend (Muoio) for representing her city that well, but the economic benefit (of the baseball project) will be principally toward the city of West Palm Beach. I don’t think there’s any question about that.’’

A minute later, County Mayor Shelley Vana held up the same mailer and chimed in: “I think it is in bad taste to send this out when we’re in midst of negotiations, so I agree with you, Commissioner Abrams, this is totally without class or taste.’’

County commissioner Steven Abrams

County commissioner Steven Abrams

The two commissioners offered no public explanation for why they chose a meeting in August to object to campaign mailers that were sent out in the early months of the year.

Asked for Muoio’s reaction to the comments, city spokesman Elliot Cohen said: “We always welcome lively debate any time. We’re just glad the city and county are continuing to work together on baseball.’’

The county still needs one final approval from the city commission before the project can move forward: Final approval on Aug. 31 of a land swap that will provide the 160-acre site where the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals plan to break ground in October.

Insiders at City Hall still expect the approval to sail through, despite the comments from Abrams and Vana.

 

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