West Palm surveillance cameras expected to be topic at tonight’s meeting

Although it’s not on the agenda, the city of West Palm Beach’s network of surveillance cameras should a topic of discussion at tonight’s city commission meeting.

Several members of the city’s northwest neighborhood, which has been experiencing a rash of shootings, and Commissioner Paula Ryan plan on bringing up the issue in public comments, they told The Palm Beach Post on Friday.

One of the cameras wasn’t working when two people were shot outside the Dunbar Village apartments about 100 yards away. And locals say the city has been dragging its feet on a proposal to expand the number of cameras

Teresa Johnson, executive director of the Northwest Community Consortium, said last week that they wanted to “speak to the urgency” of installing more cameras. The city has 30 cameras across downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Since June 2, 26 people have been shot – nine fatally – in the northwest area. On Wednesday, two people were killed and two others wounded.

Police have made an arrest in just one case.

Tonight’s commission meeting is at 5 p.m. at West Palm Beach city hall, 401 Clematis St.


Don’t expect WPB to impose any fines against Rodney Mayo for Respectable Street mural

Our story about an artistic showdown between Clematis Street entrepreneur Rodney Mayo and the city of West Palm Beach generated lots of reaction on social media.

Artist Christopher Ian Macfarlane working on a new mural earlier this week at Respectable Street nightclub, even though the city has a temporary ban on outdoor murals.
Artist Christopher Ian Macfarlane working on a new mural earlier this week at Respectable Street nightclub, even though the city has a temporary ban on outdoor murals.

Most of the chatter is from Mayo supporters angry that the city could impose $500 a day fines for painting a mural on the side of a building he owns.

But the fact of the matter is that the city has not made any move to go after Mayo since the issue came to a head Monday.

And don’t expect the city to go after him, either. Think about it: Today is Friday. The mural is almost done. And it is part of the Respectable Street nightclub’s 28th anniversary party scheduled for Saturday night.

If the city intended to cite Mayo, it would have done so by now.

Rodney Mayo in 2002 photo at his Respectable Street nightclub
Rodney Mayo in 2002 photo at his Respectable Street nightclub

Also, consider what city spokesman Elliot Cohen wrote when he chimed in on the debate on the Engage West Palm Beach Facebook page yesterday.

Among his comments:

“Rodney HAS NOT been fined. Second NO ONE in the story from the city has said Rodney will be fined. How do I know this? Because I am the one who talked to the paper about the story. It is the reporter who asked what the fine could be. but NO WHERE in the story does it say the city will fine Rodney. So before launching attacks on the city, please read what the story says…’’



Your turn to bat! Museum wants your help on planning a new baseball exhibit

Baseball in Palm Beach County — from the Little Leagues to the Major Leagues — will be the topic of an upcoming exhibit at the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum.

Tentative plans call for the exhibition to open in September 2016 and run through June 2017 — to coincide with the opening of the new spring training complex that will be shared by the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals south of 45th Street.

Robert Corbitt, 72, holds a photo of baseball legend Connie Mack talking to Corbitt when he was 9 years old in 1952 at Phipps Park.
Robert Corbitt, 72, holds a photo of baseball legend Connie Mack talking to Corbitt when he was 9 years old in 1952 at Phipps Park.

Work on the baseball facility, scheduled to open in January 2017, is scheduled to start sometime in October. But work on the museum’s baseball exhibition already has started — and the museum wants your help.

Curators are asking local residents to help guide and inspire the development of the exhibit by offering their own stories and loaning personal mementoes about the history baseball in and around West Palm Beach — from the games played on “baseball grounds” of Palm Beach by Henry Flagler’s workers, to Negro Leagues, to Little Leagues and, of course, Major League Baseball spring training.

If you’d like to help, call curator Debi Murray at 561-832-4164 ext. 105 or email her at Dmurray@historicalsocietypbc.org.

Home movies, programs, ticket stubs, baseballs caught as souvenirs from home runs and foul balls, even your own version of the famous 1952 photo of baseball legend Connie Mack and 9-year-old Robert Corbitt — the museum wants it all.

Connie+Mack+and+studentMaybe you posed with Hank Aaron one day in the late 1960s before a Braves game at old West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium off Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, which opened in 1962 and is now a Home Depot store after the Braves and Expos left following the 1997 spring season.

Did your dad shoot home movies of pitchers Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson warming up in the early days of their Hall of Fame careers?

Maybe somewhere at your grandfather’s house there’s a ticket stub from March 31, 1927, when Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees lost to the Cincinnati Reds at Wright Field, which would be renamed Connie Mack Field before being razed for the site’s current occupant – a parking garage next to the Kravis Center for the Performing for Arts.

BABE IN WPBMaybe your grandfather and his friends saw Ruth in street clothes later that day downtown. Under the headline that day in the Palm Beach Times, “Yankees invade West Palm Beach to battle Reds”, a story suggests that players on both teams planned to attend a wrestling match on Clematis Street: “Babe Ruth may referee.’’

Or maybe you have a program from the first game at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter on Feb. 28, 1998 — when Mark McGwire christened the new spring training complex with a home run. McGwire would go on to hit 73 home runs, break the old single-seasons record of 61 held since 1961 by Roger Maris, who broke the previous record of 60 held since 1927 by Ruth.

Even if you don’t have artifacts, the museum would still like to hear your stories – from Negro Leagues to the 2003 Little League World Series team from Boynton Beach.

Curators also want to hear from retired baseball players living in the area. Palm Beach’s Jim Palmer, Jupiter’s Mike Schmidt and Palm Beach Gardens’ Tommy Hutton, this means you!


Aaron Hernandez friend, shot in Palm Beach County, gets immunity in double murder

A former friend of Aaron Hernandez, shot in the face in an industrial park near Riviera Beach while he was riding in the former NFL star’s car, has received immunity in the case of two men police say Hernandez killed in Boston in 2012.

Hartford Police mug shot of Alexander Bradley
Hartford Police mug shot of Alexander Bradley

Hernandez shot the friend, Alexander Bradley to shut him up about the double murder, Massachusetts prosecutors alleged when they charged Hernandez with witness tampering in May. Hernandez is set to stand trial in December in the July 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston’s South End.

Interactive: Many Florida ties to Aaron Hernandez cases

 Just after dawn on Feb. 13, 2013, Bradley was driven to an industrial park outside Riviera Beach, shot once in the head and left to die.

A man, who had just arrived at work, heard a gunshot and spotted an SUV driving away. Minutes later, he found Bradley curled up in a fetal position and telling him to call 911.

NORTH ATTLEBORO, MA - AUGUST 22: Aaron Hernandez is escorted into the courtroom of the Attleboro District Court for his hearing on August 22, 2013 in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge for the death of Odin Lloyd. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Aaron Hernandez is escorted into the courtroom North Attleboro, Mass. Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez has been convicted of first-degree murder for the death of Odin Lloyd. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Bradley, who lost his eye as a result of the shooting, never cooperated with Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies, so no criminal case was opened.

Bradley did, however, file a federal civil suit against Hernandez in West Palm Beach. Bradley’s lawyers filed a motion in that case Monday, saying they were giving documents about an “Agreement for Immunity” in the double murder case over to Hernandez’s Florida attorneys.

Massachusetts prosecutors have not said for certain that Bradley will testify against Hernandez in the double murder trial. Four months after Bradley was shot near Riviera Beach, Hernandez shot and killed Odin Lloyd in a secluded industrial park near Hernandez’s home in Bristol County, Massachusetts. Hernandez was convicted of Lloyd’s killing in April and has received a life sentence.


PBSO deputy accused of roughing up 911 caller cleared

Augusto Garcia
Augusto Garcia

Russell Brinson, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy accused last year of roughing up a man who had called police for help, was cleared of any wrongdoing in the case.

In May 2014, Augusto Garcia had called police to report two suspicious people milling around his car. Brinson responded and, believing Garcia was a suspect, grabbed his arm, twisted it behind his back and took him to the ground, records show. He put a knee in Garcia’s back while handcuffing the man.

Brinson said Garcia refused to obey commands to take his hands out of his pockets. Garcia said he never had a chance to explain before Brinson swept his legs out from under him. He had to be hospitalized for back pain.

The deputy, who had 18 uses of force, including a shooting, in one 20-month span, was cleared in December.

But the U.S. Department of Justice assumed the case was still open in May, when they decided not to launch a formal investigation in the case. The Palm Beach Post obtained records in the case this week.

Brinson has since been reassigned to the airport.


State juvenile justice chief: ‘Right decision’ for Youth Services International to call it quits in Palm Beach

It’s all over but the shouting:  Less than two weeks after Palm Beach County’s congressional delegation asked the Department of Juvenile Justice to temporarily shutter a troubled local juvenile detention center, the private company running the facility is calling it quits.

Sarasota-based Youth Services International, which has in recent months been the target of withering criticism by Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Van for its operation of the 118-bed Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility, told DJJ it is terminating its multi-million dollar contract.

Although DJJ Secretary Christine Daly said in a prepared statement that it was YSI’s choice, she also stated that “YSI made the right decision.”


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.


Congressional reps ask state to close local juvenile lockup until FDLE wraps up investigation


Shelley Vana, paying a second visit to the juvenile center.
Shelley Vana, paying a second visit to the juvenile center.

Four South Florida congressional representatives are asking the state to shutter Palm Beach County’s troubled juvenile detention center until an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement agency is complete.

In an Aug. 7 letter to Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly, U.S. Representatives Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch and Patrick Murphy wrote that, “We are disturbed by recent reports that outline a troubling trend of violent altercations” at the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Nor were they happy with reports of substandard living conditions and inadequate meals reported by Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Vana, who has for months criticized management of the state facility by a private company, Youth Services International.

Daly earlier this year asked FDLE to investigate the lockup, which houses more than 100 teenage boys in serious trouble with the law.

But that’s not enough, the representatives stated: Given a history of mismanagement by YSI, which last year lost a state contract to run a state substance abuse treatment center for juveniles in Santa Rosa County, and continued reports of trouble at the local facility, the four congressional reps asked DJJ “to suspend the operation of the facility pending the outcome” of the FDLE inquiry – and to investigate whether YSI is competent to run it.

Name of new West Palm Beach spring training complex will aways be “at the Palm Beaches”

When it comes to the name of the new spring training home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, Palm Beach County will get permanent branding.

BALLPARKThe name of the $135 million complex south of 45th Street in West Palm Beach will include the words “of (or at) the Palm Beaches,’’ as part of an agreement with the teams that county commissioners will consider Tuesday.

That means that if a corporation purchases the naming rights, the name of the stadium will start with the company’s name and end with “at the Palm Beaches’’ or “of the Palm Beaches.”

“When one of the announcers says something or when the game stories are written, ‘the Palm Beaches’ will become something everyone understands and recognizes,’’ said Glenn Jergensen, executive director of the county’s Tourist Development Council.

“We want to continue to use ‘the Palm Beaches” in pretty much everything, including the stadium. That is our tourism identity to the world.’’

LOGOSCounty tourism officials insisted on the agreement with the teams because the county is helping pay off the debt service for the stadium construction bonds with $108 million in revenue from a county tax on hotels and motels.

The current name of the complex is “Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.’’

Although that’s considered a temporary title, it might end up being the name of the stadium when it opens in 2017 and perhaps for another year or two after that, if not longer.

The Astros and Nationals will start focusing on a naming rights deal later this year. But indications are that the teams are prepared to wait as long as it takes for what they consider the best deal, even if it takes several years.

That means there’s a chance the Astros and Nationals will play Grapefruit League games at “The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches’’ for the first few years.

Nationals Park, the team’s regular season home stadium in Washington, opened in 2008 and has never had a naming rights deal.

The Astros’ home park in Houston is called Minute Maid Park, after the orange juice maker. It opened in 2000 as the Ballpark at Union Station before changing its name at the start of the season to Enron Field as part of 30-year, $100 million deal with the Houston energy company.

The team got out of that deal after Enron went into bankruptcy in 2002 because of a financial scandal.

The first of two new public parks less than a mile from each other to open today

In less than 18 months, residents living west of Interstate 95 around 45th Street will have two public parks within a mile of each other.

New play equipment at Gramercy Park
New play equipment at Gramercy Park

The first one opens today – Gramercy Park, a 2-acre park at 5615 Parke Ave. in West Palm Beach, just north of 45h Street and west of Haverhill Road and east of Florida’s Turnpike.

The next one, owned by the city of West Palm Beach, is scheduled to open by January 2017 — a 12-acre park off Haverhill Road on the west side of the new Major League Baseball spring training complex south of 45th Street.

Gramercy Park, a Palm Beach County park, will have a grand-opening ceremony at 9 a.m. today.

It includes three junior tennis courts and two children’s play areas featuring a slide, climbing structures, and an “Omnispin Spinner,” a variation on merry-go-rounds that’s accessible to all kids, including those with disabilities. It also has a 0.12-mile mulch path, an open grass play field, benches and a bicycle rack.

The new city park will be built by the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals and then given to the city.

It will include an open lawn with exercise stations, four lighted basketball courts, two soccer fields, a boundless playground with a splash pad, restrooms and waterfront benches overlooking an 11-acre lake on the park’s eastern side.