Student Article: Welcome to the World Today

By Amanda Brooke from West Boca High
Take a look around you. Look at all the faces surrounding you as you sit in math class, or at the park. Are they happy? Are they smiling? They may appear happy, but perhaps that joy is only temporary. Around the world, millions of people face oppression within society on a daily basis.
Welcome to the world today, take a look at how the U.S. Government handles laws; we have bans on anti-discrimination. In what way does prohibiting kindness towards others make any logical sense? Is it not bad enough that fifty-five percent of students feel unsafe in school due to the harassment they receive for their sexual orientation, and thirty-eight percent due to their gender expression (GLSEN*)? They say we should keep distances between church and state, but then they turn around and deny gays services based on beliefs. The courts rule in favor of places such as Hobby Lobby, who won’t help their employees get proper contraceptives, yet Hobby Lobby is willing to give money to companies who support birth control. Why do we put religion before the greater good, if we have such freedom from religion?
Let’s talk about suicide and scarred up thighs; let’s talk about the grades that are dropping lower, as teens are getting higher. Transgenders have a higher risk of being murdered than soldiers in the Afghanistan war, one out of eight compared to one out of twelve. About 38% of the homeless youth are gays and lesbians who have been kicked out of their homes due to whom they love. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, there are 293,000 rape incidents every year, and those are just the ones that get reported. Of all those sexual assaults, 47% of the rapists were family members or acquaintances. What’s going on? How do we stop it? Welcome to the world today.
People in magazines tell us if we want a future, we need to be skinny, beautiful, and tall. Eyes all around are judging us based on looks, fashion, and behavior, but what about what’s inside of us? Doesn’t our personality count for anything? We live in a society where little kids can’t stand to look in the mirror, for fear of blemishes or having too much meat on their bones. Middle schoolers starve themselves to fit a size zero, while the others shove fingers down their throats, because ‘the calories don’t count if it’s not fully digested.’ The rate of eating disorders in ages fifteen to nineteen years old has increased every decade since the 1930’s, according to the National Eating Disorder Archives records. Unimaginable pressures are put on everyone to do their best, be the best, look the best, but what about our health? What about our sanity? Parents tell us that school is our jobs, that boys will be boys, but does anyone tell us it’s okay to be a little selfish? No, because grades are more important than our well being. Welcome to the world today.
When will Congress wake up and realize that people can no longer survive on minimum wage? Maybe in the 1960’s people could live off twenty dollars for a week, but now that will buy you a box of cereal and some apples. And how is it, exactly, that when a man does the exact same work as a woman, it’s decided he deserves more than her? I don’t remember a consensual discussion occurring in which it was deemed that a male’s labor is worth twenty-two cents more than that of a female’s. We give millions of dollars to celebrities and athletes, but what do they offer to the world? Nothing. We throw money at them like it grows on trees, meanwhile, there are hundreds starving on the streets; they just want to know when they’ll receive their next meal. Welcome to the world today.
We thank the lawyers for getting us out of jail, we thank the doctors for saving lives, but we never thank the teachers who taught them to be the incredible people they now are. No one just wakes up as the top lawyer in their state; they’ve all gone to school. So many people who deserve our thanks get overlooked. Without farmers, we’d have no food. Without teachers, we’d have no intelligence or understanding. Without journalists, we’d be disconnected from the world around us. Lawyers, doctors, businessmen, they are all wonderful, but we must not forget those who do the background work. Welcome to the world today.
What are we doing to our Earth? What is happening to our society? We twist the words of oppression to make everything disguised as being great. Nothing is truly great, we are all in major peril. We need to stand up and make a difference. We need to fight for freedom — for our true freedoms. We need to stand as one nation, for liberty and justice for all. Welcome to the world today.
*Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network

If you are in need of assistance regarding a crisis of some sort, call the National Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Once you place your call, you will be forwarded to the center closest to your location. All calls are confidential and free!

Berger Bullies Shant? Video

A press release from County Commission Candidate Taniel Shant accuses Mary Lou Berger of censoring and intimidating him at a community meeting that was open to the public.

BOYNTON BEACH, FL – On Wednesday, September 21, the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations (COBWRA) held their September delegates meeting which featured presentations from Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker and Palm Beach County School District Superintendent Robert Avossa, who both spoke in support of the 17% Sales Tax increase that will appear on the November 8 ballot. The COBWRA meeting was advertised as open to the public.

cobwra-september-2016-meeting-notice

Taniel Shant, Republican candidate for Palm Beach County Commission District 5, opposes the 17% Sales Tax increase and was present to listen to the presentations. County Commission District 5 includes the areas west of Boca Raton, Delray Beach, and Boynton Beach.
Near the end of the presentations, COBWRA President Glen Harvie approached Mr. Shant and, in a disrespectful manner, told him that he would not allow Mr. Shant to ask a question. Mr. Harvie then attempted to unlawfully remove Mr. Shant, who was standing near the back of the room peacefully listening to the presentations.

Upon his arrival, Mr. Shant witnessed Mary Lou Berger canvass the room and inform her allies that Mr. Shant was present.
It appears that Mr. Harvie, who supports the 17% Sales Tax increase, was acting on behalf of sitting District 5 County Commissioner Mary Lou Berger, who was present at the meeting. In 2014, Commissioner Berger nominated Mr. Harvie to the Palm Beach County Community Advisory Committee.
“Although I was bullied, censored, and intimidated, the real victims in all of this are the residents,” stated Taniel Shant. “The entire meeting was a setup to deceive the residents of West Boynton Beach. They had two presentations in support of the 17% sales tax increase, didn’t have anyone speak in opposition to it, refused to allow public comments, then immediately held a vote for COBWRA to endorse and support the 17% sales tax hike, which unsurprisingly passed unanimously. I don’t know if Mary Lou Berger put him up to it or not, but he clearly was acting on Commissioner Berger’s behalf in an attempt to censor me,” Shant said.

We have previously written about Shant’s campaign and we agree with him in opposing the sales tax. However we did not attend this meeting and have no additional information to verify Shant’s claims. In our experience it is typical for challengers to encounter such tactics. Readers should, of course, use their own judgment.

"Penny" Sales Tax Increase Will Cost You $12,000

wbcc-tax
The average West Boca family of four will pay an additional $12,000 over ten years if the proposed sales tax increase is approved. These estimates follow from the numbers stated by speakers at Tuesday’s West Boca Community Council meeting.
Four speakers addressed the audience (note we covered a similar event in February: Avossa and Berger Speak). First up was County Administrator Verdenia Baker. Substantial details of the plan are available on the One County One Penny website.
Like the three speakers after her, Baker was tone deaf to West Boca residents. In her talk she described how the money that would come to “your area” but a closer look showed she was including all of Boca, Delray and Boynton Beach in that area. She also referred to money going to the City of Boca Raton as in “our area” even though most of West Boca is west of the city lines.
Baker indicated that the total amount of revenue they expect to raise from this tax increase is $2.7 billion. In our analysis, with 1.3 million county residents that works out to over $2000 per resident. For a family of four it’s $8000. With average incomes in West Boca higher than for the county, it translates to roughly $12,000 over the ten years. A typical West Boca family of four will spend an extra $1000 on sales tax in the first year, with the number rising to $1500 or more in later years.
Fifty percent of the money from the tax will go to the school district, thirty percent to the county and twenty percent to the cities.
She described a lengthy list of projects that the money is supposed to go to. We have seen this list before and over half the money goes to projects in West Palm Beach. A very small share will benefit West Boca.
Baker briefly answered questions from us toward the end of the event:

The next speaker was Mike Burke, CFO for the school district. He also described various “needs” in the district. To his credit he started off with a funny joke about the jail and he spoke well. But as with the other speakers he was somewhat tone deaf, focusing on projects far from West Boca and apparently not recognizing the difference between the city and the rest of us.
Our post-event conversation with him is below. It became a little uncomfortable in certain moments but we give him credit for his demeanor and his answers.

As a follow up to this conversation we found the report he mentioned. Contrary to what he said the document does not say that projects will be prioritized by need. That may be the intent but it’s not in there.
[gview file=”http://westbocanews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Facility_Condition_Assessment_Report_June_1_2016.pdf”]
Also the report’s descriptions do not match the apocalyptic tone set by Superintendent Avossa, Burke and others.

Finding #3: Of the 196 District schools and facilities assessed, the elementary schools are generally in fair condition (average FCI=15.2%), the middle schools are generally in good condition (average FCI = 13.1%), the high schools are generally in good condition (average FCI = 14.9%), and the ancillary facilities are generally in fair condition (average FCI = 23.1%). The overall District FCI average is 15.0%, which is in the “good” range, but borders on the “fair” range, which begins at 15.1%.

Finally with regard to the schools it should be noted that none of this money will go to hiring teachers or paying them more. It’s only for capital projects.
Next up was Sid Dinerstein, a long-time county Republican leader. After the two previous speakers took a full hour or more, Dinerstein was told he would only have 10 minutes. Dinerstein was also ignored when the event host announced various attendees and left him out.
Dinerstein was by far the most animated and interesting speaker of the four. We caught a brief clip of his speech but he had already left when we looked for him to answer questions at the end.

Dinerstein pointed out that the so-called “penny tax” is a 17 percent increase – from 6 percent to 7 percent. He dismissed the claimed needs asserted by the previous speakers and said the school district is “grossly overfunded”.
He suggested that the main needs of the county are really closer to $400 million rather than the $2.7 billion they are hoping to get from the sales tax increase. Dinerstein argued that it would make more sense to do a $400M bond issue with today’s low interest rates.
Dinerstein demonstrated the same disregard for the West Boca audience. Standing within arm’s reach of Ellen Winikoff he advocated for an extension of the Sawgrass Expressway from Broward into Palm Beach County, an idea that is widely hated here in West Boca. In describing the projects he viewed as necessary they all seemed to be in West Palm Beach, so his approach would do even less for West Boca residents.
The last speaker was Dave Kerner, a state representative who is now running for a county commission seat. He claimed (as did Baker) that 25% of the sales tax would be paid by tourists. If true that only adds to the burden imposed by the recently increased hotel tax to pay for a stadium in – where else – West Palm Beach. They seem unconcerned about or unaware of the risk of killing the goose that lays our golden eggs. If you raise taxes on tourism, tourists might come less often. He also repeated Mary Lou Berger’s February threat to raise property taxes if the sales tax increase is not passed.
Some other interesting details from the evening were:

  • The Lamborghini exemption – Baker said that the sales tax is capped at purchases under $5000, so if you buy a Lamborghini you won’t pay extra sales tax on most of that purchase.
  • Kerner and Baker both denied that sales tax is regressive. This is contrary to well established economic studies showing that sales taxes place a higher burden on the poor.
  • Taniel Shant, who is running against Mary Lou Berger, was in the audience. Shant opposes the sales tax increase.
  • In other news there has been some talk about developers buying the Boca Municipal Golf Course (north side of Glades west of the Turnpike) and building homes. Nothing has happened yet.
  • The proposal to build on the farm behind Home Depot is apparently making progress and may possibly resemble Delray Marketplace.
  • A new park or children’s playground has been built in Watergate Estates (aka West Sandalfoot) and will have a grand opening soon.
  • There has been an ongoing problem with trucks parking on swales on 66th Street (SW 66th we think) and PBSO is working to stop that.

Endorsement: Lisa Grossman for Judge

Before this election we had no opinion on Judge Marni Bryson. We do now.

Marni Bryson
Marni Bryson

Today in the mail we received a highly offensive mailer attacking Lisa Grossman, who is running against Bryson. The mailer identifies itself as being sent by “Keeping Citizens First, Inc.”, which is run by campaign consultant Rick Asnani. Asnani appears to be working for Bryson along with other judicial candidates.
The mailer and similar slurs on the internet and social media misuse personal photos from Grossman’s Facebook account and refer to personal matters that apparently took place thirty years ago. The mailer misleads readers by indicating that Grossman was “found guilty” of what are at worst minor campaign errors, and falsely suggests she has been convicted of crimes. It’s classic libel.
Judge Bryon’s decision to hire a dirty political consultant and participate in such nasty, below-the-belt campaign tactics renders her unqualified to sit as a judge.
As a result, we are endorsing Lisa Grossman for Judge.
grossman
Grossman has broad experience in health care and education. As an attorney she served as an assistant public defender, which is one of the hardest jobs in the law.

Car Burglar Arrested – Olympic Heights Alum Caught on Video

Hunter Brett (19). Mugshot from PBSO.
Hunter Brett (19). Mugshot from PBSO.

The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office arrested Hunter Brett (19) on two counts of car burglary. The arrest happened on Tuesday the 23rd. Brett is a former student of Olympic Heights High School.
On August 15th a reader forwarded us this video showing the car burglaries as they happened:

We posted the video on our Facebook page and commenters helped identify Brett as the likely burglar.
We reached out to the victim in this incident, who said the following:

We are grateful to the West Boca News and its readers for their help in catching this criminal. Let this be a lesson to other criminals that this is a tight knit community and we look out for each other.

Mr. Brett has developed a substantial court history in his short time as an adult. We don’t know what charges he may have faced as a juvenile. What we can see started in December of 2015 with two felony burglary counts and two misdemeanor counts. He was released on $6000 bond (usually meaning someone pays $600 to a bondsman).
While that was pending he was arrested in February in Broward facing five different counts including a first degree felony aggravated battery on a police officer, a felony resisting with violence and two drug felonies. He was released on $11,000 bond ($1100 to a bondsman).
For some reason we cannot explain, the pending burglary felonies in Palm Beach County were then resolved with “pre-trial diversion” which is usually a favorable result for a defendant – no jail time and a relatively clean record.
In June he was arrested again on drug charges, at least one of which was a felony. He was released on $5000 bond ($500 to a bondsman).
Now he’s been arrested for a fourth time. It’s not completely clear from the court records but we think bond was set at $23,000 this afternoon.
The last address we have for Mr. Brett is in the Lakes at Boca Raton (north of Yamato near Cain). He is being represented by public defenders on all the cases mentioned. For the first burglary case it appears he was rejected from the diversion program in August and the case has been reopened.
At this writing he remains in custody. Perhaps he will get out and resume visiting area cars again soon. Of course he is innocent until proven guilty. But since it seems likely that he will be doing significant state prison time, some might wonder why they keep letting him out. This soft approach to bail is commonplace in South Florida but unusual in other parts of the state.

Taniel Shant Takes On Mary Lou Berger

taniel-shant-headshot
Yesterday I met with Taniel Shant, a candidate for the County Commission seat representing West Boca. He’s as local as you can get. As a child he attended Whispering Pines Elementary, Omni Middle, and Olympic Heights High School. He graduated from FAU in 2005 and now lives in Boca Isles.
The seat he’s running for is currently occupied by Mary Lou Berger. The biggest issue in the race according to Shant is her support for increasing the sales tax. Berger told us in February that if the sales tax increase fails she will push to raise property taxes. Shant opposes any tax increases.
As for other issues he thinks his being a true West Boca resident will matter to voters. He said that Berger doesn’t really live in her district at all (District 5 includes parts of West Delray and West Boynton) and is really a creature of Palm Beach. Property records and my own experience with her suggest he might be right about that, though I’m not sure voters care.
I found his third criticism of Berger amusing – that she’s arrogant. I can’t say that’s wrong but Shant himself did not come off as humble in our meeting.

Shant (left) with Paul Tocker (a friend of West Boca News) and others in Kings Point
Shant (left) with Paul Tocker (a friend of West Boca News) and others in Kings Point

Between college and now Shant spent most of the past 10 years working in Washington DC with a non-profit called Armenian Assembly of America. Most recently he worked to get the Obama administration to recognize genocides against Christians in Syria and Iraq.
It’s early in this campaign. Shant appears to be raising enough money to present a credible challenge against Berger. It is an uphill battle running as a Republican challenger against a Democrat incumbent in a Democrat-leaning district in a presidential election year. Shant believes he can win over the independents as well as some Democrats, especially on the tax issue.
Shant’s website is http://www.tanielshant.com/.

Trump's Butler Speaks at City Fish Market

All photos copyright Warren Redlich 2016; anyone can use if you credit @WestBocaNews
Anthony Senecal, Donald Trump’s former butler.

Donald Trump’s longtime butler, Anthony Senecal, spoke Wednesday at City Fish Market (Glades near the Turnpike). West Boca based Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club hosted the event which was the biggest we’ve seen. There were roughly 80 guests plus 20 media in attendance.
Senecal has caught a bit of media attention recently, in part for his suggestion that President Obama should be hanged, and before that for his insights into Trump’s lifestyle.
Peter Ticktin (left) and Anthony Senecal (right)
Peter Ticktin (left) and Anthony Senecal (right)

Senecal was introduced by attorney Peter Ticktin, who graduated from New York Military Academy with Trump and was close to him at the time. Ticktin spoke highly of Trump as an honorable man, and included an amusing tidbit about how the school taught both of them how to tie a tie (Double Windsor).
Senecal is a great storyteller. He started by describing the history of Mar-a-Lago and his first boss there, Marjorie Post. Most of his stories were entertaining but did not show much substance.
In Senecal’s telling everyone he worked with at Mar-a-Lago, including Post, Trump, and everyone in Trump’s family, were smart, extremely smart, brilliant, incredible to work for, generous, funny, etc. Everything was positive.
Responding to questions from the audience, Senecal admitted the Donald Trump he worked with spoke very differently from the soundbites of his campaign – more intelligently of course. He also admitted that he only remembers the good moments and for the most part has blotted out the bad ones.
It was an entertaining lunch, but not all that illuminating.

West Boca Trump Rally: Observations & Photos

This article was written by Michelle Cirino Yarris, a friend of West Boca News who volunteered to go the rally for us since we could not attend. This was at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater in South County Regional Park.
I went to a Donald Trump Rally. This shocked a lot of people. I have been pretty vocal about the fact I am not a Trump supporter. However, the event was a 15-minute bike ride from our house at the local county park. I probably would have gone to see most any candidate at that point.
The real reason I went is due to all comments I have seen on social media on the Trump supporters. The racist, hateful, uneducated Trump supporter. What I found was a very diverse crowd of people. First time 18-year-old voters to 80-year-old people with walkers and everything in between. I saw people I knew who were businessmen, a doctor, a teacher. Educated people. I saw people of every color. Not just a handful either. There were many legal immigrants. One young man had a sign that he made that said “Immigrants for Trump”, another had one that said “Hispanics love Trump.”
immigrantsfortrump
Talking to a group of young men (barely at 18), I asked why they supported Trump. Their responses were two fold. First, one told me that they are tired of all the handouts to every group. Nothing is free. Someone has to pay for it. I kid you not – an 18-year-old boy said this to me. His friends all agreed. The second most concerning issue to this group was ISIS. They are concerned for the future of our country, our world. They don’t understand why we have such an open border policy in a time when we know people are streaming in with the intent to harm our country.
The conversation that shocked me and surprised me the most was from a young man from Virginia, who knew all about the voting patterns in his state. He was 18. I would guess most adults have no idea about voting patterns and counties.
All in all, I was very surprised at the crowd. Maybe it is Boca, or maybe we are only seeing a small piece of what really is going on.
This isn’t an endorsement of Trump in any way, but a closer look at his supporters. There is a very large silent group who is afraid to come out and vocally support their candidate for fear of repercussions. Which is not the American way. Those we do hear from, who are very loud, are not representative of what I saw at the Trump rally.
Whatever your view, whoever your candidate, let your voice be heard and vote!
Voting in Palm Beach County is on Tuesday March 15, 2016 in Florida from 7am to 7pm.
Local photographer Johnnie Butters also volunteered to take photos for us. He had a media pass which may have helped him get in early but severely constrained his movement and ability to get photos. Here are some of our favorite photos from his collection.

An early shot showing off the Sunset Cove amphitheater with the crowd just starting to grow
An early shot showing off the Sunset Cove amphitheater with the crowd just starting to grow

Photo showing off a Trump supporter but mainly we like this one because of the "bokeh" (a photographer thing) and the background hinting at the gorgeous view westbound from Sunset Cove.
Photo showing off a Trump supporter but mainly we like this one because of the “bokeh” (a photographer thing) and the background hinting at the gorgeous view westbound from Sunset Cove.

We just like this one.
We just like this one.

You can see all of the photos he shared with us on his Facebook post to our page or on his website.
Also we saw this photo from a regular reader known as “Boca Rat” in our comments and he said we could use it in this article. We love both how it captures the size of the crowd and also that view to the west.
rat-photo

Trump Ruins Black Man's Sunset in West Boca

rance1
Michael Rance loves living in West Boca and is an avid reader of West Boca News – and commenter. We learned from Mr. Rance that the upcoming Donald Trump event in South County Regional Park has a darker side. It’s ruining the sunset.
Rance takes photographs of the gorgeous sunsets in the park as part of his regular routine.
rance-sunset
And now his daily sunset ritual is being disrupted by thousands of Trump supporters filling the park in and around Sunset Cove Amphitheater, obviously named for its great views. Rance is concerned not only with the supporters, but with Trump’s “hate and bigotry.”

I watch sunset at sunset cove almost every day now my Sunday is f##### up because of this piece of trash

Rance really does take a lot of photos and he shares them on his BlackXeres Instagram account. He has over 1000 followers and a typical sunset photo will get dozens of likes from them, often over 100. Here’s an example:
sunset2
And this is what Rance’s sunset will look like this evening:
trump-sunset
On the bright side, Mr. Rance’s routine should return to normal on Monday.
This message was not paid for by Marco Rubio nor any PACs affiliated with any candidates or party officials. If you’re angry at this article you are in serious need of a sense of humor. Thanks to Mr. Rance for playing along.

Loggers' Run Student Reports from Clinton Campaign Event

Loggers’ Run Middle School student (and celebrity reporter) Benjamin Schiller tells us exclusively about his experience covering Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Super Tuesday event in Miami.
schiller-press
Last Tuesday, March 1, 2016, as a kid reporter for the Scholastic News Press Corps, I covered Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Super Tuesday’s campaign event at the Ice Palace Studios in Miami, Florida. It was an interesting day as I found out the afternoon before I would be covering this exciting rally.
I arrived an hour before the doors opened at 6:30p.m, to be guaranteed a good spot near where Secretary Clinton’s podium to speak was set up. At that time, there were several hundred supporters standing line before me. Moments after the doors opened, the line was as long as three blocks!
Many of the supporters came from all over Florida. They traveled from Naples, Coral Gables, Boca Raton, and even a few blocks away. Some came to the event for the experience of witnessing a major political event. However, most of the people that came were her supporters of all races, gender and religions.
As the doors opened for the event, everyone had to go through intense security measures. Secret Service agents checked every bag and everyone went through a metal detector for precautionary reasons. After I passed through security, I rushed in to get as close as possible to the stage. It was standing room only. I was asked to stand on the stage where she was going to speak. Due to my role as reporter and part of the press, I must stay unbiased and had to decline.
That evening, Secretary Clinton won most of the delegates. The former U.S Secretary won the majority of most states and received delegates from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Although the Democratic Presidential Candidate had lost some states, she earned a significant sum of the delegates from Colorado, Minnesota, and Oklahoma.
Every once in a while, there were several chants of “USA” to “Hillary.” I waited in the crowd almost three hours for her to appear. Once the Democratic Presidential Candidate came on stage, she told the huge crowd of supporters, “We’ve got work to do” and also stated, “Instead of building walls, were going to break down barriers.” She spoke for almost twenty minutes. She then left the stage where she took a few selfies with a few supporters next to her. Unfortunately, I was not able to get into that area.
After all, I enjoyed covering this event for Scholastic’s News Kids Press Corps. I sure can’t wait for my next experience!
If you would like to check out my article, here it is!
http://kpcnotebook.scholastic.com/post/hillary-clinton-greets-supporters