Walkable West Palm Beach

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Twelve questions with Mayor Jeri Muoio

Walkable West Palm Beach candidate Questionnaire – Twelve questions with Mayor Jeri Muoio

Many thanks to Mayor Muoio for taking the time to answer the questionnaire.

  1. What is your approach to economic development? Do you favor ‘economic hunting’ or ‘economic gardening’, and which approach or combination of approaches would you pursue if elected to office? Would you consider certifying West Palm Beach as a Level II economic gardening program to support existing businesses and entrepreneurs?

At a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, Kelly Smallridge, Director of the BDB talked about the great work we have been doing in West Palm Beach in both attracting businesses and growing business. I am the first Mayor to have an Economic a Development Director and he has been working on both attracting and growing businesses. I have been an early supporter of Start up West Palm Beach and a great believer in the importance of incubating businesses here in our city. I would definitely consider certifying West Palm Beach as a level II economic gardening program.

  1. How would you remove impediments and make it easier to build small projects, rather than the half or full city block development that is prevalent? 

As we are revising our codes we should do so with this in mind. Small projects are important, but must also be economically viable for the developer. In addition, it is important to take a comprehensive look to determine where small projects might best be encouraged.

  1. A City committee recently listed 17 action items that are ‘ready to go’ in the Jeff Speck study. Would you commit to implementing at least one of these ideas in your first 60 days in office, or do you believe more traffic studies are warranted before anything is implemented?

I have already committed. Many of those action items are already in the works and should be under way in the next few weeks.

  1. Is transportation planning best in the engineering department, or under Planning? Which department leads in the vision for street design?

We have many cross disciplinary teams working together effectively in City Hall. It is important, that no matter where a department is on the organizational chart, it understands the overall vision and all work together to achieve that vision

  1. In his downtown Walkability study, walkability expert Jeff Speck states that while palms can be beautiful, in an urban environment they do not provide the many benefits of street shade trees and therefore we should focus on street trees that provide shade in downtown. Do you agree with this assessment? How would you respond to the diseased palms on Clematis that were planted two years ago?

 I have been a proponent of shade trees on Clematis and throughout our city. We brought forward a plan to bring more trees to Clematis but it was voted down by the City Commission at the urging of my opponent. The Palms had to be removed because they were diseased. They will be replaced with a species that is resistant to the particular disease. I am happy to say we have a new landscape planner who will help us to determine which shade tree will be the best replacement.

  1. Street trees often suffer from maintenance neglect, despite the fact they are one of the highest returning investments a city can make in its urban infrastructure. It is common for city departments to ‘pass the buck’ in order to avoid responsibility. How would you correct the issues with maintenance neglect and ensure this valuable civic infrastructure is protected and nurtured? Who would be responsible?

I must disagree with you on your statement that it is common for city departments to pass the buck. Recently I moved landscape maintenance to our public works department. You will see significant improvements.

  1. West Palm Beach has a strong track record of innovation in livable streets and walkability enhancements. A Transportation Concurrency Exception Area east of I-95 makes it easier to do livable street design without Level of Service obstacles. Would you consider assigning a Livable Streets Transportation Engineer, such as West Palm Beach had in the past, to manage these areas in order to insure we continue to make our city more livable and walkable?

I would be willing to consider it, if the budget allows

  1. Would you favor implementing a parking wayfinding signage program for downtown immediately? Or would you wait to create a master plan for the entire city before acting? How would such a program be funded?

We have a design and a quote and a budget and should see this moving forward in 90 days.

  1. Where do you stand on the Broadway corridor and South Dixie Corridor efforts? Do you believe the priority for this right of way should be the convenience of drivers passing through it, or enhancing the potential of properties and neighborhoods located adjacent to it?

The priority should be forth making them a walkable community asset.

  1. In a 2012 “Face of the City” proposal, 10 new tree planters were planned on Clematis Street in order to accommodate new shade trees on the street. Doing so would have meant the loss of 7 on-street parking spots. How would you balance the important placemaking and economic benefits of street trees against the parking needs of downtown?

I was a strong proponent for giving up the parking spaces and having more trees

  1. Okeechobee Boulevard is a real liability for the city.  To encourage non-motorized mobility across the boulevard, and then not strive to provide safe passage, is a serious problem. How would you work to make Okeechobee Boulevard east of I-95 a more inviting place for people on foot and on bike, and how would you propose to fund such plan? Would you consider a local match using City funds such as CRA TIF dollars if it would move the project ahead?

We are currently working with the County, the Convention Center, Related company and planners to explore alternatives for addressing the passage across Okeechobee. All parties are committed to solving this problem.

  1. The Northwest neighborhood is harmed as a result of being disconnected from the rest of the urban fabric. Banyan Boulevard, the FEC railway, and the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard bridge serve as ‘border vacuums’ that blight adjacent properties and inhibit redevelopment. Would you make this removing these impediments a priority? Would you consider the creation of connector streets between Douglass and Division Avenue to tie into the greater downtown urban grid network? How would such improvements be funded?

Yes. Funding could include CRA funding as well as grants.


Jeff Speck walkability study recommendations

The dust is still settling from Jeff Speck’s monumental study on walkability. Not only did Jeff address downtown, his original scope, but also the northwest neighborhood and South Dixie. Very exciting times. Included are specific ways to make our streets safer, more comfortable for all users, more attractive and desirable, and ultimately lead to a higher tax base and more retail sales. Most of these ideas are low cost and just require paint to restripe lanes and make better use of our existing infrastructure.

You have to expect resistance whenever change is proposed. On the City’s Facebook posting, a number of people have objected, although the overall sentiment is very positive for the changes. As these things go, usually the opponents come out in droves in social media and meetings, but the supporters have much less to say. We need to flip that if we want to see these changes carried out.

Mayor Muoio, to her credit, is open to trying new things and supports walkability. She alludes to the fight ahead, however:

Folks, we need you, now. These action items are going to come before the commission soon, and if we don’t turnout, it will not happen. There are guaranteed to be opponents there because maintaining the status quo is always the path of least resistance. We need to speak up, and I’m personally asking for your help.

Here are four ways you can support the changes proposed

1. Most important: Attend city meetings and express your opinion at public comment or on written comment card. Or if you cannot make the meeting, write   the commissioners or applicable public officials, and tell them you support the walkability study recommendations. We’ll keep you notified of important city meetings on the blog and also on the Walkable West Palm Beach calendar.
2. Follow the blog. From the homepage, enter your email into the box at top right. Then you won’t miss original content or meeting notices. Also, like on Facebook, and share with friends.
3. Become a guest blog contributor on a topic you care about. Or write about issues of livable streets, urbanism, and walkability in your neighborhood. There is so much going on in the northend, southend, downtown, and at the county level that more contributors are needed to cover it all.
4. Last but not least VOTE in municipal elections – county and city level. Support those candidates who support these principles!

– Jesse Bailey, founder of Walkable West Palm Beach


Mayor Muoio supports making Okeechobee Boulevard better for pedestrians

This time, it’s no April Fool’s joke!

At Mayor Muoio’s media briefing on April 2nd, reporters asked the Mayor about her thoughts around the idea of making Okeechobee Boulevard a multiway boulevard or something more pedestrian friendly [minute 16:20].

Muoio: “One of the focuses of both Jeff Speck and CNU and our downtown is ‘how do we make Okeechobee more walkable?’ So any effort to do that I would applaud and would like to be a part of. ”

We thank the Mayor for endorsing this idea. She has touted the benefits of walkability publicly and often, supporting Jeff Speck’s walkability study, bringing in Peter Kageyama (“For the Love of Cities”) for a lecture, and conducting the Mayor’s walk.

It’s going to take a collaboration between the City, County, and perhaps most importantly, Florida Department of Transportation in order to make this happen. If you’re interested in helping, contact us, or get in touch with a public official. Much more to come; once Jeff Speck’s walkability report is released,  the hard work of implementation begins! We’ll need the community to come out and support the study, help us kickstart a few easier projects, and get a large group of grassroots support behind reconfiguring Okeechobee.

[Thanks to Tree Canopy WPB for letting us know about this interview!]

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A downtown stroll with the Mayor

This past Saturday, Mayor Muoio, Commissioner Materio, and DDA Executive Director Raphael Clemente accompanied a crowd of residents on a walking tour of downtown West Palm Beach. I’d guess there were almost 50 residents who walked – it was a fantastic turnout that far surpassed my expectations, and demonstrates that there’s a lot of people who care about this community.

Everyone was very interested in new development projects underway. We passed by the Hibiscus Marriott Residence Inn which recently broke ground, the Quadrille enhancement project, and spoke about the Evernia Place apartment project.  As we passed by the 300 and 400 block of Datura Street, I spoke about the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) funded street tree planting project, and its benefits.

Some specific issues  pointed out to the Mayor and her assistant: The need for a better curb alignment at Fern and Quadrille, the conditions on the block where the City Center garage is located, replacement of burned out streetlights throughout downtown, fixing the broken oak tree uplighting on Rosemary, that ugly rubberized mulch in the tree pits on Clematis, and the homeless population. Commissioner Materio explained that the strip club rolling billboards that are a nuisance downtown are difficult to regulate due to first amendment issues, but they continue to look into the issue. Most of these issues were already tagged by the community using SeeClickFix, but there’s nothing like seeing it up close and personal to draw attention to them. The best way to experience a place is by walking it, and the DNA hopes to make this a regular event downtown.

Thanks to everyone who came out on a Saturday, especially our public officials. This was a fun exercise!  Please comment below if there were other specific items you identified during the walk.

Map of the route:

This was the walking route

This was the walking route

Images from the walk:

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