Dispute Arises in Current Delray Beach Elections Cycle
The Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce will hold its traditional Candidate Forum on Tuesday January 30, 2024, from 6pm-9pm at the Arts Garage. But some of the candidates who had previously committed to participating in the forum have instead decided to join Mayoral Candidate, Tom Carney, for a Meet & Greet deliberately scheduled at exactly the same time.
According to a flyer being disseminated via social media, those that choose to boycott the Chamber Forum and create an alternate forum include Mayoral candidates Tom Carney and Shirley Johnson, City Commission Seat 3 candidates, Juli Casale and Anneze Barthelemy, and Commission Seat 1 candidate, Tom Markert.
The Chamber Forum traditionally is the largest, most well-attended, long-lived candidate forum presented during the municipal election cycle and some Delray citizens we spoke to are calling this conflicting event a “MAGA” tactic.
According to Randy Shultz’s article in City Watch, Carney believes that the Chamber showed favoritism toward his opponent, Vice-Mayor Ryan Boylston, when Boylston was asked to facilitate a discussion at the Chamber’s board installation luncheon this past Monday. The discussion was with city leaders including City Manager Terrence Moore, Community Redevelopment Agency Director Renee Jadusingh, and Downtown Development Authority Director Laura Simon talking about the year ahead. The panel spoke of their roles in the city and the roles of their respective agencies. There was no mention of politics or candidates in their presentation.
Carney further suggests that questions to be posed in the forum may have been shared with “favored” candidates, an allegation strongly denied by the Chamber.
Many citizens have commented that the move to have candidates boycott the Chamber’s forum is divisive and retaliatory and seen by many as dividing rather than uniting the community. It also shows disrespect for Delray institutions, not for profits, businesses, and the “Delray Way” which values coming together not splitting apart.
Stephanie Immelman, CEO of the Chamber said in a statement, “The Delray Beach Chamber Candidates Forum for the Delray Beach Mayoral Election and the elections for Commission Seats 1 and 3 will take place as scheduled on January 30, 2024, at 6pm at the Arts Garage. This event will also be live streamed on the Delray Chamber Facebook page and recorded. This year, the forum will cover pivotal topics including Affordable Housing, Workforce Development, Economic Development (with a focus on Atlantic Ave Historic Overlay and Parking), Sustainability, Disaster Preparedness, and Education. We have received some very thoughtful and well-considered questions from our Chamber members and the public which we will pose to the candidates. This is a chance for everyone to hear these Candidates’ solutions for issues that face our community. Candidates participating include Ryan Boylston for Mayor, Jim Chard and Tenille DeCoste for Seat 1 and Nicholas Coppola for Seat 3. It is unfortunate that some of the other Candidates have failed to honor their original commitment to participate in this Forum. It is the voters and our 800 Chamber businesses that will lose out, not being able to hear ideas from all Candidates.”
Gregg Weiss, past Chair of Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, said, “The Chamber of Commerce represents the largest and most diverse cross-section of businesses and non-profit organizations in Delray Beach. To have this group of candidates not just refuse to participate, but with great malice, schedule their own alternative event the same evening, shows their utter disregard and contempt for Delray’s business and non-profit community”.
Friends of Delray