Boca Raton candidates rumble over taxes, red-light cameras

BOCA RATON – The two candidates in the contentious race for Seat D on the Boca Raton City Council took an “agree to disagree” stance at a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored candidate forum Wednesday night.

With just a few weeks to go before the March 13 election, incumbent Anthony Majhess and challenger Frank Chapman fired off a number of barbs, covering everything from taxes and red-light cameras to development projects and Majhess’ reputation as the council’s contrarian.

Chapman made government corruption a key point of the debate, saying, “I don’t think anyone in particular is corrupt. But when I see corruption, I take it very, very seriously. No one can own me or tell me what to do.”

Majhess said he has seen actions that were “not illegal. Just bad government.”

Chapman took a shot at the council’s decision to hire an additional city attorney, despite efforts to keep the city budget lean. “We don’t need another attorney,” he said.

Instead, the challenger suggested the city take on “a person dedicated to economic development. We don’t like red-light cameras and parking meters. We do like it when people move in and get jobs. An economic development director is necessary.”

Majhess defended the city’s decision to hire a lawyer, saying the position was added to assist the city attorney with the county inspector general’s oversight of city officials’ behavior.

Throughout the debate, Majhess calmly defended his three-year record as a council member. Chapman, meanwhile, showed signs of stress. At one point, he told a couple in the audience to “stop making faces” or get out of the hall. At another time, he plunked his microphone down hard when the batteries went dead.

Chapman continued to fashion himself as a hometown boy with roots going back to Boca Raton Community High School. A lawyer who worked with multimillion-dollar contracts, he now serves as a volunteer in the community.

Throughout the campaign, Chapman has accused Majhess of flip-flopping on taxes, voting in favor of a tax rate increase in September 2011. “In 2009, he told the Sun-Sentinel he wouldn’t raise taxes,” Chapman said.

Majhess countered that the City Council as a whole has cut taxes $2.6 million during the past three years and has trimmed spending by $76.9 million “without impacting services.”

The incumbent also disputed efforts to paint him as the lone no vote among council members, particularly on development projects. Majhess said the panel took 541 votes in the past three years – and that he voted no only 13 times. Two of those votes involved the installation of red-light cameras, and six were decisions on installing parking meters. The other five were “not for development,” he said.

When Chapman said he also would have voted against the red-light cameras and parking meters, Majhess pointed out that the mayor and other three council members who support Chapman’s candidacy all voted in favor of the cameras and meters.

The pair also clashed on a recent council decision to allow a development of off-campus university housing on 20th Street. Majhess was the only council member to vote against the project, saying he sided with city staff’s recommendation to reject the proposal. Besides, he said, Florida Atlantic University “practically begged us not to pass it.”

The project, Chapman said in disagreement, “will be a great part of the community. These kids need a place to live.”

Majhess said his opponent’s stance on the issue was another example of how he “would be a rubber stamp for the rest of the council” If elected.

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