March 29, 2024 8:00am

Spring training, spring break and WPB waterfront survey

Palm Beach influencers have strong opinions on a variety of spring topics

Photo of Joe Capozzi
By Joe Capozzi
Palm Beach, FL Correspondent
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Spring is here, so for our March Power Poll we asked our Palm Beach influencers a sampling of questions spring-related and spring-unrelated.

Since Major League Baseball spring training ended earlier this week, we wondered how many influencers took advantage of the fact that four teams host Grapefruit League games at two complexes in Palm Beach County – Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter and CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach.

Both venues were built with millions of dollars in public hotel-tax money with a goal of bringing out-of-town visitors to Palm Beach County to spend money on hotels and restaurants while watching the St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.

Locals attended games, too, this past spring, but not many Power Poll influencers were among those locals.

Just one quarter of the respondents to our March survey said they checked out a game this past spring while nearly 75 percent did not. Our poll had a response rate of nearly 35 percent.

Influencer Sid Dinerstein, former chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party, said he attended two Cardinals games in Jupiter. And the 2024 team left an unfavorable impression on him.

“I can say with near certainty that when the World Series tolls around in October, nobody will be singing ‘Meet Me in St. Louie,’’’ he quipped.

A more serious spring topic for influencers was Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to dispatch 140 state troopers throughout Florida to curb outbreaks of spring break violence. While some influencers said in comments that they felt the deployment was unnecessary, 57 percent said they think the presence of state troopers will be the new norm in Florida every spring.

“Once DeSantis is gone, I would hope no other governor ever feels the need to use a militaristic approach to resolve issues that have simpler solutions,’’ said computer consultant Jim Kovalsky.

One influencer is worried the Republican governor may dispatch troopers to advance a conservative agenda.

“I am concerned this will embolden him to militarize our state and abuse this power against other gatherings such as LGBTQA+ parades and other groups he attacks personally,’’ said Rolando Barrero, president of the Democratic Hispanic Chapter of Florida.

Another serious topic for influencers is a new survey being conducted by the city of West Palm Beach. The survey seeks public opinions about how the downtown waterfront should be improved, including the construction of “a potential second marina.” The city’s survey comes less than a year after public outcry over a quietly conceived plan by the city to build a private marina downtown with no public input. That plan was quashed after a survey conducted by a downtown neighborhood association indicated a majority of the respondents wanted the downtown waterfront left alone.

A whopping 80 percent of influencers said the city’s current survey represents another attempt by the city officials to revive their plans for a second marina.

“The West Palm Beach waterfront is a bellwether of a deeper problem in our city,’’ said Joseph Russo. Founder of Emergency Company. “Well-funded business interests regularly have their projects fast-tracked while small businesses wait months for basic permit.’’

Our final question dealt with recent news, broken by Stet Palm Beach, that Sears closed its store at The Gardens mall in Palm Beach Gardens. That leaves just two Sears stores in Florida – in Orlando and Coral Gables.

A resounding 96 percent of influencers predict those two stores will be shuttered within the next five years.

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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