Meet Council’s new downtown guru and climate change conscience

City council’s Monica Mayotte is the new chair of Boca’s CRA, a separate downtown district. That’s a big deal in city government for visitors, businesses and people who live or move to the urban center.

The CRA meets twice a month as the Community Redevelopment Agency to consider downtown issues. Ruby Childers is the city’s downtown manager and works with the CRA. There’s even a separate Downtown Boca website https://www.downtownboca.org/

Q: Council made you CRA chair after your predecessor Andrea Levine O’Rourke became deputy mayor. Why did you want the CRA post?

A: I had ideas that I believe will provide even more reasons for people to want to visit Downtown Boca.

Q: Give us your priority list.

A: I’d like to see new CRA projects incorporate more creativity, innovation and most importantly, sustainability. By sustainability, I mean projects that are mindful of the resources. They are renewable energy, energy conservation, water conservation, recycling and especially green building standards.

Q: What else do you want to see?

A: Creativity in art and development are key to making our downtown attractive and fresh. We must expect exceptional architecture, quality and detail.

Q: What about vehicle and foot traffic?

A: We need to continually look for improvements to increase the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles in our downtown. Connected and continuous sidewalks are a prime example. Also, improved traffic management is important. Implementing Complete Streets in key areas of our downtown could address all our safety requirements.

Q: What about parking?

A: Better parking solutions are always important. We have a Parking Availability Program. Businesses can execute agreements among themselves to create a mutually beneficial parking program for their customers and employees.

Q: Getting around the downtown without driving has always been an issue.

A: We could use ride sharing with incentives to attend special events downtown.

Q: Do you want people to contact you as the new CRA chair?

A: I will put a call out for ideas. Please contact me at mmayotte@myboca.us to share your ideas for Downtown Boca Raton.

Q: You have become the climate change conscience on city council. How did you get involved in environment issues?

A: I became aware of the climate crisis in 2006. I took my family to see Vice-President Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” In 2009, Mayor Whelchel created the city’s Green Living Task Force. I was selected as a member. The task force developed 81 initiatives and evolved into the permanent Green Living Advisory Board. I was chair for several years.

Q: Talk about your training with Gore.

A: An opportunity arose to attend a training session to learn about the climate crisis. Also how to give the Inconvenient Truth PowerPoint presentation from the film. My son and I traveled to Chicago in July 2013 to attend the training conference. We spent three days with 1,400 other trainees with Mr. Gore. He explained the science and solutions to the climate crisis. It was a truly inspiring experience.

Q: What have you done in that area since you were elected to council?

Q: As a council, we have formally opposed offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling. We passed an ordinance regulating the residential and commercial use of fertilizer. The ordinance outlines when and how much fertilizer can be used on our lawns. I was instrumental in persuading our Parks and Recreation department to stop using RoundUp (Glyphosate) in our beachfront parks.

Q: What are you still working on?

A: The conversion to organic fertilizers and pesticides for the remainder of our parks. I was unable to pass a plastic straw ban in the city. But I am still working on an initiative to address reducing single-use plastics in the city.

Q: Did you have a hand in the city’s first sustainability position?

A: I was influential as a Green Living member and a council member to create this new position. The main function is to determine how the city will address sea level rise, reducing our carbon footprint. Also to assist residents in doing the same. Lindsey Nieratka was a Green Living Advisory Board member. She has extensive experience as a sustainability manager in other Florida municipalities. She has developed the city’s first Sustainability Action Plan. This is a road map for the city to follow to conserve resources. She will also work with other municipalities on regional issues of climate vulnerability and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

By Marci Shatzman

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