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👮🏼♂️ Blowing up crime numbers
It's nice to see you. Today, SEO and hyped headlines, what's up at your favorite parking garage, why you should watch NextEra stock, an open-book quiz and Loxahatchee through a novelist's eyes.
Today’s newsletter is a 6-minute read.
📪 From there to here: Bad crime stats and an English soccer dude
When emails shrieking that West Palm Beach is one of Florida’s most dangerous cities started landing in our inbox, we wanted to know who was trying to scare the bejesus out of locals.
We already knew that the thrust of the email — Violent crime abounds! The FBI says so! — was misleading at best.
That’s because there is no recent, comprehensive FBI crime data. Chunks of 2022 information are missing as law enforcement agencies in Florida and elsewhere transition to a new reporting system.
So who is blasting out scary crime numbers to West Palm Beach? And who paid them to do it? Stet did a little backtracking, and found:
A lifelong Arsenal Football Club fan in England who sent the email for …
a company in an Oxfordshire industrial park abutting acres of bucolic English pasture …
owned by Ferencz “Fery” Kaszoni, a soft-spoken Hungarian-born entrepreneur whose employees seem to love him — his office went to four-day work weeks but kept Pizza Thursday — and who specializes in search engine optimization.
Here's how one SEO strategy works: Fery’s worker bees, including our Arsenal soccer fan, scrape databases to find and rank items for clients with related businesses. For instance, they might search out “states with the most fatal traffic accidents” for a personal injury attorney client. (News reporters sometimes create listicles, too.)
The busy British bee emails the ranked list to journalists, naming their client and linking to the client’s website.
Ideally, time-strapped reporters will take the bait, create a story from the list, and the client will get media exposure.
The local problem: Partial or outdated crime data can paint a distorted picture of danger in a safe community or encourage a false sense of safety in a troubled community. It can reinforce false stereotypes and wrongly hammer political opponents.
What does Fery say? Nothing so far. The West Palm Beach law firm identified in emails as the client hasn’t responded to our questions, either. If they do, we will share it.
🚔 Until then: Is there a question you would like us to ask local law enforcement agencies about area crime? Let us know: email@example.com
🅿️ Banyan parking garage in play
One of the most popular and profitable public parking garages in West Palm Beach also takes up a prime downtown block near the waterfront.
What’s happening: Last week, city commissioners unanimously agreed to take a step toward redeveloping the Banyan Garage. They asked a consultant to draft a formal public solicitation from developers.
This is important because: People really like to park there.
The five-story, 390-space garage at 200 Banyan Blvd., boasts a 94 percent occupancy rate and brings in about $200,000 a year to the city.
Its location between Olive and Narcissus avenues and easy access make it an attractive option for downtown visitors, workers and patrons of the Clematis Street theater run by Palm Beach Dramaworks.
At a work session in June, most commissioners insisted the city must retain the parking spaces in any new use for the land.
“We can't compromise on a minimum of 350 parking spots, if not more,” Commissioner Shalonda Warren said.
Driving the news: Mayor Keith James acknowledged the expectation of parking at the site but said he believes the city can do better with the property.
“I think it is grossly unfortunate to use that building that is so close to the waterfront for a parking garage,” he said at the work session. “To have a five-story parking garage in that key location in the city, it irks me.”
Commissioners Christina Lambert and Cathleen Ward urged their colleagues to look beyond such uses as a hotel, multifamily housing or offices to something more aspirational, like a public gathering place or family fitness center.
Background: In 2018, city leaders considered an ambitious concept by consultant Ecosistema Urbano to redevelop the property into a fanciful building with apartments, a rooftop pavilion, public plazas, a YMCA and state-of-the-art automated parking.
What’s next: Once the draft seeking proposals is complete, commissioners will review it.
📉 Green turns sour for FPL parent; shares nosedive
It would be hard to overstate Florida Power & Light owner NextEra Energy’s significance, whether to local utility rates, political influence, or its value to investors.
The Juno Beach-based utility is the largest in the U.S. Its coast-to-coast political contributions reach Oklahoma statehouse candidates and Washington, D.C., incumbents alike. Major investment firms are all in: Vanguard Group alone holds almost 200 million shares.
In fact, NextEra is “the closest thing Wall Street’s utilities sector has to a tech darling,” writes Bloomberg’s Liam Denning.
Just not right now.
When we published last Tuesday, shares of the Juno Beach utility had plunged to a three-year low.
By week’s end, NextEra stock continued its nosedive, losing 11.6 percent. Its market capitalization, which measures the size of a public company, shrunk by roughly $14 billion to $101.6 billion in a matter of days.
No usual suspect is in evidence: No market adjustment to an overvalued stock, no analyst’s ratings downgrade.
Instead, NextEra appears to be riding the downward coattails of its green energy subsidiary.
Renewables are the utility market future, and NextEra knows it: NextEra Energy Partners is the company’s green energy subsidiary.
Wall Street has rewarded both with a plump share price and strong “buy” ratings.
Until the subsidiary delivered an October surprise, slashing projected returns. Analysts quickly downgraded the Energy Partners stock.
Share price dropped by almost $5.
NextEra shares quickly followed. It was the biggest market loser of the day among utility companies Oct. 2. And it kept right on dropping through the week, scraping to an intraday low of $47.14 Friday, pricing not seen since the pandemic.
And this week? NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE) slipped by 1.8 percent Monday to close at $49.32. NextEra Energy Partners (NYSE: NEP) lost 8.7 percent, dropping to $20.58.
🍎 The juice
Lots of news this week
🇮🇱 The war in Israel will continue to be exhaustively reported by the U.S. press. But for those who want a viewpoint from inside Israel, we encourage you to also check out the coverage from Israeli newspapers Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post.
🔎 Inside the unfounded claim that Gov. Ron DeSantis abused Guantánamo detainees. (New York Times 🎁)
🔍 Another view: The New York Times prematurely cleared Gov. Ron DeSantis of abusing Guantanamo detainees when he was a Naval officer. (Florida Bulldog)
A reconstruction of a deadly Tesla autopilot crash on U.S. 441 west of Delray Beach. (Washington Post 🎁)
🚜 The Marlins and Cardinals have revised the timeline on the $108 million renovation of their shared ballpark in Jupiter, a two-year project that was supposed to have started two months ago. (ByJoeCapozzi.com)
🎬 The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum and the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County’s Jewish Community Relations Council are hosting a viewing of “Crossing Overtown,” a documentary on influence in the civil rights movement and on other Black cities. More information.
🍿 Out Thursday on Prime Video: “The Burial,” based on a celebrated 1995 court case filed by Stuart-based attorney Willie Gary. Tommy Lee Jones and Jamie Foxx star. (Time)
📚Quiz: Reining in Florida’s runaway books
Palm Beacher James Patterson and reporter-turned-novelist Michael Connelly are among dozens of best-selling writers banding together to bolster a boots-on-the-ground campaign against what advocacy group PEN America describes as Florida’s “runaway book bans.”
Florida is not the only state pulling books from school and classroom library shelves. Texas, Missouri and Utah are also banning books, restricting reader access to books or “quarantining” books for review, sometimes for months. All three actions remove books from readers and PEN America considers all to be functional bans.
Florida leads the pack. Roughly 40 percent of all book bans PEN tracked for the 2022-2023 school year occurred here.
🌴 561 insider: Unraveling South Florida paradise
“Dad said, and he swore, the next place we saw, he didn’t give a damn if it was a prison camp, that’s where would live.
“Which is how we ended up in Loxahatchee.”
From those words in Chapter 2 of Beth Raymer’s semi-autobiographical novel “Fireworks Every Night” about growing up in 1990s Loxahatchee, a portrait of family potential unravels into searing tales of betrayal, addiction and mental illness.
Raymer “balances the sadness of her story with terrific humor, deep compassion, and beautiful writing about the natural world,” Oprah Daily writes in listing “Fireworks” among 2023 Summer Reads.
Raymer, 46, a 1994 graduate of Wellington High School, will be appearing at 2pm Nov. 19 in room 8201 at the Miami Book Fair with fellow novelists, Mona Award, “Rouge” and Melissa Border, “Death Valley.”
She spoke to Stet about her novel which is punctuated with references to Bev Smith Ford, Lord & Taylor at the Palm Beach Mall, Lion Country Safari and The Breakers.
South Florida symbolizes a paradise within reach.
“It was a place you could actually go,” she said. “You didn’t need much money. And you could build a house. And it was naturally beautiful. And there was so much freedom.”
Her family thrived in Loxahatchee until an unthinkable turn pitted Dad against Mom, changing forever the meaning of paradise for all.
Raymer, who lives in New York City with her 6-year-old son, Yunior, returned years ago to Loxahatchee to write the novel and found the semi-rural community with dirt roads and homes on 5-acre lots little changed.
Except it’s no longer priced for everyone.
“That family could not move to Palm Beach County today and build a house. It’s, like, unthinkable,” she said.
📣 Today is World Mental Health Day and time for a reminder that you can join or contribute to the official Stet Media Group NAMI Walks team. We are in third place for fund-raising! We hope to see you on Nov. 4.
🐟 Poor Marlins: After working hard to make the playoffs, the Miami Marlins ran into the Philadelphia Phillies buzzsaw last week. Last year’s World Series runner-up swept the Marlins out of baseball’s playoffs in just two quick games.
🐬 But the Dolphins! South Florida’s football team showed they could bounce back from a defeat and beat a bad team Sunday as they took apart the dreadful (sorry, New Yorkers, but it’s true) New York Giants 31-16.
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