|by Nancy Jaslow Bader / Palm Beach Illustrated 4/2000|
WHAT IF BOCA RATON WERE TO SECEDE FROM THE UNION AND DECLARE ITSELF THE 51st STATE?
Would the idea of statehood hold water? It might, if the water were Perrier or Evian. After all, ask Boca wannabees what they think of the fair city, and they’re apt to tell you it’s like being in a different world, anyway. So why not its own state?
It wouldn’t be the first time that “Florida” and “secession” appeared in the same context. After all, the Sunshine State was one of the initial seven to secede after Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860.
In the April Fool’s Day spirit, Palm Beach illustrated coaxed local notables and quotables into offering their insights or, better yet, fantasies on what Boca would be like if it really could establish its own state, decree its own laws and live its own life. Would Ralph Lauren’s birthday be a state holiday? Would the Building Department refuse to issue permits for residences whose designs included kitchens? Would all pets have to be pedigree? And what would be the state bird (snowbird, early bird or peacock), gem (diamond, seven carats) and motto (“No Representation Without Surgical Augmentation”)?
The first order of business for the new state would be to determine once and for all whether “Boca Raton” indeed meant “Mouth of the Rat.” Mary Zsar, director of the Boca Raton Historical Society, maintains steadfastly that the answer is “no,” and that the name is derived from
an old Spanish geographic term used on maps to indicate dangerous inlets filled with jagged rocks or coral. Since she would most likely be state historian under the new regime. we’d have to let her make the call. However, the thought of dangerous inlets raises another issue: Should the state grant automatic citizenship, along with complimentary Premiere Membership, to foreign wash-ashores whose boats, rafts or inner tubes make it as far as the Boca Raton Resort & Club?
Imagine living in this Utopian society, where Mezzanote would hold historic landmark status and the valet parking drop-off at Mizner would be designated the Eighth Wonder of the World. Where Jan McArt, of local theater fame and a natural for the post of cultural ambassador, would put a theater on every corner and issue rose-colored glasses to all residents. “Newcomers would have to promise to attend something cultural,” McArt asserts, “upon penalty of being sent back to wherever they came from at the first big snowstorm.” The International Museum of Cartoon Art’s Mort Walker would be even tougher. “I would make the Museum the state capitol and draw cabinet appointees from its ranks. Goofy would be in charge of education; the Road Runner, transportation. Walker would handle parking personally. “I’d give myself a space’ he says. “Everyone else could fend for themselves.”
Of course, the residents of the 51st state would need a name. If you go along with Zsar’s translation of “Boca Raton,” you can’t call them “Rats.” They could be “Bocarryons,” in recognition of the luggage they won’t let go of. Enemies of the state might prefer its homonym, “Bocarrions.” City Police Chief Andrew Scott opts for “Rich,” on the assumption that the new state would grant instant millionaire status to residents who haven’t already achieved it on their own.
Given her druthers, Boca Raton Mayor Carol Hanson would be anointed “Her Royal Majesty’ a title she much prefers over “governor.” Instead of a cabinet, would select her parliamentary appointees with help from the spirit of Diogenes, the Greek philosopher who roamed the streets in search of an honest man. “Everyone he came up with would have their names thrown into a fish-bowl. The list probably wouldn’t be that long,” Hanson quips. “The first six would get dinner at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, and also a seat in parliament:”
The Resort & Club would serve as her state capitol, with Her Royal Majesty’s offices in the penthouse. “I’d be a wonderful queen,” says Hanson, whose election promise would be to make every day a “Feel Good Day.” She would expand state boundaries to include unincorporated Boca, thereby creating a large kingdom with a supportive electorate. “I’d probably be good for another 20 years, at least,” she predicts.
There’d be no limit on the number of snowbirds allowed in her kingdom, although Her Royal Majesty wouldn’t let them all come in January. And each resident would have to plant a tree the day she was crowned. Her solution to Boca’s traffic problem: Dig more waterways and give everyone a yacht. It might clog up the Intracoastal, but it would alleviate the congestion on the roads. And, speaking of Boca’s roads . . . as queen, Hanson would get to tackle a pet peeve that has dogged her as mayor: cell phones. “One of my first orders would be that you’d have to pull over to make a call.” Asked how she would handle drivers with cellular speakerphones Hanson falls back on a solution any mayor, governor or queen might: She’d appoint a parliamentary task force to look into the issue.
Revenues would come primarily from one source: the state “Rent-A-Wig Department,” which would dole out wigs to anyone suffering a bad hair day. In a budgetary emergency, “I’d pawn the royal jewels,” Hanson says. Such drastic measures probably wouldn’t be necessary under her rule, however. “We wouldn’t spend a lot of money. I’m not into material things. I drive a 1995 Taurus. and if that’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for everyone else.”
Make that almost everyone else. City Police Chief Scott, who would become Ambiance Maintenance (AM) Chief in the newly created state, expects to be chauffeured by helicopter. His top staff would be issued Rolls-Royces; middle management, Mercedes; and his officers, Lexuses. AM headquarters (“Don’t say ‘police department’; that’s just not ‘Boca,’” he orders, “and the term ‘barracks’ is slovenly”) would be in an oceanfront mansion, with satellite offices in the Sanctuary community and at the Resort & Club, which would be converted to the state penitentiary. The penitentiary would maintain all services currently offered by the Resort, but each morning, pink-and-teal-uniformed prisoners, linked in gold-plated chain gangs, would be sent out on lawn maintenance and pool service details.
In the new-and-improved Boca, as envisioned by Scott and his ace Captain Dan Alexander, I-95 congestion wouldn’t be an issue, since there wouldn’t be an I-95. The highway would be rerouted west of the state limits. A border patrol, clad in coats and ties in lieu of uniforms and equipped with goldplated firearms and handcuffs, would keep watchful eyes over state boundaries, defined by an art deco wall with entry points only on Federal and Dixie highways. Cars belonging to state residents would be designated as such and automatically waved through the checkpoints, but out-of-staters would be held up at the border until the status of their bank accounts or net worth could be determined. “We wouldn’t discriminate,” Scott says. “It wouldn’t be a matter of race or religion or creed. Anyone who met certain economic standards could live here.”
The Ambiance Maintenance Team, a.k.a. the Fashion Police, would enforce the state’s limited, but strict, dress code. Severe penalties would be levied against those lacking adequate jewelry or falling short of minimal dress standards. The AMers would also oversee cell-phone use. “We would issue complimentary hands-free cell phones, just as we do with bike helmets now?’ says Captain Alexander. “Anyone caught not using a hands-free model would have to cut someone else’s lawn.”
Of course, the AMers would have to be adequately compensated for such service. Twenty-year veterans would receive the customary honorary watch, but theirs would be Presidential Rolexes. The “Officer of the Year” would be awarded a three-month trip around the world. Would the reward stipulate that the officer must take Scott with him? “Not necessarily,” says Scott. “I’d have my own annual trip as part of my benefits package.”
NOTE: Nancy Jaslow Bader lived in Boca Raton for 11 years. Her Boca passport was revoked when she moved out of the county. She claims diplomatic immunity to any charges of libel resulting from this article, and advises readers not to bother calling the Palm Beach Illustrated editorial office if they don’t like what they read. They’re the ones who dreamed up the assignment in the first place.