following appeared September 5, 2005 in the
|Boca may charge electric car
owner for operating a ‘commercial vehicle’
|By Dale M. King
Boca Raton News Staff Writer
Newman has a gold-colored electric car in his driveway.
But it’s not the car that’s sparked a
controversy between him and the City of Boca Raton. It’s the
Web site on the side of the car.
Newman, a local philanthropist, long-time science
buff, collector and owner of a vast collection of scientific
artifacts, has posted a free, informational Web site called www.HighTechScience.org.
on the side of the one-seat, all-electric vehicle.
City officials have a problem with that. In a
letter to Newman, Code Enforcement Supervisor Ken Massalone
cryptically comments that the car “might be deemed a
commercial vehicle” because of the lettering.
City code defines commercial lettering as
“letters, numbers, symbols or combinations thereof, which
advertise a trade, business, industry or other activity for
profit, or a product, commodity or service.” The ordinance
does not apply to bumper stickers.
Newman has already emailed the city, saying the
car “does not fit into any of the categories that Mr.
Massalone has spelled out.” But the furor apparently
He says his Web site is strictly informational;
it costs nothing to visit and anything there is available to
anyone who wants to use it.
“I talked to the city, and it appears they are
going to fight me,” Newman told a Boca Raton News reporter
as he sat in his home just outside Old Floresta. On a table
next to him was a model of Robbie, the Robot from TV’s
“Lost in Space” series.
“I’ve been bombarded with phone calls and
emails from people who say the city is way off base. I have
tried to work this out amicably. Let the mayor come over and
shake my hand, because I have made Boca famous for having the
most famous car.”
In his driveway is a 2000 Corbin Sparrow, a
single-seat, three-wheel car powered by 13 12-volt batteries.
Its normal cruising speed is 35 to 45 mph, but it tops out at
75 to 85.
It’s more an electric motorcycle than a car, he
California-based Corbin Motors made 355 of them
between 2000 and 2002, he said. A year later, it went
bankrupt. But Myers Motors resurrected the company in June
Newman said he has the only two Corbin Sparrows
on the East Coast. His other one is on display at the South
Florida Science Museum.
“There are a variety of remedies” for this
situation, said Development Services Director Jorge Camejo. He
said Newman could cover the lettering – or put the Web site
on the bumper.
Allowing Newman to have his Web site on the car
“could potentially erode the protection” offered by the
ordinance, Camejo said.
Newman said he loans many of his collectables to
schools and museums for educational purposes. “I have a
display at West Boca Community High School,” he said.
“There’s no charge. I loan it free of charge.”
Newman does have a business that puts bread on
the table. Nearly 30 years ago, he founded High-Tech
Productions, a videotape and disc duplication company. He also
distributes videotape, boxes and labels to government
agencies, school systems, the military and police departments
coast-to-coast. The business Web site is www.High-TechProductions.com.
He said his electric car is a definite draw. One
man who saw it was a retiring archeologist. “He saw my car
– and donated a 400,000-piece fossil collection. My wife and
I spent a year categorizing it.”
Earlier in life, he spent 13 years organizing
stage shows in the Catskills and worked with the likes of
Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, Florence Henderson and Kathy Lee
But the car gets him more notice. “I can’t
drive down the block without people honking their horns at
me.” He said he puts the Web site on the side “to give
information. I’m not selling anything.”
Charles Cagney e-mailed the Boca Raton News to
say that the city was “hassling” Newman.
“HighTechScience has donated numerous science
and technology centers around the country, mostly in low
income areas,” Cagney said. “He has even opened one at an
Indian reservation in Montana within a school that didn't even
have any computers.
“His organization arranged for them to receive
a truckload of brand new computers (for free) and created a
science center on the reservation.”
“Mr. Newman has donated over a million dollars
worth of his own money and tons of equipment to schools and
should be commended for what he has done,” Cagney added.
“Doesn't the city have more important things to do than to
pick on an individual [who] has single-handedly done more for
educating our youth than anyone else?”
“In this time of outrageous gasoline prices,”
Cagney added, “his electric vehicle should be a model for
others. I wish I could find one instead of paying $3 per
gallon for my car.”
For more information
about Newman’s electric vehicle and science centers visit www.HighTechScience.org
of the above and other articles, we have received many
e-mails and letters from people that think that the
city of Boca Raton is dead wrong and that the vehicle
should NOT be classified as commercial.
Here to see what others have said.