Thursday, October 23, 2014

Does Deerfield Beach Have Broken Windows?

Applying the Broken Windows Theory to Local Government Ethics

Does the "broken windows" theory, as first stated in a 1982 Atlantic essay by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, apply to government ethics? The theory says that, if small things like broken windows are ignored, people will think that no one cares and, therefore, they will break more windows and move on to more serious misconduct. It's about setting norms and sending signals.

Forget the misuse of this theory in policing, where individuals are arrested for small offenses, sending them into the criminal justice system when they should not be. The focus of the theory was on fixing windows, showing that people do care, and sending the message that good conduct is the community norm.

Isn't this what a good local government ethics program is supposed to do:  try to prevent and fix the small instances of ethical misconduct through training, advice, and disclosure, so that the big ones don't happen? A good ethics officer should dispose of reports and complaints of minor misconduct and misconduct that isn't covered by the ethics code by talking with the official and trying to get her to understand why what she is alleged to have done (whether or not she actually did it, whether or not there is an enforceable rule involved) might be harmful to the government organization and the community if it were to become (or remain) common.

A well-run local government ethics program is a form of community policing, with the community being the government organization and the ethics officer being the police officer on the beat. This is, for example, the way my colleague Carla Miller does it in Jacksonville. The relationship between ethics officer and official is not primarily an adversarial relationship, but rather a service relationship, in which the ethics officer's role is to help keep officials (and the organization) on the straight and narrow so scandals don't undermine the public's trust in their community's government. It requires that the ethics officer have room for maneuver, a strategy, and clear goals.

It is harmful to the public's trust when every little report and complaint is taken past the investigation and warning/settlement stage into a full-fledged proceeding. Most matters should be dismissed before an enforcement proceeding begins, and those that begin should rarely get very far without a settlement, at least if the ethics officer-official relationship has been working. A leadership supportive of the government ethics program will help make this relationship work.

As it is, there are too few ethics officers to form these relationships, too many ethics programs feel they need to be primarily adversarial, and too much of the news media and too many good government groups do not appear to recognize the value of these relationships, of treating broken windows not as crimes, but rather as something to be fixed in order to set good norms and send the right messages before things go too far.

Robert Wechsler
Director of Research, City Ethics
A good essay, but Mr. Wechsler's essay deals with folks who listen and correct their behavior when shown the error of their ways.

Unlike our Mayor who cannot seem to learn, and does not alter her behavior even when the "complaint is taken past the investigation and warning/settlement stage".   

Our Madam Mayor is still trying to go around the City Manager, and continues directly to ask staff to do her bidding.  She wanted an inappropriate notice put on the city web site, and was piqued when told no by the staff member and told that the City Manager would have to approve any posting. 


Jean, as you are not able to take advice or direction it's time you realize you are not the right person to be mayor, time to step down. You are an embarrassment to Deerfield Beach.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Beautiful Deerfield Beach

Thanks to the Original Save Our Beach committee and thousands of Deerfield voters our beach area is attracting the type of development they envisioned. 

Residents overwhelming voted to keep our beach low-rise and uncluttered. 

The CRA board has improved the look of the beach with new pavers, furniture and refurbished pier. 

As a result, builders of new homes, condos, hotels and rentals are eager to be a part of our in-demand gem of a beach area. 

These are the words of the owner of the new Royal Blues Hotel saying why he located his new boutique hotel on the beach in Deerfield Beach: “for its timeless qualities of 1960’s surf culture, low rise building landscape and its devotion to natural beauty,"

This is the new Royal Blues Hotel which was built to code


In addition, a new beautiful short term vacation rental building will soon be built around the corner from the Billabong store:

Our beach, because residents demanded that buildings should be low and setbacks generous, is in demand for it’s unique-in-South Florida, ambiance. 

Residents have always wanted our beach to have a small village feel, but former commissioners did not, they tried to bring in massive overdevelopment.  Residents prevented this by making sure the beach building codes are in our City Charter and cannot be changed except by voter referendum.

One of the developers who is now building a new restaurant by the Cove loves the character of Deerfield Beach so much that he said he is going to live here and is now very glad that his former enormous projects were denied. 

Kudos to the commissioners who resisted the pressure from some greedy land owners who wanted to change our codes, kudos to the builders and owners who are building such beautiful projects within our code, shame on anyone who proposes to change our beach codes.  We, the residents and smart builders, know that keeping our beach free from massive congestion and traffic will benefit the whole city well into the future.

There are 2 more examples of what’s to come on our Beach in my Sept. 7 post.  See below.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

News headline: “Deerfield Beach Mayor Engaged in "Ethical Misconduct," OIG Report Says”

For another article about the report go to:

After reading the Office of the Inspector General’s report on Mayor Robb’s conduct my first reaction is sadness, first and foremost sadness, not for the mayor, but for Deerfield Beach residents and city workers.
This should not have happened! 

The actions which resulted in the findings from the OIG were disgraceful examples of hubris; the actions of a person who feels she is above the rules that govern the rest of us, even after being warned her conduct was illegal. 

This was not one event, it was over and over again, and the evidence shows that when she was mayor back in the 80s it was a problem even then.  A persistent pattern, I understand, which even when sued, and censured, and having a special resolution passed to halt her behavior, did not stop then and is continuing even now.

We have an excellent group of administrative employees, award winning, and responsive to residents.  But their moral is being battered by the mayor’s behavior to them.  Many employees will not talk to the mayor unless another person is also present.  This is sad. 

I was told that at least three employees retired early or left for other jobs in a large part because of Mayor Robb’s conduct. This is sad.

Mayor Jean Robb is not new to politics, she cannot use the excuse of not knowing the City of Deerfield Beach Charter provisions, she was the head of the charter review committee which took each element and scrutinized it to decide if it should be retained as is, changed or deleted.

She knows what she does is prohibited.  She recently had 8 hours of training on ethics laws; 4 hours a year are mandated by state law. She knows better, and, she was warned by the City Manager and the City Attorney.

The OIG report points out the many times that Robb has violated laws since she became mayor in March of 2013.  

As an example the report states that she, without going through the City Manager, directed the duties of employees. 

In the report,  

“The City Manager stated that, pursuant to the Charter, the Mayor and any Commissioner may make inquiries of City staff, but they may not direct or interfere in staff members' job duties or assignments.

 “He also stated that he knew of no instances when any other members of the City Commission attempted to direct the work of City employees.

“He stated he can and has cautioned Mayor Robb about her conduct, and he has directed his staff to let him know if she attempted to affect their job duties.

“He further stated that he believed that the City Attorney has also advised her about the prohibition against her directing the activities of City staff.”

The report also says she obstructed the city’s code enforcement efforts in favor of a car dealership who donated to two of her favorite charities; tried to block the city from awarding a contract to a vendor she didn’t like; on her own committed the city to pay for transportation of a Little League baseball team; had the city clean St. Ambrose’s parking lot and insisted that Fr. Dalton be issued an employee parking sticker.

All this adds up to simply a maverick who, cannot or will not control her behavior.  I lean to the cannot control side because as many times as she promises not to interrupt or disrupt meetings, she continues to do it, as many times as she was warned that she must not interfere with employees duties, she continues to do it, even in public meetings, on camera.  This is sad.

This cannot go on, her word is not to be trusted, in my opinion she will not change.   

Jean Robb should resign, if not, citing the charter provision that she approved, the other commissioners should vote her off the dais.
The complete OIG Report:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Another Greedy Self-serving Jerk Heard From

At a recent Deerfield Beach Commission meeting another jackass, not a Deerfield resident, got up and complained about restrictive building codes at the beach implying that developers cannot make money; such utter nonsense, and so very self-serving (he owns property in Deerfield Beach). 

 If he and anyone else continue to tell us that our development codes on the beach are too restrictive and developers cannot make money, the Group P6 developments may squash these falsehoods. 

Group P6 paid $540,000 for their 216 SE 19th Ave. property and $1,425,000 for the two lots at the corner of Hillsboro and SE 19th Ave.    Time will tell if these developments actually take place, but Group P6 bought these three properties earlier this year, so they must think they made a wise investment!

Here are renderings of what they are planning.  It certainly looks as if they are OK with the building codes and are planning on putting up a couple of profitable buildings.

Our beach codes are written to make the best use of our beach area and were approved by 75% of the voters.  They make sure properties are not crowded lot line to lot line with massive buildings.  The codes were written with the residents’ quality of life in mind.  The codes were written so that the beach would have a chance at staying the type of village-feel low rise area so desired by everyone who comes here and raves about the great time they had on our lovely beach.

None of the visitors, snow-birds, or residents want what accompanies the kind of development that the aforementioned jackass wants. 

So when you hear someone mention that our codes “stifle” development, or are not generous enough, make sure you ask them if they are going to live or vacation here, or if they just want to make a bundle of money off the misery of Deerfield’s beach goers.


Friday, August 8, 2014

School Board, Wake Up!

Most cities don’t have a city resident on the School Board, just someone from a large regional district.  This means that “our” representative deals with not only our 7 schools, but dozen’s more in other cities. This keeps the School Board members so far removed from the home towns that they don’t see the local needs, or the unfairness of many of their decisions.

It is impossible to have enough time to get to know each school’s and city’s needs, and so perhaps decisions are made without enough knowledge.  For example, deciding that schools don’t need to have School Resource Deputies. 

With what this country has seen in the recent past taking place on our school campuses, elementary, middle and high schools, police in each school are not a frill, but a necessity.

For years Deerfield Beach has begged and borrowed money for School Resource Deputies for its schools, not a city responsibility, but these are our children. 

This expense should be a School Board budget item.  However, when Commissioner Ganz contacted them he was greeted politely, thanked for his call, and then in effect told, “Take a flying leap”.

Decidedly money and politics count more than children in our School Board’s list of priorities. 

 The money for next year, $199,562.00 for 2 deputies, which should be paid by the School Board, is instead, with the Commission’s approval, coming from Deerfield Beach’s LETF Resources (money confiscated from drug deals and such). 

There is no way Deerfield Beach should be on the hook for the entire expense as the children in the schools come from many other cities. The School Board is not stepping up to the plate, so we have to, but each of the cities which send students to Deerfield Beach should pay their pro-rated share.  Who can make this happen?  Whoever it is should get cracking.

Think of the things two hundred grand could do for our city, for example, helping prevent crime with children’s programs or, perhaps, helping victims of crime.  This won’t get done because we are shouldering the entire burden of keeping our kiddies safe in their schools.

Our Commission has its priorities straight, however unfair it is, our city is paying the cost.  To our Commission, our children's safety comes first, I can't say the same for the Board of Education..

Perhaps we should grab our “pitchforks” and attend a few School Board meetings.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Leader at Last

Ben Preston, in his short time on the Deerfield Beach Commission, has done more for his district in accomplishments and in morale improvement than was done by any past  District 2 commissioner.

The folks in District 2 often felt that they were slighted, or ignored when it came to city support, but not anymore. 

Ben ran for office not because he wanted to be a commissioner but because he felt that being on the commission would enable him to help the people in his district help themselves.  And he has done that. 

Everything in the list below was done in response to what the residents wanted, all could have been done in years past but no one listened until Ben came along.

Ben feels that our children are our future and is doing everything in his power to make sure as many Deerfield Beach students as possible stay in school, or return to school and graduate.
  • Ben, in response to residents’ suggestions, spearheaded the new policy on how long the public has to speak at commission meetings; the new policy allows the public 4 minutes (versus 3 minutes) and an additional minute can be granted at the discretion of the Mayor.
  • Ben initiated the renaming of Westside Community Center to the Johnny Tigner Community Center.
  • Ben had the name of SW 10th Ct. changed to Bethlehem Ct.
  • Ben started Project 2nd Chance, a GED class program culminating in a graduation ceremony for successful participants.
  • Ben spent hours and hours getting the 1st ever Deerfield Beach Elementary and Middle School Debate Competition started which was such a success that everyone wants it to be a yearly event.
  • Ben fought for an Appeals board as a resource for volunteer coaches involved in city athletics.
  • Ben was successful in bringing baseball back to Westside Park with the new little league and adult baseball fields.
  • To improve the appearance of District 2, and to improve safety conditions, Ben expedited the repaving of SW 11th Drive, the repaving of SW 15th Street, the installation of sidewalks in North Deerfield and moved to get a drop-off lane at the High School, which also eased traffic congestion on SW 15th Street.
  • Ben supported the BSO/FAU Owls on Patrol program.
  • Ben, knowing that appreciation is a great motivator, moved to get a trophy case at City Hall where awards and achievements can now be displayed.
  • Ben listened to the people who were upset at the potholes in the cemetery and made sure they were repaired.
  • Ben moved to help provide transportation to and from football games for the parent run Packer Rattlers youth football team.
  • Ben listened to the many residents who complained to the city about wild chickens and made sure they were removed. Some had been complaining about this for many years.
  • Ben organized a field trip for Deerfield Beach children to see the movie Red Tails about the all African American Tuskegee Airman.  The event included an essay contest and awards
  • Ben was quick to answer complaints about trash and litter dumping and Instituted regular D2 street cleanups and has been actively fighting to eliminate illegal dumping in D2, which seems to be working ,as there has not been a single case of illegal dumping in more than two months.
  • Ben’s efforts in championing his district has led to the city working to keep District 2 as clean and as possible, for example frequent pressure cleaning of the columns at the entrance to Westside Park which has a new deer statue, and there is new focus on cleanups of parks.
  • Ben responded to residents and so the basketball courts at Westside have recently been resurfaced.
  • Ben worked with BSO to increase patrols and investigation activities at Mayo Howard Park after residents contacted him about their concerns, and also worked to move up the timeline for repairs at Johnny McKeithen Park, and the elimination of drug activity at Johnny McKeithen Park.
  • Ben, again alerted by residents and crime reports, worked with BSO to fight elderly intimidation.
  • Ben supported the redevelopment of the Teen Center set to open this summer.
  • Ben worked with the Butters Construction Company on the donation of a new community center in their new business park.
  • Ben listened to the residents’ concerns about our Martin Luther King Day celebration and worked to make historical changes to the parade. This year was the first year ever that the parade crossed Federal Highway it was also the largest parade this city has ever seen, he is continuing to work to make the celebration even better.
  • Ben helped to make the People's Trust transition from Boca Raton to Deerfield Beach as seamless as possible, while working with the late CEO Mike Gold, to develop relationships with the community.
  • Ben was instrumental in securing a $25,000 donation to the SW 15th Street (which runs in front of the Deerfield Beach High School) beautification Project set to break ground this summer, and is working to get SW 15th street renamed as "Buck Pride Way”.
When I compare Ben’s outstanding effort in getting residents involved to that of the last District 2 commissioners I see a pattern emerging.  Ben’s message is together we can make a difference - help me help you.  He is proud of his fellow District 2 residents and makes sure that their accomplishments are made public. 

Ben often distributes certificates of achievement to residents and employees who have made contributions to the quality of life of our city.  This is an exciting improvement compared to the past commissioners’ message of keep quiet, don’t complain and don’t make waves.  Keep up the good work, Ben!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Person or the Actions?

Yes, I am appalled by how Jean Robb is acting and what she is doing, but only because she is a danger to the quality of life of our beach and city.  Her rudeness could be tolerated but her actions and vocal attacks against the best interests of the city cannot.  

Keeping the OVER developers from ruining the quality of life of Deerfield Beach is how I became interested in City Hall.  I was a part time resident in 1993 when we bought our first place here near the beach, and now am a full time resident.  The commission and city manager in 1999, when I first started to question what was happening to the beach area, were kissy-poo with every developer who wanted to use our beach for personal profit.
I learned about the OSOBs and happily joined them in their fight to keep the main beach parking lot from being turned into a commercial development, and have been working with them to keep the beach area from worse traffic and congestion ever since.  Not an easy job, however (see the OSOB time line, ) with help from residents in all districts our efforts have paid off. 

Mayor Robb wants to undo our protections for the beach.  She has said many times that she wants to allow land owners to be able to build without the restrictions put in place after residents were shocked by the massive Tiara East building and wanted nothing like that on the beach again.  The then commissioners, forced by the public, put lot coverage and height limits on beach building. 
The commission with Al Capellini and Peggy Noland and from what I saw, controlled by City Manager Larry Deetjen did away with those limits to benefit a developer.  But, remembering what happened in the past, the again shocked residents, through referenda signed by thousands of residents and voted into the charter, restored the building codes. 

Mayor Robb’s lame excuse that allowing curb to curb buildings on beach lots will eliminate the drug rehab houses is laughable.  All cities are beset by these ADA protected facilities; codes have nothing to do with it.  Mayor Robb’s support for doing away with the beach building codes after she supported the OSOB past efforts, and has always been a voice against overdevelopment is puzzling.  
I and thousands of residents and members of the OSOBs, will fight her efforts to change the codes.

I spoke against her effort to thwart the Sullivan Park renewal and the Cove Shopping Center parking lot upgrade.  Happily, the other four commissioners also disagreed with her and we now have both projects going forward. 

As of this moment I believe our commissioners are on the right track with development in the city, if my thinking changes you will read it right here. 
Do I support Bill Ganz? Yes, of course, as he has the fiscal and quality of Deerfield Beach upper most in his mind, he wants what is best for the city.

Do I support Ben Preston?  Yes, and in a future post you will see the many reasons why.
Do I support Joe Miller?  Well, that road was much rockier for me; however Joe has learned a lot in his time on the commission and is now looking at everything from the viewpoint of what is best for the beach and the whole city.  

Richard Rosenzweig is new to the commission, however he is strong in his belief that the city should be for the residents, and they are the ones he answers to.
We now have a commission who is not in favor of development for the developers gain, but development that enhances the city and adds to the quality of its life. This is a far cry from the commissions of the past when the public was scorned and belittled and behind the door deals were the norm.