Friday, December 25, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, but Free as a Bird

Excerpted from: Dan Christensen’s browardbulldog.org

Executives talk, but PBS&J walks in campaign scheme

A Federal Election Commission report made public last week says one of Broward County's biggest government contractors regularly made illegal campaign contributions.

In the report written in September, FEC investigators concluded that "political contributions were part of PBS&J's business strategy," and that "the practice of making illegal campaign contributions involved officers at all levels of the company and was not limited to a few rogue employees."

But in a surprising Oct. 20 decision that was made public last week, the six commissioners failed to pass a motion to approve the staff recommendations. The 3-3 vote along party lines means the FEC will not enforce the law in the PBS&J case. The case will be closed.

Three Democrats voted to approve the recommendations; three Republicans voted to kill them – the latest in a string of partisan deadlocks that have raised doubts about agency’s ability to function.


This year, Broward County chose PBS&J to help lead the design engineering team for its $810 million airport runway expansion.

To read the entire post go to:
http://www.browardbulldog.org/?p=605#more-605


Yikes!!!! How can this be possible, PBS&J gets away without even a slap on the wrist, and then they get a county contract!!!! Who says crime doesn’t pay, in Broward County (and with the FEC) it certainly does!!!!!

What does this say about the caliber of people we have as Commissioners at the Federal Elections Commission. And, why did the federal prosecutors send the case to a civil board? Why not continue the criminal case and go after the other miscreants, after locking up the company’s chairman? What part of the word ILLEGAL do they have trouble with?

What is additionally disgusting is that partisanship trumps good judgment. In this circumstance, it is the Republicans voting not to do something about this behavior. But, both parties are equally guilty. Given slightly different circumstances, the positions would be flipped. Good and bad government crosses party lines. Both Republicans and Democrats are sleazy in going after campaign dollars and doing the bidding of developers. But the voters, of both parties, want good, ethical government, and are getting sick to death of hearing about the corruption.

Along with reading about the latest elected felon, we are reading about all the cities, counties and states jumping on the “lets toughen the ethics laws” bandwagon. Yes, we should have strong ethics codes with big nasty teeth, and yes the codes should be set up so it doesn’t take a citizen’s complaint to start an investigation, that will help. But, politicians have big egos.

Chris Megerian in writing for “Inside New Jersey” about New Jersey’s latest corruption sting said,

“The arrests also renewed the age-old question of why politicians continue to do dirty deeds when so many of them are caught and sent to jail.

“When opportunity presents itself, most people can’t turn down money,” says Louis B. Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

Taking money from a crooked developer is no different than walking into a 7-Eleven with a pistol in your pocket, Schlesinger says. It’s just a matter of convincing yourself that you can get away with it.

“This has been going on and on and on, and nobody seems to learn,” he says. “They don’t think the law applies to them, because they don’t think they’re going to get caught.”

Rejection of all incumbents will be the reaction of voters; with the futile hope that change will bring honesty. There is some validity to this hope, most newly elected officials tend to take a while to become corrupt.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Deerfield Beach Holiday Party a Flop?

I heard that the employees' holiday party cost the city $11,000 and asked around about it. This year’s Deerfield Beach employee holiday party was the most poorly attended ever, I was told by an employee. The employee said they, and many others didn't attend because workers don’t feel valued by the city or their supervisors.

A holiday party is a very good opportunity for the city to show its appreciation of its staff and it is a shame so many declined to attend, and a shame employees don’t feel respected.

Of the about 760 (including BSO) city employees, only 235 attended and of those, 59 were part-timers. I also heard that Mayor Noland was upset with the quality of the food. THIS EVENT COST THE CITY $11,000. What’s that, about $45 for each person? If a full dinner is really necessary for the employee party, it could be done for less. A quick Google search came up with a catered hot and cold buffet from Boca Joes, with servers included, for $15.95 (see menu below) less than $5,000, add a grand for entertainment and we can pull this off for $6,000.

I am sure most company holiday parties this year were done on more of a shoe string than the city one, some hors d'oeuvres and soft drinks and the high school glee club singing for their supper sounds about right.

Add this $11,000 to the $15,000 that the city spent for the retreat at the Embassy Suites which resulted in the commissioners discovering that they didn’t communicate well and we have $26,000 which could have been better spent on needed audits, and ethics investigations.

Boca Joes Full Service Catered Buffet $15.95 ea
30 persons min.

INCLUDES :
l Salad ( choose 1 ) Caesar , Tossed , Tricolor Chopped , Greek ( All salads come with dressing of choice )
l Pasta Entree ( choose 1 )
m Penne Vodka
m Rigatoni Marinara
m Penne with Rosemary Alfredo
m Baked Ziti
m Tortelline ALA Audry
m Orzo with Spinach and Mushrooms
m Baked Stuffed Shells
m Bow Ties with Broccoli , Sun Dried Tomatoes , Roasted Garlic
l Meat Entree ( choose 1 )
m Chicken Marsala
m Shrimp Scampi
m Crabmeat Stuffed Tilapia
m Chicken Francaise
m Salmon Livornese
m Chicken Parmesan
m Rosemary Grilled Chicken
m Chicken Rustica ( sun dried tomatoes , spinach and mushrooms )
All Buffets Include :
l Garlic or Dinner Rolls with Butter
l Complete Plastiware
l Chafers and Sternos
l Serving Utensils
This Buffet Includes 1 Staff Member For 2 Hours . They Will Set Up , Serve , Clean , Breakdown The Buffet.
( 15% Gratuity and Tax NOT INCLUDED )
Free Delivery Within 10 Miles Of Store

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nuisance Abatement

Thanks to Commissioner Bill Ganz proposing a new ordinance, the City of Deerfield Beach will be able to take remedial action on abandoned properties and levy a special assessment against the building so the city will get their money back. The City will also create a nuisance abatement trust fund and have a nuisance inspector, the aim is to maintain properties, prevent blight and vandalism.

That this kind of ordinance is needed rekindles my anger at the current mess Florida is in and the laxness of government oversight in allowing, even encouraging loans to people with no hope of paying long term, and at developers who were so greedy they build condo after condo selling to flippers with interest only loans and interest only in making millions, and at our elected officials, the corrupt and maybe not so corrupt who listened to the developer lobbyists who promised increased tax revenue and gave large campaign donations if allowed to build their monstrosities. There was no researching by commissions to find out if the claims were true, if they had, they would have found that for every dollar in taxes residential developments bring in the city has to spend from $1.75 to $2.50+ depending on the study you read, but certainly every study shows they cost more than they bring in.

George Santayana, a great Spanish philosopher said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and, Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. However our politicians don’t seem to get it, and once again are starting to tout building as a way to get out of the recession. (Yes, the very thing that is to blame for the mess we are in.) OMG!!!

The fear of the coming Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 referendum provision which, if passed, will give citizens the right to vote for or against any proposed comprehensive land use change, has developers flocking to commissions trying to get their parcels of farmland, green space, golf courses and parkland changed from whatever they are now to residential or commercial or industrial usage before the residents have to have a say.

If we are to save what is left of Florida, we cannot leave the decisions to builders, developers, lobbyists and especially our commissioners who are to blame for the mess we are in, we need to have the people who live in a community have a say as to whether a proposal is good for the quality of life in their neighborhood, and the future of their city.

We need a different emphasis in Florida; one that focuses on education and high paying jobs, and attracts industry and business with those kinds of jobs. This will keep our property values high, and prevent the boom and bust that is historic Florida.

Nuisance Abatement

During the commission meeting, thanks to Bill Ganz proposing a new ordinance, the City now will be able to take remedial action on abandoned properties and levy a special assessment against the building so the city will get their money back. The City will also create a nuisance abatement trust fund and have a nuisance inspector, the aim is to maintain properties, prevent blight and vandalism.

That this kind of ordinance is needed rekindles my anger at the current mess Florida is in and the laxness of government oversight in allowing, even encouraging loans to people with no hope of paying long term, and at developers who were so greedy they build condo after condo selling to flippers with interest only loans and interest only in making millions, and at our elected officials, the corrupt and maybe not so corrupt who listened to the developer lobbyists who promised increased tax revenue and gave large campaign donations if allowed to build their monstrosities. There was no researching by commissions to find out if the claims were true, if they had, they would have found that for every dollar in taxes residential developments bring in the city has to spend from $1.75 to $2.50+ depending on the study you read, but certainly every study shows they cost more than they bring in.

George Santayana, a great Spanish philosopher said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and, Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. However our politicians don’t seem to get it, and once again are starting to tout building as a way to get out of the recession. (Yes, the very thing that is to blame for the mess we are in.) OMG!!!

The fear of the coming Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 referendum provision which, if passed, will give citizens the right to vote for or against a city's proposed comprehensive plan land use change, has developers flocking to commissions trying to get their parcels of farmland, green space, golf courses and parkland changed from whatever they are now to residential or commercial or industrial usage before the residents have to have a say.

If we are to save what is left of Florida, we need Amendment 4, we cannot leave the decisions to builders, developers, lobbyists and especially our commissioners who are to blame for the mess we are in, we need to have the people who live in a community have a say as to whether a proposal is good for the quality of life in their neighborhood, and the future of their city.

We need a different emphasis in Florida; one that focuses on education and high paying jobs, and attracts industry and business with those kinds of jobs. This will keep our property values high, and prevent the boom and bust that is historic Florida.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Deerfield Beach Frivolous?

During their latest meeting the Deerfield Beach Ethics Committee went around and around about how to prevent Caryl and Chaz from submitting “frivolous” complaints. No they didn’t say that, no names were mentioned. But there was a lot of discussion about the cost of the only complaints that have been filed so far, (Caryl and Chaz are the only ones who have filed complaints) and how to write a provision which would deter “people” from, as Gloria Battle said, filing “fruitless” claims. In an attempt to prevent the filing of frivolous complaints, she wanted people whose claims were not upheld to pay the cost of the research, and she wanted to have language about this in the code. On its face that may seem like a good idea to some, but in practice it is not.

As I have said before, the code is new, some breaking in is to be expected, and, frankly, some cost to investigating code violations is to be expected; even at the risk of a few groundless filings it is much cheaper than the consequences of not having a code and doing business as usual in Deerfield Beach.

The fact that all Caryl’s and Chaz’s claims were found NOT to be in violation of the ethics code does not mean that they were frivolous. Caryl and Chaz, in my opinion, thought that there were grounds for their complaints; they were not trying to “get” a commissioner out of spite or malice. So, even if the claims went nowhere, and even if they cost the city to investigate them, they would not be considered malicious or frivolous.

At the meeting, a definition from the State about frivolous/malicious filings was distributed by attorney/facilitator Andy Maurodis which said something like a claim is considered malicious if filed by someone whose intent is to be damaging and contains falsehoods. However he pointed out that very few suits against those claims at the State level had been upheld.

But, let’s imagine what would happen if we had some language about that in our code. Citizen X gets ticked off at Commissioner Y, and files a bunch of false complaints which are then dismissed after some research by the attorney, and a hefty bill. The city sends a bill to Mr. X for. Let’s say, $8,000. Mr. X laughs and tears the bill up and tosses it. After a few more bills and much laughter, what happens? Does the city sue Mr. X? First, that would probably cost the city much more than Mr. X “owes”, and second, the Commission would have to vote to start the suit, and I am pretty sure that the Constitution has some provision about a party to a suit voting about it.

Many actions by elected officials are controversial, and open to criticism; sometimes scathing, and sometimes quite believable. But all should be taken with a large dose of the salt shaker. Elected officials have a public forum where they can present their viewpoints, and defend themselves. The public should be questioning decisions and actions by elected officials, and the officials should explain and defend them. Perhaps if this was done there would have been no complaints.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The cost of ethics, well worth it.

$7000 to investigate 3 possible ethics violations. This is what I am hearing our mayor thinks is a problem. Yup, me too. But, that is because I believe the claims were bogus; indeed they did not hold up. I think that the lawyer who looked them over should have thrown them out in about a half hour. But he is new to the code; the code is new to the commissioners and the citizens. Some breaking in is to be expected. Like new shoes. I guess he had to interview some people and check the facts. I don’t know why he didn’t just call JBs and ask if young Noland worked there and in one phone call put an end to that problem, but that will come in the future.

I think it will get much simpler as everyone gets more familiar with the code. Because of these complaints, the committee was toying with putting some language in about preventing frivolous claims. But, these were not frivolous; they were seen as serious by a resident. That they were not in violation was something she didn’t know. So I hope the committee will not get tangled up in that issue.

There is a cost connected with an ethics code, but a far greater cost if we don’t have one. All you have to do is pick up a recent paper to read about another elected official getting indicted. If, the whole time they were in office they were aware of a standard of conduct that was being strictly enforced, and not just given a wink and a nod, I believe we would have far fewer straying off the path.

If Deerfield Beach had an institutionalized culture of honesty with teeth in the violations, I don’t believe Capellini would be headed for trial on February 8th. You cannot legislate honesty, but you can set the bar so high that the morally unethical will hesitate to transgress due to fear of reprisal. THAT’S WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT!

Too hard to just say no?

The next Deerfield Beach Ethics Committee meeting is on December 10th, 5pm in City Hall. At the last meeting lots of time again, was spent on how much money a commissioner could take legally from someone doing business with the city. The current code says none. However committee members think that is too restrictive. Apparently it is too hard for our commissioners to just say no to a free glass of wine or cup of coffee. I guess it would be a hardship for the commissioners to attend a, for example, developer sponsored party, perhaps on a yacht, perhaps in a hotel, or wherever, and not have some of the free shrimp. Some committee members think up to $50, some want $10 or $25, I still lean to none.

I do think that they should be able to go to an event in their district for free. They are expected to show up at events even if they don’t want to. It is an unwritten expectation of the job. And the solution for that was discussed, the tickets could be given to the city, and the city could dole them out to the commissioners if they wanted to go. Nothing directly to the commissioner and no expectation of quid pro quo by the sponsor of the event.

Are the commissioners special, should they have things given to them just because they are commissioners? Some things, like tickets to city events, yes. But dinners, special hotel rates, new kitchen renovations, money in a golf bag, even a cup of coffee, NO. Because you know very well, that they would not be getting the offer if they were you or me. A good smell test for city workers accepting anything, is keeping the criterion: accept nothing if it gives the appearance that it might be unethical in mind. And, in my opinion there is nothing ethical in accepting gifts of any kind from someone who wants to do business with the city. Ask yourself, commissioner, would Joe six-pack get this, if not, just say no; easy.

AND, some advice commissioners, know the code. The mayor complained about not being allowed to do certain things that were allowed, but she didn’t know it. She is against a code that she doesn’t understand or know. Duh. Of course it is hard to abide by rules you don’t know. That is why we have to take a test to get a drivers’ license. OK bad example. But you get the idea. Commissioners are PAID; there are some things, like understanding the Florida State and local ethics codes that go with the job.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A1A SCENIC HIGHWAY CELEBRATION


State Road A1A was designated a Scenic Highway Corridor by the State of Florida. It was a decade long project started in 1999. The grass roots committee had to document that the highway has
· resources visible from the roadway,
· that the corridor “tells a story”,
· exhibits significant, exceptional, and distinctive features,
· and provides access to various resources.
All this documentation was collected by the committee, which had many Deerfield Beach residents. They also helped gather letters of support from government and civic groups, another requirement of the application.
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On Wednesday, November 18 the event was celebrated at the beautiful Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. State, County and Local officials were there for the ribbon cutting. Guests got to see the lovely Museum grounds, have wonderful refreshments and enjoy the Presentation of the Colors by the Fort Lauderdale Police Honor Guard.

The designation opens up opportunities for grant money for signs and landscaping.



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rich Lorraine Was First

The other night, a few friends and I were discussing Tom Francis’, who is an excellent investigative reporter, latest post and past posts by Tom and Elgin Jones, about the Deerfield Beach Mango Festival. We were trying to remember when the amount the city donated to the festival and the accounting of the receipts was first questioned. We knew it was Rich Lorraine who first tried to get the city to account for the funds, and we decided it was over 6 years ago, perhaps as long as 9 years ago.

Recently Francis wrote: “I've been stymied in my efforts to get an answer to the question I put at the bottom of this mammoth post from yesterday, about the Deerfield Beach's Mango Festival. Namely, why did the city cut the Mango Festival a check for $36,000 in June 2008?” (http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/juice/2009/11/mango_festival_deerfield_finances.php)

Elgin Jones, a bulldog of a reporter who has aired many a scandal wrote in September, 2007: “We are still gathering the facts, but it appears that income the city generated from the popular Mango Festival may have been kept in a separate account, in violation of accepted accounting practices.

City Manager Mike Mahaney acknowledged he had heard of some type of ‘enterprise’ fund in which income from several events was held. Mahany said that may not have been part of the regular budget process, but added that he is not exactly sure what has taken place. The Mango Festival has its own committee, which is separate from the city. However, the proceeds and donations that go to the city have not been accounted for, and there is no indication of exactly how the money has been spent or where it went.

This is yet another example of the lack of oversight of city operations that was commonplace in the administration of former City Manager Larry Deetjen. Some sources are referring to this money as being in a “slush” fund that has been maintained in a secret account connected to the parks and recreation department’s budget, but that has not been confirmed, at least not yet.” http://www.sfltimes.com/index.php?Itemid=98&id=479&option=com_content&task=view

And, here we are in November of 2009 and it has not been “confirmed” by now either. Rich Lorraine was equally as frustrated in his attempts to get an accounting, as Tom Francis, and I assume, Elgin are, but investigating the Mango Festival finances is proving to be a Sisyphean task.

Credit to Bill Ganz for raising the question yet again during budget talks, but he was only able to get a small portion of the records, and, it seems, there are no more to get. So, where do we go from here? No records mean no culpability, no proof that things were straightforward and no proof that they were not.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

With young men like this, Deerfield Beach may have some hope for the future.

At last night’s commission meeting a couple of delightful young men stole the show. Christopher Chisholm received a certificate of recognition for putting out a fire in a city truck. He took his few minutes to thank his fellow workers, supervisors and his parents in a most charming and self effacing way. If you didn’t attend the meeting, you should go to the city website to view the video of this young man.

A young man of 14, (I didn’t catch his name) with the group of fisherman protesting the proposed ordinance to ban all fishing from the beach, was a delight. His poise speaking before a room full of adults was impressive. His plea to allow him to continue to fish for food for his family, and continue this worthwhile spare time pursuit swayed the commission I am sure.

In contrast to the two outstanding young men, Sylvia and Peggy got into it again. Sylvia wanted to name the Aquatic Center after Vince Kendrick who is recovering from a kidney transplant, and not expected to return to work. Peggy reacted, saying all he did was his job, for which he was paid, whereas she, Peggy, was the one who did all the work getting the swimming pool built; and then went on to question if anything should be named for city employees. It got hot for a bit with Sylvia wanting to know if Peggy wanted the pool named after her. Peggy backed off from saying that in so many words, but the intent was there. Peggy was instrumental in the pool’s success, but I guess knowing it was a job well done isn’t as good as having your name on a plaque. She sort of gulped when she realized that she, in fact, is a city employee.

Joe Miller, had a question he wanted to ask, but when he was called on after the Sylvia/Peggy scuffle, he sat back in disgust and waved a never mind.

Last week Joe had a district 1 meeting which was well attended and informative. Good going Joe. Don’t let the turkeys get you down.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Good Idea Angelo!

Pembroke Pines’ Vice Mayor Angelo Castillo wrote (about the school board, but it applies to all government) in the Sun Sentinel:

“ …let's take elected officials out of the procurement process. Nobody elects School Board members based on their procurement prowess; they are not qualified to carry out that function, which is best handled by staff. The job of elected officials is to safeguard the fairness of the procurement process not to meddle in who gets what contracts. Make it clean. Open the doors to competition. Get elected school board members out of the contract selection business.These steps will go a long way toward improving education in our community and restoring public trust in the Broward County School District.”

What a great idea Vice Mayor Castillo, if your suggestion was in effect in Deerfield Beach we would not be anticipating a lawsuit about the selection of the Pier Restaurant contract.

Let’s change all contract awarding, city and county and school board, to that method. Who better to know what group should run a restaurant, or redesign a pier entrance then the professionals we hire to run our departments.

Let the commissioners have the final vote, yes or no, on the choice, but let the pros do the selection. Who would you want to pick a contractor, Charlie DaBrusco or Sylvia Poitier? George Edmonds or Peggy Noland?

Can you see Charlie saying, Oops, I got the names of the restaurants mixed up! I want Handleman, which one is his? As Sylvia did, or, I thought we were going with the 1-8 numbering, I didn’t know about the 35% - 35% - 30% weighting thing!, as did Peggy, the first week which pushed the selection off to the next meeting, resulting in the closing the restaurant and losing money.

The weighting was clearly spelled out in the selection criteria of the RFP. Staff wouldn't have missed that. They would have done the correct weighting for the various sections, financial, insurability, experience, etc. They would not have chosen based on who they like personally. They are the pros; they should be the ones to choose, the commission sets the criteria in the RFP, the staff carries out the selection. Let's make that happen.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hear! Hear! — Kudos to Jeff Sayles from a reader

Reaction to: Back In Business, Idiots, and Ethics - 10/23/09)
(http://www.deerfieldbeachusa.com/

Hear! Hear! — Kudos to Jeff Sayles from a reader
Some members of the ad hoc committee to review the ethics code of Deerfield Beach sagely nodded agreement when one member quoted the Model Code of Conduct for Court Professionals which begins with a preamble:
“SERVICE TO THE JUDICIAL BRANCH IS A PUBLIC TRUST. THE FOUNDATION OF OUR SOCIETY RESTS, IN PART, ON THE ABILITY OF THE CITIZENS TO WISELY JUDGE THE VALUE OF OUR COURTS AND TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE INTEGRITY OF THE JUDICIARY . . . .

CANON 1: AVOIDING IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL ACTIVITIES . . . “

It is interesting to note that those committee members who cited this canon stressed more than once ONLY the second clause of this statement. One of them also spoke of modifying our ethics legislation so that it is good for the commissioners. Another member drew reference to her manner conducting of her business as a justification for lowering the barriers in this code.
Are there different acceptable ethical standards between entertaining clients of a business for profit and those standards that must be maintained in a position of trust by elected representatives of taxpayers? This committee seems to say PERHAPS so. I suggest that they say DEFINITELY so.

The commission and this committee should be exclusively focused beyond the vague “…avoidance of APPEARANCE of impropriety in all activities. . . “? Avoiding ANY impropriety — real or suspect — is surely what’s best for the entire city — including those elected and employed to conduct its business.
Those who work hard and make sacrifices of time are to be commended for their public service NOT rewarded beyond the contracted stipend or salary. They are elected or employed NOT anointed! Their sacrifices in fulfilling the duties to SERVE for which they sought election or employment do NOT entitle them to privilege.
The Ethics Code section discussed notes all possible relationships to any person elected or hired to do business for the city and refers ONLY to certain aspects of that business. One member feels that personal rights are being abrogated by such barriers. This certainly may be the case in some instances — we cannot legislate against greed. The reality of that greed as we see it manifested today day after day is strong proof that a more stringent warning with strict enforcement is a necessity as a deterrent.
Such restriction should and MUST be considered part of the job description for our elected and employed officials.
Rather than taking a stand on ethics that will be best for the city, this committee seems to be slowly but surely moving toward mutual conciliation that will result in lowering the barriers to possible misconduct — a disservice to seeking the highest standards as well as a disregard for realities from what is happening now, and to times in our past.
One committee member, when addressed after a meeting as an able negotiator, demurred and referred to himself rather as a mediator. This was countered by underscoring the difference between the two. It is a meaningful differentiation and either course is premature with this untried legislation, is it not?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

So sad

Sad, pathetic, that is the description of last night’s (Tuesday) commission meeting. The commissioners spent $15,000 on a retreat to come up with a “vision” that amounted to an agreement that the commission meetings were not run well and people didn’t respect one another. I could have told them that for free. Nothing has changed, I present exhibit #1 to support that finding:

On Agenda Item - General Item #20 except for Bill Ganz they would have included the entire list of legislative priorities from the League of Cities with our Deerfield Beach list, sight unseen.

Sylvia, said in addition to our ten items we should include the L of C’s list also as they always have a good one, Peggy asked the city attorney if they could include it. Bill put a stop to that, saying he would not vote to include anything he had not read. Good going Bill. Joe Miller agreed they should read it first. Duh!

(WRONG, Sylvia, the League of Cities is not always our good buddy, for example they were trying to repeal the County Charter and eliminate County oversight of the cities. So if one city wanted to build something the next city didn’t want near them there would be nowhere to appeal. Who knows what else they want that would not be good for Deerfield Beach?)

Then came the discussion about what to do with the area of the city around the Dixie Flyover which is slated to break ground in late January. That is what was supposed to be discussed, but Sylvia went off on a tirade about hiring local contractors and would not believe that the city has NO control over the project as it is completely run by the MOP. Bill explained it very carefully to her but no dice. Marty Popelsky volunteered to go with her to the MOP, but said that the local contractors to be used for the flyover are local to Florida, not Deerfield Beach. All the commissioners understood this but Sylvia. Watch the video at the city website, reality TV doesn’t get much better than this.

Then the vote to decide on the pier restaurant was messed up, see Tom Francis’ take on it in his New Times post http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/juice/2009/10/deerfield_beach_pier_lease_poitier.php
During the meeting Mayor Peggy Noland made sure the whole city knew she was ready this time, unlike two weeks ago, she had the bidders ranked 2 ways and was ready to choose either way they decided to go, she did her homework. Unlike Sylvia Poitier, shown in the video post on Francis’ blog. In spite of having had 4 weeks to review she was not ready and messed up her choices which were done on the spot while everyone waited.

It ended up with her changing her vote after the restaurant was picked. She was seriously confused and was unable to grasp the difference between two similarly named “Pier Grills”. I would not be surprised if the losing bidder takes legal action. At this point Peggy loses her temper and says enough, stop it, we look like a bunch of idiots, the vote was called, and Sylvia kept interrupting and Peggy kept saying “Excuse me Sylvia you don‘t have the floor!” over and over. Sylvia then asks the city attorney if the mayor can stop her from talking at a commission meeting and is told, “Yes”. Sylvia then left the room.

All during the retreat veiled references to Sylvia’s behavior at meetings was discussed, then at the end they finally named the problem and said she was the problem. Two weeks ago during the commission meeting Sylvia seemed especially foggy, she, at one point, asked is Crystal Lake in Deerfield Beach? Huh? Last night she acted very confused also, and not too sure what was being discussed. Perhaps her blood sugar is off; perhaps she is not sleeping well, perhaps …. Well whatever, she is no longer an asset to the commission and should take time off and get help or resign, now, at once.

Up until last night the commissioners humored her, that seems to have ended. Perhaps they will take action.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Disturbing Complaints from City Hall

I am more and more disturbed by what I hear from City Hall these days. The Commissioners, especially the Mayor, do not seem to realize that the City Manager is the one who deals with the employees, not them. They set policy, but the manager carries it out.

Which means that when Mayor Noland calls up a department head and directs him/her to do something, or yells out from the dais that a department head in the audience should do such and such as soon as possible, SHE IS VIOLATING THE CITY CHARTER!!

Why does she do this? She says she is impatient and doesn't want to wait. Then she says she doesn't want to step on any toes, but she is walking all over the charter with hob nailed boots. Unless it is a safety emergency, in which case the police should be notified, she should learn patience.

There is a reason for chain of command, and commissioners who order employees around and/or yell at them are setting a very bad example, creating what might be called a hostile workplace and they should STOP IT NOW!!

I hear from inside city hall that the Mayor is on the employees cases frequently. If an employee gets mad and files a grievance it could cost the city a bundle.

Have it out with the city manager if you have a problem, but stay away from the employees. Wouldn't it be embarrasing if they wind up in front of Crist's new grand jury, perhaps he should base it in Deerfield Beach.

Joe Miller, at the Embassy Suits "retreat" said that perhaps they should have a workshop to learn what is in the charter, good idea Joe. Here's a little preview:

PART I CHARTER OF THE CITY OF DEERFIELD BEACH, FLORIDA

ARTICLE III. LEGISLATIVE

Section 3.06. Mayor and vice mayor.

(a) Mayor. The mayor shall preside at meetings of the commission and shall be recognized as head of the city government for all ceremonial purposes; by the governor for purposes of military law and civil disaster; for execution of contracts, deeds and other documents except as otherwise provided in article IV; for service of process; and as the city official designated to represent the city in all agreements with other governmental entities or certifications to other governmental entities, but shall have no administrative duties except as required to carry out the responsibilities herein.

Section 3.09. Prohibitions.
(3) Oversight of administration. Except for the purpose of inquiries and investigations, the commission or its members shall deal with city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the city manager solely through the city manager, and neither the commission nor its members shall give orders to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately. Nothing in the foregoing is to be construed to prohibit individual members of the commission from examining by question and personal observation all aspects of city government operations so as to obtain independent information to assist the members in the formulation of policies to be considered by the commission and assure the implementation of such policies as have been adopted.

It is the express intent of this provision, however, that such inquiry shall not interfere directly with the regular municipal operations of the city and that recommendations for change or improvement in city government operations be made to and through the city manager.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm tellin' you why.....

http://southflorida.bizjournals.com/southflorida/stories/2009/10/12/daily34.html?s=du&ed=2009-10-14&ana=e_du_pap

Modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 1:40pm

Crist calls for grand jury to investigate public corruption


Citing a recent rash of crime involving public officials, Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to empanel a statewide grand jury to investigate the matter.

In his petition, Crist said that after consulting with local law enforcement agencies as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there is “good and sufficient reason” to investigate criminal activity “among local and state officials acting in their official capacity.”

Such an investigation would run the gamut from bribery and prostitution to crimes involving drugs.

And while the investigation would not be limited to any particular part of the state, Crist requested in his petition that a judge from one of several circuits, including Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach County, be appointed to oversee the grand jury.

Crist’s announcement follows recent indictments of Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher, and Alan Mendelsohn, a prominent Hollywood eye surgeon on public corruption charges.

"Power corrupts" It just keeps coming...

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power. David Brin

In case you wonder if Florida needs teeth in its ethics codes, and better vetting of our elected (but, then again, if you live in Florida, you don't wonder, you know!) check out the reaction of Sansom's fellow lawmakers!!!!


Editorial: Legal but despicable

Published: Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 6:01 a.m. Last Modified: Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 5:20 p.m.

Former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom used his influence to steer tens of millions of dollars to a Panhandle community college that later gave him a $110,000 a year job. He got the college $6 million to build an airplane hanger it didn't need but could lease to a developer buddy of Sansom.

A grand jury was so outraged over Sansom's dealings that it indicted him for official misconduct. Some of Sansom's fellow lawmakers were outraged by the indictment because, they said, that's just the way things are done in the Legislature.

Apparently they were right.

Read the rest of the article: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20091011/OPINION01/910111000/1076/OPINION?Title=Editorial-Legal-but-despicable

With this level of corruption ("that's just the way things are done") we need more than Florida Hometown Democracy's Amendment 4, but A4 is a start!

For centuries people have recognized the effect on people of having power over others:


The greater a man is in power above others, the more he ought to excel them in virtue. None ought to govern who is not better than the governed. Publius Syrus

It is an observation no less just than common, that there is no stronger test of a man's real character than power and authority, exciting, as they do, every passion, and discovering every latent vice. Plutarch

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. Abraham Lincoln

The real test of character is how you treat someone who has no possibility of doing you any good. George Orwell

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Flea Market Sat. Oct. 17th, Woman's Club



Click on picture to enlarge.

Vote YES for Amendment 4



The new Hometown Democracy website is up, supporting a vote in favor of Amendment 4 which is on the November, 2010 ballot.

www.floridahometowndemocracy.com

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Retreat: Wasted Day

I had some of what puzzled me about the commissioners’ responses (my wondering where the city’s issues were, and why they were not addressed) somewhat cleared up by Bill Ganz.
His interpretation of the question asked was that they were to identify a process for addressing issues, not identify the issues themselves. Then after that he assumed the facilitator would come back to the issues.

While the facilitator, David Long, was taking responses about “what should be done” about city issues, needs and opportunities, Bill was waiting for him to get to what was covered in the individual private interviews Long conducted with the staff and commissioners.

Ganz was convinced that the issues from the interviews would come up later and the brainstorming session was for process.

After lunch he looked for, as was on the agenda, the results and identification of themes. Nothing happened, no issues from the interview were incorporated and his fellow commissioners stopped listening to Long and decided to do nothing but rant about others' shortcomings. At that point, Bill was as disgusted as I by their behavior and decided to give up.

I did not interpret the question the way Bill did; my take on it was that they should identify the “issues, the needs and the opportunities” during the brainstorming, and how to deal with them. He thought they had already identified the issues beforehand and the facilitator wanted to know the things that could be done.

But we both came to the same conclusion, that the day was a waste of time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Commission "Retreat" Visioning Meeting

Today, Wednesday, was the day the commissioners were to work with David Long, a strategic planner and facilitator who was hired to help the commission create a vision for Deerfield Beach.


The session started at 9:00 this morning and ended at 4:00 this afternoon. What started with high minded idealistic planning soon devolved into a gripe session and finger pointing fest, and a refusal to set any positive plan for helping improve anything.


In answer to the posed question: “What should be done to address the most important needs and opportunities facing the City of Deerfield Beach?” The commissioners, except Joe Miller for a little, couldn’t get away from themselves to attend to the task.



After some introduction and rule setting, the instruction was to brainstorm and write down as many answers to the above question as possible in, I think, 20 minutes. Then they were to rank them in importance and choose the key items.



Keep in mind the answers are what the commissioners think are the MOST IMPORTANT NEEDS and OPPORTUNITIES facing the city. See below this comment for the chart of answers.


Joe Miller, was the only one who even partially answered the question as stated. He touched on things he thought the city had problems with, such as the sewer main and the Dixie Flyover.
The rest of the commissioners let the session devolve into a gripe session. It was all about them and their tough time being a commissioner.



Mayor Noland constantly made note of how hard it is as a moderator to keep order. She said it is hard to conduct a meeting when others jump in when others are talking. She said we need to respect others, but some take over, and “This belittles the rest of my commission”.



Commissioner Popelsky noted that arguing with each other is a problem, communication is a problem, he said he criticizes and he shouldn’t, he should respect others’ positions. “I hold back because some things are so bad I don’t say them”.


Commissioner Ganz seems so frustrated by the process of being a commissioner he can’t get to seeing that it is about the city and residents. It seems he feels out of control of things.


David Long noted that the fact they said these things make them the most important. Then he asked for them to come up with “the big idea”. He was greeted with silence, so he suggested how about the need to get on the same page, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.


Noland jumped in and said that, I usually call Charlie (Debrusco) if, say, we have a pot hole, I am so impatient so I just do it, or I might have to wait for Monday and as a mayor I just have to do it, I won’t wait for Monday, so I get it done, I am not a threat, not to step on anyone’s toes, why should I take three hours trying to get the right person when I can just call the person who can do it, the right person. We as a group see a problem we all want taken care of, and a week later it is not done.


Long asked what is a creative way to get that done, be pro-active, and create a culture of change which is results oriented?


The group didn’t seem interested, kept whining about how tough it is to get anything they want. All gave lip service to wanting to work as a team, but the strong message I got was fine, but as long as “it is my way”.



I believe the entire commission is forgetting their mission, SET POLICY and let the staff carry it out, one of the comments in the list said department heads should be more responsive to the commissioners. DEPARTMENT HEADS SHOULD NOT BE INTERACTING WITH THE COMMISSIONERS, telling department heads what to do is not their job, in fact it is against the charter.


Very possibly there are charter violations admitted to by the commissioners during this meeting, Marty flat out said he was micro-managing, a big no-no, and Mayor Noland is directing employees to help out residents which is seriously against the charter, which makes it, I believe, illegal, and subject to sanction.


THEN: After ranking the topics and going through a process to identify the THREE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS FACING THE CITY, the group came up with:


1. Communication
2. Commissioners respect of one another and the conduct of meetings
3. Accountability and transparency.



Not the budget, not the economy, and saving money, not how to pay for infrastructure repairs, not taxes, not firefighters pensions, not Century Village backflow meters and water rates, nope, none of those things.


Like little kids in a school yard, they think the way they behave is the most important thing in the city.


OMG!!!


This group also finally got to talking about Vice Mayor Poitier, who was out ill, and all day was treated like the “elephant in the living room”.


(a saying based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there might be concerning themselves with relatively small and even irrelevant matters, compared to the looming big one.)


They tip toed around the problem of how to tell her what was said today and who should tell her. She is the one frequently mentioned as the one who interrupts others and goes on and on, “filibustering” as Noland put it. Finally it was agreed to leave it up to David Long, after all he is getting the big bucks ($15,000 of them). Noland acknowledged that Poitier was not likely to change her ways anyway.


When asked to come up with a group of people who could sit at a round table and have a discussion on problems of communication they said there should be the department heads, the City Manager, the Asst. Manager, the Attorney and perhaps the commissioners.


When Long asked who else might be there they couldn’t think of anyone else, he asked twice, and got no answer, then he said we will get back to it and he would leave 2 blank spots.


DUH!!!


HOW ABOUT THE RESIDENTS AND BUSINESS PEOPLE.


Again they didn’t even acknowledge the existence of anyone outside of city hall as being important, or contributing. There are such problems with their interpersonal relationships they have no energy left.


OMG!!!


I saw a lot of finger pointing and blame and frustration, but no taking of responsibility themselves. If they need information they should ask for it, again and again if need be. If you see a problem, ask for it to be corrected, in proper channels. This is a runaway commission and they have to rein themselves in.


CLICK ON CHART TO READ - CHART IS IN 3 PARTS:
























Wednesday, September 30, 2009

City Managers - A dance of the lemons?

City managers, as all top government managers, often become a lightning rod, taking hits when things go wrong, when citizens become upset and when commission members want to place blame.

Mahaney was hired in part because he was calmer, nicer, more open, and less autocratic than Larry Deetjen. He was also seen as someone to right the ship, slow things down and give everyone time to catch their breath.

Past commission decisions had handed Mahaney a city with spending that had to be reined in and with a stranglehold of employee contracts that give the word generous a bad name. He was so frugal that he almost worked himself into exhaustion before finally hiring an assistant.

While Googling the problems city managers have I found the basics of why they have problems said by a city manager in Hurst Texas:

"The downside of being a city manager is, you're at the whim of your political bosses," Hurst, Texas City Manager Allan Weegar said."When things are going great, things are good with you and your relationship with that city council. When there are issues, you can always be brought in as a reason why things are going bad. That's why the city management profession is a fairly short-lived tenure."

So what’s up with Mahaney and our current commission? He has kept our finances under control and our bond ratings way up there. He has faults, who doesn’t? Trying to please 5 bosses is a “pleasure” which, thank goodness, I have never had to endure, and I don’t envy him that role.

Let’s even say he has a lot of faults, I have heard lack of communication, lack of managing by “walking around”, carelessness and a few other things. Maybe so, but we are on good footing compared to most other Florida cities, we have not laid any employees off, when requested he trimmed the budget so we don’t have to raise the fire fee (which is one of the things that affects all of us, even if we pay very low property taxes), and the millage rate is livable, especially considering surrounding cities.

So how bad is he? Maybe the commissioners need to give a little and stop micromanaging and talking to staff, and maybe Mahaney needs to communicate better.

We should avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water. What is out there by way of unemployed city managers, from the makeup of the group we interviewed the last time, is no great shakes. This commission needs to calm down and try some counseling before getting a divorce.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pier Restaurant Bid Opening

Pier restaurant bid request for proposal forms (RFP) were opened in a staff meeting Thursday, the staff reviewed the 9 proposals and will present a synopsis of each to the commission.

This is a temporary rental so I would think that the income to the city (given equitable RFPs) would be the most important thing here. In that case Weinstein’s Pier Grille” wins hands down. We know they have good food at fair prices. When the new buildings, restaurant, bathrooms, bait shop etc. are done, there will be another go around for someone to run that restaurant. At that time, price and ambiance will enter into the mix.

The following are my notes about the bid opening (no accuracy guaranteed as I was scribbling and listening and at times distracted by remarks by staff and the observers).

1. First opened was Stephen Clark’s Tavern Group, LLC’s bid for the “Soggy Dollar Café”
Their rent proposal was a flat $4,500 per month
The RFP requested “statement of key elements” said they would have a Key West style nautical and beach theme.
They would stay open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 7 days/week, and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The typical breakfast would cost $8.00
Lunch, $6.95
In discussion while checking the paperwork it was evident that Jerry Ferguson was not a fan of this proposal. He grudgingly admitted that the RFP elements were all there.

2. Jimmy Tsiakanikos “Greek Express II”
The rent proposed was $4,700 per month.
The theme would be a Greek restaurant similar to his existing Greek Express.
They would stay open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 7 days/week, and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The staff did not say how much meals would be, there was an included menu from the other restaurant, the lunch menu had no hamburgers, and there was mention that the prices were high.
There was some missing material in the RFP

3. David Weinstein and Gerry Alter’s “Pier Grille”. (The ones who were temporarily running the restaurant just before it was closed for new bids.}
Rent proposed was $2,000 per month plus 10% of the gross sales. (2008 gross sales were $612,000) if no change (it should go way up with the interesting marketing attractions they are planning) if I understood the proposal correctly, that would work out over the year to an average of $7,100 per month.
Their theme was a family friendly beach restaurant.
They would open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and longer in the evening during the season.
Breakfast $6.07
This is another group which Jerry seemed to dislike, as the positives piled up he kept saying things like, the rent would not be that high every month, but Sally and George assured him that it WOULD average out.

4. Sven Jutz’s “Deer’s Pier Grill”
Rent proposed was $5,000 per month or 8% of sales (adjusted at the end of the year) whichever is greater.
The theme is an affordable American Restaurant with a “green” emphasis, stressing recycling etc.
Open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or Sunup to Sundown.
Breakfast $7.06
Mr. Jutz is an experienced restaurateur. The proposal was similar to the one submitted for the first go-around so they didn’t take much time with it.

5. Sean Lillis’ “Gracie’s at the Pier”
Rent proposed was $3,932.50 (What’s up with the fifty cents?)
The theme was great choices at a fair price.
Open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the season, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. off season.
Breakfast $7.20
Staff remarked that his RFP was excellent with insurance noted, a financial plan and marketing suggestions. The proposal was in a tabbed folder and followed the RFP perfectly, staff was happy to be able to read it so easily (Smaller things have been deciders). This is the company which built the Kinsale Condo on the beach. IMHO, In spite of the excellent proposal, they bid much too low.

6. Richard Gallagher’s “Mr. Krabbs”
Rent proposed was $3,700 per month. That combined with their incomplete RFP will have them out of the running I am sure. Lots of discussion on what was lacking, especially experience in food service, and no prices on the sample menu, and no disclosure form.

7. Howard Johnson’s “Beach Shack”
Rent proposed was $4,700 per month
There was no statement of key elements
Open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. 7 days a week
Breakfast $7.75
No references

8. J.B.s on the Beach’s “Fishtails”
Rent proposed was $5,100 per month if 6% of annual sales is higher they will add in the difference at the end of the year. (As with Weinstein’s proposal, a percent of sales seems like a good idea to me.)
The theme is fake fish décor and they said they would upgrade the facility (it will be torn down, why upgrade it now?)
Open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and until 9 p.m. if traffic warrants.
Breakfast (no beverages were listed on the sample menu) $4.75, add 2 bucks for coffee and they are comparable at $6.75
Staff said there were no references listed only letters from 3 vendors saying they paid on time. Jerry enthused over the complete employee manual and safety practices they provided. Marketing as per J.B.s and they will cross staff with J.B.s

9. Brian Handleman’s “The Pier Grill” (without the “e”)
Rent proposed was $5,000 per month plus 2% over $500,000.
Focus to appeal to locals and beachgoers.
Open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. 7 days, longer in season.
Breakfast $6.25
Handleman has 15 years of experience as a race course caterer, many letters of recommendation. They included a good employee handbook. They have a website already up, http://www.thepiergrill.com/ but only a hopeful statement on the home page.
They are proposing many come-ons. Senior citizen’s Mondays, Beach Box Lunches, etc. During the discussion about finances their listed $30,000 letter of credit had Jerry commenting “…how far will that get them?” I guess he is not a fan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pier Restaurant

The RFPs were opened at city hall today for the temporary running of the restaurant by the pier. Formerly Kelly's. The following are the names of the contractors who entered an RFP and the names they proposed for the restaurant:

1.
J.B.s
Fishtails
2.
Brian Handleman
The Pier Grill
3.
David Weinstein/Gerry Alter
Pier Grille
4.
Richard Gallagher
Mr. Krabbs
5.
Stephen Clark/Tavern Group, LLC
Soggy Dollar Beach Cafe
6.
Sean Lillis
Gracie’s at the Pier
7.
Sven Jutz
Deer’s Pier Grill
8.
HoJo Plaza Resort
Beach Shack
9.
Dimitri “Jimmy” Tsiakanikos
Greek Express II

Thursday, September 17, 2009

To the Victor go the Spoils

"To the victor go the spoils". I heard that phrase a few times after the Deerfield Beach Commission meeting last Tuesday. Every commissioner has the right to appoint whomever they want to the various advisory boards. The members with allegiance to former commissioners get removed and the commissioner appoints a newbie.

Alternates who, when appointed, assumed that they would move up to a permanent position are disappointed when someone who has served far less time than they are bumped up. They fail to realize that there is no rhyme or reason to the appointments and no one should expect it; not even merit.

It is nice if an appointee has some expertise in the area, but the main criteria are loyalty to the commissioner who appoints them and, I would surmise, the willingness to take orders on issues, or more hopefully, an agreement with the philosophy of the appointing commissioner.

Alternates are only appointed to the full time position when they are the sitting commissioner’s cronies and it looks good to say “they have been an alternate for years and deserve to be promoted”; never mind that they had only 5 years as an alternate and others have been alternates for 7 or more. It sounds good to say.

Mayor Noland followed this practice when she got rid of Marty McGeary from the Planning and Zoning board and appointed Bobby Brown. Marty is a member of the OSOBs and a friend of former commissioner Pam Militello who appointed her, and Peggy has been heard to say she “Hates the OSOBs”. So, no big surprise here, I was only surprised that Peggy waited until Marti’s term ran out before giving her the ax, and pretended it was not planned all along.

While musing on this topic, I wondered where the phrase “To the victor go the spoils” originated. So, as I am wont to do when an idle question takes up residence in my head, I Googled it.

And I found that:

During a Congressional debate in 1831 a New York senator, William L. Marcy, used the phrase "to the victor belong the spoils." This saying accurately described the spoils system of appointing government workers. Each time a new administration came into power thousands of public servants were discharged and members of the victorious political party took over their jobs.

Senator Marcy's remark was largely in defense of Andrew Jackson, whose campaign against President John Quincy Adams, in 1828, was seen partly as a vendetta against Adams, and whose conduct and remarks when taking office seemed to justify the association of Jackson with the spoils system which has so sullied the reputation of most politicians in the U.S.

Adams was the last of the non-partisan or bipartisan breed of politicians that characterized U.S. politics during the "Founding Fathers" era.

One story is that the day of the inauguration or shortly after the White House was so besieged by office-seekers that they were climbing in the windows.

The system reached a peak under the presidency of Ulysses S Grant (1869–77).


In the 20th century, civil-service posts in large cities were often filled on the recommendation of newly elected political leaders. The system was epitomized by the Democratic Party ‘machine’ of Richard Daley (1902–76), mayor of Chicago.

After the assassination of
James A. Garfield by a rejected office-seeker in 1881, the calls for civil service reform intensified. The end of the spoils system at the federal level came with the passage of the Pendleton Act in 1883, which created a bipartisan Civil Service Commission to evaluate job candidates on a nonpartisan merit basis.

While few jobs were covered under the law initially, the law allowed the President to transfer jobs and their current holders into the system, thus giving the holder a permanent job. The Pendleton Act's reach was expanded as the two main political parties alternated control of the White House in every election between 1884 and 1896.

After each election the outgoing President applied the Pendleton Act to jobs held by his political supporters. By 1900, most federal jobs were handled through civil service and the spoils system was limited only to very senior positions.

The separation between political activity and the civil service was made stronger with the
Hatch Act of 1939 which prohibited federal employees from engaging in political activities.
The spoils system survived much longer in many states, counties and municipalities, such as the Tammany Hall ring, which survived well into the 1930s when New York City reformed its own civil service. Illinois modernized its bureaucracy in 1917 under Frank Lowden, but Chicago held on to patronage in city government until the city agreed to end the practice in the Shakman Decrees of 1972 and 1983.

References: http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/32/messages/793.html
http://encyclopedia.farlex.com/To+the+victor+go+the+spoils
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoils_system

Monday, September 14, 2009

Compare and Decide

Compare Deerfield Beach to Pembrook Pines (whose city manager plus one deputy pulls down $755,000, but is laying off 84 employees and raising taxes) and our city manager starts to look pretty good. We have no layoffs, no fire fee increase, tax dollars the same as last year, money in our contingency fund giving some hope for next year and no cuts in services.

From Lisa Rab’s article in the New Times:

Many people who packed the Pembroke Pines City Commission chambers for a budget hearing last night were angry at political leaders they believed had failed them. Despite laying off 84 employees and outsourcing major city services, the city still faces a $27 million budget shortfall, and commissioners are considering raising property taxes to fill it.

The proposed hike, coming at a time when home values have plummeted, was not exactly welcome.But as residents stepped to the podium to plead for lower taxes, one audience member directed his wrath at a different target: City Manager Charles Dodge.

It's Dodge's job to prevent such financial catastrophes, Jay Schwartz reasoned, and he's handled the latest one terribly. "The city manager has failed to meet the expectations of the residents and employees," said Schwartz, who has lived in the city for 20 years. "I strongly encourage you to renegotiate the contract with the city manager."

… earns $755,000 a year from the city. That sum is divided between Dodge and his deputy, Martin Gayeski. Both men also receive free health insurance from the city, plus office space and staff at City Hall.

Read the entire article here:
http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/juice/2009/09/charles_dodge_budget_jay_schwartz.php

Coconut Creek Lawsuit

Comment after reading the press release (Please see below) from Jim Freeman, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Coconut Creek:

Even if the economy was good, it is disgusting that $60,000 is wasted on such a magazine. It also shows how the civil/political environment is so similar in other places -- in some places better and others worse. There are combinations of circumstances that lead to good or bad government. Deerfield has been fortunate to have the dedication and selflessness of OSOB to help the government be better. Just think that if it had not been for the 1998 Referendum that added to the Charter requiring 4 votes concerning the pier restaurant lease and the efforts of OSOB in fighting the Boinis lease, the beach area would be a mess now with the massive Boinis lease. Also, OSOB has contributed to the Charter amendments protecting the main beach parking lot and Charter Amendment that will not let there be significant changes to the existing development regulations in the beach area. We have gotten wacked around a lot and lost a lot of battles with variances. But we have contributed to good government. Lastly, Pam's Ethics Code has put into place a good Code to try to make government better for citizens. - Tom Connick


COCONUT CREEK, FL – Once a month residents and businesses in Coconut Creek receive Coconut Creek Life, a glossy full-color magazine featuring local stories and ads, whether they want it or not. Published by Ryplin Industries, Inc. of Coconut Creek, Coconut Creek Life is the little sister of Parkland Life, a version tailored for Parkland residents. It seems that after seeing Parkland Life, Coconut Creek City Hall liked the idea of having its own magazine. According to Ryplin’s website, publisher Mindi F. Rudan was approached by the City to publish a Creek magazine and now receives a $60,000.00 annual grant from the City of Coconut Creek to do so. That works out to $5,000.00 per issue. The magazine also lists the City of Coconut Creek under “contributing photographers”. Coincidentally, Rudan is one of the original incorporators of the Coconut Creek Chamber of Commerce, along with Mary Blasi who is the current Coconut Creek Deputy City Manager.

Each month, in a section entitled A View from the Top, The current mayor gets some space to deliver a personal message to the community. Coconut Creek has a system where there are five city commissioners, and once a year they decide which one of them gets to be the mayor for that year. Long-time Commissioner Marilyn Gerber who represents District C is the current mayor.

In the September 2009 issue of Coconut Creek Life, Mayor Gerber took on the highly controversial Amendment 4 slated for Florida’s November 2010 ballot. In her view from the top, Gerber expressed some standard arguments against A4 and suggested that if voters couldn’t see that it was a wolf dressed up in Hometown Democracy and apple pie clothes, then perhaps they should not vote at all. She closes her remarks stating that things like comprehensive plan changes should be her call until she is voted out of office.

It’s no surprise that Gerber is against Amendment 4. Her major campaign contributors are her former City Manager Dennis Mele’s current employer, law/lobby firm Ruden-McClosky, alleged to be a conduit for developer and construction industry political donations. Gerber has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In September of 2008, Gerber and all four other commissioners voted to grant a zoning change to a big box development represented by Mele, in spite of strong protests from area residents. An appeal filed by residents blocked the development and the developer, Jacksonville-based Regency Centers, pulled out of the deal. The appeal is still pending and the outcome will determine the fate of the parcel in question for future development.

What is kind of a surprise is that the Mayor would engage in what appears to be a clear violation of Florida State law, specifically SB 216 that prohibits elected officials from utilizing public funds for campaigning or electioneering purposes. Gerber’s platform, in this instance, is subsidized by the City of Coconut Creek.

Creek resident James Freeman feels something needs to be done. Freeman is a member of the Concerned Citizens of Coconut Creek, a non-profit community group that fought and appealed the Sept. 2008 re-zoning. He has filed the following complaint with the State Attorney General’s office:

“As a resident of Coconut Creek, Florida, I wish to file a formal complaint against Coconut Creek Commissioner and Mayor Marilyn Gerber and Ryplin Industries, Inc. of Coconut Creek, Florida.
In the September 2009 issue of Coconut Creek Life magazine, published by Ryplin Industries, in a monthly column entitled "A View From the Top", Mayor Gerber engages in what I consider to be electioneering against the proposed Amendment 4 on the 2010 Florida ballot.
According to the "About Us" section on Coconut Creek Life's website: http://www.lifepubs.com/about_us.shtml, the magazine receives an annual taxpayer-based grant of $60,000.
This would appear to be a direct violation of Florida SB 216, which specifically prohibits the use of taxpayer money for electioneering purposes. It is my contention that both Mayor Gerber and Ryplin Industries have violated state law in this instance.
I also feel that with all of the media exposure for Amendment 4, this has the potential to be a highly publicized issue, and wonder if similar violations have incurred in any of Ryplin's other publications.
I urge your office to investigate this matter and take appropriate action. I find this misuse of public funds both highly disturbing and threatening to our democratic process.”

To the press, Freeman adds: “Why is the City cutting budgets but pays $60,000 to help support this magazine? There are lots of ads, can’t the magazine make it on its own? And I strongly disagree when my tax dollars are helping to promote an election-issue agenda my neighbors and I feel is not in our best interest.”

Freeman’s complaint was filed on 9/14/09. As he awaits the Attorney General’s response, he is encouraging his fellow residents to voice their concerns as well.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Commission Cacophony

The city manager is getting raked over the coals for not doing what, according to him, he didn’t know he was supposed to do.

I barely know the guy, but it seems that the current commission is trying to micro manage him, the city, and the budget.

No, guys, that is not your job.

You set policy, you give direction - you do not run the city directly. Voice your disapprovals, sure, voice your opinions, give direction generally, then let the professionals carry out your policies, the nuts and bolts are to be done by the guys who get the big bucks.

If the commission had said to City Manager Mahaney in the beginning, 7 meetings ago: We do not want the roll back rate, and we do not want the fire assessment raised, bring us a budget that reflects that, but no layoffs. He would have had direction, and a goal.

Late in the game, after the commission tried to play the part of City Manager and Department Heads combined, during a succession of meetings where, from an observer’s point of view, nothing happened at all except a lot of frustrated anger at each other, the department heads, and the city manager, and a lot of finger pointing, for the first time, they called for a drastic reduction to save the tax rate. Mahaney had already cut $3,200,000 plus to save the fire fee increase.

With time short, Mahaney brought back a total savings of $4,700,000 and explained that was the best the city could do without layoffs. (O.K. I skipped the next meeting, I really couldn’t stomach more invective, attacks and self serving monologues.)

Now, at this (9/8) meeting, I hear nothing about the $4,700,000 and we are back to the original fire fee cut alone, and the roll back tax rate of 5.9801.

What happened? I assume the commission put back the $1,500,000 cuts. What’s up with that? After all the yelling and haranguing to cut, cut, cut. The cuts are gone. Next episode 9/15.

What a mess. My guess is that Mahaney won’t last the year out. Having 5 bosses, most of whom want to play manager, is going to do him in.

Festivals or Jobs

Some thoughts on last night’s (9/8) special budget commission meeting, more to come.

I asked a question about the funding for festivals in Deerfield Beach - Founder’s Day, Mango Festival, Brazilian Festival, Arts Festival et al.

I wanted to know, simply, if the taxpayers foot the bills or does the city get money back from sponsors and vendors which cover the expenses. If that is true as Vice Mayor Poitier said over and over again, I asked, why is the money in the budget?

The discussion devolved into a Poitier soliloquy on the Mango Festival, with the same theme – it pays for itself. Again I said, I am not asking about a specific festival, but in general, we are not in good times as in the past so how can anyone justify spending money on a festival when employees are not getting raises and jobs are going unfilled. I re-asked, if they pay for themselves, why is the money in the budget?

I found out that the city money does indeed go to festivals, last year the Founder’s Day received about $115,000; and then went on to award grants to different charities. (It would be a lot cheaper for the city to give the charities the money and skip the parade.) Mayor Noland explained that after the parade ran through the 115K they had to pay the rest of the expenses from their income.

I think Founder’s Day is a blast, fun and a great tradition, but I don’t think it is worth spending taxpayer’s money on when we are raising the tax rate. It should pull its own weight, and always did until the recent past when the city started to fund it, no one knew why.

This year, I think we should get whatever city money is used for the parade back before giving it away to charities. The city needs to get out of the business of running festivals and let the festival committees handle it. Most people do not pay their taxes to have them given away. I prefer to choose my own charities.

When I asked about getting sponsors, I was told that last year none were asked to donate.

Founder’s Day and all the other Festivals earn money, and should be able to cover their own expenses, and award what’s left over to their charities, if not, in these lean times, they need to skip a year or cut down the size of the affair; let’s make sure they really raise money before they give it away.

Last year the Brazillian Festival, for the first time, got $50,000, and this year we are funding them again. WHY?

Bill Ganz, held up the accounting sheet for the 2005 Mango Festival, as an example, and said that in 2005, the Mango Festival gave the city back $30,000 and two sponsors donated around $12,000. But, the city wrote checks for north of $400,000 dollars.

Terry Scott, a Mango Festival representative said he “didn’t want to call the Commissioners liars” but then went on to question the figures. He said there weren’t 25,000 at the festival as the BSO estimated but only 17,000 on Saturday night. 17,000 times what I heard as a $15 entry fee on one day is still $225,000, not to mention the income from the vendors. If that is true, where did all that go if the city paid for the BSO and other expenses? With that kind of income how does the festival justify asking the city for money?

Again Ganz pointed to the accounting sheet and said facts don’t lie.

This year’s allocation to the festivals is around $60,000, not even a dollar per resident, but is it one job for a city employee that could be saved.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Where Will Candidates Come From?

Jeff Sayles in his piece about the ethics code and the Moye affair www.deerfieldbeachusa.com NEW: Did Voters Really Want This? (09/05/09) says, “The longer range effect is that the truth of this matter, along with the truth of other matters, could make voters think twice about re-electing Noland as mayor, if they have better options.

“If they have better options.”

This is key, this city needs more of its residents involved in keeping track of what is going on at city hall, more people to overcome their apathy and pay attention to the kind of people who are running our city.

I think in many ways the citizens of this city are complacent, counting on a few activists to do everything for them. This city has been lucky in that activists prevented developers building on golf courses and filling in Crystal Lake (which I understand is about to happen again).

Activists prevented a cell tower from being installed in a little neighborhood park. And activists made sure the zoning codes that were eliminated by a former commission were reinstated, and the main beach parking lot was saved from commercial buildings.

Oh yes, recently, activists prevented the city ethics code from being rescinded by a 3-2 vote of the commission.

But the economy and two indicted commissioners cry loudly for citizen oversight of our city hall. Especially when we have a mayor who thinks ethics interfere with getting city business done.

We had some residents step up to run for office in the last election, but we don’t need office holders who are not interested enough in the city before elections to attend commission meetings (watching them on TV is not the same) or serve on city boards and committees.

District 1 elected Joe Miller who knew nothing about the running of the city, never attended commission meetings and was on no boards. He is doing on the job training and needs a lot of catch up work. He has not had one district meeting since taking office, even after being urged by his constituents over and over. They want to know about the budget process and how it affects them, but they have to go to District 4 meetings to find out. I assume Joe doesn’t feel confident enough or knowledgeable enough to answer their questions.

This kind of office holder is not doing our city any good. Residents must get involved and involved residents should run for office. Attending commission meetings can be very entertaining, also frustrating and maddening, but, always worthwhile as you will know what is going on, and become a more informed voter.

Oh, yes, Deerfield Beach does need an Ethics Code, Florida leads the country in the number of officials convicted in federal public conviction cases. Top five by this count were: Florida, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and California.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/weekinreview/14marsh.html?_r=1 And most likely some of our current or former commissioners will add to the number in the next census.

Sadly, many good people will not consider running for office because Deerfield Beach office holders have such bad reputations, and campaigns are so dirty.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ethics Code Not Repealed

The pressure from the media e.g.: http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/juice/ and residents worked, the Deerfield Beach Commission did not vote to rescind the Code of Ethics. Instead, following Bill Ganz’s lead they voted to appoint a committee of residents to look over the code and report back their findings to the commission.

They pretty much had to do that after the outrage from the public and media. . Yes, Noland and Poitier wanted to get rid of the code. But they were not up front about that in tonight’s meeting.
I would have respected Peggy a little if she had told the public that, yes she wanted to get rid of the code, but because three other commissioners didn’t she would go along with them. Instead she said that the reason she asked to put the item asking to repeal the Ethics Code on the agenda was so they could discuss it. That does not pass the smell test, if you want to discuss an item you say you want to DISCUSS it on the agenda, not REPEAL it.


Early arrivals at the commission meeting with signs supporting the Ethics Code.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The DFB Commission will vote to eliminate the Ethics Code.

This is what is being undone by Mayor Peggy; these are the provisions that are making it difficult to conduct city business.

HERE THEY ARE FOLKS, THE PROVISIONS THAT ARE CAUSING TROUBLE FOR THE CURRENT COMMISSIONERS, READ THEM AND PLEASE TELL ME WHICH OF THEM SHOULD BE ELIMINATED AND WHY.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that:
Commissioners May not use their office for personal financial benefit.
Do you think Miller, Poitier and Noland thought: Wow, that is something we should get rid of, let’s rescind this provision.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that:
Commissioners May not use their office to influence compensation or benefits such as pension. Hmmm, now we can vote on some juicy pensions and raises for ourselves and our friends and relatives.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: Commissioners Shall not have any interest or business which is in conflict with duties.
OK, get rid of this and you are free to have interests that conflict with setting policy in the city.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: Commissioners Shall not solicit or accept anything of value from anyone coming before or doing business with the city.
Oops, there go the free lunches, let’s get rid of this provision.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: Commissioners Shall not use their position to gain privileges, advantages or exemptions not generally available to the public.
Wow, guys, what good is being a commissioner if we can’t get stuff that is not available to the unwashed masses.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: Commissioners Shall not sexually harass, date, have sexual relations, or a romantic relationship with an employee of the city.
Wonder what inspired this one? Certainly don’t want to crimp anyone’s hitting on the working folk. Get rid of this rule fast, some of those workers are hotties!

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: They or a partner shall not represent any other person or entity before the city, except without compensation or for themselves.
What? Work for free? No way Jose, my buds will have to pay me to use my influence before the commission.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: Commissioners When appearing before any public body, must disclose if as a private citizen or an officer of the city.
What’s the problem here? I am doing this on my own, or I am doing this for the city. No brainer. Oh, right, I forgot who we are talking about.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: Commissioners Shall not promise an appointment as a reward for political support etc.
Not even the State allows this, but it obviously interferes with doing city business so Peggy says it goes!

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: Commissioners For 2 years after serving shall not represent others before the city except as a volunteer.
Again, here is that little problem, what, me work for free? I can make a bundle knowing what I know. Get rid of this one.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: Commissioners Must file a form if there is a conflict of interest, even if not voting.
Get rid of this little item and we are back to leaving the room for a bathroom break before the embarrassing vote.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: Applicants seeking a City contract or currently doing business with the city include a listing of all campaign contributions to sitting City Commissioners.
Here it is, this is the onerous provision that J.B.s “forgot” to do. It was spelled out in detail in the RFP, but they forgot. So let's get rid of the whole ethics code.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: All regulated offices (City manager and Commissioners) shall file an Annual General Disclosure.
This is required by the State anyway, what’s the big deal. No, you can’t hide that you have an interest in a company that wants to do business with the city, get over it.

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Code states that: Before any item or action is considered by the
Commission at a meeting, the City Clerk shall announce the disclosures made on that particular item by the Regulated Officer and Applicant.
Yup, in public.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Out, Damn Ethics, Out I Say!

At tonight’s budget meeting Vice Mayor Poitier let slip that on the next commission meeting agenda there would be an item to remove the Deerfield Beach Ethics Code. She was positively gleeful about it. The Ethics Code removal item was requested by Mayor Peggy Noland. Can you believe it, a city mayor recinding an ethics code!!!

I guess I am only surprised that it took this commission so long. But, I never expected them to repeal the whole thing. It will be a 3 to 2 vote, with Miller, Noland and Poitier voting to remove it, and Ganz and Popelsky to retain it.

Why, you ask would they do such a thing, not sure about Miller’s reasons, he says it is cumbersome, but it has very little in it that is not in the County’s or other town’s codes, not sure why he would think we should have less open government, or why lobbyists and contractors would not have to be up front about contributions.



My guess is that if J.B.s had followed the directions in the RFP for their bid on the contract for running the pier restaurant, they would not be taking this vote. Ah, well, it probably doesn’t matter anyway, this commission is not going to adhere to its provisions anyway, witness their quick 3 to 2 vote to overlook the violation of J.B.s proposal.


18)
Ordinance 2009/ - AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF DEERFIELD BEACH, FLORIDA, REPEALING ORDINANCE NO. 2009/06 WHICH ESTABLISHED A CODE OF ETHICS; REPEALING THE CITY OF DEERFIELD BEACH CODE OF ETHICS; PROVIDING FOR INCLUSION IN THE CITY CODE; PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE (Requested by Mayor Noland)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Commission Muddled

When the smoke cleared the fire was burning...

Linda Trischitta’s article in today’s paper, Local section pg. 3 titled “Deerfield Beach: Campaign donations muddle winning pier restaurant bid” starts out -

DEERFIELD BEACH - The winning bidder for a restaurant lease on the city-owned pier did not declare that he had given campaign contributions to the mayor and a commissioner, which could prompt the city to throw out the bids and start over. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/deerfield/sfl-deerfield-pier-bids-082409,0,5545371.story

The commission was told at last night’s budget hearing that they have 3 choices, they can start all over putting out for new bids, they can toss out J.B.s and award the contract to the second choice, or they can let J.B.s fix their bid.

Not too hard to guess what they are going to do as Sylvia quickly asked, “What do we have to do to pick the third choice”?

Trischitta ends her article with a quote from the current restaurant manager -

"If politics ran the way it was supposed to, their application should have been thrown out because it wasn't complete, but we all know that's not how the political machine works," Weinstein said".

The contract will be discussed at the next commission meeting.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Where There's Smoke, There's Usually Fire

The Deerfield Beach Commission voted to award the temporary contract to run the little pier restaurant to J.B.s. Strangely, none of the commissioners, before voting, thought it necessary to announce their ties to the owner of J.B.s restaurant.

Under the ethics code, both State and Local I believe that a commissioner has to disclose contacts, campaign donations and ex parte discussions. I’m pretty sure that both Commissioner Noland, who mumbled that she doesn’t work for J.B.s anymore, and Commissioner Miller have associations that they must disclose. I find it hard to believe that Peggy did not discuss this project with Sue.

The vote should be cancelled and another vote should be taken.

I heard another suspicious thing; I was told that Oceans 234 and Amonte’s Italian Restaurant only received the application for the contract two days before the deadline. Not enough time to submit a proposal. Maybe the other restaurants in the area should be asked when they received the paperwork.

Favoritism, I think so. Friends like to take care of friends, especially friends who donate big bucks to campaign chests. Where there is smoke there is usually fire, but if, in this case, there are no flames, there is a stink.

Time for a do over.