Thursday, December 30, 2010

Broward County Inspector General, Will it Work?

On tap in 2011:
A new anti-corruption inspector general for Broward

By Brittany Wallman
December 30, 2010 08:00 AM

"One of the milestones in the public corruption saga that plagued Broward County this year is the hiring of a new ethics watchdog, an inspector general.


Broward voters approved in November the concept of an inspector general who watches over all city officials in Broward, the government employees and the county
Read the rest of the article here: http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/broward/blog/2010/12/browards_new_inspector_general.html#more"


I have some questions about how this will work, and if it will be worth the money the new inspector general’s office will cost the taxpayers. The charter provision states:

“After completing his or her investigation and determining that there is probable cause to believe misconduct has occurred, the Inspector General shall notify the appropriate civil, criminal, or administrative agencies charged with enforcement related to the alleged misconduct.”
That’s it, NOTIFY THE APPROPRIATE AGENCY!!! It comes to mind that the "appropriate" agencies should be taking care of business and should be uncovering the "misconduct" without needing outside help.

Now we are going to have an entire office doing the jobs of the "civil, criminal or administrative agencies" that are being paid already to ferret out miscreants; does the word redundant come to mind?

OK, I realize that those “agencies” are not famous for bringing elected officials, or much of anyone to justice, after all it did take the FBI to start the ball rolling recently, but who is to say that a new guy/gal won’t also start worrying about stepping on certain powerful feet.

AND, after a referral is made, then what, will it be business as usual, years of half-assed investigations which result in nothing, or at best a slap on the wrist? If so, we will have a new “agency” that costs tons of money and goes nowhere.

Are we expecting hoards of residents to rush forward with complaints for the Inspector General to investigate? Don’t hold your breath. There will be no whispering in the ear of the inspector anonymously.

Our Commissioners changed the original wording and we now have a provision that if a person wants to make a complaint, the charter section says:

“…a complaint may only serve as a basis for a good cause finding if it is signed by an identified person who verifies the contents of the complaint by including the following statement: "Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read the foregoing complaint and that based on my personal knowledge the facts stated in it are true."

“In any case in which the Inspector General determines that a person has filed a complaint with a malicious intent to injure an Official's, Employee's, or Provider's reputation with baseless, spurious, or false accusations, or with a reckless disregard for the truth of the allegations, the complainant shall be liable for all costs incurred by the Inspector General in the investigation of the complaint.”
If you want to make a complaint to those civil or criminal “agencies” you don’t have to live in fear that you will have to pay all the court costs of the investigation, I think you just make a complaint and let the States Attorney, for example, carry out an investigation, if it comes to nothing, no harm no foul; and no fear for you that you will be held responsible for the whole cost of the investigation. And, I think that you can do some ear whispering to point them in the right direction without even signing anything.

Not so with our new IG, I wouldn’t trust that something that I SAY I know is a fact won’t wind up in court with an allegation that I am lying.

I love the idea that not only our elected officials but everyone doing business with government will be under more scrutiny. I love the idea that we will have more Gallaghers, Chaits, and Eggelletions being convicted, and I hope the new IG will find who is responsible for the rampant fraud, bribery, back room deals etc. in Broward County. I will wait and watch to see what happens.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Poll on Police and Fire Salaries

 51% polled think benefits etc. are about right, I wonder what Deerfield Beach residents would say?

http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/12/florida-league-of-cities-poll-on-police.html

 Florida League of Cities Poll on Police and Fire Salaries Shows Public out of Touch Regarding Benefits

An interesting Poll by the Florida League of Cities on Police and Fire Benefits shows the public is way out of touch with how generous police and fire benefits are. When asked if benefits were too high, most thought no. When given actual benefit levels most thought the opposite.

Here are snips from the executive summary and a few questions.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

When it comes to the pay and benefits of police and fire fighters, voters are generally unaware of the array of benefits currently afforded them. Initially and by a large margin most respondents felt these benefits are “about right” or “too low”.

We asked an extended series of questions identifying the assortment of pay and benefits currently provided to most police and fire fighters. Almost without exception, voters feel that most of these benefits are too generous. For example, 63% felt retirement benefits should be consistent with other government employees, 66% opposed 20 years and out, and 73% felt that adding overtime to base calculations was unfair. Further, 70% oppose DROP, 71% felt $70,000 per year average salary was too high, and a whopping 84% felt they should not make the same when they retire as when they are working!

Oddly, more than 60% stated that increasing benefits could bankrupt local government yet 77% do not equate these pension benefits to taxes and instead correlate higher taxes to “other spending and other government programs”.

We can conclude, based on these findings, that the public is largely ignorant or agnostic to benefit packages and salaries currently available to police and fire fighters. However, once they are informed about these benefits, they believe they are excessive and have problems with several of them specifically.

1. Do you think that the salary and benefits provided to police officers and fire fighters are:

Much Too High 9%
Somewhat High 12%
About Right 51%
Too Low 28%

Just over half of respondents said that salaries and benefits provided to police officers and fire fighters are just right.

3. Which of the following comes closer to your opinion?

Police officer and firefighters should be allowed to retire after 20 years of
service because their jobs are hard. 37%
They should have retirement benefits that are consistent with other government employees. 63%

4. In some cities, police officers or firefighters can retire after 20 years of service and receive 80% of their salaries for the rest of their lives. This means that for many, they can retire in their early to mid forties and receive pensions as high as $80,000 per year for the rest of their lives. Do you:

Strongly Support 16%
Somewhat Support 18%
Somewhat Oppose 24%
Strongly Oppose 42%
Support 34%
Oppose 66%

9. If you knew that the retirement pay for an average police officer was over $70,000 per year would you say:
That is Too Low 1%
That it is About Right 28%
That it is Too High 45%
That it is Much Too High 26%

These results show just how effective police and fire unions have been on fearmongering campaigns as well as bitching about how little they get paid and getting the public to believe it.

Cities need to do a far better job at education the public just how exorbitant police and fire contracts are, and that it is tax dollars that support those untenable benefits, putting cities in financial jeopardy.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock

http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Deerfield Beach Residents: Only if you care.

Everyone who cares about what happens to the Main Beach Parking lot should be at the upcoming CRA Workshop Meetings, 1/20/11 and 2/3/11 at 6:00 pm. The January 20th meeting will be held in the Cove Shopping Center’s Royal Fiesta Caterers on the south east side of the center.


The purported purpose of the meetings (which are only being held because Commissioner Bill Ganz insisted on it) is for the commissioners to gather resident input for the 5 year CRA capital improvement plan. This would include plans for Sullivan Park, the Main Beach Parking lot and the other CRA areas.

What is important to me is finding out what is being planned for the Main Beach Parking Lot.

Suggestions for the Main Beach Parking Lot from Keven Klopp, the CRA director, include: Beautification/Modernization Only, Beachfront Park and Integrated Parking, Low Rise Structured Parking, with Community Facilities, with Governmental Facilities, with Commercial Facilities, Amphitheatre. (See his proposal pictures below)

The Director says he wants input from “stakeholders”, and, as everyone in Deerfield Beach has a stake in what happens at our beach, we need to go to this meeting to make sure that there is a cross section of the community represented, and not just the usual lopsided turnout.

It seems that residents and business people, mostly, I imagine, realtors and Chamber of Commerce members, have contacted Mr. Klopp about the parking lot and he asked them to attend the last meeting to voice their preferences. And attend they did! These folks spoke about increasing parking with a garage and were favorable to ideas of commercial development on the lot.

Beach area residents know that there is only a shortage of parking at the beach on certain weather blessed weekends and on holidays, and, no matter how high they stack the garages, that will not change. People, who only go to the beach at those times, really believe there is never enough parking at the beach as their experience of the beach is only on those beautiful weather and warm water days, the rest of us see the mostly empty lot most days of the year.

The speakers had no data to back up their feeling that a garage was needed, and no facts about cost and revenue, all they had was general feeling that we need it.

Mr. Klopp was not here when the residents of Deerfield Beach told the city loud and clear that they did not want commercial development or a parking garage on the city owned beach lot. 75% (80% in some precincts) of the voters said no to the proposal. But like a bad penny, the idea keeps coming back.

The thing we need to keep in mind here for any change is WHO BENEFITS! Let’s make sure it is us, the residents.

We have at least one commissioner who wants to use the lot for a big brand new fire station funded with CRA money.

CRA Director. Klopp is a young ambitious professional looking to his future, and I understand that he wants to increase his chances of getting a job as a city manager sometime by having a lot of projects on his resume, but as we have seen in the past, what is good for the professional resume does not always translate into what is good for the people who live in Deerfield Beach. Let’s make sure what he wants is what WE want.

The commission and the CRA board SAY they want to do what the residents would like, so if you want input into what should be done, if anything, to the main beach parking lot, you need to go to these meetings. If not, the only people who will go are the people who have something to gain from developing the parking lot, and those will be the only people the commission will hear.

Attend the meetings, find out what they want to do, and let them know whether you agree or not. 

CLICK ON CHART FOR LARGER VIEW:



 
 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deerfield Beach Beach Parking Sticker Fee, Still $50

Good news for Deerfield Beach residents. I see from the back of the water bill that the commission has not raised the beach parking permit fee. During the budget process the commissioners voted to raise the fee from $50 to $100. In this economy people may not want to buy the sticker even at $50.

I hope the reason that the fee wasn’t increased was because of an outcry from residents. It would be nice to know the commission was listening to their constituents. We should have some perks as residents; after all it is our taxes that pay for the maintenance of the beach.

Or, perhaps they did an informal survey as I did and found that people who use the beach infrequently just won’t buy a sticker. Many of my neighbors buy a sticker even though they only go to the beach once or twice a month, if that, they said the $50 was worth it for the convenience, however at $100 they said no way! Some said for the infrequent times they go to the beach they would use valet parking and save money over the $100 fee.

I am sure that the $100 fee would increase dramatically, the number of people who park for free at the Cove Shopping Center and walk over the bridge to the beach - that would not be good for the businesses there.

So, here’s a high five to the commission, (unless the fee printed on the back of the water bill was a mistake because they forgot to tell the employee responsible for the printing of the notices about the change, then, high five to whoever made the mistake and gave us a one year reprieve).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What do the residents want for Deerfield Beach's beach parking lot?

 The Main Beach parking lot is a topic of discussion again. It seems that every time we get new people in the city they just itch to come up with some plan for redoing the beach parking lot. The latest is from the CRA meeting.

Because of the budget problems the only place in the city that has money is the CRA* budget. So, because it is there, I guess it is burning a hole in the city pockets. It seems borrowing against its (possible) future revenue doesn’t faze our commission.

The CRA money has enabled the city to do some nice things; the city redid the beach area, side-walks, lights etc. Hillsboro Blvd and the Cove Shopping Center are getting facelifts, all because of the CRA tax increment money.

Now the city wants to know what “we” would like to do at the Main Beach Parking lot.

The attendees at the CRA meeting Monday were asked what they would like to see happen to the lot, the choices were not solicited from the audience but pre selected and presented as:

No Change – Beautification/Modernization Only

Beachfront Park and Integrated Parking

Low Rise Structured Parking

with Community Facilities

with Governmental Facilities

with Commercial Facilities

Amphitheatre

Other
There was no hint of this being a topic at the meeting but obviously some in the audience knew ahead of time and were prepared to advocate for the parking garage etc. The usual suspects popped up and wanted the city to go into debt for millions on a facility that has not been studied as to need; debt that may well have to be paid for years after the CRA sunsets.

This would have been the only public meeting if Bill Ganz had not insisted on more meetings. Deerfield Beach has a long history of ignoring the wishes of the residents. And here we go again.

From the list I deduce that the commission is looking to go to the public for a referendum to eliminate the restrictions in the charter for the Main Beach Parking Lot which prevents any commercial businesses on the lot. That is the only way they could possibly entertain some of the items proposed.

Make sure to keep an eye out for the next meetings on this and get involved, make sure the commission has the facts and shares them, about the money and the need before any project is approved. And, make sure that your voice is heard as loudly as those who will benefit from whatever is done to the lot.

*What is a CRA? Very simply cities are allowed to designate a defined area which is blighted and needs redevelopment. The plans for the area are governed by the Community Redevelopment Agency, which is a group appointed by the city commission, in our case they are the commissioners acting as the agency.

The year the CRA was initiated is the base tax year. The money that is now in the CRA fund came from money that the CRA improvements generated, Tax Increment Funds, which in other parts of the city go to the county as tax money. For example take a building that generated $100 in county taxes in the base year, from that year on, everything over $100 that the building generates goes into the CRA fund, the original $100 still goes to the county.

Because real estate was zooming before the crash, a lot of dollars went into the fund. This is money the city would have had to send to the county if they didn’t have a CRA. The money has strings on it; it can only be used in certain ways, and only in the defined area.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thanks to all volunteers for Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4

To all Amendment 4 volunteers:


Thanks so much for all you did. During our campaign I met wonderful passionate people who care about Florida. This is what I am going to take away with me from our effort, the people and the enthusiasm. We couldn’t fight the lies and the money, but we did make all of Florida aware that the people are fed up with the rubberstamping of overdevelopment and corrupt behavior of our elected officials. I am proud to be a part of Hometown Democracy, and doubly proud to call all of you my friends.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

To Hollywood Commissioners

Dear Mayor and Commissioners,


At least one commissioner has raised with at least one resident the specter of Memorial Hospital expansion requiring a referendum under Amendment 4.

The hospital expansion did not involve a land use change. It would not, therefore, have been covered by Amendment 4.

There are all too many of these "false facts" being bandied about. When they come from elected officials, one result is increased cynicism among the public.

Another is questioning the very competence of our elected officials. This is not helpful for any of us.

Sara Case
Hollywood Resident

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jill ( from North Florida) posted an open letter to Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 supporters:

Jill Yelverton's Blog:
http://floridahometowndemocracyamendment.blogspot.com/2010/10/regaining-control-of-our-communities.html

Regaining control of our communities

I'm not much of a gambler. I get nervous after forking over a dollar for a Lotto ticket. Investing your time, energy and effort into a political campaign has to be the biggest roll of the dice there is.

One of the news channels out of Orlando ran a piece on Amendment 4 today with the introduction: Twenty days until Election Day.

I have to admit, pressure is building.

Never having been involved in anything more political than casting my votes, being involved with Florida Hometown Democracy is teaching me things I never thought I'd learn.

Like, how your opposition can resort to outrageous predications of disaster when the system they are fighting to stay in control of is what has created the economic disaster we are experiencing today. Like confusing people who are unfamiliar with the issues about who the special interests are. Maybe this is just part of the political game.

I know for those of us rooting for Amendment 4 this is not a game. Most of us are regular people who learned a little something about land use and growth management and the way the system works when a developer came into our city or county and proposed a project that was so intolerable; we just couldn't sit back and let it happen without a fight.

When people speak out against a project or development at a city council or county commission meeting, developers are quick to fling the label NIMBY, "not on my backyard," at us.

Well, supporters of Amendment 4 come from all over the state. We are people living in cities such as Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg and Tampa, in rural areas like Gilchrist and Citrus counties and in counties like Pasco and Hernando, St. Lucy and Manatee that fall somewhere in between. In a sense, we have taken on this effort because Florida is our backyard and we care. Not because it's how we make our living, like the developers, home builders and the Realtors who like the way the system works now because it's stacked in their favor, but because we care about the places we live and want more control over how they grow and the quality of our lives.

Amendment 4's opposition admits that Florida has not done a very good job of growth management; they admit that things should change but say that Amendment 4 isn't the answer. They say that because if Amendment 4 passes, it is they who will have to change. They will have to follow the rules and build where we have agreed in our comprehensive plans that growth should occur, not where it is most convenient for them. They want the rest of us to be the ones who have to compromise our quality of life to fit their greedy plans. And make no mistake about it, greed is a factor in this or the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Builders Association, the Florida Association of Realtors and the homebuilders who created the housing bubble wouldn't be forking over millions of dollars to see it fail.

In 20 days we will see the result of a seven-year effort by average people who want to level the playing field for all of us who just want a vote when their elected officials make radical changes to places where they live.

A lot of us are getting a little tired. It's tough being David in a David and Goliath fight. We are also a little scared that for all of our hard work, our truth may be outshone by the glare that a multi-million dollar media blitz can create.

For those of out here working to make this happen, I want to thank Lesley Blackner for having the courage to stand up for the rights of all Floridians who just want to have more than three minutes in front of a microphone at a commission meeting to protect the way they live. For giving us this chance to have the right to vote on issues that impact our property taxes, property values and quality of life.

Keep your chin up, Lesley; it ain't over 'til it’s over.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 gets a MONSTER of a new ad

Amendment 4's new ad goes after monsters and vampires and zombies, click on the video on the right and see this awesome new ad. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Deerfield Beach Ethics Code, NOT US

From an email I received:
"Interesting that these two commissioners were the only commissioners who voted against the Deerfield Code of Ethics."

Friday, October 1, 2010

HUD audit recommends Deerfield Beach reimburse agency more than $200,000

sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/deerfield/fl-deerfield-hud-audit-20101001,0,3985044.story


South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

HUD audit recommends Deerfield Beach reimburse agency more than $200,000


City did not report to HUD relationships of two commissioners to groups receiving money

By Larry Barszewski, Sun Sentinel

1:34 PM EDT, October 1, 2010

Deerfield Beach


A federal audit has criticized the city for not properly administering its Community Development Block Grant program and recommends officials seek reimbursement of more than $200,000 from the city.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development audit found the city awarded HUD funds to two organizations that were related to city officials because "the city lacked effective management controls to ensure compliance with HUD's conflict-of-interest regulations."

"As a result, HUD had no assurance that the city did not practice favoritism in the awarding of the funds," said the audit released this week by HUD's office of inspector general.

The findings surround City Commissioner Sylvia Poitier and former Commissioner Gloria Battles.

In 2009, Poitier voted in favor of $42,211 in two awards to the Haitian American Consortium, even though her dry-cleaning business was listed as the group's corporate address. Battles also voted in favor of an award to the consortium in 2009, even though she was designated as a project director.

Poitier also abstained from a vote awarding a $215,975 grant to the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association, because her daughter was the group's executive director, but the city never disclosed this relationship to HUD, the audit said.

The audit said HUD should seek reimbursement of the money spent on the two groups – $224,742 – and said $33,444 in money not yet disbursed to the Westside association should be put to better use.

In a separate matter, the audit also says more documentation is needed or the city should be required to reimburse $142,248 for unsupported salary allocations.

Copyright © 2010, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

If Only

In his email about his latest post about Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 on his website Jan Bergemann had this tasty quip:


"Have you ever considered how politics would work in Tallahassee if the doggie bags in the Governor's Club, headquarters of the developer lobbyists, would only contain real food left-overs?"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Everybody's a Critic in Deerfield Beach

After last night's (Tuesday) commission meeting I thought this quote (below) from Teddy Roosevelt should be posted. 

There were people in the audience whom I have never seen at a meeting or a budget workshop.  Many of them were upset with their taxes, understandably.  But, some acted surprised at the millage rate and how it came to be higher than last year, they didn't seem to grasp what a roll back rate was, and were angry that the city had not sent them an engraved notice of the budget workshops. If they had attended any of the budget workshops they would have seen the process the staff and commission went through to arrive at the budget for next year. I guess it is not enough for them that the meetings are publicized in the newspapers and posted on the city website, and emailed out to residents who sign up for notices.  I am no fan of the current commission but I did have to step up and defend the city staff against this ridiculous charge, if people in the city don't know about meetings it is their own fault for not paying attention, and getting involved. 

The Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 publicist, Mitch Kates,  has this quote as a footnote to all his emails which is where I saw it.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” T. Roosevelt

Monday, September 6, 2010

OSOBs left out of Deerfield Beach recap.

There was an article in the Pelican Newspaper recently about the history of Deerfield Beach. There was no mention of the part the Original Save Our Beach played in protecting our beach and city. Funny as the author of the article was Judy Wilson who was very vocal about the OSOBs when we were fighting to save the main beach parking lot from a hotel and commercial development, fighting to put back the building codes her commissioner cronies voted out in favor of developers who wanted to build from curb to curb, and fighting to save the Pier from a giant banquet hall restaurant..

Over the years Wilson, when writing for the Observer, progressed from calling the OSOB group “disgruntled housewives”, to “homegrown terrorists” and finally to a “polished political machine”. Her opinion of us never changed, just her perception of our effectiveness. As our group was responsible, more so than any other, for protecting the quality of life in Deerfield Beach, it is surprising that she didn’t mention us at all. Or, maybe it is not so surprising since she never supported any of the OSOB efforts to protect our beach area and the residents' quality of life.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Why elected officials want to water down Ethics Codes

The insidious creeping in of entitlement that turns an elected official corrupt. Keep the Broward County Commission's and the Deerfield Beach Commission's recent actions in mind when you read this:

Very few public officials begin their careers with the intention of becoming corrupt, but then succumb to a sinister form of peer pressure over time. Being placed in a position of significant political power can be overwhelming, and the temptation to bend or break rules for a perceived 'greater good' is always present. How often have you heard a politician say, “I am voting for this because it is good for the city.”

Contrary to the Machiavellian cliché, nice people are more likely to rise to power. Then something strange happens: Authority atrophies the very talents that got them there. Psychologists refer to this as the “paradox of power”. The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Instead of being polite, honest and outgoing, they become impulsive, reckless and rude.

Why does power lead people to flirt with interns and solicit bribes and fudge financial documents? According to psychologists, one of the main problems with authority is that it makes us less sympathetic to the concerns and emotions of others.

Although people almost always know the right thing to do—cheating is wrong—their sense of power makes it easier to rationalize away the ethical lapse. There is no easy cure for the paradox of power. The best treatment is transparency; the worst abuses of power can be prevented when people know they're being monitored. This suggests that the mere existence of a regulatory watchdog can help discourage people from doing bad things.

However, people in power tend to overestimate their moral virtue, which leads them to stifle oversight. They vote against regulations, sometimes there will be lip-service paid but circumventions in practice, and sometimes there will be direct resistance to anti-corruption efforts. Corrupt politicians will defend their vital interests, vehemently and sometimes even violently. The end result is power at its most dangerous.

Sources:

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-corruption.htm

U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, http://www.u4.no

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704407804575425561952689390.html

Deerfield Beach Commissioners FINALLY do the Right Thing

It looks as if the Cove Shopping Center parking lot will get its upgrade after all. After a very long time and lukewarm if not downright hostile reactions by most of Deerfield Beach’s commissioners to a plan developed by residents and business owners, they finally did the right thing and voted to award the contract to fix up the center.


An amusing (or distressing) note, when the Commissioners voted to award the contract, Sylvia at first voted no. When she realized she was the only no vote, she changed her vote to yes. How’s that for the courage of your convictions. Did she really think it was a bad idea, her no vote certainly seemed to indicate that? Did she change her mind in the less than a minute between her no vote and her recantation? I would think not, so whazzz up with the turnaround? Politics is a strange animal. Is it in her mind to pull a switcheroo at the next meeting and try to get the award voided? What other reason could there be to really think something should be voted down, vote no, and then change your vote? (To bring it up again she would have to be on the prevailing side of the vote.) Deerfield certainly has precedent for that, we shafted the local recycling guy, re-member? I hope they get that contract signed ASAP.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Deerfield Beach Residents Discuss the Cove Shopping Center

Keven Klopp did a really great job at last night’s meeting about the Cove Shopping Center. He set it up to encourage participation which was excellent, but best of all he presented a way the project could go forward with very little interruption to business. He is to be commended for the good job. I most likely would have lost my temper at the juvenile antics of some of the business owners, but he stayed cool throughout, and yet gave the message that the project was good for the city and very workable.


I have a friend who works in a store in Boynton in a center very like the Cove. He said they did a complete revision of the Boynton center and the contractors were so good at what they did that they didn’t lose any business at all. The center was renovated in a timely manner and with al-most no dust. This will be our experience also.

I am glad that Mr. Pavone signed the sidewalk easements for his properties, that must make all commissioners feel better about moving forward as his was a strong voice. Commissioners represent not only their friends, and not only the people in their districts, but the residents of the entire city who overwhelmingly are in favor of getting the entrance to their world class beach look less like a third world backward mess and more like what our beach and soon Hillsboro Blvd. show how we care about our city.

The Cove renovation is good for the city. The timing will never please everyone, it can’t. The construction will be better than some believe, and worse than some hope, that is a given. But it will be done at the best time it can be done, during a slow time in the economy, and off season.

The doctor who said there are parking problems is wrong, I go to the shopping center often and I never have to park more than one row away, and usually get a place in front of where I am going even during the season. I remember during the study of this plan, and the workshops some neighbors did a survey of the parking and found that except for Friday night when the Cove Restaurant and, at the time, Charlie’s Crab took all the spots, there was no lack of spots.

His trying to make the point about parking is just an example of the selfish point of view of the doctor and a very few others in the center. Keven explained how the city would bend over back-wards to provide parking and a shuttle.

More typical is how Dr. and Mrs. Bruno and Robert of the Fiesta feel as well as how the resi-dents who participated in the Charettes feel. One Cove resident told me, “I participated in all the meetings the city had and never saw any improvement; I will not go to any more meetings!” They are disgusted that it has taken so long. They are happy that Keven has finally gotten started and expect the city to honor their promises.

Remember the recycling mess when the contract was voted and then taken back, the credibility of the city was damaged greatly. This is similar to that.

Sylvia’s idea of knocking the whole place down is impossible as there are too many owners and no rich billionaire developer waiting to buy them out. A yes vote will upset some people; a no vote will upset some people, residents and businesses alike. All commissioners should take it as a given that they will not make everybody happy and do the right thing for the entire city.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another Deerfield Beach Cove Shopping Center Meeting

Subject: New Event Cove Shopping Center Parking Lot Reconstruction Project



Meeting  5 p.m. August 24th, City Hall




Could they have come up with a worse time? 5pm, on Election Day.

Or perhaps it's a perfect time, dinner time for families, and a good time to make sure no working people can be there, they are voting or commuting.  Then they can say no one cares.

And, what's up with another meeting anyway, we had meetings galore, 250 people had a say, the design was finalized. Nothing has changed.

Except that it is a better time than ever to do the renovation, the economy is slow and the disruption will be minimal. Now because 3-4 disgruntled shop owners want to stop the construction and keep the center looking like a slum, we have ANOTHER meeting.

What a joke. I will be there, but my instinct is to say what's the use, they don't listen anyway, which I am sure the neighbors of the cove will say, and what the Mayor is counting on.

Mrs. Bruno said it well, you promised us, she said, and now you are going back on that. Shame on you.

Sylvia's pie in the sky idea of making this into a River Walk could never happen, she knows it and we know it, and as Mizner Park and the Ft. L Riverwalk are broke, not a good idea at all.

People who want a parking garage know it is not a good idea for the city to partner in that, it is a BIG money loser and will make the entrance to our beach area look terrible, they have selfish reasons for wanting the city to spend money on a garage.

So, what's the holdup. Who will make money from this not happening?????  Answer that and you will know why we are having another useless meeting.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Oxymoron of the Day: Ethical Politician It’s not only Deerfield Beach. Surprise! (Not.)

In Deerfield Beach we had Mayor Noland, as soon as she was elected, jumping to eliminate the Deerfield Beach Ethics code quickly seconded by Joe Miller. She placed an item on the agenda to rescind it, not to study it, but to get rid of it altogether. The other commissioners, most of whom I assume felt the same way but didn’t want to endure the wrath of the electorate decided to have a committee review the code. The end result is a watered down version of what they had.

That pales in comparison to what the Broward County Commission is planning. According to newspaper reports the commission is going to approve their proposed new code, if they don’t by law it will go to the voters. But, what then?????

Here's what:  reinforcing everything people say about elected officials becoming co-opted by the allure of the office, turned by the trappings of power and slipping over to the dark side as a result of believing what lobbyists whisper into their ears, they plan to gut it.  I assume in the same meeting so as not to have more than a few minutes to abide by the code. They will promptly water it down so much that I’m guessing anyone who is in the vicinity should plan on wearing hip high waders.

County Attorney Fox DDS has suggestions about how to pull its teeth.


From the Sun Sentinel:
Ethics reform dismantling draws quick foes in Broward

By Brittany Wallman August 5, 2010 05:30 PM

Broward County commissioners will pass historic ethics reforms Tuesday. Immediately after-wards, they'll consider watering them down and exempting themselves and family members from some of the new rules.Steam is rising from the county’s Ethics Commission, which spent more than a year crafting the new standards of conduct that voters demanded in 2008.
Ethics commission board member Bob Wolfe called the proposed exemptions “despicable, dis-gusting, and outrageous’’ and said they’d “gut’’ the law.

“We don’t want to see any more of this [corruption] go on. You get a choice to be in public ser-vice,’’ Wolfe said. “Either abide by the rules or go do something else.’’
Read the rest click here


From the Broward Beat by Buddy Nevins:
Can the ethically challenged Broward County Commission sink any lower?

Commissioners will consider next week a set of amendments to gut proposed ethics reform.
The amendments are supposedly authored by the county attorney’s office. I see the hand of Commissioner Ilene Lieberman in this.

Lieberman has consistently argued against ethics reform. She has been accused in the past of using the county attorney’s office to further her aims of derailing any new ethics laws.
Read the rest click here

From the Morning Pulp by Bob Norman:

-- In the latest outrageous bit of behavior from our delinquent Broward County Commission, there is a new plan afoot to gut the new ethics reform. The insidious plan (as it appears on the agenda): The commission will pass the ethics proposals put forth by the Broward County Ethics Commission as they are, as required by law, and then immediately vote on amendments that would exclude themselves and family members from having to follow some of them. Among them is the key provision to bar them and their relatives from lobbying in Broward County.

Read the rest click here 
As you might guess, I will bring this back to why Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 exists. It exists precisely because of the lack of principles of too many of our elected officials, and because of the short sightedness of too many more of them.

Will a code ensure ethical behavior? I know that’s a laugh. But it must do something or else the commissioners wouldn’t be so against it. What are they so afraid of? Follow the money, that’s the answer.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cove Shopping Center Bids Opened

The three bids for the Cove Shopping Center parking lot improvements were opened today at 2:00 pm. The bidders were given instructions to come in with a base price, and then bid separately on a list of upgrades. The bids were opened and the prices read out which I copied (if there are errors in the numbers it is because I heard wrong) This is what they look like:  (click on the image for larger version)

Friday, July 30, 2010

LEEDS designation may give bragging rights but costs TOO much!!

You might want to go to the Commission meeting next Tuesday 8/3.

Next year’s budget will be presented.  And, there will be a discussion about whether to initiate a utility fee, essentially a tax on electricity, gas, and other utilities. Almost everyone else in Broward County has the fee so Deerfield Beach’s staff says we should also. (Let's see, how does that go, I hear my mother's voice, "If everyone jumps off a bridge would you jump also").  I want to hear what the commission says about this.

And, there will be a discussion on whether the new pier project should be LEEDs certified. I think using “green” materials is wonderful, but going for the LEEDS certification is too expensive. I’m all for green, but skip the actual certification process it is not worth an additional $100,000.



Green is an expensive designation
By Melody Hanatani


http://www.smdp.com/Articles-c-2009-05-06-58973.113116_Green_is_an_expensive_designation.html


"We do not seek LEED certification for new construction because it's expensive," Joan Ling, the executive director of CCSM, said last week during an interview about a series of new construction projects the developer is undertaking. "


…But there are a series of other developments in the city that were built with a whole slate of sustainable features in mind, which together could qualify them for certification.


The reason why the developers didn't go for the designation could be the money.


John Zinner, a locally-based LEED project manager, estimates that the soft costs of going for certification could range roughly from $40,000 to $200,000, depending on the size of the project.

"We're talking just the design process, not the hard cost," Zinner, a former city planning commissioner who worked on the Sustainable City Plan, said.


Established in 1998, LEED has grown as a benchmark for acceptable environmental design, an industry standard for which projects are considered sustainable in offsetting impacts caused from construction and operations.

The Green Building Certification Institute, which manages the LEED program for the U.S. Green Building Council, charges developers a fee to register their project and get the process started, which costs $450 for members and $600 for non-members.

Then there's the certification fee that comes after the application and supporting documents are filed, which is all based on the size of the project and square footage, ranging from $1,750 to $17,500 for members to $2,250 to $22,500 for non-members.


Applicants are also required to hire a commissioning agent who checks to be sure the project is operating properly. The price of the agent's service depends on the project size, but generally start at about $15,000, said Brenden McEneaney, the green building program adviser for City Hall.


Then there are the extras, including a consultant, which is not required, to help navigate the applicant through what can be a time-consuming and complicated process to achieve certification, including filing and tracking all of the paperwork.

"You need someone who understands how the system works," Zinner said. "There are a lot of people out there who have studied the system."

Ling estimated that going for LEED certification could add about $100,000 to a project.”
I rest my case.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Deerfield Uncensored Blog is Back!

The New Deerfield Uncensored Blog posts their aggressive opinions, using strong language, about what is going on in Deerfield Beach.  I guess they got too close to the truth for someone who felt threatened and fought back.   The New Deerfield Uncensored blog was hacked and shut down according to their post. But they are back with a vengeance! See blog list on the right or click above.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deerfield Beach's Tam O'Shanter Golf Course Solution

I attended a refreshingly pleasant meeting last night about the land use of the closed Tam O’Shanter golf course in Crystal Lake. This is a tale of a land owner/developer who after trying to push his ideas on a neighborhood, let the neighborhood lead the way to a solution; working together with a lot of give and take, they came up with a solution that will work for all.


The golf course has been closed for years during which time the owner tried to push through various plans, all needing land use change approval by the commission. The commission, faced with hundreds of irate Crystal Lake residents (and voters) turned down the owner, Ralph Little’s idea of housing and then his idea of dredging to make a lake (actually an idea to mine the dirt and sell it over a period of years).

Another idea, just before the current one, was a virtual bribe to the city to allow up to 500 housing units on half of the property for giving the other half to the city for ball fields. The residents went ballistic over this; hundreds of housing units jammed into the back nine and a ball field full of noi-sy kids and bright lights far into the evening on the other half.

Remember the residents bought on a golf course for a reason. When they bought they had no idea that the course would be closed; in fact they paid extra for the privilege of living on a lovely green expanse with no noise and no one there at night (I can just imagine the spiel the realtor gave them about living on lovely green open space forever). Then a string of events, one on top of another, caused their quality of life as well as their home values to crash. The golf course was closed and turned into a brown hay field, and the economy crashed. They had to fight time and time again to prevent the city commission from making things worse. The desperate residents were angry and frustrated.

Here comes the really great part. One of the area residents Rita Reagon came up to Mr. Little with an idea about using the entire course as a memorial park (cemetery). He looked into it, found a family owned chain that has some successful, low key beautifully landscaped memorial parks.

More good stuff: Little spoke to some other residents who were delighted with the idea, and who then went door to door in the neighborhood to get an idea of how the change would be accepted by the rest of the neighbors, they found that the residents were overwhelmingly in favor of the idea.

Last evening Mr. Little and Ms. Reagon conducted a town meeting on the concept. We heard from Mr. Little and the Memorial Park owners, they showed how the park would be landscaped, answered questions about entry and exit, told about the walking path on the perimeter, the ponds which would be retained, and the renovation to the clubhouse and maintenance buildings which would be renovated and used.

The best part, this solution is all about a neighborhood protecting their quality of life. This solution may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is THEIRS. It is not about city commissioners deciding what is best for the city without regard to the residents, and it is not (any more) about a golf course owner trying to squeeze the most bang for his buck out of the property, it is about the people, it is about what is fair and right, and it is about a wonderful compromise. This is all about a way keep land that is designated for open green space open and green.

Congratulations to the residents and owner who worked this out. It is a shame that this is such a rare happening, it should be the norm.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Deerfield Beach Cove Shopping Center Still Iffy?????

The pre-bid meeting for the Cove Shopping Center Parking Lot Improvements was held at the Royal Fiesta today. The contractors who passed the initial screening were present to hear about the project. The 3 who were chosen to be there today were picked on the basis of their phase-in plans; this meeting was to give them a look at the center and some oral guidelines.

Keven Klopp, the city CRA director, opened the meeting by saying that after picking the low bid, it would be up to the CRA Board to OK it. He said the bidder would have to convince the residents, businesses and the board that there will be as little disruption to business as possible if the project was going to go ahead.

Oops, I thought, right away there is a red flag. This was a very lukewarm introduction. OMG! THIS PROJECT WAS AGREED ON IN 2005!!! Approved by the CRA Board, the City Commission and the majority of businesses and residents of the area, and NOW we hear it might still not go through. IT SHOULD ALREADY BE DONE!!! What’s the problem? The lot will be done in sections and there will be a shuttle to ferry customers from parking area to the stores or offices. There will be at least 90 parking spots open at all times.

Sure, getting 18 owners and 25 businesses to agree on any plan is next to impossible. Getting Business owners to look past the year long disruption of the lot to the benefit of having a beautiful center seems to be also not possible.

BUT, this is a city owned lot; this is right smack in the eye of every person on the way to the beach. It is a sin it was allowed to get to this point, and because the lot was not maintained by the city properly in the past it will take more time to renovate it. BUT we deserve to have a beautiful shopping center gateway to the beach.

During the meeting there were a few warnings to the contractors that the project might be delayed, and that even though they agree to hold their prices for 90 days it could go to 6 months and might go to bid again. The contractors looked a little sick, probably thinking that they were going to do a whole lot of work with no guarantee that the job would even be done. They were most unhappy campers.

Commissioner Joe Miller was also visibly upset to think that the project might be put on hold. He mentioned complaints he was hearing. He is solidly behind the idea and doesn’t want any delays.

I blame a few vocal and most likely highly connected self serving owners or residents. But, if this is held up or cancelled the commissioners are the only ones to blame. They have the power to get it going, or to drag their feet while making lame excuses about the economy and businesses. The same excuse would be used if business were booming as it is now when business is slow.

This simply doesn’t wash.

If this project is held up it is because certain commissioners are playing favorites, forgetting that it was the MAJORITY of residents in the neighborhood, and the MAJORITY of businesses who designed the future direction of the center in workshop after workshop. Forgetting just who it is they represent.

If a few are unhappy, well that’s life. What is best for the city is what counts. Get it done now in order to attract new business to the center, and to increase traffic to the shops that are there. If that takes some oomph to get the recalcitrant businesses to sign on, so be it. If that takes a few months of making do, so be it, the payoff in the long run will be huge. The faster we get started the faster it will get done.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

We're Number 1!!


Yet Another Poster Child for Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4

Another chapter in the saga of Broward County Bribery "R" Us:

Another elected official arrested, Commissioner Patte Atkins-Grad of Tamarac is accused of bribery and unlawful compensation. According to the Sun Sentinel article, prosecutors said one of the first things she did, after being elected, was to accept $4,000 cash from a developer to fund her victory party. There are also many others under investigation; subpoenas are flying around Broward County like confetti.

What does it mean? Are Broward County’s prosecutors finally catching up to the other Florida Counties and actually investigating corruption? Our county has been very lax in this area. Or are they only opportunists piggy backing on the feds arrest of Broward County Commissioner Joe Eggelletion and trying to look good by cracking down on elected officials who were already ratted out by their fellow miscreant.

It seems that all the Broward prosecutor really had to do is sit with a tape recorder when Joe, trapped by the FBI, told about accepting gifts and cash from the developer brothers Shawn and Bruce Chait to get the land use changes they wanted and then keep the tape going when the Chaits, I assume hoping for some leniency in sentencing, informed on the others, such as Atkins-Grad, that they did “favors” for. Not too much detecting involved here, but it does look good for the arrest statistics. Ah, well, at least some of the rats are trapped.

This brings up an interesting question. If the land use change was granted because commissioners were bribed, should it be reversed? What was the vote margin, were the non-bribed commissioners influenced by the passionate advocacy of the bribed ones? This is something that must be looked into. It is wrong to let the change stand.

Think how furious the residents must be, who in good faith, appealed to their elected officials to do the right thing and deny the Chait’s request to change their golf course land use from recreational to high density residential; yet another poster child for Amendment 4.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Deerfield Beach Residents, Come on Over!

This past Thursday, Commissioner Bill Ganz held another District 4 meeting. A word of advice to people in Districts 1, 2 and 3: if you want to know what is going on in the city trek on over and sit in on Bill’s regularly held meetings. The city website has the time and place posted.

Don’t wait for Mayor Peggy Noland to hold a town meeting, (scarce as hen’s teeth), or Joe Miller to actually hold a meeting, or in that infrequent event to bring up or deal with anything controversial.

Don’t hold your breath waiting to learn anything about District 2 or anything else going on in the city at Commissioner Poitier’s occasional, single topic, self serving meetings; all you will hear is broad sweeping rants about injustice and why “her people” should vote for her, and some inflammatory nonsense about how badly the city treats her. People in glass houses….

Oh, yes, you folks in District 3, if you had come across the street to Bill’s meeting you would have found out what a district meeting looks like, you would have had the novel experience of finding out what’s going on with code enforcement, what services our city provides for senior citizens at the Focal Point center, what really happened at the Mango festival fiasco, what is going on with 10th street and the MPO’s plans, and what’s happening with the city budget (we have a new philosophy of budget development); you would have learned that even with cuts, something like 45 to 60 part-timers are being RIFfed (Reduction In Force), your taxes will most likely still go up, and why. You would have heard our new BSO chief, and met his handsome new second in command.

And, best of all, you would have been given a chance to ask questions of city staff and Commissioner Ganz, and, he would have listened to your long winded rants politely (mostly) and (gasp! unbelievable as this might be to a member of another district) would have acted on your concern if there was anything the city could do to address it.

The cookies are good, the water is cold and the coffee hot (well, they forgot the creamer, I know, picky, picky!) so next time, come on over!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mike Mayo Votes Yes on Amendment 4

A reluctant vote for Amendment 4, an emphatic vote against corruption

We can't trust politicians with development; is it time to trust ourselves?

Michael Mayo

News Columnist

6:29 PM EDT, June 19, 2010


If I asked 100 people what a comprehensive land-use plan is and if they'd want the chance to vote on it every time their local government changes it, I'm pretty sure the response would be, "Com-pre-what?"

But when I ask South Floridians if they'd like to have a direct say in approving big new projects that would change their towns — say converting a golf course into condos, or a cow pasture into a mall — usually the answer is, "Yes."

Which brings us to Amendment 4, the hot-button initiative that's coming to ballot booths in November.

If at least 60 percent of Florida voters ratify Amendment 4, all future land-use changes would have to be approved by voters in local referendum.

In theory, the idea sounds reasonable. It's an understandable reaction to rampant growth and the feeling that local governments have given away the store to developers and lobbyists.

But in practice, I don't know how it's going to work.

For every big and controversial project that will have to pass voter muster, the proposal could add a handful — or scores — of arcane matters to ballots already teeming with candidates, amendments and local items. And it could end up stifling plenty of worthwhile developments.

Even with the amendment's potential for unintended consequences, a Mason-Dixon poll released last month showed support at 61 percent. And 21 percent of voters said they were undecided.

That tells me two things:

1) Amendment 4 has a serious chance.

2) The level of disgust and distrust with the Developer-Lobbyist-Politician Vortex has gotten so intense, voters are willing to gamble on the unknown.

"Even if I had to vote on 900 things, I'd rather do that than have things the way they are now," said Bett Willett, of Deerfield Beach. "We need a seat at the table."

Willett is an Amendment 4 supporter and Broward County Planning Council member who's been active with the Hometown Democracy movement.

Headed by Palm Beach attorney Lesley Blackner, Hometown Democracy got Amendment 4 on the ballot with a lengthy petition drive that snagged more than 700,000 signatures.

The initiative scares the dickens out of developers, business interests and local politicians.

Naturally, they're coming out against Amendment 4 in full force. Opposition groups have raised nearly $5 million, with big money still pouring in. Expect a barrage of attack ads heading into November.

And expect a host of anti-Amendment 4 "educational" efforts sponsored by local governments. On Thursday, for example, the Broward League of Cities hosted an event that featured an Amendment 4 opponent. The opening reception was sponsored by Ruden McClosky, the big law firm that represents many developers locally.

Some opponent concerns are valid, but there's going to be plenty of distortions and hype. After all, current land-use plans allow Florida to grow from its current population near 19 million to 80 million residents. Perhaps landowners will just have to figure out a way to deal with the constraints.

When I first wrote about Amendment 4 last year, I was leaning against it. My rule of thumb: If I don't fully understand an amendment or its consequences, just vote no.

I still have my misgivings, but the more I see the power brokers squirm, the more I think, "What the heck — maybe it's time to try something different."

Especially after seeing the spate of corruption convictions in Broward and Palm Beach County politics in recent years, including the one where former Broward Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion admitted to taking a bribe from developers who wanted to build condos on a golf course.

When the game is stacked like that, what chance do ordinary citizens have?

Maybe Amendment 4 runs counter to the basics of representative democracy, in which we vote for officeholders and they make the decisions.

But when representative democracy turns into a kleptocracy — sold to the highest bidder, constituents be damned — maybe it's time for a radical correction. Maybe it's time for voters to trust themselves more than the limited pickings they put into office.

Amendment 4 would provide one more check and balance on a system that has swung too far out of balance.

If it passes, the politicians, lobbyists and developers have only themselves to blame.

Michael Mayo can be reached at mmayo@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4508. Read his blog online weekdays at sunsentinel.com/mayoblog.

sun-sentinel.com/news/columnists/fl-amendment-4-mayocol-b062010-20100619,0,3125918.column South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
Copyright © 2010, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Not you too, Joe?

Last night (Tuesday) Deerfield Beach commissioners, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency Board (CRA), considered the recommendation of the Real Estate Consulting Services Review Committee to contract with The Urban Group for consulting services to the CRA for the purpose of deciding what properties in the CRA area should be bought by the city.

Ho hum, boring, this is a no brainer, thought I. I am not in favor of spending city money on properties for developers, but the commission, it seems, is.

The review committee went over many proposals and ranked the Urban Group the highest. The Urban Group has experience with CRAs and came out in the raking on top of all other bids so I assumed (yeah, I know) the commissioners would respect the work of the committee and pick them.

But, I forgot, this is Deerfield Beach. Sylvia immediately interrupted with a comment about how Campbell & Rosemurgy should be the one.

Keven Klopp, wearing his hat as CRA Director patiently explained that a local firm would most likely have conflicts and although Rosemurgy ranked high, the Urban Group ranked higher, and was an out of town company which would lower the possibility of conflict. He mentioned however that the location of the company did not enter into the ranking of the committee, and the Urban Group was still the highest. Sylvia didn’t like hearing that. Not to be outdone by Sylvia, Joe piped up with a comment about Dreyer’s REMAX firm, and wanted to know how they ranked. Dreyer lives near Miller and they are good friends.

Keven patiently went over the process and the thinking behind the choice and again got a lecture from Sylvia which had no point that I could discern. Come the vote and The Urban Group was turned down.

I guess Joe wanted Dryer, Sylvia wanted Rosemurgy and Marty, who had not said anything during the entire discussion, must have been thinking of what he owed to his campaign donators and also voted no.

The beat goes on in Deerfield Beach, I am not even mildly surprised about Sylvia and Marty, however I thought better of Miller. I really was surprised that he apparently chose a personal friendship over the recommendation of the committee especially in light of the fact that he so often mentions his morals and ethics and religious beliefs.

When it was his turn to vote, he paused, made a bunch of faces, furrowed his brow, and pursed his lips as though the decision between a friend and the good of the city was a really hard decision. Then he voted no.

I was really disappointed in him.

Now, the commissioners are going to look over the proposals themselves. WHAT WAS THE REASON FOR A SELECTION COMMITTEE????? I guess they want to rationalize why their friends should get the contract and not the best firm.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fred Grimm gets heat over article on Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4

After Fred Grimm of the Miami Herald wrote: Fat cats hate slow-growth amendment (see article below) he's been getting a lot of nasty emails from developers. When an Amendment 4 supporter wrote him to compliment him on the story he replied that he was being bombarded with ugly comments.

My letter to Fred:
You are so right that in a perfect universe we would not need Amendment 4. But, as you noted Florida is far from perfect.

I have been working to get A4 passed for years in spite of the dirty tricks the opponents have used. Sadly the YOLO gang and their hand picked and financed politicians have had free reign over Florida for decades, and they don't want that power taken away from them.

Their arguments are the whining of spoiled brats who just cannot see why they cannot continue having their way in spite of what they have done to our quality of life, ecology and water supply.

Because of what they and their not-often-enough-convicted bought and paid for commissioners have done to Florida, WE the people, who have been ridiculed, ignored, and disenfranchised by our "representatives" are fighting back. We want a seat at the table.

When I first started to collect signatures for Florida Hometown Democracy I went to events and gatherings, when people heard what we were doing they were eager to sign, and very often they stayed to tell me tales of what happened to them in their communities when they dared question what the city commissioners were doing.

One told me that the Mayor called her a weirdo; all had an instance of some overdevelopment horror, and frequently they rubbed their fingers together indicating that they thought the politicians were bought by developers.

I could tell you many similar instances of my city, Deerfield Beach, where the land speculators got their way in spite of outraged uproar by the residents.

Please, Fred, keep up the fight against the YOLO crowd. And, be ready to have very powerful people try to shut you up.

After all, real journalism is rapidly disappearing, in part, because the advertisers don't want their feelings hurt, and fearing loss of revenue, editors kowtow to them.

Why else would the editorial staff come out against Amendment 4? Any right thinking person who cares about the future of Florida will welcome it.

Fat cats hate slow-growth amendment

BY FRED GRIMM
fgrimm@MiamiHerald.com

Power boys do love YOLO, Fort Lauderdale's slickest pickup joint, where they can valet their Italian sports cars, order Cristal and make believe that pretty girls in tiny dresses are oblivious to pot bellies, thinning hair and acute Viagra dependency.

Wednesday night was different. The lobbyists, builders and business titans who gathered at YOLO, just across Las Olas Boulevard from Scott Rothstein's old law offices, were more interested in deluding voters than young women.

They came to kill Hometown Democracy, or at least raise a couple of hundred grand toward defeating the proposed constitutional amendment.

Outside the restaurant, a few dozen decidedly less flashy demonstrators carried signs supporting the slow-growth amendment. One placard, featuring a black feline in silhouette, said, ``Yes Amendment 4. No Fat Cats.''

Fat cats hate restrictions they'd endure under Amendment 4, which would require voter approval before Florida cities or counties approve developments prohibited by comprehensive land-use plans.

The amendment would cripple Florida's construction industry and stifle the state economy, they argue.

The catch phrase among the YOLO set was ``job killer.''

Despite such foreboding, polls indicate 61 percent of Florida's likely voters are apt to vote yes. It hardly matters whether the amendment would actually improve governance. Just the fact that the YOLO gang opposes No. 4 inspires a yes -- make that hell yes -- vote.

It's just too much to hear talk of good government from the same selfish interests who transformed South Florida into mindless sprawl, creating Ground Zero for a nightmare recession with a giant inventory of foreclosed houses, deserted shopping centers and unsold condos.

They invented this Ponzi-scheme economy based on perpetual growth that forces older residents to pay ever-escalating taxes to finance roads and other infrastructure in new developments.

Voters watched as representative democracies were supplanted by lootocracies, with city and county commissioners acting as wholly-owned subsidiaries of lobbyists, voting to approve whatever awful project could come up with the requisite campaign contributions. Or, as the unfolding scandal in Broward has revealed, outright bribes.

In a perfect universe Amendment 4 would amount to a lousy idea. But in Florida's universe, state and local governments have evolved into retail outlets. (Only the occasional federal indictments deters the influence business.) South Florida has devolved into a place where the single most powerful person in government has no official capacity. The self-proclaimed ``super lobbyist'' Ron Book, by the way, hates Amendment 4.

Retiring Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson, a champion of actual government reform, understands the frustrations propelling Hometown Democracy. But she worries that special interests will simply pour gobs of developer money into low-turnout land-use referendums with expensive campaigns designed to ``confuse the issue.''

The YOLO gang ought to steal her much more persuasive argument: ``Vote no on Amendment 4 because us fat cats will get what we want anyway. We always do.

``Vote yes. Vote no. Who cares? We win either way.

``Hey, baby. Wanna take a ride in my fat cat's Maserati?''

Friday, June 11, 2010

County Corrects Deerfield Beach Commissioners' Mistake

Thank you, thank you, and thank you!!! Broward County Commissioners voted 8-1 to defeat David Eller’s proposal to change part of the Deerfield Country Club from recreational to industrial. (Why? Can you spell A-M-E-N-D-M-E-N-T 4? So perhaps we should thank Florida Hometown Democracy.)

The results are in; Deerfield Beach Commissioners Noland, Poitier and Popelsky are official rubber stampers. No matter what fat cat comes along, they bend over and say yes. No perceivable brain activity between request and approval. The county, thank your lucky stars, said they wanted more information; wanted to make sure the land use change was good for the county; the terrible three just said yes.

With almost no thought given to the repercussions of their acts, they approve whatever the lobbyists pitch. Good-by representative government. We have government by the buddy system. If you are the commissioner’s buddy, you get what you want. Peggy’s and Sylvia’s good friends at Sun Recycling get a “Sure buddy, don’t worry about taxpayers dollars, even though you are more expensive who cares, you’re our friend so here’s the contract on a silver platter”. Popelsky was ready to give them the contract when it was a quarter of a million over the other bid. HOW DOES THAT MAKE SENSE FOR THE TAXPAYER???

They said of course, buddy Eller, it is a shame you can’t add to your millions with a profitable golf course (which I understand used to be well maintained, but when I played it last month was so bad I wouldn’t waste my money on it again) who cares that Fairway Drive is too small for the traffic, and Hillsboro is already rated F, don’t worry that Broward County is totally built out and has precious few open spaces left, and there are acres of empty industrial and commercial spaces begging for tenants. Those things pale in comparison to buddy Eller and his cronies’ need to make a quick buck. Yes, of course they knew what they were buying when they bought the golf course, and it wasn’t an industrial zone.

How dare they!! Have they no shame! Our city is gasping for funds and they throw away thousands on a recycling contract. Hillsboro Boulevard is drowning in traffic, (at 3:30 last Wednesday it took me 20 minutes to go from Powerline to 95) but the knee-jerk three voted yes for 31 acres of industry.

Take the traffic from that misbegotten venture and add in future hundreds of cars from the high density plan next to the Tri-rail station and forget any movement on Hillsboro between 3:30 and 6:00 any weekday.

Let’s see now what did they swear to when they took the oath of office?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rally Pictures







Demonstration in Ft. Lauderdale for Florida Hometown Democracy

http://lynn-a.blogspot.com/:

From senior citizens, a city commissioner, a candidate running against Ron Klein for Congress, to college students, there were about 40 people who demonstrated in front of the YOLO Restaurant last evening with our hand-made Vote YES signs while we watched Mercedes after Mercedes pull up to drop off those who are considered by some to be the crème de la crème-- influential with tons of money and everything to lose--they got the best parking spots.


From a car that was owned by Scott Rothstein who just got sentenced to 50 years in prison to Wayne Huizenga, and people adorned with Rolexes dressed as if they stepped out of Vogue with pockets full of cash, all came to give a lot of money to defeat Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4.As they are caught up in the rapture of lies and influence, I couldn’t help but think that some people really have no clear understanding of this Amendment.


They were there to rub shoulders with the rich, famous and infamous no matter what. They have been told over and over again by the Chamber of Commerce that this will be bad for business and they have gone along with the sham.


On the other side of the fence we were all dressed for the occasion and all with a common message: "Our communities, homes and taxes are far too important to leave to politicians and lobbyists," said Bett Willett, a Deerfield Beach community activist and local Amendment 4 leader. "We deserve a seat at the table and a vote."Read about it in the Sun Sentinel"


Mismanaged growth destroys communities," said group president Blackner. Amendment 4 will simply add "another layer of protection against unwanted developments."Rising taxes, falling home values, gridlocked roads, dwindling water supplies and Florida’s disappearing beauty are just some of the devastating consequences of Florida politicians’ habit of rubber stamping speculative plan changes.

Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 changes all that by giving voters veto power over these changes to your community’s master plan for growth.
















Vote YES on 4 this November 2.
Posted by Lynn Anderson at 9:15 AM
Labels: Fla Hometown Democracy





Pictures from Wednesday's Amendment 4 Rally:







Friday, June 4, 2010

Phew! Doesn't pass the smell test

http://www.browardbulldog.org/?p=1289

Conflicting interests and questions about a Florida Supreme Court justice’s vote
3 June 2010, 4:37 am

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Charles T. Wells Retiring Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles T. Wells knew he faced a conflict of interest in his relationship with his future employer at Orlando’s GrayRobinson when he disqualified himself from cases involving the law firm on Dec. 30, 2008.

But that did not stop him 30 days later from participating in a ruling that, in effect, backed a statewide political fight led by prominent members of his soon-to-be employer.

The group that lost the ruling – Florida Hometown Democracy – now wonders if Justice Wells’ vote was unduly influenced by his employment opportunity at GrayRobinson.

“It doesn’t smell good,” said Palm Beach environmental attorney Lesley Blackner, Florida Hometown Democracy’s president. “When I found out he was going to work for GrayRobinson it seemed like there was a high potential for conflicts of interest.”

Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to perform their duties impartially, and to disqualify themselves when their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The canons specifically say that judges negotiating for employment with a law firm are “disqualified from any matters in which that law firm appeared.”

Wells voted on Jan. 29, 2009 to deny Hometown Democracy’s motion to rehear a decision the court had made six weeks earlier to approve a controversial growth management ballot petition. Both votes were 4-3.

The petition’s sponsor was Floridians for Smarter Growth, a competing political action committee bankrolled by developers and statewide business interests. Smarter Growth’s measure is not on this year’s ballot because supporters did not collect enough signatures, but could be in 2012.

Hometown Democracy’s proposed growth management initiative is on the November ballot as Amendment 4. If approved by 60 percent of Florida’s voters, it would amend the state constitution to require voter approval of changes to comprehensive land-use plans.

Supporters say Amendment 4 would give citizens veto power over unwanted growth. Opponents say it will lead to higher taxes, stunted growth, lost jobs and lawsuits.

Broward Bulldog reported in April how Justice Wells took a senior job at GrayRobinson weeks after authoring the Dec. 18, 2008 opinion that approved Smarter Growth’s ballot petition. The Bulldog also reported how Wells failed to file state required final financial disclosure forms upon his retirement the following March. The forms were filed after the news site asked him about it.

NO CONNECTION?
Wells said in interviews in April and May that there is no connection between his vote as a public judge and his job as a private attorney. He said he got the job because of his longtime friendship with firm co-founder J. Charles Gray, and was free to cast his Smarter Growth vote because “the case had nothing to do with GrayRobinson, directly or indirectly.”

GrayRobinson, however, was strongly aligned with Floridians for Smarter Growth and its creator and funder, the Florida Chamber of Commerce. And for at least six years, its lawyers have had an ongoing interest in the PAC’s fortunes as leaders of the big-money fight to defeat Hometown Democracy.

GrayRobinson announced it had hired Wells in early March 2009. Terms were not released.
Wells does not recall the date he was hired. But on Dec. 30, 2008 he sent an email to Supreme Court Clerk Thomas Hall declaring that he would step aside from cases involving GrayRobinson and another possible employer.

“I need to recuse from cases in which the Bryant Olive firm and the Gray Robinson firm are counsel. Thanks,” Wells wrote. Bryant Miller Olive is headquartered in Tallahassee.
Wells, who served as chief justice from 2000-2002, declined to discuss why he wrote the memo, which was made public by the Supreme Court at Broward Bulldog’s request.
Ross Burnaman is a Tallahassee attorney who represented Hometown Democracy in the Smarter Growth case and in other matters. He said he was not informed of Wells’ recusal in cases involving GrayRobinson.

“The GrayRobinson firm was not representing any party of record in any cases I did while [Wells] was on the court. And beyond that I don’t have any comment on this,” Burnaman said.

BIG GUNS
GrayRobinson, one of the largest law firms in the state with about 220 lawyers in 10 offices, did not represent Smarter Growth. Its lawyers, however, have worked to defeat Hometown Democracy – Smarter Growth’s lone adversary – since 2004.

At the forefront of that anti-Hometown Democracy effort is GrayRobinson senior partner Frederick Leonhardt, a top lobbyist in Tallahassee, major Republican fundraiser and a member of the quasi-public government agency Enterprise Florida.

Leonhardt is on the policy-setting boards of five influential groups opposed to Amendment 4. The most powerful is the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Leonhardt first spoke out against Hometown Democracy as chamber chairman in 2004-2005.
At the time, he also ran VoteSmart.org, a chamber front organization created to oppose Hometown Democracy and other ballot initiatives perceived as anti-business.

GrayRobinson contributed $16,000 in cash and in-kind legal services to VoteSmart.org in 2004, state election records show.

VoteSmart.org later changed its stated purpose from advocacy to voter education.
Leonhardt and the Florida Chamber remain among Hometown Democracy’s main adversaries.
On March 12 of this year, GrayRobinson and Leonhardt hosted a meeting of the President’s Council Commercial Real Estate Forum – a group Leonhardt chairs – at the firm’s Orlando headquarters. According to the firm’s website, Leonhardt “moderated the program focused on defeating Amendment 4.”

The program concluded with “unanimous agreement on a motion initiated by Jason W. Searl, of counsel in GrayRobinson’s Orlando office, to work together to raise funds and engage others to defeat Amendment 4.”

Three days later, records show, the Florida Chamber contributed $125,000 to Smarter Growth’s successor in this year’s fight against Hometown Democracy and Amendment 4 – Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy.

ISSUE COMES TO TOWN
Citizens’ “Vote No on 4” campaign comes to Fort Lauderdale’s YOLO Restaurant on June 9 for an ambitious fundraiser sponsored by the Broward Workshop. The workshop, a nonprofit group made up of top decision makers at 100 of the county’s major businesses and professions, has pledged to match dollar for dollar the first $100,000 that’s raised.

Those expected to attend include former Miami Dolphins majority owner Wayne Huizenga, Autonation’s Mike Jackson, JM Family Enterprises’ Colin Brown, developers Terry Stiles and Phil Procacci, nursing home owner Ralph Marrinson, lawyers Ed Pozzuoli, Debbie Orshefsky and Don Hall, and lobbyists Ron Book, George Platt and John Milledge.

The chair of the host committee is Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis, a director of Floridians for Smarter Growth.

There have been other efforts, too.

Friday, May 28, 2010

George Platt and Deerfield Beach


After posting George Platt's letter from Bob Norman's blog I was told that the very same Uber-lobbyist Platt was in the audience on the evening that Commissioner Poitier and Mayor Noland urged the vote change on the Deerfield Beach Recycling contract, and again when the vote was taken to award the whole contract to Sun Recycling, approved by Popelsky, Noland and Poitier (but not Miller and Ganz).

Given that the vote change wound up costing the taxpayers of Deerfield Beach about $60,000 (down from $230,000 for which the three "it's only taxpayers money so who-cares" commissioners also voted ) it makes one wonder. I wonder what he was doing there, what he had promised our commissioners if anything, and I really wonder why Mayor Noland pushed to have a legitimate vote for a lower priced contract rescinded. I wonder who it benefits? I don't have to wonder if it was the Deerfield Beach taxpayer, it wasn't.

I wonder if we will ever know why our spendthrift 3 voted yes, probably not. But, Aesop pointed out that you are known by the company you keep, and, yes, birds of a feather flock together.

Power Corrupts

From the Daily Pulp, Bob Norman's Blog

Bob is writing about the different people who are writing to the judge to ask for leniency for convicted Broward School Board Member Beverly Gallagher and at the end he quotes Lobbyist George Platt:

From Platt's letter:
"It is painful to see a public official step over the line. My lengthy involvement in the political process has convinced me that some public officials simply lose sight of the line between right and wrong. Some of it may have to do with peculiar weaknesses such as a corrupt streak, but sometimes it is has to do with self-importance that public officials assume when lobbyists, the public, favor seekers, unions and others puff up the egos of elected officials. We have seen sad examples of this over the years and it may tend to blur the vision of some. Somewhere along the way, Beverly lost sight of the line."


Here we have a lobbyist with clear sight, he knows what he has been doing, he won't stop doing it, but he is aware of what he does. I am sure he is contemptuous of those he lobbies, I wonder if he sighs or cheers when one of them "loses sight of the line"?

We, as taxpayers need to be irate about this it seems the longer a politician stays in office the worse it gets. Bob writes that Kristin Jacobs visited Platt's vacation home in North Carolina, how sad, she was my grass roots hero, a real peoples' representative, and now she is against Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4, and visiting lobbyists, be careful of that "line" Kristin.

Our homes and communities are too important to leave in the hands of politicians and lobbyists, I can't wait until Amendment 4 gets passed so the voters will have a say, at least, on land use changes.