Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cooper City Commissioner for Amendment 4

John Sims, a Cooper City Commissioner (Cooper City is in Broward County) wrote this excellent article on Amendment 4, it has well stated reasons supporting Florida Hometown Democracy’s Amendment 4 and for voting yes on November 2.

Cooper City, FL – An attempt to take away more of your rights regarding oversight of ‘government’ is on the next agenda for Cooper City’s Commission. The Florida Hometown Democracy Land Use Initiative will appear as Amendment 4 on the November 2010 ballot.

Amendment 4 will give you, the voter and taxpayer, a vote on growth in your community. The amendment proposes to require voter approval of all changes to local comprehensive land-use plans, in order to give voters more say over development. In order to pass, the amendment needs at least 60% of the total votes.

Each of us has a huge stake in growth decisions that can drastically alter our community's future for generations to come. Each community has adopted its own comprehensive plan: a long-term master plan for sensible growth.

Currently, elected city and county commissioners have exclusive power to make changes to the plan. 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 rubberstamping speculative plan changes.

Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 changes all that by giving voters veto power over these changes to your community's master plan for growth. Florida’s Legislators have pretty much given free rein to developers to continue building; quality of life and the state's natural resources be damned, even though there are currently 300,000 homes in Florida sitting empty.

Public participation in local government comprehensive land use planning benefits the conservation and protection of Florida’s natural resources and scenic beauty, and the long-term quality of life of Floridians.

Direct democracy on land use changes may be the only way to promote smart growth in Florida. As Richard Creedon (in his letter to the Editor in the Sun Sentinel) said “Amendment 4 should be approved. Why? It's so simple. We ordinary citizens have found that, with some notable exceptions, our elected representatives seem to forget about us as soon as they are elected. They start remembering us again when it is time for re-election. It's like clockwork. Just follow the money.

Amendment 4 will give power back to the people, finally. Changing and toughening growth-management laws will not work because soon the politicians will gut them all over again. The [Sentinel] is naive to think that government can be trusted. History shows us that, sadly, has not usually been the case.

Why should we expect the future to be different? Rather, trust the wisdom of the people and vote for Amendment 4 in November. Florida can be protected only if Amendment 4 is in the Florida Constitution. It's so simple.

Whom do you trust more, The People or the politicians?”

For those who understand the hidden costs to society and the resulting increased tax liability, this is the last straw. In South Florida, paving over paradise, by dredge and fill destruction of wetlands, has reduced our watersheds. This takes the cost of water supply for Florida residents in the opposite direction taken by New York. As the Everglades watershed has diminished, the effect is a local call for deeper drilling in the Floridian aquifer, reverse osmosis and desalination, all at a very high cost.

What development has done is to transform a natural asset to societal liability, with significant reduction of quality of life for all Floridians. As a recent editorial noted, "Unchecked growth is an unsustainable extreme."

In the quest for an approach to nearly unconstrained development at great cost to the taxpayers, Amendment 4 is the unintended consequence.

Consider another externality: The developers' cost of political contributions to keep this tax debt spiral going.With Amendment 4, your power to vote on growth will enable you to preserve your neighborhood and your community and protect the value of your home. Can you say taxation without representation?

With "4" there is a chance of representation and restoring the process of democracy. Without "4," past history and current events tell us nothing will change for the better.

Don’t let your Cooper City bureaucrats vote to help take away your oversight of your land! Be at the next Cooper City Commission meeting and strenuously oppose this power grab by big (and small) government! Read more at

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Deerfield Beach Commission Considers Developer Welfare.

Keven Klopp, the Community Redevelopment Agency director suggests we initiate some Developer Welfare. I guess he thinks the poor developers need the city version of food stamps.

Developers are the folks who killed Florida’s economy and its jobs with their reckless speculation and over-development. Because of their greed WE are paying higher taxes and have lost almost half of our property values.

Because of them we are paying dearly and repeatedly for more roads, fire stations, police patrols, water-treatment plants and schools, and we are living with massive urban sprawl and traffic congestion.

But Keven wants us to use our tax money to give developers welfare. Never mind that there are currently scads of empty and foreclosed homes out there right now. We have a massive overabundance; a supply with no demand.

He wants the city to buy up properties in the CRA district and give them to Developers at a discount.

News flash here folks, developers don’t need help making money.

Look for a lot of those cute single family houses in the beach area to “develop” even more quickly into rows of empty townhouses and more empty condos if he gets his way.

And why would we do this? Why should I agree to spend my tax money to help a developer? I cannot imagine. Why would a city want to hurry the process of adding density to an already congested area? It will happen fast enough without the city’s help, and without our money, why rush it? You want things to look prettier? Why not give the CRA money to the people who need help with landscaping, or house painting, or remodeling their current homes.

Commissioner alert!!!! More housing DOES NOT increase tax money to the city! What little TIF money we will get will cost in the long run. Most residential housing turns out to be a financia1 burden. According to the Tischler report, a typical subdivision, where lot sizes average 75 by 125 feet, and prices range from $150,000 to $230,000, costs $1.53 for every $1 of revenue it generates. Tischler reports that apartment complexes cost $2.65 for every dollar of revenue they generated.

They report that the only residential land uses that cost less money for services than the revenue they generated were 5-acre ranchettes (57 cents spent for every dollar generated) and mobile home parks (75 cents spent for every dollar generated). Agriculture, commercial buildings and industrial sites also fared well in the fiscal and economic impact study, all costing significantly less money to service than the revenue they generate.

The city of Jacksonville did a similar study and found that new residential development costs taxpayers $2.45 for every $1.00 it generates in new taxes.

To really help the look of the CRA area (Federal Hwy. to the beach) and if you insist on spending the money, let’s turn the empty lots into nice little parks. The beach does not need more density.

If Keven really thinks the streets, which are the homes of working class families who can’t afford to water their grass, look bad, help them with a grant for xeriscaping, buy them plants that don’t need to be watered. Give them a grant to paint and fix up their homes. The city should be in the business of helping current residents and keeping spending DOWN.

More density means more services needed, our wells are already polluted with sea water from over-demand and we are spending millions digging new wells out west.

We need to help our small businesses succeed; we need to attract relocating businesses to our empty commercial and industrial sites, which will increase our tax base. We do NOT need more housing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

S-Curve eye-sore may be sold soon.

The empty unfinished eye-sore of a building on the A1A S-curve may be getting a new owner.

Last night the City Commission passed an ordinance allowing partially completed buildings’ site plans, which have elapsed, to be extended without the owner having to go through the entire application process again.

Right after that, the owners of the building asked for the extension. According to the attorney for the bank, who now owns the building, that will make selling it much easier, in fact a prospective buyer was in the audience waiting to see if the ordinance would pass; looks like someone is getting a good deal.

Community Development Department Investigation

The Deerfield Beach Commission voted to hire Kessler International, a forensic auditing firm, to address what the interim city manager Burgess Hanson called “internal control issues” concerning the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO). These internal issues have to be investigated by an outside agency.

Mayor Noland said the investigation is a good thing as “We have a tendency to spend money like drunken sailors”.

Vice Mayor Poitier at first balked at spending so much money for the investigation, (from $15,000 to a top of $30,000), but when it was pointed out that the city might be liable for large fines if the CDBG and CHDO finances were not in order she said, they should spend a million on it. They didn't approve the million, just the $15 to $30K.

Poitier was the one who named the gorilla in the room, she blamed, “That Chaz Stevens” for making a fuss. She also stated that she, “Never had nothing to do with it, it’s never been ran right!”

Hanson said there were no criminal charges involved in this, and the investigation should be done in 2-3 weeks.

A Mystery

Bill Ganz suggested getting rid of the entire Board of Adjustment and making them part of the Planning and Zoning board. Huh! Well it seems he has a good reason.

At last night’s commission meeting a variance proposal, which asked that an owner be allowed a dock to extend 16 feet from the property line rather than the 8 feet allowed by code, came before the commission approved by the Board of Adjustment.

The mayor went ballistic – saying that pretty soon we’re going to have docks out into the middle of the Intracoastal! She questioned the competence of the board as this is the 3rd dock (non hardship) variance recently which the Board of Adjustment has approved.

In order for a variance to be approved there must be an underlying hardship. They looked over the entire minutes of the B of A meeting and saw absolutely no hardship. The owners can have a boat; the property was bought knowing there was an 8 foot dock restriction, so where they asked was the hardship which would make allowing the variance legal? And, why did the Board of Adjustment allow this to pass? Undoubtedly they don’t know how to do their job.

Because the B of A had approved it, a vote to overturn their ruling takes a super-majority of the commission, Noland, Popelsky and Ganz voted to overturn, but, Miller did not, and Poitier followed his lead.

The Mystery: Why did Miller vote to allow this illegal dock? Clearly he understood that the request didn’t meet the requirements for a variance, so what’s up with his vote. Did he do it because he knew the owner? Did he vote in favor of a friend? Did he vote to keep a District 1 voter happy? I can’t figure it out, but whatever reason he had he demonstrated a willful disregard for legal process.

I think he should have to explain his vote. I think this decision puts the city at risk as someone could sue the city over this decision, and they would surely win.

LEED a Mistake for Deerfield Beach Pier?

At the CRA meeting last night, they discussed the Pier entrance buildings and their construction to LEED standards. The commission decided to try for the Platinum LEED level.

After doing a little research I think that may be a mistake. Sure, the pier project should use “green” materials where practical, however it should always use “climate-appropriate” materials no matter the LEED point rating. As it pointed out in the article (see below), some LEED points are given for use of materials that may not be a good idea on our beach. Also, going to the expense of seeking a LEED certificate for a little, mostly open air, project such as this is not cost efficient.

Go to this article in Wikipedia for more information, it says in part:

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Buildings can qualify for four levels of certification:
Certified - 40 - 49 points
Silver - 50 - 59 points
Gold - 60 - 79 points
Platinum - 80 points and above

LEED certified buildings are supposed to use resources more efficiently when compared to conventional buildings which are simply built to code.

Often when a LEED rating is pursued, this will increase the cost of initial design and construction... Pursuing LEED certification for a project is an added cost in itself as well. This added cost comes in the form of USGBC correspondence, LEED design-aide consultants, and the hiring of the required Commissioning Authority (CxA) - all of which would not necessarily be included in an environmentally responsible project unless it were also seeking a LEED rating.

LEED is a measurement tool and not a design tool. It is also not yet climate-specific, although the newest version hopes to address this weakness partially. Because of this, designers may make materials or design choices that garner a LEED point, even though they may not be the most site or climate-appropriate choice available.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Will the "Restoring Trust in Government Act" do what it says?

The “Restoring Trust in Government Act” Bills are proposed in the Florida Senate and House, sponsored jointly by Rep. Adam Fetterman, D-Port St. Lucie, and Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland

Trust! Government! Restoring! Did we ever have trust in our government? I am not sure, maybe for a few weeks back in 1776. The words Trust and Government, in most voters’ minds are a contradiction in terms. “How about the “Creating Trust in Government Act”? Just the fact that this bill is necessary says a lot.

We don’t have much trust in our representatives, and with good reason. At the local level Deerfield Beach has at least two commissioners who don’t want an ethics code, Vice Mayor Poitier voted against it, and Mayor Noland placed an item on the commission agenda to eliminate the code after it was approved by a prior commission.


(They didn’t carry the day however and the code went to a committee to revise. See post below.)

And we have two commissioners under indictment preparing to go to trial.

But the Noland/Poitier attitude toward disclosure and regulation of behavior is all too common among our representatives, especially after they have been in office for a while.

Florida’s State Senate doesn’t even have a law prohibiting senators from voting on a bill if they know it would benefit them personally. Of course the senators would have had to pass that law regulating them, so I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the Restoring Trust bill to be passed.

What happens to people after they are in office; to what seem to be good men and women that we elect? All too often, almost always, an idealistic candidate gets co-opted by the system, while learning how to get things done, they begin to compromise. Little deals to get something they think is a good thing for their district all too often morph into little deals for themselves and then big deals. They don’t even notice it because the transformation creeps up so slowly, a free lunch here, a small gift there, then those things become normal so larger gifts don’t seem so wrong, the deals are rationalized and excuses internalized, so the surprise that is exhibited when they are caught is often genuine. This is a powerful reason for term limits and against recycling politicians from one office to another. And a powerful reason for voting yes for put-the-people-in-control amendments such as the Florida Hometown Democracy's Amendment 4.

One thing good that Deerfield Beach has done, again by the last commission, is to impose term limits and staggered terms. It takes a while for a politician to become corrupt completely and a good way to prevent that is to elect new ones frequently. That way, if we are lucky, we get a couple of years of the politician trying to do the right thing.

An interesting editorial from, they are much more hopeful about this bill than I:

Here's one way to help restore trust in state government

The companion bills, one each in the Florida Senate and House, are appropriately titled the “Restoring Trust in Government Act.”

Is there a greater need today in government — at all levels — than restoring public trust?
Probably not.

At the national level, only 18 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, according to a Feb. 5 Gallup poll.

At the state level, the case of former House Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin, has created distrust of both legislators and the legislative process. Sansom stepped down in February 2009, following accusations that his $110,00 job at Northwest Florida State College was a quid pro quo for millions of dollars he had funneled to the college. A House committee is scheduled to take up legislative misconduct charges against the disgraced former speaker the week of Feb. 22.

Cynical Floridians looking for reasons to trust elected officials will be encouraged by the proposed “Restoring Trust in Government Act.” Sponsored jointly by Rep. Adam Fetterman, D-Port St. Lucie, and Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, this legislation would prohibit lawmakers from voting on or debating any issue that could create a personal gain for themselves, relatives, an employer or business associate, or any corporate board on which they might sit. Also, any member with a potential conflict of interest would be required, before consideration of a bill, to “publicly state to the body or committee all of the interests in the legislation” that might benefit him or her or related parties.

Currently, House members are prohibited from voting on a bill if lawmakers know it would benefit them personally. There is no such prohibition in the Senate. In fact, Dockery has tried twice, but failed, in previous legislatures to strengthen the Senate’s conflict-of-interest statutes.
Many members of Florida’s “Citizens Legislature” have jobs in the private sector — jobs that may bring them into conflict when deciding the fate of bills in Tallahassee. Declaring potential conflicts before debating a bill or casting a vote simply is common sense and good governance.
“This legislation is another step toward increasing transparency in government,” said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who plans to support the bill.

The “Restoring Trust in Government Act” is a no-brainer. But that in no way guarantees it will survive the legislative process.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Committee public input meeting

The Deerfield Beach Ethics Committee had its public input meeting this evening. There were 6 members of the public there.

I attended all but one of the Ethics Committee meetings. Most of the members were professional and thorough in their consideration of each of the items in the current Ethics Code. They didn’t always agree with each other, (in fact they seldom all agreed) but gave each other a fair hearing and carefully considered opinions other than their own. (David Cohen, only half in jest, told them they should give lessons to the current commissioners about how to conduct a meeting and behave.)

This committee was tasked with reviewing and changing the existing ethics code. Given that some of the members were appointed by our commissioners who do not want any ethics code at all, they did a pretty good job. The code was a good code to start and they only watered it down a little bit. They agreed that the current provisions were necessary in an ethics code.

One item they changed that I disagree with was a change that at first I thought was OK. When they first discussed the gifts section and decided to put a dollar figure on the allowed amount a commissioner could receive as a gift from a lobbyist or some such, I thought that wasn’t a bad idea. What could the harm be in allowing $10 or $20 worth of gifts? Nobody could be bribed for that amount.

But, after thinking about it, and putting myself in the place of a commissioner I now believe that it would be much better and actually easier to handle if they stayed with the no gifts allowed of any amount. No gifts, no cups of coffee, no iced tea, no free food, no free buffet, no nuthin’.

None of our commissioners are so poor that they have to have someone else buy them a soda or lunch. A soda or lunch that would not be offered if they were not in a place of influence - would not be offered if they were you or me.

However I don’t see this committee changing the gifts provision back; the pressure from the commissioners to allow them to get some freebies is too great. The amount the committee chose is $50 a year. Not so much, but still open to misunderstanding and the appearance of impropriety.

BUT, if they are to be allowed to receive gifts from people who want to do business with the city, or are doing business with the city, or someday may do business with the city, at the very least, they should have to report the gift. That way, the commissioner would have a record, so he/she won’t go over the $50, and the public will have information about who is getting what from whom.

Norm Ostrau, director of FAU’s Public Ethics Academy, and a consultant to this committee said, “The theory of having people report what they’ve gotten is a good thing. That shows ultimately whether or not there is a conflict of interest potentially.” He also said, referring to the lack of ethical behavior of elected officials, “What you’re finding is a huge problem in the system. It’s a big problem…gifts from companies to elected officials can lead to perceptions of influence peddling, especially when they’re seeking work or approval from elected officials”.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

They finally got it right!!!

(Click on Picture for a larger view) Last evening the CRA department of the city held a workshop at which Garcia Stromberg, the architectural firm chosen to do the design, showed the public their concept for the design of the new Deerfield Beach pier entrance: the restaurant, restrooms, bait shop etc.

The design is awesome; it keeps the beach-goer hot-dogs and hamburgers friendly atmosphere, but adds some really nice features. The restaurant is a little bigger than Kelly’s due to adding inside restrooms. There is a second floor dining deck, also with restrooms, and an outside first floor dining deck for restaurant goers or for beach goers who have their own food.

The whole bait-shop/ice machine setup is enclosed, and a really nice feature is the open view from the street west to east; the whole pier is visible.

Some kinks need to be worked out of course, such as how to enclose the trash and avoid the odor, and how to keep the enclosure from being battered by the garbage trucks. You can see the entire presentation here, at the city’s website: Proposed Concept Presentation3009 KB, Last Uploaded: 2/9/2010 11:05:28 AM

BUT!!!! WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO GET GOING ON THE COVE SHOPPING CENTER PARKING LOT!!!! I hear that there are some people out there who don't want it to go forward and are trying to delay it (forever?). DO NOT LET THAT HAPPEN. The pier project is targeted to start next November. I hope the Cove project will be done by then. Let your commissioners know you want this to happen. Perhaps they need to know that the residents want this NOW!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Yawn, real estate corruption; this is getting so commonplace: Herald Tribune Article - FBI builds its case in flipping schemes.

Hmmmm, seems as though all the FBI has to do lately is throw a dart at the yellow pages listings of Florida developers, mortgage brokers, Realtors, real estate appraisers, and attorneys and have the “lucky dartee” wear a wire to come up with a juicy corruption scandal.

The Trib’s article spells out step by step how the Fibbies, wires and all, nailed a bunch of avaricious real estate speculators (oxymoron alert); there were flippers, phony dual-closing documents, using of grandma’s name on a deed and more.

Not up to Rothstein’s level maybe, but not through lack of trying. Well worth the read. Get used to reading these articles, many more to come; maybe, for a change, at the state level.

FBI builds its case in flipping schemes
Herald Tribune article: Published: Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.

“Craig Adams of Sarasota, who moved from a real estate sales career into one of a real estate de-veloper, is referred to in documents as the "confidential defendant."

…Craig Adams, orchestrator of one of the largest real estate fraud rings in Florida history, has secretly spent more than a year and a half as an FBI informant, helping build cases against the people he once recruited into his schemes, the Herald-Tribune has learned.

…Ultimately, dozens of Sarasota real estate investors could be caught up in the investigation. Adams' list of associates includes mortgage brokers, Realtors, real estate appraisers, attorneys and developers.”Read the rest of the article here: FBI builds its case in flipping schemes

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Grand Jury on Corruption, Who dat!

Florida Prosecutors, according to the Miami Herald, will start picking people next week to serve on a statewide grand jury on public corruption. Scheduled to convene in December the grand jury will be based in Broward County.

The Herald said: “Attorney General Bill McCollum urged the public to report instances of wrongdoing by public officials, from bribery to nepotism to fraud, to his office and its investigative arm, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement…

…Crist, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate, had called for the grand jury shortly after the indictments of prominent GOP fundraiser Alan Mendelsohn, ex-Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, former Miramar City Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman and suspended Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher.”

OK, Mr. McCollum, I assume you are basing the grand jury in Broward County because of all the recently uncovered corruption here and in Miami-Dade. Good call.

But, please don’t wait for the public to fuel your investigation. Get your prosecutors to be proactive. Go to every city and check the land use changes and variances that have been handed out like Halloween candy to generous developers. Check who gave campaign contributions to whom, and check what kind of deals they got for their projects, check voting records for those projects. Google bloggers’ posts; a lot of suspected corruption shows up on posts.

Be blind to whether the miscreants are Republican or Democrat. For too long in Broward Republicans got a pass. And, please do your investigations in a timely manner. A couple of years ago I filed complaints with documentation and when I called was told they couldn’t discuss an ongoing investigation. How many years does it take?

As you are running for Governor, my guess is that you will want to get a few crooks behind bars before election time. I really want to believe that this whole thing is not just another flash in the pan political ploy. But I do tend to be an optimist; however perhaps the results will justify the motives.

Friday, February 5, 2010

This guy should be the poster boy for passage of the Florida Hometown Democracy's Amendment 4

Disgraced commissioner now selling swamp land in Florida

The man selling the property is Jerry Bowmer. That's the same Jerry Bowmer who was the mastermind of one of the biggest political scandals in Hillsborough history.

Bowmer went to prison along with two other county commissioners in the 1980's for extortion, as they took bribes to approve land deals. In the early 90's, Bowmer was charged with racketeering and running a cattle rustling operation and did 12 years in prison. Then in 2006 he was investigated by then-Attorney General Charlie Crist for selling property that can't be developed.

Read the rest of the article here:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The People Say Yes for Amendment 4

Last Saturday I went to the Deerfield Beach Arts Festival at the beach, it was well attended, and there were arts and crafts galore. I was there handing out flyers supporting the Florida Hometown Democracy’s Amendment 4.

Amendment 4 is not much in the news yet, after all the election isn’t until November 2. But, it is never too early to start getting the word out, A4 supporters won’t have the millions of dollars (they have spent over 3 million already) that the builders and chambers are collecting to defeat it. We who are pro Amendment 4 have to do it the old fashioned way, one by one.

What is Amendment 4? In the Orlando Sentinel Columnist Jane Healy, while discussing proposed Amendments on the November 2nd ballot wrote:

“One is Amendment 4, the Hometown Democracy initiative, that would allow voters to veto a development that local elected officials approve even though it conflicts with their own plan for growth.

Voters aren't dumb. They realize that elected officials often approve these unplanned projects after the developers cozy up to them with generous campaign contributions.”

Thanks Jane for realizing we, the voters, are not dumb, and for realizing that Amendment 4 will be passed by a righteous wave of angry voters saying, “Enough, enough”, and for knowing why.

Anyway, I was, as I said, passing out flyers at the festival, first asking people, “Do you vote in Florida?” About 2/3 said no. But the other 1/3 were interested, most had not heard of Amendment 4, but when they heard they would get a chance to vote on a land-use change before it was passed, they were all for it.

Some were eager to spread the word further. I was asked to come to speak at HOAs, and one young woman asked if I would come talk to her college class. Many stopped to talk, telling me about their own brushes with over-development and “deaf” commissioners. I was also asked many times if they could have a few more flyers to pass out in their neighborhoods. One lady wanted an extra one for her refrigerator door so she “wouldn’t forget by November”.

During the day, I had the same experience that Reporter Steven Feller told me he had when he did a man-on-the-street interview for the Forum Newspaper. He said that it was the first time in his experience that every single person he interviewed gave him the same answer; he had never had that before. Everyone said they would vote yes for Amendment 4!