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if anything, and I really wonder why Mayor Noland pushed to have a legitimate vote for a lower priced contract rescinded.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.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The following are the attachments to the previous post from Tom Connick about the Housing Authority and Chaz Stevens: (Click on the picture for a larger image)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Deerfield Beach Housing Authority Defended

Tom Connick to the Housing Authority Board

The history and success of the Housing Authority during the past 21 years is the result of the talent, hard work, and integrity of its Executive Director, Pamela Davis.

In 1989, over 21 years ago, the Housing Authority was in a shambles:

o The Broward County Health Department had violations against the Housing Authority for rat and insect infestation
o The City had health and safety issues concerning the Housing Authority
o The residents of Stanley Terrace were on a rent strike
o The Housing Authority could not pay its current bills
o The Housing Authority had no credit
o The Housing Authority had no reserves
o The Housing Authority was over $30,000 in indebtedness to Internal Revenue for non payment of withholding taxes and Social Security taxes
o The renovation at Stanley Terrace was being mis-managed
o The Housing Authority only had 50 Section 8 vouchers
o The Housing Authority had no resident initiatives

In 1989, the City Mayor was Jean Robb. She and the then existing City Commission had a genuine concern about the Housing Authority. So that you will have an understanding of the legal structure of the Housing Authority, it is a housing authority established under Chapter 421, Florida Statutes. By statute, the City Commission has only limited authority or power concerning the Housing Authority. The City Mayor, with the concurrence of the City Commission, has a right to name or remove members of the Housing Authority Board. Other than that, the City Commission has no other legal authority over the Housing Authority or the management or operation of the Housing Authority.

In 1989, the Mayor and City Commission requested that I become involved with the Housing Authority in order to attempt to correct its then existing disastrous condition. It became immediately apparent that the only way to save the Housing Authority would be to find an unique and immensely talented, hard working, and honest Executive Director. Do you have any idea how difficult it was to find such a shining star? The one person who fit that was Pamela Davis. She had a background in working with the Broward County Legal Aid Society and was then the property manager with the Boca Raton Housing Authority. I recruited Pam to become the Executive Director and save the Housing Authority. Pam had an awareness of the daunting task facing anyone who would become Executive Director. More than the horrific condition of the Housing Authority was Pam’s concern that politics rather than performance would determine her destiny and reputation as Executive Director. Those of you who are familiar with housing authorities know that the destructive hand of politics threatens the quality of housing authorities. I promised Pam that she would always be judged by her performance and that her career and reputation would not be sullied by politicians hanging her out.

In June 1989, Pam accepted the job as the Executive Director of the Housing Authority. The shambles could not be corrected overnight. But, through the talent, hard work, and integrity of Pamela Davis, who is justifiably a role model for young women and the African American community, the Housing Authority has blossomed into a wonderful Housing Authority. Among her accomplishments, and therefore among the accomplishments of the Housing Authority:

o The violations of the Broward County Health Department against the Housing Authority for rat and insect infestation were rectified
o The health and safety issues of the City with the Housing Authority were rectified
o The rent strike of the residents of Stanley Terrace was resolved and the underlining issues which caused the strike were resolved
o The Housing Authority was able to pay its current bills
o The Housing Authority established credit
o The Housing Authority has built up healthy financial reserves
o The Housing Authority indebtedness to Internal Revenue for non payment of withholding taxes and Social Security taxes was paid off many years ago and payments of Internal Revenue obligations have been made on a timely basis since
o The mis-managed renovation at Stanley Terrace after much effort was resolved and those renovations were completed. Additionally, over the years that Pamela Davis has been the Executive Director, there have been a number of capital improvements and renovations to Housing Authority properties.
o The Housing Authority increased the small number of 50 Section 8 vouchers to 482 Section 8 vouchers, which is an increase of almost 1,000%
o The Housing Authority has resident initiatives
o The Housing Authority built the Business Skills Center
o The Housing Authority, through innovative financing, added 56 affordable housing units in the development known as The Palms of Deerfield Townhomes

The Housing Authority has accomplished its success as a housing authority over the past 21 years because of the tremendous talent, hard work, and integrity of Pamela Davis. Pamela Davis has never had the luxury of being able to sufficiently staff the administration of the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority and has taken on job duties that in larger housing authorities would be able to be delegated to others. In her job as Executive Director, she wears many hats and has to perform many functions that other more bureaucratized housing authorities have specialists for that job task. In addition to being the chief administrator as Executive Director, Pam has to be the Human Resources Director, the Grants seeker and administrator, the Procurement Chief, and many other hats. Pam has always acted with fiscal responsibility, good faith and in what was in the best interest of the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority. Because she is human and not infallible, she has, from time to time, made some minor administrative mistakes, which mistakes pale in significance to her monumental accomplishments.

In the mid 1840's there was a popular writer by the name of Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1846, he wrote a short story that is still read today. The name of that short story is “The Birthmark”. It is a story of a brilliant scientist who marries a woman who is beautiful both internally and externally. After the marriage, this scientist- husband discovers a small blemish on his beautiful wife’s face. He obsesses over this minor birthmark and seeks to have it removed. And, he is successful in removing this tiny birthmark, but its removal kills this beautiful woman. An false illusion has been attempted to be created by Mr. Stevens which attempts to have the public focus on a tiny technical blemish concerning procurement instead of observing the full functioning of the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority in an effort to damage the reputation of Pamela Davis, the Executive Director. Tonight you will be hearing the truth concerning Mr. Stevens’ attempted smears. Mr. Stevens, like the brilliant scientist in The Birthmark, would rather you kill the internally and externally beautiful woman by focusing on a tiny technical blemish.

Martin Luther King stated the truth when he said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. The Housing Authority faces a time of moral crisis because of the false accusations that are being made or intimated. Let’s discuss the truth as to why the Housing Authority, which arose from the ashes in 1989 as a result of the talents, efforts, and integrity of your current Executive Director Pamela Davis is in danger of being damaged and that the reputation of this fine woman is in danger of being trashed.

This moral crisis is the result of ignorance and of intimidation by the destructive Mr. Stevens.

The fact is that most people are in ignorance of exactly what comprises this independent Housing Authority. The Housing Authority is actively involved in operating Stanley Terrace, The Palms, and The Palms of Deerfield Townhouses as well as administering Section 8 housing. In its operation, there are different rules or guidelines depending upon the funding sources.

o Public housing
o Section 8 housing
o Town homes
o HUD HOME guidelines
o SHIP funding
o Foundation grants, such as the Broward Community Foundation, or the A.D. Henderson Foundation

There are different policies that must be considered in the operation of the Housing Authority:

o Personnel policies
o Admission and occupancy policies
o Administrative plans for Section 8
o Procurement policies

Importantly, the Housing Authority is a separate and independent entity in and of itself. Mr. Stevens has craftily tried to lump the Housing Authority with organizations that the Housing Authority is in no way, manner or form a part of. Let us be clear: the Housing Authority is not part of the City administration in any way, manner, or form. The Community Development Division is under the authority and control of the City and has nothing to do with the Housing Authority. Likewise, the Housing Authority is not in any way, manner, or form a part of the City. The Housing Authority is not under the authority or control of the City except for the power of the City Mayor and Commissioners concerning the appointment and removal of members of the Housing Authority Board.

There have been some recent issues concerning the West Side Businessman’s Association and the City’s Community Development Division, both of which have nothing to do with the Housing Authority. In his malicious effort to malign the Housing Authority, Mr. Stevens has lumped the Housing Authority with those other totally separate and distinct entities.

The City Mayor and Commission have been suckered and intimidated into appointing the mentally deranged Timothy R. “Chaz” Stevens as a member of the Housing Authority Board.

Mr. Stevens is totally unfit to serve on any board in the City. What responsible City Commission would appoint to a Board a mentally ill person who is so degradingly abusive to woman? Mr. Stevens has repeatedly sent emails that are part of the public record that reference the City Mayor as “Peggy The Twat Noland” and “Twatster Nolan”. As we all know, the word twat is a vulgar slang for a woman’s vulva, which is a woman’s exterior genitalia. Mr. Stevens is not a 14 year old adolescent snickering by using vulgar slang for the first time, but is instead a 45 year old man who, obviously, manifests profound sexual degradation and abuse issues towards women. Mr. Stevens uses words like a bloody sword to wound, intimidate and destroy. Mr. Stevens’ disgusting behavior in emails which have been disseminated widely and which are public records that the City Mayor and Commissioners are aware of would be sufficient with any responsible City governing body to disqualify Mr. Stevens from being on a city board.

Any public official of decency would not want someone who has so publicly verbally abused women the way that Mr. Stevens has to be on a board making policy for their daughters, sisters, or wives. But, the City Mayor joined by two City Commissioners decided to appoint this vicious person to the Board of the Housing Authority. While you collectively as a Board are obligated to have him as a member, you are not obligated to give him what he publicly declared in his application which is to be “Emperor” of the Housing Authority Board. Mr. Stevens is just 1 member of this Board of 7, and your Board collectively makes decisions, not just Emperor Stevens.

Let us also acknowledge another fundamental truth: Timothy R. “Chaz” Stevens comes to this Board with a more than a predisposition to destroy the reputation of Pamela Davis and bring down the Housing Authority. He comes to this Board with the fervent purpose of destroying Pamela Davis and bringing down the Housing Authority. Let’s look at proof:

o On February 19, 2010, Mr. Stevens posted in the New Times, a statement which said in pertinent part, “Today, I broke a HUGE story about possible fraud, collusion and corruption at the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority. Got dates, names, facts, and dollars. You want to see how you rock the fucking boat? Let me show you how it’s done old school...”
o February 22, 2010, Mr. Stevens in an email to the Broward County State Attorney in which he copies “Peggy The Twat Noland” and other City Commissioners, states that, “... it is my hope that the City will move to audit and inspect the DBHA evidence I have uncovered last week (as referenced in the above article). Assuming that the City does move to investigate the DBHA and uncovers ‘questionable’ activity, please be advised I will immediately file a complaint with your office and the appropriate Federal agencies, including the HUD Office of Inspector General and FBI.”
o On April 8, 2010, Mr. Stevens emails the Housing Authority attorney as says, “Enjoy the Forensic Audit.”
o On April 9, 2010, in an email in which Mr. Stevens references the Mayor as “Twatster Noland”, he states “Attention will quickly be turning to the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority (DBHA) with hopefully a forensic audit of their procurement policies. Policies that appear to be, at best, really improper. With my upcoming appointment to the board, (and I’ll be bringing 2-3 other folks along for the ride), it will be high time that finally a klieg light of inspection is blasted into that organization.” Mr. Stevens also advises that he (Mr. Stevens) is “a *highly influential* individual... You best keep that in mind. I have the juice. Care to see how much?”

Mr. Stevens “application for appointment” to the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority indicates in the appointment of your choice section, the word “Emperor”. For his qualifications, he indicates that he is “responsible for exposing cronyism, fraud, theft, and corruption.”

Mr. Stevens massive ego feeds off destroying, and it is now Pamela Davis that is his target for destruction. Mr. Stevens has a sick emotional investment in the destruction of Pamela Davis’ reputation. The clever way in which he is attempting to do this is through a “forensic auditing” of the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority. Mr. Stevens may be mentally deranged, but he is not stupid. It is naive to think that this 45 year old viciously destructive man will someone magically transform into a responsible board member.

Carl Nixon marched in protest rallies with Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama, and Atlanta in the early 1960s. Carl was a personal friend of mine. He is now deceased. He was a school teacher and former City Commissioner. Carl personally told me a story about human nature by telling the story of the poisonous snake, of which there are a number of versions, but Carl’s version is as follows. A person is walking along a forest path on a chilly morning, and in the middle of the road is a poisonous snake that looks like it has frozen to death. The person picks up this poisonous snake and holds it close to her heart to warm the snake up. After a time, the poisonous snake is warmed by the person’s beating chest. Then, the poisonous snake bites the person in the heart. As the person is dying, the person says with a pained expression, “I don’t understand. I saw you in the road, and you looked like you were frozen to death. I took you and held you next to my heart to warm you, and I brought you back to life. Why did you bite me and kill me?” The poisonous snake said, “Because I am a poisonous snake.” Can anyone in good conscience say that this poisonous snake Stevens will act in any way different that he has acted his entire poisonous 45 years? Of course, he will not. And, shamefully, the City Mayor and Commission instead of taking this poisonous snake to its heart, has mandated that the Housing Authority Board take this poisonous snake to its heart, so he can attempt to bite and kill the reputation of its wonderful Executive Director, Pamela Davis.

Recently, in an amazingly bizarre act which reflects how Mr. Stevens has the City Commission dancing on the wire of his Internet cable, the City Commission ordered a forensic audit of the Housing Authority by Kessler. This is a bizarre act for a number of reasons:

o First, the City Commission has no legal authority to order such a thing. It has no more authority to order a forensic audit of the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority than it has to order a forensic audit of the Davenport, Iowa Housing Authority. In these difficult financial times when the City faces difficult budget issues and where every expenditure in one area can force a cut in funds in another area, the City Commission without the legal power to do so authorized spending City taxpayer money on a forensic audit of a separate and independent Housing Authority.
o Second, you need to understand the meaning of a forensic audit. A forensic audit is an audit done when there are grounds to believe there is criminality, illegality, embezzlement, or theft. There is not basis for any such belief concerning the Housing Authority. Because of Mr. Stevens’ clever deception of lumping the Housing Authority with other entities which the Housing Authority has nothing to do with, the City Commission has taken a “guilty until proven innocent” attitude towards the independent Housing Authority. Well, you as a Board have the obligation to do what is best for the Housing Authority and act in a responsible manner and refuse this forensic audit for which there is no basis.
o Third, pursuant to Florida Statute 421.091, a complete and full financial accounting and audit in accordance with Federal audit standards of public housing agencies is done by a certified public accountant. If you have not already reviewed it, tonight you will be provided with a copy of the most recently completed certified audit of the Housing Authority. Further, the current audit of the Housing Authority is anticipated to be completed in June 2010. Mr. Stevens knows that the Housing Authority has audits done each fiscal year, but he deliberately concealed that information from the City Commission.

It is up to you, the Housing Authority Board to do what is best for the Housing Authority. You already have an audit that is in the process of being completed by a certified public accountant. If someone wants to come forward with sufficient credible evidence of criminality, fraud, illegality, or embezzlement, let them come forward. Otherwise, there is no basis for a forensic audit and the demand for a criminal audit is an insult to Pamela Davis, the Executive Director.

I want to address the issue of Kessler. If there were a need for a forensic audit, which there is not a need, Kessler has permanently disqualified itself to do such an audit because of its actions. The most important quality of an auditor is independence. Kessler’s report concerning the Community Development Division inappropriately gives a shout out on page 5 of the report to Mr. Stevens where it references “the blog published by investigative journalist and community activist, Chaz Stevens”. Kessler obviously knows how to stroke the massive deranged ego of Mr. Stevens and its shout out in that Kessler Report accomplished that purpose. However, in Kessler doing so, Kessler destroyed its independence, particularly in light of Mr. Stevens’ accusations against the Housing Authority. It should also be noted that Michael G. Kessler, whose office is in Miami-Dade County, is not a certified public accountant and the only known state license in Florida that I am aware of that Mr. Kessler has is his private investigator license. There is a reason that Chapter 421, Florida Statutes requires that an audit be done by a certified public accountant, that reason being that certified public accountants are required to go through rigorous training and examination, are governed by specific professional rules and are regulated by the State of Florida. In fact, the person in the process of finalizing his audit for the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority is a certified public accountant, which is a requirement under audits mandated by Chapter 421, Florida Statutes.

56 years ago, in our Nation’s Capitol, there was a destructive man by the name of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was terrorizing Washington, DC, with exaggeration, misinformation, and lies by throwing out the accusation “communist”. In Deerfield Beach in 2010, we have a destructive person throwing out the accusation of “fraud and corruption.” Our Nation’s Capitol was terrorized by Senator McCarthy because no one wanted their reputation ruined by his accusations. Deerfield Beach in 2010, is terrorized by a cyber character assassin and no one wants to stand up to him because of the fear of what he will say about them.

56 years ago, a grizzled Boston attorney representing the United States Army at the McCarthy hearings, stood up to the McCarthy bully and said “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” I have led a life trying to protect people from bullies. I earned the Army’s combat infantryman badge in Vietnam. I have always done the best I could to represent those who were in need, and currently, I am assisting on a pro bono basis the residents in the Crystal Lake concerning their lake, and the residents in Tam O’Shanter concerning the situation involving the golf course, and for years I have represented the citizen activist organization Original Save Our Beach. I will not be intimidated. This grizzled Irish American attorney will defend this wonderful African American woman who is justifiably a role model to the women of Deerfield Beach, the African Americans of Deerfield Beach, and the entire community as a whole, from an attempted Internet reputation lynching by Mr. Stevens. I ask Mr. Stevens and request that each member of this Board ask Mr. Stevens when you listen to what he requests “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Can Deerfield Beach's Commission Meetings get any worse?

Last night’s (May 18) commission meeting was an embarrassment for our city. I know, you are saying so what else is new? But this may have hit an all time high.

Deerfield is the butt of too many jokes as it is. The city has indicted officials. The city has suspended employees involved in legal investigations. The Kessler report to the city found so many violations in its first investigation that the city is paying them up to $100,000 more to check on other departments. The city had to send $95,000 of our general fund (yup, our taxpayer dollars) as a fine to HUD because of poor record keeping, etc. etc. We can’t even say, “At least we’re not Hollywood” anymore with a straight face.

A room full of family, friends and neighbors of those to be honored by having a street named after them filled the commission chamber; some came from very far away, only to hear Mayor Peggy Noland question their paperwork. It got downright nasty and took away from the joy the people deserved in knowing their ancestor would be honored. Finally they were approved, rightly so.

Then I was stunned by the absurdity as I listened to Commissioner Popelsky argue with Commissioner Poitier about who was the one who voted twice to approve a contract for Sun Recycling that would cost more than $230,000 over the other choice. They were bragging and happy that they voted to waste taxpayer money. Popelsky corrected Poitier when she said she voted for Sun the first time, she forgot she hadn’t. They bickered like 5 year olds. He crowed, no Sylvia you didn’t, and he boasted was the only one who voted for them in the first vote.

(See below posts for a description of the craziness involved in the choice of Deerfield’s recycling company.)

I still have not heard one valid reason from Popelsky, Poitier or Noland for their yes vote. Joan Maurice pushed for an answer but got nothing but some verbal abuse. At least Commissioners Miller and Ganz had some sense and some responsibility to the voters of the city, they voted against the Sun contract. As I said, I see no justifiable reason to pick the Sun Company; even with Sun coming down in their price so we were only wasting $60,000 instead of $230,000. Could the clueless three have something to gain personally? It certainly raises the question. It also raises the question of exactly who they are representing, certainly not the residents.

Remember the $15,000 paid to the consultant who did a workshop for our commissioners to develop a vision, and all that developed was an understanding that our commissioners couldn’t get along with each other. At the end, they vowed to play nice. Well, that’s worn off. Sylvia, passionate about the Mango Festival, rudely interrupted other commissioners at least 12 times by my count, I may have missed some, Bill, understandably, showed some temper, through it all Peggy did almost nothing to maintain order; this was a meeting that should have taken at most an hour and a half, and went on, and on, and on….

To the commissioners: Be ashamed, be very very ashamed!!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Deerfield Beach to Pay $60,000 for "Pretty"

At tomorrow’s commission meeting the commissioners have a recycling contract to approve. (Nope, you can’t give any public input.) This is another egregious instance of throwing away taxpayers money FOR NO GOOD REASON! (Remember the Boinis buyout, and the almost $100,000 paid back to HUD in 2009 because of bad record keeping)

(20) Resolution 2010/ - A Resolution of the City Commission of the City of Deerfield Beach, Florida, approving the agreement between the City of Deerfield Beach and Sun Recycling, LLC. (Funds from Account #450-4051-534-32-14 - Disposal Fees) ACTION: Commission to vote on Resolution 20. Sun Recycling

The crazy sequence of events that led to this waste is worthy of a South Park episode.

1. The commissioners were given a choice between two equally qualified
finalists by the city staff. They chose the one that was $216,000 cheaper. OK,

2. Oops, the losers complained to the mayor. (This was the company
whose owners, I was told, were introduced to others by Mayor Peggy as “my very
good friends”.) She said we need to see presentations by all the companies.
Totally unprecedented, and totally unnecessary, but her “friends” hadn’t won so
I guess she wanted another chance.

3. The bizarreness continued - the companies who were awarded the
contract were voted off the island and the bidding went back to square one. With
one difference, during the presentations, Sun gave in a spreadsheet with lower
prices. They to be were ignored in making the pick, the commission said. Yeah,
let me tell you about the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny.

4. Yup, you guessed it, Sun got the whole enchilada. When asked why by
Joan Maurice, the answer was something like their facility was cleaner and the
Power Point was prettier, and they did nice work after Wilma. OMG!!! This is
garbage, how clean does a garbage plant have to be??? OK, Peggy, Marty and
Sylvia, justify a little cleaner being worth $200,000 bucks. Uh-uh, I didn’t
think so.

5. Now we learn Sun, our good buddies have come down in price so they
are only $60,000 more than the other choice. Are we ready folks? OK, let’s make
a list of thing the city could do with $60,000.

The Sun people say that there will, because of volume, be an estimated savings of $389,000 the first year, but with the other choice, the guys who thought they had the contract but then didn’t, I bet dollars to donuts that the savings would be even higher as they are a Deerfield Beach based company and won’t have to truck it out of town.

WHAT TO DO???? Now that we have a precedent, and we know that three of our commissioners are fickle, indecisive, unprepared and don’t care that no companies in their right minds would want to do business with the city from now on anyway, let us urge them to rescind the Sun vote and go back to the people who will save us some money.

Write the commissioners and tell them this is crazy to pay 60 GRAND more for NOTHING. Come to the commission meeting tomorrow and hold up a sign saying NO. See what happens.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Madoff Move Over

All over Florida developers are rushing to city commissions to get land use changes for higher density before Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 is passed on November 2nd. OK, given the mindset of the land speculator, this is to be expected, unconscionable, but expected.

BUT, there is a disturbing and outrageous trend in our poor paved over, built-out Broward County. The Diplomat Hotel and the First Presbyterian Church in the Colee Hammock area of Ft. Lauderdale and who knows what others are pulling scams worthy of Bernie Madoff.

Land designations aimed at renovating aging neighborhoods are being bastardized for gain. To increase allowed density, clever but unprincipled designers have come up with the idea of changing land uses and turning their clients’ properties into *LACs and **PUDs. They are perverting the goals of designations created for revitalizing aging areas into livable neighborhood developments. This is wrong and must be recognized and stopped.

County regulations say: “(8) In no instance shall a density of greater than
fifty (50) dwelling units per gross acre be permitted.”

But, not ones to allow little things like land use laws get in their way, the Diplomat Hotel’s clever land use lawyers figured out a way to maximize not only the size of the building but the gluttony of the owners. HAVE THEY NO SHAME!!

The Diplomat applied for their hotel area to be termed a Local Activity Center (LAC) in order to benefit from the added density allowed to LACs. That way they could bypass the 50 unit per acre restriction and build a couple of 90 per acre condo towers. The neighbors went ballistic.

The Presbyterian Church obviously does not subscribe to Loving Thy Neighbors as it is trying to get a land use change which would call its property a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

The only planning done here is plotting to come up with the scheme to build what is prohibited by current code. The Colee Hammock neighbors are already sick of the traffic problems from the church, blocked driveways and streets, and are outraged at this ploy.

The church wants to build a massive five-story commercial office building and parking garage with a 66 ft. tower fronting Las Olas Boulevard. The upper four levels would include 264 parking spaces, with retail, restaurant and office space on the first floor. A two-story Family Center along Southeast Fourth Street will have administrative offices, classrooms, a kitchen, gymnasium, lockers and showers, meeting rooms and an activity center.

Some clever brainac found the PUD designation and realizing that land use and zoning is a free for all in a PUD, snatched the idea, I assume they said, “Let’s con the commission into thinking that this could be called a PUD and we can do what we want.”

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; they put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Isaiah (ch. V, v. 20)

*An LAC is defined as a compact, community level mixed-use center which must include residential, park/open space and at least one other non-residential use. Configuration must be supportive of the “5-minute walk,” and accessibility to mass transit facilities. An area, usually in the older sections of a city can be redeveloped into a neighborhood in which affordable housing and market priced homes are mixed in with stores, restaurants, offices and park land. The key is a design which leads to a stable community where people can live and work and leads to pride in their neighborhood.

**Planned Unit Development is a means of land regulation which promotes large scale, unified land development by means of mid-range, realistic programs in chase of physically-curable, social and economic deficiencies in land and cityscapes. Where appropriate, this development control promotes a mixture of both land uses and dwelling types with at least one of the land uses being regional in nature, the clustering of residential land uses providing public and common open space.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Deerfield Beach Ethics Code Revised, Some Teeth Pulled

Click on image to enlarge.
The Deerfield Beach Commission passed the revised Ethics Code, I was not sure it would pass as both Commissioner Poitier and Mayor Noland were vocally against it and Commissioner Miller voted against it initially. But residents are in favor of our elected officials having an ethics code and came out in numbers when Noland placed the code on the agenda to be repealed. With most elected officials the first priority is to get reelected; I am sure they took that into consideration. It really doesn’t look classy to be against ethics.

A little bit into the meeting on Tuesday, after voting yes on the ethics code, we learn that Sylvia called a city employee and told them to go to her business center and take pictures of the cans of paint in the closet. Uh-uh, Sylvia. Commissioners set policy, they DO NOT have employees at their beck and call for errands and photography. Commissioners are explicitly forbidden by the Deerfield Beach Charter from having city employees take their orders. That is what we pay the City Manager for, to carry out policies set by the commission. We have been through this with Noland, and now Sylvia who seemed to think it was her due. (Someone countermanded the order and the pictures did not get taken.)

Why is it so easy for a commissioner to think they run the city and start asking employees to do their bidding? Yup, power corrupts; hence the charter provision.

Back to the ethics code and the change in the gifts provision from accepting $0 to allowing $50 gifts (Some dodads provisions could have been added). Why should a commissioner, who is paid a salary for doing a job, receive ANYTHING for free because he or she is a commissioner?

An elected official may accept anything if it is also made available to the general public, but when it is offered only to the official, even with a $50 per giver per year limit, there is no doubt it is done to curry favor, and those items, however small, add up over time, and can erode impartial thinking.