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).