Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Right Thing


Friday, December 19, 2014

Moment of Silence or Moment of Ridicule for Deerfield Beach


Some years ago the Deerfield Beach commission heard from some residents that they would like a moment of silence instead of a prayer in the beginning of commission meetings.  This caused many religious residents to attend the next commission meeting and demand that the prayers continue, which as a result of the uproar, they did.

Now, in reaction to court decisions, there is a movement to have the invocation delivered by those of non-traditional beliefs, all legal according to the courts.  The people who are making these unusual requests are hoping to stage a publicity stunt trying to make the point that government should not be in the business of religion, and that many attendees of commission meetings feel ostracized by the current type of invocations.

Not wanting their invocations turned into a media circus many cities have done away with invocations entirely; other cities, have decided to have a moment of silence during which people can pray silently or not as they wish. 

I don’t think Deerfield Beach is ready to do away with a spiritual moment before our meetings, but a moment of silence will eliminate the possibility of the invocation time being turned into a moment of ridicule, and go a long way toward eliminating the feeling by many residents that the city is not one of inclusion. 
 
 
 
COMMENT BY DAVID COHEN (This was sent to the city commission):
 
The Five Electees Serving on the Deerfield Beach City Commission were elected To Represent All Constituents, Not Just Christians
.
The diversity in our town underscores the need to replace the divisive sectarian invocations at civic gatherings with unifying Moments of Silence. 

Scriptures of major creeds support this practice.   Quotations provided upon request.   
 
Consider also, in sharing that moment of silence for prayer and/or contemplation, non-believers can, at last, attain their due civil rights — HUMAN RIGHTS — to be treated as the equal citizens that they are. 
 
This is yet one more time for me to invoke the spirit of Rosa Parks.   I insist that you will no longer shove me to the back of the bus.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Letter to Blog-by-Bett from David Cohen:

December 5, 2014 in a commentary http://deerfieldbeachusa.com/  along with his typically brilliant abilities to analyze facts and conditions and to eloquently express well-founded opinions; the author, Jeff Sayles, is a gentleman.  In this case I feel that he’s been overly kind.  

I too, once had a telephone and Email acquaintance with Jean Robb — it doesn't seem to have been anywhere nearly as close or enduring a relationship as Jeff describes his.  That is at least partly due to my feeling of repugnance engendered by her contentious and abrasive manner and her regressive (way out of date) attitudes toward social issues.

Like some who supported Jean when she ran for office, in this century and in the last, Jeff can still bring forward such kind and sweet words for the motives and conduct of a person whose performance is clearly marked by a belief — a belief that being nasty and dirty, and everything that that implies such as lack of integrity and fairness, ruthlessness, dishonesty, deceit, vindictiveness, and meanness as well as a Machiavellian approach to governing — all attributes shared by a true misanthropist — justifies the trust of the people enough to get her elected. 

So it has been.  Rather than proceeding as one elected to serve as a commission member with a ceremonial role in accordance with the city charter, she has behaved like an anointed despot with all of those characteristics that we’ve listed.  Fortunately her conduct was moderated by a diligent city manager, by the Broward County Inspector General and by city commissioners.  CHAOS checked.

Robb has supporters/fellow travelers.   Each time that some of them speak or write, we are struck by the fact that they seem to see life through a straw — far narrower than tunnel vision with eyes that see but do not observe, ears that hear but do not listen.

 Add to this, tongues that express respect for the words of naive and credulous sheep who venerate a shepherd — skilled but flawed but fail to speak to an issue at hand.

I have much respect for Jeff, but I cannot condone giving that woman a "Queen's pass' any more than I would give a pass to the conniving of any such person.  There is no end to the chicanery to which we've been and are exposed in our town.

 Vermin cannot be controlled with sweet words.  They respond to kindness as a weakness.  Vermin must be — nullified — defanged, quarantined where they cannot pollute with their poison. Then, we can be merciful FROM A DISTANCE.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Deerfield Beach Mayor Censured

At last night’s (Tuesday, December 2) commission meeting, in reaction to the OIG report, the commissioners voted to send a message to Mayor Jean Robb that her unethical behavior was not going to be tolerated by passing a motion to go on record that Robb’s conduct is unacceptable and is an abuse of power and should cease immediately. 

Her answer was to make snide joking remarks about the $500 checks and the Little League bus.  The one commissioner who voted no on the resolution did so because he thought it was too weak.  He was in favor of a vote to suspend her.  Given her reaction, which was to speak up and deny that she violated the charter in spite of being advised by her VERY high priced attorney not to say anything, perhaps a suspension should have been the motion.

Strangely there were people in the audience who were urged to come and speak because they thought that Fr. Dalton of St. Ambrose Church was being accused of something.  Bill Ganz made it plain that that was not the case, but many got up and extolled the priest’s and the school’s virtues anyway.  The situation is not that anyone in the church asked for favors, it is that Robb overstepped her authority by demanding a city employee parking sticker be given to Fr. Dalton and that the church parking lot be cleaned by the city, those are not her decisions to make. 

It seemed that the good church people were OK with a violation of the charter and the code of ethics as long as the church benefited.  Or, maybe if they actually knew the circumstances behind the actions they wouldn’t be OK with it.  They seemed to be nice people who had no idea of the facts of the situation and had no clue what was happening which made what they did say seem quite surreal. 

Others spoke basically saying that because the mayor meant well, what she did was all right.  That kind of thinking leads me to believe that those people would be OK with an elected official stealing, lying, taking bribes and abusing their position as long as something they liked benefited.   We have laws, charter provisions and ethics laws for a reason into which I need not go as it is quite evident why. Elected officials MUST follow the rules even when they are inconvenient. 

Instead of acknowledging that what she did was wrong, apologizing and correcting her behavior Mayor Robb is living in denial.  The OIG report was specific, she did it. 

The reason the report exists at all is due to Robb’s inability to correct her behavior.  The reasons behind the drastic move of complaining to the Office of the Inspector General lie solely on her shoulders; she brought this upon herself by refusing to comply with city laws even after being corrected time after time by the city manager, the other commissioners and the city attorney. This last-ditch effort to get some relief from her behavior and to bring her misconduct out in the public paid off in the findings of the OIG report.  Her feigning innocence will not convince anyone who reads the report that she is not totally guilty.  If going forward she continues to act as in the past I hope the Commission, or the State will take much stronger measures. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In Deerfield Beach, A Conspiracy of Truth

A Conspiracy of Truth - 11/08/14

(Thanks for writing this Jeff, so much better than I could have.)

From:  www.deerfieldbeachusa.com

There's no question in my mind, after reading the IG report of her conduct as mayor and hearing other reports, that Jean Robb has committed malfeasance or misfeasance by her frequent violations of the city charter; and possibly, in some cases, she's violated criminal statutes. The latter is still under investigation. Meanwhile, Mayor Robb is dismissive of the report — her lawyer will take care of it — as if to suggest the report's findings are not to be taken too seriously.
 
 
However, the final report of the Broward Office of the Inspector General (OIG), just issued Nov. 7, 2014, Misconduct by Deerfield Beach Mayor Jean Robb, OIG 14-017, concluded that her pattern of unlawful behavior in contravention of the city charter is serious:
 
The OIG investigation found probable cause to believe that Mayor Robb engaged in misconduct when she attempted to use her position to obstruct City code enforcement efforts involving a local dealership that donated to her chosen causes. We found that Mayor Robb routinely abused her authority by directing staff members without the City Manager’s knowledge and approval. Given Mayor Robb’s long tenure in her position, we must conclude that such abuse was not accidental. Such actions contravene the City charter’s well-considered safeguards separating the executive from the legislature. They also have a predictably coercive effect on employees and circumvent controls designed to protect public resources and maintain governmental accountability. [Emphasis added.]
 
 
 The mayor did not file a formal response to the preliminary report that was issued about a month ago (so she hasn't denied the allegations), and she continues to wear a face of unconcerned indifference in her public appearances.
 
 
 Throughout her political career, Robb has faced attacks on her conduct and character. She's always managed to immerge relatively intact, and that could be the case here, though it doesn't look too good for her now. Also, through it all, she has maintained a loyal band of followers who love her to death and will support her to the bitter end. Unfortunately, the recurring allegations of misconduct distract from the more important business of the city, which is to make better lives for its residents. Mayor Robb, as well, ought to stick to city business rather than spend her time trying to get special privileges for her friends or concocting vendettas against people she less favors. It's in that arena where she gets into the most trouble.
 
 
If there is, now, a grand conspiracy against Mayor Robb to unseat her, as some may believe, it is more likely a conspiracy of truth. At the next stage of this investigation, the facts will out and consequences, follow.
 
 
 Malfeasance is a concept we (Florida) inherited from the law of England. It is a general principle that when a state separates from another state, the law of the former state continues in force until changed. This assures legal continuity. This is why if you should ever happen to be involved in a civil suit for breach of contract, the suit may be decided on legal principles established by English judges centuries ago before American independence.
 
 
At common law, malfeasance is a crime. It is sometimes referred to as a breach of public trust. Malfeasance can also be the basis of a civil tort action in some cases. It still is a crime in the Realm. A recent Canada Supreme Court case discussed it at length, and the UK Attorney General has advised British prosecutors they still may pursue criminal charges of malfeasance in applicable cases. In Florida, the governor's power to suspend a public official for malfeasance or misfeasance dates back to at least the post-Reconstruction constitution of 1885.
 
 
Malfeasance is essentially wrongdoing — a willful violation of the law. Under Florida law, it has been largely subsumed on the criminal side by statute (e.g., official misconduct), but can still result in civil penalties (misuse of office) or be grounds for suspension or recall.
 
 
In other words, malfeasance, misfeasance, breach of public trust, unlawful or unethical conduct — whatever you may call it — is no laughing matter, to be brushed off as a mere legal technicality.
 
 
A related question is why Mayor Robb is so blasé about these reports and the possible consequences — arrogantly so the way I read her. I don't think she is a crook or "crazy." At this point, she hasn't been accused of any crime that is malum in se: bribery, embezzlement, extortion, or oppression, for example. Nor has she been accused, yet, of falsifying public records, conflict of interest, or anything of that sort. Nonetheless, the evidence points to repeated, knowing violations of the city charter by her interference with the city's administration, undermining the council-manager form of government adopted in the charter.
 
 
Government codes of ethics are designed to preserve public integrity. If we had a mayor who was perfectly honest, we probably would not have to worry too much about public integrity. She would always tell the truth; act impartially, setting aside personal biases and prejudices; respect the rights and dignity of all people; and comply with the law whether she agrees with it or not. On the other hand, a thoroughly dishonest public official, from the standpoint of personal ethics, can fully comply with the standards of conduct set out in the ethics codes and never be accused of ethics violations. This, I believe, is the crux of the matter: Jean Robb is short in the personal integrity department. It's not that she does not have the intellectual or mental capacity to know "right" and "wrong" or that she does not totally understand the charter that governs the way the city is supposed to operate. She just doesn't want to do it that way. As the IG report stated: "Given Mayor Robb’s long tenure in her position, we must conclude that [her] abuse [of authority] was not accidental."
 
 
Thus, she does "stupid" things. She hardly ever admits to her mistakes. She resists making amends. If she does apologize, it's half-hearted and she goes back to her old ways. No, she will claim, she didn't demand code enforcement ease up on the car dealer who gave money to her favorite causes — she just asked if. Like she asked if (just if) a certain person could be blocked from her city email account. Nor did she tell city employees to issue a city parking sticker to her pastor or seek to exclude a potential contractor she doesn't like for some reason from a contract bid. She, she will say, was misunderstood . . . or they are lying. Just like Sheriff Israel lied. As Maj. Burns ("M*A*S*H") said, "I wouldn't be so paranoid if everyone wasn't against me."
 
 
If Jean Robb, in the face of the evidence, does not atone or resign, the city may have no choice but to act. The commission cannot let this behavior go unchecked. As Mr. Ganz indicated at the last city commission meeting, if Robb's behavior continues, the city must do something. The commission has options, he said, which is true.
 
 
 If my thesis that Mayor Robb has committed malfeasance or misfeasance is correct, the commission could ask the governor to suspend her from office. That would an option — a good first one to explore.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Advice on how to stay out of jail---from a lobbyist who didn’t


By Kevin A. Ring October 24


Virginia’s legislators and governor should embrace a total ban on gifts of any value from private interests, including lobbyists, to lawmakers. I say this not because I think politicians can be bought with a free cheeseburger or Redskins tickets. I do not believe that at all, but it seems clear that a great majority of the general public does.

I should know. In 2010, a federal jury convicted me of honest services fraud, a junior varsity form of bribery, for giving numerous small gifts to members of Congress and their staffs while I worked as a lobbyist.

From my prison bunk in Maryland, I offer this unsolicited but hard-learned advice for the commonwealth’s lawmakers and lobbyists:

Zero is the right “limit.” Lawmakers should not pick some low-dollar value for a gift limit. Go with zero. First, if you create a limit, no matter how reasonable-sounding, people will try to abuse it. When Congress limited gifts to $50 in the 1990s, the late Abe Pollin allegedly responded by setting the value of a ticket to a Verizon Center skybox at $48. Second, do not be fooled into thinking that limiting the size of permissible gifts solves the problem. Numerous psychologists and behavioral economists have confirmed the principle of reciprocity: People are hard-wired to repay even small favors or gifts. For officeholders, this benign, evolutionary instinct could come back to hurt them.

Any legal prohibition should also apply to lobbyists, not just the public officials they are trying to influence. I say this to protect lobbyists, not hurt them. Every lobbyist knows that conflicted feeling when a lawmaker whose help you need asks you for something you know he or she probably should not take. You want to say “yes” for your and your client’s benefit. And, let’s face it, if a gift prohibition applies only to the officeholder, a lobbyist will find it easy to do the wrong thing. The lobbyist’s other choice is to remind the lawmaker that he or she shouldn’t be asking for a particular gift. Your service as the lawmaker’s moral conscience will not be welcomed in most cases. Far better to be able to say, “Sorry, I would love to help, but I could go to jail if I say yes.”

If you don’t act, the feds will. A career-climbing federal prosecutor enjoys nothing so much as playing white knight to the scourge of public corruption, especially the corruption found in an opposing political party. Congress has given ambitious prosecutors a powerful weapon in the federal honest service statute. The law is so broad that every public official in the country — from a U.S. senator to a local dogcatcher — is subject to prosecution for accepting gifts from private interests.

If you get caught, you will almost certainly be convicted. News flash to lawmakers: The public doesn’t like you all that much, and it likes lobbyists even less. The level of cynicism about public officials and lobbyists is too high in my view for a healthy democracy, but it is real and you best beware. Most employees (read: prospective jurors) are not offered free meals, tickets and trips at their jobs and see no reason that public servants deserve such freebies.

I appreciate that many Virginia lawmakers might think that their integrity is being unfairly attacked because of the misdeeds of former governor Robert F. McDonnell (R). Get over it. When 12 politician-hating laypeople convene in a jury room to decide what they think about powerful public servants accepting gifts from those who want power used on their behalf, they will not care how strongly you feel about your integrity. They will be happy to convict you.

Some lawmakers might worry that a ban on gifts will lead to fewer opportunities to meet with constituents and conduct commonwealth business in informal social settings. These relaxed events can improve government responsiveness by increasing interaction between the public and its elected leaders. And, some might be candid enough to admit, free hospitality and gifts make the job a little more fun. I get it. But I promise the commonwealth’s leaders and lobbyists that even without free gifts, being in politics will be more fun than being in prison.

The writer is an inmate at Cumberland Federal Prison Camp. Before entering prison, he was a freelance writer in Kensington and, before that, a federal lobbyist.

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Does Deerfield Beach Have Broken Windows?

http://www.cityethics.org/content/applying-broken-windows-theory-local-government-ethics

Applying the Broken Windows Theory to Local Government Ethics

Does the "broken windows" theory, as first stated in a 1982 Atlantic essay by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, apply to government ethics? The theory says that, if small things like broken windows are ignored, people will think that no one cares and, therefore, they will break more windows and move on to more serious misconduct. It's about setting norms and sending signals.

Forget the misuse of this theory in policing, where individuals are arrested for small offenses, sending them into the criminal justice system when they should not be. The focus of the theory was on fixing windows, showing that people do care, and sending the message that good conduct is the community norm.

Isn't this what a good local government ethics program is supposed to do:  try to prevent and fix the small instances of ethical misconduct through training, advice, and disclosure, so that the big ones don't happen? A good ethics officer should dispose of reports and complaints of minor misconduct and misconduct that isn't covered by the ethics code by talking with the official and trying to get her to understand why what she is alleged to have done (whether or not she actually did it, whether or not there is an enforceable rule involved) might be harmful to the government organization and the community if it were to become (or remain) common.

A well-run local government ethics program is a form of community policing, with the community being the government organization and the ethics officer being the police officer on the beat. This is, for example, the way my colleague Carla Miller does it in Jacksonville. The relationship between ethics officer and official is not primarily an adversarial relationship, but rather a service relationship, in which the ethics officer's role is to help keep officials (and the organization) on the straight and narrow so scandals don't undermine the public's trust in their community's government. It requires that the ethics officer have room for maneuver, a strategy, and clear goals.

It is harmful to the public's trust when every little report and complaint is taken past the investigation and warning/settlement stage into a full-fledged proceeding. Most matters should be dismissed before an enforcement proceeding begins, and those that begin should rarely get very far without a settlement, at least if the ethics officer-official relationship has been working. A leadership supportive of the government ethics program will help make this relationship work.

As it is, there are too few ethics officers to form these relationships, too many ethics programs feel they need to be primarily adversarial, and too much of the news media and too many good government groups do not appear to recognize the value of these relationships, of treating broken windows not as crimes, but rather as something to be fixed in order to set good norms and send the right messages before things go too far.

Robert Wechsler
Director of Research, City Ethics
rwechsler@cityethics.org
203-230-2548
 
 
A good essay, but Mr. Wechsler's essay deals with folks who listen and correct their behavior when shown the error of their ways.

Unlike our Mayor who cannot seem to learn, and does not alter her behavior even when the "complaint is taken past the investigation and warning/settlement stage".   

Our Madam Mayor is still trying to go around the City Manager, and continues directly to ask staff to do her bidding.  She wanted an inappropriate notice put on the city web site, and was piqued when told no by the staff member and told that the City Manager would have to approve any posting. 

JEAN!  YOU ARE NOT THE CITY MANAGER!  YOU MUST STICK TO SETTING POLICY, NOT DEALING WITH EMPLOYEES! 

Jean, as you are not able to take advice or direction it's time you realize you are not the right person to be mayor, time to step down. You are an embarrassment to Deerfield Beach.
 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Beautiful Deerfield Beach

Thanks to the Original Save Our Beach committee and thousands of Deerfield voters our beach area is attracting the type of development they envisioned. 

Residents overwhelming voted to keep our beach low-rise and uncluttered. 

The CRA board has improved the look of the beach with new pavers, furniture and refurbished pier. 

As a result, builders of new homes, condos, hotels and rentals are eager to be a part of our in-demand gem of a beach area. 

These are the words of the owner of the new Royal Blues Hotel saying why he located his new boutique hotel on the beach in Deerfield Beach: “for its timeless qualities of 1960’s surf culture, low rise building landscape and its devotion to natural beauty,"

This is the new Royal Blues Hotel which was built to code
www.royalblueshotel.com

 
 

In addition, a new beautiful short term vacation rental building will soon be built around the corner from the Billabong store:



Our beach, because residents demanded that buildings should be low and setbacks generous, is in demand for it’s unique-in-South Florida, ambiance. 

Residents have always wanted our beach to have a small village feel, but former commissioners did not, they tried to bring in massive overdevelopment.  Residents prevented this by making sure the beach building codes are in our City Charter and cannot be changed except by voter referendum.

One of the developers who is now building a new restaurant by the Cove loves the character of Deerfield Beach so much that he said he is going to live here and is now very glad that his former enormous projects were denied. 

Kudos to the commissioners who resisted the pressure from some greedy land owners who wanted to change our codes, kudos to the builders and owners who are building such beautiful projects within our code, shame on anyone who proposes to change our beach codes.  We, the residents and smart builders, know that keeping our beach free from massive congestion and traffic will benefit the whole city well into the future.

There are 2 more examples of what’s to come on our Beach in my Sept. 7 post.  See below.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

News headline: “Deerfield Beach Mayor Engaged in "Ethical Misconduct," OIG Report Says”

For another article about the report go to: www.deerfieldbeachusa.com

After reading the Office of the Inspector General’s report on Mayor Robb’s conduct my first reaction is sadness, first and foremost sadness, not for the mayor, but for Deerfield Beach residents and city workers.
 
This should not have happened! 

The actions which resulted in the findings from the OIG were disgraceful examples of hubris; the actions of a person who feels she is above the rules that govern the rest of us, even after being warned her conduct was illegal. 

This was not one event, it was over and over again, and the evidence shows that when she was mayor back in the 80s it was a problem even then.  A persistent pattern, I understand, which even when sued, and censured, and having a special resolution passed to halt her behavior, did not stop then and is continuing even now.

We have an excellent group of administrative employees, award winning, and responsive to residents.  But their moral is being battered by the mayor’s behavior to them.  Many employees will not talk to the mayor unless another person is also present.  This is sad. 

I was told that at least three employees retired early or left for other jobs in a large part because of Mayor Robb’s conduct. This is sad.

Mayor Jean Robb is not new to politics, she cannot use the excuse of not knowing the City of Deerfield Beach Charter provisions, she was the head of the charter review committee which took each element and scrutinized it to decide if it should be retained as is, changed or deleted.

She knows what she does is prohibited.  She recently had 8 hours of training on ethics laws; 4 hours a year are mandated by state law. She knows better, and, she was warned by the City Manager and the City Attorney.

The OIG report points out the many times that Robb has violated laws since she became mayor in March of 2013.  

As an example the report states that she, without going through the City Manager, directed the duties of employees. 

In the report,  

“The City Manager stated that, pursuant to the Charter, the Mayor and any Commissioner may make inquiries of City staff, but they may not direct or interfere in staff members' job duties or assignments.

 “He also stated that he knew of no instances when any other members of the City Commission attempted to direct the work of City employees.

“He stated he can and has cautioned Mayor Robb about her conduct, and he has directed his staff to let him know if she attempted to affect their job duties.

“He further stated that he believed that the City Attorney has also advised her about the prohibition against her directing the activities of City staff.”

The report also says she obstructed the city’s code enforcement efforts in favor of a car dealership who donated to two of her favorite charities; tried to block the city from awarding a contract to a vendor she didn’t like; on her own committed the city to pay for transportation of a Little League baseball team; had the city clean St. Ambrose’s parking lot and insisted that Fr. Dalton be issued an employee parking sticker.

All this adds up to simply a maverick who, cannot or will not control her behavior.  I lean to the cannot control side because as many times as she promises not to interrupt or disrupt meetings, she continues to do it, as many times as she was warned that she must not interfere with employees duties, she continues to do it, even in public meetings, on camera.  This is sad.

This cannot go on, her word is not to be trusted, in my opinion she will not change.   

Jean Robb should resign, if not, citing the charter provision that she approved, the other commissioners should vote her off the dais.
 
 
The complete OIG Report:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Another Greedy Self-serving Jerk Heard From

At a recent Deerfield Beach Commission meeting another jackass, not a Deerfield resident, got up and complained about restrictive building codes at the beach implying that developers cannot make money; such utter nonsense, and so very self-serving (he owns property in Deerfield Beach). 

 If he and anyone else continue to tell us that our development codes on the beach are too restrictive and developers cannot make money, the Group P6 developments may squash these falsehoods. 

Group P6 paid $540,000 for their 216 SE 19th Ave. property and $1,425,000 for the two lots at the corner of Hillsboro and SE 19th Ave.    Time will tell if these developments actually take place, but Group P6 bought these three properties earlier this year, so they must think they made a wise investment!

Here are renderings of what they are planning.  It certainly looks as if they are OK with the building codes and are planning on putting up a couple of profitable buildings.




Our beach codes are written to make the best use of our beach area and were approved by 75% of the voters.  They make sure properties are not crowded lot line to lot line with massive buildings.  The codes were written with the residents’ quality of life in mind.  The codes were written so that the beach would have a chance at staying the type of village-feel low rise area so desired by everyone who comes here and raves about the great time they had on our lovely beach.

None of the visitors, snow-birds, or residents want what accompanies the kind of development that the aforementioned jackass wants. 

So when you hear someone mention that our codes “stifle” development, or are not generous enough, make sure you ask them if they are going to live or vacation here, or if they just want to make a bundle of money off the misery of Deerfield’s beach goers.

 

Friday, August 8, 2014

School Board, Wake Up!

Most cities don’t have a city resident on the School Board, just someone from a large regional district.  This means that “our” representative deals with not only our 7 schools, but dozen’s more in other cities. This keeps the School Board members so far removed from the home towns that they don’t see the local needs, or the unfairness of many of their decisions.

It is impossible to have enough time to get to know each school’s and city’s needs, and so perhaps decisions are made without enough knowledge.  For example, deciding that schools don’t need to have School Resource Deputies. 

With what this country has seen in the recent past taking place on our school campuses, elementary, middle and high schools, police in each school are not a frill, but a necessity.

For years Deerfield Beach has begged and borrowed money for School Resource Deputies for its schools, not a city responsibility, but these are our children. 

This expense should be a School Board budget item.  However, when Commissioner Ganz contacted them he was greeted politely, thanked for his call, and then in effect told, “Take a flying leap”.

Decidedly money and politics count more than children in our School Board’s list of priorities. 

 The money for next year, $199,562.00 for 2 deputies, which should be paid by the School Board, is instead, with the Commission’s approval, coming from Deerfield Beach’s LETF Resources (money confiscated from drug deals and such). 

There is no way Deerfield Beach should be on the hook for the entire expense as the children in the schools come from many other cities. The School Board is not stepping up to the plate, so we have to, but each of the cities which send students to Deerfield Beach should pay their pro-rated share.  Who can make this happen?  Whoever it is should get cracking.

Think of the things two hundred grand could do for our city, for example, helping prevent crime with children’s programs or, perhaps, helping victims of crime.  This won’t get done because we are shouldering the entire burden of keeping our kiddies safe in their schools.

Our Commission has its priorities straight, however unfair it is, our city is paying the cost.  To our Commission, our children's safety comes first, I can't say the same for the Board of Education..

Perhaps we should grab our “pitchforks” and attend a few School Board meetings.

 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Leader at Last

Ben Preston, in his short time on the Deerfield Beach Commission, has done more for his district in accomplishments and in morale improvement than was done by any past  District 2 commissioner.

The folks in District 2 often felt that they were slighted, or ignored when it came to city support, but not anymore. 

Ben ran for office not because he wanted to be a commissioner but because he felt that being on the commission would enable him to help the people in his district help themselves.  And he has done that. 

Everything in the list below was done in response to what the residents wanted, all could have been done in years past but no one listened until Ben came along.

Ben feels that our children are our future and is doing everything in his power to make sure as many Deerfield Beach students as possible stay in school, or return to school and graduate.
  • Ben, in response to residents’ suggestions, spearheaded the new policy on how long the public has to speak at commission meetings; the new policy allows the public 4 minutes (versus 3 minutes) and an additional minute can be granted at the discretion of the Mayor.
  • Ben initiated the renaming of Westside Community Center to the Johnny Tigner Community Center.
  • Ben had the name of SW 10th Ct. changed to Bethlehem Ct.
  • Ben started Project 2nd Chance, a GED class program culminating in a graduation ceremony for successful participants.
  • Ben spent hours and hours getting the 1st ever Deerfield Beach Elementary and Middle School Debate Competition started which was such a success that everyone wants it to be a yearly event.
  • Ben fought for an Appeals board as a resource for volunteer coaches involved in city athletics.
  • Ben was successful in bringing baseball back to Westside Park with the new little league and adult baseball fields.
  • To improve the appearance of District 2, and to improve safety conditions, Ben expedited the repaving of SW 11th Drive, the repaving of SW 15th Street, the installation of sidewalks in North Deerfield and moved to get a drop-off lane at the High School, which also eased traffic congestion on SW 15th Street.
  • Ben supported the BSO/FAU Owls on Patrol program.
  • Ben, knowing that appreciation is a great motivator, moved to get a trophy case at City Hall where awards and achievements can now be displayed.
  • Ben listened to the people who were upset at the potholes in the cemetery and made sure they were repaired.
  • Ben moved to help provide transportation to and from football games for the parent run Packer Rattlers youth football team.
  • Ben listened to the many residents who complained to the city about wild chickens and made sure they were removed. Some had been complaining about this for many years.
  • Ben organized a field trip for Deerfield Beach children to see the movie Red Tails about the all African American Tuskegee Airman.  The event included an essay contest and awards
  • Ben was quick to answer complaints about trash and litter dumping and Instituted regular D2 street cleanups and has been actively fighting to eliminate illegal dumping in D2, which seems to be working ,as there has not been a single case of illegal dumping in more than two months.
  • Ben’s efforts in championing his district has led to the city working to keep District 2 as clean and as possible, for example frequent pressure cleaning of the columns at the entrance to Westside Park which has a new deer statue, and there is new focus on cleanups of parks.
  • Ben responded to residents and so the basketball courts at Westside have recently been resurfaced.
  • Ben worked with BSO to increase patrols and investigation activities at Mayo Howard Park after residents contacted him about their concerns, and also worked to move up the timeline for repairs at Johnny McKeithen Park, and the elimination of drug activity at Johnny McKeithen Park.
  • Ben, again alerted by residents and crime reports, worked with BSO to fight elderly intimidation.
  • Ben supported the redevelopment of the Teen Center set to open this summer.
  • Ben worked with the Butters Construction Company on the donation of a new community center in their new business park.
  • Ben listened to the residents’ concerns about our Martin Luther King Day celebration and worked to make historical changes to the parade. This year was the first year ever that the parade crossed Federal Highway it was also the largest parade this city has ever seen, he is continuing to work to make the celebration even better.
  • Ben helped to make the People's Trust transition from Boca Raton to Deerfield Beach as seamless as possible, while working with the late CEO Mike Gold, to develop relationships with the community.
  • Ben was instrumental in securing a $25,000 donation to the SW 15th Street (which runs in front of the Deerfield Beach High School) beautification Project set to break ground this summer, and is working to get SW 15th street renamed as "Buck Pride Way”.
When I compare Ben’s outstanding effort in getting residents involved to that of the last District 2 commissioners I see a pattern emerging.  Ben’s message is together we can make a difference - help me help you.  He is proud of his fellow District 2 residents and makes sure that their accomplishments are made public. 

Ben often distributes certificates of achievement to residents and employees who have made contributions to the quality of life of our city.  This is an exciting improvement compared to the past commissioners’ message of keep quiet, don’t complain and don’t make waves.  Keep up the good work, Ben!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Person or the Actions?

Yes, I am appalled by how Jean Robb is acting and what she is doing, but only because she is a danger to the quality of life of our beach and city.  Her rudeness could be tolerated but her actions and vocal attacks against the best interests of the city cannot.  

Keeping the OVER developers from ruining the quality of life of Deerfield Beach is how I became interested in City Hall.  I was a part time resident in 1993 when we bought our first place here near the beach, and now am a full time resident.  The commission and city manager in 1999, when I first started to question what was happening to the beach area, were kissy-poo with every developer who wanted to use our beach for personal profit.
I learned about the OSOBs and happily joined them in their fight to keep the main beach parking lot from being turned into a commercial development, and have been working with them to keep the beach area from worse traffic and congestion ever since.  Not an easy job, however (see the OSOB time line, www.originalsaveourbeach.org ) with help from residents in all districts our efforts have paid off. 

Mayor Robb wants to undo our protections for the beach.  She has said many times that she wants to allow land owners to be able to build without the restrictions put in place after residents were shocked by the massive Tiara East building and wanted nothing like that on the beach again.  The then commissioners, forced by the public, put lot coverage and height limits on beach building. 
The commission with Al Capellini and Peggy Noland and from what I saw, controlled by City Manager Larry Deetjen did away with those limits to benefit a developer.  But, remembering what happened in the past, the again shocked residents, through referenda signed by thousands of residents and voted into the charter, restored the building codes. 

Mayor Robb’s lame excuse that allowing curb to curb buildings on beach lots will eliminate the drug rehab houses is laughable.  All cities are beset by these ADA protected facilities; codes have nothing to do with it.  Mayor Robb’s support for doing away with the beach building codes after she supported the OSOB past efforts, and has always been a voice against overdevelopment is puzzling.  
I and thousands of residents and members of the OSOBs, will fight her efforts to change the codes.

I spoke against her effort to thwart the Sullivan Park renewal and the Cove Shopping Center parking lot upgrade.  Happily, the other four commissioners also disagreed with her and we now have both projects going forward. 

As of this moment I believe our commissioners are on the right track with development in the city, if my thinking changes you will read it right here. 
Do I support Bill Ganz? Yes, of course, as he has the fiscal and quality of Deerfield Beach upper most in his mind, he wants what is best for the city.

Do I support Ben Preston?  Yes, and in a future post you will see the many reasons why.
Do I support Joe Miller?  Well, that road was much rockier for me; however Joe has learned a lot in his time on the commission and is now looking at everything from the viewpoint of what is best for the beach and the whole city.  

Richard Rosenzweig is new to the commission, however he is strong in his belief that the city should be for the residents, and they are the ones he answers to.
We now have a commission who is not in favor of development for the developers gain, but development that enhances the city and adds to the quality of its life. This is a far cry from the commissions of the past when the public was scorned and belittled and behind the door deals were the norm. 

 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Deerfield Beach Mayor on a Power Trip

This is an excerpt from a post on the www.deerfieldbeachusa.com website, please go to the site to read the entire post.

Is Jean Robb Der Führer? - 06/21/14
A local resident and occasional speaker at city commission meetings, Patrick Jolivet, emailed a letter to Mayor Robb protesting her alleged attempt to block certain emails, including his, to her official city email address. He wrote, "It is important for you to understand that you are not Adolf Hitler and Deerfield Beach is not Nazi Germany." Jolivet's full letter is on the MAOS blog.


Obviously, the city cannot block emails or any other form of communication to City Hall under ordinary circumstances. If the charge is true, I am simply dumbfounded why the mayor would think she could do this. Then again, she thought she could use her personal email for city business to avoid the public records law until she was advised she could not...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nothing has changed in Deerfield Beach


In the Sun Sentinel from a local minister in 2005.  The controversy is as fresh and new today as it was then, and nothing has been done in all these years to make it right! 
 
Sun Sentinel February 2005

Invocations aren't appropriate


I have been a Lutheran pastor for 27 years and believe strongly in the separation of church and state.  I don't believe that God really cares a whole lot about what happens at a City Council or Commission meeting as long as there is no injustice perpetrated upon another human being unless the environment is being polluted or plundered. 

God has more important things to attend to rather than zoning issues, parking problems and other more important issues of running a city.

 These issues are important, but I don't believe they are issues that need the Divine Presence to work out. That's why God gave us brains.

 Personally, as a clergyperson in Deerfield Beach, I don't believe that prayers or invocations are appropriate at city meetings. These are not spiritual gatherings. It kind of goes along with my view on athletes making the sign of the cross before they shoot a basket or swing a bat. I think it helps only if you are good at the foul line or have a .550-plus batting average.
 

 But hey, this is just my opinion.

PETER BROWN,
Pastor
ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH  DEERFIELD BEACH

Friday, May 30, 2014

Marginalized in Deerfield Beach

From David Cohen responding to the Supreme Court decision in the Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway  case challenging the invocation prayer at city meetings:
I do not presume to retry the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) case but I must challenge the decision of the homogeneous majority as a violation of my human rights — I am now legally marginalized. 

When our city’s presiding officer opens each civic meeting by introducing the invocator which is followed by intoning “Everyone stand.” Or “Would you all rise!” it does not come across as a request.  When the invocation, in one form or another cites — emphasizes —  a belief that is inconsonant with mine,  I am consigned to the OTHER caste.

In their very nature, these invocations do proselytize though, according to the SCOTUS majority, it's always been done so it's acceptable as a time-honored custom.  How does this differ from the equally long-standing customs of slavery, of Jim Crow laws and from the ongoing legislation that truncates rights of minorities?

 I have long advocated a moment of silence as an inclusive procedure.  This is supported by scriptures of several creeds and accepted by many non-believers — equal as citizens also.  I cannot understand why any person of conscience in this 21st century republic would not wish to honor this simple step toward mutual respect and unity.

David Cohen — marginalized man


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hey, Deerfield Beach! How About a Moment of Silence?


Mayor Robb made it a point to mention that the Supreme Court ruled that prayer at commission meetings is “perfectly legitimate”. 

 The court decided 5-4 that opening a meeting with prayer is legal.  However, legal does not mean right; does not mean that many people who have to attend meetings are not offended.  Legal does not mean MUST, it means MAY.  I have long held that if any reflection is needed it should be done in a moment of silence which does not rub people’s noses in another’s religion.  That is why you will see me sitting during invocations at commission meetings.

When this was suggested some years back by a Jewish resident, and brought up by Commissioner Militello, Jean Robb took offense and brought the head priest of St. Ambrose Church to voice disapproval.  All well and good, they have every right to state their opinion. 

However, when Fr. Dalton then accosted Commissioner Militello and shook his finger in her face and said that he would personally make sure she didn’t get reelected, I was shocked.  I couldn’t believe a priest would do such a nasty thing. 

He indeed carried out his threat and convinced many of his District 1 parishioners not to vote for her. In doing so I think he risked losing his church’s non-profit status as he is not allowed to do any politicking in church.
 
What was most unbelievable is that all she did was respond to a resident by suggesting a moment of silence.  Was Dalton’s overreaction the Christian thing to do?  Surely not! Certainly not in the Methodist Church in which I was raised.  We were taught to respect others' opinions.

 
A retired Montana Supreme Court Judge says it better than I could, below is an excerpt from his article.
 
An American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
Web Site Guest Post
 
I Will Stand No Longer for Prayer

May 8, 2014
by James C. Nelson, Justice, Montana Supreme Court (Retired)

…I cannot not accept the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 5, decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. In that case the Court held that the town opening its  official board meetings with a Christian prayer offered by members of the clergy does not violate the First Amendment and does not discriminate against minority faiths or coerce participation with non-adherents. 

The Court’s decision is flat wrong. It respects neither the history underpinning the adoption of the religion clauses, the wall of separation, nor the reality that “We the People” are a pluralistic and diverse society encompassing all degrees of sectarian believers, agnostics and atheists.

Nonetheless, that decision is now the law of the land—created from whole cloth and judicially blessed by the right wing Christian majority of our Nation’s highest Court. And, that puts me in a box.

For many years I have stood during opening prayers in public meetings of federal, state and local government. I did so out of a sense of respect for the beliefs of others and for decorum – notwithstanding my personal dis-belief in the prayer and the god prayed-to. But, while respect can be freely given, it cannot be compelled.  And, thus, The Town of Greece leaves me but one option.

I will stand no longer for prayer! I will not, as the Supreme Court suggests, leave the room during the invocation. Rather, I will sit during the prayer in the meeting room in which I am constitutionally entitled to assemble.

I will not be bullied nor will I be shamed into standing. After all, it is not I who is violating the constitutional separation of church and state. I cannot and will not be compelled to participate in any fashion in government sponsored prayer.

To be clear, my problem is not with those who profess and practice belief in one form of religious doctrine or another.  That fundamental right is guaranteed by the First Amendment. Rather, my issue is with public officials who insist on foisting their personal religious beliefs – through prayers in particular – on persons, like me and on others who do not believe, at public meetings.

Stated another way, I take issue with government officers who insist on mixing their official duties with religious prayers, pontifications, Bible readings, and calls upon their God, before, during or at the end official public meetings.

Yet, the Supreme Court in The Town of Greece appears to take the position that this sort of Church/State incest is just part of good ole’ American government – no harm, no foul. Well, the Court is wrong. It is harmful to the First Amendment rights of non-believers and there is, accordingly, a foul of Constitutional magnitude. 

Any legal rational that facilitates some public officers’ seemingly incessant attempts to force their religion down the unwilling throats of non-believers as part of government meetings undisputedly violates the First Amendment. And if that truth offends the religious sensibilities of the fundamentalist Christian jurists doing the facilitating, then so be it. Indeed, thanks to the Roberts five and The Town of Greece, everyone can now be offended – officially and as a matter of law.

There are many “ocracys” that the framers of our Constitution tried to prevent. Chief among them was theocracy. For, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, those who torment us with their religious beliefs will do so without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
 
And now, sadly, they will also do so officially, with the divine sanction of the Supreme Court of the United States.

We the People may be stuck with the Court’s newest law; but, as for me. . . I will stand no longer for prayer."