Wednesday, May 24, 2017

An idea: Let’s table all discussion about the City’s municipal pool at the Beach for two more years.

Below is a video and there are two parts of that video everyone needs to listen to very carefully. And scroll down below for another blog post today (or use this link) to learn about what happened at the Commission Workshop last night. The word “disappointing” comes close to describing it.

If it wasn’t clear before it’s very clear now, the Lake Worth City Commission is incapable of solving the problems at the Beach Complex and pool. Why? It’s impossible if our electeds are in perpetual campaign mode. But that’s going to change in 2 years when the City’s mayor and commissioners begin serving 3-year terms instead of two.

If you didn’t know, that ballot question passed quite easily last March.

City Manager Michael Bornstein said something last night that’s going to shock a lot of people. The Palm Beach Post will not report this because Bornstein describes something that happened in 2011. For the Post, the history of the Casino complex and pool began in 2012 when the new majority on the City Commission took over.

The city manager can’t lead our City Commission. He can provide the best information available and the best possible courses of action, but he can’t vote.

If the only people who show up at Commission meetings are people who want to “Save Our Pool” then they are the ones the electeds hear. Because people packed our Commission meetings back in 2010–2012 yelling “Save Our Beach”, the electeds back then listened, and that’s why we’re in such a terrible position now, having to subsidize a failed business plan, possibly for many years to come if nothing is not done.

Just because people line up and say, “Save Our Pool” doesn’t mean the City Commission should. With a 3-year term our elected officials, whoever they are in two years, will be more in leadership mode than in campaign mode and something like this will be much less likely to happen:

This image will be explained later.
When you finish reading this blog post scroll back up and click on this link. Then ask yourself this, “How many years longer am I willing to wait until the City Commission creates a workable business model for our Beach?”

Here’s what City Manager Bornstein said last night, an excerpt from the video below, about our now-closed municipal pool and decisions made prior to him being hired by the City in 2012:

“The best of my recollection and understanding that [pool facility] was included by the engineering firms and design firms in that calculation so that they could come up with a formula to keep the Casino building where it is and call it a restoration.”

A prior administration in our City — under public pressure to do something — came up with a “formula” to call the former Casino, which was 94% demolished, a “restoration”. Why? Because if they called it new construction, which it was, it would need to be constructed on pilings and follow State law vis-à-vis being located east of the Coastal Construction Line.

Is this all making sense now?

Now you know why a former commissioner, Chris McVoy, PhD, was OK with this Casino ‘renovation’ back in 2010–2012, unconcerned about “rising sea levels”.
What’s not discussed at all is this: the seawall protecting the Casino building and pool was never property inspected when the Casino was ‘renovated’. Is there a recent report on the status of the seawall?

Are you mad? You should be. Now here we are in 2017 and there’s a very real possibility our elected leaders will “kick the can down the road” once again.

In the video pay special attention to what’s said at these minute marks:
  • City Manager Bornstein at 10:10–11:50 minute marks.
  • Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell at 24:10 to the end, the remarks made by Commissioner Herman Robinson.
Then go back to the image and caption above. Have a good day.

Disappointing. Is all we’re going to do is “turn back the clock” to 1971?

The City Commission Work Session was last night to address the municipal pool at the Beach. Later on today the videos will be available.

“Can I have a strong City Commission please?”
The public comment period to address the problems with the City’s pool at the Beach has been extended. Again. Will we learn anything new? No, of course not. But the City wants to listen anyway.

The City Commission: A rum-drenched cocktail best ordered before or after one of those contentious commission meetings when a lot is said, but nothing is accomplished. Drinking it before the meeting could make the experience more palatable. Downing it after will make you forget everything you’ve witnessed. Forever.”
—Excerpt from City of Lake Worth’s beat reporter at the Post in a story titled, “Signature cocktail ideas for Lake Worth’s new speakeasy” at the Grand Opening of C.W.S. Bar + Kitchen (522 Lucerne Ave.) in May of 2016.

When construction company executives and general contractors hear the news from last night they will be incredulous. The look on almost everyone’s face when they heard the number $600,000 to make the pool operational and functional again told the story. How is that even possible? Even some of those who are rallying to keep the pool open doubted the number. At least 2 of the electeds on the dais stated they thought the number was too low.

How Kimley Horn, the accountants, came up with that number has to be explained. It’s inexplicable.

That $600,000, we were told, would bring the pool back to it’s operational function as it was in 1971. The only possible explanation is Kimley Horn was using U.S. dollars, adjusted for inflation, from 46 years ago.

The only leadership last night came from Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell, commissioners Herman Robinson and Andy Amoroso, and the City Manager, Michael Bornstein. Mayor Pam Triolo provided more anecdotes but no clear direction. Commissioner Andy Amoroso kept stating the facts, the pool loses $600,000/yr to keep open and keeps losing $300,000/yr to stay closed. Amoroso also brought up using money from the County’s penny sales tax to fix the pool. And Commissioner Omari Hardy took a position and then took another position later on.

Mayor Triolo said, “Let’s create a destination” and “Do it once and do it right.” The mayor used the word, “holistically”.

Vice Mayor Maxwell hammered the point home, “the pool has been prostituted.” Used as a political football for too many years. Commissioner Robinson said he’s “not interested in pouring money into the existing pool.”

City Manager Bornstein was left to try and explain the inexplicable: the two City experts come from two totally different perspectives. Bob McCallister was using current business models when he gave his presentation last March to the City Commission, explaining how a water park and modern amenities could make the pool facility sustainable. Dave Stewart from Kimley Horn mentioned possibilities like “alternate layouts”, “a smaller pool”, deck expansion to the west, and vertical expansion as well.

But the public will likely focus on the two numbers. The numbers from Mr. McCallister of $4–5M for a new, upgraded facility juxtaposed with Mr. Stewart’s number of $600,000 will not make any sense. Press reports will certainly muddle the issue even further and those who want to “save the pool” will use the number $600,000 as a rallying cry.

If anyone was hoping the City would take a big step forward last night they will be very disappointed. If anything, it was a step back, or maybe even two steps back. The expert the City hired to look at future concepts and business operations, Bob McCallister, provided his numbers and projections. Dave Stewart from Kimley Horn provided his numbers. If you didn’t know any better you would think they were both talking about different pool facilities in different cities.

Mr. Stewart did not address business operations. He provided a number to re-open the pool. To do that code issues will need to be addressed, e.g., the Florida building code, the Health Dept. will need to be consulted, and he made mention of the state’s Model Aquatic Health Code which has never been formally adopted.

The Coastal Control Line is almost dead center in the middle of the pool. The Casino building is completely east of this line.

To re-open the pool so people can use it once again will need consultants and more studies. Permits will be needed and construction plans created. We learned last night that because the pool facility straddles the Coastal Control Line this will make the planning process much more complicated. Blocked pipes leading to the locker rooms and bathroom facilities will need to be cleared. Toilets and sinks will needed to re-open the facility.

When the pool was open it was losing 15,000 gallons of water per day, 2″ of pool water every single day. And no one knows why yet.

And the experts at Kimley Horn told us the pool can be re-opened and operational for $600,000.

No one is laughing in City Hall today. Everyone’s job just got a whole lot harder. Not what we were all expecting prior to the City Workshop yesterday.

Segment #1 and the video: Just the Facts, “Getting from Point A to Point B”, Panel Discussions in West Palm Beach.

Check back tomorrow for more information from the Public Discussions held on May 22nd. Use this link for the first blog post from May 23rd.
This forum was hosted by Town of Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio, West Palm Beach Commissioner Shanon Materio, and Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard.

This first segment featured George Webb, P.E., Palm Beach County Engineer, former West Palm Beach Mayor Nancy Graham and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) representative Mark Plass. The video (see below) also includes the introduction by the day’s Master of Ceremonies, Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard. Dana Little of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council served as moderator for all the panel discussions.

We learned from George Webb what Palm Beach Beach’s responsibilities are as it relates to mobility. He spoke about the County’s traffic signal control system which is controlled at their headquarters building at Okeechobee Boulevard and Jog Road (Vista Center). He also talked about the challenges of making alternative mobility an attractive choice compared to the single passenger automobile, especially in relation to mass transit (longer wait times) and more walking (e.g., the climate).

Many people at this forum may not have been aware of the strategic decision made by Palm Beach County years ago, at the urging of West Palm Beach, to keep County government and the courthouse in the downtown. In the video, you will hear the history of traffic concurrency and the exemption granted the downtown area, especially for residential development.

Mark Plass from FDOT outlined their role related to Okeechobee Boulevard. They own the right-of-way. He acknowledged the department is looking more at all types of mobility issues through transportation system management. This looks at all users, including pedestrians and bikes, in addition to the movement of vehicles. He recognized this corridor is challenged by multiple jurisdictions, including the County in terms of signalization and the Town of Palm Beach as it relates to bridges. FDOT also operates a large safety program overall as it relates to transportation.

Former Mayor Nancy Graham speaks at the 33:30 minute mark and then again at the 51 minute mark providing some of the most interesting insights of the day. Mayor Graham ushered in the strong mayor form of government to the City of West Palm Beach by being elected the first one. She recalled the days before the redevelopment of downtown West Palm Beach and brought pictures to prove it, including the 70 acres which eventually became City Place.

In some ways, she believes the problems the city faces today are really consequences of its success. She also noted that some of the protections that were put in place originally as part of the city’s Master Plan were since removed. She talks candidly about building height limits near the waterfront and suggests the city may not be making development decisions as thoughtfully as it once did, or could have, under the original Master Plan.

Hope you find this video helpful and share with everyone who is interested in this topic:

City of Lake Worth Press Release: “City Receives Distinguished Budget Award”.

For more information contact Ben Kerr, the City’s Communications Specialist, at 561-586-1631; email:

The City of Lake Worth received the Government Finance Officers Association’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. This award represents a significant achievement by the City and reflects the commitment of staff and elected officials to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting.
     This prestigious award tested the City’s budget against nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. To qualify for the award the City’s budget had to be rated “proficient” as a financial plan, policy document, operations guide and communications device. It also had to achieve a “proficient” rating in the fourteen mandatory criteria within those categories. Due to the hard work of the City Finance Department the City was able to meet these requirements.

“I want to express my appreciation to the Finance Director and her staff for receiving this recognition. This award is another indication that their professionalism and dedication to the City is keeping Lake Worth on track.”
—City Manager Michael Bornstein

Located in central Palm Beach County, Lake Worth is a dynamic, multi-cultural city with an individualistic style. People are drawn to the City by its acceptance of different cultures and lifestyles, historic districts, hip downtown and colorful arts district.

“This seems to call into question whether the developer would re-open the Gulfstream Hotel. . .

. . . and build a ‘second hotel’ if not awarded the beachfront project.”

Did you miss this from last week?

Another article discovered! This one from April 2015 in a former City tabloid.

Click on image to enlarge:
“We would like to immediately get to an agreement,” the developer writes in a March 2 [2015] letter. . .

This former City tabloid first appeared in January 2015 with the headline, “Gallery Owner Pitches ‘Art Ship’ for Lake Worth’s Waterfront”. The tabloid ultimately failed from lack of advertising and community support.

The exclamation mark (!) was a quite frequent punctuation tool.

Downtown littering became a big problem throughout the City following this tabloid’s release. It was given away FREE and delivered FREE to select neighborhoods with what are called “supervoters” (those who vote in every election). Also interesting, the tabloid stopped publishing shortly after the March elections that year.

Several archival collections remain of this tabloid — separate from and not to be confused with The Lake Worth Herald — the City’s oldest business, “Established in 1912”.

City of Lake Worth Summer Camp (8 weeks): Registration is now open.

Have news or a community event? Contact the Herald using this link.
Pick up the print edition every Friday for ¢50 at the City’s newsstand located at 600 Lake Ave. Walk in and a nice man named “Andy” will assist you.

This camp is designed for ages 7–14 years old. The cost is $500 for eight weeks. Camp will be held June 12 through August 4, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at two locations:
  • Norman J. Wimbley Gym, 1515 Wingfield Street.
  • Osborne Center, 1699 Wingfield Street.
Register at either of two locations: Norman J. Wimbley Gym (561-540-5133) or the City of Lake Worth Leisure Services office at 501 Lake Ave.

For more information contact the City of Lake Worth Leisure Services Department at 561-533-7363.

New “Historic Structure Marker Program” in the City of Lake Worth.

At last Wednesday night’s First Inaugural Lake Worth Historic Preservation Awards Ceremony, the City’s historic preservation staff introduced its Historic Structure Marker Program. You can see what one looks like:

To learn more about the ceremony on March 16th, and watch the video as well, use this link.

There is a simple form to fill out which will act as the order form (information below). The staff will confirm the approximate date of construction of the structure. You need to include your contact information, address of the structure, phone number, etc. The plaque costs $111 and checks are made payable to: Franklin Bronze Plaques. Submit the check with the filled out form.

Once the city has received a minimum of 2 plaque requests the order will be placed (free shipping is available with 2 or more orders). They will be shipped to the City’s office (at 1900 2nd Ave. North) and you will be contacted when your plaque arrives for pick-up.

To contact the City’s Historic Preservation Dept. for the form call 561-586-1687 and ask for the planner on call (Monday–Friday, 10:00–3:00), or email the Preservation Planning Coordinator, Aimee Sunny:

“The Avenue, which encompasses four blocks between the Atlantic Ocean and the edge of Lake Worth. . .”

“Sitting pretty on the 16-mile-long stretch of opulent mansions, impeccable landscaping and fountain-lined streets in Palm Beach is Worth Avenue, perhaps one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the country. Between the whitewashed stucco and red-tiled shingles of the courtyard ‘vias’ and the Mediterranean-esque sculptures and fountains that embellish its quaint streets, Palm Beach’s premier shopping destination is an enclave for style and grace with all the charm of the town’s historic flair. The Avenue, which encompasses four blocks between the Atlantic Ocean and the edge of Lake Worth [emphasis added] as well as its pedestrian side-street vias, was founded in the 1920s by Addison Mizner and boasts more than 200 shops, restaurants and galleries that epitomize the best of high-end merchandise and lavish amenities.”
—Read more from an article in Haute Living titled, “A look at Palm Beach’s Luxe Worth Avenue”.

The City of Lake Worth is Palm Beach’s neighbor to the west which also has it’s own unique “charm of the town’s historic flair” since becoming a municipality in 1913. A City that Carleton Varney at the Palm Beach Daily News (aka, The Shiny Sheet) wrote last month in this article,

“Visiting Lake Worth is a trip into Florida’s past, and the town is home to many new residents who wish to live in simple comfort among the delights of the flora, the Intracoastal Waterway and the beach fronting the historic Lake Worth Casino.”

“The Lake Worth Corridor”. A lesson for the press, media, and for others who care about the facts: Municipal borders in Central PBC.

How much do you know about the “Lake Worth Corridor”? Where is it? What is it? And why it’s so important to understand this “Corridor” west of our City to the border of Greenacres and this area’s impact on your daily life here in this City.

Yes, very true. The unincorporated area called the Lake Worth Corridor can be very confusing, even for long-time residents of Central Palm Beach County and self-described experts too who talk about local governments and how they interact. However, for reporters like Charlie Keegan and Julius Whigham II, for example, it’s not confusing in the least where the “Corridor” is. But more about that later.

The great benefit coming out of the recent debate over a baseball stadium in John Prince Park is all the focus this unincorporated area in our County received, especially from our County and local elected officials. And many in the public learned this: John Prince Park and the nearby “Lake Worth” College Campus are not in our City. But! They are both on the City of Lake Worth’s Electric Utility grid.*

Many societal problems (e.g., crime, homelessness, vagrancy) and other issues that arise from the Lake Worth Corridor (area explained in detail below, including maps) have a negative effect on our local cities and towns — but one city in particular is mostly immune — they built a very big wall around their city in 1959, or “back in the day” as they say, when there was a migration west from the City of Lake Worth. But I digress.

As the City of Lake Worth continues the process of re-branding itself it’s crucially important the public and press understand well what IS Lake Worth and what IS NOT Lake Worth. For a very long time the City was burdened with false crime reports and other tragedies in suburban Lake Worth, outside the City’s municipal limits.

One of the best examples, not crime-related, was that terrible plane crash back in 2015. If you recall, that plane crash was in suburban Lake Worth (right next to Palm Springs) and the only one to get the incident location correct was Charlie Keegan at NBC5/WPTV.

Nearly everyone else in the media got it wrong — including most of the local reporters — reporting the plane crash happened “in Lake Worth”. And, frankly, there are still some in the media and press that probably still believe it happened in our City.

Here is what will be addressed in this blog post:
  • The City of Lake Worth.
  • Very briefly, unincorporated areas of Palm Beach County (U-PBC) west of the City extending all the way to the Everglades, called “Suburban Lake Worth”.
  • And drum roll please. . . the unincorporated Lake Worth Corridor between our City and the City of Greenacres.
First a little background. Depending on what criteria you use, PBC is either the largest or second largest county east of the Mississippi River. It’s massive. As Florida developed cities were formed in the County and over time municipalities (now 39 total) were “incorporated”, annexing unincorporated land(s) from the County. To this day the process continues with cities annexing more land, sometimes very small parcels, even a few acres.

For reasons I won’t get into now, a problematic area in Central PBC never fully got incorporated and remained U-PBC. One of those areas was unfortunately named the Lake Worth Corridor. Here is a map of that area from several years ago (the map will be different today):

An image from Google Maps with labels added. Note Lake Worth is east of the Lake Worth Corridor. Over time bordering cities have been annexing land from the “Corridor”.

For some perspective, below is an image showing where that tragic plane crash occurred in U-PBC, aptly and correctly referred to as Suburban Lake Worth:

The areas in white are U-PBC and the Lake Worth Corridor. For reference, note the Great Walled City of Atlantis and Greenacres in relation to the City of Lake Worth.

Oddly enough, the Lake Worth Drive-In on Lake Worth Road, near that crash location is located in the City of Palm Springs. The area in the map above shows how over the years cities such as Greenacres and Palm Springs have annexed land over time. Lake Worth has also annexed land, but mostly east of the I-4 (Keller) Canal. 

This news story from CBS12/WPEC back then showed how much education was needed in understanding municipal borders and U-PBC. I’m not picking out CBS12 for any particular reason, there are many examples how the media gets it wrong, for some of them it’s a chronic problem.

Now back to the Lake Worth Corridor. This area in U-PBC has been the focus of many efforts by the County, one of which was the Urban Redevelopment Area: Planning Study and Corridor Master Plan in 2009. Here is part of the Introduction:

Please note. This is a very good summary on the history of this area west of our City of Lake Worth. Click on image to enlarge:
This “geographic area” is the Lake Worth Corridor. For many years now this area has been a vexing issue for County, city, and town officials, and still is to this day.

Note the words, “to illustrate opportunities and obstacles for that redevelopment, and provide recommendations and priorities for implementing that vision.” Would you agree that part of the problem is so many people are confused about WHAT geographic area is being addressed? 

The City of Lake Worth has a unique character that is well chronicled over the City’s 100+ years of existence. We’re very much different than the sprawling communities out west and we’re proud of that; well, most of us are. 

Hopefully the residents and media in Central PBC will come to a more complete understanding of unincorporated County areas and the “Corridor” and not just take the easy way out and call everything in suburban Lake Worth “near Lake Worth” or refer to these areas in other incorrect and misleading ways. It’s more complicated than that and the public deserves better.

Simply put: You are either in the City of Lake Worth OR you are not.

How can you figure this out? Here is how you do it. It’s not magic and only takes a few moments. If you’re someone in the media or the press give someone like Charlie Keegan a call or contact Julius Whigham II at the Post. They’ll tell you the same thing. It’s not magic.

*Use this link to see the Lake Worth Electric Utility Service Map. To learn more about our Electric Utility use this link.

Dangerous, unhealthy alleys: Clean them up, reduce crime, make them a community asset for almost no money? Impossible?

This blog post is about ways a neighborhood can reclaim a dangerous, unsafe, and under-utilized alleyway in the City of Lake Worth. However, prior to making any changes to an alley you must contact the City first. Why? That is explained below.

So, is it impossible for a neighborhood to make an alleyway a community “backyard”? Try telling that to a creative group of people in Seattle who are reclaiming their alleys and making the community safer. Here is an excerpt from the article:

     [Todd] Vogel started with a small poetry reading. Sixty people showed up. It was the first in a series of events that included music performances, readings, cat adoptions, circus acts, and doggy costume parties. A few neighbors had liked the idea and helped orchestrate the first events. Soon, nearby business owners began to contribute as well. Windows that were previously boarded up were now open, a cinder block wall that blocked a doorway was removed, and neighbors put in planters and contributed to the upkeep. [emphasis added]
     “If you treat it as a place where nobody goes, then you’re inviting illicit activity and you’re inviting people not to respect it” said Vogel, who noted seeing changes in his ”backyard.” “The healthy activity meant that the unhealthy activity was self-policing.”

Seems like a worthy experiment for our Downtown and other neighborhoods in Lake Worth, doesn’t it?

However, prior to “reclaiming” an alley nearby you need to contact someone such as your City commissioner for advice or maybe someone at the Neighborhood Assoc. Presidents’ Council (commonly called the “NAPC). The vast number of alleys in the City of Lake Worth are owned by the City and it’s crucial to keep these alleys accessible for power line maintenance, clearing of vegetation, and in case of emergency situations as well.

So permanent structures will most likely not be permitted.

To find out what an easement is, the City’s responsibility and a citizen’s responsibility vis-à-vis an alley, and for a helpful Q&A use this link for the article titled, “Alleyways — The City’s Roadway to Utility Services”.

Vintage postcards from visitors to the little City of Lake Worth “back in the day”

Below is a blog post from 2011 (and so are the four comments that follow, remember The Inimitable Tom McGow?). Thought you might enjoy browsing through some of the messages from tourists in Lake Worth from long ago: an interesting glimpse into our past.

A special thanks to Frank Palen for allowing me to borrow and scan these historical postcards:

Click on images to enlarge.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

From yesterday’s forum “West Palm Beach’s Growing Traffic Challenges”. Stay tuned. A change of plans.

Please Note: Below are links to two videos to watch and share. More videos to come.

My original plan was to write a detailed post about what happened yesterday at the forum, “Getting from Point A to Point B”, a public discussion held at the Convention Center in West Palm Beach. But frankly, there was just way too much information presented and ideas to think about.

So. What I’m going to do is this: write a blog post each day, some very brief, some longer, for the next few weeks on one particular issue addressed. There were a lot of them. A real lot.

The hosts were fantastic and the panelists spectacular.
Hosted by Town of Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio, West Palm Beach Commissioner Shanon Materio, and Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard.

The Palm Beach Post article today about this meeting goes way beyond disappointing and not worth addressing in any serious way, mostly it was a distracting read.

Why Post reporter Kristina Webb was not tasked with reporting this news story is a mystery. She has a Millennial perspective — very important going forward — and most of the public interested in these topics and searching for news can agree, Webb has much credibility on issues such as this: local and County transportation, traffic, and planning. The editor(s) dropped the ball not picking a fresh set of eyes on this important topic.

This meeting was about the current state of traffic, much discussion about Okeechobee Blvd., and moving forward into the future. There were looks into the past and how agencies could have worked better and coordinated better, but those were brief and didn’t dominate the discussion or distract from the issues at hand.

You’ll be pleased to know I also took video of this meeting so you can form your own opinions and share with others who are interested. Here are two videos, there will be more:
  • For segment #1 use this link
  • For segment #2 use this link.
  • To be notified when new videos are posted, click on the red “Subscribe” icon and you will get an email.
By the way, also learned yesterday the Convention Center in West Palm Beach has booked events for 2020, three years from now. Information that may be helpful for the owner of the Gulfstream Hotel in Downtown Lake Worth as we await more “vibrant” news, maybe an update from a Sun Sentinel article almost 2 months ago.

Was also reminded that conventioneers tend to go back to places they visited in past years. News that doesn’t do much good for my City of Lake Worth. We’re awaiting the day our City can contribute to the bed tax in a significant way. Hope springs eternal.

It’s a mistake thinking this is a West Palm Beach issue. It goes way beyond that. The Town of Palm Beach and neighboring cities like Lake Worth need to pay close attention. This is a regional issue in Central Palm Beach County and the City of West Palm Beach needs to be applauded for having this conversation.

Here are some photos from yesterday with more information as well:
From left to right, Moderator Dana Little (standing), Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. Forum introduction panelists: Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard; County Engineer George Webb, P.E.; former West Palm Beach Mayor Nancy Graham; and FDOT District 4 Operations Engineer Mark Plass.

And publicized by social media. . .
What was described as a “packed house” yesterday by Yours Truly on Twitter. The Post reported this event in the print edition yesterday, May 22nd — the very day of the event — timely huh? But many knew about it already.

And there was more news at this meeting as well:
Save the date: June 12–15 at the Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

During one of the breaks I asked people how they learned about this meeting. Almost everyone said “social media”.

Thank You for visiting today. And check back tomorrow for more.

Did you know West Palm Beach’s downtown redevelopment roots go back over 20 years? And what about Lake Worth’s “potential”.

Last year I stumbled upon this New York Times article from back in 1997. It was when former-Mayor Nancy Graham was in office.

Mayor Graham ushered in many changes. I first worked for the city of West Palm Beach beginning in 1989 as a planner on staff there. I left for my next job about a year after Mayor Graham assumed the office. Back in 1989 downtown West Palm Beach was not a destination. It was a place to avoid. We can all see the changes from then until now.

Many projects initiated or pushed forward by Nancy Graham are mentioned in the NYT article. They include the fountain on Clematis Street and the blowing up of the former Holiday Inn on a New Year’s Eve which made way for the amphitheater and open space.

The article also mentions City Place and calling in Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk to prepare the downtown master plan, making way for the continuing redevelopment that we see in West Palm Beach. It also points out the change in government structure from a manager/commission form of government like Lake Worth has today, to a strong mayor form of government that West Palm Beach still maintains to this day.

But here in Lake Worth, just across the canal from West Palm Beach, we continue to hear the “mantra of fear” from some quarters, a resistance to change of any sort, keeping many parts of our City frozen in time. Missteps or past mistakes by other cities are cited as reasons to delay and delay and delay some more. New projects that should instill hope are instead picked apart. “Bad things might happen.”

However, if you look around our Downtown and many neighborhoods in this City of Lake Worth, it’s easy to see how we can vastly improve and still retain our identity as a unique community.

West Palm Beach and Lake Worth are neighbors but we’re vastly different. West Palm Beach is the regional hub of activity in Central Palm Beach County. Lake Worth is a small satellite. For example, many in the local press and media don’t really even know what and where the actual City of Lake Worth is let alone understand what makes us so very unique from all those communities out west, places “in Lake Worth” that are not in our City at all.

Fortunately, we have “ambassadors” such as West Palm Beach Commissioner Shanon Materio who also runs a very successful business on Dixie Hwy. in Lake Worth. And there are many others who understand the dynamics of our two cities. We can learn a lot from the city of West Palm Beach. And will dare say, our City of Lake Worth has a lot to offer our neighbor.

Going forward, especially after the elections last March, I’m optimistic more people are looking around and seeing that “potential” our City has. That’s also exactly why some here in Lake Worth who like to throw around “the ‘P’ word” like cheap confetti continue to be confused and dismayed by those election results, which were indeed “seismic”.

Because while they’re trying to score a few political points everyone around them is looking towards a brighter future for this little City. A City that has all that potential we have all talked about for the last 20 years.

“Gee wiz, JoAnn, did we really forget to fix the pool?”

If I told you a former Lake Worth commissioner, elected three times since 2010, who lost a re-election bid last March — who contributed mightily to the failed plan at the Beach back in 2010–2012 — and claimed just last February to have found an expert with the solution to fix our now-closed and decrepit pool, and. . .
  • Has a PhD in science.
  • Is a firm believer in sea level rise.
  • Is a firm believer in climate change.
  • Is a supporter of “Green” technology.
  • Was a supporter of “Best Practices” in our City.
  • Is a supporter of “sustainability” and “resiliency”.
  • Was someone who demanded accountability at all levels of City government. . .
. . . supported building a large public structure east of the Coastal Construction Line and immediately west of a beach on the Atlantic Ocean WITHOUT PILINGS? You wouldn’t believe it would you?

The former Casino was never “renovated”. It was 94% demolished. The structure was Greenwashed too; remember the water cistern? Eliminated. The pool? Never part of the ‘grand plan’ in 2010.

That’s right. Former Lake Worth commissioner, and now-citizen Chris McVoy, PhD, supported constructing the ‘new’ Casino building without pilings. And to make matters worse the seawall protecting the Casino was never properly inspected.

Five years ago the ‘architects’ of our Beach and Casino complex were so happy and giddy.
So much for the ‘scientific method’.

“Gee wiz, JoAnn, did we really forget to fix the pool?”

With the pool closed, opportunities going forward. By the way, did you know the Casino is operating on a temporary CO after all these years?

The closed pool is a positive. It’s a way forward to fix many vexing problems.

The fundamental question is: Does our City need a pool at the Beach? Who benefits?

Or build a community pool somewhere else in our City for everyone to have access?

The City Commission Work Session is tonight at 6:00 to deal with some of the issues at the Beach:
Presentation by Kimley Horn regarding the condition of the pool
Hope springs eternal and I’m confident 2017 will be the year to put most of the issues at the Beach to rest, like the issues with the 2nd floor of the Casino, discussion about what to do with the crumbling municipal pool, parking, traffic, handicapped access, and the list goes on.

Although the Beach is owned by the City it really is, as Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell called it, a “regional beach. In other words, since our Beach and Casino complex are losing so much money every year, City taxpayers are in effect subsidizing the Beach for visitors, tourists, and others around Palm Beach County.

Or put another way: the City was subsidizing the now-closed pool for people who live in nearby condo communities and high-rises, with pools too small, to use for lap swimming or for their guests and family to use while on vacation. 

What’s different now is the City Commission seems determined to tackle these problems head on. I’m told one of the electeds at the Budget Workshop on March 9th uttered the phrase “complete overhaul” when referring to the Casino/pool complex. 

Did you know the Casino is still operating on a temporary Certificate of Occupancy (CO) after all these years? Would that be called a “permanent temporary” CO? The structure has still not been LEED certified (a State requirement) and to this day the seawall has never been properly inspected.

However, the biggest glaring problem will not be solved for a very long time. Why? Because the fundamental problem is the Casino is in the wrong place. Instead of being in the center of the Beach property it occupies the far northern part. But did you know there was once a solution to this problem? There was.

The public was never given the chance to see another plan:
Remember the Greater Bay site plan? A Casino structure in the center of the property with a parking garage and a new pool. This plan was never presented to the public for consideration. The City later had to settle a lawsuit for $1.6 million.

It’s this $1.6M that’s never mentioned when the cost of this whole boondoggle back in 2010–2012 is added up. Yes, that’s right. That’s on top of the $6M loan the City of Lake Worth took from the Water Fund to construct the “renovated” Casino, a loan that can’t be paid back.

Now that the pool is shut down let’s consider other options for that space. A way for the City to make money and be more convenient for the visiting public: construct a parking garage with easy, convenient access to the Casino.

First understand, what you’ll read and see in the photos below is not the fault of Benny’s on the Beach, Fire Rescue, truck drivers, a trucking company, or any retail establishment/restaurant at our Casino and Beach Complex.

The closing of the City’s municipal pool adds another whole dimension to these issues. In a bad way? No. Actually the pool being closed may be one of the solutions to all these problems created by a prior administration back in 2010. Below is one of many examples of very poor planning when the ‘newly renovated’ Casino was constructed. Here is the problem:

While having lunch at Benny’s an emergency vehicle responded to a call at the Beach.
This emergency vehicle impeded one lane of traffic and meanwhile. . .
. . . another vehicle was making a delivery. Only a narrow lane was open for two-way traffic. One car at a time with pedestrians and bikes using the road as well.

Parking for large commercial trucks is inadequate at the Beach and there is also no loading dock at the Casino structure to handle large vehicles. This planning issue simply wasn’t addressed, or was ignored, by a previous City administration. And. . .

“Are you kidding me? Spent all this money for lunch here and can’t even see the ocean!”

Was at the Beach, just sitting down for lunch. . .
This truck pulled up and parked with a loud “hiss” of air brakes. . .
. . . and a little later so did this one.

More deliveries. . .
This is not the fault of any business operating at the beach or the truck driver. It’s due to faulty site planning back in 2009 and 2010.
Not exactly the best use of a bike lane, is it?

The ultimate solution is making physical changes to the property that would provide better and more accessible areas for delivery vehicles and the public.

So here we are.
Get involved and contact your elected leaders. New ideas are welcome.