Friday, March 7, 2008

Lake Worth's "Skyline" at Night

These were taken on top of the EcoCentre's roof tonight. We (the Palm Beach County Planning Congress) had our tour and many that came were there from Lake Worth. They said they got word of the event here on this blog!

Glad you all could make it.

More later on the tour. I just wanted to get these pictures up as it's a view we don't often see.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Art Walk Lake Worth - 3/8

Motion Fails: CRA still alive...

It was an interesting City Commission meeting last night. I stayed until after the above item was discussed. This was supposed to be the follow-up to the decision made at the last meeting that the City Commission take-over the duties of the CRA. Commissioner Golden (who seems all too eager) made a motion to adopt the prepared ordinance, with the addition of a five member appointed advisory board. Commissioner Jennings seconded it. After some passionate discussion, including an indication by Commissioner Lowe that if the City Commission took over the CRA, they wouldn't do anything with it and that she didn't like the idea of an advisory board, the Commission voted 2-3 to pass the ordinance on first reading. The motion failed and there was no substitute motion.

So, that means that the workshop scheduled Thursday with the CRA is on. The focus will likely be the Pugh property project at 6th Avenue South and F Street.

We really have to question the zeal with which Commissioner Golden, who is project manager for the Lake Worth Community Development Corporation, has for consolidating control of the Community Redevelopment Agency under her and the Commission's policy making control. Where is the arm's length transaction here? How will the public know whether she is acting n the best interest of the City or furthering the ends of the Community Development Corporation? How will we know where one ends and the other begins?

For now, an independent CRA has another chance.

Here is the agenda for Thursday's meeting:

Monday, March 3, 2008

Palm Beach County Showcases 1916 Courthouse Restoration

If you are interested in history, you might want to check out the Palm Beach County website. They have a nice spotlight on the process to restore the 1916 Courthouse. The dedication of the rehabilitated and restored structure will be March 15th at 2 p.m. For a while, I was on the committee overseeing the project from the Palm Beach County Historical Society point of view. That organization will move their offices into the newly refinished building and administer a County history museum.

I hope you are able to check out the actual building sometime in the near future. But, for now, check out the project with the link provided above. It gives a good sense of what it was like here in 1916 and what the state of affairs in the world was at the time, as well.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

City Commission Retreat - Part III - Discussion

For the top three items, I will attempt to group the comments under each issue. It is difficult to do for the entire session as the discussion jumped around a lot. They went around the table and offered their individual 5 goals and conversations would overlap and issues would be brought up again. The later part of this summary will be by Mayor or Commissioner and relate to the other priorities.

My take on Saturday morning's session will come in Part IV.


Commissioner Golden talked about a gun "take back" program. Chief Smith responded that they hadn't done that here, but other cities had. He said that usually you get the people that have collector guns or ones that are inherited and they want the cash. It serves some benefit as sometimes those types of fire arms are stolen and then used in crimes. The Chief reported that crime for Part 1 (serious) crimes is down for 2007 - significantly. There may be other crimes that are more of a nuisance that may be up that causes the perception of crime being high. He also said that the real way to control crime is through neighborhood activation and awareness.

Chief Smith also explained how they are planning to go from 8 hour to 11 and 12 hour shifts, merge specialized units to free up more officers for road patrol and to have more police presence in the evening hours. Commissioner Lowe questioned the need for such a police presence at special events and that hiring new officers is not the answer. Commissioner Vespo used the analogy of police essentially "mowing the grass" - not getting to the root of the problem and that recreation offerings may help with the cause of crime.

Commissioner Jennings talked about strategic funding of public safety and the justification of a millage rate increase to help fund fire (she didn't say police). The Mayor talked about the need for a stronger police presence. Commissioner Golden brought up the idea of COPs handing out tickets for nuisance items. Chief Smith responded that additional training would be needed and that the COPs are going to be writing parking violations soon. All talked about the negative image of people crowding in the street, the homeless in the cultural plaza as creating the perception of a crime problem. These combine to negatively affect the image of the City.


The next highest priority was the improvement of the City's image. As mentioned above, Commissioner Lowe talked about the need to get day laborers off the street. Commissioner Golden mentioned the need for revitalization and didn't like the number of boarded up buildings. She saw that being a result from the Certificate of Use program. It was pointed out that these boarding up activities are part of regular code enforcement actions, for the most part. They also mentioned expanding the CRA district and making available low cost loans for improvements

The Mayor discounted the effectiveness of press releases being issued regularly by the City. Commissioners talked about the lack of a Palm Beach Post reporter being assigned to the City. The Mayor doubted that we would have one anytime soon as Lake Worth was not seen as an area with enough readership. City Manager Baldwin brought up the possibility of a Public Information Officer, but this was discounted primarily by the Mayor due to cost considerations. Commissioner Golden mentioned the possibility of equipping the homeless at the cultural plaza with garbage bags so they can perform public clean-up duties.

There was general discussion about what sort of image the City should be promoting. The concept of "branding" the downtown area and the City as a whole. The diversity of the City is a strength and part of its image, it was said.

Administrative Reforms:

City Manager Baldwin covered most of the on-going reform currently underway in the City administration. He said that there are serious problems with money, but that shouldn't be the focus of the retreat. He, and his team, are creating a "foundation for good government through administrative reforms". The City has notified SERMA its intent to exit the insurance fund. The HTE computer conversion is continuing. The utilities payments are now under the control of the Finance Department and the deposit program is now underway - saving the city "millions of dollars". He said that he is doing "rough carpentry" and is used to being a finish carpenter. His focus has been to stop the hemorrhaging - "money was being lost everywhere". The fire assessment might be held up with pending legislation. Customer service issues have taken a back seat to the monetary issues - especially with the passage of Amendment 1. He said we need to reform our police and fire pension system and that is holding up any progress on the County taking over either function. The status of the Reverse Osmosis plant and status with Florida Municipal Power Agency is still to be finalized. He said these major items have to be resolved or completed before we launch new initiatives.

The Mayor commented that the Commission suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and finds it hard to focus. He thinks we need a new City Hall, but we have to deal with customer service issues so it didn't make his top 5. Commissioner Vespo inquired whether the exceptions to the audit were being addressed, status of the software upgrades. The status of the master plan exercise was brought up under administrative reforms.

The Mayor talked about the need to educate the staff how to answer public questions regarding city policy i.e. the utility deposit reform and the impact to residents. There was also discussion regarding getting rid of the drive through window for utility payments. After a lot of bureaucratic double speak, it sounded like that may happen in May of this year.

Comments by Mayor and Commissioners re other priorities:

Mayor Clemens: Meetings on the Park of Commerce will be happening every six months to make sure all is on track. Master Plan is "off the rails". Implementing goals of Climate Task Force will save money, as well as have a positive environmental impact. Press conference when task force makes recommendations later this month. Benchmarking progress important - Greenacres annual report as an example. Address over-crowding, day labor center and high utility rates. Many different ways to brand the city. Signs over streets like in the past.

Vice Mayor Lowe: Where does the beach fit in to the picture, need a place to get together as a community. We are losing revenue at the beach. Follow-through on Park of Commerce Redevelopment. Need to find a city building where code enforcement, CRA and building department are together. Recreation opportunities needed to address youth issues. Refer to Day Labor Center as "Cultural Resource Center". Administration is top heavy in some departments.

Commissioner Jennings: We need a long term water conservation plan. Need a cultural change in the Code Enforcement area - secretive, vengeful attitude exists. Need accountability. Commission needs to provide clear direction to staff. Need to promote sustainability through energy issues. Re-new recreation through implementation of programs and grants. Create "multi-purpose" cultural center at Shuffleboard Court building. Look into 4 ten hour days for building department, flex time. Need brochure on recreation programs (in works).

Commissioner Golden: Need to be self-sufficient in utilities. There are going to be cost adjustments put through by FMPA coming up and that will affect a large portion of the city service. There is a need to address global warming issues. Better ways for public communication of meetings - cable TV, etc. Quarterly newsletter? Started writing a grant for transportation around town - young people can't get downtown. Need to promote volunteerism in the city. Need for transparency. Rely on lower levels of staff for information and ideas. Implement climate task force recommendations. Look at solar alternatives. Sea kayak business in Park of Commerce - part of eco-tourism. Get police out of cars. Multi-lingual signs in City Hall.

Commissioner Vespo: Follow through on Park of Commerce redevelopment. Concerned about appearance of utility plant. Need to work towards ability to pay utility bills on line. Can't be afraid of innovation and technological change. Need to get going on fiber optic and Internet wiring through city. Address over-crowding.

Baldwin: Need more racial diversity in city staff, bi-lingual abilities.

City Commission Retreat - Part II - Priorities

The following is how the City Commission ranked the identified issues as priorities for the rest of the year. It seemed to me like these were meant to the be the focus during the creation of the budget for the next fiscal year. These priorities would run through the time the present Commission is seated - or November of this year.

Here they are. Points assigned in parentheses, ties where indicated
  1. Crime (63 points)
  2. Image (54)
  3. Customer Service (51)
  4. Administrative Reform (48)
  5. Renew Recreation (45) - tie
  6. Implementation of Climate Change Recommendations (45) - tie
  7. Day Labor (Cultural Resource) Center (41)
  8. Self-sufficiency Utilities (39)
  9. Overcrowding (37)
  10. Electric Rates (35) - tie
  11. Improving Communication (35) - tie
  12. Cultural Change in Code Compliance (30)
  13. Park of Commerce Redevelopment (25)
  14. Technological Innovation (22)
  15. Transportation (19)
  16. Beach/Casino Redevelopment (18)
  17. Promote Resident Volunteerism (17)
  18. Pension Reform (16)
  19. Defining Mandates - Commission/Manager Communication (11)
  20. New City Hall (6)
I will expand on these in the next post.