Saturday, January 24, 2009

Reminder: Nunsense ends its run at Lake Worth Playhouse on 2/1

Had a great time. Light and fun entertainment, perfect for a Saturday afternoon. Make sure you check it out before the show closes. The Crucible is coming up and a friend of mine will be playing one of the roles.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What one of our municipal neighbors is doing re water supply:

FYI, Palm Beach has had water service provided by the City of West Palm Beach almost since the beginning of recorded time. They are rarely happy with service or quality and would likely look for another provider if one was possible (hint hint).

One of President Obama's Favorite Tunes - Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones

Library Program- Guest Speaker - "Ancient Egypt : 50 centureies in 50 minutes"


The Lake Worth Public Library is presenting a free program : "ANCIENTEGYPT : 50 centuries in 50 minutes" , with guest speaker Mr. DavidSpecter on Saturday, February 7th. Mr. Spector is the author of the 1987 book "A Popular Guide toEgyptology" and many other books and articles on various subjects. Ifyou are a history buff, love learning about ancient Egypt, or justcurious please join the Lake Worth Library and Mr. Spector for a livelyprogram.

Recently Mr. Spector lectured at the Palm Beach Community College with wonderful attendance at his lecture.

The program will be held at the Lake Worth City Annex Meeting Room, 414Lake Ave, (Across from the Lake Worth Public Library, 15 North M St)beginning at 10AM. This program is FREE and open to all. For moreinformation please call the Lake Worth Public Library.

Thank you,

Vickie Joslin
Library Services Manager
Lake Worth Public Library
15 North M St.
Lake Worth, FL 33560
(561) 533-7354
FAX (561) 586-1651

Florida's unemployment hits 16-year high

Informative Back-up Material on Beach Commission Workshop - 1/27

Raw sewage leak closes public beaches in Boynton Beach, Ocean Ridge, Gulfstream

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

House Economic Recovery Plan Addresses US Conference of Mayors' Priorities

January 16, 2009

TO: The Mayor

FROM: Manuel A. Diaz, Mayor of Miami, President

Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director

SUBJECT: House Economic Recovery Plan Addresses USCM Priorities

The House of Representatives yesterday released its "American Recovery and Reinvestment" Plan. The summary document states, "In the next two weeks, the Congress will be considering the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009. This package is the first crucial step in a concerted effort to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs, jumpstart our economy, and begin the process of transforming it for the 21st century with $275 billion in economic recovery tax cuts and $550 billion in thoughtful and carefully targeted priority investments with unprecedented accountability measures built in."

As you will see in the following summary, we received funding in every one of the 10 program areas we called for in our MainStreet Economic Recovery Plan. In addition, many of the programs that have been funded represent long-term priorities that the Conference of Mayors has been leading on and promoting for years, including many priorities we called for in our Mayors' 10-Point Plan: Strong Cities, Strong Families, for a Strong America. These investments total $358.1 billion – not including the tax provisions for which estimates are not yet included.

This would not have been possible without the work of all of you and the Conference staff.

Following is an analysis of the key components of the House package, in the context of the Five National Forums we held on: 1) Environment and Energy; 2) Infrastructure; 3) Poverty; 4) Crime; and 5) Arts and Tourism. The language on proposed funding levels and descriptions comes directly from the House press release.

Please note, this legislative package will have to go through the House and Senate, and we must continue to push to make sure that the details address our priorities and that it reaches President Obama quickly. We will continue to share details as more information becomes available, and we will discuss this issue in greater detail at our upcoming 77th Winter Meeting on January 17-19, 2009.

If you have any questions, please contact Tom Cochran at (202) 744-9110 or Ed Somers at (202) 744-9223.




I. Environment and Energy ($32.40 Billion)

Local Government Energy Efficiency Block Grants: $6.9 billion to help state and local governments make investments that make them more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions. (Note: Of this total, $3.5 billion is specifically for the new Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG). The remainder is for the State Energy Program.)

Reliable, Efficient Electricity Grid: $11 billion for research and development, pilot projects, and federal matching funds for the Smart Grid Investment Program to modernize the electricity grid making it more efficient, secure, and reliable and build new power lines to transmit clean, renewable energy from sources throughout the nation.

HOME Investment Partnerships: $1.5 billion to help local communities build and rehabilitate low-income housing using green technologies. Thousands of ready-to-go housing projects have been stalled by the credit crunch. Funds are distributed by formula.

Energy Efficiency Housing Retrofits: $2.5 billion for a new program to upgrade HUD sponsored low-income housing to increase energy efficiency, including new insulation, windows, and furnaces. Funds will be competitively awarded.

Alternative Buses and Trucks: $400 million to help state and local governments purchase efficient alternative fuel vehicles to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions.

Diesel Emissions Reduction: $300 million for grants and loans to state and local governments for projects that reduce diesel emissions, benefiting public health and reducing global warming. This includes technologies to retrofit emission exhaust systems on school buses, replace engines and vehicles, and establish anti-idling programs. 70 percent of the funds go to competitive grants and 30 percent funds grants to states with approved programs. Last year EPA was able to fund only 27 percent of the applications received.

Energy Efficiency Grants and Loans for Institutions: $1.5 billion for energy sustainability and efficiency grants and loans to help school districts, institutes of higher education, local governments, and municipal utilities implement projects that will make them more energy efficient.

Job Corps Facilities: $300 million to upgrade job training facilities serving at-risk youth while improving energy efficiency.

Home Weatherization: $6.2 billion to help low-income families reduce their energy costs by weatherizing their homes and make our country more energy efficient.

Brownfields: $100 million for competitive grants for evaluation and cleanup of former industrial and commercial sites - turning them from problem properties to productive community use. Last year EPA was only able to fund 37 percent of Brownfields applications.

Superfund Hazardous Waste Cleanup: $800 million to clean up hazardous and toxic waste sites that threaten health and the environment. EPA has 1,255 sites on its National Priority List, selected based on a hazard ranking system. There are many Superfund sites ready for construction, but not funded due to budget shortfalls and over 600 sites with ongoing construction that could be accelerated.

Leaking Underground Storage Tanks: $200 million for enforcement and cleanup of petroleum leaks from underground storage tanks at approximately 1,600 additional sites. There are an estimated 116,000 sites with the potential to contaminate important water supplies.

Closed Military Bases: $300 million for cleanup activities at closed military installations allowing local communities to redevelop these properties for productive use. The Department estimates that there is a $3.5 billion environmental cleanup backlog at bases closed during previous BRAC rounds.

NOAA Habitat Restoration: $400 million for ready-to-go habitat restoration projects.

Energy Tax Incentives: Long-term extension of renewable energy production tax credit; Temporary election to claim the investment tax credit in lieu of the production tax credit; Coordination provisions with new grant program for renewable energy projects being designed by the Energy and Commerce Committee (sections 45 and 48 projects); Clean Renewable Energy Bonds ("CREBs"); Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds; Energy efficiency and conservation tax incentives under sections 25C, 25D and 48; Smart energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy R&D credit; Refueling property credit expansions.

II. Infrastructure ($102.65 Billion)

Highway Infrastructure: $30 billion for highway and bridge construction projects. It is estimated that states have over 5,100 projects totaling over $64 billion that could be awarded within 180 days. These projects create jobs in the short term while saving commuters time and money in the long term. In 2006, the Department of Transportation estimated $8.5 billion was needed to maintain current systems and $61.4 billion was needed to improve highways and bridges. (Note: USCM called for the Surface Transportation Program (STP) as the mechanism for distributing Highway Infrastructure funds. This is NOT the distribution mechanism in the House proposal. Under the House proposal, 45 percent of the highway infrastructure funds are distributed using the STP with 62.5 percent of those funds being distributed to local areas "located in economically distressed areas as defined by Section 301 of the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965.")

Transit New Construction: $1 billion for Capital Investment Grants for new commuter rail or other light rail systems to increase public use of mass transit and to speed projects already in construction. The Federal Transit Administration has $2.4 billion in pre-approved projects.

Transit Upgrades and Repair: $2 billion to modernize existing transit systems, including renovations to stations, security systems, computers, equipment, structures, signals, and communications. Funds will be distributed through the existing formula. The repair backlog is nearly $50 billion.

Transit Capital Assistance: $6 billion to purchase buses and equipment needed to increase public transportation and improve intermodal and transit facilities. The Department of Transportation estimates a $3.2 billion maintenance backlog and $9.2 billion in needed improvements. The American Public Transportation Association identified 787 ready-to-go transit projects totaling $15.5 billion. Funds will be distributed through the existing formulas. (Note: USCM also called for operating assistance to help stabilize fare increases. This is NOT mentioned in the House summary.)

Amtrak and Intercity Passenger Rail Construction Grants: $1.1 billion to improve the speed and capacity of intercity passenger rail service. The Department of Transportation's Inspector General estimates the North East Corridor alone has a backlog of over $10 billion.

Clean Water State Revolving Fund: $6 billion for loans to help communities upgrade wastewater treatment systems. EPA estimates a $388 billion funding gap. The Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators found that 26 states have $10 billion in approved water projects. (Note: USCM called for grants as we had in mid 1980s, but these are loans. In addition, the distribution system is challenged in many states that do not allow some cities to apply for funding.)

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: $2 billion for loans for drinking water infrastructure. EPA estimates there is a $274 billion funding gap. The National Governors Association reported that there are $6 billion in ready-to-go projects, which could quickly be obligated. (Note: USCM called for grants as we had in mid 1980s, but these are loans. In addition, the distribution system is challenged in many states that do not allow some cities to apply for funding.)

Rural Water and Waste Disposal: $1.5 billion to support $3.8 billion in grants and loans to help communities fund drinking water and wastewater treatment systems. In 2008, there were $2.4 billion in requests for water and waste loans and $990 million for water and waste grants went unfunded.

Corps of Engineers: $4.5 billion for environmental restoration, flood protection, hydropower, and navigation infrastructure critical to the economy. The Corps has a construction backlog of $61 billion.

Bureau of Reclamation: $500 million to provide clean, reliable drinking water to rural areas and to ensure adequate water supply to western localities impacted by drought. The Bureau has backlogs of more than $1 billion in rural water projects and water reuse and recycling projects.

Watershed Infrastructure: $400 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service watershed improvement programs to design and build flood protection and water quality projects, repair aging dams, and purchase and restore conservation easements in river flood zones.

School Construction: $20 billion, including $14 billion for K-12 and $6 billion for higher education, for renovation and modernization, including technology upgrades and energy efficiency improvements. Also includes $100 million for school construction in communities that lack a local property tax base because they contain non-taxable federal lands such as military bases or Indian reservations, and $25 million to help charter schools build, obtain, and repair schools.

Education Technology: $1 billion for 21st century classrooms, including computer and science labs and teacher technology training.

Wireless and Broadband Grants: $6 billion for broadband and wireless services in underserved areas to strengthen the economy and provide business and job opportunities in every section of America with benefits to e-commerce, education, and healthcare. For every dollar invested in broadband the economy sees a ten-fold return on that investment.

DTV Conversion Coupons: $650 million to continue the coupon program to enable American households to convert from analog television transmission to digital transmission.

Health Information Technology: $20 billion to jumpstart efforts to computerize health records to cut costs and reduce medical errors.

State and Local Governments Tax Provisions: Allow financial institutions to purchase state and local bonds and other changes; Repeal AMT limits on new private activity bonds; Taxable bond option for governmental bonds; School construction bonds; One year deferral of withholding tax on government contractors.

III. Poverty, Work and Opportunity ($214.35 Billion)

Community Development Block Grants: $1 billion for community and economic development projects including housing and services for those hit hard by tough economic times.

Neighborhood Stabilization: $4.2 billion to help communities purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed, vacant properties in order to create more affordable housing and reduce neighborhood blight.

Homeless Assistance Grants: $1.5 billion for the Emergency Shelter Grant program to provide short term rental assistance, housing relocation, and stabilization services for families during the economic crisis. Funds are distributed by formula.

Public Housing Capital Fund: $5 billion for building repair and modernization, including critical safety repairs. Every dollar of Capital Fund expenditures produces $2.12 in economic return. $4 billion of the funds will be distributed to public housing authorities through the existing formula and $1 billion will be awarded through a competitive process for projects that improve energy efficiency.

Housing Tax Provisions: Remove repayment requirement on $7,500 first-time home buyer credit for homes purchased after 2008 and before termination of credit (June 30, 2009); Coordination provisions with new grant program for low-income housing being designed by the Financial Services Committee.

Economic Development Assistance: $250 million to address long-term economic distress in urban industrial cores and rural areas distributed based on need and ability to create jobs and attract private investment. EDA leverages $10 in private investments for $1 in federal funds.

Lead Paint: $100 million for competitive grants to local governments and nonprofit organizations to remove lead-based paint hazards in low-income housing.

Small Business Credit: $430 million for new direct lending and loan guarantee authorities to make loans more attractive to lenders and free up capital. The number of loans guaranteed under the SBA's 7(a) business loan program was down 57 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to last.

Training and Employment Services: $4 billion for job training including formula grants for adult, dislocated worker, and youth services (including $1.2 billion to create up to one million summer jobs for youth). The needs of workers also will be met through dislocated worker national emergency grants, new competitive grants for worker training in high growth and emerging industry sectors (with priority consideration to "green" jobs and healthcare), and increased funds for the YouthBuild program. Green jobs training will include preparing workers for activities supported by other economic recovery funds, such as retrofitting of buildings, green construction, and the production of renewable electric power.

AmeriCorps Programs: $200 million to put approximately 16,000 additional AmeriCorps members to work doing national service, meeting needs of vulnerable populations and communities during the recession.

Compassion Capital Fund: $100 million for grants to faith- and community-based organizations to provide critical safety net services to needy individuals and families.

Extension of Unemployment Benefits: Benefits Extension: $27 billion to continue the current extended unemployment benefits program – which provides up to 33 weeks of extended benefits –through December 31, 2009 given rising unemployment. Increased Benefits: $9 billion to increase the current average unemployment insurance benefit from roughly $300 per week, paid out of state trust funds, by $25 per week using Federal funds, through December 2009. There are currently 5.3 million workers receiving regular UI and an additional 1.9 million receiving extended benefits.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance: $20 billion to provide nutrition assistance to modest-income families and to lift restrictions that limit the amount of time individuals can receive food stamps.

Senior Nutrition Programs: $200 million for formula grants to states for elderly nutrition services including Meals on Wheels and Congregate Meals.

Afterschool Meals: $726 million to increase the number of states that provide free dinners to children and to encourage participation by new institutions by increasing snack reimbursement rates.

Child Care Development Block Grant: $2 billion to provide child care services for an additional 300,000 children in low-income families while their parents go to work. Today only one out of seven eligible children receives care.

Head Start: $2.1 billion to provide comprehensive development services to help 110,000 additional children succeed in school. Funds are distributed based on need. Only about half of all eligible preschoolers, and less than 3 percent of eligible infants and toddlers, participate in Head Start.

Community Services Block Grant: $1 billion for grants to local communities to support employment, food, housing, and healthcare efforts serving those hardest hit by the recession. Community action agencies have seen dramatic increases in requests for their assistance due to rising unemployment, housing foreclosures, and high food and fuel prices.

Community Health Centers: $1.5 billion, including $500 million to increase the number of uninsured Americans who receive quality healthcare and $1 billion to renovate clinics and make health information technology improvements. More than 400 applications submitted earlier this year for new or expanded CHC sites remain unfunded.

Emergency Food and Shelter: $200 million to help local community organizations provide food, shelter, and support services to the nation's hungry, homeless, and people in economic crisis, including one-month utility payments to prevent service cut-off and one-month rent or mortgage assistance to prevent evictions or help people leave shelters. Funds are distributed by formula based on unemployment and poverty rates.

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance: $1 billion to help low-income families pay for home heating and cooling at a time of rising energy costs.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: $2.5 billion for block grants to help states deal with the surge in families needing help during the recession and to prevent them from cutting work programs and services for abused and neglected children.

Economic Development Assistance: $250 million to address long-term economic distress in urban industrial cores and rural areas distributed based on need and ability to create jobs and attract private investment. EDA leverages $10 in private investments for $1 in federal funds.

IDEA Special Education: $13 billion for formula grants to increase the federal share of special education costs and prevent these mandatory costs from forcing states to cut other areas of education.

Title I Help for Disadvantaged Kids: $13 billion for grants to help disadvantaged kids in nearly every school district and more than half of all public schools reach high academic standards.

Pell Grants: $15.6 billion to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500, from $4,850 to $5,350.

College Work-Study: $490 million to support undergraduate and graduate students who work.

Student Loan Limit Increase: Increases limits on unsubsidized Stafford loans by $2,000.

Higher Education Tax Credits: Simplification of education credits with $2,500 credit for first four years of higher education expenses (increase income limitations), with credit partially-refundable (40 percent refundable).

Medicaid Aid to States (FMAP): $87 billion to states, increasing through the end of FY 2010 the share of Medicaid costs the Federal government reimburses all states by 4.8 percent, with additional relief tied to rates of unemployment. This approach has been used in previous recessions to prevent cuts to health benefits for their increased low-income patient loads at a time when state revenues are declining.

Periodic Census and Programs, Communications: $1 billion for work necessary to ensure a successful 2010 census, including $150 million for expanded communications and outreach programs to minimize undercounting of minority groups.

Distressed Areas: Provide tax exempt bonds and tax credit bonds to "recovery zones." These tax exempt bonds and tax credit bonds can be used for a wide array of purposes to stimulate economic development, including job training and education. A "recovery zone" would be an area within a state, city or county that has exhibited high unemployment, foreclosures or poverty. These bonds would be allocated automatically to states and large municipal governments based on the number of unemployed individuals within that area.

Tax Relief for Individuals: "Making Work Pay Credit"; Expand Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); Increase in child tax credit, $0 floor.

IV. Crime ($4.00 Billion)

State and Local Law Enforcement: $4 billion to support state and local law enforcement including $3 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance formula grants to support local law enforcement efforts with equipment and operating costs, and $1 billion for the COPS hiring grant program, to hire about 13,000 new police officers for three years. The grantee is responsible for at least 25 percent in matching funds and must commit to use their own funds to keep the officer on board in the fourth year.

V. Arts and Tourism ($4.70 Billion)

National Endowment for the Arts: $50 million for preventing or recouping job losses in the nonprofit arts sector.

Border Ports of Entry: $1.15 billion to construct GSA and Customs and Border Patrol land ports of entry to improve border security, make trade and travel easier and reduce wait times, and to procure non-intrusive inspection technology at sea ports of entry, which is used to scan cargo containers to reduce the risk that containers can be used to smuggle weapons of mass destruction.

Airport Improvement Grants: $3 billion for airport improvement projects that will improve safety and reduce congestion. An estimated $41 billion in eligible airport infrastructure projects are needed between 2007-2011.

Transportation Security Administration Explosive Detection Systems: $500 million to install Aviation Explosive Detection Systems in the nation's airports, improving security, and making life easier on travelers by speeding security lines. Funds are competitively awarded based on security risk.

Power restored in Lake Worth, PBCC campus to reopen at noon

Lake Worth manager tires of commute, eyes job offer from Dania Beach

Town of Palm Beach - Shore Protection Board Meeting 1/27

Lake Worth, Palm Springs residents lose power overnight

Click title for link to article. Sounds like the Sheriff's office is our public information officer after reading the article. Here is a telling paragraph that I heard echoed on the Channel 5 news this morning:
Sheriff's officials and Palm Springs police could not say what caused the blackout and officials with Lake Worth utilities, which serves Lake Worth and Palm Springs, could not be reached for comment.

Elizabeth Felti, who lives on South E Street near 6th Avenue South, said she was watching the news when her power went out. She said she was frustrated because she could not reach anybody with Lake Worth Utilities and a 911 dispatcher told her to call Florida Power and Light Co., which does not serve Lake Worth.

"That just shows the flaw in the system," she said.

So, Ms. Felti, you may want to vote for different people. Why no statement from the Mayor or any of our Commissioners? Could they have taken the initiative and communicate with the media?

Palm Beach Community College - who pays FPL rates but served by the city - is closed until at least mid-day due to lack of electrical power. Channel 5 just now (on their 9:30 news segment) said that they did get through to Lake Worth utilities. According to the report, there are still about 6,000 customers without power.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

City Commission Meeting 1/20/09

Click title for link for LIVE Commission audio stream. Commissioner Jennings added an item under unfinished business "Comprehensive Plan". There were other additions, but they were garbled in the stream. The following was being typed during the meeting - I tried to keep up the best I could.

The City Manager search consultant is amazed that three (3) commissioners (eh hem) don't think that it should be a requirement to have local government experience. She is willing to go with "employment with a city or local government function" rather than "senior management experience in city or local government." She says that where it has been successful, it is usually for smaller governments. She thinks that maybe getting someone who was in city government originally, left to the private sector and then come back. Commissioner Golden is talking about someone like Frank Brogan who can bring in money, but thinks that government experience is necessary. Commissioner Jennings suggests saying that we have a preference for city experience, but if we think they are an exceptional in some area, then they may be worth considering. Mayor Clemens says that government experience is unique and could include non-profits. Commissioner Jennings is pushing for someone with "utility management" experience. She thinks they need to work on agreement regarding the interaction between the City Manager and the City Commission. Do they want an advocate of their own opinions or one that will do what they say and just give them the facts? Residency was discussed, but more toward "desired" than "required." They did talk about having it be "reasonable driving distance" which they thought that was a half-hour drive.

They thought that the $170,000 at the upper range of salary was high. Commissioner Jennings wanted some sort of maximum percentage that the salary could be in relation to the lowest paid employment. Mayor Clemens wants a higher salary range to bring in good talent due to challenges present here and heaps praise on Mr. Baldwin who is paid $30,000 more than his predecessor.

Beach activity report - Rachel Bach gave the report since December 10. They are getting a Request for a Letter of Interest for the design criteria package to improve the building and the site. There are six structural engineering reports since 1995. A recent report was received as late as last Friday. The design criteria agent can't also bid on the eventual RFP. Mayor Clemens seems a little hot about this taken more time than the Commission expected. He ends up apologizing that he had the wrong impression. Commissioner Mulvehill doesn't like going back to other structural engineers to review the various reports. She disses Building Official Feranelli. Commissioner Jennings thinks they made a bad decision that night - she thought that it would be cheaper but then thought about it again and now isn't so sure. Talks about a possible new building now. She thinks that the RLI should include the possibility of a new building. Commissioner Mulvehill thinks the history component that hasn't been investigated. (read previous post). Mayor Clemens "eyeballed it" and thinks the renovation of the new building would be more expensive. Staff will do the selection after the RLI is returned January 31, 2009. Once a firm is picked to create the RFP, it might be early Spring. The Mayor thought he would have the RFP out in January. The Mayor wants the RFP to be flexible. Commsisioner Jennings thinks that it all may be too expensive and the effort may be wasted then. She admits that it's not her field.

Staff says that there is an April deadline from the County regarding the $5 million for a new agreement. "How do you come up with a feasibility study if you don't know what you are doing. " - Commissioner Golden. They seem to want to leave open the possibility of demolition and new construction. Commissioner Mulvehill still thinks it's somehow possible for a National Historic Designation. It looks like it is headed for a workshop - surprised? And they may cancel the joint CRA workshop with the Commission scheduled for next Tuesday and have a workshop on the beach in its place.

They decided to issue the RLI 3 to 1, with Commissioner Mulvehill dissenting. It will include the possibility of demolition. Commissioner Jennings back-peddled big time and is now again considering the Coastal Construction Line.

Regarding the financial analysis to be prepared by Fishkind, Finance Manager Bates says that the assumption is that the beach would be self-sustaining financially. They did talk about the difference between market rates and what is being paid now, which was acknowledged as lower than market. The study is predicted to come back in late February. They want to include a lot of variables.

It pains me to listen to the above. When you get down to it, the electeds are pretty clueless about what they want and have trouble understanding the whole process. When will the public be able to express their opinion?

From a line in Obama's Inaugural Address:

Click title for link to text of speech.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pics from MLK Parade LW - Complete with Obama Balloons!

Part II: The Three "Rs" of Historic Preservation - New Beach Plan

Part I was a reflection on the "new" beach and casino building redevelopment plan. This Part II deals with how or if we can really term the work on the casino building contemplated by Straticon et al as "historic preservation." At one City Commission meeting, the elected ones talked about the possibility of historic preservation grants for the project. Not so fast - I think this project would have real problems competing for grant funds.

Many of you probably know that I am not a stranger to historic preservation. From early on in my planning career, I worked on documenting historic districts and acted as an advocate for historic preservation wherever I lived. In 1993, that passion reached full flower when I supported the preservation of the Mar-a-Lago estate and was soon hired on to organize the restoration, rehabilitation of the estate in converting it to an adaptive re-use - that being a private, non-discriminatory club in the Town of Palm Beach.

In that capacity, one of the projects we undertook was the construction of two cabana buildings and a pool on the one acre "beach" portion of the estate. During Mrs. Post's day, she enjoyed a saltwater pool at the north end of the beach property, with some wood frame structures around it serving as cabanas. The removal of the existing pool was the first step in the redevelopment of the Mar-a-Lago beach for the use of club members.

This project required many regulatory approvals. We needed permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation for a permit to build seaward of the coastal construction control line (the property is bulkheaded, much like the Lake Worth beach). We also needed the approval of the National Trust for Historic Preservation as there was a view easement in place which preserved the vista from the large central window looking east from the living room of the estate - the "mar" view. Additional approvals were needed from the Town of Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission and from the Town Council before we could begin work.

There is a distinction that I would like to point out here as it relates to the Lake Worth beach. While the Mar-a-Lago beach cabana project was part of an overall larger historic preservation project related to the conversion of Mar-a-Lago from a private estate to a private club, the beach project alone represents neither restoration, reconstruction or rehabilitation. While in the Mediterranean revival style, similar to the main buildings west of A-1A, the beach project was not meant to imitate but meant to compliment the style of the large "house" complex. The buildings and the pool at the beach were new construction - period.

Here is a picture from early on in the construction of the Mar-a-Lago beach project:

It is no accident that the banner of this blog is taken from an early postcard of the Lake Worth beach casino building. I've always thought of it as a symbol of the city's past and as an aspirational goal what the city could achieve - through a lot of hard work. What an achievement it would be that we really could create a nice building near to the original's style and scale on our most valuable piece of public land!

As near as I can tell, this is the casino building as it appeared from the earliest color print in its original form. The entire postcard appears below:

With this "new" casino building proposal, we have the term "restoration" being tossed around rather casually. People in powerful positions are using it as a way to promote the project. How could you be against something that would "restore" the Casino to its 1920s glory? This term was used throughout the Suzanne Mulvehill for Commissioner campaign. In fact, I called the now Commissioner Mulvehill early on in her campaign and told her about the distinction which is the subject of this post. It was not enough to prevent the further use of the term.

In order for anything we do at the beach involving the existing building to qualify as "restoration", we need to meet the definition of restoration as contained in our historic preservation ordinance and the Secretary of Interior Standards for Historic Preservation. Here is the definition:

Restoration: The act or process of accurately recovering the form and details of a building, structure or site and its setting as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of later work or the replacement of missing earlier work.

Here is what was presented by Straticon et al:

We are, in reality, talking about two completely different buildings. Count the number of arches in the original, as depicted in the 1920s postcard, and then count the number of arches in the version as distributed by Straticon et al. I count about 19 in the original and about 25 or 26 in the "new" version. Lets assume the space between the columns is 5 feet or so. That would indicate that the "new" building would be at a minimum 35 ft. longer than the original. However, the original arch openings may have been a smaller dimension, so the difference could be as much as 50 ft on the north/south dimension. We already know from their presentation that the "new" building would consume an additional 12 feet east as leaseable space where the existing walkway is now. The top of this new area would create a walkway around the second floor of the building. While a feature of the original building, the building's second floor area was never that large and never extended that far to the east.

So, in order to be a "restoration", you must accurately reproduce how a building looked at a certain point in time. As pointed out, there are features of the new building that were on the original, but the building never was this large - both in an east/west and a north/south dimension. You cannot "restore" something that never was. This current proposal really has more in common with a new building in the same location, with some period details added to it. To call it a restoration is wrong - period. To restore the building would be to return it to exactly how it looked in that early postcard - using original materials and techniques as much as possible.

Or, due to the various iterations of the casino building over time - caused by storms and other considerations - you could choose which era or version you restore the building to. Notice that part of the definition of restoration includes the removal of later work. This building as it now appears is covered by "later work" - the late 40s renovation laid over another building on top of what used to the original building. The "new" proposal just incorporates that later work, in volume and materials, in the new version.

In fact, this is what was left of that "original building" that caused the need for the late 40s modernization we see now:

That's where we are introduced to the term "reconstruction." This is the definition of the term as contained in our historic preservation ordinance and the Secretary of Interior's Standards for Historic Preservaiton.

Reconstruction: The act or process of reassembling, reproducing or replacing by new construction the form, detail and appearance of a property and its setting as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of later work or by the replacement of missing earlier work or by reuse of the original materials.

Let's say those hurricanes in the late 40s destroyed the building so that it was leveled - no evidence of it remained at all. You could then reconstruct it exactly as it was at a certain earlier point in time - but with all new materials and construction. It would not be considered reconstruction if it didn't re-create a version of the building that existed back at one point in time. So, even this term is not appropriately used for the current proposal as it represents a building that never existed. It emulates the building, but it is larger and the relation of the various details is not the same as any other version that existed on this property. Again, the "new" beach casino building has more in common with new construction than historic preservation.

The third "R" of historic preservation is "rehabilitation." This is the definition of that term as contained in the same sources:

Rehabilitation: The act or process of returning a property to a state of utility through repair, remodeling or alteration which makes possible efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions or features of the property which are significant to its historic architectural or cultural value.

The current proposal probably comes closest to this definition. But still, this proposal is not "preserving those portions or features of the property," instead it is creating new ones to look like old ones. If you only look at the surface of the new proposed building, it is essentially all new materials. What is being preserved are some of the structural components of the existing building and, in effect, "icing" is being poured over what portions of the existing structure are salvageable. I am also not convinced that the new proposal has been designed from the inside out. Do we really know that its functionality in 2009 with contemporary retail and restaurant tenant needs have been adequately addressed?

So be wary when you hear some vocal people talk about this "new" proposal as being a restoration that is restoring the casino building back to its 1920s heyday. What it does represent is a tenant-driven project made possible through the local political process. And, really, who is to say that Greater Bay themselves couldn't have done a "restoration" project like this either here or somewhere else on the property?

Next, in Part III, I will examine Commissioner Jennings' renown PowerPoint presentation where she called for a 160 foot setback from the seawall. Funny how now she thinks it's o.k. to extend the building 12 feet further toward the ocean. More later.

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama by the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


A very special Martin Luther King, Jr. day...

I will be part of the march from City Hall to the Cultural Plaza. We'll assemble in front of City Hall around 5 p.m. From there, they'll be a potluck dinner at Calvary Methodist Church - 1st Avenue South and Federal Hwy.

County lacks forces like those exposing Miami-Dade corruption

Click title for link to PB Post article. Interesting is the amount of waste that is linked to poor decisions based. Many times these poor decisions, not in the public interest, are due to unseen influences affecting decision-makers.

Interesting piece of back-up information in 1/20 City Commission agenda - Beach Tenant Leases

I'll try to track down the accurate square footages this week. Note that these were last negotiated in 2003. Details and direction of the RFP will be discussed at this Tuesday's meeting - along with the disposition of the building and what to do regarding the March 31, 2009 date to close the building. From the back-up material, the city is looking at requiring review of the four (4) different reports on the building for some conclusive opinion. We need to remember that the last one was done by a private firm that wanted the $10 million project.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Review of Goals from City Commission Workshop from 1/8

I'm catching up on a few things here and thought you would find the list of goals generated by the City Commission of interest. It reflects the "new" Commission's priorities for the coming year. I've added my commentary in italics in various places. These are in no order of priority.
  • Reform and create Comprehensive Code Compliance Program. - this always comes up high on the priority scale but there seems to be no sense that we are actually getting somewhere. Is it because it's a moving target or are there other factors to blame. Selective enforcement is also a problem here.
  • Prepare and implement Comprehensive Program on Renewable Energy and Green Initiatives in line with the Climate Control Task Force. - with as much gusto as this Task Force had, it's disappointing how few recommendations have actually made it past the "writing them down" phase. I think one of the first things that should happen is that all city Commission, as well as other board packets, should be distributed electronically as a policy.
  • Complete FMPA review and implement recommendations. Move along electrical upgrade conversion. - O.K., we have the consultants report and I guess that we have agreed to exit FMPA in five years. How much money is left to upgrade our distribution system. Wasn't that funded by the same bond issue that funded the Reverse Osmosis plant?
  • Approve and implement a multi-year Water Program, including supply and water conservation program. - An amendment to the Comprehensive Plan went through recently that addressed this item, less the conservation component. We have to do a better job educating people about the importance of water conservation - including city staff that have trouble fixing a faucet at the beach.
  • Develop a police accountability program with the Sheriff's department. - This is something spearheaded by Commissioners Jennings and Golden - not sure if Mulvehill shares their views or not.
  • Evaluate the city's parks, facilities and recreational programs including strategies for attracting grant and CDBG funding. - Good idea.
  • Get out of water agreement with Palm Beach County and build our own reverse osmosis facility. - Just what incentive will Palm Beach County have to let us out of our agreement with them. Is this another hat-in-hand, poor Lake Worth, we didn't know what we were doing presentation before the County Commission? How sad if it is? Does our word mean anything?
  • Improve customer service in various departments - particularly Code Compliance, Building and Utility Billing. Amen and halelujah! Just remember, Rome wasn't built in a day.
  • Implement a "Civility Ordinance" to bring proper decorum to City Commission meetings and improve City Commission meeting policies. - This really can be done through a more assertive approach by the Mayor to allow or not allow certain attacks to take place at the Commission meetings. More needs to be in making it easier to comment in a worthwhile manner on items before the City Commission.
  • Continue to evaluate and replace non-productive employees and hire competent, qualified individuals. - This wins the award for the most obvious. When was this not a policy or a goal? However, does this mean that the City Commission is going to be using its hand in the hiring and firing of staff? The only positions that report to the City Commission are the City Manager, City Attorney and Internal Auditor.
  • Develop and implement a city-wide benchmarking program to monitor progress and hold employees responsible and accountable for meeting objectives. - Management by objectives has been a management tool since the 1950s and used effectively in governmental organizations. You do have to agree - employer and employee, what the objectives are and be clear about them.
  • Develop a comprehensive program to fully utilize city-owned properties and facilities, including effective placement of city operations and employees, foreclosure/affordable housing and ensuring "fair value" return on leases to private organization. - Lots of potential vagaries here. Fully utilize? How, are we talking about a 24 hour clock? Opening our Commission Chambers to those who may not have a place to sleep at night? Another mysterious term: "Fair value" return on leases. Much is lurking behind that phrase.
  • Continue partnership for improving "Mentoring Center." - Improvement? I thought it was exceeding all expectations. Why do we still have crowds on the streets in and around the area?
  • Develop a better system and "help line" for citizens to contact during utilities emergencies and power outages. - Good idea, but one has to ask why has it taken this long? Why no mention of improving the website in all these priorities?
  • Restrict over crowding and slumlords through more effective Certificate of Use program and code compliance including night time enforcement. - I'm surprised that "night time code enforcement" made it on the list, but perhaps the realization is that is when people are home? This is another perennial goal.
  • Develop a program to increase home ownership. - Many of the CRA programs are addressing this.
  • Implement an employee performance evaluation program. - This can really be paired with a Management by Objectives program. Again, it boggles the mind that this is still a novel concept in 2009 Lake Worth, Florida.
  • Improve employee morale. - I can't help but think of the line: "The beatings will continue until morale improves."
  • Develop a bicycle program and network, improvements and re-striping.- This is being undertaken by the CRA right now.
  • Develop a new plan for the beach and beach casino property that includes complete public control. - More on this continuing topic later, but "complete public control" does not mean enlarging John Gs service area by twice the current amount or further subsidizing commercial beach tenants - especially in a newly refurbished building.
  • Improve communications with the public and explain what we are doing and how we are doing it. - Amen and hallelujah!
  • Develop a program for addressing homeless issues including consideration of a Homelessness Task Force. - O.K.
  • Revisit Beach/Casino Plan. - There are some that think that the Greater Bay plan was a private company's vision of what the beach could be - the roots of that site plan and layout go back to the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council plan that was done in 2001. The current "new" plan doesn't attempt anything different than what is there now. That is a weakness. Where are the public meetings on the new plan?
  • Develop customer service program and training. - O.K.
  • Make further improvements to the Building Department and develop a system for easy/expedited permits. - Good luck.
  • Re-evaluate Palm Beach County Sheriff's contract.- Here we go again. Is the ink ever dry in Lake Worth? Does our word mean anything? Can we have an accurate accounting of all the pluses and minuses of this financially blended with real crime statistics that validate the merger or not? I am confident of the results.
  • Evaluate proposal to merge fire department with Palm Beach County. - This has been held out as a possibility for a while, worth a review.
  • Review re-naming the City of Lake Worth. - This is nothing more than a vehicle for Commissioner Jennnings to assert her will and impress her base. Given everything else on this list, why push this idea at all?
  • Improve the building department. - Understatement.
  • Partner with Sheriff in improving Certificate of Use and Code Compliance. - Is this an additional service?
  • Develop a shared vision and policy for participatory Democracy. - PET system?
  • Resolve problems with City Pension System and evaluate Florida Retirement System option.
  • Resolve issue with payments re new pump station with contracting cities. - This has been an issue now for two years. Where is the forensic audit?
  • Come back with amendments to sign code to assist Golf Course marketing.
  • Bring back parking meter program for Commission review. - Bad idea especially in this economic downturn. If done at all, it should be part of an overall policy related to transportation in and out of the downtown - should not be done as a stand alone program.
  • Continue administrative system reforms and implementation. - This is a bundle. Has the new accounting system's kinks been worked out yet?
  • Improve marketing and communication. - Amen and hallelujah!
  • Improve media relations. - Amen and hallelujah!
  • Evaluate and continue to improve solid waste collections services and methodologies. - Does this mean we can throw out our indispensable calendar as now instructed by City workers?
After going through this list, there really are not a lot of differences in topic, but the approach can be and is different many times.

Surfrider PBC event Fri Jan 23

Pics from the Festival of Trees at the Cultural Plaza

I spent some time here Saturday afternoon. Friends have told me they found some nice native planting material. FYI - the CRA paid for t-shirts that said "Got shade?" Donations for the shirts (suggested $13) went to the tree canopy restoration fund. I'll find out how much money was raised.