Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gus' Baths - Palm Beach



This building and pier were at the east end of Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. All were gone by the early sixties. I found this while assembling images for my talk on 1920s Palm Beach. It's interesting since, at least for a time, our casino building/pier and this complex were contemporaries - separated north and south by a few miles of road.

Good Pride Weekend message: Seventeen year old junior in High School testifying at a state of Vermont legislative committee hearing last week.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Great Experience Helping MDA Today...

Here is yours truly, working the phone list of friends, relatives and clients. Thanks to those of you that contributed. Even though I didn't make the lofty goal of $3,000, it was still a great experience and it felt good to be a part of making a difference with other folks. We were taken to the Melting Pot - which turned their whole restaurant over to the event today. If you are ever asked to be a part of the whole "getting arrested" thing - at least as it relates to MDA - I encourage you to do so. I will provide the link here so that you will still be able to make contributions and get more information. The site will be active for 45 days.

HELP! They're coming to take me away!


Click the title for a link to help me post bail. The Sheriff is coming at noon today - please contribute to help those with nuero-muscular diseases.

Wes Blackman - MDA's MOST WANTED CITIZEN!

Click title for link to website for MDA donations

I desperately need your help! I just made the “MDA’s Most Wanted” list! Believe it or not, I am going to be arrested on Thursday, March 26, 2009 and I need your help to raise the dough to bail me out of jail. I will be locked up “for good” unless I can come up with a minimum of $3,000 “bail.”

Right now you are probably saying to yourself, “Wes deserves this and I knew they would catch up with him eventually,” or, “It is unbelievable why anyone would arrest such a nice person.”

The Muscular Dystrophy Association will be locking me up at The Melting Pot and I will be incarcerated for one hour and charged with “having an extremely big heart.”

Your donation toward my bail will not only help set me free, but will also help many area children and adults with muscle diseases by adding vital funds to MDA’s research efforts. You can help me and MDA by making a pledge toward my bail. In order to insure my release I need to start raising my bail prior to “MDA’s Most Wanted” extravaganza.

So, please help me get released from jail by sending a pledge to my attention made payable to MDA or give e-mail me at wesblackman@gmail.com

Thanks for your support!

For those Casino worshippers among us...

Behold...your shrine!

Article from the "New Times" on City Manager Compensation for Broward community

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Comment left under other post that's neat to read

Thank you for keeping everyone, interested in Lake Worth, informed. I and my artist husband have been looking at Lake Worth for some time now. We were part of what Coconut Grove came to be, an artist heaven. I subsequently was part of S. F. Art Center watching Lincoln Rd. become what it has. All of these venues have managed to price us out.
Now we are looking at Lake Worth, it has the feel Coconut Grove of 20 years ago.

Announcement from City: Pridefest Parade Street Closures

To facilitate the staging and commencement of the Annual Pridefest Parade held in Lake Worth on March 29, 2009, parking and vehicular traffic will be temporarily prohibited as follows:

o 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM

o Lake Ave. from Dixie Hwy. to Golfview

o Lucerne Ave from L Street to J Street

o J Street between Lake Ave.. and Lucerne Avenue

o The Lake Worth Bridge (Eastbound Only) will be closed

o Lake Worth Bridge traffic will need to detour to either Ocean Avenue in Lantana or Southern Blvd. in West Palm Beach

o Lake Ave traffic can use 2nd Ave North.

o Lucerne Ave will be closed from L Street to Dixie Highway

o The parade begins at 11:30 and goes from the 600 block of Lucerne Ave. to J St. then east on Lake Ave. to Bryant Park where Pride Fest 2009 will take place

Something yours truly introduced last year - glad someone is listening!

Lake Worth Supports Earth Hour 2009

The City of Lake Worth City Commission, at a special meeting on March 24, 2009, endorsed their official support for Earth Hour 2009, a global climate event led by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). More than 240 cities around the world have committed to go dark for one hour on March 28, 2009, at 8:30 p.m. -- local time, as tens of millions of people from all corners of the world unite in a call for global action on climate change. During Earth Hour 2008, more than 50 million people in over 1,000 cities on all seven continents turned off their lights as major icons also went dark, including the Sydney Opera House, the Coliseum in Rome, Stockholm's Royal Castle, the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridgein San Francisco. Google turned its homepage black for an entire day in tribute.

"World Wildlife Fund is pleased that the City of Lake Worth is taking part in Earth Hour 2009. As lights go out in cities around the U.S. and the world on March 28th, Earth Hour will provide world leaders with an unmistakable mandate to take action," said WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts. "The climate crisis threatens the ability of our planet to support its inhabitants. We want the world to know that Americans care about saving the planet and stand united in seeking to find solutions to climate change."

More on Earth Hour 2009

· The date was set in March because it is close to the Spring Equinox, a period when the most number of countries around the world will experience darkness in the 8 o'clock hour.

· By working together, each one of us can make a difference on the issue of climate change. By doing something as simple as turning off the lights, we send a visual symbol to the world's leaders that we are counting on them to work together to find solutions to climate change.

· Earth Hour is a non-partisan event. When it comes to caring about the future of our planet, we all have a stake as citizens of the world regardless of other political beliefs and affiliations.

· Earth Hour turns off non-essential lighting only. Lights necessary for public safety will not go out. Earth Hour has been conducted safely and without incident in more than 100 cities around the world.

· World Wildlife Fund is the organization behind Earth Hour, but many other groups and NGOs are supporting Earth Hour in 2009.

The Lake Worth City Commission urges local businesses and the community to join in this year's initiative.

For more information, visit www.EarthHourUS.org

Now showing at 7 North Dixie Hwy!

Response from me to a concerned citizen on a number of topics - mostly related to yesterday's 10 a.m. special meeting...

That was one of the more frustrating meetings. First of all, having a "public" meeting at 10 a.m. on a weekday is not a good policy - period. Did they ever vote on anything? I was back and forth from the audio stream doing work and didn't catch 100% of it - so I might have missed a vote, but it seemed like they accomplished nothing.

Casino Building Condition:

The City has at least 5 or more structural studies, done over the past 10 years, documenting that the building has structural problems. One of the worst areas in along the eastern side of the building where there is a high volume of pedestrian activity. Our last building official - who is now gone - was the first one that recognized the danger to the public and acted to close the building by March 31st. In his opinion, it was in that bad a condition. Of course, this didn't go over well with the tenants. Then we had the election where Mulvehill won with heavy financial and other support from those tenants on a platform to save and "restore" the building. The building official stood firm on the March 31st date and would only allow it to stay open if some work was done immediately to make the building safer for the public. That is when they approved the drawing up of a "shoring plan" by a structural engineer for $20,000. At this meeting yesterday, they put out an invitation for contractors to bid based on those plans. What happens when they open up the building and find that there is little "good" steel/rebar? Then what?

I haven't seen those shoring plans but it seems to me that there might be some major interruption to tenants while this work is being done. They expect anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000 to do that work. I think that is a very low range. I think anyone bidding on this will need much more money to do the job - still lots of unforeseen conditions. See below.

In my opinion, this is the only work that will be done on the building. My crystal ball says that Greater Bay will eventually file their lawsuit and will win an injunction against anyone else doing work at the beach. It might even be a race to see what is done first - the shoring or the injunction. Retha was right: she thinks this is the only thing that will be done at the beach. It will give the city an excuse that, assuming the work can be completed before an injunction, the building is sound - for a few years.

Estimating costs for rehabilitating the Casino building:

This building was built in 1922. There are no plans showing how it was built. It was damaged by every major hurricane that came through here from then until now. It was essentially destroyed by a 1947 hurricane. The version we see now was a lot bigger than the original. How was the new slab tied into the old? That isn't easy to determine without doing some fairly major demolition and that can't be done if you don't want to disturb the tenants. What about the electric service tie-in and wiring throughout the building - what condition is that in? Air conditioning? Plumbing? Handicapped access - a requirement? Are you going to carve into every store's bathroom and make them accessible to contemporary standards? - Doing that would double or triple the size of bathrooms in the building and take away from leasable space. Because the value of the work would be way above the threshold for bringing the whole building up to code, you are also have to meet the 140 mph windload standard for the building and any opening - doors and windows. Since it is seaward of the coastal construction line, if they touch the slab that the building sits on, they either have to drive or drill pilings to support the existing building so that if the sand beneath the building washes away, the building will still be standing.

Given all these unknowns, let alone the city's reputation, I don't know any contractor that would be comfortable giving a fixed price. The $10 million is a round figure that comes across as not breaking the bank - but in my opinion it's low.

Also, is the building in the place where we want it on the property? How can we be paying $20,000 to Michael Singer Studios for them to do a "visioning" exercise without knowing whether we are keeping the building where it is now or whether we are building somewhere else on the 19 acres. The best approach is to look at the property as a clean slate and put things where they make sense based on current conditions.

Cara on the phone for meetings - or anyone for that matter:

We shouldn't allow this. How do we know she is acting independently? What is her condition? Can she really hear all the dialog? What about things that are passed out during the meeting? Yesterday, the Mayor had to read her the information from a table that had three different scenarios over multiple years. How meaningful was that?

86% water increase over five years:

This is insidious! They are financing the construction of an RO plant totally on the backs of rate payers. For anyone concerned about gentrification, you are we going to get to move to Lake Worth if we have the highest electric rates and water rates compared to anywhere else in Florida. Under this plan, we would only use the pipeline that is being built for multi-millions of dollars for two years - then an RO plant would come on line. This is probably the most seriously bad thing they are likely to do.

Golf Course:

It's too expensive to play and not in as good condition as other courses in the area. They need to get someone in that knows what they are doing and has been successful other places in Florida. Option #2 was a "piggyback" on another city's (WPB) contract - to go with option #1 and #3, they would have to waive bidding which they didn't want to do. No one really knew what was going on with the staff back-up and, as a result, nothing happened.

If you can educate some people about the damage that is being done, that would greatly help the cause! Right now people are demoralized and are just sitting back and watching the circus.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Update from City Commission meeting re beach

Commissioner Mulvehill wants Straticon to give an estimate of the cost of construction - how is that an unbiased assessment? Much confusion about how big the building will be and if there is rehabilitation versus reconstruction - new building.

This is not news by any means. What is news to the Commission and something that they are not hearing is that to determine a "solid" cost to rehabilitate the building is not really possible.

They also don't seem to be focusing on the time factor. What seems to be a unifying theme is that the Fishkind study is preliminary at best, not that helpful in its current form and does not compare apples-to-apples - all things with which I agree.

Jeff Hardin of Straticon is going to work with Fishkind to generate "more precise" - read: more favorable for rehabilitation than new construction - estimates. Ends driven report on the way, apparently.

Commissioner Jennings left the phone connection at 1:20 p.m.

Shoring contractor item is an "invitation to bid" - not a "request for proposals." Estimated costs come to $40 to $70K to shore up the building. $20,000 has been spent on the shoring plans already and the architect/structural engineer is responding to comments from the building department. They want a technical memorandum and a threshold inspector will be needed through out the shoring construction period - could be disruptions of service - will need an inspection every 6 months. Staff's opinion is that the building needed to be closed to the public and evacuated. The only reason it will be open after 3/31 is due to the city going ahead with the shoring plan. Commissioner Lowe thinks this will be it - that's all that will be done to the building - Mayor Clemens seems concerned about the total cost.

Meeting ended at 1:40 p.m.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Santamaria expresses 'frustration,' may not seek reelection

Pics from Trump International Golf Course Clubhouse Construction






Intracoastal Shoreline Clean-up April 4th

The intracoastal shoreline along the Lake Worth Municipal Golf Course is littered with old tires, broken bits of lumber, plastic and paper trash. All are welcome to participate in this clean-up effort spearheaded by the Kiwanis Club of Lake Worth. Volunteers will meet at the clubhouse (located at 7th Ave N and the intracoastal) on Saturday April 4th at 8 AM. You don’t have to be a Kiwanis member to join in the effort, but volunteers must be 18 years old or accompanied by a parent.

All participants are asked to park in the golf course parking lot the morning of the event. Golf carts will be used to shuttle folks to the cleanup locations along the length of the shoreline. Plenty of garbage bags and latex gloves will be provided. Please be sure to wear old clothes, closed-toed shoes, sunblock, sunglasses, and hats if you have them.

Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time. There are over 350,000 members in 84 countries. April 4th has been designated Kiwanis One Day. Service projects are being organized at thousands of locations around the world.

Click for "Live" 10 a.m. City Commission meeting 3/24

This is a special meeting - one where they can vote on beach, golf course and fire department merger issues. This meeting should not have been scheduled during the day time!

Commissioner Jennings is en absentia. She joined the on-going meeting by phone at 10:35 a.m. - is this standard practice now? Apparently she had trouble making a day time meeting as well. And they discovered that she didn't have all of the up-to-date packet - it wasn't sent to her? The Mayor is offering to read off the year to year changes from a table of three different sceanarios on the golf course - sheesh.

All time Record Week - Thanks for Visiting - Everybody Dance!

Monday, March 23, 2009

No Surprise Here: New Building at Beach Cheaper than Rehabilitating Old

This is the report that the City Commission will be reviewing tomorrow from Fishkind and Associates. It was undertaken to determine if the city's redevelopment plans for the beach were supportable based on revenue generation compared with costs and on-going expenditures. It is considered a "draft" report and the Commission will have an opportunity to direct the final version based on their discussion tomorrow. (Click title for link to full back-up)

Note that this includes only the revenues and expenses related to the building - not the 19 acre property. It's my recollection that the Commission directed Fishkind to include site development costs as well. Perhaps that will be part of the later edition?

The above tables reflect the project that calls for the rehabilitation of the building. The key assumptions here are that there is no additional square footage added to the building. It assumes retail and commercial space of 8,477 sq. ft. and ballroom space of 5,000 sq. ft. The persquare foot rent for seven tenants is pegged at $25 per square foot - with the exception of one tenant at $30 per square foot. Good question to ask: Why?

The rehabilitation - and that is what it is, not a restoration - is estimated to range from $7 million to $14 million. For purposes of this analysis, they chose $10 million. This I consider a "plug" figure at this point. There are so many unforeseen conditions in the existing building and the project would trigger compliance with contemporary windload and coastal construction requirements. I think that's on the low side and would use a conservatively higher figure than the one that Fishkind used. This would show a greater deficit that than shown in their analysis.

A new expense is added to the equation and that is an allowance for "Common Area Maintenance" or CAM. This is something that the City has historically either not done or not done well or enough. That figure amounts to $6.89 per square foot and is passed on directly for maintenance activities, but is paid by the tenant.

Fishkind says that the city would use the $1 million that is already has socked away for the beach project plus $9 million in 30 year bonds at 5.4% interest. Remember, this is JUST for the BUILDING with no site improvement costs. Remember, the city is hanging on to a thread of hope that we will retain the $5 million from Palm Beach County for site improvements - but that may be only half of what we ultimately need.

When you subtract the debt service from the net revenue (negative), the resulting millage impact (contribution from the General Fund) would be equal to .164 mills on a city-wide basis.

Now, again, in my mind the $10 million to rehabilitate the building is a "plucked from the sky" figure and would likely be much higher.

The above table reflects financial impact of the project if a new building is built. This was according to Commission direction, with a substantial push from Commissioner Jennings. It assumes a larger building: restaurants total 12,000 sq. ft. and general retail at 13,500 sq. ft. plus a ballroom of 6,500 sq. ft. and a museum (where did this come from?) at 3,000 sq. ft. Rents are pegged at $25 per square foot for retail and $30 per square foot for all restaurants - why the difference here? Similar assumptions are used for the slightly larger ballroom space as the previous scenario.

The lower construction cost estimate of $5 million (for a larger building too!) requires a bond of only $4 million and the debt service is easily covered - returning almost $500,000 to the general fund each year - exclusive of parking revenue, etc.

My Conclusion:

There was not enough collaboration between contractors or professional construction cost estimators and Fishkind. I don't see any basis for their construction cost assumptions, other that intuitively (and rightly) they believe the new building to be cheaper to building, especially on a per square foot basis, than rehabilitating the old. The lack of any inclusion of site redevelopment costs and what all is involved there with infrastructure and drainage is another weakness.

I also think that the per square foot lease rates for tenants is low for oceanfront commercial space and therefore represents a substantial subsidy on the part of the residents of the city.

Too bad all of this is going to be discussed at a time when most of the Lake Worth public is busy making money so that they can afford to live in the city.

HELP CLEANUP LAKE WORTH LAGOON - APRIL 18, 2009

Why no locations in Lake Worth? Is anyone on the Commission or city staff plugged into the rest of the world?

Mitchell's name kept off West Palm Beach City Center plaque - at her request

Local example of an elected official showing integrity. Click above for link to PB Post article.

Special City Commission Meeting 3/24 at 10 a.m.!

It's not o.k. that this meeting is happening at 10 a.m. Here we are deciding who is going to run the golf course, talk about the casino/beach financial feasibility study and authorize an RFP for a contractor to shore up the building. The Commission will also finish up with the fire department merger pension issue.

These are big issues that deserve more public discussion that what a 10 a.m. meeting can provide. It reminds me of the 8:30 a.m. meetings held by the Affordable Housing Task Force. Apparently, this Commission does not care that the public has a right to comment and be informed/involved in what is going on. This is just plain wrong!

You would think that at least one member of the Commission would understand the importance of right to be heard on matters affecting the public. Where is Commissioner Jennings now?

Palm Beach County home prices down 34 percent from a year ago, but sales rise 33 percent

Link to Planning, Growth Management Legislation - State of Florida

This is from the American Planning Association, Florida section - a list of pending planning, transit, water, growth management related legislation. It also shows the status of the various bills in process. Click above.

The Power of the Artist Community in Redevelopment

Click title for link to NPR report on artists as the new pioneers in blighted communities. This story comes from Detroit. The concept is the same as the effort the CRA is supporting through the contract with Hands-on Consulting.

Tentative City Manager Meet and Greet/Interview Schedule Released


Public time for meeting with candidates is on 4/5, 4 to 6 p.m. at the Lake Worth Golf Course Clubhouse.

Did I mention that Commissioner Cara Jennings voted "no" on the lease to Compass?

Just checking - don't want to forget!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Comment left by Anonymous this morning deserving of more visibility...

No person can question Commissioner Jennings’ right to protest or support any cause she may choose. I question her allocation of time and priorities. During a time of grave financial crisis for the City of Lake Worth, Commissioner Jennings chose to allocate her time and effort for something other than: 1) assisting the Lake Worth Mayor in trying to get a portion of the county's designated $27.2 million share from President Obama's economic stimulus plan---the effort was unsuccessful; 2) Preparing for a City Commission meeting on Tuesday in which she voted to increase our Water Charges 86% over the next 5 years—she admitted that she hadn’t had sufficient time to read the meeting package documents and adequately understand the question.

Antics like Commissioner Jennings’ have contributed to exacerbating our problems in Lake Worth without contributing to their solutions. It is not a mystery why Commissioner Golden was completely rebuffed in her attempts to have the PBC Commission alleviate our perceived problems with a recently executed water contract. Nor is it a mystery that the PBC Commission has given the City of Lake Worth a deadline for a plan submission on how we will spend the $5,000,000 allocated to our beach 4 years ago.

This is not about protests or unfulfilled campaign promises. This is about elected officials helping their constituents and not hurting them.

Commissioner Cara Jennings' Thank You Poem

This was sent around to her supporters. It is accompanied by a picture of Commissioner Jennings (above) that has more in common with Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island than it does to any resemblance of Commissioner Cara Jennings when she is seen in town or on the dais. Likely one of the first steps in her campaign for Mayor this year, this is what the poem says - the italics are my interpretation.

In this seaside town named Lake Worth--for now
(Cara plans to change the name of the city to Jewel to erase the genocidal connotation associated with General Worth - at least the view held amongst her closest supporters.
I call this Cara's Bling-Bling plan. It really is more of a statement: "I have taken over.")

the developers arrived with plans and a plow
(Where are the developers Cara? Have you looked around recently? Where are the jobs Cara? Where is the tax base? Why do we have to get in our fossil fuel burning vehicles and drive outside of Lake Worth for basic goods and services?)

A cry rang out....gentrification has come!
(A cry rang out - where have all the U.S. citizens gone?)
we must take action or our city is done
(No disagreement here.)

Together we crafted an epic work plan
(Carl Rove has nothing on this group - they have a lot of time on their hands
so this is their cause 24/7/365.)

with all the tools in the box, we would hold back "the man"
(O.K., let's equate the "man" - a sexist term - with all that is against what "they" believe. Do men have a role in Cara's "epic work plan?" It comes to mind that other world leaders have had "epic work plans." Care to elaborate?)

With petitions and protests, the momentum did gain
(for stories were told at many a doorstep)
now it was time for an election campaign
(Oh Goody! - they cried. Now we can feel morally right to take the signs of "developer" candidates to make the playing field more even)

They said, "It's a fluke, a radical can't win"
(Note to those listening - Cara Jennings did not run as a radical candidate)
and swore to their cronies, "It won't happen again!"
(When sworn in before HER cronies, Cara sounded like the radical she is -
she did not sound that way during the campaign)


Donations came in from nearby and far flung
(Mostly far flung, along with generous donations from certain people
having a vested interest in Commission actions)

wishing us strength for the work to be done
(If you say "No" to most things, the work can be fairly easy. The hard part is saying "Yes")

With cash in the bank and feet on the street,
the power of people could not be beat
(No argument here, that's what it takes to win)

We took the city by storm, a hurricane of change
and despite their foul play, we did it again......
(Commissioner Jennings - would you mind identifying the "foul play" of which you speak? Remember to include your actions or those of your people in the list.)

I thank you, friends, it has been quite a ride
with your love and support, we turned the tide.
(The tide goes in and the tide goes out. )


The Palm Beach Post finally gets it right on Commissioner Cara Jennings!

Click title for link to article. The point is - she really could care less if one more business opens here in Lake Worth - so in her mind her arrest and notoriety served multiple purposes. It furthered her radical causes and those of her friends, but at the same time tarnished what shred of a reputation we have in main stream society. Remember her thank you she sent out to her core group of supporters - how she beat the "man" in this past election - even though her primary candidate was a "woman?" That "man" referred to all of society - the one that works for a living, buys groceries, goes to school, pays taxes and obeys the law.

The Palm Beach Post's former view of Commissioner Jennings:

The Palm Beach Post's new view of Commissioner Jennings:


Can't have it both ways, honey! But still, one of her stalwart supporters I bumped into at the grand opening of Compass called Commissioner Jennings "our little anarchist with angel's wings."

WAKE UP!

By the way, did I mention Commissioner Jennings' "Queen for a Day" role at Compass' grand opening? I think I did, but it bears mentioning again. She found a way to be front and center throughout the event and even had her co-hort javier del sol with her to cut the ribbon on the center and, ladies and gentlemen: SHE VOTED "NO" ON THE CITY'S LEASE OF THE BUILDING TO COMPASS!

I don't think you'll be seeing that fact in her next round of campaign materials.