Saturday, June 20, 2009
There are some parallels. Rumor has it that one of the creators of South Park grew up in Lake Clark Shores. Coincidence?
One of the lessons we need to learn from our water debacle is the need to work cooperatively with other municipalities and the County. Once your reputation is tarnished by going back on agreements or by mismanaging your established relationships and responsibilities, it's difficult to build that back. And, once those relationships start going south is when you usually need to rely on them more and more. So the city's strategic position gets worse and worse; we end up begging for scraps or forgiveness, hat in hand.
When was the last time the city ever negotiated from a position of strength? The County has no incentive to deal with us on the water contract - after it was signed and they acted on good faith to fulfill their responsibilities, we stiff them on a required $6 million payment. Don't think for a minute that the County won't back down on this agreement, no matter how "amicable" we try to make it. Think of the precedent it would set with other local governments that have similar agreements with the County - for water or any other service. Then, imagine you are a County Commissioner and here come representatives from Lake Worth into your office. In one hand, they carry a marked up copy of the County water agreement and in the other hand they carry the "site plan" for the beach. Wouldn't you say to these Lake Worth reps, "Why don't you honor your agreement, and we'll honor ours - and maybe then we can talk about extending the deadline on the $5 million for the beach project?"
I think it is a grave situation when political theater and the goals of an extremist group (Jennings and her supporters) imperil such a valuable resource such as the city's water supply. West Palm Beach has a history of problems with its water supply and will eventually have to switch from its surface water source to another - over the span of ten years. Our 80% plus water fee increase scheduled over a five year period and draconian water restrictions are a result of poor leadership - but unfortunately some revel in the fact that we have this problem as a ready made excuse to stop any kind of re-investment or redevelopment. Why isn't anyone talking about how REGRESSIVE this sort of fee structure is for such a basic human need - water?
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
At the end of the City Commission meeting, the City Manager reported that there were 10 respondents and that all came in over the estimate. There were no comments from the Mayor and Commissioners. I am not surprised, but am interested in seeing the results myself. It's an indication of the uncertainties involved with a building such as this one and is a forecast of the over-runs and change orders if rehabilitation of the building is pursued.
There is supposed to be a meeting next Tuesday to discuss the beach in detail. No announcement is available on the website and it might be one of those sneaky 2:30 p.m. meetings.
Note: The latest audio of a Commission meeting available on the city's website is June 9th. The latest set of minutes available is from early April.
This comes to me from a good friend of mine that works for the State of Michigan - sometimes as a volunteer, apparently.
"The MI Nat. Resources Trust Fund helped pay for this project. I got to shake the Governor's hand the day after she cut 6 days pay from my income via "furloughs"! This park area is not patrolled by Detroit PD, but private security co. 24/7/365 security cameras, panic phones marked by blue beacons every 8th mile or so. No serious crimes, ever, with this system in place! Gave me the creeps! However it is an improvement; but the little veneer of redevelopment here and there still covers the great rot that is the rest of the city. 60% of the City is vacant; I mean NO buildings, infrastructure, etc. The "prairies" near City airport have the highest pheasant densities per square mile in the State. A series of articles last year, which I will send to you, super-imposed the maps of San Francisco, and Boston over the map of Detroit. All 3 of these Cities have similar populations of around 800,000 to 900,000 people. Yup, you guessed it: Detroit's incorporated area is about 3 times larger than the other two. Of course mere comparison takes a lot of things out of context, but the fact remains that most of the vacant land in Detroit is land nobody wants to develop."
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Feel free to use this new tool to help spread the word!
This is the organization responsible, also a recipient of a CRA grant recently.
The event was put on by Blue Planet Writers’ Room, a local nonprofit organization founded a year ago by Cora Bresciano and Susan Gay Hyatt. Blue Planet will offer free tutoring and writing workshops for students from 6 to 18, and hopes to find a permanent home in downtown Lake Worth.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Lisa Wilson, director of the Resource Center, is about to give her presentation - this is the group that runs the operation in the city's shuffleboard court building. She is talking about "stimulus grants." The Energy Efficient Jobs Block Grant is the program - training in green jobs and then placement in green jobs. Training will be for all Lake Worth residents and in two or more languages. Benefits: Green Workforce. Classes would be in the shuffleboard court building. Trained, tested and certified - then some can go into the small business development center after that. Percentage of funding from city would leverage other funding - she is asking for city money here. She estimates that "a lot more" jobs would be created.
Costs: Training certification $50,000 - 45 Lake Worth residents could take class. Have to train the instructor $1,500 - then the balance could be used to create energy auditors. Plus another $20,000 for administration 57 green jobs ready for Lake Worth residents. She is talking with PBCC.
Questions: Jennings - total number of residents in database now that are seeking employment 1,200. How many people are you placing? Increasing month over month, from February through end of April 300 jobs, some full time permanent. "Can't live off a day job." How would you determine who would be one of the 57 people that could take part of the program? She has to give it a lot more thought - might have a Spanish and an English only class. Mulvehill - demand for jobs placed - 100 a month, are there categories that are hiring - there is no trend. Most are residents from around the County that need a helping hand at home. Is there green job demand? This is part of a vision. They have looked at Richmond (this came from Jennings) - she says its coming. Lowe: Employers are coming from all over - are the people that you are helping Lake Worth residents - it's a prerequisite for people looking for work - must be Lake Worth residents. Mayor Clemens - Would like a presentation on what is going on there, not just to talk about a grant program. That was his expectation when he asked for a presentation earlier. Questions about recruiting and marketing - most recruiting is done by volunteers at the center. The Center would also use a "training company" that would participate in the grant-related program. Mulvehill - market to get job placement rather than recruitment. It's a "multi-service" center - this would allow recruitment to all Lake Worth residents, that hasn't really been done yet. Jennings: Apologizes for having her focus on the grant program and not their current functions (smokescreen?) Funding from city - looking for money from city beyond the rent, utilities etc that are already subsidized. Free to the participants.
They're going to be talking about it later in the agenda under New Business.
Nothing was pulled of the Consent Agenda - approval was unanimous. The item on the Gulfstream (yet another appeal by Charles Celi) that was on the agenda was postponed to next Monday, the last day of the 90 period to hear the appeal.
There are two grants that would go in for Block Grant money - one for the Resource Center and one for the utility department - "pre-paid meters." Mayor is asking if partial funding would be o.k. for the center - like $35,000.
On Saturday, June 20, the School of Urban and Regional Planning is co-hosting an Environmental Justice Conference at the Broward County Main Library Auditorium. During the Conference we will discuss the progress that has been made with regard to the 2001 Economic and Environmental Equity Program Management Plan that was part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. In addition, we will discuss how we can make sure that the needs of low income and minority communities will be addressed in the future. Attached is the invitation for the event, please feel free to distribute to others that you think might be interested.
When: Saturday, June 20 from 10 am to 3 pm
Where: Broward County Main Library Auditorium, 100 South Andrews, Fort Lauderdale
Parking: For Environmental Justice Conference Free Parking, take Broward Blvd. east to Andrews Ave. turn left and go one short block and turn right.
For more information, please call Linda Foster at 954 762 5652.
I look forward to seeing you on Saturday,
Jaap Vos, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Director
School of Urban and Regional Planning
111 East Las Olas Boulevard, Suite 1009C
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
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This next video presents scenes from the 1967 riots that gripped Detroit - just two years after the promotional video was made for the Olympic bid. Later parts of the video show widespread evidence of disinvestment and urban decay. What once was a city of 1.8 million people and an industrial powerhouse is now a shell of its former self. Click here for link to informative site on the effect of urban sprawl, automobile based land uses and urban flight over time in terms of population and location in the Detroit area.
Click here for a Detroit transit website called "A Desire Named Streetcar." At one time, in the first half of the 20th Century, Detroit had a very large and successful streetcar system. What do you think the auto companies thought of that?
Monday, June 15, 2009
Above is a set of clues about coming attractions at future City Commission meetings. One is the expansion of Snook Islands - the dredge and fill environmental project that has roundly been acknowledged as a success but was vociferously opposed by a group of people - some that are still very active on the political scene. These people are the same ones that are usually vociferously opposed to many worthy projects and have gained politically in recent times. The passive park issue is about allowing soccer to be played in places like Bryant Park and brings up all sorts of issues some people don't like talking about - like excluding classes of people from playing a recreational game in one or more of our parks. The noise ordinance issue meeting is supposed to be a "field trip" of sorts, with the Commission being led around downtown with someone working a noise meter. That will be one not to miss! And, then, the shot across the bow we heard last Monday when the City Commission refused to interview 31 people for the CRA so that the City Commission could take over that function (yes, the brain trust we know as the City Commission.) will have its own meeting where the Commission can take the action. Stay tuned for that one.
This is about the trip to Tallahassee taken by Stanton, Bach and Mattey. Need to read the tea leaves a little bit here, but it sounds like DCA thinks public input is more important than those that pretend to "speak for the people." Also, we see what's going on with the Sunset property - or do we? More to come on that as I just got all the information on the Department of Administrative Hearings docket for the objections still being raised by those rarely satisfied by any compromise.
Here we have the city addressing customer service issues with the City Manager taking part in the training exercise. Great idea!! Let's keep going down this path, but there is a long row to hoe.
Not exactly one of the burning issues of our time - music on hold when you call city hall - but Commissioner Golden is good at bringing up these sorts of issues. At least the conversation got around to having it be another way to get information out to the public, which in my mind, is one of the more important functions of local governments.
Looks like the bidders on the shoring of the Casino Building needed more information in order to adequately make a bid to to the work. Hmmm. No surprise here. The deadline is tomorrow at 2 p.m. The estimate was up to $100,000 - we'll see what the bids come in at. This whole thing started as a result of a threat to close the building and oust the tenants by March 31 - the heavily subsidized and politicized tenants revolted, contributed heavily to Commissioner Mulvehill's campaign and got their way by instead having one of the city's most recent building officials "relieved of his duties" - in what seemed like a middle-of-the-night operation. Anyway, with this work being done, it was argued that at least attempts were being made to make the building safer - after multitudinous reports prepared by licensed structural engineers cited grave failings in the building - especially in areas where the public gathers.
This item concerns the shuffleboard court building - another one of the ill-maintained public buildings and properties under control of the city of Lake Worth. It needed many repairs as well - before the "Resource Center" went in, according to the same building official that mysteriously disappeared. But since that rattled the proponents of the center, rules were over looked - both zoning and building - and the center was allowed to begin operation in a substandard building. If any other private entity tried to accomplish the same thing in Lake Worth, they would still be doing the work and waiting for the day their Certificate of Occupancy would be issued. By the way, Lisa Wilson, the "Resource Center" director will be making a presentation before the City Commission at tomorrow night's meeting. I am sure the "echo chamber" will resound with how well the center has done since its opening.
Click title for link to full report and click on images for better viewing.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Click title for link to New York Times article.
If you've been to the beach either early in the morning or later at night, you probably know that the beach is now open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The City Commission recently bought gates and had them installed at the entrance from South Ocean Boulevard and the Lake Avenue intersection. These pictures were both taken by a friend of mine around 7:45 a.m on Saturday morning. The gates for the east bound traffic were open, but the gates for the exiting traffic were still locked and in place. In the second and third pictures, you can see that exiting traffic has to "go the wrong way" - against traffic - to exit the property. The safety hazard this causes is obvious and it underscores how Lake Worth has the inability to do the simplest things, sometimes with potentially catastrophic results.
And, with the longest fishing pier on the east coast of Florida now repaired and opened for business, one would think it would be a good idea to have it open later in the evening for people that fish. Also, with the 9 p.m. closing time, what would happen if we had a restaurant there that wanted to serve dinner?
The second picture also presents one of the more unflattering views of our beloved Casino Building. This entire post has been sent to the Mayor, City Commissioners and City Manager.
Financial Train Wreck?
For years, Tri-Rail has struggled operationally. However, many of its problems have now been solved with improved maintenance, better security, the purchase of new cars, more east/west connectivity, and especially double-tracking that enabled service to be more reliable with reduced head ways during the morning and afternoon commuter rush hours. Did you know that Tri-Rail runs every 20 - 30 minutes for three hours during the morning and afternoon rush hour?
SAFE is not saying Tri-Rail is perfect. Those in charge of Tri-Rail - the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) readily acknowledge that. But, the point is that Tri-Rail has reached its tipping point. Increases in ridership attest to its success. When people ride Tri-Rail for the first time, they realize that there really is an alternative to driving. Further progress surely will come as Tri-Rail becomes a more seamless, integrated public transportation system. It'll take some time, effort, and funding, but the future direction is clear. The shuttle systems that have been added and the new intermodal transportation hubs at the Miami Airport,and West Palm Beach are another step in achieving that goal.
Sure, there are some who will never take Tri-Rail to work. But, that's OK, because those who do, take many cars off the road that otherwise would be adding to congestion, pollution, and foreign oil dependency.
Some are opposed to subsidizing Tri-Rail, but at the same time forget that all our sidewalks and streets are subsidized. In fact, there are no public transportation systems anywhere in the world that are not subsidized. All great cities in the world have comprehensive public transportation systems - e.g. New York, Boston, Washington D.C., London, Paris, Rome, etc.
In the past, South Florida solved its transportation problems by laying more asphalt. Now we are at the point where we are running out of land to expand existing roads or build new roads. South Florida transportation experts - Jim Wolfe, Secretary FDOT District 4 and Palm Beach County Commissioner Chair Jeff Koons - have warned that I-95 cannot be widened anymore, and that the future solution to road congestion is public transportation. Of course, building a complete public transportation system requires additional public investments.
But, now as Tri-Rail continues to improve service, it's faced with an imminent catastrophe. It lacks sufficient operational funding.
For five or six years, the SFRTA has been requesting a dedicated funding source from our state legislators. For several of those years, our legislators struggled to even identify a source, and after finally identifying a source they have failed at implementation. A $2/day tax on rental cars in the Tri-County seems to be the accepted revenue source, but the legislators can't get together and approve it. Part of the problem during the last Session was that legislators from the middle of the state wanted to build their own Tri-Rail, called SunRail and a partisan battle ensued, and once again Tri-Rail funding failed.
Without a new funding source, the SFRTA has concluded that the only way for Tri-Rail to survive is by implementing a 25% system wide fare increase, and by reducing service frequency from 50 to 30 trains on weekdays, and eliminating all weekend service. The fare increase went into effect June 1st, and the service reduction has been scheduled for October 5th.
SAFE does not believe that Tri-Rail should cut its service. That's like cutting off an arm and a leg. People will stop taking Tri-Rail, jobs will be lost, and the very future of Tri-Rail will be in jeopardy. At a minimum, Tri-Rail will be set back for years and years.
How can Tri-Rail, avoid a financial train wreck?
There are several possible solutions.
The Tri-Counties might continue funding $4.3 million /ea (roughly $ 3 million more than state mandated funding), and the FDOT might continue matching the counties funding, or about $13 million. However, as a result of dwindling revenues from declining property valuations, the three counties have given the SFRTA an early warning not to expect the same level of funding this year. In other words, if the three counties revert to the state funding mandate and the FDOT matches it, Tri-Rail funding will decrease by $ 18 million/yr. What's the likelihood of the counties continuing to contribute the extra $3 million/ea? Not good.
Could the MPOs come to the rescue? Doubt it. Palm Beach MPO's, Jeff Koons recently said that the MPO doesn't have any available operating funds for Tri-Rail.
Another possible solution could come from Gov. Crist. Eight Florida Senators have asked the governor to use part of the previously approved SunRail funding to keep Tri-Rail operating at current capacity for the coming year. However, according to Rep. Paula Dockery's Office, the letter that was sent to Gov. Crist on May 2nd, remains unanswered as of June 7th. So, doesn't seem like you need to rush to the mailbox expecting a reply from Gov. Crist.
What's the likelihood of Gov. Crist riding to the rescue and saving Tri-Rail? SAFE believes the odds are better than you might think. Governor Crist will be opposed by Marco Rubio in what could be a hotly contested Republican primary election for the US Senate and a broken down Tri-Rail, in the most populous section of the state, is not what you'd want to happen on your watch.
Another solution is for the SFRTA to re-examine its operating expenses and make drastic cuts in all expense items that do not affect service frequency. SAFE believes that if operating expense cuts are not sufficient, then the SFTRA should consider shifting a portion of its capital budget to its operating budget to make up the remaining deficit. One SFRTA Board Member emailed SAFE that " you are not supposed to transfer funds intended for capital equipment or preventive maintenance to your operating account. In most instances, those funds are restricted. SFRTA and the Board can be held liable for diverting such funds to operational expenses." SAFE believes that a thorough review may uncover some capital funds that may be transferred without affecting train maintenance or Board liability.
In the final analysis, SAFE knows that the SFRTA Board will do everything it can to maintain the existing 50 train system until a long term solution can be found
However, if weekday service is cut, as preliminarily agreed to at the last SFRTA meeting, the Federal Transit Administration warned that Tri-Rail will default on a $ 256 million federal grant.
Not a pretty ending for a Tri-Rail system that is moving closer to becoming the vital link in an integrated, seamless public transportation system.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO SAVE TRI-RAIL?
There are two steps we can take now:
1. Email Gov. Crist asking him to provide bridge financing to Tri-Rail until the state legislators are able to come up with a solution. You might want to copy the eight Florida Senators who asked him for his support.
2. Attend next week's SFRTA Board Meeting and show your support for keeping the trains running. The meeting begins at 9:30 AM on Friday, June 26th. The meeting will take place in the Board Room of the SFRTA Admin Bldg., 800 NW 33rd St. Pompano Beach. The building is located about a half a block from the Pompano Tri-Rail Station - just to the southeast of the station. If you are unable to attend - most of us work - then send your email to the Board Members asking them to do everything possible to avoid service reductions.
Please take a minute to do your part to save Tri-Rail.
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