Saturday, July 18, 2009
And, at some point, let's have a discussion about the ultimate use of the shuffleboard court building and property. Does it really make sense to be putting in $200,000 plus worth of improvements into a building that may actually be an impediment to redevelopment in the western part of the downtown? Couldn't this property be used to leverage other private redevelopment dollars in the area?
The discussion that never took place regarding the land use and zoning designation for the property could have provided that opportunity.
During Commissioner Jennnings campaign last year, she talked about the "Resource Center" being a good thing since it will help all of the city's residents find jobs and in a down economy that is a good thing. So, what you read about here is me following up on her campaign promise. It turns out that with the dire condition of the economy has affected the "clients" at the LWRC as well. From what I experienced this week, I would say that it functions more like a "cooling" and entertainment, feeding center for LWRC clients. There is not much hiring going on there.
This is a memo to employers that is attached to their registration form. It's from the LWRC chief operating officer, Lisa Wilson.
Essentially, it requires employers to always go through the LWRC to contact their client as the center's funding is solely determined by the amount of job placements the LWRC makes. I brought this up during the CRA meeting this past Tuesday since the LWRC was requesting CRA funding. I asked where the information on the number of job placements was. The CRA was told that they do track that information, but it wasn't in the application and they didn't have the information available. So much for job placement being the sole determinant of funding.
I also bought up the fact that the city allowed this operation to begin operation in a sub-standard building. This would never happen for a private sector business (employer) who is looking to open a business in an existing building in the city of Lake Worth. I pointed out that numerous business have issues much smaller and less critical than the faults present in this city owned building - so much so that some give-up their effort or just choose not to establish a business in the city of Lake Worth given the city's approach to problem solving. It's all everyone else's fault.
I also reminded everyone that this property is still zoned Public Recreation and Open Space - (PROS) which really doesn't permit a building, let alone a use such as a "hiring hall" - which when you pull away all the euphemisms, that is exactly what it is. In order to be legally operating at this location, the land use designation and zoning must change - again something that people find very important in other places within the city, like the beach for example. Here, the Commission has said it's o.k. Yet another example of saying one thing and doing another.
So, what were we, the citizens of Lake Worth, robbed of when the center was allowed to open without going through the land use change and re-zoning process? We citizens of Lake Worth were robbed the chance for debate and public input on the impacts such a center would have on the area. This is something that Commissioner Jennings claims is critical in order to determine what the "people" want. I guess we see now that it all depends on whether Commissioner Jennings wants whatever "it" is that determines the process and how much the public needs to be involved.
There are people within our community that hold very strong opinions regarding the operations of this center, the amount of city subsidy and whether it should exist at all. I am not sure that the messy issues - such as workers comp, withholding, city liability and address verification have ever been adequately addressed. Perhaps if those issues were addressed, the LWRC might be more successful in the future attracting potential employers for its clients. One example I was made aware of this week was the receipt by a 30 year + homesteaded property owner in the city of seven notices from the Social Security Administration to his address. All were addressed to people he didn't know, many with names he had trouble pronouncing. It might be a good idea to do more address verification than what is apparently is being done by the LWRC.
And all these are completely appropriate issues and questions to discuss, especially if a non-profit that is using a city building is asking for money. I was accused of making a mountain out of a molehill at the CRA meeting. One CRA commissioner even asked if I felt it my job to just point out hypocrisies. I confirmed that I felt it was important for someone to point these out and, if no one does, I consider it my job.
I guess some people think it depends on the issue how much something should be discussed.
The motion to fund their request passed - but the LWRC was only given $1,000 of their $3,000 request - on a vote of 4-2, with Brendan Lynch and me voting no. Commissioner Lynch had issues with extension of the city's liability as it relates to the operation.
If the center is really supposed to serve the entire city, perhaps Spanish as a second language classes should be given and a broader offering of potential employers/jobs should be available.
Or, how about this novel concept: Let's make the city an attractive and profitable place to do business so that new jobs are created close to where our residents live.
Friday, July 17, 2009
After a while, Don Wilson, Executive Director of the Mentoring Center came out and greeted me. He led me to his office where he handed me an "Employer" application. I reminded him that I wanted to work and I wasn't looking to employ anyone. He then directed me to a friendly clerk who asked for the following information: Name, date of birth (that information had to be written down on a small slip of paper), address, city and zip code (that seemed to be important to the clerk). She asked what nationality I was, if I had a drivers license and if I could get to a job location by myself. She also wanted to know my phone number and an emergency contact number. For some reason, the computer didn't take the information the first time, so she had to ask me the questions again. She wondered what kind of work I wanted to do and I said that, judging from their flier, I could do things like be a driver, office work, computers, typing, etc. She seemed to convey that they didn't get much calling for those sorts of skills and encouraged me to sign up for the carpentry classes. These are put on by PBCC free of charge on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
I was not asked to show any identification - period. I was told that I would be getting some sort of card in about a week.
Once I had a number assigned, I was told that I could come in anytime, but always have to sign in with my name and worker number. I was told I could be there and do anything I wanted, watch TV, go on the computers. Breakfast is served at eight, which I witnessed earlier. You have to get a ticket for lunch and those are available around 11:30 a.m., with lunch served at noon. She encouraged me to volunteer to clean up the place as they don't have custodial staff and if I did, I would move up on the priority list when the employers come in.
I asked how I would know when an employer comes in. I got a very vague response - sort of "You'll know when it happens."
I thanked her, shook Mr. Wilson's hand, thanked him for his assistance and left the building.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The audio of the meeting does exist and there is a CD ready for me to pick-up tomorrow. I'm contemplating editing it and creating a YouTube so it's easier to access.
I'd like you to hear what took place during the meeting, as well as my response to Commissioner Grimm's comments at its conclusion. You can click the title for the link to see what I am talking about. It may start working and I won't be aware of it, so you may want to check back.
I got there a little after noon. There were about 30 or so clients in and around the building. I went to the receptionist desk, introduced myself, told the person that I would like to look around and perhaps chat with Lisa Wilson regarding the grant application that we were going to be discussing later that day at the CRA meeting. She wasn't there right at that moment, but within a few minutes Ms. Wilson entered the building and were able to talk.
My first question was, since the LWRC serves only Lake Worth residents, how do they determine if someone lives in the city of Lake Worth when someone new comes through the door? Ms. Wilson said they ask that the person write their name and address on the application. I asked if there is any verification of that seeing as it is their policy not to ask for identification. She confirmed that they rely on clients being honest about where they live and no further verification is performed. As long as it's written, that is good enough proof.
Apparently, it was just after lunch at LWRC. They now serve breakfast and lunch to their clients Monday through Friday and dinner on Saturday. As you can see in the video, people were watching TV, relaxing or at one of the computers against the south wall of the large room. Most seemed to be watching videos on YouTube. One woman was checking for information on food stamps.
We found a place where we could talk in relative quiet about the grant application and discuss the questions I had. Throughout, Ms. Wilson was very professional and did her best to answer my questions. I repeatedly thanked her for the attention given to me. If you look at the back-up material, you will notice there is a budget in there. I asked about getting a copy of their financial statement/budget since they are a 501c3 organization. She told me that she couldn't give me one and that if I wanted a copy, I would have to make a written request to her board of directors. (Click here for link to their website)
Most Interesting Part of the Story
At the end of the visit, I told Ms. Wilson that business for me was down and I would like to register for work here just like everyone else. According to their hand-out:
They place people for office related work, something I have experience in. Ms. Wilson said that someone would get me the employment form and then I would be registered. After a wait of about 20 minutes, I was presented with the following form and started filling it out.
When I was about half through with the form, the assistant there gave me one of these:
I asked if everyone was given one of these IRS forms to fill out that asks for your Social Security number. I was told that no, not everyone is given one and that I was already "part of the system." I then asked how she knew that and how was I different from anyone else in here who is not asked to produce identification or give their Social Security number? No real answer. That's when we got the attention of Ms. Wilson again. At this point I was told - "Oh, you want to be a worker?" I said that I thought that's what I was doing. I was told that if I want to be a worker, then I need to come back at 8 a.m. Friday morning to be registered as a worker. So, there is some sort of distinction between an "employee" and a "worker."
Was I being treated differently based upon the way I looked?
My feeling is that if this LWRC is really meant to serve the entire city of Lake Worth (as Commissioner Jennings repeatedly claimed during her recent campaign), then everyone who walks through the doors of the center needs to be treated equally.
I'll let you know what happens tomorrow morning when I report for worker registration.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
"Playful City USA" Community
July 15, 2009: The City of Delray Beach has recently been designated a "Playful City USA" community. Only 93 communities across the nation have received this distinguished honor. The City was selected for this award due to its dedication and creative commitment to "play." One of major projects that was cited in earning this honor was the City's efforts to rebuild Miller Park, 1905 SW 4th Avenue, which is expected to be completed in May 2010. This facility will be reconstructed to include a new Miracle League ball field to provide "special needs" children with an opportunity to "play" in a structured baseball league.
"We, as a City, are committed to creating a generation of children who are happier, healthier, and smarter through outdoor recreation while offering safe and quality play areas," Delray Beach Mayor Nelson S. "Woodie" McDuffie said. "We also hope to increase awareness as to the benefits and availability of play in our community through this initiative."
This community honor was awarded to the City of Delray Beach by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Playful City USA communities, like Delray Beach, create best practices and serve as role models for other communities.
"Our country is facing two monumental deficits: a lack of unstructured play among children and a lack of resources to address this very issue," said Darell Hammond, KaBOOM! CEO and Co-founder. "Delray Beach took a stand and determined that the future of their community-their children-deserve a commitment to the cause of play. This is an investment in the future."
For additional information about the City's Playful City USA designation and/or information about Miller Park, please contact Rodger Ribeiro, Parks and Recreation Department, at (561) 243-7256.
KaBOOM! is a national non-profit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since 1995, KaBOOM! has used its innovative community-build model to bring together business and community interests to construct more than 1,600 new playgrounds, skateparks, sports fields and ice rinks across North America. KaBOOM! also offers a variety of resources, including an online community, free online trainings, grants, publications and the KaBOOM! National Campaign for Play, which includes Playful City USA and Playmakers - a national network of individual advocates for play. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., KaBOOM! also have offices in Chicago and San Mateo, Calif. For more information, visit www.kaboom.org.
Director, Delray Beach Parks & Recreation
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Laurence McNamara is leading with $2500 - $500 in the form of a loan from himself.
javier del sol is at $250.
Mulvehill used her office account - money collected and not spent as part of her campaign - to subsidize her trip to England. Thus, her need to tell us about the similarities of the city that she visited and Lake Worth.
Here are some selected population per square mile figures from the 2000 Census that help put things in perspective:
New York City 26,403
Los Angeles 7,876
Lake Worth 6,225 (still less dense than L.A.!)
Palm Beach County 573
Until we understand that an urban environment is a more sustainable development pattern - where walking, biking and mass transit is possible between home and work, home and shopping, home and school, we will still choose to be seated in our single passenger, fossil fuel burning automobiles. We need to be directing what growth this county is experiencing toward the coast and along already developed transportation corridors.
Palm Beach County is attempting to re-set the development pattern along Military Trail and Congress Avenue to take advantage of these benefits. How long that will take and how successful that will be has yet to be seen. This is a long term proposition. To his credit, Commissioner Koons is a big supporter of this redevelopment effort.
In May, the long-awaited Center opened in downtown , and what a difference it’s making. This project has been in the works since 1992 when the county bought the six-acre site along Clearwater Drive. Thanks to a multiagency partnership, the new $5 million facility is the centerpiece of a plan to redevelop the west-central downtown area as a transit-oriented village. Locating Palm Tran’s main service hub alongside the Tri-Rail/Amtrak platform makes for a seamless connection to the regional commuter train system.
The new center has parking spaces for 18 buses, seven covered shelters with lighting and benches, new restrooms and , and an easy to use "kiss-and-drop" area. At the north end, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority will soon open a park-and-ride lot for Tri-Rail passengers. In the fall, a new automated vehicle location system should be online, and will provide real-time information on when the next bus arrives.
Palm Tran buses are now running every 15 to 20 minutes during peak weekday hours along Route 1, the busiest route, and service has been accelerated along several other redrawn routes. For example, Route 43 is now a direct east-west run along Okeechobee Boulevard with the elimination of a 20-minute detour on Palm Beach Lakes. Buses run to and from the depot 17 hours a day Monday through Friday, 15 hours on Saturdays, and approximately nine hours on Sundays.
It’s hard to say whether bus ridership has increased since the new intermodal center opened -- summer months tend to be slower -- but the feedback has been very positive, and there is no question it is a vast improvement over the crowded, rickety shelters Palm Tran used to call a hub on Quadrille Boulevard.
To further boost ridership, the Board of County Commissioners recently approved spending $700,000 for a new park-and-ride lot at the Mall at Wellington Green, expected to open in November. We have received $18 million in to build a public transit facility and park-and-ride lot in Belle Glade. The monies will also pay for new fuel-efficient vehicles and much-needed shop and .
I’m very excited about Palm Tran’s first-ever Palm Beach/Martin County Commuter Express Route slated to begin service in late-August. It will provide weekday service from Halpatiokee Regional Park in Stuart to the West Palm Beach intermodal center, with only two stops along the way: at the West Jupiter Recreation Center in Jupiter and The Gardens mall in Palm Beach Gardens.
Of course, in order for public transportation to work for everyone, other commuter modes, such as Tri-Rail, need financial support, too. Unfortunately, our state lawmakers once again failed to approve a dedicated funding source to keep Tri-Rail rolling. for Tri-Rail, leaving its future in doubt. I find this puzzling and frustrating because the commuter rail system has not only doubled its ridership since 2005, it is breaking national ridership records. A recent passenger survey showed that 84 percent of Tri-Rail riders were licensed drivers, dispelling the notion that people simply weren’t willing to give up their cars to get to work. Clearly, the demand is there, and as chairman of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority Governing Board, which oversees Tri-Rail operations, I am going to continue hammering on the need for a dedicated
The SFRTA is considering a number of system improvements that would greatly benefit Palm Beach County, including:
extending service north to Jupiter
a new Tri-Rail station at PBIA
a new Tri-Rail station near the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton
parking and circulation improvements at the Mangonia Park, Lake Worth, Delray Beach and Boca Raton stations
But again, these improvements won’t happen without a dedicated funding source. Whether it’s a small surcharge on rental cars, some type of highway toll or a special sales tax – all of which have been used successfully elsewhere – we must get state officials on board with our local commitment to public transportation. As always, I welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to contact me or my staff at 355-2202.
Monday, July 13, 2009
President Obama -
Interesting to look around at other communities and their strengths/weaknesses. Also worth looking at are the factors others consider to be key in determining what makes a place livable.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
For example, on July 14th (this coming Tuesday) the CRA will have its regular business meeting of the month. The meeting's agenda has an item concerning application for a grant for $25 million of Federal money to stabilize one of the city's most blighted areas. The impetus for this application did not come from the City Commission; it came from the sitting CRA board and its staff. Had it been up to the City Commission, that money would have been left for another community somewhere else in the United States to improve its condition - and Lake Worth would be where it usually ends up - not even on the train.
The takeover discussion will take place at a special City Commission meeting on July 20th. This comes after a June meeting called to interview candidates for the six (6) expiring terms on the board. More than 30 potential applicants, Lake Worth citizens that wanted to serve the city in a volunteer capacity in order to make it a better place to live, were turned around at the door. The disappointment these citizens felt was due to the total bungling of the length and starting times of terms of those serving on the board - the state statute calls for staggered terms. A series of circumstances led to the elimination of staggered terms. The late "investigation" of how that happened and the jockeying for political position by the "Dais Five" led to the concerned and motivated citizens being turned away. A late "apology" letter, sent by the City Clerk and not by the Dais Five, ended up being a meek consolation prize that alerted everyone that the very future of the CRA hangs in the balance.
Implied message from the Dais Five: "Thanks for your interest, but it turns out that we think we know better how to do things than you do anyway, so we won't be requiring your input."
Detractors of the CRA and its actions over the years talk about how the CRA is a free-wheeling, free-spending entity that takes care of "its own" and wastes money on lavish projects. They point to $14 million total being spent for the improvements to 6th Avenue South and 10th Avenue North as a prime example. If anyone has noticed, these are the prime "gateways" to our community from the primary north/south Interstate highway that transports people, goods and services to and from South Florida to everywhere else in the nation. The thought behind it was not to make just a "pretty street". What it's designed to do is to redevelop both corridors with more intense residential and commercial development (investment that would be going further west or to other cities), provide a noise buffer from a busy street into the interior neighborhoods, increase the tax base in the area so additional monies could be spent addressing sources of blight and create the kind of density that is supportive of sustainable redevelopment and mass transit.
You don't hear the detractors talk about how this represents a significant investment in our community's future. What you do hear is how the residents in and around the area of the improvements weren't consulted during this laying of redevelopment infrastructure, when in fact they were.
Also on the CRA agenda for July 14th is a Community Aid Grant for the Lake Worth Resource Center/The Mentoring Center. This is the entity that has taken over the City's shuffleboard court building and is allowed to occupy this former city recreational building at nominal rent. It also relied on city money being expended to fix up the building so that it would be habitable, in the process of the City Commission ignoring zoning laws. But, in order to be in "good standing" with the majority of the Dais Five, you have to support this function in this building and in this location - or you are considered a "racist." You are not allowed to have any other opinion other than the prevailing "majority' - tyranny anyone?
Commissioner Jennings: Where is your call for the rights of the minority opinion to be heard?
Also consider this a foreshadowing of how future CRA dollars will be spent - not on projects that bring new investment into the city but on ways to satisfy special interest groups near and dear to the majority of the Dais Five. The request's timing for our "last" CRA meeting might be considered somewhat of a litmus test for the Dais Five to see who supports their pet causes - the Commission can add two seats when it sits as a CRA, if it wishes.
This year, we had two specific joint meetings between the CRA and the City Commission to establish priorities and goals common between the two groups. That being done, not once during those meetings was the possibility of City Commission takeover discussed. Another cowardly example of hypocrisy displayed by the Dais Five.
So, watch out for more detail on what is really going on here and be ready to decide the sort of Lake Worth you want to live in when the November election comes around.