Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lake Worth residents share ideas for renovating casino building

Click title for link to Palm Beach Post article. I am glad that a lot of people attended - if this is the only public outreach, I'm not sure if 80 people plus the 350 some people who filled out the survey qualifies as adequate public input. It's interesting that the Post used the rendering by Beilinson/Gomez as the largest graphic in the on-line article. This was the design that I thought most went in the pure historic preservation direction.

I think the Mayor's worry that some people are against this project and will try to stop it is misplaced. By talking that way, you make it more probable that someone may get that idea - but history with the property is a tough precedent to break from. Realize that anything that I am writing here is done in the spirit giving reasonable warning and advice. This advice comes from someone who has actually supervised construction on a beach in Palm Beach County and just happened to employ the architect the city has chosen to work on the project.

That's what we lose when we don't allow for honest debate in the city. This is also what we lose when we refuse to listen to whom we don't agree with or with whom we are supposed to disagree. Constructive criticism and the asking of pertinent questions is not to be confused with being against this project. Being open to those sorts of inquiries, like what perhaps happened today, is a positive and can bring us together as a city.

The Commission should be able to defend their position publicly and I am sure the lack of objective analysis will play a role in the coming election.

I hope the Mayor, the Commission and the administration get that.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Have a great day everybody!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association - September Meeting - Candidate Forum - 9/13

From Ryan Anderson:

The next TRNA meeting will be held on Monday, September 13th at 7pm in the Compass Community Center. Sneaky Labor Day has once again landed on the first Monday in September and delayed our meeting by one week. But what a meeting it will be!

First, we will have Wayne Bergman, Community Development Director, speaking to us about the code enforcement process. Wayne will be focusing on the new citation system that is currently being implemented and the process in which code violations are processed. Please remember that this is an opportunity for us to learn about the process, not complain about specific properties. However, Mr. Bergman will accept violation complaints in person if you would like to hand deliver one that evening.

In conjunction with Mr. Bergman, Chief Haubert with PBC Fire Rescue and Captain Silva with the PBSO will discuss the need to improve traffic flow and emergency vehicle access throughout our neighborhood. The existing parking regulations of the City will be reviewed and bottleneck areas will be identified.

Finally, our agenda ends with the TRNA CANDIDATE’S FORUM of 2010! We have invited this year’s candidates for District’s Two: Carla Blockson, Christopher McVoy, and District Four: Lisa Maxwell and Suzanne Mulvehill to talk with us about their upcoming campaigns and what each envision for our great City.

Also, don’t forget to buy your raffle tickets! McMow Art Glass has generously donated a beautiful stained glass window to help raise funds for Tropical Ridge’s banner program. You can buy tickets online or at a number of stores throughout the City. Learn more about the contest at http://www.tropicalridge.org/raffle

ATTENTION COLLEGE PARK RESIDENTS

This is from the West Palm Beach Police Department regarding crime in the Southside Neighborhood - just to the north of College Park. Please read warnings about current burglary pattern!

Lake Worth pushes longer hours at beach and fishing pier

Click title for link to Palm Beach Post article. The hours had been changed after a situation which occurred over the Memorial Day weekend this year.

Volunteer Board Appointments - 9/20/10 Application Deadline

Board interviews are scheduled for September 30th. Applications will be accepted through noon on September 20th. We are accepting applications for the following boards:

Firefighters Pension Board
Community Redevelopment Agency
Library
Planning & Zoning
Sister City

If you need anything further, please let me know.

Valerie Hurley
Deputy City Clerk
City of Lake Worth
561-586-1663

Click title for application link.

Click here for appointment procedure. The City Commission retains the option not to follow this and be "political" if they choose to.

Singing the praises of the Amazon Kindle...

I'd like to take a moment and do a "plug" for the Amazon Kindle. It's been about six months since I took delivery and have found it has transformed how and how much I read. As with all things like this, you tend to discover more capabilities the more you use it - and I just discovered a couple of more this week. Amazon has now come out with a third generation that has a wi-fi only model (less expensive) and a wireless 3-G (what you use for your smartphone web connection), as well as Wi-Fi combo model. The second generation only comes with the 3-G connection - which has worked fine for me. All this connectivity is pre-paid as part of the purchase price of the unit.

There are two sizes and I have the smaller of the two. This is more than adequate and is less expensive than the larger model. With all of the traveling I've been doing this summer, I appreciate its small size for its portability - more of an asset in my opinion. I have a cover for mine to protect the screen and it appears as if it a larger, thin paper back in a leather binder. Really classy looking, in my opinion. But what is under the cover could contain up to 1,500 books! The third generation has an even larger capacity. Those of you that travel and like to read, you know how heavy books can be to tote around with you. In mine, right now, I have about 10 books and six months worth of daily New York Times and weekly Economist magazines. Imagine trying to get all that in an overhead compartment!

What a Kindle is amounts to an "e-reader." You can read books, magazines and newspapers (through subscriptions that are automatically delivered wirelessly) and blogs. Books are cheaper versus their hardcover versions - classics printed before 1928 are only $2! Speaking of blogs, last night I discovered that you can actually access this blog through a Kindle! One of the menu options includes a basic browser which allows you to access on-line websites and blogs. Sites with text are the best bets and this blog is mostly that. However, most of the graphics used in the posts do show up. Just be mindful that it is a monochrome display so you won't be seeing color, but if all you are doing is reading text, you don't miss it and enjoy other benefits - like being able to read everything in direct sunlight! You also aren't contributing to the paper waste stream since it's all digital content.

There are other cool things it can do. It automatically saves the last location that you have read in any book or magazine. You can also go to the place that you have read the farthest in any book, newspaper or magazine. You can highlight text and even take notes along with your highlights. Last week, I discovered that you can share these through your twitter and FaceBook accounts - from your Kindle! If you are reading a book which others have done the same thing, you see what they have highlighted and how many have chosen to highlight that particular section of text. It also contains a dictionary that you can browse and look up things on your own, or just move the cursor to a word you are wondering about and its definition appears at the bottom of the page. It also has a search function for any document - something analog materials don't have.

All of your highlighted passages are saved in a file called "My Clippings" and is easily accessible on the same list as your other books. One of the groovy things I found out this week is that you can save .pdf documents to your Kindle through a USB connection to your computer. You just have to drag and drop the document as you would with any mass storage device. I happened to do this with the back up material for the 8/18 City Commission material on the financing for the casino building rehabilitation. You can also send documents to a Kindle e-mail address that is created for you - if you do this there is a charge and some documents require conversion. Transferring pdf documents don't need conversion and are free if you use your own USB connection. Readability of the back-up was okay, but required a zoom in for some of the text - which is easily done by the same control that determines the font size. Yes, if you lose your reading glasses, you can adjust the font size universally so that you can comfortably read it.

Battery life is decent - if you use the wireless a lot to shop for more books, then you are going to use more power. You can turn the wireless off entirely and that saves power too. The new generation supposedly can go without a charge for a month! Mine lasts about a week.

If you read a lot, or wish that you would read more, I would highly recommend it. It makes a great gift to too. Everything is easy to set up and it comes in elegantly simple packaging. You may have to get used to not having the "feel" of a book in your hand, but with the cover, it's about the same thing. Turning the pages by pressing the next page button comes as second nature - there is also a button to go to the previous page. Readability is much like a book and after a while, you forget you a looking at a digital screen. It just looks like printing in a book or newspaper.

If you get one, have one or have any questions, let us know by commenting below. Better living through Kindles!

Dalai Lama

Engaging in virtuous activities is a bit like bringing up a young child. Many factors are involved, and, especially at the beginning, we need to be prudent and skillful in our endeavors to transform our habits and dispositions. We also need to be realistic about what we can expect to achieve. It took us a long time to become the way we are, and habits are not changed overnight.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Genesis Neighborhood Association Meeting - 8/19 @ 7 p.m.

Click for larger image

Announcement from City: District 1 Community Meeting

The Office of Commissioner Scott Maxwell will be holding the District 1 Community Meeting on August 31, 2010 from 6pm to 9pm at the Norman J. Wimbley Municipal Gymnasium located at 1515 Wingfield Street, Lake Worth, Florida 33460 for any information please feel free to call (561) 586-1730 thank you.

Lake Worth water and sewer rates to rise

Click title for link to Palm Beach Post article. This is part of the some 80+% increase that was approved in April 2009 as part of a five year rate hike. Another obstacle in locating any business here that might use a lot of water in their manufacturing process. Why does the Commission keep talking out of both sides of their mouths and reaching into our wallets while they do it?

Also notice this:

"The commission also approved changing the method of water and sewer billing. Bills will be stated in 100-gallon increments instead of 1,000-gallon increments beginning Oct. 1 to encourage water conservation."

Just in case you forget, we are financing the reverse osmosis plant through utility rate increases - something that would not have been necessary if we stayed with the perfectly fine contract with Palm Beach County to provide water. And how did we settle breaking the contract again? You won't hear this coming from soon-to-be former Commissioner Jennings' chosen candidates.

Coda to "PROS vs. BAC at the Beach" - RE-POST from 6/21/2010

To any fiction writer that thinks she may be a planner, note that any development would be limited by the amount of square footage already present plus whatever additional up to the maximum allowed - which isn't much.  Note too that the brain trust that put together the language for the PROS future land use designation actually is allowing 18,049 square feet of floor area in a building over that allowed in the BAC future land use designation.  What this may be used for, we are not able to tell, other than it would have to not be "leasable."  These designations cover the entire property, including the area south and west of the Casino building and pool complex.

And, according to generally accepted planning and zoning principles, if a use is not listed as a permitted or special exception use, it isn't allowed.  So, according to the fiction writer's logic, since nuclear power plants aren't listed, they could be in the future if some Commission wanted them.  You can add space needles, prisons and/or anarchists' welfare centers, along with thousands to millions of other possible uses that are not currently listed if some future Commission wanted them at the beach.

Ancillary uses would be such things as lifeguard stations, pool pump houses, enclosures for parking attendants, etc.  Retail and restaurant uses are principal uses and are found other places than a beach.

And my arrow was pointed slightly in a different direction than it should have been on my graphic.

PROS vs. BAC Zoning at the Beach - RE-POST from 6/10/2010

Another local blogger, long known for her love of fiction, has uttered her distress at the fact that nothing has happened after the troops were summoned to knock on the doors of unsuspecting Lake Worth residents, and tell them that zoning was put in place by the Commission so that the beach would be over-commercialized.  Of course, residents were concerned with this prospect as presented to them - elimination of Public Recreation and Open Space (PROS) land use and zoning at the beach and replacing it with commercial uses could be used to create "small hotels."  The Comprehensive Plan has been changed and the Beach and Casino district is in place and no one, not even Commissioner Cara Jennings, is making an effort to change it.

The successful petition drive should have resulted in a total of three (3) ordinances being placed on the ballot for repeal so that the land reverted back to PROS.  It hasn't happened.

For a change, let's look at the facts and see why that may be so.  Initially, the change was made in order to rectify the fact that we have had commercial and non-recreational uses at the beach for years.  The city-owned beach property carried a future land use designation of PROS which permitted nothing but pubic recreation.  Here is the wording from the Comprehensive Plan regarding the PROS future land use designation.  Remember, in the State of Florida, the Comprehensive Plan is part of the Future Land Use element of the Comprehensive Plan and the State retains ultimate approval.  If Amendment 4 passes this November, ANY change to the Comprehensive Plan would be put to the voters. (If you are at all confused by what I am attempting to explain here, keep that in mind)
(Note that the crossed out part was the land-standing former language in the Comprehensive Plan.  The crossed-out version is what went up with the last adoption - still awaiting final approval by the Department of Community Affairs - it had no effect on the issue of commercialization at the beach.)
This is what the new language in the Comprehensive Plan for the Beach and Casino future land use designation is:
Notice that this language recognizes two areas and identifies the "Casino" area as one that will be used for a "combination of permitted private commercial and public uses." - essentially what exists there today and has for time in memorial.  Furthermore, it limits the total gross leasable area to a fixed amount - something that the PROS land use designation never did until now.

Another section of the recently amended Comprehensive Plan deals with that issue by placing the same Floor Area Ratio (FAR) limitation of .1 to all properties with the PROS future land use designation - all parks in the city are allowed to have a building with floor area to .1 of the total property size.  For example, if there is a one acre park, the largest building that could be built would be .1 times 43,560 - the number of square feet in an acre.  So, on that acre-sized park you could build a 4, 356 square foot building.  However, at the beach, the city's largest park, you are dealing with 19 acres, plus or minus.  So that would be .1 times 827,640 - the number of square feet in 19 acres.  Thus, in theory, you could build a structure that had a floor area of 82,764 square feet - it couldn't be used for private purposes, but you could have a building that large at the beach under a PROS future land use designation.  The same Floor Area Ratio is also permitted in the BAC future land use designation.  This is the language from the current City Commission adopted version of the Comprehensive Plan:
PROS Zoning

So let's look at the next level of regulation for any sort of physical development in a city park or the beach property - that is found in the zoning code.  Had the petition language been placed on the ballot and the repeal of the BAC zoning would have passed, the following language would govern development at the beach:

Notice that there is no provision for any other type of use other than parks and open air recreation.  The existing retailers and restaurants at the Casino building and pier would be non-conforming uses.  As such, they would be limited in the possibility for expansion of square footage.  Note that the current proposal on the table is that the city would add a second floor restaurant - that would be an expansion of a non-conforming use and, if you want to adhere to your zoning code, you couldn't allow it.  If you don't want to adhere to your own zoning code, which is a possibility with our anarchist crowd, then the city can do anything they want and should throw out all resolutions and ordinances tomorrow.

Note also that the setback permitted in the PROS zoning regulations is a VERY liberal 20 feet from all property lines - surely encroaching on the Coastal Construction Line.  That 80,000 plus square foot building allowed under this zoning district could cover as much land as it wanted to as well - there is no ground coverage limitation.

BAC Zoning


Above is the language as it sits today in the City of Lake Worth Zoning Code.  This would regulate development at the beach.  True, it was put forward at the same time, as were all these changes, as the City had a binding contract with Greater Bay as part of a public/private partnership.  While a factor, the real reason to adopt new future land use and zoning language and districts at the beach was that commercial uses were not allowed under PROS zoning.  If anything was going to change there, ever, something would have to be done to protect the property and the extent of development that would happen there.  That's where this BAC zoning code included things like limited retail square footage to a maximum of 7,200 square feet, not allowing for things like "small hotels" - do you see anything above that would lead you to believe that someone could build a small hotel there?  And you have the added protection of increased setbacks from the property line which reflect what is there and their relative importance.

Note too that there is a 45 foot setback required for public seating areas.  What are these things shown on the Michael Singer plan?



And when did we squeeze in a southern bathroom building that is about 50 ft. from the eastside of the the existing seawall?


The Point?

There was no reason to protest the change in the future land use and zoning designation at the beach. There was no reason for a petition drive and there is no need to put it on the ballot - that is unless you need something to rally around and keep residents concerned about the big bogey man that is about to take over your beach due to "over-commercialization."  It turns out now that the City will actually need the provisions in the BAC land use and zoning district in order to do what it wants to do - it might even have to change them to make them less stringent based upon some of the current plans that I have seen.

Of course this was used as campaign fodder and certain candidates (ehem) were singled out as being for "over-commercialization" of the beach.  The fact that no one cares any more that is on the dais is that to put it on the ballot would draw attention to the string of half-truths and gross exaggerations that were told at each doorstep.
It did keep the morale of the troops high too, but now that may be starting to backfire - you can only cry wolf for so long.

Announcement from City: Lake Worth Mayor Continues Monthly "Coffee with the Mayor" Series

The next "Coffee with the Mayor" event will take place on Monday, August 23rd from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Mango Inn located at 128 N. Lakeside Drive. Residents are invited to join Mayor Varela for casual conversation and brief information on projects and initiatives taking place across the city. Please check the "Meetings and Events" calendar on the City of Lake Worth's official website, www.lakeworth.org, for the date and location of upcoming "Coffee with the Mayor" events, as well as information on other exciting Lake Worth events and happenings. All are invited to come and take part in the exciting conversation about Lake Worth!

Held over for the 200th week, appearing at 7 N. Dixie Hwy...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Regarding soon-to-be former Commissioner Jennings

Thanks to everyone who called me to report that Cara Jennings failed to qualify for the November 2, 2010 ballot. The first call came in at 12:23 p.m. from City Hall where someone had fallen on their knees in hall praising the powers that be, creating quite a spectacle as one would imagine. Other calls kept coming in through the afternoon. In the voices on the phone, there was universal surprise in the news that she won't be running again. For me, my reaction is more telling about how I feel toward anything that happens in Lake Worth anymore. There just are no more surprises left.

Welcome to Lake Worth - This is life beyond the looking glass.

If we think that somehow the current Commissioner Jennings is going to crawl under a rock, get on a boat or a plane with a one-way ticket to somewhere, we are fooling ourselves. Superficially, the personality matters, but in the end it really doesn't. Even if this one individual did fly away to another planet, the signal that I get is that the group who got her in a position as an elected official is supremely confident that the seat is safe. Regardless of the personality that is sitting in the District #2 seat, they are sure that the next person that will occupy that seat will carry Cara's torch, which is really their torch. The people that run the campaigns for the group that is the current majority of the commission thinks that they have the ability to "dial in" the results of an election. This is in essence the maturing of their political machine.

Perhaps they feel this confidence due the newly minted voter identification information that was harvested from the Census Total Count Committee effort or the Energy Conservation Workshops. Perhaps it is the halo effect of the Palm Beach Post "fluff" pieces that will endow the current Commissioner Jennings ability to anoint her chosen candidates, pound the pavement and knock on doors - the "right" doors according to their data - and get the vote out on November 2. Don't forget that she is now a lame duck and will have wreaths piled upon her place at the dais during every meeting from now until the time the new Commissioner is sworn in.

Or is the current Commissioner Jennings' decision not to run based upon the realization of the sorry and precarious position that the city self-admittedly finds itself. Is she afraid of the house of cards falling down around her in a third term? Can she no longer stand the hypocritical positions she finds herself in? Is this an admission that she would be such a target in this year's race that even the "organization" couldn't secure her election? Are there other locations and people and situations where she is needed that we will hear about in future news reports and are these the payback she owes those who have helped her through her terms in office? After doing her payback work, will she then return next year to run for Mayor? Or, will she involve herself in support of her causes by staying local and visible in anticipation of running for Mayor? Is there another elected position that appeals to her? The confounding part about this is that there is not an obvious, immediate next step for Cara Jennings to go to. That leads to these sorts of questions.

Chris McVoy, the person selected to run for the district #2 seat, is best known for his role in the petition drive for the repeal of the beach future land use and zoning ordinances. Well, now it turns out that we need those ordinances in order to have the amount of square footage anticipated as part of the financial program that was approved last night. Those ordinances might even restrict retail square footage more than what the city is currently planning or may have to accept as part of the ultimate project - if and when it is built. He was a loyal foot soldier in the effort and sacrificed his name in the legal challenge initiated by the city in response. So it is probably seen that he is owed something by the group.

If it were a choice between Chris McVoy and Cara Jennings, I would choose Chris since at least you can - or at least could at the time, he might have different orders now - talk with him. I have had some long conversations with him where we ended up to agree to disagree on more than one occasion. People who disagreed with Cara never got that chance. His extremely short term on the Planning and Zoning Board shouldn't even appear as experience on his campaign fliers - he resigned automatically today, if he didn't already do so.

The point here is that this surprise doesn't change much of anything. The candidate that Lake Worth needs, Carla Blockson, is going to need all of our help to win this election for district #2 Commissioner. We should govern ourselves accordingly.

QUALIFYING FOR LAKE WORTH MUNICIPAL ELECTION CLOSED

District #2 Candidates:

Carla Blockson

Chris McVoy

District #4 Candidates:

Lisa Maxwell

Suzanne Mulvehill (I)

Report from local torture chamber aka Lake Worth Utilities Customer Service

"The irony is that there was only one window to take money and most people were there to pay
there were 3 people behind windows but We were there 30 min. yesterday and the number you can see moved only one time. We had the number 44 so we left. Going there right now, this morning.
Also there was a new window in the hall behind us that had one woman in there and she was sort of tucked away doing and I mean absolutely nothing. She should have come over and filled in. oh well.
Lets see how it goes It is 7:19 a.m. now and we are leaving so then we will be first."

Lake Worth to pay for casino project upfront, borrow money to replenish funds once complex opens

Click title for link to Palm Beach Post article. Commissioner Maxwell had more concerns about this arrangement than the project being done in a soft economy and so did the many people from the audience that raised similar questions to the ones that I raised here. The Post and their smoke machine continues to work in concert with Lake Worth's political machine.

Why does this plan sound like kiting checks?

Red-light cameras dead again in Lake Worth, but commissioners endorse $1-an-hour parking in downtown lots

Click title for link to Palm Beach Post article. A plus for nixing the red light cameras, another obstacle for businesses attempting to attract customers in this economy. Where is this "mobility plan?" The Commission might want to check out the recommendations from the group of transportation professionals that I brought here in 2007 who spent a day in Lake Worth looking at our transportation issues or the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council charrette from 2009 or the bicycle plan that we worked on when I was on the CRA. Regardless, it is the wrong time to implement paid parking in the downtown.

Passing of a friend...


I am sorry to report that Lake Worth resident and friend Steve Eschenbach passed away yesterday after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in June of this year. I leave this song in his memory.

Monday, August 16, 2010

8/16 - Click here for link to live meeting on Beach Casino Building financing - City Commission Meeting

The $6 million bridge loan for the beach is coming out of a "cash portfolio" that the city has in excess cash that it doesn't need right now. This includes utility deposits. The city says that it will pay it back with interest and won't be going out to a bank for a loan and pay them interest. Commissioner Jennings says that it is an investment in the city's own property that it will make money on - Commissioner Maxwell asks what will he tell utility customers who can't pay their bill or who haven't been able to improve their property due to high utility rates. This is option #1 as contained in the staff recommendation on financing for the casino building rehabilitation.

Does this sound odd to you when we are crying poverty to the unions and whoever else will listen?

Commissioner Jennings made the motion, seconded by Commissioner Golden to go ahead with option #1. They are saying we would be saving money this way in the long run.

The Mayor is blaming past City Commissions and praising staff.

Final vote was 4 - 1, Maxwell dissenting.

Questions after reading back-up material on Casino Finance Plan - Special Commission Meeting - 8/16 @ 5:30 p.m.

(Click title for link to agenda and back-up material)

The staff reports starts off saying that for the past five months, they have been conducting an "in-depth analysis of different financing options for the rehabilitation of the Lake Worth Casino Building."

Let me repeat my long-standing assertion that no analysis has gone into the cost of rehabilitation of the existing building versus building a new building and demolition of the existing building.  We are dealing with public money here and therefore we need an objective analysis of all the alternatives.  The entire "analysis" by city staff does not anticipate that there are more unknowns by dealing with the existing building and therefore costs and time could increase exponentially over the cost and time associated with the construction of a known quantity.
It identifies the need to "relocate" the existing tenants during the the 13 to 14 month construction period - but I couldn't find where the cost for this relocation appears in the analysis.  The need to relocate existing tenants during the construction period would be non-existent with the construction of a new building.  They could move in after the new building was finished.  Any prediction of the relocation cost for existing tenants would be subject to many assumptions, including whether or not the existing tenants will take advantage of their "right to first refusal" of a lease in the rehabilitated building.  Another question, didn't the city, in the latest Request for Proposals for the vacant space in the Casino Building, specifically state that the lease would end at the beginning of the construction period and that any continuation of the lease be subject to renegotiation as it related to the rehabilitated building?  How would extending a "right of first refusal" be in accordance with the City's Procurement Code and ensure that all CCNA requirements are followed?  This is a stated goal in the staff report.
The entire analysis relies on the assumption of a 13 to 14 month construction period - with no allowance for any variation of that time period.  A slippage of this time period - meaning unforeseen conditions or delays in the permitting or construction process - would significantly impact the ultimate financial bottom line of the project.  The prospect of this does not appear in this analysis - even in the "worst case" scenario.  The fact that there are many unknowns in the existing building would lead one to believe that a longer construction period would be a possibility.  Regarding permitting, the assertion is made that this building is "grandfathered" in its existing position on the dune and therefore would not need the permits required for a new building.  Would someone care to point out upon what law this is based?  Has anyone looked into the number and type of permits necessary, the likelihood of their issuance and the time frame involved and where does this appear in this analysis?

So, beyond these global concerns about rehabilitation of the building being the more expensive option and subject to more potential delays than a new building, here are some of the questions I came up with as I reviewed the back-up material:
  • It's not clear looking at the back-up and the staff memo regarding the three options, but the recommended option (#1) includes a loan from the city's "cash portfolio."  Is this from the cash cow that is fondly known as the city's utility?  If so, there are may things wrong with using utility monies at the beach.  First of all, it is an admission that the project is not financeable through the private marketplace and that the only way would be through the city self-financing the project.  It also relies on a bank loan, of undetermined terms, to pay off this internal borrowing in the future.  Funds for the utility come from sources other than those that have voting rights in the city of Lake Worth.  How would customers in Palm Springs and parts of unincorporated Palm Beach County react to their money being used as a bridge loan for the city's beach redevelopment project?
  • I am not sure it is a good idea to have three scenarios, ranging from best to worst.  It is probably prudent, since we are dealing with public money, to use the "worst" scenario as the baseline as it is the most conservative projection.  And, as indicated before, it makes no allowance for a longer permitting and construction period.
  • Has the actual site plan been mapped out related to staging areas, temporary exits and entrances, whether or not there will be working parking meter machines, when working ones will be installed and what the costs associated with the new machines will be?  Has anyone looked at the cost/benefit of a gated lot with an attendant - part of which could be paid through the tenants CAM charges?
  • As this is written, US treasury bills are carrying their lowest interest rates ever.  It is unclear what the various interest rate assumptions are in this analysis.
  • In the City Manager's recommendation, she points out that "many political issues...have yet to be fully resolved which involve the cost effectiveness of renovating the building versus demolishing the structure..."  How is this a political issue?  The analysis should contain an object review of all alternatives, especially if the one that is not explored likely would be the least expensive.  But how does the public know if no one will produce a comparison?  How is this an informed decision?  We have already determined that the building is really only historic if it maintains the current design which no one really wants.  To do anything else and say that it is "historic preservation" and therefore should be done with public money is a misrepresentation of the facts.
  • Where are the results of the public survey?  Why is a decision potentially made before the results of that study are public?  There are some design assumptions contained in this analysis.  Are these now "givens" and will be worked around during the public charrette that is going to be held this coming Saturday?  How are the results of the charette going to be figured into the analysis after the fact?  Is the charrette just going through the motions and not really engaging the public?
  • Where are the comparables indicated on how the market rents were determined in the undated Marcus and Millchap letter?
  • Why would a second floor restaurant with its own "free" patio space go for less per square foot rent that the first floor restaurant?
  • I am not sure why Mr. Bray in his July 21, 2010 letter indicates that there are "no historical sales volumes that will truly help us."  Hasn't John G's been in business in that location for at least 30 years?  Haven't there been other tenants that have been there long enough to have a record of a certain sales volume?  How is that privileged information if you are dealing with a publicly owned building?
  • Comment regarding one of Mr. Bray's conclusions that retailers measure their trade area in concentric circles and that "Our circles will have a large pocket of marine life."  To quote noted retail expert Robert Gibbs, "Fish don't shop."
  • How is property tax accounted for in the rent assumptions?
  • Interesting that Mr. Bray points out the need for centralized common area bathroom facilities.  The rehabilitated building would need to meet ADA requirements for bathrooms and I have always wondered how this would be done in some of the small shop areas of the existing building.  This  is an example of a design assumption in this financial analysis.
  • Mr. Bray's letter suggests some sort of percentage participation in rent of some tenants, but I can't find where this is carried through in the financial analysis.  Restaurants, many times, have such percentage clauses in their leases.
  • From the actual Business Plan document, I would like to know what assumptions went into determining the extent of the beach market area and how tourism fits into this market area.
  • Why does the business plan refer to the dimensions of the beach in meters and not feet?
  • Page 6 of the Business Plan refers to the location of the building and the ability for one to view  sunrises and sunsets, but doesn't mention the "public."  Where and how is public access being maintained throughout the rehabilitation project?  This should be laced throughout all documents pertaining the the rehabilitation of the existing building.
  • Under marketing strategy, it talks about the attractiveness of the project to "major brands and franchises."  Are there going to be requirements for local ownership, how will that be defined and are national brands not welcomed in the project?  If so, how does this affect the projections?
  • We should get a legal opinion on the offering a "first right of refusal" and how that complies with the city's procurement code.
  • Found the conclusions that "City Commissioners represent specific districts." and that "...current members of the City Commission have a very strong commitment to good government, transparency in government, civic engagement in the governing process, and environmental sustainability" a little hard to swallow.
  • What does the "urban renaissance that has occurred over the past decade" refer to?
  • Under "public improvements" for the Lake Worth Beach Rehabilitation - those improvements funded by the $5 million grant from Palm Beach County - "alternative power generation (solar film and wind turbines) and rain collection and reuse (rain cisterns)" are listed.  Where are these included in the public improvements and what is their cost?  Where will they be and how will their power and resources be used in the public improvements or rehabilitation of the building?
  • Under "Process of the Casino Building Rehabilitation" - "Construction including tenant relocation" is identified but I can't find where the cost associated with this relocation appears in the analysis and what assumptions are used.
  • I assume that "western Palm Beach County residents" refers to Wellington and Royal Palm Beach, primarily.
  • Are the parking revenue figures accurate for FY 06-07 and FY 08-09?  Why was FY 07-08 left out? 
  • How much will the cellphone/credit/debit card operated parking meters cost - how many and when will they be installed?  What is their reliability and track record in salt air environments?
  • How does the square footage proposed for the rehabilitation project not represent over-commercialization?  Does it exceed the square footage limitation for retail space in the Beach and Casino zoning district?  What is the status of the beach future land use designation and zoning?
  • Will casino building tenants be required to pay for their own security?  Will their uniforms look menacing?
  • "Informational Historical Pavers" - Perhaps a good idea, but isn't this a design issue?  Does it have any bearing on the cost of the project and if so, where is that cost included in the analysis?
  • Can someone verify the "grandfather status" of the existing building and improvements as it relates to any code issue regarding its location at the top of the dune?
  • Have the logistics related to the construction of both the site and the rehabilitation of the building been studied since they will be occurring at the same time?
  • How were the parking rates determined?  Was there any consideration for different rates at different times of the day?  Will there be a validation program with the tenants so that they can pay for customer parking if they want to?
  • Is the city going to be in the towel-buying-renting-washing business at the pool?
  • How does Benny's figure into the financial analysis?  Will its lease rate be adjusted with the new project?
  • How were the beach attendance figures calculated that appear on page 21 of the "Business Plan?" - these seem very close to the parking revenue figures for those two years mentioned earlier.
  • The event room revenue of $5 per square foot seems low - is this per event regardless of size?  Monthly revenues of $2,000 seem low too.  Isn't this a potential gold mine?
Anyway, those are my questions.  If you ask me, we need a lot more clarification before we go forward based upon this analysis and it would be a good idea to wait for results of the charrette this coming Saturday so that we are sincere in the City Commission's wish to "engage the public."

From the Business Plan for beach redevelopment - strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis. Do you agree with these?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

FYI - I am having trouble downloading the back-up for tomorrow (8/16) night's meeting on the Casino Building

I can get the agenda - but only part of the back-up - probably due to my Internet connection.  If someone could send me the back-up information to wesblackman@gmail.com, it would be greatly appreciated.


Note:  Thanks for the responses.  Look for a post soon!

Casino Charette - 8/21

Informal drop-in information session from 12:00 noon -3:00p.m. 

Formal charette will take place from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Where: Compass Community Center 

              201 North Dixie Highway
              Lake Worth, FL 33460

Reported crime goes down as arrests go up in Lake Worth

Click title for link to PB Post article.  An excerpt:

"The number of major crimes reported in Lake Worth dropped more than 14 percent during the first half of this year following a similar drop in the first half of 2009 a sign that the decision to merge the city’s police department with the sheriff’s office in the fall of 2008 is working, according to some sheriff’s officials and residents.
...and...
Despite his success in Lake Worth, Silva worries about the District 14 budget in a city where the taxable value of property has plummeted during past three years and the sheriff’s contract represents nearly half of the proposed $28.7 million general fund budget.


The sheriff’s office increased its tab by $415,544 this year under its 10-year contract with the city. For the upcoming budget year, it has proposed cutting the District 14 budget by $1.2 million, to $13.2 million."

It's interesting then to ask what would the property value decrease citywide - the largest decrease over the last three years of any Palm Beach County municipality - if we had not gone with the protection offered by the Palm Beach Sheriff Office?  One myth put forward by those that were against the merger is that the decision to go with the sheriff's department meant spending more money in each successive budget year - but that would have been true with the city's own police department as well.  This is where the word "effectiveness" comes into play.  If you do not get the value of a service you pay for, it is the same as pouring that money down the drain.  If you don't see the result from it you are only throwing money at the problem and creating waste in the process.

If you are a proponent of anarchism and Downward Mobility, isn't this a tool used to further your ultimate goal of unraveling systems of law and order?  Isn't it your mission to make people who hold values of like the enforcement of laws and public safety uncomfortable enough so that they eventually move out of the city to  make way for new people that may not find safe streets and efficient public services a priority?  At that point, you can start campaigning for what you really believe and publicly say that you are for the dismantling of municipal government in the city of Lake Worth - along with flushing away the vestiges of whatever qualifies as "middle class" in the city.

You still won't hear the "truth" coming out of the incumbents' mouths this election season - they will tell those that vote what they want to hear, create bogey-men where none exist and continue to prop up their mythologies that paint a reality that is false - but one that gets people to the polls to vote for "their" candidates.

This is the real agenda of the incumbents in the election this November - and we have seen this scenario play itself out as this majority, created by a well-oiled political machine, claimed the power in Lake Worth.  Well, they may be good at getting "their people" elected, but they are a disaster when it comes to running a local government.

I am moving forward some older posts as a reminder of what has taken place under this regime and what they hold as their true beliefs - things you won't hear coming from them on the campaign trail or their slick campaign materials.

Remember this in November - elect those that are not currently on the dais.

In Lake Worth the title is "The Empresses' New Clothes" - but are the swindler's in the story the ones at fault here?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as Applied to Lake Worth RE-POST (This is the #1 most visited post of any on this blog!)

This is a re-post of an item first posted in February of 2009. It happens to be the blog's top most called for item according to my tracking software.  We have to have security and safety as a foundation so that we can attract economic growth here.


I am sure most have heard about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. I've provided a link if you haven't or if you require a refresher course. Essentially, the core concept is that you must meet your basic needs (indicated as the levels at the base of the pyramid) before you can attain higher goals of human aspiration and achievement. We have experienced an example of this happening in our social microcosm that we refer to as "Lake Worth" recently. Apparently, there are those that have issues with it, so please allow me to explain.

I have reported earlier on the CRA's action to contribute $90,000 this year for a full-time police officer. Last year, at the urging of Commissioner Jennings, the CRA increased its contribution to the former City of Lake Worth Police Department to about $140,000. This level of funding went for overtime pay for officers in addressing crime, which the community perceived to be "out of control." Commissioner Jennings then used this in her campaign's promotional materials as an accomplishment - that she increased funding of the police force by not touching the general fund and used CRA money instead. This money was spent and will never be seen again. Did we see a benefit from it? Following that direction, and with the on-going perception of crime being "out of control", the CRA adopted a budget for 08-09 that almost doubled that contribution to $340,000.

During August of last year, the City Commission on a vote of 3-2 with Commissioners Golden and Jennings dissenting, elected to have the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office takeover police operations in the city. The majority argued that that coverage and resources would be greatly improved, there would be savings in pension expenses and that most of our existing officers would stay. The dissenting side argued that the Sheriff would be much more expensive, we would lose local control, reforms could be made in our police department and that future years' percentage cost increases were unlimited.

When the CRA adopted its budget in September, not a lot was known about how or if the Sheriff department would provide the same arrangement as our own police department vis-a-vis the CRA contribution for extra policing. It was also not known what impact the Sheriff take over would have on the streets. Had the side to keep the police prevailed, the CRA would have spent $340,000 in overtime expenses through the Lake Worth Police Department, period.

Once the dust settled, in January, the CRA acted to reduce this budgeted contribution for extra policing to $90,000. The board felt that this was possible due to the increased visibility and presence of law enforcement officers seen in the city of Lake Worth and in the CRA area specifically. I might add that the CRA board not only believed that but it is a belief shared by most in the city. There are some notable exceptions. That $90,000 contribution in this year's budget is less than last year's contribution by $50,000 and is less that what was formerly in the current year's CRA budget to the tune of $250,000. This bears repeating: Savings this year from the CRA's budget as it relates to making a contribution for additional policing within the CRA district represents a real savings this year of $250,000 made possible by the merger with the Sheriff's office.

Now there are other costs associated with the merger and it really still needs to be sorted out what all of these general fund costs are and what the other dollar and non-dollar benefits are, as well. When the motion was made at the CRA, I remember saying something to the effect that when the final analysis is done on the pluses and minuses of the merger with the Sheriff's office, this $250,000 in savings needs to be part of the equation.

As a result, I have already reported about Commissioner Jenning's reaction to this as being an example of excessive spending - even though had the city stayed with its own police department (her desire), the $350,000 would have been spent in this CRA budget year on overtime and she would have used that as an achievement in her next round of campaign materials. And, after this year, that money would be gone forever - would we have even seen a benefit from it?

So, what is the CRA able to do now that it would have found more difficult to do without these savings? That's where we get back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Now that our safety needs are better met (not perfect, but a significant improvement) - the second lowest level in the pyramid - we can allocate CRA monies to higher levels of the pyramid. Now we can talk about esteem, achievement, beauty, form and about the city's own self-actualization and that of its residents. That money is now directed towards activities that we promote the city of Lake Worth as an artist-friendly destination city, help establish studio and affordable housing for artists and help revitalize what could be a 30 block area of the city within the CRA district. All put together in an effort to be true to the CRA's mission - the elimination of slum and blight.

There are some, traditional supporters of Commissioners Jennnings, Golden and Mulvehill, that are troubled by efforts made by the city, its boards and residents, to make this a better and more attractive place to live. One need to look no further than the City Attorney's report that appears on the 2/17/09 City Commission agenda. It appears below:


This report is repaired in response to questions about how the city selects legal counsel. The very people and associates that are mentioned in the memo (supporters of the "new" majority) are the ones that are questioning the selection of legal counsel - perhaps because almost universally the city has prevailed in these actions taken against it. It would be like a basketball coach being able to pick the players on the opponent's team that match up best against his or her team. Is that fair? Of the above actions, all have been decided in favor of the city, one has been withdrawn and one has yet to be decided.

What the report doesn't indicate is the amount of taxpayer dollars that have been expended in defense of the city. It also doesn't report about the missed opportunities, the negative connotations created about doing business in the city of Lake Worth and the not-so-veiled threat of litigation. What it does say is that there are people with resources - time and money - that can and do dwell in a land of fear of change - essentially security issues related to the maintenance of the status quo in Lake Worth. They are increasingly finding ways to manipulate the system so that the concept of self-actualization will remain an unreachable goal here in our city.

When you read opinions from residents that come from a "fear of anything new" perspective, keep in mind the opportunity cost. Also keep in mind that the rest of the world refuses to stand still. We do have the power to achieve our self-actualization - it will just be more difficult to do if we carry out the fight in the lower levels of the pyramid.

Just last month in his Inaugural Address, President Obama stated that we are judged by what we build, not what we destroy. Let's do our best on a local level to make sure we are true to his sentiment.

DOWNWARD MOBILITY - Show and Tell RE-POST

This is a re-post of an item that appeared in the days before the 2007 municipal election.  The links to the "Downward Mobility" have long since been removed.  Maintaining them would defeat the campaigning purpose of getting certain people elected.  In 2007, this was in the form of former Mayor Drautz and Jo-Ann Golden.  The supporters remain the same this year - this time for the incumbents on the City Commission.  Do not be fooled.  This is their "real" agenda.






I find it necessary to post this here to get the word out about who is supporting my opposition. The above leaflet was being distributed throughout my neighborhood last weekend by Annabeth Karson (see pic at right) and company. Another version, which identified "Crooked" candidates, Annabeth distributed at a neighborhood candidate forum - and re-collected them only when asked to.

The following speaks for itself. Please use the link provided to check out the Downward Mobility website to see what this movement is all about. Be sure to check out the tabs on the left side of the home page under Actions and Articles.

Then, make your choices accordingly at the polls on Tuesday, March 27th.
Here is the link to their website. Please click here.