Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ode to "Lake Worth"...

The dangers of selective enforcement...

It hasn't been two weeks yet that the City Commission met about cutting staff and reducing levels of service relating to basic quality of life factors in the city due to the city's declared "financial urgency."  We are also waiting for a study which will try to answer the question: "How best can Lake Worth meet its law enforcement needs and at what cost? "

Imagine if the city had its own police force, as referenced in previously posted e-mails from City Manager Stanton, whose priorities might be tilted towards enforcement of the noise ordinance rather than responding to a property crime call in another area of the city. Members of the Commission were rightly concerned on the way the community will react to what is perceived by most as a low level of service now without the planned cuts.

Many people already think that code enforcement  is completely ineffective given its current level of allocated resources.  The city policy is that code enforcement only responds to complaints - there are no anonymous complaints and code enforcement cannot proactively take on an issue that does not spring from a complaint.  This creates a system where the squeaky wheels get all the grease.

In the case of the Cottage, it seems that the same wheels are squeaking after a lot of grease has been applied.  Let's ignore the fact that the Cottage is usually the host of unsuccessful commission candidate parties and supports candidates that have not won the past few elections.  Let's ignore the fact the Cottage hosts a gay "Tea Dance" and is a gay-friendly business in the downtown.

Read this e-mail exchange between Mr. Waters, Planning and Preservation Administrator, Ms. Stanton, City Manager and Commissioner Mulvehill.  Mr. Waters discusses how seemingly different standards for different businesses in similar situations seem to have no rhyme or reason.

Instead, let's ask the question: "Is enforcing a noise ordinance the best use of extremely limited resources in a city with an unlimited set of needs?"  And, if we decide as a community that enforcement of a noise ordinance is important enough so that other services are not rendered to the public, then we need to make sure that noise ordinance and other code enforcement activity is done uniformly and equitably throughout the entire city.

You need to read the back-up for the additions to the agenda for the April 5th City Commission meeting.  Reading the item on the noise ordinance issue, you get the sense that this is suddenly all about Susan.  It is not.  First of all, I don't know how anyone can claim that one has kept their personal life personal if they have had a three hour CNN documentary on a very personal part of their life.  But our City Manager makes that claim in the back-up material.  And her reaction is one where she offers "reaffirmation" of the city's anti-discrimination ordinances in defense of the Cottage claims of discrimination.

Actions do speak louder than words and the proper thing for the city to do is what is suggested by Commissioner Maxwell (also part of the same back-up material linked above) - undertake a thorough examination of how code enforcement has responded to noise complaints throughout the city and look at how the city has enforced other code provisions on the business community over the past few years.  If a disproportionate amount of time, effort and resources have been applied to businesses that cater to the gay, lesbian and transgender community, then we have objective data that indicates that some sort of selective enforcement has been employed by the city.  Until we can objectively look at the record, we only have smoke - which there seems to be a lot of - and not fire.

Going back to the City Manager's response, I can think of  some other regulations and situations that need reaffirming, while we are at it.  Here is a short list:
  • Let's reaffirm the ethics ordinance passed last year that requires members of the Commission to declare campaign contributors that benefit from their actions on the dais.
  • Let's reaffirm how any agency that rents a city building must have a current lease and pay for their own utilities.
  • Let's reaffirm that boarding houses are not allowed in single family zoning districts, even if they are run by a certain former City Commissioner.
  • Let's reaffirm that the city is actually demolishing the casino building instead of saving it from demolition.
  • Let's reaffirm that how this city is run is not all about Susan, but that it is all about how our city manager does her job in that capacity.  
  • Let's reaffirm that the Charter requires an Internal Auditor hired by the City Commission!
  • Let's reaffirm that Lake Worth is not an island in the middle of Palm Beach County and must behave as a responsible municipality amongst other local governments.
Our City Manager's evaluation is coming up later this month

The Cottage is having a FREE BBQ this Sunday April 3, 2011 from 5 - 7pm then...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

From my tracking software...

This is the graph showing the average length of time on this blog.  It usually hovers between 3 to 4 minutes.  I am glad people are checking out more of the blog than usual - there is over five years worth of information here.

Illuminating e-mails between City Manager Stanton and others concerning the Cottage...

One initial complaint and response - key quote by City Manager:  "Let me refer it to Capt. Silva. He has told me they are enforcing the ordinance consistent with their procedures. I have a very limited ability to impact this issue and both Capt Silva and I have different opinions on how best this should be done, the tools needed to do the job ...and when it can be totally enforced."

Scheduling special code enforcement for early evenings and weekends.

Another...

More...

Sheriff time for spreadsheet and City Manager response:  Silva PBSO:  Attached are the reports requested by the Commissioner. As you suggested, I requested a meeting with Commissioner McVoy to discuss the Noise Ordinance enforcement, in particular against the Cottage, and his request for these reports. I have yet to meet with him, and I am concerned based on your comments below he may have a misimpression of our efforts to enforce the noise ordinance. In addition, I ask that you please inform him ofthe status of the noise meters and citations. Finally, my analyst informed me compiling this report consumed over three and half hours of her time and any future such requests will be evaluated on a case‐by‐case basis.

Stanton:  As you know, this commissioner is a scientist and drinks data like coffee. It is the way he is
wired. I used to expect this type of analysis....from my Police Chief. But, I realize your position
and willingness and ability to provide such inferential statistical analysis and performance data.
I never agreed with this strategy for enforcement for just this reason. I promise not to say "I told
you".......at least for a while.

Stanton:  "What size eggs are you planning on using...?

Need we point out that the city has greater priorities than this issue to worry about.  What is really going on here?  Click on widget on right to read more and sign the petition.

These exchanges also reflect the negative opinion of the City Manager toward the sheriff department, clearly wanting control over her own police force.

Growth management do-over passes

Click title for link. From the article:

"Senate Bill 1122 and its companion, House Bill 7129, would make it easier and faster for local governments to amend their comprehensive plans, the documents required of all counties and municipalities to guide future growth and development.
The bills would make it more difficult for citizens to challenge developments.
They would also remove state specifications and requirements in comprehensive plans, extend a moratorium on increased or new impact fees for two years, and prohibit local governments from having referenda for comprehensive plan amendments or a supermajority vote by local governments on such amendments."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Marshall Foundation moving office to Lake Worth from West Palm Beach

The Mayor is touting this on FaceBook as "more great news." Click title for link. The foundation has a staff of three and is moving into a former doctor's office.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 Easter Celebration @ Bryant Park

The 3rd Annual Easter Egg Celebration is taking place Saturday, April 16th @ Bryant Park.  Avoid the long lines and pre-purchase your tickets that you will need in order to get into the Easter Egg patches.  Tickets are available at the Osborne Community Center or Lake Worth Gymnasium.  Please pass the word!!  Food vendors, entertainment, and tons of fun!!!!!!!  For event information please call 533-7363 or after 5pm 540-5133.

Thank you,

LW Recreation

Legislators May End 26-Year Growth Management Experiment in Florida | TheLedger.com

Click title for link to a broad view look at the changes proposed to Florida's growth management laws and the soon-to-be increased importance of the role local communities play - without state oversight.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lawmakers order sweeping audit of Lake Worth's regional sewage system

Click title for link.  Regardless what has happened in the past, it is how you respond to inquiries that is important.  And let's not forget that we are part of a metropolitan area where we have to interact in a responsible way with our municipal neighbors.  There is no "moat" surrounding the city of Lake Worth.  Why some people think so is beyond understanding.

Why Florida's unemployment rate is so much higher than national average - St. Petersburg Times

It's not just one factor holding Florida back. We need to make some major strategic changes to remain competitive and employ those that are already here. Click title for link to article.

“And He said, ‘Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.’” (Luke 4:24)

It's been true for a while, I guess.  That's why they say the best consultants are at least an hour's drive away.