Saturday, June 30, 2018

‘Balloon Police’ and frightening the bejesus out of little children.

Or switch out plastic straws for balloons
and you get the idea. . .

Balloons are like ‘kicks’! They’re more that just exciting at parties.

Balloons can also used as a political tool to distract
the public from the real issues at hand.

We’ll get to those political ‘balloons’ a little later in this blog post, an account of one actual political ‘battle of ideas’ that occurred at Lake Worth City Hall vis-à-vis turning some of our PBSO deputies into the “Balloon Police” and more silliness here in the L-Dub.

Politics of late in this little City has turned into a polite parlor game which must be very confusing for new and recently news residents, especially for those who moved here for the political entertainment. After what happened on Nov. 8th, 2016, it was just expected this City would be torn apart because of its ‘spirited’ past and become at least politically, just more collateral damage.

But that never happened.

It’s important to keep in mind that despite the occasional political skirmishes at City Hall, the last 6–7 years here in the City of Lake Worth has been an era marked by unimaginable stability and unfathomable progress considering the politics of previous years leading up to 2011–2012. A previous administration led by a former city manager and a “gadfly” commissioner that lost his re-election bid last year come to mind.

But as much as stability is a good thing for many in the public there are also those who believe stability is a bad thing. And this political battle of ideas is regularly scheduled: it’s called Election Season.

And as much as the issues are the issues for some, for others it’s better if the issues were not the issues. So. If the big issue is fixing the streets and potholes in this City how does one make that issue not the issue? It’s actually very easy. For example, just throw in some ‘kicks’ to try and distract everyone. But whether it works or not is an entirely different issue.

It’s called creating a political ‘wedge’.

A former commissioner, Chris McVoy, PhD, would have likely won his re-election bid last year but his fate was sealed when the editor at The Palm Beach Post called him a “gadfly”. Why? Primarily because in 2014 McVoy was key in defeating the Lake Worth 2020 bond that year to begin fixing the streets and potholes in this City.

How did he and his supporters do it? He created the wedge issue of “sea level rise” and that was enough to convince 25 more people to vote “No” and that 2014 referendum went down to defeat. But it was what McVoy did next that cost him his fourth term on the City Commission. He tried his best to defeat the road bond referendum in 2016 as well. Why? Once again the issue of ‘sea level rise’ was suggested as a reason to vote “No”.

The ‘wedge’ worked in 2014. It didn’t work in 2016.

Do you remember back in November 2016 as our City of Lake Worth was preparing and educating the public about the Neighborhood Road Bond referendum and when our electeds, City staff, and the public were forced to address another topic a few months previously: balloons?

That’s right. Just 2½ months before the Nov. 2016 referendum the big issue was. . . balloons!

So. Did that ‘wedge’ issue about balloons work? Yes. But just briefly. Fortunately, the public quickly refocused on THE ISSUE and the rest, as they say, is history.

Remember the 2016 referendum result? An “over-
whelming” 69% voted “Yes” to fix our roads.
Remember Palm Beach Post editor Rick Christie’s, “A few quick takeaways from 2016 election”?

In retrospect that “balloon ordinance” in
August 2016 was all silly now.

But what wasn’t silly at all was using all that taxpayer money, pulling City staff and managers from other essential duties, and the public getting distracted by press and media reports about. . . balloons.

Who would enforce this ordinance if it was actually adopted? Our PBSO deputies. Even more people pulled from other essential duties.

But reason prevailed and that “balloon ordinance” and the “balloon police” never became a reality.

That surreal drama at the City Commission in 2016 about balloons had many thinking the City of Lake Worth was banning all use of balloons city-wide. A headline in The Palm Beach Post (see below) reinforced that misinformation and do did their beat reporter. It was only later on, when the article in The Lake Worth Herald came out (excerpt below), was all this put in proper perspective.

It was decided to have existing policy reworked so that when a City facility is rented and balloons are improperly used the City will keep the $150 (or so) rental deposit. And, mind you, there is already a state law with penalties for releasing balloons.

But in 2016 the public all over Palm Beach County was left scratching their heads wondering why Lake Worth, a City with so many pressing issues to address was spending so much time and effort to ban balloons. Here is part of an eye-catching headline in the Post print edition on August 18th, 2016, page B1, above the fold:


Shortly afterward The Lake Worth Herald published an accurate article about what happened at the Commission meeting in August 2016.

In the Herald: The Loggerhead Marine Center “offers three levels for municipality participation.” Was this reported in the Post? No.

An excerpt from the article in the Herald:

     Loggerhead Marine Center offers three levels for municipality participation.
     Level one consists of signage or educational material distribution. Level two consists of signage and educational material to distribute and level three has the added inclusion of an adopted ordinance.
     Lake Worth City commissioners stopped short of adopting an ordinance after debate brought out the fact an ordinance would have no “teeth” as written and would create nuisance calls to PBSO.

Simply having signs IS public education and sufficient to deter potential “balloon” violators.

Crime is an issue here in the City of Lake Worth as well. Although many of our deputies would enjoy and get their ‘kicks’ spending all day at the Beach being the “balloon police”, there are many neighborhoods here in our City that may believe there are much more important things for them to do.

And that folks, in conclusion, is how a political ‘wedge’ is created. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.

In conclusion, just stay focused and try real hard not to be distracted by any balloons and ‘kicks’. Or plastic straws either. Or sunscreen.