Sunday, August 5, 2018

At the end of this blog post is an eye-opening video from a recent public meeting at Lake Worth City Hall.

The blog post below is from yesterday and prior to that video are a lot of twists and turns. So if you’re short on time today read the first few paragraphs and then scroll down to watch. A blog reader yesterday reached out and said the blog post “rambled on” a bit too much. And that was true. So you can call this blog post today a ‘little less rambling one’ because some repetitive matter was indeed removed.

Without further ado, the blog post titled:

“Visioning” in this City of Lake Worth: A very difficult and public conversation about code enforcement.

For over six hours last month at City Hall was the much-talked-about “Visioning Work Session” and for about fifteen minutes or so the electeds talked candidly about Code Enforcement. And yes, what they said is indeed eye-opening. They talked about code enforcement and the use of swords, small ones and big ones. Not real swords but the proverbial type.

In a previous blog post wrote about this event that it would be “the gift that keeps on giving”. Why?

Because as the aid to facilitator Kevin Knutson lists the highlights and the lowlights too. . .

[Click on image to enlarge.]

. . . a former City administration looks on.

Note former Mayor Jeff Clemens and the
former commissioner in District 2 and self-described Anarchist, Cara Jennings (standing; ironically next to the American flag).

Also in the framed picture in the image above hanging on the wall at City Hall, circa 2008, from left to right: former commissioners JoAnn Golden (sitting), Retha Lowe (standing, center) and on the far right is Suzanne Mulvehill.

Further down below in this blog post is the next framed picture to grace the wall at City Hall, the present-day Lake Worth City Commission which includes the majority that took over in 2011 and have continued winning elections ever since, most by very wide margins.

More large notes for everyone to see. More visions about the future from our elected officials.

Another photo, one of many, of an easel at the City’s public Visioning Session. Click on image to enlarge:

Did you read the news about this all-day public event in The Palm Beach Post last month? Continue reading to learn more about that too.

And also below is a very good reason why everyone involved in this City and its future — from residents to community volunteers and to investors alike — why it is a very good idea to become a subscriber to The Lake Worth Herald. Learn why a little later in this blog post.

“How did we get here?”

Below is the YouTube video of what occurred at City Hall last month. Mayor Pam Triolo, Vice Mayor Andy Amoroso, and commissioners Scott Maxwell, Herman Robinson, and Omari Hardy talk honestly and openly about code enforcement in this City. At one point in the video City Manager Michael Bornstein took great exception to some remarks he heard.

Some will be shocked by what they see and hear. And maybe others not so much. And a new word was added to our local lexicon: “slamlords”. Find out what a ‘slamlord’ is a little later.

It needs to be acknowledged there has been a lot of criticism about this Visioning Session organized by the city manager and one of the more valid ones is why it took so long to have one. However, channeling the late great Johnny Carson, here is what one well-known political observer thought about this Work Session and the consultant that was hired to facilitate:

Commissioners met with Carnac the Magnificent, called it a Visioning Session. Peering through the envelope. Once again, visioning session reveals same hurdles, could just buy back copies of LW Herald. Only the names change.

On a serious note, another valid criticism is how can Millennials like Commissioner Omari Hardy try and push forward with visioning the future when some of the elders on the City Commission keep hearing footsteps from back in 2011? One of the hopes was that increasing terms for elected officials from two to three years would help to solve this problem, the trepidation and fear of ghosts long gone. Hopes dashed? No. There is still plenty of time.

Briefly, some information about Code Enforcement. . .

FYI: Asking a neighbor, contacting a TV news reporter, wishing for a lifeline, or phoning a friend about “Community Code Compliance” is completely unnecessary.

To make an online inquiry or if you have a complaint, the list of code enforcement officers and contact information, the “Vacant Registry” and common FAQs click on this link. Why? Because using this link for example — in combination with this online map of Code Enforcement Zones 1–8 — anyone can find out who their local code enforcement officer is and contact that person directly.  

The Lake Worth City Commission.
Click on this link for contact information. 

Most people contact their elected leaders to complain about something. Try something different next time. Like ask a simple question, “What can I do to help?” instead of the oft-heard litany of bellyaching.

And maybe last month’s Visioning Session at City Hall will finally make the news on page B3 in next Monday’s print edition of The Palm Beach Post, the weekly feature dedicated to this City. But speaking hyperbolically or maybe is the semihyperbolic parlance, “Don’t hold your breath.”

Why hasn’t the Post reported any news about the all-day Work Session at Lake Worth City Hall?

This Work Session made front page news in The Lake Worth Herald on July 26th. Click on this link for subscription rates.

Here are the opening three paragraphs from that top news story about this Work Session:

Lake Worth City Commissioners held a visioning session with City Manager Michael Bornstein. Topics included strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, challenges, key issues, secondary issues and other issues.
     Some of the strengths listed were the City’s location and the proximity to the beach, the diverse and welcoming nature of the community, the small businesses and restaurants downtown and the Arts.
     Weaknesses included the negative perception / reputation of the City. The existence of low property values and the lack of a Chamber of Commerce don’t help sell the city for investment. [emphasis added]

The City’s all-day “Visioning Work Session” was held on Tuesday, July 24th and the Post has yet to report any news about this very significant event. On the day of this event at City Hall the reporter assigned to cover the Lake Worth beat reported instead about a structure that, “[W]ill be built on the Palm Springs campus of The Palm Beach Habilitation Center by June 2019.”

So one could accurately say the beat reporter was “out of town” whilst the City of Lake Worth was visioning the future ten years from now in this City, from 2019–2029, and then the vision for the future ten years beyond that.

Prior to being sold to Gatehouse Media last May and going back several years, code enforcement was a frequent topic — or target if you will — in the Post and it was one article in particular that drew the ire of Lake Worth City Manager Michael Bornstein. And going back as far as 2013 then-editor Andrew Marra reported about unpaid code enforcement fines and,

“Dangerously dilapidated properties were left untouched, while code enforcement officials continued tacking on fines they knew would never be collected.”

Now moving on. . .

At last month’s Visioning Session was a lot of very frank public debate and open conversation about many topics. Because of the Sunshine Law many issues brought up at this workshop are off-limits for elected officials outside the public realm and that is why the city manager scheduled this work session with the help and facilitation of consultant Kevin Knutson.*

Whilst on the topic of open conversation and code enforcement at one point in the video below Bornstein said to an elected official, responding to comments about code officers being arbitrary with the public and acting improperly:

“I would take exception to that. And I don’t think that the people maybe telling you these stories are genuine in what they are telling you. And if there is any staff member out there that’s inconsistently or either taking direction from different commissioners on things I want to know about it because I want to bring them in and have a little talk with them in HR.”

Without further ado, the video starting at the four hour and twenty-two minute mark.

Note: Near the 4:24 mark Commissioner Omari Hardy says the word “slamlords”.
Defined: Slamlords  =  landlords encouraging slum (noun), a “thickly populated, run-down, squalid part of a city, inhabited by poor people”.

*To watch the entire video from the beginning of this “City of Lake Worth Visioning Workshop” click on this link.
     To learn more about consultant Kevin Knutson use this link.