Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Some Quick Notes

First of all, have a great Thanksgiving. If you are traveling or staying at home, remember to be safe. There really is so much to be thankful for and we tend to forget that in our everyday routines. Enjoy your family and friends over this long weekend, for many, and remember that the people you are with are the ones that matter the most.

Second, Drew Martin has invited me to a debate on the Hometown Democracy movement. This will take place on his show next Monday night from 8 to 9 p.m. Those that wonder what will happen with Karaoke - we will just start a little later than usual.

Finally, I will be having another Truth Matters show next Tuesday. I'll be posting more material here leading up to both shows over the long weekend.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tonight's City Commission Meeting

Tonight's Commission meeting has a light agenda and I am not sure if my schedule today will permit me to attend. However, for ease of access, I thought that I would post the agenda here. You will notice that under Consent Agenda Item B there is a request from the City Manager to allocate almost $325,000 from other accounts to make up for expenditures that were incurred, checks cut and paid beyond the level authorized by the City Commission. We can only be thankful that these oversights were from a previous administrative staff and that this is part of the cleansing process occurring in the Finance and other City departments.

It makes you wonder about all those years and projects that have taken place before. How much was spent that the Commission and the public were not aware of? How many dollars were spent either in error or due to contractors' lapses and the like - working on behalf of the City? In this request, the most significant overrun was in street improvements - almost a quarter of a million dollars. Let's try and find out why this happened.

Let's hope that this represents the last example of an "after the fact" approval of funds.

Monday, November 19, 2007


This was sent out to all the COPs in the volunteer ranks by Joel Morganstern, Lake Worth Police Department, Crime Prevention Specialist:

With the holiday season approaching, here are a few safety tips that parents as well as their children should follow to make it a safe as well as a happy season.

When in a public facility always supervise your child, and ALWAYS accompany young children to the bathroom. Make certain your children know to stay with you at all times while shopping and always CHECK FIRST with you or the person in charge before they go anywhere. It is important to know where your children are and who they are with at all times.

If older children become separated from you while holiday shopping, have them meet you in a pre -designated spot such as the sales counter of the store you were in or the mall’s information booth. For younger children teach them to look for people who can be sources of help within the store or mall such as a uniformed security officer, salesperson with a nametag, the person in the information booth, or a uniformed law-enforcement officer. They should NEVER Leave the store/mall or go to the parking lot to look for you or your car. Make visits to the mall opportunities for your children to practice these “Safe Shopping” skills.

Practice having them CHECK FIRST with you before going anywhere within a mall or store. Leave clothing with your children’s names displayed at home, as it can bring about unwelcome attention from inappropriate people who may be looking for an opportunity to start a conversation with your children.

Parents should not leave children alone at public facilities such as video arcades, movie theaters, or playgrounds as a convenient “babysitter” while they are shopping. If you allow your older children to go to the mall or other activities without you, they need to TAKE A FRIEND. It’s more fun and much safer. Make certain a clear plan is in place to pick them up including where, what time, and what to do in case of a change in plans.

Nothing takes the place of your supervision when you are in a public place with your children. If you are going holiday shopping and feel that you will be distracted, make other arrangements for the care of your children.

It’s easy for you and your children to get distracted with all the sights, sounds and crowds of holiday shopping, so make certain they stay with you at all times.

In Honor of Thanksgiving (and Karaoke)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Florida Hometown Democracy - Beware!

I hope you were able to read the editorial in the Palm Beach Post today entitled "Still Florida's good friend". In it, the editors note that the group 1000 Friends of Florida is not lending its support of the petition drive being put forward by Florida Hometown Democracy. The petition appears below:
It's funny that this editorial came out today since I planned to do a review of petition and its implications this weekend. As you may already know, there are many followers of this movement that are active politically in our community and were the key promoters of the failed supermajority initiative on zoning and land use decisions.

This is a dangerous petition for a number of reasons. It would lead to a series of unintended results not thoroughly considered by the movement's followers if it became law.

First of all, it wraps itself in motherhood and apple pie by stressing that our current growth management system is pro-developer. The term "hometown" recalls visions of Norman Rockwell paintings. One can almost smell the apple pies cooling on the window sill. They believe that the only way that "the people" can take charge and slow/stop growth is by requiring a referendum on any changes to a comprehensive plan or adoption of a new one. Thus, one is left thinking "Ah ha! We finally got the developer on the run!" Well, that may be so, but not to where they should be running.

The group here locally that is behind this is the same one that charged the City with being a spawning ground for "over-development". What would happen here locally is that land use plan changes would be put up to a referendum and our army of well-organized door knockers would spread the word and defeat such changes. They are the "hard to beat voting block" that the Post talks about in their editorial. Eventually, this would draw development right to where we don't need it to go - where there is no entrenched population of voters. This would likely lead to the nightmare scenario predicted in the 1000 Friends of Florida report "Florida 2060 - A Population Distribution Scenario for the State of Florida" Here is a graphic from that report which is available in its entirety by clicking the link provided above:Based upon the population projections contained in the report and the typical densities found in various Florida counties, the highlighted portion of the text concludes, "The result of the projected development pattern is an almost continuous urban strip extending from eastern Ft. Myers to West Palm Beach." By developers chasing the "easy way", we would be promoting the exact kind of development pattern that we should be preventing. Meanwhile, the not-in-my-back-yard people would be enjoying their lower density life styles in the already ecologically disturbed area consumed by our already existing urbanized area.

The other point that followers of this movement fail to realize is that comprehensive plans are complex documents. There seems to be the assumption that the status-quo is the ideal and that any change must be looked at skeptically and be subject of a referendum. As someone who has put together many amendments to comprehensive plans, the plan is always a flexible document that needs to change as conditions change. Furthermore, comprehensive plan changes can be, and most times are, voluminous! And, as someone who ran a campaign earlier this year, I know that it is extremely difficult to communicate complex multi-faceted concepts on the doorstep, in fliers, at candidate/issue forums, etc.

If you are adopting a completely new comprehensive plan, you are dealing with a "telephone book"-sized document. How are you going to communicate that accurately and efficiently to a voting population that is already overloaded with distractions of all sorts? Sometimes, communities have individual changes that would appear as separate items on the ballot. How would you like to wade through 100+ proposed changes to a comprehensive plan and make an informed decision on each one? Some of the changes might be the equivalent of taking out an "and" in the text; while others would be more weighty in their consequences. The most important point here is that comprehensive plans have inter-related parts - so if you have multiple amendments and approve three of them, and turn down five of them, and the three that the voters approved don't work without the other five, then where are you?

If all the supporters of this effort want to do is "gum up" the system and spend more money on attorneys, then maybe that is their ultimate goal. But do we really want to dismantle the system? I don't think so.

This would lead, in my opinion, to a system that would be ripe for a sophisticated, moneyed political action committee of either stripe that would interpret the changes for voters in easy consumable sound bites. Is that who we want controlling growth in our communities?

The solution is to promote the existing processes and encourage public participation/understanding at all steps of the process. We have to wake up to the fact that Florida is going to grow in population and where to direct that population growth will be the key to our survival as a state. It is naive to think that growth will stop or that we are doing a service by stopping the redevelopment of Lake Worth or other coastal communities. In fact, the service we should be doing is finding ways of directing responsible redevelopment to communities like ours.

So, beware of petition gatherers and the tales they tell. I am sure you won't be hearing about the unintended consequences of this quaint "hometown democracy" movement from them.

The following is from their website that indicates the number of signatures they have gathered to date: