Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Andre Rieu - Auld lang syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old times since ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
And surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


Happy New Year (ABBA)

"Happy New Year"
(a slightly morose Swedish tradition - their Auld Lang Syne)

No more champagne
And the fireworks are through
Here we are, me and you
Feeling lost and feeling blue
It's the end of the party
And the morning seems so grey
So unlike yesterday
Now's the time for us to say...

Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbor is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don't we might as well lay down and die
You and I

Sometimes I see
How the brave new world arrives
And I see how it thrives
In the ashes of our lives
Oh yes, man is a fool
And he thinks he'll be okay
Dragging on, feet of clay
Never knowing he's astray
Keeps on going anyway...

Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbor is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don't we might as well lay down and die
You and I

Seems to me now
That the dreams we had before
Are all dead, nothing more
Than confetti on the floor
It's the end of a decade
In another ten years time
Who can say what we'll find
What lies waiting down the line
In the end of eighty-nine...

Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbor is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don't we might as well lay down and die
You and I

Closed Circuit TV Cameras in Great Britain - Our red light cameras?

Second reading of the red light camera item appears on the January 6, 2009 City Commission agenda under Item VIII. A. You wonder if this is the nose under the camel's tent in terms of more public sponsored surveillance.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Send a song to a soldier...totally free and legit

Click title for link to Billboard site that allows a soldier to download 2 songs for free when you visit the site. Simple information required - no e-mail required, not spam. A neat way to support our troops. Good through 12/31/08.

From Commissioner Mary McCarty's Office...

The United Way of Palm Beach County has been and remains an integral community agency that provides a wide array of support and services to needy families and individuals. One program in particular is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program which for the past six years has been providing free tax preparation services to local individuals and households that earn less than $42,000 annually. Last year, more than 11,400 residents used the VITA program. Currently, there are 20 VITA sites located throughout Palm Beach County from Boca Raton to Jupiter, and west to Belle Glade and Pahokee and are scheduled to be open during the tax season starting January 20 through April 15, 2009.

VITA sites are staffed by volunteers who have been trained and certified by the IRS to prepare taxes. Due to the recent economic challenges in our community, the United Way is anticipating a substantial increase in the program’s participants. Consequently, there is a greater demand for the upcoming tax season for volunteers to work at these VITA sites, so please consider volunteering if you have an interest. VITA volunteers include a variety of individuals such as retirees, housewives, college students and professionals. There is also a need for volunteers who are bilingual in Spanish or Creole and teenage volunteers who are 16 or older may serve as greeters and earn community services hours.

For additional information on the program and volunteer opportunities, please contact Donna Pulda at the United Way of Palm County at 561-375-6621, or visit United Way of Palm Beach County’s Web site at

Saturday, December 27, 2008

City Meetings for January 2009

Rest and Relaxation

That's what the past few days have been about. This is the time of year that we all seem to take a breath and enjoy time with family and friends. We won't be having any city meetings until after the first of the year. In this down time, I have been preparing some items related to the beach and the new plan for the casino building. I'll be breaking them up into separate posts. One that I hope to get up tonight relates to the concepts of restoration, rehabilitation and re-construction. There are important distinctions between the three that seem to be getting lost in the discussion - and most likely on purpose. I will also be exploring the location of the casino building and the relationship of the property to the building. This will then lead into a look at setback issues and the Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL).

I've also separated out the posts related to the Dredge and Fill project - being put forth by the Town of Palm Beach which is being fought by the city and the Surfrider Foundation -under "Topics - Dredge and Fill." Now, the "Beach" topic will group posts related to the city's beach property - period. By the way, after the posts on Commissioner Jennings, the "Beach" topic is the area of this blog that gets the most hits. This verifies what we already know...that the beach is an important aspect of our city, part of our identity and a piece of property that people feel passionate about.

Anyway, I hope you continue to enjoy this holiday season. Remember you can e-mail me anytime with questions or ideas for topics. If you happen to catch anything in a picture that you think others may be interested in, you can forward that to me as well.

Thanks for visiting - Let's all hope for a great 2009 for the City of Lake Worth!

Friday, December 26, 2008

John G's competition - the Dune Deck at Lantana Beach

Click title for link Channel 5 video - tried to embed it but could not shut down auto-play.

Interesting that Commissioner Cara Jennings used this as an example of why the casino building at our beach should be set back 160 feet. Remember her elaborate and fear-mongering PowerPoint presentation about rising sea levels and beach erosion? Now she thinks it's o.k. to have the building 12 feet closer to the ocean. What gives Cara? Or, is it who gives?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Not quite South Florida, but...

Sunset Lawsuit - Denial of Rehearing by Fourth District Court of Appeal

It ain't over til it's over, but I finally think this means it is over. Let's hope everyone else feels the same way.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Favorite Seasonal Hymn - this time by harmonica...

Two CRA Items that received more than the usual amount of discussion...

At our CRA workshop meeting in November, we discussed the draft Transit Oriented Development report put together by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. The report looks at many aspects and demographic statistics in Lake Worth. As the discussion moved on during the evening, one of the members referred to the high percentage of renters in Lake Worth as compared with other communities and the impact that can have over the long term. In an off hand way, he compared their effect to that of "locusts."

At the time, I remember reacting - internally - with surprise that this board member would use that term. It was one that I wouldn't choose to use, but it did convey what he was thinking. It was his opinion, not the board's opinion. The meeting went on as normal after that.

At the next City Commission meeting, a point was made of this board member's reference to renters being like locusts. I was not at the meeting and have not heard that portion of the meeting, but I understand that the feeling was that the board member should make an apology at the least and that somehow this reflected poorly on the rest of the CRA board for not condemning the use of the term.

Personally, I have been a renter in Lake Worth longer than I have been an owner of property. I rented when I was first appointed to the Planning and Zoning board and earlier when I was part of the Leisure Services board. One of the things that I have liked about Lake Worth is that I have been able to enjoy living here and, as my circumstances changed, been able to find a home to own. So, for many people, renting serves a purpose and meets their housing needs without having the responsibilities and expenses associated with ownership. I think we do need to be aware of higher concentrations of rental properties in certain areas of the city and that we should do all that we can to encourage home ownership - so that we can act to avoid blight that sometimes results from absentee ownership of rental properties.

As far as what is said at City Commission, CRA and advisory board meetings, everyone needs to be cognizant that what they are saying when they are on such boards is part of the public record. And, this goes for those of the general public who partake in public discussion at the podium. There needs to be a sensitivity about the words that are said and the impact they may have on one or a group of people. The board member that made the comment, at our last meeting, acknowledged that it was a poor choice of words and apologized. So, with that, I hope that we can go on and the matter is put behind us.

As an aside, when I was chair of the Planning and Zoning board, I was fairly liberal in allowing what was said by board members and the public. One time, I remember being surprised by a board member that was telling a story about a neighbor - the subject of which was in front of the board at the time - and during the telling of the story used the word "m*****f*****" quoting what the neighbor had referred to the board member as being. That caused a stir and most couldn't believe that those words actually came out of that person's mouth, but we got over it.

The moral of the story: Speak carefully - love thy neighbor as thyself.

The next item that some in the community have talked about concerns the raise that was approved for the CRA executive director. The following is an answer to an e-mail from someone who asked for my reasons in voting for the salary increase.
What I can tell you is what went into my decision which led to my affirmative vote for the 10 percent increase. I don't speak for the entire board, however I will point out that the vote was 6-1 for the raise - the only dissenting vote was from Wayne Marcinkowski.

Personally, I am envious of anyone who is able to have a well-paying, secure job that can count on a substantial paycheck every two weeks. Working for myself as I do and having my job related in someway to real estate, times are difficult and payment from clients has slowed. Unfortunately, there are many others in the same boat as I find myself right now, or in worse condition - without a job, without a raise, threatened by layoffs, being foreclosed, etc., etc, etc.

But, that being said, that does not mean that we can't compensate someone appropriately when they are doing a great job and working on multiple projects, while keeping the board informed and involved on a daily and weekly basis. The main goal of the CRA is to reduce slum and blight by attracting investment and improving public infrastructure - all ways to stimulate the local economy, encourage job creation and private investment in areas within the CRA district. This happens over the long term. Our Executive Director is charged with many tasks - see attached progress report presented last week's meeting - and professionalism and continuity in the position is important if we want to see the kind of positive changes we need to see so that Lake Worth is a better place to live, work and play.

Joan Oliva has done a good job over the past year with the CRA - based upon my interaction with her, she is justified with the 10% raise that we granted - which includes a contract mandated cost of living increase of 4%. So, you can think of the 6% difference the portion that represents a "merit" increase. The budget reflected the potential of an increase in this ballpark.

A final consideration is that other CRAs in the area have larger staffs than the LW CRA and therefore our Executive Director is asked to do more - but is actually paid less than counterparts in other communities.

Was it a difficult decision to make? Yes, many decisions that you have to make on an appointed board are difficult and you are accountable for the decisions you make. I am comfortable that this decision was based on what was good for the long term administration of the CRA and the city as a whole.

I hope this answers your question.

Wes Blackman

FYI - I am working on a series of posts regarding the beach - some history, the new building, setbacks and process. Expect to see those coming here soon.

Stumbled upon this...

Click title for link to Wikipedia article on the S.S United States. This ship was the longest and fastest while serving a dual purpose - serving as a luxury passenger liner in peacetime and as a potential troop transporter in times of war. There were special "secret" elements designed into the ship for that, but was never used for military purposes. It was decommissioned in 1969 and has been in limbo ever since. It sits in a Philadelphia shipyard looking more and more forlorn with each passing year. Groups have formed to encourage its restoration. Interesting part of our nation's history which lacks the resources to be restored to its former grandeur.

Look for a PBS special that aired earlier this year called "A Lady in Waiting" - about the history of the ship and current status of restoration efforts.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

On-line utility payments...

I've used this feature on the City's website for the past couple of months since it was made possible. Once you're registered, you can track the amount of your bill over time, payment history, and other information - all without having to bother the surly folks at Lake Worth utility customer service.

I do have a small complaint. You are able to store debit/credit card information for use in the future - but even if you do that you must still enter the type of card, expiration date, your name and billing address - even though your credit card number is retained. You also have to re-enter your account number - something not memorized - each time if not prompted by your own browser.

I guess if this was our only problem, we would indeed be living in paradise. But, I do appreciate the convenience of on-line payment - even if it's not perfect.

Illuminating information from the City's website...

City Hall Closed
City Hall will be closed from noon - 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 23, 2008.
City Offices Closed
All City Offices will be closed Wednesday and Thursday, December 24 and 25, 2008, for the Christmas holiday and Thursday, January 1, 2009, for New Years Day.
What is the lunch hour closure about? Is this an organized holiday party of some sort for employees? Little information is given other than City Hall being closed for lunch hour on Tuesday.

Woman shot, man stabbed at Lake Worth party

According to Palenzuela, deputies were called at 10:04 p.m. to a 40 to 50-person party at 716 N. D St. where a fight had started when four or five men showed up uninvited.

Click for link to Brad Pitt's "Make it Right" - New Orleans Website

Friday, December 19, 2008

Reminders from the Florida Redevelopment Association...

A vacant building doesn’t become a thriving business overnight.

Affordable housing units don’t build themselves.
The revitalization and preservation of our communities doesn’t just
happen on its own…

It happens because of the efforts of the 141 active Community
Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs) throughout the state.

Think of where your city was just 10 years ago. The changes
and improvements you have seen are likely a result of the
planning and work of your local CRA.

The financial commitment put forth by a CRA attracts private
investors and creates a trickle-down effect in which a community
greatly benefits and the overall economic product is
greater than the original public investment.

A CRA creates a safer and cleaner urban environment, preserves
and grows businesses, and provides a place we can be proud of.
It serves as the catalyst for revitalization projects – working with
citizens for the community’s best interests, and sustaining the overall
vitality of the community.

Redevelopment will always be a priority in people’s minds.
Florida, a diverse and densely populated state, must continually
invest in the redevelopment of its urban areas, or blight will take
a foothold.

Click title for link to FRA web page.

Meteoric fireball seen over Palm Beach County


The word bolide comes from the Greek βολις, (bolis) which can mean a missile or to flash. The IAU has no official definition of bolide and generally considers the term synonymous with fireball. The term is more often used among geologists than astronomers where it means a very large impactor. For example, the USGS uses the term to mean a generic large crater-forming projectile "to imply that we do not know the precise nature of the impacting body ... whether it is a rocky or metallic asteroid, or an icy comet, for example".[7] Astronomers tend to use the term to mean an exceptionally bright fireball, particularly one that explodes (sometimes called a detonating fireball).

Click title for PB Post article.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

John D. MacArthur State Park vs. Downtown Lake Worth beach linkage

Distance from middle of parking area to beach area to the east about 1/2 mile.
Distance from middle of downtown to beach area to the east is about 3/4 mile.

Ponder this...

Some sort of building on the beach, wherever it may land with a sea of green, verdant, lush native landscape, getting rid of all (or most) of the parking lots, store vehicles in the downtown, encourage trolley, walking or biking to the beach.

Would better link the downtown with the beach, encourage commerce in the downtown, emphasize the "greeness" of Lake Worth, encourages fitness, shows commitment to alternative transportation, would open up additional possibilities for grants, foundation assistance.

Idea sent in e-mail to City Commission - 12/18/08.

I am reminded that the county requires that parking be provided in equal or greater numbers than what is there now, in exchange for their $5 million. Why can't that parking be dedicated to our beach, but physically exist in our downtown? I think it's worth discussion - even on a "what if?" basis - with the County.

Otherwise, we are "cementing" the fact that if you want to go to our beach for the next 20 years, we prefer that you drive a car there. Perhaps minimal parking there for transit vehicles, hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles. And then you would automatically be funneled through our downtown commercial district if you wanted to go to our beach - establishing a better economic link between the beach and the downtown.

Florida Attorney General Advisory Legal Opinion Number: AGO 2008-65 Date: December 10, 2008 Subject: Sunshine Law, use of online bulletin board

Ms. Terrill C. Pyburn
Attorney, City of Delray Beach
Office of the City Attorney
200 Northwest 1st Avenue
Delray Beach, Florida 33444

RE: MUNICIPALITIES – ADVISORY BOARDS – GOVERNMENT IN THE SUNSHINE LAW – MEETINGS – WORKSHOPS – BULLETIN BOARDS – COMPUTERS – INTERNET – use of on-line bulletin board for workshop meetings of municipal advisory board. s. 286.011, Fla. Stat.; Art. I, s. 24, Fla. Const.

Dear Ms. Pyburn:

On behalf of the City Commission of the City of Delray Beach, you have asked for my opinion on substantially the following question:

Would a task force or other city advisory board of the City of Delray Beach violate provisions of the Government in the Sunshine Law if workshop meetings were conducted using an on-line bulletin board?

According to your letter, the City of Delray Beach proposes to conduct on-line bulletin board-type workshop meetings through the Internet. You advise that the meetings will be conducted as follows:

• Meetings will be noticed as required by section 286.011, Florida Statutes.

• Meetings will last exactly two (2) hours and will allow board members and the public to share ideas about green buildings, recycling, and other "green" topics with the full discussion available to everyone "attending" the meeting.

• At the conclusion of each meeting, the bulletin board will be closed and no further posting or discussion will be allowed.

• Computers will be made available to the public at the city's public library. These computers will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis and there are fifty computers in the library.

• No voting will take place during these workshop meetings.

• The full text of all discussions will be archived as a public record by the city and will be available for inspection and copying.

The city's plan includes the use of two electronic bulletin boards, one for board members and one for the general public and both screens will be open at the same time. Board members will be able to post comments on the designated board and the public will likewise post comments on the bulletin board designated for public use and both screens will be viewable by all during the course of the "meeting." The bulletin boards will be equipped with a clock that will control the beginning and ending of the meeting and both the public and board member bulletin board will open and close at the same time.

Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law, section 286.011, Florida Statutes, ensures a right of access to government proceedings at the state and local levels.[1] The Sunshine Law was enacted in the public interest to protect the public from "closed door" politics and must be broadly construed to effect its remedial and protective purpose.[2]

A fundamental requirement of the Government in the Sunshine Law is that meetings of entities subject to the provisions of the Sunshine Law be "open to the public." "Open to the public," as that phrase is used in section 286.011, Florida Statutes, means open to all persons who choose to attend.[3] Further, Florida courts have held that the Sunshine Law extends to discussions and deliberations as well as formal actions taken by a public board or commission.[4] Thus, workshop meetings for advisory boards of the City of Delray Beach are subject to the requirements of section 286.011, Florida Statutes.

Although members of advisory boards of the city do not appear to be precluded from utilizing the Internet to conduct informal discussions, such discussions which are subject to the Sunshine Law must be accessible by the public.[5] These advisory groups must, therefore, ensure that access is provided to all members of the public who wish to attend such discussions.[6]

Access must be available not only to those members of the public possessing a computer with internet access, but also to those who may not have access to the Internet. As this office concluded in Attorney General Opinion 2001-66, places within the jurisdiction of the board must be designated where computers with internet access will be made available to members of the public who wish to participate in such discussions. The notice of these discussions, required under the Sunshine Law, should include the locations where such computers with Internet access will be located.

For meetings where a quorum is required, this office, in several formal and informal opinions[7] has stated that concerns about the validity of official actions taken by a public body when less than a quorum is present suggest a very conservative reading of the statute. This office has concluded that, in the absence of a statute to the contrary, the requisite number of members must be physically present at a meeting in order to constitute a quorum.[8] While a quorum is not required for a meeting to be subject to the Government in the Sunshine Law,[9] to the extent that any advisory body is required to have a quorum in order to conduct official business, it appears that the members of these bodies must, in the absence of a statute to the contrary, be physically present in order to constitute a quorum.[10]

In sum, it is my opinion that the Green Task Force of the City of Delray Beach and other city advisory boards may conduct informal discussions and workshops using an on-line bulletin board if proper notice is given and interactive access to members of the public is provided. As was stated in Attorney General Opinion 2001-66, such interactive access must include not only public access via the Internet, but also the designation of places within the task force's jurisdictional boundaries where computers with internet access is made available to members of the public who may not otherwise have computers with internet access. Notice of these workshops should include the locations where such computers will be available. For any meetings where a quorum is necessary for action to be taken, the physical presence of the members making up the quorum would be required in the absence of a statute providing otherwise.

I continue to be concerned however, that interested persons within the community who may not be comfortable with or familiar with the operation of a computer or who may have difficulty using a computer keyboard or are handicapped and need adaptive technology will be reluctant to participate in on-line discussions or workshops under the plan you have proposed. This office has stressed that a "chilling" of the rights of Florida citizens to participate in public meetings is unacceptable.[11] For this reason, the city should ensure that operating-type assistance is available at the library where the computers are located. The notice of this workshop meeting should advise that assistance will be available and should request that any handicapped participants notify the city so that special accommodations may be made to facilitate their participation in the workshop.

Finally, I would note that section 286.011(2), Florida Statutes, provides that "[t]he minutes of any . . . board or commission [subject to the Sunshine Law] shall be promptly recorded, and such records shall be open to public inspection." This office has opined that, while tape recorders may also be used to record the proceedings before a public body, written minutes of the meeting must be taken and promptly recorded.[12] The minutes that are required to be kept for "workshop" meetings are no different than those that the statute requires for any other meeting of a public board or commission.[13] Thus, while the Green Task Force may archive the full text of all workshop discussions conducted on the Internet and these materials would be public records pursuant to Chapter 119, Florida Statutes, written minutes of these workshops must also be prepared and promptly recorded.


Bill McCollum
Attorney General



[1] See also Art. I, s. 24, Fla. Const., providing a right of access to meetings of collegial public bodies. And see Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Company v. Magaha, 769 So. 2d 1012, 1021 (Fla. 2000), noting that the Sunshine Law "is of both constitutional and statutory dimension."

[2] See Wood v. Marston, 442 So. 2d 934, 938 (Fla. 1983); Canney v. Board of Public Instruction of Alachua County, 278 So. 2d 260 (Fla. 1973); Board of Public Instruction of Broward County v. Doran, 224 So. 2d 693 (Fla. 1969).

[3] See, e.g., Ops. Att'y Gen. Fla. 99-53 (1999) and 01-66 (2001).

[4] See Hough v. Stembridge, 278 So. 2d 288 (Fla. 3d DCA 1973) (Sunshine Law applies to any gathering, whether formal or casual, of two or more members of the same board or commission to discuss some matter upon which foreseeable action will be taken by the board or commission).

[5] See, e.g., Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 89-39 (1989), stating that a board of county commissioners may use a computer network in the course of conducting county business, but cautions that any discussions between the members of the board via computer on issues pending before the board would be subject to the provisions of
s. 286.011, Fla. Stat.

[6] See Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 01-66 (2001).

[7] See, e.g., Inf. Op. to John C. Randolph, dated November 24, 1997, and Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 01-66 (2001).

[8] See, e.g., Ops. Att'y Gen. Fla. 83-100 (1983), 89-39 (1989), and 01-66 (2001).

[9] See n.4, supra.

[10] See Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 98-28 (1998), recognizing that the authorization in
s. 120.54(5)(b)2., Fla. Stat., for the use of communications media technology to conduct meetings applied only to state agencies.

[11] See Inf. Op. to Campbell, February 8, 1999; and Inf. Op. to Nelson, May 19, 1980, in which this office indicated that luncheon meetings to conduct board or commission business may have a "chilling" effect on public willingness or desire to attend public meetings and should be avoided for that reason.

[12] See Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 75-45 (1975).

[13] See Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 74-62 (1974).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sun sets on Sunset? Should be in writing by Friday...

...I understand - on good authority - that a request for re-hearing on the Sunset/Save Our Neighborhood lawsuit is being denied. This is the end of line as it relates to the Sunset property lawsuit. Below is the first page of the motion put forth by Save Our Neighborhood and Betty Anderson.I'll post the final court document when released.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mr. Baldwin called me...

...and he agreed about the commute and how he really doesn't like it. However, he did take exception to my expressed perception that he doesn't put in full work week and that he is inaccessible. He says that since the beginning he has come in early and gone home late to avoid rush hour, but still puts in a very full week. He also said that you can call his secretary to set up an appointment and that he will see you. He offered me the opportunity to meet with him, which I appreciate. He is preparing a report to be made sometime in January that will detail all the improvements undertaken with staff and procedures since he has been here. He has not tried to do anything fancy, just trying to make the basics work - cutting checks, etc. I told him that customer service is still sorely lacking and that I haven't seen any improvement there, especially in the building and utilities customer service areas. I also mentioned the "lesson in hieroglyphics" calendar that was distributed regarding our trash collection schedule. In response to what I wrote, I said that it was a shot across the bow, but that my perception is shared by a lot of others.

The one thing that bothered me about the call was Mr. Baldwin saying that he thought that I was one of the good citizens. I told him that I still consider myself a good citizen.

The tone of the conservation was low key and non-confrontational.

Anyway, thanks for the call and I will take you up on your invitation.

Lauderhill inspector held on attempted bribery charges

Click title for link. Below is a direct press release from the Broward County Sheriff's Office (BSO):

BSO Case Number: BS08-12-03384
PIO Number: 08-12-27
Date: December 15, 2008
Time: 2:13 p.m. Jurisdiction: Broward County
Place of Occurrence: City of Lauderhill


  • State of Florida


  • Vito DiBenedetto, 53, male, 7/9/55, 5630 SW 55 St., Davie (IN CUSTODY)

Description of Incident:

Broward Sheriff's Office detectives have arrested a City of Lauderhill building inspector for seeking bribes from a contractor in Lauderhill.
According to investigators, 53-year-old Vito DiBenedetto on at least two occasions solicited bribes from a contractor performing work in the City of Lauderhill. The suspect arranged to meet the victim after hours at various locations in Broward County and asked the victim for payment in exchange for his influence and service as a building inspector for the City of Lauderhill. DiBenedetto told the victim that he knew what it took to get a permit issued. Between July and August, 2008, the suspect accepted two payments of $5,000 each from the victim. During these transactions, DiBenedetto wore a City of Lauderhill shirt and a gold badge that showed "Chief Building Inspector." Detectives learned the suspect is employed as a building inspector for the City of Lauderhill but is not the chief building inspector.
On December 12, 2008, DiBenedetto contacted the victim again and sought payments of $10,000 for inspections. The victim contacted investigators and arranged a meeting with the suspect to take place on December 15. Detectives observed DiBenedetto accept the cash and took him into custody. The suspect admitted to taking the payments and said the payments were for a consulting fee.
DiBenedetto was booked into BSO's Main Jail. He faces charges of bribery, extortion by a state officer and unlawful compensation by a public official.
BSO detectives are continuing with their investigation and believe there may be more victims. Investigators are asking that anyone who may have been victimized by DiBenedetto to contact Det. Brad Stephenson at 954-888-5319.
MEDIA NOTE: A photo of the suspect is attached to this news release at
INVESTIGATORS: Det. B. Stephenson, Det. M. Brimm, SID
THIS REPORT BY: Alesia Russell/PIO 12/16/08 1500

City Manager's Commute - Carbon Footprint

Assuming a 45 mile trip one way (conservative estimate)

Your 90 mile car commute generates 109.8 pounds of carbon dioxide.

To offset all that carbon, you'd need to plant a tree every 2 days, or 158 trees per year.

Or about 28.5 tons after two years.

Click here for website with carbon calculator

Click title for a link to the Kyoto Protocol document.

Well, I'll be...

It turns out that there is back-up for the City Manager's item on tonight's City Commission agenda. Basically, Mr. Baldwin is offering us a fine farewell, explains again why he didn't want the job in the first place and offers to stay on through the search for a new City Manager. Unfortunately, since he really didn't want to be here anyway, we had to pay for a lot more than what we got - my opinion.

And just how did we end up with what turns out to be a City Manager with one of the larger carbon footprints possible? Kyoto Protocol anyone? Care to comment Commissioner Cara Jennings? How many tons of carbon in the atmosphere does 750 hours of commuting in a single passenger automobile amount to?

Interesting discussion on the last page (Minutes from June) regarding decorum at meetings which precedes mention of the City Manager's contract.

Monday, December 15, 2008

County Offering Free Six-Week Course on Neighborhood Revitalization

Palm Beach County's Office of Community Revitalization (OCR) is proud to once again offer, the Resident Education to Action Program (REAP), a six-week, hands-on educational program providing community revitalization and civic leadership development. This educational program is intended to help residents who are interested in improving their neighborhoods. The theme this year is �Unity in the Community!
Resident Education to Action Program (REAP) supports the formation of neighborhood associations and empowers residents to seek a better quality of life. Through this course, residents will gain knowledge of innovative ways to solve neighborhood issues. Course topics will be: Successful Neighborhood Revitalization; Approaches to Community Organizing and Strengthening; Sustaining Neighborhood Economics; Project Safe Neighborhood; Building Healthy Neighborhoods; Civic Engagement: A Call to Action. Residents will also be provided an overview on OCR's programs and initiatives as well as learn more about county government, community resources and services that are available for neighborhood improvements.
One mission of REAP is to provide an opportunity for the residents of Palm Beach County to acquire a greater knowledge of and appreciation for government through active participation in the process. Residents will perform a mock commission meeting and showcase their strategies to local county and city officials.
Participants will be given the opportunity to apply for a grant through the America's Next Top Neighborhood Award Grant Program. Participants will also complete a community service project.
Sessions are facilitated using a variety of innovative techniques including group activities, lectures, guest speakers, individual outside work and oral presentations. The course and all materials are free but a commitment for the entire six-week course is required. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
To register for REAP or for additional information regarding the program, please visit our website at or contact LaToya Ricketts, REAP Coordinator at (561) 233-5239 or
WHO: Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization (OCR)
WHAT: Resident Education to Action Program (REAP)
THEME: Unity in the Community!�
WHEN: January 22 to April 21, 2009
WHERE: Western Palm Beach County
January 22 to February 26, 2009
6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Palm Beach Community College
1977 College Drive, Belle Glade, FL 33430
Central Palm Beach County
March 17 to April 21, 2009
6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Palm Beach County Vista Center
2300 North Jog Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33411

Press Release: 4th Annual Festival of Trees - Lake Worth

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pete Carroll - USC Head Coach - Confronts Gang Violence

60 minutes had a segment tonight on Pete Carroll, USC football head coach. He goes into the worst areas of Los Angeles where gangs rule and attempts to give another vision to those who might be victims of violence. Here is one piece from 2004 by ESPN:

Click on title for link to the "A Better L.A." website.

Click here for April 2008 L.A. Times article.

Here is the full 60 Minutes piece that aired tonight:

Watch CBS Videos Online

More Video from the 2008 Holiday Parade

Love the horses!

Another view of Santa and Mrs. Claus!

Item on coming Commission Meeting agenda - 12/16 re City Manager

Long expected item appears under New Business on the next City Commission agenda. For the past almost two years, our City Manager has been one that you could term either "drive by" or "drive through" - pick your favorite term. Commissioner Golden negotiated - if you can call it that - his contract to a point that it turned out to be the wish list of every City Manager - come and go as you please, no need to answer phones or e-mails, get paid big bucks, have other people do the work and take the heat for you and essentially pick and choose the time you want to leave being employed by the city of Lake Worth. Those in the know knew that he was "only good through the election." Now, with the new Commission in place, the time for getting out has come.

Of course, the back-up on this item is non-existent. I doubt that there is some new information due by next Tuesday regarding the matter - why the secrecy? Who will be the interim while a search is conducted? They will be conducting a search won't they? Or, is the decision already made? Will this City Manager be a part of this community, be accessible and responsive? Before I thought it was a workable situation to have a City Manager that doesn't live here. No more.

Mr. Baldwin's stay here - if you can call it that - changed my mind.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Deerfield Beach mayor turns self in, faces felony charge

Resulting from voting for, and being paid as an engineer, on the same project - without declaring a conflict of interest.

One example of a City's Newsletter...

Notice the legibility of this newsletter. I'm not a fan of the green and red theme, but you can read it.

Our third large container arrived today - Recycling

When I went for coffee this morning, I noticed that my blue and yellow recycling bins were gone - someone took them. I thought that was odd. Later, the above containers were distributed up and down the street. Apparently, this is for everything that is recyclable. We now have a third large container to store and attempt to hide. Oh, and did the city announce this? I didn't see it mentioned in the all-knowing calender.

Sometimes it seems like...

Chat with neighbor...

Yesterday, coming back from walking the dogs, my neighbor came out his front door with his golf clubs and headed for his car. It was just starting to rain and I asked him if he thought he'd be able to get a game in before it really rained. He looked at the darkening clouds and said he thought so. I asked him where he plays. He said he just took up the game a couple of months ago. He likes to go to the Forest Hill (WPB) course, a course in Lantana and Okeeheelee.

Then I asked if he goes to the Lake Worth golf course. He said, emphatically, "No!" I asked why that was. He said it's too expensive, the greens are bad and it's not as nice as the others. He really likes the Lantana course. He said it's about $15 cheaper to play there and the course is in great shape.

Of course, this is just one person and his opinion, but how often is this played out amongst our own residents? Is this another instance where we are sending people outside the city limits - this time to meet their recreational needs?

Roads in Lake Worth to close on Saturday for parade

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Quick notes from last night's presentation and City Commission meeting re Casino Building and Beach

These are from notes taken during the meeting. More discussion and analysis later.
  • Structural report included more invasive process to determine building condition. Found that the building needs work, but not in risk of failure.
  • Straticon felt that building official was correct in making the call to condemn the building based on other reports as it was a public building. Spalling concrete could fall and cause injury.
  • Design would entail extending retail spaces 12 ft. to the east and consume area taken up by walkway/overhang.
  • New colonnade would be built east in a style similar to that of the original building.
  • Center pass-through would provide access to western area and new patio.
  • Ballroom would be expanded to twice the current size. Second floor north of center of building does not exist now.
  • New gable roof would be added where flat roof exists now. Allows for greater ceiling height than present.
  • Open air patio 360 degrees around second floor.
  • Straticon thought that historic designation was possible. (I am not sure about that as this is more of a reconstruction than a restoration - my opinion)
  • LEED certification possible but vague on level that could be achieved. Sounded like certification would be due to location more than other factors or building techniques.
  • Estimate for building only would be just short of $10 million and would include locker room building.
  • Site work not included.
  • Total of 50,000 sq. ft (waiting for confirmation of this figure).
  • Building would be gutted. All new mechanical, electrical and plumbing.
  • Construction would be phased. Tenants moved around during construction.
  • Predicted 12 to 14 month construction period (wildly optimistic in my opinion)
  • Commissioner Jennings brought up a local hiring requirement (labor center?)
  • Building life estimated at 20 years before additional work needed. On-going maintenance essential.
  • Parking structure not addressed.
  • Design/build approach to construction.
Please post comment for corrections if you attended meeting and I am in error re any of the above.

Click title for link to audio of meeting.

South Florida Blade re WPB bar owner found dead outside Ocala

Article by yours truly - click title for link.

"New" Casino Building Schematic and Narrative

Notice John G's new western open air dining area.

These are views of what was distributed last night by Straticon and company.

Town of Palm Beach - New Board formed - Shore Protection - Meeting 12/17

Lake Worth votes to research restoring casino building

View of "New" Casino Building

This is what was presented to the City Commission last night at the special meeting. Total estimated cost $10,000,000 - building only. Much more later. Lots of questions needing answers.

Trying to keep an open mind.

Here is a brief clip from the meeting. The Mayor is difficult to hear - no fault of the recording equipment.

The Mayor is musing about whether the City can just give the contract to Straticon and what the bidding requirements are. At the end of this clip, he is approached by someone who responded to the RFP two years ago. It made me realize that if the City doesn't follow the CCNA rules (State law regulating procurement of professional services) - we could also face legal claims from those that were excluded from submitting a proposal. By the end of the discussion - after Commissioner Mulvehill complained about being bound by rules and procedures - they acted to follow legal procurement processes - but only after Mr. Baldwin reminded them that laws should be followed. Mr. Karns (City Attorney) was little help.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

City Commission Special Meeting - Casino Building - 12/10

Notice this is a special meeting - they can take action. It is not a workshop.

Holiday Stroll Downtown Lake Worth Dec. 13th 6pm-9pm

For a more global perspective....

Click title for link to a series of satellite imagery.

CRA Meeting Agenda - Tonight - 12/9

Click title for link to back-up material. Let me know if you need copies of the proposals received in response to Request for Letters of Intent - or you can call or go to the CRA office.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Prime examples of the poor way in which the City of Lake Worth communicates with its citizens...

In stark contrast to the example provided by Punta Gorda, Florida, here are just two recent examples of poor, expensive and confusing messages/images put out by our City "organ."

First of all, here is a copy of our Fall 2008 City of Lake Worth Newsletter. Apparently the City Commission thinks it's only necessary to communicate formally four times a year with the residents. When they do this, they chose to send out this "City Times" printed on glossy, heavy stock paper. I assume that it was sent out, but since I didn't get one through my mailbox (this one I picked up at City Hall) I can't attest to that for sure.

The first page consists of a recreation department schedule and an announcement of the new director and assistant. We read that we can expect great things from this new team. Hmmm.

And on the second and third pages, we have barely comprehensible type that is printed over a patch of pumpkins. The Summer edition of "City Times" had hurricane and other information printed over dark gray palm trees fighting the wind. This version is only moderately more readable.For another example of this dark print on dark background phenomena, check out the City's "Mission Statement" at any of a number of customer service portals in the city. How unfortunately predictable it is that the City's "Mission Statement" is unreadable!

The third page has an article about the change in yard waste and larger household goods pick-up that was the subject of an elaborate, heavy stock calendar. More on that publication later in this post. But at least here, we have the benefit of having the only useful piece of information of that calendar - the map that showed what days pick-up would be done around the city.

And here we have the fourth page which is white space and has numbers you can call for city departments.How many of these were printed and at what cost? Is this really seen as an effective way to communicate with the citizenry?

About a month ago, two guys in a city truck went around with a yellow (for our area of town) slip that was stuck to our front doors. It announced a change in yard and household white goods pick-up to alternating weeks. The slip said that this change would be explained further in a calendar that will be available to everyone. A couple days pass and the same two guys in the truck came by and delivered this 16+ page, spiral bound, heavy and shiny stock calendar.

How are these publications abiding by the Mayor's Climate Control Task Force recommendations? By the way, the CRA sent out its annual report on post consumer recycled paper, printed with soy-based inks.

Here is the cover of the calendar:

Here is December and it is about as clear as mud when to put out your stuff if you only refer to this. This caused a lot of confusion in my neighborhood the day it was implemented - on a Friday. People put everything out - regular garbage, large pick-up items, recycling. I am happy to report that after about a month into it, people realize that our regular household pick-up didn't change from Monday and Thursday.

Buried in the calendar is this page which better explains what is happening with the 4 day pick-up schedule - but it is opposite June 2009! If we don't have it down by then, then we have real problems.

The most useful piece of this publication was the hard to find pull out map on the back page of the calendar. This is the one I mentioned above.

Again, what did this cost, how many were printed and why make it so confusing? Does anyone really care about environmental impacts or are we just "green washing?"

Still on the subject of communication, Chairman of the CRA Mark Rickards mentioned that he talked to the Mayor during board member comments at the end of one the CRA's recent meetings. The Mayor inquired about the CRA funding a public relations/public information officer along with the City in order to get the word out about City activities and policies on a consistent and reliable basis. I thought it was a great idea but was concerned about spending CRA for general city functions. It was left that someone would look into the details and get back to the board with some answers. Just last week, I hadn't heard anything about what was found out so I inquired. The answer came indirectly from a "highly placed" person in the City Manager's office who said that the Commission gave that contract out to "Politically Correct". Apparently the City's lobbyist will be doing the on-going public information from now on from the City. Has anyone detected a change?

I'll make a few more calls tomorrow.

The only constant is change...

This time, Lake Worth works

Another editorial penned by one of the occupants of the cozy, paneled, corner offices at the Palm Beach Post. This time it's about the Day Labor Center - at least they call it what it is. And they didn't even mention Commissioner Cara Jennings and her latest act of contrition. But I guess the time for aggrandizing her has passed, for the moment.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Follow-up from friend that sent "Weekly Report" from their city...

"The guy that sends this to us it is our own commissioner, famous for his efforts to mitigate early morning golf course noise in and around the city:). The document itself is created by city staffers from data provided by the various city departments for the purpose of public distribution.

It’s funny, I wouldn’t know any of this stuff was going on around here unless I read this each weekly letter – really gives the citizenry a feel for what their elected officials and tax dollars are doing for them. That whole communications things is really underrated!"