Saturday, March 1, 2008

City Commission Retreat - Part I

These pictures are from the City Commission Retreat held today at City Hall. Each Commissioner and the Mayor gave what they thought their top five priorities were for the next year. Those were discussed and then they ranked each of their goals. It will take some work, but I will delve into my notes and put together my take on the session in a future post - lots of notes to go through.

The pictures of the boards contain the un-prioritized list of goals and focus areas. I will share their top 15 list in the next post.

Last Lecture...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Information Distributed by the American Planning Association - Florida Chapter

Florida Communities Trust, the state's premier program for helping local communities preserve parks and recreational space, opened its 2008 Florida Forever grant funding cycle on February 22, 2008. Cities, counties and non-profit environmental organizations may submit applications for grants through May 7. The Trust's Governing Board will determine which projects will receive funding during a selection meeting in September. A series of application workshops were scheduled through February and March around the state, with two remaining. One is scheduled for March 4th at the Northeast Florida Regional Planning Council in Jacksonville and the other will be held on March 6th at DCA in Tallahassee. The workshops run from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM EST. For more information about these workshops or the application process, visit

The Florida Energy Commission is charged with developing recommendations for legislation to establish a state energy policy and submitted its report to the Legislature on December 31, 2007. The Commission's division of work into four advisory groups resulted in the Commission adopting 85 recommendations. Those recommendations have been generally grouped into the following policy goals in the report: Restructuring the State Governance for Developing Florida's Energy Policies and Programs; Responding to the Challenges of Global Climate Change;
Increasing Florida's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Efforts; Maximizing Florida's Development of Renewable Energy Resources; Strengthening Florida's Energy Supply and Delivery Infrastructure; Enhancing Florida's Energy-Related Education, Research and Development Programs; and Developing Issues for the FEC's 2008 Report. To view the report and its recommendations in its entirety, go to .

In January, 2008, the House Committee on Agribusiness completed an interim report on the conservation and preservation of agricultural lands in Florida. The purpose of the interim project was threefold: to gather data and information as to the amount of agricultural lands in the state that are as yet undeveloped; to assess the rate at which such lands are being converted to residential, commercial and industrial uses; and to examine and evaluate the effectiveness of current legal mechanisms for preserving lands in agricultural uses. The research conducted for this report suggests a need for the protection of Florida's agricultural lands that is recognized by numerous persons and groups, not just those involved in agriculture. It concludes that a healthy, viable agricultural industry is critical to Florida's economy, and identifies a number of policy options for protecting these lands. The report can be viewed at http// of Agricultural Lands.pdf.


DCA recently released its 2007 Affordable Housing Report, "Solutions to Florida's Affordable Housing Needs". As part of this undertaking, applicable housing-related portions of Chapter 163, Part II, Florida Statutes (F.S.), and Rule 9J-5, Florida Administrative Code
(F.A.C.), were reviewed and asssessed to determine their effectiveness. Further, the review evaluated applicable portions of the Adequate Housing Rule of Chapter 380, Part I, F.S., and Rule 9J-2, F.A.C., to determine their effectiveness in identifying and mitigating regional, affordable housing impacts. The findings outlined in the report indicate that Housing Elements of local government comprehensive plans could be modified in eight specific areas to improve the ability of local government to meet affordable housing needs. Local governments, housing organizations, and affordable housing developers have access to numerous federal, state, and local programs to fund affordable housing; however, the coordination between the program requirements and the Housing Element could be improved. Local incentives for affordable housing, such as expedited permitting, density bonuses, development fee waivers, can enhance the provision of affordable housing, but additional training regarding these tools,specifically for the Local Housing Advisory Committees of the State Housing Initiative Partnership Program, should be explored. To read all the findings, go to .

Released in September 2007, this study was conducted for the American Public Transportation Association. The role of public transportation in terms of net carbon dioxide savings, favorable land use impacts that result in positive environmental and social benefits, and individual household savings were among the issues studied. Report findings conclude that public transportation is a highly valuable asset for reducing global warning. In 2005, public transportation reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 6.9 million metric tons. Furthermore, investments in public transportation have the benefit of supporting higher density landuses that allow for fewer vehicle miles of travel. While it is difficult to precisely measure this impact, a number of studies have attempted to estimate the relationship between transit passenger miles and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction as a proxy for this effect. The results range from a reduction in VMT of between 1.4 miles and 9 miles for every transit passenger mile traveled. The outcome would be more efficient use of roadways, reduced road maintenance, shorter highway commute times and reduced need for street and off- street parking. Go to to view this report.


The House Committee on Tourism and Trade report,

2007 Report on Florida's Tourist-Related Taxes, is a valuable tool for Legislators, local governments, and citizens in understanding the state's local option tourist-related taxes and how they are used at the local level. It is a comprehensive report on the history of the taxes; a detailed description of the taxes, including which counties levy taxes for specific purposes; and, a 10-year-to-date history of the use of these taxes by each county. The report also includes data on the comparison of tourism taxes collected at the local level to the overall sales tax collection. The report can be viewed at

Conducted by the House Committee on Urban and Local Affairs, this project researches and updates the current law for, the current number of, the taxation and special assessment authority of, the monitoring of and reporting by, and recent legislation for special districts in Florida. The project also includes research into other state laws related to special districts for comparison purposes. Further, the report describes issues that arose during the project research and presents options for possible changes. Released in January 2008, the report can be viewed at .

The purpose of this January 2008 interim report by the House Committee on Conservation & State Lands is to assist members in evaluating current state lands use policies and practices and to provide policy options to improve the management of state lands. The interim report also is intended to assist members who may develop legislation for a Florida Forever successor program by developing policies options for such a program with an emphasis on the role of land management in the acquisition decisions and long-term land management. The state currently manages over 3.7 million acres of conservation land at a management cost of approximately $220 million annually. As the state acquires more conservation land, these costs will increase, as will the need to effectively manage these lands and track, and report performance. However, the current management system is decentralized among three agencies, and the existing accountability system needs improvement. The report presents four policy options for the legislature to consider. These options include maintaining the current system of conservation land management by three separate state agencies; creating a council to ccoordinate and oversee land management activities ; centralizing land management activities under one state agency; and centralizing all land management activities under a new entity. The full report can be viewed at Lands Acquisition and Management.pdf

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Op-Ed Piece - Lake Worth Herald - 2/28

After the actions of the past two weeks concerning the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), it becomes obvious that the great ship S.S. City of Lake Worth is now going at full speed – only in the wrong direction. Why do I say this? Ever since the new Commission was seated in April of last year, we have witnessed the eroding of the opportunity for public input and engagement. Instead, the Commission has made systematic efforts to restrain public comment and citizen involvement in the governing of our city. When the limited opportunities for public comment are offered, they are in controlled and condensed three minute packages that might deal with five or more items. When a commissioner or the Mayor wants something to go their way, rules are overlooked and normal informative conversation with those who might be affected by those rushed decisions are only made aware of the discussion at the last minute, if at all.

One of the first actions taken by the new Commission was the reformatting of public comment during City Commission meetings. Instead of being allotted three minutes to discuss any given topic on the agenda after the Commission has already discussed the item, the Mayor and Commission now only allow public comment at the beginning of major headings on their agendas (e.g. Public Hearings, New Business, etc.) before they discuss the matter. Comment for consent agenda items is only allowed if “pulled” by our elected leaders – not if the public has a question on an item.

This does many things that make public input difficult. One is that you have to get everything out there you think you need to cover since you have no real idea what the general direction of the commission is on that item. You also have to budget your time between various items under that major agenda heading. There might be five items you want touch on, but all those items have to be squeezed into the allotted three minutes.

In their defense, the Commission did move up “Public Participation on Non-Agendaed Items” to a position that comes earlier in the agenda, but comment is still limited to three minutes. The Mayor, who is charged with running the meeting, has the responsibility to inform the public about how the meeting works. At the last Commission meeting, some people who do not normally attend Commission meetings turned to me and asked when they could speak on an issue. I explained the system to them and they suddenly realized that they had already missed their opportunity since the public participation section had passed. They left the building disappointed by not having the opportunity to be heard by their elected representatives.

The Commission also steadily eliminated opportunities for citizens to serve in a volunteer capacity on advisory boards. In the past year, the Mayor and the Commission eliminated the following boards: Ad Hoc Committee, Affordable Housing Task Force, Stakeholders Advisory Committee, and Community Improvement Committee. Now, for a number of reasons and following their already established pattern, the Commission has reduced a former autonomous appointed board – the CRA – into an advisory board.

Without going into a great amount of detail, let’s review how this demotion happened. Few that are active in city politics would argue that the CRA was not a target for
Commission take-over. Even as it completed one of its most ambitious projects ever (on-time and under budget), you could hear the sabers rattling during the last election and the under-current had been growing ever since. What did our Mayor due in response to this murmuring discontent? Very little – he allowed this crisis to happen. As former Chairman of the CRA, he of all people should have been carrying the banner for the CRA, informing the four commissioners and the public about the actions of the CRA and solicit their input on the CRA’s actions. Our Mayor could have led in the form of educating the public and calling for a joint meeting with the CRA since he was elected. Instead, he allowed public discontent to fester with a reduced amount of opportunities to let off steam and hear what the citizen’s real concerns were.

What was going to be a simple request to advertise for volunteers for vacant positions on the CRA (Consent Agenda Item J – Feb. 5 meeting) turned into a special meeting on whether the already over-burdened city commission take on the duties of the CRA. This would amount to yet another responsibility beyond their $136 million all funds budget and the host of problems faced by our residents. After the special meeting, one left with the impression the commission effectively halted a controversial CRA project, would hold a special meeting specifically on that project and give the CRA more direction as to goals and priorities. This outcome had merit and involved the members of the CRA board and its Chairman.

But, no, that was not to be. At the next regular city commission meeting, Commissioner Golden (who ran on the slogan, “I will have people talking to each other again.”), asked that this item be brought up again and that the takeover of CRA responsibilities be voted on again. Granted, the Mayor played a role in this with the cavalier manner in which he ran the meeting the week before concerning the same subject. But, no one from the CRA was notified of this 11th hour potential addition to the agenda.

The point is that we are fortunate to be a city with talented residents. Do you think that all the answers to the city’s major problems lay at the hands of these five elected representatives? I do not. We have to encourage public participation at all levels. This includes a reasonable opportunity for public input during public meetings. We must revamp our public participation system – it is broken! We need to empower boards to review issue details and make recommendations to the commission. Lastly, we ought to be encouraging talented people in our community to contribute their time in the form of service on appointed boards. Beating them over the heads for decisions made after the fact is no way to encourage more participation in our local government.

What the great ship S.S. City of Lake Worth is begging for is a call from the captain saying, “All hands on deck!” Blind-siding members of appointed boards and restricting public comment amounts to sailing the ship in the wrong direction.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Truth Matters Show Tonight

I hope you'll be able to join Greg Vannier and me for another edition of "Truth Matters". The show begins at 8 p.m. You can click here for the associated comment/question thread on the Lake Worth Talk message board. And click here for the link to the show in progress. At this point, I am not sure what all our discussion will cover so please - join in - help guide our chat about things Lake Worth.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lake Worth Street Painting Festival Slideshow

This is my first attempt with this kind of slideshow. If you want to see a larger, full screen version (recommended), you can click on the picture or click on the link by my picture in the lower left hand corner of the frame. That will open up another window and you can go through the show manually by clicking on the forward or backward arrows. If you click on "Slideshow" on the right side of that page, it will take you to "full screen mode". You can then adjust the speed to your liking as well.

Have fun! It was a great day to be in Lake Worth!

Headed Down to the Street Painting Festival

I plan to get out of the house around 11 today. I'll walk around and take some pictures that you'll see here later. If you're downtown this afternoon, come visit me at the beer tent where I am volunteering for Lake Worth Kiwanis. Should be a great time!

Prediction: Cara Jennings will run again.

Click here for story.