Saturday, April 12, 2008

CRA Commercial Enhancement/Facade Grant Program

This annual program funded by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) appeared on their last Tuesday night's agenda. You can see the agenda below and related back-up material. There were exhibits with the actual packets, but those exhibits (probably plans and diagrams of the proposed improvements, along with cost estimates) weren't included in the on-line back-up.

I have been to CRA meetings in years previous where there were many applicants for this grant money. It is designed to encouraged new and existing businesses to improve the exterior of the properties. Of course, these properties have to lie within the CRA district. To be done so that additional future money is leveraged (meaning that this grant money should be part of other private money in the project), the project has to be one that takes place in the future. One of the four applicants for this year's program (according to the back-up material) was looking for grant money to pay for an already completed project. Rightly, the CRA staff rejected consideration of that application.

It's interesting to note that the CRA budgeted a total of $175,000 for this program for this fiscal year (2007/2008). The total amount requested by the three applicants was around $70,000. $25,000 is the maximum grant. So, according to the current CRA budget, they could have approved 7 or more separate projects depending on whether all had asked for the maximum amount. Acting Tuesday, the CRA chose to grant money to only one of the projects - The one put forward by Paradiso Restaurant on Lucerne Avenue. The vote was 4-0 (there are currently three vacancies on the seven member board) to approve that request. The same 4-0 vote turned down the other two requests.

As a result, there is additional money left in the budget that could fund other projects, perhaps with a slightly different focus or target. This is suggested at the end of the back-up memorandum.

Now, let's talk a little about the projects. This may surprise you, but had I been on the board I would have wanted the money to go to the two projects that were turned down - Rotelli's and the Gallo building, and not to Paradiso.

Regarding Rotelli's, when you walk or drive by their eastern wall along K Street, check out the condition of the marble fascia material. This was a big issue when Darrin Engle was here and, on an advisory basis, he told the Planning and Zoning Historic Resource Preservation Board that Rotelli's had wanted to change it to a more modern material since they thought the existing looked dog-earred and second rate. Something that in hindsight I agree with, but the board at the time chose to support Darrin's direction. to preserve the existing facade as it was a "book-matched marble veneer that was typical of the period that the building was built. The "honing" of the fascia that Darrin suggested never took place, along with the recommended replacement of damaged pieces.

Apparently, now they were looking at porcelain tiles over the existing material and that might have significantly improved the appearance of their facade, at a critical intersection in our downtown. However, there was a technicality in that CRA money from the same program was used in the original work from only two years ago. The CRA has a limit that the same properties cannot be funded within a three year period. If this is the case, this project shouldn't have even been considered and should have been treated similarly to the application that was discarded without coming to the board. I do think that there was justification for waiving that parameter in this case. But the decision has been made to deny funding.

With the Gallo Building and property, perhaps one of the more "homely" buildings in the City (I'll try to remember to get a picture when I am out and about), I think there was great justification in allocating grant money to this project. This is especially true considering the substantial sums that are about to be invested in our city in the form of the Hammon Park project. But that project went unfunded.

There are those that continue to moan and complain about the existence of the CRA and see it as a wasteful program. These people point to the granting of $25,000 to Paradiso as an example of a project that probably didn't need the help, as it is one of the more expensive and successful restaurants within our downtown. I am not sure how needy this project was and that weighs heavily in my opinion. Let's hope that what they are proposing is a worthy addition to the fabric of our downtown and that the money did indeed induce other investment capital.

CRA's around the state of Florida and the nation play a key role in the upgrading of public infrastructure and the inducement of private investment. This is something that is critically needed in our community. They are also an independent board, with the City Commission appointing individual members. After the stew related to the Pugh property (the plug has been officially pulled, by the way), there needs to be more conversation between the City Commission and the CRA in the future. Let's hope we learned from this ordeal and that we can move on to more productive pursuits.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Treat:: Favorite ABBA Song

Announcement from City: Notice to Alter Water Chlorination Process

In accordance with a program recommended by the Palm Beach County Health Department, the City's water chlorination methods will be temporarily changed for two weeks from April 13, 2008 through April 27, 2008. The City will accomplish this strictly precautionary measure to ensure our water supply remains free of bacteria.

Starting April 13, a "free chlorine" water treatment method will be used to provide a somewhat stronger disinfection process than the "combined chlorine" treatment which is normally used. The City will revert back to the "combined chlorine" method on April 27, 2008.

City of Lake Worth and their Consecutive Systems water utility customers including John Prince Park, Seminole Manor and Aqua Utilities of Florida may notice a slight chlorine taste or odor in the tap water during this period; however, these temporary conditions will not cause any adverse health effects. Tropical fish tank owners, hospitals and residents with pools should be aware of the chlorination changes and make adjustments accordingly. Any questions should be directed to the City of Lake Worth Water Treatment Plant (561) 586-1710.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Interesting Links re In-Fill Development; Concept of "Co-Housing"

Here are a series of links that you may find worthwhile. The main one is from a neighborhood activist talking about the impact of in-fill development on existing single family home communities. These are neighborhoods typically built for the automobile dominated culture of the 50s and 60s - pre-energy crisis. It talks about the benefits and the pitfalls of increased density. Here is the link.

Click here and you will be taken to a site that reviews a design competition for "in-fill" redevelopment. You can see the entries, winners and losers, etc. You'll get a sense of some of the issues involved.

Sort of Orwellian, you might want to check out the concept of "Bicycle City" - click here for the link. I don't see anything that relates to existing communities adopting the concepts - it looks to be directed at new town planning. In many ways, Lake Worth is close to being a bicycle city already.

The following "trailer" is an introduction to a CD that is available on the topic of co-housing. Click here for link. Co-housing has made some strides in Europe, but has trouble getting a foothold here in the U.S. Independent Americans have problems with the notion of sharing a public common space and shared childcare as part of their residence. Think of a dorm for "grown-ups" with kids - individual dwelling areas linked by eating, child care and recreation spaces. Not suggesting anything like that here for our situation, but it's worth noting as a trend.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Songs I Sing...

This is a new web gizmo from I chose a selection of songs that I perform. You might be surprised at a few of them.

Remember, you can participate at Club A.J., South J Street on Wednesday nights from 9 to 12. Hope to see you there!

Jim Stafford Announces Candidacy for Commissioner - District #2

Jim and Gina Stafford with Vincent and J.R.

A nice group of supporters joined Jim Stafford and his family at the Northwest Ballfields last Saturday to hear his announcement to run for the District #2 Commission seat. Many followers of this blog might know Jim already as he is the owner and operator of, Inc., which is home of the Lake Worth Talk discussion board. It's also the means by which I do my Truth Matters show. Jim, Gina, J.R. and Vincent are good friends of mine and, as previewed before here, I will be his campaign manager. I am sure that as you get to know him better, working up to the November election, you will find him to be an intelligent and compassionate individual who knows and loves our community.

If you grab tomorrow's Lake Worth Herald, you will see Jim on the front page along with an accompanying article. Below is what was sent to the Herald as a description of what happened on Saturday.

Jim has also started a campaign website with some of his positions and more information on his background. This will be continually added to throughout the campaign, so check the website frequently. You can access it by clicking here.

"Public parks are one of Lake Worth's greatest public resources" - Jim Stafford, Candidate for City Commissioner, District #2

Jim Stafford said, "What does it say about the City and the value that we place on the importance of our young that we would allow our parks to be so poorly maintained? That's why I chose to announce my candidacy for the District #2 Commission seat at the Northwest Ballfields. My family and I live two blocks away from this park - it's essentially in my backyard. I want to shine a spotlight on some of the dangerous and blighted conditions we have allowed to persist. I am disappointed that the current District #2 Commissioner and the City's administration have not addressed these issues. This is one of the major reasons why I decided to run."

Jim Stafford and a group of his supporters took pictures of the conditions on Saturday that will be released in a multimedia format later in the week.

Political Advertisement Paid for and Approved by Jim Stafford for City Commissioner, District #2

Here are a few pictures that we took as we toured the facilities. Some of the conditions amount to "attractive nuisances" for which the City is responsible and, ultimately if there is an injury or worse, liable. Again, expect a You Tube style video showing more of the ballfield's blighted conditions. Expect more video releases spotlighting other critical City issues leading up to the big day!

Everyone got in the act - including the canines that dropped by. Here's "Kayla" wearing the first t-shirt of the campaign season!

Part of the assemblage of supporters on a beautiful Lake Worth day!

Interior of one of the main buildings found on the southside of Worthmore Avenue. Note the water damage and the lack of order. This is also a building that had an unlocked door. Evidence there pointed to it being used as impromptu shelter or a locale for nefarious activity. More on the coming video.

This building, north of Worthmore Avenue displays broken glass, rotted fascia and an un-blockaded staircase.

Here is part of the group inspecting the "ruins" - not quite Rome's Colosseum.

If you have high water bills...

Make sure your cat is not to blame.
You will be amazed! Be sure to read the story before viewing the video.
Jennifer and Jim (who do not live in Lake Worth) kept getting huge water bills. They knew beyond a doubt that the bills weren't representative of their actual usage, and no matter how they tried to conserve, the high bills continued.

Although they could see nothing wrong, they had everything checked for leaks
or problems :first the water meter, then outdoor pipes, indoor pipes,
underground pipes, faucets, toilets, washer, ice maker, etc. -- all to no
avail. One day Jim was sick and stayed home in bed, but kept hearing water
running downstairs. He finally tore himself from his sick bed to
investigate, and stumbled onto the cause of such high water bills.

Apparently this was happening all day long when they were not at home.
Knowing that few would believe him, he taped a segment of the 'problem' for
posterity -- see video below.

I've had cats and know about their fascination with water. If you have a cat, it may be wise to keep the door to the bathroom closed - especially considering their inability to understand that our water supply is a limited and shrinking resource.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Inside the Former Senior Center - Soon to be Compass along w/ Pride Tid-bits

During the Pride weekend here in Lake Worth, Compass took many small groups through the former Mid-County Senior Center. I happened to go through on Saturday afternoon. They have some great plans for the place and I am sure it will become a great community center.

I bumped into Julie last night at the Mad Hatter - she is now Director of Operations there. This is definitely a believe-it-or-not story, but guess what happened Sunday at Bryant Park during PrideFest. Something that you wouldn't think would be too likely to happen at a gay pride event. Someone had a BABY! She was from Broward County and, with her contractions happening every two minutes, she actually wanted to drive back home to go to one their hospitals. That's when the event staff called an ambulance and the baby was delivered there. Who'd a thunk that?!?!

Anyway, here are some pictures of the building and some of the spaces within. I have a floor plan of what it will become, but will need to photograph those separately - too big to scan.

Front of the building, looking west.

In the central lobby area that runs the east/west length of the building.

Upstairs - they will be adding an elevator to access their administrative space.

Stage area for large room on north side of building.

Looking the other way, from the stage.

Julie also said that they are applying for a lot of new grants and plan to greatly expand the nature of their services. This was discussed at the Commission meetings that considered the lease with the City. Really quite impressive.

PrideFest Tidbits:

Here are some other links to sites with pictures from the weekend. Enjoy!

Reggaefest 2008 at Bryant Park 4/12-13

Read Together - Palm Beach County

I'm not sure you are aware of this or not. There was a public service commercial on Channel 5 today that had many Mayors from around Palm Beach County promoting the Read Together program. Click here for the link - it's on the PB Post website. April is the month to read The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. If you poke around the linked page, you'll see that the Lake Worth Public Library is a Community Partner. If you go to the City's website, there is no mention of this program. I haven't been to the Library recently so I am not sure if signs are up or not. Our Mayor Clemens was also conspicuously absent from the public service announcement.

Is this another case of the world passing Lake Worth by? Why can't we do our fair share in promoting this program to our residents and join the rest of civilization?

Here is the calendar for this year's events:

Read Together 2008 Schedule
December 6, 2007 Five finalist books are announced.
January 4-31, 2008 Public votes for one of five titles
February 25, 2008 Press Conference at the West Palm Beach Public Library announces "The Book"
March 28, 2008 Campaign kicks off at Love of Literacy Luncheon
April 2008 Public reads and discusses The Memory Keeper's Daughter
May 15, 2008 Campaign finale at the Harriet Himmel Gilman Theater
For more information on the Read Together 2008 campaign, you can also call the PBC Literacy Coalition at (800) 273-1030.

Pet Fest 2008, April 13—Save a Life, Adopt a Shelter Pet

Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control is parading its shelter dogs and cats for adoption at its annual Pet Fest on Sunday, April 13. The event highlights dogs and cats available for adoption, public education and family fun. Pet Fest takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the main animal shelter, 7100 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach, five miles west of I-95 just west of the Florida Turnpike.

There will be fun for the entire family including a live band, bounce house, face painting, vendors with pet products, and much more. Prize drawings with fantastic prizes and all proceeds going to support the Spay Shuttle, Animal Care and Control’s low-cost spay/neuter program.

Visit the shelter at Pet Fest 2008 and save a life by adopting a shelter pet. For directions or more information, check the Web site or call 516-233-1266.

Eye-opening Awareness Test

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another few thoughts...

It seems that I have become a You Tube addict. Amazing that it's such a recent invention and will no doubt have a transformative effect on civilization - the ability to "Broadcast Yourself" (their slogan). It's association with Google will help propel it as well. While I haven't produced a video myself (just one test so far), I see me doing so in the future. For the time being, I will limit the selection of offerings to songs that cross my mind from time to time. In a way, it's integrating my love of music into this which perhaps makes a more holistic view of who I am.

And, don't know if you saw this in the news or not, but there seems to be a "buzz" about people who maintain blogs running the risk of burning themselves out, to the point of going to that great blogosphere in the sky. Not to take such news lightly, but you should check out the story in the New York Times by clicking here. One gets the impression that the Times is feeling the competition and is attempting to cast bloggers as participants in a sort of writer's sweat shop. Hmmmm.

As for me, a lot of my work is on the computer anyway and I am a fairly fast typist, so it doesn't take an inordinate amount of time to produce a post. Through a normal day, I come across many items which may be of interest and may add to the base of knowledge that we have in order to improve our City of Lake Worth. This blog is fueled by passion and not the need to be remunerated for my efforts. I hope that your stays here are enjoyable.

As far as the beach, the pool is being worked on and I plan to go there and gather pictures there as my travels dictate. Feeling a little frustrated today, I posted on another local website and questioned whether we, the City, deserve to be a custodian of our beach property. And it definitely was a question, not a statement. It was sort of a "shame on us for messing things up" mini-rant. But there are those times when one wonders if we didn't have it as a distraction that we could actually address the more serious quality of life issues on the mainland. Let's hope that Greater Bay is able to finish the pool by the end of the month, keep the State grant money and eventually get on with the bigger part of the project - once the legal clouds blow away.

By the way, one of the most popular items here is the tab along the right side of the page labeled "Beach". It gets the most hits of any section of this blog. Today has been an exceptionally busy day for the entire blog, by the way.

Have a good week.

Songs for an April Monday

The legendary Karen Carpenter. Whenever I am feeling nostalgic, I listen to the Carpenters. Enjoy.

This one is my all-time favorite:

Help Tri-Rail Secure Solid Funding Source

For article in the Palm Beach Post today regarding the details and alternatives, click here.

To go to the Tri-Rail site, click here. You'll find a place to send a form letter of support to your representatives. Be prepared for about 15 acknowledgment e-mails from their offices landing in your In-Box. This really is a smart way to fund our commuter rail.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Some observations from the past week...

Here are some of my observations and notes from the past week here in Lake Worth:
  • Cheers to Commissioner Vespo for bringing up negotiations with Palm Beach County for the Sheriff Department to take over our municipal police services. Jeers to the staff and whoever else is responsible for the curtailment of the previous negotiations. It turns out that they were halted due to lack of needed information from the City. Let's be sure that we have all the options and particulars clearly laid out in front of us so that we can objectively evaluate our position. And lets make sure we respond to requests for information in a timely manner. How many times does this have to be said? The financial crisis laid out by Commissioner Vespo is a real possibility, given the enormous unmet obligations represented by both police and fire department pension funds.
  • Lake Worth belongs to the East Central Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility. This is governed by an interlocal agreement between West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Lake Worth and the Town of Palm Beach. The current agreement dates from 1992 (all 131 pages of it). Strangely enough, FPL is asking to use this wastewater for cooling at their new power plant. You may recall that this is the same power plant that was the subject of protest several weeks ago. You may also recall that Commissioner Jennings was involved in the protest herself, but more as a liaison between protesters and the Sheriff's department. Anyway, the Commissioner asked that the agreement be brought up because she was unsure why and how our Utilities Director's authority is exercised in the administration of the agreement. The focus was the need for commission direction prior to official action. My take: As an agreement that needs to be periodically reviewed, o.k. As for as the need to assert direction over staff by action of the commission, fine. However, talking about not providing the wastewater to the FPL power plant and thereby forcing them to pull water from the aquifer (source of our drinking water) is irresponsible and heading in the wrong direction. Let's negotiate the terms of the wastewater deal, but don't stand on principle to the detriment of the City and the environment.
  • And, while we are at it, if we are firmly against lighting up the everglades and agricultural areas of the western portion of Palm Beach County, then lets work on providing a workable alternative to that development within the City of Lake Worth. Let's work to streamline the permitting process, go after businesses that would add to the flavor of Lake Worth and require green construction techniques. Let's build a reputation that Lake Worth will treat you fairly through the development review and building permit process. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go on that score.
  • Word is that crime is up in the center of District #3. Friends of mine have been warned by police to make sure car and home doors are locked - even when they are at home and the residence is occupied. It goes without saying that we all have to be vigilant during these troubling economic times as the level of desperation is palpable.
  • Another friend of mine in District #2 told me that his city-issued garbage can was stolen. He did the right thing and filed a police report, which is required if you need a new one in order not to be charged for a replacement. This according to the paper work supplied with the delivery of the cans. When he called the Waste Removal Division and spoke to Mr. Brown, he was given an exceedingly hard time and was told that he would have to be charged for a new can. The conversation ended with my friend upset about another negative interaction with the City administration. Still not satisfied and after he cooled down a bit, he called the same number back and Mr. Brown apologized for his attitude displayed in the previous conversation. That's good news and this resident will not have to pay for another trash bin. However, there would be no reason to apologize had the staff person acted appropriately to begin with. Another example of how city staff seems to take an offensive position when dealing with the public. Why is it always the resident's fault and the news is always bad?
  • And lastly, this sad story is perhaps an indication that we should go back to a Code Enforcement Board rather than a Special Master system currently in place. In 2006, one of our historic houses burned north of downtown on M Street. There were actually two fires on the same day - both of undetermined causes. The second fire completely totalled the structure. It happened to be on one of our 25 foot wide lots. Code Enforcement descended on the property and multiple fines started running. Since the structure is within an historic district, it was necessary to apply for a demolition permit through the Historic Resource Preservation Board (also the Planning and Zoning Board). The owner of the property received approval from the Board in May of last year to take down the house. A demolition permit was issued by the City and the remains of the structure came down. He has also prepared a new building plan that everyone seems to love. A complicating factor here was the existence of a moratorium of construction on 25 foot wide lots while the new guidelines were being prepared. When the property owner went before the Special Master, the fines totalling over $40,000 were upheld - and now is a lien on the property. The homesteaded property owner now faces foreclosure by his mortgage company and may lose the property entirely as a result - plus incur personal financial loss and loss of his principle residence. Who knows why the fine was not reduced, but this should not be a revenue center for the City of Lake Worth were perils outside the owner's control are responsible. Sure, some fine might be appropriate - but not an amount that is confiscatory! Perhaps a board made up of City residents would be more sympathetic to cases such as these - more so than the current Special Master system. The picture above dates from June 2006 and shows conditions soon after the fire.

Michael Brown Obituary and Funeral Announcement




SAT. APRIL 19 2008 12 NOON - 1 PM