Saturday, July 5, 2008

Grand Finale Fireworks Display - Lake Worth 2008

The above is the culmination of a very full and fun day. It started humbly enough by me taking care of chores here and there around the house, tending to the flock, etc. Around 2:30 I left the house and headed to Bryant Park (amidst the rumbling of storm clouds and the steady rain). I volunteered to work the beer tent at Tropic Fest from 3 to 6 p.m. Business was light - few people ventured out given the weather conditions and the shift only picked up as the weather cleared during the last hour. While there, I was entertained by the Datura Street Band, whose lead vocalist/guitar is none other than Mayor Jeff Clemens. Lots of 80s and 90s tunes, they are a good bar band and if you ever see them at a local nightspot, it's worth checking them out.

From there, I went quickly home to take care of Mars and Venus and then off again I was to Bo and Erin Allen's for a Fourth of July feast and fireworks viewing from their rooftop terrace overlooking Bryant Park. Great hospitality and a tasty array of brought-dishes. My contribution consisted of chips and salsa (I am domestically challenged - boiling water and making toast are the extent of my culinary abilities.) Nice to catch up with others assembled there. The fireworks were fantastic this year and it was fun to see glimpses of other local community displays in the distance. Thank you Bo and Erin for a wonderful time!

On the way back, I stopped at the Mad Hatter and got engrossed in a couple of interesting conversations, bumping into some people I hadn't talked with in a while. All in all a great day!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Ray Charles, Our Flag and America the Beautiful

Have a wonderful Fourth of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Palm Beach Post View of Commissioners Jennings/Golden

"Freedom for me means..." Commissioner Jennings

Allow me to introduce the next candidate for Sainthood as promulgated by the editorial hand of the Palm Beach Post.  This is a video off of their website.  In it, you see the lovely Cara Jennings, seated in front of the Stars and Stripes.  

The implied message from Cara Jennings here is: 
"Freedom for me is the ability to use the Lake Worth City Commission conference room in City Hall, along with the flag of the United States of America, as a back-drop for a free political advertisement which will be distributed by a huge corporate media conglomerate right before a major national patriotic holiday, which just happens to be right before I announce my re-election campaign."
Note to the Palm Beach Post public relations/campaign department:  Commissioner Jennings refuses to utter her allegiance to this flag each opportunity she has before Commission meetings.  

However, both the Post Editorial Board and Cara know the power of the flag to those that hold it as a symbol of freedom and sacrifice of those that have fought to preserve our freedoms.  Choosing to use it here, in an election year, crosses the bounds of legitimate journalism.  The Palm Beach Post might as well consummate their relationship by giving her campaign an office in its tall building.  At least there would be no question as to who the Post supports.  Oh, and she'll need to use the Post's computers for her campaign too (eh hem).

According to Cara, we can pick and choose which laws suit us and which laws don't.  When we don't think laws suit us, we can "cause a ruckus in the streets" in protest or simply prevent whatever action has caught our attention at the time (FPL Power Plant Blockade).  So, I guess the Palm Beach Post is endorsing this sort of action here too - riots in the streets, anarchy and chaos?  I guess in their minds it's o.k. for that sort of thing in Lake Worth.  They will still be behind their bunker at the Palm Beach Post headquarters in West Palm Beach - "Let Lake Worth burn." they'll say, "We'll sell more papers."  "Think of the awards our photo department will get" for showing the mayhem.

As of today, I have taken down my link to the Palm Beach Post that served as their news feed.  After the last election, I purposefully did not renew my subscription in subtle protest to their endorsement of Commissioner Golden (Jenning's lower octave).  Guess what?  The paper keeps on coming.  Probably in an effort to bolster their sagging circulation figures so they can still charge big money for their advertisements.  The Post really likes taking money from real estate developers for four color Friday inserts, but bashes them repeatedly on their editorial page.  Perhaps this explains the kindred spirit relationship with Golden and Jennings - by banding together in hypocrisy, at least they can all be consistently hypocritical.

All newspapers are dinosaurs.  Think of the amount of paper products they contribute to the waste stream.  I guess Commissioner Jennings doesn't care about that as long as they spell her name right and continue to make her out to be Mother Teresa of Lake Worth.  I encourage you all to remind the Palm Beach Post how much of a dinosaur they are.  

Don't let Cox Enterprises (owner of the Post) decide what your opinion is, especially when they act as surrogate campaign staff for Commissioners Jennings and Golden.  

Say no to corporate mind control.  Call today to cancel your Palm Beach Post subscription.  

See if it still is coming to your door even after you call. I'd be interested in knowing the extent of their fraud.

Instead, become active and involved in local government.  Gather your information from a variety of resources on the Internet.  Start your own blog to share your opinions. Attend meetings - see for yourself what goes on, make your own judgements, understand the process of democracy.  Use your freedom wisely.

Enjoy the Fourth of July.  Wave your flag proudly... and sincerely.

Letter from Iowa Resident to Senator Tom Harkin

The Honorable Tom Harkin 
731 Hart Senate Office Building 
Phone (202) 224 3254 
Washington DC, 20510 

Dear Senator Harkin, 

As a native Iowan and excellent customer of the Internal Revenue 
Service, I am writing to ask for your assistance. I have contacted the 
Department of Homeland Security in an effort to determine the process for 
becoming an illegal alien, and they referred me to you. 

My primary reason for wishing to change my status from U.S. Citizen 
to illegal alien stems from the bill which was recently passed by the 
Senate and for which you voted. If my understanding of this bill's 
provisions is accurate, as an illegal alien who has been in the United 
States for five years, all I need to do to become a citizen is to pay a 
$2,000 fine and income taxes for three of the last five years. I know a 
good deal when I see one, and I am anxious to get the process started 
before everyone figures it out. 

Simply put, those of us who have been here legally have had to pay 
taxes every year, so I'm excited about the prospect of avoiding two years 
of taxes in return for paying a $2,000 fine. Is there any way that I can 
apply to be illegal retroactively? This would yield an excellent result 
for me and my family because we paid heavy taxes in 2004 and 2005. 

Additionally, as an illegal alien I could begin using the local 
emergency room as my primary health care provider. Once I have stopped 
paying premiums for medical insurance, my accountant figures I could save 
almost $10,000 a year. 

Another benefit in gaining illegal status is that my daughter would 
receive preferential treatment relative to her law school applications, as 
well as 'in-state' tuition rates for many colleges throughout the United 
States for my son. 

Lastly, I understand that illegal status would relieve me of the burden 
of renewing my driver's license and making those burdensome car insurance 
premiums. This is very important to me given that I still have college 
age children driving my car. 

If you would provide me with an outline of the process to become 
illegal (retroactively if possible) and copies of the necessary forms, I 
would be most appreciative. 

Thank you for your assistance. 

Your Loyal Constituent, 
Donald Ruppert 
Burlington, IA 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Seen on Charlie Rose...

Wendy Kopp, Teach for America 

This group recruits the best of the best to be teachers in urban, lower income schools.  Amazing results showing that our view of what holds children back in communities such as ours is not what most think.  Enlightening and intriguing point of view...

E-mail sent to Mayor and Commissioners: 431 N. L Street

Mayor and Commissioners:
First of all, I want to thank the City for addressing the boarding up of 431 N. L. Street. A crew came by on Saturday and did a very professional job on the first floor of the building.
However, the second floor remains undone. Not only is this condition dangerous in a hurricane situation, the open second floor windows allow birds and the elements inside the building. This advances the process of decay for one of our historic structures.
Please do not falsely economize. The job is really only half done. Please protect this structure by boarding and securing the second floor.
Below is an item from my blog, with pictures.
Laura, please pass this message on to Commissioner Lowe.
Thank you!
Wes Blackman

John F. Kennedy: Secrecy is Repugnant

Monday, June 30, 2008

Thoughts on the Charrette Team's Preliminary Report

Today has been an extremely busy one and the past weekend contained a lot of distractions.  Thus, the relative lack of posts.  Now I have some time to offer some of my assessments from the presentation last Friday by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) staff and charrette team.  There might have been 30 or so at the presentation - which went on about 45 minutes longer than the scheduled two hour time.  This is I think a good indication that we really did get a lot for our investment of $25,000.  There were items covered that went far beyond the scope related to the impact of a transit stop or stops along the FEC railway.

They will have their Powerpoint presentation available at their website sometime this week.  As it is posted, I plan to dissect and amplify on some of the frames here.  They will be issuing a final report to the CRA, who funded the charrette, in about 10 or 12 weeks.  I will be encouraging the possibility of a joint CRA/Commission presentation of their findings.  

Some of the more important and fascinating data concerned Lake Worth's retail market presence in the broader Palm Beach County marketplace.  Suffice to say it is obvious that we have to travel outside of the City for many basic goods - something that I am sure coincides with most individual experiences residents have living here in Lake Worth.  Besides the convenience of having retail goods close by, think of the missed employment opportunities through reliance on "extra-territorial" retail outlets.  Furthermore, in this era of $4.00 per gallon of gasoline and increased sensitivity to carbon emissions, does it really make environmental sense to continue this de facto policy of discouraging retail investment inside the city limits?

One of the presenters, I think Dana Little of TCRPC, talked about how location selection of new retail sites happens at the corporate level.  Many times, regional managers are told that they need to open "X" number of stores in a period of a year.  Let's say Lake Worth ends up on a potential list that includes 40 other communities vying for a new location for, let's say, a national bookseller.  That person goes about and researches what would have to be done in order to get a store up and operating.  They will look at existing physical locations that would not require the building of a new store and the prevailing leasing rates in the area.  They will talk with other retailers that have had experience with Lake Worth to see what happened and how things went in opening a location here.  If they have to build a new store, they will look at the development review process and make sure that it is understandable, with a clear expectation of give and take, but ultimately the likelihood of approval being strong.  They will look at things like the clarity of the sign code; the experiences other businesses have with the building department (permitting and inspections).  These considerations would be beyond those typical "market" or "numbers" considerations that already put Lake Worth on that list of 40 potential communities.

So, you get a sense of the competitive situation that the City finds itself in  - whether we like it or not.  We compete for investment dollars with other localities on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  If Lake Worth comes up deficient in any of the above areas, we are crossed off the list of contenders.  There are just too many opportunities out there to justify problems with inspections, high per square foot lease rates and uncertain results in the development review process - to name a few.  Thus we are adding miles on our vehicles, burning more gasoline, worsening the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and employing less of our own people as decisions not to come to Lake Worth are made over and over again.

The good thing is that realizing you have a problem, and the extent of it, are the first steps in solving the problem.  Really, I would call it an imbalance.  Imagine how the residential property tax burden would shift if we had substantial employment opportunities within the Lake Worth Park of Commerce - part of what was discussed in the charrette.  Or, if Dixie Hwy, instead of lined with acres of former car lots, actually had commercial buildings supplying our community's retail needs - and paying property taxes for that privilege.  We are suffering from not having more balance in our property tax base right now and we still begrudgingly accept the status quo.

I think more than anything, the charrette will show how great our potential is and how we can rise to meet that potential without harming all the good things that make up Lake Worth already.  In many ways, that is the core goal of planning.

The most surprisingly in depth part of the presentation, for me, was the portion related to mobility and transit within the City - beyond a transit stop being placed on the FEC or not.  Billy Hattaway, a traffic engineer from the firm Glatting Jackson, identified many inefficiencies in how the city's infrastructure caters to the need to get around.  One of his examples concerned the need for more bike racks throughout the City, especially in and around the downtown.  He also mentioned the concept of a public bike livery that would allow people to pick up a community bike (from unrecovered stolen bikes) and use it to get to your destination.  

Another one of Hattaway's observations concerned the prominent one-way street network around the downtown area.  He pointed out that many communities, in order to pump more and more cars in and out downtown areas in the 1970s, are returning the current one-way streets back to two-way streets.  One-way streets create a couple of situations which can be adverse to the quality of life in a community.  They increase vehicle speed since there is no concern for on-coming traffic.  I can't tell you how many times I have heard complaints from residents immediately north of downtown about the speed cars attain on their supposedly quiet residential streets.  A few have resulted in ferocious rear-end accidents of parked cars.  He pointed out that we have enough width of pavement in those areas to still allow on street parking (which protects pedestrians) and allow traffic to pass - although at a slower pace.

From an environmental and convenience point of view, there is usually a circuitous route necessary to get from here to there in the areas where we have a one-way street network.  Such a route wastes time and ENERGY.  Ten trips (the average created by a single family house) a day multiplied by 365 days a year results in significant extra mileage needed to get to a house that may just be on the next block.  I remember asking someone on B street how best to get to a house further north on C street and being told, "You can't get there from here" - meant to be funny but really partially true.  If we are really serious about being a green community, we need to consider eliminating our one-way street network.

Another negative to one-way streets is the need for additional signage and the maintenance of that infrastructure.  And last, but surely not least, is the additional response time required for emergency personnel.  

We really need to put this on our collective agenda and make it happen.

Also discussed was the need to assess our unimproved dirt streets, the geometry of the traffic circle at A Street and Lake Worth Road and the condition of our alley network - an asset that some communities would give their eye teeth for.

I haven't even touched on the main part of the charrette's focus - the addition to of a transit stop or stops on the FEC.  By that you can see that a lot of important information was covered.  Implementing some changes as a result of this study would go a long way to improving our community.  I'll be addressing those over time with the help of some of the graphics that were part of the Powerpoint.

One more thing.. imagine if we had a full time comprehensive planning staff so that we could address these suggestions overtime and not have to result to shock therapy administered by a group of consultants.  In many ways, Treasure Coast is turning into the City comprehensive planning staff.  Part of my soapbox speech for having a planning staff employed by the City that is commensurate with our City's size and unique needs.

More later on this same station...

"Grunge Cup!" - 8th Annual Raft Regatta at Bryant Park

July would not be July
without the
8th Annual Raft Regatta at Bryant Park
July 4th, 11am 

The raft requirements were leveled out this year to require all entries
to use the same materials - floatation devices and plywood. The following pirates of the high seas have taken the challenge for the coveted

"Grunge Cup!" 

Bryant Park Neighborhood Asso.
South Palm Park Neighborhood Asso.
Downtown Jewel Neighborhood Asso.
Tropic Ridge Neighborhood Asso.
Sunset Ridge Neighborhood Asso. (doubtful starter)
Lake Worth Kiwanis Club
South "O" Street Regulars
Callaros Restaurant 

Should be a Great Race...Guaranteed Fun....Cash Prizes (winner gets $100, best design $50, crowd pleaser $50)What better way to celebrate freedom......from any socially redeeming values!! To help create a raft, volunteer etc, please call 561-352-4252

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Update: 431 N. L Street

These pictures were sent to me today from the resident that lives two doors down from this property.  The City did come and secure the building.  According to the report, the plywood is bolted in and appears to be a quality job.

But, what about the second floor?  It seems like a strange way to economize - not only did the City have a crew there and set up to do the work, we still have the problem of birds and rain entering the structure - causing damage to this historic building.  Let alone the added prospect of a tropical storm or hurricane.  Would you like to live next door with no protection on the window openings during  a 100+ mile per hour storm event?

In fact, if you look above, this is an item from this coming Tuesday's consent agenda.  It itemizes the City's cost to board and secure structures.  In this example, the costs range from around $425 to $1,775.  Can we spend a little more to make sure this structure and the neighborhood are protected?  Do we need to do a fundraiser?