Saturday, October 11, 2008

Slideshow and Commentary - Lake Worth Democratic Club Candidate Forum - Brogue's - 10/9

The Lake Worth Democratic Club held its city of Lake Worth municipal Commission Candidate forum last Thursday. A lot of people attended - I would say close to one hundred or so - which really made that room feel crowded. Due to the shape of the room, the candidates were placed against the south wall. The sound system, if you can call it that, left a lot to be desired and it was difficult to see at times due to the lighting and distance involved. It goes back to the need for space in this city where we can assemble a large group of people - comfortably - and where there is a decent sound system. That being said - a hearty thank you goes out to the LW Democratic Club for holding the event and I hope those that were there helped support Brogue's in the hosting of it. The Lake Worth Democratic Club meets every second Thursday of the month in this location, so try to put that on your calendar.

Barbara Aubel, resident of the Downtown Jewel neighborhood and long time member of the club, performed the duties of Mistress of Ceremonies. She did very well, even given some of the oddly worded questions that were put together for the candidates.

As you can see from the pictures, candidates in each of the two races were grouped together at the table. It wasn't clear visually what race they were in - you really had to either know or ask questions. I don't remember Barbara introducing each candidate individually at the beginning - that was left to the candidates themselves, if they chose to. More on that later.

I wasn't taking copious notes during the debate so this is not supposed to be or does it pretend to be anything close to a "transcript" of the proceedings. It's more about impressions and thoughts that I had during the time there and what I have thought about afterward.


I'll go down the row, starting with Commissioner Cara Jennings. Commissioner Jennings introduced herself, dressed uncharacteristically in a tailored suit - I am sure intended to make her look as Commissioner-esque as possible. She immediately boasted that she had won her election back in 2006 by a "landslide." These are the results from her race in 2006:

If you look at the two vote columns, the one on the left is the general election where Commissioner Jennings came in with the second highest percentage of the vote, but almost 15% points behind the largest vote-getter. Between the general election and the run-off election, some scurrilous stories came out about Commissioner Jenning's opponent. These were widely published by the Palm Beach Post in the week before the election. At the time, Commissioner Jennings distanced herself from the revelations and said that she didn't condone such information being released and expressed her disappointment with it being used at all. However, the results are the results you see above. Whether or not sanctioned by Commissioner Jennings, the canon had been fired by someone or some group with the intent to affect the results of the election. Thus you see the wide swing in votes to Commissioner Jennings in the run-off election. It should be noted too that Commissioner Jennings run-off election drew less voters than our last run-off election in 2007. Almost 600 fewer voters came out which means that there are some people that lost in the 2007 election that had more votes than Commissioner Jennings - hmmm. So, that is the real story behind Cara's "landslide" victory - that and the fact that she had an army of foot soldiers going door to door - some of which were bused in from all points of the compass.

During her responses to the questions, Commissioner Jennings made a big deal about her "open door" and that she is at City Hall more than other commissioners and that she returns all of her phone calls - then she corrected herself and says that she responds to 90% or 95% - forget which. I guess I am in the 5 or 10 percent that don't get the returned calls or e-mails. Hmmm. In fact, with all my e-mails I have sent to the Commissioners - about lighting at the boat ramp, 431 N. L Street - she has never responded. I have only received responses on those issues from Mayor Clemens and Commissioner Vespo. I remember having a meeting scheduled with Commissioner Jennings once and she did her best to make herself unavailable and the meeting never happened. I do remember talking to her on the phone once. Remember, I supported Commissioner Jennings in her initial campaign.

As for her accomplishments, she rattled off the following as she made her final statement:
  • Partnership with FAU on generating energy from the ocean. Commissioner Jennings commented that we have a unique opportunity as a city since we have our own electric utility and that we have a beach. Commissioner Jennings put those two things together to conclude that we are in a unique position to generate renewable energy from the ocean. She mentioned a contract the City has with FAU, who is researching the technology - does anyone know when that came before the Commission and could someone forward a copy to me? Listening to Commissioner Cara Jennings, she made it seem like there are machines that are just waiting to be delivered to our beach so that we can start getting our electricity from whatever equipment will be used to harness the power of the mighty Atlantic. Note to Commissioner Jennings: Better look at the future land use designation and zoning for the beach - I don't see anything about allowing "power generation equipment" there. You might want to put forward a Comprehensive Plan amendment so we can have that on our public beach, whatever form it turns out to be once it's perfected as a technology.
  • Opposing the Dredge and Fill project proposed by "Palm Beach island." - The credit here goes to Tom Wranke of the Surfider Foundation. This was a unanimous vote - note exactly due to the work of Commissioner Cara Jennings. Also, what is this "Palm Beach island" term? Commissioner Jennings would be correct in referring to it as the "Town of Palm Beach."
  • Increasing monetary contribution from the CRA to support police functions. - This is more about Commissioner Cara Jennings abdicating her responsibility to fund and support the police appropriately through the general fund. Yes, she did appear before the CRA - one of my first meetings - and asked that we vote for the extra money for the police. Note to Commissioner Cara Jennings: We did it anyway and not due to any action on your part.
  • Securing the Public Health clinic on "F" Street. - This is more about Commissioner Cara Jennings attempt to block this as a possibility for the "employment center" as she refers to it. Commissioner Jennings, it's better to call it what it is: a "Day Labor Center" that will now be housed in the shuffleboard court building due to your driving efforts. My suggestion would be to take ownership of that decision and vote - tell the voters what it is and not call it something perceived to be more palatable to the voting public. Leaders do not back away from their actions by obscuring the facts.
  • The city signing on to the Kyoto Protocol. Nice thing to do, but how much impact that had locally cannot really be measured. What can be measured? Commissioner Jennnings talked about the large binder with a stack of paper about 4 inches high that comes out before every regular City Commission meeting - twice a month or twenty four times a year. That turns out to be a stack of paper 8 feet tall every year for each Commissioner and the Mayor. That's a stack 40 feet high for just those elected representatives on the dais. Commissioner Jennings should lead the way in making sure that Commissioners get any written information in digital form and dump the 4 inch notebook. This can eventually be duplicated (interesting choice of words) for other city boards. I already get my CRA packet in digital form - exclusively.
Someday I'll have to do a post and let you know how strong my feelings about Commissioner Jennings really are. Did I mention that I voted for her last time?

Now on to the other candidates.
John Jordan
Mary Lindsey
Suzanne Muhleville
Dr. Rene Varela
Commissioner Dave Vespo

Tourist in my own land...

I thought you might enjoy this. Spending time in the library this week, I thought it would be interesting to focus on the artwork present there. So here is a sample of what can be found. Check out some of the woodcarvings - they are particularly noteworthy.

One of the by-products of the 10th Avenue improvements...

As part of the motion to approve the contract so that the 10 Avenue North improvement project can get underway, the CRA made sure that there was a plan to accommodate bikes by implementing a citywide bike route and plan. Kimley-Horn is putting together this effort and is already getting attention from the Palm Beach County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Bret Baronak at the MPO is working closely with the CRA staff and is excited about the prospect. Here are some related links regarding accommodation of bicycles in urban planning.



Time Magazine Article

Chicago Bike Station


Lake Worth vote backs gay unions, opposes marriage amendment

From the article:

Because the amendment defines marriage as between one man and one woman and states that no other legal union shall be recognized, Commissioner David Vespo said city employees who have domestic partners could see health insurance or other benefits denied if the amendment receives the 60 percent voter approval needed to pass.

"People have become wise to the fact that these types of amendments are getting on the ballot as a way of generating fear in the public," Lake Worth Mayor Jeff Clemens said.

Yeah Lake Worth!! Thanks Mayor and Commissioners - this was a unanimous vote.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Planning Resources for Greenhouse Gas Reduction & Energy Efficient Land Use

You might remember me telling you about a continuing education workshop that I attended at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). It revolved around new state legislation related to water resource planning and what is expected in all community Comprehensive Plans from here on out. This turns out to be very timely as it relates to the City Lake Worth - look at the transmittal memorandum regarding our EAR based amendments to our Comprehensive Plan that appeared on the agenda last Tuesday night. Check out the second page, second and third paragraphs:

So kudos to Rachel Bach for being on top of these new legislative additions which affect our Comprehensive Plan.

One of the best things about going to seminars and educations sessions like these, beyond the people that you bump into - some that you haven't seen in a while -, is the informational resources that you find out about. There is so much information available on the web now about planning, environmental impact, resource management and ecological sensitivity - green think, simply put. Here are some of the links to Internet resources that I discovered through this session. Click on the link and I will give an annotated version of what to expect from the site:

South Florida Regional Planning Council - one of eleven regional planning agencies in Florida. This one serves Monroe, Dade and Broward counties and is the equivelant to the regional planning council that we do a lot with - Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. There are many links on both sites that may be of interest. All amendments to Comprehensive Plans go through these agencies on the way to review by the state Department of Community Affairs.

South Florida Regional Planning Council's Climate Change Community Tool Box - You will find a TON of information on this site which includes maps showing various effects of sea level rise through the three counties under the agency's jurisdiction. World sea level rise impacts are also explored - including preparations in New York, London and other world capitals. This is something to come back to often - an excellent resource! Treasure Coast, are you working on this?

Florida Planning Toolbox - I think that I have posted a link to this site before - this is now administered by the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at FAU - broader information availability, but still a focus on the environment.

Urban Land Institute - link to where you can order the book "Growing Cooler" by Reid Ewing, Keith Bartholomew, Steve Winkelman, Jerry Walters, and Don Chen.

United States Green Building Council - the group involved in LEED certification. LEED for Neighborhood Development - this is where Lake Worth shines - in many ways, we are already here. If only the whole world were more like us!

American Society of Landscape Architecture - Sustainable Sites Initiative - "
The Sustainable Sites Initiative is an interdisciplinary partnership between the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the United States Botanic Garden and a diverse group of stakeholder organizations to develop guidelines and standards for landscape sustainability. The motivation behind this initiative stems from the desire to protect and enhance the ability of landscapes to provide services such as climate regulation, clean air and water, and improved quality of life. Sustainable Sites™ is a cooperative effort with the intention of supplementing existing green building and landscape guidelines as well as becoming a stand-alone tool for site sustainability."

American Planning Association "The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting environmentally sustainable societies. EESI believes meeting this goal requires transitions to social and economic patterns that sustain people, the environment and the natural resources upon which present and future generations depend. EESI produces credible, timely information and innovative public policy initiatives that lead to these transitions. These products take the form of publications, briefings, work shops and task forces.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lake Worth Library Wi-Fi

Here is my "own little corner where I can be whatever I want to be..." There are lots of other people here using either the Wi-fi available at the library or logged into one of the dozen or so computers scattered about the library. Remember, the library is closed now on Sundays and Mondays - open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. I am using various Internet locations while I wait for cable broadband to be installed in my house - they say by next Tuesday. I've been able to get a lot done here today.

Anyway, more updates later. This is a very busy week for me workwise. We'll get back to a more sedate routine in a little while.

Oh, check out the "Blog Action Day 2008" button in the right hand column. This year's theme is "Poverty." Those that register their blogs will be posting one on the theme October 15th - a worldwide event.

This Saturday at the Lake Worth Playhouse...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Palm Beach County commissioners worry about legal nightmare on Election Day

Here we go again?

I am a real fan of White Apron Catering Take-out!

I had the pleasure of having the Greek Pita yesterday with the Broccoli Rabe salad. What a great addition to Dixie Hwy. Stop in when you're on the go for lunch or dinner. Lot's of other treats there, along with culinary items. On North Dixie Hwy, between 17th and 18th Avenues North - east side of road. Please help support this Lake Worth business - make an effort to keep our dollars here.

Tell them Wes sent you!

For those of us who miss Autumn...

These are from a friend in New Hampshire.

County Initiative to Educate the Public on Statewide and Countywide Amendment(s) re: November Ballot - From a Commissioner McCarty's Office

There will be six statewide amendments and one countywide amendment on the November 4th election ballot. To date, the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners has only taken a definitive position in support of Amendment No. 6 concerning the assessment of working waterfront property based on current use.

In an effort to help local residents understand the amendments, county legislative staff will be making general presentations to various groups countywide. The presentation is designed to provide a nonbiased and balanced overview of the amendments. Please contact my office at 561-355-2204 if you would like to schedule a presentation by the legislative staff.

The following is a summary of the amendments. (Please know that Amendments 5, 7 and 9 have been removed from ballot):

Amendment No. 1/Relating to Property Rights/Ineligible Aliens:

This measure proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to delete provisions authorizing the Legislature to regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition, and possession of real property by aliens that are ineligible for citizenship.

This amendment will remove an early 1900’s law that was designed to prohibit ineligible Asian-American immigrants from owning land. Currently, Florida and New Mexico are the only two states that still maintain these racially biased provisions in their constitutions. Both states have amendments on the November ballot to remove these provisions.

Amendment No. 2/Florida Marriage Protection Amendment:

This amendment protects marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and provides that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.

A Florida statute now prohibits marriages other than those between a woman and a man. This ballot initiative was proposed by a citizen group in the event that the statute might be declared unconstitutional. It is the only citizens’ initiative on the ballot.

Amendment No. 3/Changes and Improvements Not Affecting the Assessed Value of Residential Real Property:

This proposal allows the Legislature to prohibit the consideration of wind-damage resistant changes and improvements and the installation of renewable energy source devices in the determination of the assessed value of residential property, and repeals existing renewable energy source device exemptions no longer in effect.

Basically, this amendment prevents local governments from increasing property values and taxes as a result of the installation of hurricane-resistance and/or renewable energy home improvements. This will prevent any property tax increases based on “home-hardening” improvements that could result in higher assessments.

Amendment No. 4/Property Tax Exemption of Perpetually Preserved Land; Classification and Assessment of Land Used for Conservation:

This amendment requires the Legislature to provide a tax exemption for property that is permanently dedicated for conservation.

At the same time, if the property does obtain this permanent designation, it will require that the land be classified and assessed solely on the basis of character/use. Consequently, conservation land will be assessed on the basis of character/use and not highest and best use.

Amendment No. 6/Assessment of Working Waterfront Property Based Upon Current Use:

This amendment provides for assessment of certain working waterfront properties to be assessed based on current use instead of highest and best use. Properties include commercial fishing facilities, marinas, boat ramps, and other water-dependent businesses.

Amendment No. 8/Local Option Community College Funding:

This amendment will provide local communities the ability to increase the local sales tax to fund community colleges. If the amendment is approved, each county would need to approve the tax by referendum. The tax would sunset after 5 years but may be re-approved by voters.

Local Referendum: Require both county and municipal approval of charter amendments affecting municipal power or function:

The Board of County Commissioners placed this countywide question on the ballot which asks:

Shall the Palm Beach County Charter be amended to have charter amendments that are approved by a majority of Palm Beach County voters take effect in a municipality only if the amendment is also approved by a majority of voters in that municipality, when the proposed amendment transfers or limits a municipal service, function, power or authority?

The Charter is the “constitution” of the county and can only be changed by voters residing in unincorporated sections of the county. This amendment will provide the residents of local municipalities the ability to vote on future charter amendments affecting a city’s function, services or authority.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chamber of Commerce - Candidate Forum - 10/15


Wednesday, October 15th, 7:30-9:00 a.m.

Sponsored by Flagler Bank


Addressing Their Positions on Lake Worth Issues

Atlantis Country Club

190 Atlantis Boulevard, Atlantis, FL 33462


Email RSVPs: $15.00

All Others: $20.00

Please RSVP by noon the day before

16th Annual Community Awards Luncheon - 11/21

Going through some Internet issues...

I'm in the process of switching from DSL to cable and it turns out it will be about a week before I regain regular Internet access at my house. In the meantime, I will be searching out local haunts that have Wi-Fi access. Right now I happen to be at Howley's in West Palm Beach (I didn't have to show my passport). I'm going to check out the Lake Worth library tomorrow for part of the day and I will report on my experience. It would help me out if you know of any spots in Lake Worth that have Wi-Fi available and I can check those out too. Just e-mail me at and I'll start making a list which I can publish as a public service right here!

I can still receive and respond to e-mail with my Blackberry.

Thanks for visiting!