Saturday, November 1, 2008

This was left as a comment tonight...

...under the post regarding the Day Labor Center and Commissioner Cara Jennings' circumventing of the process as it relates to the zoning and land use designation for the property. My original post is one that has been up for some time, so this person must have just stumbled upon it tonight. I guess Cara's supporters are just now getting around to cruising the Internet. This is what he said:
Where were you when the City violated its Comprehensive Plan in a dozen ways to build the Lucerne condo? Or the dozens of other development projects that required unneeded variances in violation of the our Comprehensive Plan?
Oh yeah, you were there facilitating them on the Planning & Zoning Board.

You seem to have so much time on your hands to explore and critique the workings of the city. Why can't you put energy into issues that benefit the community beyond real estate developers and middle class yuppies?!

..I challenge you to a karaoke duel, tonite, SouthShore Tavern 12 midnight. Be there or be a sleazy lackey for corporate greed and fascist xenophobia.

-panagioti evangelos tsolkas
First of all, do you find it pretentious that someone would refuse to capitalize the initial letter of their name? I do. I think it is done to somehow signify that you realize that you are individually not as important as people that do capitalize the first letter of their name. You are, therefore, more filled with humility and compassion than those that follow convention and capitalize the first letter of their name. An affectation, but again underlining the divide that we have between those core supporters of Commissioner Cara Jennings (or is it cara jennings?) and those that are not within the inner circle as this gentleman (perhaps an elitist term?) is most definitely. I found an interesting article on this subject if you care to read it.

And here, in this question to me on my blog - and not through another means like talking, calling or even e-mailing - this gentleman is bringing up the Lucerne Building. We all know that the building is indeed there and that, yes, I was on the Planning and Zoning board when it went through the review process. But, the building that was eventually built was not the building that we, sitting as the Planning and Zoning board, approved. The one that we approved had public parking spaces - not just reserved for those who were owners of condominium units. It was also one that had much more visual interest than the one that was built due to the elimination of ornamentation along the building's roof.

No, that plan changed due to the intervention of the developer, the CRA, the City Commission and the building department after it went through the Planning and Zoning board. It should have come back, but it didn't. And that, sir, is a corruption of process, which also has a lot in common with the ignoring the zoning and land use implications for the Day Labor Center in the shuffleboard court building - avoiding public input in the process - just executing a lease without that in place. Now it's being dealt with in an "after the fact" manner.

I'd like to remind you that the Lucerne project was challenged in court by many of Commissioner Jennings' sympathizers and they were ultimately not successful in scuttling the project. It withstood legal challenges and is there now. For better or worse, the building will be part of the downtown area for a long while.

And, apparently, the writer with the lower case name forgets that I supported Commissioner Cara Jennings in her initial campaign and voted for her rather than her opponent. Perhaps now you scratch your head and ask,"How can that be?" In response, I sayeth thus: Cara Jennings was involved in the community, had been to public meetings, was part of the Stakeholders Advisory Committee and spoke for a segment of the population of Lake Worth that I thought was under-represented on the dais. That would be those that might have had a issue with the Lucerne building or the beach or what have you. When I supported Cara Jennings in her initial run for office, I still expected that she would represent the rest of the city too - not just her circle or her interests.

That's where I was proven wrong through her record on the Commission from the day that she took the oath office - I guess that would be like the pledge of allegiance, but we know she is troubled by that.

Now, I maintain this blog because it is something that I like to do. Part of the reason I do it is to counter the poor job that the City or sitting elected officials do to get the word out to the public on what the City is doing. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but I don't mind it. I wouldn't mind doing it even if no one read what I wrote. The fact that people do and respond to it makes it even more worthwhile. I ran for office myself with what I thought was a bundle of experience and ideas about what Lake Worth needed, but a narrow margin of residents said differently in the run-off election.

What motivates me is to make Lake Worth a better place to live, work and play and I would hope that Commissioner Cara Jennings and you would share those motivations. And I would also hope that you realize that we can get more done working together than we can do apart. Automatically assuming that I am solely for developer interests or the "yuppy middle class" is an over-simplification that does not justify your intelligence. We are in this together as residents of Lake Worth and working together should be the focus of Cara Jennings' campaign.

It's not and that is why I am supporting Cara's opponent Mary Lindsey this time.

As for your invitation to a karaoke duel, I must turn it down tonight. One reason is that I felt compelled to respond to you in this way and the other is that I just wanted to stay in tonight. I hope you understand that and you don't think it's due to me being a "sleazy lackey for corporate greed and fascist xenophobia."

You obviously don't know me very well to use those terms. I urge you to try to get to know me better in the future. And if you want to talk about any other decisions/votes/pronouncements during my eight year stint on the Planning and Zoning board, I'd be pleased to discuss them with you.

Or would you rather lie in the street and block entrance to my driveway?

Another story from Lake Worth Utilities Customer Service...

Usually I like to share first hand accounts of what I have experienced during my travels around the bureaucracy that is the City of Lake Worth. This story comes from a good friend who visited the Lake Worth Utility Customer Service office in the City Hall Annex late last week. I consider this person a very credible source of information, so it is worthy of sharing here as it highlights the sorry state of customer/resident service as performed by one of our more important city departments. It's also timely in light of the public comment taken at the last city commission meeting.

Apparently there was a crowd of about 12 people there - either waiting, being helped or paying their bills. My friend immediately took a number and then waited his turn to be called. After a while, a rather long while, one of the clerks had finished with a customer. She looked at the "tote board" that displays the ticket number and called out "91" as the number displayed was "90." The people waiting there looked at their tickets and looked at each other. They quickly determined that none of them had "91". The clerk repeated "91" and one of the group responded that no one had "91". The group that was waiting quickly figured out that the lowest number amongst them all was "96." The clerk then insisted that they must be wrong and that the next number was "91". She then accused the group of taking more than one number and somehow not understanding that she was there to serve the next number - "91" and really wouldn't hear anything different. This went on for about five minutes where those assembled were accused of being wrong and somehow "out of line." All the while wasting time and irritating those that had already waited for a considerable time anyway. I guess they finally convinced her that the next number was indeed "96" and that was the person who should be served next.

To top it off, it turns out that one of the people waiting there - who experienced this hostility - worked for the city. At the end of the episode, he commented, "And we wonder why everyone hates to deal with us?"

The inset picture is an image that comes to me through a search for "Indian Bureaucracy."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama in Sarasota

Above are shots from a rally in Sarasota where Obama appeared today. Friends of mine attended and took these pictures. Enjoy!

Announcement from City: Boil Water Notice

Beginning October 30, 2008, there is a Boil Water Notice in effect for properties between 10th and 12th Avenues North and between 'A' and 'B' Streets. Approximately 28 homes are affected.

The reason for water interruption is to repair a water main break. After the water service is restored, customers will be under a boil water order and are requested as a precaution, to boil water for a period of three minutes for drinking and food preparation. This will be in effect for 48 hours until 3:00 p.m., Saturday, November 1, 2008.

Statewide amendments on ballot made easy

Click title for link to an article authored by yours truly that appears in the South Florida Blade.

Utilities, codes, beach take center stage in Lake Worth

John Paxman, moderator, introduces the candidates at last night's candidate forum. Click title for link to PB Post article.
Commissioner Jennings at the Playhouse addressing the audience, answering one of the questions posed last night.

If you read the article from the PB Post, you will learn about the high drama last night when John Jordan revealed that 12 years ago one of the candidates had a DUI incident. Mary Lindsey offered an appropriate and classy response to the accusation. One would have thought that would have been all of the story. But, then, in his summary statement, John Jordan accused Commissioner Cara Jenning's team of giving him that information to reveal. Commissioner Jennings denied any involvement and chastised John Jordan for "blaming someone else for his actions." I didn't catch Mr. Jordan's summary statement, but here is how this unfolded:

Commissioner Dave Vespo on Permitting and Inspections in Lake Worth

From last night's Neighborhood Associations Presidents Council forum at the Lake Worth Playhouse.

Commissioner Dave Vespo's Intro Speech at the LW Playhouse Candidate Forum

Commissioner Vespo reviews his accomplishments and introduces himself to the audience last night at the Playhouse Forum sponsored by the Neighborhood Associations Presidents Council.

Explanation of Question 2 on the Lake Worth Ballot

This is from the Playhouse Candidate forum last night put on by the Neighborhood Presidents Council. Carla Blockson gave an explanation of the second Lake Worth question on the ballot concerning a 99 year lease for the organization "For the Children, Inc." You can also call 561 493 1190 for more information or follow this link to a website:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I try to understand why some people have blogs...

and not allow people to comment. What are they afraid of?

Estimated Waiting Times for Early Voting Available Online

Persons wishing to take advantage of early voting in Palm Beach County can find out beforehand how long the estimated waiting time will be by going to and clicking on Early Voting Wait Times on the right side of the screen.

Approximate waiting times at each of the 11 official early voting sites are updated at least every two hours.

Eligible voters should bring a photo ID and signature ID with them. Early voting continues through November 2.

From last week's Commission meeting...

A couple things stood out during public comment on non-agendaed items. One concerned customer service at the utility department and the other concerned inspections/code enforcement when people are working on their homes. I listened to it last week on Wednesday during the day. The specifics may not be all there, but this is what I remember hearing.

It is really sad, on both counts.

A gentleman got up to the podium and told a story about how he was something like $100 behind on his electric bill. He had been talking with utility customer service, saying that he would be able to pay the amount by a certain date so that he could maintain his utility service. On that day, he came in and paid the past due balance, only to be notified by someone at home that the city came out and turned the power off about an hour after he made the payment. Follow-up calls to customer service were made and generally unresponsive to the resident's complaints. Someone even told him that if he hadn't made the payment, his power would still have been on - no one would have been sent to disconnect it. Furthermore, he had an elderly relative at his house who occasionally needed oxygen and it was a big deal to prepare him to move somewhere else other than their house if he needed it. This was suggested - go find someone with power or got o the fire department - both unworkable solutions for this resident.

To their credit, the Commission and Mayor were compassionate with the resident and directed staff to rectify the situation. But, this is just one many others just like this, better or worse, were perpetrated that same day or week? Why does it seem impossible to get a straight answer from anyone in that department? Why does the attitude exist that the resident/customer is always wrong and the city is omnipotent - never being wrong? Why the defensiveness? Where is the compassion?

Now on to the next "little shop of horrors" - the building department. This is only the latest example of many that I have heard from those doing work on their homes, places of business, etc. Seems that a homeowner on C street has taken on a real project of a house and is making wonderful progress - visually. He passed around a picture for members of the Commission and the Mayor to see. All were impressed. However, the homeowner, after a lot of work he has put into the property, has put his property up for sale. Why? Because every time he calls for an inspection it's something else he has to do - and usually not inexpensive items. Windows, electrical, structural etc - it never seems to end. Again, the Commission extended their sympathies, but whether anything was followed up on, who is to say?

We have to realize, as I did when looking for a home in Lake Worth in the summer of 2000, that our housing stock is older. Tastes and family types have changed since the time most of these houses were built. It is very likely that anyone buying a home here will be wanting to do some sort of improvement to it - usually involving something major like an addition/expansion of bathroom or living space - or the very common kitchen upgrade.

Why do we make it so difficult? Why is it so "us against them"? Why are the inspectors inconsistent from one inspector or inspection to another?

I am convinced we can do better, but for some reason we aren't. Is it the City Manager - or lack thereof? I am also surprised that more people are not talking about this, with some exceptions, on the campaign trail.

And where are the pictures of our Mayor Jeff Clemens and his cell phone number that were to be posted at every customer service desk in the city? If you had poor or rude service, you were to have a hot-line to the Mayor. I guess chalk that up to another empty campaign promise. This is an area where the public has direct interface with the city. Lasting impressions are made during this interaction - why can't it be a positive one? It would be great to hear, "Welcome, how can I solve your problem?" waft through the halls of the City.

What are we waiting for?

Something to get us in the mood...

November City Meetings

I am checking to see if this means that there is no CRA meeting in November. I don't think that's the case.

Follow-up - There will be a CRA meeting and the date is being determined. There might be a special CRA meeting for a specific action item, as well. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 27, 2008

"Reelect Jennings, Vespo" - So sayeth the Palm Beach Post

The Palm Beach Post re-affirms their love affair with Cara Jennings - selling papers is very important these days. I am pleasantly relieved that they endorsed Dave Vespo.

The download on politics: The Internet has changed how national and local campaigns are run

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Approve Lake Worth leases" - PB Post Opinion

Click the above title for link to opinion piece on the Lake Worth ballot questions. While I agree with the PB Post's opinion on question #1 - the Snook Islands lease to the county for 99 years, I am less supportive of voting for the 99 year lease related to "For the Children."

Why? The first question would allow a 99 year lease to the county for the recently created Snook Islands natural area. This area is about to be improved with a series of boardwalks, day docks and fishing facilities that will allow the residents of Lake Worth and the county in general to better enjoy and access the Lake Worth lagoon over the long term. A 99 year lease protects the public resource in ways zoning and land use designations cannot. It also allows leverage for grants and other funding sources that see a 99 year lease as long term security for an environmental resource like this one.

Regarding the second question, while the efforts of "For the Children" are admirable and needed, especially in this area of the city, I am concerned how the PB Post and others' eyes gloss over the phrase "non-profit organization" They seem to be all to quick think that anything a "non-profit" does is automatically good or in the public interest. We have already seen many blurred lines between another non-profit - the Lake Worth Community Development Corporation and the city. Now we have have another one in our midst that will be benefiting from the value of public property in order to leverage future fund raising opportunities. In my mind, this is how this should be presented. I personally have not seen anything from the organization about what this will enable them to do that they cannot do now and how this will reduce the need for the city dollars to support their operations in the future. And, will they even be around in 99 years?

Let's be a little more critical of "non-profits" and not immediately assume that they share a public purpose in common with that of the city as a whole.

Florida Land Use Law: 4th DCA - No Repeal Referendum for Small Scale Amendment and Rezoning (take that Blackner!)

Florida Land Use Law: 4th DCA - No Repeal Referendum for Small Scale Amendment and Rezoning (take that Blackner!)

A Sarasota land use attorney's take on the Sunset case ruling.