Friday, December 19, 2008

Reminders from the Florida Redevelopment Association...

A vacant building doesn’t become a thriving business overnight.

Affordable housing units don’t build themselves.
The revitalization and preservation of our communities doesn’t just
happen on its own…

It happens because of the efforts of the 141 active Community
Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs) throughout the state.

Think of where your city was just 10 years ago. The changes
and improvements you have seen are likely a result of the
planning and work of your local CRA.

The financial commitment put forth by a CRA attracts private
investors and creates a trickle-down effect in which a community
greatly benefits and the overall economic product is
greater than the original public investment.

A CRA creates a safer and cleaner urban environment, preserves
and grows businesses, and provides a place we can be proud of.
It serves as the catalyst for revitalization projects – working with
citizens for the community’s best interests, and sustaining the overall
vitality of the community.

Redevelopment will always be a priority in people’s minds.
Florida, a diverse and densely populated state, must continually
invest in the redevelopment of its urban areas, or blight will take
a foothold.

Click title for link to FRA web page.

Meteoric fireball seen over Palm Beach County


The word bolide comes from the Greek βολις, (bolis) which can mean a missile or to flash. The IAU has no official definition of bolide and generally considers the term synonymous with fireball. The term is more often used among geologists than astronomers where it means a very large impactor. For example, the USGS uses the term to mean a generic large crater-forming projectile "to imply that we do not know the precise nature of the impacting body ... whether it is a rocky or metallic asteroid, or an icy comet, for example".[7] Astronomers tend to use the term to mean an exceptionally bright fireball, particularly one that explodes (sometimes called a detonating fireball).

Click title for PB Post article.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

John D. MacArthur State Park vs. Downtown Lake Worth beach linkage

Distance from middle of parking area to beach area to the east about 1/2 mile.
Distance from middle of downtown to beach area to the east is about 3/4 mile.

Ponder this...

Some sort of building on the beach, wherever it may land with a sea of green, verdant, lush native landscape, getting rid of all (or most) of the parking lots, store vehicles in the downtown, encourage trolley, walking or biking to the beach.

Would better link the downtown with the beach, encourage commerce in the downtown, emphasize the "greeness" of Lake Worth, encourages fitness, shows commitment to alternative transportation, would open up additional possibilities for grants, foundation assistance.

Idea sent in e-mail to City Commission - 12/18/08.

I am reminded that the county requires that parking be provided in equal or greater numbers than what is there now, in exchange for their $5 million. Why can't that parking be dedicated to our beach, but physically exist in our downtown? I think it's worth discussion - even on a "what if?" basis - with the County.

Otherwise, we are "cementing" the fact that if you want to go to our beach for the next 20 years, we prefer that you drive a car there. Perhaps minimal parking there for transit vehicles, hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles. And then you would automatically be funneled through our downtown commercial district if you wanted to go to our beach - establishing a better economic link between the beach and the downtown.

Florida Attorney General Advisory Legal Opinion Number: AGO 2008-65 Date: December 10, 2008 Subject: Sunshine Law, use of online bulletin board

Ms. Terrill C. Pyburn
Attorney, City of Delray Beach
Office of the City Attorney
200 Northwest 1st Avenue
Delray Beach, Florida 33444

RE: MUNICIPALITIES – ADVISORY BOARDS – GOVERNMENT IN THE SUNSHINE LAW – MEETINGS – WORKSHOPS – BULLETIN BOARDS – COMPUTERS – INTERNET – use of on-line bulletin board for workshop meetings of municipal advisory board. s. 286.011, Fla. Stat.; Art. I, s. 24, Fla. Const.

Dear Ms. Pyburn:

On behalf of the City Commission of the City of Delray Beach, you have asked for my opinion on substantially the following question:

Would a task force or other city advisory board of the City of Delray Beach violate provisions of the Government in the Sunshine Law if workshop meetings were conducted using an on-line bulletin board?

According to your letter, the City of Delray Beach proposes to conduct on-line bulletin board-type workshop meetings through the Internet. You advise that the meetings will be conducted as follows:

• Meetings will be noticed as required by section 286.011, Florida Statutes.

• Meetings will last exactly two (2) hours and will allow board members and the public to share ideas about green buildings, recycling, and other "green" topics with the full discussion available to everyone "attending" the meeting.

• At the conclusion of each meeting, the bulletin board will be closed and no further posting or discussion will be allowed.

• Computers will be made available to the public at the city's public library. These computers will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis and there are fifty computers in the library.

• No voting will take place during these workshop meetings.

• The full text of all discussions will be archived as a public record by the city and will be available for inspection and copying.

The city's plan includes the use of two electronic bulletin boards, one for board members and one for the general public and both screens will be open at the same time. Board members will be able to post comments on the designated board and the public will likewise post comments on the bulletin board designated for public use and both screens will be viewable by all during the course of the "meeting." The bulletin boards will be equipped with a clock that will control the beginning and ending of the meeting and both the public and board member bulletin board will open and close at the same time.

Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law, section 286.011, Florida Statutes, ensures a right of access to government proceedings at the state and local levels.[1] The Sunshine Law was enacted in the public interest to protect the public from "closed door" politics and must be broadly construed to effect its remedial and protective purpose.[2]

A fundamental requirement of the Government in the Sunshine Law is that meetings of entities subject to the provisions of the Sunshine Law be "open to the public." "Open to the public," as that phrase is used in section 286.011, Florida Statutes, means open to all persons who choose to attend.[3] Further, Florida courts have held that the Sunshine Law extends to discussions and deliberations as well as formal actions taken by a public board or commission.[4] Thus, workshop meetings for advisory boards of the City of Delray Beach are subject to the requirements of section 286.011, Florida Statutes.

Although members of advisory boards of the city do not appear to be precluded from utilizing the Internet to conduct informal discussions, such discussions which are subject to the Sunshine Law must be accessible by the public.[5] These advisory groups must, therefore, ensure that access is provided to all members of the public who wish to attend such discussions.[6]

Access must be available not only to those members of the public possessing a computer with internet access, but also to those who may not have access to the Internet. As this office concluded in Attorney General Opinion 2001-66, places within the jurisdiction of the board must be designated where computers with internet access will be made available to members of the public who wish to participate in such discussions. The notice of these discussions, required under the Sunshine Law, should include the locations where such computers with Internet access will be located.

For meetings where a quorum is required, this office, in several formal and informal opinions[7] has stated that concerns about the validity of official actions taken by a public body when less than a quorum is present suggest a very conservative reading of the statute. This office has concluded that, in the absence of a statute to the contrary, the requisite number of members must be physically present at a meeting in order to constitute a quorum.[8] While a quorum is not required for a meeting to be subject to the Government in the Sunshine Law,[9] to the extent that any advisory body is required to have a quorum in order to conduct official business, it appears that the members of these bodies must, in the absence of a statute to the contrary, be physically present in order to constitute a quorum.[10]

In sum, it is my opinion that the Green Task Force of the City of Delray Beach and other city advisory boards may conduct informal discussions and workshops using an on-line bulletin board if proper notice is given and interactive access to members of the public is provided. As was stated in Attorney General Opinion 2001-66, such interactive access must include not only public access via the Internet, but also the designation of places within the task force's jurisdictional boundaries where computers with internet access is made available to members of the public who may not otherwise have computers with internet access. Notice of these workshops should include the locations where such computers will be available. For any meetings where a quorum is necessary for action to be taken, the physical presence of the members making up the quorum would be required in the absence of a statute providing otherwise.

I continue to be concerned however, that interested persons within the community who may not be comfortable with or familiar with the operation of a computer or who may have difficulty using a computer keyboard or are handicapped and need adaptive technology will be reluctant to participate in on-line discussions or workshops under the plan you have proposed. This office has stressed that a "chilling" of the rights of Florida citizens to participate in public meetings is unacceptable.[11] For this reason, the city should ensure that operating-type assistance is available at the library where the computers are located. The notice of this workshop meeting should advise that assistance will be available and should request that any handicapped participants notify the city so that special accommodations may be made to facilitate their participation in the workshop.

Finally, I would note that section 286.011(2), Florida Statutes, provides that "[t]he minutes of any . . . board or commission [subject to the Sunshine Law] shall be promptly recorded, and such records shall be open to public inspection." This office has opined that, while tape recorders may also be used to record the proceedings before a public body, written minutes of the meeting must be taken and promptly recorded.[12] The minutes that are required to be kept for "workshop" meetings are no different than those that the statute requires for any other meeting of a public board or commission.[13] Thus, while the Green Task Force may archive the full text of all workshop discussions conducted on the Internet and these materials would be public records pursuant to Chapter 119, Florida Statutes, written minutes of these workshops must also be prepared and promptly recorded.


Bill McCollum
Attorney General



[1] See also Art. I, s. 24, Fla. Const., providing a right of access to meetings of collegial public bodies. And see Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Company v. Magaha, 769 So. 2d 1012, 1021 (Fla. 2000), noting that the Sunshine Law "is of both constitutional and statutory dimension."

[2] See Wood v. Marston, 442 So. 2d 934, 938 (Fla. 1983); Canney v. Board of Public Instruction of Alachua County, 278 So. 2d 260 (Fla. 1973); Board of Public Instruction of Broward County v. Doran, 224 So. 2d 693 (Fla. 1969).

[3] See, e.g., Ops. Att'y Gen. Fla. 99-53 (1999) and 01-66 (2001).

[4] See Hough v. Stembridge, 278 So. 2d 288 (Fla. 3d DCA 1973) (Sunshine Law applies to any gathering, whether formal or casual, of two or more members of the same board or commission to discuss some matter upon which foreseeable action will be taken by the board or commission).

[5] See, e.g., Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 89-39 (1989), stating that a board of county commissioners may use a computer network in the course of conducting county business, but cautions that any discussions between the members of the board via computer on issues pending before the board would be subject to the provisions of
s. 286.011, Fla. Stat.

[6] See Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 01-66 (2001).

[7] See, e.g., Inf. Op. to John C. Randolph, dated November 24, 1997, and Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 01-66 (2001).

[8] See, e.g., Ops. Att'y Gen. Fla. 83-100 (1983), 89-39 (1989), and 01-66 (2001).

[9] See n.4, supra.

[10] See Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 98-28 (1998), recognizing that the authorization in
s. 120.54(5)(b)2., Fla. Stat., for the use of communications media technology to conduct meetings applied only to state agencies.

[11] See Inf. Op. to Campbell, February 8, 1999; and Inf. Op. to Nelson, May 19, 1980, in which this office indicated that luncheon meetings to conduct board or commission business may have a "chilling" effect on public willingness or desire to attend public meetings and should be avoided for that reason.

[12] See Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 75-45 (1975).

[13] See Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 74-62 (1974).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sun sets on Sunset? Should be in writing by Friday...

...I understand - on good authority - that a request for re-hearing on the Sunset/Save Our Neighborhood lawsuit is being denied. This is the end of line as it relates to the Sunset property lawsuit. Below is the first page of the motion put forth by Save Our Neighborhood and Betty Anderson.I'll post the final court document when released.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mr. Baldwin called me...

...and he agreed about the commute and how he really doesn't like it. However, he did take exception to my expressed perception that he doesn't put in full work week and that he is inaccessible. He says that since the beginning he has come in early and gone home late to avoid rush hour, but still puts in a very full week. He also said that you can call his secretary to set up an appointment and that he will see you. He offered me the opportunity to meet with him, which I appreciate. He is preparing a report to be made sometime in January that will detail all the improvements undertaken with staff and procedures since he has been here. He has not tried to do anything fancy, just trying to make the basics work - cutting checks, etc. I told him that customer service is still sorely lacking and that I haven't seen any improvement there, especially in the building and utilities customer service areas. I also mentioned the "lesson in hieroglyphics" calendar that was distributed regarding our trash collection schedule. In response to what I wrote, I said that it was a shot across the bow, but that my perception is shared by a lot of others.

The one thing that bothered me about the call was Mr. Baldwin saying that he thought that I was one of the good citizens. I told him that I still consider myself a good citizen.

The tone of the conservation was low key and non-confrontational.

Anyway, thanks for the call and I will take you up on your invitation.

Lauderhill inspector held on attempted bribery charges

Click title for link. Below is a direct press release from the Broward County Sheriff's Office (BSO):

BSO Case Number: BS08-12-03384
PIO Number: 08-12-27
Date: December 15, 2008
Time: 2:13 p.m. Jurisdiction: Broward County
Place of Occurrence: City of Lauderhill


  • State of Florida


  • Vito DiBenedetto, 53, male, 7/9/55, 5630 SW 55 St., Davie (IN CUSTODY)

Description of Incident:

Broward Sheriff's Office detectives have arrested a City of Lauderhill building inspector for seeking bribes from a contractor in Lauderhill.
According to investigators, 53-year-old Vito DiBenedetto on at least two occasions solicited bribes from a contractor performing work in the City of Lauderhill. The suspect arranged to meet the victim after hours at various locations in Broward County and asked the victim for payment in exchange for his influence and service as a building inspector for the City of Lauderhill. DiBenedetto told the victim that he knew what it took to get a permit issued. Between July and August, 2008, the suspect accepted two payments of $5,000 each from the victim. During these transactions, DiBenedetto wore a City of Lauderhill shirt and a gold badge that showed "Chief Building Inspector." Detectives learned the suspect is employed as a building inspector for the City of Lauderhill but is not the chief building inspector.
On December 12, 2008, DiBenedetto contacted the victim again and sought payments of $10,000 for inspections. The victim contacted investigators and arranged a meeting with the suspect to take place on December 15. Detectives observed DiBenedetto accept the cash and took him into custody. The suspect admitted to taking the payments and said the payments were for a consulting fee.
DiBenedetto was booked into BSO's Main Jail. He faces charges of bribery, extortion by a state officer and unlawful compensation by a public official.
BSO detectives are continuing with their investigation and believe there may be more victims. Investigators are asking that anyone who may have been victimized by DiBenedetto to contact Det. Brad Stephenson at 954-888-5319.
MEDIA NOTE: A photo of the suspect is attached to this news release at
INVESTIGATORS: Det. B. Stephenson, Det. M. Brimm, SID
THIS REPORT BY: Alesia Russell/PIO 12/16/08 1500

City Manager's Commute - Carbon Footprint

Assuming a 45 mile trip one way (conservative estimate)

Your 90 mile car commute generates 109.8 pounds of carbon dioxide.

To offset all that carbon, you'd need to plant a tree every 2 days, or 158 trees per year.

Or about 28.5 tons after two years.

Click here for website with carbon calculator

Click title for a link to the Kyoto Protocol document.

Well, I'll be...

It turns out that there is back-up for the City Manager's item on tonight's City Commission agenda. Basically, Mr. Baldwin is offering us a fine farewell, explains again why he didn't want the job in the first place and offers to stay on through the search for a new City Manager. Unfortunately, since he really didn't want to be here anyway, we had to pay for a lot more than what we got - my opinion.

And just how did we end up with what turns out to be a City Manager with one of the larger carbon footprints possible? Kyoto Protocol anyone? Care to comment Commissioner Cara Jennings? How many tons of carbon in the atmosphere does 750 hours of commuting in a single passenger automobile amount to?

Interesting discussion on the last page (Minutes from June) regarding decorum at meetings which precedes mention of the City Manager's contract.

Monday, December 15, 2008

County Offering Free Six-Week Course on Neighborhood Revitalization

Palm Beach County's Office of Community Revitalization (OCR) is proud to once again offer, the Resident Education to Action Program (REAP), a six-week, hands-on educational program providing community revitalization and civic leadership development. This educational program is intended to help residents who are interested in improving their neighborhoods. The theme this year is �Unity in the Community!
Resident Education to Action Program (REAP) supports the formation of neighborhood associations and empowers residents to seek a better quality of life. Through this course, residents will gain knowledge of innovative ways to solve neighborhood issues. Course topics will be: Successful Neighborhood Revitalization; Approaches to Community Organizing and Strengthening; Sustaining Neighborhood Economics; Project Safe Neighborhood; Building Healthy Neighborhoods; Civic Engagement: A Call to Action. Residents will also be provided an overview on OCR's programs and initiatives as well as learn more about county government, community resources and services that are available for neighborhood improvements.
One mission of REAP is to provide an opportunity for the residents of Palm Beach County to acquire a greater knowledge of and appreciation for government through active participation in the process. Residents will perform a mock commission meeting and showcase their strategies to local county and city officials.
Participants will be given the opportunity to apply for a grant through the America's Next Top Neighborhood Award Grant Program. Participants will also complete a community service project.
Sessions are facilitated using a variety of innovative techniques including group activities, lectures, guest speakers, individual outside work and oral presentations. The course and all materials are free but a commitment for the entire six-week course is required. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
To register for REAP or for additional information regarding the program, please visit our website at or contact LaToya Ricketts, REAP Coordinator at (561) 233-5239 or
WHO: Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization (OCR)
WHAT: Resident Education to Action Program (REAP)
THEME: Unity in the Community!�
WHEN: January 22 to April 21, 2009
WHERE: Western Palm Beach County
January 22 to February 26, 2009
6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Palm Beach Community College
1977 College Drive, Belle Glade, FL 33430
Central Palm Beach County
March 17 to April 21, 2009
6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Palm Beach County Vista Center
2300 North Jog Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33411

Press Release: 4th Annual Festival of Trees - Lake Worth

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pete Carroll - USC Head Coach - Confronts Gang Violence

60 minutes had a segment tonight on Pete Carroll, USC football head coach. He goes into the worst areas of Los Angeles where gangs rule and attempts to give another vision to those who might be victims of violence. Here is one piece from 2004 by ESPN:

Click on title for link to the "A Better L.A." website.

Click here for April 2008 L.A. Times article.

Here is the full 60 Minutes piece that aired tonight:

Watch CBS Videos Online

More Video from the 2008 Holiday Parade

Love the horses!

Another view of Santa and Mrs. Claus!

Item on coming Commission Meeting agenda - 12/16 re City Manager

Long expected item appears under New Business on the next City Commission agenda. For the past almost two years, our City Manager has been one that you could term either "drive by" or "drive through" - pick your favorite term. Commissioner Golden negotiated - if you can call it that - his contract to a point that it turned out to be the wish list of every City Manager - come and go as you please, no need to answer phones or e-mails, get paid big bucks, have other people do the work and take the heat for you and essentially pick and choose the time you want to leave being employed by the city of Lake Worth. Those in the know knew that he was "only good through the election." Now, with the new Commission in place, the time for getting out has come.

Of course, the back-up on this item is non-existent. I doubt that there is some new information due by next Tuesday regarding the matter - why the secrecy? Who will be the interim while a search is conducted? They will be conducting a search won't they? Or, is the decision already made? Will this City Manager be a part of this community, be accessible and responsive? Before I thought it was a workable situation to have a City Manager that doesn't live here. No more.

Mr. Baldwin's stay here - if you can call it that - changed my mind.