Saturday, December 27, 2008

City Meetings for January 2009

Rest and Relaxation

That's what the past few days have been about. This is the time of year that we all seem to take a breath and enjoy time with family and friends. We won't be having any city meetings until after the first of the year. In this down time, I have been preparing some items related to the beach and the new plan for the casino building. I'll be breaking them up into separate posts. One that I hope to get up tonight relates to the concepts of restoration, rehabilitation and re-construction. There are important distinctions between the three that seem to be getting lost in the discussion - and most likely on purpose. I will also be exploring the location of the casino building and the relationship of the property to the building. This will then lead into a look at setback issues and the Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL).

I've also separated out the posts related to the Dredge and Fill project - being put forth by the Town of Palm Beach which is being fought by the city and the Surfrider Foundation -under "Topics - Dredge and Fill." Now, the "Beach" topic will group posts related to the city's beach property - period. By the way, after the posts on Commissioner Jennings, the "Beach" topic is the area of this blog that gets the most hits. This verifies what we already know...that the beach is an important aspect of our city, part of our identity and a piece of property that people feel passionate about.

Anyway, I hope you continue to enjoy this holiday season. Remember you can e-mail me anytime with questions or ideas for topics. If you happen to catch anything in a picture that you think others may be interested in, you can forward that to me as well.

Thanks for visiting - Let's all hope for a great 2009 for the City of Lake Worth!

Friday, December 26, 2008

John G's competition - the Dune Deck at Lantana Beach

Click title for link Channel 5 video - tried to embed it but could not shut down auto-play.

Interesting that Commissioner Cara Jennings used this as an example of why the casino building at our beach should be set back 160 feet. Remember her elaborate and fear-mongering PowerPoint presentation about rising sea levels and beach erosion? Now she thinks it's o.k. to have the building 12 feet closer to the ocean. What gives Cara? Or, is it who gives?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Not quite South Florida, but...

Sunset Lawsuit - Denial of Rehearing by Fourth District Court of Appeal

It ain't over til it's over, but I finally think this means it is over. Let's hope everyone else feels the same way.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Favorite Seasonal Hymn - this time by harmonica...

Two CRA Items that received more than the usual amount of discussion...

At our CRA workshop meeting in November, we discussed the draft Transit Oriented Development report put together by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. The report looks at many aspects and demographic statistics in Lake Worth. As the discussion moved on during the evening, one of the members referred to the high percentage of renters in Lake Worth as compared with other communities and the impact that can have over the long term. In an off hand way, he compared their effect to that of "locusts."

At the time, I remember reacting - internally - with surprise that this board member would use that term. It was one that I wouldn't choose to use, but it did convey what he was thinking. It was his opinion, not the board's opinion. The meeting went on as normal after that.

At the next City Commission meeting, a point was made of this board member's reference to renters being like locusts. I was not at the meeting and have not heard that portion of the meeting, but I understand that the feeling was that the board member should make an apology at the least and that somehow this reflected poorly on the rest of the CRA board for not condemning the use of the term.

Personally, I have been a renter in Lake Worth longer than I have been an owner of property. I rented when I was first appointed to the Planning and Zoning board and earlier when I was part of the Leisure Services board. One of the things that I have liked about Lake Worth is that I have been able to enjoy living here and, as my circumstances changed, been able to find a home to own. So, for many people, renting serves a purpose and meets their housing needs without having the responsibilities and expenses associated with ownership. I think we do need to be aware of higher concentrations of rental properties in certain areas of the city and that we should do all that we can to encourage home ownership - so that we can act to avoid blight that sometimes results from absentee ownership of rental properties.

As far as what is said at City Commission, CRA and advisory board meetings, everyone needs to be cognizant that what they are saying when they are on such boards is part of the public record. And, this goes for those of the general public who partake in public discussion at the podium. There needs to be a sensitivity about the words that are said and the impact they may have on one or a group of people. The board member that made the comment, at our last meeting, acknowledged that it was a poor choice of words and apologized. So, with that, I hope that we can go on and the matter is put behind us.

As an aside, when I was chair of the Planning and Zoning board, I was fairly liberal in allowing what was said by board members and the public. One time, I remember being surprised by a board member that was telling a story about a neighbor - the subject of which was in front of the board at the time - and during the telling of the story used the word "m*****f*****" quoting what the neighbor had referred to the board member as being. That caused a stir and most couldn't believe that those words actually came out of that person's mouth, but we got over it.

The moral of the story: Speak carefully - love thy neighbor as thyself.

The next item that some in the community have talked about concerns the raise that was approved for the CRA executive director. The following is an answer to an e-mail from someone who asked for my reasons in voting for the salary increase.
What I can tell you is what went into my decision which led to my affirmative vote for the 10 percent increase. I don't speak for the entire board, however I will point out that the vote was 6-1 for the raise - the only dissenting vote was from Wayne Marcinkowski.

Personally, I am envious of anyone who is able to have a well-paying, secure job that can count on a substantial paycheck every two weeks. Working for myself as I do and having my job related in someway to real estate, times are difficult and payment from clients has slowed. Unfortunately, there are many others in the same boat as I find myself right now, or in worse condition - without a job, without a raise, threatened by layoffs, being foreclosed, etc., etc, etc.

But, that being said, that does not mean that we can't compensate someone appropriately when they are doing a great job and working on multiple projects, while keeping the board informed and involved on a daily and weekly basis. The main goal of the CRA is to reduce slum and blight by attracting investment and improving public infrastructure - all ways to stimulate the local economy, encourage job creation and private investment in areas within the CRA district. This happens over the long term. Our Executive Director is charged with many tasks - see attached progress report presented last week's meeting - and professionalism and continuity in the position is important if we want to see the kind of positive changes we need to see so that Lake Worth is a better place to live, work and play.

Joan Oliva has done a good job over the past year with the CRA - based upon my interaction with her, she is justified with the 10% raise that we granted - which includes a contract mandated cost of living increase of 4%. So, you can think of the 6% difference the portion that represents a "merit" increase. The budget reflected the potential of an increase in this ballpark.

A final consideration is that other CRAs in the area have larger staffs than the LW CRA and therefore our Executive Director is asked to do more - but is actually paid less than counterparts in other communities.

Was it a difficult decision to make? Yes, many decisions that you have to make on an appointed board are difficult and you are accountable for the decisions you make. I am comfortable that this decision was based on what was good for the long term administration of the CRA and the city as a whole.

I hope this answers your question.

Wes Blackman

FYI - I am working on a series of posts regarding the beach - some history, the new building, setbacks and process. Expect to see those coming here soon.

Stumbled upon this...

Click title for link to Wikipedia article on the S.S United States. This ship was the longest and fastest while serving a dual purpose - serving as a luxury passenger liner in peacetime and as a potential troop transporter in times of war. There were special "secret" elements designed into the ship for that, but was never used for military purposes. It was decommissioned in 1969 and has been in limbo ever since. It sits in a Philadelphia shipyard looking more and more forlorn with each passing year. Groups have formed to encourage its restoration. Interesting part of our nation's history which lacks the resources to be restored to its former grandeur.

Look for a PBS special that aired earlier this year called "A Lady in Waiting" - about the history of the ship and current status of restoration efforts.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

On-line utility payments...

I've used this feature on the City's website for the past couple of months since it was made possible. Once you're registered, you can track the amount of your bill over time, payment history, and other information - all without having to bother the surly folks at Lake Worth utility customer service.

I do have a small complaint. You are able to store debit/credit card information for use in the future - but even if you do that you must still enter the type of card, expiration date, your name and billing address - even though your credit card number is retained. You also have to re-enter your account number - something not memorized - each time if not prompted by your own browser.

I guess if this was our only problem, we would indeed be living in paradise. But, I do appreciate the convenience of on-line payment - even if it's not perfect.

Illuminating information from the City's website...

City Hall Closed
City Hall will be closed from noon - 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 23, 2008.
City Offices Closed
All City Offices will be closed Wednesday and Thursday, December 24 and 25, 2008, for the Christmas holiday and Thursday, January 1, 2009, for New Years Day.
What is the lunch hour closure about? Is this an organized holiday party of some sort for employees? Little information is given other than City Hall being closed for lunch hour on Tuesday.

Woman shot, man stabbed at Lake Worth party

According to Palenzuela, deputies were called at 10:04 p.m. to a 40 to 50-person party at 716 N. D St. where a fight had started when four or five men showed up uninvited.

Click for link to Brad Pitt's "Make it Right" - New Orleans Website