Saturday, July 18, 2009

So what does all this mean?

Yesterday, after my registration process at the LWRC, I had lunch with an architect that I worked with before on a large historic preservation project. She has a practice in Ft. Lauderdale and an office in San Jose, Costa Rica. Up to this year, she was able to bill clients about $1.5 million a year through her office with 20+ professionals and support staff. This past month her office billed out $8,000 - period. She has two architects that are essentially working for free so they can get a certain number of hours worked for various certifications. We met in order to go through what she had found in terms of potential work, what RFPs and RFQs are out and just catch up on what is happening in our personal lives. It turns out that we did more catching up than anything else since she found a total of two opportunities that could turn into something in the entire state of Florida. We were both convinced that this is the quietest it has been in the economy that we can remember - ever. My business has followed a similar pattern and I'd be overjoyed if I were able to bill out $8,000 per month even during busy times for my one person firm.

During Commissioner Jennnings campaign last year, she talked about the "Resource Center" being a good thing since it will help all of the city's residents find jobs and in a down economy that is a good thing. So, what you read about here is me following up on her campaign promise. It turns out that with the dire condition of the economy has affected the "clients" at the LWRC as well. From what I experienced this week, I would say that it functions more like a "cooling" and entertainment, feeding center for LWRC clients. There is not much hiring going on there.

This is a memo to employers that is attached to their registration form. It's from the LWRC chief operating officer, Lisa Wilson.

Essentially, it requires employers to always go through the LWRC to contact their client as the center's funding is solely determined by the amount of job placements the LWRC makes. I brought this up during the CRA meeting this past Tuesday since the LWRC was requesting CRA funding. I asked where the information on the number of job placements was. The CRA was told that they do track that information, but it wasn't in the application and they didn't have the information available. So much for job placement being the sole determinant of funding.

I also bought up the fact that the city allowed this operation to begin operation in a sub-standard building. This would never happen for a private sector business (employer) who is looking to open a business in an existing building in the city of Lake Worth. I pointed out that numerous business have issues much smaller and less critical than the faults present in this city owned building - so much so that some give-up their effort or just choose not to establish a business in the city of Lake Worth given the city's approach to problem solving. It's all everyone else's fault.

I also reminded everyone that this property is still zoned Public Recreation and Open Space - (PROS) which really doesn't permit a building, let alone a use such as a "hiring hall" - which when you pull away all the euphemisms, that is exactly what it is. In order to be legally operating at this location, the land use designation and zoning must change - again something that people find very important in other places within the city, like the beach for example. Here, the Commission has said it's o.k. Yet another example of saying one thing and doing another.

So, what were we, the citizens of Lake Worth, robbed of when the center was allowed to open without going through the land use change and re-zoning process? We citizens of Lake Worth were robbed the chance for debate and public input on the impacts such a center would have on the area. This is something that Commissioner Jennings claims is critical in order to determine what the "people" want. I guess we see now that it all depends on whether Commissioner Jennings wants whatever "it" is that determines the process and how much the public needs to be involved.

There are people within our community that hold very strong opinions regarding the operations of this center, the amount of city subsidy and whether it should exist at all. I am not sure that the messy issues - such as workers comp, withholding, city liability and address verification have ever been adequately addressed. Perhaps if those issues were addressed, the LWRC might be more successful in the future attracting potential employers for its clients. One example I was made aware of this week was the receipt by a 30 year + homesteaded property owner in the city of seven notices from the Social Security Administration to his address. All were addressed to people he didn't know, many with names he had trouble pronouncing. It might be a good idea to do more address verification than what is apparently is being done by the LWRC.

And all these are completely appropriate issues and questions to discuss, especially if a non-profit that is using a city building is asking for money. I was accused of making a mountain out of a molehill at the CRA meeting. One CRA commissioner even asked if I felt it my job to just point out hypocrisies. I confirmed that I felt it was important for someone to point these out and, if no one does, I consider it my job.

I guess some people think it depends on the issue how much something should be discussed.

The motion to fund their request passed - but the LWRC was only given $1,000 of their $3,000 request - on a vote of 4-2, with Brendan Lynch and me voting no. Commissioner Lynch had issues with extension of the city's liability as it relates to the operation.

If the center is really supposed to serve the entire city, perhaps Spanish as a second language classes should be given and a broader offering of potential employers/jobs should be available.

Or, how about this novel concept: Let's make the city an attractive and profitable place to do business so that new jobs are created close to where our residents live.