Saturday, February 7, 2009

Reflections on appointment to Planning, Zoning, Historic Resource Preservation Board

This past Thursday the City Commission had a special meeting to conduct applicant interviews for various boards. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it but I understand that person chosen for the open Alternate #2 (P&Z) was Lynda Mahoney Ms. Mahoney hails from a "compound" on North O Street. She is no stranger to the P&Z as she has attended many meetings through the years and made applications for demolition of a structure on her property. Once approved, County money was used to take the contributing historic structure down and a time extension was needed as well. She was also Jo Ann Golden's campaign manager and Treasurer for Suzanne Mulvehill's campaign - so we know how her bread gets buttered. I only mention the demolished structure since hers was one of the historic homes demolished while I was on the board and the opposition made a point of using that in their negative campaigning when I ran.

During my time on P&Z, one of the major "structural" weaknesses of the board (not referring to the questionable structural integrity of those few demolished structures) was the proportion of people residing east of Dixie Hwy to those that didn't. During my eight years on the board, we never had even ONE person who lived outside of College Park, the downtown or North/South Palmway/Lakeside area. Living outside of those areas is a different experience entirely in the city of Lake Worth. In my experience on the board, and with others I bump into in my profession, it is best to have as much geographic diversification and representation as possible.

Planning and Zoning is a very physical and visual realm. I am convinced that if the board had representation from the southwest part of the city when we reviewed the legendary Sunset property annexation/land use/rezoning, we would have made a more informed recommendation to the City Commission. It may or may not have been a different one, but it would have been a higher quality one. If we did have representation from that area, that person or persons could have helped explain the decision to their neighbors and then the affected neighborhood would be better informed as well.

While Chairman, I always urged the Commission to appoint people from west of Dixie Hwy. to help address this imbalance. The only time that has happened is with Ron Exline - current Alternate #1 on the board.

I am disappointed that the Commission did not act to address this imbalance in this appointment and instead made a decidedly political appointment. Not taking anything away from Ms. Mahoney's skills and abilities, but her appointment is in essence a political payback. I hope that in practice, Ms. Mahoney can see around that and treat all applications and applicants equally - as she claims in her application.

Let's see if we can address this geographic imbalance on the Planning and Zoning Board in the next series of appointments in June.

South Florida avocado groves threatened

This is real bad news - click title for the grim story.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A little bit of "History Repeating..."

Lake Worth's theme song??

Bio for talk yours truly will be giving later this year...

Palm Beach - The 1920s - Seasons of Fantasy

Wes Blackman continues in his 26th year career as a professional urban planner. Mr. Blackman grew up in Michigan. While there he specialized in economic development and historic preservation projects in both the public and private sectors. Upon moving to Florida in 1989, he adapted to the new environment by specializing in growth management and infrastructure, while maintaining a passion for historic preservation. He advocated for preservation of important historic structures threatened by growth or economic obsolescence. In 1993, he began a ten year adventure working for Donald Trump, owner of the former Marjorie Merriweather Post estate "Mar-a-Lago" in Palm Beach. There he directed restoration efforts and the intricate work necessary to convert the property from a private residence to a private club. Mr. Blackman worked closely with the Town of Palm Beach, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the National Trust for Historic Preservation in gaining approval for amenities and projects necessary for the operation of a successful private club. In 1998, the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation awarded Mr. Blackman for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Historic Preservation/Rehabilitation for his efforts in the restoration of the estate and its conversion to a private club. During his time at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Blackman guided many tours through the property and educated many groups on the rich history of the estate, its former and current owner and the history of the Town of Palm Beach.

Mr. Blackman continues in his own private planning practice in Lake Worth, Florida. He has been a board member of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County and is currently active in many community planning groups. For eight years he served on the Planning and Zoning Historic Resource Preservation Board of the City of Lake Worth, the last five years as its chairman. He is member of the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is currently Chairman of the Palm Beach County Land Development Regulation Board and member of the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency.

Mr. Blackman's talk will explore Palm Beach "colony" life during the 1920s. Free from the shackles and burdens of World War I, high society came out to play in the exotic paradise known as Palm Beach, Florida. Arriving primarily by train, and as the decade progressed more and more by automobile, the "smart set" appeared in January and left by the end of March as an escape from the cold urban landscape of the north to the lush subtropical environment of Palm Beach. Mr. Blackman will reveal the many technological innovations of the decade that would prove revolutionary and lead to further development of Florida. In many ways, Palm Beach was very much on the "frontier" in the 1920s with behavior and attitudes following suit. He will also shine a spotlight on the grand estates, notable for their outlandish parties, that have since been removed from existence and discuss some of the key personalities that added life to the 1920s Palm Beach scene.

Brownfield Workshop

A Park of Commerce Brownfield Workshop will be held Friday, February 6, 2009, at 4:00 p.m. at City Hall in the Conference Room.

Push Is On To Save Lake Worth Casino Commissioner Wants Casino On National Historic Register

Someone seems unable to understand what a National Register designation would mean for the existing building. Facts do not deter her for working on behalf of her "clients." Click title for link to article. The Commissioner also was featured in a segment on Channel 25 this morning. Myth-making reaches new heights (or lows.)

cli·ent (klnt)
1. The party for which professional services are rendered, as by an attorney.
2. A customer or patron: clients of the hotel.
3. A person using the services of a social services agency.
4. One that depends on the protection of another.
5. A client state.
6. Computer Science A computer or program that can download files for manipulation, run applications, or request application-based services from a file server.

Another Record Day...Thanks for Visiting!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Joint City Commission/CRA Workshop - 2/10 - 5:30 p.m - Lagoon (Golf Course) Restaurant

Something else about the last City Commission meeting...

The day for public comment before the set of items under an agenda heading (i.e., Unifinished Business, Public Hearings, etc.) has passed. Can we please return to where the Commission discusses an item in advance and then the public comments before the vote? Personally, I would have addressed the issue regarding community policing if I had known in advance the nature of the problem Commissioner Cara Jennings had with the item. Others commented that the system was backwards as well. Structured this way really gives the Commission the upper hand. But, I guess they must like it that way.

And, lastly, the Gulfstream appeal was postponed until 2/17 - after much discussion about whether to hear the item or not. More on this topic later under a future post.

Ethical politics shouldn't be oxymoron

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Other observations from last night's City Commission meeting...

The Internet stream of the meeting was not working last night. Mayor Clemens announced this at the beginning of the meeting and he said that someone was working on it. I understand it didn't come on at any time during the meeting. They went on and on about the possibility of making Bryant Park a passive park - meaning no organized recreation. After almost 45 minutes, they decided to do nothing and address the issue (sport teams with cleats, etc.) in other way.

They also went on and on in a very confusing discussion on the length of time audio records of city meetings are kept. They ended up saying that the audio record of meetings will be kept forever and that appointed boards are encouraged to use the Commission Chambers where digital recording equipment resides. Makes sense. However, this seems to have become an issue since recordings from various meetings are non-existent from 2005 on back. Sounds like someone may have an interest in hearing those recordings. More power to them - that sort of history should be available. It was more than a little bit scary when Annbeth Karson stood up and said that there is a difference between what is in the minutes and what is said (that I can agree - minutes are not supposed to be a verbatim record) unless "three or four can get together and agree on what was said." That sounded like free license to make up history. People beware of what you are told at your front door!

Owners of the Sunset and Waterville properties were there last night to protest the city not sending the land use change ordinances that had second reading up to the Department of Community Affairs. It is my understanding that staff is doing the right thing and sending them out today. But it still leaves the prospect for this Commission to put forth a down-zoning item as it relates to the Sunset property. How bizarre would it be for the same City that fought to uphold its actions for two years, now go back and go against that action - only to end up in court again with a certain major judgment against it? Warning: This is entirely possible with this Commission.

Our tax dollars at work.

Math and Politics in Lake Worth - Upside-down and Backwards

I attended most of the City Commission meeting last night, leaving after the New Business items on the agenda. Only in Lake Worth would the saving of $250,000 be confused with excessive spending. That's right - saving considered spending - welcome to the world as viewed by Commissioner Cara Jennings.

Allow me to explain. During the past fiscal year (07-09), the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funded overtime police patrols within the CRA district to the tune of $185,000. That money was paid as part of an Interlocal Agreement from the CRA to the city. It was also done at the urging of Commissioner Cara Jennings - including an in-person plea for that funding at the first CRA meeting that I attended as a member last June. Here is an excerpt from the minutes of that meeting:

The feeling was that crime was out of control and the City Commission couldn't fund the desperately needed money for additional police coverage, especially within the CRA district. That vote was unanimous. Commissioner Jennings ended up using it on her website and campaign materials as one of her accomplishments. This from her campaign website:

When the CRA adopted its 08-09 budget, it reserved an increased amount of $340,000 towards Community Policing - doubling the previous fiscal year amount. However, in October 2008, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office took over policing duties in the city of Lake Worth - something that Commissioner Cara Jennings was against and voted "no" on the agreement. In essence, the CRA put in reserve $340,000 which would have been given to the Lake Worth Police Department had the takeover by the Sheriff's department not happened. In the world according to Commissioner Jennings, that money would have been GONE if her side prevailed on the Sheriff's contract.

Nearly everyone notices a drastically increased level of service and visibility since the Sheriff takeover. Thus, the CRA acted in January to reduce that $340,000 amount to $90,000 - a savings of $250,000 - and simply fund one officer to patrol within the CRA district, interact with code enforcement and be flexible as to the CRA's priorities. More bang for the buck and the ability to fine tune what that officer is doing - instead of throwing money ($340,000) down the rat hole. We may have never seen the benefit of that contribution had we stayed with the Lake Worth Police Department.

The details of which are laid out in this transmittal memorandum from staff to the CRA, which was the basis for a 6 to 1 vote to approve the reduction to $90,000.

Commissioner Jennings had this item placed on last night's City Commission agenda - after the fact - and declared the $90,000 to the Sheriff's office as an example of "excessive spending" on the part of the CRA.

Earth to Commissioner Jennings: Had you gotten your way with keeping the Lake Worth Police Department that amount would have been $340,000!

These substantial savings amount to one of the benefits of going with the Sheriff's department but Commissioner Jennings will never admit that. No, instead she chooses to grandstand on the issue. I tried to explain this to Commissioner Jennings' sidekick Annabeth Karson last night, but she had a hard time understanding English. Please tell your friends and neighbors.

Palm Beach County faces $90 million shortfall if property tax rate stays the same

Boil Water Notice

Effective immediately there is a Boil Water Notice for 1009 - 1231 North "F" Street, 1018 - 1228 North "E" Street, and 1219 13th Avenue North.

The reason for water interruption is to replace broken water valve. After the water service is restored customers will be under a boil water order and are requested as a precaution, to boil all water for a period of three minutes for drinking and food preparation. This will be in affect for 72 hours until 11:00 a.m., Saturday, February 7, 2009. Door hanger(s) have been passed out.

Residents will be notified if additional water samples need to be taken and if the City needs to extend this notice. Door hangers will be passed out.

Should you have any questions please contact the Water Systems Department at (561) 586-1719.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Library Program - "All's Fair in Love, War, & Historical Novels" with author Peg Herring

Author Peg Herring will present "All's Fair in Love, War, & Historical Novels" an animated discussion of a favorite genre for many readers, tales of other times and places. Peg leads an entertaining, lively look at who's hot in historical novels, past and present. Join us on Thursday evening February 26th at 6:00 pm at the Lake Worth Public Library, 15 North M St., Lake Worth.

Peg Herring is the author of short stories, plays, magazine articles and novels. Her first novel "Macbeth's Niece" was released in 2008, and her second, "Her Highness' First Murder" is on its way from publisher Five Star Expressions. Most of her writing connects to history is some way, often Shakespeare or the Tudors. When she's not writing, Peg and her husband of forty years enjoy gardening, traveling, reading and NFL football. On tour her spouse will drive the car and tote the boos, but he draws the line at public speaking.

After the discussion Peg will have copies of her latest novel "Macbeth's niece" available for sale and autographing.

Refreshments will be served beginning at 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but please call the library at 561-533-7354 to reserve a seat.

Vickie Joslin
Library Service Manager
Lake Worth Public Library
15 North M St.
Lake Worth, FL 33460

Love that Elvis!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Two environmental activists get jail time for protest

Click title for link to PB Post article. Some poignant excerpts below:

Tsolkas appeared undeterred, though, telling County Judge Laura Johnson moments before she sentenced him that he had "every intention" of leaving the court and continuing his protests.

He left instead, handcuffed, sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Johnson also adjudicated Tsolkas guilty and gave him terms of probation for all charges, the maximum being one year.

Purvis, 29, was next, receiving a term of 30 days in jail, along with the same terms of probation.

Both had previous criminal convictions resulting in the jail sentences.

"It's unheard of... jail time! Don't forget these are misdemeanors," said Tsolkas' partner Lake Worth City Commissioner Cara Jennings. "They clearly don't want people protesting in Palm Beach County."

At least not protesting while tying up traffic for hours and monopolizing the time of public safety officers. I guess Commissioner Jennings thinks that rules do not apply to her followers.

This from a later version of the article:

All seven could face staggering fines as well.

Assistant State Attorney Danielle Croke told Johnson that the defendants should each pay the more than $21,000 in investigative costs the sheriff's office incurred after deploying its Emergency Field Force to handle the protest. Croke was intent on recovering the money, calling sheriff's office officials to the witness stand to detail the costs.

Croke argued case law allows the judge to fine each defendant for the full amount.

"That's a lot of fund-raisers," the woman with the peace sign earrings whispered to Jennings.

Bake sale? That was Commissioner Jennings' pal former Mayor Marc Drautz' suggestion for College Park sidewalks.

Bad day at 822 N. C. Street.

Sign of the times: 35 Miami jobs, 1,000 applicants

Click title for link to Sun Sentinel article.

NOW Program Sunday Feb. 8 - 2 p.m. in Lake Worth

Sunday February 8, 2:00 PM


What happens after Amendment 2?

How do we respond to right wing attacks?

· Hear about the anti discrimination bill including sexual orientation and gender identity sponsored by FL Representative Kelly Skidmore

· Speakers from Equality Florida will outline other proposed bills, including ending the ban on gay adoption.

· ACLU’s representative will describe their successful court challenge to the adoption ban.

· Donald Cavanaugh of Compass will describe challenges facing LGBT youth.

· NOW members will report on a new coalition of Florida LGBT advocacy groups.

· Find out how we can support these efforts.

· Find out how we can help beat the challenge to domestic partner benefits in Gainesville!

Where: Calvary United Methodist Church, 301 First Avenue South, corner of Federal Hwy, Lake Worth

This program is presented by North PB County NOW

Join our mailing list at Website Phone 561-802-3722.

Lake Worth Democratic Club Health Care Forum 2/12 - 7 p.m.


There are some... in Lake Worth that have such strongly held beliefs that they refuse to acknowledge facts/laws/conditions that contradict their beliefs. Sometimes I think our situation here is a metaphor to the "creationism" versus "evolution" models of the universe and natural environment in which we live. We are fortunate to have professional people that staff our city departments. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, we are lucky to have people with experience, skills and knowledge to impart their professionalism on behalf of the citizens of Lake Worth. That knowledge and experience should be rewarded, if exceptional. It should also be respected and not ridiculed.

Unfortunately, we saw more than a fair share of negativity directed at staff during the last City Commission workshop meeting on the beach. While I am hardly an apologist for incompetence, can we remember that we hire people with degrees, experience and skill for a reason? And it is o.k. to admit that there may be a different set of facts (reality) than the ones that may fulfill a political agenda.

Highland Park, Michigan - Its rise and fall

An example of what results with disinvestment in urban areas, sprawl and economic re-structuring. Notice in second video Rev. Bullock talks about "lack of political vision." He also says, "We need leadership. We need folks to come together."


Smart growth is sustainable. To be sustainable, you need an economic base.

When I worked in Michigan, one of our clients was the City of Hamtramck - which has fared a little better than its Highland Park neighbor. Hamtramck suffers from many of the same ills, but has one of the newer General Motors plants and is home to a diverse ethnic community with a large eastern European population.