Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Rapacious Developers"

First of all, let me say that I was very surprised to find out this week that the New Times (Broward/Palm Beach) named this blog as the Best of 2009. If you haven't read what they wrote, there's a link in the upper right hand corner, just below the banner, that will take you there. Thanks to all the people who offered their congratulations and encouragement to keep doing what I am doing.

The person that did the write-up obviously had spent some time here on the blog, knew my bio information and had read some of my Commission meeting previews. But, somehow the writer linked my calling out of Commissioners Jennings and Mulvehill to their ties to "rapacious developers." This, of course, caused more than a giggle since I am the one that is usually, erroneously, tied to "rapacious developers." They may be tied to hypocrisy and multiple special interests, but not to "rapacious developers." At least I don't think so. Note to all who read this: There are no developers in Lake Worth due to the lack of certainty in the political and regulatory environment - period. Something that I have said is a means to their end.

This got me thinking about truth and the power of the written and spoken word. Just this morning, I heard a piece about how journalists in Myanmar are routinely arrested for reporting what is going on in that country. At a minimum, their equipment, tapes, recording equipment are confiscated. Most of the time they are arrested and kept for long periods of time. We have witnessed the same sort of action recently perpetrated by North Korea...and the list goes on from the more subtle forms of censorship to the more extreme examples.

People are willing to risk their lives and livelihoods for the purpose of getting out the truth. Presentation of facts to an audience is really a sacred trust. Many times in Lake Worth, I am amazed by how many people treat the truth or facts so cavalierly and dismiss reality entirely if it doesn't fit with their "great work program" or their quest for power and control. So, that being said, please call me out when you think I am not honoring the facts in the way they should be honored. If we all were more ginger in the way we handle the facts - what is true - we would at least be focused on the same set of circumstances with a chance to work together to make conditions better - not just arguing about what the conditions are.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, the search engine in the upper left hand corner of the blog is your friend! There is TONS of material on here and that's the best way to navigate around if you are looking for something in particular.

Let's attempt to keep each other honest.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Seen on my street yesterday...

There were 7, sometimes 8, city vehicles on my street yesterday and then again this morning. Seems that a palm tree root ball penetrated a 2" water line along the back property lines between Columbia and Cornell. I didn't notice any drop in water pressure. Now, about those sidewalks... I read in the City Manager's report (more on that later) where the city is about to re-do 2,000 ft. of sidewalks in the city. College Park has long been plagued by poor sidewalks, some of the worst are along the two fronts of my corner lot. Maybe this time?

Residential Real Estate, Sales within past 30 days 33460 zip code

Click title for link - some good buys - some scary, low prices.

June 9, 2009 Workshop Meeting - Agenda and Back-up posted after meeting

Better late than never? Click title for link. Of particular interest is the City Manager's memo on organizational matters. Many more departments will report directly to the City Manager -a good thing. There are also major physical relocations planned for departments, including moving Community Development/Code Enforcement and Building (although the building permit function wasn't mentioned, which makes me think that the Boynton Beach rumor might have some legs.) This shifting of departments will allow the city to vacate space it is currently leasing in the Gallo Building.

Here are the floor plans that show the new location of various departments:


Here are a few posters against the Florida Hometown Democracy movement from Floridians for Smarter Growth. Read more about the "movement" by clicking title. Click here to see all of the organizations against Florida Hometown Democracy.

DC increases transparency with Google Apps - Hmmmm.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

You are Reading the BEST BLOG of 2009 - New Times!

Click title for link.

Multimodal Transportation Planning Workshop

Rally to fight foreclosures |West Palm Beach News, South Florida Breaking News, Forecast, Video from WPTV

Rally to fight foreclosures |West Palm Beach News, South Florida Breaking News, Forecast, Video from WPTV

Posted using ShareThis


On the day the Equal Rights ...



What it is—and why FL MUST RATIFY IT NOW!”

Speaker: Rep. Kelly Skidmore, FL House District 90.

Short film: “The ERA, Unfinished Business for the Constitution” by the Alice Paul Society

Open discussion will follow.

When: Monday June 15, 2009 at 6:30 PM.

Where: Compass Gay and Lesbian Community Center,

201 North Dixie Hwy, Lake Worth FL.

Directions: I-95 to 10th Avenue North, east to US Hwy 1, south 9 blocks to Lucerne, right on Lucerne 1 block, right on H St. 1 ½ blocks, then immediate right into parking lot (bright blue building.)

From the south, I-95 to 6th Avenue South, east to US Hwy 1, north 7 blocks to Lucerne, left on Lucerne 1 block, right on H St. 1 ½ blocks, then immediate right into parking lot (bright blue building.)

Free and open to all, bring friends!

Wheelchair accessible meeting space.

Childcare available by request, please call 561-802-3722.

COLUMN: Florida Hometown Defense

Opinion piece by PB Post's Joel Englehardt. Click title for link. An excerpt:

But SB 360 is so bad that it may persuade public officials who dislike Hometown Democracy to embrace it. Voters fed up with Tallahassee are sure to like the concept of public control, despite a concerted Florida Chamber of Commerce campaign to defeat it. Trust in Tallahassee is so low, consider this potential response to the passage of Hometown Democracy: Legislators could eliminate land-use planning. If there is no land-use plan, there can be no voter referendum to change the land-use plan.

Rather than cave in to the inevitability of Hometown Democracy, local communities can unify. If they don't, SB 360 will mean a different set of rules, or no rules at all, in every city based on artificial boundaries, not common sense. Traffic allowed by one jurisdiction would cause congestion in a neighboring jurisdiction. Without countywide control, the neighboring city will have no say.

Getting neighbors to agree can be a problem, as the Royal Palm Beach-Wellington experience reveals. But it's worth the effort. Lantana Town Manager Michael Bornstein has suggested that cities, counties and the school district come together to identify critical issues facing Palm Beach County and create a plan to confront them.

Right now, he correctly notes, the county is like a fibrillating heart because every jurisdiction dances to its own beat. What better issue on which to start dancing together than growth management? Cities and counties have been doing it for two decades. In 1988, Palm Beach County voters insisted on it, approving a referendum that put traffic planning under the county.

This idea of regional planning has merit - and a logical reaction to the illogical enactment of the Hometown Democracy initiative would be the state taking away comprehensive planning as we know it. Then, there would be no referendum since there would be no local comprehensive plans. Perhaps we should talk with our neighbors since we already serve many of them with our utilities - oh, that's right, they may not want to talk to us since we threaten to take away our water service, we bill for items 10 years in arrears and we don't honor agreements. In a way, we are ahead of the curve since we essentially don't have a Comprehensive Plan now.

My point is, it would be great for Lake Worth to be in a position to lead on this regional planning concept, but we have lost any right or claim to that role based upon how we manage our own affairs and our relationships with other local governments.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hurricane Information from Palm Beach County

From the Desk of Commissioner Steven L. Abrams

With hurricane season upon us, I took the opportunity last week to visit the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center and was briefed on the County's emergency plan. Having led the response and recovery from three hurricanes when I was Mayor of Boca Raton, I was very impressed with the county team we have in place to handle a natural disaster. The key element for all is to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Advance preparation is crucial for the safety of you and your family. The county has an extensive amount of useful and important information available online. In addition to the Hurricane Preparedness Guide, you can find locations of Publix and gas stations that have generators, links to federal and state agencies and much more. To access this information, go to and click on the red button marked “Hurricane Preparedness.”

Also, just a reminder that battery operated televisions that receive signals over the air will not be operational due to the digital switch effective June 12. Battery operated radios (AM/FM) are recommended and battery operated portable “digital” televisions are available for purchase.

Please take some time to review the information online. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 561-276-1220 or the county’s Emergency Management Division at 561-712-6400.

Commissioner Steven L. Abrams

Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners

301 N. Olive Avenue, 12th Floor

West Palm Beach, FL 33401


Yesterday's City Commission meeting at 2:30 p.m. - no agenda, no streaming audio

Topics discussed?

NY Times article:

Allison Arieff: Rethinking the Mall
Published: June 1, 2009
At a convention for shopping mall designers and developers, a glimpse of the future and, unfortunately, the past.

Some "out there" concepts - not advocating anything here, but it's interesting to look at trends. Click title for link.

Residential Vegetation Amnesty Week in Lake Worth

Residential Vegetation Amnesty Week

Wednesday, June 03, 2009 at 11:50 AM

The City of Lake Worth is offering a special "Residential Vegetation Amnesty Week" during the week of June 15 - June 19, 2009.

The City encourages all residential property owners to utilize this "Vegetation Only Amnesty Week" to prepare their properties for the 2009 Hurricane Season. We will be picking up unlimited amounts of vegetation only in accordance with the Health and Sanitation Ordinance. Vegetation can be left curbside beginning Saturday June 13 and will be picked up during your regularly scheduled pick up day. As an example, if your pick up day is Thursday, you can put out vegetation only starting Saturday, June 13, up to your pickup day on Thursday, June 18 and the city will pick all of it up. After Friday, June 19, your regular vegetation pick up schedule will resume and regulated limits will apply.

During this “Vegetation Only Amnesty Week” no citations will be issued.

This does not include demolition or construction debris or bulk waste (stoves, refrigerators, old furniture, mattresses, etc.)

We encourage all residents to use the guidelines as set forth within the city's "Tree Preservation Ordinance" when pruning and trimming trees and shrubs. Hat-racking or Topping, as is commonly referred to, is strictly prohibited within the City of Lake Worth and Palm Beach County. You may be subject to a monetary fine as well as tree replacement if you are found to be in violation of this ordinance.

For further information about the Amnesty week pickup, contact the City of Lake Worth Refuse Division at 561-533-7344.

For additional information regarding proper pruning or trimming contact the City Horticulturist, Martin Cybulski, at 561-586-1720 or the Grounds Maintenance Division at 561-586-1677

Lake Worth to keep buying water from West Palm Beach, despite taste and odor problems

Click title for link to PB Post article. Note that Commissioner Jennings is trying to play both sides:

Following today's vote, Commissioner Cara Jennings asked city staffers to post a notice on the city's Web site telling residents that the use of West Palm Beach water is temporary.

"I don't think any of us want West Palm Beach water," Jennings said. "This is an emergency."

Strange how emergencies can last 2.5 to 3 years with this City Commission.

Why are we fighting the Palm Beach County water contract? This is another obstacle for our Comprehensive Plan to achieve compliance - another excuse to say "no" to any redevelopment.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Public participation and input are not valued in Lake Worth.

Letter sent to CRA Board applicants...

Now, the City Commission needs to send letters of apology out to all of the people who received this letter. I personally don't need one; it's something that I have come to expect. But I am concerned about those people that really thought they could contribute and were looking forward to the experience. They, instead of being able to exercise their civic duty, were greeted by a closed door.

Things wrong with yesterday's last minute City Commission agenda change...

Here is a quick list:
  • Notification 45 minutes before the meeting begins that 31 some people won't be interviewed as indicated in the published agenda
  • Less than 24 hours notice of the change
  • Polling of Commissioners by phone regarding the change prior to the meeting
  • Adding an item that was never part of the original agenda - i.e., the future of the CRA
  • Getting many new people to apply for a volunteer citizen board to help their community - only to be told "We don't want you anyway, we know better ourselves"
  • Having at least two joint meetings between the CRA and City Commission within the past few months and not ever speaking about the prospect of being taken over by the City Commission. Even though it was never really out-of-the-picture, it says a lot about the character - or lack thereof - of those on the Commission who cannot communicate what is really on their minds.

"Let the sunshine in..."

Sunshine Law--polling members by memorandum

Click title for link to Florida Attorney General opinion. An excerpt appears below:

"The right of the public to be present and to be heard during all phases of enactments by boards and commissions is a source of strength in our country. During past years tendencies toward secrecy in public affairs have been the subject of extensive criticism. Terms such as managed news, secret meetings, closed records, executive sessions, and study sessions have become synonymous with 'hanky panky' in the minds of public-spirited citizens. One purpose of the Sunshine Law was to maintain the faith of the public in governmental agencies. Regardless of their good intentions, these specified boards and commissions, through devious ways, should not be allowed to deprive the public of this inalienable right to be present and to be heard at all deliberations wherein decisions affecting the public are being made." Board of Public Instruction of Broward County, supra, at 699.

The opinion then continues: "Thus, telephone conversations between public officials on aspects of the public's business are part of the process which ultimately leads up to final recorded action in a formal public meeting, and they may not be held covertly." It was held that such conversations had to be conducted under the provisions of the Sunshine Law. In so holding, it is clear that the word "meeting" is not limited to the physical coming together of the board members but, rather, includes the entire decision-making process of a public body. A memorandum containing policy suggestions passed around to members of a board for their approval, which approval gives the memorandum the effect of an official action, is not only a part of the process which leads up to final recorded action but is final action. Deliberations of the type you mention are part of the decision-making process, are of public interest and should be held in the sunshine. The memorandum method is an attempt to by-pass the Sunshine Law by not having meetings and is a violation of the intent and meaning of the law. In IDS Properties, Inc. v. Town of Palm Beach, 279 So. 2d 353 (Fla. 4th DCA 1973), which held that an advisory board to the town council fell under the purview of the Sunshine Law, the court said that "[i]t is axiomatic that public officials cannot do indirectly what they are prevented from doing directly." See also Green v. Galvin, 114 So. 2d 187 (Fla. 1st DCA 1959). Public officials legally bound to conduct their business under the Sunshine Law cannot escape this duty by acting in secret on public matters by means of such memorandums.

Section 286.011(3), Florida Statutes, provides that any member of a board who violates section 286.011(1) by attending a meeting not held in accordance with its provisions is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree. To hold that this section does not apply to the memorandum method since it is not a "meeting" would also be contrary to the intent of the law. If telephone conversations and memorandums are considered "meetings" so as to fall under section 286.011(1), then they must be considered meetings under the misdemeanor section, section 286.011(3). Therefore, any board member participating in conducting public business by memorandum, in violation of the Sunshine Law, would be subject to a criminal action.

June 8, 2009 Commission Meeting

CRA Board Members,

At tonight’s meeting, the Commission decided not to hold interviews for the vacant Board seats but to instead have a meeting within the next 30 days to discuss having the Commission serve as the CRA Board.

When additional information becomes available, I will be sure to let you know.


Monday, June 8, 2009

CRA Interviews Cancelled for Tonight

Note Item B: Discuss the future/terms of the Community Redevelopment Agency

Commission was "polled" over the phone regarding the change - Sunshine Law violation? To do it correctly, they would have to meet according to the publicized meeting and change the agenda then.

Here we go again...

Notice the scheduling of the workshops on alternate Tuesdays from regular City Commission meetings. I understand that by looking at this calendar issued today that these Commission workshops will be held at 2:30 p.m. If you go to the City's website this afternoon, this is what you will see about the topics to be discussed at this mid-afternoon meeting:

There is no associated agenda for tomorrow under City Commission agendas on the city's website, as of 3:33 p.m. Monday. You have to go back to the City Manager's report from 6/2/09 to learn what will be discussed.

These are big issues - the beach, our water supply, etc. Folks, this is not open government - sketchy, if any, notice and holding these meetings in the mid-afternoon is a bad idea if you want transparency. Will this now be used as a litmus test for candidates - making sure they can be available for meetings at all time of the day?

This is what is known about tomorrow night's meeting - this is essentially a "make up" meeting for when Commissioner Mulvehill was absent. No agenda is available on the website but for this notification under "Meetings and Events":

Free Lecture By Jeff Speck - June 28th at 6:00 PM

The Florida Public Officials Design Institute at Abacoa and its partners are hosting a free lecture and dinner on Sunday, June 28th at 6 PM in Fellsmere, Florida, in Indian River County. Jeff Speck, an international sought-after architect and designer is our keynote speaker. Speck will be speaking about urban design and how to make choices in achieving sustainable design and smart growth goals. He, along with Andreas Duany and Lizz Plater-Zybeck, co-authored Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, a book that compares two different models of urban growth: the traditional neighborhood and suburban sprawl. These two models are polar opposites in appearance, function, and character: they look different, they act differently, and they affect us in different ways.

Please join us for this final Design Institute of Abacoa program. RSVPs are required so that they can plan for dinner. Capacity is limited, so please send your RSVP to to reserve your spot.

Note: The first 30 reservations come with a free dinner. If you are interested in going, let me know soon so that we can ride together and take advantage of the free food!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The CRA Family Tree

Above is a chart that is included in the back-up information for the City Commission special meeting tomorrow evening re board appointments. It shows the history of appointments, length of terms, policy changes, etc. that resulted in the current situation. One of the more controversial matters regarding this series of board appointments and re-appointments is that a total of six of the seven seats are up on the CRA board - only Commissioner Ross would remain from the current group. We do have an explanation - maybe not the total "why" - but at least we know when the elimination of staggered terms, as required by state law, happened according to the explanation below.

Of course, staggered terms are in place to prevent a wholesale turn in direction of a board and support the concept of continuity in operation and programs. Recently, we on the CRA have been talking about budget priorities for the next fiscal year and the probable draconian cuts that will be necessary based upon the falling property tax valuations in the city, especially within the CRA district. We have asked ourselves how this discussion will be carried forward by a potentially "new" board. We shall see.

My interview for re-appointment happens to be at 6:10 p.m. tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

Click the title for a link to the complete back-up material with applications.

More sprawl feared in Legislature's bid to boost Florida economy

Good assessment of SB 360's impact to the State of Florida, this time from a Jacksonville perspective. This is a key point from the article:
...because older areas are often years behind on infrastructure upgrades and because downtown streets in particular are difficult to widen, the law effectively discouraged developers from building in urban areas or undertaking downtown redevelopment.

The new law would strip away those rules for most cities with more than 1,000 people per square mile, all counties with that population density and any counties with more than 1 million people.

Mosteller said that simply exacerbates the existing problem. Land still costs less in the rural areas of urban counties, she points out, but the transportation break is countywide.

"This bill has said sprawl is even cheaper," Mosteller said.

For Jacksonville, city leaders may need to come up with new incentives to encourage in-filling in urban areas and combat sprawl.

The moral of the story: In-fill redevelopment in cities like Lake Worth is a good thing environment-wise compared to the alternative sprawl pattern this bill encourages. It is selfish in terms of land use not to act on this principle.