Saturday, December 26, 2009

You know...

I'm not sure what you think about these heads of state doing videos such as the ones that President Obama and Queen Elizabeth did for the Christmas holiday. I think they are important tools to communicate some broad themes and ideas to the world. One thing that we have missed for the past two or three years is a State of the City address by the Mayor. Our former Mayor didn't like to lead or take responsibility for much of anything and a State of the City address for him would have really been going out on a limb. I hope that our new Mayor re-institutes the practice in a way that is meaningful and not just a puff piece put together by the City Manager.

So, Mayor Varela, if you are listening, that is my challenge to you for the new year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Direct democracy - The tyranny of the majority

Click title for link to an article in the Economist regarding ballot initiatives. The focus of the article is on California, but has implications for Florida as well. From the article:

"Put differently, it is the “tyranny of the majority” that James Madison, a Founding Father, warned about. His reading of ancient history was that the direct democracy of Athens was erratic and short-lived, whereas republican Rome remained stable for much longer. He even worried about using the word “democracy” at all, lest citizens confuse its representative (ie, republican) form with its direct one. “Democracy never lasts long,” wrote John Adams, another Founding Father. Asked what government the federal constitution of 1787 had established, Benjamin Franklin responded: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Something for your holiday get-togethers...

When I lived in East Lansing, Michigan, a college town with a lot of good and funky restaurants, I would frequent a Mexican restaurant called "El Azteco" If you ever have an occasion to go there, you must try their cheese dip. You can get it as an appetizer with corn chips, but they also use it as a base for their cheese enchiladas. It really is somewhat of a local legend and many people have tried to duplicate the "secret recipe," with varying degrees of success or failure. I have tried one recipe, but always felt that it wasn't quite right and that the holy grail was still left to achieve.

However, I have been assured that the following recipe is the REAL thing and will be trying it out sometime over the weekend. The important thing to remember is to let it sit in the refrigerator for a day at least - so that the flavors congeal.

Enjoy - let me know what you think of it!


16 oz sour cream
16 oz cottage cheese
16 oz shredded Monteray Jack Cheese
one dash worshteshire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 bag lipton onion soup mix minus the dried onions (you'll end up with just under 2 teaspoons of the spices)
3 minced jalapenos minus the seeds
1 and 1/2 bunches of scallions chopped.
I mix the sour cream, cottage cheese and then the W sauce, garlic powder, and onion soup mix. Stir it up and then I add the veggies and the Monteray Jack cheese last to thicken it up. It really does taste better the second day!

Is the City in such denial that it is erasing history?

Remember this closed-door City Commission meeting on the Greater Bay lawsuit? It was held December 9. Here is the list of City Commission meeting agendas as printed off the City's website today. Where is December 9th?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

North Miami Beach Hopes To Restore 1925 Fountain

Click title for link.

Publix pays $3.4 million for land on Dixie in Lake Worth

Click title for link to PB Post article.

Paul Boese

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”

PHOTOS Turned on: FGCU solar field switched on to provide power to part of campus

Click title for link to article and additional photos. If video is not working for you, click here to go to source page.

We should get a report from Commissioner Jennings on how our prototype project for ocean energy generation with Florida Atlantic University is doing. We heard a lot about it during her last campaign.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Census-centered afternoon...

Last week, I put action behind the notion to get involved in the Census. The Census is so central to much of what urban planners do, I had an interest in working to some extent in the effort - long before the local brouhaha - and my work flow was such that I had the time available. I called the local office, scheduling an appointment for this past Monday. There was some back and forth message leaving, but someone does eventually get back to you. The local number of the Census office is 561 207 7930.

They told me to go to the Trinity Church on Military Trail, south of Hypoluxo, at 1 p.m. They made a big deal about bringing the required identification for completion of an I-9 form and that you could go on-line to get an application. They said it was a good idea to complete the items before, but that it would still take some time to process everyone that was attending at that time. They indicated that the test would be given then and there. There were sample questions that you could check out as well on-line.

I show up Monday around 12:30 p.m. and the location turned out to be in temporary buildings in the Trinity Church parking lot. I entered one of the nondescript trailers and the room was filled with people sitting anywhere they could in the small room. Most were at a series of four or five long tables, others in waiting room chairs and others standing in line. The ones in line, it turns out, were waiting to have their local code determined, based upon where they lived. This was not at all clear what was actually going on at the time, but those that were already there (and very early for a 1 p.m. appointment) told the rest. Once you met with the representative to determine your code, you were given a folder with an I-9 form and an application. This whole process took about 45 mins from the time that I entered the room.

It was clear that the Census representative seemed overwhelmed at the number of people in attendance (from all over Palm Beach County) and expressed frustration that so many had been told to be there at that particular time and location. He expected about 20 and there were actually 35 that ended up staying the entire afternoon.

After that, a very tedious process began where everyone had to individually approach the Census representative with their proofs of identification. He had to certify each document on the I-9 form. If there was a discrepancy in some document, it took more time. This process took about 1 hour and 15 mins.

By 3 p.m., we went line by line through the application form so that people could check their filled out forms to see if they were correct and so that others could fill theirs out if they hadn't done so before. There were many questions from the group during this process - which took about another 45 mins. We then took a break and gathered back in the room to take the exam.

The exam is 28 questions and you have to get at least 10 correct in order to pass. I found it a bit tricky and you really have to be thorough and deliberate in reading the instructions for each question and looking at all of the four multiple choice answers. Skills necessary for the Census to be sure. I had enough time to finish, but others I could tell felt rushed and some did not finish all of the exam. The representative determined immediately after the exam was finished who passed and who failed (five did not pass from our group.) Those that passed were told as we left that we would be "in the pool" and would be getting a call later in February, subject to our background checks going through and we would be given instructions on what to do then.

Once you are in, a couple days worth of training is given at various times during the week or on weekends. You are paid for your time in training. Emphasis was placed on the fact that this is mostly a self-paced, temporary, part-time job that may last three or four months at the most. Most of what we would be doing would be the collection of Census information at doorsteps.

If your schedule allows you to take part in this effort, I would encourage you to do so as it is one of the important foundations of our representative democracy. I'll keep you posted on what happens from here on out.

Check out this presentation sent to me by a colleague...

Use pause as needed to read text.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Special City Commission Meeting - 5:00 p.m. today (12/21)

Click title for back-up. Both these items are following direction given by the Commission at previous meetings. If you intend to attend, note that the meeting is at the Osborne Center.

Despite economy, Pinellas beaches still draw visitors from abroad

Click here for link. Below is an excerpt from the article:

"Pinellas received 403,019 visitors from the area’s top overseas markets — the United Kingdom and Ireland...But Germany along with Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands accounted for 186,333 visitors in the same period, up 1.4 percent from 2008."

"Statewide numbers from Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing corporation, show that tourism from the United Kingdom was down about 16 percent and tourism from Germany was down about 11 percent for the first two quarters of 2009."

What are we doing to get a portion of this tourism revenue? Is the Michael Singer plan really up to the task?