Friday, December 31, 2010

Have a safe New Year's Eve and a Happy 2011!

Fun urban method for self expression

At the Curb, Wheels for Free Expression
Published: December 30, 2010
A man from Daly City, Calif., has turned his car into a mobile, erasable canvas that passers-by are encouraged to write upon whenever he parks.
Click title for link to New York Times article. Click here for link to

SCARY Prediction - GARY SHILLING: And Now House Prices Will Now Drop Another 20%

Following the arrow above will take you to a series of 27 charts showing the latest data related to home sales, foreclosures, affordability, mortgage delinquencies, etc.

Time and the competition keep marching on...

While Lake Worth fights among itself about the benefits of the Cultural Renaissance program, other communities forge ahead with their plans.  Is it any wonder why we have experienced the steepest declines in property values of any of the 38 municipalities in Palm Beach County? Notice this comes from the city's Public Information Office.

City of Delray Beach
New arts incubator coming to the Pineapple Grove Arts District
December 30, 2010:  The Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency is requesting qualifications from consultants to conduct a feasibility study, development plan and facility business plan for an arts and cultural facility in the Pineapple Grove Arts District. Submittals are due to the CRA office by 2 p.m. on Thursday, February 3, 2011.
The cultural arts facility will be housed in a 15,000 square-foot warehouse facility at 313 NE 3rd Street, purchased by the CRA in February 2010. The warehouse is envisioned to become an arts incubator, including visual and performing arts, and film.
The CRA is working closely with the Creative City Collaborative, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, which will oversee the development of the facility, work to maximize the economic impact of the warehouse, and manage the facility once the build out is complete. Founded in 2006, the Collaborative is designed to build the city's cultural infrastructure through the implementation of the City's cultural plan, adopted by the City Commission in 2006.
Responses will be evaluated and ranked by the Collaborative's Executive Committee. The final selection will be made by the CRA board.
Questions regarding this Request for Qualifications should be submitted in writing to Alyona Ushe To download a copy of the RFQ, visit the CRA website or contact the CRA office at (561) 276-8640.
City of Delray Beach
Public Information Office
(561) 243-7190
City Commission:
Nelson S. "Woodie" McDuffie, Mayor
Adam Frankel, Vice-Mayor
Angeleta Gray, Deputy Vice-Mayor
Gary Eliopoulos, Commissioner
Fred Fetzer, Commissioner
Follow CityDelrayBeach on Twitter

Esther Baldwin York

"It Depends on Us... Another year lies before us like an unwritten page, an unspent coin, an unwalked road. The pages we'll read, what treasures will be gained in exchange for time, or what we find along the way, will largely depend on us."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Cool" short video re Blizzard in Astoria, Queens...

Idiot With A Tripod from Gothamist on Vimeo.

Best watched in "full screen" mode.

Sounds like the police needed to levy a stiff fine...


A long read, but an interesting one.  This might serve as the basis for legislative changes in the coming year.

Six sustainable communities stories to watch in 2011 | Kaid Benfield's Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

Interesting planning related article on issues playing out in the near future. One of the stories has to do with how "outer" suburbs have suffered more property devaluation and foreclosures than older, central cities. I guess there are still exceptions, eh hem, that prove the rule. Click title for link.  The source is the Natural Resources Defense Council.

FPL customers report problems with utility's 'reflective roofing' program - South Florida

Click title for link to Sun Sentinel article. The lawsuit relates to the recommendation that roofs be painted a light color. Work done was against shingle manufacturers recommendations and led to early roof deterioration.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

By the way, I put this movie together long ago now, but just added music to it.  It's a great track of Sarah Vaughan singing "Over the Rainbow."

Ethics and Inspector General Ordinances being drafted...

The second meeting of the drafting committees for the Ethics Ordinances and the Inspector General Ordinance is scheduled for 01/05: 

3:00 PM Inspector General Ordinance Drafting Committee, 
4:00 PM Ethics Ordinances Drafting Committee, both in Government Center
McEaddy Conference Room, 12th Floor, 301 N Olive Ave,West Palm Beach

These meetings are open to the public and will also be broadcast live on Channel 20.  Click here for link to County meeting schedule.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Palm Beach Post, WPTV-Channel 5 announce news partnership

Click title for link to PBP story on this partnership.  I heard the same announcement on Channel 5 this morning.

This actually indicates a settling of a long-time feud.  The Post's editorial board made a big stink in opposition to Channel 5 selling their former waterfront site to a developer of a high-rise condo.  Before that, they were partners much like what is being talked about here.  The Post then aligned itself with Channel 12 - that never really paid in off in any benefit for either party - or the public for that matter.  Channel 5 overlooked the Post and favored a relationship with the Sun-Sentinel.  I guess the grim realities of the future of print media and local broadcast TV finally made them bury their swords.

But will it amount to better journalism?  I'm not optimistic - if anything, the Post may follow Channel 5's lead and not cover local political issues, other than elections.  There is a gaping hole in the coverage of local issues since they don't drive the ratings.  That's why blogs like this are appearing to fill the void.  We already know that the Post just spits out what it is given in a press release, with little original investigative reporting.  Maybe more of a merger is on tap in the future that will eliminate what we know as the print edition of the Palm Beach Post entirely.

In the mean time, we can hope beyond hope that the editorial board ceases to be the public relations arm of the current Lake Worth government regime - and that Channel 5 doesn't churn out fluff pieces weekly for the darlings of the dais.  Not likely, but one can hope reality seeps into the picture at some point in time.

David Grayson

"We are all, tooth and nail, seeking what we consider best in the world: where we differ is in our conception of what is best."
Click title for link for information on Ray Stannard Baker.

Light Rail Transforming Cities, Guiding Development

This might be the form of what would happen with transit trains on the FEC (east) tracks.  Listen for the link from trains to development.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Front or back?

I've been thinking about the proposed design of the rehabilitated casino building's western facade.  Prior to the hurricanes of the late 1940s, A1A (Ocean Boulevard) was east of the casino building.  The front of the building was designed to face the ocean, although the west side was essentially a copy of the east, only without a tower.  The western frontage had an extension along the north side of the building that was torn down in the early 50s.  
The above is a postcard showing A1A east of the building and a much narrower barrier island.  The width of the island was doubled in the early 1950s by the addition of fill - essentially the area that is now the western parking lot.

Most of the traffic coming to the building will be by travel over the Lake Worth bridge.  Does the western facade as proposed reflect the "front" of a building?  I don't think so - it looks like what it is - a building that's been added on to a lot and one that doesn't make a lot of aesthetic sense.  The front is better, although I am having trouble warming up to the "Tuscan Revival" of the existing two-story session.

I bring this up now as the architectural package will be on the Planning and Zoning Board's agenda of January 5th.  If you share this concern or any other, this might be your only opportunity to voice your opinion prior to the City Commission reviewing the design of the building.  

I'd be interested in knowing your opinion.  To see the entire design package, click here.

Lake Worth's finances: City must begin to reduce pay and benefits

Click title for link to another utterance by the PBP editorial board.  The PBP is cheering on our city manager for stopping the bleeding before the city has no blood left.  To not do so, they say, would be the equivalent of malpractice.  What they don't realize is that their darlings of the dais have done everything in their power to make Lake Worth an unattractive and risky place for anyone with money willing to invest in building or establishing a business here.  To face the worst declines in property values over the past three years of any one of Palm Beach County's 38 municipalities calls into question whether these wounds were more than partly self-inflicted.  We have the disciples of the dais majority championing lower property values and targeting those with very low income to come to our city.  They have been successful, but they don't want another obstacle to lower property values by having to feed money to unionized employees that bargained in good faith - only to be told the city has no money.

Meanwhile, let's use $6 million from the city's cash portfolio to improve the casino building at the beach.  This will not be the economic panacea those on the dais say it will be.  Look for the same tenants to be there, in a slightly improved format.  This is what is going to send legions through our downtown and single-handedly raise property values all across the city?  Look at our shuttered downtown stores, our vacant lots along Dixie Hwy., entire buildings and lots mothballed along Federal Hwy and the long road to payoff from the Park of Commerce.  High utility costs - including WATER - are part of the unattractiveness of a Lake Worth location - whether a residence or a business.  But these high rates are not the only thing turning people and businesses away - much of it is the sum total of the decisions made by the PBP darlings of the dais.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

In Association with the weather...

Three-agency merger a bad idea built on a myth

Click title for link to PBP editorial re the potential merging of the Departments of Transportation, Community Affairs and Environmental Protection.  This relates to Governor-Elect Scott's transition team's report I posted here a few days ago.

There are a couple of things that come to mind, being a former bureaucrat myself and one that deals with large organizations on a daily basis.  The first thing that I have come to realize is that re-organizations are time-consuming processes that, while they are happening, makes the wheels of the organization grind to a halt.  Usually, they only are put in place to "fight the last war," when new challenges are just around the corner that need to be anticipated and not reacted to.  Think of the Maginot Line as a classic example.  During this, chaos reins and projects that should go forward, don't and projects that shouldn't sometimes do.  Another remembrance of dealing with these three departments is that staff turnover was always an issue.  It seemed that just when you were starting to make some progress with a staff member, they either left, were transfered or let go and you were directed to someone who just got out of school.  Usually this meant that you had to go back and re-do certain steps or re-address issues that had already been resolved.  What is contemplated here might have portions of all of these factors - which would be contrary to the ultimate intent of making regulation more rational.

What also seems to be missing in this transition teams analysis is what needs to be controlled and what doesn't need as much control.  We need an authority, the state of Florida comes to mind, that would regulated what are called "urban growth boundaries" around our major and not-so-major metropolitan areas.  These are lines, usually established by counties, that are meant to be the ultimate limit of urban services - water, sewer, storm drainage, schools, etc.  If these aren't enforced by an entity that has a greater interest other than the local government in mind, then we have a problem.  Much more emphasis has to be placed on the importance of redeveloping areas that are blighted, forgotten or thrown away.  If we can direct re-investment into these parts of Florida at the expense of not reaching further out of a metropolitan center, we can go a long way in planning land uses that are sustainable, with smaller carbon footprints, and take advantage of existing infrastructure.  This has to be a policy shouted from the highest levels of state government to every municipality and local government in order to work.  The only thing that I saw that vaguely looked like this policy in the transition document was "Let cities be cities."  However, who is defining what a "city" is and how is this going to be implemented or enforced.

I am not encouraged by what I hear coming from this transition team.  I really think we do need some state oversight in Florida as it relates to local comprehensive plans.  Otherwise, I think we will become a state filled with sprawling development patterns - even more so than now - with older communities like Lake Worth left with fighting for the scraps or, as is now the case, chasing development away in a vain attempt to win the last war.

I'll be monitoring news related to this topic and keep you informed.

Tale of Two (or more) Cities

As long as we are still in the midst of the holiday season, I thought that it would be a good time to share this observation made by an alert reader.  She had the foresight and where-with-all to record a portion of the WPTV Channel 5 morning newscast from December 11.  You might recall that Saturday was the day of our Holiday Festival and parade through downtown Lake Worth.  It would take a while for me to digitally transfer to the blog, so for ease of communication, here is the transcript of two sections of the newscast.  The anchor was Marci Gonzalez.

"Here's a look at the Community Calendar.  The City of Delray Beach is kicking off the season with its annual holiday parade.  Festivities get underway at 6 p.m. on Atlantic Avenue.  This year's theme is "Disco in December." It's free.  Okeechobee is also getting into the holiday spirit with the Christmas festival in the park which begins in the park at 9 this morning and it will end with a parade at 6 p.m.  And if you want to head a little further south, you and your pup can go to "Bark-a-Paloosa" - all dogs are welcome for a special day at the green market in Pompano Beach.  There will be a dog wash benefiting "No Paws Left Behind"...If you have an event that you would like to announce, go to and click on the Community Calendar link..."

And then this for Lake Worth:

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and it might be a little bit of a headache for motorists trying to make their way through downtown Lake Worth today.  The city will have its annual holiday parade starting tonight at 6 p.m.  You can expect road closures on Lake Avenue today from 3 to about 9 p.m. and also road closures on Lucerne."

This is a perfect example of what happens when you have someone who knows where to send what information.  It seems that the city of Lake Worth announcement only consisted of a press release from PBSO about road closures.  This is useful information for some, but creates the image and the thought in people's minds that they need to avoid Lake Worth during the times of the road closure.  This announcement, since it came from PBSO, and had no other relevant information, ended up in the "hard" news section of the program.

In contrast, under the Community Calendar portion of the broadcast, the public learns about all the holiday fun happening in Delray Beach, Okeechobee and Pompano Beach.  Delray also had a parade as part of their festivities, but no announcement about street closures and the like - which there surely were, no doubt.

Where would you have liked to go on that Saturday if you lived in Wellington or Jupiter?  Another example of the need for a public information officer - or, short of that, someone that would act as one and know what they're doing in a part-time capacity.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Messages...from Christmases Past and Present:

From our New Zealand correspondent, remembering Christmases past:

G'Day, Wes;
 I read the blog about Pine Street.  Glad to hear that the residents there in Genesis are taking a zero-tolerance.
 As I read further on, I was appalled to read that 718 South Pine Street had the circle gathering puffing-up the weed.
 I have good memories of 718 South Pine Street, as this is where Vernon H. 'Bud' Gorder, his wife Jane, and daughter Gail resided in the 50's, 60's and most of the 70's. Bud worked for Florida Jalousie Windows, and was an avid Pontiac owner (LeMans, Safari Wagon, etc). 
 Bud served in the US Army as a Captain in the 101st Infantry.  He was in the Battle of the Bulge, and saw many horrors committed by the SS. He would discuss with checked excitement what it was like to drive an Army Jeep, Sherman Tank, and the intricacies of tactical and strategic planning. He would avoid the horrid parts of his service except to explain the photos in his Battalion Book.
 Living next door to the Gorders, one could not have asked for finer neighbours. 
 Bud and Jane, like many of their generation, suffered thru the Great Depression and World War ll.  They lived honest, quiet lives and raised their daughter in the era of Howdy Dooty, Disney and Captain Kangaroo. 
 They always shared what they had, and Bud would go 'above and beyond' in setting the example of honesty and integrity. Jane maintained a high standard and insisted on manners, good behaviour and proper celebrations.
 Bud brought home 'war souvenirs' in the form of his army uniform, equipment and German side-arms.  He also had brought home a collection of captured knives, daggers and inert booby traps.  Every New Years Eve, after the King Orange Jamboree Parade in Miami which was broadcast on WTVJ Channel 4, Bud would load-up his Walther PPK(S) and his Luger.  He would signal the midnight hour and the arrival of the New Year by firing his pistols in the back yard.
(Imagine doing this in today's world...)
 During the time I was his neighbour and friend, Bud allowed me into his attic to play with his O-Gauge Lionel train set. He gave me bits and pieces of his Army items when I would play Army in the neighbourhood (imagine doing that as well in today's environment...).  To this day, I still have his Captain's bars, and those bars I kept with me thru-out my lengthy military career.
 Bud always kept a promise. He took me to the go-kart track in northern Lake Worth (Dixie Hwy next to the PB Canal) in the early 60's, and for a tour on board a visiting submarine. The Gorders bought me a Tonka Jeep, a Ready Kilowatt safety hat (used when I climbed their rubber tree out front of their house), and World War ll tank and Jeep models for Christmas's and Birthdays. 
 After I would complete a model, Bud would show an honest degree of shared enthusiasm into my accomplishment.
 The Gorders taught me by their example of hard work, proper etiquette, and pointing out a youngsters mistakes without getting angry or hostile, explaining the situation in a calm and dignified manner as to what might have been wrong.
 Bud, Jane & Gail loved celebrating Christmas at 718 South Pine Street. There would always be an red electric candle in each of the front windows, an illuminated Santa face on the front of the house, and Santa's sled and reindeer on the roof of the house.  Not to mention the outdoor Christmas lights on the small front overhand and the back hedge under the Florida Room windows. 
 But the Christmas tree was always huge, and decorated in a high quality.  To this day I miss the smell of a fresh Christmas tree in their Florida room, and seeing Bud relaxing from a day of work with a Bourbon and Water, and Jane cooking their dinners with tempered glass pots.
 I last saw Bud in 1974 at 718 South Pine Street, as I was visiting while on leave from the USAF.  I believe he then knew that he and Jane had made a positive difference in the lives of those around them.
 Sadly, Bud passed away at the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital at Cleveland, Ohio in January of 1988.  Bud had re-married prior to that, and when I visited Lake Worth in 2002, I tried to locate his resting place, but was unsuccessful.
 Yes, a true, honest and hard-working American family once lived at 718 South Pine Street; and they lived there for many years, and always had the time for 'the kid next door'. 
 Had Bud or *Jane (*Jane was very good with weapons!) arrived home to find a similar scenario as to what had recently happened at 718, I have no doubt that the PPK(S) would have come to life in a very short order.
 And that's what 718 South Pine Street was like in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Looking back, and doing a comparison to then and now leaves one wondering; has the very fabric of the nation now vanished in the social, political and economic sense?
 Merry Christmas, Wes.  Feel free to post this on your blog in honour of the Gorders.

And from Christmas present, in support of one of our fine Lake Worth residents and community leaders, from the same neighborhood.  This is in response to a dialog from the other blogger:

Anonymous you might be wise to form your opinion by checking into his history from when he first moved into this city and began volunteering while still recovering from a hip replacement surgery.  His advocating for residents in Genesis neighborhood is tireless.  He managed to get the city to install speed bumps on our street where there was excessive non adherence to the 25mph posted limit.  He bought the whole crew of 8 city workers KFC lunch the day they began working under the hot sun to install our speed bumps.  We had been asking for them for years and our requests fell on deaf ears.  He tutors my son and a neighbors son whenever they ask for help with homework he works it into his schedule.  He has taken my son to GameStop and bought him games.  It is a deal he made with my son, Mark told Jay "every time you bring home a report card where you are on the honor roll I will take you to GameStop and you pick out a game" Last year Jay was on the honor roll the WHOLE YEAR!  Something he’d never done before.  He got him a scholarship at a local Karate School.  I am his neighbor who lives right next door to him.  Come ask me and I will tell you personally.  Mark IS NOT a hateful “wanna be.”  Tonight a story aired on channel 12 about a local Haitian neighbor who was scammed by a solar company.  He is fighting for that lady like he was her son.  He had an extension cord plugged into his home recently when our electricity service was suspended we could not pay our utility bill.  He didn't want my son to do homework by candlelight.  There is much more but I think I have said enough. So Mr. or Ms. Anonymous do you know a hateful wannabe capable of all this and without a penny of compensation. Not one dime.  We have offered and he has refused.  If you were at the street painting festival you would have seen him with four of the children from our block, my son included, who came back thrilled with painted faces all excited about the fun day they had and they met a Commissioner and the Captain of the Sheriff's Dept.!  We are very blessed to have him and Jeff as neighbors.  Mark told me not to bother that Ms. Anderson probably wouldn't post this response but I had to because whether she does or not is not the point and it can never erase what this man represents to a lot of us in this community.  God bless him.  I did this for me.
Ms. Stefani
703 South A Street

Friday, December 24, 2010

I know we're not in Hawaii, but...

I just like this song and it talks about palm trees.  Merry Christmas everyone and thanks for visiting!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

State Budget Crisis: Alabama Town’s Failed Pension Is a Warning - CNBC

Scary article from the New York Times about unfunded city pension funds. Click title for link. It also highlights the importance of staying ahead of where your city is in terms of the surrounding marketplace and population dynamics.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Another message from Mark Parrilla, Genesis Neighborhood Association regarding the "loot" found in yesterday's raid.

605 Pine Street Apartment 8 Search Warrant Case Number 10-163474

The following items were recovered from the 605 Pine Street Apartment 8:

  191.4  grams of Marijuana
  1 loaded 45 caliber Colt pistol
  20 rounds of 38 caliber
  13 rounds of 45 caliber
  Recovered a stolen PS3 from District 1
  33.9 grams of Crack Cocaine
  46.1 grams of Powder Cocaine
  1 Digital Scale
  626.00 dollars

Code Enforcement cited the residence for numerous code violations
Fredrick Lee was located inside the residence and charged with 4 counts of Felony Child Neglect, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Cocaine, Possession of     Paraphernalia, and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
Street value of 4500.00 dollars of drugs off the street
This is a result of a two months investigation with numerous CI and direct purchases of narcotics. It should be noted paperwork is already completed to start the Nuisance Abatement proceedings and will be turned in after the holidays

Update: Shortly after this warrant was executed I got a call from a Genesis resident stating that several suspicious males had gain unlawful entry to 718 Pine St.  the call resulted in the Sheriff’s walking into the home and finding several hoodlums sitting in a pow wow smoking marijuana.  They were arrested yesterday as well.  Kudos to the neighbors who will not tolerate this behavior in our backyards!

Thank you,
Genesis Neighborhood Association, Inc.           
Genesis Logoemailsignature

Just found this time-lapse movie of the eclipse from Tuesday morning...

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FYI - Comments Up Now

Many comments waiting - please be patient.

Click here for link to Governor-elect Scott's Transition Team Report on Regulatory Reform

Interesting document this is.  How about combining the Department of Transportation, Department of Community Affairs and Department of Environmental Protection into the Department of Growth Leadership?  Talk of letting "cities be cities" and eliminating the need for comprehensive plan changes reviewed by the state.

First 2010 Census Data

Click title for link.  This shows the overall national population over time as well as state populations.  This information will be used in Congressional district reapportionment.  County level data - including cities - will not be available until February 2011.  Map is interactive and shows a lot of information.

Follow-up on Casino Rehab - 12 17 City Manager's Report

The following is from the 12 17 10 City Manager's Report.
I point this out since Commissioner Maxwell asked specifically if anyone had talked with the tenants at last week's City Commission work session on Tuesday.  The City Manager tended to wave off the question, saying that they would be getting a commercial real estate consultant on board.  Well, according to the first highlighted section above, the team met with the tenants last Thursday.  Although the tenants were told when they would have to vacate, we are left to wonder when that is and under what terms.  In the second highlighted section above, the City Manager mentions a "project manual."  This is a document that tracks the project's progress and is prepared by Morganti - click title of post for link.  Morganti has established a Casino project webpage that will link to future updates. 
The above chart, also from the same City Manager's report, is a worksheet on the LEED certification for the building.  Note that it is only four points away from no certification and six points away from a Silver LEED certification level.

PBSO Christmas Gift (authored by Mark Parrilla)


It was good talking to you today.  Please share some of the below information with Genesis and keep us informed if there is any other suspicious activity that comes up.  Have a great Holiday Season.

Members of the District 14 Lake Worth Street Crimes Team conducted a search warrant at 605 South Pine Street.  The team was accompanied by the City of Lake Worth “JAG” Code Inspector.

The search warrant was the result of a lengthy drug investigation where multiple sales of illegal drugs were conducted from the property.

Crack cocaine and other illegal drugs were seized along with a firearm.

The “JAG” Code Enforcement Officer, working with PBSO Community Policing, was able to tag 2 apartments as unsafe, tagged abandoned vehicles, and will be continuing their code investigation.


Lieutenant David Moss

I am forwarding this email (above) to the three consistent local bloggers in hopes you all will be as thrilled to share this information with your readers as I am to share it with you.  I am also posting it on commissioner Maxwell’s blog and the Genesis website and facebook page as well.  This is great news to see tangible evidence of the blight within the Genesis neighborhood boundaries being shut down and the process to permanently eliminate it, started.  I saw as the utility truck drove by my home as I spoke to Lt. Moss on my porch on their way to cut the utilities.  I look forward to attending the special magistrate hearing to voice my support and appreciation for these collaborative efforts.  The city will be seeking the maximum $250.00 per day fine.  My smile will be a little brighter this Christmas and New Year’s a little happier thanks to the comfort of knowing that we have some of the best officers PBSO has to offer.  I have begun to edit video of Capt. Silva and a envoy of officers who took their second trip to Haiti this November and took two patrol cars, bullet proof vests and other law enforcement aides, cots, etc. and to top it off went to the port where the ambulance we sent was sitting and they expedited the paperwork to get it released!  Lake Worthians should be proud of the men and women wearing those green uniforms with that PBSO patch on their shoulder.  As soon as I am done with the production and submit it to Capt. Silva and he approves it I will forward all three of you a copy so you can screen and see if you would like to share it with your readers.  To the THREE of you I truly wish from the bottom of my heart a safe, healthy and joyous Christmas and a prosperous New Year.  May our dreams that we pursue for the improvement of our surroundings find their way to reality!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The week in review...

It must be the time of year, but I found myself involved in all sorts of activities this week - many of which were Lake Worth related, but just didn't have the time for updates here on the blog.  So, be prepared for a longer than usual post on the goings-on.  Here and there you will pick up some tidbits that are downright disturbing.  See if you can pick them out.

Last week, I made it a point to put the Tuesday morning City Commission work session on my calendar.  I wasn't sure what all I would attend at first.  When the day came, for some reason I was up early and decided to take in as much of the show as I could.  I arrived at City Hall a little before 8 a.m. and nestled down in one of the comfy pews there for the next three and a half hours.

Audit Committee

The first order of business was the City Commission meeting as the Audit Committee.  It turns out that the City Commission itself is the Audit Committee.  Now we also have the Finance Advisory Board (FAB) that appears to be in a state of limbo at the moment.  And we also have the mandate, my interpretation at least, for an Internal Auditor that works at the pleasure of the City Commission - in the same way as the City Manager and City Attorney do.  This is what the City Charter says about the required Internal Auditor position:

City Charter - Article 1
Sec. 4. - Form of government.
The form of government of the City of Lake Worth shall be known as the "commission-manager plan." The city commission shall constitute the governing body with powers as hereinafter provided to pass ordinances, adopt resolutions and policies and appoint a chief administrative officer to be known as the "city manager," and to exercise all other powers hereinafter provided, or conferred by law.
Elective and appointive officers.
The elective officers under this charter shall be the mayor and the members of the city commission.
The appointive officers shall be the city manager, city attorney, internal auditor, city clerk, police chief, fire chief, and such other officers as may be provided for by ordinance. Any of the above officers which are, or may become, under civil service shall be subject to civil service regulations. All of the appointive officers under the charter, except the city manager, city attorney, and internal auditor shall be appointed by the city manager and all appointive officers shall hold office subject to provisions of law.

City Charter - Article III
Sec. 7. - Other appointed officials.

The city commission shall have the power to employ and retain engineers, auditors, attorneys and other professional advisors and consultants. The city commission shall have the power to create and abolish all offices except those created herein, and fix and determine the authority, duties and compensation of all appointed officers and employees.
During the adoption process of the current fiscal year budget, the City Commission confirmed that it didn't need an Internal Auditor, after getting a weak opinion from the City Attorney that the position was not required according to the City Charter.  This is consistent with one of City Manager Stanton's early decisions to not renew our Internal Auditor contract since they didn't need anyone else raising more questions.  Let alone the fact that our independent audit of the City's annual financial report uncovered numerous exceptions and conditions needing correction over the past several years - all of which seem to perennially appear on the next audit.

First let me say that there was no discussion about the position of Internal Auditor at this meeting.  It was simply a presentation by TCBA Watson about the upcoming audit they are contracted to do for the city.  Apparently they did some early work in September that was termed an "interim audit" which included some tests of the payroll system and direct deposit arrangements.  The auditors seemed to stress the importance this year of injecting some unpredictability into their process.  There are a series of standards related to establishing what "independence" means as it relates to the relationship between the auditor and the city.  The audit firm cannot have other business with the city and likewise there can be no familial relationships between members of the firm and the city.  Essentially, a "firewall" is built between the preparation of the city's financial statements and the auditors.  The auditors depend on federal interpretations about independence, as well as principles of their own accounting profession.  There are sometimes when the two conflict and for some odd reason, the federal government has interpreted that if an auditor makes a material finding, that conflicts with their independent role.  Looked at objectively, one would say that is why they are hired in the first place and such an interpretation would tend to discourage reporting of material findings.  The auditors thought that this interpretation was subject to revision and that they would rely on their professional accounting principles to not be crippled by this ruling.

They will be using and examining the city's IT systems.  One of the areas that they want to place focus on is where vendors may have "unusual relationships" with the city in the way of having someone associated with a vendor also being on the payroll.  Funny they should be bringing this issue up at this point in time due to the relationship between REG and our new Planning and Preservation Administrator.

The audit, when complete, makes its way to the state's Auditor General, who is the ultimate authority.  The auditors must identify whether the city meets any of the 14 standards necessary for the declaration of a financial emergency.  If a city meets 3 of the 14 standards for an emergency, the city can be put on a "watch list."  Apparently, the city is NOT on that watch list now.  The bulk of the actual audit will take place from mid-February through mid-March, with a presentation to the Audit Committee (also the City Commission) at the end of March.

Some of the questions posed by the Commission were revealing.  Vice Mayor Suzanne Mulvehill commented about the need to look at the whole utility billing process and that we cannot have a situation where an employee was involved in double-billing and pocketing cash payments made on some accounts - apparently someone was caught and let go recently for doing just that.  She also made a point to determine whether the city's collection agency - some people that are usually "in the know" were told by those who would be in a position to know that the city didn't have a collection agency for delinquent accounts - was living up to collecting what they said that they were collecting and if the city was getting all the money it deserved from collections.  Commissioner McVoy admitted that he "was not a financial wizard" and suggested a simple report card at the end of the audit that would grade the city's performance in a number of different areas of the audit.

Finance Director Steve Carr indicated that many of the "exceptions" found on previous audits would continue through this years audit.  It seems that many of the comments relate to the city's fixed asset inventory and the control system for the city's fixed asset is in "disarray."  He said that there is a 1300 page inventory of the city's fixed assets.  Thus ended the Audit Committee meeting.

Work Session
 - City's Regional Sewer System and East Central Water Reclamation facility.
I was all juiced up for this one as I thought we were going to hear about the city's client municipalities' lawsuit against the city for improper billing.  Well, such was not the case.  The only inkling that attorneys are raking in the fees on this one came from a discussion generated as a result of the presentation which indicated that our customers (the ones that hold the city in low regard) cannot easily switch to be a customer of another owner of the Regional Sewer System.  If you look at page five of the presentation, the owners are all identified.  Owners of the majority of the capacity would have to be in favor of any change and reallocation of capacity.  The owners are very protective of their own available and unused capacity as that represents the potential for future growth.  The gist of the presentation was a review of the facility, new legislative requirements and regulations and the need for an expansion of the system to meet these new requirements.  This can be funded when current debt is retired and new debt is incurred in the coming years.

The City Commission had questions about available gray water and none is currently available for use by Lake Worth through this system.  Home-based gray water uses are highly regulated by the state building code and are generally thought to be prohibitive in cost and equipment for individual home applications.  It doesn't sound like that will be an option anytime soon.  It just seemed to me that the city - those officials represented on the dais, elected and appointed, were pleased with this situation as it left the city's customers with little recourse.  Message being sent to local governments and others all over south Florida - beware of dealing with Lake Worth and avoid doing so if you can at all costs.

Casino Building Rehabilitation Project

Next up was the item I was most interested in and the main reason why I set this morning aside to attend the City Commission workshop.  Click here for part of the package submitted to the Planning and Zoning Board for review.  Drawings at 95% complete will be available after the first part of January.  The project will be presented to the Planning and Zoning Board for their review and approval at their January 5, 2011 meeting - this will then go to the City Commission in February.  Total leasable square footage is 12,363 on the first floor and 13,056 on the second floor.  These includes areas that are outdoor that can be leased for short or long term purposes if the city decides to do so.  Permitting is expected to take place in April and May of 2011 with groundbreaking in June of 2011.

One of the most surprising parts of the presentation was that the issuance of a "red tag" by the villainized former building official reaps a substantial benefit for the city in that the improvements identified as part of the red tag will not count in the overall budget for rehabilitation.  Thus more can be done without triggering the imposition of current code standards, subjecting the project to much higher costs.  Savings from this were plowed into building systems that contribute to the LEED certification rating for the building.  There is room for installation of photo-voltaic panels on the roof, but the panels are not included in the budget.  They are looking into the possibility of a loan/lease or pilot program with a manufacturer of solar panels given the high-visibility of this project.  The building as rehabilitated is 3,500 square larger than its existing footprint.  A cistern for water storage has been explored, but it's thought that it wouldn't provide enough benefit to make sense for the entire building.  They are exploring the possibility of looking into the pool and perhaps a re-design of it would be possible for use as a cistern.  There might be money out there from the state for documentation of the building's history and explaining the use of green building features - this is something that could be done afterwards and would not count towards building rehabilitation costs.  There is a grant that has been applied for the interpretive signage that would point out environmental aspects of the coastal location and other site improvements that use or promote environmentally sensitive aspects of the project.  Higher ranking LEED certification will be dependent on the provision of mass transit to the site.  The team is 80% sure of the structural qualities of the building but will not be 100% sure until demolition begins.

My capsulized assessment:  The team has done some good work, but I have a major problem with the switching of hats by the project manager to a city staff person in charge of review of the site plan as explained in a previous post.  I believe the city is exposed by improving the building, expanding the building and introducing new uses (catering) that do not meet the former Comprehensive Plan future land use designation of Public Recreation and Open Space.  Remember, the city's current Comprehensive Plan - the one that was updated with Evaluation and Appraisal Report recommendations - is still not-in-compliance according to the Department of Community Affairs.  This quick switch from preparer to reviewer will help ensure that this point is not delved into too deeply, if at all.  I also don't think permitting by the various agencies will necessairy be a walk in the park.  I have also heard from reliable sources that the "selective demolition" will surprise many by its extent.  Maybe those that attended the Circle of Light demonstration can join me there after the "selective demolition" to inspect how much of the building is actually left.  The information regarding how the issuance of the red tag helped out the project is indicative of the importance of professional objectivity and how, even if something is politically unpopular, professionals must still be allowed to do their job.  This is something that the city could learn to do throughout the organization and then become more responsive to the public - an less influnced by prevailing political winds.

Other things heard during the week:
There was an e-mail exchange between a business owner on Lucerne and the city manager about the lack of holiday lights along Lucerne Avenue.  The city manager suggested that the business decorate its own street tree in front of the business only to be told by the business owner that they have done that before and code enforcement told them they couldn't do it and that it would have to come down.  There were other things contained in the communication that were really not called for in official city correspondence.  Let's just leave it at that.  The point here is that Lucerne is as much of a downtown commercial area main street as Lake Avenue and should be equally covered by any holiday display - or other decorations throughout the year for that matter.

Joan Oliva, executive director of the CRA, was treated to a tirade of orchestrated complaints at the Tuesday night CRA meeting.  The topic concerned renewal of her contract for employment.  By the way, the NSP2 Grant ($23 million) covers 75% of her salary.  The new reason to say "NO" is that the city doesn't have any money for raises or anything else for that matter - how can we fight our battle with the unions if we act like we have money to spend?  After the grilling, the CRA finally came around and approved a 5% increase.  The packed house proved that a "certain someone" can still rally the troops and fill the chamber if need be.

I heard that Annabeth Karson approached applicants for a sports bar on 10th Avenue west of I-95 after their presentation to the Planning and Zoning Board saying that she is aware some of the city commission may have problems with their project.  She said that she could help them as she has good contacts with the city commission.  Just think - Ms. Karson, Lobbyist - has a ring to it doesn't it?

There seems to be a lot of misinformation about the use of the City Hall Annex and what will be happening with the City's museum.  Seems that there are discussions going on about having the Palm Beach County Historical Society take over the running of the museum - not Palm Beach County as reported by the other blogger.  The discussions surround the possible leasing of the building or part of the building to the Historic Society - which would pay part of their lease up-front in cash - something that the city urgently needs.  Misinformation about the "giving away" of the building has reached the City Manager and others - one can almost hear the door shutting on this opportunity before it has time to ripen.

That's all for now.  More later.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Click here for link to copy of PowerPoint presentation...

...that I gave at last Thursday's meeting of the Genesis Neighborhood Association.  I didn't include the script, but the whole presentation is about 20 minutes.  If you would be interested in having me make a live presentation to your neighborhood association or other group, let me know.

Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association - January 2011 Officer Nominees

At December's TRNA meeting the Nomination Committee announced their nominations for 2011 TRNA Officers.  The association also opened up the floor to accept self nominations; none were made.  The nomination period for Association Officer candidates is now closed.  The slate of candidates for January's TRNA  Officers election will be as follows: 

President - Ryan Anderson
Vice President - Robert Elliot
Secretary/Treasurer - Jessica Plotkin

Robert Elliot will be resigning as a TRNA Director to fulfill the VP post.  The Nomination Committee nominated Carolyn Deli for Director.  The person elected to this Director position will serve until the end of Robert's term in June, 2011. 

The election of Officers will take place at the TRNA's January 3, 2011 meeting at 7pm in the Compass Community Center.

Friday, December 17, 2010

FYI - The preceding post was forwarded to the Mayor, City Commissioners, the City Manager and the Palm Beach Post.

Lake Worth taps new chief for planning and preservation

Click title for link to PBP article.

Living in Lake Worth and paying attention to things going on, one gets used to the unusual, the uncommon and the unprecedented.  Once in a while, something happens that is so blatantly questionable that what you have seen before seems insignificant.  This is one of those moments.

When I worked for the City of West Palm Beach as a planner (1989 to 1993), I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know William Waters.  At that time, he went by "Dale", his middle name, and I will forever think of him as "Dale", not William - but that's my problem and has nothing to do with the situation before us.  I have great respect for William as a fellow professional planner and was pleased to know that he would be working with REG on the Casino rehabilitation project.  William made the presentation at Tuesday's City Commission work session on the status of the project and reported that the application for site plan approval had been submitted to the city.  The item is to appear on the Planning and Zoning Board's agenda of January 5, 2011.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?  What is wrong is that we have a professional planner involved in the preparation of a site plan application that the same professional planner will be in the position of reviewing as one of the first orders of business.  One does not put oneself in a position where you review your own work product.  This is a blatant conflict of interest, in my opinion, as the city residents, who pay Mr.
Walters' salary, cannot be assured of total objectivity in review of the site plan.  To be marching forward under this cloud, brings into question the motivation of people responsible for making this decision.  That this question of integrity and apparent conflict of interest can even be raised is disturbing.  Here Lake Worth is with its most conspicuous project - the beach and in an age of heightened ethical awareness, supposedly, and the city has allowed a situation to evolve to a point that brings into question the integrity of that process.  I am surprised that the players here allowed this to happen and seem to be supremely comfortable with this decision.

Part of being a certified planner is adhering to a code of ethics. AICP Code of Ethics.  One of the "Aspirational Principles" is as follows:

A: Principles to Which We Aspire

2. Our Responsibility to Our Clients and Employers
We owe diligent, creative, and competent performance of the work we do in pursuit of our client or employer's interest. Such performance, however, shall always be consistent with our faithful service to the public interest.
a) We shall exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of our clients and employers.
b) We shall accept the decisions of our client or employer concerning the objectives and nature of the professional services we perform unless the course of action is illegal or plainly inconsistent with our primary obligation to the public interest.
c) We shall avoid a conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest in accepting assignments from clients or employers.
This is transparency? Can we practice what we preach?  If we go forward, at least we need to bring someone else in who has the qualifications to review the application prepared by Mr. Waters.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Dear Family and Friends,
I hope that this email finds you all well and healthy and may this Holiday Season be one of the best ever!  I'm writing you for one Christmas Wish and that is to Vote for me at the link in this email.  Neighbors Helping Neighbors Project is in a contest to gain corporate sponsorship and we need your vote to win the sponsorship.
If you can find the time in your already very busy schedule we would greatly appreciate your votes!   Thank You and may God Bless!  Please forward to anyone that you think will also vote for us :-)

Robert E. Waples II

Turkey Challenge

Downtown Jewel is challenging all of Lake Worth to donate turkeys. The Resource Center is collecting frozen turkeys until 2pm on Friday. Lets see which neighborhood can donate the most turkeys. I know that some people do not like what the resource center is about. But they have a way to get turkeys to hungry citizens in LW. SO lets look past our dislike and see which neighborhood can purchase and deliver the most turkeys. Publix has turkeys on sale starting tomorrow. Please identify which neighborhood you are from when you drop them off. SO step up and donate a turkey.  

Resource Center at the shuffleboard court between Lake and Lucerne Ave.and F Street
Thank You

Barb Aubel

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Genesis Neighborhood Association Meeting - 12/16/10 @ 7 p.m.

Click title for link to agenda.  The location will be the Peniel Haitian Baptist Church, 1110 South A Street. Commissioner Maxwell will be giving an update on city utilities.  Translators will be available for Haitian Creole and Spanish interpretations.  Residents are encouraged to bring a copy of their utility bill if they feel it is unjustly high, residential and commercial customers alike.  It is my understanding a petition related to utilities will be circulated.  The petitions, copies of the bills and any notes/letters residents want to give to the City Commission will be presented by a Genesis representative to be chosen at tomorrow's meeting.  This will likely be done at a January City Commission meeting.

Yours truly will be giving a PowerPoint presentation on the history of planning in Lake Worth.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mark Foley not running for mayor of West Palm

Click title for link.

Unions sue Lake Worth over city's use of financial woes to trim pay, benefits

Click title for link to PBP article. Susan Stanton is quoted as follows:

"The unions have continued to assert that the city is in a strong financial position," Stanton said in an e-mail. "That is contradicted by the assessed valuation of the community tax base, a $3.2 million projected operating deficit in fiscal year 2012, $58 million in unfunded accrued pension liability and the high cost of operating and reinvesting in the community."

The taxable value of Lake Worth property has dropped dramatically in recent years, from a building-boom peak of $2.1 billion in 2007 to $1.1 billion this year.

Strange how little of this we heard during this past campaign season. The city keeps telling those that it aggrieves: Join the long, gray line.

Your City Commission at Work...

Who knew that the City Commission was the Audit Committee?  This is regarding the city's independent auditor - which is distinct from the city's Internal Auditor.  The City Commission believes that it is not required to have an Internal Auditor - even though the Charter says else wise.  Click here for back-up material.
I'll be attending the meeting starting at 9:15 a.m. Click here for back-up material.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Letter I sent to the Palm Beach Post - we'll see if they print it.

Dear Editor:

In response to Vice Mayor Suzanne Mulvehill's letter to the editor "Lake Worth Strives to be City that Conserves," I'd like to offer these observations as a long term Lake Worth resident.  While the city of Lake Worth does have the most strict watering restrictions, it is due to the imposition of those by the South Florida Water Management District and not through action by the city commission itself.  We are just now experiencing the second year of a five-year series of water rate hikes in order to finance and support our new reverse osmosis plant.  By the way, reverse osmosis plants are known to be large consumers of electricity - something else of which the city may be in short supply when we exit our current electricity contract.

Residents are being forced to conserve, not for the sake of conservation, but for the sake of self-preservation - especially given the precarious state of our economy.  The city's conservation program and audits are not free - they are paid for by line items on every customers' utility bill.  Consider Lake Worth Towers - filled with retirees on fixed incomes - the conservation program is unavailable to any of their residents but as a group pay a large amount to fund this program.

Conservation is a worthy goal, but the city commission continues to gouge Lake Worth residents in an attempt to achieve that goal.  The results are specious at best.

Click here for link to slideshow from LW Holiday Parade

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Frank Sinatra's Birthday...12/12

PBP Letter to the Editor from our Vice Mayor:

Lake Worth strives to be city that conserves
The Palm Beach Post is correct in stating that the smartest long-term policy for South Florida and the rest of the state regarding water begins with using less of it. That is why the city of Lake Worth made a decision to leave water restrictions in place. (We have no choice in the matter - South Florida Water Management requires it due to possible salinization of our wells) We are creating conservation policies in our city (by making sure we have the highest water rates anywhere - especially after three more future annual rate increases to fund our electricity-hungry reverse osmosis plant) and our residents are responding by using rain barrels (a manufacturer of which contributed to the Mulvehill campaign) and drought-resistant landscaping (residents with green St. Augustine lawns benefit from the city's lack of enforcement of the watering restrictions.)
Lake Worth makes conservation a priority. We are focused on (or is it forced to?) becoming a city of conservation vs. consumption (this is why we discourage any commercial operation that sells things to come to our city.) We are a member of Local Governments for Sustainability Organization and work with other cities (by having them sue the city of Lake Worth over disagreements in billing) to develop policies that build awareness and support for conservation. Our conservation program is being recognized as one of the best in the state (proof?).
Residents can have a free energy audit ( for  which everyone pays in advance, even if you can't benefit from the program yourself, through a line item charge on your utility bill), evaluate their water and electric usage, apply for energy efficiency grants and rebates. One of the programs is a rain-barrel (see campaign contributor) rebate program to help residents capture rainwater for watering yards and gardens. We will be looking into a cistern (into a hole that represents our ever-deepening budget crisis) rebate program in the coming year and continually work with residents to identify programs that support the sustainability of our city.
Lake Worth
Editor's note: Suzanne Mulvehill is vice mayor of Lake Worth. (Editor's note:  The Palm Beach Post is the publicity arm of the forces that act to bring the city of Lake Worth to its knees.)
(comments of my own)