Friday, June 11, 2010


...while at my local Dunkin' Donuts on Dixie Hwy., I bumped into someone that I haven 't seen for a while.  He happens to have his own business and has dealings with the County Commission.  We worked on a couple of projects together before the economic downturn.  He said that he hadn't been through Lake Worth for a couple of years and he couldn't believe how bad Dixie Hwy looked - especially all of the closed businesses, vacant lots and for sale signs.  We then both noted that it didn't seem that Dixie Hwy. in West Palm Beach, less than a couple thousand feet to the north, was doing as bad and had some areas that were actually thriving.

We parted and I thought about all the people that he knew in important business and government positions and how they were likely to hear his assessment of Lake Worth's economic condition - confirming the city's already deserved negative branding image.  Just another impression made, but it could be so much different with different leadership.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What were the old hours and how is this better?



FROM:             Rachel Smithson, Assistant to the City Manager
                          Office of the City Manager

DATE:              June 9, 2010

RE:                   New Hours of Operation at the Lake Worth Beach


Effective June 9, 2010, the Lake Worth Beach and Casino Complex will be open from 6:30am to 9:30pm. These new hours are being implemented to improve safety at the site and improve the City’s ability to maintain its beachfront assets. For additional information, contact Public Services Director Joseph Kroll at 561-533-7334.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

FYI - there are many comments that will be posted when I am near my computer again - have a nice day!

Fresh from the City's ever spewing font of information...Coffee with the Mayor

A photo of a cup of coffee.
The next "Coffee with the Mayor" event will take place on Monday, June 21st from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at "An Old Family Recipe Cafe," located at 1500 Lucerne Avenue. Residents are invited to join Mayor Varela for casual conversation and brief information on projects and initiatives taking place across the city. Please check the "Meetings and Events" calendar on the City of Lake Worth's official website,, for the date and location of upcoming "Coffee with the Mayor" events, as well as information on other exciting Lake Worth events and happenings. All are invited to come and take part in the exciting conversation about Lake Worth!
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When will we see a City of Lake Worth Press Release like this?

City Earns High Rating for General Obligation Bonds
June 8, 2010:  The City of Delray Beach has recently been notified that Standard & Poor's (S&P) Rating Services raised the City's rating for General Obligation (GO) bonds from AA- to AA. This upgrade reflects the City's strong financial management and is a noteworthy accomplishment compared to other cities whose handling of the recession's impact has resulted in downgraded bond ratings.

S&P's rating was based on several factors including the City's strong financial position and low debt burden with limited future capital needs. Also taken into consideration was the fact that the City's General Fund Unrestricted Fund Balance of $19.7 million had not been used to offset operating revenue declines as some other entities have done and that there was no significant debt to be issued as evidenced by the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan. 

Higher bond ratings benefit the City through lower interest costs for future borrowings. Because Delray Beach's upgraded bond rating indicates a financially sound municipality, bond buyers feel that the risk of loss is minimized and are willing to accept a lower interest rate return. According to S&P's Global Credit Portal Ratings Direct Summary: Delray Beach, Florida; General Obligation report dated May 7, 2010: "The stable outlook reflects S&P's expectation that Delray Beach will continue to maintain strong reserve levels despite decreased property tax revenues due to declining assessed values." 

"We are very proud that Delray Beach has received a higher bond rating given the tough economic climate every city is facing," states City Manager David Harden. "It is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the City Commission and City employees to provide our community with quality service while being financially prudent."

To view Standard & Poor's Global Credit Portal Ratings Direct Summary: Delray Beach, FloridaGeneral Obligation in its entirety, visit and select Finance under Departments.  For more information, contact the Public Information Office at (561) 243-7190.

Monday, June 7, 2010

City Commission Work Session All Day tomorrow (6/8)

Click title for complete back-up.  The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. and the morning consists of reviewing the scope of the Request for Proposal (RFP) for future power supply.  This topic carries an estimated time of three hours.  After lunch, around 12:30, there's the Beach Casino financing plan and after that review of the scope of work for architectural firm REG's contract.  I just had time to review those two items today and I have some observations.

For the Casino financing plan, staff mentions in the transmittal memo that they looked at the "market value of the commercial property" in the Casino.  Rates of $25 to $40 square foot for restaurant space and $20 per square foot for retail space are being used after the rehabilitation of the building.  A second story restaurant at $40 a square foot is included in the analysis. These square footage lease rates were "researched...with a commercial real estate expert...based on compatible properties in the region."  We are not offered a copy of the marketing analysis - one presumes the one talked about during various meetings and at the architect interviews.  This was to be performed by a firm out of Broward County and done under the $15,000 limit that the City Manager can approve on her own.

Also important would be whether or not a percentage based rent or hybrid should be used for restaurant tenants.  The market analysis should have addressed that, as well.

Needless to say, the integrity of this analysis depends largely on the assumptions and procedures used in that market analysis.  Not to have that report as part of the basic back-up information and easily available to the general public leads one to be suspect.  Just knowing what "compatible" properties were used is an important consideration.  It is a public document, anyway, why not include it?

One of the points I made in previous posts about the pluses and minuses of rehabilitating the old structure versus building a new building was the impact to the tenants during the construction period. In fact, throughout the RFQ process in selecting an architect, the Commission repeatedly asked questions of the architects related to whether or not tenants could continue operating while rehab is underway.  I always maintained that it really wasn't practical in this case and, therefore, was one of the reasons to build new.  Tenants could stay in the old building, paying rent along the way, and then move into the new building once it was completed.

Well, it seems that the staff has come around on this issue and the analysis specifically assumes that the tenants will vacate the building during the June 2011 through September 2012 construction period.  Huh, if only we knew this beforehand...So, the tenants will be out of business during this time frame and the city will not be earning rental income.

In reviewing REG's contract, the two documents don't share the same construction timeline.  The financial analysis has the construction period beginning in June 2011 - the REG contract has it beginning in August 2011.  The same group of people pretty much worked on the same documents so the discrepancy is not easily explainable.  That two months (or three depending) might make a difference in the bottom line - if not the city's, then certainly with the tenants' bottom line.

The revenue from parking at the beach will be one of the main sources of support for a $6 to 6.5 million loan - with upper parking at $1.75 an hour and $1.50 for lower level parking.  Meters are still the devices, according to this analysis, that will be used to collect money from parking.  Based on our past experience with reliability and enforcement of the meter system, I think we need to look at gated parking with an attendant.  I know this adds a level of administrative costs, but it might be worth the revenue lost from the other methods.  It would also give the city another set of "eyes" on the parking area for both crowd control and vehicle security.

The other odd thing about the REG draft scope of work is that REG is marked out of most of the copy included in the back-up and Living Designs Group is in its place.  Wonder what the story is about that.  Rick Gonzalez doesn't seem concerned.

Tune-in or attend tomorrow.  Public comment, of course, is not accepted during workshops.  Why would the Commission want to hear from the residents anyway?

65 Decibel Noise Ordinance Downtown? Click here for new "targeted" industry...

Or how about this agriculturally based industry?

Lake Worth leaders puzzle over fixes to fallen property values

Click title for link to Palm Beach Post article.  No where is mention made of the enormous amount of vacant and fallow property throughout the city - or our vacant downtown storefronts.  Seven years ago we started a Master Plan/Visioning process that the city spent over $1 million, oodles of staff and volunteer board review, only to have it hi-jacked by "Just Say No" Commissioners Jennings, Golden and Mulvehill.  They led the charge for a "low rise city" that provides no incentive for redevelopment along our major transportation corridors.

We still do not have a working set of land development regulations (zoning code) that is based upon the Master Plan effort.  What would someone refer to if they wanted to redevelop anything or invest in property?

Meanwhile, we keep driving for basic goods and services outside of our city's borders - using the same oil that is spewing in the Gulf of Mexico in our single passenger motor vehicles - and we do the same in terms of exporting people in cars so that they can work in other places.  This is not a "green footprint" for a city - something that many in the city seem deluded into thinking Lake Worth has.

Under the "I want to..." tab on the city's website is a link under "Learn about business development" which then leads to a pdf document "Incentives for Opening or Expanding a Business in Lake Worth."   There we learn that the city has certain targeted industries:
  • Clean/alternative energy, research and manufacturing;
  • Aviation/Aerospace Engineering
  • Communications/Information Technology;
  • Business and Financial Services (non-retail);
  • Education and business incubator programs related to the above industry clusters.
 When were these decided upon and by whom?  How are we promoting the city of Lake Worth to these industries?  Of all the links provided, none is to the city's own CRA website.  Hmmm.

And then we say that the only area for development is the Lake Worth Park of Commerce - which is undergoing a study right now about long term infrastructure needs and really is not "ripe" yet for anyone large employer to take as a serious location alternative.  It also says that zoning density "increases" may be offered.  Really?  And if you aren't part of an industry on this list, would you get a return phone call?  Or even if you were?

Examples like this do nothing to entice anyone that Lake Worth is to be taken seriously as a redevelopment location.  Unfortunately, those private commercial interests will continue to choose other locations that are not as environmentally kind as our vacant and underutilized land in Lake Worth.

Ideally, we could take the lead in promoting redevelopment and advocating at every turn that the County enforce its Urban Service Area Boundary.  Until then, we will be red-lined by the investment community as a city of "no" with a drastically sinking tax base that cannot support basic municipal services.

Amendment 4 President's Use of Racially-Charged Term Draws Call for an Apology

Click title for link.