Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lake Worth property taxes: Larger property tax break devastating Lake Worth budget - South Florida

Click title for link to article by Willie Howard.

Imagine the three hour existential discussions about...

...the difference between "like", "acceptable", "dislike" and "unacceptable."  For example, question #9 from the survey:
Generally speaking, if I dislike something, I find it unacceptable.  If I like something, I find it acceptable.  The discourse from the dais about the differences in these terms will fill volumes - and with this one you can't chose more than one option.  Imagine the potential results:  Like 10%, Acceptable 30%, Unacceptable 10%, Dislike 30% and No Opinion 20%.

Friday, July 9, 2010

So much for an unbiased survey on the Casino building....

The city added a link on their website late yesterday afternoon.  I provided a link from this blog to it at the top of the right-hand column.  There are 31 multiple choice questions, with some opportunity to enter original responses.  You also have to identify yourself, which may inhibit people from participating, but it will cut down on opportunities to stuff the ballot box.

Why is it biased?  Check this out - it's the paragraph after a recital of the architectural history of the building:
The building's location east of the coastal construction control line is a reason NOT to invest money in the existing building.  It is actually an argument for a new building that would be west of the coastal construction control line - meeting current construction standards.  Some of you may remember the dramatic Powerpoint presentation made by Commissioner Cara Jennings about the perils of coastal construction when another proposal was before the City Commission - complete with scenes of people running away from waves pounding the beach.  Here's one of them:
And, in her presentation, Commissioner Cara Jennings also talked about the importance of "managed retreat" from the ocean due to the threat of rising ocean levels.  Here is another image from that presentation:
You can review the entire presentation by our District #2 Commissioner by clicking here.  The point is that you cannot tell the public that since the building is seaward, or east, of the coastal construction control line, it's a reason to rehabilitate the building - unless you don't want to represent the facts the way they are and present a biased version to those that are taking the survey.

Let's go back to that paragraph, at the second point that is made:

Can someone show me a study that examined the costs of rehabilitating the existing building versus building a new building?  An accurate assessment was never done, but here the city is telling the public that due to the costs of the new building, the decision was made to rehabilitate the old.  Why are we lying to the public?  Is the community's attachment to the existing building due more to the fact that tenants of the existing building contributed to and promoted Commissioner Jennings' and Mulevhill's campaigns?
Menu board at John G's October 2008
What a wicked web we weave when we try to deceive...

It's only when we get to question #12 that the public is asked the following:
This is the question that should have been asked by the City Commission after it exited the contract with Greater Bay - with enough facts present to make an informed, impartial decision about the expenditure of public money.  

Remember too that people are asked to identify themselves as part of this survey - possible political retribution?  I wouldn't rule it out.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lake Worth's beach casino consultant to seek public input this week

Click title for link to article in PB Post that appeared on Tuesday, after the Commission meeting, regarding the Casino building rehabilitation project and charette.  The headline is as it appears in the virtual paper. It mentions that the city will have a survey on their website "this week" to gather input on direction of the design for the rehabilitation.  Today is Thursday. This is a snippet from the article:
I was just there and there is a link to a reservation form for the charette that will take place on August 21.  This is what that form looks like:
Keep checking back to the city website's home page for a link or for some sign of a 30 question survey.  I heard  that certain members of the City Commission said that they will reserve the right to make their own decision regardless.  Did that even need to be said?

In brief, and to summarize what has been said before on this blog, the building that is there now, designed the way it is, would be eligible for placement on the National Register for Historic Places.  It is thought by some that this designation would unleash "pots o'money" from historic preservation grant programs.  Well there are few programs like that available now.  It is also widely acknowledged that most do not like the current design of the building and, for many, that has been true since the building was last re-done in 1949.

With any other design, you are taking your chances with historic designation - even if it "goes back" to the 1922 original design.  If done well, using the inspiration of the original design would be a good way to go.

However, I am not opposed to a more modern, 21st Century design that takes its cues from contemporary life and design influences.  Whatever is done needs to be done well, with quality at every corner.  It also has to be worthy of being called an ICON, now and for future generations.  If not, then it is worth asking the question if the project is worth doing at all.  The $6 to $6.5 million figure, reached through the city's own financial analysis, seems low in order to meet these goals.  

Any design should use state-of-the-art green building techniques, to the extent the budget allows, with an eye toward reducing maintenance and energy costs over the long term.

My worst fear is that we under-estimate the cost of the building rehabilitation, over-estimate the revenues coming from the parking lot to support a revenue bond issue, get half-way through the project and realize just that.  Don't think this scenario isn't possible.  According to a resident who attended the Finance Advisory Board meeting last night, Finance Director Steve Carr said that the current meters at the beach had to be replaced.  These might be two years old and, in my experience, worked sporadically at best.  I would hope that the manufacturer or suppler of these machines would not be our preferred supplier for the new machines.  The new machines should be designed to work in a salt-laden atmosphere and be able to be essentially maintenance-free, except for emptying the till by authorized personnel.  If this standard proves impossible, then the city should institute attended parking, with a gate, to ensure proper collection of parking fees at the beach.

Another concern is that the current proposal, in this year's budget, to begin "pay parking" in the downtown area is the camel's-nose-under-the-tent for "credit enhancement" to be used to support a revenue bond to re-do the Casino building, based on either over-projection of, or faulty collection of, income from the beach parking area.

As I said before here, our downtown is at such a fragile state economically now that the imposition of parking meters is too risky for the amount of "reward" the city would get in additional revenue.If we were to do it, and I don't think we should, we would need to have attended lots by real people that would be able to interact with people who are paying.  We could then have a "parking validation" system where the merchants would pay for parking if you bought something in their store, or ate something at a restaurant.

But, I feel like everyone in the chain of command has their finger on the "doomsday" button for the downtown and we are going to see this instituted this year, whether we like it or not.

It is just not worth the risk!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Princeton News: 2010 Baccalaureate remarks

The choices of Jeff Bezos, founder of, are reviewed in his address to graduates of Princeton University this past May. By the way, about two months ago, I purchased an e-reader from, a Kindle, and it has revolutionized the way and amount (more) that I read and receive information. His address speaks of the gifts and choices that we have in life.  Click title for link.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Citizens customers may be fraud victims | citizens, fraud, service - Top Story - WPEC 12 West Palm Beach

This "fraud"(that you can read about by clicking title) is not on the part of Citizens, but why does a WIND ONLY policy through them require an electric system in an insured house that isn't more than 35 years old, but property/casualty insurance doesn't? WIND ONLY means something, no?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Green Transportation Technology, circa 1916

In my travels this summer, my Dad and I went to Louisville for the 75th Anniversary Antique Automobile Club of American national meet.  My Dad is a long-time collector of antique and classic cars, mostly Packards.  While I have some interest and have an antique car of my own, let's just say that my interest in the car hobby is not as developed as my Dad's.  I also realize, as I am sure he does as well, that our society loved, and continues to love, the automobile a little bit too much.  It has "driven", and been the basis for, land use decisions that exclude any other way of getting there except by means of a car.

Of course, we can't ignore the environmental consequences of this love affair with the automobile, both in terms of the environmental costs - in the extraction of oil from the earth and contribution of carbon to the atmosphere - but due to the importance of cars in our culture, they tell something about us as a society.  And regardless of what you think of them, they are objects of human achievement.  In many ways, they are a mixture of art and machine.  They have also provided many a way of life and a key to the middle class, especially in the 20th Century.

So, in Louisville this past weekend, we were able to witness a celebration of our society's love of the automobile.  For many, these sorts of meets are family events involving multiple generations. Over 700 cars assembled from around the nation and were displayed at the Convention Center.  The only criteria to participate is that they have to be some sort of vehicle and be at least 25 years old.  The oldest car that I saw was a 1903 Curved-Dash Oldsmobile.  There were a range of other cars of all makes and models, motorcycles and commercial vehicles.

One that stood out for me was a 1916 Milburn.  Click link for full view of automobile and history of the marque. Here are some pics:
Yep, it was an electric car.  Batteries in the front and rear and they had their own charging apparatus.

Apparently, electric cars were fairly popular in the early days of the automobile.  Travel by automobile was still a bit of an adventure in 1916 with almost all gasoline powered engines requiring manual cranking to start the engine - and a lot of persistent and applied strength.  Being the early 20th Century, the job of starting those gasoline powered cars fell mainly upon men.  The electric car was developed as an alternative way of getting around that did not require cranking and was particularly popular with women.  Some say their very existence helped with the women's suffrage movement and the imposition of Prohibition - women used the cars to politic and go to places farther afield than they otherwise could get to on foot.  The interior provided a "living room" environment, and being electric, was comparatively quiet.

The popularity of these electrics diminished as gasoline engines shed the crank and converted more and more to an electric starting mechanism.  Short-comings of the electrics, things that we are still overcoming today, were the heavy weight of the batteries in relation to the car itself, the short life-span of the batteries and need to replace them, the relatively short range of operation, low speed and the need for accessible charging stations.  All of the weaknesses here were either non-existent with an internal combustion engine or gasoline technology was far superior in comparison.  And, the unintended consequences of the reliance on gasoline power hadn't been experienced yet.

So, we still face challenges in the electric car technology.  Hybrid vehicles have helped bridge the gap, but it is still a long way to go to unseat gasoline powered vehicles from their prominence.

While the technology develops further, we need to make wise land use choices that minimize the dependence on the gasoline powered automobile, enhance pedestrian and bicycle access and encourage mass transit.  We do this by promoting mixed uses of residential, office and retail space, and increased density along alternative transit corridors.  Limiting new buildings to universal three stories does not promote this kind of land use pattern.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Without our freedom, this is what we would have to endure...

Russian Mayor Irks Security Agency, and Suffers
Published: July 3, 2010
A mayor who filed a lawsuit over a resort owned by Russia’s security service was jailed and prosecuted.
Click title for link to NY Times article.

Lake Worth Raft Regatta

Only in Lake Worth on Twitpic

Dalai Lama, as if speaking directly to our humble city...

Peace does not mean no more conflict among humanity. Conflict is bound to happen, so in order to keep peace in spite of conflict, the only realistic method is the spirit of dialogue, respecting the other side and understanding their viewpoint. We need to try and solve problems in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, in a spirit of reconciliation and compromise.