Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dixie Highway - What it meant to Lake Worth and what it could mean to its future.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I periodically mention the sorry state of Dixie Highway through Lake Worth.  I even have a slide show that I post which shows the large amount of vacant and under-utilized property along its entire length. I also put together a YouTube video that shows what some of the properties along the road looked like during an earlier time, among other locations in Lake Worth.

It's that earlier period and the formation of the city that I would like to focus on now.  Lake Worth owes its beginnings to Flagler's East Coast Railway and, soon afterward, Dixie Highway, which became designated US 1 soon after World War II.  When the city of Lake Worth was formed, I guess we are settling on 1913 as the year, what we know as Dixie Highway was little more than a dirt road that ran north and south. Pavement came in the later, around 1920, which coincided with the increase of northern tourist traffic.

The enterprising people of Lake Worth at the time attempted to make the most of it.  They saw to it that we had  an attractive Casino building on the ocean, drawing tourist traffic through our downtown and dropping dollars along the way.  The same can be said for the many mom-and-pop motels that sprang up along Dixie Highway itself - all ways of fishing for wealth from the traveling public.  This sustained the city economically while US 1 was the ONLY route north and south, before the Turnpike and then before I-95.

During the same time, the automobile industry was producing vehicles that allowed individual travel and freedom that had never before been experienced.  It was also helping to produce a middle-class with leisure time to do other things than provide for one's own sustenance - it could afford to take time to travel.  But, from a national point of view, travel wouldn't have been possible if not for roads for this new invention called the automobile to ride on.  Leaders of the automobile industry became instrumental in the promotion of road building and special routes to take people from one location to another in the cars that they manufactured.

Two of the most notable efforts were our own Dixie Highway - a north/south route or combination of routes that we designed to allow travel primarily from the cold northern states to southern states.  Florida was a specific destination of all the southern states due to its subtropical climate which was unique in the North American continent.  The other effort was an east/west route call the Lincoln Highway - which started in New York City and went all the way to San Francisco.  This route eventually became either US 30 or US 40, or other state roads, after World War II.

It's the Lincoln Highway that I would like to focus on now, even though it has little to do with what happened in the development of Lake Worth, but it may have a role in what happens in the future.  Last weekend I happened to stumble upon a program on the local PBS station about the Lincoln Highway.  It dealt with its history and the Lincoln Highway Association, a group of people interested in preservation of that history, the experiences along the road and the people associated with it.  If you haven't already seen the program, I would urge you to or, through one of the links provided above, you can purchase a DVD of the program.

I am sure that most of you have heard about Route 66, made famous a number of ways through our pop culture, including a song.  Well, this is celebration of the "car culture" with which this country has a fascination.  The link above about the Lincoln Highway Association is supported by a number of enthusiasts that either love the notion of the open road, the roadside architecture, the history of transportation, the development of our nation during the 20th Century - all of the above, or just a nostalgia for the past because they remember their families using these roads back in the day.

The point here is that there is a market and there is enough raw historic material here in Lake Worth and the south part of West Palm Beach to take advantage of this.  If you check out the Internet, there isn't too much hype around Dixie Highway or US 1 and it really doesn't have a group that is rallying around it.  There are few, one in Georgia, some other locations, but none in Florida.

The fact is that Lake Worth owes its very existence to this road, Dixie Highway - it was literally built around it.  When I-95 opened up, it was like the city's blood supply was shut off.  We really haven't been able to adjust adequately to the new reality since.  Instead of running away from it, we need to run toward it.  This is something that I tired to push, amongst many other things with an overwhelmed staff and distracted elected officials.  I was hoping that the Master Planning process would bring forth this notion, but the whole process turn a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

There are many different ways we could bring this about and most of it would be by emphasizing what we are already doing or promoting things that we aren't.  It's not about re-directing traffic from I-95 to Lake Worth - it's about creating an attraction around its history that would attract more interest economically in the city.  Following this "road" would be a way of being the "last place" position we currently have among Palm Beach County cities.

Branding anyone?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Copy of E-mail Request to City for Information related to City-owned Property at 902 North C. Street:

I'll let you know if and when I receive a response.

New in Town: The beachier feel of downtown Lake Worth

Click title for positive mention in article re downtown Lake Worth.

Commissioner Cara Jennings' Neighborhood

Her house at 822 N. C. Street:
From the Property Appraiser's Office:
City-owned property less than one block away at 902 N. C. Street
From Property Appraiser's office:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How the City of Dayton, Ohio educates people on how to buy city property:

Want to acquire a vacant lot? Check out "Lot Links 101" - July 15 at 6:00 p.m.
The City of Dayton will conduct a brief meeting on July 15 to educate the community on the facts, requirements and process for acquiring vacant and tax delinquent property in Dayton. Citizens interested in learning how to acquire properties through the City of Dayton’s “Lot Links” program should attend the 30-minute “Lot Links 101” briefing on Thursday, July 15 at 6:00 p.m. in the Dayton Convention Center, 22 East Fifth Street, Room 306.

Participants are encouraged to remain after the meeting to attend the HUD Consolidated Plan Town Hall meeting. The Town Hall begins at 7:00 p.m. and is sponsored by the Cities of Dayton and Kettering.

For the flier, click here.

Cities: Maywood council can't duck the blame or shame -

Click title for link to LA Times Editorial. An excerpt:

"The Maywood City Council needs to accept a painful truth of American politics: Once you get elected, all the problems that came before you become your problems. You own them and all their stink.

You can't spend three years blaming your predecessors and then throw up your hands as the city collapses around you. But that's precisely what the council majority in Maywood has done."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


There has been a rash of incidences where cars have been stripped of their tires and rims. The sheriff has confirmed that it's happening in College Park from Dixie to the Intra-Coastal Waterway. Just this week, two cars were left on Coca-Cola crates with no tires or wheels. Also, at another property two tire stems have been cut, causing nearly $1000 in damage.

Late last night, neighbors were in their back yard and heard someone talking over the fence. They immediately ran over to the old Patio parking lot. Three young white males spotted the College Park residents and ran to a newer model, silver, S-type Jaguar with chrome rims and sped off.

The sheriff's office is on the detail, but keep your eyes and ears open and call the Sheriff's office if you see this car cruising around College Park, or any other suspicious vehicles/people for that matter.

Commissioner Mulvehill's Campaign Treasurer's Report - Q2

Click here for City website.  For others, go to City Residents, Elections, Treasurer Reports, 2010 Candidates.  It would be easier if they had a link directly for 2010 Candidates.

The Casino building tenants are weighing in already.

MinnPost - Cityscape: Recession recovery: Urbanist Richard Florida says it will mean huge changes in how we live

Click title to quick over of a new book by Richard Florida on his forecast of future urban life.  I just ordered it from Amazon and it is resting in my Kindle, which I will read during my summer travels.  What I think it will talk about is the need to pare down on transportation and housing costs - we will do this by reducing commuting distances, encouraging redevelopment of urban areas along railways and other mass transit corridors.  Where have we heard this before?  I think right here.
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Announcement from City: Diabetes Healthfair

Diabetes Health Fair July 17, 2010
Diabetes March: 6:00AM 
Health Fair: 9:00 AM
Cultural Plaza: 414 Lake Ave, Lake Worth
Health Clinics Free T-shirts & Refreshments
Free Physicals Diabetes testing 21 Doctors 42 Nurses
Learn how to cook with Diabetes.
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Political Divisiveness

This was posted on FaceBook by the group that calls itself the "Coffee Party Movement." It's a response to the more well-known "Tea Party Movement" that is primarily composed of extreme right-wing folks that carry around Sarah Palin idols, or so it seems.  The group's vision is stated as follows:
  • Our Vision: Reason and civility in public affairs; A gov't of public servants accountable to the People; A People committed to the Common Good and Civic Virtue.  Here is a link to their website.
It says to me that we should be about good representative government.  There are problems that we should face together and not use issues to divide us.  We need to use the opportunity address our major societal issues by tapping the talents of all people, not just a select group and look out for the good of the "whole."  Special interests have taken over the debate in Washington and one can predict the vote on a particular item 50 miles out from the eventual outcome.  Here is one the Coffee Party group's recent status updates that immediately made be think of things the way they are in Lake Worth.
  • The politics of division, fear and hatred reduce participation in the democratic process because many of us want to avoid conflict and negative emotions. With reduced participation, we're vulnerable to extremists dominating our gov't and bullying the public. To counter extremism, we must commit to increasing participation and engaging the majority in the political process.
We have seen this strategy play-out with successes at the ballot box, but little real success where it counts - on the streets, in the neighborhoods or in the city's financial coffers.  It seems that the "ruling party" in Lake Worth can get elected through these methods, but has difficulty governing in a way that addresses the needs of most residents in Lake Worth, rather than the extreme ideologies of a few.  By disenfranchisement of voters and, I believe, making things so intolerably difficult and expensive to live in Lake Worth that many pull up stakes and move out, leads to more victories at election time.  But what is left behind is a wasteland of missed opportunities for a better community that embraces and benefits everyone, not just friends of those who live and visit N. C. Street.

The most recent example of this is the use of the Save Energy Workshops as a "ruse" and a campaign tool for Commissioner Cara Jennings and her political allies.  Let's say that you believe that all the "i's" were dotted and the "t's" crossed, that Commissioner Jennings' left-over campaign funds are being used to "educate the people" on the benefits of energy conservation and that everything is on the up-and-up and it is o.k. that another elected official that is up for re-election leads a "workshop" while gathering voter information (which I have a hard time believing and all information gathered at these events in terms of voter identification should be available to anyone who asks for it.)

The issue, CONSERVATION, is not one that should be politicized!  We all are about conserving our resources and as the headline on the paid-for flier proclaims "LOWER YOUR ELECTRIC BILL."  And those that ARE NOT INCLUDED in this "campaign" I know are FOR lower electric bills, rebates on energy saving appliances, alternative energy technologies, etc. Whether we need a special tax for this on our utility bill, which hit lower income groups the hardest is another matter, but this is not Cara Jennings' issue alone - this is OUR ISSUE.  This is an issue for EVERYONE on the DAIS.  

What Commissioner Cara Jennings' disciples want to plant in people's minds is that Cara is for the Environment - with a capital "E" - and that anyone against Commissioner Cara Jennings' is against the Environment, so how could you vote for anyone else other than Commissioner Cara Jennings? Don't be fooled, this group's main and probably only goal is TOTAL victory and I shudder to think what that might mean when it comes to pass.

This is the politics of divisiveness in action.  It may win elections but it destroys communities - especially the sense of "community" that we need to succeed as we attempt to face our challenges together.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Timing is everything...

I find it interesting that Mayor Varela's discussion at the LW Playhouse will take place when these Commissioners are out of the country.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Audits, loose change and such...

Reading the following entry in the City Manager's report of July 2 led me to recall an anecdote told to me a few months ago.
And then I read this related entry in the July 9 report:
If you have been around Lake Worth long enough and have been paying attention, we have had a "speckled" history, and that is being kind, as it relates to audit reports on the city's financial reporting systems.  Each one seems to come up with a new list of "exceptions" to the audit reports that essentially says, "but for" these faults, we would issue a clean audit opinion.  In some audit reports, the list of faults can go on for 50 pages and it seems that the faults from previous years are not addressed and usually appear in following years audit reports.

The City has changed auditing firms, hired and fired an Internal Auditor - one that is supposed to report directly to the City Commission.  The last one dismissed due to the City Manager's conclusion that we didn't need anyone to point out more problems.

Given that as a backdrop, I found this story telling.  Earlier this year a Lake Worth resident, and one that most people would know, received a letter in the mail from the Finance Director.  It contained a copy of a check from 2005 in the amount of around $500 and it was made out in this person's name.  The letter essentially said that the city was going through its records and wanted to know the status of the check.  There was a multiple choice set of responses like "You received and cashed the check" or "You still have the check and have not cashed it" or "You did not receive the check but are still owed the money and would like a new one issued", etc.  The last example included a caveat that if you are issued a new one and it turns out not to due to the person in question, they could be held liable for return of the check and penalties.

First of all, this was about a check issued in 2005!  Checking the calendar today immediately points out that we are currently in 2010 - some five years after said check was or was not issued.  Second of all, the amount - compared to the $162 million total city budget - is de minimis at best.  It makes one wonder about the checks written for larger amounts than $500 since 2005, whether they should have been issued and if they were for some service the city and residents actually in some way benefited from.

So, during this budget season and while reviewing the document, it is difficult not to wonder about whether or not you are looking at the "real" picture of the way things are or are they a picture of the way someone wants them to be or if they are to be believed at all.  It does not give one the level of assurance that is expected of an organization in charge of handling the public's money.  Is anyone on the dais addressing this?

Regarding loose change, there was this entry in this week's City Manager report:
It is good to hear that we are assigning staff to repair meters "within a half hour during weekday hours and within one hour after 4 p.m." at the beach and at the boat ramp.  My question, does the broken meter send a signal to someone at the city that it's broken or does it have to be reported by someone?  I don't know if this is administrative "spin" given that the Finance Director reported  to the Financial Advisory Board (FAB) that we will need to replace the meter machines at the beach in the near future and they are looking at them for the downtown.  That last idea, parking meters in the downtown, is getting a chilly reception from the FAB apparently, but we will have to wait for their recommendation to come "out of the box."  It probably should be run by the Planning and Zoning Board too.  

The City Manager also made a big deal in her report about how the FAB should not be influenced by Commissioners during their budget review so that their recommendation is objective - good luck with that!