Friday, September 17, 2010

Random thoughts over the past week...

It's been a busy week and, even so, tried to keep up with the goings-on of the City Commission who had marathon meetings Monday and Wednesday.  They covered a wide array of topics.  It seems that the party line is that the city should keep the utility and actually purchase power outside of FMPA after 2014 - which would be more expensive, but open the way for the City to actively promote solar energy in dispersed locations throughout the city.  This might be more expensive than what we are paying now, but as more solar units come on line that cost would be reduced on a citywide basis.  If someone has a clearer understanding of how this works, please elaborate under the comments section to this post.  It doesn't look like the out-right sale of the utility is in the cards since, as Commissioner Mulvehill puts it, it's the city's "cash cow."Again, this discussion went on during a Commission workshop where there was no public comment allowed and one that took place during the day.  Even though I had the Internet stream going, it is hard to hang on to every word with the typical daily distractions, quick errands, etc.

An interesting homework assignment would be to come up with a wish list of strategic investments that the city could make to position itself for a prosperous future if the city were to receive a one time "windfall" through the sale of the electric utility.  Much like alternatives for the casino building rehabilitation, other approaches are not even being studied or examined.

The City is undertaking a sustainability study which is funded by the energy conservation fund to the tune of $200,000.  Already a team has gone around to every municipal building and performed an energy audit - grading each building and creating a list of improvements based upon payback over time.  The results have yet to be produced, but should be interesting when made public.  Towards the end of October they plan to have a public meeting with a series of follow-up meetings looking at various topic areas - I pointed those out in a previous post.  I had an opportunity to talk with one of the people involved with the city and they performed a similar study in Boynton Beach (why does everything seem we do start in Boynton?)  I'd like to get a copy of that product.  But it turns out that the city building's overall contribution to its carbon footprint was 3% of the total.  A little more than 40% came from transportation related issues and the remainder came from the commercial and residential sectors of the city.  Which means that if we find ways through smart land use decisions to encourage alternate means of transit - through strategic increases in density - that is where we will have the biggest bang for the buck in terms of sustainability.  And, remember, whatever we do has to be economically sustainable - or otherwise it is literally not worth doing.  They have come up with a slogan for the program and will be calling it "Energize Lake Worth" which may branch off into future branding of the city.

On Tuesday, REG made their initial presentation to the Commission after the results of the charrette.  There is going to be another one on 9/25 at the golf course which will be open for public comment.  It is clear that the whole project is being backed-in-to a $6 million budget - which supposedly includes a $1 million contingency.  Questions from Commissioner Maxwell about the likelihood of cost over-runs and the probability of a construction manager at risk of taking the job fell on deaf ears.  The most important item that I found in the back-up material is this paragraph:
This is the first formal acknowledgement from a building industry professional that there are permitting and code issues that really have yet to be addressed.  I maintain that until these are fully explored, only then can a firm time line and budget be determined.  A 15 month construction period for the building rehab is optimistic, in my opinion.  And, it turns out that Commissioner Jennings wants to see if the tower at the northeast corner of the building can be accessed and what the cost would be.  The issue here is one of accessible of the disabled community (ADA requirements) - if access is only provided to "able" people, then an entire community will be discriminated against since that opportunity would not be available to them.  In order to meet the requirement, an elevator would need to be provided - which would change the scale of the tower and add additional expense for relatively little utility.  This is not an existing tower, so it wouldn't be eligible for a waiver due to historic considerations.  REG is going to look into this and report back to the Commission.  It is these sort of "impulses" that will add cost and time to this project - reminiscent of the south Bryant Park fiasco.

The next step will be to get a contractor on board and the construction manager at risk - then we will have a true idea about cost.  The allocation of cost between the building rehabilitation and the beach renovation is another important matter as talk of where to allocated the cost of a cistern for storm water became an issue on Tuesday.  It was also interesting that it seemed that interaction with the tenants really has yet to happen and Commissioner Mulvehill seemed especially concerned about the proposed floor plan affects John G's - after all, they funded much of her campaign.  Apparently there will be a meeting with the tenants soon to "gauge the level of interest" in staying in the building.  Little was talked about regarding the arrangement for tenants during the time the building could not be occupied during rehabilitation.

One of the more interesting items talked about Tuesday, later in the day, was the status of various of city buildings, what groups currently occupy space and under what terms. CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT FROM ANY DISCUSSION OR DOCUMENTATION CONCERNING THE LAKE WORTH CDC.  They occupy a city-owned building at the end of Wingfield Street - south of the gymnasium and the Osborne Center.  It would make a great area for children - day care, after-school programs, computer training, classroom space for continuing education.  Instead, we have a private, non-profit agency that seems to do little tangible good, staffed by a City Commissioner taking up this valuable civic, community space.  The lease has been up for renewal before, but I don't remember it being discussed recently.  Why aren't we objectively looking at alternate uses for that building and the costs associated with it?

Then on Tuesday night the CRA acted unanimously to buy property from the CDC - Ed Grimm, who is on the board of the CDC properly recused himself - total price $30,000.  This will help the city spend the fund from the $23 million NSP grant (funds to buy the property come from another regular line item in the CRA budget.)  Which is ironic since Commissioner Golden didn't want the city to apply for the money in the first place, let alone be awarded the grant or spend its money.  But, in an in-direct way, her agency benefits from it.  Is what they do, which doesn't seem like a lot, worth taking up space in a city-owned building?  I guess we won't have this discussion until things change on the Commission.

The city facilities item will be on the October 5 Commission agenda - it looks like the "Mentoring Center" will be losing its lease in the shuffleboard court building.  Other changes are brewing as well related to the museum and the art league in the Annex.  Let's hope someone mentions the CDC, at least for appearances.

Wednesday night they talked about the budget and the ability to "regulate" downtown parking through the establishment of pay meters won the day (Jennings, Varela, Golden).

Questions: Is there anything the city regulates well?  Should it be done at the risk of losing more businesses downtown during these fragile economic times?  Answers in order:  Nothing and No.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Next Coffee with the Mayor

The next "Coffee with the Mayor" event will take place on Monday, September 20th from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Plantation Cigars, located at 2216 N. Dixie Highway. Residents are invited to join Mayor Varela for casual conversation and brief information on projects and initiatives taking place across the city.

Tonight's (9/16) Candidate Forum Meeting - 6 p.m. - Genesis Neighborhood Assocation

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From FaceBook: When 100% is not 100%

From a conversation on FaceBook today, it seems that one of our candidates has trouble with math and, up to now, hasn't answered the questions of yours truly:
In reality, the ordinances regarding the beach land use and zoning were never rescinded.  The work that Mr. McVoy refers to is his role in that effort.  He was also sued by the city regarding the matter.  The Greater Bay lawsuit continues and could result in a multi-million dollar judgement against the city.  This was initiated when the city canceled the development agreement.  

We'll see if Mr. McVoy is more forthcoming with answers in the future.

Click title for link to Palm Beach Post article on the work session meeting yesterday.

They're at it again - Click here for Commission Meeting on Budget - 9/15

Click here for back-up

Commissioner Jennings wants more reserved for "open space" for parks.  She had said that it was for a park in Tropical Ridge.  Then Commissioner Mulvehill said that it was for the Sunset property and then someone - not sure who, might have been Jennings, said yes.  There was some public comment on what a bad idea pay parking in the downtown is.  Commissioner Jennings doesn't think an Internal Auditor is needed.  Commissioner Maxwell found that the housing initiative is still in place for around $400,000.

Later, he sounds like he is backing away from it, however initially Mayor Varela was promoting the idea of pay parking in the downtown as a tool that is used everywhere and he is tying it to economic development (?) and how cities regulate parking.  He is not going to wear "I love meters" t-shirts.  He says that it is part of the city "growing up."  At the same time, he is saying that the Commission is getting rid of the "parking-in-lieu-of" fees which will remove a barrier for new businesses.  He says that reputable places use pay parking and it doesn't kill their downtowns. (Editors Note:  Yes, pay parking can be used to regulate parking - where, when,how many park and to discourage the use of automobiles - but in successful downtowns and not in trying economic times.  NOW IS THE WRONG TIME)  The Mayor is o.k. with not having an internal auditor if it is not required by the Charter.  Attorney Humphries doesn't think that the Charter mandates it, just allows it.

Commissioner Golden sounds like she is for it too - she says that it would discourage the use of cars and sees more bike racks.  She agrees we don't need an internal auditor.

Commissioner Maxwell wants a yes or no on the issue - tonight.  Commissioner Mulvehill thinks we should look at it until 2013.  She thinks we need no internal auditor.

Sounds like we may be going to one day a week for garbage pick-up.

Cool Idea for Urban Street Art...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Preliminary Drawings by REG after Charrette - Part of Commission Work Session 9/14

Click title for link to REG-only back-up.

Announcement from City: Precautionary Boil Water Notice

A precautionary boil water notice will be issued for the area served by the Lake Worth potable water distribution system described below. The reason for this notice is: Relocation and connection of 6 inch water main to a 12 inch water main. Water will be turned off from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM_ on September 13th 2010. Therefore, as a precaution, the Utility is advising that all water used for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth, or washing dishes be boiled. A rolling boil of one minute is sufficient. This notice effects 51 customers and includes the following addresses: North A Street 202-218-230 North B Street 201-205-209-211-215-217-219-231.

This precautionary boil water notice will remain in effect for 72 hours until September 15th 2010. Residents will be notified if additional water samples need to be taken and if the City needs to extend this notice. Door hangers will be passed out

Should you have any questions please contact the Water Systems Department

Special Genesis Neighborhood Association Meeting - 9/16 - 6 p.m.

I received word that both McVoy and Mulvehill have confirmed.

Important Commission Work Session Meeting - 9/14 8:30 a.m.

Click title for back-up.
Lots of important items - including discussion of an RFP for a Feed-in-Tariff item regarding the electric utility.    There is a lengthy PowerPoint presentation included in the back-up.  You might be able to glean some information from it, but I would rely more on attending, listening - either live or later - to the presentation to get the gist of the item.  It relates to the City's energy usage, ability to have renewable energy resources and net-metering.  Selling of the utility doesn't seem to be on the table.

Of particular interest to me are the following four items - Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, REG presentation on Casino Building, the beach redevelopment project by Kimley Horn and the discussion of city leases.

Sustainability Plan - an excerpt from the back-up material:
This is costing the city almost $200,000.  This is in addition to the over a million dollars spent over the past six years on a master plan, comprehensive plan revision and land development regulations that still have yet to bear fruit.  What fruit that did come forth had a bitter taste since the City Commission chose not to follow the recommendations of the Planning and Zoning Board and adopted a draconian three story height limitation in the city, and still does not have an officially approved Comprehensive Plan and is using a zoning code that doesn't fit the adopted, but not official, Comprehensive Plan.  Judging by the list of seven topics this effort will focus on, the recommendations would only be worthy if they include an economic component of the sustainability equation.  HELLO EVERYONE - Where we are going is NOT ECONOMICALLY SUSTAINABLE!  We cannot continue to maintain a basic level of city services given the minimal level of private investment the city has had and will continue to have without a change in direction by the City Commission.  If something can't make its way economically, it is by definition UNSUSTAINABLE.  And, if the consultants are worth their salt, they will point out the need to support the region's efforts in the expansion of mass transit alternatives - which will require a different land use pattern than the one offered by the lady that runs an unlicensed boarding house in a single family zoning district and her many followers.

This is also going to grade city facilities in terms of energy efficiency.  The city is the WORST offender of its own water restrictions - let's start there.  Then, in a flashback to about four years ago, we are again going to adopt a Climate Action Plan.  How is this going to be different than the previous product issued by the "Mayor's Climate Control Task Force?"  Are we following those recommendations and will we follow these recommendations, or is this just the city greenwashing for political purposes?

Oops!  Someone left out the Community Development Corporation being in a city-owned building.  How could that have happened?
Have we conveniently forgot that this is a city-owned facility this private group is operating in or have the lines blurred to such an extent due to a Commissioner, the high Vice Mayor Golden, happens to the the project manager for the group and uses that as her office?  I guess she can be a touchy about things like this.  Anyway, for sake of completeness, it should be included and the CDC should be required to provide every bit of information every other similar group must to maintain its lease.  The big shock here is that the City Manager is about to kick out the Mentoring Center - and the Museum and the Art league - from their current locations.  She identifies a number of reasons why the Mentoring Center was a bad idea in the Shuffleboard Building.  Is she being racist?  Or is it that now Commissioner Jennings is officially in her lame duck period and the City Manager has been itching to do this for a while now?  Loved the story, especially in light of the "sustainability" item above, about how staff at the Mentoring Center props the doors open while having the thermostat set at 72 degrees. They don't pay for their utilities, by the way.

If it all weren't true, I wouldn't believe it either.

Street Painting Festival Grant funding for 2011 is in jeopardy.

Dear Street Painters and Friends of the Street Painting Festival,

    We need your voices once again in helping us to secure funding for the 2011 Street Painting Festival.
Please take a moment to write the Palm Beach County Commissioners about how important grant funding is for the arts in South Florida and what it means to you to participate in such an event as the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival. The more e-mails they receive from the public that they represent the more impact it will have.
1)      Write a Letter to and copy all the County Commissioners :

Thank You! For all your help, support and participation. You are the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival! You make it all happen.

Best as always,

Maryanne Webber

Street Painting Festival Inc

* My apologies if you have received this e-mail in multiples, in my haste to get this out to all of you I may have duplicated databases.
   See the e-mail below from the Palm Beach County Cultural Council for more information.

From: Jan Rodusky [] 
Sent: Friday, August 27, 2010 3:02 PM
To: ''
Subject: Grant funding for 2011
Importance: High

Dear Maryanne,

I am following up on an the status of the Street  Painting  Festival’s  CI grant for 2011.

The Grant is in Serious Jeopardy!

The Commission is positioned to NOT fund next year’s grant of $13,396. The Cultural Council is doing everything we can to advocate on your organization’s behalf. Now we need you to advocate for yourselves – IT IS THE LAST CHANCE.

The Street Painting Festival needs to do three things:
2)      Write a Letter to your Commissioner and copy all the County Commissioners :,,,,,
3)      Attend the Budget Workshop on September 14 at 6:00 at the County Government Center .
4)      Speak Publically and tell the Commissioners that you are outraged about the lack of public funding for the arts and what it means to your organization and the people you support.

Please respond to me with your commitment.



Jan L. Rodusky
Director of Grants
Palm Beach County Cultural Council
 Copy of PBCCC_logo_CMYK_small              

                 facebook icon small no text       twittericon_small 

Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association | 9/13 Meeting & Candidate's Forum

Monday September 13th, at 7pm the Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association is hosting their 2010 Lake Worth Candidate’s Forum at the Compass Community Center located on the Northwest corner of 2nd Avenue North & Dixie. This forum is the first in a series of similar events to be held between now and November 2nd (see agenda for schedule of events). All interested parties are invited to attend this educational forum and learn more about the Candidates for City Commission. Please CLICK HERE to download an agenda for this regularly scheduled Association meeting. Thank you. 
Ryan Anderson
Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Remembering 9/11 and its aftermath...

This is a picture taken soon after the events of 9/11/2001.  At the time, I was Director of Projects for Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago and Trump International Golf Club here in Florida.  The morning of 9/11, my staff and contractors were reviewing interior choices for the completion of the golf course clubhouse.  As the events unfolded, we found it impossible to concentrate on the task at hand and all headed back to Mar-a-Lago to call New York.  After all, our boss was a high profile figure whose offices were in a New York office tower.  We wondered if the lines would still be operating - they were, but I remember it took a couple tries to get through.  We found Mr. Trump in his office and he told us about the mayhem going on in the city. He mentioned that he knew many people who worked in the World Trade Center and he expressed his concern about their safety.  No one knew all the details and ramifications that would follow in the weeks, months and years that followed, but it was good to here a reassuring voice on the other end of the phone that things would be alright.

The most eerie thing about the immediate time that followed the attacks was the elimination of the usual plane traffic over both properties.  While an irritant in the past, the lack of the usual drone of jet noise was a silent reminder that the world had entered uncharted territory.  I've kept this picture of the Mar-a-Lago tower dressed in the U.S.A. flag as my reminder of that day and find it symbolic that a flag would drape one of the few towers in Palm Beach which happened to be owned by a prominent New Yorker.

I hope that you were able to find time to honor those who lost their life that day and those that continue to protect this country here and abroad from future attacks.