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.