Friday, December 31, 2010

Have a safe New Year's Eve and a Happy 2011!

Fun urban method for self expression

At the Curb, Wheels for Free Expression
Published: December 30, 2010
A man from Daly City, Calif., has turned his car into a mobile, erasable canvas that passers-by are encouraged to write upon whenever he parks.
Click title for link to New York Times article. Click here for link to

SCARY Prediction - GARY SHILLING: And Now House Prices Will Now Drop Another 20%

Following the arrow above will take you to a series of 27 charts showing the latest data related to home sales, foreclosures, affordability, mortgage delinquencies, etc.

Time and the competition keep marching on...

While Lake Worth fights among itself about the benefits of the Cultural Renaissance program, other communities forge ahead with their plans.  Is it any wonder why we have experienced the steepest declines in property values of any of the 38 municipalities in Palm Beach County? Notice this comes from the city's Public Information Office.

City of Delray Beach
New arts incubator coming to the Pineapple Grove Arts District
December 30, 2010:  The Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency is requesting qualifications from consultants to conduct a feasibility study, development plan and facility business plan for an arts and cultural facility in the Pineapple Grove Arts District. Submittals are due to the CRA office by 2 p.m. on Thursday, February 3, 2011.
The cultural arts facility will be housed in a 15,000 square-foot warehouse facility at 313 NE 3rd Street, purchased by the CRA in February 2010. The warehouse is envisioned to become an arts incubator, including visual and performing arts, and film.
The CRA is working closely with the Creative City Collaborative, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, which will oversee the development of the facility, work to maximize the economic impact of the warehouse, and manage the facility once the build out is complete. Founded in 2006, the Collaborative is designed to build the city's cultural infrastructure through the implementation of the City's cultural plan, adopted by the City Commission in 2006.
Responses will be evaluated and ranked by the Collaborative's Executive Committee. The final selection will be made by the CRA board.
Questions regarding this Request for Qualifications should be submitted in writing to Alyona Ushe To download a copy of the RFQ, visit the CRA website or contact the CRA office at (561) 276-8640.
City of Delray Beach
Public Information Office
(561) 243-7190
City Commission:
Nelson S. "Woodie" McDuffie, Mayor
Adam Frankel, Vice-Mayor
Angeleta Gray, Deputy Vice-Mayor
Gary Eliopoulos, Commissioner
Fred Fetzer, Commissioner
Follow CityDelrayBeach on Twitter

Esther Baldwin York

"It Depends on Us... Another year lies before us like an unwritten page, an unspent coin, an unwalked road. The pages we'll read, what treasures will be gained in exchange for time, or what we find along the way, will largely depend on us."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Cool" short video re Blizzard in Astoria, Queens...

Idiot With A Tripod from Gothamist on Vimeo.

Best watched in "full screen" mode.

Sounds like the police needed to levy a stiff fine...


A long read, but an interesting one.  This might serve as the basis for legislative changes in the coming year.

Six sustainable communities stories to watch in 2011 | Kaid Benfield's Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

Interesting planning related article on issues playing out in the near future. One of the stories has to do with how "outer" suburbs have suffered more property devaluation and foreclosures than older, central cities. I guess there are still exceptions, eh hem, that prove the rule. Click title for link.  The source is the Natural Resources Defense Council.

FPL customers report problems with utility's 'reflective roofing' program - South Florida

Click title for link to Sun Sentinel article. The lawsuit relates to the recommendation that roofs be painted a light color. Work done was against shingle manufacturers recommendations and led to early roof deterioration.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

By the way, I put this movie together long ago now, but just added music to it.  It's a great track of Sarah Vaughan singing "Over the Rainbow."

Ethics and Inspector General Ordinances being drafted...

The second meeting of the drafting committees for the Ethics Ordinances and the Inspector General Ordinance is scheduled for 01/05: 

3:00 PM Inspector General Ordinance Drafting Committee, 
4:00 PM Ethics Ordinances Drafting Committee, both in Government Center
McEaddy Conference Room, 12th Floor, 301 N Olive Ave,West Palm Beach

These meetings are open to the public and will also be broadcast live on Channel 20.  Click here for link to County meeting schedule.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Palm Beach Post, WPTV-Channel 5 announce news partnership

Click title for link to PBP story on this partnership.  I heard the same announcement on Channel 5 this morning.

This actually indicates a settling of a long-time feud.  The Post's editorial board made a big stink in opposition to Channel 5 selling their former waterfront site to a developer of a high-rise condo.  Before that, they were partners much like what is being talked about here.  The Post then aligned itself with Channel 12 - that never really paid in off in any benefit for either party - or the public for that matter.  Channel 5 overlooked the Post and favored a relationship with the Sun-Sentinel.  I guess the grim realities of the future of print media and local broadcast TV finally made them bury their swords.

But will it amount to better journalism?  I'm not optimistic - if anything, the Post may follow Channel 5's lead and not cover local political issues, other than elections.  There is a gaping hole in the coverage of local issues since they don't drive the ratings.  That's why blogs like this are appearing to fill the void.  We already know that the Post just spits out what it is given in a press release, with little original investigative reporting.  Maybe more of a merger is on tap in the future that will eliminate what we know as the print edition of the Palm Beach Post entirely.

In the mean time, we can hope beyond hope that the editorial board ceases to be the public relations arm of the current Lake Worth government regime - and that Channel 5 doesn't churn out fluff pieces weekly for the darlings of the dais.  Not likely, but one can hope reality seeps into the picture at some point in time.

David Grayson

"We are all, tooth and nail, seeking what we consider best in the world: where we differ is in our conception of what is best."
Click title for link for information on Ray Stannard Baker.

Light Rail Transforming Cities, Guiding Development

This might be the form of what would happen with transit trains on the FEC (east) tracks.  Listen for the link from trains to development.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Front or back?

I've been thinking about the proposed design of the rehabilitated casino building's western facade.  Prior to the hurricanes of the late 1940s, A1A (Ocean Boulevard) was east of the casino building.  The front of the building was designed to face the ocean, although the west side was essentially a copy of the east, only without a tower.  The western frontage had an extension along the north side of the building that was torn down in the early 50s.  
The above is a postcard showing A1A east of the building and a much narrower barrier island.  The width of the island was doubled in the early 1950s by the addition of fill - essentially the area that is now the western parking lot.

Most of the traffic coming to the building will be by travel over the Lake Worth bridge.  Does the western facade as proposed reflect the "front" of a building?  I don't think so - it looks like what it is - a building that's been added on to a lot and one that doesn't make a lot of aesthetic sense.  The front is better, although I am having trouble warming up to the "Tuscan Revival" of the existing two-story session.

I bring this up now as the architectural package will be on the Planning and Zoning Board's agenda of January 5th.  If you share this concern or any other, this might be your only opportunity to voice your opinion prior to the City Commission reviewing the design of the building.  

I'd be interested in knowing your opinion.  To see the entire design package, click here.

Lake Worth's finances: City must begin to reduce pay and benefits

Click title for link to another utterance by the PBP editorial board.  The PBP is cheering on our city manager for stopping the bleeding before the city has no blood left.  To not do so, they say, would be the equivalent of malpractice.  What they don't realize is that their darlings of the dais have done everything in their power to make Lake Worth an unattractive and risky place for anyone with money willing to invest in building or establishing a business here.  To face the worst declines in property values over the past three years of any one of Palm Beach County's 38 municipalities calls into question whether these wounds were more than partly self-inflicted.  We have the disciples of the dais majority championing lower property values and targeting those with very low income to come to our city.  They have been successful, but they don't want another obstacle to lower property values by having to feed money to unionized employees that bargained in good faith - only to be told the city has no money.

Meanwhile, let's use $6 million from the city's cash portfolio to improve the casino building at the beach.  This will not be the economic panacea those on the dais say it will be.  Look for the same tenants to be there, in a slightly improved format.  This is what is going to send legions through our downtown and single-handedly raise property values all across the city?  Look at our shuttered downtown stores, our vacant lots along Dixie Hwy., entire buildings and lots mothballed along Federal Hwy and the long road to payoff from the Park of Commerce.  High utility costs - including WATER - are part of the unattractiveness of a Lake Worth location - whether a residence or a business.  But these high rates are not the only thing turning people and businesses away - much of it is the sum total of the decisions made by the PBP darlings of the dais.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

In Association with the weather...

Three-agency merger a bad idea built on a myth

Click title for link to PBP editorial re the potential merging of the Departments of Transportation, Community Affairs and Environmental Protection.  This relates to Governor-Elect Scott's transition team's report I posted here a few days ago.

There are a couple of things that come to mind, being a former bureaucrat myself and one that deals with large organizations on a daily basis.  The first thing that I have come to realize is that re-organizations are time-consuming processes that, while they are happening, makes the wheels of the organization grind to a halt.  Usually, they only are put in place to "fight the last war," when new challenges are just around the corner that need to be anticipated and not reacted to.  Think of the Maginot Line as a classic example.  During this, chaos reins and projects that should go forward, don't and projects that shouldn't sometimes do.  Another remembrance of dealing with these three departments is that staff turnover was always an issue.  It seemed that just when you were starting to make some progress with a staff member, they either left, were transfered or let go and you were directed to someone who just got out of school.  Usually this meant that you had to go back and re-do certain steps or re-address issues that had already been resolved.  What is contemplated here might have portions of all of these factors - which would be contrary to the ultimate intent of making regulation more rational.

What also seems to be missing in this transition teams analysis is what needs to be controlled and what doesn't need as much control.  We need an authority, the state of Florida comes to mind, that would regulated what are called "urban growth boundaries" around our major and not-so-major metropolitan areas.  These are lines, usually established by counties, that are meant to be the ultimate limit of urban services - water, sewer, storm drainage, schools, etc.  If these aren't enforced by an entity that has a greater interest other than the local government in mind, then we have a problem.  Much more emphasis has to be placed on the importance of redeveloping areas that are blighted, forgotten or thrown away.  If we can direct re-investment into these parts of Florida at the expense of not reaching further out of a metropolitan center, we can go a long way in planning land uses that are sustainable, with smaller carbon footprints, and take advantage of existing infrastructure.  This has to be a policy shouted from the highest levels of state government to every municipality and local government in order to work.  The only thing that I saw that vaguely looked like this policy in the transition document was "Let cities be cities."  However, who is defining what a "city" is and how is this going to be implemented or enforced.

I am not encouraged by what I hear coming from this transition team.  I really think we do need some state oversight in Florida as it relates to local comprehensive plans.  Otherwise, I think we will become a state filled with sprawling development patterns - even more so than now - with older communities like Lake Worth left with fighting for the scraps or, as is now the case, chasing development away in a vain attempt to win the last war.

I'll be monitoring news related to this topic and keep you informed.

Tale of Two (or more) Cities

As long as we are still in the midst of the holiday season, I thought that it would be a good time to share this observation made by an alert reader.  She had the foresight and where-with-all to record a portion of the WPTV Channel 5 morning newscast from December 11.  You might recall that Saturday was the day of our Holiday Festival and parade through downtown Lake Worth.  It would take a while for me to digitally transfer to the blog, so for ease of communication, here is the transcript of two sections of the newscast.  The anchor was Marci Gonzalez.

"Here's a look at the Community Calendar.  The City of Delray Beach is kicking off the season with its annual holiday parade.  Festivities get underway at 6 p.m. on Atlantic Avenue.  This year's theme is "Disco in December." It's free.  Okeechobee is also getting into the holiday spirit with the Christmas festival in the park which begins in the park at 9 this morning and it will end with a parade at 6 p.m.  And if you want to head a little further south, you and your pup can go to "Bark-a-Paloosa" - all dogs are welcome for a special day at the green market in Pompano Beach.  There will be a dog wash benefiting "No Paws Left Behind"...If you have an event that you would like to announce, go to and click on the Community Calendar link..."

And then this for Lake Worth:

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and it might be a little bit of a headache for motorists trying to make their way through downtown Lake Worth today.  The city will have its annual holiday parade starting tonight at 6 p.m.  You can expect road closures on Lake Avenue today from 3 to about 9 p.m. and also road closures on Lucerne."

This is a perfect example of what happens when you have someone who knows where to send what information.  It seems that the city of Lake Worth announcement only consisted of a press release from PBSO about road closures.  This is useful information for some, but creates the image and the thought in people's minds that they need to avoid Lake Worth during the times of the road closure.  This announcement, since it came from PBSO, and had no other relevant information, ended up in the "hard" news section of the program.

In contrast, under the Community Calendar portion of the broadcast, the public learns about all the holiday fun happening in Delray Beach, Okeechobee and Pompano Beach.  Delray also had a parade as part of their festivities, but no announcement about street closures and the like - which there surely were, no doubt.

Where would you have liked to go on that Saturday if you lived in Wellington or Jupiter?  Another example of the need for a public information officer - or, short of that, someone that would act as one and know what they're doing in a part-time capacity.