Saturday, January 8, 2011

From last night at the Breakers...

The Classic Car Club of America is meeting at the Breakers in Palm Beach this week.  My father is down to visit me and attend this gathering of automobile enthusiasts.  Last night, we meet up with some people from the car club and had a short caravan from the Breakers to Charley's Crab.  I was sitting in the backseat of a 1940 Packard Darrin convertible sedan - a 1932 and 1936 Packard were the other cars involved.  These came out pretty well.

If you are interested, the cars assembled for the meet will be displayed to the public today on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach from 12 to 2 p.m. this afternoon, 1/8/11.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

All posts related to the CDC Lease and Commissioner Golden have been forwarded to William Howard and Randy Schultz of the Palm Beach Post.

Palm Beach County Commissioner's effort poses question: Public service or favor for a friend?

Another Palm Beach Post article on the non-profit In Dogs We Trust case.  There are a lot of subtleties here, but when dealing with ETHICAL issues there can be many.  Now, what about that non-profit Community Development Corporation in Lake Worth headed-up by that City Commissioner that has operated without a valid lease during the time she has been in office?

Wellington-area dog shelter to face county commission scrutiny

Click title for link to Palm Beach Post article. It would be good of them to report about instances when a City Commissioner's non-profit agency is allowed to operate and occupy city space without a lease during the time in which that City Commissioner was in office, pay no utilities contrary to the original lease, cover-up the matter while deliberating over leases of other non-profits vying for space in city buildings and then make a motion to terminate the lease of three non-profits with valid leases of city facilities. Maybe William (formerly "Willie") Howard will do a front page spread soon.

Politics, digitally speaking:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association | January Update

Hello Friends & Neighbors!
On Monday, January 3rd the Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association held its January Meeting. Following are some updates:

Elections: The results are in! President - Ryan Anderson, Vice-President - Robert Elliott, Secretary/Treasurer - Jessica PlotkinCarolyn Deli was appointed to the Board of Directors, replacing Robert Elliott. We look forward to another productive and successful year.

Banners - Two designs have been submitted for the Neighborhood Identification project. Please click here to view and take a quick survey. Please note that we can combine ideas from the two designs, or create something totally different. If there are ideas, comments, or drawings you would like to see included, this is a chance to make it happen! We welcome your feedback!

2011 1st Quarter Goals - The members had a great discussion last night about things the Association can achieve in the next 3 months.

Increase business membership - The first step is outreach and letting the businesses in our community know that we are here to support them and to help the neighborhood prosper. On Saturday, January 29th, we will hold a clean-up of the alley-ways behind G St. & H St. Prior to that we need volunteers to notify the business owners on G St. & Dixie Highway about what we are doing and why. If you can't make the clean-up, this is a great way to meet some new people and help build the Association. New flyers will be provided.

Fix yard signs - Several years ago, the CRA purchased yard signs with the date, time and location of the monthly meetings. However, these signs have not been updated since the move to Compass Center. We are looking into pricing out printed laminated strips that can be affixed to the signs and distributed to the members.

Block Captains & Code Enforcement - Last evening block captains were chosen to select 5 of the worst code violators on their street. These properties will be submitted to Code Enforcement and followed up weekly until the issues are resolved. It is our belief that the only way these problems will finally be fixed is thorough frequent, persistent follow-up. If there is a property you would like to see cleaned up, please email me the address and issue and I will be happy to forward it to your block captain.

**Unfortunately, Terry Edwards is no longer with the City and I have received no response to who our new area Code Enforcement Officer is.**

Florida Governor Rick Scott - Governor Rick Scott Fulfills First Campaign Promises to Hold Government Accountable

Click title for link to article. On ethics:

Executive Order No. 11-03 establishes the Governor’s policy on ethics and open government.

  • Orders the adoption and implementation of a revised, stronger, code of ethics in the Governor’s office, and directs agencies under the direction of the Governor to revise their codes of ethics accordingly.
  • Recognizes work of 19th Statewide Grand Jury and directs Governor’s Special Counsel and Chief Ethics Officer to review their Report and recommend a plan for implementation of all or certain, as advisable, of the Grand Jury Recommendations.
  • Reaffirms commitment to Office of Open Government and calls for establishment of new Web site providing access to accountability information.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Hello, Mr. Inspector General..."

Things to consider regarding the CDC lease:
  • The building has value as a city building - it belongs to the public.
  • The building could easily be used by another non-profit.
  • A sitting City Commissioner, who just sat through the whole review of city buildings with leases to profit and not-for-profit agencies said nothing about the status of her agency's lease - even though having the knowledge that there was not a current lease on the building.
  • The CDC has not, at least since 2006 - maybe longer, paid for utilities for the building.
  • Any metering issue with the building should have been identified by the sitting city commissioner who staffed the agency.
  • The small amount of rent and whether the sitting city commissioner earned a salary, or if anyone earned a salary is not material.
  • The main issue here is the CDC's effectiveness and whether it really serves a need in the city to a point where it deserves this sort of space over other groups.  No analysis has ever been performed.
  • There are other worthy non-profit agencies in Lake Worth that would like to utilize this sort of space in one of the neediest areas of the city.
  • Other non-profits with leases need to be looked at too.
  • How about other property transfers between the city and the CDC?
  • Commissioner Golden said that the Gateway zoning districts were all messed up - since they don't allow the CDC to develop their substandard property along 6th Avenue South.
  • Commissioner Golden made the motion that ousted other non-profits from city buildings (October 5th meeting) while being a staff person - documented by her own recusal on September 21 - at another non-profit that did not have a current lease with the city.

Something that you will find here and not on the city's website.

The January 5th, 2011 agenda packet for the Planning and Zoning Board.  The meeting is tomorrow night.  I contacted the Planning Department today by e-mail.  William Waters responded after 5 p.m. that they were having trouble with the website today.  He forwarded the items available by the above link.  It looks like the site plan for the beach will be discussed, but not presented for approval.  It's introduced on the agenda as the "pending BAC site plan" - I hope people realize that BAC stands for Beach and Casino.

Also being discussed is the apparent "conflict of interest."  There is no other back-up other than the four items associated with the attached link.

Apparently this is what prompted the Mayor's call for an investigation of the CDC.

I had skipped over this item, thinking it was inconsequential (New Business, Item B).  After reading, I still think it is.  I'm not sure what it intends to do that is different from the way things are done now.  This relates to whose job it is to execute and approve contracts - the resolution, drafted by Commissioner Golden, attempts to strengthen the "non-political" city manager role in their approval.  However the Mayor is still involved, so I really don't see a big deal.

There was a need for this a few years ago when the City Commission approved the contract to re-do the beach with Greater Bay.  Mayor Drautz had the duty to initial all of the pages of the large beach agreement and refused to do so - saying that he would have to read and understand all the pages and he didn't have time to do that.  The Commission then moved to have that duty be done by then Vice-Mayor Lowe.

I am not aware of any current issue that would present a similar problem.  In her memo, Commissioner Golden mentions difficulties with transition between annual elections.  Earth to Commissioner Golden - we only had one Commissioner replaced due to the last election.  It makes me wonder just how involved the former Commissioner was involved in approving contracts since that is the only material change.

Let's listen and see what we find out.

After 6 p.m., click here for live link to 1/4 City Commission meeting...

Popcorn popped and ready to listen.

Al Vega is talking about a "camp" that was set up in the backyard of a house - complete with tent, washer and dryer, and refrigerator.  Another one that called for a Certificate of Use permit that had 15 people living in it - complete with a chore list and 15 names and all imaginable horrors - bugs, rat droppings, rigged electric, etc.

Former Commissioner Jennings spoke about how it's like Maury Povich listening and watching the code enforcement presentation.   She didn't like how the public got to peer in the backyards of people and thought that was unprofessional.  She also didn't like meter readers aiding and abetting code enforcement.  She also objected to a military presence in the Martin Luther King Day parade.

Jo-Ann Golden says she reads the U.S. Constitution every night.  She also says that the Gateway Zoning is a mess.

Excerpt: Minutes (un-approved) from the 10/5/ City Commission meeting when decision made to terminate leases in some city facilities.

Then Vice-Mayor Golden made the motion.  The following is a portion of Vice-Mayor Golden's declaration of a conflict of interest regarding an item related to Hammon Park from the meeting on 9/21/10.  Didn't she have a similar contract regarding the city lease motion?

!ALERT! Click here for IMPORTANT Add/delete Item for the 1/4 City Commission Meeting

Current CRA Board Member

Current Commissioner for District #3 Jo-Ann Golden

Aerial Shot of CDC building - just south of the Osborne Community Center
This whole issue may be a good one for the new Palm Beach County Inspector General to cut his/her teeth on.  I brought this up here when it was before the City Commission originally and pointed out that the CDC was left out of the analysis of city-owned properties.  And on multiple occasions.  I thought it was glaring omission, especially since, as a result of the analysis, certain organizations were asked to go packing.  Here the CDC has used a city building without a valid lease since 2006 - the time Commissioner Golden has been in office.

In the back-up material, you see a crossed out version of the lease that was returned to the city.  Those items that were crossed out related to maintenance and utility costs - meaning it was the CDC's intent to not be obligated to pay those costs.  Guess who's initials are "LM" on the revised lease?  They are none other than Lynda Mahoney, then CDC Board Chair and former campaign manager for Commissioner Golden.  Strange that the same Lynda Mahoney was then appointed to the Planning and Zoning Board, of which she is its current Chair.  Everything is so nice and COZY, no?

Now, I don't know where the Mayor was during the meetings when the city facilities were discussed - one would assume he would have been in the center chair.  One would also assume he would be alert to what was going on at the meeting.  It's pretty clear from this copy of the report by the city manager that the CDC and building it occupies were not included in the analysis.  Maybe it's true that no one reads the blogs in town, although this blog's readership statistics provide ample evidence of the contrary.  The point here is that I don't think this just dawned on the Mayor and it may be in reaction to something else.

We'll have to see what happens tonight!

Click here for 1/4 City Commission Meeting agenda and packet:

A couple of things lift off the agenda and grab my attention.  The first is the continuing "catch up" of past meeting minutes.  There amount to thirteen sets of them and they are all dated prior to the last election.  Sunshine Law states that minutes should be approved in a reasonable amount of time.

The next thing that piques my interest is the formal adoption of the Mayor's and City Commissioner's salaries (New Business, Item A).  Apparently this has been done in the past when the budget was passed and did not merit a separate process.  The need to do this is needed to "ensure compliance with the City Charter."  This even though the City Commission picks and chooses when it will follow the City Charter and when it doesn't - like not filling the required Internal Auditor position.  So why the special need here?  Is this an excuse to bring it forward so that someone can suggest an increase in compensation?  We'll have to wait and see what happens tonight.

Here is the first page of the accompanying ordinance.  Check the highlighted sections.
The next item concerns "re-branding of the city" courtesy of Vice-Mulvehill (New Business, Item C).  Going through the back-up material, this is about appointing a task force to accomplish this task.  This task force is essentially a volunteer board.  What is unusual here is that we have a Commissioner attempting to appoint certain individuals by decree, with the presumed agreement of the other elected officials.  If we are taking measures to adhere to the City Charter with Commission salaries, we are going against the following provision of Chapter 2 of the City's Code of Ordinances:
Sec. 2-12. - Terms of office and selection of members of city boards.
The term of office of each person who serves on any city board, commission, authority, council, agency or panel who is appointed by the city commission shall end on July 31 of the year in which such members term expires.
Beginning in April of each year, the city shall provide to the public notice of vacancies of board members whose terms expire during the year, so that residents may apply for the vacant positions. Applications for boards may be filed at any time up to ten (10) days before the interview meeting with the city commission.
In June of each year, the city commission shall conduct an interview meeting with prospective applicants to city boards and shall select the boardmembers at the meeting, based upon the commission members ranking of the applicants. In the event that vacancies to city boards occur at other times of the year, the city commission may determine to hold interview meetings with applicants at other times of the year and select replacement members in accordance with the procedures contained in this section.
Upon the adoption of this section, for members of city boards whose terms end in a month other than July, the terms shall be extended until the following July, as provided in paragraph (a).
(Ord. No. 2002-20, § 1, 7-16-02)
There are also requirements that Board members be residents of Lake Worth and, if not, they are given preference over non-residents.  I don't believe all people mentioned in the back-up material are residents of Lake Worth.  While the establishment of the task force may be a good idea, I'm not sure it adheres to City Code.  Also, the other material referenced in the memo was already identified by the city's former lobbyist/consultant Donna Brosemer.  This doesn't represent original research on the part of our Vice-Mayor.

Also, the danger with this is that it could become another set of propaganda to be hauled out come election time that serves to minimize the city's many dire situations and problems while attempting to convince people that Lake Worth is that "shining city by the sea."  The better effort would be to address the real problems rather than sugar-coat them.

More updated information is available regarding the proposed individuals to be appointed is in the revised back-up.  Look at the last item on the agenda for the up-to-date information.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Wishes: Respect, Trust and Debate

Regular readers may know that I have a fondness for Michigan State athletic teams.  While I did not attend Michigan State, both parents worked there and we always had season tickets to football games. We were always fortunate to land a few hockey or basketball tickets too.  I continue to follow the various teams depending on the season.  I've been to many bowl games over the years since leaving Michigan, but this year I decided to stay home even though the team played in Orlando yesterday.

I don't know if you saw the game or are aware of the final result.  The Spartans lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide by a score of 49-7.  It was a beat-down of epic proportions.  At one point in the second half, we went through three quarterbacks in about as many plays.  Suffice to say that the team was totally out-classed by the competition.  Nonetheless, there is a lot to be proud of this season as the Spartans won a co-Championship of the Big Ten and finished with an 11-2 record.  We have a lot to build on for next year.

The reason I bring this up here is the existence of a subplot within this match-up between Michigan State and Alabama in football.  The head coach of Alabama is Nick Saban.  Those of you that follow the Dolphins no doubt remember him as a recent unremarkable coach of that team.  From there he went to coach at Alabama, where he has had a great deal of success, even winning the National Championship game last year.  Prior to coaching for the Miami Dolphins, he was head coach at LSU where he won his first National Championship in 2003.  And prior to taking the head coaching job at LSU, he was head coach at Michigan State.

He left in 1999 after the team compiled a 9-2 regular season record.  The two losses were on the road to Wisconsin and Purdue.  Both were blow-outs like the one I witnessed yesterday.  Before the bowl game that year, he held up the University for more money and the University said "no."  This was his first real successful season and they just didn't have the confidence that he deserved more money before the end of his contract.  He left the job before the bowl game, again in Orlando that year.  They appointed Bobby Williams as Interim Coach before that game.  Michigan State ended up beating Florida in a back-and-forth game that came down to the last few minutes.

As it turns out, not only was Nick Saban on the sideline of the opposition yesterday, so was Bobby Williams.  Williams is the tight end and special teams coordinator for Alabama.  He coached Michigan State as its head coach from 2000-2002.  He was fired due to off-field player behavior issues as well as lack of results on the football field.  Many believe that this series of events transpired to leave the football program in the dust at Michigan State from which it is just now recovering.

So, all that being said, I was excited about the potential of this match-up to right some wrongs perpetrated by these guys on the opposing sidelines.  Well, guess what.  That didn't happen.  Did the results deepen my resentment for these men?  No, if anything I have gained a new found respect for them as good football coaches that have achieved a great deal in their careers.  They will likely continue to be successful.  I ask myself, why wallow in what could have been and dwell on what has happened in the past?  The future is the only thing we can create and the present is a result of our past efforts.

Perpetuating hatred is, as often is said, like taking poison wishing that the object of your hatred would be the one that dies.  If anything is a blueprint for self-defeating behavior, this is it.

So in the new year ahead of us in Lake Worth, I would encourage those on all sides of the political debate to remember that we are in this together.  Carrying on hatred for misdeeds of the past is counterproductive at best and harmful at worst.  We are talking about the welfare of an entire city here.  What I wish for is demonstration of a newfound respect for those that engage themselves in local politics - whether in a formal capacity, a previous capacity or simply following what is going on at the City Commission.

We have too much talent in this community to sideline, or ignore, people that you resent or do not trust.  Can we open communication to a point where it is okay to have a different opinion or another idea that is not promulgated by those that happen to hold the seats of power at the moment?  It is called debate.  This is not for the sake of arguing, but for the sake of exploring other ideas and approaches that may be worth following for the sake of the city's future.  These ideas and opinions should not be immediately discounted based upon whose mouth or fingers communicate these ideas.  Likewise, they shouldn't be roundly supported based upon who says them either.

Of course, your comments are welcomed here.

Census 2010 information for cities and counties to be released in February of 2011

I stumbled on this information and thought I would share it here.  This shows the final participation rates for the 2010 Census compared to the 2000 response rates for Lake Worth, West Palm Beach and Greenacres.  You might recall that the city of Lake Worth hired Annabeth Karson and Shauna Coolican to head up the Total Count Committee at a still undetermined final cost.  The city did this even though the County had its own total count effort.  

Was this money well spent?  Judging by the comparison above, an additional 4 percent response rate over 2000 is a modest improvement, but still is lower than the response rate for West Palm Beach and just one percentage point higher than Greenacres.  We'll see what the February results tell us.