Saturday, March 5, 2011

Click here for Current Litigation Report to be presented at 3/8 Commission Work Session

Read it and weep.  Dee McNamara has a "slip and fall" claim - there are other interesting items on the list.  Offer comments below.

From presentation to be made on the beach at 3/8 Commission Work Session

FYI - there was no Planning and Zoning Board meeting on December 19, 2010 - before William Waters became Planning and Preservation Director.  The meeting was on January 19, 2011.  Is this the "official" version of the timeline?  If so, for what purpose?  Note that the Planning and Zoning approval was more than just the site plan.

Click here for memo on "Groundbreaking Celebration Plans."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Brief Video from the Madison Regatta 2010

 This was taken from my father's property during the Madison Regatta, Madison, Indiana.

Here is the trailer for "Madison" - a story about the 1971 victory of the town-owned hydroplane.

Summary of Current Legislative Actions related to Growth Management...

Growth Management: 

In the last two weeks before the beginning of the 2011 session (March 8th), additional bills related to growth management issues have been filed.  (To see a summary of all the bills that APA Florida is following, click on the bill tracking report in the section above.)

 SB 1416 (Senator Benacquisto, R-District 27) creates a new definition for a municipality of special financial concern under Chapter 163.3164, F.S.   It defines them as a municipality with a per capital taxable value of assessed property of $58,000 or less, or a municipality with a population under 20,000 with a per capita taxable value of assessed property of $46,000 or less.  This bill provides that under certain circumstances, these municipalities can apply for a waiver for updating the capital improvements element and schedule, a waiver of the requirements for amendments to update the regional water supply plan, and a waiver from the requirements for the EAR scoping meeting and other requirements of section 163.3191.

 SB 1440 (Senator Hays, R-District 20) makes a number of changes to the Rural Land Stewardship process.  It removes the Department of Community Affairs as the designated entity to provide assistance to local governments under the Rural Land Stewardship program and designates the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as the lead.  Water Management districts are also removed from the list of participating agencies and replaced with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The above appears to apply when a landowner or local government is not required to demonstrate need, although this portion of the bill is confusing.  Under these circumstances, this bill would allow landowners to directly petition the local government to designate the rural land stewardship area.

Additionally the bill amends where rural land stewardship areas can be located – the requirement that they be outside urban growth boundaries is amended to be outside urban service areas or planned future urban service areas.  A number of other changes to the process are proposed and the bill would also repeal Rules 9J-5.026 and Rule 9J-11.  The bill also specifically states that rulemaking to implement the provisions of 163.3177(11)(d) is  not authorized.

 SB 1512 (Senator Bennett, R- District 21) deals with a number of issues.  It adds definitions of mobility plan and transit-oriented development to Chapter 163.3164, F.S.  It also amends the definition of financial feasibility to include committed or planned funding sources of a local government for years 4-10 of a 10 year capital improvement schedule.  The bill would require that amendments to address military base compatibility to be submitted by June 30, 2011.

 The bill also changes the use of population with respect to future growth, stating that “The amount of land required to accommodate anticipated growth may not be limited solely by the projected population. At a minimum, the future land use plan must provide at least the amount of land needed for each land use category in order to accommodate anticipated growth using medium population projections for a 25-year planning period from the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) of the University of Florida and incorporating a minimum 25 percent market factor based upon the total population of the jurisdiction…”  It would require that population projections be reconciled on a county basis, and that counties and the municipalities within enter into an allocation agreement by December 1, 2011.

 The bill also changes the transportation backlog concept to a transportation deficiency concept which includes both existing deficiencies and deficiencies projected to occur with 10 years.  It changes the formula for calculating transportation proportionate share for DRIS, making it a two step process where any road projected to be deficient without any DRI project traffic is eliminated from the calculation.  It would require each local government to adopt by ordinance a methodology for assessing proportionate fair-share mitigation options by December 1, 2011.

 The bill also exempts transit –oriented developments from being reviewed for transportation impacts in the DRI process.

 In order to eliminate concerns about constitutional validity being raised by litigation, SB 7021 (Representative Hooper, R- District 50) reenacts Chapter 163.31801(5) which states that in any action involving an impact fee, the government has the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that the imposition or amount of the fee meets the law.   The bill indicates that it would take effect upon becoming a law and would be applied retroactively back to July 1, 2009. 

Madison, Indiana...

Where I spent some time last summer, has a FaceBook page.  Mind you, Indiana doesn't have a Sunshine Law like Florida does, but I wanted to share a FaceBook post from that city which is using FaceBook to publicize an opportunity for interaction with city officials.
I have posted about this city before - that is was the first National Trust Main Street community.  It has a "time capsule" downtown that appears to be from the late 1800s.  It was the setting for the movie "Some Came Running" which starred Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.  A few weeks ago, I woke up very early, turned on the TV and on AMC, the movie was playing.  It was the first time I had seen it.  The theater on Main Street in Madison plays it often and they also have public showings in the park during the summer.  The town in the movie is called "Parkman." 

This is another example of a community using social media to communicate and interact with its citizenry.  It's also an example of a community that knows how to honor and celebrate its past.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Second county commissioner in a month gets ethics warning for taking free gala ticket

FYI - Click title for link.  Does anyone really think that people aren't taking ethics seriously?

24 HOUR: A Twitter experiment in local government « The Dan Slee Blog

Using a variety of Twitter accounts, FaceBook pages and Flikr, a town in the UK took to tweeting all of its activities during a 24 hour period - from pothole filling to curating a museum. This amounts to a creative effort on the part of a municipality to broadcast all that it does as a way to further engage and educate their residents in what makes local government tick. Perhaps imaginative use of electronic social networks is one way to bridge the divide between the governors and the governed.

This would be a much more proactive step than the continual retreat of our local Lake Worth government  from interacting and soliciting input from the public.  I am sure that those on our dais would have 5,000 plus reasons why we can't or shouldn't do this.

Speaking of that, I have signed up - at least 5 times - for the past current versions of Tropical Mail or Lake Worth News or whatever they are calling it now coming from city hall through the city hall website. Either I am specifically being blocked from receiving updates, which is entirely possible, or the city just doesn't send much out - period. Has anyone else had a similar experience?  When I do get something, others don't and vice versa - it's like the city has more than one e-mail list.  You can try your luck by clicking here and going to the city's website to register for "Lake Worth News."

Click here for further information on the UK municipality story at the Personal Democracy Forum, Tech President blog.  Click title for link to the Dan Slee Blog.

Lake Worth Resident Ted Brownstein...

authored a book Sunshine Republic, Thunder over Lake Worth.  It's set in our humble city 120 years in the future.  Check out the description of the book on Amazon (link above) - you can order one too and support one of our residents!  Ted and I bumped into one another last week at a Lake Worth Kiwanis meeting.  He told me about writing the book and that he'd like to drop off a copy for me to review.  Amongst the barking of my very protective Corgis, he dropped a copy of the book off today.  Thank you Ted and I will start reading it soon.  I'll let you know my reaction to it.  This is another testament to the amount of talented people that we have in our city!


MARCH 10, 7:00PM                     St. Andrews Church, 100 North Palmway

Cary Sabol, Chair of the Lake Worth CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) is the guest speaker at Parrot Cove’s general meeting on THURSDAY (usual meeting date is Tuesday) at St. Andrews Church hall.
Cary will give us an overview of the CRA:  what it does, how officers are appointed and how it is governed.  In addition he will bring us up-to-date on some of their accomplishments including a $23.2 million award from the federal government, the Transit Oriented Development Master Plan,  Bicycle Network Program, Cultural Renaissance Program, their involvement in bringing Publix to downtown Lake Worth and many other programs.
What is the CRA?  It is an Agency governed by a seven member Board of Commissioners appointed by the City of Lake Worth Commission.  Their role is to direct activities within the CRA in accordance with the approved Lake Worth Redevelopment Plan.  Revenue is generated for CRA projects through Tax Increment Financing (TIF).
 PCNA wants to make 2011 the year for bringing important local issues to you along with our usual social events.  We started the year with Joseph Kroll as our guest speaker and will be inviting other community officials to future meetings. 

ELF - Second-Stage Entrepreneurs - Economic Gardening

Interesting approach to help existing businesses within a community when facing economic challenges. Click title for link.

From the article:

The three basic elements of gardening are:
  1. Providing critical information needed by businesses to survive and thrive.
  2. Developing and cultivating an infrastructure that goes beyond basic physical infrastructure and includes quality of life, a culture that embraces growth and change, and access to intellectual resources, including qualified and talented employees.
  3. Developing connections between businesses and the people and organizations that can help take them to the next level — business associations, universities, roundtable groups, service providers and more.

Justices Rule for Protesters at Military Funerals

Justices Rule for Protesters at Military Funerals
Published: March 2, 2011
The First Amendment protects hateful protests at military funerals, the Supreme Court ruled in an 8-to-1 decision.
Click title for link to New York Times story on yesterday's Supreme Court decision.  I am surprised at the decisive 8-1 decision, but the Supreme Court has always held that freedom of speech is one of the more important rights granted to us through the Bill of Rights.  As offensive as this sort of demonstration is and the hatefulness represented by this "church," it is still protected speech.  I hope that we keep this in mind when we experience some "over the top" displays of freedom of expression around town and in public meetings.

From the article:

"Chief Justice Roberts used sweeping language culled from the First Amendment canon in setting out the central place free speech plays in the constitutional structure. “Debate on public issues should be robust, uninhibited and wide-open,” he wrote, because “speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values.

Boca Raton is Earth's 12th-rudest city | boca, foursquare, raton - Foursquare - WPEC 12 West Palm Beach

More news on the civility front! Check this out:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A tribute to the "other" blogger...

Contrary to what you heard last night...

according to the 02 25 11 City Manager's report, the Publix in the Town and Country Plaza on Lake Worth Road will not be closing when the new Publix opens.
 So, for now, we are not just moving blight from one place to another - one of the charges of the people that wanted the City Commission to takeover CRA duties.

Better living through transparency...

The comments of the other blogger...

are "political" (one of her favorite terms) in nature and do not accurately reflect the tone of the meeting.  With three exceptions, all of the public comment (around 35 people) were civil and didn't stray across the lines.  All but 5 or so of the speakers were in favor of not tempting fate and keeping the CRA as an independent board.  The fate would have been the prospect of HUD seeing the change in administration of the grant a significant change, re-score it and then having to compete with communities that don't have a self-destructive impulse that would be jumping at the chance to snap up the money that our community couldn't see its way to maintain - which all tolled would have jeopardized the $23 million NSP2 grant.

As for transparency on this issue, Commissioner Golden presented a letter that explained she "tendered her resignation from the LWCDC" the night before the Commission meeting.  So much for her not being an employee for the past two years as she was quoted in the Lake Worth Herald.  This was presented as a disjointed factoid without further explanation - which really should have accompanied such a letter.  The REAL reason that it was done is that the newly minted local Ethics Commission became concerned about her relationship with the organization and the conflict that it would create if she was an employee and also had a policy making role which could determine funding of the CDC.  Someone concerned with transparency would have made those comments last night.  One wonders if this is a resignation for a day, three months or if its permanent.  How would we ever really know?

The Mayor picked up on the negative and accusatory tone of the memo from Commissioner Golden which introduced the issue and placed it on the agenda.  He thought that prompted the depth of the reaction from the public about keeping the powers of the CRA with an independent board.  One of the more constant themes of the takeover attempt was that elected officials need to be responsible for taxpayer dollars.  That led the discussion to point out numerous instances where our elected City Commission had been derelict in that duty - $4.5 million deficit, "law suits out the ears," Sheriff's contract, etc., etc.

Commissioner Golden really stepped in it too when she said that the CRA board didn't "have leaders."  She later apologized, but it was reflective of the current mindset of the dais of "we know everything and you know nothing" which has led us to experience the reluctance to truly engage the public in dialog (see comments made under Unagendaed Items)  It was apparent that while the Commission identified problems with communication, it became obvious that members of the Commission - with certain exceptions - did little or nothing to communicate to the board, the Chair, or investigate basic informational items that are available on the CRA website or on the Housing Partnership website.  The Commission was made to look foolish by not taking advantage of such basic tools such as returning e-mails, etc.  All of the CRA board members expressed the seriousness in which they took their volunteer position and did all they could to promote communication - and were willing to do more if asked.

If you were there or listening over the Internet, please share your comments below.

What could have been a disaster was avoided for at least 90 days.

Comments made by yours truly on the CRA takeover issue (3/1)

11. Wes Blackman, 241 Columbia Drive, - I happened to have had the pleasure to serve on the CRA for about a year and was the person who made the motion to apply for the $23 million NSP2 grant. This agenda item tonight represents the third time that this issue has come before the City Commission Each time the conclusion was that there needed to be better communication between the City Commission and the CRA. These attempts were each time led by the same Commissioner – Jo Ann Golden. In her memo re-introducing the item again, she cites some actions that she deems “improper” - like the award of $500,000 to Publix to establish a quality grocery store in the downtown area – a coveted prize amongst any city with a downtown commercial area with residential that surrounds it. There is nothing “improper” about that action – one that is about to be realized in a few months. She also cites committing $700,000 to the Palm Beach County Cultural Alliance as “improper” - it is a cultural agency that broadcasts all of Palm Beach County's cultural offerings to the entire world and will have a special interest in Lake Worth due to it being the location of their headquarters. With them in town, we will have a creative engine to produce other cultural events- not unlike the Street Painting Festival that took place last weekend. The Cultural Council is also going to occupy a vacant, historic building within our Old Town National Historic District – which represents an adaptive re-use of the former Lake Theater – none of this is “improper” - it is the proper role of a CRA to do things to help redevelop our city so that it can prosper. It is all “proper” unless you don't want our city to prosper. What is “improper” is that this proposal is made by a Commissioner and Mr. Grimm, President of the CDC (who had just made his comments which had just questioned the actions of the board he sits on) with long standing ties to an agency that receives CRA funds through the $23 million grant. This is the grant that the same Commissioner didn't want the city to apply for. How are the transfer of city-owned properties which may benefit from this neighborhood stabilization program coming? I suggest both the Commission and CRA work together to make this happen.  Do it, get it done.

What I said under Public Comment on Unagendaed Items last night (3/1)

Item 6: Wes Blackman, 241 Columbia Drive, private citizen – most honorable Mayor and esteemed members of the dais. I'd like to address the issue of civility that has come to the fore and was part of your discussions during a work session last week. I would like to suggest that the emotions of the public that you are experiencing during public comment, elsewhere and at other times, is borne of frustration. There is a feeling that the public's input is either not wanted, purposefully made more difficult or avoided entirely. It is my understanding that the City Manager is refusing to attend neighborhood association meetings and answer questions on topics like the study regarding Lake Worth's police services. The study is going forward despite widespread – near universal support - of the existing PBSO contract. Likewise, we have decisions being made about city buildings being demolished – the Shuffleboard Court building – that have never seen the light of day of a public meeting. Has the Planning and Zoning Board met regarding this? Will they be making a recommendation to the Commission or is it a “done deal?” We have a sitting City Commissioner that has a long-standing relationship with a non-profit agency that leases a city building that was never discussed as part of the analysis of all city-owned buildings with leases. The Mayor asked for an investigation of that agency's relationship with the city at the first meeting in January. We have heard nothing regarding the results of that investigation and the agency is still operating without a current lease. There are more examples, but I am limited for time. What I have seen the reaction to be is one of retreat and defensiveness on the part of the city – which is the wrong way for the city to go. We can't have anymore “fortress Lake Worth” - you need to find ways to be totally transparent in your dealings with the public – which is all the time. I leave this piece of saran wrap here in an effort to bring at least a little transparency into this building.

Transparency is really not nearly this complicated...

Lake Worth commission declines to take over downtown redevelopment board

If you want to read what those in paneled corner offices want you to read, click the title for a link to a PBP article. It was a good night regardless what they say. And by the way, it's not just a "downtown redevelopment board" - guess Willie needs to go on a few kayak trips with me!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I brought transparency to city hall! Details tomorrow. An independent CRA is safe for now - but not without a few close calls.

Breaking News: The other blogger is refusing comments that have the phrase "Best Commission Ever" since she considers it "bull."

No further message.

Click here for Cary Sabol's, current Chair of the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency, letter re Commission take-over attempt of CRA...

Re-posted in advance of tonight's City Commission meeting.

Pill mills thrive as Gov. Scott nixes database - Carl Hiaasen -

Chalk up another poor decision by our new Governor. It's going to be a long four years. Click title for link to Carl Hiaasen article in the Miami Herald.

Lake Worth to ask county for help with fire-rescue costs

Number one question: Why is Vice Mayor Mulvehill representing the city on this matter before the County Commission? Here we are being the poor victim again with hat in hand. This from the PBP article:

"As a result, the combined tax rate for city property owners has risen to $8.85 per $1,000 taxable value. Because that's close to the $10 per $1,000 taxable value maximum rate allowed by state law, city officials also will ask the county for permission to levy a fire assessment instead of the property tax to pay for fire and rescue service.

The assessment on parcels of property would allow the city to spread the cost to fire and rescue service to all property owners and remove the county fire levy from the property-tax equation.
Mayor Rene Varela said a per-unit assessment for fire and rescue service makes sense because the levy would not fluctuate with changes in property values.
"The value of the house is not significant," Varela said. "When it's burning down, they're still going to want the service."
This would effectively allow the City to levy higher taxes than the 10 mil state limit.  We are also paying for a study - like we are for the police services.  No word if the study is complete or not.  Brilliant quote from the Mayor.

Did this ever formally come before the City Commission?  Does that matter anymore?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Budget cuts: Environmental programs at risk of losing state and federal funding -

Click title for link to Orlando Sentinel article. Twenty-five percent budget cuts for the water management districts proposed - South Florida Water Management District heads the list. The Department of Community Affairs goes from $779 million to $110 million - will there be anyone left? Will there be a pull-back in responsibilities too with an amended Growth Management law?

Click here for link to slideshow from Street Painting Festival by AnnaMaria Windisch

Lake Worth official wants city commission to take control of Community Redevelopment Agency

Click title for PBP article. You know how I feel about this. I think Commissioner Golden is conflicted on many levels due to her association with the LW Community Development Corporation.

Check this out:

Do you think that a City Commissioner that lent $25,000 to a non-profit agency would have an interest in making sure that agency had a stream of funding to repay the obligation?  Doesn't the LWCDC already get funding from the NSP2 grant that the CRA administers?  How could Commissioner Golden objectively administer those monies without conflicting with her long-standing association with the LWCDC?

By the way, this is the third attempt at this sort of takeover.

Dalai Lama

When confronted with human problems, force will not bring a lasting solution. That is why I attach great importance to the feeling of mutual love among all human beings, as well as to the sense of responsibility of community life. These concepts are the source of peace everywhere in the world. They are the origin of all individual and collective fulfillment in a human community and therefore of concern to us all.