Saturday, March 19, 2011

Understanding the budget of Lake Worth city government is like a...

Message to Library Community of Florida from a concerned Librarian...

The Lake Worth Public Library needs your support. The Lake Worth City Manager is proposing drastic cuts to the Lake Worth Public Library and will be meeting with the City Commission this Monday (3/21) at 5pm to discuss, and possibly implement, these cuts. The City Manager is suggesting that the library staff needs to be cut from 7 full time employees to 1 full time employee and adding an additional 2 part time employees. She intends to run the library with 1 full time staff member and 4 part time employees. She is also proposing to cut the hours the library is open from 40 hours a week to 30 hours a week. The City Manager believes that this minimal staff can maintain the library with the additional help of volunteers. This proposal comes in the middle of a budget year that has already been approved by the City Commission. I encourage those of you who value libraries to contact the Mayor, City Commission, and City Manager of Lake Worth, to show your support for the Lake Worth Public Library. Their contact information can be found below.

Mayor – Rene Varela - / Phone: 561-586-1730

City Commission:
Suzanne Mulvehill, Vice-Mayor – / Phone: 561-586-1734
Jo-Ann Golden – / Phone: 561-586-1730
Scott Maxwell – / Phone: 561-586-1730
Christopher McVoy – / Phone: 561-586-1730

City Manager – Susan Stanton – / Phone561-586-1630

Lake Worth City Hall is located at 7 North Dixie Highway, near downtown Lake Worth. Public Comments are allowed at the meeting on Monday.

Another excerpt from Mayor Varela's State of the City address given February 9, 2011...

According to a member of the Finance Advisory Board (FAB), the Board did not have a "single word" of input into the City Manager's memo regarding the proposed mid-fiscal year budget cuts.  This despite the Mayor's assurances made last month in his state of the City speech and a recent joint meeting between the City Commission and the FAB.

The Mayor refers to the "anitcipated 4.5 million dollar shortfall in the coming year," without any foreshadowing that cuts would be made during the current year.

Where City Manager Stanton and I differ...

In response to the e-mailing of the previous post, Ms. Stanton writes:

"Wes... at some point in time ...and maybe not yet.... we must give consideration to not spending money we don't have.   This has not been important to many in the city in the same past you mention.  I think it is something we now need to "think about" soon.  

I am surprised you have not at your fill yet.  Are you part of the solution ....or the problem.  That is the question."

I responded:

"At some point in time we need to realize when our decisions would cause potential harm to people.  "Thinking" is different than "doing."

I am just getting my second wind.  I think getting information out to the public is part of the solution."

Here we go again...

Back in FY 2008-2009, the city reduced staffing levels of lifeguards at the beach.  It worked out Tuesdays and Wednesdays had no lifeguard coverage.  For a time, people were being told by the city to "swim at your own risk.  Realizing this, the United States Lifesaving Association wrote the following letter to the city.

After a Channel 5 segment on unsafe conditions at the Lake Worth beach, the city changed its thinking and staffed the beach with lifeguards 7 days a week.

Now we AGAIN face a proposal to have days without lifeguards at the beach - this time FOUR days a week wouldn't have lifeguard coverage.  Only Friday, Saturday and Sundays lifeguards would be on duty and then only for the area north of the pier.

Here is what the City's Code of Ordinances says:

Sec. 7-3. Compliance with regulations posted at beach; obedience to lifeguards.
(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to swim in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean which lie east of the city, specifically the municipal ocean beach owned by the city, except and unless such person complies with the notices posted on such beach by the city.
(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to disobey any reasonable command of a duly employed lifeguard of the city that is designed to protect the public and/or public property in the use of the municipal ocean beach.
(Code 1956, § 7-1; Ord. No. 86-12, § 1, 3-17-86)

Sec. 7-4. Swimming at beach when no lifeguard on duty.
It shall be unlawful for any person to swim in the waters of the municipal beach when an official lifeguard of the city is not on duty at the beach.
(Code 1956, § 7-3)

So, this means - if the city chooses to follow its own laws and protect the interests of the swimming public, swimming will not be allowed Monday through Thursday.  Who is going to be enforcing this if no one is there?  If swimming isn't allowed, how will revenue from parking meters be affected during the days that swimming isn't allowed?  Isn't this restricting access to our public beach and the ocean?  Wouldn't it be ironic if the city goes ahead with the casino building reconstruction with $6 million plus from its "cash portfolio" when people won't be able to swim more than half the days of the week?

What are the chances that lives could be lost by this shortsighted act on the part of the city?  Do we want to take that risk?

Here are the statistics for Lake Worth Beach ocean rescues and related incidents for 2010:
Sharks do not care if it is Friday, Saturday or Sunday - nor does lightning.  Having almost a million visitors to our number one destination be at their own peril is just plain irresponsible.

Note:  This post has been e-mailed to the City Manager, City Attorney, the Mayor and members of the City Commission.

From the City Manager's memo re budget cuts - subject of special City Commission meeting 5 p.m. on 3/21:

The City Administration recommends approval of the following recommendation as soon as possible:

1. Approve the proposed Work Force Reduction Plan and the May 10, 2011 implementation date

2. Approve the proposed operating hours for the Library and the use of volunteer’s staff

3. Approve the proposed Life Guard service reductions and beach staffing plan

4. Approve the solicitation of bids for contracting out the recommended public services operations

5. Approve the proposed Contract Service Implementation Time Line

6. Approve the proposed Voluntary Separation Plan 2012 PBSO law enforcement contract

8. Approve staff efforts to identify qualified firms to implement and establish special assessments for fire, street lights and possible parking operations

9. Approve the a Feasibility Study to analyzing the reconstitution of a City fire department

10. Approve not paying the FY 2011 and FY 2012 Fire supplemental payments pending additional negotiation with Palm Beach County concerning the Fire Merger Agreement

11. Approve the proposed reduction in the FY 2012 electric utility transfer payment to the General Fund

12. Approve the proposed reduction in FY 2012 electric rates pending final discussions with the City’s rate consultant.


Lake Worth budget cuts could lead to 70 layoffs; parks, library workers targeted

Much more to come soon here on this topic. For now, check out the PBP article by clicking on the title.

Palm Tran breaks ridership records be expected due to the increase in gasoline prices. I've noticed more people at bus stops along Dixie. Click title for link to brief PBP article.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Biblical Reference used in commenting to the "other blogger's" post on Allen West's appearance at the Forum Club today...

Mark 5:25-29 (New King James Version)

25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” 
29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in herbody that she was healed of the affliction.

She seems to have what some would call an unusual obsession with the Congressman.

13 arrested in massive Palm Beach County public corruption case

More news on the corruption front. Click title for link.

From the State of the City Address given by Mayor Varela on February 9, 2011...

A little more than one month after this speech, the city is about to lay off a "whole bunch" of people.  How can the city go on with the Casino project with a straight face?

Being heard in City Hall today...

Florida growth outpaces national trend

Results of 2010 Census

Lake Worth city:  34,910
Growth in % since 2000:   minus .6
Persons per square mile:  5,945.2

Despite the "Total Count" effort, Lake Worth's official population declined between 2000 to 2010 by .6 percent.  The last number in the above line is the number of persons per square mile.  In contrast, Florida grew, West Palm Beach grew and Palm Beach County grew - all by nearly 20% - West Palm Beach more than that.

The 2000 number was thought to be an undercount - so much so that the City was considering doing its own count, but that never went forward due to the advent of the 2010 Census.  Add this to the record declines in property values and we really don't look like a place that people prefer to live relative to other choices.  Think about that for a while.

Remember how certain people were SURE that Lake Worth had 50,000 people?  That would have given us "entitlement" status for Community Development Block Grant funding - meaning that we wouldn't have to go through Palm Beach County for grant monies through this program.  So much for that plan.
Do we know how much money was spent on the "consultants" the city used to ensure a "Total Count?"
Annabeth Karson, Chair of Total Count Committee
Click here for link to data.  Click title for article.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Things I am hearing...

It's amazing that a day, sometimes an hour, doesn't go by that I hear about a new "revelation" as it relates to the city of Lake Worth.  Maybe that's why I'm never at a loss for content over the four plus years I have maintained this blog.  Here's a short list:
  • Old news now to some people, but at the City Commission meeting last Tuesday, the City Manager announced that FEMA wants $1.2 million of its grant back that was issued for repairs on the pier.  Seems the the city can't find documentation of how the money was spent.  Needless to say, this is a colossal failure - almost a kin to not knowing how to operate an electric generator that cost $500,000.  Apparently the Feds have been chasing this down for a while and they have finally lost their patience.
  • I hear that the interim Director of Human Relations, during a meeting with the City Manager regarding the coming layoffs, underwent a heart attack and is recovering at a local hospital.  Perhaps a reaction of being told to do things that they know are wrong or, as Commissioner Golden would say: "improper?"
  • The paralegal hired to catch up with foreclosure paperwork in the City Attorney's office  was led out of City Hall in handcuffs earlier this week and is staying at the "Gun Club Hilton."  She is being held on fraudulent check charges.  No word if those were previously outstanding warrants or more recent in nature.
  • The "groundbreaking" for the casino building is scheduled for May 7th - not sure of the extent of the "celebration" but there are "activities" scheduled throughout the day.  Never mind that this is a demolition party more than a groundbreaking, but we call things what they are not due to political considerations around here.
Feel free to comment on the above.  If you know additional information, let me know.  Also, let me know if I am incorrect on anything.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

We can pretend, at least...

Impressive display of Pig Latin!

A two bedroom, two bath unit in the Lucerne sold for $86,000...

Click here for link to listing and sale information.  I remember one of the arguments against the Lucerne was that it didn't have an affordable housing component.  Well, here you go!

How Does the LW Code Dept. Manage Our Neighborhoods?

From Ryan Anderson today via e-mail:

This is a picture taken in the LW code dept. on 3/16/11. It depicts the officers assigned to specific areas. The woman behind the desk verified that this information was up-to-date and accurate. Do you see any issues when looking at this?
Click image for larger version.

Phipps Ocean Park soil contamination studied; remediation plan expected soon

Just one example of the sort of "unforeseen conditions" that can arise during any redevelopment project. Don't be surprised if there happens to be an underground tank buried somewhere on the Lake Worth beach property. Click title for link to the Shiny Sheet article.

Jobs today, economic competitiveness tomorrow--now is the time to build high-speed rail - Welcome to the FastLane: The Official Blog of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation

The Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, talks about the fervor surrounding the returned money from Florida related to high speed rail. He also underlines the importance of upgrading our infrastructure so that we remain competitive, or better yet regain our competitiveness, in the world marketplace - click title for link.  Click here for his op-ed piece in The Hill on the same topic.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Agenda for City Commission meeting - 3/15

Anyone else notice how agendas for regular Commission meetings are getting shorter and shorter?  I remember four and five page agendas not so long ago.  I think this is evidence of the number of decisions that are being made behind-the-scenes and out of the public eye.  Also look to the number of work sessions, held during the day when no public comment is allowed, where certain "consensuses" are reached.  Wonder if there will ever be a public meeting on the demolition of the shuffleboard court building and when we will hear the results of the investigation of the Lake Worth CDC.

I'm not sure what has happened to the second page of the agenda, but if you click on it you can see it in its entirety. 

Will Lake Worth ever have the same Mayor for thirty years?

Newsroom: 2010 Census: Media Advisory — Census Bureau to Release Local 2010 Census Data for Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Tennessee

This is when we should get local Lake Worth information. Click title for link to announcement from the Census Bureau.

March 15th - Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser - Lake Worth Towers 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

3/20, 8am, 431 North K St. | Mango Groves NA

This coming Sunday - 3/20/11 at 8am - is the scheduled cleanup of the lot at 431 North "K" Street (Corner of 5th Ave N and N "K" St). If you plan on participating please bring rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows, water, etc. and plenty of sunblock! The City has pledged several benches, and a trash and recycle can. This Friday morning (3/18/11) I will be going up to West Palm Beach to pick up some free mulch for the project. If anybody would like to come along please call Brian at 561-809-0688. Any and all help would be appreciated!

Attached is the flyer for our March meeting - 3/24/11, 7pm at Compass Community Center. All citizens of Lake Worth are welcome to attend, so bring your neighbors! Special guest this month is Josette Kaufman, Chair of the Lake Worth Tree Board. She will be discussing the City's annual shade tree give-away.

Please visit our blog at - for more information.

Thanks, and good evening, Mango Groves Neighborhood Association Board

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lion Hunter Safety-Spear

Press Release: The Aquatic Systems Division of CECO, Inc. announces it will now manufacturer and provide wholesale distribution of the Lion Hunter Safety-Spear.

Since the introduction of the Lion Hunter Safety-Spear in December 2010, demand for this invasive lionfish control device has increased to the point where Reef Rescue volunteers can no longer keep up with product requests. Reef Rescue has entered into an arrangement with the fabricator that will provide sufficient manufacturing and distribution capabilities to satisfy the wholesale market. Reef Rescue will still provide the Lion Hunter Safety-Spear to individuals via the Lion Hunter website and those donations will still be used to help fund Reef Rescue conservation programs.
Individual Lion Hunter Safety-Spears can be ordered via 

Wholesale inquiries should now be directed to: 

Sales rep and regional distribution requests should contact:

Palm Beach County Reef Rescue
PO Box 207 * Boynton Beach, FL 33425

From the desk of Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven L. Abrams:

Panhandling, a controversial topic, remains an ongoing issue on roadway medians countywide.  Over the years, there has been a high level of complaints and public safety issues and the Board of County Commissioners has been unable to adopt an ordinance due to conflicts as the First Amendment. 
For example, any regulation passed must be applied equally to all individuals including groups using the county’s medians and roads to distribute materials or solicit funds.  Firefighters collecting for a charity could be well received, whereas an individual who appears homeless may not.  Any distinction would be prohibited by the courts. 
Another major problem in combating panhandling is enforcement and public safety.  A deputy has to witness the violation in order to make an arrest, and if an arrest is made the individual is held for a day and then released.  Statistics have shown a 29% increase in traffic crashes at intersections identified as most active for panhandlers. 
So what can be done?  The county, in partnership with the Sheriff’s office, recently introduced a new campaign that includes an educational program using media, signage, volunteers and the internet.  
Also, another important aspect of the initiative includes community outreach to the panhandlers by providing them with viable options to get the help they require.  For example, deputies and volunteers actively hand out information advising them on where they can find food, shelter and other essential services.
Even though it is with the best intentions to give money to a panhandler, more often than not it is used to buy illegal drugs and alcohol.   There is also a large contingency of individuals panhandling who are falsely identifying themselves as veterans, which is punishable by law.  So please know that it is ok to say “no” to panhandling. 
For more information on this matter, volunteer or make a donation, please visit  
Please contact me if I can be of assistance or if you have any comments and/or suggestions.  I can be contacted or at my office at 561-355-2204 (West Palm Beach) or 561-276-1220 (Delray Beach).  Please visit my Web site at for updates and links to county divisions and other governmental agencies.

The Woodward Project — A New Model for Detroit

From the notes on YouTube:

Metro Detroit's tragic history has left it without a viable city ... or has it? This video explains how the Woodward Corridor is a great American city hidden in plain sight, a promising new model for Metro Detroit. By combining urban assets in both the city and the suburbs, the Woodward Corridor can enable the region to provide a competitive offering to young professionals seeking an urban lifestyle.

Dixie Hwy. corridor?

Library Advisory Board Meeting - 3/16

Click title for link to the agenda.  Apparently, action is being considered to tap the Simpkin Trust fund for personnel and operating costs.  This has been discussed before and discarded before now, but it seems that the "fix" may be in and this one time funding source will be tapped with no replacement funds in sight.  Can anyone locate a member of the Simpkin family to make them aware of this?  There is a special City Commission meeting on the topic scheduled for 3/21 to possibly take action on this.

Govern yourselves accordingly.

Decorum Issue on City Commission Agenda - 3/15

Click title for link to back-up information on the item.  The memo is from Pam Lopez, City Clerk and she gathered the Rules of Decorum that are used by Durham, North Carolina.  The proposed Lake Worth policy is crafted from that example.  As I read this proposal, nothing is too objectionable.  I think that much of what is desired in terms of behavior could be taken care of by a strong personality chairing the meeting.  But I guess the city needs some sort of "policy" as a bureaucratic response to the perceived problem.

It's interesting to note that the example used as a model is from a university community.  Durham is the home of Duke - home of the perennial college basketball powerhouse the Duke Blue Devils.  I happened to be raised in a university community and even worked for the municipality that is the home of Michigan State University - East Lansing.  One of the great contrasts that I find between living in essentially a non-university community in Florida and the one that I am familiar with is the desire for information and general intellectual curiosity.

In East Lansing, back in the mid-1980s, there was no time limit to individual public comments made by the citizenry at public meetings.  People could go on for 10, 15, 30 or more minutes in order to get their point across in all of its facets.  I am sure many of those that got up to speak at those meetings were professor-types that were used to speaking often to a group to get their ideas out - or to educate.  One of the unique things that the Planning Department did when making presentations to the City Council, after a recommendation was made at the Planning Board, was a complete summary of ALL the issues raised during the public meetings preceding the Council meeting and the detailed reaction/recommendation from the Planning Board - including the basis for the majority opinion and minority opinion, if it was a split decision.  The focus was on getting the facts out so that no stone was left unturned.  All issues were aired and dealt with - one way or the other and ended up being reflected in the final action.  In short, public comment and the recommendation from advisory boards was respected, debate was encouraged on the topic and I think that better decisions were made because of it.

Even with the limitless time given public comment, meetings were not inordinately long.  It wasn't like there weren't contentious issues being dealt with at the time either.

Granted, we don't live in an academic environment, but more respect for the information gleaned from public comments and recommendations needs to be demonstrated by the administration and City Commission in Lake Worth.  If people thought that their voice really mattered, you would have less frustration taking the form of anger and other bad behaviors that create what the City Commission thinks is a need for this type of ordinance.

There are two parts of the Durham example that are conspicuous due to their absence in the version proposed for Lake Worth.  Check these portions out:
Number 5 deals with the encouragement of citizens to prepare remarks in advance for SUBMISSION to the public record - along with additional material if necessary.  At the last City Commission meeting, the one that involved the takeover attempt of the CRA function, I had a prepared statement from someone that, due to health reasons, could not attend that particular night.  I asked the City Clerk if I could read this and she said that yes I could, but it would eat into my two minutes.  Well, I had my own two minutes worth of things to say so I wouldn't be able to do that.  You have to be present to make your comments and can't give "phantom time" of someone who is not there to a spokesperson.  So, instead of speaking them, I gave them to her and told her to "make them part of the record."  I got a wide-eyed look and I realized that it would be likely that those comments would never see the light of day, or the back of a Commissioner's retina.  Now the minutes don't even include comments from the public - if anything, it consists of a list of people that spoke on an issue.  In order to hear them, you need to access the city's website or get a CD of the meeting.  Both create barriers to access information.

I think if we had better way to memorialize information given by the public and really have it be part of the "public record," we would be on our way to a more inclusive representative democracy.  But that seems to be wishful thinking around here.

Item 6 refers to the time needed to deliver public comment and a signal being made that of your time left: at one minute left and then again at 30 seconds.  I don't know why the city can't have a digital clock - like other municipalities have - that counts down time for each speaker and changes colors as time runs out.  Some even have the capability of beeping.  Why this technology is avoided here is unknown.  When I was chair of the Planning and Zoning Board, I would use my watch.  But that takes a bit of trust on behalf of the public and having it in front of God and the whole wide world would be a better way to control a time limit on speaking.

And, speaking of the amount of time alloted to speaking, Durham uses a 5 minute limit.  I truly believe that the current 2 minutes that we allocate per speaker is too short.  This was changed from 3 minutes from before and that seems to be the standard length allowed at the County and other local municipalities.  I would prefer 5 minutes, but I doubt that will happen.  Can we change back to 3 minutes when we adopt this change?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Is Clematis bar being singled out for noise restrictions?

West Palm Beach's experience with their noise ordinance and the reaction of businesses that seem to be singled-out. Click title for link to item on WPTV website.

Click here for a remarkable collection of photos showing the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami...

Click here to see what Commissioner Maxwell is occupied with this week in Washington D.C.

Golf-in-state-parks bills withdrawn (Updated)

Good news - but it's going to take constant vigilance with this current Tallahassee bunch.  Click title for link to article.  And, it turns out, that the bill filed which would make taking pictures of a farm from the air or a public road a felony is being revised.