Saturday, November 26, 2011

Georgia O'Keefe, 1923

"One day, seven years ago, I found myself saying I can't live where I want to. I can't go where I want to go. I can't do what I want to.  I can't even say what I want to. I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint what I wanted to."

Murky Policy on Water Restrictions in Lake Worth

A loyal reader pointed out that the South Florida Water Management District rescinded their water restrictions in Palm Beach County earlier this month.  That means that if you live in Palm Beach County, with certain exceptions, you can now water three days a week.  The City of Delray Beach issued a press release on 11/23 to this effect:
If you go to the SFWMD website, you are greeted by the following advisory:
If you follow the link on that page and look under Palm Beach County, City of Lake Worth it takes you to this page on the city's website:
Notice the (name of utility) - evidence of sloppy cut-and-paste
Lake Worth happens to be one of those exceptions, but reading the above, click on image for more detail, you will find something that repeats the same standards that are in effect in all of Palm Beach County - which is incorrect.  This page dates from January 2011.  In actuality, the city is under mandatory ONE DAY a week watering restrictions based upon city resolution.  At my urging last March (2011), when the SFWMD standards changed, the city issued this press release which re-iterates its one-day-a-week watering restrictions.  This is actually the page that should have the back-link from the SFWMD website.

Now, these most stringent standards adopted by the City of Lake Worth are following our special agreement with SFWMD regarding a maximum drawdown limit on our wells, since they are subject to salt-water intrusion due to their location being so far east and close to the Atlantic Ocean.  Construction of our Reverse Osmosis water plant was in response to constraints on our supply and water quality issues.  I am not sure where all this stands now since our Reverse Osmosis plant is now on-line and whether that changes anything from SFWMD's point of view.  However, our resolution still remains in full force and effect.

Given that, the city is doing nothing to enforce these standards and many people water their lawns during the middle of the day on any day of the week.  The City is one of the worst offenders.  Just today on my bike ride along South Palmway, the sprinklers in the median were running in two places along the landscaped area - on a Saturday, during the middle of the day.  It is not my first time seeing these sprinklers working in this location during the middle of day - I would say it was about the fifth time in recent memory.

The public needs clarity on the water standards as mandated by City resolution, the relationship between the SFWMD standards and whether or not our Reverse Osmosis plant makes any difference.  If we are indeed only to water one day a week, that standard needs to be enforced - otherwise why have it unless it is to mollify certain commissioners who are doing it for other reasons?

This has been sent to the Mayor, City Commissioners and City Manager.

Cities That Vanished - CNBC

In a similar vein, click title for link to a slideshow of cities that ceased to exist for one reason or another.

From the NY Times - in time for the Tri-Meeting Work Session on LW's LDR's this Wednesday.

The Death of the Fringe Suburb
Published: November 25, 2011
As demand for housing in walkable neighborhoods rises, we should be investing in carless transit options.
Click here for link to article.  Whether we like it or not, money and investment is coming to communities with walkable neighborhoods and ones that have transit alternatives to the private automobile.  How we prepare for this will determine our future.

Friday, November 25, 2011

From the City's website..."Don't forget the shuffleboard!"

Not from the City's website, but here is a vintage postcard showing the location of the shuffleboard courts north of the Municipal Auditorium - where the parking area for City Hall is currently located.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The relationship between staff, advisory boards and the City Commission...

There is an interesting discussion happening in a FaceBook group called "Lake Worth Voice" about how or how not work by advisory boards is used in the decision making process - usually culminating in action taken by the City Commission.  There are many instances where recommendations made by an advisory board are not adequately communicated to the City Commission and the public.

In her City Manager's report of 11/23, Stanton points out that the Finance Advisory Board (FAB) met and reviewed the proposed leases and closing times for the casino building and came up with a 2 a.m. recommendation.  This was never discussed at last Monday's Commission meeting as the dais was flailing around trying to come to some conclusion on the issue, which seemed hard to come by.  The FAB had their meeting on November 10th which would give plenty of time to include information in written form to the City Commission.  Likewise, the Library Board did not have an opportunity to meet or comment on the proposal to use various trust funds to cover operating expenses.  These are only two recent examples.

This is a systemic problem here and it fosters a feeling of being disconnected from the process and the community - the one that you were chosen by the City Commission to serve.  In the ideal system, staff brings forward information and many times carries a recommendation.  That recommendation is usually based on their close observation of the subject matter by being exposed to it for over 40 hours a week.  It also represents their skills, education and experience related to the subject matter.  It is the reason they are hired to work for the city in the first place.  Their point of view is different from that of the appointed, volunteer advisory board.  Board members live in the community they serve and know what life in the community is like outside of city hall.  They may have an interest or background in the subject matter or not.  Regardless, their input is important since it provides another perspective, brings real world concerns to the fore and may be counter to the professional view of the staff person.  They may agree with recommendations made by staff or they may not - and they may have their own recommendation.  Also, during their advertised public meeting as an advisory board, they have the advantage of general public input by people who attend their meetings - which adds to their knowledge base and is a good test of how the decision will be interpreted and felt by the public, if implemented.

My point here is that the staff recommendation and the recommendation of the advisory can be the same or different.  But both deserve to be presented independently to the ultimate decision making  body - the City Commission.  They might side on one side or the other - or come up with a completely new way to address the issue based upon public comment that they receive at their public meetings.

So, let's say we go back to the transmittal memo for Monday night's meeting on the beach and casino project.  That memorandum should have included the staff recommendation - which it did - along with a section related to the review of the relevant part of the matter by the Finance Advisory Board.  This could be repeated throughout the city's board structure and how things are presented to the City Commission.  Right now, it is haphazard at best and many times if staff doesn't agree with the recommendation from an advisory board, it is not mentioned at all.  It is o.k. to disagree with staff!  The ultimate decision makers also need to see ALL of the information the matter carries with it as it went through the process.  Also, if the matter hasn't been seen by the advisory board which is designed to address the subject matter, it should never make it to the City Commission until it has.

Adhering to this policy in Lake Worth would be revolutionary.

We may not want to give up on shuffleboarding yet...

An example of limited thinking and vision...

The above appeared in the City Manager's report of 11/23/11.  It is the first and only notification of the charrette for the "new" - why are we so challenged by understanding what is "new" and what is "old"? see Casino building - Lake Worth Community Center.  In this notice, we find that the building is now "formerly known as the Shuffleboard Courts Building."  It seems like someone said to herself, Gee, I don't like history and I have already decided that we cannot, simply cannot have a public shuffleboard facility in Lake Worth.  Decision made, period, end of story.

No, we will slap something together, to satisfy the grumbling public, that I will call a charrette, even though it is really not one of those, but it sounds good to say it.  It sounds like I am a planner when I say stuff like that.  We never can utter the word "shuffleboard" - NO!  We also cannot acknowledge that this property takes up a city block in the middle of the downtown, right next to a railroad track and that it is strategic and pivotal to what sorts of city facilities we will have in the future.  We cannot have our Planning and Zoning Board decide what the best use of this property is and make a recommendation to the Commission - that would be too consistent with the City Charter and Code of Ordinances.  It has to be MY WAY when all is said and done, but we can pretend to care about what the public thinks.  No, we cannot have any extensive discussions of the sort, irrespective of what anyone else thinks.  No, we will have a discussion led by our recreation staff who will unequipped to talk about anything else but whether or not we will have Bridge on Tuesday afternoons, or is it better to have Canasta then before or after a Sit-and-be-fit class?  And we can never acknowledge that the day labor center that was most recently in this building turned out to be a colossal waste of money and effort, even though it helped propel the agendas of some of my favorite people - the ones that brought me here in the first place.

Here is the "promotional flyer" - make sure to re-print and distribute widely!

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This one is from the budget adjustment portion of last night's Commission meeting (11/21)

Video Clips from City Commission Work Session - 11/21

Here McVoy seems to open the door to more money coming from the "community" once they see how great the project is.

This one is where Stanton waxes on about what turtles do to make more turtles - and how the city approached ERM.  She makes it seem like turtles don't come from eggs at all and they are actually copulating on the beach.

Videos from last night on their way...

Some still pics from last night's meeting. Videos are about to come out of the oven. I thought that Mayor Triolo did the right thing to diffuse the situation last night and request that the meeting be changed to a work session from a special meeting...especially with the missing back-up material on items the Commission wanted to see related to both topics. Clearly, Annabeth Karson has a case of highly contagious hysteria and, in other situations, would likely be under a doctor's care - unfortunately, she is allowed free access to a keyboard here and can roam the city freely as well.  Commissioner McVoy and our former Mayor Waterman appear to be extremely susceptible to the contagion.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Live" from the chambers...

It's 5:45 and the room might be half full.  The various sound systems seem to be working.  Pam Lopez tested it a few minutes ago.  Madame Jennings just walked through the door.
The room is about full now - at 5:55 p.m.  After reading a disclosure of what transpired on Friday, Mayor Triolo asked for a motion to change the meeting back to a workshop.  Commissioner McVoy makes the motion to a work session, but the City Attorney asks for a motion to waive the rules.  Commissioner Maxwell voted no on the motion.  He says that it was the City Manager was the one that picked the time frame for the meeting.  He asked for the executive personnel contracts before he left for Orlando.  He is reading the e-mail that he e-mailed to City Clerk Pam Lopez when he inquired whether or not this was a work session or a special meeting.  The City Clerk was not in the office on Friday.  (I will get the originals of all these that I don't have on this computer)  He affirms that he did not ask that the meeting be changed to a special meeting.  He says that after going over the 200 pages of back-up and all of the items that he thought we going to be and were not, he was dumbfounded that only the two subjects that appear on the agenda of the dozen that were discussed.  He affirms that it is other people that have the authority to change the meeting.  The City Manager says that she thought it was a good idea to change it to a special meeting.  The Mayor thought that the agenda would be much more broader than what was included.  She also says that they got 200 more pages of back-up for this meeting that was delivered today at 3 p.m.  He re-affirms that he did not ask to change the status of this meeting.  He refers to other e-mails sent out by former elected officials and a sitting Commissioner.  Commissioner Amoroso says that he was called at 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon and told to come pick up his packet.  It was a folder full of paper - not happy with the presentation.  The City Manager says that the only person who knew it was going to be a special meeting was the Mayor.

Commissioner Maxwell is reading an e-mail from Annabeth Karson.  Motion passed.  Mulvehill is not present.

Motion by McVoy, seconded by Amoroso to return the meeting to a work session.  Commissioner McVoy acknowledges sending out an e-mail "based upon what he was hearing from residents."  He is pleased that the meeting is what it is now.  He apologizes if there were "misinformations" in the e-mails - he got some back-up material at 5:57 p.m. today.

Mayor Triolo says we need to move forward on the beach project and make sure that it is financially viable. She thinks that it should operate commensurate with hours common on the island of Palm Beach.  She is excited about the opportunities that the ballroom will offer.  Her main priority is that the business succeed and the other requirements the city is talking about putting on them  should be secondary - she is one of five people that are to make decisions.  She thinks that exclusivity would be hard to enforce.  She emphasizes that this is only her opinion.

Maxwell asks the City Manager about the numbers for the beach and casino project so that we could figure out what we needed to do to make the project work.  He says that he is looking at leases now and didn't want to look at leases until he had all the numbers.

McVoy is talking about the diference between a two story restaurant and two one story restaurants, with one on each floor.  He thinks that a projection could be put together that would show the financial situation and the differences between the two scenarios.  He thinks we need those numbers.

Amoroso thought that we were going to look at everything related to the beach and all that he got was some stuff related to leases - three tenants total.  He likes Johnny Longboats, but doesn't know what is included in their build-out.  He still doesn't have the information that he needs to make educated decisions.  He is concerned about the hours of operation and how important that is and that we don't have the information yet.

Maxwell says that we don't know if this is a $6 million project or not.  He thinks that the whole thing is going to, including the beach renovation, and it will be more than $11 million.  he says that the whole plan was that the city residents would not be subsidizing the businesses at the beach.  He will not be forced to make a decision on the leases, he wants the numbers first - how much will the projects cost when all is said and done.

The City Manager says that we will have information about money on grants and other sources by January or so.  She thinks that the matter of exclusivity is a big issue.

McVoy says that he would paint it quite as negative as Maxwell, he thinks the $5 million from the county is great.  He is concerned about the overall cost.  "We don't want to tell businesses what to do, but it is a public park."  They have to come to closure on the closing hours.  He thinks a bar atmosphere is not what the city should be going for at the beach.  The Mayor asks why these questions weren't asked and answered prior to getting businesses in line for leases,  McVoy is talking about a movement.  The Mayor asks what information was given to the realtors etc.  City Manager says that we were waiting to see what kind of response we were going to get.  She says that the previous Commission never came with a clear decision on the issue.  Amoroso likes 6 a.m. to midnight.  He says you need to take into consideration 'last call" and how long it will take people to clear out and then you have staff.  It takes a while to close a restaurant.  He says the city shouldn't be involved in exclusivity agreements or what products businesses should carry.  He is asking about our water contract and how it relates to the CAM charges.
Maxwell goes back to the business plan for the beach.  He says that there were assumptions in there about hours of operation and we are now getting away from those assumptions in the plan.  "Are we going to do this the correct way or not?"  He says that $7 a foot will not be doing it and Snitkin says he is comfortable with it since it is a new building.  McVoy thinks there should be more of a "feeling" of a park and that is what he has heard from the "community."   And at the same time they have to deal with the financial push-back.  Can we make it work and make the bank happy without losing what the community has indicated it wants.  He likes food over alcohol.  He needs the numbers to know.

Amoroso asked if they aver saw what the CAM covered - what he has seen to date hasn't included that information.  Maxwell says he is willing to wait to make a decision until all the information is there before they make any decision on the leases.

Amoroso is asking about the dollar per day charge whether it is $700 or $800 a day or nothing, but then Kathleen Margoles says that they directed Morganti to go ahead after the last meeting.  If they wanted a two story restaurant, now Johnny Longboats would have to absorb the cost of making it a two floor restaurant.  Does midnight work for them?  During the week yes, but on the weekends they want it open until 1 a.m.  Snitkin says that JL is more of a restaurant than a bar - 75% of their gross sales is food.  He thinks the falsoit is perfect for them.  They have showed it to other up-scale places and those people have said that it is not up-scale enough for them.  He thinks that stalling the decision to January or February will push it out too far for JL and other tenants are counting on them to be there to draw people.  He mentions the "legend of Johnny Longboats."

McVoy thinks the location will be and is GORGEOUS and we can find someone spectacular. Cast the net wider for such a site.  Amoroso thinks we could have gone out and cast the net a little farther, but he says that this project has been in the news, it is a very public process, it is on the MLS - people know about this. If there are people out there, there would be people stepping up.  He doesn't want to open up with no tenants.  Maxwell says that he has talked to people that had no idea about it - a national tenant.  Snitkin says he could fill the whole thing with national tenants but was told not to.  Snitkin says that he has requests everyday, but not from restaurants - but for Johnny Longboats.  "The first row of tenants has always been the best row of tenants."  He says he could open a restaurant - he is going to keep trying until he finds them. He doesn't want to open a building with empty restaurant space.

Why are they talking about leases if they weren't going to talk about leases until they had the numbers?  Also, what about the other budget adjustment items?

Amoroso asks why he is just looking at three leases?  Maxwell asks why are we talking about leases and we should be talking about hours.  McVoy wants no later than 11 o'clock - what does closing mean?  Is that last call, etc.?  Are there restaurants that are o.k. with that business model?  Maxwell reminds McVoy that some, most are under the assumption that this is a $6 million building - he thinks it could be significantly more.  If so, it has to be buried in the way the building is being financed and leased.  City Manager says that we will have the beach numbers in six weeks, she says we have the GMP for the building already.  Morganti is looking at doing the GMP for the beach in two phases - one that would support the building and the second phase would be the rest, which would include the lighting.  Margoles says that some funding may come from utility funds - Maxwell says that we haven't decided that yet whether utility money will be involved in the final financial structure for the project.

The City Manager needs to find a different word other than irrespective.

Lots of discussion regarding the $2 million for lights and that it is over and above the $11 million touted for the project.  Maxwell is frustrated that the whole notion seems to be a non-event - that someone on staff knew before that these lights would be needed and it wouldn't be coming out of the County money.  Amoroso repeats that he like 6 to midnight and notes that the pier is now open until midnight.  He also wants to look at the ballroom and the money generating potential of it.  McVoy is FINALLY talking about a linkage between a second floor restaurant and catering opportunities.  Snitkin says they say it would be nice, but it is not enough to sweeten the deal.  JL is not that interested - he is thinking that it would be more of an "approved list."

This discussion seems to be going in circles.  A 1 a.m. closing means midnight last call - Snitkin.  He brings up the idea of food truck rallies.

The Mayor is looking for compromise and she wants the businesses that come to Lake Worth need to be successful.  Amoroso says that we need to write this lease once - and make sure that it is right the first time. He says that for years the beach and the building and the pool did not cover its own operations.  Once and do it right.

I just did a 6 minute video.  They are talking about a special meeting in two weeks to talk about two different proposals and allow for public input.  I am afraid that Commissioner McVoy's "public" equals Annabeth Karson.  He is just one vote.  Amoroso wants all leads exhausted in this two week period.  Maxwell needs some clarity and he wants to know what the project will eventually cost.  He can talk about the hours, but he needs to know how much it will cost.  The City Manager says we won't have those answers until the end of January.  Asking for forgiveness instead of permission, we are - Maxwell.  He doesn't want to put an additional burden on the utilities.  City Manager - Casino project is the most important capital project that we have at this time.  Margoles says that we can't have the final figures until the end of January - Margoles is asking about presenting a worst case scenario and funding options instead.


A couple more vids, will post them later.  At 8:30 they are now on to the other part of the agenda - budget cuts related to repeal of the special assessments.  (I am good until 9 p.m. - and then I will have to pull myself away from all this excitement!)

City Manager is going into the process of amending the budget.  It would require two readings and even if this was a special meeting, action couldn't be taken tonight.  She refers to a $1.6 million figure.  The Mayor says that she was presented this as options and is a proposal that is being considered - nothing has been decided.  She said that she is one vote of five and she is concerned, especially about the library.  She asked for an itemized list for positions being newly created - government money can be spent from separate funds bu cannot be saved from multiple funds.  This is the first change that is presented to them...she is concerned about the time it takes to make itemized break-downs - she just received some of this today.

Maxwell mentions that the PowerPoint is not in the back-up material.  City Manager says they are doing the best in the time that they have.  She says there is not a lot of discretionary money in the General Fund.  Maxwell asks if there is new material that they haven't seen.  The answer is yes.  The Commission doesn't want to go through things that they are just seeing tonight.  Amoroso mentions the trolley and he didn't see that as an option - City Manager says that since that is funded by the billboard monies and it is un-restricted and the most un-restricted money that it has.  But she says you can't use it for something else??  Did I hear that right?  They apparently got A LOT of material today - new - fresh.  Amoroso still has a problem with touching an asset related to Trust funds - ie the library.  He asks the City Attorney and she gave a non-answer - the City Manager says that it is an option, but not one that she likes.  She says we don't spend all of the money.  She says we have to decide, if we want to reduce things, that we aren't going to do things anymore, that is where the real savings are.

Amoroso wants to take the library out of the equation.  Hasn't had the time to really analyze what is going on - money is being moved around and he was saying that in the campaign.  Maxwell says that there are some inconsistencies - library is off limits for him too.   "We need to stop finding boogie men to blame..."  He thinks that the staff took advantage of the two new people on the Commission - 200 pages is a lot - the City Manager's way of thinking is not going to rule the day.

McVoy says 200 pages is a product of professionals that know the requirements of the funds, etc. and it has a lot of restrictions with it.  Laying wreaths at the feet of Stanton now.  "Nobody wants to pay more money, but we want certain things in our community."


The above is a link to a PBP article from a FaceBook feed regarding the change in the nature of this evening's City Commission meeting.  When you click on the link, you end up on the following "What were you looking for?" page at the PBP website.  I couldn't find any recent Lake Worth related article under Local News.
Odd, since Press Release Willie made such a big deal about this meeting being a workshop in the article that appeared  last Wednesday.  Collusion or just weirdness?

Our Former Mayor of Three and a Half Months has a new job - Minister of Misinformation:

An e-mail sent out by the defeated former Mayor, a guest in our community, is filled with misinformation.  The only items on tonight's agenda are those budget cuts - SUGGESTED BY THE CITY MANAGER - so the special fire assessment can be repealed.  It is also a time that the Commission can review and give direction on the casino and beach project - which currently is being constructed in a way that would allow a stand-alone second floor restaurant.  If that is not the wish of the current Commission, they need to tell Morganti and make sure there is provision for a two-story anchor restaurant - or money will be spent uselessly.

Height restrictions are not being discussed at this meeting and will be the subject of a joint meeting between the City Commission/ Planning and Zoning Board and Historic Resource Preservation Board - in a WORK SESSION next Wednesday, November 30th.  When height limitations are discussed, it won't be about raising the height limits to 65' "citywide."  There is a very reasonable and responsible proposal for areas meeting certain characteristics and standards that may allow for increased height over the current Draconian height limitations that make Lake Worth a location that new investment overlooks.

Again, "polling of the Commission" outside of a public meeting is a violation of the Sunshine Law -apparently Ms. Waterman thought that was the way business was done here.  Hmmmm.  As long as adequate notice is given, the City Manager can change the nature of the meeting - whether it is a work session or a special meeting.  And, not surprising coming from someone fixated on the importance of titles, but the position of VICE MAYOR holds no additional power than any other Commissioner - it is an honorary title that confers no authority other than that person is going to be the one running the meeting if the elected Mayor is absent.

Yes, come "witness the behavior of your elected officials" tonight - you will see a much better-suited group than was there before, one that respects the role of the public in the decision-making process.

This blast e-mail also comes from her "watermanformayor" account and I am not sure you can do that once an election is over and done with...

Something on this nice lady's blog caught my attention this morning...

She writes relating to the change of meeting status - going from a work session to a special meeting:  "...Worse than that, the entire commission was not polled and the public, the very people they said that they would listen to, is also swept under the rug of this new "transparency."

 Madame Anderson, polling of individual members outside of a properly noticed public meeting is a Sunshine Law violation, even as it relates to scheduling of a meeting and what sort of meeting that it will be.  I know it has long been a practice here but it is wrong in the eyes of the law.  You cannot use a conduit, like the City Clerk, to convey information about who can attend a meeting or not attend a meeting, setting the time or the type of meeting.  Trust me on this.  No one has yet chosen to make this an issue.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Living with a thousand cuts...

Click here for a highlighted version of the transmittal memo from the City Manager and the OMB Manager.

So, the Brain Trust suggests it is possible to reduce FY2012 General Fun expenditures by $1,248,7000 (the extra zero is actually in the memo, so the number is actually smaller.)  By emptying the spare change jars and taking them to CoinStar, we can use the resulting $502,156 to replace lost revenue that would have been generated by the assessments (fire and street lights.)

I am not going to enumerate all of the suggested amendments to the budget, but point out things that don't make sense and require clarification.  How many Marketing Coordinators do you know that would work for $23,380?  The savings from not hiring and eliminating a Sustainability Manager is $9,007.  What am I missing here?  We would be getting rid of a Clerical Assistant whose charge would include lien searches.  Isn't this an item that the real estate community said that the city could charge much more for this service?  Are we sacrificing revenue by eliminating this position?  These are actually two part time positions and the savings amounts to $26,856.  Do any of these figures make sense?

Deferring an Economic Development Manager is o.k. - the position is needed and I would like to see the job description steered in the direction of being an ombudsman for people and businesses that have to deal with the city's bureaucracy.  A position like this needs to be respected by all levels of staff and acts in an autonomous manner - I don't know how such a position would fit into the current culture, but it is needed eventually.

I have no problem with deferring the starting date of a GIS Planner - if the city were humming like a well-oiled machine, then yes, hire a GIS Planner.  GIS stands for geographic information systems and is a method to layer zoning, utility, permit and other property information on a citywide basis.  Most communities have a start at this - but it is a long, tedious process. Right now, we would be much better off if we had a decent, user-friendly website with real time information on permits and applications.  Some of that is in place, but a GIS Planner, while glitzy on an organizational chart, should not be a priority at this time.  There is a lot of hardware and coordination with other departments for a system like this.  It could be put off for about 3 or 4 years without a problem given the city's current situation.

And the memo suggest deffering a position of "Revenue Officer" - a position "created to categorize all city properties and ensure correct assessments for stormwater and refuse services, ensure collection of those revenues and identify new revenue sources."  It says that we would be saving $31,681 by deferring this position - but is this cutting our nose off despite our face?  Wouldn't filling a position like this have the potential to pay for itself?

Also suggested is deferring the filling of the Public Services Director position.  I am not sure how long the deferral is, but the savings are $29,752 - for the six digit annual salary position, that seems low.

Great news - the Master Recreation Plan that no one cares about will now be funded by the Donation Fund.  Is the Donation Fund the one that had contributions to the city from residents and other parties that were earmarked for different purposes?  Is the Donation Fund just an accumulation of all those contributions that were deemed to be unspecified or found money?

This is a kicker:
National government organizations is a sneaky way to say Homeland Security and FEMA.  We should, according to the standard cited above, have a reserve of over $5 million.  At the end of the day we will have $177,626 if these suggestions go through.  Note that the approved budget about is less than 10 percent of the suggested guideline anyway.

Bad idea to use funds designated for capital improvements for operating purposes, especially when it relates to the Library:
I have always said that many of the city's core problems come from a historically understaffed and under-qualified planning, in this case "sustainability", department.  I completely agree with the assessment expressed in the following justification for additional planning and zoning related positions:
Hold off on the optimism, please:
Not to sound like a negative Nelly, but any significant development that would happen in the Park of Commerce is years away.  Yes, we need to work toward achieving our infrastructure goals and have a workable set of land development regulations - we also need to accommodate requests to develop property in that area as best we can, but revenue from increases in tax base are years off - partly due to the built-in delay related to the calculation of appraised property values.  The FY2012 budget is based upon property values as they were on December 31, 2011.  The FY2012 budget takes us to September 30, 2012.  As I have repeatedly maintained, the is no magnificent boost that will come from the successful completion and lease-up of the Casino building.  It is roughly the same size as the previous building, with the same functions and after the novelty wears off, it will fade into the economic background.  Remember when it was first envisioned and built in the 1920s, there was NOTHING else on the barrier island.  It was an attraction to lead people through downtown.  Look at the development of the barrier island now and the traffic from the condos there dwarfs anything that will be coming and going from the NEW casino building.  And it is not like we are building a new beach - the beach will be the beach will be the beach.

Gifts to West Palm Beach employees test ethics law

Click title for link to PBP article. I am so glad the PBP is devoting its resources to this burning issue of such material consequence. HEY, LOOK OVER HERE!!

From the article:

"The questions about nondisclosure of the tickets arose last week, after The Palm Beach Post requested city records on the tickets."

Navigating the Sea Change...

The above list is taken from the transmittal memo penned by City Manager Susan Stanton and Ed Fry, OMB Manager (click here for highlighted copy).  It is what they consider to be policies that may be impacted by a new "directive" resulting the the recent election.  As usual, Ms. Stanton frames these issues as requiring "extensive dialog" - between who, when and where will be determined by her.  The City Commission meeting on Monday will only be directly dealing with the first two, and other low hanging fruit that can be plucked from the FY2012 budget that has already been approved by the former City Commission.  Disposition of these issues would have significant budgetary impact - so I am not sure why these are being culled out from the immediate changes suggested in the transmittal memo.  How can you make a decision related to the recommendations contained in the memo, that make up for the elimination of the Fire and Street Light Assessment?  I guess we can think of this as a requirement due to the immediacy in the desire to rid the residents of the assessment burden.

Before going much farther, I have always been wary of the proposed street light assessment.  The way that it had been communicated made it seem as those residents that were blessed with working street lights in the vicinity where they live, or even own property, would take on the lion's share of the financial burden.  Those in areas under-served, or not served at all, would pay a lesser assessment - less than those that live in areas with adequate lighting.  First of all, objectively figuring out which areas have street lights and those that don't is fraught with problems related to equity.  Relying on our world class bureaucracy to determine an equitable assessment, or what a team of consultants (which are immediately considered experts if they come from more than 50 miles away) can come up with, is not likely to work.  This would not only spend money we don't have but would end up with something likely to be indefensible.  In the end analysis, this assessment would have been just another device to circumvent the 10 mil state limitation on taxable property value.

One of the over-riding themes here is that the previous City Commission(s) of recent history did their best to undermine the importance of ad valorem revenue based on property tax valuation - they had to.  It was almost as if they kicked the chair out from under the value of our city's real property in order to make "living" here affordable to low and very low income people.  Do not be fooled...this was the underlying principle of the past City Commission majority.  By diminishing the importance of that factor in the overall budget "pie" they could say "no" all day long to redevelopment - which they tried their best to do by not having a coherent set of land development regulations and draconian height restrictions that prove unworkable in the real world.  There are those, like the other blogger with the same name as a popular 70s country singer, that think there is only one switch that has an "on" and an "off" position when it comes to growth.  Much to her surprise, we can set the development dial anywhere we want so that moderate and sustainable growth in Lake Worth is accommodated.  We have that chance now and we'll see how that takes shape at the up-coming tri-joint meeting of the City Commission, Planning and Zoning Board and the Historic Resource Preservation Board on November 30th.

Back to the issue of adequate street lighting: It is one of those bug-a-boo issues of mine that I stressed during my attempts at running for office that apparently wasn't an important one shared by candidates who succeeded in their attempt, as little has been done over the past six years to remedy what I refer to as our "rural" street lighting conditions for an urban area.  Sometime when you  are out driving around at night, go down any of the residential streets in the south part of West Palm Beach.  You will find almost uniformly lit streets, most with actual pedestrian-scale street light standards rather than the telephone pole mounted sodium vapor lights we have in most areas of Lake Worth, when we are fortunate enough to have them.  Street lighting in Lake Worth is not uniformly dispersed and some areas are permanently dark, or temporarily dark when the bulbs cease to work due to age.  Have you ever tried to get a light on your street replaced?  Think of the efficiency of the utilities customer service office and you will have an idea.  The bottom line is if we are going to have an assessment for something like street lights, it should be part of an overall improvement program to make sure neighborhood lighting meets some sort of minimum accepted standard - on a city-wide basis.

The one glaring item that is missing from the above list is a category called "contingent liabilities."  Deep within the memorandum (page 10), we find out that the City may owe FEMA $2,553,000 related to storm recovery costs from 2004 and 2005.  From the memo:

"...given the length of time since the storms and the multiple changes in City staff, there is no one currently with firsthand knowledge of that time period.  The City used private contractors for most of the work.  Those contractors have subsequently been involved in other disputes with the City and have been unwilling to assist the City in providing the FEMA required documentation." 

We found out about this situation as a bomb dropped during a discussion related to improvements to the pier - which are proposed to be shelved for a while as part of these budget adjustments.  We haven't heard anything more about this since.  I am not going to dissect the above statement, but let's just say it is consistent with trait.  And I am sure that if the City is found to owe the Federal government money, it will be due and payable immediately and maybe with a penalty or interest, for good measure.

Just prior to that section of the memo, we are reminded that "...the City has yet to receive a final ruling from the Public Employee's Relations Commission..." related to the City's Declaration of Financial Urgency and that "...the City may be required to make substantial back-payments to employees based on the Union's assertion that the City's declaration of Financial Urgency was unlawful and not justified by economic conditions."  No dollar amount is given for this substantial amount - one presumes it would be in the multi-million dollar range - due and payable yesterday.  True to form, the City Manager includes much of the background of this challenge by the union in the back-up material, adding sufficient padding to the 192 page document.  I sincerely hope people do not feel compelled to print out the "tomes" that come from 7 North Dixie Hwy.

And as long as we are speaking of contingent liabilities, there is no mention of standing lawsuits against the city, legal fees related to their defense and projected outcomes of such court challenges.  The one that immediately comes to mind is the Greater Bay lawsuit, which in my mind should be included in any calculation about the actual cost of the beach and casino project.  Looking down the barrel of a trial, the city recently requested a whole new round of depositions of witnesses, all with an associated price tag.  Earlier in the year, we heard an estimate emerge from the dais that the amount to defend the city would reach $600,000 - that is one-tenth the cost of the NEW casino building.  What is the total now?  What is the likelihood that the city is going to prevail?  What are the range of damages that could be ASSESSED by the court if the city does not prevail?  Where will this money be coming from?  Suddenly the beach project is looking more expensive...and what is the end financing solution again?

What about the spreadsheet of all legal actions with which the city finds itself involved?  Last we knew, one was being prepared by an intern in the law department the city had during the summer.

The point to all this is that the previous City Commission and administration did all they could to keep the lid on information - some of which, if let out, would damage the political prospects of those currently on the dais and those with a vested interest to see that majority was maintained.  Well, that didn't work out too well and one just hopes that a new light will shine into every corner of every city building - including the one occupied by the Lake Worth Community Development Corporation - so that we, the public, finally have a sense of how bad and messed up things really are.  We already had a good idea and it is looking more like a worst case scenario.

More on the suggested cuts later.  Something to make it even more difficult to sleep is that the proposal to be discussed Monday night includes the essential elimination of any meaningful level of reserves.

Theme Music for Monday's City Commission meeting...