Saturday, December 8, 2012

Contradictions, controversies and consequences...

If you go through the videos that I posted from the 12 04 12 meeting, I believe you will notice some telling contradictions and talk about long standing controversies coming to an end.  During questions after the status report by the Planning and Zoning Board, Commissioner McVoy made a clear point that there is no rush to complete the re-write of the land development regulations.  This is part of the Master Plan process that began nearly eight years ago.  It has come to the point where there is really no development activity in the city - as we learned in the Planning and Zoning Board's presentation.  According to the chair of that board, they really don't have anything to do right now, other than review a variance request for a fence and other small items.  Due to the city's delay in the re-writing of the regulations, Lake Worth has become known for its regulatory uncertainty.  No one with money to invest will come here and willingly place that money at risk as the outcome cannot be predicted.

Commissioner McVoy, and others at the meeting, pointed out the large garage building being built at 17th Avenue North and D street.  This building is going up in a single family residential district and it is clearly out of scale with other buildings around it. According to staff, it is perfectly within what the present code allows.  This is the same code that has been in a state of limbo for eight years.  I will address the building in question in another post - and the staff's interpretation that it meets all city regulations.  So, according to Commissioner McVoy's thinking, we need to make sure not to hurry through the review and preparation of code language in our land development regulations so that we don't allow these sorts of things in single family neighborhoods.  I agree, but is eight years rushing it?  And if there are such blatant loopholes in our existing regulations - isn't it about time we fix them?  In my first assessment of the situation on this particular property and after I looked at the applicable code language, I have my suspicions about whether or not a building like this is allowed - but then again more on that later.  I would also point out that Commissioner McVoy lives about two streets south of this building and the structure exists on a major road through his neighborhood and one would think his concern might have been raised a little earlier had his observational skills been more highly developed.  Perhaps these are the same skills that allow him to ignore derelict vehicles parked in front of his house - one just doesn't know.  He also made a point - and it was a theme running through the entire meeting - how these new regulations must have broad support from the public.  How high is that standard and will we ever be at that point when everyone knows everything included in these new regulations and is somehow "in support" of them?  In the past, this "standard" has been used as a reason to keep moving the goalposts farther and farther away so that we end up never really getting anywhere.  It seems that it goes on to this day.

Then we heard the further lamentations of Commissioner McVoy related to the settlement of the Greater Bay lawsuit against the city.  The issue came up on second reading of amending the budget to allow for the $1.6 million payout due December 14th.  It appears that "it doesn't sit well" with Commissioner McVoy that we are just paying someone that the city didn't like, whose project "didn't have the broad support of the public" - (sound familiar?)  to just "go away."  He failed to acknowledge the errors or his role in creating a cloud over the project that would not let it go forward, despite Commissioner Maxwell's attempts to remind him that it wasn't the project that was on trial - it was the way the city handled the breaking of the contract done by Commissioner McVoy''s allies on the City Commission at the time.  The Commission later decided it was a good idea to have a workshop (sometime later in January) on the "whys" behind the settlement and a review of the evidence produced during discovery - this would include e-mails, portions of blogs, statements made by sitting City Commissioners - that was detrimental to the city.  Commissioner McVoy remained mute when asked by Mayor Triolo whether his "no" vote on the settlement meant that he was willing to have the city risk anywhere between a $7 to $20 million settlement had the case gone to trial and be subject to a jury ruling.  In essence, he didn't want to admit that he and his accomplices could have cost the city more money or even led to the eventual settlement in favor of the plaintiff.

Apparently Commissioner McVoy and former Commissioners Golden, Mulvehill and Jennings were content to keep paying what amounted to "hush money" to the city's attorneys hired to defend the case.  Former City Manager Stanton attempted to perpetuate the myth that the Greater Bay lawsuit had no merit and would eventually be dismissed - or result in a small settlement.  I seem to recall that Stanton floated a $300,000 settlement offer at the time that went no where.  No - all of the above were content to let the $800,000 and more keep going to attorneys, keep asking for delays and ask for more witness depositions - all to keep the truth about the city's case out of the headlines and never to let that happen near an election period.  It was truly unfortunate that news of the settlement came just a week after this most recent election cycle.

Let's talk again about what "this broad based community support" means.  Does it mean gross misrepresentations of the truth spread by those in power or by those that want to be in power to an otherwise uninformed electorate?  Of course there would be broad based community support against the sale, or "give away" of our beach property - none of which were contemplated by the Greater Bay version of the beach redevelopment project.  Do I need to post the Mulvehill video again about how she saved the building and kept the hotels from being built on the beach?  People tend to believe what an elected official says.  Have some people lost all sense of shame enough so that serial fabrications of the truth become commonplace and unquestioned?

There was another matter - currently going through the mediation process - that also, according to Commissioner McVoy, concerned a large number of people in the southwest area of the city - that is the Sunset property.  The whole matter is now enjoying its eighth birthday and it would be nice to have the sum total of the amount of money that has been used to defend the city in this matter.  I will not re-visit all the gory details here, but you can search this blog for "Sunset" and there should be enough to give you a background of the basics involved here.  There was a petition drive performed by members of a political action community called "Save Our Neighborhood, Inc."  It wanted the repeal of the land use and zoning designation given the Sunset property when it was annexed into the city.  This was to be done by referendum.  The petitions were delivered to the city and the city didn't act on them.  Thus we heard a shameless plea for reimbursement of the PACs expenditures - totaling some $5,200 - by the city since that represented a waste of contributors money for the effort.

The letter was signed by attorney Lesley Blackner - who not-so-coincidentally was the leader of the Hometown Democracy movement that led to Amendment 4 being placed on the ballot.  It would have required all changes to Comprehensive Plans through out the state of Florida to be approved by local referendum - not unlike the petitions being circulated related to the Sunset property.  This whole Sunset issue became a "case in point" of how the citizens weren't being represented and direct democracy was the only solution to out-of-control development.  The measure was soundly defeated in the November 2010 election cycle.  But that still created ample opportunity to misrepresent the project to the public.  No mention was made that while the "nominal" land use and zoning designation could allow up to 80 units on this property - there was a development agreement required to be record with the land that any project there could not exceed 40 units - half of what would be permitted otherwise.  This was part of the compromise struck eight years ago.  But some people cannot stand - even abhor - compromise and instead chose this to showcase the need for "Hometown Democracy."  I have always wondered whether or not Ms. Blackner's in-kind contribution in the form of legal services was ever accounted for in the PAC's treasurer reports.  Perhaps someone could be so kind as to point out where this is?

The bottom-line is that a pack of lies spread by seemingly well-meaning people - in unofficial and official capacity - eventually will cost the city real money - beyond the cost of time, which has its own negative implications.

When can we start sticking to the truth?  I do not have high hopes - pun intended - that the truth will be adhered to in the run-up to the special March election on building heights in the downtown.  But, we can always wish.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lake Worth votes to approve commissioners’ travel without... |

This became such an issue after Commissioner Mulvehill's two week trip to Bonn, Germany for the ICLEI conference.  Can we all just behave like adults and get on with the city's business?  This from the article, click title for link.
Following that discussion, City Manager Michael Bornstein developed a policy that allows him to approve trips, noting that politically charged debates over travel were not worth the commission’s time.
“It turned into a political fracas every time,” Bornstein told commissioners. “The money is budgeted. You should be allowed to travel.”
Note that foreign travel is still to be brought before the public at a Commission meeting.

More surveillance cameras going up in Lake Worth |

Willie's on a tear - two articles in a 24 hour period.  Click title for link.

Glimpses from last night's City Commission meeting 12 04 12

Commentary to follow.

Lake Worth Library gets $10,000 anonymous donation |

This was mentioned by City Manager Bornstein during the WPBR program where he took the Mayor's regular place on her show and chatted with John Szerdi.  Worth a listen (previous post) if you haven't heard it yet.  Click title for link to PBP article.

America's 50 Worst State Legislatures | Mother Jones

Worth a read...Florida is identified as the sixth worst state legislature in the nation - for some rather good reasons.  Also interesting is North Carolina's attempt to outlaw sea level rise.  Click title for link.  I guess we get the government(s) we ask for.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Today's Lake Worth Adventure - A happy story!

For a while now, we have been noticing water bubbling up along my southern property line.  We had already checked with the neighboring property to see if it was part of their sprinkler system that was leaking - turned out not to be.  I checked my property survey and it did show a 5 foot utility easement that straddled the property line.  I thought that it could be part of an old water line.  The water feed to the house comes off Pennsylvania Avenue to the west.

Today, while walking Mars, I looked into the backyard and lo and behold I saw what looked like a sprinkler head going off by the fence.   See below:

So, I called water utilities.  Someone answered right away.  I told them my address and what was happening and they said that it was probably an old water line and that this happens quite often.  I asked if they would have to remove the fence or anything major and he answered that most times that was not the case.  He asked if I was home or going to be home to let someone in the backyard - I said yes.  He said that they would send someone out in 10 minutes.
Ten minutes later, two trucks showed up.  The first guy there looked over the situation, stuck his hand down into the ground where the leak was coming from and said that it was a 2" line that had broken.  It turns out they were able to do all the work all by hand and within about an hour, they left having fixed the leak.  I went in the backyard and you couldn't even tell they had been there.  So, the moral to the story is that if you notice something like this, do not be afraid to call it in.  The city has professional people that can respond quickly and get the job done.

Thank you City of Lake Worth!

Keeping Out the Kardashians

Zoning meets reality television - some interesting theories discussed in this article.  They apparently found a place to "live" in a north Miami area neighborhood.  Click title for link.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lake Worth gift certificates for the Holidays?

This is Bay City, Michigan's way of getting a little extra money in their coffers.  I wonder if any go unspent?  This was posted originally on FaceBook.

What Helsinki looks like today...

Click here for nice article which appeared in the Palm Beach Post over the weekend regarding the Finnish community in our area and mention of Lake Worth.  If you are on FaceBook, please "like" their page "Embassy of Finland in Washington."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Snook Islands growing in Lake Worth Lagoon - South Florida

Nice article on the Snook Islands project - County funded.  Don't let anyone else tell you different.  Click title for link.

Truly a city plagued by over-development...

Bill was able to take a few pictures from the roof of the EcoCentre building yesterday during the event.  They include the area immediately surrounding the building and of the downtown area in general.  It is important to note that the Comprehensive Plan - when passed earlier this year - actually lowered allowable heights between Federal and Dixie Highways to 45 feet from 65 feet.  The area that allows 65 foot buildings is east of Federal - that is the subject of the referendum in March.

A little bit about yesterday...

I must say it was a lot of fun at the "Art & Wine at the Eco" event.  Here are some pictures taken during the time that we were there.  This was the third year that I attempted to dress up as the Cat-in-the-Hat, as best as I could, and do an interpretive reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.  It was part of the afternoon program that included a children's choir from Sacred Heart, a reading by John Cutrone of the Jaffe Center for Book Arts.  Later on in the afternoon, John Szerdi, architect of the Eco Centre building - and new City Commissioner - led a tour through the building.  The event concluded with a wine tasting in the evening.
 A few strange things happened on my way to the Eco Centre building.  Right across the street, in the parking area for 1000 Lake Avenue (where the 9 Arches mural project is going on) there seemed to be some sort of "sale" going on, although it was unclear if anything was really for sale or not.  Above is a "blow up" mannequin, if that's what you want to call her.  She was directing people to this parking area being used for this impromptu flea market of sorts.  I couldn't pass up the photo opportunity.  She was a person of few words, but if you click on the picture you might be able to see a Seventh Day Adventist Tract in her right hand.  She was tied to the Foxtail Palm tree behind her.  Who knows?  She might still be welcoming people to our downtown today so you may want to check it out.
 Of the items distributed through the parking area, of all things, was a slightly soiled Grinch doll.  Overwhelmed by the serendipity of the Cat-in-the-Hat meeting the Grinch, the person running this "sale" gave the doll to me as a gift and I was able to use it as a prop during my appearance.  I will try to wash it today to see if some of the stains can come out.
 Here I am - definitely standing out in the crowd - checking out the art and artists that were assembled in the biolarium of the EcoCentre.

 Here I am with AnnaMaria Windisch-Hunt picking out tickets for the children's raffle after my reading.

It was a fun afternoon and the building turned out to be a great venue for it!

The 9 arches project in process...

Most of the panels are complete, but a few are still being worked on.  This is a nice addition to the core of our downtown.  These pictures were taken yesterday. The building is at 1000 Lake Avenue and the project is part of the LULA program run by the Lake Worth CRA.