Saturday, May 9, 2015

Great News from the NAPC:

These Neighborhood Associations and other Lake Worth Groups have had their REAP Resident Education to Action Grants recommended for approval. That means that these grants will go before the County Commission later this Summer for funding and implementation can start immediately after that. Total grant funding approved for Lake Worth Neighbors: $38,500. Total amount awarded to all of Palm Beach County REAP Participants: $86,412.00. Lake Worth brings home 45%. Well Done Lake Worth.

Special Thanks to Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell who spoke on behalf of Lake Worth Neighborhoods at the graduation ceremony where the grant recipients were announced and of course, Thanks to the Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization for allowing all of us this tremendous opportunity!

Neighborhood Crime Watch Projects:
$1,200: Bryant Park Neighborhood Assn. Crime Watch
$1,400: Downtown Jewel Neighborhood Assn. Crime Watch
$2,000: Parrot Cove Neighborhood Association Crime Watch (including funding for a 501c3 IRS designation)
$1,500: Royal Poinciana Neighborhood Assn. Crime Watch
$2,200: South Palm Park Neighborhood Assn. Crime Watch

Little Free Library Projects:
$5,000: NAPC
$5,000: College Park Neighborhood Assn.
$5,000: Friends of the Lake Worth Library

Other Neighborhood Assn. Projects:
$5,000: Pineapple Beach Neighborhood Assn.logoed trash cans
$3,200: South Palm Park Neighborhood neighbors welcome kits, neighborhood meeting signs

Other Lake Worth Organizations:
$5,000: Cottages of Lake Worthbrochures, maps, postcards
$2,000: Lake Worth Visitors Centerdisplay racks, information boards, events calendars

Alexandra Clough at The Palm Beach Post—setting the stage for The Grand Editorial?

Alexandra Clough at the Post has done a good job of reporting about the Lake Worth Casino Complex except in one respect. In her first story on Thursday, April 30th (Sunday, May 3rd, print edition) she starts off with this sentence:
The fortunes of Lake Worth’s beachside casino and pool complex are troubled.
She goes on to explain the Casino complex is not performing to expectations, can't make the debt payments, and there's still unleased space on the second floor. But why that is is not explained. And note that none of the essential characters in the creation of the 'new' Casino are mentioned or quoted: JoAnn Golden, Cara Jennings, Commissioner McVoy, Susan Stanton, or Suzanne Mulvehill.

The reporter is tasked with documenting a snapshot in time: what's happening right now and how do I (reporter) represent and explain it to the readers. She does her job. The essential important characters/companies are Steven Michael, Hudson Holdings, Anderson & Carr, Mayor Pam Triolo, Commissioner Amoroso et al. The people who created this problem, mentioned in the previous paragraph, aren't shown to have any culpability whatsoever.

In the reporters latest story, available digital yesterday (5/8) and likely in tomorrow's Sunday paper (as last week) there's mention of Benny's on the Beach and owner Lee Lipton but nothing on why we're having to talk about this issue in the first place: the Casino complex business plan is a failure.

Again, a snapshot in time. That's a reporters job and most everyone is OK with that. But it's a snapshot that only tells a small part of a very big story. The big story is why we're even talking about the Casino complex at all. It was designed to be a huge success and why wouldn't it be? It's a brand new building on a beautiful beach and. . .it's losing money hand over fist. Why?

I don't know what Alexandra Clough knows and doesn't know. But what I can tell her and everyone else is this: the Casino building was built in the wrong place. That's the big problem and the problem that has created all the other problems that followed.

You see, the 'new' Casino was built where the old Casino used to be. This was done for the cause of saving the building, which never happened. Remember the big rallying cry, the Circle of Light? The new Casino has the same problem the old structure did: parking. But it's ten times worse now with the more strict ADA guidelines and other specifications. The new Casino should have been built in the middle of the beach property to accommodate more parking. In short, the public was misled to believe the old Casino building was being 'saved'. It wasn't.

A business owner looking to rent space on the second floor at the Casino would see the problem immediately, and they have. They would envision many of their customers having to park in the western lot, walk up the incline to the building, then have to take the elevator or stairs to the second floor. Fine. Now add Grandmom with a cane or a child in a stroller. The parking "structure" being talked about is just one deck of parking over an existing paved area. Some people think this makes a "two story" parking structure. I've even heard "three story." It is actually one "deck" that would be at the main floor level of the building, thereby providing more ADA accessibility.

I hope that prior to authoring an editorial on the topic, the Post takes the whole picture into consideration, points out the blatant flaws in the existing layout and allows for discussion without adding to the unhinged hysteria. We don't need to introduce a new bird species to the beach: ostriches with heads buried firmly in the sand.

Feral cats, Jonathan Beaton, and La Bonne "Bueche" Bistro in City of Lake Worth

CBS12/WPEC's Jonathan Beaton did a story about feral cats in the City of Lake Worth. It's no longer criminals 'overrunning' the streets, now the cats have taken over. Sad to report there's no video of the story on our local TV news station. Here's an excerpt:
     A Palm Beach County community has a big problem, feral cats, overrunning its neighborhood streets. [emphasis added]
     CBS 12 is investigating and learned the town of Lake Worth’s feline frenzy could soon be getting worse before it gets better.
     Up and down the lettered streets, through backyards and alleys, CBS 12 spotted dozens upon dozens of feral cats.
For the time being the cats are keeping to the lettered streets. Are the dogs controlling the numbered streets? Carving the city up into territories?

Note below Jonathan Beaton refers to "La Bonne Bueche Bistro". Of course, we all know it as La Bonne Bouche Bistro. And the chef has an accent in his name. Here's another excerpt:
     Eric Regnier [sic, Régnier] has owned La Bonne Bueche [sic] Bistro in downtown Lake Worth for years, telling CBS 12 cats coming to his door every morning is nothing new, saying he enjoys seeing the friendly felines but understands more needs to be done to help control the population. 
     “We’ll have eight, four, five sometimes, coming right on up to me every day,” said Eric Regnier [sic].
     If you want to learn how you can help put an end to this ongoing problem contact Community Cats of the Palm Beaches on their Facebook page
     To learn how to adopt one of the cats visit Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League at
The links above do work. If you interested in stopping the cats from overrunning our streets please do check out the links above.

[By Request] Finding Ryan Maier

Commissioner Ryan Maier now thinks the Lake Worth Casino is an amenity and doesn't need to make money. Below is a video of Maier at a candidate forum and he laments about the Casino building and why "isn't the City making any money here?".

That's right. Referring to the Casino complex at the Lake Worth Beach, Ryan Maier said:

"why isn't the City making any money here?"

He talks about needing "more money in the General Fund", needing concession stands in Bryant Park (!), and the need for more businesses in the City. All topics that are near and dear to his colleagues and former commissioners JoAnn Golden and Cara Jennings. Joking aside, he said what he did to get elected, of course.

But the important question remains: is the Casino complex an amenity or should it be making money as Maier suggests below? Join me as we're Finding Ryan Maier on this important question.

Christopher Ingraham: "These cops are tired of white people getting freaked out by their black neighbors"

Thought long and hard about posting this because you can easily see how people can get themselves unhinged and misunderstand the point. It's a very serious topic but on another level it's hilarious, like a Saturday Night Live skit. It also makes me wonder how much time and energy is wasted by PBSO and other local municipal police departments 'investigating' blacks and African Americans going about their daily lives and doing nothing wrong? Some areas west of I-95 in the City of Lake Worth come to mind. 

Without further ado, here is an excerpt from Wonkblog, an article written by Christopher Ingraham:
     "People, please stop making my job so difficult."
     That's the opening of a discussion in the "ProtectAndServe," reddit's community of law enforcement officers. The poster, who goes by the handle "sf7" and has been verified as a law enforcement officer by the forum's moderators, goes on:
     So I'm working last week and get dispatched to a call of 'Suspicious Activity.' Ya'll wanna know what the suspicious activity was? Someone walking around in the dark with a flashlight and crow bar? Nope. Someone walking into a bank with a full face mask on? Nope.    It was two black males who were jump starting a car at 930 in the morning. That was it. Nothing else. Someone called it in.     People. People. People. If you're going to be a racist, stereotypical jerk...keep it to yourself.
     Other forum users sympathize. One tells a story about someone asking the cops to investigate a middle-aged black man fishing in his own community [emphasis added]. Another was asked to respond to a report of two Middle Eastern guys sitting in the same car. Another laments that "we frequently get calls about black men and woman and kids, yes [expletive] kids, walking. Like WWB [walking while black] was actually a crime and not a Twitter joke."
     The stories pile on. A white security officer tells of the year he and his black wife lived in an apartment complex. "She got cops called a total of 9 times in the year we lived there I got zero," he says. A retired cop recalls the time a "lady called scared to death because some black guy was sitting in his truck across from her house" -- it was the water meter reader.
And you can see how it doesn't help matters when a blogger in the City of Lake Worth puts stuff like this on her blog:
So charming, isn't it?

From Jim Waymer, "Four senior staff resign from water management district"

This is news from FloridaToday on the St. Johns River Water Management District on staff resignations:
     The most telling resignation, Lee said, is that of Robert Christianson, who oversaw purchases of conservation lands and their management. Christianson had been with the agency 25 years.
     "This letter constitutes my irrevocable resignation from District employment, in lieu of termination. My last date of employment will be July 2, 2015," Christianson wrote in a May 5 letter to the district.
     The resignation letter of Tom Bartol, an assistant director who managed water supply studies, had the identical wording.
     Harold Wilkening, a division director who oversaw water supply planning, resigned after more than three decades with the district.
     "It has been my greatest pleasure to work with the district these past 32 years, under the leadership of eight governors, five executive directors, and so many dedicated Governing Board members. I'm proud of our accomplishments."
     Chief of Staff Jeff Cole also resigned, writing: "I am honored to have worked for the District for 21 years, and I am available to assist in ensuring a smooth transition of my responsibilities."
     The resignations came in the immediate wake of Register [district's acting executive director, Mike Register], taking the top district job this week, succeeding Hans Tanzler.
     Register's statement did not address the reasons for the resignations.
     "While I do not believe that it is productive or necessary to expound upon the reasons for the resignations, my decision to accept them was based upon my conclusion that it was in the best interest of the District.

Celebrate Florida’s first annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (May 16) with FWC and partners

News Release
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Media contact: Amanda Nalley, 850-410-4943; Guy Harvey Magazine, Fred Garth, 850-380-6680; Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition, Andy Ross, 850-529-2475 (for tournament questions)

Are you ready to find out how many lionfish can be removed from Florida waters in one weekend?
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is celebrating its first annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day by hosting and promoting a weekend of exciting events across the state, starting Saturday, May 16, including a festival in Pensacola.

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (established to be the first Saturday after Mother’s Day each year) was created by FWC Commissioners to help draw attention to the lionfish issue. Lionfish are a nonnative, invasive species that have a potential negative impact on native species and habitat.

“We are thankful to all the groups that helped organize the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival and Tournament in Pensacola as well as all those who are hosting their own events across the state,” said FWC Commissioner Bo Rivard. “These efforts will help ensure we keep the lionfish issue on the forefront of everyone’s thoughts and minds.”

Ready to help control the lionfish population? Check out the following lionfish events. Can’t make any of the organized events? No worries. The FWC is encouraging all divers to remove as many lionfish on the weekend of May 16-17, no matter where they are in Florida.

The FWC will also be unveiling its new Reef Ranger program this same weekend.

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival and Tournament, Pensacola

FWC will be hosting the first ever Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival and Tournament at Plaza de Luna, 900 S. Palafox St., Pensacola, on May 16-17 with the help of sponsors like Guy Harvey Magazine, Coast Watch Alliance, Escambia County Marine Resources, Marina Management, Jaco’s Bayfront Bar and Grille, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the city of Pensacola and tournament host Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition.

This event will include celebrity chef demonstrations, lionfish tastings, fillet demos, a visit from world famous artist and marine conservationist Guy Harvey, family-friendly activities such as games and a fountain to play in, and more than 40 art, diving and conservation vendors; there will also be music, food and tons of helpful lionfish information.

The festival starts at 10 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. each day. Updates will be provided from various other events across the state.

Want to participate in the tournament? Visit the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition (GCLC) webpage at to learn more or visit their Facebook page at GCLC is offering prize money for a number of categories, as well as chances to win great prizes with raffle tickets. Come by to check out the researchers counting and filleting fish.

Take a break from festival fun and head over to the Pensacola Museum of Art, where Guy Harvey will be signing autographs from noon to 2 p.m., May 16. His newest exhibit is expected to run May 9 through Aug. 9. Visit to learn more. Harvey will also be throwing out the first pitch at the Blue Wahoo’s baseball game that Saturday night.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Home for Sale in Palm Beach County: 2/1 for only $10,000!

You can read about that home at the Real Time blog. It's an "as is" and cash only. There's a picture of the home and a map showing its location. And we also learn this:
Still, in February, there were 64 homes in Palm Beach County with listing prices lower than $50,000. That’s a 12 percent increase from February 2014.
There are still deals to be had.

More fallout from Great Recession: "How the housing crisis left us more racially segregated"

This article by Emily Badger is truly disturbing. What the numbers show is how hard hit minority homeowners were during the Great Recession and if the data is correct would suggest many communities (even in Palm Beach County possibly) that were integrating had that process stunted by the housing collapse and maybe even reversed. From a policy perspective you can see how this story can have huge ramifications.

Were some communities in the City of Lake Worth also affected by the "migration" of minority homeowners who went into foreclosure? West Palm Beach? Here is an excerpt from Emily Badger at Wonkblog:
     Foreclosure rates during the housing bust were highest in the most integrated neighborhoods. So not only were we becoming more segregated — but the least segregated places were heavily undermined by foreclosure at the same time. The authors aren't entirely sure why this would be, but the finding speaks to the relative fragility of rare, integrated communities.
     The scale of this entire foreclosure migration is deceptively large. The 10 million households that lost their homes dwarf the number that left the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl (that was about 2.5 million people). In fact, it's larger than the 6 million blacks who moved north during the Great Migration — a movement that spanned decades. [emphasis added] That number doesn't even include all the households that never went through foreclosure but moved anyway because many of their neighbors did.
     If such a sizable population shift nudged us — albeit a small amount — toward a more segregated society, that bodes poorly for all the work that has to happen to head back in the other direction.

Ken Kaye: "Forest Service asks for public's help to catch wildfire arsonists"

Ken Kaye at the Sun Sentinel has this story of more concern to our neighboring counties to the south. The number of wildfires set by arsonists in Miami-Dade is very high. However, if you do see something suspicious off the beaten trail here in Palm Beach County the Arson Alert Hotline is 800-342-5869. Here's an excerpt from the story:
     Although lightning strikes more often in Florida than any other state, it doesn't spark as many wildfires as arsonists.
     The Florida Forest Service is renewing its push for the public to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity, such as people returning and lingering around wildfires or actually setting a fire.
     "We have just have a lot of wildfires that are intentionally set by humans in South Florida," said Scott Peterich, wildfire mitigation specialist for the Florida Forest Service.
     The agency asks that if you spot a suspicious person or vehicle, get a license plate number and call the state's Arson Alert Hotline at 1-800-342-5869.
     Callers can remain anonymous, and their information could result in a reward of up to $5,000.
     In the past three years, arsonists are suspected of setting 166 fires in South Florida, burning almost 2,500 acres. The majority of those fires, 148, were set in Miami-Dade County. Fifteen were set in Broward County and three in Palm Beach County. [emphasis added]

Summer House Gardens on NBC5/WPTV

[Very interesting. This story is trending very high on the WPTV website and also on this blog.]

A new business in the little City of Lake Worth was featured on NBC5: Summer House Gardens. Rachel Leitao did the report. Here is an excerpt from the text of the story:
LAKE WORTH, Fla. – Ian Esplin has turned his love of gardening into a web-based business designed to help you love gardening too.
     "I've been gardening for quite a while now and I've been trying to be a home gardener, so I've been working started digging in the ground trying to get the soil right. And living in South Florida it's been tough, so I've been trying to develop a system for myself and then eventually it spurned into this where I tried to create an easy to manage container garden for the average homeowner,” Esplin explained.
You can call the Summer House Gardens at 561-670-9479 and this is the email address. For now this service is only available in Palm Beach County. Best of luck to you and your new business.

City of Fort Lauderdale StreetsSmart: 2015 Transportation Summit—sending the wrong message

If you've never been to the Walkable West Palm Beach blog you should check it out some time. True, it's a bit too wonkish for some but if planning, walkability, bikability, complete streets, and New Urbanism interest you then this blog by Jesse Bailey should be on your list.

He lit up the organizers of the StreetSmart 2015 Summit and here's why. Guess what they're doing to entice people to attend?

Free parking passes for motor vehicles. 

I'm not kidding. But wish I was. Thankfully the organizers tweaked their message. What this indicates is really how much work is ahead of us to change public reliance on the motor vehicle, mostly cars. Here is an excerpt from Jesse Bailey's blog entry:
     The event is still giving free parking to all attendees, which subsidizes the driver while leaving the Tri-Rail user or the bus rider out of luck. This is the wrong market signal to send [emphasis added] and the leadership to change this condition has to come from the top levels of government. Just adding a subsidy for users who take public transportation would punish the person walking or biking. From a policy standpoint, I’d much prefer we just eliminate any transportation subsidies for these events altogether (“unbundling”) and let people make rational choices for themselves.
     I would hope this topic is discussed during the Summit. It’s not Fort Lauderdale’s fault so much as a shift in thinking that needs to happen in our region. Unbundling free parking benefits is one such “Shoupian” tactic that can and should be implemented by local governments throughout South Florida to lead by example.
Most of you wouldn't know what "Shoupian" means. The cliff note definition is "the high cost of free parking". Free parking is not free, folks. Somebody is paying for it.

But we'll save that for another time. Anyhow, great job Jesse Bailey!

[UPDATE] George Bennett: "Keynoter at Texas ‘Draw Muhammad’ cartoon contest coming to Palm Beach County GOP dinner"

[UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long. See end of post for the latest.]

Wouldn't be surprised to hear this gets cancelled, and very shortly. The word "taunting" comes to mind. From George Bennett at the Post On Politics blog:
    Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a prominent critic of Islam who was keynote speaker at the “Draw Muhammad” contest in Texas where two gunmen opened fire and were killed Sunday, is coming to Palm Beach County as a guest of the local GOP this summer.
     Wilders is scheduled to speak at the Palm Beach County Republican Party’s annual Lobsterfest fundraising dinner on Aug. 15 in Boca Raton. [emphasis added]
     Wilders — who said in his Texas speech that he is “on death lists of Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban and terrorists from ISIS because I tell people the truth about Islam” — travels with his own security detail, Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Michael Barnett said.
     Barnett said the Republican Party has also arranged for extra security at the dinner at Boca West Country Club and that safety will be a top concern.
[Here's the latest from George Bennett. The timeline here is Mr. Bennett broke the story on 5/5. I knew the reaction would be quick but didn't think it would happen this fast.]

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The little Cape Sabal Seaside Sparrow: a powerful player in Everglades sheet flow

Cape Sabal Seaside Sparrow, Sourse U.S. FWS.
Christine Stapleton in today's Palm Beach Post has an article about the little Cape Sabal Seaside Sparrow today, relegated to page B2. This little bird first came to most people's attention when George Bennett wrote about it on March 12th; you can read about that here.

If you've been following the debate about the Everglades Land Buy, then good for you. It's an important topic. If you haven't been following the debate very closely, then here is how the little sparrow fits into the scheme of things: the little bird is hanging on by a thread and its habitat is a very precarious one. The supporters of the Everglades Land Buy want to restore 'sheet flow' from Lake Okeechobee flowing south into the Everglades which would destroy the birds habitat.

If sheet flow is restored then it's sayonara to the little sparrow and probably more than a few other species of animals as well. The irony here, if you haven't picked up on it yet, is you have the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) in the position of having to save the little sparrow from the environmentalists who love to hate the SFWMD. It's complicated.

Anyhow, there's a new plan to save the little Cape Sabal Seaside Sparrow and and here's an excerpt from Christine Stapleton on some details:
     The endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow — a 5-inch long, drab-looking bird — has become a powerful player in the science and politics of Everglades restoration.
     Protecting the little bird was among the complications cited by the South Florida Water Management District during recent discussions about buying 46,800 acres of land from U.S. Sugar Corp. to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. Last week, environmentalists filed a federal lawsuit to protect what remains of the sparrow’s habitat.
     Water experts today will discuss a program intended to get the water just right for the sparrow nicknamed the “Goldilocks bird” in what remains of its habitat in the southern Everglades.
     The program, called the Everglades Restoration Transition Plan, aims to maintain and improve conditions for the sparrow and other species during Everglades restoration. However, that task has proved difficult as water managers and the Army Corps of Engineers struggle to comply with mandates set in lawsuits and to meet the competing needs of other species.
You can learn more about the little sparrow here.  

E-mail conversation with a blog reader: "Your blog censureship [sic]"

Roger Kowalsky: Please advise what criteria you use in deciding what comments you accept and which you reject..

Me: It's completely left to my discretion. I post most comments and it is an exception if I don't.

Roger Kowalsky: "Discretion and most "are not very informative..Why not publish your criteria on your blog?

Me: Because it is not a list of hard and fast criteria. And I don't need a firm policy. It depends on the topic. Is there a comment that you submitted that you haven't seen posted? If so, we could start there and examine it as to why I chose not to post it. Or it could be as simple as a comment I missed in the hundreds I receive every week. Sometimes they slip through the cracks.

Roger Kowalsky: Nothing to do with me..Its not you that needs a policy..Its the readers of your blog .I don't think you are understanding the point I'm trying to make..Why not at least bring up the subject on your blog and ask what your readers think.

Me: I guess from my point of view, I do not need a hard and fast policy, especially when I am presented with anonymous comments. The point is that the comments I choose not to post are very few in number. So that also says to me that I really do not need to post a comment policy.

I let most comments in. The exception being a guy in New Zealand that grew up in Lake Worth and fills comments up with all sorts of conspiracy theories and monorail, monorail monorail posts - and even then I let some of those in.

If I approve 95% of them anyway, there is no need to talk about a comment policy. If I throw open the question, then it gives people an opportunity to say that they comment and never see their comments - which is not the case. Why give them that opportunity? There is no there there.

Roger Kowalsky: You are ignoring my request to put all of this on your blog..I quit since speaking to people who are deaf requires more skill than I have.

Comment away readers...

Lake Worth Herald editorial, "the hype about selling the beach"

Here is an excerpt from The Lake Worth Herald out this week. Early next week will publish the entire editorial here on this blog. Much of the hysteria has abated, save for a few red signs around town, and as evidenced by public comment at the last city commission meeting. Now it's time for the public debate with the adults in charge.

The message has gotten through to most, it seems, that no one is considering "selling the Beach". The debate centers around the Casino building which has a known faulty business plan, operational deficiencies, design and construction flaws and the long ignored pool complex which need to be addressed. The conditions at the beach have been ignored more due to not wanting to re-hash anything related to the Casino complex, since it was thought to have been a completed project. To critically examine any problems there would necessarily point fingers at those in charge at the time (a previous city commission/city manager) prior to and during the redevelopment of the Casino building.

Here is the excerpt from The Lake Worth Herald:
    Now we see the actual proposals and the hype about selling the beach and a convention center turn out to be highly inaccurate. This hype, perpetuated during a campaign cycle spread untruths to the voting public. 
     Leasing the upstairs of the Casino to a restaurant at the offered twenty dollars a square foot, including common area maintenance and taxes will not help Lake Worth. This figure is much too low to be sustainable. It was said the cost to the city is closer to thirty dollars and even that won’t help pay back the six million dollars loaned from the utilities fund to pay for the building, much less offset the nearly three hundred thousand dollars the city spends to maintain the pool and keep it open twenty-nine hours a week. 
     Leasing to a restaurant will not provide the revenue needed to fix the building shortcomings left as a result of a guaranteed maximum build price. Value engineering is not a good way to build a building that is intended to last many years, especially one sitting on the coastal dune exposed to salt air and spray at all times.
For those of you unfamiliar with "value engineering" here is how it's explained in Wikipedia:
     The reasoning behind value engineering is as follows: if marketers expect a product to become practically or stylistically obsolete within a specific length of time, they can design it to only last for that specific lifetime. The products could be built with higher-grade components, but with value-engineering they are not because this would impose an unnecessary cost on the manufacturer, and to a limited extend also an increased cost on the purchaser. Value engineering will reduce these costs. A company will typically use the least expensive components that satisfy the product's lifetime projections.
While that definition applies to a product, you can interchange building with that word and apply it to our Casino building. We also cannot forget the design flaws in the site plan and the decision to keep the building where it was, rather than move it more towards the center of the property. This was all part of an intentional ruse to let the public think somehow the city "saved the building." We will be living with the fallout from that decision for a long while.

Don't forget the ill-fated decision to change the design of the building to prevent a two-story restaurant as proposed by Johnny Longboats. I can still remember Annabeth Karson, Laurence McNamara and Commissioner McVoy gushing about the beautiful second floor restaurant space and how its magnificent views would be an easy sell to a high end restaurant.

We are still waiting.

And if a restaurant did want to take over the vacant space on the second floor (pay rent and provide a decent return to the city's taxpayers and utility customers), where would all the tables and chairs be stored so that we could still host events in the ballroom? Where would staff work to make sure the Casino operations and property are run efficiently?

Not much thought went into these important items.

Tim Pallesen: Sober house rules could rein in ‘bad operators’

More on sober houses and an "important first step" in regulating sober houses in Palm Beach County; this is from Tim Pallesen at The Coastal Star:
     The Florida Legislature has taken “an important first step” to regulate the sober homes for recovering addicts that cause concerns in Delray Beach, Boca Raton and other coastal communities.
     The new state law awaiting the governor’s signature offers sober homes a voluntary certification with the state. Drug and alcohol treatment centers could only refer patients to certified sober homes.
     Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein said the new state law will help reduce the number of sober homes by “eliminating the bad operators with little regard to the people in their homes or the communities in which these homes coexist.”
     Communities don’t even know now how many sober homes are operating in their cities. “Hopefully, the law will help us get a handle on how many of these sober homes there are,” state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said. “Right now it’s just a guess.” [emphasis added]

Vanilla Ice and plane landing on the intracoastal: here's the WPTV/NBC5 video

Everyone's heard the story by now but here's the video if you haven't seen it yet. Here is the text from the NBC5 story:
     If you were near the Lantana Bridge Wednesday evening, it's probably a sight you never expected to see.
     "I'm driving along and at the end of the street, I just see a plane just coming down sideways," says Thomas Van Halle, who was coming home from work around 6:30 p.m.
     The surprising sight of a plane on the the Intracoastal Waterway was captured by ground, courtesy of a YouReporter, and in the air by Chopper 5.
     "I went to the end of the street thinking 'Someone might need help,' Van Halle says. "I thought something was wrong at first."
     First responders rushed to the scene to find an empty plane, and no one in distress.
     It turns out, the situation was more party than panic.
     "The other fishermen said 'Yeah, it's Vanilla Ice'," says Max Slocum, who was fishing near the bridge.

[Timely repost] Tony Doris and the file "You Can't Make This Stuff Up"

Unbelievable! On the heels of Lake Worth City Attorney Glen Torcivia's presentation on the Sunshine Law and the Open Records statutes is this story from Tony Doris at the West Palm Beat. Is it any wonder the public is so confused? Technically, what our good neighbors in West Palm Beach did was outside the scope of the Sunshine Law; they had a meeting and there was no vote and there was no discussion of agenda items, either present or future. But. . .

With so much public confusion about the Sunshine Law it's not in the public interest to parse the Sunshine Law into technicalities. A good rule to follow is this: if you're not sure if a meeting should be noticed, open to the public, and minutes taken then notice the meeting, invite the public and have minutes taken. That way you avoid getting lit up by Tony Doris. Here are two excerpts:
     Florida is famous for its sunshine.
     But in West Palm Beach, when it came to training city officials in the state’s Government-in-the-Sunshine law on April 24, the session took place out of the sunshine.
     The city staff, including Deputy Administrator Dorritt Miller, at least three members of the city attorney’s office, the finance director and ethics officer, conducted a three-hour, closed-door training session for Mayor Jeri Muoio and the city’s five commissioners on the third floor of the library next to City Hall, without notice to the public.
[and. . .]
     Commissioner Shanon Materio, however, said the meeting should have been open.
     “I don’t understand why it couldn’t have been in the sunshine,” she said. “Why not?”
     Asked if the public might benefit, city spokesman [Elliot] Cohen agreed. “The topic itself is probably a good primer for the public,” he said. “But when it comes to asking questions, sometimes if you’re an elected official …”
     “What’s the harm?” [Barbara] Petersen said. “They should be open even if the law doesn’t require that they be open.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

[In print edition today!] Liz Balmaseda from Post with food review of Benny's on the Beach

[For the digitally challenged, the review of Benny's is in the Accent section of the Post, page D2; make sure to check out those 'Beach Breads' and let me know what you think.]

Great review of Jeremy Hanlon's new "beach breads". Check out the review by Liz Balmaseda here.
     In the kitchen, Jeremy Hanlon can be as inventive as he is pragmatic. To wit: The chef-partner at Benny’s on the Beach has introduced a nifty sandwich wrapping at his Lake Worth oceanfront eatery.
     “Beach Bread,” he calls it. It’s a waffle creation that folds like a pita. But before you go and call it a waffle taco, you should know this bread was inspired by the chef’s childhood days spent on the Jersey Shore, noshing on waffle sundaes.
     Now, after experimenting with yeast in the bread dough, Hanlon offers an entire Beach Bread menu that includes six savory sandwiches and two sweet ones.
Benny's on the Beach is located at the Lake Worth Pier for those of you unaware. Make sure you go and check out Jeremy Hanlon's new creations and if you see Joseph Thompson III make sure to wave "Hi!"

Last Night and the Sunshine in the City of Lake Worth

It was a spectacular presentation last night by Glen Torcivia, the City Attorney for the City of Lake Worth. Soon will have the video available. You can go over the presentation yourself here (starts on page 9).

The video and this presentation will be readily available on a moments notice from here on out. So, the next time an "expert" wants to teach us about the Sunshine Law and the Open Records Law can set them straight and fast. The Sunshine Law and the Open Records Law are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS ENTIRELY. Many 'experts' have difficulty distinguishing the two. 

It wasn't all that long ago when one of our local 'experts' went hysterical on Facebook about our Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell having lunch with Congresswoman Lois Frankel, remember that one? Members of Congress are not covered by the Sunshine Law. 

Lake Worth City Attorney Glen Torcivia: the Florida Public Records Law (12-minute video)

A 'birthday card' is NOT a public record. Every now and then will re-post this for the public. If you would prefer to watch the slide presentation go here and proceed to page 25.

The FEC Train Horns: Relief on the way?

Not anytime soon so don't get your hopes up. If you're curious how a train horn works you can start your journey here. As Kim Miller at the Real Time blog explains the "louder" horns have more to do with pitch and frequency than the actual volume. The new horns have five chimes versus just three for the old horns most people are accustomed to hearing. Either way the new horns are within the Federal guidelines. 

Here's an excerpt from the Real Time blog:
     Florida East Coast Railway will test a different horn configuration for its new locomotives hoping to quiet blasts that have drawn hundreds of complaints from the Treasure Coast to Fort Lauderdale.
     FECR spokeswoman Debra Phillips said horn manufacturer Nathan Airchime is looking to replace one of the chimes on the new engine’s five-chime horns. Florida East Coast Railway will then test to determine if the change makes a difference.
     “There is no set date for the test and no set cost,” [emphasis added] Phillips said.
     Still, the idea that FECR is at least working on a possible solution may be some consolation to residents who live and work along the tracks.

Commissioner Ryan Maier and TCRPC meeting on 4/17/2015: what was the BIG ISSUE?

Here is Lake Worth Commissioner Ryan Maier's account of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) meeting last month (April, 2015) from the minutes approved on May 5th of the Lake Worth City Commission meeting on 4/21 (go to pages 80 and 81):
Commissioner Maier: announced his attendance at the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting on April 17, 2015, and said the big issue which affected Lake Worth was discussion about the train horn noise. He said Lake Worth was not the only municipality experiencing the excess train noise, there was a new type of train engine that was louder than Florida East Coast’s (FEC) older train, an FEC study on train noise found that the noise was within its range, a quick fix solution was to remove the number of bells to make the horn quieter, and the City needed to petition the FEC and request the number of bells be removed to make them quieter because FEC said they were operating within the range. He commented that it was a lovely experience to see other cities having the same experience. He said All Aboard Train would have a station in West Palm Beach and they had the same horn, so noise would increase. He suggested writing an ordinance about the noise. He said the Metropolitan Planning Organization had put together staff and funding to change how the railroad crossings worked, which was the reason why train horns were blown.
Small point but relevant: train horns do not have "bells"; train horns are made of "chimes". As was pointed out by Mayor Pam Triolo many of the issues Maier has have already been addressed by the City the previous year (in April of 2014). Maier proposes an "ordinance about the noise". The City Commission can draft one or a hundred ordinances about the train noise. The FEC tracks fall under Federal Law, not state or local laws. Federal law takes precedence by the way.

Commissioner Maier said the "big issue" which affected Lake Worth at the TCRPC was the train horn noise. Going through the draft minutes of the meeting the issue of train horns only came up once:
Commissioner McKinlay asked if anything can be done in terms of the volume the horns of the new locomotives. Staff stated that this issue has been raised with the FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] and they have conducted an evaluation to measure the volume of the horns, and they appear to be within the permitted range. Staff indicated that there have been a series of requests to FECI [Florida East Coast Industries] to dampen the sound, and they have indicated they are considering ways to lessen the noise. 
Maier seems to be confusing two separate issues, and they are train horns and quiet zones. This is very important to understand: the railroad was here first. Any railroad crossing you see is access the railroad allows over its right-of-way. Train horns are required and regulated by Federal law at all railroad crossings (unless it's a quiet zone). Quiet zone locations will be determined over time using calculations of traffic, population density, safety, infrastructure needs, etc. Not every crossing is going to get a quiet zone but you can be sure everyone will want one near their house.

The next TCRPC meeting is on Friday, May 15th. The All Aboard Florida Update is #12 on the agenda. Hope to be there with my camera; its been a while since I attended a TCRPC meeting.

I have Maier's comments at the City Commission meeting on video and will have those comments up soon. Along with that video will have additional comments about the FEC, quiet zones, and how working and being cooperative with the railroad generally is a good idea.

Westward Ho!, striking a chord, and Timothy Hullihan's "Avenir 3.0"

Timothy Hullihan doesn't pull any punches; but more on that a little later. Last Thursday (4/30) this map appeared in The Palm Beach Post (in the Real Estate section):
There are 9 new communities west of the Turnpike and 25 total west of I-95. Looking east of I-95 south of Northlake Blvd all the way to Boca Raton there are only twoand that got me to thinking.

Prior to the recent municipal elections (March 10th) in the City of Lake Worth one of the candidates, Commissioner John Szerdi, received a candidate questionnaire from Drew Martin of the Loxahatchee Sierra Club. At some point in the future will publish the entire questionnaire, all the questions and answers, but one stands out, Number 9:
Above is Drew Martin's question on the candidate questionnaire.
Above is John Szerdi's answer.
I have no idea how the other candidates, Commissioner Chris McVoy and Ryan Maier, answered this question but we can safely conclude the answer was "Yes" or something very close. What exactly would a "moratorium on further development" in the City of Lake Worth achieve other than forcing more housing to be built west? John Szerdi's answer absolutely nails it.

While areas along I-95 and east towards the ocean are showing some signs of development it's still comparatively scarce in light of the amount of new housing needed in south Florida, so the need gets filled by Minto and Avenir to name just two. As much as you may dislike these new western developments and western sprawl they're filling a need. Look no further than the new census numbers. 

Now to Tim Hullihan. He is not happy at all about what is happening in Palm Beach Gardens vis-à-vis "Avenir 3.0". You can read his entire blog post here and encourage everyone to read it. To me though these three paragraphs stand out:
     Palm Beach County is still in the honeymoon period with growth. Cheap land and steady tourism have perpetuated this romance too long. Hopefully the relationship will mature soon enough to save us from becoming Dade and Broward look-alikes, but Minto West, and other recent windfalls for developers, make it seem as if the puppy-love will last forever.
     Mature urban areas, like the New York City example, enjoy the benefits of an adult relationship between community and growth. Within this deeper, less ephemeral commitment to community, mature cities get to discuss how they can improve from within rather than how too accommodate a growing burden of external distractions. New York City has some of the world’s finest hotels, restaurants, museums, and venues for the preforming arts, because it matured a long time ago and has continual improved the quality of its heart rather than the size of its being.
     Palm Beach Gardens is just north of 50,000 residents, and I have no idea how big they want to get, but I feel certain they would be better served by a mature and sustainable approach to growth and future development. Refreshing its eastern neighborhoods; exploring options for creating walkable communities; and adding density and quality-of-life amenities to the existing urban core are among some of the trends that are energizing cities around that country that have far less heart than Palm Beach Gardens. [emphasis added]
Does anyone disagree with Timothy Hullihan?

Barbara Marshall on the "cult of Momism" and why she hates Mother's Day

Barbara Marshall has this in The Palm Beach Post today, in the digital edition. Find out at the end of the article this "originally ran on May 6, 2010." Apparently her view of Mother's Day hasn't changed much; she republished the piece again this year:
     I love my kids — they are my heart, my life — but I hate Mother’s Day.
     There, I’ve said it and it feels… good. Cathartic.
     And a bit traitorous.
     In the American cult of Momism, we’re all supposed to feign delight at being hoisted on a pedestal for a day this Sunday and showered with corporate-sponsored symbols of our sacrificial Motherhood.
     No, thanks. Besides, none of my family or friends would ever mistake me for Saint Mom of the Immaculate Family Room.
    But the worst part of Mother’s Day is the mawkish, overheated sentimentality it revs up. All those obligatory treacly cards and cheesy “mom gifts.” For me, they’re always a bad fit, like mom jeans.
     OK, maybe mom jeans aren’t such a bad fit these days.
     But I still object to a holiday cooked up by advertisers to sell my kids a needlepoint pillow that reads “Home is where the Mom is.”
So, Barbara Marshall, why don't you tell us what you really think?

"Shop Local" video produced by the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority

You can also enter a drawing in honor of small business week and win a package worth $200. Click here to register.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

[A Blast From the Past] Mr. Jack Scarola, the GMC, and making Lake Worth a Great City

[Re-Post: this is getting a lot of attention; originally published on 12/29/2014]

In yesterday's (12/28/2014) Palm Beach Post was a highly interesting article by Jane Musgrave about the brain cancer "cluster" in the Acreage. In a stunning turn of events the attorneys, Jack Scarola and Mara Hatfield, have conceded that Palm Beach Aggregates is "blameless". Wow. Remember this is an effort that Scarola and Hatfield have pursued for many years now, not a small expense for a private law firm. 

For those of you in Lake Worth you might think, hmmm, that name "Jack Scarola" sounds familiar.

You would be correct. Recently Mr. Scarola made the news as the "volunteer legal counsel to the Guatemalan Maya Center [GMC] of Lake Worth" and wrote a letter to United States Attorney General Eric Holder on the GMC's behalf. On October 22nd the GMC staged a protest against the alleged abuses of our PBSO. If you recall, that is the protest where the "PBSO Deputies Are Worthless" sign was a significant part of the protest. 
Mr. Scarola, of course, is performing his civic duty as a volunteer for the GMC. We all thank him for fostering an atmosphere of community between the PBSO, the City of Lake Worth, the GMC, and the fine citizens of our City of Lake Worth. 

In the letter referenced above by Mr. Scarola to former Attorney General Eric Holder, he references the Peelian Principles. From Mr. Scarola:
Local law enforcement has lost sight of the Peelian Principles—if they ever had those essential principles in sight to begin with. They do not know how they are supposed to do their job because they have no clear understanding of what their job is. Instead of working to "secure the willing cooperation of the public", the occupying troops dress for war and their leader publicly defends their compliance with the "rules of engagement".
Is Mr. Scarola alluding to the PBSO and the fine deputies who protect us every day in our City of Lake Worth? When you see a deputy do you see him/her as an 'occupying troop dressed for war'? Do you think our PBSO Captain Silva is complicit is this 'war' and defending his 'troops'? 

The most interesting thing about Mr. Scarola's letter to the U.S. Attorney General is not what it includes but what it leaves out. There are 9 Peelian Principles. Mr. Scarola references Peelian Principles 2 through 9. The one principle Mr. Scarola didn't reference was Peelian Principle #1:
To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
Perhaps Mr. Scarola would be interested in volunteering for the Lake Worth Neighborhood Association Presidents' Council? Perhaps Mr. Scarola can research the human rights abuses suffered by the Guatemalan/Maya community prior to PBSO taking over for the Lake Worth Police Department? Or the horrific gang problem Lake Worth had just six years ago and continues to address? That would be enlightening.

City of Greenacres explores openness: "Yes, you can talk now" & how "talking" is conducted in Lake Worth

Kevin D. Thompson at the Post has this update on an interesting development in Greenacres (a continuing story from that city):
     An 18-year-old, chain of command policy that has been under attack in recent months and one that outlined how City Council members are supposed to communicate with city workers was scrapped at Monday’s meeting by a 3-2 vote.
     Council members Judy Dugo, Jonathan Pearce and Lisa Rivera voted to kill policy No. 14, while members Peter Noble and Paula Bousquet were in opposition.
     “This policy is demoralizing and not constructive,” Dugo said. “I want a policy that allows for open communication.”
     Drafted in 1997 when the city was having issues with the city manager position, the policy states that any council member who wants to discuss city business with a staff employee must get the OK from the city manager. It also says city employees can’t talk to a council member regarding city business without prior consent of the city manager.
In Lake Worth, the City Commission directs the City Manager, City Attorney and the Internal Auditor, hiring and firing personnel in those three positions. In a weak Mayor, City Manager form of government, direction to staff comes from the City Manager and the Mayor and Commissioners communicate their desires and directions to the City Manager. I don't think there is a hard and fast policy here where Commission members can't talk with department heads and other city staff, it's just that they shouldn't be telling them what to do. I am sure that there are many meetings between one member of the Commission, the City Manager and a department head.

Interestingly, there are two presentations on the Sunshine Law and the Open Records law to be made by the City Attorney at tonight's (5/5) City Commission meeting. The presentation is in the back-up material and is worth reviewing on your own. I will have video of the presentations up tomorrow morning.

Villas on Antique Row townhomes sell out on schedule

Redevelopment seems to take place on Dixie Hwy. in West Palm Beach with little effort. Click title for link to a story on how the townhouses sold out on Antique Row, between Southern and Belvedere. From the article:
     Then, in May 2013, Fort Lauderdale-based Label & Co. Developments broke ground on the Villas on Antique Row. The community’s 35 townhomes and 11 carriage houses sold out completely in December, less than two years after shovel met dirt.
     “We’re really happy with how it went,” said Harry Posin, president of Label & Co. Developments.
     Homes in the community, which is nestled between West Palm Beach’s distinguished antiques shopping district and historic communities east of Olive Avenue, sold at prices between $319,000 and upwards of $500,000.
There is new commercial development in the area as well. This new retail establishment is being built north of the townhouse project:

The Autozone store on South Dixie is also expanding. That is where a Subway restaurant used to be, but burned down a few years ago.

EarthFirst! and meeting TOMORROW in Palm Beach Gardens: Save The Briger (errr, Alton) Tract

Maybe Pat Beall at The Palm Beach Post will fill us in on the details. Or maybe Tony Doris will. Anyhow this is another fight to end all fights to stop development along the I-95 corridor that's forcing development further west, Avenir, Minto, the Ag Reserve, need I go on? But I digress...the EarthFirst! meeting tomorrow:
For some reason I keep receiving these FlockNotes from the good people at EarthFirst!. You would think after the "Battery in the Lake" fiasco I'd be the last person they would send any information to. 

I can only surmise they want me to help promote their event coming up, so here it is. 

There is a mistake in the press release above: the meeting tomorrow is with the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition or the PBCEC, here is their website. Pat Beall at The Palm Beach Post made the same mistake the other day in her story about the GEO Group when she referred to the Palm Beach Environmental Coalition. No such group exists. 

The PBCEC is the media arm of EarthFirst!, of course. So the meeting on Wednesday is actually EarthFirst! going up to Palm Beach Gardens to have a meeting with EarthFirst! But you're welcome to join in. 

Anyhow, good luck and hope you have a nice turnout!

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw interviewed by Tim Byrd last month

Here is the link to the video by Tim Byrd at Palm Beach Live Work Play. Sheriff Bradshaw talks about how hard it is to keep the deputies motivated despite all the negativity they face all day long. This interview occurred BEFORE Lawrence Mower (Palm Beach Post) and Katie LaGrone's (NBC5/WPTV) "LINE OF FIRE" PROBE of the Sheriff so you can just imagine how hard that job is now. 

Lake Worth Tribune Commemorative Plates, Limited Firing of 100, Accepting Pre-Orders Soon

A satirical tribute to a sad legacy in the City of Lake Worth:
Each Plate is Authenticated & Comes With 14 Actual Newspapers (warehouse overstocked with issues!).
Suggested retail: $42.95
Buy 12, get one FREE
Expertly Crafted in Dry Tortugas.
Limit 7 Orders per Household.
Three orders or more and receive personal note from Dennis suitable for framing.

'Fireball From Space' If Supreme Court Strikes Down Gay Marriage Bans

You can read the entire story about the 'Fireball From Space' here. This is a short excerpt:
“I’m [Rick Wiles] telling you there will be swift, sudden and devastating consequences for the United States of America [SCOTUS striking down gay marriage bans]. America will be brought to its knees, there will be pain and suffering at a level we’ve never seen in this country. The word that I hear in my spirit is ‘fire.’ I do not know if it refers to riots or looting or war on American soil or a fireball from space. I simply know that a sweeping, consuming fire will come across the United States of America and this country will be charred and burned.”

Monday, May 4, 2015

Editorial, Lake Worth Herald, 4/30/2015, titled "What have we learned"

     The City of Pahokee recently lost a proposal from the Guy Harvey Group to lease and improve their City Marina. The investor, proposing to invest over a hundred million dollars and provide hundreds of jobs walked away from the deal because of the greed of the commission. 
     The plan would have created a couple hundred jobs in an area that desperately needs them. Part of the reason for the departure was demands by councilmembers for the investor to provide every child under ten years of age with free fishing equipment and tackle. Another reported demand was for every student graduating from Pahokee High School to receive a scholarship from the investor. The deal fell through, mainly because of unreasonable demands placed on a private corporation in an effort to provide something for nothing to the community. Now, Pahokee has no free fishing gear for the children, no jobs for the adults, and no investor who might have made a profit. [emphasis added]
     Here in Lake Worth, we see the same mentality. It is and has been costly to the local economy. The residents of Lake Worth are fortunate to have a Publix nearby for grocery shopping, other grocery stores have left the area. Yet, we came real close to losing the Publix deal because a then sitting commissioner tried to dictate what products the store had to stock and sell. 
     It is not the job of the city to dictate how a private concerns run their business as long as they operate within the boundaries of pertinent codes. If Publix had walked away from the table then, how many jobs would not be in Lake Worth now. Yes, with an unemployment rate higher than the national, state, and county average, Lake Worth continues to listen to those who will do everything they can to keep unemployment high. 
     They, include at least one one percenter, were responsible for blowing through millions of dollars of city reserves with nothing to show for it when they had control of the purse strings. Ask yourself, do we need any more of that type of leadership? Ask the question, Why do they want to keep unemployment high?      Blocking business at the beach will eventually lead to a closed property, or an assessment on the tax bill to keep the beach open. It is a proven failure of a business plan this administration was handed by a previous group of elected officials who were voted out of office and now want back in to derail the train the city is on to improvement and prosperity. 
     Lake Worth needs to work with those who are capable of improving the city. We hear how Lake Worth is much more business friendly to contractors and this is encouraging, but we have a ways to go. 
     Lake Worth needs to cease being intimidated by those who stand on the sidelines and scream foul to every idea that “might” create improvement in the community. 

[For other community news, community events, ads promoting local business, go to The Lake Worth Herald website here.]

Rich Pollack: "Snowbirds flocked to beaches/coastal hotels in record numbers this season"

The latest issue of The Coastal Star is out. Rich Pollack has this article on the incredibly successful Winter season here in Palm Beach County; hotel occupancy rates are at all-time highs. Here's an excerpt:
     You can credit bad weather up North, the recovering national economy or the growing reputation of Palm Beach County as a popular winter tourism destination. [emphasis added]
     Whatever the reason, Palm Beach County continued to be a mecca for winter visitors this year, with occupancy rates reaching records in some areas and with local hotels being close to sold out for many days during the winter season.
     “This season has been unprecedented in terms of tourism for Delray Beach,” said Stephanie Immelman, executive director of the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative, which promotes the area as a tourism destination. “Occupancy levels are up year over year even with a new hotel — the Fairfield Inn & Suites — opening.”
     Countywide, total occupancy rates remained strong, reaching almost 82 percent in January, close to 90 percent in February and a little more than 86 percent in March, according to statistics compiled by the county’s tourism agency, Discover the Palm Beaches. 

Tony Doris at the West Palm Beat: "To hell with us? West Palm tops U.S. ‘never-churched’ ranking"

Check out Tony Doris' story at the West Palm Beat. He has a survey up where you can vote. Here, from the article:
     West Palm Beach ranks No. 1 among U.S. metro areas in the percentage of residents who’ve never regularly attended church [emphasis added], according to a new survey by Barna Research Group of California.
     San Francisco holds the top ranking for churchless residents, those who haven’t attended in at least six months other than for holidays.
Seattle-Tacoma tops the “de-churched” category — people who used to attend regularly but haven’t in the past six months.
     According to the survey, though, 17 percent of West Palm Beach residents have never regularly attended church.

An idea worth considering by PBSO. The Jupiter Police Department is taking a Citizen Survey:

The Jupiter Police Department’s Citizen Survey is part of our continuing effort to provide professional and efficient police services to residents of the Town of Jupiter.

Dear Citizen,

The Jupiter Police Department’s Citizen Survey is part of our continuing effort to provide professional and efficient police services to residents of the Town of Jupiter.

Your responses will be used to evaluate the service you have received and to recognize positive performance and identify opportunities for improvement. Your feedback will also provide valuable insight into how we might improve community relations and better serve the community.


Frank J. Kitzerow
Chief of Police 
Jupiter Police Department

[If done here in Lake Worth, it would be best to do an online and an analog survey to get to residents who do not have access to the Internet, lack computer skills or who do not speak English.]

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Annotated notes from first video—last Tuesday's (4/28) ITN Selection Committee meeting

There was much information dispensed throughout this meeting. Many attended. In fact, the conference room was opened up for additional seating. So, given the public interest in the meeting and the topics being covered, I thought it would be helpful to annotate the video segments. This will save time, instead of readers having to watch two and a half hours of video, and you should be able to identify the topics and issues better. You can also check on the veracity of what is shared as I will use minute marks on the video for reference.

Christy Goddeau, of the Torcivia Law Firm, chaired the meeting. She introduces the reason for the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) which is consistent with what City Manager Bornstein told us at a previous City Commission meeting. It was an organized way to analyze requests to help utilize the facilities at the Casino building/pool better and entertain ways to make additional revenue to cover costs.

At the 4:15 mark, William Waters reviews the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development regulations related to the Beach and Casino designations. He talks about how the Comp Plan was approved in 2009 and amended in 2012, resulting in land development regulations being adopted in 2013. The beach property has a 0.1 floor-to-area ratio which limits the amount of square footage that can be built on the property. At the 7:08 mark he reminds us that the Casino site plan was approved by the Planning and Zoning Board in early 2011. Any changes based on these proposals would have to go before the Planning and Zoning Board.

After that, the proposal from Anderson and Carr is reviewed related to use of the second floor space, including the vacant space on the north side of the Casino building. This ended up going forward as a recommendation to the City Commission with the awareness that some policy issues have to be discussed related to the operation of the restaurant space and that the ultimate leasing rates and the numbers need to be examined.

At the 18:50 mark, Commissioner Amoroso says that by being liaison to the ITN from the City Commission, he learned a lot about the Casino building and pool. These included things that can and can't be done and things that were done and shouldn't have been done. He talks about the need for public meetings to talk about the pros and cons of anything the city is doing at the Casino complex. It's important to get a sense of what can actually happen there.

Discussion centers on the Hudson Holdings (HH) proposal at the 19:45 mark. Ms. Goddeau acknowledges that the committee received revised drawings last week and they were delivered with written responses to the committee's questions. In response to the Committee's request, HH agreed to pay for a traffic study related to their proposals. We find out the idea is to replace the current pool with a smaller junior Olympic pool. The size of what that means exactly was questioned and discussion followed. Its construction would be phased so that the current pool would still be operational during the construction of the new pool (north of the current pool's location).

At the 22:03 mark, Commissioner Amoroso asks about the current expense for the pool. We find out from Recreation Director Juan Ruiz that the pool's annual expenses are around $300,000, running a total of 29 hours per week. Revenue has been growing from the pool and may be $10,000 higher than the previous budget year. (Doing a little math that represents a total of 2,500 additional resident visits paying $4 per visit. This number represents an average of 48 more a week, or about 10 additional people per day of the pool's five day operational hours.) Mr. Ruiz says that the cost recovery is below 20% now and should be around 45 to 50%.

The HH proposal talks about a $20/square foot lease of 5,400 square feet (the second floor?) and it doesn't include the patio space. It would replace the parking lost from the project with a two level parking garage. (This would be one level of covered parking at grade level and a parking deck that would tie into the elevation of the dune to the east.) It would yield an additional 108 parking spaces. A total of 25,000 square feet of building space is proposed, but the leaseable area could be 26,500. This part was a little unclear.

End of video #1.