Thursday, October 18, 2018


Is it time to “Break Glass” here in the City of Lake Worth?

No. Put the hammer down.

But after watching the YouTube video of the City Commission at work last Tuesday night some may come away thinking there is indeed a very serious ‘CASE OF EMERGENCY’ in this little City. That video is at the end of this blog post. But let’s pause briefly and make something very clear.

VERY IMPORTANT: There are two things going on right now.

One is about Ordinance 2018-16 which is explained below. And the other is Community Development Block funding “[F]or increased code enforcement activities within the CDBG Target Area.”

The recent news in The Lake Worth Herald about “what is arguably the worst area in Lake Worth” is not to be confused with the ordinance discussed below. The problem with Ordinance 2018-16 is it lumps the “good players” in with the “bad actors”. The increased funding for Code Enforcement is to establish what conditions are no longer acceptable in this City, e.g., substandard housing, conditions that pose public safety and health concerns, and ensuring the process for permits and inspections are followed.

Now back on topic, what happened at
City Hall last Tuesday.

It’s certainly not time for ‘breaking glass’ but that’s not to say there aren’t serious problems at City Hall, a real ‘disconnect’ as was displayed quite clearly at the City Commission last Tuesday evening. Watching discussion on ordinances 2018-15 and 2018-16 was indeed cringe-worthy, especially so for Ordinance 2018-16.

And a citizen at public comment forewarned the City Commission of what is to come. The issue of “minutes” from public City meetings needs to be addressed. And quickly. Read more about that below.

Get ready to hear the term “Workshop” a lot.

The City staff received a message loud and clear from the Commission last Tuesday, about as subtle as an engineer on a Brightline train signaling with that piercing air horn. The message was, to paraphrase Commissioner Scott Maxwell, “You got things backwards”.

And to hammer the message home, when it comes to creating new rules and ordinances at the staff level and review at the volunteer advisory boards, the message is simply this from Mayor Pam Triolo, a direct quote:

“Encourage. Educate.
Don’t legislate.”

Or put another way, to paraphrase the mayor:

“We cannot legislate our way out of every problem.”

Below is more about those two ordinances, both of which failed ingloriously. And Thank You to all the public who showed up and made your voices heard. Maybe City staff has not been listening to you. But the City Commission is. And they are the ones who really matter.

The City staff has many ‘sticks’ to use and get the attention from the public. But the message from the City Commission and the public in attendance last Tuesday night was very clear: Put the stick down and start using some carrots instead.

We’re at a very important point, one could call it the “tipping point” in our City’s future and certainly not the time to be overbearing and sending mixed messages to future homeowners, investors and the business community.

And no. Our volunteer advisory boards should never be able to levy fines. That is the job of code enforcement.

And there is another major problem that needs to be quickly addressed as City resident Peggy Fisher noted at public comment: the lack of meeting minutes. For example, click on this link and scroll down to “Other Boards” following the list of City Commission meetings.

There are no minutes for public review from the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) or Electric Utility Advisory Board going back to July. No minutes for the Finance Advisory Board meetings at all this year. And there is a dearth of minutes from the Tree Board too.

It’s quite possible many of these meetings had no quorum and everyone went home. But there still needs to be minutes anyhow. Was a roll call taken? Was a work session held? What was on the agenda?

Now to ordinances 2018-15 and -16. Proposed ordinances that both failed.

First up, Item 10A at Public Hearing:

Ordinance No. 2018-16 - Second Reading - Amending Chapter 2 “Administration”, Article VII “Abatement of Nuisance”, Section 2-75.11 “Foreclosed, Vacant and Unimproved Property Registration Program” and to require additional requirements for vacant and unimproved property.

This ordinance will be explained in more detail at a later time. But suffice to say expect a City workshop in the near future on “Robert’s Rules of Order”.

Briefly, the City Commission is worried and the public is worried too. They are concerned about giving volunteer advisory boards the ability to levy fines. They are worried about burdensome over-regulation and they are worried that the approach and direction we’re heading is the wrong one, relying on legislation and fines at a time when we’re trying to encourage public participation and more investment.

Fore example, under “Maintenance requirements, unimproved property” is this about fencing of unimproved property:

“[S]urrounded with a vinyl coated four (4) feet tall chain linked fence which shall be installed around the entire property area, unless the city’s DRO waives or alters the requirement; provided with signage attached to the fencing that lists the responsible party for the property including address, phone number and email address. . .”

And into the acronym swamp we go. A “DRO” is a ‘Designated Regulatory Official’.

Ordinance 2018-16 got caught up in a silly procedural debate but at the end it failed unanimously at Second Reading. Now back to the drawing board. As Mayor Triolo said,

“Encourage. Educate. Don’t legislate.”

Next up, Ordinance 2018-15, item 12B
under New Business:

B. Ordinance No. 2018-15 - First Reading - Amending Chapter 23 “Land Development Regulations” Section 23.6-1, “Landscape Regulations” and setting the Second Reading and Public Hearing for November 13, 2018.

No. There will not be a “Second Reading” on Nov. 13th.

What a mess. At one point during this agenda item the staff asked for direction going forward and all they got back was blank stares from the City Commission. Basically the electeds said go back to square one and start all over. The video of this portion of the meeting is below.

In short. . .

This agenda item should never have gotten on the agenda. This should have gone to a scheduled City Workshop first and then sent to the City Commission for consideration at First Reading. The vote was against moving Ordinance 2018-15 to Second Reading. What will happen now? Probably to a Workshop where it should have gone in the first place.

As was explained by City staff, there was no need to quickly move this item forward. There is no project in the pipeline that needs any of these new rules or direction. After forty-nine minutes of debate it was approaching 11:00 o’clock at night.

A City Workshop on Robert’s Rules of Order cannot happen soon enough.

Without further ado. . .