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The historical content of the Galt Mile Community Association’s Web Site is catalogued and chronicled in these archives. This content is comprised of articles and anecdotes that are no longer current, but may be useful from a historical perspective. The categories are chronological. Scrolling down delves deeper into the past. If you encounter any difficulty locating a particular story, report, or graphic, feel free to Contact us with your dilemma and assistance will be forthcoming.

Please Note - Many of the links included in these articles from the past are no longer active.


2010




Commodore Resident José “Chepo” Vega
COMMODORE RESIDENT
JOSÉ “CHEPO” VEGA
January 6, 2010 - Commodore resident José “Chepo” Vega has waged a campaign to insure that the City of Fort Lauderdale complies with their agreement to maintain the Galt Ocean Mile in a “Disney-like manner”. This expectation was created when Earl Lifshey, Bob Rozema, Dick Tymeson, Rose Guttman, Leah Glickfield, Pio Ieraci and other Galt Mile Community Association founders worked with former City Commissioner John Aurelius to conceive the Galt Mile Improvement Project. In return for financing the internment of electrical and telephone lines, creating peach aggregate sidewalks and pavered crosswalks, fashioning roadway stop indents, installing elegant landscape elements and dozens of other high-end upgrades that transformed the neighborhood from a squalid sand-blown side street into a world-class boulevard, the City promised to maintain our home in a manner consistent with Disney’s acclaimed commitment to elegance and excellence.

Galt Mile in 1993
GALT MILE IN 1993
While maintenance lapses following destructive hurricanes were understandable, years of “less justifiable” intermittent neglect evolved into a continuous source of disappointment and frustration for neighborhood residents. The Galt Mile Community Association has regularly convened meetings with City officials to address these maintenance failures. After periods of improvement, maintenance levels would gradually decline as green again turned brown.

Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts
VICE MAYOR BRUCE ROBERTS
When he volunteered to perform continuous oversight of local landscape and hardscape features in late 2008, the
Galt Mile Advisory Board empowered Chepo to provide the ongoing feedback to Parks officials responsible for delivering the “Disney-Like” attention contractually due the community. Teaming up first with former Commissioner Christine Teel and later with Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts, Chepo accompanied Parks officials and maintenance crews as they actualized his recommendations.

Beach Foreman Mark Almy, GMCA President Pio Ieraci, José “Chepo” Vega, Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts and Park Operations Superintendent Brian Hopper
MARK ALMY, PIO IERACI, CHEPO, BRUCE ROBERTS AND BRIAN HOPPER

Chepo awarded In December, the grateful neighborhood association recognized his unwavering commitment by conferring Chepo an achievement award. His unmistakable mark on the Galt Mile is evident in the trimmed and bound trees, cleaned and repaired tree grates and manicured sidewalk beds. Less evident are the missing low-hanging tree limbs, which no longer present a hazard to pedestrians and bicycle enthusiasts.

Beach Foreman Mark Almy, GMCA President Pio Ieraci presents award to José “Chepo” Vega for contributions to neighborhood
PIO IERACI PRESENTS AWARD TO CHEPO FOR CONTRIBUTION TO NEIGHBORHOOD

New Trash Containers - Black and Blue for Recyclables
BLACK & BLUE (RECYCLABLES) CANS
Following are several letters reflecting his current efforts. In his letter to Fort Lauderdale Beach Foreman Mark Almy, he recommends further strengthening of trees bent by the unusually strong seasonal winds. He also suggests that the new trash containers, both standard black and the blue baskets dedicated to recyclables, be better positioned to avoid impeding pedestrian access and distributed evenly along Galt Ocean Drive.


December 19, 2009

Dear Mark,

As you can see in the pictures we have been getting very strong off and on winds for the last few weeks. I am very concerned about the trees since they are top heavy and their trunks keep bending due to the strong wind. The sidewalks are starting to get busier with strollers, children and many daily walkers and these bent trees are getting in the pedestrians way. I feel that we should try to strengthen out the trunks as soon as possible before somebody gets hurt.

Bent Trees
WIND-BENT TREES ALONG GALT OCEAN DRIVE

Another issue that has come up is the location of the new trash containers. Unfortunately, they are taking too much space on the sidewalks, not leaving enough room for pedestrians and the front landscape of many buildings is being compromised. The containers should be moved next to the curb and spaced out as they were before, making it easier to collect the trash, especially since there are areas that don’t have any containers such as Plaza East, Plaza South, the Greek Restaurant and A1A where the Galt Monument is. I will very much appreciate it if this is taken care of as soon as possible since our sidewalks are getting crowded.

As always I want to thank you very much for your help and I am available to help in any way I can.

Regards,

Chepo


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Utility Graffiti
UTILITY GRAFFITI

Click Here to Sunshine State One Call web site A second letter addresses an urban phenomenon he calls “Utility Graffiti”. Associations performing deck or garage construction often require the services of a company known as Sunshine State One Call. This specialty company maps and marks off any buried utility lines to prevent their unwitting disturbance during the demolition phase of a project. Using blue, red, yellow and other colored markers, they locate gas lines, water lines, electrical plexus, telephone linkages and buried cables. When the construction is complete, the lines are erased.

Unfortunately, utility, telephone and cable companies as well as the City of Fort Lauderdale and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) aren’t similarly predisposed to eliminating their handiwork after tearing up the street or sidewalk. AT&T, Comcast, FDOT, FP&L and other corporate symbiots often leave a litany of cryptic multi-colored markings chemically endowed to outlast a nuclear winter. Chepo wants this repugnant industrial “artwork” GONE.

UTILITY GRAFFITI AROUND THE CITY

Utility Graffiti
UTILITY GRAFFITI
While showing some visiting friends our beautiful city by car, they pointed out that sidewalks, streets and curbs have been spray painted with signs, messages and symbols in various colors by utility companies. I found out later that these sprayings are called “markings”, but I like the term used by one visitor better. She called them “Utility Graffiti”.

This brought back memories of when I lived in New York City and graffiti became a major problem, starting in subway cars, them spilling over to stations and finally moving to exterior building walls all over the city. The graffiti, which made the city look out of control, cost millions of dollars to erase.

I am very concerned that by tolerating the continuous use of spray paint by utilities in Fort Lauderdale, our city could be starting that long road toward looking like a city out of control. It doesn’t take much to inspire teenagers to start spraying their own symbols and art work on our sidewalks and streets, too.

Utility Graffiti
UTILITY GRAFFITI
Of course the utilities are working all the time all over the city, and they have to mark their work sites to guide their crews. But the problem is that spray paint takes months to fade away.

So I asked myself: How did the utilities make their markings before they started using spray paint? Can they use a durable chalk that gets washed away? Or adhesive plastic strips that can be lifted? Such strips are already in use to mark traffic lanes and to separate parking spaces in parking lots.

Let’s keep in mind that Fort Lauderdale’s economy depends a lot on tourism. The Utility Graffiti is already offensive, and now is the time to address it before it spreads to the teen community and becomes an epidemic. Please Mayor Seiler and Commissioner Roberts, help us keep Fort Lauderdale free of spray paint and a beautiful place to live.

Utility Graffiti
UTILITY GRAFFITI

Since the neighborhood association represents and is wholly comprised of Galt Mile residents, his last letter was written to you.

Chepo Holding Galt Mile Community Association Award
CHEPO HOLDING GALT MILE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION AWARD

I want to thank the Galt Mile Community Association for the award recently presented to me for the work I’ve done to help refurbish and enhance our beautiful Galt Mile drive. I was surprised and delighted. It is a pleasure to be involved and to see the positive changes in our neighborhood. There is still a lot of work to be done and as always, I am ready to continue helping. Thanks again.

Sincerely,

José (Chepo) Vega

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City Commission’s Public Lynching

City Manager Falls to Political Payback

Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Demetrios Gretsas
CITY MANAGER GEORGE
GRETSAS SANDBAGGED
January 12, 2010 - On November 17th, the City of Fort Lauderdale underwent a sea change. Despite waves of support by a broad spectrum of city residents, City Manager
George Gretsas experienced what Commissioner Bobby DuBose called a “public lynching”, after which he was placed on “hold” by the Fort Lauderdale City Commission. The event was the last Act in an unsettling blend of elements from C-SPAN, “What’s my Line” and “The Gong Show”.

Former Fort Lauderdale City Manager Floyd Johnson
FLOYD JOHNSON
City Manager George Gretsas nursed the City of Fort Lauderdale back to solvency after 5 years of gross mismanagement transformed a city with an $18.3 billion tax base into a municipal basket case in 2003. After pinning the budget disaster on City Manager Floyd Johnson, the City Commission awoke to the realization that they were next in line for ambient culpability. When it was discovered that Fort Lauderdale would run out of money before the end of the 2003 budget year, interim City Manager Alan Silva (Johnson’s temporary replacement) placed city government on a strict fiscal regimen, insisting that Commissioners and department heads must “learn to live within their means.”

Although Silva deciphered how the books were cooked and stopped the bleeding, George Gretsas was hired to direct the City’s recovery and, more importantly, change a municipal culture that marginalized accountability and valued longevity over merit. Although given 5 years to hit every major benchmark reflecting fiscal health (firewalled Reserves, good Bond Rating, ample Insurance Fund surplus, in-balance budgets, controlled overtime), he only needed 3. He terminated the practice of pandering to individual commissioners or department heads operating autonomous fiefdoms. Instead, he facilitated policies voted favorably by the City Commission “en banc”. He compiled a talented management team and built answerability into a flexible operational hierarchy.

Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom
CITY COMMISSIONER
CHARLOTTE RODSTROM
The stage was set shortly before the March 10, 2009 Municipal elections by incumbent District 2 Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom, former Police Chief Bruce Roberts and Statehouse Representative Jack Seiler - all City Commission Candidates. Faithful to the “Commissioner No” political caricature she fashioned following her entry into City government, Charlotte Rodstrom revitalized her obsession with eliminating City Manager George Gretsas. The District 2 Commissioner spent the prior three years blaming Gretsas for a myriad of nefarious actions, ranging from depressing employee morale to precipitating the recession. Commenting on Commissioner Rodstrom’s repeated attempts to fault Gretsas for fiscal problems fostered by the economic downturn, the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board concluded that Commissioner Rodstrom’s criticism “unfairly puts much of the blame on his (Gretsas’) shoulders.”

Police Chief turned City Commissioner Bruce Roberts
FORMER POLICE CHIEF
NOW COMMISSIONER ROBERTS
Following a tough contract negotiation between the City and Police Union officials, Police Chief Bruce Roberts angrily resigned. In a bitter letter that explained his motivation, he accused the City Manager of micromanagement, intimidation, chilling morale, dismantling the Police Department and threatening public safety. While venting months of bottled anger, his parting shot framed the public nature of his accusations as prompted by concerns for “the safety of the community.”

Former Commissioner Christine Teel
FORMER COMMISSIONER
CHRISTINE TEEL
In short order, he announced his intention to run against Commissioner Christine Teel for the District One Commission seat. Roberts had vitiated politics throughout his decades in Law Enforcement, expounding at dozens of local community meetings that his lack of political ambition enhanced the objectivity of his views on public safety. City residents that followed the adversarial events leading to the Chief’s resignation connected the dots and prepared for an acrimonious political campaign fueled by revenge. Local political reporters envisioned a prospective anti-Gretsas alliance with Commissioner Rodstrom. Surprised by his unexpected candidacy, District 1 residents from the Galt Mile neighborhood opined that Roberts sought to become Gretsas’ boss, dispense with the City Manager and install a replacement more amenable to loosening the purse strings and provide Police union officials a seat at the policy table.

Click to Chief Roberts Letter of Resignation As Chief, Roberts had a spotty relationship with police union officials who intermittently subjected him to the stick and the carrot. After abruptly quitting the force and announcing his City Commission candidacy, the mercurial union leadership suddenly steeped him with unqualified support. Union President Jack Lokeinsky and union attorney George Tucker (and wife Phyllis) punctuated their endorsement with September 7, 2008 contributions to Roberts’ campaign. Tendered one day after the police contract was finalized; Roberts’ rancorous letter of resignation clarified his sympathies with elements of the union’s agenda.

Police Union Antics

When the recession sliced Police and Fire Pension Fund values from $491 million on January 1, 2008 to $378 million on November 30, 2008, taxpayers faced making up the $113 million in market losses. The Mayor and City Commissioners prompted the City Manager to revisit the unsustainable pension formula as applied to new employee contracts. While most parties left any animosity from the complex and contentious bargaining sessions at the negotiating table, police union officials instead launched a post-negotiation political agenda to eliminate their negotiating adversary, a tactic with which they enjoyed some familiarity.

FLPD Lt. Alfred Lewers Jr.
LT. AL LEWERS JR.
At Town Meetings convened by the local NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 2006, more than 80 Fort Lauderdale residents testified about personal experiences with racial profiling and police misconduct. Police Chief Bruce Roberts acted appropriately, endorsing an email to officers sent by the coordinator of FLPD’s Recruiting, Background Investigations and Training Unit Lt. Alfred Lewers Jr., encouraging officers to join the NAACP as a means of increasing understanding and easing tensions.

Broward NAACP President Marsha Ellison
BROWARD NAACP PRESIDENT
MARSHA ELLISON
In a response that fueled mass apoplexy in the civil rights community, FOP president Jack Lokeinsky sent another memo to membership outlining a strategy to depose the local NAACP President, Marsha Ellison. Appending Lewers’ positive memo, Lokeinsky wrote, “The FOP is tired of the current position of the President of the Broward Branch of the NAACP. In an effort to vote out the President and her views of the police, I support the membership drive. A one-year membership allows you to make the change and get rid of this us against them attitude.”

Florida NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze
FLORIDA NAACP PRES
ADORA OBI NWEZE
Shocked by Lokeinsky’s “throwback to Jim Crow” when faced with local examples of racial profiling, discrimination and police misconduct, Florida’s statewide NAACP president Adora Obi Nweze convened a press conference outside Fort Lauderdale Police Headquarters and warned “The NAACP’s national headquarters will scrutinize all new membership applications in Florida to counter attempts by the Fort Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police to join the civil rights group and vote local president Marsha Ellison out of office. The national office will not accept the memberships of anyone who doesn’t support the organization.”

Fort Lauderdale Black Police Association President Major Anthony Williams
MAJOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS
Caught in the middle, President Anthony Williams of the 50-member Fort Lauderdale Black Police Association said “This by no means reflects the thoughts of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. I would like to see it resolved and both parties come to the table to discuss solutions.”

Fort Lauderdale Assistant City Manager David Hébert
ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER
DAVID HÉBERT
While still negotiating with the City Manager, police union officials organized a no-confidence vote and called for his firing or resignation along with Assistant City Manager David Hébert. After stating “I’m asking that the city commission terminate both managers and restore our police department to its once-premier status,” Lokeinsky complained that Gretsas hadn’t treated him with respect.

Fort Lauderdale City Auditor John Herbst
CITY AUDITOR JOHN HERBST
Since pensions are often publicly faulted for the fiscal collapse of corporations and communities, they’ve earned a bad rap. When properly constructed, pensions are neither a threat to solvency nor unsustainable. They are, in fact, a critically important component of any benefit package. Opining that the formulas should be based on actuarial realities and the economic environment, City Auditor John Herbst explained that formula variables are negotiable. By subjecting them to political circus antics, the negotiating parties inflame public fears that interfere with a process that would otherwise balance the needs of employees with those of taxpayers. Sun-Sentinel Broward correspondent Michael Mayo exclaimed “The pension issue is just going to get bigger in the future. The unions have to wake up and grow up. The solution is not as simple as sliming the messengers.”

Former Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Hanbury
FORMER CITY MANAGER
GEORGE HANBURY
Gretsas is not the first City Manager targeted by the police union leadership. When former Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Hanbury sought to similarly soften pension impact during the 1990 recession, the police union commissioned an airplane to fly over a Dolphins game in Joe Robbie Stadium - pulling a banner that read “Save Fort Lauderdale, Fire George Hanbury”. Hanbury described how “the unions that gave up lucrative contract benefits ultimately made them back four or five years later when things improved.”

When interim City Manager Alan Silva was holding the City together with crazy glue in 2004, 75 percent of the city’s $215 million annual budget was devoted to salaries, health care, and pensions. Investigating dozens of options to therein harvest savings, Silva considered outsourcing services. The Police union - long treated in City Hall as visiting royalty - went for the jugular. Waving an anti-gay placard caricaturing Silva, they staged protests at City Hall attacking Silva and blocked his subsequent attempts to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. Although he worked “pro bono” for ten months, instead of receiving recognition for first discovering and then averting a potential fiscal disaster, Silva was politically dismembered overnight. “He was run out of town with torches,” lamented then Mayor Naugle.

Roberts’ Galt Mile Campaign

Bruce Roberts at Galt Mile Security Patrol kickoff
BRUCE ROBERTS AT GALT MILE SECURITY PATROL KICKOFF
On the Galt Mile, Roberts’ decision to run elicited mixed emotions. In his favor, Roberts’ tenure as Police Chief was marked by integrity. While attending GMCA Advisory Board meetings over the years, Roberts was responsive to neighborhood concerns. He initiated the A1A Traffic & Noise Control program to stop unrestrained motorcycle and drag racing between Commercial Boulevard and Oakland Park Boulevard. He also supported the Galt Mile Security Patrol, acknowledging that it was the only way to address the “Quality of Life” crimes that plagued the neighborhood for decades. To clarify why tax dollars couldn’t initially fund the patrol, Roberts told the Advisory Board that Law Enforcement resources in every major municipality are of necessity allocated to areas afflicted by the highest crime rates and the most serious Part 1 crimes. While attending the June 2007 Security Patrol kickoff event at Galt Ocean Club, Roberts said “The Security Patrol will finally address the area’s specific security needs. Staffing the patrol with Fort Lauderdale officers will make it professional and effective.”

On the other hand, Roberts’ campaign was burdened by the widespread belief that his candidacy was primarily a vehicle for firing the City Manager and assisting the Police union leadership achieve their well-publicized financial objectives (which required a more “pliant” City Manager). A savvy politician, Roberts sought to dispel constituent concerns that he was a “one trick pony” whose elective goals end with replacing the City Manager and delivering “access” to political allies and supporters unrelated to his voting constituency.

John and Charlotte Rodstrom
JOHN AND CHARLOTTE RODSTROM
As anticipated, Charlotte Rodstrom supported Commissioner Bruce Roberts’ successful candidacy against Christine Teel, expecting his antipathy for Gretsas to take precedence over any campaign spin to constituents that he would “be their voice in City Hall.” When husband John Rodstrom was asked by former Sun Sentinel political writer Buddy Nevins to comment on the race, the Broward Commissioner answered, “I think Teel’s finished.” When Nevins asked about claims that he was pressuring lobbyists to donate to Roberts’ campaign, Rodstrom said, “I’m not going to comment on that. Charlotte is not involved in any way. She wants to fire City Manager George Gretsas and so does Roberts.”

GMCA Advisory Board
GMCA ADVISORY BOARD
At District 1 and citywide candidate forums, when Roberts was asked if he intended to fire the City Manager if elected, his response softened as the campaign progressed. Whereas he initially equivocated, as he realized that the question actually probed his central motivation for running, his answer became more conciliatory. He told the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board that he could work with Gretsas under the condition that he “changes his management style.” Roberts found himself expending significant political capital denying that his candidacy was either prompted by personal retribution or part of the Police union agenda of blowing off Gretsas. When similarly queried by association representatives at a GMCA Advisory Board meeting, Roberts promised that a dispassionate evaluation of Gretsas would be based solely on his actions “after the March elections” and exclusive of his pre-election “differences” with the City Manager.

Galt Mile Candidates Forum
GALT MILE CANDIDATES FORUM
As Election Day approached, the suspicions that dogged his campaign abated as Roberts pounded home a promise to act as the voice of his District 1 constituency while denying campaign allegations that his candidacy was devised to enhance the influence of Police union officials on public policy via the removal of their contract benefits negotiating nemesis - the City Manager. While still unprepared to cast their votes for Roberts, many Galt Mile residents decided that if he was telling the truth, it was no longer necessary to actively protect the Commission seat from a surreptitious agenda that the former Police Chief roundly refuted. With the Mayoral seat locked up by Jack Seiler during the February 10th primary and the hot-button issue surrounding the District 1 Commission seat defused by Robert’s promises, a majority of Galt Mile residents saw little reason to leave their living rooms and participate in the March 10th municipal election.

The vote became a credibility poll for Roberts on the Galt Mile, with those who believed his campaign promises staying home and those who distrusted him coming to the polls. On Election Day, unconcerned Galt Mile residents stayed home in droves. While 70% of the local voters opted for Teel, only 10% of the electorate voted, defaulting a 69-vote squeaker to Roberts.

Marty and Shelly Glazer
MARTY AND SHELLY GLAZER
On March 31st, newly elected Roberts met with GMCA officials to discuss the prerequisites for a Galt Mile Master Plan. Following the meeting, Roberts again confirmed that his relationship with the City Manager would depend on the substance of his contributions and his ability to adapt to the revamped Commission’s vision for the city. To further defuse any residual post-election suspicion, Roberts repeated his promises at the April 16, 2009 GMCA Advisory Board Meeting. Southpoint President Marty Glazer asked Commissioner Roberts if he intended to fire Gretsas. Roberts told him that he holds no animosity towards the City Manager and will base his decision on Gretsas’ post-election effectiveness.

City Commission Votes for Budget
CITY COMMISSION VOTES TO PASS BUDGET
At several Presidents Council meetings before the summer, Roberts reiterated his intention to judge the City Manager on his work product after the election. When Gretsas released the City budget in July, the Mayor and every Commissioner except “Commissioner No” Rodstrom extolled the City Manager for his work on the budget. At the September 17th Advisory Board meeting, Vice Mayor Roberts discussed the five consensus priorities that the City Commission directed the City Manager to incorporate into the budget, including no property tax or Fire Assessment Fee increase, no layoffs, no service reductions and maintenance of adequate reserves. When GMCA President Pio Ieraci asked the Vice Mayor if he was pleased with the Budget submitted by the City Manager, Roberts opined that the City Manager did a good job.

During the October 15th Advisory Board meeting, after the Vice Mayor updated Board Members about Downtown Development Authority Director Chris Wren’s search for a new Sun Trolley Executive Director, Ieraci asked Roberts how George Gretsas was adapting to the new commission. Roberts answered that he was doing well.

The City Commission Meeting

Originally hired for three years in 2004 and renewed in 2007, Gretsas’ contract was up for renewal again in 2010. As per clause 3-E in his employment agreement, unless the Commission voted against renewing his contract by September 30th, ten months before the July 31, 2010 expiration date, it would renew automatically. Under agreement with Mayor Seiler, the deadline was postponed until the November 3rd Commission meeting. When Commissioner Bobby DuBose’ mother suddenly passed away, the contract consideration was delayed for another two weeks.

GMCA Director Kevin Songer
GMCA DIRECTOR
KEVIN SONGER
The November 17th meeting was crammed with City residents. After filling the Commission Meeting room to capacity, the crowd of about 300 residents also occupied the stairwell, the lobby and the entryway while another 100 spread to the adjacent lawn (including GMCA Director. St. Lawrence Gallery proprietor and Galt Towers resident Kevin Songer). Residents crowded around the ground floor windows that surround the meeting room, seeking to view the proceedings. 59 attendees signed up to address the Commission at the meeting. After the meeting started, many groups of tardy hopefuls decided against joining the phalanx of viewers already staked out on the lawn and did an about face.

City Hall
GROUND FLOOR WINDOWS WERE
SURROUNDED AT CITY HALL
Once the agenda item was undertaken at 6:30 PM, it soon became evident that the crowd overwhelmingly favored renewing the City Manager’s contract. People from every district applauded Gretsas for his work ethic, his honesty, his fiscal skill and his passionate commitment to the City. Priests, a Bishop and a Rabbi all complimented Gretsas for his fairness, moral fiber and his refusal to compromise on ethical issues. Representatives of every minority applauded the diversity Gretsas brought to City staff. Residents from Lauderdale Manors, Northwest Fort Lauderdale, every beach district (including the Galt Mile), Coral Ridge, South Middle River, Lauderhill, Victoria Park, The Landings, Harbordale, Bal Harbour, Riverland, Imperial Point, Wilton Manors, Tarpon River, Melrose Manors, Lauderdale Beach, Sailboat Bend, Central Beach, Sunset, Poinsettia Heights and other neighborhoods each expressed how Gretsas improved life in their community, with much of the testimony framed as personal experience.

Parking Chief John Hoelzle said employee morale has never been better
PARKING CHIEF JOHN HOELZLE
"MORALE HAS NEVER BEEN BETTER"
With one exception, the business community steeped Gretsas with praise, as represented by members of the Broward Alliance, the Broward Workshop and the Downtown Development Authority. Given the challenges of the current economic maelstrom, they warned against “changing captains in the midst of a storm.” Former City Commissioners John Aurelius and Dean Trantalis agreed, characterizing those opposing Gretsas as motivated by politics and revenge instead of what’s best for the City’s residents. They were joined by former city parking chief John Hoelzle, who described employee morale as “the best I’ve ever seen.” Altogether, 50 speakers fervidly supported retaining the City Manager and 9 opposed renewing his contract.

FOP President Jack Lokeinsky
FOP PRESIDENT
JACK LOKEINSKY
Of those 9, several belonged to a contingent led by Police union President (and city police sergeant) Jack Lokeinsky. As expected, Lokeinsky warned the Commission on October 12th that his animosity for Gretsas precluded any possibility of a “working relationship,” presumably a threat to cripple contract negotiations. One of Bruce Roberts’ Former Assistant Police Chiefs, Steve Robitaille (although he doesn’t live in Fort Lauderdale), felt compelled to attack Gretsas for attempting to drive the Organization of American States general assembly meeting from the city in 2005. Like most members of the Police union group, he repeated that “Gretsas manages by threat, intimidation and retaliation.” Other anti-Gretsas speakers included a disgruntled political activist and a cigar store owner that accused Gretsas of “taking money out of my children’s mouth,” by insisting he move some “Indian statue” from the sidewalk in front of his shop.

Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom makes empty charge
COMMISSIONER CHARLOTTE RODSTROM -EMPTY CHARGE
Following what Mayor Seiler, the Sun-Sentinel and several commenting residents characterized as a 3-hour “love-fest”, the Commission considered Gretsas’ contract. The Mayor vested each Commissioner with several opportunities to issue comments, starting with Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom. Waving a handful of documents, Rodstrom exclaimed that Gretsas signed 18 employment contracts and “he could go ahead and fire these 18 people, and we as a city are crippled by the amount of severance packages that we’re going to have to pay for them. ... It’s wrong.” In fact, with the exception of Business Enterprise Director Cate McCaffrey’s June 25, 2009 agreement, all the other 2-year contracts were signed between December 24, 2007 and January 5, 2009 - before the new Commissioners were even elected. Nevertheless, Rodstrom painted this as economic blackmail and called it “despicable”. She neglected to mention that executing employment contracts with top management personnel - who lack any civil service or union protection - is part and parcel of the City Manager’s responsibilities, which he had performed several times during his tenure, as did his predecessors. The Sun-Sentinel’s Brittany Wallman pointed out that Bruce Roberts was similarly protected while serving as Police Chief. After reviewing the actual contracts, Wallman reported that Rodstrom’s “crippling” severance deals for top management amounted to 90 days salary and benefits - not exactly a “smoking gun”.

Former Interim City Manager Alan Silva
INTERIM CITY
MANAGER ALAN SILVA
Next, District 1 Commissioner and Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts was recognized. Hours earlier, when GMCA President Pio Ieraci addressed the panel, he exhorted Commissioner Roberts to “Keep a promise made to the Galt Mile to rate George Gretsas on his performance, not on issues long gone.” After stating, “Pio, I intend to keep my promise,” Roberts launched into a tirade against Gretsas. He opened with an admission that he was really upset. Referring to the improvements ascribed to Gretsas, Roberts blasted, “You can have all these good things that happen, but how you get there, to me, is more important,” claiming that staff was “verbally abused and mistreated brutally and incorrectly.” Roberts complained that the City was being managed “from the top down” instead of allowing employees doing the work to decide what was needed and “feeding it up.” Roberts insisted that Gretsas didn’t guide the City’s financial recovery, crediting temporary interim City Manager Alan Silva with that achievement. He said, “It was mentioned before that the City Manager is the one who came in and saved us all this money. That’s not what happened, people. That’s not what happened. Was he astute enough in how to use it and doing some of the right things? Well of course! You, you, you (pointing to audience members), me and anybody else up here could have done the same darned thing!” He then repeated Robitaille’s allegation that Gretsas tried to drive out the Organization of American States in 2005.

Police In-Car Video Systems
IN-CAR POLICE VIDEO CAMERA
Referring to Neighborhood Development Criteria Revision - a series of neighborhood meetings designed to elicit local input for community development - Roberts said “We’ve had big town hall meetings on what’s going to be done with that. We’re supposed to have another big town hall meeting in November. We’re already passed November. [Actually, the date was only November 17th – editor] We didn’t get there. And that’s because it may not meet the certain criteria, or what the Manager wants to see. It’s not what the people want to see and what the Commission wants to see. It’s not being done in the openness.” After stating that Mayor Seiler learned that a $400,000 technology grant could be used for reasons other than installing cameras in police cruisers, Roberts turned to Gretsas and said “Where's the transparency? Where’s the honesty in that? And I subscribe to the integrity issues in that, too.”

Southside School Preservation
SOUTHSIDE SCHOOL PRESERVATION
Roberts said “Southside School is another example. That started out as a $3 million renovation. I support historic renovation, but what’s supposed to be 2 to 3 million dollars is now, in my understanding, ... 9 to 10 million dollars. That’s way over budget. Where are we going with that type of direction? We should be discussing that all the time. ... We as a Commission shouldn’t have to bring up these issues and go hunting for these problems. They should be brought to our attention and we should be able to deal with them in the open and in the public and in the sunshine.”

Bruce Roberts Attacks Gretsas
BRUCE ROBERTS ATTACKS GRETSAS
Roberts leveled a litany of additional attacks on Gretsas. In each case, Roberts described bits and pieces of some event or statement followed by an accusation intimating a lack of candor. He characterized Gretsas’ Goals and Objectives presentations as inaccurately portraying the City’s pension dilemma. Roberts disparaged the City Manager for using a retired Assistant Police Chief to demonstrate some of the larger pensions subsidized by taxpayers. He accused Gretsas of ignoring Commission orders, ostracizing those who disagree with him and stonewalling public records requests. Roberts complained, “If you don’t ask the specific right question, you’re not going to get what you asked for.” To seemingly marginalize the overwhelmingly pro-Gretsas sentiments expressed by the attending cross-section of city residents, Roberts opined that the City Manager’s opponents were afraid to attend the meeting and risk being “cut out of the processes.”

City Manager George Gretsas
CITY MANAGER GEORGE GRETSAS
The Vice Mayor’s accusations were largely formulaic to most audience members. After some disjointed narrative in which he would partially frame some incident, Roberts would angrily accuse the City Manager of “not operating in the sunshine”, outright dishonesty or “borderline” criminality. With few exceptions, since Roberts didn’t fully explain exactly what Gretsas did that was so inappropriate, irresponsible or damaging, the issues seemed more personal in nature than indictments of his competence or commitment.

City Commission being sworn in
CITY COMMISSION BEING SWORN IN
Early in his attack, he described meeting with Gretsas two weeks after having been sworn in to review behavioral issues disturbing to the Vice Mayor. Although Roberts may have planned to clinically enumerate incidents demonstrating the City Manager’s subsequent failure to improve, the umbrage driving his eruption prompted Roberts to ask the audience’s indulgence for his “being all over the place”. Examples supporting his accusations were heatedly drawn from conflicts going back to 2003 that Roberts apparently compiled to becloud the City Manager’s motives and dispute or belittle his accomplishments. Given the hundreds of decisions the City Manager makes each week, the “offenses” described by Roberts were less than damning. However, in contrast with the Vice Mayor’s ordinarily soft-spoken demeanor, the passionate anger with which he mounted each confusing recrimination was disarming.

Roberts Attacks Constituents

Vice Mayor Roberts reads parts of Galt Mile email
COMM. ROBERTS READS PART OF GALT MILE EMAIL
Within minutes of vehemently condemning the City Manager for having verbally assaulted some member of the public at a City Commission meeting, Roberts attacked GMCA President Pio Ieraci. Fulfilling a promise to email Galt Mile Advisory Board members upon learning the date of the City Commission meeting at which the City Manager’s contract would be an agenda item, on October 28th, Ieraci notified them that the relevant meeting was scheduled for November 3rd. When the meeting was subsequently postponed until November 17th in deference to the sudden passing of Commissioner Bobby DuBose’ mother, Ieraci sent another email two weeks later.

Pio asks Bruce Roberts to keep his promise and support Gretsas
PIO ASKS ROBERTS TO KEEP PROMISE
The first email listed Advisory Board agenda items from years past wherein Gretsas’ actions benefitted the community or the entire City. Along with applauding Gretsas for removing a rotting shipwreck from the beach and soliciting neighborhood association input for the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) A1A resurfacing plans, Ieraci added “Galt Mile residents did not suffer a municipal millage increase because George successfully implemented a Reserve Fund over the objections of commissioners that wanted to spend the money as fast as it was collected,” an issue intermittently undertaken by the Advisory Board since the 2003 municipal fiscal implosion.

Shipwrecked
SHIPWRECK ENDANGERS GALT MILE BEACHGOERS IN 2008
After isolating the final item and reading it aloud, the Vice Mayor called Ieraci disingenuous and proclaimed “This commission doesn’t waste money.” Ieraci was stunned. He has been one of Roberts’ staunchest supporters since the election and regularly extolled his performance throughout his reign as Police Chief. Anticipating the possibility that Roberts either hadn’t read the entire message or overlooked the fact that every issue listed therein took place under previous commissions, several Advisory Board members in the audience told the Vice Mayor that the stated events ran from 2004 through 2008. Unwilling to let “facts” derail his strategy of smearing Ieraci, Roberts blasted away, “Well your email is dated on October 28th, 2009 and it doesn’t say anything in the entire email, and I’ll pass this around to the Commission. Anybody in the public who wants to read this, I’ll send it to anybody. It doesn’t say anything about the previous Commission. And that’s what you used to get your people here.”

A1A resurfacing Plans Reviewed in 2008
A1A RESURFACING PLANS REVIEWED IN 2008
The basis for Roberts’ attack on Ieraci was surprising. The email was sent to members of the Galt Mile Advisory Board and Presidents Council, many of whom participated in the meetings wherein the enumerated issues were discussed and vetted. Since the Advisory Board and the Vice Mayor had mutually resolved to tackle community and municipal issues together, Advisory Board notifications are copied to Commissioner Roberts as a courtesy. As to the timing and accuracy of the itemized events, the shipwrecked “Seas a Lady” washed up on the Galt Beach in autumn of 2008 and Gretsas engineered its removal on October 7, 2008, following a month of bureaucratic paralysis by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Initial GMCA participation in the A1A resurfacing plans ran from September through December of 2008, when the City Manager invited GMCA officials to preliminary meetings with consultants and participating City staff. As to the contention that City Commissioners eyed Reserve Funds for other purposes, Gretsas first rigorously safeguarded the Reserve Fund in 2004 – his first Fort Lauderdale budget – since Commission spending left a puny $875,000 for the previous year’s Reserves; an amount that interim City Manager Alan Silva derided as “not enough to pay the City’s bills for one day.” Subsequently, former Commissioner Christine Teel had informed the Advisory Board on several occasions that Gretsas had to fend off attempts by Commissioners to inappropriately draw down on Reserve Funds in 2004 and 2006.

Shipwreck reminded Roberts of Cuban Refugee landing jurisdictional crisis
SHIPWRECK REMINDED ROBERTS OF 2004 JURISDICTIONAL
CRISIS WHEN CUBAN REFUGEES LANDED ON GALT BEACH
Despite the fact that every one of these challenges took place before Seiler, DuBose, Rogers and he were elected; Roberts enigmatically decided to characterize the issues listed in Ieraci’s email as veiled attacks on his integrity or that of the current City Commission. Since Roberts was serving as Police Chief while every one of these events took place, they weren’t exactly “news” to the Vice Mayor. The email was dated October 28, 2009 because that was the date Pio learned about the Commission Meeting and sent out the notice, not because the issues therein described took place on that date. In fact, Roberts commented about the shipwreck at the October 2008 Candidates debate held at the Beach Community Center, calling it “a bureaucratic mess” that reminded him of the jurisdictional crisis precipitated by the landing of Cuban Refugees behind Regency Tower in 2004. Why then did Roberts suddenly think he was being blamed for these issues?

L'Hermitage Resident Frances Konstance
GALT MILE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER
FRANCES KONSTANCE OF L'HERMITAGE
In a nutshell - he didn’t. It is highly unlikely that the Vice Mayor was confused or unaware that the date on an email refers only to the date it was sent. Roberts was livid during his passionate attack on Gretsas when he suddenly decided to focus his anger on Ieraci. The rationale for his attack on Ieraci is couched in an earlier remark. Roberts said “God bless you, Pio, you got your people here, and I know George was involved in that too – I mean the staff was involved. Not specifically George. I know how this works anymore, because you gotta rev all these things up and get everybody on board.”

Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts
ROBERTS MISREPRESENTS EMAIL INVITATION
WHILE CALLING CONSTITUENT DISINGENUOUS
That was pure spin! Roberts was seated adjacent to Ieraci during the October 15th Advisory Board meeting when the Galt Mile President announced that he and other Gretsas supporters would attend the contract renewal meeting when it was scheduled. As scores of Galt Mile residents and association representatives informed Roberts that they supported Gretsas both before and after the election, he harbored no illusions about his constituency’s expectations. However, since Roberts had repeatedly responded positively to constituents when asked about the City Manager’s progress (the primary criteria by which Roberts pledged to evaluate Gretsas), in addition to providing an explanation for having voted against renewing the contract, he would have to frame his sudden reversal as unplanned, devoid of revenge, and based only on the City Manager’s performance since the election. If unsuccessful, his credibility would plummet. He would be held responsible for deliberately mischaracterizing his intentions, rescinding his word and betraying his constituents’ trust. Additionally, his campaign commitment to be their “voice” would recede into jokefare. It appears that the Vice Mayor decided that the best defense is a good offense. His attack wasn’t a spontaneous transference ignited by anger; it was a carefully planned strategy using elements of a “bait and switch” marketing deception.

GMCA President Pio Ieraci's November 17th email to Advisory Board Members
GMCA PRESIDENT PIO IERACI'S NOVEMBER 17 EMAIL TO ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
Unknown to the Vice Mayor, the Sun-Sentinel’s Brittany Wallman had decided earlier that day to publish the content of Ieraci’s email in its entirety. City residents following the events on her newspaper’s blog found none of the language described by the Vice Mayor. That’s because Roberts elected to ignore that email and instead make a copy of an email sent three weeks earlier on October 28th to notify Advisory Board members about the subsequently postponed November 3rd meeting. When District 1 audience members prompted the Vice Mayor to read the email aloud, he snapped “You spoke, I’m speaking now.” Reading the brief email aloud not only would have given proper context to the snippet targeted by Roberts, it would have belied the Vice Mayor’s statement that it “disingenuously” spurred that evening’s Galt Mile turnout since it clearly invited members to the November 3rd meeting that was cancelled. Roberts had also received the second email on November 17th, alerting members to the rescheduled meeting that night (as published in the Sun-Sentinel blog). Since it contained no content useful for undermining Ieraci, he decided to ignore that email and deliberately misrepresented the earlier message as the one used by Ieraci “to get your people here!”

Ieraci Asks to Approve Contract
IERACI: YES TO CONTRACT
By claiming that Ieraci fictionalized issues to Galt Mile residents in order to engineer their attendance (That’s what you used to get your people here!) and that Gretsas had, in turn, manipulated Ieraci’s attendance (and I know George was involved in that too!), Roberts was intimating that Gretsas’ support was an illusion garnered by trickery and lies, unworthy of consideration. The Vice Mayor implemented the same strategy of marginalizing opinions inconsistent with his own throughout the evening – including with his peers on the Commission.

Galt Mile Advisory Board member and L'Hermitage Manager Pat Quintero
L'HERMITAGE MANAGER PAT QUINTERO
"MANAGER GRETSAS IS EXCELLENT"
After implying that a decerebrated flatworm could have mirrored Gretsas’ contributions to the City’s recovery, Roberts repeatedly sought to disabuse supposedly “hoodwinked” supporters of the City Manager of their “delusions” about his achievements, competence and character. When unsuccessful, he attempted to cast aspersions on their motives or credibility. During his bombastic diatribe, he intimated that many of those expressing support for Gretsas had “been benefactors (sic – beneficiaries) of” special favors from the City Manager, hoping to becloud their motives. When Commissioners DuBose and Rogers each lamented that Roberts had placed his painful “history” with the City Manager above what was best for the City, he retorted that their respective judgments were based on views formulated during the eight months since they were elected while his indictments and those of Commissioner Rodstrom were drawn on “a much longer experience with the City Manager.” While all four new commissioners promised to evaluate the City Manager based solely on performance forward of the election, that pledge assumed heightened significance for Roberts’ constituents. It spoke directly to his motives for seeking a seat on the commission. During the meeting, Roberts repeatedly denigrated the City Manager for conflicts that arose during his tenure as Police Chief, eviscerating that pledge.

Former Commissioner Dean Trantalis warns against taking revenge
FORMER COMMISSIONER DEAN
TRANTALIS "DON'T TAKE REVENGE"
Although understandably uncomfortable with the overwhelming support that Gretsas received from the vast majority of roughly 400 city residents and scores of constituents, the Vice Mayor appeared particularly stung by comments from residents, former Commissioners, civic and municipal advisory board volunteers, religious leaders, business people and city employees advising against allowing “politics and revenge” to impact the vote. Despite his redundant remonstrations to the contrary, most onlookers seemed convinced that the emotional scars he sustained from confrontations with the City Manager were so egregious that he perceives anyone who supports Gretsas as suffering from historical misconceptions, ethically challenged self-interests, intimidation or chronic naivety.

Vice Mayor Roberts issues Anti-Gretsas Manifesto
COMM. ROBERTS ISSUES ANTI-GRETSAS MANIFESTO
A moment later, Roberts shouted “I cannot support a City Manager who does not reflect the values of this city and this Commission and will not implement the policy of this Commission. I am not going to support a City Manager who is going to do his own policy, stonewall things. ... He tells people we set policy, but he’s the bureaucracy and he will determine how that policy is implemented. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! The way it was spoken tonight, we might as well all go home. You only need one Commissioner up here – you need the City Manager. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! Things are out of skew. Things need to be put back in place. In fact, I’d like to make a motion that we not renew ANY contract with the City Manager.” In a heartbeat, Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom seconded the motion. Not surprisingly, a few minutes later, Roberts flipped the script. In a testament to his own integrity, the Vice Mayor opined that since many of those who spoke on behalf of the City Manager were his District 1 constituents, he demonstrated strength of character by “doing what’s right” instead of “doing what’s politically correct.”

DuBose and Rogers Decry Political Grandstanding

Commissioner Bobby DuBose
COMMISSIONER BOBBY DUBOSE
In view of the unimpressive reasons offered by Rodstrom and Roberts for opposing the City Manager’s contract renewal and the venom with which their objections were delivered, Commissioner Bobby DuBose referred to Roberts’ tirade as “Grandstanding” and likened the proceeding to a public lynching. He refuted Roberts repeated claim that the morale of city employees is bad, stating, “Morale is good. What I gather is that morale is high and that is a tribute to the City Manager because it starts from the top down.” DuBose continued “The cherry on top of everything is the diversity of our staff. I think it's very important that our staff reflect the makeup of our city. It’s not important; I think that it’s crucial. And I think that says a lot about our City Manager.”

This was a Public Lynching
DUBOSE: THIS WAS A PUBLIC LYNCHING
Declaring that he was “bothered to the core” by the attacks on Gretsas, DuBose denied that the City Manager was responsible for several of Roberts’ salvos, including the multiple meetings it took to determine whether the funding for cameras in police cruisers was dedicated or flexible. Intimating that Roberts and Rodstrom should do what’s best for the City’s residents instead of pursuing personal agendas, he said “Although I know that there are special interests driving this issue, I hope my colleagues behave as statesmen.” Before voting to renew the City Manager’s contract, DuBose applauded Gretsas’ integrity and insisted that Gretsas had earned the trust of City residents by his actions, explaining “Every district in this city you’ve seen strong support for this City Manager, and I think that’s telling.”

Commissioner Romney Rogers
COMMISSIONER ROMNEY ROGERS
Commissioner Romney Rogers said he evaluates a person “First on character, second by how hard they work, how smart they work, and third by how they handle their management style.” Crediting Gretsas with satisfying his criteria, Rogers added that Gretsas loves his job, “he’s a doer not a talker, he listens and gets it done, he works well under pressure.” After expressing the belief that voters empanelled the new Commission primarily to “watch out for your dollars,” Rogers evaluated the City’s fiscal condition under Gretsas’ watch, stating “Even though we are possibly in the worst economic times that we have ever been in, our city – it’s probably in the best condition it may have ever been in. While no one person is responsible, the leader, and the manager, should be given some credit for that. And I think it’s obvious that this city has momentum. This city is in the best position of any city in South Florida, maybe even in the whole state of Florida, to really take off once the economy does come back.”

Rogers: He's a doer, not a talker
ROGERS: THIS VOTE SHOULD BE ABOUT THEM
An attorney who formerly headed the Chamber of Commerce, Rogers noted that under Gretsas’ management, the city’s reserves went from less than $1 million to peaking at $85 million, with a $10 million surplus in Insurance Reserves. Envisioning a management void, Rogers warned the Commission members that acting precipitously and losing Gretsas could derail the momentum thus far enjoyed by the City. Debunking trepidations about splintering the Commission, Rogers concluded “I think that this group, this body will stay collegial, I think this body will continue to work hard - I have no doubt about that - and I think that George Gretsas is the appropriate leader at the appropriate time to move us to the next level.”

Rogers: This will creat a void
ROGERS: THIS WILL CREAT A VOID
Turning to Roberts, Rogers confirmed his respect for the Vice Mayor and said “I don’t know exactly what you went through, I’m sure it was not pleasant – whatever it was, because you wouldn’t be as passionate about it if it was.” Rogers continued “I really believe that this vote is not about us, but about them (pointing to the audience).” Defending his vote, Roberts shot back “I hope I didn’t convey that it was about me, I agree it’s about the people.” After stating “my past experience came back in a new form,” Roberts explained that he voted against Gretsas because he didn’t “see the ability to make the change.” Rogers retorted, “That’s not what I mean – I said ‘us’ – not ‘you’ – the Commission as a body.” Rogers was diplomatically imparting that the Vice Mayor was allowing his adversarial history with the City Manager imperil the entire commission’s credibility with the City’s residents.

Gretsas: Every day I try to help each Commissioner
GRETSAS: I TRY TO HELP EACH COMMISSIONER DAILY
Afforded a brief opportunity to comment on the proceedings, Gretsas stated that despite disagreeing with many of the accusations, addressing them individually would be counterproductive. After thanking the City’s residents for their outpouring of support, he refuted contentions that he mutes dissention by exemplifying his long relationship with Bruce Roberts, who, despite their often contentious history, worked with the City Manager to achieve landmark crime rate reductions. Answering allegations that he was non-responsive to the Vice Mayor’s needs, he added “Of the 391 official requests received” from Roberts during the 7 months he served as Commissioner, “350 were done, 25 are underway, 11 are long term projects and 5 involved funding or policy issues” beyond his scope of influence. Before closing, he refocused credit for his achievements to the 2600 city employees he works with.

Seiler Sends a Shock

Mayoral Candidate Seiler
MAYORAL CANDIDATE SEILER
Mayor Jack Seiler appeared extremely uncomfortable. Seiler carefully cemented the building blocks of his public service career with integrity, diligence and brains. After surviving a 4-way mayoral split by grabbing 57% of the electoral nod last February, when asked about Gretsas, Seiler said “He’ll be given a fair shake. If he gets on board with the new vision of the commission, then he’ll be fine.” Later, Seiler changed the bar that Gretsas would have to meet. A few days before the meeting, he told GMCA Chair Pio Ieraci that the City Manager “would have to win the votes of three commissioners in order to get my vote.”

DuBose: No-Win criteria for City Manager is unfair
DUBOSE: NO-WIN CRITERIA FOR CITY MANAGER IS UNFAIR
Commissioner Bobby DuBose disparaged as unfair Seiler’s later requirement that the City Manager secure 4 votes, exclaiming that winning approval from either Rodstrom or Roberts “would have taken a miracle.” Since Charlotte Rodstrom made it clear that there were no conditions under which she would support Gretsas, Seiler’s requirement that he elicit 3 votes functionally created Bruce Roberts his judge, jury and executioner. Under his original criteria, if Gretsas won over the two unbiased commissioners and Seiler felt he had successfully adapted to the new commission’s vision, he would be rehired. Short of feeding Roberts a post-hypnotic suggestion, Seiler’s second challenge (the 4-vote minimum) was tantamount to a pink slip.

Seiler: George knew he needed 4 votes
SEILER: GEORGE KNEW HE NEEDED 4 VOTES
After insisting that everybody knew about his 4-vote requirement for Gretsas, he looked around and added, “...except the Commissioners and the citizenry.” Quickly revising his statement, Seiler admitted that he previously only told Gretsas as well as several friends and associates about his requirement. Suggesting that the issue wasn’t as one-sided as it appeared during the meeting, the Mayor said that although 50 people therein spoke on the City Manager’s behalf, he’d received 45 emails that largely opposed renewing Gretsas’ contract. When Mayor Seiler declared “Based on his conduct and his performance as a City Manager, there’s no reason to fire this guy,” the crowd responded with a round of enthusiastic applause accompanied by grateful cheers.

Seiler Lowers the Boom
SEILER: 2 FOR & 2 AGAINST IS BAD CHEMISTRY
Seiler then lowered the boom, “I can’t afford to commit to the City Manager when two Commissioners passionately oppose him and two Commissioners passionately support him,” instantly deflating the shocked audience. Attempting to clarify his rationale, he contended that a 3-2 vote for Gretsas would splinter the Commission, insisting that if one Commissioner changed their mind, the City would be at risk for Gretsas’ severance package. He said that since a 3-2 vote would leave Gretsas with no “buffer”, the City Manager would become disproportionately preoccupied with “maintaining his edge, which could impair his performance and disrupt the Commission’s synergy.” Clarifying that he had no issues with Gretsas’ performance, liked him as a person, admired his work ethic and was well satisfied with his character, Seiler admitted that his decision wasn’t based on the City Manager’s qualifications or performance. Instead he would vote against the renewal to promote a more harmonious Commission.

Pastor Lucdel Harrigan of Grace Haitian Baptist Church
PASTOR LUCDEL HARRIGAN OF
GRACE HAITIAN BAPTIST CHURCH
Incredulous audience members pleaded with the Mayor, asserting that if he thought Gretsas was somehow deficient, he should vote “no” but if he thought Gretsas was doing a good job, he should “step up and do the right thing.” He answered, “As a fiscal conservative, I believe I am.” Frustrated and angry, DuBose questioned how placating two City Commissioners with well-known personal and political agendas at the expense of the other two would foster collegiality. He said that the Mayor was setting a dangerous precedent by approving a “blueprint” for deposing future City Managers that could easily be abused by any commissioner. Rogers told Seiler that he was singlehandedly implementing a policy change since the City Charter only requires three votes for passage, not four or five. Others angrily pointed out the difference between doing what’s best for the City and doing what’s best for certain City Commissioners.

Former Commissioner John Aurelius
FORMER COMM JOHN AURELIUS
Although 100’s of exiting residents were disappointed with a process that former Commissioner John Aurelius characterized as “subverted by political agendas,” departing audience members were intent on preventing their frustration with the outcome from eroding their respect for the Mayor. Startled by the Mayor’s less than impressive reasons for voting against Gretsas, audience members explored other possible motives for the Mayor’s actions. One Pastor remarked, “There’s no way that the Mayor would vote against renewing the contract for the reasons he gave us. There is more to this than we saw tonight.”

Sun-Sentinel Journalist Brittany Wallman
SUN-SENTINEL REPORTER
BRITTANY WALLMAN
Many were upset with Seiler for equally weighting emails or text messages with 100s of residents dragging themselves to a City Commission meeting during the work week. Sun-Sentinel correspondent Brittany Wallman reported that half of Seiler’s referenced email messages were replicated from failed Mayoral candidate Earl Ryneson’s virulently anti-Gretsas online blog. The Mayor later called the source blog “irresponsible” and its author “a fool.” Since the Mayor also characterized mass “cut and paste” emails as unworthy of credibility at the Commission meeting, when Broward Beat reporter Buddy Nevins asked why he justified voting against the contract renewal by citing tainted correspondences lifted from an irresponsible blog, Seiler answered “I bought up the e-mails to show that there were other opinions outside of the meeting.”

Messages from the Galt Mile

Over the next few days, emails flooded the Galt Mile web site. Most prevalent were messages (often anonymous) expressing anger over having been misled by Commissioner Roberts. A resident from Coral Ridge Towers East gave one of the more lucid expressions of disappointment in the Vice Mayor. She wrote “We’ve been played like a piano! While I understand that Commissioner Bruce Roberts never actually said he would support George Gretsas as City Manager, he certainly went out of his way to convince all of us that he would. First he said he would support Gretsas if he pleased the new Commissioners. Commissioners Romney Rogers and Bobby Dubose said they were pleased. Although he voted against Gretsas, Mayor Seiler also said the City Manager did a good job. That means all the new Commissioners except Roberts agreed that Gretsas had successfully adjusted to the new Commissioners. When asked directly whether Gretsas was doing a good job as City Manager, Roberts said yes on several occasions. Also, Roberts promised to judge Gretsas solely on his performance after the election. When Roberts listed his reasons for voting against renewing the contract, he included the OAS event from 2005; a “Goals and Objectives” presentation from last January and he accused Gretsas of appointing people that weren’t qualified, referring to the appointment of David Hébert to oversee Police Department affairs a few years ago. I also remember his promise to do what his constituents wanted if elected Commissioner. As far as I’m concerned, he distorted the truth, first to win votes and later to gain support. Mr. Roberts turned out to be a real politician. I guess the joke’s on us for believing him! I won’t make that mistake again.”

Police Chief Bruce Roberts
POLICE CHIEF
Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts
COMMISSIONER
A Galt Mile resident from Ocean Summit disagreed, writing “I am not surprised at the outcome of the City Commission meeting. Commissioner Roberts resigned after more than 30 years as Police Chief because he hated the City Manager. How could anyone believe that he wouldn’t try to get rid of him when given the opportunity? To my knowledge, he only agreed to judge Gretsas fairly. Gretsas did a good job for the City but no one is irreplaceable. Even though I voted for Christine Teel, I believe that Bruce Roberts did a good job as Police Chief. He is in the first year of a 3-year term. After two more years, I will decide whether or not he did a good job as our commissioner. We need to move on.”

Galt Mile residents have faith in Mayor Seiler
GALT MILE RESIDENTS HAVE FAITH IN MAYOR SEILER
An almost equal number of emails affirmed faith in the Mayor, asserting that he would work out some compromise with the City Manager. Several residents believe that the Mayor voted down the renewal as a negotiating tactic, to presumably force the City Manager to concede some measure of the severance burden referenced by Mayor Seiler during the meeting or possibly shorten the 3-year contract term. Other messages envisioned serious consequences deriving from the Mayor’s seeming requirement that a City Manager maintain a 4-1 approval majority, asserting that the addled process could summon a replay of the 2003 Budget Crisis.

A Plaza South resident wrote that “My primary concern isn’t whether Roberts played fast and loose with the truth or Seiler’s inexplicable willingness to replace successfully tested management with an unknown quantity during a worldwide recession, it’s the message sent by the Mayor to whoever will serve as City Manager in the future, whether Gretsas or some replacement. Mayor Seiler agreed that George Gretsas demonstrated all the qualities that he requires of a City Manager and even declared that he would have voted to renew his contract without hesitation if either Roberts or Rodstrom joined Rogers and Dubose. I watched an online video in the Sun-Sentinel blog in which the Mayor told George Gretsas “If you get 3, I will be the 4th.” Mayor Seiler explained that the City’s best interests and the Commission’s “synergy” could be sacrificed by a City Manager preoccupied with maintaining a fragile 3-2 vote majority. The Mayor insisted that Fort Lauderdale’s City Manager will need a 4-1 vote majority to keep his or her job. I have always admired Jack Seiler and voted for him when he represented us in the Florida House of Representatives before the districts were gerrymandered. However, if he’s worried about a City Manager’s performance being compromised by having to always please 3 commissioners, shouldn’t he be more worried about the performance of a City Manager whose survival depends on always pleasing 4 commissioners? I’ve come to expect clear thinking and straight talk from Jack Seiler. Am I missing something?”

Moving On

While the strong feelings expressed by Galt Mile residents about the Vice Mayor’s actions are understandable, some of the Galt Mile’s problems can only be cured in City Hall and Bruce Roberts is our City Commissioner. We need to move on. A GMCA Advisory Board member summed up the issue by remarking that “We have bigger fish to fry.” Since there are no politicians who haven’t occasionally disappointed constituents, it’s probably more productive to judge elected officials by the sum of their achievements while seated – and that jury is still out. When the authors of 8 reasonably literate email messages were asked permission to identify them by name, they refused for a variety of reasons, although the majority cited concern about some undefined “retaliation” by the powers that be in City Hall.

Voters want Gretsas to stay
VOTERS WANT GRETSAS TO STAY 3 YEARS
As to the suggested dogma inherent in Jack Seiler’s strategy of shielding the City from a City Manager forced to continually nurse a fragile 3-2 Commission majority by requiring an even more tenuous 4-1 Commission majority, the Mayor was only referring to the predisposition of the Commission when faced with either renewing a contract or hiring a new City Manager, not a permanent benchmark. Alluding to the passion expressed by Roberts and Rodstrom, Seiler was seemingly convinced that any decision about Gretsas by either of them would be permanently skewed by their history with the City Manager. If any of the 3 commissioners unaffected by an adamant bias were to reverse their opinion, the City Manager could be ousted and the City would have to fulfill its severance obligation. Conversely, since many City Managers are discharged within a year or two for incompetence (both operational and fiscal), the financial risks attendant to installing a failed replacement would be much more devastating, virtually dwarfing the cost of a severance package.

Voters want Gretsas to stay
IF IGNORED BY THEIR PUBLIC OFFICIALS
VOTERS WILL SETTLE FOR 1 OR 2 YEARS
Despite the media focus proclaiming the Galt Mile a staunchly pro-Gretsas neighborhood, recent statistics suggest its residents’ opinions mirror those of Fort Lauderdale at large. In the only poll not operated by some virulently anti-Gretsas activist, the Sun-Sentinel asked “Should Fort Lauderdale keep City Manager George Gretsas?” Of the three possible options, 23,348 chose “Yes, give him another contract. He’s doing a good job running the city,” 77 selected “Yes, but only until his contract ends in the summer,” and 6,884 responded “No, get rid of him immediately and find someone else to run Fort Lauderdale.” The results demonstrate that 77% favor renewing the City Manager’s contract while 23% disagree. Three weeks after the November 17th fiasco wherein a 3-year renewal was quashed, the Sun Sentinel sponsored another poll soliciting answers to “How long should Fort Lauderdale’s city manager stay on the job?” 393 suggested he leave between now and when his current contract expires in July, with or without severance. 2432 opined that he should be given a contract extension of a year, or two. As such, 86% favor extending his contract while 14% recommend he pack it in. Coincidentally, of the 59 speakers that addressed the City Commission, 85% (50) supported retaining the City Manager and 15% (9) voiced opposition to renewing his contract. 69% (79) of the emails sent to the Galt Mile web site over the next month favored Gretsas, 13% (15) were opposed and 18% (21) contributed opinions about other municipal public officials or addressed other issues. Of those expressing a coherent preference, 84% favored renewing his contract while 16% thought otherwise.

Will they find an acceptable compromise? 6 to 5 and pick ’em.

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Broward Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

January 2010 Newsletter

Keechl Addresses Budget Issues
KEECHL ADDRESSES BUDGET ISSUES
January 22, 2010 - * When
Ken Keechl was battling to unseat incumbent Jim Scott in 2006, his platform read like a wish list. He would marry accountability to governance, environmental preservation to development and proclaimed “I will never vote for a tax increase.” During his past three years as our District 4 Commissioner, he pursued these objectives with a vengeance.

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center
GALT OCEAN MILE READING CENTER
Keechl developed into the Commission’s primary sparkplug for tax reduction. He is the main reason why Broward taxpayers no longer have to cough up $380 million each year. Keechl enacted the developmental deterrent that currently protects Broward’s few remaining large green spaces and before signing off on any county project, Keechl requires the incorporation of cures to associated adverse environmental impacts. Closer to home, were it not for Keechl, the Galt Mile Reading Center would be an empty storefront adorned by a “for rent” sign. He has also been intimately involved with overcoming the seemingly endless obstacles to beach renourishment.

Mayor Ken Keechl & Vice Mayor Suzanne Gunzburger
V.M. GUNZBURGER & MAYOR KEECHL
On November 17, 2009, he was elected Mayor of Broward County by his peers on the Broward Board of County Commissioners. Since Broward’s Mayor controls the Commission’s agenda, Keechl’s priorities will see considerably increased daylight. Shortly after being sworn in, Keechl said, “This upcoming year’s budget will be our most difficult and challenging yet. In the past three fiscal years we have cut spending by $385 million. We must continue to separate our wants from our needs and starting tomorrow, I will begin overseeing the 2011 budget process.” Needless to say, he did.

Broward County Judicial Complex
BROWARD COUNTY JUDICIAL COMPLEX
Keechl inherited a litany of ongoing projects. Since economic development will enhance the tax base and alleviate the tax burden on homeowners, he is committed to maintaining the infrastructure necessary to insure that Broward’s port and airport remain competitive. As such, he must balance making progress on the southern runway extension at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport with impact mitigation for surrounding neighborhoods. He is charged with finding a funding solution for the scaled down Courthouse and supports continued expansion at Port Everglades.

The Mayor is Broward’s official representative, interfacing with State and Federal officials and agencies as well as the public. Keechl’s wholesome political history should help rehabilitate some of the damage suffered by the County’s image from recent ethics-related feeding frenzies. At the January 21st GMCA Advisory Board meeting, the Mayor outlined the ingredients required for an effective, enforceable ethics code.

The challenge entails balancing actionable guidelines and realistic deterrents with the rights of constituents and issue groups, who could conceivably be precluded from constructive interaction with their own public officials. While staunchly supporting an ethics code, he warned that carelessly crafted provisions could disallow elected officials from participating in educational forums and traditional Town Hall meetings. He concluded with a reminder that if Broward County fails to approve ethics guidelines, the issue will automatically bounce back to the electorate as a ballot issue. Read on – [editor]*

“Understanding the role of your
Broward County Mayor”

by Broward County Commissioner & Mayor
Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
It’s been two months since my colleagues elected me to be the
Mayor of Broward County for 2010 and if the last 60 days are any indication of what’s to come, I’m going to enjoy it. Residents are already asking me: “Ken, what’s the difference between being a Broward County Mayor and a Broward County Commissioner?” Well, that’s a great question; here’s the short answer.

Broward Board of County Commissioners
BROWARD BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
To understand the role of your Broward County Mayor, you have to understand how your County Commission operates under Broward County’s Charter. Basically, we have what is known as a “weaker mayor” system of governance in Broward County. What does that mean? It’s simple. Your County Mayor is elected by his or her colleagues for a one-year term and isn’t elected by the people for a multiple year term (unlike Fort Lauderdale or Lighthouse Point, for example.) Your Broward County Mayor (while also serving as your County Commissioner) has the same one vote as each of his or her eight colleagues. Your County Mayor doesn’t have veto power. As compared to other governmental structures, Broward’s Mayor has less influence over the Commission.

Click to Broward Planning Council Well, then, why have a Broward County Mayor in the first place? Here’s the short answer.

Click to  Value Adjustment Board Your Broward County Mayor has an important role. The Mayor appoints County Commissioners to numerous, important committees such as the Value Adjustment Board or the Broward Planning Council. He or she represents Broward County locally, statewide, nationally and internationally. He or she runs the Commission meetings. (By the way, if you get the chance to watch one of our meetings on television or the internet, you’ll see that it’s not so easy!) And in the case of natural disasters (think hurricanes), Broward County’s Mayor declares a state of emergency and interfaces with the public, the Sheriff, the Governor and the President, if necessary.

But probably, on a fundamental basis, the most important responsibility of your Broward County Mayor is to decide what issues will be addressed by the Commission each week. In other words, the mayor sets the agenda during his or her tenure.

Click to Broward Budget War And if you’ve been listening to me over the last three years, then you already know my personal agenda. I strongly, strongly believe that lowering the property tax burden on our families — by operating Broward County more efficiently and eliminating waste — is the most important job of the Commission. It’s my top priority. I have strenuously (and successfully) advocated this position during each of my first three years of my first term as your County Commissioner. Broward’s annual budget is now $385 million dollars smaller than it was when you elected me. And, as I predicted, the world didn’t end! Now, as your Mayor (as well as your Broward County Commissioner), I’ll advocate for additional measures and efficiencies to decrease Broward’s annual budget even more.

After all, that’s why you elected me in the first place.

My best to you and your families.

Broward County Commissioner and
Mayor Ken Keechl

Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.

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Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts

Hits the New Year Running

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
VICE MAYOR BRUCE G. ROBERTS
January 30, 2010 - District 1 Commissioner and Vice Mayor Bruce G. Roberts weaves seven informational snippets into his January snapshot of Fort Lauderdale. He opens by ironically juxtaposing the joy experienced by 100,000 celebrants at the Downtown Countdown emulation of the world-renown Times Square New Year’s event with how deterioration of local real estate values will pitfall next year’s budgeting efforts. The Commissioner cites a report indicating that revenue declines will burden budgeting strategies through 2014.

Click to Fort Lauderdale's Census page After describing how the census impacts funding entitlements (more than $400 billion in federal fund allocations) and political representation, the Vice Mayor sheds light on the rationale for some recently established Advisory Committees. En route to providing long-range guidance for Commission policy, a Visioning Committee will first formulate a strategy to insure that public input is all inclusive and fully representative. The Centennial Celebration Committee will plan activities and events worthy of the City’s year-long hundredth birthday blowout throughout 2011. Although the committee is already powered by such political staples as E. Clay Shaw, John Aurelius and Cindi Hutchinson, at the December Presidents Council meeting, Mayor Seiler made a passionate presentation outlining plans to recruit Connie Francis and other “Spring Break” icons as Centennial headliners. In January, the Vice Mayor confirmed to the Galt Mile Advisory Board that the Mayor is committed to engaging celebrity participants for upcoming municipal events.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium
FORT LAUDERDALE STADIUM
Hoping to keep Fort Lauderdale Stadium financially afloat, the City is researching replacement alternatives for the annual rental income lost when Sarasota hijacked the departed Baltimore Orioles spring training program. In conclusion, Commissioner Roberts summarizes progress toward actualizing the evolving Central Beach Master Plan. Following accrual of input from municipal Advisory Boards empanelled to study Beach Redevelopment and Economic Development, in mid-December the Commission approved public realm enhancements and other fundamentals of the draft plan created by Sasaki Associates, Inc. If you want the City’s pulse... read on...
– [editor]

From The Desk of
Vice Mayor Bruce G. Roberts

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER
& V.M. BRUCE G. ROBERTS
Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the Holiday Season. The Downtown Countdown 2009, which was held New Year's Eve, was sponsored by AT&T. Touted as one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in Florida, this year’s free event was full of fun and excitement for both children and adults. An estimated 100,000 revelers crowded downtown Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, December 31, 2009 along S.W. 2nd Street between S.W. 2nd Avenue and S.W. 5th Avenue to wait with anticipation for the ball to drop at midnight. The event ran from 5:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Florida Ad Valorem Estimating Conference
FLORIDA AD VALOREM ESTIMATING CONFERENCE
We have another tough budget year before us. We need to gear up for an intensive review of every budgetary program item and explore new avenues for both cost savings and potential new revenue streams. According to the final report from the November 30, 2009 Florida Ad Valorem Estimating Conference, Broward County taxable values are projected to continue to decline: -11.6% in 2010; -6.2% in 2011; -2.5% in 2012; -0.8% in 2013; and finally rising 3.1% in 2014. The Budget Advisory Board is working very closely with the Commissioners to help us through this process. I can assure you that this Commission will meet this challenge and maintain vital City services.

Click to Fort Lauderdale's Census page The 2010 Census is just around the corner (April 1, 2010) and we want you in the number. Each year, more than $300 billion in federal funding is distributed to communities based on census data. Let’s make sure the City of Fort Lauderdale receives its share. The census is important for many reasons, but the most important is funding for our community. Every citizen counts. Just one person not counted means less funding for programs such as Head Start, Title I Grants, public transportation, road rehabilitation and construction, programs for the elderly, emergency food and shelter, and empowerment zones. Census results also impact economic development planning and the number of government representatives. The Census Survey is short and simple. You can go to the City’s webpage to read what questions will be asked - http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/census/index.htm.

Click to Fort Lauderdale's Visioning Committee Visioning Committee: At the November 17, 2009 City Commission Conference meeting, the City Commission reached a consensus to establish a visioning committee to develop a long term visioning plan that the City Commission can use as a guide for policy and decision making. The first task of the Committee will be to develop an initial model plan, which outlines a process to seek the perspectives of under-represented individuals so that a citywide vision will reflect the viewpoints of all residents in the City. Initial membership will consist of 11 citizens. The Mayor and Commissioners will appoint two members each, and agree upon one consensus member. At least one of each of the Commissioner’s selections must reside in that Commissioner’s district. All members shall either be a resident of the City or work in the corporate limits of the City. This committee will be terminated on December 31, 2011 unless the City Commission extends the term. To see what current members are serving you can go online at http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/clerk/boards.htm.

Click to Fort Lauderdale's Centennial page The Centennial Celebration Committee was recently established by the City Commission to commemorate Fort Lauderdale’s 100th Anniversary in 2011. This committee will help the City plan events and activities that celebrate Ft. Lauderdale’s past, present and future. The committee is in the process of working with the Commission to develop a strategy to solicit input from residents, businesses and local organizations. By involving the public as early as possible, the City hopes to build on the momentum surrounding the Centennial, and provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to be part of the planning process and become invested in the Centennial events and activities. Residents are encouraged to participate in the Centennial by providing input at a Centennial Celebration Committee meeting. You can also get involved by sending an email to centennial@fortlauderdale.gov.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium Closed
FORT LAUDERDALE STADIUM CLOSED
Orioles Stadium: The Orioles have confirmed that they will not be returning to the Fort Lauderdale Stadium for the 2010 Spring Training season. As pointed out in previous discussions with this Commission, the City needs to decide how to manage the Stadium facility in light of the Orioles’ departure. The continued operation of the Stadium, excluding the adjacent practice fields and event site, has been estimated at $10,500 per month. Maintaining the adjacent fields adds approximately another $20,000 per month to the cost of the recreational facility. We are in the process of seeking new management, events and or tenants to keep this facility viable and financially in the black.

Central Beach Public Realm
CENTRAL BEACH PUBLIC REALM
Central Beach Master Plan: On May 15, 2007, Commission approved a contract for consulting services for preparation of the Central Beach Master Plan and Las Olas Gateway Plan by Sasaki Associates, Inc. The Central Beach Master Plan was undertaken to develop a long-range community vision, building upon the planning foundations set forth in previous studies, outlining public improvements in the area, and proposing design guidelines that set the standard for future development. The plan represents the voice of numerous stakeholders and addresses the unique opportunities and challenges for future development patterns and private and public investment in the area. A series of public meetings took place throughout the development of the plan to obtain community input and provide the public with opportunities to discuss and analyze the plan. Following the final presentation of the draft plan at the April 30, 2009 public meeting, in addition to editing and formatting changes, some minor revisions were made to the plan. Staff also obtained additional input from various members of the public as well as the Beach Redevelopment Advisory Board and the Economic Development Advisory Board. On December 15, 2009 the Commission approved the basic concept of the plan as it related to public realm enhancements and the flexibility needed for redevelopment within the various land zones.

Bruce G. Roberts                

If you need to reach Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts, please contact his assistant Robbi Uptegrove at 954-828-5033 or by e-mail at RUptegrove@fortlauderdale.gov. To access the City Commission Meeting Agendas and Minutes, Click Here. To actually watch the meetings recorded and archived on the Commission Meetings Video Webcast and Archives web site, Click Here.

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Click to Community Association Institute, Southeast Florida Chapter web site
community
ASSOCIATIONS INSTITUTE
SOUTHEAST FLORIDA CHAPTER
ANNOUNCES THEIR ANNUAL

Community Association Trade Show & Exposition


Please join us for this free event featuring speakers recognized Statewide and over 70 exhibitors demonstrating goods and services for community associations.

Click to Community Association Institute, Southeast Florida Chapter web site Keynote Presentation features a representative from Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored lending enterprise. Learn about lending guidelines and what association leaders can do to improve mortgage options for properties in their communities. Special introduction by Gary A. Poliakoff, J.D., co-author of New Neighborhoods: The Consumers Guide to Condominium, Co-Op and HOA Living.

Homeowner Education: 40 Year Building Inspection & Safety Program - Led by Klein and Hoffman, Inc. - Structural and Safety Inspections are required in both Miami-Dade and Broward Counties for buildings 40 years old and older. Learn what is included in the required inspections.

The Date: Saturday, January 30, 2010
The Time: 8:30 a.m. through 4:00 p.m.
The Place: Signature Grand
6900 State Road 84, Davie, FL 33317


There are Continuing Education Classes & Credits for Managers


The cost of Continuing Education Credits is $40.00 for members and $55.00 for non-members. Lunch Included in Registration Fee.


For further information, please contact Jill Prioetti, CED, at 954-816-0661 or click here to the CAI Trade Show web page. Door prizes and giveaways all day long – Win a Flat Screen HDTV for the Grand Prize Raffle! Admission to Event and Parking Free.


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Corner Cameras set to Snag Snowbirds

& Count Cash

February 14, 2010 - Those of you who followed discussions about the City’s FY 2010 budget possibly remember one of the more esoteric sources of municipal revenue, tricky traffic tickets from vehicular violations caught on covert corner cameras. Intrigued by the prospect of addressing two serious problems on the same dime, city planners carefully scrutinized the issues surrounding what ultimately evolved into the new “Automated Camera Red Light Traffic Enforcement System”. In addition to reducing traffic violations and resulting collisions, injuries and fatalities, the system has been annually budgeted to pump $1.8 million into the City treasury.

Image 1 - Before Violation (Click to Enlarge)
IMAGE 1 - BEFORE VIOLATION
In a nutshell, a 24/7 12.4 megapixel digital video camera planted on a traffic light captures two high-resolution images of passing vehicles. The first image shows the vehicle with the front wheels behind the stop bar and the illuminated red light, and the second image shows the vehicle in the intersection with the rear wheels past the stop bar and an illuminated red light. These two images contain all the information required to prosecute a red-light violation, including a clear image of the license plate, extracted from one of the two evidentiary images.

Image 2 - Vehicle in Intersection (Click to Enlarge)
IMAGE 2 - VEHICLE IN INTERSECTION
Red-light and speed limit camera enforcement systems have been plagued by legal and constitutional questions. Leery of becoming embroiled in litigious challenges to the system’s efficacy, the city delayed consideration of red-light camera enforcement until the constitutional controversy was addressed in the courts. Last year, a precedent was established for citing the owner of a vehicle involved in running a red light, addressing the primary constitutional impediment. On January 5, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that issuing citations to vehicle owners (or lessees) without any evidence of who was actually driving the vehicle at the time of the traffic violation is constitutionally appropriate.

Closeup of License Plate (Click to Enlarge)
CLOSEUP OF LICENSE PLATE
The case was brought against a camera enforcement system in Chicago that issues citations to the registered owners of vehicles that run red lights or violate speed limits. The Court rejected the violators’ argument that Chicago’s red-light camera system infringed on their due process rights since the owners are held responsible for violations they didn’t commit. In his ruling, Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook wrote “Is it rational to fine the owner rather than the driver? Certainly so. A camera can show reliably which cars and trucks go through red lights but is less likely to show who was driving. That would make it easy for owners to point the finger at friends or children — and essentially impossible for the City to prove otherwise. A system of photographic evidence reduces the costs of law enforcement and increases the proportion of all traffic offenses that are detected; these benefits can be achieved only if the owner is held responsible.”

Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook
SEVENTH CIRCUIT CHIEF JUDGE
FRANK H. EASTERBROOK
The court recognized the additional benefit of encouraging owners to exercise caution when handing out their car keys, stating “Owners will take more care when lending their cars and often they can pass the expense on to the real wrongdoer.” Easterbrook serendipitously touched on Fort Lauderdale’s incremental fiscal motive for installing the system, exclaiming “That the City’s system raises revenues does not condemn it. Taxes, whether on liquor or on running red lights, are valid municipal endeavors. Like any other exaction, a fine does more than raise revenue: It also discourages the taxed activity. A system that simultaneously raises money and improves compliance with traffic laws has much to recommend it and cannot be called unconstitutionally whimsical.” This shiny new Federal precedent – coupled with the fact that the system is already operational in 26 states as well as the District of Columbia – prompted the city to roll the dice.

Click to Red Light Camera System Operational Guidelines Inherently supportive of reassigning officers to more challenging tasks, the Law Enforcement community has enthusiastically endorsed camera enforcement at bumper car intersections and stretches of roadway that intermittently lapse into mid-evening drag strips (not unlike A1A south of Commercial Boulevard). In 2005, the International Association of Chiefs of Police passed a Resolution at their conference in Miami that supports the Red Light Camera System Operational Guidelines adopted earlier that year by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Captain Michael G. Gregory
CAPTAIN MICHAEL GREGORY
On May 13, 2009, under the auspices of the City’s Procurement Services Department, Captain Michael G. Gregory chaired an RFP (Request for Proposal) Selection Committee comprised of Lieutenant Michael DiMaggio and City Engineer Peter Partington and convened a pre-proposal meeting to review specifications of an Automated Camera Red Light Traffic Enforcement System (RFP 385-10113). Gregory is a 22-year Fort Lauderdale Police Department veteran who heads the Staff Support Division. On May 19th and June 2nd, the City Commission approved the first and second readings of an ordinance amending Code of Ordinances, Chapter 26, Traffic, creating Article VII, titled “Traffic Intersection Safety Act” (C-09-14). On June 25th, the committee created a “short list” of promising vendors after reviewing all the submitted proposals. On June 30th, based on oral presentations, they evaluated three competitors for the contract - ACS State and Local Solutions, ATS American Traffic Solutions and Traffipax, Inc. On Friday, October 6th, they offered the deal to Scottsdale, Arizona based ATS American Traffic Solutions, Inc., the low bidder at $2,040,000. On Friday, October 23rd, the committee engaged in contract negotiations with the company, which continued on November 24th. Following a 4 – 1 favorable vote by the City Commission on January 20, 2010, the City published its intent to award ATS American Traffic Solutions the contract for their Automated Red Light Camera Traffic Enforcement System. At the February 2nd meeting, the Commission again voted 4 – 1 to close a 39-month deal worth $2,970,000.

Click to Traffic Intersection Safety Act - Red Light Camera Traffic Enforcement (C-09-14) The $1.8 million (in expected annual revenue) that was appropriated to initially fund the program proved inadequate. On February 2nd, the City Commission passed a resolution to amend the FY 2010 city budget, allocating an additional $1,170,000 to a dedicated camera enforcement operating budget for unanticipated professional, clerical and other services & equipment. To return the city budget to balance, the annual “ticket take” must also increase from $1.8 million to $2.97 million. The City also developed a sliding scale termination formula with ATS in case future court precedents destabilize the system’s legal foundation or the legislature moves to grab so much revenue that the system becomes fiscally unviable.

Fort Lauderdale City Auditor John Herbst
CITY AUDITOR JOHN HERBST
The cameras will adorn traffic signals located at ten of the City’s most dangerous intersections and violators will be billed for the $125 fine. At the January 20th Commission meeting, City auditor John Herbst said that although each location is expected to yield about 22 tickets per day, the city anticipates successfully collecting only 60 percent of the fines. If a vehicle owner disagrees with a violation, the case will be heard by a special magistrate in City Hall.

Click to ATS American Traffic Solutions Since they own the cameras, American Traffic Solutions Inc. will receive $28 for each citation. The company serves more than 200 municipalities and government agencies with red-light and speed camera enforcement programs and is the largest provider of traffic enforcement programs to America’s big cities. They operate programs in New York City and Nassau County, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri; San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington; Houston, Fort Worth, Irving and Arlington, Texas; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee; Tucson, Mesa, Glendale and Scottsdale, Arizona; and now adds Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Pembroke Pines City Attorney Sam Goren
PEMBROKE PINES CITY
ATTORNEY SAM GOREN
Attorney General Crist
ATTORNEY GENERAL CRIST
While the city is confident that the system will survive constitutional challenges, there is no provision in State law for drivers to be prosecuted for violations based on red-light camera evidence. In 2005, Pembroke Pines City Attorney Sam Goren asked then-Attorney General Charlie Crist for a legal opinion. Crist’s opinion was rendered in two parts. In the first part, Crist said local governments had the right to set up cameras, take pictures and let drivers know when they had run red lights. However, in the second part, Crist said that cities couldn’t issue red-light tickets without changes to state law. According to Crist, State law required that “an officer enforcing the traffic law personally observe or have personal knowledge of the particular infraction that serves as the basis for issuing the citation.” Whether or not reviewing photographic evidence satisfies any definition of “personal knowledge” has provided system opponents with intermittently reliable ammunition.

Florida Statehouse Representative Ron Reagan
REPRESENTATIVE RON REAGAN
The state’s uniform traffic code provides that drivers must know the rules of the road and that they get ticketed for violating those rules. Because red-light camera systems snap pictures of the license plate, the car’s owner is cited, not the driver. Bills filed by Statehouse Representative Ron Reagan and Senator Thad Altman that would have added red light camera enforcement to the uniform traffic code during last year’s legislative session died on the calendar before differences between the House and Senate versions could be settled. The House bill retroactively immunized red light camera system manufacturers against lawsuits from disgruntled drivers. The Senate bill did not. While this minor ideological skirmish is eminently resolvable, finding a formula for dividing the loot presents a far greater challenge.

Florida Senator Thad Altman
SENATOR THAD ALTMAN
Both Senate Bill 2004 and House Bill 439 funneled a portion of the $150 fine into the state’s general revenue pot. Another chunk of the money would have gone into a Department of Health trust fund for use by Florida trauma centers, public hospitals and Medicaid-eligible nursing homes that serve victims of traumatic brain injuries. While both bills sent 60% of the money to local governments when the cameras were monitoring city or county roads, the Senate version sent nothing to local governments when cameras watched state roads. Since 32 Florida communities currently operate red light camera enforcement systems, attempts to legislate the State’s “cut” of this cash cow are inevitable.

Florida municipalities have circumvented this support vacuum in state law by ordaining red light infractions as local code violations - and installing equipment on land not controlled by the state. They also contrived a strategy in which the municipality maintains an arms distance relationship with the event. Generally, the vendor gathers the information and turns it over to local law enforcement to review the evidence, which is included in the two images generated by the camera. A local law enforcement officer can see whether outside factors precipitated the infraction and decide if the citation is warranted. Since an unfavorable court ruling could becloud the program if the violation is successfully challenged by a vehicle’s owner, cities generally empower a special magistrate - paid by the city - to hear those challenges.

Seiler Questions Double Jeopardy Protection
SEILER QUERIES DOUBLE JEOPARDY PROTECTION
When the concept was initially considered by City budget planners last May, Mayor Jack Seiler questioned a strange quirk in Fort Lauderdale’s supporting traffic ordinance. When officers write tickets duplicative of those issued as camera violations, both fines are fully enforceable – prompting Seiler to ask whether “double jeopardy” protection would thwart prosecution. City Attorney Harry Stewart explained that since the legal precept applies only to criminal violations, the only recourse for drivers doubly indebted for civil infractions is reliance on the magistrate’s mercy during an appeal. When law enforcement personnel were polled, they indicated a preference for preserving the ordinance “in its present form,” allowing an officer on the scene to decide whether the violation warrants a double punch.

City officials are monitoring current threats to the system’s legal underpinnings. In late September, two dozen drivers joined a class action suit against Pembroke Pines, claiming that red light cameras violate their rights to due process and equal protection. Anticipating the suit, Pembroke Pines opted to share the legal risks with vendor ATS American Traffic Solutions (the same vendor selected by Fort Lauderdale) and added an equipment lien to their contract, along with eliciting a legal war chest of $100,000. Similar cases are currently underway in Aventura, Orlando and Miami Gardens.

Click to Federal Highway Administration on Red Light Camera Systems The public safety aspect of this strategy is admittedly a double edged sword. The system radically reduces the number of mid-intersection right angle collisions that ordinarily accompany red light violations. However, when drivers reactively slam on the brakes to avoid passing stop bars in camera-equipped intersections, the number of rear end collisions increase. On balance, authoritative studies by the Federal Highway Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that statistically measure the comparative costs of injuries, property damage and fatalities both caused and deterred by camera enforcement conclude a palpable safety benefit.

When a municipality can achieve statistically verifiable significant decreases in violations, accidents, injuries and fatalities without a sizable investment in manpower, the public safety case for these camera enforcement systems becomes adequately enticing to risk the potential legal pitfalls. When the prospect of pumping $millions into city coffers during a recession is added to the mix, public officials are often unable to resist. These dual benefits are convincing cities and counties across Florida to either put their toe in the water with a test program or take a deep breath and jump into full blown implementation at multiple locations. Camera enforcement systems have already been installed or are “in progress” in Florida jurisdictions like Margate, Pembroke Pines, Hollywood, Miami Beach, Aventura, North Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, North Miami, El Portal, Miami Shores, Florida City, Homestead, Hialeah, Apopka, Orlando, Delray Beach, Winter Park, Tallahassee, Clermont, Kissimmee and Fort Lauderdale - to name a few. Down the block, the City of Oakland Park drafted an ordinance in preparation for a planned pilot program. Not surprisingly, of the ten most accident-prone intersections they identified, six of the seven worst are along Oakland Park Boulevard and East Commercial Boulevard.

Commissioner NO! Rodstrom
COMMISSIONER NO!
Not surprisingly, the only City Commissioner to vote against designating the ten dangerous intersections for camera enforcement was Charlotte Rodstrom - AKA Commissioner “NO”, expressing concern about “bad press” and potential litigation. “As much as I’d like to see this safety feature put in place,” lamented Rodstrom, “I’m worried about the liability.”

Attention Snowbirds: Generally oblivious to which locations were selected for surveillance, unsuspecting visitors and “snowbirds” statistically comprise the majority of vehicle owners tagged at camera equipped intersections. Since familiarizing oneself with the ten sites designated for initial placement can thwart potential victimization, the list has been posted below. You’ll notice that three locations are right up the block on Federal Highway at both Commercial and Oakland Park Boulevards.

Click to City of Oakland Park P.S. If the City of Oakland Park also proceeds with plans to install the camera enforcement system at intersections deemed by the Broward Sherriff’s Office (BSO) as the most dangerous within the Oakland Park jurisdiction, monitored sites will likely include Dixie Highway at Commercial and Oakland Park Boulevards, just a few blocks farther west. Within the City of Fort Lauderdale, Cameras will be mounted on red lights at the following intersections:

  • Eastbound East Sunrise Boulevard at NE 15th Ave;

  • Southbound NE 15th Ave at East Sunrise Boulevard;

  • Southbound North Federal Highway at East Oakland Park Boulevard;

  • Westbound NW 62nd Street/West Cypress Creek Road at NW 9th Ave/Powerline Road;

  • Eastbound NW 62nd Street/West Cypress Creek Road at NW 31st Ave;

  • Southbound NW 31st Ave at NW 62nd Street/West Cypress Creek Road;

  • Eastbound West Sunrise Boulevard at NW 9th Ave;

  • Westbound West Sunrise Boulevard at NW 9th Ave;

  • Eastbound East Commercial Boulevard at North Federal Highway/U.S. 1

  • Westbound East Commercial Boulevard at North Federal Highway/U.S. 1

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Broward Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

March 2010 Newsletter

Broward Mayor Keechl Chairs Courthouse Vote
BROWARD MAYOR KEECHL CHAIRS COURTHOUSE VOTE
February 20, 2010 - * Since elected
Mayor of Broward County, District 4 Commissioner Ken Keechl has made scores of appearances as the County's representative. While fulfilling his responsibility as the County's spokesperson, the duties attendant to his dual scope of work as Mayor and Commissioner haven't suffered. As promised when he took office, Keechl has successfully juggled both tasks. However, the Mayor failed to disclose an unfortunate burden cloaked in his status as Broward's head honcho; that of media dart board. On slow days, news outlets are often filled with sterile conjecture about public officials.

The day after his November 17, 2009 assumption of Broward's Mayoral seat, Keechl began laying the groundwork for what he characterized as Broward's most important challenge, next year's budget. Since his election in 2006, Keechl had evolved into the Commission's most outspoken advocate for tax reform and fiscal accountability. In his December newsletter, he exclaimed, "In order to recover from this recession, we must see to fruition our previously approved capital projects." He assumed responsibility for balancing spending cuts with infrastructure maintenance. As such, his March Newsletter addresses construction of the scaled-down County Courthouse as envisioned in the plan finalized by the Courthouse Task Force.

After reviewing the fiscal rationale for this project, Mayor Keechl laments how the media decided to spin its approval by the County Commission. Hoping to resonate with a financially strained, recession-punchy public, the media often applies the simplistic standard that "all spending is evil," ignoring the medium and long-term economic dangers of failing to maintain viable county infrastructure.

Click to Larger Version of Conceptual Broward County Judicial Complex
CONCEPTUAL BROWARD COUNTY JUDICIAL COMPLEX
Since any expense is a tough sell during a recession, the Mayor offers a prospective drop in the millage rate as evidence of the project's minimal taxpayer impact. Actually, the reduction is unrelated to the Capital expense. The County will soon retire $36.4 million in debt service payments originally assumed to finance the construction of parks and libraries. Broward property owners should realize a savings of about 25 cents for every $1000 of their taxable property value. By salting in the $60 million budgeted for courthouse capital projects plus another $60 million budgeted for a new jail rendered unnecessary by a drop in the inmate population, the project's $328 million price tag becomes $208 million.

If the county takes advantage of soon expiring federal subsidies by expeditiously issuing $40 million in Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds (RZEDBs) with a 45% Federal Interest Subsidy and the balance issued as Build America Bonds (BAB) with a 35% Federal Interest Subsidy, the County saves $3.4 million (the subsidy decreases over time as the interest portion of the debt service is reduced). When coupled with the $5 million in annual Courthouse facility fees and rental revenues, the annual nut drops to $7.537 million or a net 4.11% interest rate. This should cost taxpayers about 5 cents for every $1000 of their taxable property value. When this 5¢ cost/$1000 is combined with the 25¢ retired debt service savings/$1000, the net result is a 20¢ reduction for every $1000 of taxable property value or a .2 lowering of the millage rate. While taxes aren't projected to increase, they won't drop as much as they would have without the annual courthouse carrying costs. ... READ ON! - [editor]*

Broward’s Courthouse Problem Solved
Without Raising Taxes

by Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl, District 4 Commissioner

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
VICE MAYOR KEN KEECHL
Last year, in my newsletter
Broward’s Courthouse Problem: More Taxes Aren’t the Solution, I wrote about the deplorable state of our downtown courthouse. I argued that, if possible, we should renovate the courthouse. More importantly, I also strenuously argued that we should not ask the voters of Broward County to tax themselves to build it.

Broward County Judicial Complex
BROWARD COUNTY JUDICIAL COMPLEX
In two additional newsletters last year, Broward County Courthouse Task Force Recommendations, Part 1 and Part 2, I wrote about the formation of a Broward County Courthouse Task Force and its subsequent recommendations. First, the Task Force found that it would be more expensive to renovate the downtown courthouse than to rebuild it. Second, the Task Force recommended financing the rebuilding of a cheaper ‘scaled-down’ courthouse with existing revenue. The Task Force specifically and unanimously argued against asking the voters to tax themselves. Once before in November 2006, the Broward County Commission had asked the voters to tax themselves for a new courthouse; they rightly refused to do so.

Click to Broward Courthouse Task Force Web Site On February 2, the Broward County Commission voted 6 to 3 to follow the recommendations of the Courthouse Task Force. I was in the majority. It was absolutely the fiscally conservative approach.

To my surprise, the media’s spin on the vote was to characterize it as a vote to increase taxes. I think the ‘spin’ was unfortunate. I understand that the press has to sell newspapers, but the truth shouldn’t be brushed aside in the process. So, here is the full story.

The original November 2006 courthouse proposal was to build a courthouse at a cost of approximately $510 million. The Task Force recommended a ‘scaled-down’ courthouse proposal that would cost approximately $328 million (and add a much needed parking garage.) We had previously set aside $120 million in our budget for other less important projects. By using that money, we would need to borrow $208 million dollars.

By a 6-3 vote, we agreed to use non-voted debt, which would cost the average taxpayer $8.00 per year. However, what wasn’t reported by the media was the fact that by the time we need the money, this $8.00 increase will be offset by the expiration of other debt totaling about $37.00 per taxpayer. So, in actuality, your tax bill would decrease by approximately $29.00 per year. And we will have fulfilled our Constitutional duty as County Commissioners to provide a safe and usable courthouse for our judges, jurors, court personnel and our residents.

In closing, for more than 3 years I have told you that I would not raise the tax burden on your families or mine. The current millage rate is 5.3889. When all is said and done, and the additional dollars borrowed for the scaled-down courthouse, the new millage rate would be lower: somewhere between 5.1889 and 5.0789.

You elected me to take care of problems that needed solving. And you told me to do it without raising your taxes. My vote accomplished both of your demands.

Broward County Commissioner and
Mayor Ken Keechl

Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.

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Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts

Oil Oxycontin Opt Out

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
VICE MAYOR BRUCE G. ROBERTS
March 11, 2010 - In his March Newsletter, District 1 Commissioner and Vice Mayor Bruce G. Roberts shines light on events spanning a variety of venues. The Vice Mayor reviews several high-impact issues that resonate across district and even city lines. Changing hats, Roberts turns his attention homeward. The District 1 City Commissioner addresses local concerns brewing in his own back yard.

Touching on a source of angst for every city resident, Roberts laments the Florida Legislature’s attempt to betray the legacy of every Floridian by entreating Congress to roll out the welcome mat for big oil, whose lobbyists have been banging heads 24/7 in Tallahassee. Their unrelenting campaign to turn the beaches black has evolved into a bill that cynically asserts on its first page that locating oil wells on the beach will actually benefit the tourist economy (It’s really in there!) After recognizing the laudable actions taken by City employees to ameliorate conditions for victims of the Haitian disaster, Roberts speaks to a prospective catastrophe closer to home.

Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
REP. ELLYN BOGDANOFF FILES HB 561
At the February 18th Galt Mile Advisory Board meeting, Roberts was briefed on the statutory nightmare facing association members living in 6,000 high rise buildings throughout the state. When alerted to a mandate requiring thousands of District 1 homeowners to cough up $millions for a bogus sprinkler retrofit, he spearheaded a resolution supporting a retrofit relief bill currently winding through the State Capitol. Although the provisions in Statehouse Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff’s House Bill 561 had already been overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers in both 2006 and 2009, the resolution is also pointed at the Governor, whose veto pen nuked last year’s version of the bill (SB 714). Fort Lauderdale joins Broward County, the City of Naples, Collier County and a growing number of other Florida jurisdictions in condemning this threat by the Sprinkler Associations and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union to bleed a $multi-billion mini-stimulus package from homeowners in high rise associations across Florida.

Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport
FORT LAUDERDALE EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
Forced to address a curious consequence of the crippled economy, the Vice Mayor is umpiring a conflict between homeowners trying to pick up a few bucks by renting their homes to short-term vacationers and their embittered neighbors, who seek to preserve their neighborhood’s residential integrity. He also blames recent meteorological anomalies for the sudden jump in noise complaints from neighborhoods surrounding Executive Airport.

The Vice Mayor raised another issue at the Advisory Board meeting - the explosive proliferation of local Pain Clinics. A Broward County Grand Jury report describing how South Florida’s reputation as the new national Pill Mill drew “customers” all the way from the hills of Kentucky ignited the City Commission’s ire, resulting in an ordinance freezing the phenomenon’s potential for continued growth. The city must proceed carefully, however. Any controls they ultimately implement mustn’t interfere with the needs of the many legitimate patients that struggle with the effects of chronic pain every day of their lives.

Click to Fort Lauderdale Budget Advisory Board Pain is an appropriate segue to Roberts’ parting shot. In preparation for what will admittedly be the City’s toughest Budget challenge, the City Commission is polling the Budget Advisory Board for taxpayer input. To insure that departmental cuts are performed with surgical precision, the Board will audit the Police Department, Fire-Rescue, Public Works and Parks and Recreation prior to the September Budget Hearings. Although City residents are expecting serious pain, since City Manager George Gretsas will still be at the helm when the draft Budget is released in July, confidence in the City Manager’s fiscal effectiveness and the Mayor’s hometown passion will likely engender popular support for next year’s fiscal road map. In contrast, absent some remarkable economic reversal, every budgetary bump and bruise in the following year’s work product could be laid at the feet of the City Commission. For Roberts’ take on these issues... read on... – [editor]

From The Desk of
Vice Mayor Bruce G. Roberts

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER
& V.M. BRUCE G. ROBERTS
Offshore Drilling: The issue of offshore drilling has come up in the Florida State Legislature. House Memorial 563 was filed in the House on January 4, 2010. The Florida House Memorial seeks to urge Congress to support the expiration and removal of the moratoria prohibiting exploration and oil production in Florida waters in areas other than those already approved for oil leasing and oil exploration. On March 2, 2010, the City Commission voted unanimously to approve a resolution opposing this action.

Update on Haiti Relief Efforts: Through the generosity of the City’s employees, we have raised $10,993.53 towards the relief in Haiti. Thanks to the following Departments for their involvement:

  • Parks and Recreation: Raised $1,000 from Play for Haiti Day event

  • Click to Fort Lauderdale Haiti Relief Building Department: Raised $1,100 by hosting a breakfast and Valentine’s Day Raffle

  • Office of Management and Budget: Raised $452 from a Bake Sale

  • Information Technology: Raised $1,700 by hosting two on-line auctions

  • Public Works: Raised $4,000

  • City Attorney’s Office: Raised $2,600

  • Fire Department: Will be hosting a Poker Tournament on 3/27/10

  • Human Resources: Hosted a Baby Shower and collected over 527 items including diapers, medicines and mosquito netting

  • Drop-off Points (Fire Stations and City Hall): Collected 70 cases of water, 6 cases of flashlights and over 200 canned goods.

Pio Ieraci and Eric Berkowitz
PIO & ERIC
Click to Fort Lauderdale Retrofit Relief Resolution HB 561 - Extend Life-Safety Code Retrofit Relief to Community Associations: As most of you know, a bill was being considered to make it mandatory for installing or retrofitting a condominium with a fire safety sprinkler system in common areas. The need had not been demonstrated and the cost would have been prohibitive. Some cities banded together to adopt a resolution supporting legislative efforts to extend life-safety code retrofit relief to community associations. Due to Pio Ieraci’s (Galt Ocean Mile Association) dedication to this effort, I brokered a resolution supporting HB 561, which was unanimously passed by the City Commission on March 2, 2010. This will allow a community’s membership the right of self-determination with regard to the need for certain retrofit requirements. Hopefully, with everyone’s efforts, this bill will be passed.

  • Concerns in District 1:

    • Short-Term Rentals: There are several areas within District 1 where it appears private homes in residential areas are being used as daily and/or weekly vacation rentals. A resolution was passed in 2009 (#09-304) creating a Short Term Residential Use Committee to make recommendations to the City Commission concerning use of residentially zoned property in light of protecting neighborhood tranquility and peaceful enjoyment of residential property. I am working with City staff to make sure these concerns are addressed.

    • EXA Noise Issues: We have also had many concerns regarding the high noise level from planes that fly in and out of the Executive Airport. I am working with Clara Bennett, EXA Manager, to address these concerns. The pilots need to adhere to the rules and regulations, and are reminded to do so at pilot workshops that are held periodically. EXA also operates a 24-hour noise abatement hotline (954-828-6666) available to area residents to report unusually loud or low aircraft. We urge you to call the hotline number because the input helps airport staff use the noise monitoring system to quickly identify problems and follow up with pilots. More aircraft have been flying directly over neighborhoods east of the Airport due to the weather patterns and cold fronts that the area has been experiencing recently. These westerly winds require that aircraft approach to land from the east and takeoff to the west. Usually, aircraft land from the west and takeoff to the east. During normal operations, more than half for the easterly takeoffs are routed over I-95, which reduces the number of flights over that area. Additionally, the Airport did experience a slight increase of 3% in total operations for the month of January, possibly due to Haitian Relief efforts and the Super Bowl. However, over all, the aircraft traffic is down 42% from 2000. Northeast neighborhoods should experience fewer over-flights once weather patterns go back to normal.

Storefront Pain Clinic
STOREFRONT PAIN CLINIC
Pain Clinics: This problem continues to spread and disrupt the integrity of our community. It is astonishing to note that several years ago there were only four such clinics in South Florida. Now there are almost 180! The state legislature enacted a law that requires all facilities dispensing narcotics to register with the state by January 2010. It is unknown at this time if everyone has complied. Further, the same legislation requires that all prescription transactions be registered in a state database within fifteen days. As of this date, this portion of the legislation has not been fully funded for operation. In addition, fifteen days is too long and does not prevent abuse. As a result, Mayor Jack Seiler and I prompted this Commission to enact an ordinance establishing a moratorium prohibiting the licensing of new pain clinics for 180 days. We will use this time to organize an action plan to combat any illegal activity associated with these businesses. We will also examine a resolution supporting new and more stringent pending state legislation.

Budget: There will be a public workshop for citizen input on May 11, 2010 at 7:00pm. It will give the community a chance to voice their concerns and priorities on the City’s budget. The Commission has also been working with the Budget Advisory Board to obtain input regarding the taxpayers’ perspective in the development of the annual operating budget. They will be conducting Department audits and updating the Commission of their findings. Scheduled thus far: Police Presentation 3/31/10, with review in April (TBA); Fire-Rescue Presentation 4/21/10, with review of information 4/29/10; Public Works Presentation 5/19/10 with review of information 5/27/10; Parks and Recreation Presentation 6/16/10 with review of information 6/30/10. The City Manager will present his proposed budget in July. This will be followed by two public hearings on the budget in September. With the current economic conditions, it is no secret that this year will be most difficult. We are estimating a $30 - $40 million shortfall. I am confident that this Commission will meet the challenge, while maintaining vital primary services.

Bruce G. Roberts                

If you need to reach Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts, please contact his assistant Robbi Uptegrove at 954-828-5033 or by e-mail at RUptegrove@fortlauderdale.gov. To access the City Commission Meeting Agendas and Minutes, Click Here. To actually watch the meetings recorded and archived on the Commission Meetings Video Webcast and Archives web site, Click Here.

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COOPERATIVE FEEDING PROGRAM
Galt Ocean Mile

2010 Food Drive

Final Results

CFP Executive Director Scott Woodburn
SCOTT WOODBURN
April 17, 2010 - The food drive was over. In celebration of another successful effort, Executive Director Scott Woodburn of the
Cooperative Feeding Program sponsored an April 9th awards event at the St Lawrence Gallery on A1A. Earlier in the day, he sent email reminders to team captains, Association volunteers and other local program supporters that were instrumental in delivering the most impressive result in the Galt Mile Food Drive's 4-year history. Although pleased that Galt Mile contributors statistically exceeded his expectations, he was particularly taken aback by their having done so amid this crippling economic environment. Woodburn knew that much of this year’s collected food wasn’t pulled from donors’ shelves, but from their tables.

Click Here to the St Lawrence Gallery web site For those unable to attend the Friday evening awards celebration, Woodburn summarized the event in another email sent the following Monday. The email opened “On Friday evening at the St Lawrence Gallery we congratulated everyone in attendance for an record effort of 19,281 pts surpassing last year total by more than 5,000 pts.” Turning the focus to the event's competitive underpinnings, he continued, “We also crowned our 2010 Grand Champion, The Edgewater Arms Community Association. This was the third consecutive food drive the diminutive condo association has won both divisions, total points 3,530 and 41.5 pts per unit.”

To assure volunteers who missed the party that their efforts hadn't been overlooked, he said, “We also handed out certificates of appreciation to all our sponsors and community associations. If you were not present, your certificate is in the mail along with the results.” Looking ahead, he ended with, “Congratulations on another fantastic effort, we hope you enjoy the rest of the year and we look forward to the 2011 food drive. Hope you and your association will join us again for a great community project.” The email carried two attachments, a letter entitled, “2010 Final News” and an Excel spreadsheet compilation of the final statistical summary - “2010 Final Results”. While appreciative of the entire neighborhood's efforts, the letter recognizes some Galt Mile Associations and residents whose contributions were exemplary. His sentiments are as follows:

The 2010 Galt Ocean Mile Food Drive Final News

Edgewater Arms & CRT South are the Champs Congratulations on an amazing effort. We had another record setting year for the 2010 Galt Ocean Mile Food Drive.

Annemarie Adams for Edgewater Arms - most points AND points per unit and Recognized Champion
EDGEWATER ARMS - ANNEMARIE
ADAMS 2008-09-10 GRAND CHAMPION
We set a goal of beating the 2009 record setting total of 15,000 lbs and we did it! Super congratulations to all our condo participants for a wonderful record setting effort in our 2010 Food Drive. A total of 6,662.5 lbs of badly needed food and an amazing $12,619 including the 5K run resulted in a record setting total of 19,281 pts. That total is almost 5,000 pts better than the 2009 Food Drive Total. Congratulations on a great effort.

Southpoint - Mary Short - 2nd in total points and 4th in points per unit
SOUTHPOINT - MARY SHORT
Our 2010 Galt Ocean Mile GRAND CHAMPIONS for the third year in a row is the Edgewater Arms Condo Association ([sic] - Edgewater Arms is a Cooperative Association). What can you say about that wonderful group at the Edgewater Condo Association? The smallest among us, with just 85 condo units, the Edgewater just blew away the competition again this year with an astounding effort accumulating 3,530 total points and averaging a magnificent 41.5 points per unit.

Galt Ocean Club - Israel Gonzales - 3rd in total points and 2nd in points per unit
GALT OCEAN CLUB - ISRAEL GONZALES
Congratulations to Annemarie Adams, the condo campaign Captain, Gary Tripoli, Association President, the Condo Association Board, and the residents who made the fight against hunger in their community a personal campaign. Three years being Grand Champions is truly remarkable.

Fountainhead guided by Jennifer Donnelly - 5th Place total points and 3rd Place - points Per Unit
FOUNTAINHEAD JOINED 1000 POINTS CLUB
LED BY JENNIFER DONNELLY
Thanks to their benefactor Mary Short and the Mary Jane Harlow Trust, Southpoint and Galt Ocean Club did make a good run on the Edgewater Arms.

A special thanks to Mary Short. Her commitment to helping the poor and homeless in our community resulted in a very generous $4,000 challenge gift to the campaign. The Galt Community took the challenge seriously and it sure did work with a record setting effort!

Geri Boylan for CRT South - 4th most points - 5th in points per unit
CRT SOUTH - CAPTAIN: GERI BOYLAN
A special congratulation goes out to Jennifer Donnelly’s Fountainhead Association who for the first time with a great effort joined our 1,000 point club along with the Edgewater Arms, Coral Ridge South, Southpoint and Galt Ocean Club.

The Regency Tower under Christine Rome - 7th in total points and 6th in points per unit
REGENCY TOWER - CHRISTINE ROME
As for the Coral Ridge Group, Geri Boylan’s Coral Ridge South hung in there fourth in total points followed by Bonnie Leavitt’s Coral Ridge Towers Original and Jim Rainey’s Coral Ridge East association all in the overall top ten.

This year’s most improved award recognizes the Regency Tower under Christine Rome for their great improvement to 737 points and Ted Rogers’s Commodore Association who went from last in each division to a top 10 finish in lbs/pre unit.

Bonnie Leavitt for Coral Ridge Towers Original - 6th most points - 7th in points per unit
CRT ORIGINAL - BONNIE LEAVITT
And thanks to Cindy Songer, Galt Towers, James Beard at Ocean Riviera, and Lee Lowenthal, Ocean Summit who all improved over their totals from last year.

CRT East - Jim Rainey - 8th in total food donated and 12th in food donated per unit
CRT EAST - JIM RAINEY
In the points per unit category, the Galt Ocean Club improved from .7 to 10.3 lbs/unit, and Fountain Head 5.1 lbs/unit to 8.13 lbs /unit both associations showed the biggest improvement. Others that improved in the per unit category include South Point, Coral Ridge South, Ocean Riviera, the Commodore, all finishing in the top ten.

Our wonderful sponsors are the straw that stirs the drink! We owe a debt of gratitude to lead sponsors Ft Lauderdale Real Estate & Ft Lauderdale Home Design. They provide the fuel for our 5K Walk and the food drive. We also enjoyed support from WINN DIXIE, Century 21 Hansen Realty, Dunkin Donuts, Anglins Beach Cafe, Charisma International, Sign A Rama Florida, and KABANG Energy Candy!

Thank you for a great effort in making this Food Drive effort the best yet. Your efforts and donations will make a difference. Your donations will change lives. Your donations will save lives. What a great gift to your neighbors and community.

Imagine the difference we can make when we work together. We can work magic.

Thanks for making this year’s food drive a record success.

Scott A. Woodburn
CFP Development
954-629-7381
scott@feedingbroward.org

Collection Results
(21 Participating Associations)

Total Lbs & $$$ (Points)Lbs & $$$ (pts) per Unit
 
AssociationTotal PointsAssociationPoints/Unit
 
  1. Edgewater Arms  3,530.0 points  1. Edgewater Arms41.50 points/unit  
  2. Southpoint  2,611.0 points  2. Galt Ocean Club 10.30 points/unit  
  3. Galt Ocean Club  2,245.5 points  3. Fountainhead 8.13 points/unit
  4. CRT South  1,605.5 points  4. Southpoint 6.50 points/unit
  5. Fountainhead  1,024.0 points  5. CRT South 4.70 points/unit
  6. CRT ”Original”    956.0 points  6. Regency Tower 3.60 points/unit
  7. Regency Tower    737.0 points  7. CRT ”Original” 2.80 points/unit
  8. CRT East    614.0 points  8. Ocean Riviera 2.50 points/unit
  9. Galt Towers    544.5 points  9. Commodore 2.40 points/unit
10. Ocean Riviera    500.0 points10. Galt Towers 2.10 points/unit
11. Commodore    464.5 points10. Ocean Club 2.10 points/unit
12. Ocean Club    432.5 points12. CRT East 1.80 points/unit
13. Plaza South    322.5 points13. Caribé 1.60 points/unit
14. Playa del Sol    317.0 points14. Ocean Summit 1.30 points/unit
15. Ocean Summit    289.5 points15. Regency South 0.90 points/unit
16. Playa del Mar    276.0 points15. The Galleon 0.90 points/unit
17. Caribé    239.0 points15. Royal Ambassador 0.90 points/unit
18. Royal Ambassador    200.0 points15. Plaza South 0.90 points/unit
19. Plaza East    198.5 points19. Playa del Sol 0.80 points/unit
20. The Galleon    198.0 points20. Playa Del Mar 0.70 points/unit
21. Regency South    190.5 points20. Plaza East 0.70 points/unit
   
Subtotal17,490.5 points  
5K Walk  1,791.0 points  
   
Total Points19,281.5 points  
    

GRAND CHAMPION

One dollar equals one pound of food The Galt Mile community contributed the equivalent of almost 10 tons of food and sundries to local families that are suffering through a tough time. For competitive purposes, a formula was devised that allots one point for each pound of food and/or sundries donated as well as one point for each dollar contributed. Most remarkable is the fact that the record breaking donations were made despite the terrible financial stress faced by many of our own families. Your contributions will be held up as an example to other Broward neighborhoods, hopefully engendering an epidemic of generosity. The entire Galt Ocean Mile neighborhood is entitled to a communal warm and fuzzy feeling.

The Cooperative Feeding Program is headquartered at NW 33rd Terrace in Fort Lauderdale (on the N. W. corner of Broward Blvd. and NW 33rd Terrace). Call them at (954) 792-2328, fax them at (954) 792-9982 or click here to send an email. Office and Emergency Pantry hours are Monday through Friday, 9 AM - 4 PM. The Community Kitchen serves from 9 AM through 11 AM, Monday through Saturday and Sundays from 11 AM through 12:30 PM.

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Broward Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

April 2010 Newsletter

Broward Mayor Ken Keechl Lobbies Federal Lawmakers
MAYOR KEN KEECHL LOBBIES OUR D.C. LAWMAKERS
April 24, 2010 - * Within hours of being appointed by his peers to spearhead the County in 2010, Broward Mayor and District 4 Commissioner
Ken Keechl declared next year’s budget his overwhelming priority. Keechl has long lamented an imbalance between the staggering consignment of Broward tax dollars that travel north to fuel state and federal enterprise and a significantly less impressive ration of reciprocal resources. Our fiscally disciplined “Blue Dog” Mayor spent a healthy part of March and April lobbying Tallahassee and Washington D.C. officials, primarily to insure that we receive at least as much as we shovel into state and federal coffers.

Broward Mayor and District 4 Commissioner Ken Keechl and Congressman Ron Klein
MAYOR KEN KEECHL &
U.S. REP. RON KLEIN
Panning for federal dollars, Keechl met with a bi-partisan who’s who of elected officials we exported to Washington. Since the keys to the vault are entrusted to Congress, he touched base with Senator George LeMieux; Congress Persons Ron Klein, Alcee Hastings, Kendrick Meek, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and some of the key staffers behind our lawmakers’ legislative agenda. An expansion of the funding requests described in his newsletter follows.

Mayor Ken Keechl Addresses Beach Renourishment
KEECHL ON BEACH RENOURISHMENT
The long-delayed Shore Protection Project has been a study in frustration for Galt Mile residents. Broward’s Biological Resources Division must update the environmental impact data required by State and Federal regulators prior to implementing the repeatedly rescheduled 2011 Segment II beach renourishment. In the interim, Keechl requested a $6 million partial reimbursement to Broward County for construction and monitoring outlays associated with the South County Segment III component of the project.

Cruise Terminal 18 - the World's Largest
CRUISE TERMINAL 18 - THE WORLD'S LARGEST
When shipbuilders began grinding out unprecedented behemoths during the 1980s, facilities such as Port Everglades lacked the navigational clearances required to manage these larger classes of ocean-going vessels. Since undergoing the time-consuming preliminary studies prerequisite to federal funding eligibility would have delayed the port’s ability to remain competitive, Port Everglades used $15 million in Port funds to widen and deepen the Southport Channel and construct a new Turning Notch. Keechl dunned lawmakers for a partial reimbursement of $3 million, recapturing some liquidity for future improvements. The Mayor also requested $5 million to restore structural stability to the South Jetty. After all, the $18 billion generated by the self-supporting Port Everglades Enterprise Fund pays $7 billion in wages for 185,000 Florida jobs and plies the treasury with $623 million in state and local taxes.

Click to Broward Sheriff Web Site To improve wireless interoperability among Broward’s 33 municipalities and 39 municipal public safety agencies that currently utilize 5 different obsolete radio systems, the county must expand communications capacity into the 700 MHz spectrum to connect public safety services countywide. The Broward Sheriff’s Office must therefore purchase 2,612 new expanded-spectrum radios (700/800 MHz frequency band capability) at about $5000 apiece for a total of $13,060,000. Mayor Keechl hopes to abate some of the Phase 1 cost of this initiative with a $5.7 million contribution from the feds.

Park & Ride Lot
PARK & RIDE LOT
To encourage utilization of public transportation, the County intends to develop park and ride lots along existing limited-stop routes that cross county lines and connect with Tri-Rail. Mayor Keechl applied for $5 million to enable locations at Turtle Creek and Sample Road in Coral Springs, Hollywood Boulevard and I-95 in Hollywood, and Broward Boulevard and University Drive in Plantation. Retrofitting these sites for mass transit connectivity will create 54 jobs.

Click to Broward Legislative Delegation Web Site The Mayor solicited $500,000 in federal funds to ascertain whether a desalination plant will provide a virtually unlimited water supply capable of addressing both consumption and irrigation demands for the foreseeable future. The Mayor also took steps to insure that a threatened cutback in Customs and Border Patrol staffing levels doesn’t undermine economic growth projected for the airport and Port Everglades He asked for help with several other impending initiatives, including $5 million for environmentally-friendly, energy efficient hybrid-articulated and hydrogen buses.

After picking out the loose change from the Congressional sofa, the Mayor moved his budget-driven resource excursion to Tallahassee, where planned visits with members of Broward’s Legislative Delegation were tailored to enrich State appropriations to the County and generate the legislative underpinnings for planned County initiatives. Mayor Keechl promises to summarize the results of his trip to the State Capitol in next month’s newsletter. Read on – [editor]*

“Lobbying in Washington D.C. for Broward County:
Bringing Home Our Federal Tax Dollars”

by Broward County Commissioner & Mayor
Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
One of the more interesting jobs of your Mayor is to travel to Washington D.C. and to Tallahassee each year to lobby both state and federal legislators on behalf of Broward County.
This month’s newsletter will discuss my recent visit to Washington D.C to lobby for federal appropriations. Next month’s newsletter will discuss my recent visit to Tallahassee to lobby on state issues of importance to Broward.

Broward Mayor and District 4 Commissioner Ken Keechl and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
MAYOR KEN KEECHL & U.S. REP.
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ
My trip to Washington D.C. was productive. While there, I met with U.S. Senator George LeMieux, U.S. Representatives Ron Klein, Alcee Hastings, Kendrick Meek, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I also met with Governor Crist’s Beach Funding Advisor, and Legislative Directors for Senator Nelson, and Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

We discussed Broward’s Federal Appropriations Agenda for the upcoming year. Our tax dollars go to Washington D.C. every year; we deserve more of that money back in Broward County. If we are going to continue to keep property taxes dropping, then we need to be aggressive in locating money from other sources. Washington D.C. is a good place to start.

Click to Broward Beach Nourishment Project I’m thrilled to report back that each and every legislator I met with was supportive and optimistic. I sought their support for $6 million toward beach re-nourishment in Broward; $3 million toward dredging Port Everglades and an additional $5 million to repair our damaged south jetty at the Port. I explained the importance of receiving $5.7 million toward a new Public Safety Emergency Communications System. It is without doubt that we desperately need to upgrade our obsolete radio technology. The County’s radio system is the hub of emergency communications for 25,000 users including our police, fire rescue, cities and school buses.

Park & Ride Lot
PARK & RIDE LOT
Additional Broward County requests included $5 million toward Broward Transit Park and Ride lots. By creating more of these lots, we will encourage more residents to use more mass transit. And I sought $500,000 toward a feasibility study to consider constructing a desalination plant as an alternative water supply resource for our families in the future. Exploring desalination, to me, is a no-brainer and long overdue.

Click to Department of U.S. Customs and Border Protection web site Lastly, I spoke with each legislator about a potentially serious problem at our airport and seaport: inadequate Customs and Border Patrol staff. South Florida’s economy is in a highly fragile state and the airport and seaport are major economic engines. Both already have business on the books that will grow them by at least 5 percent next year, while the Custom and Border Patrol staff is slated to be cut by 5 percent. While staffing is currently adequate, it won’t be for long. As a result, and on behalf of Broward County, I requested several amendments to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill in an attempt to address this potential problem.

I’ve been your Broward County Commissioner for almost 3 ½ years. It never gets boring. Thank you for the honor.

And, as always, my best to you and your families.

Broward County Commissioner and
Mayor Ken Keechl

Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.

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Commodore Resident José 'Chepo' Vega
JOSÉ 'CHEPO' VEGA
May 1, 2010 - In late 2008, the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board unanimously appointed José “Chepo” Vega to perform an ongoing review of the hardscape and landscape features along Galt Ocean Drive and the surrounding area. Working with Parks Department officials, former Commissioner Christine Teel and later with Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts, Chepo engineered a wide variety of neighborhood improvements. Under his supervision, Parks Department crews trimmed and restrapped trees that were originally inadequately supported or cast atilt due to high winds. The dangerously angled low-hanging branches posed a threat to inattentive pedestrians and bicyclists.

Rusting Newsracks are Gone
RUSTING MULTI-COLOR NEWSRACKS ARE HISTORY
Chepo was also responsible for municipal repairs to cracked or destabilized sections of the pink aggregate sidewalks that line the block, eliminating dozens of tripping hazards. On his watch, we’ve seen regular and recyclables trash receptacles upgraded, new newsletter boxes that are substantially less offensive than the former lines of rusting multi-color metallic hulks, replanted and meticulously maintained sidewalk beds and dozens of other aesthetic enhancements.

Click Here to American Public Works Association web site Last winter, Chepo became increasingly irritated with what he characterized as “Utility Graffiti.” When contractors anticipate tearing up the street or sidewalk, they must first locate any buried utility lines to avoid disturbing or damaging electrical wiring, telephone lines, broadband cable, catch basins, gas lines, water lines, drainage and sewer lines and other interred utility components. Prior to commencing excavation, the location of every utility element must be identified and marked with different color paints to distinguish telephone, gas, water, electric, etc. Armed with a map of the buried wires, cables, lines, pipes, ducts and conduits, the contractors can proceed without wreaking havoc on local services. The marking system is compliant with the Uniform Color Code for Utilities of the American Public Works Association.

Click Here to Sunshine State One Call web site In preparation for any sub-surface demolition, contractors utilize a State sponsored service known as Sunshine State One-Call of Florida, Inc. (One-Call or SSOCOF). Created and delimited in Chapter 556 of the Florida Statutes, the company enlists membership by public utilities and private companies (operators) with underground facilities, which enables maintenance of a current and comprehensive statewide database of their buried system components. When informed of a planned excavation, One-Call “promptly” notifies all member operators with facilities in the defined area of the proposed excavation or demolition. Within two full business days (except when emergency repairs are indicated), they must apply appropriate marking indicators directly to the target area as well as generate a similarly marked hand-held map useful for planning purposes.

State law mandates that One-Call members “identify the horizontal route by marking to within 24 inches from the outer edge of either side of the underground facility by the use of stakes, paint, flags, or other suitable means.” Member operators use a pantheon of electronic detection equipment to perform comprehensive utility mapping over any designated area. Since this information is valid for a 30-day period, if the marking medium fails to withstand the foot traffic, rain, wind or other erosive elements to which the marked surface is ordinarily exposed, the excavator is required to cease demolition and notify One-Call of the necessity to remark. The excavator is liable for damages resulting from misinterpretation of degraded or adulterated markings. However, if the excavator is confronted by fully eroded markings, One-Call risks sharing liability for damage. To avoid such incidents, members prefer using marking materials chemically confected to withstand direct exposure to nuclear fallout.

Not surprisingly, the resulting markings often survive the attendant project. Long after the street or sidewalk is repaired, the markings persist - sometimes for months - or years. Ordinarily, contractors are required by local ordinance to restore an environment to its “pre-construction condition,” intimating that the contractor is responsible for removing any residual markings prior to closing out a project. Why, then, must Chepo continue to agonize over this legal vandalism?

Chepo and Vice Mayor Roberts Examine Galt Ocean Drive
CHEPO AND VICE MAYOR ROBERTS
EXAMINE GALT OCEAN DRIVE
When this dilemma was posed to Commissioner Roberts at a GMCA Advisory Board meeting, the Vice Mayor agreed to investigate. Members surmised that some local law was being arrogantly flouted and a series of violation notices would cure the problem. Initially, a response was received explaining that a bill was circulating in Tallahassee to address this issue. Confused, members asked why there was no city ordinance enforcing pre-construction restoration. What the heck did the state have to do with this issue?

Ocean Club Condominium
OCEAN CLUB CONDOMINIUM
The short answer - Since One-Call members operate subject to the tenets of Chapter 556 of the Florida Statutes (also cited as the Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act), they are arguably unaccountable to local governments. Local attempts to force operators to apply for a permit prior to marking a route, pre-mark the target area, specify the types of paint or other marking devices used to identify underground facilities or require the removal of marks have produced a pre-excavation legal grey area and post excavation liability limbo.

On April 12th, Fort Lauderdale’s Customer Operations Manager for Utilities, Linda Gee, sent GMCA President Pio Ieraci an email clarifying how Senate Bill 982 is expected to address neighborhood concerns. Since Chepo recently reported that a new set of markings marred the Ocean Club’s sidewalk, Gee’s correspondence assumed heightened significance. Her message was as follows:

April 12, 2010

Dear Mr. Ieraci,

Commissioner Roberts forwarded to us your concerns regarding the visual impact of underground utility line location marks. The City shares your concern, as do other municipalities throughout the state. There is currently legislation, Senate Bill 982 which proposes changes to the State Statute that regulates underground utility damage protection. The version submitted to the Senate includes the addition of a Section 9 - Low-Impact Marking Practices” – Page 18. The Bill is sponsored by Senator Bennett.

Section 9 – 556.114 – (1) of the new legislation will require the excavator to submit for marking, ONLY areas that will excavated within 30 days. If the planned work is not completed during that timeframe, or additional work is required, the excavator must initiate a new line location request for only the area where work was not complete.

This is meant to reduce the area being marked. Currently contractors resubmit the original location request – and the entire work area is marked again.

Section 9 – 556.114 – (4) states operators must use temporary, non-permanent paint. This was not part of the previous legislation.

The Bill also requires Sunshine One Call, the state agency that oversees the underground utility markings program, to establish an educational program to inform member operators and excavators about low-impact marking practices.

Another significant provision of the Bill provides exclusive power to regulate underground utility damage prevention to the State. This provision will prohibit municipalities, counties, districts or other local governments from enacting ordinances or rules to regulate any subject addressed in this Bill. Any ordinance or rule in existence, which is in conflict with this bill will not be valid or enforceable after July 1, 2010 (the date this bill will become law if adopted).

Sunshine One Call believes this is a ‘first step’ toward addressing the issues raised by the City of Fort Lauderdale and others. The Low-Impact Marking Ad Hoc Committee will continue to meet and develop additional recommendations for improving the process.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Linda Gee
Customer Operations Manager
City of Fort Lauderdale - Utilities
949 NW 38 Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
Office (954) 828-7896
Fax (954) 828-7897
LGee@fortlauderdale.gov

 

Senator Michael S. Bennett
SENATOR MICHAEL BENNETT
After being filed in pre-session on December 17, 2009 by Bradenton Senator Michael S. Bennett, Senate Bill 982 was referred to the Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee; the Community Affairs Committee and the Judiciary Committee for review on 1/14/2010. A committee substitute was passed in the Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee on 3/4/2010 by an 8 yeas vs. 0 nays vote. On 3/17/2010, it was passed in the Community Affairs Committee by an 11 yeas vs. 0 nays vote. On 4/7/2010, Judiciary passed another committee substitute by a 9 yeas vs. 0 nays vote. On April 12th – the date that Ms. Gee sent her email – it was placed on the Calendar, on 2nd reading. It was engrossed and placed on the Special Order Calendar on April 21st.

Statehouse Representative Dave Murzin
REP. DAVE MURZIN
A similar bill was filed in the Statehouse on January 15, 2010 by Pensacola Representative Dave Murzin (Co-sponsored by Punta Gorda Representative Paige Kreegel). On January 28th, House Bill 691 was referred for vetting to the Energy & Utilities Policy Committee, the Civil Justice & Courts Policy Committee, the Military & Local Affairs Policy Committee and the General Government Policy Council. On 3/3/10, a committee substitute was passed in Energy & Utilities Policy by a vote of 13 yeas vs. 0 nays. On 3/22/10 it passed favorably through Civil Justice & Courts Policy in a 14 yeas vs. 0 nays vote. On 3/25/10, the Military & Local Affairs Policy Committee unanimously approved the bill by a 13 yeas vs. 0 nays vote. The General Government Policy Council passed it on 4/9/10, by a vote of 12 yeas vs. 0 nays. House Bill 691 was placed on the Calendar on April 13th and placed on the Special Calendar on April 23rd.


Guide for Abbreviation Use

This is a guide for placing abbreviations in the field. The Company Identifier is to be placed at the top or at the left of the abbreviations. Place the abbreviations in the following order, Company Identifier / Facility Identifier / Underground Construction Descriptions / Infrastructure Material (e.g. ATT/TEL/FO/PLA). This example indicates that AT&T has a Telecommunication Fiber Optic line in a single Plastic conduit. The use of the abbreviation /TEL is not necessary, because the orange marking would indicate that the facility was a communication line, but its use is optional. To leave out one or more of the abbreviation types you would continue to follow the order of the abbreviations above leaving out the slash and abbreviation that does not apply (e.g. /TEL), the result would be the following (e.g. ATT/FO/PLA). The abbreviation for; gas transmission facilities is “/G/T”, electric distribution is “/E/D” and electric transmission is “E/T” these should be used when appropriate.

Click Here to American Public Works Association 'Uniform Color Code for Utilities' web pageInfrastructure Materials


Facility IdentifiersUnderground Construction Descriptions


Large Pipes or Multiple DuctsSmall Pipes or cables

Utility Markings in front of Ocean Club Condominium
RECENT UTILITY MARKINGS AT OCEAN CLUB ENTRANCE
Short of a mass affliction stress disorder of the type occasionally experienced by frenetic lawmakers as the session heads to Sine Die, the bills are a lock. Fully greased by SSOCOF Lobbyist Mike Moore, the only remaining variable is the effective date, which Ms. Gee identified as July 1, 2010 despite its characterization as October 1, 2010 in both the House and Senate bills.

Unfortunately, passage of these bills may not address the problem. The bills were not filed to assist disgruntled local governments and communities with their marking removal issues... quite the opposite. One of the primary motives for their filing was to preclude local governments from interfering with One-Call functionality. When originally filed, the Senate Bill 982 prohibited local government from adopting any ordinance or regulation relating to the subject matter of Chapter 556. The final committee substitute replaces that provision with a prohibition on local government adopting any conflicting laws.

Utility Markings in front of Ocean Club Condominium
UTILITY MARKINGS AT OCEAN CLUB CONDOMINIUM
The language used to address the graffiti issue is somewhat slippery. As originally filed, the bill created Section 9 – 556.114 (4)“Member operators shall mark the area described or premarked by the excavator using temporary, nonpermanent paint, flags, stakes, and other acceptable means” (as described in Ms. Gee’s email message). Two committee substitutes later, the provision was relocated to Section 8 and the language morphed into “A member operator shall identify the horizontal route of its underground facilities as set forth in s. 556.105(5)(a) and (b), and excavators shall premark an excavation site as set forth in subsection (3) using flags or stakes or temporary, non-permanent paint or other industry accepted low-impact marking practices.”

Utility Markings in front of Ocean Club Condominium
MORE OCEAN CLUB MARKINGS
Since the problem can only be cured by requiring that facility operators remove whatever substance they use to mark a designated area, one could be forgiven for doubting Sunshine State One-Call’s assessment that this legislation represents progress “toward addressing the issues raised by the City of Fort Lauderdale and others,” as expressed in Linda Gee’s correspondence. The legislation fails to define “industry accepted low-impact marking practices”, thereby affording One-Call members wide latitude in creatively interpreting this option. The degree of its marking materials’ chemical permanence appears to remain a discretionary call by each member. Since operators have long demonstrated a clear preference for using more permanent marking materials to better protect their underground facilities from inadvertent excavation damage, it is unlikely that they will voluntarily shift to a policy that increases their exposure.

Creating a program to educate member operators about low-impact marking practices, as required in Section 8 – 556.114 (6), instead of implementing a straightforward marking removal requirement is a bad joke. One-Call operators are already intimately familiar with the rancor they cause by vandalizing streets and sidewalks. That’s one of the reasons they support the legislation’s protection from local regulations. It is laughable to assume that technologically conversant operators such as FP&L, AT&T, Broward Water Services, Comcast and Peoples Gas are perplexed by the mysteries of low-impact marking practices. Since the bills’ sponsors needed to marshal the support of program participants to minimize committee obstacles, it doesn’t require an Ouija board to fathom why the problem wasn’t definitively corrected in the current legislation.

Hopefully, the educational program’s curriculum will include a relevant historical component. If the abuses remain flagrant enough to provide the basis for an action against the operator, Section 5 – 556.107 (1)(a)(7.) in the bill characterizes the violation as a “Non-Criminal Infraction” and increases the existing $250 penalty to $500. Since it costs substantially more to send a crew to remove the markings, the fine is not likely to elicit more than a raised eyebrow. However, if the facility operators are warned that the communities they are vandalizing will ultimately become adequately incensed to lobby for an amendment with effectively punitive teeth, they may decide that compliance with the new bill’s “spirit” will be less abrasive to their bottom lines.

If the bill becomes effective in October, we should be able to evaluate its impact by January. Until then, I regret having to recommend that Chepo hang on to his Excedrin, since he will probably need it.

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Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts

Budgets, Bills a Beach Blast

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
VICE MAYOR BRUCE G. ROBERTS
May 7, 2010 - Framing the recessionary dilemmas threatening next year’s budget, Vice Mayor Bruce G. Roberts’ May 2010 Newsletter opens by clarifying the distinction between budget expenses fueled by self-sustaining Enterprise Funds and those supported by General Fund revenues. Since the Public Safety (Police and Fire-Rescue) and Parks & Recreation Departments are three of the City’s major General Fund beneficiaries, they are largely funded by ad valorem taxes. Although plunging property values threaten an anticipated 16% decline in next year’s tax revenues, the Vice Mayor takes solace in the City’s abundant assets, healthy reserves and an excellent bond rating - factors prospectively useful for softening the ominous tax bite.

Click to Fort Lauderdale Budget Advisory Board A panel of volunteers charged with exploring budgetary resolutions, the Budget Advisory Board invites public oversight of their meetings. On May 11th, a 7 PM Public Hearing will be convened to elicit public input about the budget. Four subsequent meetings are dedicated to identifying funding cutbacks with marginal service implications for Public Works and Parks & Recreation, thereby diminishing the burden on taxpayers.

Governor Charlie Crist gives 2010 Post Session State of the State Address
CRIST DELIVERS 2010 POST SESSION STATE ADDRESS
The Vice Mayor also summarizes actions taken in response to certain legislative efforts. The City Commission passed resolutions promoting the sprinkler retrofit relief bill (SB 1196), regulatory constraint of pill mills (SB 2272) and legislation enabling red light camera enforcement (HB 325). While the new legislation allows jurisdictions to issue traffic tickets for camera-detected red light violations, the statutory $155 fine must be shared among the state, local governments and trauma centers; requiring the City to either rework its projected budget impact or continue to treat violations as simple ordinance infractions. The three bills were sent to the Governor. The City Commission also voiced opposition to House Memorial 563, a bill heavily lobbied by the energy industry that urged Congress to support the removal of protective moratoria that currently prohibit the expansion of oil exploration (drilling) and production in Florida waters. Not surprisingly, both House and Senate versions (SB 1726) were sponsored by inland legislators and gratefully died in Committee on April 30th.

Roberts promotes a unique event derived of the City’s historical notoriety as the nation’s “Spring Break” capitol - The Great American Beach Party with Connie Francis. On Saturday, May 29, 2010, a special 50th Anniversary screening of “Where The Boys Are”, a film contributing to Francis’ legend, will climax a day filled with music from the 50s and 60s, organized beach activities, live entertainment, a Classic Car Show and family fun.

Click to Fort Lauderdale Advisory Boards Web Page The Vice Mayor closes with two reminders. By sharing their expertise, vision and/or experience, volunteers can impact the City’s future through participation in a wide variety of City Advisory Boards. Closer to home, District 1 residents are invited attend the Vice Mayor’s bi-monthly Monday pre-agenda meetings. While ostensibly held in preparation for the next day’s City Commission meetings (scheduled on the first and third Tuesday of most months), virtually anything is fair game for discussion. read on... – [editor]

From The Desk of
Vice Mayor Bruce G. Roberts

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER
& V.M. BRUCE G. ROBERTS
FINANCIAL STATE OF THE CITY: We are in the process of preparing a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Everyone realizes that with the current and prolonged recession this will be another very difficult year. Our overall budget is approximately $600 million. In general terms, half of the budget is supported through the Enterprise Fund and half through the General Fund; the Enterprise Funds are similar to a private business and are self-supportive - a good example is the Executive Airport. Click to Fort Lauderdale General Fund Budget The General Fund requires varying revenue sources, one of which is ad valorem taxes. The current fiscal year’s operating budget for the General Fund is about $275 million; of that amount, around $110 million is from ad valorem revenue. We are anticipating a 16% ad valorem decline for the next fiscal year. Public Safety and Parks and Recreation are supported by the General Fund. Despite this dilemma, all is not bleak. Click to Fort Lauderdale All Funds Budget In the recently released Comprehensive Annual Financial Report some highlights include: total assets exceed liabilities by $1.01 billion; our bond rating remains strong; our undesignated fund balance is $65 million; and in just one account (Surplus Funds Pooled Investments) there is a balance of over $366 million.

Residents Invited to Attend Budget Advisory Board Meetings: The City of Fort Lauderdale Budget Advisory Board reviews revenue and expenditure projections and submits recommendations to the City Commission. The City invites residents to attend the upcoming Budget Advisory Board Meetings to hear discussions about the budget for next fiscal year. All of the meetings are open to the public. There will be a Public Hearing on the budget on May 11. The primary purpose of this hearing is to receive your recommendations and to listen to your priorities as we prepare for the new fiscal year. Meetings will take place in City Hall, located at 100 North Andrews Avenue. A schedule of future meetings can be found below. We also post agendas and minutes for the meetings.

 
DATETIMELOCATIONDESCRIPTION
 
 May 11 7 pmCommission Chambers     Public Hearing on Budget        
 May 19 6 pm 8th Floor Conference Room Presentation – Public Works    
 May 27 6 pm 8th Floor Conference Room Review of Public Works Info     
June 16 6 pm 8th Floor Conference Room      Presentation – Parks & Recreation
June 30 6 pm 8th Floor Conference Room    Review of Parks & Recreation Info
    

STATE LEGISLATION: Your commission recently passed several resolutions re pending state legislation:

Click to 'Where The Boys Are' Great American Beach Party EVENT: WHERE THE BOYS ARE - Memorial Day Weekend: We are honored to welcome Connie Francis back to Fort Lauderdale Beach to mark this historic occasion – it is a unique way to unveil our plans for a one-of-a-kind event that pays tribute to this film and captures the spirit and nostalgia of the 1960s. The Great American Beach Party with Connie Francis will take place on Saturday, May 29, 2010, and will feature a day and evening full of exciting activities on Fort Lauderdale Beach. The free event will begin at approximately 11:30 a.m. when a portion of Fort Lauderdale’s world famous A1A will be transformed into an entertainment Mecca, featuring music, live performances, and activities for the entire family. Live bands will perform classic hits from the 1950s and ‘60s throughout the day in the vicinity of A1A and Las Olas Boulevard. Children and adults will enjoy an array of activities including hula-hoop, limbo and Twister contests, a water balloon toss and a sand castle building competition. The event will also feature a Classic Car Show. Vintage automobiles from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s will line A1A giving beach-goers an up close look at more than 50 hot rods, rag tops and muscle cars that made the era famous. A special Reunion Area will be set up where local high schools, sororities, and fraternities can gather to welcome back alumni and reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. A history and exhibit tent will feature nostalgic photos, artwork and collectibles. The event will be highlighted by a special appearance from Connie Francis, who will be presented with an award from Mayor Seiler in recognition of her lifelong contributions as an ambassador for Fort Lauderdale. To top off the evening, event-goers will be treated to a special 50th Anniversary screening of Where The Boys Are presented by the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. The movie will be shown on a larger-than-life screen set in the sand off the corner of A1A and Las Olas Boulevard. The film will run from approximately 8:00 to 9:30 p.m.

Fort Lauderdale City Clerk Jonda Joseph
CITY CLERK JONDA JOSEPH
Advisory Boards: Just a reminder that we have several openings on our Advisory Boards. Please go to http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/clerk/boards.htm and it will list the summaries of each board, the members now serving, along with vacancy expiration date, when they meet, time and location. If you are interested, please fill out an application and submit it along with a resume to either my office or the City Clerk’s office. If there is not an opening on the board you are interested in, still send an application and resume so that we can keep it on file for the future.

Fort Lauderdale Commission Assistant Robbi Uptegrove
ROBBI
UPTEGROVE
Pre-Agenda Meetings: Our District 1 Pre-Agenda Meetings are always the Monday before a Commission Meeting, which are usually the first and third Tuesday of each month. This gives the residents of District 1 a chance to view and discuss what is on the agenda for the Commission Meeting, and an opportunity to discuss other issues. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to be, please call or email my assistant Robbi.

Office Contact: Robbi Uptegrove – 954-828-5033; email: ruptegrove@fortlauderdale.gov

Bruce G. Roberts                

If you need to reach Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts, please contact his assistant Robbi Uptegrove at 954-828-5033 or by e-mail at RUptegrove@fortlauderdale.gov. To access the City Commission Meeting Agendas and Minutes, Click Here. To actually watch the meetings recorded and archived on the Commission Meetings Video Webcast and Archives web site, Click Here.

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Broward Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

May 2010 Newsletter

Old Florida Capitol Building
OLD FLORIDA CAPITOL BUILDING
May 21, 2010 - * Reading Mayor
Ken Keechl’s newsletters, one could be forgiven for nursing the impression that he loves his job. In addition to expanding his outreach to other elements of the regulatory hierarchy that impact our lives, these annual appropriations expeditions to Washington and Tallahassee provide an opportunity to bring some equilibrium to our fiscal relationship with these revenue black holes. To the extent that he is successful in recapturing some of our State and Federal tax dollars to fund Broward’s liabilities, Keechl diminishes next year’s tax bite. Having declared next year’s budget his Administration’s main priority, it is not surprising that he considers these funding excursions one of his “more interesting responsibilities.”

This month’s offering is Part 2 of his hunt for County dollars. After chasing down appropriations in Washington that benefit projects with county-wide relevance, Keechl seemed to refocus on district issues during his Tallahassee sojourn. He reviewed three such issues with Governor Crist at a March 17th Broward Days luncheon meeting and subsequently pursued them with Broward lawmakers. They could have been lifted from any recent Galt Mile Community Association meeting agenda.

A well-coordinated and deep pocketed lobbying effort to engender support for offshore drilling in South Florida has been targeting lawmakers in both Washington and Tallahassee. When Lakeland Statehouse Representative Seth McKeel filed House Memorial 563 supporting Congressional efforts to remove oil drilling moratoria in Florida waters (and similar Senate Bill 1726 by Alachua Senator Steve Oelrich), the City of Fort Lauderdale responded with a Resolution opposing the gross adulteration of their primary economic engine. Mayor Keechl reports that when the threat reaches critical mass next year, he will return to Tallahassee as our District Commissioner, presumably with next Broward Mayor Sue Gunzburger, unless she is unseated by campaign opponent and former State Senator Steven Geller.

Severe Tidal Erosion in North Broward
SEVERE TIDAL EROSION IN NORTH BROWARD
The second issue has long resonated with Galt Mile residents, beach renourishment. Unlike the beach renourishment funds he sought to realize in Washington, which should reimburse the County for Segment III (South County) monitoring expenditures, he raised an additional $half-million in Tallahassee toward next year’s Segment II renourishment in Fort Lauderdale (which includes the Galt Mile). Given the Federal matching funds magic trick inherent in Army Corps of Engineers-approved beach renourishments, the appropriations should total $1 million at the end of the day.

Not surprisingly, his third district priority is also this year’s primary Galt Mile legislative objective - a reacquisition of the right of common interest community members to decide their own fate. In particular, it affords them the right to decide whether they want to cough up between $1 million and $4 million for a highly questionable partial sprinkler retrofit.

Broward County and the City of Fort Lauderdale have both passed Resolutions supporting Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff’s House Bill 561 (since morphed into Senate Bill 1196), which has been overwhelmingly passed by the legislature and sent to the Governor. Similar supportive resolutions have been passed by the City of Naples, Collier County, the City of Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Miramar and other jurisdictions. For a summary of the Mayor’s efforts to offset future county assessments by recycling tax revenues previously sent to Tallahassee and Washington, Read On... – [editor]*

Lobbying Tallahassee for
Broward County and District 4

by Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl, District 4 Commissioner

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
VICE MAYOR KEN KEECHL
As I stated in
last month’s newsletter, one of the more interesting responsibilities of Broward County’s Mayor is to travel to Washington D.C. and Tallahassee each year to lobby both the federal and state legislatures on issues of importance to Broward County. Last month’s newsletter discussed my recent visit to Washington D.C. This month’s newsletter will discuss my recent trip to Tallahassee.

Click to Broward Days Web Site My trip was productive. While in Tallahassee, I met with Senate President, Jeff Atwater, and House Representatives Bogdanoff, Rivera, Porth and others. I also met with Governor Crist during a “Broward Days” luncheon where he and I both addressed a significant gathering of Broward’s elected officials and residents.

While I lobbied our elected officials in Tallahassee on a number of issues, I focused on three of particular importance to our District.

Click to Calypso web page First, I reaffirmed the Broward County Commission’s unanimous opposition to any offshore drilling. Many of you may remember our earlier (and successful) fight against the Calypso, a proposed liquefied natural gas facility that was scheduled to be built directly off our beaches in Fort Lauderdale. My lobbying against offshore drilling felt like the Calypso fight all over again. While I believe this year will not see any relaxation of the current prohibition against leases or permits for drilling off Broward’s shores, I am very worried about this issue in 2011. Next year, I intend to go back to Tallahassee as your County Commissioner to lobby against offshore drilling again.

Click to Broward Beach Nourishment Project Second, I lobbied for additional monies for Broward’s Segment 2 beach re-nourishment project (Fort Lauderdale beach and northward). Segment 2 re-nourishment is scheduled to commence next year. As everyone knows, the fiscal situation in Tallahassee has never been worse, so my lobbying activities are even more challenging than in earlier years. However, as I write this newsletter, the Senate and the House have allocated an additional $500,000.00 toward Segment 2, which, if it survives in the budget, will be matched dollar for dollar by the federal government!

Click to Broward Retrofit Relief Resolution Lastly, I strongly lobbied in favor of Rep. Bogdanoff’s condominium bill that would give all condominiums the right of self-determination when it comes to sprinkler and other retrofitting requirements. Broward Vice Mayor Gunzburger and I successfully sponsored a resolution at the Broward County Commission in favor of Rep. Bogdanoff’s bill. The Vice Mayor and I strongly believe that during these difficult economic times, another financial burden on our condominium owners is unwarranted and unwise. As I write this newsletter, I am hopeful that condominium self determination will be enacted.

In closing, I want to again thank you for the honor of being your County Commissioner. It is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. My best to you and your families.

Broward County Commissioner and
Mayor Ken Keechl

Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.

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Construction Audit: Corrupt...

... or Just Plain Stupid?

Broward County School Board Before and After Gallagher's Arraignment
SCHOOL BOARD BEFORE & AFTER GALLAGHER IS PINCHED
June 7, 2010 - When former Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher was charged with accepting thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for
steering school construction projects to undercover FBI agents posing as contractors, it not only vented a Pandora’s Box of corruption that sent the sweat glands of local officials into overdrive, it brought focus to one of the largest sources of taxpayer bloodletting, the Broward County School Board’s Facilities & Construction Management Division.

Willie Sutton
WILLIE SUTTON
There are literally dozens of agencies, departments, divisions and bureaus in local government that provide fertile opportunities for unscrupulous public officials to engage in theft, fraud, gross incompetence, kickbacks, graft, featherbedding or plain stupidity. Why does the School Board’s construction arm play such an important role in Broward’s financial debacles? In the words of Willie Sutton when asked why he robs banks, “That’s where the money is.”

Click to District Educational Facilities Plan web site In view of the economic downturn and the declining student population, as of last year, the capital outlay in the School Board’s five year District Educational Facilities Plan (DEFP) covering new construction, repairs and rehabilitation for 285 schools and several district office buildings was roughly $1.3 billion. In 2008, as the building boom hit the wall, the budget was $3 billion. While School Superintendent Jim Notter recently exclaimed “It was an economic engine,” his construction department performed more like an automatic cash machine.

Former Deputy Superintendent Michael Garretson
FORMER DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT
MICHAEL GARRETSON
The School Board’s Facilities & Construction Management Division (F&CM) has been ground zero for far too many costly incidents to believe that these gaffes are fueled by chronic incompetence. Scores of financial irregularities proliferated under the watch of now-retired construction chief Michael Garretson. Not surprisingly, as scrutiny by federal law enforcement authorities intensified after last year’s arrests and pressure mounted to enforce a new ethics code, Garretson hit the road, retiring to his family home in St. Augustine on January 1, 2010. Within days of his installation as acting Deputy Superintendent of the Facilities & Construction Management Division, Tom Lindner ordered a forensic fiscal review of his division. Released in two parts, the first segment surfaced in March and part 2 was completed by the end of April.

Broward County FY 2010 Budget Web Page On April 30, 2010, an internal audit of the Broward school district’s construction division revealed that it overpaid $47 million to build 15 elementary school cafeterias. There are, as always, two sides to this issue. This was by no means a walk in the park for the School District’s Facilities & Construction Management Division. They had to violate state law, break with standard construction protocols at every opportunity, double the cost to taxpayers and avoid using communication formats susceptible to monitoring by law enforcement. In fact, County Attorney Ed Marko specifically recommended that participants refrain from texting one another. The fun started in July of 2006.

Boilerplate Broward Elementary School Cafeteria
BOILERPLATE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CAFETERIA
In addition to replacing the 15 cafeterias, School officials also planned to install new air conditioning, drainage and electrical systems; bus loops; repave walkways, playgrounds and other amenities. The elementary schools scheduled for upgrades were Bennett, Cypress, Dania, Deerfield Beach, Hollywood Hills, Lloyd Estates, Margate, Meadowbrook, Mirror Lake, Palmview, Pembroke Pines, Peters, Tropical, Village and Walker. The job costs were budgeted at $65 million ($64,774,834) until the School Board experienced a cathartic revelation. Managing the exhausting subterfuge required to insure selection of their preferred vendors proved too stressful for School Board members’ delicate sensibilities. Rather than try to surreptitiously manipulate 14 high-visibility bidding processes, the School Board decided not to seek hard bids for the school cafeterias.

After July 25, 2006, district staff switched to a “construction management at risk” (CM at Risk) selection process, clearing the way for ambitious board members to select the firms dear to their hearts - and campaign depositories. Under this methodology, instead of choosing a contractor based on bid price, references, experience and other boring distractions, the school system hires outside construction managers to run the project. Short of selecting a Cali cartel subsidiary, the School Board members are free to match available contracts with open entries on their Christmas lists.

Click to Total Value of the Fifteen Projects Since the CM at Risk strategy is more appropriate to managing large and complicated construction projects like high rise office buildings and commercial complexes, outsourcing high powered oversight to paste together some school cafeterias is akin to swatting mosquitoes with an elephant gun. These contracted torpedoes immediately negotiated an additional $24 million to ostensibly fund personnel and job site expenses. Since salaries for onsite Project Managers and Job Supervisors represent a tiny fraction of that incremental infusion, most of the $24 million swells the bottom line. Although the scope of work hadn’t changed, the board voted to approve an additional $50 million in November, raising the $65 million budget to $115 million (which grew over the next three years to $131 million).

Click to Cost of Work and Negotiated Fees At the November 14, 2006 School Board meeting, Garretson announced that since a permit was received for the Margate Elementary project, it would be replaced by Bennett Elementary in the package of 14 CM at Risk projects, and immediately put to bid. By then letting slip “...all of the projects have permits or are close to having permits...,” it became clear that the Margate cafeteria project was suddenly segregated and subjected to a bidding process for some other reason. The job was evidently tagged and bagged in preparation for delivery to a suitor. The audit report states that on February 15, 2007, the district posted the bid notice on Onvia DemandStar, a website dedicated to disseminating information about government contracts. Eighteen of the 350 companies invited to bid on the Margate Elementary School cafeteria project filled out applications for bid documents.

Click to BID DATE CHANGE document Two weeks later, the words “BID DATE CHANGE” were added to the web site, without revealing the actual date. When auditors contacted bid applicants to ascertain whether they had received written notice of the revised timetable – as required by law – not one could verify its receipt, underscoring the district’s failure to elicit three prospective bidders – the legal minimum for a hard bid. While dozens of potential competitors were kept in the dark, Padula & Wadsworth of Pompano Beach submitted the only bid for the job on March 9, 2007 – a deadline known only to them – and was awarded the contract on April 24, 2007 for $5,200,700 (with change orders, ultimately costing $5,666,926).

Broward County School Board member Stephanie Arma Kraft
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER
STEPHANIE ARMA KRAFT
Instead of following standard procedure and rebidding the project, the official records were engineered to convey the impression that the sole bid was actually one of several. In the School Board meeting agenda, Padula is referred to as the “low bidder” instead of the “lone bidder,” equipping school board members with “plausible deniability” if ever asked why they didn’t demand a rebidding of the $multi-million project – as required by law. Nevertheless, they were clearly aware that Padula was the sole bidder since Board member Stephanie Kraft asked Garretson if accepting a single bid was Kosher, to which he inaccurately responded “Yes!” Auditors disagreed, characterizing the procurement process as amply corrupt to satisfy all three of the “Office of Inspector General” solicitation phase fraud benchmarks.

Click to Padula & Wadsworth web site The Board’s plan to “buffer” the project wrought a few minor wrinkles. To begin with, it was illegal. To avoid costly mid-project change orders, state law requires the builder to cooperate with the architect/engineer in designing construction plans. However, the School Board’s plans were completed and approved far in advance of their decision to outsource oversight. Additionally, none of the CM at Risk firms selected by the Board provided professional design services. In short, the firms pulled the architectural plans off the shelf and rubber stamped them from school to school, occasionally tailoring ill-fitting elements as needed.

Margate Elementary School
MARGATE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Since violating state law has almost become an eligibility requirement for continued employment in Broward government, it is almost inconceivable that any consequences will inure to infractions by the School Board or its construction bureau. However, the financial repercussions of their decision to use the CM at Risk construction protocols are far more memorable. Unlike the Margate Elementary project, wherein change orders totaling $466,226 increased the initial $5,200,700 bid price to $5,666,926, the average cost for each of the 14 school cafeterias built using the CM at Risk method instead of a competitive bidding process was a hefty $8,998,000. According to auditors, each of those projects cost an average $3.3 million ($3,331,074) more than the $5.6 million Margate Elementary hard bid cafeteria project. Chief auditor Patrick Reilly concluded that taxpayers were stung for close to $47 million ($46,635,036).

En route to uncovering this unconscionable waste of resources, auditors described how the district’s collusive behavior permeated the entire process, enabling activity ranging from unethical to blatantly illegal. Participants either twisted or ignored statutory requirements and procedural guidelines created to insure fairness and maximize public resources. Auditors said they found “potentially collusive bidding practices which often resulted in increased costs of work.” In addition to illuminating the surreptitious solicitation that tainted the February 2007 Margate cafeteria bidding process and landed an early Christmas for Padula & Wadsworth Construction, Inc. (who later snatched cafeteria projects at Hollywood Hills Elementary and Pembroke Pines Elementary without having to bid), the audit condemns other contractors for rigging a bidding process used to select subcontractors.

K.C. Wright Building - Before & After Wilma Repairs
K.C. WRIGHT BUILDING - BEFORE & AFTER REPAIRS
When Hurricane Wilma stripped the outer skin and thousands of windows from scores of Fort Lauderdale buildings, among them was the 15-story K.C. Wright Building, which houses the Broward Board of Education. To replace the eviscerated glass curtain that sheathed the structure, the building’s owner retained Fort Lauderdale-based construction consultant Moss & Associates. Aware that the School Board burns through construction money like a drunken sailor, they went the extra mile to ingratiate themselves to the building’s primary tenants. Not surprisingly, they subsequently netted 11 School Board construction projects.

Peters Elementary School Cafeteria - in Plantation
PETERS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CAFETERIA
Included in this bonanza was a contract to modernize the Peters Elementary School in Plantation. The renovation included a new 18,000 SF multi-purpose building, upgraded electrical service and site utilities, a fire access loop, retention pond, covered walkways, parking lots and (2) new 140-ton chillers.

In October 2007, auditors attended an event at the 2101 North Andrews Avenue Headquarters of Moss & Associates for the purpose of opening supposedly sealed bids sent by subcontractors competing for a portion of the lucrative Peters Elementary School construction buffet. After the submission deadline had officially passed and eligible bids were being opened and recorded, auditors watched unsealed proposals continue to roll in by fax. When the tabulations were completed and participants inquired about the winning bidder, auditors said they were told that Moss “still had to solicit more bids and validate those which had been received and tabulated.”

Click to Moss & Associates web site A sealed bidding process supposedly levels the bidders’ playing field. Bids are deemed eligible if sealed and submitted by a deadline, precluding participants from modifying their bids after learning about their competitors’ proposals. However, the stated intention of Moss & Associates to entertain bids submitted after the deadline is an admission that the process is rigged to favor (a) certain subcontractor(s). The audit states that the process used by Moss & Associates “represents an unnecessary perception of collusion which is not in the best interest of the owner and not in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.”

Moss & Associates President Bob Moss
BOB MOSS
Although Moss & Associates rebid the project in December 2007, Company owner Bob L. Moss claimed “I don’t believe we did anything improper.” For the last year, the district has spent $200,000 on an outside consultant to unravel the financial records of Moss & Associates, due to concerns about how much in savings should be credited to the district on the Peters project.

Dillard High School
DILLARD HIGH SCHOOL
Released in March, the first of Lindner’s two internal audits revealed a smorgasbord of financial abuses. In one project involving the expansion of bleachers at Dillard High School in 2007, improprieties were so egregious that auditors asked school officials to call on law enforcement to investigate a subcontractor for “criminal negligence or fraud” after bilking taxpayers out of $500,000.

Click to Florida Blacktop Inc. web site Understandably intrigued by mysterious doubling of project costs, auditors began researching how the price tag for a 2,500-seat bleacher expansion project mushroomed from $500,000 to more than $1 million under Garretson’s nose. The district hired a Pompano Beach construction outfit called Florida Blacktop Inc., which had previously pulled a permit for a related sewer relocation project. They also retained a Sunrise firm, Grace & Naeem Uddin Inc., as general contractor. A subcontractor, Seating Constructors, USA of Brooksville, Fla., decided to bill the contractor and the district, sending duplicate invoices for their work. Grace & Naeem also billed the district for the work performed by subcontractor Seating Constructors. As a result, Seating Constructors was paid twice – by the district and by the general contractor. Since the district had already improperly paid their subcontractor, they stiffed Grace & Naeem – which is suing the school district and Seating Constructors over the issue. Although the subcontractor admitted that they shouldn’t have been paid twice, they told auditors that as soon as they deposited the $540,522.40 check, “the funds were taken by Wachovia Bank to pay lines of credit and the funds were no longer available.”

Click to Grace & Naeem Uddin Inc. web site No invoices are supposed to be paid without a School Board-approved Purchase Order. However, a clause in the contract (3.03.01) stipulated that “The Deputy Superintendent or his designee shall act on behalf of the Owner in all matters pertaining to this Agreement, and shall approve all Notices to Proceed to the Contractor and all invoices for payment to the Contractor.” This equipped any of Garretson’s minions with an invaluable cash withdrawal button, which Seating Constructors repeatedly banged away on. The auditors concluded that “internal controls were circumvented,” allowing Seating Constructors to invoice for work also billed by Grace & Naeem. Affirming that “Controls were in place, but were not enforced by the School Board Contract Administrator,” auditors revealed that it wasn’t simply a mixup, but a fleecing.

Click to Seating Constructors, USA web site The auditors recommended that the district engage law enforcement authorities to investigate the subcontractor, “as Seating Constructors, USA was aware that they were not entitled to the amount requested.” However, they couldn’t have pulled off this rip-off without some inside help. A district project manager, Contract Administrator Charles Ricks, is singled out in the report as a “common factor” in the payment process “from start to finish.”

In contrast with Garretson’s longstanding policy of burying audit allegations, denying culpability and disparaging anyone associated with the audit, Lindner agreed with the auditors’ recommendation. In his official response, the new schools construction boss wrote “Contract administration protocols were purposely circumvented. Staff intends to refer this issue to appropriate law enforcement for review.”

Westglades Middle School
WESTGLADES MIDDLE SCHOOL
The audit also identified other instances in which building contractors proceeded with work at the informal direction of staff and administrators, including Garretson, but without School Board approval. In one case, Pavarini Construction Co. undertook design work on a 24-room addition at Westglades Middle School in Parkland in May of 2008, eleven months before obtaining a contract with the district in April of 2009. In September 2008, Project Manager Scott Hennigar declared the project “of questionable necessity” since Coral Springs Middle, two miles from Westglades, had 359 empty seats at the time. Anticipating a 34,&00 seat surplus by 2012, the State has since ordered the construction-happy School Board and Garretson to cease building new classrooms. Just prior to the State-imposed construction moratorium, instead of frugally deterring unnecessary and expensive classroom expansion plans, Garretson urged his staff to get projects put to bid quickly, hoping to aggressively milk the construction budget until the State pulled the plug.

Click to Pavarini Construction Co. web site Ignoring Hennigar’s admonition, Garretson recommended that the School Board approve $581,365, or 32% of the $1,805,045 project cost for design fees – instead of the usual 22%. Four days after the project was considered at the April 21, 2009 School Board meeting, Pavarini asked for $387,596, two-thirds of the design fee. Although never reviewed and approved as compliant by the Design Services Department, the company was improperly paid $290,683, 50% of the design fee. The school system is now trying to recover the $290,683 “erroneously paid to Pavarini.”

Seminole Middle School
SEMINOLE MIDDLE SCHOOL
Another contractor providing design services was overpaid twice by the school district. Although contracted to design a classroom addition for $203,208 at Seminole Middle School in Plantation, James A. Cummings Construction Inc. invoiced the district for $225,433.08, receiving an overpayment of $22,225.08. Also, after negotiating a $529,465 deal to design three classroom additions at Deerfield Beach Middle, Pompano Beach Elementary and Sunrise Middle, Cummings banged the district for $608,490.08 and was overpaid $79,025.08. Auditors recommended that the district recover overpayments amounting to $101,250.16 from James A. Cummings Inc.

Click to James A. Cummings Construction Inc. web site In a report released last June, auditors discovered that employees working two jobs within the school system would be paid overtime based on the higher rate of pay, even if the hours were logged for the secondary, lesser paying position. In the March 2010 report, auditors again uncovered a variety of payroll scams, ranging from employee abuse of lax oversight to rip-offs organized and authorized by supervisory personnel, including Garretson. The audit also found that some employees were paid without completing daily attendance sheets, padded their mileage for reimbursement, left vacation and leave request forms unsigned and, instead of eliciting approval from an authorized administrator, regularly approved one another for overtime or compensatory time.

While many of these abuses are inherent to any poorly controlled payroll environment, auditors uncovered a scam devised by former Deputy Superintendent of the Facilities & Construction Management Division Michael Garretson! The audit report states “A review of the Payroll expenditures of Design Services and Capital Planning and Programming Departments disclosed that an employee from each location was paid for additional hours submitted each day without requiring pre-approval for each pay period and without documentation of what additional work was assigned.”

Click to Broward County Public Schools District Budget web site Starting on July 18, 2005, Garretson arranged for the Design Services employee to be credited with an additional 1.5 hours of daily overtime. On April 4, 2008, the overtime hours increased to 2.0 per day. When Superintendent of Schools James Notter notified the Payroll Processor and the employee on June 16, 2009 that there would be no more overtime, Garretson countermanded his boss’s order two days later, directing the Payroll Processor to continue the overtime payments “until I say otherwise.” On December 5, 2005, Garretson authorized a similar arrangement for the Capital Planning and Programming employee, whose automatic daily overtime jumped from 1.5 hours to between 2 and 2.5 hours on February 6, 2006. Auditors summarize, “During the last two (2) years, one employee was compensated over $43,000 and the other was compensated over $50,000, in addition to their regular salaries.”

Broward County School's Superintendent James F. Notter
SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT
JAMES NOTTER
Throughout his tenure, Superintendent of Schools James Notter ran interference for Garretson. As exemplified in the recent audit, chronic construction overpayments were orchestrated with alarming regularity, statutory fiscal protections were breached, paper trails were doctored and standard construction practices were mercilessly adulterated for the express purpose of generating inordinately lucrative contracts for builders willing to throw campaign fundraisers and filter back hard cash through shared lobbyists and political consultants. Whenever auditors offered irrefutable evidence of Garretson’s mismanagement or Board decisions that clearly compromised public interests, Notter’s reaction would rarely exceed a promise “to look into it.” Commenting on his ex-boss, according to one Project Manager, “Garretson saved the district some money. The problem is… nobody knows where it is.”

Broward Coalition President Charlotte Greenbarg
CHARLOTTE GREENBARG
BROWARD COALITION
In contrast, members of the district’s watchdog audit committee view the audit’s conclusions as vindication for frustrating years of futile complaints that fell on deaf ears. Broward Coalition President and committee member Charlotte Greenbarg said “This is probably the poster child for what has been going wrong in the facilities department.” Another committee member, Mary Fertig, said “When are people held accountable? We’re talking millions and millions and millions of dollars.” Although abuses uncovered in the audit amount to almost $75 million in misspent taxpayer dollars, when measured against the broad range of fiscal havoc wrought by School Board members and former Deputy Superintendent Michael Garretson, the damage seems negligible.

Activist Mary Fertig - Audit Committee
MARY FERTIG
AUDIT COMMITTEE
When the Broward County student population began declining in 2006, instead of adapting construction policy to the shrinking demographics, School Board members aggressively ramped up new classroom construction, adding tens of thousands of vacant desks to the district inventory over the past three years. If the State hadn’t literally ordered the School Board to knock it off, they would still be grinding out classrooms for imaginary students. The 34,800 empty classroom seats projected for the 2012-2013 school year translates into 1392 vacant classrooms. Since the average cost of a Broward classroom is $250,000, these guardians of the public trust produced ZERO BENEFIT for a mere $348 million (an extremely conservative estimate since using the 22-student class size mandated for Grades 4-8 would generate 1582 empty classrooms costing $398 million and using the 18-student class size mandated for Grades PreK-3 would generate 1933 empty classrooms costing $483 million).

Ordinary Required Local Effort (RLE) tax revenues proved no match for the clinical efficiency with which the School Board squandered resources. Empowered to raise additional funds by selling Certificates of Participation (COPs) without voter approval, the School Board booked $2,051,715,077 in debt to help grease the wheels. Of the $1,285,355,000 appropriated for capital outlays in the 2009 5-year DEFP-budget, $762,879,000 will service the $2 billion debt magically cosigned by every Broward taxpayer. The remaining 40% will be used to pay the bills... or contractors... and the hits just keep on coming!

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Broward Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

June 2010 Newsletter

Broward Beach awaits Tar Balls
PRISTINE BROWARD BEACH AWAITS TAR BALL ONSLAUGHT
June 20, 2010 - * For the first time in Florida history, a Broward County Mayor has been confronted by the effects of an oil spill that originated in the Gulf of Mexico and snagged a loop current through the Florida Straits to threaten the State’s east coast. Mayor Keechl’s primary responsibility is to defend the county’s 23 miles of beach from a prospective tar ball assault. When Governor Charlie Crist
included Broward in the two dozen Florida counties for which he declared a state of emergency on May 20th, the Mayor was burdened by a second unprecedented dilemma.

Fire teams combat Deepwater Horizon firestorm
FIGHTING DEEPWATER HORIZON FIRESTORM
Environmental defenses against fossil fuel onslaughts are mostly theoretical strategies sketched out by oil companies applying for drilling permits. To allay the concerns of adjacent jurisdictions, licensing authorities require applicants to formulate a mitigation plan capable of stabilizing any hazard considered in their Environmental Impact Statement. As underscored by the post-firestorm chaos surrounding the semi-submersible Deepwater Horizon mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased to British Petroleum, these mitigation plans aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

Mayor Ken Keechl Addresses Coastal Mayors
COASTAL MAYORS PREPARE FOR BEACH ATTACKS
As the 35,000 to 60,000 daily barrels spewing from the nation’s largest ever offshore oil spill approached Broward County, Keechl reached out to his fellow coastal Mayors, met with every Federal and State agency with a dog in this fight and placed every State and County political asset in Washington D.C. on emergency standby. Fortunately, Broward County is home to many of the world’s leading academic and commercial institutions for oceanography and marine engineering.

Tar Ball
TAR BALL
Drawing on the collective skills of Emergency Management Director Chuck Lanza, Port Everglades Deputy Director Glenn Wiltshire, beach technicians Eric Myers and Steve Higgins and Tourism Czar Nicki Grossman, the Mayor empanelled an Oil Spill Working Group and charged them with delivering a realistic environmental defense plan. To address a spectrum of unknown contingencies, this impressive lineup of “in-house” talent developed a flexible tar ball response strategy. An unavoidable consequence of tanker traffic, tar balls have been washing up on the beach for years. They are the final stage of a weathering process that morphs liquid fossil fuels into crusty lumps with sticky interiors ranging in size from less than an inch to a few inches in diameter, not unlike toasted marshmallows.

Tourism Director Nicki Grossman
TOURISM DIRECTOR
NICKI GROSSMAN
By declaring a state of emergency in Broward, the Governor enabled the County’s eligibility for federal reimbursement funding and small business loans, a critical element for any recovery strategy. Unfortunately, it also inflamed suspicions that Broward’s status as a coastal paradise had been compromised. If vacationers worldwide question whether Broward’s beaches can deliver a dream getaway, the fiscal impact will be catastrophic. Tourism director Nicki Grossman foretold daily losses of $10 million for the county’s hotel, boating and fishing businesses. Summarizing the risk, Grossman projected “About one-third of the business we do every day we would lose because the beaches would be unavailable for recreational purposes.” Her estimate excluded enormous incremental losses by restaurants, service providers and shops.

Click Here for Oil Spill Trajectory Forecast Animation
CLICK GRAPHIC FOR INTERACTIVE
OIL SPILL TRAJECTORY FORECAST
Keechl is aggressively campaigning to counter perceptions that the beaches have been - or will be - tainted. In addition to assuring travel industry representatives that Broward dodged a bullet, he posted a web page on the County web site entitled Oil Spill News. Along with the standard marketing palaver (23 miles of award-winning, Blue Wave beaches etc), the site provides links to an updated Current Trajectory Map, a beach status report, fishing information, a relevant FAQ for Visitors and links to Live Web Cams at the beaches. Emulating FDR’s Fireside chats, the Mayor’s June Newsletter effectively uses plain talk and simple facts to defuse constituent concerns about evolving events. See for yourself… read on! – [editor]*

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill:
Being Prepared is the Best Response

by Broward County Commissioner & Mayor
Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
When you elected me to be your Broward County Commissioner in
November of 2006, I knew there were many issues facing Broward. Nevertheless, the possibility of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico being brought into Broward’s waters by the “gulf loop” wasn’t one of them.

For years, the Broward County Commission has been unanimous in its opposition to off-shore drilling. In fact, during the last two months while I was in Washington D.C. and Tallahassee talking to our lawmakers, I reminded them of our unified opposition to the practice. Shortly thereafter, the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe occurred.

Mayor Ken Keechl & Broward County Working Group brief Senator George LeMieux
MAYOR KEN KEECHL & BROWARD COUNTY WORKING
GROUP BRIEF SENATOR GEORGE LEMIEUX
As your Broward County Commissioner and Mayor, it’s my job to insure that we are ready. Make no mistake: we are. I immediately convened a Broward County Working Group to monitor the situation and report to me daily. This Working Group is made up of Broward’s best: emergency management officials, beach specialists and environmental experts. You get the idea.

Mayor Ken Keechl Addresses County Mayors
KEECHL BRIEFS COUNTY MAYORS
I have reached out to others as well. Within the County, I convened a “workshop” of coastal city mayors to make sure that we are all on the same page and working together. We are. Outside of the County, I reached out to the Coast Guard, officials from NOAA, private sector contractors, and our lawmakers in Washington D.C. In fact, I have personally met with U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and George LeMieux, and U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch seeking their assistance if necessary. Each of them has assured me that they are here for Broward if we need them.

Broward County Prepares Beach for Oil Spill
BROWARD COUNTY IS PREPARED FOR OIL SPILL
So what can we expect here in Broward as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? I wish I had the answer. Because an oil spill in the gulf has never been picked up by the gulf loop and traveled along the east coast of Florida, no one is sure. But the good news is this: the effect upon Broward, if any, will be manageable. It will appear in the form of increased tar ball activity. (Yes, we have tar balls in our waters already.) Broward’s goals will be to assist our coastal cities in any additional clean-up activities, and to keep the tar balls out of the seaport, inlets, and our intercoastal waterways.

Again, we are praying that this national catastrophe doesn’t affect Broward. But if it does, we are ready.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Being your Broward County Commissioner is never boring. Thank you for the honor.

And, as always, my best to you and your families.

Broward County Commissioner and
Mayor Ken Keechl

Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email. Click Here to Broward's "Oil Spill News".

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Commissioner Bruce Roberts

Disaster Prep || DrugTrade || Dial-a-Park

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
VICE MAYOR BRUCE G. ROBERTS
July 2, 2010 - District 1 Commissioner and Vice Mayor Bruce G. Roberts’ June 2010 Newsletter blends a Hurricane Season preparation reminder, progress with busting up a commercial engine for the South Florida drug trade, a new parking venue that will enable drivers to feed the meter without interrupting their dinner, and prospective salvation for Fort Lauderdale Stadium. Click to Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) He opens with a reminder that, prior to the past few seasons, when Hurricanes repeatedly shredded City services, survival became largely dependent on reviving primordial “hunter gatherer” instincts. Those of us that fail to implement appropriate preparations may cultivate an opportunity to revisit that experience. For residents that envision becoming part of the solution instead of part of the problem, Roberts recommends the free training offered to Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers.

Updating his March 2010 report on the Pill Mill trade, Roberts reviews some of the City’s recent strikes against illegal Pain Clinics. During the past legislative session, lawmakers enacted Senator Mike Fasano’s Senate Bill 2272, A.K.A. the Pill Mill Bill. Among its common sense regulations is a medical oversight requirement for Pain Clinics. Working with State Health authorities, D.E.A., F.B.I., and the Broward Sheriff, Fort Lauderdale police have initiated a campaign to cripple the South Florida supply chain of legal drugs that ultimately fuel the illegal street drug trade.

Click to Fort Lauderdale Pain Relief Center On April 5th, the Florida Department of Health shut down the Fort Lauderdale Pain Relief Center at 201 W. Oakland Park Boulevard. Two weeks after suspending the clinic’s main physician, 85 year-old Dr. Michael Lazzopina, for over-prescribing thousands of painkillers, the Health Department closed the clinic for operating without a “designated physician” responsible for ensuring medical standards. The Fort Lauderdale Pain Relief Center is owned by Integra Health Services, a company run by chiropractors Michael Rechter and David Romano, who operate similar clinics in Dania Beach, West Palm Beach and Jacksonville. Not surprisingly, they also run an MRI facility in Louisville with pain clinics in Louisville and Elizabethtown, Kentucky - one of three states where huge numbers of South Florida prescriptions are filled and resold..

On May 4th, the Health Department closed the Broward Chronic Pain and Recovery Center on Powerline Road after suspending the medical license of Dr. Alfred E. Boyce on April 28th for prescribing 10,800 tablets to six patients over a six month period. The pills were predominantly oxycodone and Xanax, two highly addictive drugs that are Mother’s milk on the Black Market. The 80-year old Dr. Boyce is a local medical “Hall of Famer”. His license was also suspended in 2004 and 2005 when the chiropractor running an Oakland Park cosmetic medicine clinic left four people comatose from overdoses of botulinum toxin shots ordered in Boyce’s name. The Pill Mill is owned by businessman William D. Benton.

Health Dept, FBI, DEA, BSO and Fort Lauderdale Police load Impounded Documents During Raid
HEALTH DEPT, FBI, DEA, BSO AND FORT LAUDERDALE
POLICE LOAD IMPOUNDED DOCUMENTS DURING RAID
Five days earlier, on April 30th, Fort Lauderdale police and state agents raided the Mercy Wellness and Recovery Center on Northeast 48th Street, another of Benton’s cash cows. Benton also owns the Fort Lauderdale Pain and Rehabilitation Clinic in a strip plaza on Commercial Boulevard around the corner from his Broward Chronic Pain operation. Doctors working in these clinics are paid between $800,000 and a $1,200,000 a year, based primarily on the number of people they’d plied with pills.

Dr. Bernard Cantor
DR. BERNARD CANTOR
On May 24th, Fort Lauderdale police and Florida Department of Health officials raided the Broward Urgent Care clinic at 1409 SE First Ave. The clinic’s medical director, Dr. Bernard Cantor, is an obstetrician and faculty member at Florida International University medical school. The clinic’s president is Alan Daley. Simultaneously, Federal agents arrested Boca Raton internist Dr. Michael Roy Shook, owner and supervising doctor of the Lauderhill Medical Clinic at 2762 W. Oakland Park Boulevard. Although state health authorities filed a disciplinary case against the 52-year-old Shook on February 10, 2010 and barred him from prescribing narcotic drugs, he and the clinic’s listed president, ultrasound technician Gary Adams, continued hawking up to 700 pills a month to “mules” from Eastern Kentucky. Following a two-year investigation by a federal task force in Kentucky and South Florida, members of the “James Marsillet II” drug ring in Kentucky identified Shook as their primary supplier.

Click to  Verrus Mobile Technologies Fort Lauderdale Pay by telephone parking option Roberts announces a new Parking technology that offers several unique conveniences to drivers. The City cut a deal with Verrus Mobile Technologies to create a Pay by telephone parking option. At locations identified by a green “Pay by Phone” sign, vehicle owners can manage their parking charges using their cell phones. At first glance, this is a somewhat cumbersome alternative to popping some change into a meter. It also requires the creation and subsequent oversight of an account funded by your credit card. However, this new parking technology offers several significant advantages. The most useful of these is being able to extend the time period by simply calling from wherever you are - no more running out of restaurants during dessert. Second - your account can also be used wherever Verrus offers this service, such as throughout the City of Miami and for certain car services and taxicabs. For drivers that require receipts for tax purposes or reimbursement, they can be generated at will from the Verrus web site. If your vehicle is mistakenly ticketed while using the service, a quick call to Parking Services sends the citation to the round file. At two bits a pop, this service is a worthwhile endeavor.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium
FORT LAUDERDALE STADIUM
When Sarasota hijacked the Baltimore Orioles spring training program, Fort Lauderdale Stadium wound up in the City Commission’s lap. They could have either held a garage sale to attract another club, which would mean fixing it up and taking a beating on the rent, or consigning the once proud facility to a slow death hosting little league finals. The Vice Mayor reviews a preferable alternative to watching the recession chew up the Stadium’s rusting hulk.

Endless River, Aquaveyor & Waterslide
ENDLESS RIVER, AQUAVEYOR & WATERSLIDE
The Schlitterbahn Development Group (SDG) deal will renovate and transform the 18,500-seat Lockhart Stadium into a state-of-the-art tournament-sized multi-use athletic field that will meet the standards for National Federation State High School Association (NFHS) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It will become a lynchpin for the Sports Village and a water park featuring the Tidal Wave River (the first computer-controlled, endless river with adjustable wave action), Master Blaster (uphill water coaster using water-injection technology) and the Endless Water Slide (an Aqua Veyer-based downhill compliment to the Master Blaster). The facility will accommodate virtually any sports venue and serve as the permanent home of The Broward County Sports Hall of Fame - recognizing inductees Angelo Dundee (Boxing), Chris Evert (Tennis), Andy Granatelli (Auto Racing), Dan Marino & Danny Kanell (Football). The City should grab the deal and count its blessings.

Holiday conflicts will delay Roberts’ next pre-agenda meeting until after the summer hiatus. The Commissioner’s June offering reviews some innovative solutions to several difficult problems. Read on... – [editor]

From The Desk of
Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER
& V.M. BRUCE G. ROBERTS
Now that Hurricane Season has started, this is a good time to remind everyone to make sure you are prepared. Though only a few may lose power, we cannot forget the damage that even a tropical storm can do. The City is ready to respond, but I urge residents to make their own preparations for this hurricane season. Part of this preparation should include creating a disaster plan and assembling a disaster supply kit. The kit should include at least three days worth of water (one gallon, per person, per day) and non-perishable food for each person in your family. Click to Hurricane disaster supply kit Other essential supplies you should have readily available include: a can opener, flashlights, a battery-operated radio, batteries, cash, pet supplies, medications, extra eyeglasses, contact lenses and supplies for people with special needs. For a complete list of emergency supplies and other preparedness tips, visit the new City hurricane website at http://www.fortlauderdale.gov/hurricane/index.htm. If you are interested in helping your fellow residents after a hurricane, I encourage you to join the Community Emergency Response Team (or “CERT”). CERT is a highly trained, volunteer group that assists the City after local emergencies. Through Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue, you can receive free training that covers disaster terminology, standard triage, basic first aid, fire suppression, light search and rescue techniques and disaster awareness. After graduation you will be prepared to care for your family and your community, and you will be part of a team that may be called upon to assist the City during an emergency. Free beginner and continuing education classes are available. For more information please call 954-828-6832.

Storefront Pain Clinic
STOREFRONT PAIN CLINIC
Pain Clinic Update: We have recently closed two clinics by Holy Cross, one by Executive Airport, one on Oakland Park Boulevard, and "raided" the clinic near Broward General Hospital. I know there are several others in the City, but please be assured that this Commission is aggressively pursuing the elimination of ALL illegal pain clinic operations within our City. Our Police Department and Code Enforcement are actively involved in this undertaking along with federal agencies and the Florida Department of Health... progress is being made.

Click to Verrus Mobile Technologies Fort Lauderdale Pay by telephone parking option Pay by Phone Parking is Now Available: On April 1, 2010, the City implemented Pay by Phone Parking. In areas where this service is implemented, you no longer need cash for parking. Simply park your car, make one short phone call, and then head for your destination. You can even choose to receive a text message reminder before your parking time expires. You have the option of calling back and extending your parking session from anywhere, subject to meter time limits. Pay by Phone Parking is convenient, easy and safe. When you pay for your parking by phone, your parking space and parking time are automatically displayed on a handheld device used by the parking officer. The regular parking charge plus a 35-cent convenience fee (25 cents if you de-select the optional 10-cent text message reminder cost) will be charged to your credit card. A history of transactions is then viewable any time you log into your account. For more information log on to http://www.fortlauderdale.gov/parking/pay_by_phone.htm.

Click to Schlitterbahn Fort Lauderdale Stadium: Four proposals were submitted to redevelop this property. One of the responses came from Schlitterbahn regarding a waterpark and multi-sport multi-use athletic facility. Click to Schlitterbahn Development Group (SDG) proposal for a water park and multi-sport multi-use athletic facility While Schlitterbahn has several award winning parks in this country (ranked #1 for the last twelve years), it is also an internationally recognized successful and reputable family enterprise. They are agreeable to a fair market appraisal as the basis for the rent, which is consistent with City of Fort Lauderdale requirements and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines for long-term leases of Airport property. Schlitterbahn gave a presentation at the Conference Agenda on June 14, 2010. The plan is to transform the site into a destination attraction – one that integrates sports including youth facilities, water-based entertainment, retail opportunities and lodging. They will keep and upgrade Lockhart Stadium. They are confident that the park will attract hundreds of thousands of sports enthusiasts and vacationing families, as well as create new jobs and expand tax revenues. They propose to spend $110 million to construct the park and will not ask the City for any financial support. The Commission is seriously looking at this proposal, and directed Schlitterbahn to negotiate with City staff and the Broward County School Board. I will keep you updated.

Fort Lauderdale Commission Assistant Robbi Uptegrove
ROBBI
UPTEGROVE
As a reminder, I host two Pre-agenda Meetings per month in addition to attending homeowner meetings at your request. The pre-agenda meetings focus on items of interest as well as the upcoming agenda. They are held the Monday before a Commission Meeting, 6p.m., Cardinal Gibbons High School, Media Room. Also, we have changed our usual summer schedule – our last meeting until recess is July 7, 2010 and will resume again August 17, 2010. We will not be having a pre-agenda meeting July 5, 2010 as the offices will be closed due to the 4th of July holiday.

Office Contact: Robbi Uptegrove – 954-828-5033; email: ruptegrove@fortlauderdale.gov

Bruce G. Roberts                

If you need to reach Commissioner Bruce Roberts, please contact his assistant Robbi Uptegrove at 954-828-5033 or by e-mail at RUptegrove@fortlauderdale.gov. To access the City Commission Meeting Agendas and Minutes, Click Here. To actually watch the meetings recorded and archived on the Commission Meetings Video Webcast and Archives web site, Click Here.

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Galt Library Under the Gun

Patrons Plan Reading Room Rescue

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center
GALT OCEAN MILE READING CENTER
July 17, 2010 - “Why can’t we make the landlord sign a lease,” suggested Shirley Appelman from
Regency Tower. “You’d think that the landlord would want a lease instead of going through this every year,” she opined. Of the panel members, Broward Mayor Ken Keechl was the first to unravel Ms. Appelman’s train of thought. “I’m sorry, Shirley, it isn’t the landlord who's causing the problem, it’s the County budget.” Although true, Keechl’s response wasn’t completely accurate. The problem is a County Commissioner prone to playing politics in the Districts of other Commissioners.

Click to Broward County Library The small meeting room in the Galt Library was filled with local residents concerned about the Reading Room's future. Many were here last year for the same purpose, to rescue the library from the budget axe. Since the recession slammed the brakes on the property tax windfall annually enjoyed by local governments throughout Florida, City and County commissioners and council persons have been forced to close budget gaps with spending cuts or tax hikes.

Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry
BROWARD ADMINISTRATOR
BERTHA HENRY
Although Public officials with functional survival instincts bend backwards to avoid raising taxes during an economic downturn, the alternative becomes progressively more difficult every year. In Broward, most of the obvious sources of questionable county spending have already been clipped. As explained by Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, “The low hanging fruit, they’re gone.” At least some of this year’s cuts are anticipated to hit bone.

Click to Friends of Broward County Libraries In late May, Friends of the Galt Ocean Mile Library President Herman Gardner began asking library supporters and local officials to help shield the Reading Room from the political machinations of certain antipathetic County Commissioners. “Friends of the Galt Ocean Mile Library” is a local 120-member chapter of the umbrella Friends of Broward County Libraries, a fundraising organization with 29 chapters and thousands of members. While still early in the County budget process, Gardner knew that Broward’s parks and libraries have historically served as prime candidates for the budget block. The longtime Galleon resident learned about this County budgeting paradigm from bitter experience.

When reducing expenses, The County Commission is theoretically obligated to balancing the sacrifices required of each District’s residents. It is preferable to implement milder, less traumatic service cuts across the entire county than to confine the fiscal burden to certain neighborhoods while selectively exempting others. For instance, budget reductions that cut the service hours for every park or library are far more equitable than completely stripping these amenities from certain neighborhoods while leaving others unmolested.

Unfortunately, commissioners occasionally try to inoculate their District against sharing painful service concessions by manipulating the criteria used to frame a prospective budget cut. Last year, some of the proposals sponsored by Commissioners only targeted resources and programs located in neighboring districts, freeing their own constituents from adverse fiscal impacts.

County Commissioner Lois Wexler
COUNTY COMMISSIONER LOIS WEXLER
One of these proposals recommended that the County close library branches situated in rented facilities. Since the library in Commissioner Lois Wexler’s district is domiciled in a County-owned property, closing the County’s 7 tenant libraries would only burden the constituents of other commissioners. Closer scrutiny revealed two drawbacks. While enraging tens of thousands of county residents, her proposal would save less than a half year’s salary for one entry level management staffer. When the Galt Mile Reading Room was threatened by this politically skewed “budget recommendation” last year, neighborhood residents banded together to fight for their library’s survival.

Plaza South's Bill Claire Wears Save our Library Tee Shirt
THAT'S PLAZA SOUTH RESIDENT BILL
CLAIRE AT THE BUDGET MEETING
Within months, thousands of local residents signed petitions and dozens of associations and civic groups issued resolutions supporting their diminutive Reading Center. This documentation, in its entirety, was copied and sent to every county commissioner. Simultaneously, supportive emails flooded into Government Center. Although regarded as a convenient and useful amenity by most Galt Mile residents, a large group of indomitable seniors view the library as indispensible to their independence, quality of life and peace of mind. They inspired their friends, neighbors and public officials to see through the engineered budgetary spin and prevent the library from falling prey to county politics.

Tee Shirted GMCA Library Supporters
LIBRARY SUPPORTERS PACK BUDGET MEET
With the assistance of District 4 Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, the Galt Mile Community Association and a Library Committee comprised of local residents, the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center dodged a bullet at last year’s final County Budget Meeting. Having learned from last year’s political ambush, Gardner sought to preempt another attack on the community library this year.

Responding to Gardner’s May plea for help, officials of the neighborhood association contacted Commissioner Keechl to ascertain how to best protect the Reading Room from another politically motivated budget maneuver. On July 1st, Gardner and Keechl convened an 11 AM strategy meeting at the Reading Center.

GMCA Advisory Board Members Frances Konstance and Jean Miller
GMCA ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
FRANCES KONSTANCE & JEAN MILLER
Among the nearly 50 neighborhood residents attending the meeting were Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bruce Roberts, GMCA officials Eric Berkowitz, Fern McBride, Fred Nesbitt, Ralph Hamaker, Advisory Board members Frances Konstance and Jean Miller, Librarian Marlene Barnes and Plaza South activist Terry Claire (whose organizational skills were integral to last year’s successful effort).

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER
BRUCE G. ROBERTS
Although the library is a County facility, City Commissioner Roberts is personally familiar with the critical part played by the Reading Center in the lives of thousands of his neighbors and constituents. Last year, Roberts commissioned a bus that transported scores of Galt Mile residents to the final County Budget hearing. At that final budget showdown, Ken Keechl successfully managed the library’s defense, reinforced by hundreds of attending residents and a mountain of supportive documentation.

Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl
BROWARD COMMISSIONER
KEN KEECHL
After opening the meeting with a summary of last year’s successful campaign, Gardner introduced Commissioner Keechl and the GMCA officials. Almost immediately, audience members began issuing disparate suggestions ranging from orderly attempts to demonstrate the library’s community significance to Machiavellian acts of personal and/or political vengeance on any public official seeking to close its doors. The angry and frustrated residents devotedly admitted to needing the Reading Room, each passionately describing how it fulfills his or her life.

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center Computers
GALT READING CENTER COMPUTERS
While the beach is the heart of our neighborhood, this mini-library at 3403 Galt Ocean Drive is certainly its soul. Arguably the most popular local resource on Galt Ocean Drive, it has provided battalions of mostly elderly residents with a convenient location to research almost anything, meet with friends or simply log in some quiet time. Thousands of previously technophobic local residents who were first introduced to the internet in Reading Room classes keep the six free online computers busy through closing time. While used to make resumes, do homework, hunt for jobs and pay bills, the Reading Room desktops provide hundreds of elderly residents with daily or weekly email and “instant Messenger” access to friends and family around the world - without draining precious dollars from Social Security checks that are already stretched to the breaking point.

Click to Local 1591 of the Amalgamated Transit Union agreement Mayor Keechl spelled out the underlying budgetary inconsistency for the concerned audience. Although the savings attendant to closing the small branch libraries is negligible, cuts like these are suggested for political reasons. Protected by their union agreement (Local 1591 of the Amalgamated Transit Union), library staffers would be picked up elsewhere on the county payroll if the branch were closed. $53,000 of the $70,854 annual rental would have to be paid to landlord Virginia Erdman if the County bails out. In exchange for depriving neighborhood residents of their nearly 125,000 annual patron visits (during which 88,000 items are annually checked out), the county stands to save less than $17,854.

Beach Branch in Pompano Beach
BEACH BRANCH IN POMPANO BEACH
Along with the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center in Fort Lauderdale, other leased libraries at risk are the Beach Branch in Pompano Beach, the Hollywood Beach Library, the Riverland Library in Fort Lauderdale, the Pembroke Pines Library, the Century Plaza Library in Deerfield Beach and the Lauderhill Mall Library. The prospective savings realized by closing each of these is similarly negligible. Some of these branches closely mirror the Galt Mile Reading Center in their critical importance to community residents. The Beach Branch in Pompano and the Century Plaza Branch in Deerfield Beach are frequented by large numbers of elderly residents who also view their facilities as lifelines to the world. Like the Galt Mile Reading Center, they provide social opportunity, emotional sustenance and intellectual stimulation – “Quality of Life” necessities often lost to relocated retirees. Closing the facilities would sever thousands of Broward residents from scattered friends and family. The Galt Mile Reading Center and Beach branch in Pompano also serve as local polling sites for thousands of registered voters.

Imperial Point Branch Library
IMPERIAL POINT BRANCH LIBRARY
If the Galt Mile branch were closed, its nearly 6000 cardholding registrants and thousands of cardless patrons (family members and visitors) would be forced to travel to the Imperial Point Library on Federal Highway. Many of our residents originally moved to the Galt Mile because all of their living necessities were within walking distance. Whether unable to drive because of physical disabilities or economic constraints or simply no longer capable of medically qualifying for a license, our neighbors can walk to the library without relying on the "generosity" of others. Instead of pushing a walker across the street, disabled residents without a vehicle will have to plan their daily visits around public transportation and pay their way to and from a facility that is miles away on the mainland. To the library’s disproportionately large complement of fixed income patrons plagued with mobility issues, the Imperial Point branch may as well be on Neptune.

There are also mitigating factors unique to the Galt Mile branch. In exchange for making huge annual contributions to the County’s tax coffers, Galt Mile residents receive almost nothing in return. Half of our County tax assessment funds the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Since we pay the City of Fort Lauderdale to provide our Police and Fire Protection, our county tax contributions actually subsidize neighboring jurisdictions that use BSO services. We have no local county parks or recreational resources and even fund our own beach maintenance and security. The long-awaited Broward Beach Renourishment was approved because the beach is one of the County’s primary economic engines, subsidizing expenses all over Broward County and benefitting every Broward resident. There is only one County enterprise that was organized uniquely to enrich life in our community - the tiny Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center. Absent that, we will have the unique distinction of being the only neighborhood in Broward County that receives absolutely nothing for our County tax dollars.

GMCA V.P. Eric Berkowitz
GMCA V.P. ERIC BERKOWITZ
Following a battery of questions about the budget process and how the County Commission operates, GMCA officials Eric Berkowitz and Fred Nesbitt stressed that the meeting’s primary objective was to decide on a strategy to prevent the county budget from digesting the Reading Room. Berkowitz explained that last year, after agreeing that waging a successful campaign would require intimate familiarity with county budget mechanics and insight into Commission politics, library supporters turned to Commissioner Keechl for guidance. By following his suggestions, the community was able to convince the Broward County Commission to hold safe the threatened local Reading Rooms. A majority of the attending residents agreed that we should stick with last year’s successful formula and follow Mayor Keechl’s advice again this year.

GMCA Secretary Fern McBride and Director Fred Nesbitt
GMCA SECRETARY FERN MCBRIDE
AND DIRECTOR FRED NESBITT
An ardent and longtime supporter of the Galt library, Keechl prefaced his evaluation of the threat with the ominous disclaimer “In politics, there are no guarantees.” The Mayor then declared “This year’s budget will be the most difficult... by far.” Keechl explained that County Administrator Bertha Henry recently asked the commissioners to disclose which appropriations each one considered absolutely necessary to their district. The Galt Mile Reading Center was among the items named by Keechl. Henry then incorporated the “non-negotiable” items contributed by each commissioner into a draft county budget.

Click to Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry's Draft FY 2011 Budget The Mayor said “At the June 22nd Budget Workshop, Ms. Henry released the details of her budget. While it preserves the library, it requires a modest increase to the millage rate.” Keechl continued “Those of you who know me also know that I have issues with raising taxes. I believe that we can balance this budget without increasing the millage rate.”

Click to Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry's Draft FY 2011 Budget Since Broward property values dropped 11.7% last year (according to the Property Appraiser’s July 1, 2010 valuation certification), the rolled back rate jumped to 5.62. In other words, in order to collect the same tax revenues that Broward collected this year, the county must increase the rate at which property is taxed (millage rate) from 4.889 ($4.89 for every $1000 of assessed value) to 5.62 ($5.62 for every $1000 of assessed value). Since the 5.3953 millage rate used for the County Administrator’s budget is less than the 5.62 rolled back rate, it technically qualifies as a tax reduction according to the State - despite the increased tax rate. As to the raw dollars - the $758.3 million in tax revenue required to fund Henry’s FY 2011 budget is $43.6 million less than the $801.9 million that funds this year’s FY 2010 budget.

Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs
COUNTY COMMISSIONER
KRISTIN JACOBS
Last year, Keechl said “To me, an increase in the millage rate equates to a tax increase,” intimating discord with the statutory definition. However, some of his commission peers would love to meet Bertha Henry part way and approve a tax increase, obviating the need for additional painful spending cuts. The only reason they haven’t yet done so is the non-stop hell being raised by local tax watchdogs. Certain commissioners, like Kristin Jacobs, held town hall meetings and dispatched district-wide mailings questioning whether constituents prefer service cuts or tax hikes. Hoping that a moving target will provide flexible deniability, others deftly flip-flop throughout the budget season.

Keechl warned that due to the extremely fluid political environment, it’s impossible to rule out an attack on the library at any stage during the budget process. In fact, the County Administrator’s budget contains a section called, Options to Reduce Millage Rate Further which features a sub-heading entitled Severe Operational Cuts and a line item that plainly states Close Branch Libraries.

Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl Addresses Galt Mile Library Supporters
BROWARD MAYOR KEN KEECHL ADDRESSES
GALT MILE LIBRARY SUPPORTERS
Mayor Keechl insisted that an eleventh hour assault on the branch libraries could easily succeed, “especially if the neighborhood is unprepared.” If launched by some Commissioner, the only defense against a surprise attack is “a formidable demonstration of community support.” When asked what that entailed, the Mayor clarified “We must be ready to demonstrate the neighborhood’s passionate opposition to closing the Reading Center. That means collecting the same type of documentation the community generated last year.” Stewing the offending Commissioner in supportive petitions and resolutions will bring the type of adverse publicity that screws up digestion in elected officials.

Keechl introduced another “factor” that may assume increasing relevance in the near future. He said “There is growing pressure to revise how the County operates.” Instead of nine turf-protecting commissioners taking turns serving as a figurehead Mayor, the Broward Workshop formulated a proposal replacing two commissioners with a strong Mayor and Vice Mayor chosen by and answerable to the entire Broward electorate. “With this prospect on the horizon, Commissioners with political ambitions will think twice before enraging neighborhoods all over the County, especially politically active communities such as the Galt Mile.”

Terry Claire
TERRY CLAIRE
A week later, Plaza South’s Terry Claire, a veteran of last year’s fight, met with GMCA officials, Herman Gardner of the Galleon and Commodore resident Leann Barber to brief Leann about her new oversight responsibilities. Leann is riding herd on the petitions, Association Resolutions and “letters to Commissioners” that are being completed in every association.

Leann Barber
LEANN BARBER
Needless to say, the library’s supporters have embarked on their mission to keep the facility's doors open. Please sign the petition in your lobby and the “Letter to Commissioners”. They will be collected regularly, compiled into a package and sent to Mayor Keechl. Resolution templates have been emailed to every association. Every Board is requested to pass and sign the resolution. These will also be collected and added to the package prior to being forwarded to the Mayor. The Mayor will duplicate the package for each of his Commission peers and the County Administrator. The payoff - we get to keep our library. Life is rarely so simple.

Two things - please send emails indicating your support for the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center to Mayor Keechl and/or the other County Commissioners. These will serve to lend credibility to the petitions. Also, the dates for the two County Budget meetings are September 14th and 28th. During one of these meetings, the County Libraries will come under consideration. When that date is announced, please plan on joining us in Government Center... you’ll earn your celebratory button, a free t-shirt and a warm fuzzy feeling. Not to worry, Mylanta will accompany the refreshments.

County Commissioners Contact Info

Please let the County Commission members know that you want the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center to survive! You can telephone the Commissioners or send emails using the email links below. Each County Commissioner maintains an office in Broward County Governmental Center (115 South Andrews Ave., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301). To write them, simply insert the appropriate "Room No." found next to their names in the following list.

No time for all this clicking? For those of you on the run, send an email to every commissioner and County Administrator Bertha Henry by Clicking Here!

Save the Galt Library - Documents

To assist with this worthy effort, simply click on the links below and print the desired document!

  • Click Here for a Save-the-Library Petition page

  • Click Here for a template useful for passing a supportive Association Resolution
  • Click Here for a Letter to Mayor Keechl requesting his support for the Galt Mile Reading Room

ALSO...

  • Click Here to County Administrator Bertha Henry's Draft Budget Presentation

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Bungled Beach Project Back on Track

County Administrator Releases Renourishment Report

The Hollywood Beach Community Center
THE HOLLYWOOD BEACH
COMMUNITY CENTER
July 24, 2010 - On April 30, 2002, two busloads of Galt Mile residents
attended a public hearing at the Hollywood Beach Community Center in support of the Army Corps of Engineers plan to renourish our shrinking beaches. On May 13, 2003, a contingent of eight Galt Mile residents flew to Tallahassee to refute contentions by outside interests from the Real Estate and Scuba lobbies that coastal residents “don’t want their beaches renourished.” Our neighbors’ testimony to the Florida Cabinet resulted in the inclusion of beaches from Fort Lauderdale to Pompano in the Broward Shore Protection Project. For the past decade, increasingly frustrated Galt Mile residents have been anxiously awaiting promised repairs to what the Florida Department of Environmental Protection characterized as their “severely eroded beach.” Although the project was temporarily derailed by events blending elements of “Waiting for Godot” with “The Three Stooges Meet Alice in Wonderland,” County Administrator Bertha Henry assures us that our sand is on the way.

Hopper Dredge Liberty Island at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park
HOPPER DREDGE LIBERTY ISLAND AT
JOHN U. LLOYD BEACH STATE PARK
When the hopper dredge “Liberty Island” pumped out a last load of sand onto the beach at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park on February 8, 2006, it marked an end to the South Broward portion (Segment III) of the Broward Beach Renourishment Project. Unlike previous beach renourishment efforts, wherein sand was simply dredged offshore and dumped onto eroded beaches, Broward Beach Administrator Steve Higgins delivered a plan based on sustainability. While adding 100 to 150 feet of sand to beaches in Hollywood, Hallandale Beach and Dania Beach, his plan also provided for construction of three boulder mound erosion control structures at the northern end of John U. Lloyd Beach State Park.

Port Everglades Inlet Sand Bypassing
SAND BYPASS EROSION CONTROL
AT PORT EVERGLADES INLET
Coastal inlets, such as the entrance to Port Everglades, disrupt the natural southerly migration of sand along the shore. This erosion control architecture will serve to stabilize the beach at that very dynamic location without adverse down drift impacts. In addition to protecting the Port, these structures will extend the effective life of the renourishment. Higgins foresees replacing the need for future full scale renourishments with a series of small fills targeting the hot spots primarily responsible for sand expunged from the system.

Click to Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Web Site At the May 13, 2003 meeting of the Florida Cabinet, representatives of every major grass roots and governmental environmental organization stressed the importance of preserving the beach habitat by implementing the Beach Renourishment plan approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and further adapted by every Federal and State Environmental Agency. To better protect the surrounding marine environment, the Florida Cabinet mandated an 18-month monitoring period following the renourishment of South Broward’s beaches. Data included in a subsequent report to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be used to enhance environmental mitigations for the next stage (Segment II) of the County’s comprehensive coastal rescue plan.

Click to Nova Southeast University Oceanographic Institute Web Site After the monitoring period ended in late August of 2007, a report was compiled by the official monitors from Nova Southeastern University and a joint venture of coastal engineering consulting firms, including Coastal Planning and Engineering, Inc. and Olsen Asssociates, Inc. When it arrived in Tallahassee, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) analyzed their observations. Along with an evaluation of the post-renourishment beach environment, the report documented two species of coral in the catchment area that the federal government designated as “threatened” in 2006. DEP notified their Broward counterpart that these new corals should be added to the list of protected marine organisms prior to the upcoming Segment II project.

Click to Fort Lauderdale No Bypass Resolution Following several housekeeping correspondences addressing port inlet maintenance, communications between the Broward Biological Resources Division and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection inexplicably broke down. When asked by GMCA officials about the Segment II project, the County beach officials responded with a series of irrelevant diversions throughout 2008 and 2009, focusing instead on additional erosion control devices and a nondescript hunt for sand. When the County applied to the City of Fort Lauderdale for permission to enhance erosion control at Port Everglades on January 6, 2009, a frustrated City Commission refused access to the County, insisting that they first complete the promised Segment II renourishment of Fort Lauderdale’s beaches.

Soon after, the City posted a page on their web site entitled Help Save Fort Lauderdale Beach, which provides the email addresses of the County Commissioners and states “The Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners need your help to make sure that Fort Lauderdale is not pushed to the back of the line. Let Broward County know that you oppose the proposed Port Everglades Sand Bypass Project and that you want them to implement the Segment II Beach Renourishment Project as promised.” Their inclusion of Commissioner Keechl on the contact list wasn’t necessary, since he had previously emailed the City Commission expressing those same sentiments.

FDEP Secretary Michael W. Sole
FDEP SECRETARY
MICHAEL W. SOLE
Enraged by a two-year runaround, the GMCA Advisory Board launched its own investigation. Asked to ascertain the status of resources allocated to renourish the beach, Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl reported that the project’s Federal and State funding was intact. Upon contacting Secretary Michael Sole of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the GMCA learned that Broward Beach officials hadn’t responded to Departmental inquiries for the past year. While the two agencies were locked in a mysterious bureaucratic limbo, the Federal permit authorizing the project expired. When the GMCA reported this unfathomable stupidity to City officials and Commissioner Keechl, they went ballistic. Ordinarily restrained and imperturbable, Keechl promised someone’s “head on a platter.”

Broward Beach Administrator Stephen Higgins
STEPHEN HIGGINS
BEACH WIZZARD
Prior to proceeding with Segment II, Broward beach officials would first have to repeat the environmental testing required for a new federal permit. Fortunately, since DEP Chief Mike Sole came to Tallahassee via Broward County, he is intimately familiar with the project’s scientific and engineering parameters. While an arduous repetition of the federal permit process is unavoidable, in July of 2009, Sole had Beaches & Coastal Systems Environmental Administrator Martin Seeling grant Higgins a 5-year State permit extension through June 4, 2014, saving the Broward Beach Administrator months of additional paper shuffling.

The GMCA elicited an agreement from Sole to personally oversee future interagency communications and another from Keechl to closely follow the County’s progress. Factoring in the additional time required for permitting exigencies and statutory delays attendant to turtle nesting season, the Segment II starting date is projected for late 2011.

Since the plan to rehabilitate our Segment II beaches was initially developed by the County and approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Broward coast has subsequently experienced severe incremental storm damage, predominantly from the serial hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. While all of the Segment II beaches were affected, several beach areas in Pompano and Lauderdale-by-the Sea suffered nearly full displacement. Prior to implementing the planned beach renourishment, a County-conceived interim effort is expected to return these beaches to their pre-storm (2004) condition - while providing a serendipitous benefit to the Galt Ocean Mile beach.

FCCE Sand Infusion on LBTS Beach The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, has allocated $4.5 million to initiate the planning, engineering and design of an approved storm reclamation effort entitled “Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies Project” (FCCE). In a nutshell, before commencing the Segment II beach renourishment, the county plans to dump huge volumes of sand on compromised beach areas just north of Anglin’s Pier. Project engineers confirm that the sand will naturally drift south, providing a near-immediate benefit to the northernmost Galt Ocean Mile beach. Within months, the continually migrating sand will similarly enhance beach footage along the entire Galt Mile. Ultimately, along with roughly 100 to 150 feet of sand from the Segment II beach renourishment, the Galt Ocean Mile Beach should realize an additional 15 to 30 feet of beach area from the FCCE project. Former Director Steve Somerville of the Broward County Department of Planning and Environmental Protection (DPEP) offered this less than memorable observation at the 2003 Florida Cabinet hearing, “You can never have too much sand on the beach.”

Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry
BROWARD Administrator
BERTHA HENRY
On May 27, 2010, Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry compiled a correspondence for Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas entitled Beach Nourishment Activities Quarterly Report. The report is a status update of the two beach projects that affect every Galt Ocean Mile resident. Since the Broward Beach Renourishment Project and the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies Project are both exercises in coastal engineering, Gretsas copied City Engineer Al Carbon as well as the City Commission on June 14th.

In addition to updates relating to Segments I and III of the Beach Renourishment Project, Bertha Henry’s notice to the City contained the following data about the General Information and Segment II project components. Read on...

 


Bertha W. Henry, County Administrator
115 S. Andrews Avenue, Room 409 Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301
PHONE: 954-357-7362 FAX: 954-357-7360

Broward County Beach Erosion Control Program
Status as of May 12, 2010

Beach Erosion Control, General:

  • Structure Study: Staff is finalizing review of the draft study. Following revision by the consultants, copies of the final report will be coordinated with shorefront municipalities.

  • Sand Search: The investigation located approximately 2.8 million cubic yards of sand offshore of the northern portion of the County, of which approximately 1.4 million cubic yards could be of adequate quality for use on our beaches, pending more detailed evaluations of sand quality and the potential for impacts to coral reef resources from use of the material.

  • Bahamian Sand: County staff is awaiting a response from the Bahamian Government to a request to purchase and import 200,000 cubic yards of Bahamian sand for a pilot project.

  • Funding Advocacy: Staff continues to work with state and national beach preservation associations, elected officials and agencies to advocate for continuation of state and federal funding for beach erosion control projects.

Segment II Beach Renourishment, Hillsboro Inlet to Port Everglades

  • Broward County Beach Renourishment Project Web Site Project Reformation: The County is evaluating the design of the Segment II beach renourishment project in the context of current physical, economic and environmental conditions. The not-yet-formulated beach fill project could include material from one or more sand sources, and may involve sand brought in by truck. An agenda item for a consultant contract amendment to continue engineering/design and permitting will be coming before the Board of County Commissioners before summer break. The project could potentially result in sand placement on portions of beach in Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, and Pompano Beach.

  • Primary Issues:

    • Hardbottom Monitor
      HARDBOTTOM MONITOR
      Increased regulation due to federal listing of two coral species found offshore of Broward County and the designation as critical of all hardbottom habitat;

    • Limited opportunity for dramatic widening of the beaches due to proximity of nearshore hardbottoms;

    • Increased regulatory emphasis on sand quality;

    • Costs for beach renourishment have increased while potential local, state, and federal funds have diminished.

  • Permitting: DEP has extended the formerly issued permit for nourishment of Segment II for five years while project reformulation is conducted. There is no equivalent draft federal permit, which means a new Corps of Engineers permit will be required for a nourishment of Segment II beaches.

  • Federal Hurricane Beach Rehabilitation: The County has requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers implement the approved Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE) Project. The Jacksonville District Corps has allocated about $4.5 million to initiate planning, engineering and design of a project restore to pre-storm conditions the previously constructed (Hillsboro inlet to the Fort Lauderdale/Lauderdale-by-the-Sea border) Segment II nourishment project. The Corps calculated that approximately 330,000 cubic yards of material would be placed on those beaches. The schedule for construction and exact placement areas are to be determined.

  • Schedule: Broward County-conducted beach construction in Segment II is targeted for November of 2011, pending completion of the engineering/design and permitting processes in a timely fashion.


Bertha Henry
Broward County Administrator

While “heads on a platter” are a poor substitute for a healthy beach, Advisory Board members are sufficiently irate to take a cue from Mayor Keechl and “raise hell” if project progress is again victimized by ineptitude. As future notices are reviewed by the GMCA Advisory Board, they will also be posted on the Galt Mile web site. More to come...

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Broward Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

July 2010 Newsletter

Broward Property Taxes
PROPERTY TAXES IN BROWARD COUNTY
July 31, 2010 - * In his July 2010 newsletter, Broward Mayor Ken Keechl asserts that his opposition to increasing taxes hasn’t faded since publishing his
March 2007 Newsletter - “It’s All About Property Taxes”. He opened that early example of Keechl memorabilia with a budgeting clinic, reviewing the definitions for “rolled-back” rate, “Enterprise Fund” and “Constitutional Officers” before strongly recommending that his new Commission peers wake up and smell the recession.

Four months earlier, Keechl released Finding Common Ground, his first newsletter after sewing up the District 4 Commission seat in November of 2006. Having survived a somewhat contentious campaign, Keechl extended an olive branch to his defeated opponent’s supporters. Focusing on a shared aversion to the County’s irresponsible tax-and-spend culture, the Rookie Commissioner announced “The overwhelming local issue of the 2006 campaign season was property taxes. They are too high – period.”

Commissioner Keechl at 2009 Budget Meeting
MAYOR KEECHL AT BUDGET MEETING
While Keechl’s earlier views on property taxes approximate his current outlook, the two aren’t identical. In 2007, he insisted, “If the Broward County Commission votes to establish a millage rate for the fiscal year 2008 higher than the ‘rolled-back’ millage rate, it’s a tax increase. Period.” After 2007, Keechl sharpened his red pencil. In this month’s newsletter, Keechl says “Each year I have refused to vote for a millage rate increase and my colleagues have wisely agreed. This year for FY 2011, I will again refuse to vote for a property tax increase.” No longer satisfied with matching the “rolled-back” rate, Keechl realized that he could more effectively fast-track deflation of a bloated County budget by rolling over the prior year’s millage rate.

Click to Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry's Draft FY 2011 Budget For the past three years, the Broward Commission’s annual internal fireworks has been rooted in the conflict between these two tax cutting strategies. At the June 22nd Commission meeting, County Administrator Bertha Henry built a draft FY 2011 budget using a 5.3953 millage rate. Although higher than last year's 4.889 millage rate ($4.89 for every $1000 of assessed value), its less than the 5.62 “rolled-back” rate, enabling supporters to spin her budget as a tax cut. The commission divided into two camps; supporters receptive to a millage increase and opponents committed to holding the line.

Our District 4 Commissioner is the big dog behind door number two. If not for the Mayor, the Commission never would have approved $385 million in recurring savings for Broward taxpayers. Within four years, Ken Keechl has become the most effective proponent for spending restraint on the County Board, possibly in Commission history! Read on... - [editor]*

“It’s Still All About Property Taxes”

by Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl, District 4 Commissioner

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
VICE MAYOR KEN KEECHL
After you elected me to the
Broward County Commission in November 2006, I decided to start writing newsletters, as often as possible, to keep you and your families informed about important issues. One of my first newsletters in March of 2007 was titled, It’s All About Property Taxes. I reminded you about my promise to be your champion on the Broward County Commission against property tax increases. I have kept my word.

Since you elected me, I have voted on three annual budgets, LFY 2008, FY 2009, and FY 2010. Each year I have refused to vote for a millage rate increase and my colleagues have wisely agreed. This year for FY 2011, I will again refuse to vote for a property tax increase. Together, with my colleagues over the last three years, we have decreased Broward County annual budget by $385 million dollars. Broward’s annual budget was approximately $3.7 billion dollars when I was elected; today, it’s approximately $3.3 billion dollars. And the world didn’t end, did it?

Broward County Judicial Complex
BROWARD COUNTY JUDICIAL COMPLEX
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD
INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
At the same time over the last three years, we cut wasteful and unnecessary spending, and we started addressing issues that had been neglected for far too long: the expansion of the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport; the expansion of the Port Everglades; jail overcrowding; and constructing a scaled down, functioning, toxin-free Broward County Courthouse. And, I want to stress again, we did it without raising your property taxes.

Today, I make the same promise to you and your families that I made in November 2006 while campaigning for my first term as your Broward County Commissioner. During my second term starting in November 2010, I will never vote to increase your property taxes and I will continue to work with my colleagues to shrink Broward County’s annual budget. I think this is one of the most important promises that an elected official can make to you. Of course, in November 2006, you had to take my word for it since I didn’t have a voting record. Now, I have a voting record and it demonstrates that I feel passionately about fiscal responsibility.

Click to Commissioner Ken Keechl web site After all, if I’ve learned anything over the last three years, it’s this: many politicians will say anything to get elected. But fortunately for and your families, they can’t hide from their past votes. I’m proud of my consistent voting record against property tax increases.

My best to you and your families.

Broward County Commissioner and
Mayor Ken Keechl

Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.

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The Summer of

Car Dumped in Canal
Vehicle Dumped in Canal
August 8, 2010 - Florida has always been a fertile environment for motivated scam artists. Recently, the National Insurance Crime Bureau tagged the Sunshine State as the national leader in auto insurance fraud, a recession-driven scam wherein vehicle owners dump their cars into canals before shooting off loss/damage claims to understandably skeptical carriers. Although active throughout the year, the summer seems to hold special significance for Florida fraudsters. Several Galt Mile residents recently expressed concern about having been victimized by three of this year’s summer stings - two statewide and one national in scope.

Click to National Insurance Crime Bureau web site Every property owner in the State just had their pockets picked. Don’t worry; your money is still in your wallet... at least for a while. Here’s the deal. A Coral Ridge Towers (Original) resident who owns several Florida properties paid an early June insurance premium to Citizens Property Insurance Corp, the windstorm carrier for one of her properties. A month later, she was informed by Citizens that her check, along with thousands of others, is probably lining the pockets of some audacious thief operating out of Hialeah.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. On June 24th, this creative crook strolled into the Post Office and dropped off standard change-of-address forms for the Jacksonville Corporate Center offices of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and for a dedicated P.O. Box used by Florida’s “insurer of last resort”. Mr. Tricky Doggie requested that all correspondences be forwarded to an apartment in Hialeah. Fortunately, the reliably dysfunctional Postal Service screwed up the second change-of-address operation (targeting the company’s P.O. Box), so only 213,000 client mailings were diverted from the Citizens Jacksonville office at 6676 Corporate Center Parkway to the scammer’s Hialeah address.

Citizens Jacksonville Corporate Center offices
Citizens Jacksonville Corporate Center offices
In a curious footnote to this misadventure, Citizens didn’t cancel the bogus change-of-address order until June 29th. Although the mega-carrier ordinarily receives thousands of letters and packages every day, on Friday, June 25th, the mail bag was empty. The corporate inbox remained vacant for five full days before some ambitious executive trainee decided that the absence of mail to headquarters was sufficiently troublesome to justify an official inquiry to the Post Office.

United States Postal Service Company spokesperson Christine Turner Ashburn said “Citizens will credit customers for payment if their checks were cashed in the scam.” For customers who reacted quickly to early reports of the incident and called their banks to stop payment on their checks, the company assented to reimburse any related bank charges. The roughly 200,000 rerouted letters and packages contain premium payments ranging from a few $hundred to $thousands. If any of those premium checks mailed prior to June 28th were yours, contact a dedicated toll-free Citizens hotline at 1-888-685-1555. When our neighbor in Coral Ridge Towers called the hotline, she was informed that investigators were trying to reconstitute payment records and a Citizens representative would get back to her. Her outstanding payment hadn’t been recorded.

Click here for a review of Citizens assessments based on Florida Law Not to worry, Citizens will pick up the tab – that is to say – we will pick up the tab. The untold $millions bilked from Citizens will ultimately be billed to every insured property owner in Florida. It will be buried in the “Citizens Assessment” line item on every premium statement. Ashburn said that although the carrier is working with criminal investigators, USPS protocol includes no front end red flag capable of preventing this type of deception. Rather than suing the Post Office for this elephantine operational gaffe, the Citizens think tank opted to deploy a “hair of the dog” strategic response. They allocated $97,000 for a direct mailing to possible victims. Mildly amused by the ironic rewarding of the Post Office for enabling a thief to steal $millions from property owners statewide, Ashburn remarked “It’s almost comical.”

The real danger to Citizens policyholders whose checks were hijacked doesn’t end with a palliative reimbursement by the company. Since every hostage check provides a doorway to its issuer’s financial identity, a far greater threat is posed by the scam’s potential for identity theft. After cashing out, the scammers are likely to record tens of thousands of account numbers, bank routing numbers and any names and addresses linked to the accounts. The swindler(s) can either directly engage in a spending spree or sell the data using any number of private and public venues. Since many of these are available on the internet, the crook(s) can plausibly consummate these rip-offs from the kitchen table while still clad in pajamas. Given the prospective secondary shock waves facing their customers, Ashburn said “We’re going to send out direct letters to anyone who could have been sending us something. If one person’s identity gets taken because of this, we haven’t gone far enough.”

While conceding the danger, Ashburn skirted admitting to future liability for adverse financial consequences. Instead, she recommends that prospective victims protect themselves by contacting their financial institutions, credit card insurers and credit card bureaus to flag their suddenly vulnerable accounts. By alerting these agencies, victims stand a good chance of foiling future efforts to fraudulently open lines of credit using their identities. If you receive a congratulatory letter from the local BMW franchise for purchasing a new Z-4, it’s too late.

Florida Division of Corporations web site The second shell game - first reported by a Galt Mile vendor - is one of two scams referenced on the Florida Division of Corporations official website, www.sunbiz.org. Along with the usual junk that penetrated his internet security program’s email spam filter in early July, the local merchant received an email requesting a fee for complying with some official State corporate notice requirements. Experienced in wading through a daily complement of email hustles, he forwarded the phony phishing expedition to the neighborhood association and asked whether we were aware of similar flimflams. In the field of computer security, phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, account numbers, Social Security Numbers and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication – such as an email.

Bogus Sunbiz Web Site
Bogus Sunbiz Site
On July 10th, the Florida Division of Corporations posted a warning on its website about two widely posted misleading emails. In one case, an entity masquerading as a “Compliance Services” arm of the official State agency is emailing Florida companies, requesting their annual minutes and a fee of $125. In fact, no state agency requires the filing of a company's annual minutes. In the second scenario, something called the Florida Online Corporate Annual Report Filings is also emailing businesses, inviting them to file their annual reports on that group’s website. The correspondence is designed to create the false impression that the company is engaging in an official state-sanctioned service effort.

While the first set of bozos is raking in $125 payments from clueless victims, they also stand to receive enough corporate data to initiate a credit scam. While the second suspect site lacked the panache of exacting a fee for inducing a corporate victim to self-compromise fiscal security, a quick trip to the perpetrator’s web site reveals an attempt to solicit data useful for corporate identity theft, personal data about any officers and/or directors and a shot at collecting $50 for a Certificate of Status ordinarily costing $5 or $8.75. To legally insulate themselves from actionable liability, the Division launched the Consumer Alert on the home page of their website. They repudiate claims outlined in the emails and deny any association with the two entities.

Attorney General Bill McCollum
Attorney General
Bill McCollum
ESIS Corporation web site The third gambit, embodied in an email sent directly to the neighborhood association, exemplified the State’s most prevalent of summer frauds, those exploiting the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. In May, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum warned residents against paying a fee for processing loss or damage claims resulting from the Gulf oil spill. Since British Petroleum’s (BP) authorized third-party claims administrator, ESIS, is processing spill-related claims on BP’s dime, McCollum exhorted “Floridians need to be on the lookout for people posing as authorized adjusters and requesting fees for free claims services.”

Federal Trade Commission web site In June, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an alert about “scam artists” using e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, flyers, mailings and telephone calls to solicit money. The FTC reported receiving hundreds of complaints about scammers raising money for bogus environmental causes and fly-by-night charitable organizations or offering fraudulent remediation services. Others toured beachfront neighborhoods, offering to expedite loss claims for a fee or to help homeowners brazenly fabricate “airtight” damage claims. In the email sent to the neighborhood association, an outfit called Industrial Recovery offered a similar service for a fee. However, if requested account information was submitted, the fee would be waived. The snow job was immediately forwarded to McCollum’s office.

Scammer Tanya Callaway
Job Scammer
Tanya Callaway
In July, the Federal Trade Commission issued another consumer warning. Scammers had begun using fraudulent job ads to exploit the State’s huge pool of unemployed recession victims. Desperately needed jobs were offered in exchange for an up-front fee, usually for training or “certification”. In Atlanta, the police nailed owner Tanya Callaway of a temp company called Just Business. Callaway and partner Atlanta Police Officer Corey Hymes collected hundreds of $80 fees for jobs supposedly guaranteed by BP. The oil company never heard of Callaway or her employment business.

Able Body Labor web site Closer to home, McCollum is prosecuting Able Body Labor, a Clearwater-based temporary staffing firm with 170 branches in 25 states. Another targeted company, Southern Cat of Lynn Haven, is a nondescript opportunistic enterprise cobbled together two years ago. When employment entails exposure to hazardous substances, the law requires that candidates undergo Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard training, otherwise known as HAZWOPER, prior to qualifying for certification. Although the two companies advertised the training as free, when applicants graduated, the companies demanded fat fees of up to $450 before releasing their certificates.

Click here to Yakama Job Scam The reason why the Gulf oil spill scams have received such intensive focus from consumer protection agencies and law enforcement is largely a consequence of their nationwide impact. In one particularly egregious June event, nearly 800 members of the Yakama Nation tribe in Washington were offered $40-an-hour jobs clearing tar balls from Gulf beaches. To secure the jobs, they had to provide names, addresses, social security numbers and other data useful for identity theft. Many resigned their regular jobs in order to take advantage of the opportunity, only to learn they were defrauded.

If you’ve been targeted or victimized by any of the tricky hair balls that seem to flourish in Florida, let us know. Your identity will be fully protected. Last November, 3 Galt Mile residents reported falling prey to a fraudulent HUD website. When informed that a well known reporter from a reputable local newspaper read the article and requested introductions, the contributors refused, insisting on continued anonymity. They got it... and so will you! Prior to contacting us, please file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by visiting ftc.gov or calling toll-free 877-FTC-HELP. Sharing your experience will help others find the courage to fight back.

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Hurricane Katrina hits Fort Lauderdale
HURRICANE KATRINA ROLLS FLORIDA
August 22, 2010 - On Wednesday, June 22, 2010, a
Regency South unit owner called the Galt Mile Community Association and explained that his windows were stripped away by Hurricane Wilma. He installed impact-rated replacements and filed a claim with his insurance carrier for reimbursement. After four years of diligently responding to requests for information supporting his claim, benefits were denied. On July 26th, a Southpoint resident described the fate of his reimbursement claim for replacement windows - as well as interior furnishings damaged when his windows were hurled to the pool deck by Hurricane Katrina. Discouraged by reports that carriers were declining legitimate claims with impunity, he stopped corresponding with Allstate four years ago. With the deadline to revive his claim fast approaching, he changed his mind. On August 9th, a Playa del Mar resident called about windows blown out by Hurricane Wilma. She said that the Association had reimbursed her neighbors for their storm damages several years ago. She also recalls having heard that the association was responsible for all the building’s windows.

Micro-burst blows cars from Commodore deck over wall to Southpoint deck
COMMODORE CARS BLOWN OVER WALL TO SOUTHPOINT
Almost 5 years after the Galt Mile was battered by these meteorological monsters, it is no accident that residents are behaving as if they were suddenly awakening from some paralytic trance. On September 18, 2009, the Sun-Sentinel did a four-article layout featuring local residents who filed some of the more than 2000 neglected hurricane damage claims suspended in insurance carrier purgatory. Entitled Tips: You can still open or reopen a claim, one article reminded storm damage victims that they only had one more year to take action. Although thousands of worthy claims have been consigned to an alternate insurance universe, thousands more have never been filed.

Following the 2004 - 2005 Hurricane seasons, the Florida Property Insurance market underwent a pan-industry corporate mutation. Resources dedicated to a highly competitive struggle for good will (and customer satisfaction) were reallocated to shield companies from the legal and regulatory consequences of evading compliance with policy terms. In summary, the bottom line was better served by withholding benefits than by winning new customers.

The Insurance Industry formulated an extremely effective capital conservation strategy. Insurance companies would repeatedly postpone consideration of submitted claims until this deliberately dilatory tactic threatened the company with statutory or judicial penalties. After watching their legitimate claims languish unaddressed for years, cash-strapped associations and their unit owners would finally agree to settle for a small fraction of the benefits guaranteed in their policies.

Click Here to QBE web site When faced with a customer who doggedly refused to fold despite years of nerve-wracking delays, the insurer would use in-house adjusters to engineer assessments that lower the extent and/or cost of the damage to within spitting distance of the deductible. Thousands of complaints lodged by frustrated clients, State sponsored mediators or outraged legislators did little to deter this scam. Certain carriers took the Industry strategy to a new low. They financially burned thousands of claimants by implementing a fiscal scorched earth policy - interminable delays invariably punctuated by a summary denial of benefits. Having witnessed the impotence of State regulatory authorities when called on to enforce policy terms, companies like QBE and Lexington unabashedly locked their wallets and slammed the brakes on benefits. To the delight of investors, policyholders were trivialized.

Visconti Condo Association in Margate
VISCONTI CONDO ASSOCIATION IN MARGATE
Not only had the carriers proven adept at avoiding answerability to relevant elements of the State’s Insurance bureaucracy (having sent the Office of Insurance Regulation on innumerable wild goose chases), the Industry successfully circumvented targeting attempts in the Courts. When Lexington Insurance notified the 384-unit Visconti Condo Association in Margate that their Wilma damages failed to exceed their deductible, the insurer – incredibly – based the Association’s projected repair costs on inexpensive temporary fixes and structural patches instead of the actual cost of permanent repairs. When the Association sued Lexington in Broward Circuit Court last year, the Boston-based carrier applied for and received a Change of Venue to Federal Court, a forum where their PAC contributions may serve to elicit a more sympathetic decision.

Buckley Towers Condominium
BUCKLEY TOWERS WINS $20 MILLION
On January 29, 2010, the Daily Business Review interviewed Community Advocacy Network (CAN) Executive Director Donna Berger, an Association Attorney whose firm - Katzman Garfinkel Berger - successfully deconstructed the industry’s legal strategy. After scoring last year’s $20.4 million judgment against QBE for the Buckley Towers Condominium in Miami and a $9 million judgment for the Chalfonte Condominium in Boca Raton, hundreds of associations and unit owners considered reviving long-neglected claims previously written off as futile endeavors. Berger pointed out that many associations facing receivership or worse could be jettisoned into the black overnight if their carriers were made to pay benefits legitimately owed for claimed damages.

Donna Berger Esq.
DONNA BERGER ESQ
Having uncovered the key to penetrating the industry lockbox, association attorneys statewide were given the green light to fight for benefits legitimately owed to hundreds of association clients and their individual members. To help prevent associations from relapsing into paralysis, the day after her interview, Berger reminded CAN members that Hurricane damage claims are subject to a five-year Statute of Limitations. Although it’s too late to file for damage repair costs attributable to 2004 Hurricanes Ivan, Frances, Jeanne, Charley and Bonnie, the deadline to file claims for damages wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma is almost here. For Hurricane Katrina, the Statute of Limitations expires on August 25, 2010. Wilma claims can be filed through October 24, 2010.

Chalfonte in Boca Raton
CHALFONTE IN BOCA RATON AWARDED $9 MILLION
While many insurers have openly used intimidation and fraud to deter policyholders from opening or reopening inert financial claims, unfortunately, another huge pool of potential claimants has been constrained by misconceptions about carrier mechanics. One of the most prevalent myths is that filing a claim will trigger cancellation, non-renewal or a rate increase.

Hurricane Wilma hits Fort Lauderdale
HURRICANE WILMA HITS FLORIDA
Section 627.4133(3) of the Florida Statutes provides: “Claims on property insurance policies that are a result of an act of God may not be used as a cause for cancellation or nonrenewal.” While property owners may be singled out for defaulted premiums or structural noncompliance, carriers can only refuse to renew entire classes of property owner, not cherry pick individuals based on claims activity. If an association submits a dozen claims amounting to $2 million and a structurally similar neighboring association submits nothing, both will be either dropped, renewed or face a rate increase depending on whether they satisfy the carrier’s class eligibility requirements. Even if they both get the boot, the first association is $2 million better off than their timid neighbor.

Associations and homeowners also fall prey to the carrier’s contention that damages fail to exceed their deductible. Since this assertion is generally based on a superficial review of the storm-related damages, gullible association Boards are prone to accept this offhand. As a rule, a healthy percentage of structural damage is not apparent in a storm damage inventory. Only a structural engineer (or the passage of time) will expose storm-related, long-term structural deficits that are usually far more expensive to correct than damages enumerated in the carrier’s assessment. Boards are also apt to overlook consequential expenses such as remediation of post-storm mold proliferation, relocation expenses, dumpster costs, in house cleanup expenses, water treatment and a sizable list of other hits to the budget.

Click Here to Allstate web site Unless a release was signed, associations that received checks from their carriers are not precluded from submitting additional claims, either for an incremental benefit for an expense already addressed or costs that were never previously considered. While filing for owed benefits will not cure the terrible recessionary impacts that afflict the association budget, adding back what was drained to repair our homes will certainly blunt the fiscal pain. When filing a claim that necessitates legal assistance, if the association attorney (or any unit owner’s lawyer) is unable or unwilling to work on a contingency basis, ask him or her for a referral – there are a truckload of firms that will welcome the opportunity in exchange for roughly 40% of the final settlement. Incidentally, Berger’s law firm constructed a useful web site called WilmaClaims.com.

For additional information online, you can also Google Hurricane Wilma Claims. Among the search results are a variety of law firms with claims experience. If you file a claim and subsequently decide against pursuing any action, you’ve lost nothing. If you miss the deadline, you are out of options. Do it! Should you need inspiration, you might want to close your eyes and envision that lunatic on television who molests annuitants while spontaneously screaming “It’s my money, and I want it NOW!”

PS: Many Galt Mile residents have expressed the belief that their association has a statutory obligation to replace windows lost to Hurricane Wilma. Although some associations have implemented special assessments to replace noncompliant windows and/or exterior doors, others required that unit owners individually install impact-rated replacements. The Statute that requires associations to insure the entire building envelope does not mandate that they care for or replace damaged windows. If any post-deductible damage benefits become available, they can be dedicated to defray replacement costs. Unfortunately, the confusing statute was passed after Hurricane Wilma. – Sorry!

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Bait and Switch

County Commission Passes Diluted Ethics Code

August 30, 2010 - Broward residents spent the last two decades watching their elected representatives claw their way to financial prosperity on the public dole. In South Florida, the unrelenting parade of borderline and/or openly illegal activity flourished without consequence for so long that public officials became arrogantly comfortable with scamming their constituents “in the sunshine” (School Board members actually declared illegal gifts on their tax returns). Local media reports detailing how these officials lobbied for and benefitted from dumping funds into black holes were dismissed by high profile perpetrators. As proof of wrongdoing was repeatedly ignored or even rewarded with re-election, an initially askance public grew numb. Despite their pervasive sense of frustration and impotence, a lingering anger drove Broward voters to twice mandate the creation of an ethics code - in 2002 and 2008.

State Attorney Michael Satz
STATE ATTY MICHAEL SATZ
Although State Attorney Michael Satz slumbered through a blizzard of bribes, theft, money laundering and graft, some local journalists picked up the slack. When describing clearly illegal activity, articles written by investigative reporters like Bob Norman weren’t simply exercises in mud-slinging. They were cogent, highly incriminating reports supported by documentation adequate for arrest warrants – in any other jurisdiction.

Investigative Journalist Bob Norman
JOURNALIST BOB NORMAN
Fortunately, the Feds weren’t suffering from the same pathological stupor that afflicted local law enforcement for decades. They were also familiar with the turf. Federal investigators spent the 1990s decapitating crooked public officials in Miami, shaping its reputation as one of the country’s most corrupt cities. After the Millennium, they took their show north to Palm Beach, where they sent Palm Beach County Commissioners Tony Masilotti, Warren Newell and Mary McCarty to the slammer on public corruption charges. It was only a matter of time before Federal resources would explode into Broward.

FBI regional chief John Gillies
LOCAL FBI CHIEF
JOHN GILLIES
The sting that netted former Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher, Broward Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion and Miramar City Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman was originally organized in 2005. After setting the stage, the Feds pulled the plug four years later. There was such a cornucopia of bad players and openly crooked activity that their single most delicate operational challenge was deciding who should be turned and who should do time. The dominoes started to fall across the county, tarnishing former Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Capellini, Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter (and husband Russ Klenet), Broward Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin, Florida Medical Association PAC fundraiser Dr. Alan D. Mendelsohn and Master of the Universe attorney Scott Rothstein. FBI regional chief John Gillies, with 500 agents between Key West and Fort Pierce, warned that there is more to come, stating “We have a number of investigations ongoing, and like all of our cases, we’ll go where the evidence takes us.”

Click to Broward ethics code With the Federal bulldozer rolling in high gear, the Broward Commission was forced to swallow hard and grudgingly sponsor an Ethics Commission to formulate an ethics code. On February 19, 2010, their 27-page work product was finalized. An inspector general with the power to seek fines of up to $5,000 and refer cases to state and federal prosecutors would enforce the new rules. The I.G.’s office would have subpoena power, take testimony under oath from witnesses and investigate any reasonable suspicion of misconduct. The inspector general would serve a four-year term once appointed by a five-member panel of legal professionals and law enforcement officials.

Click to Broward County Ethics Commission web site Openly abusing a transparent conflict of interest for decades, many Broward Commissioners have repeatedly engaged in bartering “access” in exchange for benefits ranging from campaign contributions to paper bags filled with cash. Instead of Commissioners serving on committees that evaluate bids and select contractors for lucrative county projects, professional staff committees will make recommendations that will be voted up or down by the Broward Commission.

Broward Commissioner John Rodstrom
BROWARD COMMISSIONER
JOHN RODSTROM
Although criticized by some citizens groups as too soft and slammed by politicians and lobbyists as too tough, the Ethics Commission did a creditable job, as evidenced by the blistering objections raised by Commissioners and other historical beneficiaries of preserving the “status quo”. Angry about the provision that would preclude him from distributing a rich supply of lucrative contracts, Commissioner John Rodstrom accused task force members of exceeding their mandate. Contending that their premise for preventing Commissioners from directly handing out contracts was “baseless” and should be “revisited”, Rodstrom said “I actually found that offensive or found that they didn’t really understand their charge as a board, that they were way outside the boundaries of what they were charged to do and so I think we need to sit down and have a real frank discussion at some point.”

Broward Commissioner Ilene Lieberman
BROWARD COMMISSIONER
ILENE LIEBERMAN
Not surprisingly, most of Rodstrom’s Commission colleagues failed to acknowledge any problematic conflict of interest and echoed his sentiments, notwithstanding that two of their number were already in or en route to the slammer. Several other Commissioners supported a controversial “glitch” ordinance and other rule changes drafted by County Attorney Jeff Newton in an attempt to dilute or severely limit the impact and scope of the new regulations. Commissioners Ilene Lieberman and Stacy Ritter have also bashed elements of the code, primarily those provisions that interfere with the historical sources of their current prosperity.

County Attorney Jeff Newton
COUNTY ATTORNEY
JEFF NEWTON
On August 10, 2010, the Broward Board of County Commissioners met to either support the Ethics Code or send it to the voters in November as a ballot issue. The meeting emulated a World Wide Wrestling Federation “Steel Cage” event as Commissioners sought to grind up provisions that threatened their cash cows or pepper the code with loopholes. As written, nothing less than a high profile super majority vote by the Commission or a citizens’ initiative could water down the provisions and provide the fox with a back door to the henhouse. Newton proposed the removal of this protective clause, which would have allowed the Commission to install elephantine loopholes or scrap the code at will.

Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter and Husband Russ Klenet
COMMISSIONER STACY RITTER AND HUBBY RUSS KLENET
Much of the visible strain on Commissioners was a by-product of trying to appear supportive of provisions they actually opposed. The Commission tried removing many of the new code’s central elements. They sought to eliminate a provision that prohibited Commissioners (and their spouses, domestic partners, family members and office staff) from hiring out as lobbyists appearing before local cities and towns. Also known as “lobbying down”, the clause will deter Commissioners from lobbying Broward municipalities on behalf of developers that also appear before the County Commission, a prominent source of Commissioner Ilene Liebermman’s annual income. It will also throw a monkey wrench into the husband & wife shell games practiced by Stacy Ritter and Russ Klenet, former Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin and husband Richard (whose grants written for the Town of Southwest Ranches served to incarcerate his wife) and Sue and Gerry Gunzburger, all of whom made out like bandits by funneling contracts, client favors or cash to their “better halves,” thereby fattening up the family kitty.

Former Broward Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin and husband Richard
DIANA WASSERMAN-RUBIN AND RICHARD
They also tried to sidestep imposing the code constraints on advisory board members and staff; prevent the ban on accepting gifts from lobbyists from extending to commissioners’ husbands, wives, domestic partners, immediate family, aides and staff; and dilute penalties for code violations. Last gasp efforts to mitigate the effects of the code included a proposal to delay implementation for 120 days or worse, exempt the current members of the Commission and apply the rules only to future commissioners.

Bob Wolfe of BCPA
Bob Wolfe
How do members of the Ethics Commission feel about the County Commission’s unrelenting attempts to scuttle the ethics code? Governmental liaison Bob Wolfe of the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office (and a longtime friend to the Galt Mile community) was appointed to the Ethics Commission last year by Mayor Keechl. Describing the County Commission’s behavior as “despicable, disgusting, and outrageous”, Wolfe accused Commissioners of trying to “gut the new code.” In his capacity as the B.C.P.A.’s Media Director, Wolfe has earned a reputation for effectively simplifying seemingly complex issues. Angered by the surreptitious efforts of several Commissioners to bully task force members and torpedo the code sections most threatening to their supplemental income streams, Wolfe said “We don’t want to see any more of this go on. You get a choice to be in public service – either abide by the rules or go do something else.”

Broward Commissioner Sue Gunzburger
COMMISSIONER SUE GUNZBURGER
As the meeting progressed, painfully losing control of so many lucrative forums was clearly taking a toll on many of the frustrated players. Suddenly, the entire County Commission exploded at Commissioner Sue Gunzburger. Earlier, Gunzburger sent an electioneering email entitled Stand with Sue for Ethics Reform to Broward residents. It blatantly accused County Attorney Jeff Newton of conspiring with her fellow Commissioners to subvert the ethics code. As the email continued, she added Fort Lauderdale State Senator Chris Smith to the conspirators. Gunzburger concluded by warning voters to “not be fooled by any slick political spin or intentionally complicated legal gibberish offered as excuses” by all of her peers on the County Board. Since she was initially accused of corruption by former State Senator Steven Geller, a candidate for Gunzburger’s Commission seat, Gunzburger has been using ethics reform to offset Geller’s assertion that she became wealthy by steering the county to award a recycled plastics monopoly to her late husband, Gerald Gunzburger.

Broward Commissioner John Rodstrom Lambasts Commissioner Sue Gunzburger
COMMISSIONER JOHN RODSTROM LAMBASTS COMMISSIONER GUNZBURGER
Commissioner Kristin Jacobs appeared anguished when she offered a motion to publicly censure Gunzburger. After seconding Jacob’s motion, Commissioner John Rodstrom quickly rescinded, implying that Gunzburger would use it to fuel her campaign by hoodwinking voters into believing that she was censured for supporting ethics reform. Describing the censure as “not harsh enough” and suggesting instead that she be recalled as Vice Mayor (a largely ceremonial title), Rodstrom proclaimed “It’s so despicable and so wrong. Your actions were way out there and way off base. You just threw us all under the bus to make yourself look good. You don’t deserve to be the vice mayor of this county.” Declaring that he had nothing to lose since he will soon be term-limited from his Commission seat, Rodstrom launched into a tirade. Confronting Gunzburger, Rodstrom said “Commissioner Gunzburger has tried to make herself look like she’s the champion of ethics reform above and beyond all of us and that is wrong.” Reminding Gunzburger that she grew rich from her late husband’s County contract, Rodstrom yelled, “You are a wealthy woman because you fed at the trough of the county and you did your business here. You had contracts. The truth hurts. Sue, we all knew you came and did work here and every county park has your work in it... and you were sole sourced. We know this.” When Gunzburger retorted “That’s not true,” Rodstrom shot back “You can object all you want but you can’t out-ethics us!”

Broward Commissioner Kristin Jacobs
BROWARD COMMISSIONER
KRISTIN JACOBS
The shouting was punctuated by Mayor Ken Keechl’s gavel as he finally regained control of the meeting and called a 10 minute recess to cool flaring tempers. Commissioners Jacobs and Wexler emotionally repudiated Gunzburger for disingenuously portraying herself as the sole champion of ethics reform struggling heroically against a vast County-wide conspiracy. Commenting on Gunzburger’s email, Jacobs lamented “Her words have levied a dark stain upon this board. The vice mayor’s destructive statements have further eroded public confidence. Her words are improper at best and libelous at worst.” Lieberman disparaged Gunzburger for deliberately twisting facts to bolster her sagging campaign.

Given the credibility quotient of the cast of characters attacking Gunzburger, the rebukes earned an understandably cynical reaction from a largely bemused audience. After all, while serving on the Broward Board, John Rodstrom also worked for Citibank and Sterne Agee. While pressing the County Commission to mute expansion plans for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, he was simultaneously helping rival Miami International Airport structure financing for similar expansion plans. During his eight years on the Board, he structured bond financing for the Broward County School Board and the City of Sunrise – where he formerly served as Mayor. In view of the new rules, Rodstrom promised to stop lobbying City Officials for bond business. Going forward, he would instead make presentations to those City Officials. And the hits just keep on coming!

Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter
BROWARD COMMISSIONER STACY RITTER
While the public was distracted by the Gunzburger dog and pony show, Commissioner Stacy Ritter performed a third trimester abortion on the ethics code. After each of the weakening amendments was defeated, Ritter proposed a provision that she billed as strengthening the code. On the positive side, it absorbs the Ethics Code into the County Charter, immunizing it against capricious alteration. It would also extend the Inspector General’s outreach to cover municipal officials, county employees and service providers.

Unfortunately, it would also unilaterally subvert the Inspector General’s ability to fight corruption. Ritter replaced the section of the Ethics Code that describes the Inspector General’s functional underpinnings with a virtually toothless substitute. She cynically added a requirement that the person complaining be an “identified person who verifies the contents of the complaint.” While at first glance, it may seem reasonable to protect our civil servants from unsupported malicious assaults; her amended version was baited with a poison pill.

The Ethics Commission vested the Office of Inspector General with a broad investigative mandate, allowing the I.G. to “take testimony under oath from witnesses and investigate any reasonable suspicion of misconduct.” They empowered the I.G. to independently decide which leads to follow, “including but not limited to the receipt of a filed complaint or a credible published report.” Like every inspector general in the U.S, Broward’s I.G. would actively invite information passed by whistleblowers, news reports or anonymous tips.

Ritter’s handiwork would eliminate every source ordinarily explored by an Inspector General and prohibit the I.G. from investigating any wrongdoing that isn’t “based on a signed verified complaint.” Ordinary citizens with legitimate complaints would no longer be able to bring the I.G. any “reasonable suspicion of misconduct.” Under the terms of her amended version, the I.G. can only accept complaints if they are accompanied by legally actionable proof of wrongdoing. It transfers the burden of verifying corruption from the I.G.’s office, which is well equipped to do so, to the complainant, who is not. The Ritter version would specifically prohibit the I.G. from following leads uncovered in newspaper reports or by traditional whistleblowers. Incredibly, the County Commission voted unanimously to approve Ritter’s functionally bankrupt adulteration of the original version.

The amended version also states that if a complaint is characterized as “malicious” or “baseless”, the person who complained would have to subsidize the entire cost of the investigation. Keep in mind that virtually every crook prosecuted or jailed by the Feds claimed that the charges were malicious and baseless. Her amendment also paves the way for the targeted Commissioner to recover legal fees from the complainant. To complete the I.G.’s wholesale emasculation, Ritter removed the up to 60 days of jail time prescribed as a penalty in the original document. As such, on the odd chance that the Inspector General will somehow stumble onto a box filled with signed and verified proof of gross misdeeds, he (or she) is limited to two pathetic alternatives - hitting the perpetrator with a censure or a fine. After ripping off a few hundred grand, being certified as having behaved inappropriately or paying a $5000 ticket would likely serve to actually encourage future violations.

Ritter performed some legal sleight of hand while drafting her alternative. If the I.G. is unable to substantiate an allegation for any reason, the charge becomes legally baseless, which Ritter’s version defines as adequate grounds for suing the whistleblower. No one in their right mind will step up and offer evidence of wrongdoing if they risk being forced to pay for any investigation that the I.G. is unable to successfully bring to fruition.

Having mutated the code’s fundamental goal from deterring political corruption to prosecuting whistleblowers, the Ritter substitute earned unanimous Commission approval primarily because it could only be used to punish anyone who dares challenge Commission misconduct. At the end of the day - the County Commission clearly demonstrated that their right to abuse their office and bleed taxpayers superseded the wishes of every Broward resident.

Although convinced that Ritter’s ploy to Bait and Switch the central element of the long delayed Ethics Code successfully resolved their concerns about the I.G.’s powers by meeting’s end, the Commissioners were rudely awakened the next morning when they discovered email inboxes flooded with angry constituent correspondences. The jig was up. Within a few hours, extremely nervous County Commissioners agreed to revisit the issue at a special session scheduled for August 17th, one day before the August 18th deadline for finalizing ballot issues.

Commissioner Keechl at Commission Meeting
MAYOR KEECHL AT COMMISSION MEETING
Broward Mayor and District 4 Commissioner Ken Keechl has an uninterrupted history of supporting the creation of an effective set of ethics rules since his 2006 Commission candidacy. In addition to deterring corruption, Keechl informed GMCA Advisory Board members that rehabilitating the County’s compromised reputation must also be an objective for any ethics code. Before Broward officials can begin reversing the widespread public skepticism cultivated during decades of abuse, the final version of the code would have to be credible and acceptable to the Broward electorate. Since Ritter’s “figurehead” I.G. would neither deter corruption nor convince Broward voters that the Commission’s endorsement wasn’t an eleventh hour exercise in turf protection, our County Commissioner sided with his constituents.

On August 16th, one day before the special session and after five days of withering public heat, Ritter told reporters that it suddenly dawned on her that her proposal was inexplicably missing a sentence. A line of text that would have empowered the I.G. to freely follow leads had somehow vanished. It was all just a silly mistake. Oops!

Mayor Ken Keechl & Vice Mayor Suzanne Gunzburger
V.M. GUNZBURGER & MAYOR KEECHL
At the August 17th special session, Mayor Keechl joined Vice Mayor Gunzburger in voting to dispense with Ritter’s mock substitute and reinstate the version molded by the Ethics Commission. Keechl correctly observed that Ritter’s amendment clouded public perception of the Commission’s sincerity, stating “No matter what we do with regard to this item, no matter how good we try to make it, it’s going to appear that we are just trying to thwart the will of the ethics commission.” Nonetheless, the other six Commissioners opted to patch Ritter’s tainted proposal. Specifically, instead of restricting the I.G. to investigations founded on signed, sworn complaints, they agreed to allow the I.G. freedom to initiate investigations based on any credible input, which functionally includes published reports and anonymous tips. Absent the greatest source of constituent animus, the corrected version finally passed by a vote of 6 – 2.

The Commission also expanded I.G. Selection Oversight Committee to five members, including designees from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Broward League of Cities, the Public Defender and the State Attorney. The four appointees will elect a fifth member. Other amendments salted into the final product extended the I.G.’s jurisdiction to county employees, municipal officials and providers of goods and services; and placed the County Auditor under the County Commission’s purview. Having returned to the Inspector General the investigative independence previously usurped, the Broward Board announced that the Ethics Code would become effective on August 20, 2010. Once an I.G. is hired and equipped, understandably curious Broward residents can begin ascertaining if and how much damage is ascribable to Ritter’s residual footprint on the amended ethics code.

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Commissioner Bruce Roberts

Noise Laws Lightning Traffic Cameras

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
VICE MAYOR BRUCE G. ROBERTS
September 7, 2010 - In his late Summer Newsletter to constituents, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts offers a snapshot of City programs in various stages of development. The August 17th Commission Meeting marked the end of the City Commission’s mid-Summer hiatus. Evidently, the Budget Advisory Board convinced Commissioners that using $17 million in Reserve funds to partially plug the projected FY 2011 budget’s $31 million shortfall was inherently evil. The City’s Loco Parenti sent interim City Manager Allyson Love back to the Budget and Management slaughterhouse to locate additional spending cuts, enough to wash out the $31 million deficit (about 5% of the total budget) and trim next year’s spending plan to $580 million.

interim City Manager Allyson Love
INTERIM CITY MANAGER
ALLYSON LOVE
Ms. Love’s stellar performance in the City’s Management and Budget arena is a glowing testament to her fiscal skills. However, it would require an advanced degree from Hogwarts to incrementally trim 5% from each department while complying with the Commission’s prerequisite for no layoffs or painful service cuts. Either the City Commission will have to renege on their budget promises or Love’s playing field will be restricted to sacrificing infrastructure, employee benefit concessions or a dog and pony show.

Click to Thor Guard web site Roberts outlines the operational underpinnings of a lightning prediction system approved by the City Commission last April and subsequently installed in 13 city Parks. In March, two companies were considered for the project. When Plantation-based Francis Uriel Electric Adt, Inc., the low bidder at $96,930, misrepresented their system’s capabilities, the contract went to a Sunrise company called Thor Guard Inc. Unfortunately, the $135,000 that was budgeted for the project didn't cover the $153,326 Thor Guard bid. To square the difference without denting the budget, the City Commission snagged unused revenues residual to the now completed Mills Pond Park playground project and transferred the $18,326 required to offset the Thor Guard contract shortfall.

Click to ATS American Traffic Solutions When the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act (House Bill 325) became effective on July 1, 2010, it provided a statutory basis for the City’s new Red Light Camera Enforcement system. Fort Lauderdale’s contract with vendor American Traffic Solutions was amended to comply with the new State law. The City originally passed an ordinance to govern red light camera violations. Now that State law regulates enforcement, the City can issue legitimate traffic tickets for infractions instead of constitutionally questionable code violations.

Galt Mile residents following this project may have noticed that the intersections originally selected for camera enforcement have been changed. The camera-mounted traffic signals planned for Federal Highway at Oakland Park Boulevard and Commercial Boulevard resurfaced miles away on NE 8th Street. Don’t get too comfortable, however, since this is a pilot project. Barring unforeseen consequences, the nine initial locations will ultimately mushroom to 50 sites at dangerous intersections throughout Fort Lauderdale. It’s only a matter of time before the original nearby intersections are fitted with cameras.

Click to City of Oakland Park Also, the City of Oakland Park has been planning to install some cameras at other nearby intersections like Dixie Highway at Oakland Park Boulevard and Commercial Boulevard. Along with lead-footed locals, unsuspecting snowbirds and visitors historically fall prey to newly installed camera enforcement systems. You might want to think twice before lending your vehicle to anyone, since the vehicle owner - not the driver - gets hit with the $158 ticket.

Noise Monitor
NOISE MONITOR
Commissioner Roberts reviews recent developments impacting the City’s evolving Noise Ordinance. The longstanding controversy surrounding the limitation on decibel levels primarily affects mixed use neighborhoods, often setting residential and commercial community activists at each other’s throats. The issue is exacerbated by commercial enterprises that grind out music long after their approved hours of operation and residents armed with sound detection equipment swearing out frivolous complaints. Since thriving commercial and residential components are survival requirements for any mixed use community, if one side or the other wins, everyone loses.

President Eric Zwerling of Noise Consultancy, LLC
NOISE CONSULTANCY
PRESIDENT ERIC ZWERLING
As exclaimed by Commissioner Roberts, balancing the right to peaceful enjoyment with the right to make a living can only be achieved with a carefully tailored and realistic noise ordinance. The City’s consultant, President Eric Zwerling of Noise Consultancy, LLC, has forged an excellent reputation by settling similar conflicts for the State of New Jersey, the Cities of New York, Philadelphia, Long Beach (N.Y.), Gainesville, Seattle and other urban noise battlegrounds.

Commissioner Roberts wraps up his Newsletter by inviting residents to free Citizen’s Crime Alert meetings hosted by iconic law enforcement officials. Also, one of the two new locations he selected as sites for his twice-monthly pre-agenda meetings is just up the block – the Beach Community Center. For Roberts’ late Summer update... read on... – [editor]

From The Desk of
Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER
BRUCE G. ROBERTS
Budget: The proposed budget presented by the City Manager represents an overall increase of 1.7% over the current fiscal year. At our August 17th meeting, your Commission directed staff to present a proposal which does not increase the millage rate while simultaneously reducing the new budget by 5% under the current year’s budget. As a reminder, there will be Public Hearings on the budget at the next two commission meetings on September 7th and 21st.

As we move forward establishing a new administrative staff, it is important to note that on October 12th, the Commission will have a public workshop to discuss the process of hiring an interim and fulltime City Manager. We are also preparing to have a budget workshop in October. The purpose of this will be to discuss the development of a five year business plan. This will give us the ability to better measure operational efficiencies relative to service demand, priorities and costs.

Roof Mounted Lightning Detection Equipment
ROOF MOUNTED LIGHTNING SENSORS
City of Ft. Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Lightning Safety Information – What You Should Know About Our Lightning Prediction Systems: In the United States, more than 400 people are struck by lightning each year. To encourage lightning safety, and at the direction of your Commission, the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Parks and Recreation Department has installed lightning prediction systems at several park locations. The Parks and Recreation Department will utilize the lightning prediction systems as a weather-monitoring tool that will provide additional protection to employees, recreational program participants and other park patrons. The following park locations have been equipped with the lightning prediction systems that will be operational ONLY during normal park hours and as warranted for special events:

Lightning Prediction System in Fort Lauderdale Park
LIGHTNING PREDICTION SYSTEM IN FORT LAUDERDALE PARK
Lighting prediction senses evaluates the shifts and changes in the electrostatic field that precede the occurrence of an actual lightning strike. Lightning is a violent act of nature and the City of Fort Lauderdale recognizes the threat of injuries or death from lightning strikes cannot be entirely eliminated. However, certain precautions can minimize the potential for lightning related injuries. When the lightning warning system sounds (one 15-second horn blast), the outdoor facility must be cleared of all patrons as soon as possible. The City of Fort Lauderdale has trained staff to help clear the park’s fields. Also, all persons must seek and remain in buildings or vehicles. All persons must wait until the weather clears and the all-clear signal sounds (three five-second blasts) before patrons can resume play. Activities may only resume once the all-clear signal sounds. It is recommended that when possible, park patrons and staff seek and remain in a sheltered area. If such shelter is unavailable, patrons are encouraged to get into their vehicles. Pavilions, sheds, picnic shelters, tents, covered porches, dugouts or trees should not be used for shelter, as they do NOT protect you from lightning. Individuals should keep away from metal objects such as fences, umbrellas, etc. This policy shall apply to programs and facilities operated by the City of Fort Lauderdale and its affiliated groups.

For more information on lightning safety, please visit the following websites:

Cameras Now At 9 Fort Lauderdale Intersections: Cameras to catch red-light runners are snapping away at nine busy intersections. Through August, violators are getting courtesy warnings, but starting in September they will be fined $158 for each offense. The intersections with cameras are Federal Highway at Northeast Eighth Street; Northeast 15th Avenue at Sunrise Boulevard; State Road 84 at Southwest Ninth Avenue; Sunrise Boulevard at Northwest 15th Avenue; Commercial Boulevard at Northwest 21st Avenue; Federal Highway at State Road 84; Northwest 62nd Street at Ninth Avenue; Commercial Boulevard at Northwest Ninth Avenue; and Northwest 62nd Street at Northwest 31st Avenue. Cameras are always on.

Click to South Florida Regional Partnership web site Partnership Agreement for South Florida Regional Partnership Consortium – HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program: The South Florida Regional Planning Council (SFRPC) and the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council are working collaboratively to prepare a joint application to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the Sustainable Communities Planning Grants Program to create a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development. It is proof of our commitment to work collaboratively with regional partners in a coordinated effort to prepare and carry out a comprehensive work plan pursuant to the receipt of adequate funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Sustainable Communities Planning Grants Program. If awarded, these funds will be used to further develop the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership; establish a comprehensive regional vision; develop a plan identifying critical projects and infrastructure that will improve the Region’s sustainability; and establish priorities for focused investment in Southeast Florida. As a member of the Consortium, we are committed to following the Livability Principles relating to the sustainable development and redevelopment of Southeast Florida:

  • Provide more transportation choices

  • Promote equitable affordable housing

  • Enhance economic competitiveness

  • Support existing communities

  • Coordinate policies and leverage investment

  • Value communities and neighborhoods

  • Enhance community resiliency to the impacts of Climate Change

Click to Noise Ordinance Noise Ordinance: Recently, there has been a lot of discussion in the community about proposed changes to our current noise ordinance. We all know of our history in trying to balance the integrity and tranquility of the residential community with the interests of the business and entertainment community. Consequently, the previous Commission adopted a Noise Control Ordinance on July 15, 2008, and staff was given direction by the City Manager and Commission to evaluate the newly implemented ordinance as to its overall effectiveness and ability to be enforced. Five parameters were taken into consideration: 1) Special Entertainment District (amplified sound); 2) Commercial, Mixed-Use or Industrial Uses (amplified sound); 3) Commercial delivery, loading and sanitation operations; 4) Construction; and 5) Emergency Generators. The Noise Consultancy, LLC, who provided consulting services to the City for the existing Chapter 17, Noise Control ordinance, was again procured by the Building Department on April 20, 2010 to provide additional consulting services. City staff worked with the consultant, Eric Zwerling, President of Noise Consultancy, LLC, in evaluating the data from the action plan and by drafting the proposed changes to the ordinance to strike a better balance between the interests of the businesses and the interests of the nearby residential districts. The new limits were based upon extensive field studies in the City of Fort Lauderdale and were presented to the Commission at the August 17th Commission Meeting. Those recommendations were more specific to the Entertainment Districts and attempted to make the ordinance easier to enforce in a fair and consistent manner by not only better (legally) pinpointing the source of the illegal noise, but also by permitting a slight increase in legal decibel levels. After a lengthy public discussion with residents, businessmen, staff and the consultant, it became apparent that more work needed to be done. I will keep you informed as this item moves forward and welcome your input.

Citizen’s Crime Alert of Fort Lauderdale – Schedule of Meetings To Come: These meetings (8th Floor Cafeteria) are open to everyone and we welcome you to bring friends, neighbors and family. September 13 – 7:00 p.m.: Traffic Homicide Investigator Jill Hirsch; October 11 – 7:00p.m.: Police Chief Frank Adderley (Q&A); November 8 – 7:00p.m.: Immigration and Customs Agent Miguel Figueroa (I.C.E.) re: Smuggling and Human Trafficking.

Fort Lauderdale Commission Assistant Robbi Uptegrove
ROBBI
UPTEGROVE
As a reminder, I host two Pre-agenda Meetings per month: in addition to attending homeowner meetings at your request. The pre-agenda meetings focus on items of interest as well as the upcoming agenda. They are held the Monday before a Commission Meeting, 6 p.m., at either the Beach Community Center (9/20; 10/18; 11/15; 12/20) OR Imperial Point Hospital AUD A&B –south side of hospital entrance towards the back (10/4; 11/1; 12/6). We will not be having a meeting on 9/6 due to the holiday.

Office Contact: Robbi Uptegrove – 954-828-5033; email: ruptegrove@fortlauderdale.gov

Bruce G. Roberts                

If you need to reach Commissioner Bruce Roberts, please contact his assistant Robbi Uptegrove at 954-828-5033 or by e-mail at RUptegrove@fortlauderdale.gov. To access the City Commission Meeting Agendas and Minutes, Click Here. To actually watch the meetings recorded and archived on the Commission Meetings Video Webcast and Archives web site, Click Here.

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Broward Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

September 2010 Newsletter

Broward Ethics Code placed on Ballot
BROWARD ETHICS CODE PLACED ON NOVEMBER BALLOT
September 14, 2010 - * In his September 2010 Newsletter, Broward Mayor
Ken Keechl summarizes the home stretch of an 8-year contest of wills. Following decades of “in your face” corruption by Broward public officials, frustrated and angry Broward voters passed ballot issues in 2002 and 2008 demanding formulation of an ethics code for County Commissioners. Since these voter mandates bore a strange similarity to flustered parents asking children who repeatedly stole money to determine their own punishment, the results were not surprising. County Commissioners simply ignored the electorate and did nothing.

Click to Broward County Ethics Commission web site Like nasty kids who suddenly “get religion” after overhearing Mom and Dad discuss a boarding school on the far side of the moon, when the FBI began tossing County officials into the slammer, the Broward Commission opted to preempt a decidedly more severe fate and grudgingly give the voters their ethics code. The Ethics Commission they subsequently appointed in early 2009 finished composing a viable ethics code on February 19, 2010.

County Attorney Jeff Newton
COUNTY ATTORNEY
JEFF NEWTON
Throughout the year-long process, individual Commissioners made repeated attempts to abort the evolving set of rules, subjecting committee members to threats, legal challenges and unrelenting political pressure. Shortly before the Ethics Commission’s last meeting on June 18, 2010, County Attorney Jeff Newton issued a politically motivated memo stating that Broward Commissioners would be “violating their oath of office” by adopting the Ethics Code, supposedly prompting the County Commission to threaten the ethics panel with legal action.

Ethics Commission Chair Neal de Jesus
ETHICS CHAIR
NEAL DE JESUS
Ethics Commission Chair Neal de Jesus admitted that he was “not surprised at all” that the County Commission was suing to derail corruption reform. Ethics Commission appointee Bob Wolfe said he was “personally livid, disgusted and appalled” by the Commission’s actions. Wolfe added “They’re going to do everything imaginable to have someone else strike every position they can out of this ordinance. It’s a shame. They don’t get it. I guess they’ve got to see another colleague of theirs walk out in handcuffs before they get it.” When Ethics Commission member Robin Rorapaugh asked Newton’s Chief Appellate Counsel Andrew J. Meyers why the County Attorney decided to suddenly plant legal land mines so late in the process, he let slip that Commissioner Ilene Lieberman was behind the memo.

Attorney & Lobbyist Dawn Meyers
DAWN MEYERS
County Attorney Andrew J. Meyers
COUNTY ATTORNEY
ANDREW J. MEYERS
His admission wasn’t exactly a surprise, since Lieberman (who generates lobbying income under married name Ilene Michelson), Stacy Ritter and John Rodstrom all enjoy healthy income streams from trading on their Commission seats. The surprise is that Meyers wife is also a lobbyist. Employed by the Berger Singerman law firm, Dawn Meyers represents clients transacting County business.

Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff and Coral Springs Democrat Ari Porth file House Bill 1425
REP. ELLYN BOGDANOFF
SPEARHEADS ETHICS BILL
The Broward Legislative Delegation unanimously supported Representatives Ellyn Bogdanoff (Fort Lauderdale Republican) and Ari Porth (Coral Springs Democrat) to spearhead a statutory basis for the Code’s critically important “Office of Inspector General.”
Rep. Ari Porth Co-Files Ethics Bill
REP. ARI PORTH
CO-FILES BILL
After meeting with lobbyists sent to Tallahassee by two County Commissioners, Delegation member Representative Jim Waldman unexpectedly loosed a series of personal and partisan attacks on Bogdanoff and recommended watering down Broward’s ethics legislation. After a blistering negative response by fellow Democrats, the local media (including the Sun-Sentinel editorial board) and his own constituents, Waldman cooled the rhetoric; evidently realizing that any “favors” his actions would cultivate with collusive Commissioners were hardly worth his political future.

Representative Jim Waldman Goes Berserk - turns meeting into a Partisan circus
REP. JIM WALDMAN
GOES BERSERK
Aghast at their blatant attempt to destabilize corruption reform in both local and State forums, an irate Ari Porth declared “The people of Broward County are sick and tired of public corruption and those that sit idly by doing nothing to stop it. It appears that some of our commissioners need to have the plugs removed from their ears to hear the public’s outcry.”

Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter
BROWARD COMMISSIONER STACY RITTER
Despite the minefield of political obstacles, an intact Ethics Code was delivered to the County Commission one week before the August 18th submission deadline for placing items on the November ballot. Since this was their last chance to dilute provisions that prospectively soured their extra-curricular financial opportunities, County Commissioners launched a series of amendments to weaken the code. When they failed, Commissioner Stacy Ritter filed a “Hail Mary” amendment that replaced the entire section empowering an Inspector General with a virtually toothless substitute, deftly stripping the I.G. of the tools required to either prevent or punish Commission corruption.

Click to Broward ethics code Given the scope and virulence of the County-wide outcry against her scam amendment, a week later she apologetically returned the I.G.'s right to act independently while pursuing wrongdoers. However, other regressive elements of her skewed amendment remained. When the watered down Ethics Code was put to a vote, only Ken Keechl opposed, arguing that any variation of the original version would further inflame public suspicion. Commissioner Gunzburger asked to change her vote, joining Keechl on the losing side of a 6 Yeas vs. 2 Nays decision to place Ritter’s diluted version of the Ethics Code on the November ballot.

Although disappointed with his peers’ decision to toy with the version created by the Ethics Commission, Keechl was pleased that the Ethics Code finally approved by the County Commission preserved enough of the original work product to provide effective corruption reform. His September 2010 Newsletter enumerates the new code’s major corruption deterrents and supports widening its application to municipal officials as well, an ambitious undertaking that will undoubtedly trigger jurisdictional warfare. (If you squint, you might envision local officials whipping out copies of the Constitution while declaring their God-given right to plunder their own constituents free of duress or interference from any jurisdictional food-chain.) Read Mayor Keechl's summary of the Ethics Code... – [editor]*

“Ethics Reform at the Broward County Commission”

by Broward County Commissioner & Mayor
Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
I’m proud to report that the Broward County Commission unanimously passed a
Code of Ethics that will govern how business is done at the Broward County Commission. Don’t let anyone tell you that it wasn’t a major change in the way business has been done in the past. This is substantive ethics reform!

A few key aspects of the new Ethics Code include:

  1. County Commissioners will no longer be able to serve on selection committees where major contracts are awarded. Specialized staff members will control the selection process with oversight by the Commission only at the time of contract approval on the dais.

  2. An Office of Inspector General will be created to detect misconduct and conduct investigations.

  3. County Commissioners cannot be employed as lobbyists or engage in lobbying activities with cities or other governmental entities in Broward.

  4. County Commissioners cannot accept gifts of any value from lobbyists or vendors doing business with Broward County.

  5. All lobbyists must be registered and provide detailed information as to the substance of all meetings with Commissioners. Additionally, if a meeting occurs outside a Commissioner’s office, he or she must disclose the lobbying activity, including phone calls and electronic communications.

  6. Lastly, there are now fines of $250 to $5,000 per violation, as well as public reprimand, censure, and possible jail time.

This Ethics Code is long overdue and I support it wholeheartedly. Moreover, as your Commissioner I voted against all amendments that could be viewed by the public as weakening the Ethics Code. However, I want to go further. I want to apply it to cities as well. After all, what’s good for the Broward County Commission is also good for the commissioners in Lighthouse Point, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and all of our 31 cities.

So during my second term as your County Commissioner, I will work on additional measures to increase the scope of the Ethics Code and make disclosure of lobbyist and Commissioner activities even more transparent. After all, you and your families deserve nothing less.

Broward County Commissioner and
Mayor Ken Keechl

Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email. Click Here to the Ethics Commission's web site.

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Foreclosure Auction
FORECLOSURE AUCTION
September 16, 2010 - In
Washington DC, Tallahassee and State Capitals across the country, public officials intent on squeezing some mileage from the foreclosure “freeze” have dusted off their soap boxes. As usual, instead of clarifying the dilemma, their efforts have injected waves of thick black smoke into an already confusing recovery detour taken by this strange economy.

Deposition of team leader Jeffrey B. Stephan of GMAC’s document execution team
GMAC TEAM LEADER JEFFREY B. STEPHAN
On June 7, 2010, team leader Jeffrey B. Stephan of GMAC’s document execution team opened Pandora’s Box while being deposed in Palm Beach County for a foreclosure case (Federal National Mortgage Association v. Nicole M. Bradbury, et al., Maine District Court, District Nine, Division of Northern Cumberland, Docket No. BRI-RE-09-65).

Deposition of team leader Jeffrey B. Stephan of GMAC’s document execution team
JEFFREY B. STEPHAN - DEPOSITION
After establishing that he supervises a team of 14 employees and personally signs between 8,000 and 12,000 documents every month, Stephan explained that the Mortgage Assignments and Affidavits he signed in support of Summary Judgment were used by GMAC, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in over 100,000 foreclosure cases. He revealed that his training consisted of following behind another team leader (who was subsequently canned) for three days, during which time he received no printed training materials or manuals. Each of the documents he signed contained the statement “I have under my custody and control, the records relating to the mortgage transaction referenced below.” Stephan admitted that he never had custody of any of the referenced materials. Although he never inspected the records and was unaware of the information they contained, Stephan confessed to rubber stamping each document with his notarized signature, despite the absence of any notary.

Click to GMAC Mortgage web site Over the next three months, it became clear that Jeffrey Stephan’s admittedly fraudulent methodologies weren’t the unauthorized actions of some overambitious mid-level manager but standard protocols devised and enforced by the lending industry and its mortgage servicing machinery. When GMAC was burned for $13 billion in toxic mortgages from 2006 to 2009, Congress pumped in $17 billion for a 56.3 percent stake in the company and 4 seats on its Board of Directors.

Click to Ally Financial web site On September 17th, spokesman James Olecki for Ally Financial, the Detroit-based parent of GMAC Mortgage, raised eyebrows by issuing a confirmation that the nation’s fourth-largest mortgage servicer (with 865 pending foreclosure cases in Broward courts and another 940 in Palm Beach County) ordered real estate agents and brokers to monkey wrench foreclosures, stop evictions & lockouts and postpone sales of GMAC-owned properties. Within two weeks, lending titans J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America followed suit.

Attorney General Bill McCollum
ATTORNEY GENERAL
BILL McCOLLUM
The revelation that mortgage companies and loan servicers used actionably fraudulent tactics to taint real estate transactions worth $100’s of billions prompted 40 state attorneys general and their respective state regulators to investigate the systemic illegalities. In Florida, Attorney General Bill McCollum probed the State’s four leading foreclosure mills, Shapiro & Fishman of Boca Raton, Marshall C. Watson of Fort Lauderdale, the law offices of David J. Stern in Plantation and the Tampa based Florida Default Law Group. At a recent Congressional probe into why Fannie Mae is using these disreputable foreclosure factories to service their $189 billion Florida mortgage portfolio, Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson revealed that the Stern, Watson and Shapiro & Fishman firms service about 80 percent of the State’s foreclosures. Taking a page from FBI Regional chief John Gillies - who bartered sentencing leniency for convicted School Board member Beverly Gallagher in exchange for setting up some of her ethically challenged colleagues - McCollum turned the Watson law firm, which is helping the Attorney General flesh out the extent and impact of Florida lender fraud on the State’s struggling economy.

David J. Stern Esq.
DAVID J. STERN ESQ.
In early October, McCollum’s investigation began bearing fruit. Paralegal Tammie Lou Kapusta, formerly of the Stern law firm (900 S. Pine Island Road, Ste. 400 in Plantation), testified under oath that long signing tables were set up on eight floors where employees processed 250 documents per floor each day. Several employees were regularly directed by Stern’s Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Samons to practice duplicating her signature. In addition to forging signatures and backdating documents, Kapusta confirmed that staff members casually passed around notary stamps and pre-notarized stacks of blank documents for future use. Kapusta alleged that the attorneys employed by Stern feared disbarment for willingly participating in overtly illegal activities, although they were more concerned about losing their jobs. Under federal law, a lender must show that a service member’s ability to repay a debt wasn’t affected by military obligations, according to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department. Stern’s firm would knowingly use the wrong Social Security number to search military records for people who couldn’t be located or identified. Kapusta said she was fired about two weeks “after I refused to do the military documents.” Not surprisingly, Miami attorney Jeffrey Tew, representing the Stern law firm, issued a statement refuting Kapusta’s allegations.

Broward Circuit Judge Eileen O’Connor
BROWARD CIRCUIT JUDGE EILEEN O’CONNOR
The Broward-based Stern law firm and the Shapiro & Fishman law firm in Palm Beach County challenged McCollum’s right to subpoena documents relating to their procedures, clients and investments. Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jack Cox twice ruled against the attorney general, declaring that the Florida Bar, the State Supreme Court and the lower courts have jurisdiction over lawyers and their conduct, not the attorney general. However, when Broward Circuit Judge Eileen O’Connor ruled for McCollum on the same points of law, she set the stage for sending the final decision to the appellate courts.

So Crooked Banks hired crooked Law Firms...
What’s the Big Deal?

Click to Shapiro & Fishman Law Firm web site The lending industry admittedly took illegal short cuts to expedite foreclosures. In the past, when Banks lost bags of cash, illegally blended accounts, washed drug revenues for overseas clients, lied to regulators, spent recovery funds on golden parachutes, committed outright fraud, theft or other criminal acts, they were usually rewarded or even reimbursed when the dust settled. How does this latest transgression - what lenders initially characterized as a technical defect - bring most of the nation’s foreclosure machinery to a grinding halt?

Click to Marshall C. Watson Law Firm web site When a mortgage changes hands, the new owners are supposed to receive an “assignment” of the mortgage notes from the buyers. When a mortgage is securitized and typically sold to a Bank, it is ordinarily packaged with thousands of other mortgage loans into an investment product. However, neither the assignments nor the notes are given to the investors. Instead, they are recorded in an electronic database and sent to a document repository company.

Click to Florida Default Law Group web site When the Real Estate market was traveling at light speed, lenders were stumbling over one another to punch out toxic loans. In an environment where concepts like “collateral” and “creditworthiness” were irritating impediments to keeping pace with demand, frenzied mortgage bankers often sacrificed the integrity of document custody chains while racing to book the next contract deposit. Records displaced by the seemingly endless influx of new business were haphazardly stashed in boxes around their offices or shipped off to storage facilities, often by lenders who later “went south” or were “acquired” by larger lending predators.

Federal District Judge Christopher A. Boyko
FEDERAL DISTRICT JUDGE
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
On October 31, 2007, Federal District Judge Christopher A. Boyko of the United States Northern District of Ohio ruled that Deutsche Bank lacked standing to foreclose in 14 cases because it could not produce documents proving that it was assigned the mortgage rights when the loans were securitized. When the lenders smugly insisted “Judge, you just don’t understand how things work,” Boyko retorted that their argument “reveals a condescending mindset and quasi-monopolistic system where financial institutions have traditionally controlled, and still control, the foreclosure process.” The handwriting was on the wall. Since banks that were servicing mortgages pooled into investment bonds (RMBS or residential mortgage backed securities) were often unable to prove that they actually owned those mortgages, a series of similar court rulings in several states followed, stopping lenders from prevailing in foreclosure cases burdened by defective documentation.

Within months, a show me the note movement comprised of people contesting foreclosure proceedings spread epidemically, primarily through “judicial states.” While most states allow banks to foreclose by simply delivering a notice of the foreclosure sale to the borrower, 23 states require banks to go to court for a foreclosure order. If a bank is unable to produce a mortgage note or retroactively build a credible assignment chain confirming vested control of the mortgage rights, it risks losing the right to foreclose. In “judicial states,” where the banks must convince a judge to foreclose a property, submitting falsified or fraudulent documents to the court also invites exposure to serious and expensive legal sanctions.

If the fraudulent documents deliberately generated by mortgage servicers are part of some misdirected nationwide strategy to expedite dilatory foreclosure procedures (albeit via the planned violation of banking regulations), the current real estate “hiatus” will soon pass. Lenders and their foreclosure factories will either have to locate Mortgage Assignments and Notes relevant to any defaulted properties slated for foreclosure or credibly reconstruct acceptable evidentiary substitutes - labor-intensive and time consuming tasks that could substantially crimp law firm profits and lender bottom lines. Once armed with the appropriate documentation, banks can dump their non-producing properties back into the market and pick up where they left off.

However, if the falsified mortgage records were manufactured to camouflage closely guarded proprietary industry knowledge that the actual Assignments and Notes are hopelessly lost or otherwise unavailable to the lender, this could spell disaster for the banks, since they could permanently lose their standing to foreclose these properties.

pushing the pig through the python
THE PIG AND THE PYTHON
The economic hornet’s nest threatened by this alternative has prompted the nationwide controversy over its prospective impact. The vast majority of our economic woes are rooted in the nation’s sagging real estate markets. A favorite metaphor of Bankers discussing the economic recovery - “pushing the pig through the python” - should intuitively resonate with every homeowner in Florida. Until the glut of foreclosed properties has been recycled, property values will remain depressed. Any long-term slowdown in foreclosure sales will further devastate the housing market - and the State’s economy. The dominoes that could fall are capable of postponing any real estate recovery for years.

The Hit to Banks

After losing untold $billions to defaulted toxic mortgages, banks face the prospect of also losing the substantially smaller income generated by foreclosure sales. The amount of red ink absorbed by the lenders will depend on the duration of the current foreclosure hiatus. Many of the banks that weathered the toxic loan carnation wrought by the industry’s fatally compromised lending standards are barely viable. If deprived for too long of their projected income from foreclosure sales, they will fall off the grid.

Additionally, if banks cannot prove they hold mortgages on properties, they could be forced to write down the loans to near zero. Even if certain loans were scrupulously maintained and kept current, without clear title, they would have to be reclassified from functional mortgages to ordinary consumer loans, which would double the bank’s regulatory reserve requirement. Depending on the number of “tainted titles” in its lending portfolio, a bank could be forced to fill the resulting hole in its balance sheet with new capital.

The banks could also find themselves besieged by an army of angry investors. After pooling mortgages into a variety of high profile investment products, banks promoted them as a safer way of buying real estate. When packaging a mortgage bond for sale to investors, the offering typically includes representations that the loans were securitized and warranties that all the proper documentation had been obtained. Since forged affidavits and backdated assignments hardly fill that bill, proving bank liability for breach of warranty would be a no-brainer.

Click to JP Morgan Chase web site Ultimately, if the recovery value of their lending portfolios is jettisoned into a black hole, banks will be forced to squeeze the lending knot even tighter, functionally obliterating consumer credit. Only cash will grease real estate transactions.

What Happens Next?

Click to Florida Bank of America web site Virtually every public official with a dog in this fight has been careful to address the issue’s political and economic consequences - how to punish the systemic forgeries while avoiding a mortgage rights ownership crisis that could stall any economic recovery for years. Ironically, the Federal and State regulators charged with addressing this dilemma need the help of the same institutions they are threatening with retribution for organizing, coordinating and rewarding the forged documentation and perjured court testimony used to fraudulently foreclose thousands of properties. This political paradox is complicated by the fact that the lending Banks and their mortgage servicers are answerable to different governmental authorities. While the Banks are regulated by the Feds, the states have jurisdiction over the foreclosure mills.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
TREASURY SECRETARY
TIMOTHY GEITHNER
After describing the foreclosure freeze as “very damaging to exactly the kind of people we’re trying to protect” and issuing assurances that those behind the tainted foreclosures would be held accountable, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner threw in the relevant caveat, “But we also want to make sure that we’re not going to make the problem worse.”

Click to PNC Financial Group web site Similar statements by the White House, Congressional leaders and state officials across the country were exemplified by the unusual evolution of Florida A.G. Bill McCollum’s media releases. After two weeks of promising retribution for the guilty, McCollum reordered his priorities, indicating that he was more concerned about salvaging the State’s economy than punishing those institutions responsible for poisoning thousands of real estate transactions.

Click to Litton Loan Servicing LP web site McCollum addressed other devastating consequences of the forged records in letters written to culpable lenders. Corresponding with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, GMAC, PNC Financial Group and Litton Loan Servicing about the impacts of their actions, McCollum stated, “The net effect of these actions, among other things, has been to cast a shadow on the title to these properties which is of such proportions that at least one major title company is now refusing to write title insurance on foreclosed properties. Even more disturbing is that some of these foreclosed properties have already been sold and resold, and now their titles are in question, which may substantially slow the economic recovery for the citizens of Florida.”

If some accommodation isn’t brokered by the Feds for the culpable lenders - and the State AGs for their mortgage servicers - the status of every effected property will have to be funneled through the courts for individual adjudication - a process that could span decades. Instead of rounding up the lawbreakers and tossing them into the clink, federal regulators and state A.G.s must first investigate the depth of the problem. The foreclosure hiatus that was announced in 40 states was implemented to give the lenders an opportunity to find the actual title records for which they substituted fraudulent affidavits.

Every Mortgage Note or Assignment they are able to retrieve will subsequently legitimatize currently tainted transactions. Unfortunately, it is likely that the mortgage rights for a huge number of properties will remain under a cloud. To preclude a judicial holocaust, State and Federal regulators will have to create alternative methodologies for lenders to adequately demonstrate title ownership to a judge when foreclosing a property. To accomplish this within the legislative constraints of existing Federal Law as well as hundreds of statutes will require a level of legal gymnastics not seen since the previous Administration magically twisted the U.S. Constitution until it was somehow able to swallow the Patriot Act. If this new regulatory creation isn’t carefully crafted, lenders could lay claim to our homes by standing at the front door, clicking their heels three times and uttering “There’s no place like home.”

Click to Maine Attorneys Saving Homes (MASH) web site
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray
OHIO A.G. RICHARD CORDRAY
As regulators and lenders desperately attempt to avoid a housing morass that could precipitate the kind of deflationary spiral that crippled the Japanese economy when its bubble burst, the chickens have already started coming home to roost. On October 1st, five Maine homeowners filed a class action suit against GMAC Mortgage (now Ally Financial) for filing knowingly false foreclosure certifications backed by false affidavits. The offices of Maine Attorneys Saving Homes (MASH), the National Consumer Law Center and the Center for Responsible Lending have joined local attorneys in alleging that thousands of that judicial state’s homeowners lost their homes unfairly due to judgments based on false documents. On October 6th, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray filed a lawsuit against GMAC Mortgage on behalf of the State for hundreds of violations against Ohio’s consumer laws that carry penalties of up to $25,000 per violation. On the outer edge of this fiscal nightmare, if each of the more than 400,000 Ohio foreclosures since 2005 is adjudged to be similarly tainted, lenders could find themselves on the hook for fines totaling $10 billion in Ohio alone.

Click to the Center for Responsible Lending web site Unfortunately, on the heels of these state efforts to balance the legal, economic, political and punitive actions appropriate to this dilemma is an army of mercenary “victims” looking for blood. On October 15th, Ohio homeowner Michael Fox brought suit against GMAC for violating the Ohio Consumer Protection Sales Practices Act and committing common law fraud, abuse of process and civil conspiracy when they sought to foreclose on his 22-acre horse farm in Johnstown, Ohio. The complaint states that GMAC and Jeffrey Stephan, whose signature on the January 26, 2009 foreclosure assignment was among the 10,000 documents per month he testified to blindly signing, either knew or should have known that hundreds of the tainted records “would be filed in Ohio courts and relied upon by Ohio common pleas court judges in deciding whether one plaintiff in the particular case had a right to foreclose on Ohio residents.” Fox is asking for $25,000 in compensatory damages, a $25,000 civil penalty and punitive damages that his attorney estimated as roughly “2 percent of GMAC’s 2009 gross revenue.”

What Does this Mean to Homes on the Galt Mile?

When the hiatus began, the Broward housing inventory was precipitously reduced by the sizable number of foreclosures that were shuffled into limbo. Ordinarily, the smaller inventory would drive up prices, firming up the sagging market. Since most buyers are neither stupid nor insane, instead of bidding into the strengthened market, they will simply wait until federal and state regulators can insure delivery of uncontested title. If and when the lenders can prove they hold the mortgages to the temporarily frozen defaulted properties, these foreclosures will be dumped back into the market overnight, swelling the inventory and bludgeoning unit values.

By postponing purchases for a few months, buyers hope to find themselves back in the driver’s seat. If regulators draft a foreclosure road map capable of expediting turnover without bilking residents out off their homes, the backlog of buyers should help kick off “pushing the pig through the python” and reboot the economic recovery. Until then, the real estate industry will exist in a state of cryogenic suspension - not unlike Walt Disney... or Ted Williams’ head.

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Governor Crist signs SB 1196 at Beach Community Center
GOVERNOR SIGNS OMNIBUS ASSOCIATION BILL
September 25, 2010 - Since the onset of the recession, members of Common Interest Communities (CIC) have good reasons to feel like rats on shock plates. Thanks to last year’s legislative footwork by Statehouse Representative
Ellyn Bogdanoff, State Senator Mike Fasano, a sympathetic legislature and a Governor who gratefully took his hand off the veto switch, association members dodged big-time retrofit assessments for questionable sprinkler systems, doubly redundant back-up power systems for elevators, manual fire alarm systems for units in 2 or 3 story buildings with two egresses and a screwball compliance strategy for enabling phase two firefighter service elevator access.

Click to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) web site As the celebratory reaction to this long-awaited financial relief waned, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) pumped out another prospective ulcer for Community Association members. On August 13, 2010, the FHFA issued a media release proposing a regulation to ban the use of deed-based or covenant-based transfer fees. The FHFA’s stated intention was to prevent Real Estate vampires from bloodletting homeowners for a few extra dollars whenever a property is sold. Private transfer fees - commonly referred to as a “flip tax” - often go to unidentified third parties for questionable services or simply enable developers to squeeze a premium from homebuyers. When the FHFA released its strategy for excising these parasitic elements from the purchase process, the Agency’s poorly drafted proposal also threatened to devalue properties owned by millions of association members across the country. Federal bureaucracies have an undisputed talent for proving that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Click to Freehold Capital Partners of New York web site The dark side of this practice is exemplified by a plan engineered by Freehold Capital Partners of New York. Restricted or banned in 18 states, a participating developer records a long-term covenant requiring payments to trustees or other private parties whenever the property is resold. Under the Freehold program, a 1% fee is paid by the seller at every closing over a 99-year period. A trustee distributes the funds to investors, which usually include the original developer. Harvesting these private transfer fees is wildly lucrative, since a century of inflating property values can easily quintuple the developer’s income from any participating property. The scam disproportionately molests home buyers in professions requiring frequent relocations, like military families, corporate professionals, seasonal workers and government employees. When Freehold recorded $488 billion in properties pumping out premiums by late 2009, consumer advocates went ballistic.

Click to the member National Association of Realtors (NAR) web site In July, a collection of 11 organizations promoting widely divergent agendas coalesced to form the Coalition to Stop Wall Street Home Resale Fees. Composed of veterans groups, consumer advocates, labor unions representing transport workers and government employees, the National Council of La Raza, libertarians and property rights groups, these strange bedfellows are spearheaded by two Washington juggernauts, the title insurance industry and the realtors’ lobby. After eliciting documentation that the Freehold-style transfer fees violate Federal Housing Administration (FHA) rules, they lobbied Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to pressure Fannie, Freddie and the Home Loan Banks into priming the mortgage nuke. Two weeks later, they got their wish. The powerful 1.1 million-member National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest trade organization, has also been pressuring state legislatures to stigmatize transfer fees, which are believed to infringe on agents’ commissions.

FHFA Deputy Director Stephen Cross
FHFA DEPUTY DIRECTOR
STEPHEN CROSS
In the August 13th FHFA News Release, Deputy Director Stephen Cross of the FHFA’s Division of Federal Home Loan Bank Regulation stated “FHFA is concerned that the fees fund purely private streams of income for select market participants and do not benefit homeowners. Further, even if the fees are dedicated to homeowners associations, they are not proportional or related to the purposes for which the fees were to be collected.”

Anchoring the FHFA rhetoric is their contention that private transfer fees artificially raise the cost of homeownership. When those fees pad some developer’s bottom line and flow into a Cayman Islands numbered account, the Agency’s concerns are well founded. However, when the fees fund expenses that otherwise would have to come directly out of homeowners’ pockets, such as capital and/or maintenance projects, association reserves and specific operating expenses, the opposite is true.

Click to Fannie Mae web site Given the overly broad (and grammatically hobbled) definition of their target as “any fee or payment required at time of sale of a property by a deed or covenant restriction,” the FHFA rule would also apply to deed-based transfer fees used by many community associations to offset expenses for producing documents or verifying information alleged by prospective applicants for association membership. Unfortunately, the FHFA rule doesn’t distinguish between legitimate association transfer fees and those that serve as ethically dubious income streams for developers or undisclosed third parties.

Click to Freddie Mac web site If the proposed regulation is enacted, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks (which are controlled by the FHFA) would be prohibited from buying mortgages in community associations with deed-based transfer fees. As a consequence, the vast majority of legitimate lenders would refuse to issue mortgages for properties in any association with such a provision in their governing documents. Overnight, the association’s units would be rendered unmarketable.

CAI Government and Public Affairs V.P. Andrew Fortin
CAI GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC
AFFAIRS V.P. ANDREW FORTIN
It gets worse. To prevent variation in how and when these dedicated transfer fees were charged to prospective applicants, many associations hard wired the governing regulation into their documents as a deed restriction. As a result, the Board cannot simply vote to repeal the potentially toxic provision. In most instances, only a super-majority vote of all the owners will be able to neutralize this rule if the FHFA morphs it into a poison pill. Removal of a deed restriction in some associations requires the consent of every single unit owner. In large master planned communities with thousands of units, eliciting a unanimous vote for virtually anything borders on the impossible. Andrew Fortin, vice president of Government and Public Affairs for the Community Associations Institute (CAI), offered this assessment of the challenge facing thousands of these mega-communities nationwide, “It would be more difficult than amending the United States Constitution.”

Click to the Coalition to Stop Wall Street Home Resale Fees web site When the FHFA failed to distinguish between association transfer fees and those that fuel the Freehold cash machine, the anti-fee Coalition quickly erected a firewall, stating, “Don’t let Freehold muddy the water on this one - make sure that every homeowner knows the difference between their sneaky for-profit covenants and the communal amenities structure that HOAs and Condo associations use to benefit the property and the community.” They assert that Freehold violates the longstanding real estate principle that “Any covenant that burdens the land should also benefit the land,” since their “for-profit transfer fees provide no service or benefit to homeowners, raise the costs of home ownership and direct money straight back to Freehold and other third parties.” They conclude with an unambiguous declaration of support for association transfer fees, stating “Resale fees levied by homeowners’ and condo associations, in contrast, direct money back towards homeowners in the form of infrastructure and amenity improvements. This is what differentiates them from the private, for-profit transfer fee that the Coalition opposes.”

FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco
FHFA ACTING DIRECTOR
EDWARD J. DEMARCO
Hoping to frame his Agency’s new policy as a measured response to an inequitable practice, FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco stated “The risks and uncertainties for the housing market that come with the use of private transfer fee covenants do not appear to be counterbalanced by sufficient positive effects.” Fortunately, DeMarco took steps to avoid unintended consequences by inviting authoritative input prior to implementing the new policy, exclaiming “We are seeking public comment before finalizing this guidance in order to identify and respond to any related issues or concerns.”

Click to the Community Association Institute (CAI) web site The Community Association Institute (CAI) took up the gauntlet. Long considered the Country’s foremost educational resource for Common Interest Communities, CAI sponsored a survey that will credibly underwrite the need for an association exemption to the FHFA mortgage monkey wrench. By the September 16th response deadline, CAI compiled statistics from 1,252 respondent communities representing 482,000 housing units. 50% of those communities reported having a deed-based transfer fee and 100% of the collected fees funded community necessities that would have otherwise been addressed by an assessment.

When superimposed on the 305,000 homeowners associations nationwide, representing 24 million housing units and 60 million residents, unless the Agency redrafts its proposal to better target its stated objective, 12 million homes - and 30 million people - will become collateral damage. By submitting the survey results prior to the deadline, CAI disabused the Agency of any right to classify subsequent catastrophic repercussions as “unintended consequences.”

The CAI survey demonstrates that transfer fees used by community associations do not suffer from the vagaries that prompted FHFA concerns about their potential for abuse. Unlike the private “flip taxes” that are charged to homebuyers for nonspecific services or indemonstrable “future benefits” that invariably disappear into hopelessly blended bank accounts, the deed based fees collected by common interest communities fund services that directly benefit the association in which the homebuyer is a stakeholder. The dedicated funds are segregated, identifiable in the association budget and provably expensed.

Furthermore, by structuring reimbursement of screening costs as a transfer fee, all due diligence protocols are observed. The association properly affixes responsibility for screening and document handling costs on the applicant, protecting the existing membership from inappropriate assessment. It also protects the applicant by providing for cost reimbursement only at closing, when the homebuyer officially consummates membership in the association.

While the CAI documentation should precipitate special treatment for Community Association transfer fees, the FHFA bureaucrats charged with the final decision remain primarily answerable to the political agenda that originally gave rise to the proposed rule. In short, unless the survey is punctuated with grass roots support, a Federal Government whose bureaucrats inanimately watched New Orleans sink into the Gulf of Mexico is not incapable of sacrificing 30 million people in 12 million homes to impress the FHFA’s congressional overseers.

Click to the Federal Home Loan Banks web site When tens of thousands of “no money down”, “deferred interest”, and “negative amortization” mortgages simultaneously imploded a few years ago, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks were diagnosed as terminal. Just as these government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) were going down for the third time, Congress threw them a lifeline, exclaiming the importance of reestablishing real estate stability.

Florida Congressman Ron Klein
CONGRESSMAN
RON KLEIN
On July 30, 2008 – in preparation for the financial bailout – the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 created the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) by morphing the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), the Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB), and the GSE mission office at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In addition to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks fell under the regulatory and supervisory oversight of the new agency. No longer the Magic Kingdom where spectral financial icons and administration avatars mysteriously churned out daily blueprints for the next day’s world economy, the FHFA humbly assumed its new role as bastard stepchild to a nervous Congress.

Given the relative positions of Congress and the nation’s current lending hierarchy in the political food chain, the CAI officials who have been fighting this battle on our behalf have mapped out the following post-survey strategy for salvaging the marketability of our homes.

Time to Act!

Florida Senator Bill Nelson
SENATOR BILL NELSON
Florida Senator George LeMieux
SENATOR GEORGE LEMIEUX
Please send a letter or email to the FHFA, describing how their plan would turn your home into an economic Brownfield. Equally important, send an email, fax or letter to your Congressional Representative (Ron Klein) and both Florida Senators (Bill Nelson and George LeMieux), alerting them to the prospective danger and requesting their assistance. It is important that FHFA receive comments directly from your association describing how deed-based transfers are assessed, disclosed, received and used. Further, it is important for you to describe the specific impact on your association and homeowners if FHFA’s proposed guidance is adopted without revision. Comments to FHFA about how this regulation will impact your association are due by October 15, 2010.

  • FHFA:

    • E-mail: Use the address regcomments@fhfa.gov and include the following in the subject line of the e-mail: Guidance on Private Transfer Fee Covenants, (No. 2010-N-11) - if you use the link, the subject line is already inserted

    • U.S. Mail: Use the following address to send comments by U.S. Mail

    • FHFA General Counsel Alfred Pollard
      ALFRED
      POLLARD
      Mr. Alfred Pollard
      General Counsel
      Federal Housing Finance Agency
      1700 G Street, NW
      Washington DC 20552
      ATTN: Public Comments “Guidance on Private Transfer Fee Covenants, (No.2010-N-11)

  • Senator Bill Nelson: Click to Email - insert in the subject line “FHFA Transfer Fee Regulation”.

  • Senator George LeMieux: Click to Email - insert in the subject line “FHFA Transfer Fee Regulation”.

  • Congressman Ron Klein: Click to Email - insert in the subject line “FHFA Transfer Fee Regulation”.

  • P.S.: Please send a copy to CAI so they can track the response rate. Send your comments to government@caionline.org with the subject line “FHFA Transfer Fee Regulation” or FAX to 703-684-1581 Attn: G&PA.

  • Additional Info: Click Here to access CAI's FHFA Transfer Fee Regulation Resource Page, Click Here to access the CAI Transfer Fee FAQ, Click Here to learn how to Contact your Congressman and Senators on FHFA Regulation, Click Here to Comment on FHFA Proposal.

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Reading Room Rescue - Part II

Galt Library Survives Broward Budget Cuts - Again!

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center
GALT OCEAN MILE READING CENTER
October 5, 2010 - Last year, when Broward budgetary convulsions
verged on closing the popular Galt Mile Library, President Herman Gardner of the Friends of the Galt Mile Reading Center solicited help from the Galt Mile Community Association to mitigate the threat. In turn, neighborhood leaders met with Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl to devise and implement an effective salvage strategy. Plaza South resident Terry Claire, assisted by husband Bill, was charged with overseeing a plan to elicit thousands of supportive petition signatures, hundreds of letters and emails and dozens of resolutions from Associations and civic organizations. Copies of the collected documentation were delivered to each member of the County Board by Commissioner Keechl.

Tee Shirted GMCA Library Supporters
LIBRARY SUPPORTERS PACK 2009 BUDGET MEET
To drive home that cutting the Reading Center’s negligible funding would carry a political price, more than 100 Galt Mile residents wearing “Save our Library” t-shirts and buttons staged an unusual demonstration at last year’s final Budget meeting. Instead of consuming hours of the Commissioners’ time and patience by filling the speakers list with angry supporters offering redundant rationales for saving their Reading Center, one representative spoke on their behalf. When Galt Mile President Pio Ieraci completed his three minutes, half the meeting’s audience stood up and quietly vacated the chamber. Effective as it was dramatic; the tactic capped a successful strategy to preserve the Galt Library’s fiscal fuel.

Bruce Roberts and Ken Keechl
ROBERTS AND KEECHL PLAN LIBRARY RESCUE
This past May, Gardner realized that the 2009 budgetary threat was proportionately exacerbated by last year’s 11.7% drop in Broward property values. At a July 1st caucus called by Neighborhood Association officials, Broward Mayor Keechl and City Commissioner Bruce Roberts, dozens of local Library supporters crowded the Reading Center’s small meeting room to craft another survival strategy for the embattled Library. Hoping to mirror last year’s success, attendees agreed to set aside anger-driven knee-jerk suggestions more appropriate to venting and support recommendations made by their County Commissioner.

GMCA Secretary Fern McBride and Director Fred Nesbitt
GMCA SECRETARY FERN MCBRIDE
AND DIRECTOR FRED NESBITT
Keechl explained that the local library was particularly vulnerable was to politically motivated budget maneuvers deliberately launched in the eleventh hour, when fatigue and frustration could prompt inequitable concessions from weary Commissioners. He recommended a two-part plan to clarify the neighborhood’s concerns and preempt a political ambush. He suggested that “a formidable demonstration of community support” be organized before the September 14th budget meeting. The second part of his plan entailed a replay of last year’s demonstration at the final budget meeting scheduled for September 28th

Terry Claire
TERRY CLAIRE
A few days later, Neighborhood Association officials Eric Berkowitz, Fern McBride, Fred Nesbitt, Friends President Herman Gardner, Plaza South activist Terry Claire and Commodore resident Leann Barber met to formulate a plan for replicating the prior year’s documentation. The 2 month campaign yielded nearly four thousand petition signatures, about 800 letters to Commissioners, emails to the neighborhood association and County Commissioners as well as updated Civic and Association resolutions attesting to the Library’s significance as a community anchor.

Leann Barber
LEANN BARBER
After copying the collected documentation, Leann Barber sent a full set to Commissioner Keechl, who generated seven more copies for distribution to his commission peers before the September 14th Budget Meeting. At that meeting, the Broward Board of County Commissioners entered what County Attorney Jeff Newton called unchartered waters. During the first of two official Budget meetings, the Commission refused to pass a budget, hoping to find an alternative to plugging the 2010 shortfall with $41 million in new taxes. Until the final September 28th budget meeting, they would try to negotiate with the sheriff, clerk of courts, supervisor of elections and property appraiser to share $23.3 million of the deficit. Fat chance!

Ordinarily, they would have passed a tentative budget at the first budget meeting and polished it up for passage on September 28th. Instead, they postponed passing a tentative budget until the September 28th final budget meeting, which they could use as a spending plan for another week. The temporary blueprint would require final approval by October 5th, a statutory deadline past which the Commission would be forced to extend the existing FY 2010 budget through 2011.

Galt Mile Residents Arrive at Government Center
GETTING T-SHIRTS AT GOVERNMENT CENTER
Last year, City Commissioner Bruce Roberts contracted a bus to transport roughly 70 Galt Mile residents to the final budget meeting. Aware of Keechl’s plan, Roberts hired another bus to again provide free transportation for library supporters to and from the September 28th budget meeting. When the day arrived, the bus left Southpoint at 3:30 PM and headed north on Galt Ocean Drive, boarding passengers with reserved seats who were waiting in front of their buildings. After arriving at Government Center at about 4:20 PM, the disembarked Galt Mile residents met with friends and neighbors who arrived via alternative means and donned their t-shirts and buttons prior to filing into Room 422, the Commission Meeting chamber. Like last year, Pio Ieraci was empowered to speak on behalf of the more than 100 Galt Mile Library supporters.

GMCA Library Supporters at 2010 Broward Budget Meeting
GMCA LIBRARY SUPPORTERS ENTER BUDGET MEETING
Within minutes of the official 5:01 PM start time, Mayor Ken Keechl called on GMCA President Pio Ieraci, who opened by expressing sympathy for the Commissioners’ mind-numbing task of enduring untold hours of expected complaints, insults and tortuous emotional supplications during the balance of the meeting. He confirmed his faith in the Commission to protect the only County asset uniquely dedicated to Galt Mile taxpayers, briefly describing the Library’s importance to community residents. When he stated that he was joined by a few friends, most of the audience simultaneously arose, silently displaying a wall of "Save the Galt Library" t-shirts and buttons.

Broward Mayor Ken Keechl Addresses Constituents
BROWARD MAYOR KEN KEECHL ADDRESSES CONSTITUENTS
After making eye contact with each Commissioner, the Mayor turned to his constituents and announced “I’m pleased to inform you that the Galt Mile Library is fully funded in the current budget.” Ignoring an official pre-meeting admonition against demonstrations of support or disapproval by audience members, decorum was broken by a spontaneous ovation. On cue, the Galt Mile contingent headed for the exit, reforming in the lobby to await the bus.

GMCA Library Supporters at 2010 Broward Budget Meeting
GMCA LIBRARY SUPPORTERS AT 2010 BUDGET MEETING
When the meeting proceeded, the Commission surprised onlookers by pursuing a 180 degree reversal of their September 14th refusal to raise last year’s 4.889 millage rate ($488 for every $100,000 of taxable value – plus about $51 in taxes for voter-approved debt). A majority of the Commissioners suddenly supported a proposal that increased the tax rate to $515, plus roughly $45 for debt. Since the proposed rate increase is still less than the 5.62 rolled back rate (to match this year’s collections, properties would have to be taxed at a rate of $562 for every $100,000 in assessed value), Broward tax revenues will decline in FY 2011.

While the new spending plan will save local libraries such as the Galt Mile Reading Center, hours at the Main Library will be shortened. Bus routes will also be pared back and fares increased by 25 cents. Parks will continue to be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Much of the session's balance was devoted to political horse trading. When the Commission asked Sheriff Al Lamberti, Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes and Property Appraiser Lori Parrish to cut their respective budgets by 5.5%, these Constitutional officers demanded that the Commissioners lead by example and trim their own budget by that amount as well. The Commission clipped $151,000 (5.5%) from their office budget, meeting the mark they demanded of other departments. Additional savings were harvested from eliminating plans for a new Election Headquarters ($3 million), squelching a proposed replacement library on Sunset Strip in west Broward ($525,000), reducing Janitorial services at government offices ($1.1 million) and cutting a replacement radio communications system earmarked for the Broward Sheriff’s Office ($850,000).

The new budget was approved by Commissioners Sue Gunzburger, Kristin Jacobs, Al Jones, Ilene Lieberman and John Rodstrom. Although Commissioners Ken Keechl, Lois Wexler, and Stacy Ritter stuck to their guns and voted against bumping up the tax rate, it is highly unlikely that they will actively campaign against the slight millage increase. At this stage, it’s more about recording a hard-line tax position for political posterity than pressing for unpopular cuts and additional layoffs that could easily translate into potentially catastrophic career baggage.

The Phantom Bus
THE PHANTOM BUS
While the County board was laying the fiscal groundwork for their October 5th final bite at the budget apple, the Galt Mile demonstrators encountered some unanticipated difficulty. The bus driver hired by City Commissioner Roberts mysteriously disappeared after the meeting. Robbi Uptegrove, the Commissioner’s aide who accompanied the group in his absence made dozens of futile calls to the driver – named Martin – who transported the group to the final County Budget meeting for the past two years.

Serendipitous Lookalike
SERENDIPITOUS LOOKALIKE
Following an hour of unsuccessfully attempting to contact the driver and postulating reasons for his inexplicable disappearance, group leaders explored alternative transportation back to the Galt. When a bus similar in appearance to the one that drove them to the meeting approached the group, Edgewater Arms President Gary Tripoli and GMCA Vice President Eric Berkowitz hailed down the passing vehicle. Once the driver ascertained that Berkowitz and Tripoli weren’t domestic terrorists with designs on hijacking his bus, he put Berkowitz in touch with his boss. Following 60 seconds of expedited negotiations, Berkowitz began boarding his neighbors onto the replacement bus.

GMCA V.P. Eric Berkowitz
GMCA V.P. ERIC BERKOWITZ
En route to the Galt Mile, the roughly 50 passengers celebrated having insured the library’s survival for another year. While satisfied that Commissioner Keechl kept his word and helped bring their efforts to fruition, they also knew that unless property values convincingly climbed throughout 2011, they would face this battle again next year.

Fort Lauderdale Commission Assistant Robbi Uptegrove
ROBBI
UPTEGROVE
As the bus rolled up Galt Ocean Drive, small groups of passengers were discharged in front of their respective homes. Although pleased to return home with a victory under their belts, each participant in the evening’s developments was dogged by a nagging curiosity. What the hell happened to Martin?

Mayor Ken Keechl
MAYOR KEN KEECHL
Over the next few days, scores of emails by grateful library patrons flooded the Galt Mile Community Association email inbox. The Reading Center’s popular Librarian Marlene Barnes called on behalf of Library staffers to thank the “demonstrators” for their efforts. She also acknowledged that “everyone who signed a petition, sent a letter or email or issued a resolution shared in this victory.” She was especially grateful to Leann Barber, the Commodore resident who spent two months trawling Galt Mile Associations and civic organizations for petition signatures, letters and resolutions.

On September 30th, Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl sent an email describing the demonstration as “fantastic” and that “It was extremely impressive seeing all of those white shirts in the audience.” After confirming that the tentative budget passed on September 28th secures the Galt Mile Reading Center’s funding, he added “Again, my colleagues were very, very impressed. Several made it a point to tell me so. Once the final budget passes next Tuesday, we can make it official.”

By the way, when Robbi Uptegrove finally contacted “Martin”, the reason he gave for his enigmatic disappearance was a candidate for the Guinness Book of Records “Flights of Fantasy” category – unworthy of repetition. Sorry!

Galt Mile Library Supporters Preparing to Raise White t-shirt Wall at Final 2010 Budget Meeting
GALT MILE LIBRARY SUPPORTERS PREPARING TO RAISE WHITE T-SHIRT WALL AT FINAL 2010 BUDGET MEETING

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Acting City Manager Steers City Budget to Soft Landing

Allyson Love Shields Services - Cuts Costs

Acting City Manager Allyson Love
ACTING CITY MAN. ALLYSON LOVE
October 25, 2010 - Following their summer hiatus, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission addressed the FY 2010 - 2011 municipal budget at the August 17, 2010 Commission meeting. Before relegating responsibility for running the city to Interim City Manager Allyson Love, former City Manager George Gretsas crafted a $611.7 million municipal spending blueprint burdened by a $31 million deficit. Compliant with 5 budgeting parameters devised by the City Commission, the budget preserved city jobs, capped the fire assessment fee, maintained impressive reserves, funded every critical service and duplicated the previous year’s 4.1193 millage rate. Gretsas, whose fiscal agility buoyed Fort Lauderdale’s financial health to levels unmatched by neighboring Broward municipalities, planned to transfer $17 million from the city’s hefty $61,586,766 cash balance to help plug the shortfall.

Click to Fort Lauderdale Budget Advisory Board Pressed by the volunteer Budget Advisory Board, the Commission ordered Interim City Manager Allyson Love to clip another 5% from city expenditures in preparation for the City’s September budget meetings, hoping to eliminate the deficit by paring the budget to $580 million. Since Gretsas had already surgically skinned the spending plan, Love’s options seemed largely limited to sacrificing infrastructure, forcing furloughs or reversing employee benefit concessions. In a testament to her fiscal skills, Love conceived a viable alternative to plucking the entire $17 million from the Reserve Fund – without breaching the Commission’s rigid budget requirements.

Unveiled at the September 21st final City Budget Meeting, Love’s revised plan eroded the $31 million deficit via freezing 46 General Fund positions ($2.8 million), implementing departmental reductions ($6 million), cost recoveries ($2.8 million), additional revenues ($2.7 million), Fleet savings ($3.9 million), payroll funding reductions ($.8 million), annexation ($.7 million), fuel savings ($.3 million) and a draw down on pension reserves ($4.1 million), thereby reducing the drain on city reserves from $17 million to only $6.86 million.

While the operating millage rate remains static at 4.1193, voter mandated fire protection projects will increase the tax rate for city debt by 1.95% (from .1343 to .2173), lifting the overall tax rate to 4.3366. Despite the Ad Valorem revenue loss of $11.8 million to declining property values and $1.6 million in squelched interest income, the adjusted millage rate will translate into an average $100 savings for Homesteaded unit owners (and $124 for non-homesteaded condos or co-ops).

The service and operational impacts include closing the swimming lake at Snyder Park right away and the Fort Lauderdale Stadium next June, delays in the permit review process and capital projects, limiting trash pickup and disposal services to normal workday hours, reducing emergency storm response resources (demolitions, storm debris removal, emergency food and services, etc) and less funding for staff development. In addition to budget-based departmental contractions, operational functionality of the newly dissolved Office of Management & Budget will be absorbed into the Finance Department.

Maintenance will be curtailed for City facilities and parks (lawn and tree service), the servicing of communications equipment, repairs to street lights, cleaning parking lots, pest control and raking the beaches. Cutbacks will impact the replacement periodicity for City Hall A/C fan coils, uniforms, software upgrades and vehicular replacement parts. Promotional expenditures will be reduced for media events and consumer information, including outreach and printed materials (such as mailing printed copies of FOCUS, the City Newsletter). Love also warned that cutbacks could impair the City’s ability to secure funds, assist public benefit non-profits and lobby for legislative reform. In context of the current economic tsunami, the budget portends a minor, if not negligible impact on the lives of most city residents. Many of the City’s most burdensome fiscal inequities, such as Water and Sewer fees, are rooted in poorly balanced Enterprise Funds, exclusive of the budget’s operating revenues.

Click to Broward Taxing Authorities The City assessment only accounts for 23.1% of the overall local tax bite, behind the 33.3% grabbed by the ethically challenged Broward County School Board and Broward County Government, which siphons another 27.4%. After the School Board, County and City swallow the lion’s share, 9.6% is earmarked for the North Broward Hospital District, the South Florida Water Management District gets 3.5%, and Children’s Services receives 2.4% while .2% is leaked to the Florida Inland Navigation District.

Fort Lauderdale City Attorney Harry Stewart
FT. LAUD CITY ATTORNEY HARRY STEWART
Commissioner NO! Rodstrom
COMMISSIONER NO!
After voting to pass the budget by a 3-2 margin (Bobby Dubose expressed concern about service cuts and Charlotte Rodstrom habitually votes no pursuant to some inexplicable developmental compulsion), the City Commission considered taking a page from the Broward Board of County Commissioners and discussed ordering budget staffers to make additional cuts that the Commission might subsequently review on October 5th - 5 days into the new fiscal year. City Attorney Harry Stewart reminded Commission members that if a city budget wasn’t finalized by October 9th, the Board could sacrifice its right to set a municipal tax rate and possibly lose state funding. Abruptly, Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom was gripped by a break with reality that trademarks her behavior at Commission meetings and characterized the City Attorney’s admonition as a threat designed to intimidate her.

Mayor Jack Seiler - Get it Done!
MAYOR JACK SEILER - GET IT DONE!
Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
COMMISSIONER BRUCE G. ROBERTS
Undeterred by Rodstrom’s paranoid hyper-vigilance, Mayor Jack Seiler expressed concern about a possible 2-2 vote on October 5th, explaining that since Commissioner Bruce Roberts planned to be out of the country during that meeting, a potentially deadlocked Commission could trigger the ominous consequences described by Stewart. Unwilling to gamble with the City’s fiscal wellbeing, Seiler insisted that the City Board finalize the budget prior to adjournment.

Commissioners proceeded to strip the budget of 11 additional long-vacant positions, boosting savings from the elimination of unfilled job slots to $3.5 million (which included washing out the $117,763 salary for Love’s former position, Director of the now obsolete Office of Management & Budget). Divested of wiggle room, Commissioners reluctantly consented to patching the $6.9 million residual shortfall with reserve funds. At the October 21st GMCA Advisory Board meeting, Commissioner Bruce Roberts described the City’s flush Reserve Fund as indicative of Fort Lauderdale’s excellent financial health. Since the City’s current reserves far exceed the emergency cash standards applied to most municipal budgets, the main premium realized by Love’s budgetary micro-surgery will surface next year, when TRIM notices are expected to explode.

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Commissioner Bruce Roberts

Search Strategy || SunTrolley || Street Plan

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
COMMISSIONER BRUCE G. ROBERTS
November 5, 2010 - In his late October Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts updates the City Commission’s search for a new City Manager, promotes the Centennial celebration, offers a history of the embattled Sun Trolley, explains how city staff intends to maximize use of diminished Gas Tax revenues for street repairs and runs through the October events schedule.

Acting City Manager Allyson Love
ACTING CITY MANAGER
ALLYSON LOVE
At an October 12th Workshop convened to find a replacement for George Gretsas, the public input was dominated by resident efforts to impact the selection process in a manner that would best serve their various agendas. Several recommended that Acting City Manager Allyson Love be considered for permanent retention. One nervous speaker advised Love to watch her back, given the fate suffered by her predecessor for ticking off two vindictive commissioners.

Commissioners Dubose and Roberts
COMMISSIONERS DUBOSE AND ROBERTS
Commissioners Roberts and Dubose expressed a preference for the selection model used to choose the police chief, primarily because it relied heavily on community participation. While willing to hire a consultant and appoint a selection committee, Mayor Seiler characterized a body representing a larger cross section of the City as “unwieldy”. When Dubose explained that Roberts’ model insured community input while Seiler’s model did not, Seiler disagreed, pointing out that the public will be allowed to “watch the meetings and provide feedback.”

Mayor Jack Seiler and Allyson Love
MAYOR JACK SEILER AND ALLYSON LOVE
Obviously, watching and commenting on the process is a far cry from community input. Seiler ultimately admitted that he was leery of crusading activists hijacking any community venue to promote self-serving agendas. In contrast, Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom wants to create a road map that the consultant and a small selection committee would be forced to follow, insuring the Commission’s absolute control over every aspect of the process.

Former Commissioner John Aurelius
FORMER COMM JOHN AURELIUS
The “former elected official” meant to “guide” the search committee is John Aurelius, who was chosen as our District 1 City Commissioner in a 1991 special election when former Commissioner Doug Danziger resigned following his involvement in a sex scandal. Aurelius was integral to actualizing the Galt Mile Improvement Project, a $3.8 million facelift that gentrified the Galt Mile by adding new landscaping, pavered crosswalks, legacy streetlamps, antiqued benches, traffic cutouts and interred power lines. Aurelius helped community activists Earl Lifshey and Bob Rozema convince the 7000 Galt Mile unit owners to fund the project in return for City promises to maintain the improvements.

Click to Fort Lauderdale Centennial Celebration Committee To help the Centennial Celebration Committee identify and officially acknowledge locals who made significant contributions to the City of Fort Lauderdale, Roberts asks that constituents propose potential nominees for special recognition.

Click to The Sun Trolley Lifted from Alexandra Roland’s article in the May edition of Go Riverwalk Magazine, Roberts distilled marketing fluff into an accurate Sun Trolley history. For the past few years, the most recent incarnation of Fort Lauderdale’s community bus service has been actively dodging the budget axe. A joint project by the Downtown Ft. Lauderdale Transportation Management Association (DFLTMA) and Broward County Transit, among the routes currently threatened with extinction is the one servicing the Galt Ocean Mile neighborhood. Unfortunately, the service suffered near-terminal neglect when entrusted to former Sun Trolley Executive Director Les Hollingsworth, who spent a good deal more time solidifying his own future that that of the community bus service.

DFLTMA Executive Director Christopher Wren
CHRISTOPHER WREN
Within a few months of Hollingsworth’s inconsequential departure, District 1 Commissioner Bruce Roberts and DFLTMA Executive Director Chris Wren met with GMCA officials Pio Ieraci and Eric Berkowitz to inform them about the Galt Mile route’s impending funeral. Ieraci, Berkowitz and Roberts convinced Wren to issue a temporary reprieve, and agreed to broker a series of meetings intended to identify new revenue sources. The concept was simple. Businesses along or near the route that want Galt Mile customers would be asked to contribute towards bringing them to their front door. Instead of carrying riders to the usual touchy-feely tourist traps, if the routes were tailored to service the shopping needs of Galt Mile residents, the vendor beneficiaries could redirect a small portion of their marketing dollars to bringing in this new business. First stop - Galleria. If they extended the Galt Mile route to access this superior shopping venue, it would equip Sun Trolley marketing reps with adequate leverage to squeeze Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Dillards and scores of smaller stores trying to survive a faltering customer base.

Public Works Director Albert Carbon
PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR ALBERT CARBON
At the May 4th Commission meeting referenced by Commissioner Roberts, Public Works Director Al Carbon bore bad news for some communities anticipating road repairs. In a letter he wrote to City Engineer Peter Partington, Carbon explained that a recessionary reduction in driving and the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles left the City with a $685,000 shortfall in gas tax revenues. To offset the deficit, Carbon recommended postponing a $200,000 lineage project at Sunrise Boulevard and NE 15th Avenue and a $75,000 lane extension at SE 17th Street and Andrews Avenue. He also shrunk the streetlight repairs budget from $109,636 to $69,636 and reduced funding for an Annual Asphalt Resurfacing contract from $1,170,000 to $800,469.06.

When the Commission questioned Partington, they learned that the $1,170,000 budgeted to address eight resurfacing projects was $370,000 less than the actual cost. Since the City's rudimentary street maintenance database was structured on an inflexible fourteen-year cycle, it ignored the cost impact of project delays that ran up to seven years.

Commissioner Bobby DuBose lamented “the lack of rhyme or reason as to how areas are prioritized,” disparaging the “squeaky wheel” policy of basing the approval of street repairs on the number of complaints received from the affected neighborhood (calls). The simplistic city street database ignored numerous variables that shorten a thoroughfare’s surface lifespan, such as increased vehicle weight and heavy traffic. DuBose’s revelation prompted a consensus approval for implementing an accurate and comprehensive street maintenance tracking system. With updated tracking software installed by Public Works, Roberts’ 3-year schedule outlines how Carbon’s staffers intend to begin inputting the program data, a project that will dramatically improve how repair revenues are allocated.

What about those “squeaky wheels” who complain about local road defects? While matching available resources to a reliably updated street conditions database should save a bundle, conflicted Commissioners would have to choose between informing constituents that their potholes scored a lower priority than those currently being repaired in some adjacent neighborhood or circumvent protocols by requesting a variance. Not exactly a tough choice.

From The Desk of
Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER
& V.M. BRUCE G. ROBERTS
City Manager Search: As you know by now, the City Commission decided to appoint former Assistant City Manager Allyson Love to an Acting City Manager position effective August 1, 2010. On October 12th, the Commission conducted a public workshop to determine the process for selecting a new city manager. After public input, it was decided that we would hire a consultant to conduct a search for a new manager and that a seven member committee would be appointed to assist the consultant in the search and in narrowing the field to a number of finalists. The committee will be comprised of one appointee from each Commissioner (the Mayor will not make an appointment), and three consensus appointments; one of these latter three appointments will represent our neighborhoods and be selected by the Council of Civic Associations, another will represent the business community, and the last will be a former elected official (commissioner). Overall, the process is anticipated to last nine months. I am interested in hearing from you about “what we should be looking for” in our next city manager. While the Mayor and each Commissioner will provide the consultant with direction, your input would be appreciated.

Click to Fort Lauderdale Budget Advisory Board At our last Commission Meeting on October 19, 2010, it was unanimously agreed upon to keep Allyson as the Interim City Manager and to begin the process to search for a new manager. Coupled with that decision, I am confident that Allyson’s strong background in developing our City’s budget will now enable us to begin the overdue process of developing a Five Year Plan. That initial step will take place at a public budget workshop on October 27, 2010, 7:00 p. m. at City Hall with our Budget Advisory Board. On November 9, 2010 at 7:00 p. m., another public workshop will be conducted at the International Swimming Hall of Fame with the Beach CRA and the Beach Redevelopment Board.

Click to Fort Lauderdale's Centennial page Centennial Committee Update: The Centennial Celebration will showcase Fort Lauderdale’s rich cultural heritage through a series of exciting events and educational programs. The Committee is compiling a list of residents that made the most significant contributions to Fort Lauderdale and they are asking for suggestions from the public. The nominees can be from any period of Fort Lauderdale’s history. Please send us e-mail with your nominations to centennial@fortlauderdale.gov. Residents are encouraged to participate in the Centennial by providing input at a Centennial Celebration Committee meeting. Meetings typically take place on the first Wednesday of the month at 3:00 p.m. in the 8th floor conference room of City Hall. To confirm the date for the next meeting, please call (954) 828-4743. To provide suggestions, or to learn more about the Centennial Celebration Committee, please contact the Centennial Celebration Committee staff liaison, Shannon Vezina, at (954) 828-4743 or svezina@fortlauderdale.gov. The City will host several free events to commemorate Fort Lauderdale’s 100th Birthday. To see these events please go to http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/centennial/index.htm.

Click to Fort Lauderdale Budget Advisory Board SunTrolley: This quaint mode of transportation, instituted by the Downtown Ft. Lauderdale Transportation Management Association (DFLTMA), weaves through the veins of Ft. Lauderdale and has been doing so for quite some time. Formerly known as “Lolly the Trolley” and the City Cruiser, this community bus system was instituted by the DFLTMA in the early 1990s. In the mid-2000s a new red and yellow biodiesel fleet, now on the street today, was introduced to the Ft. Lauderdale public. With a total of 5 different routes, the Sun Trolley provides both a practical and eco friendly way for visitors and locals to get around in style. From the inner city residential area of the northwest to Fort Lauderdale’s famous beaches, from the classic Las Olas strip to the bustling courthouse spot, the Sun Trolley serves its community and serves it well. The mission of the trolley is two-pronged, focusing on ecotourism development and increasing the mobility of Ft. Lauderdale’s residents in a safe and efficient way. The buses run on biodiesel fuel and each vehicle comes equipped with a bike rack so even after disembarking the trolley, commuters can continue with their eco friendly way of traveling. Click to Galleria Mall Web Site This transit system also boosts underserved communities. The northwest route travels north of Broward Blvd., hitting stops like the African American Research Library on Sistrunk and the main bus terminal near Andrews Ave just east of the train tracks. Downtown office workers also find the Sun Trolley time saving and practical – instead of using their cars to travel to area restaurants, employees beat the noontime rush and ride the Sun Trolley to and from local lunch spots. Attorneys also use the system to return to their offices after court. The Las Olas route was cut within the last few years and only runs with limited hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Funding is limited and hard to obtain, however, board members remain optimistic and feel once community residents become more aware of the various routes, and ridership will increase. From tourists to students, senior citizens to business professionals, from the Riverwalk to the beach, the 17th Street Causeway to Powerline Road, the Sun Trolley’s impact is far-reaching and exemplary – it makes a unique statement about our little Fort Lauderdale village!! Recent expansion has been planned to include the Galleria Shopping Center, which will serve as hub connecting several routes to the Galt Ocean Mile route. We continue to work with businesses and health care facilities, not only to be added to the routes, but for help with future funding. For a complete schedule and a listing of contributors, please go to www.suntrolley.com - many of the routes are free or cost as little as 50 cents to ride.

Annual Street Maintenance (ASM) Program: At the May 4, 2010 Commission Conference Meeting, Commissioners discussed the City’s ASM Program and the reduced gas tax revenues the City is receiving to fund its resurfacing program. Staff was directed to review the ASM Program and develop criteria that includes more than the roadway age. Staff also reviewed tracking software programs that take additional funds and time to populate. Common Street Criteria used on multiple programs include age; ride quality (potholes, rutting, utility trenches, etc.), traffic volume and cracking. Staff is recommending a multi-year development program to include the following:

  • YEAR 1: research records to determine which streets have not been recorded as having been fully resurfaced or reconstructed for at least 20 years; visit and document condition of every street; prepare a spreadsheet summarizing streets that have been evaluated ranking them from worst to best; propose the roads/areas to be resurfaced based on available funds for 2010/2011; develop a database on City maintained streets by segment to assist in maintaining an accurate inventory of condition of streets; review package software models to use and make recommendations to the Commission on the purchase of one of these packages; review street maintenance alternatives; and at the end of the year report to Commission on the results of review of street maintenance alternatives and recommend which alternatives to move forward with.

  • YEAR 2: Starting with roads last resurfaced (19 years ago) and working forward to the roads resurfaced most recently, staff will visit, evaluate and add the condition of each street segment to the database; based on results of the conditions survey, street segments will be listed from worst to best – then based on availability of funds, staff will recommend the road segments and areas to be resurfaced.

  • YEAR 3: Starting where staff ended the survey in Year 2, the survey will go through to the most recently paved streets. Based on results of the conditions survey, street segments will be listed from worst to best – then based on availability of funds, staff will recommend the road segments and areas to be resurfaced.

All subsequent years will follow this process. Also, staff will update the City street database after each year.

Upcoming Events:

  • Click to Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show web page 51st Annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show: October 28 - November 1, 2010 (954-764-7642; www.showmanagement.com).

  • 3rd Annual Bash at the Riverside Hotel (benefiting 5 local charities): October 29, 2010 – Price: $20 on line (http://www.goriverwalk.com/2010/10/third-annual-halloween-bash) or $25 at the door – includes two drinks, food, live band, DJ, comedy acts and other Halloween surprises. 954-574-6000

  • Trick or Treat on Second Street: October 30, 2010 – The Annual Trick or Treat on Second Street Block Party and Costume Contest is a Halloween happening so huge it takes two City blocks to host it! 954-524-1818

ALSO, don’t forget the Riverwalk’s Urban Market every Saturday from 8:00a.m. – 1:00p.m. Along the Esplanade, across from the Museum of Discovery and Science - shop for fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheeses, pastas and more! 954-205-9648

Fort Lauderdale Commission Assistant Robbi Uptegrove
ROBBI
UPTEGROVE
As a reminder, I host two Pre-agenda Meetings per month in addition to attending homeowner meetings at your request. The pre-agenda meetings focus on items of interest as well as the upcoming agenda. They are held the Monday before a Commission Meeting, 6p.m., at either the Beach Community Center (11/15; 12/20) OR Imperial Point Hospital AUD A&B –south side of hospital entrance towards the back (11/1; 12/6). A new schedule will be established each year.

Office Contact: Robbi Uptegrove – 954-828-5033; email: ruptegrove@fortlauderdale.gov

Bruce G. Roberts                

If you need to reach Commissioner Bruce Roberts, please contact his assistant Robbi Uptegrove at 954-828-5033 or by e-mail at RUptegrove@fortlauderdale.gov. To access the City Commission Meeting Agendas and Minutes, Click Here. To actually watch the meetings recorded and archived on the Commission Meetings Video Webcast and Archives web site, Click Here.

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community
ASSOCIATIONS INSTITUTE
SOUTHEAST FLORIDA CHAPTER
ANNOUNCES THEIR ANNUAL

Golf Traco Windows Tournament

Join your CAI-SEFL friends and colleagues this November and enjoy a day of fun on the fairways. Show your support for the Chapter and join your ‘golfing buddies’ for a day on the links. Golfing experience is not necessary; this is a fun, social event. Best Ball Format!

The Date: Friday, November 5th, 2010
The Time: 11:00 A.M.
The Place: Bonaventure Country Club
200 Bonaventure Boulevard
Weston, Florida 33317


Tournament Information

Contests for men and women include: Closest to the Pin and Longest Drive.

  • 11:00 a.m. - Registration
  • 12:00 Noon - Shotgun Start
  • 4:30 p.m. - Tournament Awards Dinner & Raffles
  • Golfers will have the opportunity to win raffles, door prizes and a Grand Prize in the Grand Raffle!
  • Awesome hole-in-one contest prizes!
  • Tournament is Best Ball Format!

After Golf

CAI Golf Tournament An awards dinner will wrap up the day’s activities. Trophies will be provided to 1st, 2nd, 3rd and the team that “Should Have Gone Fishing!”

The East Course at Bonaventure Country Club

Nationally Famous #3 Waterfall Hole
NATIONALLY FAMOUS #3 WATERFALL HOLE
We are celebrating the completion of the East Golf Course, Green, Tee and Bunker Renovations, Featuring the Nationally Famous #3 Waterfall Hole.

The East course, designed by Joe Lee, is a par 72 that measures 7,158 from the Black tees. This course has been rated as one of Florida’s top ten. Our East course is a classic Florida layout with holes routed through strands of mature palms and hardwoods, and around numerous water hazards and expansive bunkers.


Click to Community Association Institute, Southeast Florida Chapter web site For more information, call Jill Proietti at 954-816-0661 or Email: jillproietti@bellsouth.net. Click Here for the 2010 Golf Tournament page on the Southeast Florida Chapter of CAI web site.

Click Here to register for the CAI-SEFL 2010 Golf Tournament. Click Here for info about sponsorship opportunities for the Golf Tournament.


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Commissioner Charles John “Chip” LaMarca

Click to Broward District 4 web page
BROWARD DISTRICT 4
November 14, 2010 - Broward's
District 4 is a political wild card. Unlike the 2:1 Democrat majority in the rest of Broward County, District 4 Democrats and Republicans maintain a numerical equilibrium that varies annually by 3 to 4 points. Adding to the District's political volatility is the fact that about one third of the neighborhood's voters are registered Independents. Ironically, the last two County Commissioners selected by this unique electoral configuration, Jim Scott and Ken Keechl, were deposed for almost identical reasons.

Former Broward Commissioner Jim Scott
FORMER DISTRICT 4
COMMISSIONER JIM SCOTT
Scott, a former President of the Florida Senate, was probably the most accomplished Commissioner on the Broward Board when he lost his District 4 seat to Ken Keechl in 2006. The County Commission’s sole Republican, not only did Scott use his Tallahassee ties to protect state Beach Renourishment funding and land use sovereignty from a series of attacks by upstate Republican lawmakers (who would have been successful absent Scott’s efforts), but he single-handedly fended off similar attacks in other Broward Districts on behalf Democrat Commissioners who lacked a voice in the Republican State Capital. While staunchly opposed to raising taxes, Scott insisted on upgrading Port Everglades and the area’s airports to insure Broward’s ability to compete with similar transportation hubs in Miami and Palm Beach. Whenever the Galt Mile needed something from Broward County, Jim Scott delivered. When the 2006 elections became a referendum on President Bush’s failed foreign and domestic policies, Scott was caught in the pro-Obama Democratic tidal wave and sent to the cornfield.

Former Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
FORMER COMMISSIONER
KEN KEECHL
Suddenly, the Galt Mile was represented by a political neophyte with strong ties to the County’s Democrat Machine. In short order, Ken Keechl demonstrated that he was a fiscal conservative, supported popular environmental preservation issues (like beach renourishment), stonewalled property tax increases and would actively champion his constituents’ causes. During his four-year tenure, he spearheaded the $380 million reduction in recurrent County property taxes (dragging along most of his Commission peers against their will), sponsored the Broward Commission’s Resolution against the Calypso gas works, helped revive the lapsed beach renourishment project, twice saved the Galt Mile Reading Center from extinction, shepherded the ordinance against sacrificing Broward’s few remaining large land tracts (such as golf courses) to developers planning to build mind-numbing McMansions, forced the County to finally replace Galt Mile traffic signals and street signage lost to Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma and staunchly supported ethics reform. When the 2010 elections similarly evolved into a referendum on President Obama’s “recovery” policies, Keechl was caught in the anti-Obama Republican tidal wave, and joined Scott in the cornfield.

New Broward Commissioner Charles
NEW COMMISSIONER "CHIP" LAMARCA
Now, the Galt Mile is represented by a former Lighthouse Point City Commissioner who used to run Broward’s Republican Machine. On September 16th, Charles John LaMarca told the Galt Mile Advisory Board that he intends to vigorously represent our interests on the County Commission. Facing the same credibility obstacles that Keechl had to overcome four years ago, we will soon know if Mr. LaMarca deserves the seat he was handed by a favorable Republican political environment and a 50% District 4 voter turnout. On the Galt Mile, LaMarca beat Keechl by 23 votes. For the benefit of those Galt Mile residents who know little or nothing about LaMarca, the following extracts are from his campaign Bio.

Who is Charles John “Chip” LaMarca?

Charles and Eileen LaMarca
CHARLES AND EILEEN LAMARCA
When his father passed away, LaMarca’s Mother moved the family from Winchester, Massachusetts to the Coral Ridge Isles neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale - right here in District 4. He attended Floranada Elementary School and Rickards Middle School before graduating from Northeast High School in 1986. He spent his college years in Broward Community College and Boston University before returning to Broward County and going into construction – his dad’s field.

Click to City of Lighthouse Point web site After marrying Eileen Dorrego in 1995 and moving to Lighthouse Point, LaMarca spent 2002 to 2005 serving on City boards for traffic calming, community appearance, code enforcement, and an architectural committee created to tailor the City’s Fire/Police/EMS Station. Following his election to the Lighthouse Point City Commission in 2005, LaMarca opened LaMarca Construction Corp. one year later on September 26, 2006. LaMarca is a past president of the Exchange Club of Pompano Beach where he currently serves on the board while also supporting Hugs for Kids and the Broward Children’s Center. In 2007, he won the punishing job of serving as Broward’s top Republican.

The Campaign

LaMarca Announces District 4 Candidacy
LAMARCA ANNOUNCES DISTRICT 4 CANDIDACY
Discouraged by the lack of viable County Commission candidates available to his Republican Election Committee, LaMarca decided to personally ride the current anti-Democrat wave into Broward’s Government Center by challenging Ken Keechl for his District 4 Commission seat. On May 20, 2010, The Lighthouse Point Commissioner threw his hat in the ring with a seriously over the top speech. Likening Broward County to a swamp that he would drain, LaMarca said “Under the leadership of Ken Keechl, the Broward County Government has amassed one of the worst records of corruption this state has ever seen and was one of the reasons the Governor requested and the Supreme Court approved, the convening of a Special Statewide Grand Jury to probe this serious problem.”

Broward Chief Judge Victor Tobin
CHIEF JUDGE VICTOR TOBIN
Of course, this was colorful campaign hogwash. The Governor asked the Supreme Court for a statewide Grand Jury following the October 2009 indictment on corruption charges of a Broward County ophthalmologist who had served on the governor’s transition team. Shortly after denying the Governor’s October 14th request, Attorney Scott Rothstein was busted for running a $1.2 billion ponzi scheme on December 1, 2009. It was no coincidence when the Supreme Court finally approved Crist’s amended request on December 2nd, appointing Broward Chief Judge Victor Tobin of the 17th Circuit to preside over the grand jury. High profile scandals that actually involved Broward Commissioners included Josephus Eggelletion’s imprisonment for a Bahamian money laundering scheme and Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin’s involvement with her husband’s (Richard Rubin) grant plundering in county municipalities.

Keechl Mudfest Ad
KEECHL MUDFEST AD
A savvy politician, although LaMarca knew that the wrongdoing in every one of these events preceded Keechl’s November 2009 appointment as Broward Mayor, he needed to provoke Keechl into a political brawl to generate some badly needed District-wide name recognition. To the average Broward voter, LaMarca was better known for his brief commission service in Lighthouse Point than for his alter-ego as “the man behind the curtain” in Broward Republican politics. Keechl took the bait. He returned LaMarca’s blasts by impugning his opponent’s character for a 1989 DUI arrest while he was attending college. Keechl also accused LaMarca of forging signatures on Building Permit applications and secretly siphoning construction business from a former employer. The virulent last-minute attack ads boomeranged on Keechl when he was pounded in the local media for launching a desperate eleventh hour mudfest.

The Allegation

Click to MGI Morgan General Mechanical Group web site The charges against LaMarca were previously investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The case (BR-14-0017) was opened on November 1, 2006 when Robert L. Morgan, CEO of MGI Morgan General Mechanical Group in Deerfield Beach, accused former MGI Operations Manager LaMarca of forging and notarizing permit applications to mask remunerated work he performed without his employer’s knowledge. After a 3-year investigation, FDLE sent its findings to Chief Tim Donnelly of the Broward County State Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Unit. A year earlier, on September 1, 2008, Donnelly expressed concern about the “political ramifications” of criminally charging LaMarca and described the case as “a ‘he said, he said’ situation.”

Click to Florida Department of Law Enforcement web site On September 15, 2009, Donnelly told FDLE Special Agent James Futch that “it would be difficult to prosecute Charles LaMarca” since signing Morgan’s name and/or notarizing a forged signature was “common practice within MGI Morgan Mechanical.” Proving fraud and theft would require segregating instances of “forgery” ordinarily practiced by the company to expedite its business interests from those used to allegedly facilitate work surreptitiously negotiated and performed by LaMarca for company clients. As Donnelly grew discouraged by the looming investigative obstacles to securing high profile fraud or forgery convictions, he also lost interest in pursuing notary infractions and possible violations of the grand theft statute.

Click to Notary Section in the Governor’s Office web site Although Donnelly indicated that “Florida Statutes 117.05(1), 117.105 and 117.107(9) deal specifically with unlawful use of a notary commission to acquire funds one is not entitled to,” a third degree felony, the allegation would first have to funnel through the Notary Section in the Governor’s Office - friendly territory for LaMarca. Crist’s Office confirmed the complaint and Notary Education Coordinator Heather Slager issued a formal reprimand to LaMarca, but they shielded his notary commission from suspension. If LaMarca had defrauded the company of funds, the complainant should have filed a civil case, not criminal allegations with FDLE that involved the State Attorney’s Office. Since a June 9, 2008 FDLE report includes LaMarca’s statement that he was stiffed by MGI for about $72,000 owed on his employment contract, whether Morgan files separate theft charges is 6 to 5 and pick ‘em. When Donnelly rolled up the 3-year case file and sent FDLE packing, LaMarca emerged unscathed.

The Chipster Tweets

Click to LaMarca’s Twitter page LaMarca’s Twitter page offers some insight into the new District 4 Commissioner. Repeatedly celebrating his single-parent Mother, on Father’s day, he tweets Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing dads out there...especially to my Mom, for doing it all! He actively supports the Dallas Cowboys, is starry eyed for America's Mayor: Rudolph W. Giuliani, and calls himself The Chipster. Firmly planted in the Christian Right, LaMarca regaled a rainstorm as God's way feeding our beautiful landscapes and at Easter, he testified HE has risen...Alleluia! Happy Easter. One reporter called LaMarca a classic Republican from Central Casting.

A Classic Republican

Ilene Lieberman Botanical Gardens
ILENE LIEBERMAN BOTANICAL GARDENS
LaMarca shoots from the hip. On March 25, 2009, while laying the groundwork for his run at Keechl, he faulted the Broward Commission for naming the Ilene Lieberman Botanical Gardens for a sitting District 1 County Commissioner, insisting that “Anybody who is alive should not have a park named after them while they are serving.” He later discovered that Ilene Lieberman Park is not a Broward County Park. It was created by the City of Lauderhill and so named to honor their former mayor.

LaMarca on Campaign Trail
LAMARCA CAMPAIGNING
As Chair of the County Republican Party since February 26, 2007, LaMarca developed effective media skills, honed by strategically issuing press releases that bashed indicted Democrat public officials. During monthly meetings of the Broward Republican Executive Committee (BREC), LaMarca made rousing speeches to the GOP faithful. Although LaMarca’s 244,000 registered Broward Republicans were outnumbered 2 to 1 by local Democrats, it represented the second largest GOP voting bloc in the State. While his impact on local races was limited, LaMarca was well known in Tallahassee, where his help was solicited by GOP hopefuls for State office. LaMarca was a staunch supporter of Charlie Crist - until the Governor renounced his Republican credentials.

Click to Pembroke Gun & Range web site
Congressional Candidate Robert Lowry
CANDIDATE ROBERT LOWRY
BREC membership and fundraising, which flourished under Crist ally George LeMieux, suffered under LaMarca. When he stepped down to run for the County Commission seat, the 335 members were unable to effectively cover the roughly 800 Broward precincts. In October of 2009, LaMarca’s membership chair resigned under heavy criticism following a controversial meeting at the Pembroke Gun & Range in Pembroke Park. Attending Republican Congressional candidate Robert Lowry shot at a target affixed with the initials of Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. As a parting shot, after describing having blasted away at the Congresswoman’s initials as a “joke”, Lowry reassessed it as a “mistake”, possibly because the incident also blew his political credibility to hell.

Bob Wolfe
BOB WOLFE
As a result, LaMarca raised less than $3000 during his last two quarters. Bob Wolfe, the Media Director and Government relations guru for the Broward County Property Appraiser’s office and a good friend to the Galt Mile community, was a regular at BREC meetings. The longtime Republican activist lamented the Committee’s priorities under LaMarca, complaining “The focus ought to be on raising money and supporting candidates – both of those two things are lacking right now. We don’t have the war chest necessary to support local candidates.”

Tea Party Protest at Oakland Park Boulevard and Federal Highway
WEEKLY TEA PARTY PROTEST AT FEDERAL
HIGHWAY & OAKLAND PARK BOULEVARD
Although he claimed that all Republican supporters were welcome, LaMarca was hesitant to extend inclusion to fringe red county groups such as the Tea Party. Referring to the weekly Tea Party protest at Oakland Park Boulevard and Federal Highway, LaMarca remarked “Some activist groups – God bless them – they are activists, but the idea of standing on a street corner every Saturday – the same street corner – with a sign is not going to be as productive than if you are working on precinct training.”

LaMarca Thanks Voters
LAMARCA THANKS VOTERS
After his Election Day upset, he cruised the District, thanking voters for their support. With the campaign rhetoric fading, LaMarca’s first task will be to mend fences and assure constituents that he represents all the District’s residents. The next few months will necessitate a balance between familiarizing himself with the respective problems and concerns of the District’s neighborhoods and issues impacting the entire County.

Representing the coastal communities of District 4 is no walk in the park. As an experienced Republican insider, LaMarca knows that while reactionary blowback from Washington and/or Tallahassee can temporarily tilt the political landscape, it has little impact on the District’s problems. Following Scott and Keechl, LaMarca also knows he has some big shoes to fill. More to come...

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Parks and Recreation Director Phil Thornburg
PARKS DIRECTOR PHIL THORNBURG
November 21, 2010 - When Galt Ocean Drive residents voluntarily assessed themselves to fund the broad range of civic upgrades known as the Galt Mile Improvement Project in 1995, the City agreed to maintain the many improvements in “a Disney-like manner.” Whenever the Parks Department dropped the ball, Galt Mile association officials would meet with our
City Commissioner and Parks Department Director Phil Thornburg to elicit assurances that civic maintenance would improve. As a result, frustrated residents watched their landscaping cycle through 12 years of intermittent green and brown periods.

Commodore Resident José 'Chepo' Vega and Commissioner Bruce Roberts
CHEPO AND COMM. BRUCE ROBERTS
On December 18, 2008, the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board unanimously appointed Commodore resident José “Chepo” Vega to perform ongoing oversight of the hardscape and landscape features along Galt Ocean Drive and the surrounding area. Working with Parks Department officials, Commissioner Bruce Roberts and the neighborhood association, this self-styled squeaky wheel engineered a steady stream of structural and aesthetic neighborhood improvements.

Utility Graffiti
UTILITY GRAFFITI
Last April, Chepo spearheaded an effort to remove Utility Graffiti from local streets and sidewalks. These color-coded markings, used by contractors to identify and protect buried utility elements from subsequent demolition damage, ordinarily outlast the project for which they were applied by many years. In short order, streets resemble multi-color concrete drop cloths. When the 2009 Florida Legislature passed Bradenton Senator Michael Bennett’s Senate Bill 982, which provides that marking materials should be chemically confected for easy removal, Chepo placed his campaign on hold. Since then, our block maintenance watchdog has been busy.

On April 23, 2010, Chepo fired off this heads-up to Advisory Board members:

Dumpster As we are all aware, great improvements have been happening in our Galt Mile neighborhood but there is still more work to be done. The pavers and the sidewalk curbs at the pick up and delivery area in front of the buildings are getting very badly damaged. This is due to the steel roller wheels of the dumpsters parked there during renovations. At this time I must ask all of you for your help to make sure that the dumpsters are sitting on wood at all times protecting the pavers as shown on the pictures since this is the only way the pavers will be protected. By doing this it will help make the Galt maintenance easier.

Chepo

Dumpsters and Paver Damage
DUMPSTERS AND PAVER DAMAGE - STEEL WHEELS CRUSH BRICKS

Within two weeks, five contractors’ dumpsters parked on or adjacent to Galt Mile association properties were underlain with the wooden supports - as recommended by Chepo. He regularly patrols the neighborhood and records observations for submission to City Park or Public Works officials responsible for community landscaping and hardscape maintenance. On June 7th, Chepo sent the following email to Fort Lauderdale Beach Foreman Mark Almy, detailing his latest “walk through” assessment.

Good morning Mark,

Here is my “walking” list.

Silver Buttonwood tree in front of Playa del Sol is dying the same way as the one replaced at Playa del Mar not too long ago.

The following benches need to be refurbished: Playa del Mar, Ocean Riviera, Playa del Sol, Plaza East, Plaza South, Southpoint.

Please let me know who I have to talk to about moving back the sidewalk trash containers to their original place on the curb. Maybe we can take advantage of the areas where there are some holes that need to be patched. By doing this the patched holes won’t be visible.

Chepo, Maria and Parks Crew
CHEPO, MARIA AND PARKS CREW
Tomorrow I will be tagging some trees still leaning towards the street that are in the pedestrians’ way. Maria (Dumpstera veteran Parks Department employee with a long history of service on the Galt Mile) and I talked about the tree grids hurting some tree trunks and she mentioned that they will be taken care of soon. We talked about the severe pruning close to the fire hydrant on 35 St. and I hope we can do something about it since we haven’t had any problem with the Fire Department with the other fire hydrants.

I will call you this week to touch base. Thanks for your help,

Chepo

Bicycle Safety
Black Asphalt Patch
BLACK ASPHALT PATCH
On July 1, 2010, Chepo made a pictorial record cataloguing a broad range of municipal maintenance failures. It depicted sidewalk tripping hazards; an indecipherable tangle of parking space markings in the strip mall on Galt Ocean Drive and 35th Street; unacceptable sidewalk patch repairs using black asphalt instead of matching aggregate; severely eroded handicap parking logos, street traffic lines and directional arrows along with an overgrown corner hedge at 35th Street that blocked visibility for drivers turning onto Galt Ocean Drive.

Tripping Hazards at Plaza East and Edgewater Arms
TRIPPING HAZARDS AT PLAZA EAST AND EDGEWATER ARMS

Disappearing Traffic Line
ERODED TRAFFIC LINE
The flags raised by Chepo’s pictures sparked a blizzard of correspondences between Commissioner Bruce Roberts, Assistant to the City Manager Julie Richards and Public Works Director Albert Carbon. An earlier walk-through by Chepo and City Park officials produced a punch list of “emergency” repairs that included the manual grinding of tilted sidewalk panels along Galt Ocean Drive. However, tripping hazards resulting from heavily extruded lengths of sidewalk cannot be corrected by simply trimming some aggregate; the severely distorted sections must be replaced. Once the less egregious cases were leveled by manual grinding, Julie Richards sent this interim progress report to Commissioner Bruce Roberts:

Click to the Neighborhood Capital Improvement Program (NCIP) Guide Good Afternoon Commissioner,
Please note the acknowledgment from Public Works that the additional replacement of the sidewalks will need to be a future CIP (DumpsterCapital Improvement Program) project. Staff confirmed that the outstanding work agreed to from the walk-thru with the horizontal saw cutting (trip and fall hazards) was performed. Thank you. - Julie

With “encouragement” from Roberts, Al Carbon drafted the funding application for the required sidewalk replacement. On July 27th, he reported to Roberts:

Sidewalk repairs are requested in the 2010/11 CIP Budget to be approved during the budget public hearings in September. Once the funding is approved, we will put the projects on our project list to be worked on. We normally bid our annual concrete contract in Jan/Feb time frame; the contractor will be ready in April 2011, if funded.

Albert

While Carbon and Roberts were following protocols for the sidewalk repairs, Chepo turned his attention to the faded road markings in this July 23rd email to Roberts:

As we all know our neighborhood is a walking neighborhood enjoyed by residents and guests every day. So we are trying to make it pleasant, clean and inviting in a ‘Disney like Manner’ at all times. The faded pavement markings are not helping us reach our goal. Please let me know how I should proceed in getting these maintenance items taken care of since it is part of our refurbishing program. - Chepo

Public Works Director Albert Carbon
PUBLIC WORKS DIR AL CARBON
Broward County Traffic Engineering Division
BROWARD COUNTY TRAFFIC ENGINEERING DIVISION
After circulating through several City Departments, Chepo’s message was forwarded to the Broward County Traffic Engineering Division, which provides lane markings per an agreement with the City. To preclude the issue from sinking into a jurisdictional black hole (a fate common to issues complicated by overlapping City and County ordinances), Public Works Director Albert Carbon contacted Broward County Traffic Engineering Technician Bob McKibbin and asked him to examine Chepo’s pictorial evidence of dramatic lineage deterioration. On August 6th, McKibbin answered Carbon:

Handicap Parking Logo We will reinvestigate the pavement markings and report back with our findings. As you are probably aware, Broward County does not install or maintain any pavement markings associated with on-street parking, which would include the handicap symbols shown in image 83. Additionally, Broward County does not install or maintain white edge lines on streets with a pavement width of 30-39 feet, unless total volumes exceed five-thousand vehicles per day.

Bob McKibbin
Broward County Traffic Engineering Studies Section

Undeterred by McKibbin’s measured caveats, Chepo pressed the issue. On August 27th, McKibbin relented and emailed the following message under the subject line “striping/pavement markings on Galt Ocean Mile.”

41 Street Stop Line
STOP LINE AT 41 STREET
Based on our investigation, work orders will be issued to refurbish the stop lines at the following locations:

  • on the westbound approach at the traffic signal at SR A1A and NE 41 St.

  • on the northbound approach at Galt Mile and NE 41 St.

  • at the mid-block traffic signal at the south end of Galt Mile, which appears to be in an operational mode.

However, the mid-block signal on the north end is in flash mode with the WALK/DON'T WALK signals covered. Since both of these signals are maintained by the City and not by Broward County, we would ask that City staff provide an operational status for the one on the north end.

Reasonably Good Condition???
REASONABLY GOOD CONDITION???
Please refer to the below-stated County policy for the maintenance of white edge lines. Since the centerlines are in reasonably good condition, they will not be refurbished at this time.

Bob McKibbin
Broward County Traffic Engineering Studies Section
Engineering Technician II

While Chepo didn’t get the whole ball of wax, it was a step in the right direction. Since the Broward budget is encased in a fiscal straight jacket, most County form letters begin with “We regret to inform you…” When forwarding McKibbin’s accession to Robbi Uptegrove (Bruce Roberts’ Commission assistant), Julie Richards added:

Please note the work orders that will be completed by the County, subsequent to being asked to revisit the request from the Galt. Thank you. - Julie

Fort Lauderdale Commission Assistant Robbi Uptegrove
ROBBI UPTEGROVE
A delighted Robbi emailed Chepo “This is good news!!!!”

Chepo Checks the Crosswalk Chepo stoically pocketed the victory and moved ahead. On September 11th, while the nation mourned, Chepo scouted a decomposing pavered crosswalk on Galt Ocean Drive. He snapped some pictures of the damage and sent them to Commissioner Roberts – captioned with the following note:

Galt Ocean Drive crosswalk Galt Ocean Mile Pedestrian Crosswalk in need of repairs where an accident is waiting to happen. A repair was done some time ago and black pavers were introduced making the areas look like a patched up job since they were never used before. Please make sure that no black pavers are used on these repairs. We live in a walking neighborhood and we would like to keep enjoying it without patching areas.
Thanks.

Truc
Truck Parked across from Ocean Sky Juts into Galt Ocean Drive
OCEAN MANOR TRUCK JUTS INTO STREET
In August, an angry Galt Mile resident notified Chepo about vehicles parked on the lawn across the street from the Ocean Manor Hotel & Condominium. After fielding several subsequent complaints, he grabbed his camera and headed to the site. At the next Advisory Board meeting, Chepo distributed pictures of parked cars and trucks jutting 3 to 4 feet into Galt Ocean Drive’s southbound traffic lane. As a courtesy to a member association, the Advisory Board voted to notify Ocean Manor management about the traffic hazard and thanked Chepo for his diligence.

No Bicycles on Sidewalk Click to Resolution No. 99-137 - No Bicycles on Sidewalk On August 27th, while walking on Galt Ocean Drive, Chepo observed an idiot flying down the sidewalk on a bicycle nearly hit an elderly couple. The peabrain turned his head and gestured with his middle finger. Having fielded several complaints about similar incidents, Chepo looked into the local ordinances governing bicycles. Bicycles aren’t allowed on city sidewalks where “No Bicycles on Sidewalk” signs were previously approved by the City Commission. Such signs affixed along the Galt Mile were taken down during the 1994 - 1995 improvement project and never replaced. On further investigation, the City Clerk’s Office discovered that signage approved again at the October 5, 1999 City Commission meeting mysteriously disappeared (perhaps eviscerated by hurricane winds) and was also never replaced.

Bicycle Safety
Acting Major Michael Gregory
DISTRICT 1 ACTING
MAJOR MICHAEL GREGORY
Since Resolution No. 99-137 prohibits riding bicycles on Galt Mile sidewalks, these signs have since been reinstalled. When the neighborhood association inquired about marking a bike lane in the street, the County measured Galt Ocean Drive and declined, claiming that the street was too narrow. Like other vehicles, bicycles must be registered. Following Chepo’s report at the October 15th Advisory Board meeting, Acting District 1 Major Michael Gregory agreed to organize bike registration events at two local sites; the Galt Mile Reading Center and the Beach Community Center (to better service the Coral Ridge Towers complex). When the events are scheduled, associations will be notified and notice will be posted on the web site.

Chepo, Brian Hopper and Beach Foreman Mark Almy
CHEPO, BRIAN HOPPER AND BEACH FOREMAN MARK ALMY
In late October, Chepo and Beach Foreman Mark Almy scheduled a list of landscaping improvements for the winter season. In their revised scope of work, Chepo wanted Almy to address trees along Galt Ocean Drive that he previously identified and marked as “severely bent towards the street.” He characterized the eye-level low hanging branches as pedestrian threats.

A few days later, Almy’s crew began fixing problems on the list. Aware of Chepo’s primary concern, he directed his Park maintenance personnel to prioritize the severely bent trees. On November 10th, the Beach Foreman popped off the following email to Chepo:

Chepo Ties Marked Trees
CHEPO TIES MARKED TREES
We attempted to straighten some of the trees that you recently marked. They were able to straighten to some degree about half of them. The others are so well established though, that we will not be able to cut the roots without likely losing the tree. These will need to be continually trained through trimming. We started sodding some of the tree rings today. We will be gradually working on our winter list that we formulated together a couple weeks ago.

Thanks,
Mark

Thanks Since Chepo’s Advisory Board appointment, this self-motivated volunteer has pressed, pushed, pulled and prodded City, County and association officials to elicit their cooperation. He works side-by-side with Park maintenance crews, personally oversees hard scape upgrades and continually bird dogs City officials. If you see Chepo strapping a tree or swimming in mulch, you might want to thank him.


DumpsterEditor’s Note

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The Phantom Water Services Magic Trick

Galt Mile Assns. Make Most of City Rip-off

Fiveash Water Treatment Plant
FIVEASH WATER TREATMENT PLANT
December 11, 2010 - In July of 2009, the City of Fort Lauderdale announced a new set of water and sewer rates for municipal residents. When questioned about its impact on associations, most City officials automatically parroted a statistical assertion drawn from the City web site “The rate changes will result in an increase of approximately $3.15 per month for 72 percent of single family residential customers.” Since association homeowners are obviously grouped with the other 28%, Galt Mile Managers, association Board Treasurers and Finance/Budget Committee members reasonably surmised that their share of the burden would be somewhat larger. When members of the neighborhood association’s Advisory Board sought to learn how the new rates were applied to the City’s water & sewer customers, they were assured that “The rates for single family homes and multi-family residences are identical.”

Over the next few months, the water & sewer invoices received by associations shot through the roof. After reviewing the new rate schedule, Advisory Board members discovered provisions in the formula that unfairly burden association members with huge increases spared to single family homeowners. To further cloud matters, the new association water & sewer invoices were incongruent with the new rate schedule. When building managers called the Water Department to request assistance with reconciling unintelligible invoices, not even departmental supervisors were able to decipher the seemingly arbitrary charges. For several months, customer service requests were met with promises that “someone” would call back.

Click to Waterworks Budget web site Click to Waterworks 2011 web site In 2002, Fort Lauderdale embarked on a mammoth improvement project called Waterworks 2011. While the program was expected to modernize the City’s water and wastewater infrastructure over a period of 10 to 20 years, a majority of the upgrades were targeted for completion by 2011, hence the snappy moniker. Organized as an enterprise fund, the project doesn’t feed on tax dollars. The $557 million initially budgeted ($323 million for improvements to the water system and $233 million for wastewater upgrades) is drawn from revenues raised through bond issues in 2003, 2006 and 2008. In May 2005, the program budget was hiked to $689 million. Due to extraordinary construction cost increases in 2007; the budget was increased to $768 million.

On July 21, 2009, while city residents were preoccupied with impacts of the newly proposed municipal budget, the City Commission approved a surprise plan to boost income from water and sewer services by 20%. The huge increase wasn’t required to maintain funding levels for these services. Since revenues paid into an enterprise fund can only be used for fund expenses, the new cash bucket could not be used to offset deficits elsewhere in the City budget. The anticipated income wouldn’t be spent on fund expenses and couldn’t be spent on anything else. Its sole purpose was to inflate a profit bubble large enough to impress investors.

Click to Florida's Water web page For years the City waged marginally successful campaigns promoting water conservation as critically necessary for the environment and the family budget. Finally, the recession prompted consumers to carefully monitor utility meters and conserve electricity, gas and water. Since funding for the whopping Waterworks 2011 project was dependent on how attractive Fort Lauderdale’s water business was to potential bond purchasers, when the City’s conservation efforts began to lower consumption, municipal bond consultants warned that the drop in business would sour future investment. To engineer the blue chip profit margins required to intoxicate prospective bond investors, the City Commission enacted a strategy that financially penalized consumers for conserving water.

Click to Burton and Associates web site A series 2008 Water & Sewer Bonds Feasibility Report recommended that the City perform and implement a rate study to “stabilize” funding for Capital Improvements. Awarded the project, the St. Augustine firm of Burton and Associates completed the Final Draft Report on May 13, 2009. It was sent to environmental engineers Milian, Swain & Associates, Inc. to vet its environmental soundness and to Fidelity Financial Services to insure that it would adequately enhance enterprise fund profits. On July 9, 2010, Frank Hall of Fidelity Financial Services wrote to Director of Public Works Albert Carbon “The City of Fort Lauderdale proposed utility rate structure will be viewed favorably by the rating agencies, assuming that there are no significant operating expenses beyond the amount previously projected.”

Click to Water Rates Ordinance C-09-21 Basing their plan on the Burton and Associates study, the Commission enacted City Ordinance C-09-21, amending the water, wastewater and stormwater rate schedule. It was initially increased by 10% (5% on August 1, 2009 and 5% on August 1, 2010). Usage rates were also reorganized, that is to say, the financial burden was redistributed over the customer base. Lastly, a list of bogus new charges was hatched. Since the new rates alone wouldn’t adequately fatten the fund’s bottom line, the Water Services Department would also bill customers for water they didn’t use and services they didn’t receive.

Fidelity Financial Services LC Since explaining that the painful boost to water & sewer charges was a gift to investors would spell political suicide for the “messenger”, officials instead focused on how the financial burden would be equitably distributed. To demonstrate that fiscal battery was uniformly administered to the 250,000 water & wastewater customers in Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Oakland Park, Sea Ranch Lakes, Wilton Manors, parts of Davie and Tamarac and parts of unincorporated Broward County, the new fixed rates for single and multi-family homes were made identical. Unfortunately, how they are applied was not.

The rate ordinance unabashedly punishes residents living in vertical communities. Although increases to both fixed and commodity charges for water and wastewater were ostensibly applied across the board, the new formula used to assess block rates (1000 gallons per month multiplied by the number of units) is designed to financially bloodlet customers in common interest associations. An association unit owner whose monthly usage exceeds 1000 gallons will pay more than twice the amount billed to single family homeowners for the same water consumption.

For example, the block rate for a single family homeowner who uses 2000 gallons per month is $1.51. A condo owner who consumes the same 2000 gallons is billed at a block rate of $3.36 or 123% more than the single family homeowner. The disparity continues when these 2 homeowners dump their used water. The single family homeowner is charged a sewer rate of $2.68 for draining off the 2000 gallons. The comparable block rate for our condo owner is $5.93 or 122% more than the single family homeowner. When applied to the 7000 monthly gallons used by the average customer, the disparity seriously cuts into the family food budget.

The source of this skewed cost distribution seems to flow from how the City interpreted the Burton and Associates study. The study’s rate schedule is based on the differing usage estimates for single family and multifamily residences. When the schedule was vetted at the July 21, 2009 Regular Commission meeting, city staff supplied Commissioners with several support documents. The one entitled Additional Background Information contained definitions for terminology used in the study. It states “The word ‘multifamily’ has an expanded use in the revised ordinance. It is replacing the words ‘duplex’ and ‘triplex’. The word is defined as more than one dwelling unit.”

The multifamily residences referred to in the ordinance were actually “duplexes” and “triplexes” in the study. By using “duplexes” and “triplexes” to calculate multifamily usage estimates, the ordinance ignores the significant difference in how “duplexes” and high rise associations with hundreds of homeowners consume water and generate drainage. For instance, while a 200-unit association lawn is somewhat larger than the average duplex property, it uses a small fraction of the water required to maintain the 100 lawns that surround 200 duplex homeowners. This discrepancy is compounded when applied to the water used to fill swimming pools (100 duplex pools vs. 1 association pool) and cool HVAC systems.

Another unprecedented water & sewer cost that unfairly impacts association unit owners is called the Service Availability Charge. Customers who discontinue active service incur a monthly charge for the “theoretical availability” of water and/or wastewater service to their property. Since the City incurs fixed costs to maintain a degree of service readiness for a property, they are charging residents for the opportunity to buy water as an offset to this outlay. Snowbirds that simply turn off their water are charged $6.92 a month for sewer, and $4.71 a month for water. To escape this charge, potential water consumers can no longer simply stop using water; they must remove any toilets, sinks, faucets, spigots and water meters from their property. If they decide to reinstall these fixtures, they are also charged $150 to reconnect. Implementing this thinly veiled tax is comparable to a local restaurant sending out monthly bills for the blue plate special to everyone in the neighborhood – solely because they have stomachs.

The City asserts that its rationale for this twilight zone fee is viable given the many conduit and drainage elements that carry water to and sewage from single family homes and storefront merchants. In contrast, for the 200 to 400 unit owners in a high-rise common interest community, the City must only maintain the two or three lines that service the association building. Once the lines enter the structure, maintenance responsibility is assumed by the association and paid for by the unit owners. Nevertheless, the City bills the association for these phantom services based on the number of units, not the number of lines they must maintain. Additionally, since the water and wastewater service to our high rise buildings is always active, charging out-of-residence snowbirds an “opportunity fee” to offset a non-existent “readiness expense” for their individual units is a bald faced rip-off.

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER
BRUCE G. ROBERTS
When members of the Galt Mile Community Association discussed these inequities with City Commissioner Bruce Roberts at an Advisory Board meeting, he offered to bring several water department specialists from Public Works to the next Presidents Council meeting, affording association officials an opportunity to air their concerns to a presumably authoritative resource. At the subsequent meeting, when queried about the disparity in how the block usage rates were applied to single family homes and associations, the two purported experts from Water Services seemed confused, and enigmatically declared that “the program’s fixed commodity rates were the same for every homeowner.” When several follow-up attempts to rephrase the question were deflected with the same irrelevant boilerplate response, a frustrated association official cynically asked if these “specialists” really didn’t understand the issue. Finally, one of the bureaucrats admitted to deliberately dodging questions about the program’s general inequities and offered instead to visit privately with any association and fully investigate its questionable bills.

When Commissioner Roberts noticed that their intransigent refusal to address the block rate disparity was fueling member frustration, he suggested that attendees accept their offer and “see if they can’t clear up this confusion for each individual association.” Absent any alternative, skeptical association officials agreed to temporarily suspend suspicions inflamed by the awkward dog and pony show until they could meet privately with the consulting staffers. In the following months, they did help several associations correct their jumbled and inaccurate water & sewer invoices. Not surprisingly, the Water Services personnel never addressed the program inequities.

Over the past year, the neighborhood association was preoccupied with successful campaigns to enact legislative relief from the sprinkler mandate, rescue the Galt Library from Broward’s budget axe, kick start the stalled beach renourishment project, insure community input for FDOT's planned resurfacing of A1A and a dozen other community challenges. Of necessity, concerns about the skewed water & sewer rates were temporarily placed on hold.

Click to the Southeast Florida Chapter of the Community Associations Institute web site
Galleon President Donna Oppert
GALLEON PRESIDENT
DONNA OPPERT
While most Galt Mile condos and co-ops have since stretched association budgets to cover the phantom water & sewer charges, some have discovered innovative ways to tweak their systems, somewhat reducing the sting to unit owners. Galleon General Manager Marcy Kravit found such an opportunity in Section 28-79 of the City of Fort Lauderdale Code of Ordinances. A former Secretary for the Community Associations Institute (CAI) and contributing columnist for the Florida Community Association Journal, Kravit and Galleon President Donna Oppert agreed to share their money-saving strategy with neighboring associations. We are grateful to the Galleon Gals and their Board of Governors for contributing the following information.

ub-meter aves a Bundle

By Marcy L. Kravit, CMCA, AMS, PCAM

Galleon Manager Marcy Kravit
GALLEON MANAGER
MARCY KRAVIT
Since cooling tower water is not discharged into the City of Fort Lauderdale’s sewer system, buildings on The Galt that have cooling towers installed may be eligible for a wastewater credit on the monthly utility bill.

Cooling Tower
COOLING TOWER
According to Sec. 28-79 of the City of Fort Lauderdale Code of Ordinances, arrangements may be made to separate water consumption for cooling tower use from other water consumption by installing a separate private sub-meter.

In order to be eligible for a credit on wastewater charges, the following must occur:

  • The building owner/manager must first obtain written confirmation from the City of Fort Lauderdale Public Works Department.

  • Submeter A City-approved water sub-meter must be purchased from the City and installed on the building’s cooling tower to measure the water that does not enter the sewer system.

  • A licensed plumber must perform the sub-meter installation and obtain any required plumbing or related permit(s).

  • The City must determine whether a backflow preventer is required, which will be determined during inspection.

  • The City’s Building Department must inspect and approve the installation.

  • The building owner/manager will be required to maintain the sub-meter and ensure it is in good operating condition per the manufacturer's specifications.

The building owner/manager will be responsible for the cost of the sub-meter, as well as all costs associated with installing it (e.g., plumber, permits, inspections, if back-flow preventer is required, etc.).

The current cost for a City meter is:

Meter SizeCost
   3/4 inch  $39.00
       1 inch  $64.10
1-1/2 inch$163.90
       2 inch$219.00

Once the meter is installed, the building owner/manager will be responsible for reading the meter and reporting the read to the City on a monthly basis. The wastewater service charge will be billed on the difference in consumption between the new sub-meter and the domestic meter; however, the credit shall not reduce the total wastewater charge to an amount less than the fixed monthly charge.

Click to New Utility Water Bill Page
CLICK GRAPHIC TO NEW UTILITY BILL
The City will begin issuing the wastewater credit the month following the installation, approval of the water sub-meter, and receipt of sub-meter read from the owner/manager.

Please note, in June 2010, the City implemented a new billing system. As a result, the wastewater credit will not appear on the utility bill as a separate line item. Instead, the credit will be adjusted off the total amount of the bill.

For more information or to purchase a sub-meter, please contact the 24-Hour Customer Service Center at 954-828-8000 or online at www.fortlauderdale.gov/customerservice.

Marcy L. Kravit, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
General Manager, The Galleon

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LaMarca & Roberts
        
A Tale of Two Commissioners

New Broward Commissioner Charles
NEW COMMISSIONER "CHIP" LAMARCA
December 19, 2010 - At the December 16, 2010 GMCA Advisory Board meeting, the Galt Mile’s two local Commissioners reviewed neighborhood concerns with association officials. Newly elected County Commissioner
Charles “Chip” LaMarca, returning to the Galt Mile for the first time since making a campaign stop at the September 16th Advisory Board meeting, clarified some of his initial performance priorities as our District 4 Representative to the County Board.

City Commissioner Bruce Roberts
CITY COMMISSIONER BRUCE ROBERTS
City Commissioner Bruce Roberts, nursing his right arm after undergoing shoulder surgery, gave brief updates about progress toward next year’s budget, neighborhood landscaping improvements, selection of a new City Manager and the Centennial Celebration before fleshing out a report about the Sun Trolley’s Galt Ocean route. Commissioner Roberts was accompanied by FLPD District 1 Acting Major Michael Gregory.

Click to City of Lighthouse Point web site After formally introducing himself as our new voice in Broward Government Center, Commissioner “Chip” LaMarca declared an unwavering commitment to security issues. He opened by exclaiming “My views about security are based on the fact that if people don’t feel secure, nothing else we do will really matter.” LaMarca explained that since he grew up in Fort Lauderdale, he has a unique bond with the City’s communities. He also served as a City Commissioner in Lighthouse Point while operating a local construction business specializing in Turnkey Power Generation and Fuel Systems. From these varied perspectives, he observed that residents and visitors who fear for their personal safety are largely unable to appreciate the District’s many assets.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti
BROWARD SHERIFF AL LAMBERTI
Describing a longstanding relationship with Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, LaMarca said “I have always been a friend and supporter of our Sheriff. I will see to it that Al Lamberti has whatever he needs to guarantee Public Safety. We are fortunate to have such a committed Sheriff.” While a majority of the Galt Mile’s security needs are met by our Security Patrol and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office protects our northernmost members in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea (Caribé, Fountainhead and Plaza East). Although he and Lamberti share Republican credentials, LaMarca held throughout his campaign that Broward’s Sheriff should not be a partisan position. He also favors a non-partisan County Commission.

Bob Wolfe
BOB WOLFE
Whenever he campaigned on the demoralizing toll exacted by the corruption of Broward Commissioners and School Board members, LaMarca’s demeanor visibly soured. He promised Advisory Board members that he would pursue a “no tolerance” policy for public officials who abuse their office. Taking a cue from Property Appraiser Media specialist Bob Wolfe while he served on the Broward County Ethics Commission, LaMarca insisted “Let them do something else.” Two weeks before throwing his hat into the Commission race, LaMarca wrote an article entitled, It’s Time to Clean It Up! It featured a memorable corruption cure originally prescribed by Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Click to Beach Renourishment Project
Broward Commissioner Kristin Jacobs
BROWARD COMMISSIONER
KRISTIN JACOBS
LaMarca announced that he is currently working with his Commission peers to tailor an environmental agenda, specifically with the Commission’s primary environmental proponent Kristin Jacobs. The Commissioner easily segued to Beach Renourishment. Expressing concern about recent attempts to usurp the sand earmarked for Segment II beaches in Fort Lauderdale, LaMarca remarked “While I’m quickly learning a great deal about this project, I do know that the delays are inexcusable.” He promised to play a leading role in facilitating repairs to Broward’s severely eroded beaches, stating “I understand the importance of our beautiful beaches to every County resident. I intend to reach out to our new Congressman, Mr. West, and work together to insure that our beaches are healthy.”

Congressman Allen West
CONGRESSMAN ALLEN WEST
Before addressing the Board, LaMarca discussed some of his predecessors and the recent election. He characterized the negative campaign ads as an unfortunate consequence of a heated election race, exclaiming “I don’t have any hard feelings against Mr. Keechl.” Identifying former Commissioner Jim Scott as one of Broward’s most historically productive County Commissioners, LaMarca mentioned that, like Scott, his status as the County Commission’s only Republican carries a unique responsibility.

Former Broward Commissioner Jim Scott
FORMER DISTRICT 4
COMMISSIONER JIM SCOTT
When the County transacts State business, his fellow commissioners will have to depend on LaMarca’s Republican credentials to promote County concerns in Republican Tallahassee. While Chairing the Broward County Republican Party from February 26, 2007 until his recent run for the District 4 County seat, LaMarca cultivated statewide ties that are unique to the Broward Board. Issues such as Land Use sovereignty, the County’s legislative agenda and State appropriations for Broward projects will unquestionably land in LaMarca’s lap. He commented “Although I will have to spend time in the State Capitol fighting for the County, my primary allegiance is to you.”

Click to Downtown Fort Lauderdale Transportation Management Association (DFLTMA) Click to Broward Alliance Having updated the Board, LaMarca invited questions from the floor. One Board member inquired, “Ken Keechl sat on the Boards of several County organizations. Will you step into those positions or explore other opportunities?” Although he expressed an interest in the Broward Alliance, LaMarca said that he hadn’t as yet been officially appointed to any of the organizations that reserve Director Posts for Commission Representatives. After listening to his Broward counterpart, City Commissioner Bruce Roberts informed LaMarca that he and Keechl shared seats on the Board of the Downtown Fort Lauderdale Transportation Management Association (DFLTMA). Explaining that they worked together to help rescue the Sun Trolley, Roberts invited LaMarca to join him in that endeavor. Confirming an avid interest in the County’s transportation hubs, LaMarca assured Roberts that he would investigate TMA participation.

Click to Bob Murray & Associates Web Site
City Commissioner Bruce Roberts
CITY COMMISSIONER BRUCE ROBERTS
Taking the baton from LaMarca, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts delivered his Municipal report. Roberts told the Board that a Search Organization has been chosen to guide the selection of a new City Manager (MBN Services, Inc., a California corporation authorized to transact business in the State of Florida as Bob Murray & Associates Inc.). Briefly touching on next year’s budget, he confirmed that recommendations from the Budget Advisory Board would be incorporated into the City Commission's Annual Budget requirements. He also invited members to help with the Centennial Celebration by identifying individuals who've made notable contributions to the City. Finally, he reached across the table to recognize Commodore resident Jose “Chepo” Vega for the many neighborhood landscaping improvements on which they commiserated.

Click to Sun Trolley Web Site Click to Coral Ridge Mall Web Site Roberts described a unique survival opportunity for the Sun Trolley’s fiscally embattled Galt Ocean Route. A few years ago, the Galt Ocean route was extended past its original Coral Ridge Mall turnaround site to bring patients to and from Holy Cross Hospital. Roberts said that the Hospital’s Administration is very pleased with the arrangement and has since been one of the Sun Trolley’s staunchest supporters. However, to insure the route’s continued financial viability, the TMA was considering a new operational formula. Although designated as a local community bus service, the Sun Trolley has evolved into a courtesy wagon with destinations that primarily feature tourist appeal. Roberts hopes to roll back the Trolley’s mission to carrying City residents to locations that better service their daily needs.

Click to Galleria Mall Web Site Roberts explained that Sun Trolley officials were speaking to Galleria merchants. The well known shopping outlet is continually exploring new methodologies for enhancing its customer base. If the ongoing negotiations pan out, a minor route restructure might mutually cure the Galt Ocean Route’s erratic ridership and the Galleria’s need for new shoppers.

There are currently two Sun Trolley routes that cater to the shopping interests of city residents and visitors. The Las Olas – Beaches Route connects Fort Lauderdale’s downtown tourist Mecca’s such as the Performing Arts Center, IMAX, the Himmershee neighborhood and the Riverfront to Las Olas Boulevard and Beach Place. The Convention Connection route connects sizable visitor concentrations in Port Everglades and the Convention Center to shopping venues like the Harbor Shops and Galleria Malls. The two weekend-only routes overlap at Beach Place.

Sun Trolley Stap at Holy Cross Hospital
SUN TROLLEY STOP AT HOLY CROSS
Click to Harbor Shops Mall Web Site In addition to connecting Galt Ocean Drive to Holy Cross and the Coral Ridge Mall, the Galt Ocean route stretches south on A1A to the Palms. Commissioner Roberts wants to extend the route south to the Galleria. In addition to providing 14,000 Galt Mile residents with dirt-cheap comfortable transportation to the Galleria, the route restructure would create an overlap with the Convention Connection Sun Trolley, consequently providing riders with access to the Harbor Shops.

Acting Major Michael G. Gregory
ACTING MAJOR
MICHAEL GREGORY
Following Commissioner Roberts’ report, GMCA President Pio Ieraci requested a security update from Acting Major Gregory. The congenial 23-year FLPD veteran smiled while announcing the neighborhood’s encouraging crime stats. Thanks to the combined efforts of our Security Patrol and Gregory’s Operations Unit leadership, only one “Part 1” crime was recorded in the Galt Mile Community since the previous month’s report.

GPS TrackerGregory reminded the Advisory Board about a prospective seasonal increase in vehicle thefts and burglaries. The Department is recommending that local residents stow all items they might otherwise leave exposed on the car seat or floor. In addition to the usual wallets, purses, cell phones, radar detectors, CDs, DVDs and PDAs that provide easy boosts during the Holiday Season, Gregory focused on ever-shrinking GPS units. He ascribed their increasing popularity with crooks to portability combined with heightened marketability. As usual, his prescription is simple. “Hide your valuables and lock your car door.”

New Broward Commissioner Charles
"CHIP" - SCORES POINTS
Prior to departing early for another engagement, Commissioner LaMarca assured constituents that he would be a regular participant in future meetings. Since many of LaMarca’s political accomplishments were achieved “below the radar” while providing leadership to Broward’s Republican Party, few constituents were adequately familiar with the new Commissioner’s views and strength of commitment – including many that supported his candidacy. Upon his departure, while several Board members were impressed with LaMarca’s intensity, most commended his pro-active solicitation of Community input.

Commissioner Roberts also seemed pleased by LaMarca’s participation. After inviting his involvement with the DFLTMA, Roberts told LaMarca that he would enjoy working with him on Galt Mile constituent issues. All told, LaMarca scored points during a productive introductory visit, encouraging supporters and winning over skeptics. How he actualizes promises will determine whether or not the Galt Mile has a new secret weapon. As always, time will tell...

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Click to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) web site December 26, 2010 - When mortgage lenders were passing out loans to inanimate objects and packaging free trips to the Bahamas with every no-money-down subprime mortgage, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) financing was anathematic. It was burdened with – heaven forbid – eligibility requirements. Borrowers had to come up with a down payment, show a decent credit rating and were limited by their incomes to properties deemed “affordable”.

Real Estate Bubble Mortgage Brokers In their breakneck race to close a bankable real estate transaction every 17.6 minutes, high-flying mortgage brokers couldn’t afford to use funds with strings attached. Any terms that slowed the lending steamroller were excised from the process. The loans didn’t have to be adequately collateralized by the property or acceptable to the secondary market. Customers were eligible if they were breathing.

Real Estate Bubble Mortgage Brokers This lending insanity ultimately resulted in a world-wide economic train wreck and the current real estate crisis that we are desperately trying to muddle through. Until millions of toxic foreclosures are recycled into productive properties, the value of our homes will continue to suffer. Ironically, the FHA financing that was earlier shunned by lenders suffering from “bubble” intoxication sounds pretty good right now.

Cash is King Unit owners struggling with toxic mortgages are often faced with three options, a Hail Mary refinance, selling at the market bottom or packing up and hitting the road. In addition to a condominium’s unit owners, banks and associations forced to pick through a foreclosure mess also need viable purchasers. Being a viable homebuyer means having access to either a boatload of cash or legitimate and reasonable financing.

The GSEs Saved Players

Fannie Mae Washington Headquarters
FANNIE MAE WASHINGTON HEADQUARTERS
Fannie Mae is the big dog of the mortgage business. Established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1938 to provide a secondary market for post-Depression Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgages, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) replenished the supply of lendable money. In 1968, Congress amended its Charter, reshaping Fannie Mae as a stockholder-owned, privately managed corporation. To rectify its questionably legal status as a shareholder-owned monopoly, in 1970, Congress chartered another government sponsored enterprise (GSE), the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac). Although they don’t directly loan money to homeowners, they ensure that mortgage lenders and brokers are adequately flush with cash to service the home buying public.

Click to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) web site As GSEs, Fannie and Freddie received substantial benefits. They were endowed with access to an astronomical line of credit from the U.S. Treasury (currently $100 billion each); exemption from state and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) registration requirements (although both GSEs voluntarily file their SEC 10-K and 10-Q); exemption from all state and local taxes (except property taxes); and an inherent competitive advantage, since the Government blesses their securities with the same preferred investment status as Treasury debt.

Fannie Face More importantly, the GSEs benefitted from an “urban legend”. Being perceived as having federal backing for their debt – although they do not – has allowed Fannie and Freddie to borrow at near-Treasury rates and sell their securities at better rates than those of competing commercial firms. According to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office and the Treasury Department, this myth saves the “duopoly” about $2 billion annually.

Click to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) web site In the 60 years following their initial inception, mission statements for the GSEs varied according to evolving economic and political environments. Congressionally saddled with two mandates that were empirically incompatible – practicing fiscal responsibility while underwriting high risk “public purposes” loans – by the 1990s the stage was set for a decade of seemingly schizophrenic lending policies. Exacerbated by unrelenting pressure to generate shareholder profits, the GSEs’ loan portfolios became top-heavy with lucrative sub-prime or “toxic” loans. Free from SEC reporting requirements, Fannie and Freddie purchased ordinarily ineligible “nonconforming” high risk instruments bundled with traditional debt, thereby disguising the degree of toxicity that burdened their portfolios. Taking their cue from the liberalized complexion of GSE investment products, competing commercial lenders dispensed with traditional and time-tested risk management formulas to expedite profits.

The GSEs Saved Crunch

GSEs Saved When tens of thousands of “no money down”, “deferred interest”, and “negative amortization” mortgages simultaneously imploded, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were diagnosed as terminal. Just as the government sponsored entities were set to self-destruct, Congress threw them a life line, exclaiming the importance of reestablishing real estate stability. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-343) targeted lenders and investors at the top of the credit crunch meltdown, declaring that “the nation’s economic turnaround hinges on a healthy housing market and affordable home ownership.” $700 billion was pumped into the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) to purchase distressed assets, especially mortgage-backed securities, and inject capital into banks.

Click to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) web site On July 30, 2008 – in preparation for the financial bailout – the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 created the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) by morphing the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), the Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB), and the GSE mission office at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In addition to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks fell under the regulatory and supervisory oversight of the new agency. As of June 2008, the combined debt and obligations of these GSEs totaled $6.6 trillion, exceeding the total publicly held debt of the United States by $1.3 trillion.

Former FHFA Director James B Lockhart III and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY HENRY PAULSON AND FORMER
FHFA DIRECTOR JAMES B LOCKHART III ANNOUNCE TAKEOVER
On September 8, 2008, investor fears were realized when former FHFA Director James B. Lockhart III and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced a comprehensive plan to take Fannie and Freddie under “conservatorship”, essentially placing the companies under temporary government control and giving the Treasury a right to pump as much as $100 billion into each company, as well as buy a 79.9% share of both Fannie and Freddie. After dumping the two GSEs’ tainted leadership, Lockhart installed Herbert M. Allison Jr. of the TIAA-CREF pension fund giant to run Fannie and David M. Moffett of U.S. Bancorp as Freddie’s CEO.

Click to the U.S. Department of Treasury web site On December 24, 2009, The U.S. Treasury Department uncapped the credit line given to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for three years, essentially guaranteeing the companies’ survival while eliminating uncertainty about continued government support. Having previously increased the Treasury’s credit commitment from $100 billion to $200 billion for both Fannie and Freddie, the Christmas Eve confidence boost couched an $810 billion holdings limit for 2010, to be annually reduced by 10%.

Acting FHFA Director Edward DeMarco
ACTING FHFA DIRECTOR
EDWARD DEMARCO
When Fannie Mae’s average stock price spent over 30 days last May below the $1.00 minimum share price required for listing by the New York Stock Exchange, the company announced its delisting on June 16, 2010. Despite having met the minimum requirements (by a whisker), Freddie Mac voluntarily joined its sister company in moving to the over the counter (OTC) market (AKA pink sheet trading). In a statement announcing the move, FHFA’s acting director Edward DeMarco said, “A voluntary delisting at this time simply makes sense and fits with the goal of a conservatorship to preserve and conserve assets.”

For the third quarter of 2010, Fannie Mae posted a net loss of $1.3 billion, which was significantly lower than $18.9 billion net loss it posted for the same period in 2009. It was the 13th consecutive quarterly loss for Fannie Mae, which requested another $2.5 billion capital infusion from the Federal Government. This pushed the total aid given to Fannie Mae up to $87.6 billion.

The government currently controls 79.9% of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with 80% being the threshold for placing them on the federal books and altering conservatorship into receivership - the final pit stop before the Happy Hunting Grounds. Fannie and Freddie currently own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages, or nearly 31 million home loans worth more than $5 trillion.

Over the next year, lawmakers plan to review the nation’s mortgage-lending apparatus and consider a potential replacement for Fannie and Freddie. The Administration will also reveal a vision for the two GSEs’ future in its FY 2011 budget proposal in February. In preparation for these prospective “alternative destinies”, on October 21, 2010 the Federal Housing Finance Agency released their cost projections for carrying the GSEs. The to-date rescue costs were calculated at $135 billion and the projected costs for an overall bailout range between $142 billion and $259 billion through 2013. The widely disparate bailout projections vary according to the sect of Voodoo practiced by the various banks where the conferring economists plan to live out their post-government consulting years. (Anyone who refutes this contention might benefit from reviewing the corporate history of Goldman Sachs.)

What GSEs Saved Now

Until Congress revises how the national mortgage-lending system is underwritten (don’t hold your breath), partnering with the FHA can provide Condominiums with a significant advantage. Associations that historically looked down their noses at FHA loans have been forced to reconsider by the economic tsunami. To increase exposure to qualified buyers, Condominiums are applying to become approved FHA/Fannie Mae eligible projects. By coughing up a few bucks for the application fees and paying for an attorney review letter, Condominiums can boost the pool of available buyers and facilitate unit sales. Enhancing the marketability of an association’s units consequently increases their value.

The terms are sensible. The FHA requires a minimum down payment of only 3.5% from prospective purchasers who are reasonably creditworthy. To diminish a loan’s potential for default, the FHA set affordability standards. FHA approval requires a borrower to earn 3 times the monthly mortgage and association assessment costs. As a rule, total housing costs may not exceed 31% of an applicant’s income.

New guidelines established by the FHA in 2009 require that participating condo projects be recertified and approved every two years. Lenders’ projects that received approval before October 1, 2008, were supposed to be recertified by December 7th. The FHA claimed that it currently provides mortgage insurance financing to more than 40,000 condominium projects, 25,000 of which require recertification.

In short, some FHA planning troll obliged the agency to simultaneously recertify 25,000 association approvals. To avoid the impending bureaucratic train wreck, the approval deadlines were extended in accordance with the dates that properties were originally approved for funding. In a letter to participants, the FHA admitted, “The extensions were granted to reduce the impact of processing and reviewing the number of project approvals expiring at the same time while recognizing current housing market conditions.” The new recertification deadlines are as follows:

  • Projects approved between 1972 and 1980 must be recertified by December 31st.

  • Projects approved between 1981 and 1985 must be recertified by December 31st.

  • Projects approved between 1986 and 1990 must be recertified by May 31, 2011.

  • Projects approved between 1991 and 1995 must be recertified by July 31, 2011.

  • Projects approved between 1996 and 2000 must be recertified by August 31, 2011.

  • Projects approved between 2001 and 2005 must be recertified by September 30, 2011.

  • Projects approved between 2006 and September of 2008 must be recertified by March 31, 2011.

Notwithstanding ethereal Congressional intentions for Fannie and Freddie, every Galt Mile Condominium Association should consider participating in this inexpensive source of new buyers. As expressed by a conservative Oakland Park realtor who lives on the Galt Mile, “Every competitive bidder ups a unit’s selling price by 10%.” Move it – time is money.

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