The historical content of the Galt Mile Community Association’s Web Site is catalogued and chronicled in these archives. This content is comprised of articles and anecdotes that are no longer current, but may be useful from a historical perspective.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.
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From The Desk of
Vice Mayor Christine Teel successfully completed her term as the voice of District 1 on Fort Lauderdale’s City Commission. Her representation of the District, in which the Galt Mile neighborhood is located, has been characterized by integrity, concern, diligence and constant communication with her constituents. Evidently, potential opponents realized the futility of challenging Ms. Teel for the seat she will continue to ably occupy. On January 13th, she emailed constituents this message. READ ON... - editor
January 14, 2006 - I am pleased to announce on January 10, 2006, I was re-elected without opposition to serve as your District 1 Commissioner.
For the past three years I have been honored to represent you and am delighted to have the opportunity to again do so for another term.
|DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER|
With the support of many people from the seventeen District 1 Homeowner Associations, community activists, other elected officials, the City Manager and his dedicated and capable staff we were able to accomplish many initiatives during the past three years.
We have the Coral Ridge George English Park Community Building currently under construction with a completion date in May, Bayview Park is being extensively renovated, noise mitigation at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport has had positive result with continuing effort, the Galt Mile is receiving updating and restoration of their lighting and landscaping after severe damage from the hurricanes, and the Landings entryway on N. Federal Highway after extensive damage is slated for a total “new updated look”.
Imperial Point, Coral Ridge Isles, Knoll Ridge and Bermuda Riviera have worked on traffic calming issues, beautification and waterway problems with success. The City has committed to add a restroom facility to the Imperial Point Park, which has been a need since the park was added to the grounds of Imperial Point Hospital through a partnership agreement with the North Broward Hospital District.
Coral Shores has successfully completed a Vision Statement for their neighborhood in preparation for the upcoming Master Plan for the North Federal Highway corridor. Palm Aire Village, East and West, have been working on improvements to their areas. Attention to landscaping to the common areas was aided by the Citizens Volunteer Corps (CVC) assisting with a project along NW 21st Avenue. Palm Aire West is currently moving forward with a self-assessment project involving a perimeter wall surrounding their borders. This will definitely be a plus for traffic calming, security and beautification.
The City recently welcomed Twin Lakes North to District 1 due to their annexation from Broward County to Fort Lauderdale. This neighborhood of approximately 325 single-family homes is located west of Powerline Road, and south of Commercial Boulevard. They had a choice to join the City of Oakland Park or Fort Lauderdale. After careful consideration, the residents of Twin Lakes voted to become a part of Fort Lauderdale. I will be working closely with them to make them feel “at home” in our great City!
Our City’s financial difficulties in 2003 have greatly improved. Wall Street has recognized our efforts by upgrading our bond rating. Our reserve accounts have grown ahead of the established goals and the insurance deficits have been eliminated. We made substantial cuts in expenses, established strict rules of accountability and have enjoyed the positive results.
Efforts in public safety are now showing a positive trend with a substantial reduction in the crime rate. As always, public safety will continue to be in the forefront of our endeavors.
In closing, I want to thank you all for your cooperative and “can do” spirit. It is because of you my job has been such a pleasure. I always welcome your comments and suggestions and encourage you to be active in your neighborhoods. The neighborhood associations are where we are able to come together and make improvements to our quality of life.
Please feel free to contact me at City Hall by calling 954-828-5004 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Assistant City Manager
Kathleen A. Gunn
Addresses GMCA Advisory Board
January 24, 2006 - Assistant City Manager Kathleen A. Gunn, one of Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas’ secret weapons, addressed the January 19th meeting of the Galt Mile Community Association’s Advisory Board. Kathleen, who operates comfortably behind the scenes, is an integral part of a team that actualizes decisions made by the City Commission. Originally from Queens, New York, Kathleen accompanied Mr. Gretsas in his journey from White Plains, New York, where he served as the strong right arm of Mayor Joseph Delfino prior to his Fort Lauderdale recruitment. Aware that his challenge to help the Commission reclaim the City from the brink of fiscal disaster would be formidable, he decided to bring some insurance - former White Plains Business Improvement District Executive Director Kathleen Gunn. The Assistant City Manager addressed a variety of issues affecting Galt Mile residents.
|Assistant City Manager|
KATHLEEN A. GUNN
Since his taking the reins of the City Manager’s office in August 2004, Gretsas has seen his Assistant City Managers evolve into an effective triumvirate. While each one was assigned certain general of areas of responsibility, the distinctions were intentionally left fuzzy. Given how municipal departments impact one another, their loosely defined jurisdictions are conducive to the teamwork that makes them so effective. Kathleen Gunn, Stephen Scott and David Hébert share Gretsas’ vision for the City – a commitment to excellence. Ms. Gunn explained how the responsibilities are divided among Mr. Gretsas’ Assistant City Managers.
“Assistant City Manager Stephen Scott is in charge of Administrative Services,” said Gunn, “providing guidance for the City’s Human Resources and Information Technology Departments. He oversees the Finance Department.” Mr. Scott helped the City Commission steer the city’s budget through a process that recently resulted in Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s upgrading of the city’s bond rating. He also has the unenviable task of reorganizing the city’s Building Department.
David Hébert has had to change hats in tempo with the city’s needs. As head of Fort Lauderdale’s Public Information Office, Hébert kept the public apprised of the City Commission’s efforts to return the city to fiscal respectability. Communicating the Commission’s strategy and the City Manager’s progress helped garner public support for the painful steps necessary for Fort Lauderdale’s recovery. Like Gretsas, Hébert appears at every noteworthy municipal event. In the wake of catastrophic hurricanes, he helped distribute supplies to residents. Following accidents – construction, Police or Fire-Rescue – Hébert was on hand to develop a rapid, effective city response. Ms. Gunn also described his guiding of the NEAT (Neighborhood Enhancement Action Team) program to a successful outcome. She said the program was “designed to encourage residents to report illegal dumping, remove illegally parked or abandoned vehicles and keep the community free of code violations. The program’s focused police activity, tree and paint giveaways and code enforcement efforts helped curb crime and bring code violators into compliance.” A former advisor to the Westchester County District Attorney in New York, Hébert also served as a liaison between the City Manager’s office and Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Bruce Roberts. As such, his status as the link between the Police and Fire-Rescue Departments and the City Manager was a natural.
|FORT LAUDERDALE CITY COMMISSION||
Kathleen Gunn’s venue includes Parks and Recreation, Business and Economic Development. While Kathleen characterizes the management team as effective, she isn’t - and doesn’t plan on ever being - satisfied. “We are always looking for ways to improve life for Fort Lauderdale’s residents.” At the meeting’s outset, she described the city’s progress in rehabilitating A1A and Galt Ocean Drive from the devastation caused by Hurricane Wilma. Evidently, the Department of Public Works filled two warehouses with electrical supplies to replace components lost to the storm. They are now empty. There is a two month backlog in accessing the equipment needed to repair the neighborhood’s decimated lighting. The downed decorative street lamps along Galt Ocean Drive are even more difficult to replace than the City’s standard street lighting. Having lost 30% of its tree canopy to the storm, shredded landscaping presented the City with another nightmare. The good news is that the Parks Department is prepared to commence fulfilling a promise to upgrade the Galt Mile’s landscaping made by Urban Forester Gene Dempsey last June.
|KATHLEEN GUNN - FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE|
WHITE PLAINS DOWNTOWN BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT
Ms. Gunn told Advisory Board members, “Parks Department Director Phil Thornburg is prepared to move ahead with replacing the Galt Mile’s landscaping.” Mr. Thornburg explained in a January 17th email to GMCA President Robert Rozema that the Galt landscaping project was imminent. Thornburg said, “The contract for the removal of the root ball and the installation of the new trees will be out to bid this week. My guess is that by the time we get our work done and the contract is awarded and started, we are looking at the end of February or first of March.” Director Thornburg continued, “We have over 300 total trees that will be installed and the contract is not going to be cheap. We have found the money to do this and are moving forward. I appreciate your patience on this, but I assure you, the project is coming soon.” Kathleen Gunn said they would avoid planting trees that weren’t appropriate for their Galt Mile locations such as Ficus and Black Olive.
|GALT MILE LANDSCAPING PROJECT START IMMINENT|
City crews recently cut the trees marked for removal to a height of 4 feet. Mr. Thornburg explained that the trees were left at this height to more easily extract and replace them. The trees, however, have sizable root balls that have become intertwined with power lines and water conduit running beneath Galt Mile sidewalks. After Wilma, Associations involved in the emergency removal of downed trees were compelled to gingerly remove the remnant root balls. Several landscape architects had recommended poisoning the root balls, inducing a natural shrinkage prior to their removal. They admonished that this be done carefully to avoid creating a permanent brown space. Otherwise the root balls must be surgically removed to avoid unintentionally blacking out an Association or cutting its water line.
|BROWARD MAYOR BEN GRABER|
Ms. Gunn touched on a problem discovered during the city’s response to Wilma. City officials met in the Emergency Operations Center to administer the City’s response and recovery to the effects of the storm. Obviously absent was a designated Emergency coordinator responsible for the entire area. Broward County operates the traffic light system throughout the City. There are a variety of Fire and Police Departments throughout Broward that would benefit from better coordination when forced to work together during area-wide emergencies. Additionally, Broward’s 31 municipalities compete for the County’s limited resources. With the departure of former Broward Administrator Roger Desjerlais, with whom Gretsas enjoyed a good working relationship, it became critical for the City to foment a new understanding with the County. The City is currently working with New Broward Mayor Ben Graber and Interim County Administrator Bertha Henry to that end.
|Broward Interim Administrator|
Presidents Council Chair Pio Ieraci exclaimed that he had noticed an increase in crime in the upscale Rio Vista neighborhood (vehicle and home invasions), for which he attributed possible responsibility to a manpower shortage. Kathleen explained that the Safir Rosetti Staffing Study of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, an authoritative evaluation of the city’s law enforcement capabilities, indicated that administrative deficiencies precluded the Department from realizing its potential. In fact, the study reports, “According to analysis of 2003 and 2004 for a comparable population group, there is not a definitive correlation between the number of officers deployed per 10,000 residents and crime reduction.” It observes that, “When compared to a comparable population group of cities, Fort Lauderdale in 2004 was the highest in authorized force and spending per 10,000 residents and among the lowest in Calls for Service handled per Police Officer. Authorized staffing levels are not the driving factor of the recent crime increase in Fort Lauderdale. This recommendation is based on a belief that current authorized staffing levels, if effectively organized, managed, deployed and utilized, should be appropriate to fulfill the department’s mission.” In response, City Manager Gretsas appointed Mr. Hébert to serve as a liaison between his office and the Police Department. Police Chief Bruce Roberts has since delivered a decrease in the City’s overall crime rate. Kathleen also confirmed that Hébert continues active recruitment of Police and Fire personnel to bolster manpower.
|CHIEF OF POLICE|
BRUCE G ROBERTS
Fort Lauderdale’s economic development falls under Kathleen’s purview. Kathleen is working diligently to bring new businesses to Fort Lauderdale. She explained, “While the City stops short of paying businesses to relocate here, we’ve created a process that eliminates the irritating bureaucratic roadblocks that ordinarily plague companies doing business in a new city.” Assistant City Manager Gunn continued, “While we welcome any new business, we are targeting mid-sized businesses.” By way of example, she mentioned Kaplan Univeristy Online Education. This nationally acclaimed educational service and testing preparation business is well known to many students and their parents. “They are bringing 600 jobs to Cypress Creek (6301 Kaplan University Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309), with another 600 in the future,” exclaimed Gunn. “Mid-size businesses lessen the city’s dependency on any individual institution for the stability of its tax base.”
Partnering with Economic Development’s Ronald Hicks – formerly of New York’s Empire State Development Corporation – she emphasizes the accessibility of domestic and international markets, a favorable tax structure, the availability of business assistance and prime office space, and help obtaining housing. While these bottom line factors impact relocation decisions, she added that, “Senior management is often sold by the quality of life benefits afforded by Fort Lauderdale.” Kathleen tells relocating business prospects about Fort Lauderdale’s consistently beautiful weather; access to convenient air and ground transportation; the world famous beach; Florida Atlantic University; enterprise zones and the availability of a highly trained, well-educated, diverse work force. She characterizes Fort Lauderdale’s fiscal recovery as a major enticement. She said, “Increasing the City’s fund balance from $875,000 to $20 million and eliminating a $21 million insurance deficit over the past few years underscores the City’s credibility as a stable base of operations.”
Pio Ieraci also voiced concern over the chilling effect that skyrocketing tax bills for non-homesteaded properties would have on future growth. Kathleen responded that the city represents a fraction of the overall millage rate. Broward County, the School Board, the Hospital District and the South Florida Water Management District all contribute to the property tax rate. She also indicated that for many years, the city manipulated its budget to artificially depress tax rates. As stated by former acting City Manager Alan Silva, the city was “paying for last year’s expenses with next year’s receipts.” When the economy soured, the city’s budget hit a wall and came crashing down like a house of cards. The substantial increases instituted during the past few years brought tax receipts into balance with real expenses. The astronomical increase in property values has contributed to the disproportionate burden shouldered by non-homesteaded and newly purchased properties. She said, “While the city supports portability for ‘Save our Homes’ protection of newly purchased homesteaded properties, only the legislature can reallocate tax burdens.”
|GMCA PRESIDENTS COUNCIL|
CHAIR PIO IERACI
Pio Ieraci opined that one way to spread the pain was through incremental growth. Regency Tower President Dott Nicholson-Brown asserted that Tallahassee was also responsible for higher property taxes. She said, “Despite recent tax windfalls enjoyed by the State, South Florida has been regularly shortchanged by the Florida legislature in several areas – including healthcare and education.” GMCA Secretary Eric Berkowitz agreed, adding, “Previously powerful South Florida legislative coalitions that historically succeeded in securing South Florida’s fair share of State funds are no longer viable. As such, the north and central Florida controlled legislature consistently deprives South Florida of equitable distribution of resources, particularly educational funds.”
|REGENCY TOWER PRESIDENT|
Ms. Gunn fielded questions about the City’s beleaguered Building Department. She credited new Building Department Chief Valerie Bohlander with starting to improve the department’s cloudy reputation as unremittingly inefficient and unresponsive. She said, “The Building Department is considering a priority service for emergencies and/or construction projects dogged by inflexible deadlines. For a modest premium, applications would be expedited through the process.” Advisory Board members unanimously agreed that they wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of an express permitting program. Eliminating frustrating permit delays is well worth a modest premium. In response to a general request by the Advisory Board, Ms. Gunn promised to alert us as soon as this priority service becomes available.
ERIC PETER BERKOWITZ
Ms. Gunn was unusually well informed about our local problems and receptive to recommendations made by Advisory Board members. While comporting a low-key demeanor throughout the meeting, she exhibited an encyclopedic recall of relevant municipal events as well as State and County issues. Kathleen A. Gunn’s office is located at 100 Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. To contact the Assistant City Manager, call (954) 828-5022 or send emails to email@example.com. The meeting clarified why Mr. Gretsas decided against leaving New York without Kathleen Gunn. Our City Commission is fortunate to count her among the City’s assets
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Galt Mile Traffic Initiative
F.L.P.D. Cuts Noise... and Danger
February 6, 2006 - From where the southern exit of Galt Ocean Drive spills into A1A (North Ocean Boulevard) to the intersection of A1A and Oakland Park Boulevard is an infamous patch of road that seems to spontaneously generate traffic accidents. The stretch is also the unofficial last leg of a motorcycle race track that seems to start just north of McDonalds. Drivers heading south on A1A also regularly ignore the traffic light at the Galt Ocean Drive exit juncture. While the participants in this deadly game of vehicular pinball endanger anyone accompanying them on the road, their activities have also reached into the homes within earshot.
|VICE MAYOR CHRISTINE TEEL|
On April 7, 2005, District 1 City Commissioner Christine Teel convened a meeting at the Beach Community Center to address a blizzard of complaints about the A1A vehicular demilitarized zone and the adherent noise pollution. To help devise an effective strategy, she brought municipal heavy artillery – City Manager George Gretsas and Chief of Police Bruce G. Roberts. In response to waves of citizens’ complaints, the meeting concluded with a promise by Chief Roberts to develop a “Traffic Enforcement Action Plan” aimed at curbing the described abuses. On May 23rd, Police Media Relations Coordinator Sgt. Andy Pallen issued a press release illuminating the public about the plan’s progress.
|FORT LAUDERDALE CHIEF OF|
POLICE BRUCE G. ROBERTS
Following some public relations fluff, Sgt. Pallen explained the plan’s rationale. “This action plan was devised in response to numerous citizen complaints concerning unlawful driving practices. There has been a noticeable increase in this activity and local residents and vehicular traffic has been negatively affected. The goal of this high visibility enforcement was to aid in the reduction of crime, reduce unlawful speeding, reduce excessive noise created by unlawful equipment installed on vehicles, educate offenders who are committing violations and to improve the quality of life for residents.” In describing the plan’s functional details, Pallen said, “Over this three-day time frame (May 20 - 22), a total of four locations were addressed, with three separate operations being conducted simultaneously. The four locations affected during this initial operation were the 2700 block of North Federal Highway, A1A at SE 5th Street, 3700 block of North A1A, and Federal Highway at Broward Blvd.”
Some 25 participating Officers and 6 Police Service Aides issued hundreds of citations, made 16 arrests and seized two vehicles. They even bagged 60 grams of cannabis and 10 rocks of crack cocaine. However, the key to the plan’s fruition would be education and repetition. Acknowledging this, Pallen said, “Due to the success of this operation, similar action plans are pending.”
|POLICE PLAN GALT TARGET AREA - THE 3700 BLOCK OF A1A|
On January 26, 2006, Major Mary Negrey of Police District 1 summarized for Chief Roberts the scope and results of his “Traffic Enforcement Action Plan” and the war on motorcycle noise. To edify concerned Galt Mile residents, Vice Mayor Christine Teel released the Major’s description of steps taken by the Department subsequent to last May’s report along with this quote from the Police Department, “We are looking for any and all methods of resolving the problem. We will be working on the situation and Capt. Jan Jordan from our evening shift is our lead contact person.” This is Major Negrey’s transmittal to Police Chief Bruce Roberts:
|MAJOR MARY NEGREY|
“Since April 2005 when we met with citizens at a meeting at Galt Ocean Mile we have worked to address complaints regarding motorcycle noise in a variety of ways. The following actions have been taken to date:
- Contacted Harley Davidson of Fort Lauderdale on N. Federal Hwy. to gain compliance regarding concerns from neighbors regarding noise
- Contact Ale House Management in May 2005 regarding their weekend “bike” events. Successfully ended these events.
- Conducted large scale multi-location traffic operations to target illegal driving behavior. Locations included Galt Ocean Mile, S. A1A and SE 5th Street, 2700 Block N. Federal Hwy and 1200 N. A1A.
- April 8 – 14 citations
- April 9 – 15 citations
- May 10 – 25 citations
- May 6 – 148 citations
- May 20, 21, 22 – 629 citations (3 locations each day)
- June 18 – 42 citations
- June 19 – 71 citations
- July 30, 31 - 182
- Shift 1 (April through June) – 152 citations
- Shift 2 (Mini – Action Plan Sept 22 – 28) – 45 citations
- Traffic Unit (April through June) – 25 citations
- August, Oct and Nov specific plans cancelled due to Hurricanes
- Dec 18, 19 – 11 citations
- Shift 2/3 Overlap Action Plan 2pm-4pm (Jan 8, 14, 21, 22) – 2 citations, 4 MI’s
Total Citations - 1361
(Note: Most of these citations were to vehicles for various violations, including loud mufflers, stereos, equipment violations, speeding, etc. Approximately 220 were for various motorcycle violations.)
Researched and published to patrol officers information regarding motorcycle mufflers as well as FSS applicable to the problem. (including noise of all kinds).
Researched various other cities experiencing similar problems. Recommended ordinances that will provide additional enforcement tools to officers.
Contacted every complainant when received
CONCLUSION: FLPD is committed to providing enforcement efforts to address these citizen complaints. Enforcement has proved difficult as there are no specific noise violations related to this complaint. FSS traffic citations are written whenever possible.
The City Prosecutor related that use of a noise meter doesn’t apply to moving vehicles.
Officers must determine if a motorcycle has stock verses after market mufflers before they can write a citation specifically for that violation. They look for baffles and if found, determine that the motorcycle has legal mufflers. Few motorcycles have been found with no pipes or ‘straight’ pipes without some kind of baffles as required.”
So far, Chief Roberts made good on his commitment to the community. The continuous pressure applied by FLPD to deter motorists from piloting noise-challenged vehicles on A1A along the Galt Mile has provided auditory relief to the area. While noise complaints are down, it’s frustratingly difficult to measure the bottom line success of the Chief’s efforts. Hopefully, the strip will develop a lasting reputation as an intimidating traffic checkpoint, discouraging future abuse. This will only happen if the effort is sustained. Drivers who’ve become comfortable with speeding down A1A as a result of never having been challenged must now “unlearn” this dangerous and illegal behavior. It took years for the strip to evolve into a “free zone” for speeders. Hopefully, it won’t take as long for it to revert back to a safe – and quieter – thoroughfare.
|THE DRIVERS' BERMUDA TRIANGLE ON A1A - GALT DISASTER AREA|
Unfortunately, the tools ordinarily used by the City to legally moderate decibel levels are unavailable for use against vehicular noise pollution. As such, officers assume the unenviable responsibility of relying on their subjective judgment when targeting offending vehicles. Major Negrey also implies that police enforcement ordinances are insufficient to squarely impact the problem. Her investigation into how other municipalities negotiate noise polluters elicited a recommendation that the City Commission “provide additional enforcement tools to officers.” Not a bad idea. Kudos to Police Chief Bruce Roberts, City Manager George Gretsas, Vice Mayor Christine Teel and Major Mary Negrey, not only for cutting the neighborhood decibel level and deterring drag racing along A1A, but for keeping their promises.
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Assistant Police Chief Stephen Robitaille
February 21, 2006 - The Galt Mile Community Association hosted two of FLPD’s finest at their February 16th Advisory Board meeting. Assistant Chief of Police Stephen Robitaille of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department was accompanied by Major Mary Negrey of the Galt Mile’s Police District 1. They gave members a “State of the Department” overview, touching on issues that affect the Force, the Galt Mile neighborhood and the City of Fort Lauderdale. Chief Robitaille reviewed post-budget crisis Department history, outlined recent root organizational changes and, along with Major Negrey, addressed efforts to curb Galt area crime.
|ASSISTANT CHIEF OF POLICE|
Assistant Chief of Police Stephen Robitaille has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in law enforcement. The 24-year FLPD veteran earned Associates and Bachelors Degrees from Florida Atlantic University and the State University of New York at Farmingdale. After joining Fort Lauderdale’s Police Force on April 4, 1982, he was promoted to Sergeant on January 20, 1991. 9 years later, he achieved promotion to Captain on March 5, 2000. On October 24, 2004, he was promoted to Major, assuming full responsibility for Police District III. When Assistant Chief Al Ortenzo retired last year, Chief Bruce Roberts selected Robitaille to head the critical Operations Bureau. As the Chief’s right arm, he is responsible for all uniformed police services in the three police districts, the Community Support Division and the Operations Support Division. His jurisdiction includes SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), the Crisis Negotiations Team, Community Policing, the K-9 (Canine) Unit, the Motorcycle Squad, Bicycle Patrol, the Mounted Unit, the Bomb Squad, the Honor Guard, the Dive Team, Marine Patrol and Traffic Homicide. Personable and candid, the new Assistant Chief demonstrated a comprehensive grasp of complicated FLPD organizational strategies, the City’s political environment, staff temperament and Galt Mile issues. Inasmuch, Robitaille proved equally conversant with Fort Lauderdale’s street problems as with Departmental mechanics.
Like every City agency, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department was knocked for a loop by the Budget Boondoggle. While the Police and Fire-Rescue Departments side-stepped the staffing cuts mandated by City Hall a few years ago, they were forced to weather an employment freeze. To promote the City’s recovery, the Administration had to introduce severe austerity measures that caused employee morale to tank. While the City did secure the jobs of cops and firefighters, recruitment was put on hold and overall manpower ebbed. Personnel lost to attrition weren’t replaced. Cops nearing the back end of their careers opted for early retirement rather than endure the belt-tightening that proliferated after officials admitted to falling asleep at the switch. Every nickel of overtime pay was carefully scrutinized by interim City Manager Alan Silva and the suddenly spending-conscious City Commission. New recruits and disenchanted vets sought employment in neighboring municipalities. Were it not for an emergency Code Fine Amnesty Program having raised $1.3 million at the eleventh hour, the City’s Public Service Aides program would have been abandoned. Staffing levels were dangerously low.
|FORMER INTERIM CITY|
MANAGER ALAN SILVA
The tough medicine worked. The stern fiscal therapy capped expenses while skyrocketing property values pumped a windfall into municipal tax coffers. Recent Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s rating upgrades for the City’s bonds have punctuated the success of a mercifully expedited two-year recovery plan. Chief Robitaille stated that City Manager George Gretsas allocated resources adequate to fund aggressive recruitment efforts once the budgetary clouds parted in 2005. He said, “The Department is participating in ‘Career Days’ held at military bases or sponsored by Universities. To get good candidates, an attractive package is being offered to potential officers.” Unfortunately, recruitment efforts have run into a snag. While attending a recent conference of Florida Police Chiefs, Robitaille was alerted to the stiff competition for “new blood”. In order to fill the Department’s 20 current vacancies, Fort Lauderdale will have to successfully compete with offers from Police Departments across the State.
Last year was tough on the Department. The Organization of American States (OAS) selected Fort Lauderdale to host their General Assembly. From December 2004 until the June 2005 event, security preparations for the prestigious International Forum stretched Departmental resources to their operational limits while recruitment and training temporarily took a back seat. The second half of the year brought 3 hurricanes and the tragic death of Officer Jose A. Diaz while conducting a felony traffic stop.
|PRESIDENT BUSH ADDRESSES OAS|
GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN BROWARD CENTER
Despite these difficulties, the year ended on a positive note. Responding to questions about the crime rate, Robitaille admitted that “Part I crimes (violent crimes including murder, rape, etc.) increased in the first six months of 2005.” Robitaille said, “Providing security for the OAS conference distracted the recovering Department’s focus from its primary mission.” In mid-year, however, the situation improved. The Assistant Chief said that during the first 3 months of the second half of 2005, “the increasing crime rate was finally checked. The full second half saw a 3% decrease in Part 1 crimes. Compared to the 2005 annualized crime rate, current 2006 statistics show a 5% decrease. In fact, compared to the first 6 months of 2005, the current rate represents a 10% decrease.” Chief Roberts and his senior staff had engineered a timely turnaround in FLPD’s battle for Fort Lauderdale’s streets.
|OFFICER JOSE A. DIAZ|
DIED IN THE LINE OF DUTY
While filling out the Force’s staffing requirements is critical for the Department’s future health, aside from improving general morale, it yields little immediate tangible benefit. The Assistant Chief explained, “During their first year, new recruits undergo intense training. They spend 16 weeks honing their skills at the Police Academy. Graduates then spend another 16 weeks gaining valuable experience under the guidance of an FTO (Field Training Officer).” While the minimum age for applicants is 19, Departmental screening procedures vastly favor candidates of at least 21 years of age. Almost 30% of the Force has seen only two years of service. Relying on a common sports analogy, Robitaille characterized 2005 as a rebuilding year. 30 new officers are currently enrolled in the Department’s rigorous training program. The young Department heralds a bright future.
Assistant Chief Robitaille credited management initiatives for the Department’s recent successes against the burgeoning crime rate. He outlined some of the operational improvements inherent in the Department’s new Action Plan. Robitaille said, “We created a ‘Tactical Impact Unit’ to better target current problems. As the crime environment changes, this flexible unit adjusts its focus, responding to new threats as they become imminent.” By closing the gap between the initial identification of a threat and the Department’s response, FLPD minimizes both the impact and the duration of crime trends. The Unit’s recent preoccupation has been with violent crimes. The Department has also instituted a new policy stressing better communications. “COMPSTAT meetings are convened on a weekly basis,” said Robitaille. These progress meetings keep every relevant Departmental entity up to speed. Increasing the frequency of these meetings also promotes improved accountability throughout the Department, precluding the unintentional loss of important data that could otherwise slip through the cracks.
Robitaille said, “FLPD includes 515 sworn officers and 200 to 300 civilian positions.” He exclaimed the Department’s Public Service Aides to be “an invaluable asset.” Working with three Crime Prevention Detectives, the PSAs perform a wide variety of tasks that would normally tie up several officers. The Galt Mile neighborhood has been a favorite target for vehicular invasions. PSAs regularly distribute local alerts in neighborhoods experiencing these types of mostly avoidable crimes. Robitaille commented, “By passing out material in shopping centers and speaking at Community Centers, Hospitals and Associations about simple measures like not leaving valuables or keys in the car, they not only abate the crime rate - but allow sworn officers to handle tasks for which they were uniquely trained.”
|CHIEF OF POLICE|
BRUCE G ROBERTS
Major Mary Negrey seconded Robitaille’s contention that Chief of Police Bruce G. Roberts’ recent improvements to the Department’s management strategy have been extremely effective. Her Police District 1 jurisdiction (which extends from Sunrise Boulevard north to the City limits) enjoys “the lowest rate of dangerous Part 1 crimes in the City.” She agreed with Robitaille that Galt Mile residents are predominantly victimized by avoidable crimes. She said, “Leaving a laptop computer, a purse or a cellular phone visibly unattended in a car is an open invitation to snatch it.” She categorized the type of crime often perpetrated in the Galt area as “Quality of Life” violations. According to Assistant Chief Robitaille, when the budget crunch thinned resources, enforcement against “Quality of Life” violations was neglected in favor of addressing more dangerous crimes.
|MAJOR MARY NEGREY|
Major Negrey addressed the Galt Mile’s seemingly entrenched Homeless population. She described Fort Lauderdale’s Homeless Outreach Program as one of the best – and most effective – in the Nation. Specially trained officers attempt to offer a spectrum of services to the City’s Homeless. The Major declared, “The Galt Mile’s popularity among its Homeless population stems primarily from the misdirected generosity of its residents.” Enigmatically, many Galt residents labor under the misconception that their donations to local Homeless people will encourage their “moving on”. In fact, it produces the opposite effect. Since Homeless people generally gravitate to more “lucrative” locations, local and national experience universally confirms that a neighborhood’s attraction to Homeless persons is directly proportional to the “generosity” of its residents and local merchants. The Major characterized the vast majority of Homeless as harmless, although she said that an “above average percentage of the Homeless population suffers from an assortment of mental health problems.”
The City recently undertook to discourage Homeless persons from staking out all the benches along the Galt Mile by moving some of them onto private Association property. The Major clarified, “While law enforcement is constrained from preventing anyone who wishes to sit on the public benches, trespassing on private property is an actionable offense.” However, the police require that a complaint be made against a trespasser prior to enforcing the law. At the suggestion of Major Negrey during a previous meeting, the Galt Mile Community Association secured signed affidavits from its member Associations, providing authorities with official complaints against anyone not authorized to occupy benches located on Association property. Her idea has been surprisingly effective. Elderly Galt residents initially intimidated by these uninvited visitors have again reclaimed many of the street’s benches – thanks to the Major.
Major Negrey also reviewed the latest results of Police Chief Bruce Roberts’ “Traffic Enforcement Action Plan”. Created after an April 2005 meeting at the Beach Community Center about unrestricted noise disturbance from motorcycles racing along A1A, the plan was designed to clamp down on dangerous driving as well. Since the Chief committed himself to transforming sections of A1A often used as an unofficial racetrack into a safe thoroughfare, Major Negrey’s troops have issued over 1,361 citations, seized several vehicles and made related arrests including a few drug busts – as of January 26th. She said, “We intend to continue enforcing the traffic plan.” Several members expressed appreciation for the Major’s proven dedication to the Galt Mile Community. Others voiced support for her sustained effort to discourage dangerous driving along A1A. Members agreed that if the dangerous stretch of A1A developed a reputation as a “traffic checkpoint” – a buzz word for speed trap – the neighborhood would realize a long-term safety benefit.
|POLICE PLAN GALT TARGET AREA - THE 3700 BLOCK OF A1A|
The Major explained that the sound measuring equipment ordinarily used to discourage noise pollution cannot be utilized for traffic noise. Since participating officers must exercise subjective judgment when evaluating a disturbance, these actions are difficult to prosecute. When appropriate, they alternatively cite equipment violations that are often the source of the noise. For instance, Motorcycles with no pipes (mufflers) or straight pipes receive equipment violations. While officers can occasionally check for baffles to confirm the acceptability of a muffler, Assistant Chief Stephen Robitaille acknowledged that some illegal after-market mufflers are so well disguised that it is almost impossible to distinguish them from their legal counterparts.
|NOISE METERS CANNOT BE USED|
TO MEASURE TRAFFIC NOISE
Members queried Major Negrey about the recent closing of the Fuddruckers Restaurant that served as an unofficial gathering site for motorcycle enthusiasts. With the restaurant's closing, area residents planned on enjoying relief from the intolerable noise disturbance that stigmatized the neighborhood at night. To preclude the establishment of another restaurant as a replacement motorcycle hot spot, Major Negrey rolled up her sleeves. The grapevine identified the Ale House as Fuddruckers’ heir. She had previously contacted Ale House Management in May of 2005 concerning their weekend “bike” events which she successfully terminated. Expecting to take advantage of their close proximity to Harley Davidson of Fort Lauderdale on N. Federal Highway, the Ale House planned on inheriting Fuddruckers’ uncommitted “biker business”. Mustering diplomatic skills for which she is largely unappreciated, the Major discouraged Ale House management from becoming the new “Noise Central”. To affix the final nail into the coffin of an undisputedly bad idea, she enlisted Harley Davidson of Fort Lauderdale’s cooperation as well.
Major Negrey reported to Chief Roberts that police enforcement ordinances are insufficient to squarely impact the problem. She took the initiative to investigate how neighboring municipalities contend with similar problems. Her research prompted her to suggest the passage of an anti-revving ordinance. We also support the passage of the regulatory tools she needs to change A1A’s current status as a vehicular demilitarized zone.
|GMCA PRESIDENTS COUNCIL|
CHAIR PIO IERACI
Last month, when asked by Presidents Council Chair Pio Ieraci if the Police Department’s diminished manpower was responsible for increasing the crime rate, Assistant City Manager Kathleen Gunn referred him to the Safir Rosetti Report. Commissioned by the City to investigate this issue in early 2005, the report states, “When compared to a comparable population group of cities, Fort Lauderdale in 2004 was the highest in authorized force and spending per 10,000 residents and among the lowest in Calls for Service handled per Police Officer. Authorized staffing levels are not the driving factor of the recent crime increase in Fort Lauderdale. This recommendation is based on a belief that current authorized staffing levels, if effectively organized, managed, deployed and utilized, should be appropriate to fulfill the department’s mission.” The report recommends regular COMPSTAT meetings as part of an administrative reorganization that imbues all levels of the Department with full accountability. It also recommends the formation of a special unit designed to quickly respond to changing crime patterns.
|Asst City Manager|
The strategic Departmental improvements described by Assistant Chief of Police Stephen Robitaille and Major Mary Negrey appear consistent with those recommended in the Safir Study. Evidently, the management recommendations made in the report were effectively implemented by Chief Roberts’ office. Thanks to the intelligent teamwork displayed by Chief of Police Bruce G. Roberts and City Manager George Gretsas, every City resident will reap the benefits of a more effective Police Department. It is particularly commendable that they accomplished this impressive achievement by using their heads, not our tax dollars!
Assistant Chief of Police Stephen Robitaille’s office is located in the Operations Bureau at 1300 West Broward Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale 33312. To contact the Assistant Chief, call (954) 828-5589 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To visit the Assistant Chief’s FLPD web page, Click Here. To visit Major Mary Negrey’s FLPD web page, Click Here. To contact Major Negrey, call (954) 828-5479 or email her at email@example.com. To contact Chief of Police Bruce G. Roberts, call (954) 828-5590 or Click Here to email his office. To view the Chief’s FLPD web page, Click Here. If you are interested in reviewing the Safir Rosetti Study, commissioned to help City officials improve services, Click Here.
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Lights... Action... George
City Manager George Gretsas Recounts Year
March 27, 2006 - Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas has a reputation for building success into his plans. Peers, co-workers, underlings and those to whom he answers universally connect George with some permutation of the word, “organization”. On March 16th, he gave the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board a taste of the world according to George. Generally, when some official relevant to our neighborhood achieving its goals or resolving its problems is invited to address the Association’s Advisory Board, they perform enough basic research to answer anticipated questions or contribute to the forward progress of some dogmatic issue. Instead of passively answering questions about the City’s challenges or the neighborhood’s problems, City Manager Gretsas obviated the need to ask!
Before anyone had an opportunity to inquire about recent highly publicized incidents or how he intended to improve some poorly functioning arm of city government, he commenced arranging furniture and setting up equipment. Once introduced by GMCA President Robert Rozema, and with the assistance of a crew evidently familiar with George's management style, he deftly installed a projector and a screen between the soup and salad courses of the luncheon meeting. He then proceeded to narrate a comprehensive audio-visual presentation of the city’s progress from the time he arrived through March 16, 2006. Using cartoons, movie clips from Platoon, Airplane and Star Wars, newspaper article screens, radio recordings and familiar commercials tailored to support the presentation, George transformed the normally inquisitive Advisory Board into a speechless curious audience.
The show started with a summary of the problems confronting the city when he arrived, the management challenges he faced and what he determined to be his key objectives. He reminded us that, commensurate with its budget boondoggle, “the city had negligible reserves, a $21 million insurance deficit, festering labor disputes, a building department drowning in chaos, ineffective service delivery on multiple levels and rock-bottom employee morale.” Residents were angry about service cuts and tax increases. Employees were angry about forced furloughs, personnel and pay freezes, layoffs and job reassignments. City officials were also angry that the fiscal house of cards collapsed on their watch. He diagnosed the City as afflicted with “unclear priorities, lack of focus, absence of harmony, quality control issues and perpetually low employee morale.” George’s prescription: “accountability, coordination, organization.”
Although this sounds suspiciously like empty political rhetoric, it accurately summarized the underlying causes for the city’s wretched condition and ultimately proved to lead to a cure. Municipal Departments in Fort Lauderdale were essentially little fiefdoms, each one organized according to the capabilities and priorities of its top spot’s supposedly temporary occupant. Since departmental goals and objectives shifted with the political wind, it was impossible to determine the success or failure of department heads. Ineptitude was rewarded with longevity. Short of being pictured in the Sun-Sentinel with one’s arms in the till up to the elbows, mid-level management positions carried the tenure of Supreme Court Justices. Conversely, the absence of definitive goals dispensed with the need for incentives normally used to reward success. A merit-based system that encourages achievement requires a functional table of organization and full accountability. To change the way the city did business, George had to attack three problems simultaneously.
Before he could apply his formula for success, he had to enlist the support of an army of skeptical city employees. When the city’s fiscal picture soured, the angriest employees took off. Those remaining, while bitter, were more conciliatory, loyal and ready to listen to George’s prognostication of a rosy recovery after swallowing some nasty medicine. In addition to being tough and fair, his management team would also be supportive and nurturing, providing counseling as well as direction.
He inserted himself as quarterback in a new table of organization that accounted for and categorized everyone in the city of Fort Lauderdale, including the city’s residents. His comprehensive reorganization unambiguously demonstrated to whom every city employee owed accountability - topped off with the City Commission answering to the people of the City of Fort Lauderdale. His performance-based management strategy put an end to personnel retaining their positions until they shed their mortal coils. He precluded “rewarding inertia with longevity by installing a merit-based pay system, requiring management personnel to establish definitive goals and objectives and giving them two-year contracts, enough time to ascertain if they met those goals.”
Addressing the city’s fiscal conundrum was the third ball that George had to juggle. This required major surgery. Had Fort Lauderdale adhered to the national standard for a healthy reserve, 5% to 15% of the expense budget, they would have socked away $10 million to $30 million in 2003. Instead, all the city could muster was a paltry $875,000 as reserves. In the words of W. C. Fields, “a mere bag of shells.” George’s answer? Spending controls. He put the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to work. Capitol expenses excessive of $1000 required their approval. Before allowing department heads to open the city’s checkbook, they had to demonstrate overtime savings and/or other offsets to OMB. Monthly trend analyses showed who was running a tight ship and who was snoozing. Vacant positions were carefully reviewed by a committee comprised for that purpose, the Thaw Committee, before being filled.
Gretsas determined that “a reasonable target for the City’s reserves would be 7%... minimum.” He also established criteria governing the use of reserve resources, such as “their unavailability for use when addressing recurrent expenses.” Gretsas anticipated achieving this goal by 2007. The $875,000 in 2003 grew to $9.3 million in 2004 (just under 5%) and $30 million in 2005. Bingo - and two years ahead of schedule. The $21 million insurance deficit of 2003 shrank to $13 million in 2004, zero in 2005 and rounded out to a healthy $4 million fully reserved surplus in 2006. In response to Fort Lauderdale’s bathing in the light of fiscal integrity, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s ratings for the city’s general obligation bonds turned from negative to positive in 2005.
Gretsas confirmed recent improvements to the Police Department addressed last month by Assistant Chief Stephen Robitaille and in January by Assistant City Manager Kathleen Gunn. Bucking the controversy that ordinarily accompanies trying to change entrenched behaviors, Gretsas ordered a professional analysis of the Police Department’s strengths and weaknesses. The Safir-Rosetti study debunked assertions that the city’s rising crime rate resulted from management interference, manpower shortages or poor employee morale. Instead, the study identified several administrative and management deficiencies as the culprit. When the study’s recommendations were instituted, the crime rate dropped. Assistant Chief Robitaille credited “the department’s weekly COMPSTAT meetings and the implementation of a Tactical Impact Unit (to better focus on current crime trends) for the improved crime stats.” The department is actively filling vacancies while benefiting from better supervision. Since Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Bruce Roberts instituted the new Action Plan last August, crime has plunged and even skeptical department officials have conceded successful results.
|ASSISTANT CHIEF OF POLICE|
The clouds over the city’s Building Department are also parting. They moved into their new headquarters, with a new “One-Stop Shop”. Building Department Director Valerie Bohlander is overseeing the implementation of a new Improvement Plan. Gretsas also explained that “A new plan for expedited review will allow applicants, for a modest premium, to short circuit the current permit process. The plan was considered by the City Commission at their March 7th Conference Meeting.” Participants would have their plans approved within 5 days. Although they weren't the lowest bidder, CSA Southeast, Inc (MBE), a Miami Lakes engineering firm, won the contract to provide “building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, landscaping, zoning and engineering services.” Director Valerie Bohlander said “that five units or less would immediately go into the process.” For larger projects, services for engineering, zoning or landscaping would remain in-house and all preliminary plan review – Design & Review, Planning & Zoning, and Commission approvals – would be obtained prior to moving forward.
The double-edged development sword has been honed. While holding developers’ feet to the fire when it comes to standards and compliance, the city removed bureaucratic nuisance requirements that hamper beneficial construction and harass legitimate developers. Gretsas expanded, “A coordinated review process assists developers to avoid unnecessary entanglement in red tape. In turn, the city is holding developers accountable and demanding better architecture.” This holistic approach stresses attention to Design and Streetscape standards. He continued, “Strong support for the construction of “Workforce Housing” has added 3000 affordable units to Fort Lauderdale’s downtown area.”
|NEW BUILDING SERVICES CENTER|
New sources of income and savings from selective outsourcing have contributed to replenishing the city’s coffers. The City Manager explained, “By turning over sanitation responsibilities to Waste Management, the city saves $900,000 annually.” Centralizing the city’s Grants operation also protected the bottom line. The City Manager described his plan to bring new business to Fort Lauderdale. As explained by Kathleen Gunn a few months back, officials “are concentrating on attracting mid-sized businesses to the city. This strategy will avoid a dangerous dependency on a single large enterprise while adding substantially to the city’s tax base.”
Longstanding contract problems that plagued the city have finally been squelched. Agreements have been reached with Police, Fire-Rescue, Captains, Teamsters and Management without having given away the store. Mr. Gretsas enumerated some of the contract terms, “New hires are not given automatic longevity. The three-year pact includes no raise in the first year, 2+1 second year and a 3% cherry in the third year.”
The city’s claim to have become adequately responsive to the needs of its residents was tested by the hurricane onslaught. Jeanne, Frances, Katrina and Rita provided the wake-up call that sent officials scurrying to better prepare Fort Lauderdale for more destructive future disasters. Wilma, however, offered a crash course in disaster response while testing the city’s new hurricane plan. For the first time in 50 years, a majority of residents lost electricity, water, access to fuel, telephone service and cable TV. Cops replaced traffic lights while trying to mollify looting and theft. Somehow, the city managed to stay afloat for the few days it took to repair damage to the water system and turn on the juice to emergency priority locations. The City Manager was judged mostly by how the city handled these and other “quality of life” threats presented by the storm. With the juice, water and public services back to normal, homeowners have since faced enormous recovery and repair costs. So has the City.
After fighting tooth and nail to relieve the City’s financial pressure, the City Manager was facing another unexpected obligation. He rolled up his sleeves. “The $63 million that Wilma cost the city was whittled to $5 - $8 million after FEMA reimbursement.” However, it also cost $14 million to remove the record 800,000 cubic yards of debris that the city was swimming in. City officials had to investigate the integrity of the 483 structures severely damaged by Wilma and, when possible, assist in returning them to habitability. A tree giveaway program was implemented to help offset Wilma’s devastation of 30% of the city’s tree canopy. Proud of the City’s efforts, Gretsas added, “We also distributed 40,000 gallons of water and 35,000 bags of ice during the critical 72-hour emergency window.” The city also instituted a Disaster Recovery Center at 300 NW 1st Avenue (at the Building Department’s former One-Stop-Shop) to expedite recovery assistance to hurricane victims.
|Debris in MILL POND PARK|
AKA - WILMA CITY
When the City Commission instituted their City Manager search after ascribing blame for the city’s financial plight to the former occupant of the office, the professional headhunters gave Gretsas low marks as a candidate. George Gretsas has effectively assisted the Mayor and the City Commission in returning Fort Lauderdale to its feet. His prescription of accountability, organization and coordination has proven prophetic. The City Commission deserves credit for ignoring professional advice and going with their gut.
|ASST CITY MANAGER|
While the City Commission was willing to gamble on Gretsas, he was not willing to gamble on the outcome of his efforts. Upon evaluating the city’s needs and committing to the Olympic-size reorganization required for the city’s recovery, Gretsas opted to buy some “insurance”. Having imported a contingent of trusted talent from New York, he appointed David Hébert as the City’s Public Information Officer (later as liaison to the Police Department and Assistant City Manager) and Kathleen Gunn as Assistant City Manager. Gretsas has since fleshed out the competent organizational nucleus he brought with him, creating a solid dependable management team.
|ASST CITY MANAGER|
During the past year, the Advisory Board was afforded the opportunity to meet various “components” of the City Manager’s management machine. They have proven themselves to be competent, concerned and well informed about the respective problems facing the city’s different neighborhoods. Similar meetings with Mayor Naugle and fellow commission member Vice Mayor Christine Teel, as well as Police and Parks officials have served to reinforce our assessment of the new management team.
Having finally been approved at the March 7th City Commission Regular Meeting, Gretsas exclaimed that “The Galt Mile’s new trees were ready for planting.” The Commission authorized the purchase of trees costing $87,276 from the Atria Landscape Development Corporation in Pembroke Pines, the lowest of eight bidders. The contract includes the removal of tree trunks and rootballs for $28,080, the planting of 80 Myrcianthes Frangrans-Simpson Stoppers (in Sidewalk Cutouts) for $34,276 and 60 Clear Trunk Sabal Palmetto Sabal Palms for $11,400. He also explained that the city was finally able to acquire the parts needed to repair many of the block’s broken decorative street lamps.
As City Management resources attract little public attention (unless they fail miserably), most city residents are unaware of this valuable municipal asset. There is little doubt that the City Commission could not have achieved its stated goals for the City’s recovery two years ahead of schedule without George Gretsas’ contribution. Mayor Naugle and the City Commission are functioning in an environment conducive to realizing their vision for the city. Creating that environment ranked high among their expectations of Mr. Gretsas when they hired him. He did his job. Its now their turn. That portion of the City Manager’s time and attention heretofore preoccupied with the City’s recovery is now available for application to more productive pursuits. Now that the leak in the boat has been plugged, it will be interesting to find out just how fast it can really sail. Since we are along for the ride anyway, we’ll be watching!
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Commissioner Christine Teel on Galt Mile
Street Lights Landscaping Street Signs
April 22, 2006 - Hundreds of Galt residents have been scratching their heads every time they notice the block’s brownfield landscaping. As they walk the block at dusk, the blacked out street lamps seem to sneer at passers-by. The once unique special fixtures have become statuary. They blend seamlessly with the scraggly leafless stumps that were once trees. Perplexed residents, merchants and visitors have grown increasingly angry and frustrated. Seven months after Hurricane Wilma indiscriminately tore up huge sections of South Florida, Fort Lauderdale has recovered the vast majority of what was lost to the storm. Blown-out windows, doors and roofs have been replaced in City buildings. The streets are clear, traffic lights are working, landscaping is coming back and the city’s population is preparing for the upcoming hurricane season... except on Galt Ocean Drive.
The Galt Mile appeared to be caught in a time warp. Recovery progress seems to have ground to a halt about 5 months ago. The Galt Mile Community Association had repeatedly queried City officials about the City’s dilatory strategy. Traveling miles in any direction reveals well-lit, neatly landscaped thoroughfares. City Manager George Gretsas, Assistant City Manager Kathleen Gunn and Parks Department Chief Phil Thornburg had all offered bits and pieces of information with a plea for patience. Patience, however, is wearing thin. Aware of the neighborhood’s frustration with the City’s lack of progress, City Commissioner Christine Teel offered this update to the Galt Mile Community Association’s Advisory Board during their April 20th meeting.
|TURN THE LIGHTS ON!|
At the March 7th City Commission Regular Meeting, the Commission authorized the purchase of trees costing $87,276 from the Atria Landscape Development Corporation in Pembroke Pines, the lowest of eight bidders. The contract includes the removal of tree trunks and rootballs for $28,080, the planting of 80 Myrcianthes Frangrans – Simpson Stoppers (in Sidewalk Cutouts) for $34,276 and 60 Clear Trunk Sabal Palmetto Sabal Palms for $11,400.
On April 17th, Ricardo Lanati of the Atria Landscape Development Corp. notified Urban Forester Gene Dempsey about their progress on the Galt Mile. The message was quickly disseminated to information-hungry officials up and down the municipal food chain – reaching Parks Commissioner Phil Thornburg, Assistant Terry Rynard, City Manager George Gretsas, Assistant City Manager Kathleen Gunn and Commissioner Christine Teel. Mr. Lanati stated that Atria had “completed the 1st stage of the Galt Ocean Mile Project, by removing and stump grinding around 300 trees and Palm stumps and trunks.” The 244 Green Buttonwoods (reminiscent of the trees on the Addams Family front lawn) and 50 Coconut Palms had been cut to a height of 4 feet and carefully removed in stages to avoid damaging water and utility lines entangled in their rootballs. Lanati explained, “We have capped all of the irrigation lines that were broken, and we are coordinating with Mr. Cliff from the City of Fort Lauderdale for the reinstallation of the irrigation where possible.” The extensive root systems of the trees slated for removal also threaten damage to the sidewalks and the cover grates upon extraction. Lanati said, “There was no damage reported on the sidewalks or tree grates.”
|BEFORE - GREEN BUTTONWOODS IN FRONT OF|
Lanati described the 2nd stage of the project. “This week we are going to proceed on the repairs of the irrigation and the electric lines and by the middle of the week will start bringing the trees.” Lanati expects to plant the Myrcianthes Frangrans – Simpson Stoppers – on the east side of the block. Evidently, the number of trees required to adequately line the block was underestimated by about 25. If he cannot locate 25 additional Simpson Stoppers, Lanati offered to substitute Silver Buttonwoods (Conocarpus erectus sericeus) 6’ – 8’ standard, at the beginning and end of the block. 80 Silver Buttonwoods are also scheduled for planting on the west side of the street. Lanati said, “The Silvers will blend very well in the area, and with the Washingtonians, and Sabals, around the Publix* [sic* - Winn Dixie] parking. There is an existing group of Silvers, as well, in the area near L’Hermitage.”
|AFTER - STUMPED GREEN BUTTONWOODS - SOUTHPOINT|
Our street lights are plagued by three problems. Installed in 1995 as part of the $3.7 million, resident-financed Galt Mile Improvement Project, the decorative fixtures selected to aesthetically enhance Galt Ocean Drive are unique. Difficulty with replacing the fixtures and/or securing the parts for their repair surfaced as an unexpected consequence to their “exclusivity”. In contrast with the majority of \Fort Lauderdale’s off-the-shelf street lighting, the Galt Mile fixtures, or their parts, need to be special ordered.
|STUMPING MACHINE AND STUMPED COCONUT PALM|
The second problem was WILMA. The lighting equipment manufacturer that makes the lamps and their parts is utilized by municipalities throughout the region. Given the damage to fixtures incurred in hundreds of towns and cities across South Florida, the time ordinarily needed to order the equipment was substantially extended. When the equipment is received and installed, the lights will either work or they won’t. This is the third problem. Until the fixtures are made whole, there is no certain method of determining whether the problem was equipment-related and/or in the power lines, the connections, adaptors, etc. If the lamps fail to illuminate once repaired, the daunting task of checking every link in the buried power lines to the lamps will fall to FP&L.
Commissioner Teel delivered some encouraging news to the Advisory Board. She said, “The City’s Public Works Director reported to me the replacement parts for the lights on A1A north of Oakland Park Blvd have arrived.” These are the standard lamps found throughout the city. The Commissioner continued, “The more difficult to obtain parts for the custom lighting on Galt Ocean Drive are due in the week of 4/24/06.” Explaining the project’s plodding pace, she confirmed, “The major delay was caused by the manufacturer’s lack of inventory after Hurricane Wilma. Florida was not the only state attempting to restore the street lights thereby causing a long waiting period.” Advisory Board members let out a collective sigh of relief when Commissioner Teel stated, “Work will begin shortly on the installation of lighting on both roadways and should be completed in 6 – 8 weeks.” Galt Mile residents need only wander around in the dark for another two months.
|BULLET STREET LAMPS|
Of concern to drivers are the downed signs (stop, informational traffic, street names, etc) in the neighborhood. Broward County, responsible for their replacement, suffered the loss of 40,000 signs during the storm. According to Jihad El Eid P.E., Broward’s traffic engineering director, “An ordinary stop sign or street name sign can be punched out locally and put up the same day, but it’s a different story when you’re talking about replacing thousands of signs, many of which must be custom-made and sized with individual street names.” El Eid explained that the aluminum overhead signs on major highways can take up to 90 days to create. If the giant steel trusses that hold the signs must also be rebuilt, the delay is prolonged. Echoing the rationale for repair delays to Galt Mile’s singular street lights, El Eid exclaimed, “The process has dragged on longer than usual because Florida is competing with other Gulf Coast states that also lost hundreds of interstate signs.”
|ONE OF BROWARD'S 40,000 DOWNED SIGNS|
Broward officials hope to replace all of the 40,000 lost or damaged signs in three months. That will put us into June – and the 2006 hurricane season. However, missing or damaged signs on state roads and I-95 in Broward and Palm Beach counties should be restored by mid-May.
|CUSTOM SIGN FABRICATION|
Are the reasons given for six months without landscaping, street signs and street lamps addressable? Commissioner Teel clearly spelled out the issues and obstacles for the Advisory Board. The landscaping dilemma is rooted in inappropriate plant selections made without deference to environmental compatibility or respect for the targeted eco-niche. While local road agencies and the small businesses that service them can easily manage limited sign replacement, they can’t quickly respond to high-volume demands. Similarly, boutique lighting manufacturers that ordinarily fulfill custom orders within a few weeks are ill-equipped to respond to high-volume catastrophic damage.
|DAMAGED SIGN NEAR HOLY CROSS|
Hurricane Wilma reminded us that the business of recovering from statewide or regional catastrophes is highly competitive. Hopefully, the residual hardship and inconvenience suffered by Galt Mile residents was part of a learning curve. Planting saline and wind-resistant flora ecologically adapted to the local environment should help protect the new landscaping. Maintaining an ample supply of the parts required to repair our lamps doesn’t seem too difficult. The expense of filling a warehouse with an inventory of specialized lighting equipment is negligible and would also facilitate ordinary repairs. Mass sign fabrication presents a greater challenge. However, since most important locations, alerts and events are marked by several signs; the county could identify sites lacking such redundancy and simply store targeted replacements. Alternatively, they could resort to distributing maps, enhance the block with plastic plants and institute an “Adopt-a-Flashlight” program (bring you own batteries)!
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Commissioner Jim Scott
Broward County Update
May 22, 2006 - On May 18th, Broward County Commissioner Jim Scott addressed the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board. Accompanied by Administrative Aide Lisa Castillo, District 4 Commissioner Scott represents the Galt Mile community on the Broward Board of County Commissioners. Scott’s distinguished career is laced with links to Galt Mile History. Opening with a short trip down memory lane, Scott reminded veteran Advisory Board members about his having represented the newly constructed Ocean Club Condominium as a young attorney. Commissioner Scott is a practicing attorney and a founding partner of Tripp Scott Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale. Scott also recalled a warm relationship with Galt Mile legacies Nate Fragan and Earl Lifshey. Having attended a plethora of Advisory Board meetings wearing a wide variety of political hats, Scott has been instrumental in assisting the Galt Mile Community Association to achieve numerous neighborhood objectives.
A former President of the Florida Senate, Scott is the sole Republican on the Broward County Commission. Depending upon the nature of the issue confronting the Commission, his G.O.P. affiliation has proven to be both an asset and a liability. Historically recognized as a Democratic stronghold, Broward County has earned the Republican political designation of “the Killing Fields”. This ominous characterization derives from Broward’s reputation as an oft-lethal obstacle to the career objectives of ill-prepared statewide Republican candidates.
Notwithstanding qualms about his political predilections by Commission peers, Scott earned a solid reputation for bipartisanship while presiding over the Florida Senate from 1994 to 1996. To circumvent divisive obstacles threatening to undermine his effectiveness as Senate President, Scott wisely assigned Democrats to important Senate posts. During his legislative career, he served as Minority Floor Leader (1978-80), Minority Leader (1980-82), Judiciary Committee Chairman (1982-84), Appropriations Committee Chairman (1986-88 and 1992-93), Chairman of Rules and Calendar (1989-90), Vice Chairman of Rules and Calendar (1993-94), President of the Florida Senate (1994-96), Chairman of Regulated Industries (1997-1998) and Banking and Insurance Chair (1998-2000). In contrast with an otherwise sterling career in Tallahassee, in 1982 Minority Leader Scott cast the deciding vote against the “Equal Rights Amendment”, contributing to the belief that Florida was “out of step” with modern attitudes while clinging to questionable prejudices.
Prior to his exemplary 24-year Senate career (1976 – 2000), Scott served as attorney for the Broward County Legislative Delegation from 1972 to 1974 and as a member of the founding board of directors and treasurer of the Legal Aid Service of Broward County. An aggressive and adept multitasker, Scott simultaneously served as an Associate Municipal Judge (1972) and then as a prosecutor (1973 – 1976) in Deerfield Beach. A member of the Florida, Kentucky, Broward County, Palm Beach County and American Bar Associations, he also served as a legal officer with the Coast Guard in South Florida from 1965 to 1968.
Although initially appointed by Governor Bush to fill a vacancy on the Broward Board of County Commissioners in December of 2000, Scott handily won the District 4 seat in a November, 2002 election. As Broward’s District 4 County Commissioner, Scott has supported a living wage and affirmative action policies, ostensibly Democratic issues. From 2002 to 2004, Scott served on the South Florida Regional Planning Council. He currently serves as the Broward County representative on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA). Having been elected Vice Chair of the SFRTA in September 2005, Scott apprised the Advisory Board of recent legislation designed to address the agency’s annual search for a dedicated funding source.
“The legislation gives Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties the option to place a tax proposal that adds $2 to each rental car fee on their respective ballots,” as Scott described the provisions in House Bill 1115. Scott anticipates its passage in Broward because the format will not burden the local taxpayers. Commissioner Scott stated, “In addition to increasing regional mobility and connectivity, the reliable funding source will also serve as the basis for attracting State and Federal matching funds.” Scott enthusiastically explained how the stable funding source will open the door to “underwriting efficient connectivity projects necessary for Broward’s sustained economic growth.” Scott also suggested “incorporating the existing FEC (Florida East Coast Railway) tracks into the area’s mass transit strategy.”
|THE OLD FLORIDA EAST COAST RAILROAD|
FEC RIGHT-OF-WAY IN MASS TRANSIT PLANS
Scott’s Republican credentials and legislative experience afford him unique access to the halls of State Government. Given the ensconced Republican monopoly in Tallahassee, his history with the legislature and relationship with the Governor’s office is unmatched by his eight Democratic Commission peers. He explained to the Advisory Board how this relationship “served to preserve Broward’s jurisdictional authority over county land use.”
|JIM SCOTT & LT GOV TONI JENNINGS|
THE TALLAHASSEE CONNECTION
Scott was referring to a conflict that had developed into an ongoing war between Broward County and its 31 municipalities for control of development within their shared jurisdictions. As the remaining pieces of Broward County were annexed into various municipalities, County officials needed to find other ways to exert authority over their once significant domain. After County Commissioners quietly developed unlikely political alignments with controlled growth advocates and environmentalists, on February 19, 2004, the Broward County Planning Council authorized the development of new land use regulations that squarely relocated control of municipal and other development to the County Commission. Although the Broward County Charter underwrites the Commission’s authority to control development, the Commissioners previously empowered the cities with self-determination by writing into the County Commission’s Redevelopment Initiative that, “Broward County acknowledges that municipalities will continue to lead in initiating, planning and managing redevelopment including approving development plans, site plans, zoning petitions, providing local infrastructure, etc.”
Broward’s municipalities were apoplectic. They formed a coalition to block Broward County from this unprecedented attempt to wrest control of the cities’ growth from municipal leaders. While the issues of controlled growth, long term planning, home rule and self-determination are central to this struggle, it would be naïve to ignore the political perks that accrue to the winners. It’s no secret that development dollars finance political campaigns and influence legislative support. After consulting with land use attorney David Orshefsky, the cities recruited Hollywood Senator Steven Geller to meet the County initiative with a legislative counter-attack. Geller enlisted Senator Michael Bennett (R-Bradenton) to sponsor Senate Bill 2956, designed to cleanly eviscerate Broward’s control over municipal land use and delegate it to the cities.
Resentful of being forced into refereeing this messy conflict and alienating one of two sizable constituencies, Governor Bush stated that he preferred a balance between the County and its municipalities as opposed to unchecked control by either one. After initially decrying Broward’s Land Use offensive, once the cities’ legislative countermeasure started gaining momentum, he expressed his intention to veto their bill.
|SENATOR STEVEN GELLER|
This issue has evolved into an ongoing battle. Broward County has had to fend off recurrent legislative onslaughts by municipalities seeking to free themselves of County Land Use authority. While the County retains lobbyists to mollify these threats, without Republican Scott to put a face on the County Commission in the Governor’s office, the cities’ chances of success would skyrocket. The resulting diminished Broward authority could undermine County efforts across the board. Individual municipalities could veto County projects at will. As long as Commissioner Scott has the Governor’s ear, the Broward universe should continue in a state of equilibrium.
|THE BROWARD BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS|
Commissioner Scott reported on his efforts to cut Broward spending. While admitting a marked lack of success, he was able to elicit a compromise agreement to create a series of budget committees and subcommittees charged with reviewing county spending. Taking a page from his Tallahassee experience, the new County budget committee system is similar to the budget vetting process used in the State Capitol. Scott expanded, “At a January budget meeting, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) predicted unavoidable additional expenditures, many related to Hurricane Wilma. OMB also indicated that new parks and libraries built with County Bond dollars would require operational resources when opened.” While spending cuts aren’t in the cards for 2006, Scott is confident that these budget committees will insure that County residents get the biggest bang for their buck. One of the libraries benefiting from Bond funds is the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center. The Broward facility at 3403 Galt Ocean Drive will be the recipient of a $431,000 – 2000 square foot expansion in the near future.
|Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center|
As Chair of the Airport/Seaport Select Committee, Scott is pleased with the new state-of-the-art security infrastructure at Port Everglades. Scott explained, “To balance the costs of post-9/11 security without negatively impacting the terrific growth in our cruise traffic, we invested in new security infrastructure and security training to insure that our Port is safe to the traveling public and guarded against the threats of terrorism, theft and transportation of illegal contraband.” Working with Federal and State partners, Broward was able to take advantage of unique funding opportunities. To secure the Port’s perimeter, they installed more than 200 fixed and closed circuit cameras to monitor all entry and exit points while providing surveillance of both landside and waterside activities. Access Control Points have been erected at each of the Port’s four entrances. Seventeen miles of underground conduit carries the fiber optic cabling required to feed closed circuit televisions and automated access controls monitored at the Port’s new Security Operations Center. The benefit of Scott’s Tallahassee ties again became apparent as he explained, “I worked closely with Legislative leaders during the 2006 State Legislative Session to help craft changes to state law that provides additional latitude to Ports, including the ability to utilize a new category of security officer, where appropriate, to assist in keeping costs under control, as well as streamlining the process to modify a Port’s Security Plan.”
|NEW SECURITY INFRASTRUCTURE|
AT PORT EVERGLADES
Scott spoke to new County plans addressing hurricane issues. In addition to the hurricane preparedness guides sent to county residents, he described functional improvements to the Broward County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Scott explained, “Every city has a representative in the EOC as well as officials monitoring the needs of police and firefighters, schools and hospitals, hurricane shelters, transportation services, road closures and human services such as providing food and water to the elderly, disabled, or shut-ins.” Broward County is expediting their permitting process in order to get more generators into the hands of those businesses that provide staples like food, water or gasoline. He continued, “If we fast track the permitting process we believe more people will install a generator so that when the power goes out, they will still be up and running.” After crediting Emergency Management Director Tony Carper with many of the County’s innovative preparations, Scott explained that “Broward County is designing signage that could be displayed prominently by local retailers identifying them as having emergency generator capacity.” Scott said, “This way you’ll know what businesses are planning to open to provide goods and services after a storm occurs.”
DIRECTOR TONY CARPER
As to existing Galt Mile Senate representation, Scott characterized Senator Jeffrey Atwater as, “an excellent legislator”, remarking that we are “fortunate to have him.” Atwater is currently a strong candidate for Scott’s former position as Senate President and serves on the same Insurance Committee over which Scott presided as Chair before leaving the Senate.
|FLORIDA SENATOR JEFFREY ATWATER AND|
BROWARD COMMISSIONER JIM SCOTT
While listening to Commissioner Jim Scott describe County affairs in a lilting Kentucky accent, its easy to overlook the likelihood that he is Broward’s most effective Commissioner. Unlike many of his fellow Commissioners, he quietly gets the job done. The Beach renourishment effort and the Beach Community Center are County projects. It’s not by accident that they found a home in District 4. The Galt Mile community would be hard pressed to find more effective representation on the Broward Board of County Commissioners!
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Galt Mile Security Crossroads
GMCA Considers Crime Eradication Plan
June 22, 2006 - The Galt Mile Community Association represents a progressive international neighborhood whose residents’ political, religious and social orientations are as varied as the colors in the rainbow. Albeit a smorgasbord of cultural diversity, the community is one of the most close-knit in the state. Families and friends are interlaced throughout the area, living either down the block or down the hall from one another. The relationship between neighbors spills over to their associations. In fact, a significant percentage of our demography has had occasion to building-hop, moving transparently from one association to another when downsizing, upgrading or consolidating. In that respect, the Galt Mile is reminiscent of a small town.
This intuitive interdependence has served to coalesce community objectives. Riviera residents are affected by many of the same problems experienced in Plaza South or the Galt Ocean Club. Those living in Regency Tower or Ocean Summit shop in the same stores frequented by Playa del Sol, the Galleon, Edgewater Arms and L’Hermitage (I and II). Coral Ridge Towers North, Caribé and Southpoint residents call the same plumbers, electricians and doctors used by their neighbors in Ocean Club, Fountainhead, and Royal Ambassador. When the Oakland Park Boulevard Bridge goes out, the entire community looses a collective groan. This extended family has been able to achieve goals not conceivable in comparable communities. Despite our differences, which underwrite much of our strength, we have consistently been able to address our common problems with one voice.
Every Galt Mile association undergoes cycles, changes in leadership that invariably herald a “new day” for building residents. Those recently elected, in addition to exercising a new-found voice within their association, also find that they have another, larger forum. They inherit a responsibility to their neighborhood as well as their building. This also expands their ability to effect change. When they reach out to City, County and State officials, they receive a telephone call in return instead of a form letter. They can navigate bureaucratic obstacles that would ordinarily thwart resolution. They can rely on their neighbors’ support when confronted by issues outside their purview.
Every Galt Mile resident is a beneficiary of their elected representatives’ participation in this larger jurisdiction. No individual association could have influenced the State to renourish our beaches. Our collective voice was heard at the critical hearing in the Hollywood Beach Convention Center wherein the near-death Broward Beach Renourishment Project was revived. No individual association could have engineered the Galt Mile Improvement Project, admittedly the most successful Neighborhood Improvement Project in Fort Lauderdale history. Our unified stance helped set the tone in the legislature for creation of the “opt-out” amendment, saving each association in excess of a $million during the past few years. It was no coincidence that our interrupted power and water were restored after only 3 days following Hurricane Wilma. It is only because we “have each other’s backs” and work together that the interests of our small patch of earth are heard in City Hall, the County and in Tallahassee.
The Galt Mile community currently has an opportunity to resolve another longstanding dilemma – neighborhood security. Several years ago, the Lauderdale Beach Homeowners Association met to conjure a response to their growing crime problem. While they were seldom victimized by high profile Part 1 crimes, they were targeted by burglars, thieves and muggers, often misidentified as “homeless” drifters. A high-end neighborhood, they were ground zero for a spectrum of “quality of life” crimes. Rightfully so, quality of life crimes have a diminished priority when considered by law enforcement. Any rational person or agency would consider murder, rape and arson more worthy of resource commitment than thievery. Understandably, the City of Fort Lauderdale Police Department was hamstrung when asked by the community for assistance. Instead of wallowing in acrimonious recriminations or leveling pointless threats at city officials for neglecting “breaking and entering” in favor of homicide, they decided to take matters into their own hands.
|GALT OCEAN MILE COMMUNITY|
Intuitively, they balked at hiring private security, wary of service cost and quality. The success of companies that ordinarily deliver those services is spotty at best. After investigating alternatives, they realized that a customized security package tailored to their needs should be their objective. They are bordered on the east by the ocean and the beach. While a few access roads penetrate the neighborhood, the adjacent properties provide easy escape routes for quick footed crooks. Between the unrestricted beach and the irregularly fenced properties, the community was a Disney World for “quality of life” criminals.
Civic leaders put their heads together and decided to get the right tools for the job. They opted against the retirees and amateur guards usually hired for this purpose. Even if they recruited Olympic sprinters, it would cost a fortune in personnel to patrol the open lawns and beach effectively. Instead of packing the neighborhood with an army of questionably qualified out-of-shape retirees and kids on summer break, they decided to hire active police officers. They realized that a real cop in an ATV could cover the beach more effectively than 4 rent-a-cops on foot. A second cop in a jeep could cover every access road and, if necessary, give chase. Within seconds, they could back each other up or arrive at any location warranting attention. Hiring off-duty Fort Lauderdale police officers had an added value. Whenever an officer has cause to assert authority, he/she is automatically categorized as “on duty”. If and when a suspect is cornered, they don’t have to contact FLPD to make an arrest. They are automatically empowered to detain and arrest alleged perpetrators.
|ATV to MOBILIZE BEACH PATROL|
They gave it a try. In 1999, they suffered 45 reported crimes. After instituting their novel security gambit, it plunged to two during the following year. Two armed, uniformed off-duty police officers, an ATV and a Police Jeep available 24/7 provided the one-two punch needed to mollify their problem. By using trained and qualified active police officers they created the kind of crime deterrent that only a real police presence can offer. An unexpected added value discovered by Lauderdale Beach Homeowners Association was the unmatched response times their officers chalked up when called by any homeowner. After being summoned to a location, the officers would arrive within 1 to 2 minutes - a service unmatched anywhere in the city. As pioneers are sometimes kissed by angels, the cost of this novel resolution was only a small fraction of their competitive alternatives.
|POLICE JEEP FOR STREET PATROL|
For years, the Galt Mile Community Association has been researching an answer to our neighborhood’s crime problem. Each year, we rehash previously considered possibilities and review fresh opportunities borne of new technology. At an Advisory Board meeting on February 21st, Major Mary Negrey of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department reported that her District One unit (covering the Galt Mile) was primarily beset by “Quality of Life” crimes. She repeated that police resources are prioritized according to the need exhibited by each neighborhood. As mentioned, police are allocated to neighborhoods victimized by high crime rates and/or significant crimes. Given that the City wasn’t about to take officers from high crime areas to monitor the Galt Mile beach and sidewalks, she explained the departments strategy. They hand out pamphlets in shopping areas, community centers and similar venues alerting residents to avoid leaving valuables in plain sight of their unattended vehicles. “Be careful not to leave your keys in the car or your cell phone on the car seat!” Aside from official exhortations to be mindful of our surroundings, it appears we are on our own.
|MAJOR MARY NEGREY|
The Galt Mile community is plagued by the same smash and grabs, vandalism, break-ins and car thefts that frustrated the Lauderdale Beach Homeowners Association. Our entreaties to municipal authorities will continue to be rightfully downplayed as low priority. We share the same vulnerabilities, the open beach and a maze of adjacent properties that present “undesirables” with countless opportunities to elude apprehension. We also shared the same concern they were confronted by six years ago – a frustrating quest to plug our security gap.
After three decades, we believe that we’ve found the answer. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we are considering taking a playbook page from our neighbors to the south. As such, the Galt Mile Community Association has negotiated an arrangement to provide our residents with state-of-the-art neighborhood security. Since its inception 5 years ago, the Lauderdale Beach project has been expanded to include a headquarters on the beach – better coordinating its highly mobile force. The patrol currently continues north through L’Hermitage, whereupon it returns south. The plan is to extend the patrol to include all of the Galt Mile associations along the beach within Fort Lauderdale city limits. The officer-manned ATV would simply continue north through Plaza South or Galt Towers, turn and head south. The Police Jeep would patrol Galt Ocean Drive. The ostensible difference between what we are considering and what the Lauderdale Beach Homeowners Association had to confront five years ago is the attendant risk and the start-up expense.
|ATV TO NAVIGATE BEACH AREA|
Since we will be taking advantage of an ongoing operation, our risk is non-existent and there is no start-up expense. Upon analyzing the operational costs, and given the huge number of participating homeowners residing in the Galt Mile buildings, the “per unit” expense is $20/year. For the $20/homeowner, the Galt Mile would have its own private fully equipped police force. Whether called by an association or a unit owner, an armed, uniformed police officer would appear at your door within two minutes. When Associations notice unsavory characters prowling their parking deck, instead of asking a guard to leave his post and chase them off – usually to the next building – the scofflaws would be intercepted by our patrolman about a minute later. They would be questioned, and if appropriate, arrested for trespassing. They will not return. Despite the internal security posted in every Galt Mile building, any sane resident strolling on the beach past 10 PM does so with a lump in his/her throat. Ground floor residents of every beachfront building will confirm that suspicious people jump seawall fences to or from the beach on a regular basis. Upon inception of the program, an armed beach patrol officer in an ATV would instead ask if you are having a pleasant evening as he drives by.
When polled about this opportunity, an overwhelming majority of associations supported instituting the program. Since we represent incremental business, the “per home” cost is negligible. A few years back, our Fire-Rescue assessment was raised by $120 annually per homeowner between fees and taxes for virtually no additional benefit. For $20, Galt Mile residents will see their crime rate evaporate, eliminate the ill-intentioned transients that haunt the beach and sidewalks and feel the security of knowing that a Fort Lauderdale Police officer is a minute or two away. It will also serve as a deterrent to many of the temporary occupants of the benches lining the block. While ostensibly “homeless persons” and other transient “visitors” are legally entitled to sit on the benches in front of our buildings, they often drift onto association premises and intimidate elderly residents in passing. The patrol has had great success in convincing many of the more bombastic street denizens to rotate to less well policed areas.
|ASSISTANT CHIEF OF POLICE|
While investigating the benefits of instituting these security patrols, the Galt Mile Community Association solicited input from municipal officials. At the February 16th meeting of the GMCA Advisory Board, Fort Lauderdale Assistant Chief of Police and head of operations Stephen Robitaille expressed support for our local policing solution, stating that he was in favor of any program that put more cops on the street, especially trained officers. After acknowledging that few municipal police departments have enough resources to deliver a dedicated police presence, Chief of Police Bruce G. Roberts also extolled the benefits of community policing. At the March 16th Advisory Board meeting, Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas added that the plan might be eligible for municipal support. Gretsas explained that if we implement the plan and were able to demonstrate a successful outcome, we could apply for municipal resources to underwrite its fiscal future.
|CHIEF OF POLICE|
BRUCE G ROBERTS
Although most associations have avidly supported actualizing these security patrols, some representatives reported encountering confusion when proposing the project to their boards. When this occurred, Presidents Council Chairman Pio Ieraci offered to visit with those residents expressing concern about participating. Most of the obstacles stemmed from misconstruing some aspect of the plan. Several board members from one association pointed out that they already have security guards that patrol their premises. Ieraci explained, “Every association has internal security. Their jurisdiction ends at the property border. They aren’t expected to pursue a stolen vehicle or a guy that grabbed a pocketbook and is running down the block. Suspicious characters have only to reach the sidewalk to find sanctuary. Besides, everyone leaves the building – and its security – at some point. While this plan will bolster every building’s internal security, its main benefit is to the entire neighborhood.” Ieraci continued, “The main benefit of a police presence is its deterrent value. By the time some crook sets up on the beach or the sidewalk to commit an offense, it is too late. At best, all any association is equipped to do is react with a call to the police after the fact. The security patrol is pro-active, preventing the circumstances that lead to a crime. The difference between facing an association security guard and a uniformed FLPD officer is immeasurable. When undesirable transients become aware of the Galt Mile police, they will move on to less dangerous areas. The experience at Lauderdale Beach has taught us that.” Ieraci also addressed the cost benefit. “To fully protect the external premises, full-time association guards would have to be stationed by the sidewalk and the beach. That would require four shifts for each of those two locations to achieve 24/7 protection or eight full-time positions. For a tiny fraction of the cost of even one position, the building will be protected by armed, uniformed, mobile police officers equipped a communications system to coordinate their activities from an in-place headquarters. Additionally, responsible Galt Mile associations – such as ours in the Galt Ocean Club – ordinarily instruct their security personnel to avoid dangerous situations, directing that they call the police instead.”
If an association agrees to participate and later finds that the program doesn’t adequately address their needs, they can withdraw. Pio remarked, “Since we all have the same expectations for the security patrol, if it fails to live up to those expectations, we will ALL withdraw!” When asked what happens when a perpetrator is caught by a member of the security patrol, Ieraci said, “That’s the advantage of hiring off-duty Fort Lauderdale police officers. Municipal ordinance dictates that when off duty police officers encounter a crime, they are automatically considered ‘on duty’ and can consummate an arrest. They also have full access to departmental resources, like back-up and special equipment when demanded by the situation.” Associations will no longer have to call the police, wait for their arrival and describe the incident to the responding officer. As a rule, a suspicious character checking car door handles or transients harassing returning residents are long gone by the time this occurs. In contrast, once a patrol officer is involved, potential perpetrators are automatically and instantaneously ensnared in the criminal justice system.
CHAIR PIO IERACI
As always occurs in a democratic forum, there were also some dogmatic contributions. One indignant association resident suggested that we force the city to provide this service. While his scheme to organize a mass refusal to pay taxes until they “surrender” and agree to finance the project didn’t resonate with any of his neighbors, he left convinced of the tactic’s viability. Another resident denied the existence of crime in the neighborhood because he “hadn’t seen it!” One resident described his association board as having recently become more isolationist, adopting a position that every association should fend for itself. As association boards are recomplected, they occasionally lose their “institutional memory”, sometimes burdening them with re-experiencing hard lessons previously learned and forgotten. Given the current list of challenges facing common interest dwelling participants from hurricanes, insurance companies and the tendency of politicians to toy with their rights, “going it alone” is a sure fire prescription for expensive mistakes.
|GALT MILE BEACH PATROL AREA|
Two Galt Mile associations, L’Hermitage I and II, have been part of the Lauderdale Beach Homeowners Association Security patrol for several years. They form the current northern border of their security zone. Dr. Alex Leeds, highly regarded L’Hermitage President and a Galt Merchants Association lynchpin, has testified to the success of the program. L’Hermitage is located off Oakland Park Boulevard, a public access to the Galt Mile beach. Prior to the project’s inception, L’Hermitage residents seldom took advantage of their beach after dark. Participating in the Lauderdale Beach program cured their concerns. Every L’Hermitage resident takes comfort in knowing that despite what transpires in the rest of the city, a police officer is a few ticks away at all times. As a result, L’Hermitage currently enjoys a level of security miles ahead of its neighboring Galt Mile Associations.
Another issue is related to the geographical layout of the beach and the location of the various associations. If an association on the northern end of the anticipated security zone doesn’t participate, the patrol would simply turn south before reaching their property. If Plaza South opts out, Galt Towers would represent the northern end of the security zone. If however, associations in the middle area refuse to participate, they would receive the benefits without paying for them, an inequitable situation.
Currently, one “centrally located” association has reported their board’s confusion over some unidentified project component. Another has asked GMCA officials to directly address purported resident concerns. One of the project’s most attractive aspects is its predisposition to flexibility. Unlike most neighborhood improvement projects, this one comes with a built-in back door. Ambivalent associations can opt for a one year trial period instead of killing the project for the whole neighborhood. Hopefully, after familiarizing themselves with the project’s details, enough of their trepidations will be allayed to give it this one-year trial. Following the trial, if the residents living in those associations feel that the increased security is not worth $20 per year, they can withdraw. Conversely, following a successful trial year, we will bring the program before the city commission for review. If the program performs as expected, the need to solicit ongoing support will be obviated. The city could conceivably agree to pick up the tab.
|ATV AND POLICE JEEP|
As always, the final decision as to whether we agree to take advantage of this unique opportunity will be made by the residents of the Galt Mile. Additional factors impacting this decision skew both ways. The timing couldn’t be worse. Every association is frenetically addressing hurricane damage, an insurance threat and its attendant storm mitigation costs. On the plus side, we finally have a successfully tested answer to a problem that has long plagued the community. Even the negligible cost of $20 per homeowner, upon demonstrating a successful outcome one year after implementation, might be picked up by the City. If, however, the program isn’t afforded a chance by any one of the association boards in the central beach area and is therefore stillborn, we may still snag a consolation prize of sorts. For years, Galt Mile residents have hypothesized about why L’Hermitage seemed immune to the area’s street crimes, postulating that they appropriated substantial resources to beef up their security. Their secret is now out. They aren’t spending more than other Galt Mile associations, they are spending less. They are simply spending their security dollar more wisely than the rest of us.
|FORT LAUDERDALE CITY COMMISSION|
TO REVIEW SUCCESS OF SECURITY PATROL
Take a moment and discuss this opportunity with your friends and neighbors. Residents holding that our tax dollars should fund any neighborhood security who have heretofore failed to explain exactly how to bring that about now have a road map to success. Those concerned about committing multi-year resources to a new venture have a built-in escape hatch. The cost of $1.66 per month shouldn’t present any Galt Mile homeowner with a financial hardship. As to our pioneer-spirited neighbors extolling the virtues of “going it alone”, they will likely need to learn anew the advantages of mutually beneficial alliances – especially with neighbors. Nevertheless, within a few months we will enjoy world class security or spend another year greeting a new group of “bench” residents, endure additional car thefts, vandalism, breaking and entering, smash and grabs and the other “quality of life” crimes that the police have warned would continue. A veteran advisory board member, considering the irony of possibly missing this opportunity because a single association declined to give it a one-year trial, quipped, “At least we will have screwed up democratically!” Such is life.
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Gretsas Gambles on FastTrack Fix
City Manager Implements Building Department Initiatives
July 15, 2006 - When City Manager George Gretsas took the reins in Fort Lauderdale, he explained his plan of action for rehabilitating the City’s operational machinery. Fort Lauderdale’s administrative systems had deteriorated to the extent that they were non-responsive to efforts by City officials to coordinate a recovery from the recently disclosed budget crisis. Gretsas was charged with revamping Fort Lauderdale’s table of organization. From the outset, Gretsas acknowledged that every City Department would be carefully evaluated and redesigned to include accountability and merit-based advancement. Department heads were put on notice from day one that responsibility accompanied control. While they were given the opportunity to implement their jurisdictional strategies free of outside micromanagement, they also had to show results.
The City Manager’s success in organizing the various municipal appendages was remarkable. One by one, city departments became responsive and efficient. Police, Fire-Rescue, Finance and Parks have all undergone administrative improvements reflected internally by improved morale and externally by positive public feedback. There is one glaring exception. The Fort Lauderdale Building Department was identified by Mr. Gretsas upon his arrival as needing significant improvement. He applied for a permit for some construction and experienced first hand the withering frustration that Fort Lauderdale residents and contractors have long known.
|NEW BUILDING SERVICES CENTER|
He watched hopefully as the Building Department moved to new headquarters at 700 N.W. 19th Avenue. As time passed, little improvement was realized. He supported Department Chief Valerie Bohlander’s efforts to make the department more responsive. Unfortunately, the Department was overwhelmed by an exponential increase in permit applications for repairs from two years of hurricane devastation. Every Fort Lauderdale construction effort, from installing a window to building a home, was belabored by months of waiting for permits and inspections. The city had done away with the simple “walk through” permit they used to issue for small jobs. To apply emergency triage to the hemorrhaging Building Department, Gretsas was forced to consider outsourcing services historically performed in house. While allowing certified professionals to oversee construction inspections would expedite the process, the city stood to lose direct control over the adequacy of the end products.
|BC RULES BOARD COMPLIANCE CHIEF &|
BOAF PRESIDENT WILLIAM DUMBAUGH
Municipal building departments in Broward are answerable to the County’s Board of Rules and Appeals, which authorizes permitting and inspection procedures. On April 20, 2006, they passed Section 109.12, amending Chapter 1 of the 2004 Florida Building Code, allowing the use of private inspectors rather than city inspectors to facilitate critical roof repairs. Broward municipalities such as Sunrise, Coconut Creek, Coral Springs and Plantation adopted the policy to help residents dispense with the hundreds blue tarps installed to temporarily protect storm-decimated homes. To cure Fort Lauderdale’s dilemma, inspection authority would have to be outsourced at unprecedented levels, allowing outside entities to certify slabs, trusses, bar joists, columns, doors, tie beams and foundations. After reviewing Fort Lauderdale’s more drastic plan, the Broward County Board of Rules and Appeals approved it forthwith. Speaking to the County’s rationale, Rules and Appeals Chief Structural Code Compliance Officer and President of The Building Officials Association of Florida (BOAF) Bill Dumbaugh stated, “This is just the emergency situation that’s developed since Hurricane Wilma that’s thrown Fort Lauderdale into a very bad situation.”
In May 2006, the Building Services Department launched the Expedited Plan Review Program (EPRP). For applicants willing to pay a premium of $75 an hour to have their plans reviewed by authorized outside experts, they can shave 10 to 30 days off the process, depending primarily upon its scope and complexity. The full spectrum of review is available, including electrical, plumbing, mechanical, building, zoning, landscape and engineering services. Smaller projects can be estimated and started immediately while more complex jobs require a 48 hour review period to approximate costs and timetables.
Gretsas recently assigned Assistant City Manager Stephen Scott to help Bohlander oversee the new “expedited” permit process and otherwise streamline the ailing Department. On June 24th, the Department was opened on Saturdays for permit pickups and started allowing approved permits to be mailed out upon receipt of payment by telephone. To complement the EPRP, the Department instituted the “FastTrack Building Inspection Program” to comparably enhance the inspection process.
Under the FastTrack system, professional architects and engineers will be permitted to perform a wide variety of building inspections previously limited to building department personnel. They are:
- Bar joist - City-approved shop drawings must be on job site at time of inspection
- Column - City-approved spot survey must be on job site at time of inspection
- Curtain wall - City-approved shop drawings must be on job site at time of inspection
- Door - City-approved product approvals must be on job site at time of inspection
- Door bucks
- Floor sheathing
- Foundation - Certification of soil compaction must be on job site at time of inspection
- Garage door - City-approved product approvals must be on job site at time of inspection
- Grade beam - Pile log and location must be on job site at time of inspection
- Mop on (tile roofs)
- Pool steel - Certification of soil compaction must be on job site at time of inspection
- Roof in progress (flat roofs)
- Roof sheathing
- Slab - Certified letter of soil treatment and certification of soil compaction must be on job site at time of inspection
- Steel (docks and seawalls)
- Shingle (in progress)
- Storefront - City-approved spot survey must be on job site at time of inspection
- Tie beam - City-approved spot survey must be on job site at time of inspection
- Tile (in progress)
- Tin cap
- Truss - City-approved shop drawings must be on job site at time of inspection
- Wall sheathing - City-approved spot survey must be on job site at time of inspection
- Window buck
- Window - City-approved product approvals must be on job site at time of inspection
- Wire lath
Subsequent to each inspection, the professional architect or engineer will sign and seal a letter documenting that the work was found to be in compliance with the applicable code. The letter must be attached to the required supporting documentation (i.e., City-approved shop drawings, soil compaction certification, spot surveys, product approvals, etc.) and left on the job site for review and verification by visiting City inspectors.
The new plan also expedites permitting. The historical protocol governing how the Planning and Zoning Department and the Building Department organize plan review is restricted by a “zoning first” policy. This means that no other reviews (i.e. electrical, mechanical, plumbing, building, engineering and fire safety) can be scheduled until the plans have been approved for zoning and landscaping purposes. To relieve this bottleneck, the plan review process was modified, allowing all staff reviews to be performed simultaneously instead of consecutively. Notwithstanding, the permit must still pass every review before being approved, including zoning or landscaping. Upon successful completion of the process, the clerk will call customers; take payment over the telephone and mail out the approved permit.
Acknowledging that the program is somewhat susceptible to abuse by unscrupulous applicants, City Commissioner Christine Teel explained, “The department will continually audit and spot-check this work, and assures us that it is a safe and effective method to address the current permit backlog. This program will be monitored regularly by a high-ranking member of the department and can be terminated at any time if the circumstances warrant.” On March 16th, City Manager George Gretsas explained to the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board his intention to implement a “premium” permitting initiative to help “jump start” the cumbersome process. While confident of the program’s viability, Gretsas confirmed Commissioner Teel’s trepidations, categorizing the FastTrack measure as “a pilot program.” Gretsas admonished, “If it results in shoddy construction or unsafe conditions, we’re going to have to re-evaluate it.”
This plan places responsibility for the private engineer’s and/or architect’s work product squarely on the owner or applicant. Upon receiving notification from the applicant that the project or some component thereof has been privately certified as code-compliant, the City will spot check the construction’s adequacy. The results of these “spot” inspections supersede those of the private engineer or architect. As explained in the Building Services “FastTrack” section of the City of Fort Lauderdale web site, “All inspections performed and certified pursuant to this policy are at the exclusive risk of the owner or applicant. A failed inspection subsequent to private certification could lead to a stop work order on the entire project depending on the particular inspection.” An applicant colluding with an engineer to “overlook” violations could conceivably be made to dismantle substantially completed construction, irrespective of the expense in time and/or resources. As stated by Mr. Gretsas, if he is confronted by too many inspection “inconsistencies”, the program will pass into the alternate universe he characterized as “reevaluation”.
To learn more about the new program, call the Building Department at 954-828-5973 or visit the Building Services Department’s web page entitled “FastTrack Building Inspection Program”.
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From The Desk of
Commissioner Christine Teel
August 17, 2006 - Commissioner Christine Teel represents the residents of District 1 on Fort Lauderdale’s City Commission. As the Galt Mile neighborhood’s voice in City government, Commissioner Teel has tirelessly fought to advance our interests as part of a progressive citywide agenda - a difficult balancing act under the best conditions. Her bi-weekly pre-agenda meetings, held in preparation for the following day’s meeting of the City Commission, are vehicles she created to solicit input from her constituents. In addition to equipping the Galt Mile Community Association with information about recent municipal events and decisions, she publishes a newsletter designed to communicate directly with you, her constituents. A political veteran of Fort Lauderdale’s fiscal decline and recovery, she is keenly aware of our interest in the City’s budgetary intentions. On August 17th, she emailed constituents this “snapshot of the objectives and initiatives which will be taken this upcoming fiscal year.” READ ON... - editor
It’s that time of year again to adopt an annual budget. The City Manager presented his proposed budget in July for the fiscal year which will begin October 1st. Appropriations by department within fund and tax levies are adopted in September. This year the first meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 6th, a day later than usual due to the Labor Day holiday. The second meeting for final approval will take place Tuesday, September 19th. Both meetings are at 6 pm at City Hall. You are invited to attend and participate.
|DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER|
The proposed budget addresses the five major objectives that were identified by the Commission in a goal setting session with the City Manager: (1) Improve the City’s Financial Position, (2) Improve Quality of Life, (3) Plan for the City’s Future, (4) Improve Neighborhoods, and (5) Improve City Infrastructure.
Improve City’s Financial Position - Last year’s hurricane season highlighted the importance of maintaining a healthy fund balance. It is expected that somewhere between $8 to $10 million will be drawn from the fund balance to cover unreimbursed hurricane costs and emergency operations preparedness initiatives.
Even with these unforeseen expenses, it is estimated that by the end of the present fiscal year, the City will have an available fund balance of $31.9 million. This was made possible through the implementation of strict budget accountability and spending control measures.
Other efforts to improve the City’s financial position include stabilizing property taxes, increasing outside funding sources, increasing revenues from business enterprises, and exploring cost saving initiatives.
Improve Quality of Life - The finances of the City are vital, but they are only the means to an end which is to enhance the quality of life for those we serve in Fort Lauderdale. First and foremost is the reduction of crime. This year a Police Action Plan was put into place resulting in a marked decrease in crime. However, there is still much to do in the coming year. Other initiatives include improvements to Building Services, Code Enforcement, Public Works, and the Fire Department.
The City’s barrier island is the cornerstone of our tourism industry and one of our economic pillars. Proposed improvements at the beach will enhance the city’s position as a tourist destination and fuel an important City economic engine.
Reduction of nuisances such as illegal dumping, excessive motorcycle noise, sign ordinance violations, maintenance of street closures, aggressive panhandling, and beautifying newspaper box locations are some of the small but important issues which will be addressed.
Plan for the City’s Future - Efforts include North US 1/Federal Hwy master plan, Riverwalk Plan, Streetscape Guidelines, Downtown Master Plan Amendments, Beach Business Improvement District, Parks Master Plan, Traffic Management Plan, Water, Sewer & Stormwater Master Plan, Economic Development Plan and other projects.
Improving Neighborhoods - Numerous efforts to improve neighborhoods are proposed for the upcoming year including increasing Neighborhood Capital Improvement (NCIP) funding, extending the sidewalk maintenance program, completing hurricane repairs to public property in neighborhoods, and completing NCIP grant projects.
Improving City Infrastructure - Significant City resources will be expended in an effort to improve city infrastructure. Constructing new fire stations, improving city facilities, roads and medians, dredging canals, and upgrading water, sewer and stormwater assets will be a major focus in the upcoming year.
I hope the above information has been helpful. Although this is just a snapshot of the objectives and initiatives which will be taken this upcoming fiscal year more information can be provided. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions. I can be reached at 954-828-5004 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Galt Mile EOPs Pass Test
August 31, 2006 - After breaking the 74 MPH wind speed criteria required for status as a Category 1 Hurricane, Ernesto quickly deteriorated into a Tropical Storm following its Cuban landfall. As it skimmed over the island, its average wind speed dropped to 45 MPH. Experts at the National Hurricane Center repeatedly explained that as the storm proceeded on its northwesterly course towards Florida, the warm Caribbean waters would again power it into a Hurricane. Instead, Ernesto hit Florida carrying the same 45 MPH winds with which it left Cuba. As if offering a meteorological apology for the damage perpetrated by Katrina exactly one year earlier, a disorganized Tropical Storm Ernesto dribbled across South Florida. Some of the bands aside, the winds were little more than refreshing. According to operations director Bob Howard of the South Florida Water Management District, the 1.5 inches of rain that doused the Broward area was a far cry from the 10 inches predicted by Hurricane Center weather gurus.
Director Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade County explained, “The simple truth is there are some processes in hurricanes that we don’t understand yet, particularly storm intensity. I want people to understand: This is the state of the science.” Mayfield was hopeful that some of the newer experimental forecast models would yield more reliable results. Intimating that significant improvements were at least 10 to 15 years off, Mayfield admonished, “We’re headed in the right direction, but I’m not expecting miracles.”
Hurricane experts predicted that after deflating over Cuba, Ernesto would intensify again as it passed over the warm Florida Straits on its way to the Florida Keys. Radar evidence showed that the storm was reorganizing, supporting the National Hurricane Center’s expectation that the Ernesto would recover Hurricane status by the time it accosted South Florida. After hearing about Ernesto’s potentially aggressive nature – businesses, government offices, hospitals, airports and schools instituted emergency disaster procedures – putting a new tape in the answering machine and closing up. Broward County Transit, Schools, Parks as well as Broward County courts and courthouse offices closed. Toll collection on Florida’s expressways was suspended. Despite the closure of all Fort Lauderdale Departmental Offices, a skeleton staff of “essential employees” manned their posts. Since the county incinerator was closed, garbage collection was also suspended. Businesses and homeowners boarded up windows and doors, formed the familiar pre-storm gas lines, drained Home Depot and Lowes of emergency supplies and stripped bottled and canned goods from supermarket shelves.
|National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield|
To everyone’s surprise and delight, the plug was pulled on Ernesto. The one-time Hurricane wannabe was infiltrated by dry air and became disorganized. We dodged a bullet. People wavered between feeling gratitude for the reprieve and anger for the threat… and the hassle.
|GAS LINES CLOG PUMPS|
On the bright side, it served as an excellent practice run for Hurricane preparation aficionados in Federal, State, County and Municipal disaster agencies. They all had new pre-storm and post storm emergency plans created after Hurricane Wilma. As if to fulfill some innate compulsion to demonstrate that they are at least consistent, Florida Power & Light somehow managed to zonk over 20,000 South Florida customers for no apparent reason. Aside from FP&L’s pathetic service flop and two unfortunate traffic deaths, we escaped unscathed. The bulk of the $million plus preparation costs (overtime, shelters, etc.) for this “Hurricane Drill” will be absorbed by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).
In response to legislation passed last year, associations also formulated hurricane emergency operation plans (EOP) that saw their first test. Galt Mile Associations were able to evaluate the effectiveness of their individual EOPs free of the punishing price tag generally triggered by planning failures. Most Galt Mile Associations initiated storm preparations immediately after the area was placed under a declared Hurricane Watch on Monday. Several jumped early, battening down the hatches on Sunday. Virtually every security and maintenance department in the neighborhood held pre-storm meetings to review emergency procedures. Unlike the 2004 and 2005 debacles, neither Association officials nor unit owners would be able to claim surprise or ignorance if again caught unprepared.
|ERNESTO HITS GALT MILE BEACH|
During the past two years, we learned under fire what happens to flimsy windows and shutters, poorly maintained roofs, broken exterior doors secured with rusty hinges and untested back-up power sources. Unit owners and associations also learned that effective protection must have individual and communal components. Wilma left us with dozens of cases wherein unit owners who installed impact windows and/or shutters still suffered imploded walls because some adjacent neighbor refused to do likewise. Unless every wind access is sufficiently protected against pressure and debris, the threat to every unit persists.
|GALT MILE WILMA DAMAGE|
In addition to paying for their own failure to adequately prepare, the 2005 storms forced Associations to reluctantly face paying for their neighbor’s lack of preparation. For example, many associations nursed non-compliant “grandfathered” roofs legally installed prior to the post-Andrew Building Code upgrades. Failing a subsequent upgrade or substantial security retrofit, some of these woefully inadequate roofs that were ravished by Wilma required an expensive full or majority replacement. Invariably, when hurricane force winds turned the shredded sections of these eviscerated roofs into unguided missiles, they tore through the windows and fences of neighboring buildings. Deck and balcony elements that were partially or wholly unsecured provided another source of contention between Associations. Responsibly securing every scrap of potential debris on its premises didn’t protect an Association from an airborne assault by “overlooked” pieces of balcony furniture and/or accessories from adjacent buildings. Associations that failed to prepare often cost their neighbors as much or more in storm-related repair costs as they themselves were burdened with. It became apparent that adequate preparation and protection would require everyone’s participation.
|ERNESTO BLOWS ACROSS A1A|
Many Galt Mile residents that found a piece of their next door neighbor’s building on their balcony under three broken windows and a missing section of balcony railing swallowed hard last year. Associations (and individual unit owners) restrained themselves from leveling accusations at one another for several reasons. 1) Since this ancillary damage occurred without intent, associations opted to preserve long-standing friendships rather than attempt to specifically subrogate liability. 2) The insurance industry considers the damage from these incidents to be largely unassignable (i.e. - an “act of god”). Any viable action would have to include proof that the offender had prior knowledge of the injury’s likelihood and failed to take some available mitigating action (good luck!). 3) Although some associations were better prepared than others, most carried some measure of culpability (i.e. - we all live in glass houses... literally and figuratively) 4) Prior to the actual events, no one fully appreciated how their actions (or lack thereof) would ultimately translate into damage expense.
|PLAYA DEL MAR WILMA DAMAGE - ONE YEAR LATER|
That was then, this is now. None of last year’s mitigating “rationales” are still credible. From direct experience, everyone is clearly aware that a chair left on a balcony during a hurricane can damage a window, a fence, a windshield and/or kill. An unsecured piece of construction equipment is tantamount to a runaway train. There are no longer any viable excuses for neglecting to adequately prepare for catastrophic events. There is an unexpressed understanding that if your roof enters my window AGAIN, you will at least owe me a window – period.
|REGENCY TOWER BALCONIES AFTER REVIEW|
To avert the prospect of engaging in sterile conjecture or recriminations borne of alleged injuries, officials in several Galt Mile Associations focused on lessening their exposure to storm damage suffered from inter-building debris. In May, managers and board members from Galt Ocean Club (Pio Ieraci), Regency Tower (Eric Berkowitz), Playa del Mar (Keith Tannenbaum, Betty Cholst, Joe Ernest), Ocean Summit (Lee Lowenthal, Jim Comis) and Ocean Club (Herb Santiago) aspired to find some common standard of preparation designed to minimize future damage. A mutual arrangement to secure every roof and deck and remove all furniture from balconies prior to an event would go a long way to abate future damage repair costs – for everyone.
While securing the various decks and roofs would be the individual responsibility of each association, a plan was developed to facilitate the clearance of participating association balconies. Ordinarily, this task requires sending out personnel to check the balconies from ground level. To monitor the upper floor balconies, a staffer must be sent down the beach with binoculars or make dozens of telephone contacts and/or unit inspections. This critical task consumes hours of valuable staff resources at a time that they are at a premium. How an association utilizes its personnel and organizes their time during an emergency will often dictate whether or not their preparations achieve fruition.
|GALT OCEAN CLUB, REGENCY TOWER, PLAYA DEL MAR|
OCEAN SUMMIT, OCEAN CLUB
The new strategy afforded two benefits. In addition to being reliably accurate, the balcony review would take minutes instead of hours. Each Association would send representatives to their neighbors on either side. They would be escorted to the roof from which they could easily monitor one side of their building and identify which balconies remain obstructed. By performing this procedure from the roofs of both neighboring buildings, every association could get an accurate accounting of which balconies required clearing.
|PLAYA DEL MAR|
BALCONIES BEFORE REVIEW
On Monday, August 28th, Playa del Mar Manager Keith Tannenbaum contacted Regency Tower to put the plan into action. Regency Tower Security Chief Carlos Pereira and Eric Berkowitz visited Playa del Mar where they were escorted to the roof. From that vantage point, it took less than five minutes to identify every balcony on the north side of Regency Tower that was still not cleared. In turn, Playa del Mar Assistant Manager Caren Francis and Security Supervisor John Lombardi performed a similar inspection of Playa del Mar’s south side from the Regency Tower roof. Eric and Carlos then visited the Galt Ocean Club roof from which they inspected the south side of Regency Tower for uncleared balconies. Caren and John likewise checked the north side balconies of Playa del Mar from the Ocean Summit roof. Ocean Summit Manager Lee Lowenthal also used this technique to help clear his association’s balconies. Manager Herb Santiago from Ocean Club and Galt Ocean Club’s Israel Ruiz were invited to participate as well.
|PLAYA DEL MAR|
BALCONIES AFTER REVIEW
The process worked. Ocean Summit, Playa del Mar and Regency Tower all had accurate information reflecting the state of their balconies within 20 minutes instead of hours. During Hurricane Wilma, over 20 balconies on the south side of Playa del Mar were still loaded with furniture upon the storm’s arrival and it took almost an entire day for Regency Tower to effectively clear its balconies. In contrast – prior to the arrival of Ernesto – only four Playa del Mar balconies and one Regency Tower balcony remained uncleared two hours subsequent to their mutual review.
Following Hurricane Wilma, debris from unsecured items littered the entire Galt Mile. In addition to eviscerated roofing material and broken building elements such as windows, shutters and chunks of concrete; the block was covered by construction materials, building signs, video & electrical equipment, ladders, traffic cones, pool equipment, beach furnishings and hundreds of chairs, tables, plants, lamps and chaise lounges torn from balconies. A careful review of the Playa del Mar and Regency Tower premises on Tuesday afternoon confirmed that aside from a few balconies, everything was fully secured. Playa del Mar had concrete rehabilitation contractor Structural Preservation Systems strap down or remove a wide assortment of construction equipment and materials. Association building personnel did likewise with any remaining items. Regency Tower removed two swing stages and every rooftop vent turbine to their garage. Pool, beach and deck equipment were secured or removed, and every balcony save one was cleared. Ocean Summit and Ocean Club also succeeded in surpassing all previous efforts to preclude unnecessary internal and external debris damage.
|PLAYA DEL MAR PATIO DECK BEFORE REVIEW|
If this centrally located section of the Galt Mile neighborhood becomes representative of the balance of the community, future hurricane repair costs will be a fraction of those incurred during the past two years. Insurance premiums for every Association have been increased primarily to offset the carrier’s anticipated increase in claims costs. Abating the prospective damage will lower both repair expenses and the accompanying claims costs. Aside from instituting the storm mitigation upgrades demanded by the carrier’s reinsurer – as exemplified by QBE insisting on window protection and stable roofing – nothing will exert as much downward pressure on premiums as reining in these repair costs. Cooperative efforts that cost nothing and produce results are a giant step in the right direction.
FY 2006/2007 Fort Lauderdale Budget Battle
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Outfall Pipes Meeting!
Dear Member and/or Manager,
If you have received a letter dated July 13, 2006 from Broward County Environmental Protection Department (Stephen Higgins) and/or if your building utilizes a/c outfall pipes onto the beach or into the ocean, please contact GMCA Presidents Council Chairman Pio Ieraci ASAP (see below).
We had originally scheduled a meeting with Stephen Higgins and engineers from the D.E.P. on August 28, 2006 at 6:45 PM to be held at the Ocean Club Condominium to discuss issues, solutions, costs etc. relative the aformentioned "outfall" pipes.
Due to the untimely arrival of Hurricane Ernesto, the meeting was rescheduled for September 11, 2006 at 6:45 PM. It will still take place at the Ocean Club Condominium.
Only buildings that are directly effected (if you currently use outfall pipes of any sort into the ocean or onto the beach) should attend this meeting.
Please contact GMCA Presidents Council Chairman Pio Ieraci (see below) to confirm your attendance at this meeting. Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Ieraci (see below).
The Date: Monday, September 11th, 2006
The Time: 6:45 P.M.
The Place: Ocean Club Condominium
4020 Galt Ocean Drive in Fort Lauderdale
For more information, please call President’s Council Chairman Pio Ieraci of the Galt Mile Community Association at 954 489-9430, Fax: (954) 489-9330, Cellular: (954) 347-5500, Email: email@example.com
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September 12, 2006 - Albert Einstein spent his twilight years in a futile search for the cosmic key to the universe. The incompatibility of Quantum Mechanics with his Theory of Relativity became the Holy Grail of modern physics. M Theory – or Membrane Theory – is currently considered to be the long sought missing piece of his cosmic puzzle. The logical offshoot of String Theory, M Theory requires the existence of 11 dimensions. It also supports the prospect of an infinite number of alternate universes. Two of them are right here in Fort Lauderdale.
As theoretically predicted, they occupy the same space at the same time, a state of existence previously considered impossible. Unsuspecting Galt Mile residents who for years lived side by side with one another have recently come to grips with their two distinct states of being. There are those living in Homesteaded properties and, of course, everyone else.
On July 18th, Budget Department Director Alyson Love presented City Manager George Gretsas’ new municipal budget designed to run from October 1, 2006 to September 30, 2007. The $503.5 million budget he proposed is actually a combination of the General Fund, debt service and several self-funded municipal projects like the WaterWorks 2011 sewer and water improvement projects, the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, sanitation, stormwater and the parking system. The $308.9 million General Fund, appropriately known as the Operating Budget, is the meat and potatoes that nourish Police, Fire-Rescue, Parks and other public services. When it comes to funding these spreadsheets, property taxes do the heavy lifting.
The City is only one of several entities that feed at the property taxes trough, chewing up only 22.39% of the upcoming tax bill. About 77% of our property taxes fund the Broward County School Board (34.47%), Broward County (27.67%), the North Broward Hospital District (9.56%), the South Florida Water Management District (3.06%), the Children’s Services Council (1.86%), the Hillsboro Inlet District (0.81%) and the Florida Inland Navigation District (0.17%). After each of these organizations estimates their expected required resources, the individual “sub-totals” are added together to ascertain how much money is needed to keep all of them afloat for another year.
To fill the bill, officials first total the expected income from all available resources. The shortfall is plugged by property taxes. It is precisely at this point that the area is split into two universes. The Broward County Property Appraiser’s office totals the property value of all the homesteaded properties and separately calculates the value of all non-homesteaded properties. They are charged with calculating how much money they must collect from each of these two universes to make up the collective shortfall of the entities listed on your tax bill. When performing this Middle School arithmetic, they are constrained by one factor; the increase they consider from the homesteaded properties cannot exceed the larger of last year’s Consumer Price Index or 3%. After subtracting the modest revenue expectation from homesteaded properties, whatever liability remains on the table is charged to the non-homesteaded properties. Working backwards, they calculate how many dollars must be charged to each property owner for every thousand dollars of property they own. This is called the Millage Rate. It is often mistakenly presumed to be an indicator of whether taxes are being increased or decreased. It is not. When property values heat up (increased 19.5% this year - from $23 to $28 billion), a decrease in the Millage Rate can still result in a tax increase. To simplify disclosure, Statute requires that a taxing authority admit to an increase if they expect to assess more than they did during the previous year.
To achieve the $503,505,846 budget proposed by Mr. Gretsas, the FY 2006/2007 combined Millage Rate for operations, debt service, etc. will be 5.2326 or $5.23 for every $1,000 in taxable value. This amounts to a 3.8% decrease of the 5.4313 Millage Rate that underwrote the current $452.4 million budget. Since property values increased dramatically last year, the lower millage will net the City $140,860,267 in Ad Valorem taxes (property tax dollars), a 14.7% increase over this year’s $122,811,237.
Since the revenues collected from newly constructed buildings and/or annexed land are incremental to the current year’s budgetary line items, they provide no basis for drawing fiscal year tax comparisons. When these first-time revenues are excluded as contributing factors, the new budget represents an 11.3% increase over the current year’s actual budget. However, the State of Florida makes no such distinction. Since its statutory perspective requires that unprecedented assessments be included when formulating comparisons, it defines the new budget as carrying a 13% increase.
While the proposed $503.5 million budget is all-inclusive, the Operating Budget or General Fund fuels the Parks, Police, Fire-Rescue, Finance, Building Services, Public Works and other municipal departments that power Fort Lauderdale’s daily life support. Other General Fund resources are franchise fees, sales & use taxes, utility taxes, licenses & permits, charges for services, fines & forfeitures, etc. It also includes some interest income, rental income, special assessments and transfers. The new $308,916,150 General Fund composed by Mr. Gretsas represents a $40,304,697 increase over the current $268,611,453 operating budget. Of the $308.9 million General Fund, the $140,860,267 collected in Ad Valorem taxes is comprised of two parts. The $133,430,712 that addresses operations will be raised by dint of a 4.9566 Millage Rate and $7,429,555 is treated as a separate debt levy.
|$503.5 MILLION ALL-FUNDS BUDGET|
With the passage of the Save Our Homes Constitutional Amendment in 1992, Fort Lauderdale citizenry started separating into two distinct factions based primarily on their assessment obligations. Half of Fort Lauderdale’s property owners are full-time inhabitants occupying their primary residence. They enjoy a $25,000 deduction and an annual cap which limits increases in the assessed value of their property to the lesser of the percentage change in the CPI (Consumer Price Index) or 3 percent. The other half are taxed based on the market value of their property. Since the assessed value established by the Property Appraiser’s Office generally lags behind the market values, the difference in the two classes of tax bills was marginal from 1992 to 1995. With time the discrepancies grew geometrically. The tax bills for two identical properties of equal market value purchased at the same time show widely divergent assessed values. The statutory obligations for commercial, rental, new and seasonal property owners were many multiples of those shielded by homestead protection.
|$308.9 MILLION GENERAL FUND BUDGET|
The Property Appraiser estimates that the market value of the average condominium in Fort Lauderdale is currently $280,781. As compared to FY 2006, the homesteaded owner of that condominium will pay $6.41 less in FY 2007. A non-homesteaded owner of the same unit will face an increased tax bill of $221.13. The average single family home has an estimated market value of $406,365. A homesteaded homeowner would pay $11.49 less next year compared to $320.04 more without homestead.
This year, the two budget hearings ordinarily called after the budget proposal to afford constituents an opportunity to make comments and recommendations were scheduled for September 6th and September 19th. At the September 6th meeting, waves of non-homesteaded property owners complained bitterly to City Manager George Gretsas and the City Commission about the disproportionate tax burden they are expected to shoulder. While homesteaded property owners will see a slight reduction in their municipal assessment, their non-homesteaded neighbors will swallow the entire increase. Although expressing sympathy for their predicament, Mr. Gretsas disclaimed responsibility for the State tax structure that foments these huge assessment discrepancies. Caught between the city’s fiscal realities and a large audience with a singular grievance, the commissioners agreed to prevail on Mr. Gretsas to further trim his work product. Following a procession of budget-cutting suggestions totaling $4 million, Commissioner Christine Teel admonished that it would be difficult to make the right cuts without gouging too deeply, intimating that Mr. Gretsas exercise caution and good judgment when considering which items he would trim.
|CITY COMMISSION BUDGET MEETING|
HUTCHINSON - NAUGLE - GRETSAS
What legislators had in mind when they developed this tax policy is unclear. Evidently, they were attempting to reward the commitment of property owners who were willing to make Florida their primary home. Some simple arithmetic clearly demonstrates that with time, one segment of the population would ultimately have to support the other. The structural mechanics of the “Save Our Homes” protective cap inexorably shifts the overall tax burden from the entire body of property owners to those unprotected by the Homestead Exemption. Whether they neglected to consider how a feverish real estate market would impact this policy or mistakenly anticipated some alternative scenario, the already severe imbalance is destined to perpetuate itself... and grow.
Those residents currently paying the bulk of the City’s expenses need the cooperation of their homesteaded counterparts to alter the statutory formula. Relying on the promises of local officials to cut taxes is a dead end. While municipal and county budgets are often rife with overt examples of unnecessary spending, excising every scintilla of waste and abuse will provide negligible relief at best. Since budgets are a zero sum game, lowering anyone’s liability means increasing someone else’s burden. In this case, the burden would be lifted from a population with a high percentage of people not registered to vote in Florida and fall on a population of eligible voters. As such, it is highly unlikely that a spontaneous political solution will restore some modicum of balance. Frustrated residents with commercial, rental or seasonal properties or those who recently purchased a home have been frantically seeking some rationale borne of enlightened self-interest useful for prompting homestead beneficiaries into relinquishing some of their benefits and assume a larger obligation.
Recently, several meritorious arguments useful for encouraging reconsideration of current tax policy have gained momentum. Potentially devastating consequences of this inequitable imbalance are directly threatening economic growth and development. Florida’s second home market, a historical fiscal bellwether, is rapidly losing steam. The longstanding attraction of South Florida to the domestic vacation home market is withering under these sizable tax penalties. Although foreign sales continue to benefit from the weak dollar – economists regard this offset as short-lived. Florida’s reputation as the ideal retiree destination is facing a more serious threat. A common denominator for retirees at every economic level is stability. By definition, retirement requires the successful marriage of relatively fixed resources to a reliably stable set of expenses. Millions of retirees need the “dream homes” they purchased years before occupying them to be affordable when retirement arrives. The trebling and quadrupling of tax assessments has contributed to a reversal of this trend, forcing retirees to sell their retirement properties while discouraging prospective retirees. The tax penalty, in conjunction with unstable insurance costs and media-enhanced hurricane paranoia has punctured several of South Florida’s critical revenue streams.
A more direct threat to growth derives from a critical scarcity of workforce housing. On January 19, 2006, Assistant City Manager Kathleen Gunn addressed the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board. As the City Manager’s primary agent for economic development, she works with the Community and Economic Development Department to attract new employers while addressing the expansion and retention needs of existing companies. She explained, “There are two key components in the selection of a new location or expansion site. The first includes a favorable tax structure, availability of business assistance, accessibility of US and international markets, prime office space, and exceptional dollar values in housing.” After identifying the second component as quality of life, she described it as, “a combination of cultural, recreational, and educational amenities that have attracted a highly trained, well-educated, diverse work force.”
|Assistant City Manager|
KATHLEEN A. GUNN
It is addressed in both of Ms. Gunn’s “key components”. Small and medium businesses considering relocation options place a large premium on the availability of a significant pool of local employees. Many of those who can afford to purchase homes are forced to pass due to the tax penalty. Since landlords pass their increasing tax expense through to their tenants, affordable rental property has also become “endangered housing”. A similar dilemma is undermining recruitment efforts by both the City and the County. Teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers and other public service employees all require hefty benefit packages as inducements to offset an inconvenient and expensive commute.
While threats to our economic growth are worthy of addressing, few people will directly participate in a voluntary redistribution of wealth to nourish an improved economic climate. Appealing to some collective sense of fair play or Samaritan-like charitable instinct has thus far garnered only token support. At the end of the day, non-homesteaded residents face the seemingly insurmountable task of convincing their neighbors to voluntarily give up some or all of their sizable tax benefits so that they may be more equitably redistributed. Unless some realistic incentive to motivate such a sacrifice gains credibility, this dilemma will continue to defy resolution. Until then, all the City Manager and the City Commission can do to pacify the annual outcry by half the City’s population is to swallow hard and apologetically nibble at peripheral line items.
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Commissioner Jim Scott Unveils
September 22, 2006 - Following through on his May 18th commitment to advance the cause of Homestead portability after it backfired during the legislative session, Broward County Commissioner Jim Scott reported his progress at the September 21st meeting of the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board. District 4 Commissioner Scott, the Galt Mile’s voice on the Broward Board of County Commissioners, briefly summarized some of his recent efforts to cut taxes, build accountability into the Budget process, preserve the County’s Land Use authority to control development, act as the Commission’s most viable go-between in Tallahassee and assemble a plan to immunize Broward residents against the disastrous tax penalty adjunctive to relocation.
His plan initiates with the placement of a measure on the November ballot asking voters if they approve of Homestead portability - the right to transfer their Save Our Homes – Homestead Exemption valuation to a new Broward home when they sell their current residence. An overwhelmingly positive response would enable Broward and other Florida counties, through a local option, to provide portability of the Save Our Homes Homestead tax cap. During the past few years, while South Florida legislators and property appraisers have supported statewide portability legislation, it was successfully opposed by municipal and county officials in central and northern Florida fearful of undermining continued access to recent property tax windfalls. By offering portability as a local option instead of a statewide mandate, Scott’s plan allows officials opposed to the measure to preserve existing local tax policy. This targeted implementation will hopefully permit Miami, Broward and/or Palm Beach Counties to assent to portability without threatening North Florida municipal tax rolls.
A few days prior to Scott’s Advisory Board update, Administrative Aide Lisa Castillo forwarded to GMCA a letter directed at constituents that expands on the plan’s details. It reads as follows: [editor]
Dear Friends & Neighbors:
I’ve been a proponent of tax relief and conservative government spending throughout my years of public service. During my twenty-four years as a Florida State Senator, I consistently supported budget reforms including zero based budgeting and performance based budget measures. I continue to practice that same philosophy as a Broward County Commissioner.
Never has property tax relief been more necessary. As property values increase so have property taxes. Cost-of-living expenses such as rent, gasoline and food have escalated. Recent hurricanes have sent homeowners insurance costs skyrocketing. It’s clear that Broward residents need a break!
|BROWARD COUNTY COMMISSION SUPPORTS|
SCOTT"S PORTABILITY BALLOT MEASURE
Recently, I convinced my colleagues on the Board of County Commissioners to support placing a measure on the November ballot that asks voters if they approve of the portability or ability to transfer the Save Our Homes Homestead Valuation Exemption upon sale of their home to a new home in Broward County.
Under the terms of the 1992 Save Our Homes Amendment to Florida’s Constitution, the increase in the assessed value of your property for taxing purposes is limited to no more than three percent per year, no matter how much the market value increases. However, once you sell your home and buy a new home, rising property values means a dramatic increase in taxes. The proposal would allow for Broward and other Florida counties, through a local option, to provide portability of the Save Our Homes Homestead Limitation.
|PLAN COULD UNLOCK THOSE|
TRAPPED BY TAX PENALTY
Right now many County residents are prisoners in their homes. This includes seniors wanting to downsize and growing families who need bigger homes. Young people trying to buy their first home are also affected. There is also tremendous pressure on the rental market, which affects the availability of affordable rental housing.
I believe that if people are allowed to transfer their Save Our Home homestead exemption, it will provide a great and much needed tax break. I also think it will stimulate home sales and eventually create more affordable housing.
The State Legislature has the authority to change the Florida constitution. In my experience as a State Senator, these types of ballot questions display such a strong expression of support and provide the focus and impetus for action by the Legislature. I’m hoping that everyone will vote for this in November and the legislature will pay attention to the will of the people of Broward County.
Year after year I engage in lengthy debate with my colleagues on the Commission to further rollback property taxes and return more money to Broward County residents. This year some headway was made. The Board agreed to cut the millage rate by no less than 9%.
While this is a good start, I still believe that more has to be done. The value of property in Broward County has continued to escalate over the past five years or more. Property tax roll increases have remained in the record-setting double digits. I believe that increased revenues should be returned to Broward taxpayers, not held onto into a reserve for a rainy day. I just don’t think that that is a role that government should play.
I think I’m making progress in that area, but I’d like to see the County budget better analyzed to determine if there are excesses or just a better more efficient way to do business. I remain a strong proponent of zero based budgeting. This demands that every government agency justify it’s expenses instead of receiving a pre-determined automatic budget increase every year. Every County department should undergo this rigorous budget process every year.
I’m always interested in hearing your thoughts, ideas and opinions. I can be reached at my office at (954) 357-7004. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
, District 4
Broward Board of County Commissioners
Background Save Our Homes:
A benefit restricted to homeowners claiming a homestead exemption, the 1992 “Save our Homes” amendment limits increases in the “just value” of a property to the lesser of the percentage change in the CPI (Consumer Price Index) or 3 percent. A 1965 Supreme Court decision defining the “Just Value” of a property as its “market value” provides the basis for our system of “property value-based” assessments. The “Save our Homes” amendment shields us from the tax ramifications of skyrocketing property values. Pensioners who serendipitously experienced a doubling or tripling of their home’s market value avoid the crushing tax consequence that would normally place their assessment expense beyond their resources. While this insulation from erratic market surges rescued the homes of thousands of Broward residents who might otherwise have been forced to relocate, it also manifested an unexpected drawback... a trap!
|COMMISSIONER JIM SCOTT|
An unintended consequence of the “Save our Homes” amendment arises from its lack of portability. The protection only persists as long as the homestead claimant remains in their existing property. Should an “empty-nester” decide to move to smaller, more affordable, surroundings, the protection evaporates. On January 1st of the following year, the new home is exposed to the full tax consequence of its “just” or market value, often doubling or trebling despite its being half the size, twice as old and much less valuable than the prior residence! Characterized as the “moving penalty”, this insufficiency in the amendment has literally trapped thousands of Floridians who would have moved but for the attendant horrific tax abuse.
|SAVE OUR HOMES AMENDMENT|
Annual legislative attempts to correct this inequity have hit brick walls. Several obstacles have consistently undermined portability bills offered by lawmakers in both houses. A pernicious disunity has eroded the once powerful South Florida legislative presence in Tallahassee into a political weak sister. The dysfunctional Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Legislative Delegations no longer set aside disparate ideology and self-serving agendas as did their predecessors when tackling regional issues. North and Central Florida legislators quickly filled the resulting power vacuum.
Many North and Central Florida counties and municipalities represented by these lawmakers have exhibited quasi-paranoid opposition to any perceived threat to their tax base. They are rabidly opposed to sacrificing the immediate boost in individual tax valuations that occur when the Save Our Homes limitations are terminated by relocation.
These same counties and municipalities have become serendipitous beneficiaries of the amendment’s “moving penalty”. To sidestep a punitive tax consequence, many South Florida residents are moving to north and central Florida localities unaffected by runaway property valuations. Nervous bureaucrats envision Portability as a threat to the new-found economic growth adjunctive to this influx of displaced South Floridians.
Those jurisdictions benefiting from this demographic shift are likely to continue opposing portability. However, by recasting it as a local option, Scott’s plan should relieve the concerns expressed by a healthy segment of its historical opposition – perhaps enough to tip the scales.
The same formula was used to overcome what appeared to be insurmountable opposition to slot machines. Fundamentalist anti-gambling opposition in North Florida and capitalist anti-competitive elements in Central Florida vacation Meccas like Orlando and Kissimmee closed the door on slots in South Florida. A strong favorable grass roots showing at the Broward polls changed the political stakes, transmogrifying the issue from gambling into one of home rule. A repeat performance on behalf of portability should yield similar results, enabling thousands of Broward residents to live where they choose instead of where they found themselves when the Real Estate boom sent their property values through the roof!
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September 2006 Galt Mile Update
Commissioner Christine Teel
October 4, 2006 - Vice Mayor Christine Teel addressed the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board on September 21st. Well prepared for the first meeting after the Board’s summer hiatus, she conveyed authoritative updates for a series of Galt Mile and/or Fort Lauderdale issues. The Vice Mayor has been keeping GMCA posted on the City’s progress in recovering from as yet unaddressed damage caused by Hurricane Wilma - landscaping and street lighting in particular. She told attendees that the Galt Mile neighborhood has a new Police Major and a community eyesore would soon be addressed. Turning to fellow guest speaker Broward Commissioner Jim Scott, she said “We also want to announce the opening of the new Community Center at George English Park!”
|DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER|
Parks Department chief Phil Thornburg notified the Vice Mayor on September 13th that the lighting on the east side has been repaired and the west side should be completed by the end of the following week. Department personnel have been monitoring the recently planted trees, replacing the ones that fail to thrive. During the next few weeks, the palms and silver buttonwoods will be pruned and mulching will continue. Maria, a Parks Department employee whose years of grooming Galt Mile landscaping have endeared her to local residents, will continue to work on the Galt.
|GALT MILE LANDSCAPING|
Ms. Teel told the Board that former District I Police Major Mary N. Negrey has been promoted to Assistant Chief in charge of the Support Service Bureau. She is now responsible for oversight of the Administrative Support Division, Staff Support Division and Information Technology Department. These Divisions comprise various units that provide support to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and its employees. The three Support Services Units includes the following functions: Background investigations, Recruiting, Alarms, Finance, Payroll and Personnel, Training, Communications, Crime Analysis, Records, Building Maintenance, Fleet, Court Liaison, Evidence, Legal and Confiscations, and Supply. The Support Services Bureau ensures that the Police Department mission can be accomplished effectively and efficiently using the latest technology, training and tools.
|ASST CHIEF MARY NEGREY|
Assuming her responsibility for the District 1 police patrol is Major Paul J. Kiley. A 30 year veteran, Kiley joined FLPD on November 1, 1976. He graduated from Boston State College and St. Thomas University with Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Management. Upon assuming responsibility for the overall command of police operations in District I, Kiley sent a September 15th email to Commissioner Teel, alerting her to the progress of the “Traffic Enforcement Action Plan”. Several years ago, Police Chief Bruce Roberts engineered this effort to curb noise abuse from motorcycles, loud radios and vehicles with ineffective mufflers. Kiley’s report to the Commissioner is as follows:
|MAJOR PAUL J. KILEY|
“January of 2006: an officer was assigned to enforcement between the hours of 2 pm and 4 pm each Saturday and Sunday. Message board signs were deployed for a month with the message, ‘Strict Noise Enforcement’. The message boards were used to communicate with drivers as well as area residents.
The May re-evaluation was completed and the peak times of complaints in April were changed to Saturday afternoons at 1 PM and Sunday afternoons between Noon and 2 PM. In April, the message board signs were again deployed for two weeks with the Noise Enforcement message reiterated. Officers reported that the motorcycle traffic diminished significantly. In May the message boards were deployed on the weekends.
The June re-evaluation was influenced by the considerably warm weather. Complaints were not heard from any area residents most likely due to closed windows and internal air conditioning noise. Random checks were conducted by officers throughout the summer and violations were not an issue.
The September re-evaluation is underway. Message board signs have again been deployed to the area to inform drivers and area residents. Officers have been citing drivers in the area for traffic infractions to demonstrate an increased focus on traffic issues. We have issued 31 citations and 1 traffic arrest this week in the Galt Ocean Drive Traffic Action Plan. Thanks for your assistance.”
Major Kiley also told the Commissioner that he was seeking “the best possible relationship with all of the residents and business owners in the district.”
Hurricane Wilma wrought unprecedented damage to the Galt Mile neighborhood. An edifice located on the corner of 33rd Street and A1A sustained irreparable damage. 3301 N. Ocean Blvd., formerly housing the “Hamilton Gallery”, has remained in a state of advanced disrepair for almost a year. Area residents lodged complaints claiming that it presented a danger to the adjoining structures, passing pedestrians and was an eyesore. After Community Inspections Supervisor Lindwell Bradley testified at a July 6, 2006 Special Magistrate Hearing that the building was missing windows and the sidewalk overhang was damaged and presented a potential pedestrian hazard, owner Richard E. Elbaz complained that his insurance company was “stonewalling” his claim, depriving him of the resources required for demolition. He was given 90 days to comply with an order requiring its removal after which he would be fined $250 per day. On September 21st, the property was scheduled for a hearing before the City’s Unsafe Structures Board.
|3301 N. OCEAN BLVD., FORMERLY HAMILTON GALLERY|
ON A1A GOES BEFORE UNSAFE STRUCTURES BOARD
George English Park is a 19.7 acre Community Park located a few blocks north of Sunrise Boulevard at 1101 Bayview Drive. The park boasts a tennis center with seven Deco-Turf lighted hard courts and a pro shop, a playground, two basketball courts, lighted athletic fields and a nature trail. Its two boat ramps feed into a lagoon of the Middle River, accommodating various water sports including kayaking, canoeing, and water skiing. The aquatic sports activities and the tennis center represent the park’s main draw. Commissioner Teel announced the opening of the park’s new Community Center with functionality similar to that of our Beach Community Center. Seated next to Broward Commissioner Jim Scott during the meeting, she turned to Scott and related events that led to the Center’s creation.
|GEORGE ENGLISH PARK|
In 2004, Commissioner Scott allocated nearly $450,000 from his discretionary commission bond funds to be used for construction of the community center. The City added funds and will operate the facility. The new center houses a meeting room that will accommodate one hundred people for community gatherings and as a new polling place for residents. Other new facilities include ADA-compliant (Americans with Disabilities Act) bathrooms, as well as a kitchen and office space.
|COMMISSIONER JIM SCOTT GIVES CHECK TO|
COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL FOR COMMUNITY
CENTER AT GEORGE ENGLISH PARK
The Vice Mayor thanked Commissioner Scott for his part in adding this valuable new asset to the Park. A ribbon cutting ceremony was scheduled from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on September 30th to celebrate the new community center at George English Park, 1101 Bayview Drive in Fort Lauderdale. Planned activities include live tennis demonstrations, a tree giveaway, bounce house and face painting.
Vice Mayor Teel related an incident that took place at The Shore Club that focused attention on the individual responsibilities inherent in unit ownership. A snow bird left an electronic paper shredder connected after leaving for the season. Unbeknownst to the owner, the machine apparently jammed during use. Following its default software instructions, the paper shredder remained in a state of perpetual expulsion, remaining on while continually attempting to relieve itself of a perceived clog. Its frenetic efforts ignited a fire in the unit. Although contained, it demonstrated the importance of disconnecting every potential safety hazard prior to closing an unattended unit.
|THE SHORE CLUB|
Commissioner Teel disclosed that she received notification from Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue that they were sponsoring some classes for which attendance is being offered to residents. When asked if they included the AED-CPR classes required for defibrillator certification, she answered that she was unaware of the class particulars. Before the City experienced its budgetary dilemma, AED-CPR certification classes were given by Fire-Rescue for personnel training. However, they permitted attendance by residents. When the budget balloon burst, classes were closed to the public. Since the city has recovered its fiscal footing, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t permit certification class access to those residents participating in approved AED installations.
|GMCA AED/CPR CLASS AT FIRE-RESCUE|
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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA CHAPTER
ANNOUNCES THEIR ANNUAL
$10,000 Grand Prize for Hole in One
Community Association Institute, Southeast Florida Chapter is proud to announce our Second Annual Golf Tournament.
The SE Florida Chapter of CAI provides: education to assist the promotion of professionlism within the Community Association industry; the opportunity to access experts in a wide variety of industries familiar with Association affairs; and, the advocacy of legislation that benefits all of us involved in Community Association living, which advocacy is vital in today's political climate.
Portion of profit to benefit Florida Legislative Action, which works to lobby legislators in regard to Community Association Living.
The Date: Friday, Octoder 13th, 2006
The Time: 12:00 Noon
The Place: Bonaventure Country Club
200 Bonaventure Boulevard
Weston, Florida 33317
The Plan - Friday, 13 October 2006
- 12:00 Noon - *Registration for participants
- 1:00 p.m. - *Shotgun Start, *Best Ball Format
- 4:00 p.m. - *Award Buffet Banquet
Golfers may come as a 4-some, or single golfers will be matched with players boasting similar handicaps.
- Scramble Format Tournament includes:
- Green Fees and Cart, Goody bag for each player, Buffet Dinner, Raffle Prizes
- Raffle Prizes for:
- *Closest to Pin, *Longest Drive, *Hole in One
- Platinum Sponsor - $2000
- Two (2) 4-some for tournament, banner/2 tee sponsor signs, Named in program, Include your provided promotional gift in bag, Preferred seating at banquet, Your name on canvas gift bag
- Gold Sponsor - *$1000
- 4-some for tournament, 1 tee sign sponsors, Named in Program, Include your provided promotional gift in bag, Preferred seating at banquet, Your name on canvas gift bag
- Gift Bag Sponsor - *$500
- 2-some for tournament, Named in program, Include your provided promotional gift in bag, Your name on canvas gift bag
- Tee Sign Sponsor - *$150
For more information contact: Abbie Chapnick by Email: email@example.com. Click Here for the Southeast Florida Chapter of CAI web site.
In the Galt Mile area, feel free to contact CAI Southeast Florida Chapter President Donald Westbrook at Phone: (954) 579-7170 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Don also serves as the manager of L’Hermitage Condominium on the Galt Ocean Mile.
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2006 – 07 Flu Season Hijinx
October 28, 2006 - It’s BAACK! The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. In a typical year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is contracted by 5 to 20 % of the United States’ population. More than 200,000 victims require hospitalization from flu complications. About 36,000 die.
Since the influenza virus is a “meta-morph” – a shape shifter, every year new strategies must be devised to design a vaccine against the predicted flu strain for that year. Due to the uncertainty surrounding which influenza strain will actually emerge, this has evolved into an annual guessing game. Frequently, these vaccines are based on the previous year’s strains. Ultimately, researchers are trying to design a vaccine that could confer immunity to all influenza strains. However, as of yet, this medical “Holy Grail” has not been discovered. The prospects for a DNA-based vaccine are also being explored, as well as RNA interference, and new antiviral candidates.
There are two vaccination vehicles currently available, the infamous “flu shot” and the less well known nasal-spray flu vaccine. The shot is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The nasal-spray flu vaccine is made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 5 years to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. The one exception is healthy persons who care for persons with severely weakened immune systems who require a protected environment; these healthy persons should get the inactivated vaccine.
Each vaccine contains three influenza viruses—one A (H3N2) virus, one A (H1N1) virus, and one B virus. The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on international surveillance and scientists’ estimations about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year – a sort of annual flu popularity contest. The selected strains must be grown individually before the three are combined late in the production process. They are usually chosen in February and the vaccine production and preparation process takes about six to eight months. Distribution of influenza vaccine begins as early as August and typically continues throughout November and December. The viruses in the 2006-07 influenza vaccine are:
|INFLUENZA A VIRUS STRAIN|
- an A/New Caledonia/20/99 (H1N1)-like virus;
- an A/Wisconsin/67/2005 (H3N2)-like virus (A/Wisconsin/67/2005 and A/Hiroshima/52/2005 strains);
- a B/Malaysia/2506/2004-like virus (B/Malaysia/2506/2004 and B/Ohio/1/2005 strains)
Although influenza vaccine development is the only realistic defense against potential flu pandemics, it is – by nature – an unreliable variable. Annual worldwide vaccine usage of over 300 million doses requires more than six months and 350 million chicken eggs to meet that demand. These constraints and other extraneous factors, such as the microbial contamination of vaccines manufactured last year in the UK, leaves influenza vaccine technology currently in a state of disconnect with imminent pandemic threats as well as ordinary health demands. During the 2005 – 2006 flu season, British vaccine manufacturer Chiron Corporation was precluded from delivering 50 million contaminated doses of the vaccine to the United States market. The CDC scrambled to fill the shortage with vaccine not licensed for the U.S. market. To mollify the effects of the unanticipated shortage, high-risk groups were given immunization priority. This year’s snafu isn’t quite as dramatic.
Last week, Sanofi Pasteur, the only maker of injectable flu vaccine for children ages 3 and younger, stated that while there will be an adequate amount of the vaccine, pediatricians will have to wait until November or December to receive the bulk of their supply. Following understandable concerns expressed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, deputy director Dr. Jeanne Santoli of Immunization Services Division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said during a teleconference to update the nation on this season’s flu vaccine supply, “We are absolutely not calling this a shortage.”
According to Santoli, “40 million doses that were distributed to providers as of the end of the second week of October and that we are still on track to achieve 75 million doses to be distributed by the end of October. This is 15 million more doses that are compared to last October in terms of flu vaccine distribution.” She expanded, “In fact, we’ve never really used more than 80 to 83 million doses in a season. So to have 75 million by the end of the first full month of vaccination season to us feels like it’s timing that will get the vaccine out there when it’s needed.” Responding to a question about last year’s policy, when shortages required prioritization for high-risk groups, she said, “With the large amount of vaccine that we anticipate being available this season, we want to do our best to make as many opportunities as possible for high-risk people, their household contacts and any others who want to prevent influenza to get vaccinated. And so, we’re not making any kind of recommendations about serving one group before others this year.” Santoli curiously characterized this year’s delivery delays as functional ramifications of “phased process”, intimating that doctors needn’t stockpile or ration received doses.
|AVIAN INFLUENZA VIRUS STRAIN|
Actually, the previous high was 83.1 million doses in 2003. Last year, 81.2 million doses were distributed. In her annual understatement, CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding confirmed, “As we’ve learned in the past few years, there is always some uncertainty regarding influenza vaccine supplies and distribution. It’s often very difficult to predict how much vaccine will be distributed and when, or exactly when influenza vaccine will be available for those who provide it. However, if the manufacturers’ estimates hold, more people than ever before will be able to protect themselves and their loved ones from influenza this year.”
|CDC DIRECTOR JULIE GERBERDING|
Almost everyone who wants to reduce their risk should consider receiving a vaccination against the flu. Some people should immunize themselves annually. Among them are children 6 months old through 59 months; pregnant women; people 50 years old and older; people any age with various chronic medical conditions that put them at more risk (asthmatics and others suffering from compromised respiratory function, diabetics, those afflicted by chronic kidney disease or weakened immune systems, etc.), children 6 months to 18 years of age who are on long-term aspirin therapy (children given aspirin while they have influenza are at risk of Reye syndrome), people living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; health-care workers; household contacts of people at high risk of flu complications (such as those mentioned); household contacts and people outside the home who take care of children younger than 6 months.
|FLUZONE VACCINE FOR CHILDREN|
However, not everyone is automatically a viable candidate for a preventive vaccination. People who shouldn’t be vaccinated without first consulting a physician include those who are severely allergic to chicken eggs, who had a severe reaction to flu vaccination in the past, who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously and children younger than 6 months old. Those suffering a moderate or severe illness with fever would do well to postpone vaccination until the symptoms abate.
In addition to Sanofi pasteur, Inc. making Fluzone Inactivated injectables for children, Novartis Vaccine (formerly Chiron Corporation) makes Fluvirin, GlaxoSmithKline, Inc. manufactures Fluarix and MedImmune Vaccines, Inc. makes FluMist, the nasal-spray vaccine. Now that the Food and Drug Administration approved GlaxoSmithKline’s FluLaval in early October, the fifth seasonal vaccination entry, manufacturers project making available 115 million doses of flu vaccine. It’s likely to be late October or November before some local doctors receive flu vaccine for private distribution. Despite the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s prediction of adequate, perhaps abundant, vaccine availability, physicians are universally skeptical about the timely arrival of promised doses. Having experienced dispiriting flu vaccine delays in the past, some doctors have stopped ordering it. Those patients whose physicians fall into that category will have to investigate alternative sources for the shots. As such, check with your physician before assuming that your check-up will include a flu shot.
In what many would consider an unusual coupling, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) is partnering with the Florida Board of Elections, and individual counties and county Supervisors of Elections to implement a “Vote and Vaccinate” campaign to be held in conjunction with the November general election. The objective of this campaign is to target adults for voluntary influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations at the time they visit their polling place (two services in one location). Also on the Florida Department of Health (DOH) Bureau of Immunization Flu web site is a cornucopia of useful information. A plethora of Flu Facts, a Fight the Flu how-to page, a Clinic Locator, a blizzard of Flu Links, Influenza Antiviral Medications data, a "Get it and Forget It!" Adult Pneumococcal Vaccine page and a voluminous 2006-2007 Flu Archive.
The Broward County Health Department has placed the majority of its influenza eggs into Maxim Health Systems’ basket. Despite Dr. Santoli’s claims of unprecedented dose adequacy, as of October the Broward County Health Department web site states, “Please be advised that the Broward County Health Department has exhausted all of our flu vaccine and apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused you.” Whoops! Not to worry. They have a plan “B”. Their web site further admonishes, “Broward County Health Department supports Maxim Health Systems Flu Clinics. Maxim conducts its flu clinics at convenient retail locations, including Publix, Costco, Winn Dixie, CVS, Walgreens, Navarro and Sedano’s. Finding the nearest location is as simple as visiting the web site www.FindAFluShot.com and typing in your zip code or call toll free 1-877-962-9358.”
A quick trip to the recommended Maxim web site reveals 20 flu clinics held at various times from October 26th to November 30th within 5 miles of the Galt Mile neighborhood. For those of you committed to receiving immunizations from private practitioners who either neglected to stock doses or ran out, Galt Mile activist and local physician Dr. Alex Leeds has informed us that he is prepared to accommodate any additional patients requesting flu vaccinations in a private practice setting. Dr. Alex Leeds office, The Galt Ocean Village Medical Center, is located at 3298 NE 33rd Street in Fort Lauderdale - across from the Beach Community Center. Their telephone number is 954-568-6789.
flucliniclocator.org - American Lung Association 800-586-4872
findaflushot.com - Maxim Health Systems 877-962-9358
Flu Locator web site - Florida Department of Health (DOH) Bureau of Immunization
Florida Department of Health (DOH) Bureau of Immunization Flu web site
Broward County Health Department 954-713-3268
Broward County Health Department Flu Clinic 954-713-3268 or 954-467-4943
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Vote Smart Vote Early!
November 2, 2006 - You do not have to wait until Election Day to vote. You do not need an absentee ballot or some special dispensation. In fact, it’s significantly easier to vote early than to wait for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. On Election Day, you must vote at a single designated polling location. In contrast, early voters can vote at any of 20 different Broward sites. From Monday, October 23rd through Sunday, November 5, 2006, registered voters can avoid the traffic and the lines that plague overcrowded polling places. The 20 available early voting sites in Broward County are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
|Supervisor of Elections|
Dr. Brenda C. Snipes
To expedite the experience, bring your driver’s license. Of all the forms of identification acceptable for voting purposes, poll workers are able to process driver’s licenses most quickly. To adequately prepare yourself, bring a sample ballot, palm card or newspaper listing with your choices already marked. Check the districts on the ballot against a voter information card or sample ballot before pushing the red button to cast a vote. If you suspect an error, have a question or just want some company, summon a poll worker. However, if you’ve already pushed the voting button, it’s too late. Pressing the red button functionally ends the voting experience.
Voters should bring a signature-bearing photo ID. Besides state-issued driver’s licenses or Florida Identification cards, other accepted forms include passports, employer IDs, buyer’s club cards, student IDs and credit cards with imprinted photographs. If the photo ID does not include the voter’s signature, another piece of identification with a signature is required. A voter information card, popularly characterized as a voter registration card, isn’t required. That doesn’t mean that you needn’t register to vote. If you didn’t, you don’t!
Several of the County’s early voting locations are convenient to the Galt Mile. The Oakland Park Library site is located at 1298 NE 37th Street in Oakland Park. The Pompano Beach Library site is at 1213 E. Atlantic Boulevard in, you guessed it, Pompano Beach. The Imperial Point Branch Library site is at 5985 N. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. The African-American Research Library is at 2650 Sistrunk Boulevard (NW 6th Street), also in Fort Lauderdale. The Main Library site is at 100 S. Andrews Avenue behind Stranahan Park in Fort Lauderdale. The full complement of early voting sites in Broward Country is available on the Broward County Supervisor of Elections web site (www.browardsoe.org). If you have any questions about early voting or anything else about the election process, call 954-357-7050 or email email@example.com. Frankly, if you don’t vote, you deserve whatever you get. Go. Vote… NOW!
|Press Vote Button to Finish|
These men and women are running for political seats that represent Galt Mile residents. Click on the name to go to the candidate's web site. Read the promises therein for future comparison purposes. This section is divided into Federal Races, State Races, County Races and Ballot Questions. Click below on the area that piques your interest.
United States Senator
United States Congress - District 22
Florida Attorney General
Florida Chief Financial Officer
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Florida Statehouse - District 91
Circuit Court Judge, Grp. 57
Circuit Court Judge, Grp. 58
|Marina G. Wood||Mardi Levey Cohen|
Broward County Commission - District 4
County Court Judge, Grp. 31
|Arlene Simon Campione||Ellen A. Feld|
County Court Judge, Grp. 32
Broward Soil & Water Conservation District, Dist. 5
|Fred Segal||Barbara J. Thomas|
- FUNDING FOR COUNTY-WIDE TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENTS - YES (To Levy the Sales Tax) OR NO (To Not Levy the Sales Tax)
NON-BINDING BALLOT QUESTION PORTABILITY OF THE SAVE OUR HOMES HOMESTEAD VALUE LIMITATION - YES (Florida Constitution should be amended) OR NO (Florida Constitution should not be amended)
Text - Shall Broward County implement an enhanced county-wide plan to reduce traffic congestion, synchronize traffic signals, improve roads, expand transportation services for seniors and disabled individuals, provide expanded, more frequent bus services, provide safe facilities and amenities and provide convenient rapid transit systems and services, by levying a one-percent sales tax for transportation purposes only, with proceeds deposited in a designated trust fund with oversight of expenditures provided by a citizens advisory committee?
NONBINDING REFERENDUM ELECTION Straw Ballot Establish a Broward Watershed Improvement District by the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District. - FOR the creation of the Broward Watershed Improvement District OR AGAINST the creation of the Broward Watershed Improvement District
Text - Shall the Florida Constitution be amended to allow Broward County residents, for purposes of ad valorem real estate taxes, to transfer the amount of their Save Our Homes homestead value limitation to the assessed value of a newly-acquired homestead exempt property within Broward County, as provided by law?
THE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPROVEMENT OF NEW AND EXISTING JUDICIAL COURTHOUSES BY ISSUING GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS - YES (For the General Obligation Bonds) OR NO (Against the General Obligation Bonds)
Text - Shall a Watershed Improvement District be established as an Independent Body to benefit the Health, Welfare, and Safety of Broward County, to Develop and Coordinate Local, State, and Federal programs for Preservation and Management of Soil and Water Resources in order to Reduce Non-Point Source Pollution, Implement Watershed Conservation and Planning, Provide Urban Environmental Education Programs, Restore Ecosystems and Wildlife Habitat, Reduce Flooding, and Protect Waterways and Beaches?
Text - Shall Broward County fund the construction and development of a courthouse complex to replace the existing, outdated and overcrowded courthouse complex serving the needs of the court system; and renovations to three aging existing satellite courthouses; all which are necessary in response to demands of the rapidly growing County by issuing general obligation bonds not exceeding $450,000,000, bearing interest not exceeding the maximum legal rate, maturing within 30 years, payable from ad valorem taxes?
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Changes on the Galt Mile
November 12, 2006 - Political pundits of every stripe agree that dissatisfaction with the Administration’s agenda, exemplified by its conduct of the war in Iraq, impacted Federal, State, County and Municipal elections. Voters also reaffirmed their aversion to government spending, shelving the vast majority of bond issues, dedicated taxing authority, special projects, etc. Election Day winners will not only be expected to fulfill their promises, they must do so with existing resources. To avoid burdening new constituencies with unfunded mandates, resources stripped from popular programs to support the pursuit of mystical policies or questionable agendas will have to be reallocated. It also appears as if the electorate has lost confidence in politicians espousing the nobility of sacrificing spendable income, privacy rights, access to health care, a sustainable environment, inexpensive alternative energy sources and a balanced budget for some unidentified patriotic motive, the disclosure of which would undermine national security.
Analysts prescribe survival in this new environment as requiring a wholesale shift to the center. Republicans are learning what Democrats have been experiencing since 1994, when a significant number of “blues” became “undecided” in apprehension of a turn to the left. Twelve years later, a plethora of “reds” followed suit. Given the broad spectrum of political viewpoints historically nurtured in this country, agendas focused squarely on the goals of liberals or conservatives will, by definition, always disenfranchise the majority of voters. When the Democrats neglected the middle, they tanked. As Republican administrations alienated moderate supporters to pacify ultra-conservative cores, they tanked as well. Ignoring the middle has become a recipe for disaster.
Republican strategist Wes Anderson asserted that the tidal wave of middle class voters who thought they installed representation supporting “fiscal conservatism, middle-class economics, a sustainable environment, national security and ethical reform” haven’t undergone any ideological catharsis. In view of the outrageous national debt, the failure to achieve national security objectives in Iraq, the scandal boneyard in Congress, the decline of American political and economic international influence and shady corporate giveaways to heavy contributors, they felt victimized by a political “bait and switch”. Disenchanted voters simply decided to seek those values elsewhere.
After the committed Republicans and Democrats cast their votes on November 7th, almost every race was decided by these “undecided” former reds and blues. This leaves no room for arrogance on the part of any politician (or party) with a functional survival instinct. Politicians married to unsuccessful policies can no longer rely on scare tactics or cloudy ideology to buy another term. Winston Churchill admonished that people will only ignore their own deteriorating lifestyle for so long before they hold those in power accountable. Policies that shower core constituencies with benefits and everyone else with promises aren’t sustainable.
|SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL|
Voter loyalty should depend more on what officeholders do rather than Party affiliation. When disgruntled moderates decide to - in Churchill’s words - “throw the rascals out”, it is often done indiscriminately. Many politicians undeservedly skate into office on the tail of some popular ideological shift. Similarly, many are tossed out “with the bathwater” when the shift changes. The nation’s two major parties have now made and paid for the same mistake. Unfortunately, there is little chance that the mistake won’t be repeated. Success at the polls seems to carry some self-destructive arrogance that infects the victors with the belief that the same behavior will result in a different outcome. This is commonly characterized as a definition of insanity.
|BROWARD VOTERS AT WORK!|
Following the election, groups of delightfully surprised or morosely disappointed Broward voters celebrated or mourned anticipated results. Affiliations aside, they were in full agreement that Broward Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes avoided the recent Florida tradition of injecting Grand Canyon sized credibility gaps into the outcomes. Although 75 Deerfield Beach residents were disenfranchised after local poll workers botched activating the portable electronic voting machines, the overall election was well organized and managed. Predictions of another disaster resulting from ineffectively trained poll workers, malfunctioning machines and unfamiliar electronic ballots remained unfulfilled. Media broadcasters and analysts desperately scrounging for titillating indications of suspicious irregularities seemed disappointed with their conspicuous absence. In her first gubernatorial election, Supervisor Snipes ran a show relatively free of glitches. Her well publicized “Early Voting” program effectively thinned voting lines and poll overcrowding.
|DR. BRENDA SNIPES AT|
PLANTATION OPERATIONS CENTER
In addition to an overall political shift back to the center, the Galt Mile saw two major local changes on Election Day. Longtime District 22 Congressman E. Clay Shaw was defeated by Democratic opponent Florida Senator Ron Klein. Broward Commissioner Jim Scott also relinquished his District 4 seat to a political newcomer, attorney Ken Keechl. The outcome of both races was affected more by the political climate than the strengths, policies or weaknesses of the candidates. Despite the negative electioneering that plagued the Shaw – Klein race as November approached, both aspirants were capable and viable candidates. Campaign allegations that Klein’s lobbying activities were ethically questionable or that Shaw colluded with the Administration to undermine Social Security were nothing more than unsubstantiated propaganda pot shots. Mudslinging for the sake of political survival aside, both candidates have admitted mutual respect.
|CLAY SHAW AT BOCA RATON|
While serving Fort Lauderdale for decades as Mayor and Congressman, E. Clay Shaw stepped into Claude Pepper’s shoes as a spokesperson for “senior rights”. When the Administration sent out high-visibility House and Senate Republicans to promote using Social Security funds for private stock market accounts, Shaw refused, offering instead an incremental private accounts program funded by general revenues, not Social Security resources. Shaw’s concept served as a voluntary “Add-On” to currently mandated benefits, layering a personal retirement account over the existing Social Security plan. During his 26-year, 13-term congressional career, Shaw consistently received bi-partisan support while delivering bucketloads of federal funds for port security, Everglades restoration and other local projects. His seniority in the Congress positioned Shaw to head the powerful Ways and Means Committee should he have won.
|CONGRESSMAN E. CLAY SHAW|
CONCEDES ELECTION TO RON KLEIN
In an effort to explain the wide-spread local political ambivalence felt by many of Shaw’s historical supporters, Democrat County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs stated, “Clay Shaw is a most beloved representative, not just for Broward but for the interests for the state. He’s really been fabulous. But I draw this line between what’s been great for Broward and what’s been great for this country… I really feel like I had to support a Democrat.”
Born in Cleveland, 49 year old Delray Beach Senator Ron Klein graduated from Case Western Reserve University Law School and moved to Boca Raton in 1985. A partner in the law firm of Sachs Sax Klein in Boca Raton, Klein was first elected to the Florida House in 1992 and the Senate in 1996. Considered one of the most effective legislators in Tallahassee, Klein served as the state Senate Democratic leader (minority whip) for the past two years. A prodigious lawmaker, Klein sponsored an act mandating education about the Holocaust in all Florida schools, initiatives for trade between Florida and foreign countries, passage of the Jimmy Ryce Act to extend detention of sexual predators, laws regulating living wills and organ donation, and passage of bills that encourage high-tech and software industries in the state. Klein was involved early in the effort to lure Scripps to Palm Beach County, creating the legislation that granted the Bio-tech giant attractive state subsidies. Calling himself “a moderate, pro-business Democrat,” he led local efforts at getting a heart unit for the Boca Raton Community Hospital and coordinated a joint medical school program between Florida Atlantic University and University of Miami.
|DELRAY SENATOR RON KLEIN AT BOCA POLLING STATION|
Klein surmised that the war in Iraq had become the dominant issue for voters in the Broward-Palm Beach county district. Klein also conceded that despite not having any specific solutions, he felt confident that the resulting loss of trust in Washington would create an opportunity to overturn Shaw’s 26-year legacy. Klein counted on benefiting from Shaw’s perceived Administration ties to overcome what Palm Beach Congressman Robert Wexler (Democrat) described as “the impossible task of beating Clay Shaw in Broward County.”
|PALM BEACH CONGRESSMAN|
Having expressed his intention to “hit the ground running”, Klein anticipates levying his considerable networking skills to set up a “National Catastrophic Pool” to which all states would contribute. Although Florida would make higher experience-rated contributions than other states, Florida residents would have access to affordable hurricane, mudslide, tornado and other catastrophe insurance. (Shaw also co-sponsored a bill to create a federal reinsurance fund designed to back up state catastrophic insurance pools, bolstering private homeowner policies in the event of a natural disaster.)
Following the 2004 serial storms, Klein anticipated a post-Andrew style insurance industry reaction. He warned that insurers would seek to further hike rates and decline renewal for thousands of policies, not only for coastal property owners, but across the state. Klein predicted, “They are going to take the position that all of Florida is a high-probability risk.” Subsequently proven correct, Klein has since held that the creation of a Federal Windstorm or general catastrophe entity similar to National Flood Insurance would palliate the State’s insurance crisis.
|KLEIN CELEBRATES WITH WIFE DORI & DAUGHTER LAUREN|
A comparable situation played out in Broward County’s District 4. Commissioner Jim Scott was upset by newcomer Ken Keechl. Scott nurtured a 30 year history of service to Broward County. When elected to the Florida Senate, he rose to the Senate Presidency on a reputation for even-handed bi-partisan access. Upon leaving Tallahassee, he was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush in 2000 to the District 4 Commission seat vacated by predecessor Scott Cowan following his guilty plea to election law violations. Despite Republican credentials, Scott thrived in what is largely considered a Democratic stronghold and was subsequently re-elected in 2002. In addition to facing waves of anti-Republican sentiment, Scott’s party affiliation ultimately presented him with a secondary whammy on November 7th.
|COMMISSIONER JIM SCOTT|
As the only Republican on the Broward Board of County Commissioners, Scott was assigned the responsibility of pressing Broward’s agenda in Republican Tallahassee. His fellow Democratic Commissioners relied on Scott to make their case for Land Use Authority, beach restoration, education funds and a litany of other issues controlled in Tallahassee. Consequently, Scott was forced to spend an inordinate amount of time in the Capitol. Combined with his lack of political opposition regularly resulting in low profile automatic re-elections, Scott’s visibility to County newcomers was nearly nonexistent. Following Scott’s defeat by Ken Keechl, Democratic Statehouse Representative Jack Seiler credited Scott with having delivered unparalleled political benefits to his Broward constituents during the course of a sterling career.
|COMMISSIONER JIM SCOTT IN TALLAHASSEE ON COUNTY|
BUSINESS WITH LT. GOVERNOR TONI JENNINGS
A native Floridian, 42 year-old Attorney Keechl was born in Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach. After a successful academic career in Florida State University where he earned a BA followed by a JD (cum laude), Keechl landed an Associate position in the Broward County law Firm of Brinkley McNerney in 1987. Rising quickly through the ranks, he became a partner in 1993 and an equity partner in 1996. As Assistant City Attorney for the City of Plantation for 14 years, Keechl protected community interests, preventing developers from turning green spaces into high-end housing. He also represented the City of Wellington.
While a neophyte officeholder, Keechl is no stranger to community service. While serving on the Individual Rights and Responsibilities Committee of the Florida Bar, Keechl targeted Civil Rights issues affecting minorities, the elderly, and the disabled. As a volunteer attorney for Broward Lawyers Care, he contributed his services to clients unable to afford legal counsel. He holds membership in the Oakland Park-Wilton Manors Chamber of Commerce, supports the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County and contributes to workforce housing outfit HOMES, Inc. Keechl worked for Democratic causes throughout his legal career, serving on the Broward Democratic Executive Committee, as precinct leader in his local district, and as a delegate in the Florida Democratic Conventions of 2003 and 2005.
|KEECHL CELEBRATES AT FORT LAUDERDALE HOME|
Popular opposition to any governmental requests for funding was universally anticipated prior to the election. Not surprisingly, bond Issues suffered wholesale defeats and requests for special taxing authority for almost anything left voters cold. The anti-tax and anti-spending sentiment that has proliferated nationally for years received unqualified support. Two Broward County financial ballot questions met with disaster. A request to fund a Broward Transportation plan was opposed by a majority of county voters. Another big ticket request to rehabilitate the dilapidated courthouse was soundly defeated. Political pundits expressed confusion over Broward’s decision to place these items on the ballot, given the clear public opposition to questionable spending. Only desperately needed high-visibility projects received the nod, such as repairs to some dangerously decimated Margate roads. The adverse reaction to rehabilitating the courthouse was a clear statement by Broward residents that they were largely unconcerned for the comfort of those that use the facilities. Citizens serving Jury Duty every 5 or 6 years would tolerate the inconvenience. Broward residents struggling to complete repairing their homes weren’t about to spend $450 Million to rebuild an edifice used primarily by lawyers, judges and criminals.
|DILAPIDATED BROWARD COUNTY COURTHOUSE|
At the end of the day, the Galt Mile lost two honorable, productive and proven representatives. Their seats were filled by two young, competent, talented replacements. Depending on their adherence to recent promises, we will soon ascertain whether November 7th heralded a positive seed change or an emotional overreaction. Our neighborhood mirrors the country in reflecting a wide range of ideological perspectives for state, national and international issues. However, our interest in maintaining and improving our community is largely unilateral.
We are counting on Mr. Klein to help align support for the development of a federal catastrophe fund to alleviate the debilitating insurance crisis burdening property owners. Local expectations for Mr. Keechl include the expeditious and environmentally sound furtherance of beach renourishment, promoting portability of the Save our Homes tax limits (as overwhelmingly advocated by the recent non-binding Broward ballot question), keeping development commensurate with supportive public services and infusing Broward’s budget process with improved input and accountability. While untested in their newly won offices, if they navigate these and other issues with the strategic balance and patient tenacity demonstrated during their respective races, our political representation will be settled for years to come. As always, time will tell.
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Homestead Exemptions Made Easy
All legal Florida residents are eligible for a Homestead Exemption on their homes, condominiums, co-op apartments, and certain mobile home lots if they qualify. The Florida Constitution provides this tax-saving exemption on the first $25,000 of the assessed value of an owner/occupied residence. You are entitled to a Homestead Exemption if, as of January 1st, you have made the property your permanent home or the permanent home of a person who is legally or naturally dependent on you. By law, January 1st of each year is the date on which permanent residence is determined.
“Permanent residence” means that place where a person has his true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment to which, whenever absent, he has the intention of returning. A person may have only one permanent residence at a time; and, once a permanent residence is established in a foreign state or country, it is presumed to continue until the person shows a change has occurred. Fla.Stat.Ann. § 196.012(17).
The filing period for homestead exemption for 2007 is March 2, 2006 through March 1, 2007. There is no cost to file for Homestead if you file by the March 1st deadline. Note: You may still “late file” for 2006 until January 2, 2007, but there is a $15 fee set by state law and additional (but simple) paperwork required.
When filing an application you must bring the following items listed below, dated prior to January 1, 2007. To claim 100% coverage, all owners occupying the property as Tenants in Common (i.e., proportional share co-owners) must file in person on jointly held property. In the case of a husband/wife (“Tenants by the Entirety”) or Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship (“JTRS”), any one owner may qualify for 100% coverage – although it is always highly advisable to have all eligible owner-occupants to file. If you are married and the Deed has different last names for a husband and wife, a marriage certificate must be presented if the deed does not indicate the two co-owners are “husband and wife.”
Proof of Ownership: Recorded Warranty Deed, Co-op Propriety Lease, Notice of Proposed Taxes or Tax Receipt, if in your name(s). A deed must be presented if the property is jointly owned. IF THE PROPERTY IS HELD IN A TRUST, EITHER A NOTARIZED CERTIFICATE OF TRUST OR A COMPLETE COPY OF THE TRUST AGREEMENT IS REQUIRED.
Proof of Permanent Florida Residence, ALL DATED PRIOR TO JANUARY 1, 2006. Acceptable forms of proof are as follows:
- FOR ALL APPLICANTS: Florida Driver’s License (“Valid Only in Florida” driver license is not acceptable) or Florida Identification Card is required IN ADDITION TO ONE OF THE FOLLOWING:
- FOR NON-US CITIZENS: The items listed above AND proof of permanent residency, resident immigrant status (such as a “Green Card”), asylum/parolee status (or other PRUCOL status).
PRUCOL is an acronym for “Permanently Residing in the United States Under Color of Law.” PRUCOL applies to individuals who are neither U.S. citizens nor aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence (i.e. lawful temporary residents, refugees, political parolees, asylum grantees, deferred deportation, etc.). Essentially, it includes aliens living in the U.S. with the knowledge and permission of the INS and whose departure that agency does not contemplate enforcing.
Note: it is generally against the law for a Florida resident to drive in Florida with an out-of-state license or tag if he/she claims Homestead Exemption (Sections 320.37 and 322.08 of the Florida Statutes).
The Florida Department of Revenue application form (DR-501) requests the following information for all owners living on the premises and filing.
- Date of each owner’s last Florida permanent residency
- Date of occupancy for each property owner
- Social Security numbers of all owners filing (including the Social Security numbers of any married spouses, even if not named in the Deed) are required
- Florida Drivers License and/or Vehicle Tag numbers
- Florida Voters Registration number (U.S. citizens) or Immigration number (not U.S. citizens)
- Current employers of all owners
- Addresses listed on last I.R.S. income tax returns
Florida Statute 196.011(9) (a) requires the owner to notify the Property Appraiser whenever the use of the property or the status or condition of the owner(s) changes so as to change the exempt status of the property. If the status of the property or the owner(s) alters Homestead eligibility, the law requires notification of the Property Appraiser’s office by March 1st. Failure to so notify the property appraiser exposes the property owner to 10 years of retroactive tax indebtedness plus 15 percent interest per annum and a penalty of 50 percent of the taxes exempted.
If you have a Homestead Exemption in any other state or county (or an equivalent residency-based exemption or tax credit, such as New York’s “S.T.A.R.” exemption) on another property you also currently own, you will not be eligible for a homestead until you surrender the exemption in that other jurisdiction.
The Homestead Exemption does not transfer from property to property. If you had this exemption last year on another property and moved, you must file a new application for your new residence. Notify the Property Appraiser to cancel the exemptions on your former home. Property purchased during last year may show qualified exemptions of the seller. The sellers’ exemptions will not carry over to this year; you must apply for your own exemptions!
|B.C. PROPERTY APPRAISER|
LORI NANCE PARRISH
The amount of the homestead exemption granted to an owner residing on a particular property is to be applied against the amount of that person’s interest in the property. This provision is limited in that the proportional amount of the homestead exemption allowed any person shall not exceed the proportionate assessed valuation based on the interest owned by the person. For example, assuming a property valued at $40,000, with the residing owner’s interest in the property being $20,000, then $20,000 of the homestead exemption is all that can be applied to that property. If there are multiple owners, all as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the owner living at property filing receives the full $25,000 exemption.
Too often, many taxpayers ignore their TRIM Notice until it is too late by law to challenge an assessment or fight a proposed tax hike. But, if you act timely, you can best protect your rights. The first thing to understand is how your taxes are calculated. It is based upon a simple math formula: TAXABLE VALUE x TAX MILLAGE RATES + SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS = TAX BILL. It also reminds property owners that they can save money by paying early. Paying in November earns a 4% discount. The discount decreases to 3% in December, 2% in January, 1% in February and full price in March.
While the Property Appraiser’s Office exerts no influence over tax rates, if the market value as shown in the box “Your Property Value This Year” is higher than the market value of your property as of this past January 1, a Deputy Property Appraiser will discuss your market value and how it was calculated on request. If you still feel your market value is too high following such a conference, you can file a simple petition with the Value Adjustment Board (VAB).
|SAMPLE TRIM NOTICE|
The Broward County Value Adjustment Board (VAB) is the independent appeals board that has initial jurisdiction over challenges to any property valuations (the “assessed value”), denials of exemptions, denials of classifications, and other similar matters. As mandated by Florida Statute 194.015, the VAB is composed of three members of the Broward County Commission and two members of the School Board. The Board is completely independent of the Property Appraiser’s office. As per Florida Statute 194.035, the Value Adjustment Board appoints Special Magistrates - who are all qualified, professionally designated real estate appraisers and/or attorneys - to conduct the hearings. The only question the Special Magistrates can determine is whether the market value of your property as shown on your TRIM Notice is higher than the property’s market value as of last January 1st.
The process is triggered by filing an appeal application form and a statutory $15 filing fee with the VAB by the mid-September deadline indicated on your TRIM Notice. The fully completed petition must be filed with the Clerk of the Value Adjustment Board, Broward Government Center, 115 South Andrews Avenue, Room 120, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301 - BEFORE THE DEADLINE. In accord with the provisions of Florida Statute 194.034 (d), it is required that you furnish the VAB Appeals office all the information or documentation that will be used to support your conclusion of value. Failure to provide the following information to the Property Appraiser no less than 15 days prior to your hearing precludes its use before the VAB.
The following documentation should be filed in DUPLICATE:
- Copy of lease or leases.
- Certified copy of Gross Rental Income and Miscellaneous Income.
- Certified copy of Expense Statement.
- Copy of any appraisal reports made on the subject property within three (3) prior years.
- Original construction costs plus cost of any improvements, add-ons or additions (include indirect costs such as profit, and overhead, interim finance charges, discounts, survey, architect’s fees, legal fees, permits, etc).
- A list of any comparable properties you intend to submit to the V.A.B. which would tend to substantiate your claim for adjustment of subject property to include sales price, date of sale, sales price per square foot, and/or units of comparison, apartments, single family dwellings square feet of living area, breakdown of sale between land and improvements. Also, list date of sale and adjustments for differences you may deem appropriate.
- Any contracts for Deed prior to closing.
- Original Amount of Mortgage, terms and balance owed on January 1 of the current year.
- Original copy of Closing Statement.
- Other items you may deem supportable as to your Petition before the V.A.B.
You have probably surmised that this information should be compiled with the assistance of the Property Appraiser staff, VAB staff and/or an attorney. To contact VAB, go to the VAB office, Room 120, Governmental Office, or call 954-357-7292, press 3 then 4. To elicit assistance from the Property Appraiser’s Office, contact either their main office (Room 111, Governmental Center, 954-357-6830) or one of their satellite offices. If someone will be representing you at the hearing, they must have a letter of authorization or power of attorney attesting to that fact. This applies to anyone whose names are not included on the deed.
Residents 65 years or older as of January 1st may qualify for the additional $25,000 “Senior Exemption”. Qualified seniors must have a total 2005 household adjusted gross income not in excess of $23,463 (adjusted annually for inflation by the Department of Revenue) to be eligible for the additional exemption. This exemption must be applied for annually. While the exemption applies to the county portion every Broward resident’s taxes, only those residents living in cities that adopted the exemption may apply it to their municipal tax bite. The filing period is between January 1st and March 1st each year.
There are two Homestead Exemption filing periods. Traditionally, property owners apply between January 1st and March 1st for the previous year’s benefit. With the advent of “Pre-Filing”, owners who purchased properties after January 1st can file from March 2nd to December 31st for the following year.
IF YOU MISSED THE MARCH 1st DEADLINE TO FILE FOR THE PREVIOUS YEAR’S HOMESTEAD, Florida law allows for late filing until December 31st. The Broward County Property Appraiser’s office accepts late Homestead applications at the Main Office in Room 111 of the Broward Government Center in Downtown Fort Lauderdale and helps taxpayers prepare the mandatory petitions to the Broward County Value Adjustment Board (VAB) for all eligible properties. For a late application to be granted for 2006, the petition filed for a qualified property with the VAB must be accompanied by a $15 non-refundable filing fee. If the application is filed after the September TRIM Notice deadline (September 18, 2006) for a good cause hearing with the Value Adjustment Board on or before December 31st (actually – they will accept the application until the close of business on January 2nd), the Value Adjustment Board will hold a hearing to determine if it will hear the petition. “Good cause” for not having filed the petition by the September deadline must be demonstrated.
- If granted “Good Cause,” a petition must be filed and the mandated $15 non-refundable filing fee must be paid to the VAB prior to being heard by a Special Master for approval or denial.
- If denied “Good Cause” by the VAB, the petitioner is entitled by law to appeal to the Circuit Court, pursuant to Sec. 194.171, Fla. Stat.
CAVEAT EMPTOR! As you are doubtless aware, an appeal is a lawsuit. Lawsuits cost thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees, retainer fees for lawyers ($250 to $500 per hour) and court costs. If unsuccessful, these costs would be incremental to the possible doubling or trebling of property taxes implicit in the loss of the homestead tax exemption. An appeal is anything but a consequence-free “toss of the dice”.
The Property Appraiser’s Main Office at 115 South Andrews Avenue, Room 111, in downtown Fort Lauderdale (just south of Broward Boulevard) is always open weekdays from 7 am until 6 pm. The telephone number is 954-357-6830. The Broward County Property Appraiser maintains a web site at “http://www.bcpa.net”.
The Property Appraiser maintains branch offices in North, South and West Broward that are open from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. The North Broward Branch is located at North Regional Courthouse, Room 156, 1600 West Hillsboro Boulevard, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442 (954-831-1270). The West Broward branch is located at 1 N. University Drive, Suite 111-A (NW corner of Broward Blvd. & University), Plantation, FL 33324 (954-370-3700). The South Broward branch is located at the South Regional Courthouse, Room 110, 3550 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, FL 33021 (954-831-0470).
In addition to the four local Property Appraiser’s offices available to residents in Broward, the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office will conduct special taxpayer sign-up sessions for the 2006 Homestead Exemption and Senior Exemption at City Hall, the Beach Community Center, and various Homeowners and Civic Associations this November, December, January and February. As part of this Outreach Program, the Appraiser’s Office will send Deputy Property Appraisers to the meeting locations to assist members and new area residents with their property tax exemptions filings.
|BEACH COMMUNITY CENTER|
Beach Community Center (3351 NE 33rd Street) sign-up dates are:
- Friday, December 15th – 10:00 AM
- Friday, January 12th - 10:00 AM
- Friday, February 9th - 10:00 AM
Jarvis Hall in the L-B-T-S Town Hall (4501 Ocean Drive, L-B-T-S) sign-up dates are:
|LAUDERDALE-BY-THE-SEA TOWN HALL|
- Thursday, November 16th - 11:30 AM
- Thursday, December 14th – 9:00 AM
- Thursday, January 18th - 11:30 AM
- Thursday, February 15th – 11:30 AM
Note: Homebound persons and other qualified individuals with disabilities who cannot readily leave their home to visit one of our offices may also file for a Homestead Exemption. Please call: (954) 357-6910 to arrange for a visit from the Property Appraiser’s Homebound Outreach Program.
The Property Appraiser’s office has instituted a new Online Homestead Filing Program. While the Property Appraiser’s Outreach Program is remarkably convenient for new filers, the internet-based program is even easier. You can save time, gas-money and avoid lines and crowds that assemble at the four local Broward offices or the outreach centers.
FYI – Bob Scherer is no longer in charge of Condos and Coops in the Real Property Office. Scott Lewis is the Broward County Property Appraiser’s new Condo Supervisor. Scott can be reached at (954) 357-6832 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Galt Mile Residents
- Please contact Bob Wolfe of Inter-Governmental Media Relations at (954) 445-5732 or at email@example.com for further information.
- Click Here to access the Broward County Property Appraiser web site in English, Spanish or Creole.
- Click Here for additional information about Homestead Exemptions.
- Click Here for info about Senior Exemptions and...
- Click Here to access the Online Homestead Filing Program and file for your exemption the easy way!
- Click Here to check the status of your 2006 Homestead Application (may take until late May)
- Click Here to use the Home Buyer’s Tax Estimator
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Keechl Keeps a Promise!
New Commissioner off and Running...
November 16, 2006 - With the passing of Election Day, we can safely return to our mailboxes without having to face explosively stuffed volumes of campaign paraphernalia. Also gone are candidates nervously popping in and out of popular neighborhood hotspots, community meetings and other electioneering opportunities.
|COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL AT HOME|
Bereft of the prior media focus enjoyed by their opponents, non-incumbent candidates desperately attempted to overcome visibility deficits by frenetically appearing at dozens of community venues to heighten their profiles and boost name recognition. These flash appearances were accompanied by promises of post-election accessibility. Most veteran voters understandably take these commitments with a grain of salt. In defeating popular incumbent Jim Scott - 28,111 to 25,155 votes - for the District 4 County Commission seat, Fort Lauderdale attorney Ken Keechl demonstrated relentless tenacity and the capacity to remain focused in the face of intense distraction - qualities that should serve to help further his political agenda. Mr. Keechl intends to make good on his campaign promises.
Although new to the responsibilities inherent in his Election Day victory, Keechl is anxious to get to work. His initial challenges include fully familiarizing himself with constituent and county issues, assigning priorities and achieving consensus - with both his constituents and his peers. Following a week of recovery, Keechl wants his supporters to know that he has already hit the ground running. To those that consider Keechl an unknown quantity, he is extending an olive branch and a welcome mat. While Keechl understands that he can’t satisfy every constituent vis-à-vis every issue, his first public newsletter affirms that contention will never arise from a lack of communication or underestimating the importance of finding common ground. Read On: [editor]
Finding Common Ground
By Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
November 16, 2006 - Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve Broward County. As your newly-elected County Commissioner, I am indebted to the voters for placing their trust in me. And for those who supported my opponent, my goal over the next four years is to earn your trust and support. I want to be a Commissioner who does the right thing for all residents, regardless of your political leanings.
The 2006 election brought many issues to the forefront. There has been much analysis over why the winners won, what the voters were trying to say, and how we move forward. Here’s what I know: the residents of District 4 want accountability. It’s true that I spent a good part of my campaign laying out the differences between how the Commission was acting and how I would approach the same problems. My challenge now is to move beyond campaigning and into governing, and finding common ground with my colleagues on the Commission so we can serve the public. Call me an optimist, but I believe this will not be a major obstacle to achieving victories for the residents of Broward.
The overwhelming local issue of the 2006 campaign season was property taxes. They are too high – period. This may be the only point each and every one of us can agree on. And that’s a good thing – it means we will find a solution.
We also talked a lot about preserving Broward’s shrinking green spaces. As an environmentalist and a land-use attorney, I know we can find a way to hold on to what’s left of this precious commodity. Once we pave over parks or beaches, we never get them back. Preservation is a cornerstone of smart growth – we cannot stop development, but we can grow in a way that meets the needs of our increasing population and at the same time fosters a distinct and inviting environment in the County. Once again, we can find common ground.
I also pledged that I would be your neighborhood commissioner, attending your neighborhood meetings and holding office days in the community. Over the coming weeks I will build my staff, move into my office in Fort Lauderdale and locate additional offices within the district. In the meantime, my new office phone number is (954) 357-7004 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you’ll reach out to me, just as I expect to reach out to you.
I ran for this office because I love Broward County, and want it to be the best it can be. There’s much to be done – in addition to the issues I mentioned above, we must deal with workforce housing, traffic and transportation, and a whole host of items big and small. But one thing we all want is to be proud of our hometown. If working toward this goal is our bottom line – our common ground – there’s no way we will fail. I look forward to the next four years working together with you.
Till Next Time...
F.Y.I. Some Perspective...
During his campaign, Commissioner Keechl touched base with a broad spectrum of Broward residents. While attending a meeting of the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board, Keechl took the opportunity to review one of the issues upon which his campaign was founded. When Keechl learned about intentions to build upscale housing on a golf course local to his Coral Ridge home, he discovered that he wasn’t alone in opposing what he considered an inequitable sacrifice of an important local asset. Keechl served the city of Plantation as Assistant City Attorney for 14 years, managing land use cases that prevented developers from gobbling up dwindling municipal green space. His neighbors, aware of his sterling credentials as a land use attorney, looked to Keechl to help thwart a developer’s plan to build 61 homes on the 18-hole American Golfers Club. As news of the issue spread, so did Keechl’s reputation as a local organizer, environmental defender and civic leader. Given the overwhelming local interest in beach preservation and controlled shoreline development, Keechl’s platform serendipitously coalesced around his predisposition to protect local natural resources.
|GMCA ADVISORY BOARD|
A native Floridian, 44 year-old Attorney Keechl was born in Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach in the Florida Panhandle. Traveling with a military family brought Keechl to Texas, California, and New Jersey before moving to South Florida in the late 1970s. Keechl graduated from South Dade High School near Homestead in 1980, spent a year at Miami-Dade Community College and then transferred to Florida State University where he earned a BA followed by a JD (cum laude). He served as an editor of the Law Review in FSU. Keechl landed an Associate position in the Broward County Law Firm of Brinkley McNerney in 1987. Rising quickly through the ranks, he became a partner in 1993 and an equity partner in 1996. During his 14 years as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Plantation (his firm served as primary outside counsel), Keechl’s land use legal skills prevented developers from turning green spaces into high-end housing. He also represented the City of Wellington.
Keechl tackled Civil Rights issues affecting minorities, the elderly, and the disabled while serving on the Individual Rights and Responsibilities Committee of the Florida Bar. He contributed his services “pro bono” to indigent clients as a Broward Lawyers Care volunteer attorney. Keechl worked for Democratic causes throughout his legal career, serving on the Broward Democratic Executive Committee, as a precinct leader in his local district, and as a delegate in the Florida Democratic Conventions of 2003 and 2005.
|COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL AND|
CONGRESSMAN BARNEY FRANK
Hampered by a gaping experiential vacuum in County government operations, Commissioner Keechl faces the Herculean task of learning about complicated county mechanics and their fiscal fuel. Analyzing the County’s convoluted budgetary idiosyncrasies is prerequisite to fulfilling his stated intention of cutting taxes. However, supporters familiar with Keechl’s capabilities have implied that he thrives on such challenges. If the strategic balance and unrelenting perseverance behind his campaign success is an accurate reflection of those capabilities, their confidence appears to be justified.
Along with Stacy Ritter, Ken Keechl will be sworn in on November 21st. The nine County Commissioners will then elect a mayor and vice mayor to spearhead next year’s newly reconstituted Broward Board. The County Commission meets at 10 AM in Room 422 of the Broward County Governmental Center, 115 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
Pension Time Bomb Buried in Budget
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Mayor Jim Naugle
November 23, 2006 - On November 16, 2006, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle addressed the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board. He traditionally visits the Galt Mile in October or November, imparting his vision for the city. With the exception of last year, the thematic content of his topic is consistent. His November 17, 2005 address was dominated by the City’s catastrophic encounter with Hurricane Wilma during the previous month. He carefully reviewed the City’s successes and shortfalls in its preparation and recovery. He briefly touched on the possibility of assuming control of the electrical grid from FP&L in response to their unconscionable failure to adequately maintain electrical equipment and ancillary resources. Parts of the city were blacked out for almost a month. He also discussed the substantial steps taken and strides made in recovering from the three year old budget crisis.
|MAYOR JIM NAUGLE to GMCA|
This year, however, he picked up where he left off two years earlier. He jumped on a disconcerting neighborhood reality. The Galt Mile community feeds enormous tax resources to the city each year. Mayor Naugle habitually points out that we receive an embarrassingly small fraction of our contribution for public services, developmental assistance, municipal maintenance, etc. The general sentiment he repeatedly leaves attendees with is a blend of anger, disgust and resentment at having been fiscally molested. Whatever aversion the Advisory Board members have to paying municipal taxes is honed to a knife edge by the end of the Mayor’s visit.
At the outset of the recent meeting, Mayor Naugle passed out a table entitled, “FY 2006/2007 AD VALOREM TAX PROFILE: BY SELECTED MUNICIPALITIES” (See Below). A glint of recognition flashed across the eyes of veteran Advisory Board members. The table actually reinforced a variety of positive aspects derived of living in the Venice of America. The Mayor pointed out that Fort Lauderdale’s total 2006 taxable value is about 82% of Miami’s total 2006 taxable value and our debt millage rate is only 43% of theirs. The Fort Lauderdale per capita taxable value (dollar value for the average property owner) is $161,657 while Miami per capita value is only $88,699. In fact, Fort Lauderdale topped the list of all top twelve included Florida cities. Only Pembroke Pines, Coral Springs and Tallahassee had a lower operating millage.
|GALT MILE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION ADVISORY BOARD|
Having previously witnessed similar presentations in prior years, Advisory Board members anticipated the Mayor’s conclusion. As expected, the Mayor drew attention to the last column on the table - 2006 Per Capita Taxes Levied. Fort Lauderdale demonstrated an average taxpayer assessment of $821.64, topping all twelve cities for this adverse statistic. Mayor Naugle squinted and smiled as he scanned the room. While some of the newer members quizzically watched the Mayor, others nodded in agreement as he stated, “We are paying too much in taxes.” Unsurprised by Mayor Naugle’s familiar pronouncement, attendees agreed that the exorbitant municipal tax bite bears no ostensible justification.
The city is no longer playing fiscal catch-up for past sins, as was necessary following disclosure of suspicious budgetary irregularities several years ago. Municipal reserves are finally adequate, and the emergency outlay for hurricane damage was largely reimbursed. Fire-Rescue, Police and Parks are no longer grossly underfunded. City Manager Gretsas has clamped down on uncontrolled spending, requiring accountability from department heads and making advancement a function of merit. Where, then, is the ship of state leaking resources?
Mayor Naugle diagnosed the problem as stemming from labor costs. In particular, he identified our nemesis as the City’s pension plans. The General Employees’ and the Police and Fire pension packages throw the operational budget into perpetual imbalance. Although salaries are on the high side, they aren’t markedly inconsistent with those offered by comparable municipalities. Mayor Naugle likened the pension programs to those liquidated by bankrupt United Airlines in 2005 as part of a Chapter 11 survival package. To further illustrate the destabilizing effects of overgenerous pensions, Naugle recalled that General Motors and Ford, in a supplication for federal assistance, had tagged similar “insurance costs as their greatest obstacle to remaining competitive.” Naugle repeated the automakers’ contention that they were “spending more on insurance than on steel.” In fact, the original reference actually targeted the cost of health benefits given General Motors’ status as the nation’s largest private purchaser of health care. The $5.6 billion they spent on health care this year prompted Senator Barack Obama to quip that “GM is no longer a car company that offers health insurance – it’s a healthcare company that makes cars.” Nevertheless, Naugle’s point was made.
The Mayor harkened back to 2001, when city pensions were fully funded. In contrast, one of the city’s plans was only 70% funded last year while another received 76% of its expected contribution. Although the city successfully cut what the Mayor characterized as “frills” during that period, the pension formulas remained unaltered. He said that if the insurance drain continues, no austerity measures could ever offset the resulting deficit. Moreover, the Mayor said that “3 major contracts were on the horizon” - general employment, Fire-Rescue and Police. City employees covered under the General Employee’s Pension System contribute 6% of their income. Police and Fire Pension participants contribute 7% of income. Many receive 75% of their income upon retirement. Those employees participating in DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program) programs also receive an additional “nest egg”, which they can take as a lump sum or roll over into another plan. He intimated that if adjustments weren’t implemented, it could reverse the fiscal recovery. While the Mayor confirmed that “Fort Lauderdale is a national leader in job growth and economic prosperity,” he exclaimed that the growing pension burden would undermine future stability. Naugle said, “Paying lifetime benefits to employees that retire in their 40s is not sustainable.”
Retired senior asset consultant Robert Nagle of Gabriel, Roeder, Smith and Company (GRS) agrees with the Mayor’s contention that the current employee benefit packages are unsustainable. Nagle, whose insurance expertise helped secure for Regency Tower an unconditional windstorm renewal from sole carrier QBE, was also manager of the New York Group Pension Office of the John Hancock Insurance Company. The Regency Tower Board member noted that “fringe benefits in the 2006 budget amounted to 16% of the total budget or, about $75 million. The 2007 budget obscures salaries and fringe benefit cost but we can assume the same relationship i.e.; fringe benefits costs are equal to about 50% of salaries. I know you would never, ever find this ratio in the private sector.”
|SENIOR ASSET CONSULTANT|
Mayor Naugle also discussed the phenomenal growth of Fort Lauderdale’s local Marine Industry. Its $10 billion economic impact and 130,000 jobs have elevated it into the city’s largest business, bypassing Fort Lauderdale’s $8 billion Tourism industry. The Mayor observed that “the ‘boat business’ captured the number 1 spot despite a sterling year for tourism, the city having chalked up 10 million visitors last year.” Not to shabby.
|NAUGLE AT FEB 27 MARINE INDUSTRY MEET|
Fulfilling a campaign commitment to work closely with the Galt Mile Community Association, newly elected District 4 Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl also attended the Advisory Board meeting. In a tribute to his defeated opponent, Jim Scott, Keechl acknowledged the myriad contributions Scott made to Broward County during his thirty years of public service. Keechl said that he was confident that Scott would continue to assist Broward in its dealings with Republican Tallahassee. Confirming that he and Scott shared many objectives, he promised to build on Scott’s legacy as well as promote his own agenda to cut taxes and control development.
When Keechl stated that Scott left some big shoes to fill, longtime Scott supporter Rose Guttman quipped, “You’re darn (sic) right.” Maintaining a conciliatory demeanor, Commissioner Keechl smiled and said that he aspires to “represent every Broward resident, not only supporters.” After expressing gratitude to Regency Tower President Dott Nicholson-Brown and Ralph Hamaker of Coral Ridge Towers South for their campaign support, he invited input from any constituent, stating, “We will have to work together to fix Broward’s problems.” Responding to an inquiry about when his tenure begins, the Commissioner-elect explained that he was scheduled to be officially seated on Tuesday, November 21st, at a 10 AM swearing in ceremony.
|REGENCY TOWER PRESIDENT|
GMCA President Robert Rozema opened the floor for nominations to fill the Board of Directors seat vacated by Charles Rossi. Former Coral Ridge Towers North resident Rossi moved to Hawaii, requiring his replacement on the Association’s Board of Directors. Pio Ieraci nominated Coral Ridge Towers South resident and longtime Advisory Board member Ralph Hamaker to fill Rossi’s seat. The Board unanimously installed Hamaker to the position. Ralph has actively participated in every major community effort. In addition to supporting beach renourishment, traffic control, noise abatement, and many other community projects, Ralph was instrumental in negotiations with Il Lugano to serve as a neighborhood lynchpin for the Galt Ocean Village Shoppes area. A longtime civic activist, Ralph is the only Board member hailing from a cooperative.
|Director RALPH HAMAKER|
FY 2006/2007 Ad Valorem Tax Profile: Selected Municipalities
Jacksonville includes the Duval County county-wide levies for school district, county government debt, water management district, and independent special districts.
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Galt Mile Security Plan Update
Terror at The Galleon
December 25, 2006 - A small minority of Galt Mile residents has frozen efforts to implement a neighborhood security plan endorsed by the vast majority of community residents. Following the June release of information about the plan for community security on the Galt Mile web site and the Galt Mile News, hundreds of local residents sent emails and letters supporting its inception. Similarly, almost every Association Board announced their intention to participate. In contrast, one email opposed to the plan stated that there was no crime in the neighborhood. Also, an anonymous letter placed into the second class mail slot of the newsletter editor contained a cryptic message intimating that the plan was a conspiratorial product designed solely to protect certain individuals. Not surprisingly, the anonymous note was both mono-syllabic and profane.
The plan entails expanding a successful existing private security patrol to police the Galt Mile neighborhood. The Lauderdale Beach Homeowners Association, along with L’Hermitage I and II, hired active Fort Lauderdale Police Officers to man an ATV for the beach and a Police Jeep to patrol the street. At a recent Presidents Council meeting, Lauderdale Beach Homeowners Association President Jim Ellis introduced Fort Lauderdale Police Captain Todd Peney to the Galt Mile audience as the project architect. Currently assigned to the Patrol Division in District 3, Captain Penney is the recipient of 23 Departmental and 57 Public Commendations. This heavily credentialed officer credited the project’s success to its utilization of professional police personnel, versatile equipment and application of modern police theory.
|LAUDERDALE BEACH HOA|
PRESIDENT JIM ELLIS
Since these off-duty officers have full police powers and 24/7 access to FLPD backup, their target neighborhood’s crime rate has dropped to nothing. Dr. Bradley D. Donahoe, the Lauderdale Beach HOA liaison with the patrol unit, explained why Galt Mile homeowners would pay much less for the identical service. Since the Lauderdale Beach community is composed primarily of single family homes, their per unit cost is substantial. However, by spreading the expense over the Galt Mile community’s high density demographics, our cost drops to a meager $20 per unit annually. Also, this private police force already has a functional headquarters with full communication capabilities just down the block.
|FORT LAUDERDALE POLICE|
CAPTAIN TODD PENEY
The problem stems from the geographical layout of the beach and the relative locations of the various associations. If an association on the northern end of the anticipated security zone doesn’t participate, the patrol would simply turn south before reaching their property. If Plaza South opts out, Galt Towers would represent the northern end of the security zone. However, if associations in the middle area (from L’Hermitage to the northernmost participant) refuse to participate, they would receive the benefits without paying for them, an inequitable situation. Therefore, their participation is critical.
|GALT MILE BEACH PATROL AREA|
The Galt Mile is predominantly afflicted by what is classified as “quality of life” crimes. While Galt Mile residents are seldom victimized by high profile Part 1 crimes, they are often targeted by burglars, thieves and muggers, often misidentified as “homeless” drifters. Before her promotion to Assistant Chief of Police, Major Mary Negrey met with the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board several times during her tenure as our local Police District 1 chief. She described “quality of life” crimes as having diminished priority when considered by law enforcement. Subsequently confirmed by Chief of Police Bruce Roberts, she explained that “any legitimate police department views murder, rape and arson more worthy of resource commitment than thievery.” Understandably, the City of Fort Lauderdale Police Department was hamstrung when asked by the community for assistance. Instead of wallowing in acrimonious recriminations or leveling pointless threats at city officials for neglecting “breaking and entering” in favor of homicide, the neighborhood association developed an alternative plan to insure the safety of our residents and our homes.
|ASSISTANT CHIEF MARY NEGREY|
Some residents are ignorant about our local crime problem because they haven’t as yet fallen prey to a car theft or mugging. To avoid inflaming local fears and concerns, incidents are deliberately handled with discretion by FLPD. Ironically, this deludes some residents into believing that they don’t occur. On December 19th, the diligent Chair of The Galleon Condominium Security Committee, Donna Oppert, sent an email to the Community Association entitled “A Security Issue... note from Donna Oppert, The Galleon Condo”. Contained in the email was the following information.
“Eric & Pio,
I want to make you aware and alert you to what The Galleon experienced tonight, Dec. 19th, Tuesday, at 7:30 pm.”
Attached to the email was a copy of their internal security report describing an incident during which two Galleon residents were attacked. The report is as follows:
“Information About the Incident Tonight At 7:15 PM in the Upper Circle Parking Area.
|THE GALLEON UPPER CIRCLE PARKING AREA|
Residents in APT. # 904, Mr. Kazaz and his wife came home tonight after shopping at The Galleria & Winn-Dixie. They parked in the Upper Circle Area. Immediately after they parked - a grey 2 door car with 2 young men armed with a gun came alongside the Kazaz car as she was getting the package out of her trunk. There was a struggle with Mrs. Kazaz for her purse. She was hit. He showed her the gun. They put the gun on Mr. Kazaz. After a struggle he took her purse and fled in their car. Security saw their car leave the property. Stewart, on duty, went outside to Mrs. Kazaz as she was sitting on the ground and screaming.
The police came, took reports. They look at our security video tapes which we are to make a copy for them. The Officer said this is the 6th incident in the AIA area in the last few weeks by these men. The Police took photos and tried to get fingerprints from the trunk of her vehicle. Mrs. Reyes in APT # 206 came down to give the police a witness statement. She saw the car.
|THE GALLEON UPPER CIRCLE - ACROSS FROM PARKING AREA|
I put a note in the elevators and mailroom to advise residents of this incident and to be aware of suspicious vehicles and people this time of year.”
The email continued, describing another incident and requesting advice.
“Also a 2006 Black Hummer was stolen from our front parking lot Nov. 18th. I am looking for a Security Consultant can you recommend anyone?
Board of Governors
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. It happens with frightening regularity. Well-intentioned Association Board members and security personnel, seeking to allay security concerns of building residents, follow FLPD’s example and treat these incidents with extreme discretion, bordering on secrecy. While the presence of a weapon made this a robbery, hundreds of similar incidents, with or without weapons, have plagued Galt Mile residents for years. Until they instituted their security program, Lauderdale Beach homeowners were also victimized by “Smash and Grabs”, muggings and car thefts on a regular basis. Additionally, many incidents wherein items were stolen from unattended vehicles overnight (or in broad daylight) weren’t reported to the police because the victims decided that making a complaint was “futile”, preferring instead to put these disconcerting molestations behind them. While the recalcitrance of traumatized victims to pursue these violations is understandable, it is irresponsible for Association Board Members to likewise ignore the danger inherent in these incidents.
Every Galt Mile Association has internal security. Despite the adequacy of that security for any individual Association, responding to attacks like this are beyond their capabilities. Galt Mile Security job descriptions do not include placing oneself in harm’s way - nor should they. Only a highly visible, armed official police presence could have deterred and/or effectively responded to this harrowing incident. Our internal security provides neither of these critical police assets. In our current security environment, the only available response is an after-the-fact police report of questionable benefit. As mentioned in Ms. Oppert’s communication, these bad guys have been comfortably cruising our neighborhood, attacking 6 times within a few weeks. If you weren’t a recipient of Ms. Oppert’s email or hadn’t read this article, you’d have been as oblivious to this incident as to the dozens of others that have quietly plagued the Galt Mile neighborhood.
|ATV AND POLICE JEEP|
Last June, the Directorial Board of Southpoint Condominium expressed trepidations about the Galt Mile security plan. To address their concerns, GMCA officials Pio Ieraci and Eric Berkowitz met with Southpoint Director Richard Gabrielle. Having lived and operated businesses along the Galt Mile, Richard is aware of the area’s security dilemma. During the discussion, it became clear that Richard’s greatest concern was one that had already been addressed!
He first announced that the $20 per unit annual cost was extremely reasonable and therefore NOT the problem. Instead, some Southpoint Board members were leery of committing themselves to any untested new venture. For example, if the Southpoint Board determined that the program was ineffective after it was implemented, they would be saddled with an unnecessary expense, despite the negligible amount in question. Gabrielle emphasized that the Southpoint Board considered the fee more than fair and that their concern was philosophical, not financial. Evidently, Gabrielle was unaware of the project’s built-in back door.
Ambivalent associations can opt for a one year trial period instead of killing the project for the whole neighborhood. If an association agrees to participate and later finds that the program doesn’t adequately address their needs, they can withdraw. As explained by Pio Ieraci when first introducing the plan, “Since we all have the same expectations for the security patrol, if it fails to live up to those expectations, we will ALL withdraw!”
Richard stated that “some of the Board members weren’t familiar with the project’s escape clause,” himself included. Although pleased to learn that his primary problem had been mitigated, Richard alluded to a secondary issue. A veteran Advisory Board member, Gabrielle attended several meetings during which Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle pointed out that while the Galt Mile contributed heavily to the municipal tax base, it only received a fractional compensation in city services. Rich said, “I don’t expect the City to move police resources away from high crime areas to patrol the beach, but if it can be demonstrated that existing resources allotted to the Galt Mile can be more effectively utilized, why can’t the program costs be assumed by the City?”
Last March 16th, Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas addressed the GMCA Advisory Board. Since his importation from New York to help fix the worst budget crisis in Fort Lauderdale history, Gretsas has reorganized almost every municipal department. Tossing out many of the failed traditional “status quo” city formulas, Gretsas introduced full accountability, merit-based advancement and a simple yet effective test for the efficacy of existing and new systems. If it works, it stays – if not, it gets replaced. After learning the details of the local neighborhood security plan, he stated that “the plan might be eligible for municipal support.” Gretsas explained that if we implement the plan and were able to demonstrate a successful outcome, we could apply for municipal resources to underwrite its fiscal future.
Again, Richard was pleased to learn that his other philosophical objection was being addressed. If the plan revealed itself as ineffective, the Southpoint Board, as well as any other Board, could opt out. Even if the plan addressed our security needs with the same success it achieved for the Lauderdale Beach Community, any Board could still unconditionally withdraw. However, if our member associations vouch for the plan’s success after a trial year, the city has expressed willingness to fulfill Gabrielle’s supplication – that they foot the tab.
Given this “new information”, Richard Gabrielle expressed his intention to clarify the risk-free nature of the program to his fellow Southpoint Board members and endorse its implementation for the trial year. Richard was also made aware that a healthy percentage of the supportive emails received last July and August, while treated confidentially, came from Southpoint residents! When this meeting was discussed with other association representatives, some expressed confusion over Gabrielle’s concerns. Several members couldn’t understand why any Association would withdraw if the plan was successful. One Association Board President exclaimed, “Why would any Board deliberately expose residents to danger to make some cloudy ideological protest?” Attending Advisory Board members agreed that Board members had an obligation to do what was best for their constituents. Given the negligible project cost, the unconditional opt-out provision and the potential assumption of future costs by the City, no one could find any legitimate reason to kill a project that appears to be the answer to a decades-long neighborhood security dilemma.
Nevertheless, short of breaking the law, the people living in any jurisdiction should have the final say over its objectives and goals. If the Southpoint Board, or the elected representatives of any other member association decide against what is essentially an elective issue, the community will simply have to forego a unique opportunity to realize effective neighborhood security. As cynically admonished by George Bernard Shaw, “Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”
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Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon
December 31, 2006 - Last year, the inaugural A1A Marathon danced through a mine field prior to its successful running on February 19th. Originally scheduled for November 12th, when Hurricane Wilma slammed across Broward on October 24th, it covered the course with tree salad and water, rendering telecommunications and power temporarily unavailable. Boca Raton-based Exclusive Sports Marketing, producers of the event, worked feverishly to meet their original timetable. While the city managed to clean up most of the route, the original host hotel – Marina Marriott – was unable to recover from storm damage in time to provide the required support. Postponed until February 19th (Presidents Day), the race started before sunrise with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle and a patriotic stilt walker passing out miniature American flags. It ended with a 25-ton marathon sand sculpture by 1982 Fort Lauderdale High grad Mark Mason greeting runners at the finish. The runners loved it. The onlookers loved it. The City loved it. Participants agreed that Fort Lauderdale was made to host a marathon along the beach. There were two glitches. The bus supposed to take finishers back to the start line never showed. They had to walk another 3 miles after their 26 mile run. They also ran out of medals. Although the first running of the marathon encountered some goof-ups, the event has the potential to be a top annual municipal attraction - and cashbox ringer.
|25-TON MARK MASON SAND SCULPTURE|
This year, the event will stick with the February “Presidents Day” venue, setting the date at February 18th. Florida Running & Triathlon magazine said about the A1A Marathon, “Training or racing you can’t find a more prodigious and historic route than that of Florida’s State Road, A1A. Caressing the gentle shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Fort Lauderdale, A1A is a Mecca for satisfied sun seekers. This year’s A1A Marathon and Half Marathon promises to be a tour of Fort Lauderdale’s beach front culture while featuring local bands, cheering squads and supporting fans from the surrounding community. This is one of the flattest fastest marathon courses you can find. The A1A Marathon is USATF Sanctioned and Certified and could be your best course to help you qualify for Boston!” That is to say, the Boston Marathon, for which this event is an official qualifier.
Marathon activities will start on February 16th with the A1A Marathon Health & Fitness Expo at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Center (1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale 33316). This two day event will take place in the Grand Floridian Ballroom and feature a myriad of browsable wares-hawking exhibitors and seminars about proper nutrition, race preparation, running tips & techniques, and overall healthy living. The Expo runs from 12:00pm-7:00pm on Friday, February 16th and from 8:00am-4:00pm on Saturday, February 17th. Race packets may only be picked up by the individual participating in the weekend events during the 2007 Expo. Photo ID must be shown for entry into Convention Center and for Packet Pick-Up. They are capping the registration for the A1A Marathon and Half Marathon at 6,000 athletes.
|GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CONVENTION CENTER|
The 2007 marathon will happen on Sunday, February 18th, at 6:00 AM. Participants are encouraged to park in either of the two public parking garages located near the start of the race: the City Park Garage CPG at 150 SE 2nd St. or the Arts & Science District Garage at 101 SW 5th Ave.
A wave start will kick off both the full and half marathoners at the same time. The wheel chair racers will start five minutes before the main field. The Course will be open for six hours for both the half and full marathon. Both the marathon and half marathon begin together. The 26.2 mile race, organized by Exclusive Sports Marketing (ESM), will start at 6:30 AM at NW 2nd Street, south on Andrews Avenue and east on Las Olas Boulevard over the Causeway to Beach Front Avenue, state road A1A. Participants will turn north at State Road A1A past Sunrise Boulevard and Oakland Park Boulevard all the way to the Hillsboro Pier. At Bay Drive in Hillsboro, runners will turn around, looping through Dover Road and Beacon Street before returning from whence they came. To enhance the Beach theme promoted by organizers, the northern leg includes several detours through local neighborhoods. To more closely hug the ocean, marathoners will zip over to El Mar Drive in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and Pompano Beach Boulevard in Pompano Beach (at Atlantic Boulevard). The return trip (heading south) includes a detour through Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, then back to A1A south before exhausted finishers collapse on South Beach Park by about 12:30 PM.
The turn around for the half marathon will be just past Oakland Park Boulevard at NE 36th St. The course elevation is flatter than a pancake! Other than the Las Olas Bridge (rises about 20 feet in the air) just before mile 3 on the course, it is sea level for the entire route! Participants in both the full and the half marathon will receive finisher’s medals. Although there is no Walkers Division, walkers can register by age group for the half marathon.
The President’s Day Weekend casts the theme for the race with Billy Bones replaying last year’s performance with a saxophone rendition of the National Anthem. Various bands will speckle the course, enhancing the beach views.
Since the A1A Marathon was certified by USATF (USA Track & Field), the race is also a Boston Marathon qualifier. The full Marathon Certification number is FL05031DL. Qualifying times achieved at the A1A Marathon count toward eligibility for the 20,000-runner Boston Marathon. USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world’s oldest organized sports, the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States. Led by President Bill Roe and CEO Craig Masback, USATF is a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization with a staff of professional program administrators at the National Office in Indianapolis.
Boca Raton based Exclusive Sports Marketing (ESM) was founded in 1986 by two brothers, President/CEO Steven J. Tebon and Dennis Tebon. The company promotes and manages a grassroots sports niche market in Florida including triathlons and other fitness-related recreational sports. ESM has worked with corporate sponsors such as Publix Supermarkets, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch, Gatorade, Toyota, Buick, Nike, Sunshine Network, and Yamaha to host events in the Florida Keys, Abaco, Bahamas and major Florida markets. Their events allow everyday athletes to exhibit their prowess alongside top professionals such as Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Scott Molina and Lance Armstrong. Since 1986, ESM has sponsored more than 500 events, including the Hess Express Pro Am Beach Volleyball Series and the Publix Family Fitness Weekend.
STEVEN J. TEBON
This A1A Marathon appears to be developing into an important annual Fort Lauderdale signature event. If run well, it could grow in prestige and scope – joining the well-respected swim meets, the Air-Sea Show, the Winterfest Boat Parade and other magnetic public events that entertain the local populace and fill community cash registers. If run poorly, it will be another drain on public resources and a Presidents Day Weekend source of Barrier Island road rage. The Organizing Committee includes Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle and some prominent local business figures. The event will disrupt local traffic and businesses during its expected 6 hour run time. It sounds like fun.
|MAYOR JIM NAUGLE ON|
Galt Mile residents will be able to watch the event from their balconies or stroll down to A1A and get up close and personal. Since the course passes directly before the Coral Ridge Towers Complex (South and East buildings in particular) they will have unobstructed race views. In fact, the half-course turn-around is at Coral Ridge Towers East. If you’re up to it, register to run... or walk. If not – watch! You may catch a glimpse of Southpoint’s Richard Gabrielle or some other gutsy Galt Mile runners.
|A1A MARATHON FINISHERS MEDALS|
The 67-year-old Gabrielle, a longtime local resident and retired Galt Mile business owner (Gabrielle Realty, Hart Travel, etc.), aced last year’s A1A Marathon, finishing first in his 65-69 year age group and 132nd overall in the 3000-runner full marathon field. His group-leading 4 hour, eight minute course time (4:08:24) easily qualified Gabrielle for the Boston Marathon, where he racked up a laudable 4 hour, 14 minute effort. This year, apologetic event sponsors vowed to reward the dogged determination of race finishers with an ample supply of medals. Also, they promise to ferry finishers back to the Starting Line instead of abandoning them in the Park. Attention to such details (in which the “devil” resides) will reflect the level of commitment by race organizers to the Fort Lauderdale Marathon’s future.
For more information please call 888-ESM-SPORTS, email email@example.com or log onto www.a1amarathon.com. There is a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on the A1A Marathon’s web site with certification information and additional assorted data. Click Here for a full size map of the entire course route.
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