The historical content of the Galt Mile Community Association’s Web Site is catalogued and chronicled in these archives. This content is comprised of articles and anecdotes that are no longer current, but may be useful from a historical perspective. The categories are chronological. Scrolling down delves deeper into the past. If you encounter any difficulty locating a particular story, report, or graphic, feel free to Contact us with your dilemma and assistance will be forthcoming.
Please Note - Many of the links included in these articles from the past are no longer active.
January 3, 2008 - Last year, every Galt Mile resident earned the warm fuzzy feeling generally reserved for people that anonymously bring safety, sustenance or smiles to their neighbors in need. Eight of our twenty-six member associations participated in a friendly competition to collect donated food and personal needs products for distribution and consumption by Broward families and individuals who were unable to provide for themselves at the time. Charlie Baldwin led Plaza South to garnish the top spot for total pounds collected while Annemarie Adams of the 86-unit Edgewater Arms stunned everyone and ran away with the trophy for pounds donated per unit owner.
On December 27, 2007, the Cooperative Feeding Program’s Scott Woodburn contacted our members, reminding them that each association has a new opportunity to finish at the top of this year's donor list and walk away with a trophy that speaks to the size of their residents’ hearts. His correspondence is as follows:
GALT OCEAN MILE FOOD DRIVE
Galt Ocean Mile Condo Association Food Drive Leaders,
Happy New Year to all.
We are looking forward to the 2008 Galt Ocean Mile Food Drive. Congratulations to Domenic Faro and Suzine Gold our food drive committee as every Condo Association on the Mile has signed on for this years Food Drive.
This year will be very exciting as Plaza South, under Charlie Baldwin’s leadership, our total pounds Condo Champion and Edgewater Arms, under Annemarie Adams leadership, our pounds per unit Condo Champion will be under some pressure to repeat as Champions.
Plus we look forward to exceeding the 5,000 lbs of food that the food drive donated last year. With every Condo Association participating we should be approaching the 15,000 lbs mark!
Remember Feb 10th is our start date beginning with the “Walk Against Hunger” on that Sunday AM.
A favor: Please email me the number of your Condo units, ASAP. Thank you.
We will be scheduling a general organizational and informational meeting in the middle of January. We will distribute the “Walk” and “Food Drive” information and materials at that time.
Please let me know what time and date that best suits you. We need to have every Condo Association represented and we will try to accommodate your availability.
Have a great New Year! I look forward to the start of this exciting event. I know you all will receive a tremendous blessing from the effort to help the hungry and suffering in our community.
Our Food Drive Sponsors: Fort Lauderdale Real Estate, First Data, WINN DIXIE, TSF Sportswear ,Spydergraphics, The Loan Office, St Lawrence Gallery, Dunkin Donuts, East Side Bagel & Deli, Jade Ocean Cleaners, Charisma Hair Salon.
22 Condo Associations out of 25 - not too shabby! There is still time to have others join... if anyone knows of another entity that wants to join the team (business or association) please have them get in touch with Scott Woodburn (954-629-7381) ASAP! The first official food drive pick up will be Friday, February 15th and the last will be Friday March 7th. If your food box is overflowing prior to the pick up dates please call (954-629-7381) for a special pick up.
This year Checks payable to the Cooperative Feeding Program will also be accepted. Please segregate checks until pick up, when each Captain will disburse the collected checks. Each dollar converts to 1 pound of food toward the Association's total.
At each pick up, the pick up total will be weighed. A half time report and a final report will be published so progress can be compared to the rest of the team. The Cooperative Feeding Program distributes over 6,000 lbs of emergency food per day to over 300 families. Last year the Galt Mile Food Drive brought in over 5,000lbs with just 10 member Associations participating. With 22 members this year, the goal is at least 15,000 lbs.
GOOD LUCK, have a great time, feel proud, be blessed as you are doing God's work.
Domenic Faro Fort Lauderdale Real Estate Food Drive Chairman
Suzanne Gold Fort Lauderdale Real Estate Food Drive Assistant-Chair
Scott A Woodburn Cooperative Feeding Program 954-629-7381
The Cooperative Feeding Program is headquartered at NW 33rd Terrace in Fort Lauderdale (on the N. W. corner of Broward Blvd. and NW 33rd Terrace). Call them at (954) 792-2328, fax them at (954) 792-9982 or click here to send an email. Office and Emergency Pantry hours are Monday through Friday, 9 AM - 4 PM. The Community Kitchen serves from 9 AM through 11 AM, Monday through Saturday and Sundays from 11 AM through 12:30 PM.
Keechl Delivers Final 2007 Update to Galt Mile Advisory Board
5 ACRES TO HOUSE NEW RESORT
January 11, 2008 - On December 20th, the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board convened its final meeting for 2007. As part of the GMCA’s mandate, the Advisory Board aspires to keep abreast of projects that either benefit or detract from every resident’s “quality of life”. Based upon the Advisory Board’s ongoing evaluation, the neighborhood association votes to support or oppose the project. Ireland’s Inn founder Jack Ireland and proprietor Andy Mitchell of the Fairwinds Group updated the board about their establishment’s development progress.
ANDY MITCHELL PLANS IRELAND’S INN FUTURE WITH FORTUNE INTERNATIONAL’S EDGARDO DEFORTUNA
They’ve pieced together five acres and with Fortune International Realty’s golden boy developer Edgardo Defortuna, Westin Diplomat and Fountainebleau architect John R. Nichols, high end landscape architecture firm EDSA and superbrand Mandarin Oriental, Mitchell and wife Kathy Ireland plan to morph the post-Wilma remnants of the 40-year Fort Lauderdale institution into a five-star resort & spa. The Ireland family is facing an unusual zoning dilemma. Since Municipal intent is to deter the erection of massive structures “out of character” with the surrounding neighborhood, City approval requires provision for open space proportional in scope to a proposed structure or structures. To ascertain compliance, the total length of the structure serves as the basis for calculating the amount of open space that must be accommodated.
IRELAND’S INN BEFORE DEVASTATED BY HURRICANE WILMA
The planned redevelopment of Ireland’s Inn resort is predominated by two main buildings. The architectural riser clearly shows the two structures separated by a sizable open space that reveals the ocean backdrop. Ordinarily, this layout would pass code requirements with flying colors. However, the plans provide for underground parking facilities beneath the buildings. Despite the fact that the below grade garage is invisible and covered with landscaping, since it is located below both structures, City planners are interpreting the two buildings and the connecting underground garage as one continuous structure.
By classifying invisible underground building elements as if they were visual impediments capable of obscuring the view or blocking the sun, building officials have deemed the plan in violation of maximum length regulations. The proprietors have continuously modified their vision to satisfy neighborhood concerns, altering height, placement and shadowing in response to suggestions forwarded by local residents. Moving features that can’t be seen is a barren source of aesthetic benefit.
Another obstacle arises from the property’s residential zoning status. For years, Fort Lauderdale residents have congregated at the Ireland’s Inn restaurant, patronized their beauty shop and enjoyed the beachfront bar. By definition, residentially zoned areas rightfully preclude businesses from providing direct entry from the street. Given the resort’s creation of a self-contained enclave that is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, forcing customers to funnel through the hotel lobby to access the ancillary services is another foolish, counterproductive compliance objective.
Andy Mitchell was considering his options in formulating a response to some of these technically applicable yet highly questionable “incompatibilities” with current code. Instead of preparing volumes of variance applications, he is predisposed to request a unique Planned Unit Development (PUD) status. If granted, the city will judge these issues based upon their actual community impact instead of their alignment with questionably applicable code requirements.
Fulfilling their obligation, the scientists identified problematic impacts, made relevant recommendations and compiled the data into a report prepared for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Governor Crist and the Cabinet will review their work product and establish a start date for the Segment II rehabilitation. Keenly aware of the rapidly diminishing shoreline along the Galt Mile, the Commissioner emphasized the importance of establishing adequate beachfront to buffer the barrier island and inland communities from the devastating hurricanes that are expected to continue hammering the County. The renourishment project promises the only effective protection for lives and property. Compared to the huge storm repair costs ultimately underwritten by taxpayers and ratepayers during the past few years, the cost of the project is a small price to pay to save $billions in future damages and prospective loss of life.
Commissioner Keechl exclaimed that the beach is also a critical part of State and County fiscal health, fueling Broward’s two largest economic engines – the Tourism and Marine industries. Keechl said that “most Broward residents view the beach as an integral part of their lives,” whether they live on the barrier island or near Sawgrass Mills. As such, the County is working feverishly to keep the project “on track”. He learned from Stephen Higgins, Broward’s beach administrator, that the County was recently reimbursed $1.2 million in project expenses by the Federal government. Networking with our federal representatives, he said, “Congressman Ron Klein is working to keep the project’s Federal – State – County partnership intact and viable.” The Commissioner also made reference to a penny bed tax dedicated to preserving the beach.
BEACH MANAGER STEPHEN HIGGINS
In his FY 2007/2008 Local Government Funding Request (see page 9) to FDEP’s Beach Management Funding Assistance Program, Higgins determined the project is 90.25% (78.14% of Segment II and 99.45% of Segment III) eligible for state cost sharing. As such, of the anticipated $7 million in 2008 Segment II Broward beach renourishment costs, $3,931,200 is expected from the federal government, $1,198,980 from the State and $1,869,820 from the County. The Commissioner also made reference to a penny bed tax dedicated to preserving the beach.
BROWARD BEACH TESTED WITH GLASS SAND
Keechl confirmed that Higgins has expanded his search for sand. Several borrow areas that were originally designated as adequate sand sources were reevaluated in late 2007. The net borrowing to date has diminished the ratio of sand to rock to unacceptable levels, prompting an effort to identify and locate alternative sand sources. In addition to re-examining offshore deposits, Keechl said, “Higgins is looking to the Gulf and the Bahamas as potential donors.” Higgins also investigated the efficacy of “glass-sand”, sand-like smooth glass grains that can be sized and colored to match intended target areas along the Broward coast. Since sand and glass share silicon dioxide as their main ingredient, both products are chemically compatible with the beach environment. The State and County have already spent about $600,000 in engineering costs and for vesting test areas with glass-sand to ascertain its on-site viability.
At the September 20th Advisory Board meeting, the Commissioner expressed concern about the deployment of erosion control devices at what are known as “erosion hot spots.” Certain areas along the beach are prone to heightened erosion rates. Ordinarily, as beach sand naturally washes south along the shoreline, it is in turn replaced by sand migrating from beaches to the north. Theoretically, the only deficit should occur at the northernmost beaches where nothing is available to replace the southerly migrating sand. Breaks in the shoreline – such as inlets – disrupt the natural flow, diverting sand out of the loop. These interruptions in the flow are characterized as “erosion hot spots.”
EROSION CONTROL DEVICES AT PORT EVERGLADES BEFORE COVERED WITH SAND
Coastal engineers have developed marine construction elements that catch the lost sand, slowing the rate of erosion. The boulder mound spur and two T-head rock groins installed next to the Port Everglades inlet fulfilled that purpose. By slowing coastal erosion, the devices delay the need for subsequent expensive renourishments, justifying the minor aesthetic drawback. Expressing his opposition to any coastal plumbing that mars the natural appearance of the beach, he said he would ask Higgins if the machinery could somehow be hidden from view. However, until technology can effectively blend the devices into the beach environment, Keechl agreed to support the installation of a limited number of erosion control elements. Winding up his beach update, Keechl said, “Delays attributed to the search for sand prompted Steve Higgins to project a fall 2009 start date for the Segment II renourishment.”
Changing the meeting focus to some potential revisions in the Broward County Charter, Commissioner Keechl said the Charter Review Commission is considering major changes to the structure of county government. As expected, the Commission reviewed the current musical chairs format that underlies the mayoral rotation and discussed whether the County would be best served by a strong or weak mayor. In the current format, the commissioners take turns serving rotating one-year terms as Mayor. Since their primary allegiance remains to their respective districts, the seat is largely symbolic and its occupant’s objectivity is hardly credible. Alternatively, Keechl described several formulas considered by the Commission that would create an independent mayor.
After considering 5 possible formulas for reconfiguring Broward’s governing board, Commissioner Keechl said the final proposal provided for 9 Commissioners, a Mayor and a Vice Mayor (or At-Large Commissioner). The two additional positions would be committed to the County’s interests as opposed to any particular district. The election of an independent Mayor and Vice Mayor (or At-Large Commissioner) would bring to a halt the peculiar practice of attiring an elected district Commissioner “in Mayor’s clothing” for a year. The subcommittee is still wrestling with the Mayor’s actual powers. Although most jurisdictions are led by a strong Mayor who shares power with an elected commission, exceptions to that model include the City of Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Broward County; wherein elected commissioners work with a strong Manager or Administrator. The largely ceremonial Mayors are equipped with powers comparable to those of their commission peers. Keechl mentioned that the Broward Workshop, a panel of 18 civically active business leaders and professionals committed to the County’s betterment, supports a weak Mayor for Broward County.
CLICK ABOVE TO ENLARGE VIEW OF CALYPSO DEEPWATER PORT (DWP)
Following the Commissioner’s address, GMCA President Pio Ieraci asked about the County’s take on the Calypso Deepwater Port and the adjoining Calypso Pipeline. Commissioner Keechl surprised the Advisory Board by admitting no familiarity with the projected construction of a liquid natural gas (LNG) transfer station off the Galt Mile beach. If City Commissioner Christine Teel hadn’t apprised the GMCA Presidents Council at their December meeting of the project’s anticipated implementation, much less its serious implications for the adjacent area, it would have mysteriously appeared one day on the horizon without the community’s knowledge or assent. An investigation into some of the project’s liabilities revealed a horrifying potential for massively incinerating the surrounding area and killing thousands of local residents.
30 MILE VAPOR CLOUD FROM OXNARD ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT
When creating a licensing format for liquid natural gas offshore facilities, the Administration resisted attempts by Congress to include local input as a major requirement for receiving approval. In fact, only State Governors are empowered to veto LNG projects within their jurisdictions – everyone else enjoys spectator status. Although the project will be located in waters under federal jurisdiction, the pipeline carrying the revaporized end product at some point enters County and City jurisdiction en route to achieving landfall in Port Everglades.
While the County and City have been deliberately marginalized by federal licensing procedures, the project must still pass local review as part of developing a required Final Environmental Impact Statement. Commissioner Teel promised to arrange a public meeting to address inquiries about project safety and potential vulnerability to terrorist attack, severe weather events and human error. The total amount of energy contained in a full tanker of LNG is comparable to 55 Hiroshima-style atomic bombs or roughly 7/10 of a megaton of TNT. Despite the County’s lack of input, Commissioner Keechl said he would look into the issue and, if appropriate, solicit federal assistance to help contend with any adjudicated threat. As exclaimed by Ieraci after thanking the Commissioner for his offer to help, “Its beginning to appear as if we may need it!”
January 24, 2008 - During the spring and summer of 2007, Lake Okeechobee experienced record-breaking minimums, prompting the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to institute conservation measures. As the governmental agency charged with managing water resources in the southern half of the state – 16 counties from Orlando to the Keys – SFWMD sought to stretch local area reserves of drinking water by implementing Phase II and Phase III restrictions on its use. Until nature delivered an above average seasonal rainfall, only serious conservation measures could avert catastrophic health and economic consequences. Unfortunately, the “rainy” season that ensued was remarkably unproductive, leaving the SFWMD to face another shortage threat. In a testament to irony, coastal regions experienced heavy precipitation last winter, oversaturating canals and local wells to the extent that excess water had to be discharged “to tide” to avoid area flooding. Despite the locally heavy rainfall, water levels remained below normal in the Kissimmee watershed that typically helps replenish Lake Okeechobee, the main water resource for most of South Florida.
DESPITE LOCAL FLOODING - FLOOD PLAIN STILL DRY
In her January Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Christine Teel aspires to prepare neighborhood residents for a renewed set of water utilization restrictions as mandated by the South Florida Water Management District. Effective on January 15th, residential constituents whose addresses end with an odd number will be authorized to irrigate landscaping on Mondays from 4 to 8 AM and PM while those whose addresses end with an even number may water their lawns on Thursday from 4 to 8 AM and PM. Newly planted landscaping is afforded special dispensation and is subject to a fairly liberal policy of incremental irrigation. Commissioner Teel admonishes that the City is equally obligated to comply with the conservation effort. Some 200 irrigation systems that service City Parks and other properties occassionally malfunction. Absent the assistance of residents in reporting these glitches to the City, they could go undetected for extended periods and intensify the shortage. The Commissioner also clarifies that a SFWMD restriction declaration triggers the City's charging of drought surcharges to residential and commercial customers. How quaint! READ ON... - editor
From The Desk of
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL
I hope 2008 has gotten off to a great start for everyone and that you and your families had a safe and happy holiday season. A new year always gets active quickly as people return from visiting friends and relatives or recover from hosting others who want to take advantage of the weather and amenities of South Florida in the winter.
Addresses that end in an odd number (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) may water lawns and landscapes on Mondays from 4 - 8 a.m. or from 4 - 8 p.m.
Addresses ending in an even number (0, 2, 4, 6, 8) may water lawns and landscapes on Thursdays from 4 - 8 a.m. or from 4 - 8 p.m.
Hand watering of “stressed” areas using a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle is permitted for 10 minutes per day.
New landscaping (planted for 30 days or less) can be watered 2 - 8 a.m. every day except Friday. Landscaping in place for 31 to 60 days may be watered 2 - 8 a.m. every day except Tuesday and Friday.
No restrictions apply to car washing, boat washing, pressure cleaning or water used for decorative fountains, pools or other water-based recreation. Restrictions for these uses could be implemented if conditions worsen.
The City of Fort Lauderdale will continue to strictly enforce water restrictions and issue citations for water use violations.
The City is required to follow the restrictions imposed by the SFWMD at its parks and other landscaped properties. In addition to following the guidelines, whenever possible the City continues to look for ways to decrease water usage. Since there are over 200 city-owned irrigation systems it is a monumental task to ensure that all the systems are functioning properly. Our residents can assist the City by contacting my office if they observe what may be a malfunction of a sprinkler system or a timer.
When the SFWMD declares water restrictions, the City of Fort Lauderdale implements a drought surcharge for all residential and commercial water, wastewater and irrigation accounts. The surcharge amount will vary depending on the type of water account and the number of gallons used above the established limits for that type of account. If a residential or business user reduces the amount of water used there will be a reduction in the water bills.
For a comprehensive review of the mid-year 2007 drought suffered by Florida and how it impacted the Galt Mile neighborhood, Click Here to the GMCA Weather Page. Then scroll down to access some usefull “Water Storage Links” - editor
February 14, 2008 - On Monday, February 4th, the Galt Mile Community Association Presidents Council convened a meeting at Regency Tower. Recent events dictated the addition of a late agenda issue. In mid-January, widespread media focus was heaped on several critical property insurance issues. The state’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) received requests from several major insurance carriers for permission to slingshot rates into the ionosphere. Shocked silly by the unexpected bad news, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty formally requested their underlying rationale for such substantial premium hikes.
COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL HELPS MERCHANTS
Also addressed at the meeting was the City’s reversal of a September ruling that adjusted the cutoff time for local parking meters from 6 PM to midnight. Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Christine Teel announced that the City’s initial decision to increase rates from 25 to 50 cents and extend the meters’ operational functionality through midnight threatened the viability of many Galt Mile businesses struggling to survive post-Hurricane Wilma repair closings and subsequently revive local patronage. The negligible meter collections realized between 6 PM and midnight were dwarfed by the financial losses experienced by local restaurants and shops due to customers enraged by unexpected and expensive parking tickets. Longtime patrons that frequented stores and eateries parked in the same areas for years without having to feed the meter after 6 PM. Unaware of the meter changes, many of these snowbirds would park in these familiar spots upon coming to town, eat dinner and find a $25 ticket on their windshield. Although clearly no fault of the merchant, these customers would affirm their intentions to eat and shop elsewhere in the future.
Petitioned for relief by the Galt Mile Community Association as well as hundreds of local residents and merchants, Commissioner Teel fought to roll the meters’ shut down time back to 6 PM. The increased 50 cent rate, however, remained intact since the meters’ timing, not the required extra quarter, precipitated the problem. With the assistance of City Manager George Gretsas, our City Commissioner was able to elicit the timing adjustment needed to defuse this impediment to the neighborhood’s commercial revival. When Presidents Council Chair Pio Ieraci thanked Commissioner Teel for her help with settling this dilemma, he was joined by the entire membership. After the applause abated, the membership returned their focus to considering a possible resolution to onerous property insurance premiums.
Included in last year’s special session property insurance reform package was a provision that opened the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to carriers complaining about unreasonably high reinsurance costs. Industry spokespersons and company executives blamed reinsurers for “running scared.” New “worst case” hurricane risk models were commissioned by reinsurers to justify rates adequate to finance rebuilding entire counties from the ground up. To start with, they extrapolated the damage costs of the previous two multi-event seasons, salting in prognostications for ten to fifteen consecutive years of worsening storm damage. Secondly, they insisted that their fiduciary responsibility to stockholders mandated additional layers of fiscal insulation incremental to those supported by radically skewed meteorological risk models.
To demonstrate that they were just “ordinary folks” trying to make the best of a bad situation, insurance representatives bemoaned the exorbitant cost of reinsurance they were “forced to pass through” to policy holders, promising that 25% of the reactionary premium pricing would melt away if they could only buy reinsurance at reasonable rates. Like Santa, lawmakers broke the budget piñata and pumped $12 billion into fulfilling their wish with the proviso that savings inure to ratepayers, not the company’s bottom line. Heeding the proverbial admonition to be careful what you wish for, Industry pundits inserted a protective caveat: The carriers needed a few years without back-breaking hurricanes to convince elements of the reinsurance market that they were overreacting. With access to cheap money and no new claims for a few years, Commissioner McCarty scrutinized rate submissions to ensure compliance with the one-year old statute.
When some carriers submitted new rate schedules that clearly didn’t reflect the new cost savings, he sent them back to “try harder”. Generally they returned with rate cuts more in line with their promises and the Commissioner’s expectations. However, about a third of the carriers thumbed their nose at the State, comfortable that the state’s need for them exceeded their need for access to the Florida market. Emboldened by what they took as the State’s capitulation during the special session on insurance, major carriers like Allstate requested rate hikes from 28% to 43%. The submissions were accompanied by mostly anecdotal support, blaming costly reinsurance, hurricane risk models that read like episodes from the Twilight Zone and slavish deference to insurance ratings organizations. McCarty subpoenaed documentary proof of Allstate’s claims.
Simultaneously, a Senate Committee appointed to ensure that the State receive the rate cuts promised by the industry scheduled hearings to enforce compliance. The Galt Mile’s voice in the Senate, Jeff Atwater, co-chairs the Senate Select Committee on Insurance Accountability with Hollywood Senator Steven Geller. The success of either the Insurance Office hearings or the Senate hearings is predicated on the extent to which the carriers are concerned about retribution by either jurisdiction.
COMMITTEE CO-CHAIR SENATOR STEVE GELLER
Although infuriated by the nonchalant demeanor with which Allstate executives and those of other carriers imparted to State officials that Florida Insurance Statutes have little impact on how they conduct business, McCarty, Atwater and Geller remain undeterred in their quest for clarification of suspicious corporate inconsistencies. While interrogating insurance executives during the February 5th hearing about how computer risk models are used in rate filings, 3 out of 5 companies admitted ignoring State insurance regulations. After using an approved computer model to help forecast potential storm damage losses, they modified the results with data from a controversial new model that isn’t approved by the state. Allstate Floridian’s chief executive Joseph Richardson told the Senate panel that while the state statute says insurers must use the approved model, it doesn’t preclude using data from an unapproved one. A flustered Senator Geller remarked, “Only an insurance industry lawyer could read the statute like that. I thought the intent of the statute was clear: Insurers could only use the models approved by the Florida Hurricane Loss Prevention Methodology Commission.”
Senator Atwater was stonewalled as he repeatedly questioned the actuarial acrobatics performed by Allstate in purchasing additional reinsurance adequate to justify a 43% rate increase despite dropping the 300,000 highest risk properties from its 500,000 property portfolio over the last few years. When asked whether the company’s auto policies were profitable in Florida, Richardson turned away and shrugged his shoulders. Incredulous committee member Senator Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) exhorted, “You don't know whether you're making a profit?” Adhering to a strategy conjoining redundant requests for rate increases with an almost mechanical non-responsiveness, Richardson proclaimed, “I don't want to comment,” followed by, “Inadequate rates have caused an operating loss that continues to grow. Allstate [Floridian] faces the very real risk of being wiped out in the event of a bad hurricane season.” Absent a major policy shift, the prospect of these carriers fulfilling their commitment to reduce rates is – at best – dubious.
At about the same time, a group of 58 condominiums and cooperative associations in Palm Beach County became one of the first condominium self-insurance trusts to issue windstorm policies in Florida. The Palm Beach Windstorm Self Insurance Trust is the first independent risk pool authorized under last year’s statute that was formed for the sole purpose of providing inexpensive coverage for its sponsoring associations. Other recent candidates were formed as business entities primarily concerned with soliciting association participation in exchange for management contracts and other commercial concessions.
Continental Management, the State’s largest association management company and a subsidiary of the Toronto-based First Services conglomerate, utilized the self-insurance license it was granted on October 31, 2007 as an enticement for their management services. In contrast, the Palm Beach group’s sole mission is to provide insurance at cost, about 40% less than Citizens charges. Given the huge windstorm component charged to associations for coverage, the savings is ordinarily measured in the $100s of thousands. When the Palm Beach group was granted a license following the most exigent review ever performed by the Office of Insurance Regulation, Senator Jeff Atwater approved, stating, “Today marks a historic moment for the insurance industry in Florida. By using the self insurance option, these property associations are utilizing the cost saving insurance measures created by the legislature.”
Following the approval, several media releases reported insurance industry claims that self insured groups were dangerous; contending that they were not admitted carriers and therefore unacceptable for mortgage purposes. Some reporters stated that they also suffered from inadequate funding and were therefore incapable of paying legitimate claims. In fact, the Office of Insurance Regulation confirmed that they are fully admitted carriers in the State of Florida and carry deeper coverage levels than most carriers. Another eerie complaint published by industry sources condemned the right of self-insured groups to assess members. Actually, Citizens survives by assessments. Every nickel currently spent by Citizens to pay Hurricane damage claims is billed to property insurance policyholders throughout the State. Serendipitously, participation in the self-directed windstorm trust will relieve Galt Mile associations from their obligation to pay Citizens’ unrelenting assessments.
Richard Duer, the insurance pundit who engineered the concept and steered the Palm Beach group through their licensing trials, has addressed many Galt Mile associations during the past few years. Although he started working with both groups simultaneously, the Palm Beach group agreed to sponsor his efforts, financing the extensive licensing research and documentation required by the State. As such, the Galt Mile group deferred to our neighbors to the north. By agreement, we would wait until his pioneering efforts bore fruit, at which time Mr. Duer would duplicate the path he blazed for the Palm Beach group, absent the need for the financing that was required to develop an initial structure that complied with the State Insurance Department regulations
About a dozen Galt Mile associations have expressed their intention to take advantage of the savings when afforded the opportunity. That savings is expected to range from $200,000 for some of the smaller associations to a half million dollars for more expensive structures. As expected, insurance carrier spokespersons are naturally opposed to any competition capable of undermining the need for their services. Agents are also predisposed to advise against self insurance groups. While the trusts are mandated to use their services, agents naturally prefer the greater return guaranteed by selling a substantially more expensive product.
Duer distributed handouts to inform members about the licensing process and assess the advantages of creating a viable alternative to Citizens. They also presented a PowerPoint demonstration to help interested members measure the risks attendant to participation in the private self-insurance windstorm product as compared to remaining dependent on Citizens. Duer said that interested associations should call Tim Renfro at 954-593-0325 to schedule a meeting wherein they would discuss the plan in depth and render a quote specific to the association.
Responding to multiple requests for copies of the presentation, Presidents Council Chair Pio Ieraci asked Duer if he would send it to the Galt Mile Community Association for posting on the GMCA web site.
Click Here to view the demo. To download a copy, right-click the link or the above PowerPoint graphic, select "Save Target As" from the menu and download to your computer.
If you do not have Microsoft PowerPoint installed on your computer, either as an individual application or as part of a Microsoft Office suite, you can download and install a FREE 2007 PowerPoint Viewer - directly from Microsoft. Click Here to access the 2007 PowerPoint Viewer download page. The 2007 PowerPoint Viewer is capable of viewing full-featured presentations created in earlier versions of PowerPoint including PowerPoint 97, PowerPoint 2000, PowerPoint 2002, PowerPoint 2003 and - of course - PowerPoint 2007. IT IS FREE!
For additional information about the Palm Beach Windstorm Self-Insurance Trust, Click Here.
February 20, 2008 - Central to the annual National Salute to America’s Heroes, the Air & Sea Show that supposedly dumps between $3 and $4 million per annum into local businesses has flown the coop, ostensibly because they couldn’t find a corporate angel willing to cough up $3 million to buy jet fuel. During the 13 years that the Air & Sea Show became a Fort Lauderdale signature event, it spawned the Air & Sea Show Display Village and absorbed the historic Fleet Week activities. Every year, 3,000 U.S. Navy servicemen and women swamp the City, combining altruistic visits to schools and hospitals with daily honoraria, dinner events and nightly non-stop parties (All Hands On Deck Party, Welcoming Party, Junior Officers’ Party, Liberty Call Party, Anchors Aweigh Party, Performers’ Party, Take Off Party, etc.)
PSI SPOKESPERSON MICHAEL GOODMAN
On December 14, 2007, spokesperson Michael Goodman of producer Pro Series, Inc. (PSI) issued a press release apologetically announcing that the event scheduled for May 3rd and May 4th of 2008 wouldn’t take place without the beneficence of some as yet undetermined deep-pocketed backer, “With rising fuel costs and a downward economic trend, the Air & Sea Show, one of the nation’s largest spectator events featuring top civilian and military performances, will not take place during 2008. A popular Fort Lauderdale tradition, the event will not be scheduled next year without the confirmation of a title sponsor.”
Exclaiming that times are tough, Goodman said, “The event is not economically viable without a title sponsor and corporate sponsorships are not the same as they were, especially during this more sensitive economic climate. The event producers are very proud of what they have created and brought to Fort Lauderdale, however, without a title sponsor they are unable to produce this multimillion dollar event.”
The event is actually a descendent of the Budweiser Air & Water Show of Chicago, which PSI inherited in 1987. By exploiting corporate sponsorship, they developed the Chicago lakefront show into the largest two day event in the country, garnering 2.7 million visitors. After event management was assumed by the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office of Special Events in 1994, a year later PSI honcho Mickey Markoff convinced Shell Oil to try the formula in Fort Lauderdale, surmising that the city would be desperate to fill the vacuum created when Fort Lauderdale decided to trade its mantle as the “Spring Break capitol” for the broader appeal inherent in being the “Venice of America.” After the audience tripled in 1996 from 800,000 to 2.5 million, Markoff traded Shell for McDonald’s and attracted all five branches of the military by helping develop the Air & Sea Show Display Village into a remarkably effective recruiting device. Incorporating Fleet Week further fueled the event’s popularity, ultimately expanding its annual beachfront and media audience totals to 4 million.
AIR & SEA SHOW DISPLAY VILLAGE RECRUITERS
Markoff continued to build corporate support through last year, assembling a $5 million sponsorship network. Markoff and the City have been feuding for the past four years about the provision of support services. The Air & Sea Show was originally arranged as a self-sustaining event. In 1999, the city offered to provide certain services on the cuff. When City finances experienced a train wreck in 2003, contract renewal negotiations toughened. Commissioners made clear that the City’s gesture of support made when Fort Lauderdale was fiscally healthy needed rethinking.
FUELING HUNDREDS OF AIRCRAFT LIKE F-117 STEALTH FIGHTER IS BIG $$$
The show was a cash cow for its promoters, MDM Group Ltd. and subsidiary Pro Series Inc., bringing in millions every year. According to show spokesperson Elaine Fitzgerald, the show costs owner Pro Series, Inc. about $4 million to produce. The U.S. military contributes the planes and fighter jets, boats and military personnel while Pro Series Inc. pays for aircraft and sea-craft fuel, lodging and food for the various military crews, and “gym space” for hosted military VIPs. In addition to police and fire rescue personnel, the city provides truckloads of sanitation services and the Parks staff required for the post-event beach rehab.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER MICKEY MARKOFF
Senior sponsor McDonald’s shelled out $3 million each year for Title sponsorship alone. TV revenues, promotional sales and enormous corporate financial support (40 + corporate sponsors) all inured to the promoters’ bottom line. When the City tried to propose a return to the Show supporting itself, Executive Producer Markoff of MDM Group and Johnny Williams, Esq. (Executive Director, Air & Sea Show) of Pro Series Inc. slammed the door. The promoters not only refused to open their books to the City, they threatened to sue if the City didn’t continue the gratis services. At a time when Fort Lauderdale’s budget was hemorrhaging, services were cut and layoffs circled above employees’ heads like vultures, the promoters felt it appropriate to force the residents of Fort Lauderdale to foot the bill for their “free” show.
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL
At a June 17, 2004 GMCA Advisory Board meeting, Commissioner Christine Teel explained that the City provided $458,571 in Fire-Rescue, Public Services, Parks & Recreation and Police Services to the Air-Sea Show for which the promoters reimbursed the city $171,039. Parking revenues of $43,634 helped lighten the bloodletting. The rest, $243,898, was picked up by the City’s taxpayers. Not exactly a free show. Every year since then, Markoff has threatened to move his traveling circus to Miami, Daytona or elsewhere on the coast.
GFLCVB PRESIDENT NICKI GROSSMAN
Despite promoter claims that the show represents a windfall for local vendors, President Nicki Grossman of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB) contends that while the few hundred thousand people it attracts to the beach over the weekend generate about $4 million, it is unclear how much of that benefits the local economy. “It is worth a lot in terms of image, and it’s a great patriotic boost,” Grossman said. “But it’s not a reliable source of room nights.” The reaction of local merchants to the show’s departure has been mixed. The tepid annual feedback from local retailers and restaurateurs along the beach and in surrounding communities has convinced Grossman that the show’s impact on area businesses as a whole is marginal. She stated, “All restaurants tell us is that it doesn’t generate a whole lot of business.”
PUFF ‘N’ STUFF SELECTED VENDOR
Since the Air & Sea Show licenses its own vendors, profits for most food, retail and souvenir sales aren’t reaped by area business owners. Grossman explained, “The vendors licensed by the air show get most of the food and souvenir sales.” The city has no say in what vendors the promoter cuts deals with. According to show spokesperson Fitzgerald, they’ve been utilizing an out of town vendor called San Francisco Puff ‘N’ Stuff to outsource all of the show’s vendor needs. “We stick with who we know,” said Fitzgerald. “A critical piece of running the show is getting vendors that can do a good job.” It also explains why the show is of minor economic consequence to area businesses.
MAYOR JIM NAUGLE - NO $$$ BENEFIT FOR CITY
Although Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle has expressed his appreciation for the Air & Sea Show’s success as an armed forces recruiter, he was never impressed with the event’s fiscal contribution to the city. He said the city’s Galleria Mall, located just over the causeway from the Fort Lauderdale Beach event site, claims that the show’s traffic dramatically hampers people shopping for Mother’s Day during the weeks preceding the holiday. Mall officials agree that the show has been detrimental to the bottom lines of most Galleria retailers. Naugle added that shop owners and restaurants on Las Olas Boulevard, the high-end shopping district perpendicular to the beach, have also described the show as disruptive to business. Ironically, the average City resident prefers to believe that a signature event like the Air & Sea Show must beneficently fill local coffers every May. In a nutshell, it just ain’t so!
MIAMI MAYOR MANUEL DIAZ - NO AIR SHOW!
Some insiders believe that the official withdrawal from Fort Lauderdale is a precursor to relocating to another venue. Two years ago, show producer Johnny Williams said his organization was contacted by assorted Miami-Dade county and Miami city officials along with airport and seaport officials at Miami-Dade County Hall, but when asked exactly who attended the meeting, he claimed that he didn’t know their names. Clarifying that show officials initiated an effort to move the show to Miami, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) President Bill Talbert said, “It was my understanding that they approached the City of Miami first.” Seeking to leverage the 2005 Fort Lauderdale contract negotiations with an alternate suitor, Williams attempted to interest Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz and former Miami Beach Assistant Manager Christina Cuervo in adopting the Air & Sea Show.
GMCVB PRESIDENT BILL TALBERT - NOT FOR US
Referring to admissions by show officials that using only “in-house” vendors leaves few benefits for area merchants, GMCVB president Talbert concurred with Broward counterpart Nicki Grossman, stating “It’s not a big tourism generator by the show’s officials own admission.”Miami Beach tourism director Max Sklar examined the cost benefit to hosting the show, reviewing the historical occupancy of hotel rooms during the first weekend in May and compiling information to determine just how much it would have cost taxpayers to host the event. Sklar said, “Currently we are reaching out to residents and businesses. The intent is certainly to bring additional business to our area.” After running the numbers for staging the event in the Lummus Park - Ocean Drive area, he decided instead to protect Miami taxpayers and leave the event in Fort Lauderdale.
MIAMI BEACH TOURISM DIRECTOR MAX SKLAR
Although the event’s fiscal value to the City has always been questionable, it has been a stunning success as a recruiting tool for the military. When the show opened in Fort Lauderdale in 1995, Florida was 26th in the nation for military recruiting. After a decade of Air & Sea Shows, Florida has achieved recognition as the nation’s most prolific recruiting machine. Commenting on the underlying rationale for the event’s recruiting success, promoter Williams said, “For a long time the military was trying to connect to the American public. This shows the American people how their military dollars are being spent.”
Another scenario envisions a split between McDonald’s and Markoff stemming from some embarrassing legal entanglements. McDonald’s has fashioned a business niche built on its reputation as a family institution. In 2003, the millionaire was accused three times of being a peeping tom. Fort Lauderdale police records show claims that Markoff breached a local women’s bedroom late at night uninvited. Another woman claimed to have confronted Markoff through her window causing him to drive off in his white Porsche tagged “Airshow” (as described in a police report). Another report filed on November 15, 2003 confirms that Markoff was accused of watching a 25-year-old woman shower from a walkway marked “no trespassing” in a chic East Las Olas development. The woman came out of her shower to see a man looking into her bedroom window, as per the police report. The man backed away and left on a motorcycle. However, he returned later, this time driving a car and wearing a different shirt, to resume looking into the window.
JUDGE LEONARD FEINER
Following a year-long investigation that prompted the State Attorney into court, Markoff pleaded “no contest” to charges filed on October 8, 2004 resulting from his nocturnal voyeuristic proclivities. Adjudicated guilty of two trespassing charges, one loitering and prowling charge and one disorderly conduct charge, Circuit Judge Leonard Feiner sentenced Markoff to three years’ probation conditional on his continued compliance with a plea agreement. Markoff had to submit a DNA sample, undergo annual polygraph testing about voyeuristic behavior and, understandably, stay out of his neighbors’ yards. Markoff was also mandated to make $5000 contributions to assorted Women’s support organizations including “Women in Distress”. Additionally, he was precluded from entering the high-end Sunrise Key development, the scene of the crime, without the specific invitation and approval of every community resident.
The City and Markoff’s corporate sponsors (such as McDonald’s) were primarily concerned about the degree to which the resulting public relations train wreck would tarnish the event and its supporters. To their chagrin, Sun-Sentinel correspondent Brittany Wallman reported similar incidents in 1998 and 2001.
While the Air Show is seemingly history, Fleet Week activities are expected to continue unabated. Fleet Week has been sponsored by Broward Navy Days since 1990, when it was first incorporated. In 2001, when it merged with the Air & Sea Show, Broward Navy Days took a back seat. BND will now have to step up to the plate once again. The 501 C-3, Not-For-Profit, Florida Corporation is populated solely by volunteers. At least, they will help pull up some of the slack. While Fleet Week will never have the allure of the Air & Sea Show, it will never cost taxpayers a half million dollars.
Since most residents misinterpreted the promotional spin that the event was “good for the city” as a metaphor implying an annual financial boost for area merchants, they obligingly tolerated the four days of sonic booms each May (Thursday and Friday are for practice runs). Some Barrier Island natives enjoyed planning events around watching the show from balconies, windows and the beach while taking pride in patriotically applauding our men and women in harm’s way as well as the City of Fort Lauderdale. Others objected to the theatrical recreations of military exercises, characterizing the helicopter assault on Fort Lauderdale beach as “a celebration of death.” Notwithstanding, loss of the annual event portends only one measurable consequence – an adverse impact on military recruitment. Since this is of considerable importance to the military, no one should be too surprised when Markoff suddenly surfaces with a new corporate safety net in tow. Where? Only the Shadow – or perhaps the Joint Chiefs – can answer that.
February 25, 2008 - District 2 Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs notified the GMCA Advisory Board about an issue that affects every driver in South Florida. While speaking on behalf of Broward residents in Coconut Creek, Deerfield Beach, Margate and Pompano Beach, Jacobs has distinguished herself as an environmental hawk committed to the principals of Smart Growth, affordable housing and easy-to use transportation. Of late, she has become embroiled in an experimental plan to significantly reduce congestion in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
HOV LANE ON I-95 WILL BECOME HOT LANE
The I-95 corridor serves as a vital transportation link for the region, carrying an average of 250,000 to 300,000 vehicles a day. In an effort to enhance mobility options for local motorists and transit users, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) – together with local transit partners - is planning a Pilot Project to provide Managed Lanes on I-95 (from I-395 in Miami-Dade County to I-595 in Broward County). This involves the conversion of the existing High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes (HOV) into limited access managed lanes called the “95 Express”. The 95 Express lanes will provide South Florida motorists and transit users with a viable option for expediting traffic flow conditions, particularly during peak travel times.
Performing minor surgery on the highway’s shoulders and lane restriping will expand I-95’s existing ten lanes to twelve. Of the six northbound and six southbound lanes along the 21 mile stretch on I-95 from I-595 to I-395, two in each direction will be designated as “Managed Lanes”, “95 Express lanes” or “HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes”, leaving four in each direction for general traffic. Project skeptics have also cynically referred to the traffic alternative as “Lexus Lanes”.
The 95 Express lanes will have variable congestion pricing, or tolls, that fluctuate with increased congestion so that an operating speed of 50 MPH can be maintained. With congestion pricing, the toll paid goes up or down depending on how much traffic is using the Managed Lanes. The toll will be higher during peak periods when the lanes are burdened by traffic, and lower during non-peak periods. This congestion pricing is expected to limit the number of vehicles accessing the Managed Lanes and maintain a traffic flow of approximately 50 miles per hour. Managed lanes have historically moved twice as many vehicles per hour as regular congested lanes. State of the art tolling technology compatible with SunPass will be used for 95 Express to apply variable toll congestion pricing by communicating real-time information on tolls and traffic to the facility operator. This invoicing system represents a questionable project component. Since drivers using the Managed Lanes will be oblivious to the trip cost until they check the debit against their SunPass, the service caters primarily to motorists unconcerned about the toll amount.
Despite this blizzard of accolades from assorted transportation authorities, the project has elicited concerns by local officials. As mentioned, since the amount of the toll is contingent on the ever-changing real-time traffic volume, managed lane users never know how much the tolls cost until after they’ve been billed. Also, if 5% of the drivers on I-95 opt to pay the unknown toll to use the two managed lanes in each direction, the remaining 95% of the traffic currently using all five lanes during off-peak hours will have to squeeze into the four lanes available for general traffic, creating new off-peak delays. These and other potential drawbacks are embodied in the following email from Broward Commissioner Kristin Jacobs:
New Toll Lanes Expected on I-95
by Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs
When traveling on Florida's Turnpike we each understand the cost of the toll before we make a decision to use the highway. The FL Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) has a different tolling scheme for I-95.
Plans are well on the way to create Express Toll Lanes, also know as "managed lanes" on I-95 south of I-595. The toll will vary depending on the amount of traffic on the road on the day and time you are traveling.
Drivers will not know the fee being charged to use the Express Lane until they receive their monthly statement. Tolls will be calculated through the use of infrared scanning devices installed along the lanes.
High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes may be new to Florida, but they have been in place in a number of states across the nation. FDOT promotes the new HOT lanes as a way to deal with traffic congestion. However, many drivers in California, Colorado and Texas report their experience with HOT lanes (also know as Lexus Lanes) transfers even more congestion on to the normal toll-free lanes, as HOT lanes account for only part of the road's total capacity.
HOT lanes are also being proposed for I-595 and possibly I-95 through north Broward. FDOT and the Florida Legislature make the final decisions on design changes to the state road system. However, it is important to me, as your County Commissioner, that you clearly understand how the installation of HOT lanes will impact your commute and your pocketbook.
Your ideas and opinions are an important to me when advocating for you with FDOT and other state officials. Please take a minute to share your comments with me too.
Broward Board of County Commissioners
The items Commissioner Jacobs referred to as “the material I have pasted below” are:
A letter to Kristin Jacobs from FDOT announcing the need for Public Hearings about Variable Rate Tolls Rulemaking predicate to the implementation of congestion-based toll pricing anticipated for the HOT managed lanes on I-95.
NEW GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST SUPPORTS EFFECTIVE TAX REFORM
February 29, 2008 - While campaigning for Jeb Bush’s former job, Governor Charlie Crist vehemently promised to reform the Property Tax system. He correctly identified its inherent inequities as the underlying reason for the State’s inability to fend off the impending recession. Once elected, he fought relentlessly to rebalance the tax burden, hoping to reverse the exodus of businesses and snowbirds from Florida. When a court threw out the 2007 special session tax reform and sent the legislature back to the drawing board, the Governor was confronted with a critical crossroads. While the House created legislation that corrected inequities for non-homesteaded property owners, the Senate decided that since snowbirds don’t vote, why bother? They instead formulated a package that actually intensified the burden on those businesses and second home owners that they were supposedly trying to lure into remaining in the Sunshine State. Since none of the reforms originally acceptable to the Senate provided an even mildly effective economic stimulus, the Senate grudgingly added the “Save Our Homes” portability provision to lighten relocation tax repercussions; also known as the “moving penalty”. By releasing into the Real Estate market thousands of home buyers previously precluded from relocating by the threat of horrific tax consequences, portability was expected to deliver a jolt to the sinking economy. Amid Senate promises to “return next year” to fix the plan’s damage to education and address its failed assistance to snowbirds and businesses, the admittedly insufficient tax plan was gift-wrapped and placed on the January 29th ballot as “Amendment 1”.
FINAL TAX REFORM PACKAGE IMPACT (SENATE PLAN)
Although the Amendment seemingly doubles the $25,000 Homestead Exemption to $50,000, the second $25,000 is inapplicable to the schools portion of the property tax. Since the average school board assessment represents about 40% of the overall tax bite, only $15,000 of the additional $25,000 exemption is available to reduce property valuations. The net reduction is therefore only about $40,000 (the original $25,000 plus $15,000 from the Amendment). The House proposal would have established a homestead exemption equal to 40 percent of the median home value in each county. Since Broward homeowners consequently would have been able to exempt in excess of $100,000 from their valuations, they would have saved more than $600 instead of the projected $160 average savings bottled in the Amendment. The package provides businesses with a modest $25,000 exemption for Tangible Personal Property. The Amendment also provides a watered-down version of the House plan’s 5% annual cap on non-homesteaded property tax increases. Since it is unlikely that future tax increases will ever exceed the 10% annual cap approved by the Senate for snowbirds and businesses, especially during the recession, the “benefit” is little more than a theoretical “sop” for spin purposes. An irony that drove Speaker Rubio to distraction and sharpened taxpayer resentment was the fact that the better balanced House plan would have cost the same as the plan passed in the Amendment.
GOV. CRIST TELLS LAWMAKERS HE WILL PROMOTE AMENDMENT
Given the Senate’s abject refusal to even consider moderating their inadequate plan, the disappointed Governor and overtly angry House Speaker Marco Rubio were forced to lower their expectations. The only component of the Amendment capable of stirring the somnolent real estate market was the portability provision. The Governor was faced with supporting the Amendment or delivering nothing to a constituency expecting relief. A powerful coalition of tax reform proponents dissatisfied with the Senate-backed “take it or leave it” Amendment opposed its passage, contending that settling for the inadequate relief would decrease public pressure for more effective reform. Despite its shortcomings, the Governor stumped the state to ensure passage of the only game in town. At countless whistle stops, Crist repeated the warning, “If we don’t get this passed, tax reform will be tagged as a legislative loser.” Promising that he would continue to press for the balance of his initially endorsed reform package, Crist admonished that passage of the Amendment was key to the political viability of any future reform.
CHAIRMAN ALAN BENSE
On January 29th, in what was largely a referendum measuring Crist’s credibility, the Governor’s persistence was rewarded. Many favorable votes were also cast by homeowners anticipating that the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, whose broad mandate to assess the State’s existing budgeting needs and place recommendations on the November ballot, could tackle reforms neglected by politicians in the legislature. The commission's blend of business, union and government leaders are inherently sympathetic to the plight of non-homesteaded property owners and unconcerned about being re-elected. As expressed by former Republican Statehouse Speaker Alan Bense who chairs the Commission, “I’m very cognizant of the fact that elected folks should frankly have more power than appointed folks, especially as it relates to taxes. But part of the job of the commission is to make some of the decisions that politically can’t be made.”
COMMISSIONER TEEL & CITY MANAGER GRETSAS BEAT BUDGET CRISIS - FACE NEW CHALLENGE
In her “Amendment 1” Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Christine Teel describes the Amendment’s financial impact on Fort Lauderdale residents. She correctly points out that the net tax savings on one side of a zero-sum equation must be offset by comparable fiscal efficiencies such as spending cuts or as yet untapped revenue sources. Absent the frantic growth that previously remedied fiscal overreaching, she defines the City’s responsibility as making due with fewer resources. The Commissioner anticipates that the bold fiscal measures used to rescue the municipality from the crippling effects of the 2003 Budget crisis will again be called upon to maintain the City's sound financial footing. Commissioner Teel applauds the addition of a new city auditor to help formulate methodologies for stretching resources while minimally impacting services. She also requests that constituents prepare to offer constructive guidance READ ON... - editor
From The Desk of
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL
Fort Lauderdale residents have been feeling the effects of the downturn in the housing market that is impacting our region particularly hard. The five-year boom took a sharp turn that is making it difficult for current homeowners to sell their homes and either downsize, increase their living space or relocate.
On January 29th Floridians went to the polls and overwhelmingly supported the passage of Amendment 1. Although many residents didn’t feel the amendment provided adequate relief, they did want the benefits attached to this legislation. Passage of the amendment will provide the following tax savings beginning this year:
Increase the current homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000;
Homesteaded owners may move their Save Our Homes benefit, up to $500,000, from one homesteaded property to the next within Florida;
Non-homesteaded properties taxable value is limited to 10% per year;
Businesses will receive a $25,000 tangible personal property tax exemption.
These tax savings to homesteaded and non-homesteaded property owners will undoubtedly have an impact on Fort Lauderdale and all other municipalities throughout the state. City staff is currently analyzing the impact of Amendment 1 on the 2008/2009 fiscal year budget, which will be presented to the commission in June. We will have to take a close look at our current operating expenses and on short and long-term capital improvement projects.
PROPOSED 2007/2008 ANNUAL OPERATING BUDGET
Last year the Fort Lauderdale City Commission recognized the tax burden on our citizens and cut city taxes even more than the amount recommended by the state. Over the last five years, when tax revenues were increasing, the commission and city staff used sensible financial management to take us from a fiscal crisis to a financially sound city. Our emergency fund was nearly bankrupt, but now has adequate resources to get us through an unforeseen disaster. A new city auditor has already saved our residents and business owners substantial tax dollars by scrutinizing the city’s expenditures.
The fiscal responsibility practiced by the city commission has turned the city around, but the impact of Amendment 1 will require even greater scrutiny of each decision with a financial impact on our decreased resources. When the budget is presented in June, the commission will be obligated to analyze each item and determine whether it is a necessary expenditure or if it can be deferred until the housing market turns around and the city has increased revenues. I look forward to your input on this issue when we begin working on the 2008/2009 fiscal year budget.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions. I can be reached at city hall at (954) 828-5004 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The report’s suggestions are a recipe for disrupting the unrequited sacrifice of Broward’s remaining green space. The language resonated with Commissioner Keechl, whose legal experience with similar land use abuses was honed battling developers as a Plantation city attorney. While pleased with the Commission’s support for the Planning Services Division report and their subsequent vote to toughen relevant land use regulations, Keechl knew that the issue was a political mine field. Addressing some of the subsequent developer-driven opposition to the amendment during a September 11, 2007 Commission meeting, Keechl warned his commission peers, “So I would like to say to each of you that I am well aware that you are now being lobbied -- and if you haven’t been, you will be -- by those who have a different vision than the people of Broward County who elected me and who elected some, if not all, of you.”
In his February Newsletter, County Commissioner Ken Keechl describes some of the obstacles facing the amendment’s supporters. Lobbyists have misrepresented coordinated attacks on the Commission’s attempt to protect Broward’s few undeveloped golf courses as a struggle for “home rule”. Registering righteous indignation, developers have challenged the county’s “interference” with a municipality’s right to quietly sell off Park property within its borders. Accused of advocating “takings”, Keechl is being denigrated for contending that homesteads illegally built on a golf course have the same vulnerabilities as any structure out of compliance with County building or zoning codes. By recasting the surreptitious selloff of county resources as a “right” with which the Commission is interfering, developers hope to rally opposition to the Amendment, effectively clearing the way to fill Broward’s few remaining green spaces with rows of mediocre “McMansions”. - [editor]*
March 25, 2008 “Green Space Protection” Vote
by Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
As you know, the protection of our dwindling green spaces was a campaign promise I made to each of you. And, as a result, I have led the charge on the Broward County Commission to protect our few remaining golf courses from residential conversions. As I also advised in my July 2007 article, “Making Campaign Promises A Reality,” my colleagues and I unanimously voted last year to begin the process of amending Broward’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan by forwarding appropriate amendatory language to all of Broward’s municipalities for their review and comments.
The proposed language, if approved by the County Commission at two public hearings, would make it Broward County’s official policy to “strongly discourage” the conversion of these few remaining open spaces to residential development. Moreover, any applicant who nevertheless decided to seek such a land use change would be required a) to specifically mitigate the loss of open space in the surrounding residential neighborhood and b) to provide a Phase I and Phase II environmental report documenting the absence of environmental contamination, a difficult endeavor due to the traditional use and build up of pesticides and arsenic-laden herbicides on Broward’s golf courses.
A number of cities, including Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, and Oakland Park, responded favorably to my proposal. However, a number of cities (backed by land speculators and powerful lobbyists) responded negatively and are actively campaigning against the land use amendment. These individuals are making untruthful and disingenuous arguments directly to my colleagues on the County Commission in private meetings. For example, rumor has it they are arguing that the proposal is a “takings” of their property. Obviously it’s not an unconstitutional “takings” because the owners never had the legal right to build any homes on their golf courses. By analogy, can you demolish your home and build a commercial warehouse in its place? Of course not. I could go on with the ludicrous arguments, but you get the idea.
Florida’s Sunshine Law prohibits me from personally talking to my colleagues about the importance of protecting Broward’s golf courses and refuting these arguments. Unlike the lobbyists, I have to wait until the public hearing and hope it’s not too late. Fortunately, Florida’s Sunshine law doesn’t prohibit you from personally lobbying my colleagues right now.
The first important Broward County Commission public hearing on this matter is currently scheduled for March 25, 2008. I encourage each of you to show up and show your support. But if you can’t take off from work or you have to watch the kids, you can still help us protect Broward. You can email or call my colleagues right now and tell them that you are a voter and you support protecting our remaining golf courses from residential conversions. You can obtain contact information from Broward County’s website at www.broward.org or by calling 954-357-7000. You can also call our office if you need contact information.
I will report back after March 25th, 2008.
Until then, my best to you and your families.
Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.
March 17, 2008 - The Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center has arguably been the most popular local resource on Galt Ocean Drive. It has provided residents with a convenient location to research almost anything, meet with friends or simply log in some quiet time. The 5 staffers helped residents locate “New York Times” best-sellers, DVDs of foreign films, health-related audio books or search Google for exotic recipes. Whether enrolled in a Senior Self Defense class or Introduction to Computers, Galt Milers that perceived the mini-library as a community center would spontaneously keep the planter in front of the Reading Room filled with fresh flora. Visiting authors reviewed their works, local poets recited their creations and culture groups celebrated their unique ethnicities.
Despite its modest designation as a “Reading Room”, since the library was networked into the overall Broward library system, it was a doorway to a voluminous compendium of information. Why “was”? Primarily because the doors have been closed for a long time. Although most people on the street pass by the Reading Room without noticing its status, a group of concerned residents have taken it upon themselves to ensure its continued survival. The Galt Ocean Mile Friends of the Library, a local 12-member chapter of the umbrella Friends of Broward County Libraries, have kept abreast of the issues facing the storefront facility.
BROWARD COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
Galt Mile President Pio Ieraci was notified by one of the library’s supporters that it was closed to effect renovations. When told that the community resource has long been unavailable to local residents, Ieraci contacted Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl to ask that he investigate the circumstances surrounding the extended closure.
Appealing to Keechl’s oft stated aversion to wasteful spending, Ieraci emailed, “Apparently more than $78,000 has been spent on an existing lease for a non functional property. This space is crucial to the ongoing operation of this Library. The space ‘build out’ should be completed immediately in order for the Library to commence using the space ASAP.” Keechl responded, “I will get a briefing and then have the appropriate high level individual contact you directly and immediately. FYI, I heard something last month about an environmental hazard related to the adjoining space. Again, let me get more information to you immediately.” Keechl heard right!
A week later, Director Bob Cannon of the Broward County Libraries Division corresponded with the Galt Mile Community Association, sending a history of the Library, an explanation of its current status and the reason it remains closed. The content of that correspondence is as follows.
Director Cannon opens with a summarized history of the Center:
Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center
(3403 Galt Ocean Drive, Fort Lauderdale)
Expansion Project Status Report Revised for February 2008
Background of Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center
Opened in January 1992 at 2,450 sq.ft. (Space increased in November 1999 to 4,900 sq. ft.) (This lease expires June 30, 2009 but there are lease renewals available)
Popular materials only, pushed by the Galt Ocean Mile Friends of the Library
$95,000 of library bond money spent on furniture, shelving and public computers
Total annual operating costs: $344,300, 5 staff
Very popular, very busy and successful year round
Two small remaining Reading Centers: Hollywood Beach and Beach (Pompano Beach Reading Center): busy during “the season”
Proposal for Expansion
(Adding 2,000 Sq. Ft. Next Door)
FORMER BROWARD COMMISSIONER JIM SCOTT
In mid-2005 the Friends went to then Commissioner Scott and wanted to add an empty store front space adjacent to the library.
Commissioner Scott supported the request. Money for the expansion was approved by the Board when the budget was adopted in September: $370,000 for renovation of the new space, $66,000 for furniture and equipment and $35,200 for the rent.
The lease for the new space (2,000 sq. ft.) was approved by the Board March 21, 2006. The term is from April 20, 2006 to June 30, 2009. The lease cost: $3,500 a month with annual increases.
Construction Management went through the process and hired an architectural firm (Brown and Brown) to design and draw the renovation of the space. The firm found many problems with the building, reporting them to Construction Management in October 2006. Construction Management and the landlord had extensive meetings and disputes over the problems with the space. The landlord insisted we accepted the building “as is” and we should fix any problems, especially since we wanted to make the renovations of the space. However, she allowed additional inspections.
READING CENTER 2nd (SAFE) CEILING
The firm of Advanced Industrial Hygiene Services was hired by the County and asbestos was found in the floor tiles and textured ceiling materials. Again, the landlord didn’t think she should deal with this problem since the County wanted to alter the flooring and ceiling.
In May 2007, due to delays due to the many disputes, the escalating and now truly unknown costs of the renovation, the discovery of asbestos, and other problems, I indicated to Property Management, Construction Management and County Attorney staff that I thought we should get out of the lease if it was possible.
More meetings were held in the summer between all parties about what to do with the renovation, the many problems of the space and the landlord.
At a meeting in September 2007 with Property Management, Libraries, County Attorney and Construction Management, the staff present decided jointly to use the expanded leased space for library office and storage space only and not renovate the space, especially since the lease would terminate June 30, 2009 and also because it appeared that the cost of the renovation would be extremely high.
The Library Division Director will inform the Galt Ocean Mile Friends of the Library of the status of the expansion at a meeting of the Friends Tuesday, December 11th.
New: update since December
GALT MILE READING CENTER
The Friends approached me in January with a request to use the expansion space just for programs and/or some offices. Al Loeb met with me and then we met at Galt Ocean Mile with the Friends. The goal was to not disturb the floor tiles or (high) ceiling where asbestos was found (it is dangerous only if disturbed).
Library staff (Cecil Beach) and Facilities Management staff came up with a plan, whereby minor renovations would be made by our Facilities Management Division to open up the space so that it could be used by the Friends and staff (programs, meetings). New carpet, partition removal, paint and replacement of ceiling tiles (the lower ceiling) would be the only major needs.
As of February 6, Facilities Management is costing out the renovation plans and will provide a cost estimate to the library. Depending on the cost, the library will make a decision for the renovation level of the expansion space.
BROWARD LIBRARY DIRECTOR BOB CANNON
Cannon lent perspective to the project’s prolonged suspension, explaining, “The basic problem is that the expansion space has had many issues, some that have been worked out and some, the biggest, that asbestos was discovered after testing to be a component of the floor tile and the (high) ceiling (there’s a lower ceiling that is OK). Spending the huge amounts of money to renovate the space as we had originally planned (involving going into the high ceiling and the floor tile and dealing with/removing the tile and high ceiling materials) is not recommended for such a short term lease. So, last month, the Friends of the Library asked us to re-group and see what renovation we could do without getting into serious renovation problems and costs.
That is what we are doing today. We have a plan to renovate the space, which will make it usable we hope and plan for programs and perhaps some office space, and we have asked our Facilities Management Division to give us a cost estimate of that renovation, since we would like them to do the work.
As soon as I get the estimate and the library makes a decision about what is feasible, I will contact the Friends, as promised, Al Loeb who has met with me a couple of times, and yourself. Hopefully we will have the cost estimate next week.”
GALT READING CENTER COMPUTERS
During the next five weeks, quick stops by the Reading Room revealed no ostensible progress. On March 14th, Libraries Division Director Bob Cannon touched base with GMCA President Pio Ieraci, emailing, “Following up on our phone conversation awhile back, I want you to know I have been working with various County staff to try to figure out a way to use the expansion space for the Friends or staff or public, without disturbing the asbestos in the ceiling and floor. We have worked through several renovation/use options, putting in a good deal of time and effort, and some of the ideas and plans appeared at first to be feasible -- but we always end up dealing with the asbestos in one capacity or another. Once asbestos is known, people are afraid of the short or long term consequences and are fearful of dealing with the problem, or working around the problem, without removing the problem. The fear is that any renovation could risk the release of asbestos fibers into the air.”
Cannon contended that despite his “thinking” and “figuring”, the outlook for a successful resolution remained bleak. His deflating assertion that the asbestos was shaping up as an insurmountable obstacle led Ieraci to interpret this generic contact as little more than a courtesy call. Wrapping up his email on a positive note, Cannon continued, “I haven’t given up. I have a meeting with the landlord next week to bring her up to date on all of this and we will see what she has to say about the issues. I will keep you fully informed about this issue, as we are surely coming to a conclusion very soon.”
Two weeks passed. Disappointed with Cannon’s lack of progress, Ieraci reached out to County Commissioner Ken Keechl, exclaiming, “In reference to the message from Bob Cannon, it seems to me that enough time and money has been wasted. I understand that the mitigation of the asbestos would cost between $15,000 and $25,000. This remediation should have been done long ago, considering the county already knew of the asbestos issue from the build out of the existing space.”
Apparently, Pio’s message hit home. Proclaiming that he was equally frustrated, Commissioner Keechl scheduled a meeting with Cannon, Interim County Administrator Bertha Henry and “everyone involved in this fiasco.” Clarifying the regulatory constraints imposed on County Commissioners, he told Ieraci, “As you undoubtedly know, the Charter contains a ‘non-interference’ provision which basically means that I cannot give direction to staff. It doesn’t, however, stop me from screaming, yelling, threatening and the like. This has gone on far too long. I, too, want some closure.”
Keechl is passionately committed to his Commission responsibilities. Ordinarily low-key, when the Commissioner encounters repeated mishandling of District 4 business by County officials, he aggressively seeks to correct the failure. In mid-April, he updated Ieraci, “I have now spoken (twice) with the interim County Administrator regarding the Galt Ocean library. This remediation is going to be done immediately and at County expense. Also, the requested ‘walkthrough’ between the two ‘bays’ will be done. (It is my understanding that the ‘friends of the library’ have been advised of this as well.)” Underscoring the importance of pressing for a resolution, he further explained, “I have given my aide, Kathy Singer, directions to get a briefing from administration as to the progress of same once a week until this is accomplished.”
Focusing on factors that may impact the Library’s future viability, Keechl gave Ieraci a “heads-up”, notifying him that, “There are five or six “leased” libraries. With the severe budget cuts that we will be experiencing, I expect that staff will soon suggest eliminating these leases as a cost savings measure. I doubt this will come up this year, but probably next year. I will watch this issue very carefully as well and advise if I hear anything of the sort.”
Well ladies and gentlemen, that’s why the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center has been in a state of suspended animation. While Cannon’s stated intention to investigate the renovation impact prior to proceeding is reasonable and responsible, why this wasn’t done in the year since the lease was signed is a riddle. Several other issues are equally cloudy. By following a fairly standard investigative process prior to implementing the construction plans, Brown & Brown (subsequently absorbed by the CSA Group) noticed enough red flags to call in Advanced Industrial Hygiene Services and discover the asbestos. In view of their original renovation of the space in 1992, it’s difficult to understand why the county engineer responsible for that scope of work was oblivious to the toxic material’s existence.
Of greater concern is the County’s failure to notify in a timely manner our district commissioner and/or the neighborhood association that the discovery of asbestos derailed the original plan. Were it not for the Friends of the Library soliciting the Galt Mile Community Association’s assistance with re-opening the facility, it might have quietly remained an unavailable enigma through the end of its lease in 2009.
The work-around renovation described by Cannon is a modest project that could be completed in short order. If authorized by the Library Division, community residents could plan on taking Senior Self-Defense classes this summer. If the new fiscal environment described by Keechl repudiates any leasing plan, its time to redirect resources to purchasing adequate space ASAP. Until a decision is made, neither alternative stands to be actualized. Absent some undisclosed factor responsible for discouraging officials from working around the asbestos or moving all the marbles to another site, there is no excuse for continued delays.
It is reasonable to assume that if the Division had any intention of using the leased space, they already would have. Future failure to make one of two possible decisions will confirm official negligence as underscoring the unconscionable waste of time and tax dollars. As such, the next report will either feature a clear decision by the Libraries Division, some much needed perspective for the inexplicable official foot-dragging or a scathing exposure of County waste and bureaucratic incompetence. If relocation is in the cards, it would behoove the county to begin researching alternative structures; preferably without toxic booby traps.
March 29, 2008 - Last year, Fort Lauderdale Real Estate proprietor and Galt Mile resident Domenic Faro approached the Galt Mile Community Association with a plan to feed hungry Broward families down on their luck. Explaining that, “I’ve received so much from our neighborhood; I decided to share some of my blessings with some of my less fortunate neighbors.” To that end, Domenic serves on the Board of Directors of the Cooperative Feeding Program (CFP), a small local charity that performs a desperately needed service for Broward County.
As expressed in their mission statement, “When families fall into economic hardship, The Cooperative Feeding Program provides counseling and support to help them out of the throes of difficult times. Our diverse family center offers them hope, contact with community-wide services, and emotional support.” From the humble beginnings of distributing a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the homeless, today they provide 1.2 million meals a year. Currently Broward County’s lead agency in the provision of services to the hungry and homeless, the agency’s dramatic development reflects the burgeoning numbers and needs of the poor in our community.
Intimately involved with education and advocacy issues, the Cooperative Feeding Program staff focuses on enhancing the quality of life for children, the ill, and the elderly. They work with the homeless and the families living at the edge of homelessness. By holding down administrative costs to a negligible 8% (audited), this federally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency succeeds in channeling a greater percentage of collected resources to its beneficiaries than most of its more celebrated nationally recognized peers. The disabled, the elderly, and persons plagued by mental illness are also recipients of their largesse.
CFP COMMUNITY KITCHEN
Domenic recruited a dozen of our twenty-six member associations to participate in a first-time competitive collection drive. As a community, we proudly donated about 2.6 tons of food to hungry Broward families. Each association was represented by a “team leader” whose responsibilities included coordinating the weekly pick-ups and encouraging neighbors to “soften up and dig deep.” CFP’s Scott Woodburn served as statistician, tracking each participating association’s contributions. In 2007, Plaza South and Edgewater Arms took the top honors for the two recognized categories – the “total pounds of food and sundries collected” and the “pounds per unit collected.” The second category celebrates the generosity of an association’s individual unit owners and serves as a leveler, facilitating equitable comparisons between large and small associations.
This year, 21 member associations agreed to participate, driving collection expectations past 10,000 pounds of food and sundries, about twice last year’s benchmarks. Given the painful economic climate, the doubled donation targets were initially considered somewhat ambitious. However, proceeds from the “Walk against Hunger” helped bolster this year’s totals. Another innovative tweak to this year’s competition was the acceptance of cash and check donations. Each dollar contributed would be credited as one pound of food and/or sundries.
EDGEWATER ARMS - ANNEMARIE ADAMS - GRAND CHAMPION
As in last year’s effort, residents were asked to rifle through their kitchens, bagging canned meats and fish, canned fruits, canned vegetables, canned meals, soups (canned and instant), peanut butter & jelly/jam, dried milk, pasta, rice, cereal and paper & plastic grocery bags. Baby food and baby formula (powdered or canned) and diapers of all sizes also filled the repository bags. Galt Milers donated reams of hygiene supplies such as small shampoos, conditioners, soap, toothbrushes, razors, and shaving cream to help those living on the edge.
Incredibly, lightning struck twice. The block’s smallest association, Edgewater Arms, won both competition categories. Led by Annemarie Adams, Edgewater Arms was credited with having donated 713.5 lbs. of food and sundries and $1775, amounting to 2488.5 in total lbs. collected. Coral Ridge Towers South under David Jenkins’ leadership clinched second place, with 649.5 lbs. of food and sundries and $576 for a sum of 1225.5 in total lbs. collected. Plaza East with David Beswick collected 493.5 lbs. of food and sundries and $200, giving them 693.5 total lbs. collected and third place.
To statistically level the playing field, the lbs. per unit trophy negates the size of the association, reflecting instead the generosity of an association’s average individual donor. Annemarie Adams and Edgewater Arms ran away with first place, averaging 29.3 lbs. donated per unit owner. Coral Ridge Towers South and David Jenkins notched second place, with 3.6 lbs. donated per unit owner. Having donated 3.29 lbs. per unit owner, Fountainhead guided by Jennifer Donnelly took third place honors.
FOUNTAINHEAD - 3rd PLACE - LBS PER UNIT LED BY JENNIFER DONNELLY
As a correlative adjunct to the Galt Mile Food Drive, the February 10th"Walk Against Hunger" helped promote the cooperative competition, encouraging the community’s associations to redouble their efforts. Aspiring to focus the neighborhood’s attention and resources on the 10-day old collection drive, the 72 hearty Galt Mile residents that met early Sunday morning both started and finished their challenging 5 Kilometer walk at the Winn Dixie supermarket in the Galt Ocean Mile Marketplace. Despite the enigmatic juxtaposing of a "Walk Against Hunger" with a "Winn Dixie", the shared sense of accomplishment successfully prompted participants to surpass projected collection goals while raising an additional $1,593.
The real winners were the Galt Mile residents who opened their hearts, wallets and pantries to help feed their neighbors. Also, the Galt Mile Community deserves the pride it earned by sponsoring this wonderful effort. The neighborhood total for collected food and sundries was 6,405.5 lbs and $3.381 for a total of 9,786.5. When added to the $1,593 collected during the “Walk Against Hunger”, the community grand total is 11,379.5 - doubling last year’s effort! Congratulations and Thank You, Galt Ocean Mile!
Following are some pictures of the Galt Mile participants in the "5K Walk Agaunst Hunger":
GALT MILE RESIDENTS MEET AT THE WINN DIXIE
CORAL RIDGE TOWERS BONNIE LEAVITT COOLS DOWN
WALKERS CLOSING IN ON FINISH LINE
PROUD AND TIRED FINISHERS REFRESH THEMSELVES
ONLY A FEW STEPS MORE TO WINN DIXIE
DOMENIC FARO GREETS GALT WALKERS AT FINISH LINE
CRT ORIGINAL - BONNIE LEAVITT
Scott Woodburn, the Cooperative Feeding Program sparkplug that pulled together the Galt Mile food drive during the past two years, sent regular updates to participants, thus sharpening competitive instincts and stimulating collections. Following the final round of pickups, he notified Galt Mile team leaders that the totals would soon be forthcoming and the winners finally recognized for the month-long food drive. Two days after a party thrown to exclaim the local victory in a never-ending war against hunger, Scott sent a March 21st correspondence to participants. Along with the final collection statistics, he announced the competition winners, recognized the commercial sponsors of the February 10th “Walk Against Hunger”, expressed his avid appreciation for the Galt Mile community’s generosity and shared his personal motivation – a burning aspiration to “get a handle on all this craziness.” His letter follows below.
“Thank You for Being There”
2008 FINAL RESULTS!
Dear Galt Ocean Mile Residents,
The final results of the 2008 Galt Ocean Mile have been registered and placed in the book of records for another year. Our big winner – the EDGEWATER ARMS under the leadership of Annemarie Adams. As it turns out, the Edgewater Arms is our smallest Association who stood mightily above the rest through their compassion, caring and generosity – by donating over 2,500 total LBS – which is over 29 lbs per unit.
PLAZA SOUTH - CHARLIE BALDWIN
The Edgewater Arms efforts brought special attention and honors as they were singled out in the Proclamation read to us by Commissioner Teel and presented to them at the “Food Drive Thank You Party” last evening. The Edgewater Arms effort was also recognized by receiving the Galt Ocean Mile Food Drive highest honor, the “GRAND CHAMPION” trophy for their marvelous effort.
REGENCY TOWER CANDACE BROWN
Of special note, I would also mention that Coral Ridge Towers South, under the leadership of David Jenkins, donated an outstanding first year effort of 1,225.5 lbs – good enough for second place. Plaza East, led by David Beswick, another first year association with an effort of 693.5 lbs was followed by Bonnie Leavitt’s Coral Ridge Towers Original with 665 lbs. Rounding out the top 5 associations was our 2007 Champion, Charles Baldwin’s Plaza South with 580 total lbs.
CRT EAST - JIM RAINEY
The Cooperative Feeding Program congratulates all 21 Galt Ocean Mile Condo & Cooperative Associations for making the 2008 food drive a record-setting effort and what has become a county-wide role model for community involvement.
ROYAL AMBASSADOR MARTY WEINSTEIN
We also thank our food drive sponsors for allowing us to conduct a 5K Walk and helping to make this year’s food drive effort so successful. Please continue to support our presenting sponsors: Fort Lauderdale Real Estate, Winn Dixie, First Data and our local business partners: the Loan Office, Dunkin Donuts, East Side Bagel & Deli, Jade Ocean Cleaners, Charisma Hair Salon and the St. Lawrence Gallery (Kevin and Randy) who also hosted and sponsored our outstanding “Thank You Party” last evening.
PLAYA DEL MAR - ROSIE BOWERS
Because of your efforts each day we save some, reduce some of the pain, lift some of the burden, dry some of the tears and put a smile on some faces. Each day we do a little to help what is a major and ever growing problem. What would we have done if you hadn’t been here to help? Together, we can try to get a handle on all this craziness.
COMMISSIONER TEEL & DOMENIC FARO AWARD CHAMPION TROPHY TO ANNEMARIE ADAMS & EDGEWATER ARMS TEAM *** CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGER VIEW ***
That’s right! Our community contributed nearly 6 tons of food and sundries to local families that are suffering through a tough time. Your anonymous contributions will be exemplified to other Broward neighborhoods, hopefully engendering an epidemic of generosity. Well… perhaps a small epidemic… we’ve earned the right to dream!
The Cooperative Feeding Program is headquartered at NW 33rd Terrace in Fort Lauderdale (on the N. W. corner of Broward Blvd. and NW 33rd Terrace). Call them at (954) 792-2328, fax them at (954) 792-9982 or click here to send an email. Office and Emergency Pantry hours are Monday through Friday, 9 AM - 4 PM. The Community Kitchen serves from 9 AM through 11 AM, Monday through Saturday and Sundays from 11 AM through 12:30 PM.
Fort Lauderdale - In an effort to provide convenient and accessible service to residents, Broward County Property Appraiser, Lori Parrish, has announced that the Property Appraiser's Fort Lauderdale and Plantation offices will be open 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM on Saturday, April 12.
“Our office will be open additional hours in order to better accommodate busy working families,” Parrish explained. “Bring your children when you file for Homestead ... we've even got a place for them to play when you visit our offices!” Parrish added.
A current Florida Driver's License or Florida Identification Card, and
A current Florida Voter Registration Card or Declaration of Domicile
Non-US citizens must also provide proof of permanent residency
The passage of Amendment One (Portability) on the January 29th ballot means Homesteaded owners may be eligible to transfer prior Save Our Homes benefit to a new Homestead in Broward County. If eligible, portability of your Save Our Homes assessment could save you hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars in taxes! Ask us how you can apply.
Widows, widowers, permanently disabled persons, veterans with a service-connected disability, and qualified senior citizens on fixed-incomes may be entitled to additional tax-saving exemptions.
Did you miss March 3rd deadline to file for a 2008 Homestead? Don't worry. Florida law allows you to late file through September 19, 2008. Our office accepts late Homestead applications and helps taxpayers prepare the required late filing petitions.
For further information please visit our website at www.bcpa.net or call 954-357-6830.
COMMISSIONER TEEL & CITY MANAGER GRETSAS BEAT BUDGET CRISIS - FACE NEW CHALLENGE
April 18, 2008 - While internationally known as a mythical paradise wherein demographic and political diversity nurture social tolerance, Fort Lauderdale's remarkable recovery from its 2003 budget boondoggle has added "fiscal phoenix" to its descriptive reputation. When it was revealed five years ago that the former City Manager was systematically addressing the previous year’s bills with the next year’s expected receipts, instead of freezing like a deer caught in the headlights, the City Commission took responsibility for its obvious oversight failure and mapped a route back to financial solvency. Within three years of the city’s humiliating 2003 admission that its budgetary practices compared unfavorably to those of Enron, it magically emerged as a bulwark of fiscal prudence. Embarrassed city officials initially hired squeaky clean former federal bureaucrat Alan Silva to temporarily maintain the city’s shaky life-support apparatus. As interim City Manager, Mr. Silva aspired to wean City officials from unsustainable fiscal habits, introduce a dose of reality into delusional budget projections and help its stunned residents (us) to weather the expected fee and tax increases, service cuts and the temporarily frozen programs. On multiple occasions, Mr. Silva expressed sympathy for whoever was ultimately chosen to permanently fill his shoes.
A new addition to City government, rookie Commissioner Christine Teel decided to ignore the recommendations of professional head-hunters charged with finding a replacement City Manager capable of performing an emergency rescue while taking the withering heat for expected service cuts and layoffs. On May 17, 2004, after management search firm Management & Personnel Systems Inc. of Walnut Creek, California evaluated 215 candidates, instead of seating one with a degree from Harvard and astronomical test scores, she voted to select New Yorker George Gretsas to fill the point position in the war to reestablish Fort Lauderdale’s fiscal credibility. Characterizing Gretsas as “a person who has fire in his belly”, time proved the neophyte Commissioner to be right. Over the next three years, as the two workaholics helped fuel Fort Lauderdale’s fiscal renaissance, they hammered out a working relationship based on mutual respect. This “baptism under fire” into city government heightened Commissioner Teel’s predisposition for meticulous fiscal oversight. Since then, she has religiously kept constituents abreast of events affecting the city’s financial status.
2007 COMPREHENSIVE ANNUAL FINANCIAL REPORT
In her newsletter, our District 1 Commissioner Christine Teel summarizes Fort Lauderdale’s assets and liabilities while leaking a clue useful for diagnosing relevant budget factors. By previewing the “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report”, interested residents can realize an appreciation for “the magnitude of running a full service city the size of Fort Lauderdale.” Until now, reliable growth and windfall tax revenues from the high-flying real estate market helped mitigate many of the City's fiscal issues. In view of the economic downturn and mandated tax breaks, the budget must fully underwrite the city's operational needs despite diminished tax revenues. Originally assembled to perform under pressure, the city's talented financial team is charged with enabling the Commission's priorities by stretching resources and tailoring spending. While understandably concerned about this new challenge, Commissioner Teel surmises that careful attention to details surrounding pension costs, insurance expense and asset management is critical to budgetary success. READ ON... - editor
From The Desk of
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL
At this time each year, the City Commission is presented with a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, prepared by the Director of Finance. Ray Mannion, the City’s current finance director, recently submitted the report for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2007. I would like to share some of the general information from this report, which will soon be available in its entirety on the City’s website, www.fortlauderdale.gov.
The City has two defined-benefit pension plans: 1) the General Employees Pension Plan and 2) the Police and Fire Pension Plan. A board of trustees, composed of members elected by active employees and appointees by the Mayor, administers each plan. As part of the contract negotiations with the general employees, the General Employees Pension Plan was closed to new participants beginning October 1, 2007 and replaced with a new defined contribution plan, which will allow the City to better control future pension costs.
Our vision of Fort Lauderdale as a safe, secure, attractive environment in which to live, work and play is reflected in the City’s organization structure and the priorities given in the annual budget. Nearly 63% of the General Fund budget for operating expenditures is dedicated to public safety through police, fire-rescue and building services. Another 13.6 % is allocated to cultural and recreational quality of life programs. Completion of $690 million in capital improvements to the City’s water, sewer and stormwater systems under the WaterWorks 2011 plan and economic development activities in the community redevelopment areas are also critical to maintaining this envisioned environment for our citizens.
The City has a combination of insurance policies and self-insured programs to address the City’s risks as a municipality. The City is self-insured for automobile, general liability, police professional liability, workers’ compensation and employment practices claims and certain medical benefits. Insurance policies are purchased to cover damage to City property, including windstorm and terrorism coverage, losses due to fraud or criminal actions of City officials, major employment practices liability and workers’ compensation and medical claims. Outside actuaries assist in assessing the City’s liabilities and establishing claim reserves.
FT LAUDERDALE EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report includes detailed financial statements and analyses for all revenues and expenditures during the fiscal year, offering everyone a better appreciation of the magnitude of running a full service city the size of Fort Lauderdale. City staff is currently working on the departmental budgets that will be incorporated into the budget presentation to the City Commission later this year. The decline in tax revenues will require that each item be evaluated closely to ensure that our safety and quality of life remain our top priorities while we maintain a fiscally sound budget.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions. I can be reached at city hall at (954) 828-5004 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For a comprehensive review of the 2003 budget crisis that crippled Fort Lauderdale and how it impacted the Galt Mile neighborhood, Click Here to the GMCA Budget Bust Page. The page details events contributing to the fiscal catastrophe, the steps taken to bring the city back from the brink of a financial collapse and the budgetary strategy implemented to provide for future stability. - editor
City of Fort Lauderdale Parking Ticket
ARE YOU A GLUTTON FOR CITATIONS?
May 3, 2008 - They are still there, hiding out in the back of the night table drawer. Right under the 20% discount card from Bed Bath & Beyond that expired in March. Remember those old parking tickets you never paid? Yes, they cost more now than when you received them. You planned on calling the City to report that the meter was out of commission when you got tagged. Anyway, they are still there. So are the reminder notices with late penalties. That’s an extra 20 bucks… for each ticket. Fear not, this is your lucky month.
READY TO APPLY THE BOOT
If you ignore them, one of four embarrassing and/or inconvenient experiences is in store. If you are lucky, you will start receiving threatening correspondences from the city’s collection agency. Make no mistake, they are as dysfunctional as most of their peer businesses. They will lose or miscredit your payment and report you to the credit bureaus anyway. If you are a little less fortunate, your tag renewal will be blocked. In that case, you will have to navigate one of the most disconcerting bureaucratic mazes ever devised in order to get your license plate cleared for use. When unpaid citations result in a hold being placed on your license plate (tag), it means that you will not be able to renew your vehicle registration until the citation and any accrued penalties are paid. The third option occurs when you are pulled over for some reason. After the officer enters his cruiser to call in your tag number, when he emerges, he may impound your car, keep your license or perhaps place you under arrest - depending on the number and vintage of your outstanding violations. Finally, there’s the Boot.
When you return to your car in the mall parking lot, you open the door and hop in. After finding the key you turn on the ignition. You adjust the rear view mirror, pop in a CD and throw it in reverse. Suddenly you notice that the car isn’t moving. IT’S THE BOOT. Some overly ambitious city employee attached an appliance to your wheel. It will not roll. There’s no one around. You must leave the car and get home before you can start making calls to bail out your incarcerated vehicle. Gee - this looks bad.
As mentioned, you are in luck. The city has declared a parking ticket amnesty. The City of Fort Lauderdale is offering drivers with unpaid parking tickets a deal. If you pay off all the outstanding tickets now, in the amount of the original fine, the City will waive all late fees. That’s right - all the penalties get wiped out and you can start with a fresh slate. The City’s one-time amnesty program runs from April 1, 2008 through May 30, 2008. (Penalties will NOT be waived if payment is received prior to April 1st or after May 30, 2008.)
There are a variety of convenient methods of paying your tickets. You can pay over the phone by calling 954-828-3700 and using your Visa or MasterCard. You can use the mail, sending your payment to: City of Fort Lauderdale Payment Processing Center, P.O. Box 14790, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302.
If you can get to a computer, Visa or MasterCard payments are accepted online from a secure web page on the city’s web site at www.fortlauderdale.gov/parkingtickets/. However, there are certain restrictions and conditions. The online parking ticket payment system is unavailable from 11:30 pm to 2:00 am daily for routine system maintenance. Tickets are not available for online payments until after 10:00 am the business day following their day of issuance (a “business day” is a day that City Hall is open for business). For example, a ticket issued on a Friday evening will not be available online until the following Monday morning. Tickets are not entered into the online system on holidays and weekends. However, if your tag has a hold, you cannot pay online; you must come in to pay the full amount in person by cash or credit card.
PARKING AND FLEET SERVICES DEPARTMENT HQ
Of course, you can always get down to the City of Fort Lauderdale Parking and Fleet Services Office at 290 NE 3rd Avenue in Fort Lauderdale and pay in person. Actually, you don’t even have to exit your vehicle. You can go to the City Hall Drive-Thru at 100 N Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale and pay on the fly. A DMV release will be given to you at the time of payment.
If you have any questions about this temporary amnesty, call 954-828-3700, Monday through Friday, 7:45 am to 4:00 pm.
May 15, 2008 - On April 7th, a meeting of the Galt Mile Presidents Council was convened to inform Association officials about the planned placement of a “Deepwater Port” for the offloading of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) 7 to 10 miles from the densely populated Galt Mile beach. Representatives of SUEZ Energy North America, Inc. or SENA, developer of the “Calypso” project, were invited to explain the project variables and respond to questions raised by concerned community participants. SENA’s parent, SUEZ Energy International, is a subsidiary of SUEZ, a $73.2 billion (€47.5 billion) French conglomerate that addresses Public Utility needs for electricity, natural gas, energy services, water and waste management. Articles in the Galt Mile News and the Galt Mile Community Association web site that explained the project’s underlying rationale also elicited serious safety concerns by depicting the tragic consequences that plagued similar installations. The meeting was also attended by City Commissioner Christine Teel, who was instrumental in securing participation by project organizers. Changes in the laws governing LNG facility licensing procedures eliminated the requirement for local approval, making such meetings voluntary. The sponsors were afforded the opportunity to make an objective presentation with the understanding that association representatives would transmit what they learned to their association constituencies whose feedback would determine whether the project would encounter community support or opposition.
GALT MILE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION PRESIDENTS COUNCIL
The Suez North America representatives opened by explaining how the Calypso facility would help satisfy Florida’s growing demand for gas-fired electricity generation. The Calypso Deepwater Port (DWP) is a planned transfer station, enabling tankers carrying liquefied natural gas to dump their load, vaporize the liquid fuel into a gaseous state and send it through a pipeline (the Calypso pipeline) towards Port Everglades where it will be introduced into the Florida Gas Transmission Pipeline System for distribution across the region. Reminiscent of Florida’s dependence on oil during the 1970s, natural gas-fired energy is expected to comprise 45% of total energy generated in the state by 2015. The Calypso U.S. Pipeline is designed to supply 832,000 MMBtu of natural gas per day or two thirds of the incremental amount required to meet the state’s projected 2014 demand of 1.2 billion cubic feet per day (as estimated by the Florida Public Service Commission).
CLICK ABOVE TO ENLARGE VIEW OF CALYPSO DEEPWATER PORT (DWP)
Deploying large storyboards as visual aids and smaller handouts distributed before the presentation, project personnel described the operational components of the proposed regasification facility, stating, “The Calypso DWP is a submerged offloading buoy and anchoring system that will reside approximately 120 feet below the ocean surface when not in use and serve as an offshore delivery point for natural gas. The westernmost buoy (West Buoy) would be sited approximately 7.7 miles from shore in 805 feet of sea water (FSW) and would connect to the sea floor with eight mooring lines, using six suction piles and two gravity anchors. The easternmost buoy (East Buoy) would be sited approximately 10.3 miles from shore in 932 feet of sea water (FSW) and would connect to the sea floor with nine mooring lines, using six suction piles and three gravity anchors. Using the submerged unloading buoy system, the DWP will be capable of servicing two types of LNG vessels simultaneously; a storage and regasification ship (SRS) and a transport and regasification vessel (TRV).”
Enumerating factors impacting proposed project traffic, they continued, “Except during severe weather conditions, to perform maintenance or for inspection, the SRS would remain moored ‘semi-permanently’ to the East Buoy. Conventional LNG carriers would call on Calypso DWP and transfer LNG to the SRS approximately every two days. TRVs would call on Calypso DWP and moor to the West Buoy every 4 to 7 days (averaging once every 5 days).”
COMPARATIVE VIEW FROM THE BEACH OF CRUISE SHIP AND LNG TANKER AT DWP LOCATION (7 MILES OUT)
Questions were fielded during and after the presentation. Several members asked about the visibility of the impending structure, aspiring to determine whether it would mar the ocean view. Tom Allen of Suez North America explained that the deepwater port apparatus remains submerged until pressed into service by the arrival of a transport and regasification vessel (TRV). Pictures of vessels comparable in size to the two specialized tankers were taken as they passed 7 miles and 10 miles from shore and featured on presentation storyboards. Appearing significantly smaller than cruise ships that ordinarily traverse a traffic lane closer to the beach, the pictures confirmed that the vessel traffic would represent little more than a minor impediment to the view from the beach
As the presentation drew to a close, a Playa del Mar director started asking more incisive questions about the prospective danger of gas explosions. Bradley Cooley, another Suez representative, exclaimed that the gas didn’t explode when ignited, but rather burst into flame. He stressed that an ignited gas cloud burned at fiercely hot temperatures, quickly incinerating almost anything caught in the conflagration. Referring to project dangers enumerated in a Galt Mile News article about the Calypso project, another attendee asked about whether a gas cloud could travel the seven miles from a damaged vessel to the beach. While claiming ignorance of any authoritative studies indicative of the distance that an ignitable gas cloud could travel, Brad expressed confidence in the 7 mile “cushion” separating the facility from landfall.
When asked about the risks associated with the project’s prominence as a target for terrorism, Mr. Cooley said “In addition to being the licensing agency, the Coast Guard is charged with the responsibility of protecting the installation and the transport vessels while they are discharging.” When a GMCA official expressed concern about the substantial volume of authoritative reports and studies that define LNG facilities as indefensible, the Suez spokespersons referred to the project environmental impact statement that described planned security measures.
While adequately expanding on operational, procedural, licensing and some environmental issues, questions about prospective terrorist infiltration and the potential catastrophic ignition of lethal gas (as occurred in Cleveland in 1944 and Skikda, Algeria in 2004) were answered with casual generalizations, leaving many in the audience with lingering concerns about these marginally addressed threats. Following the meeting, Suez personnel politely answered dozens of additional questions by members dissatisfied with vague project safeguards.
In the weeks following the meeting, the residual trepidations felt by many of the attending Council participants were imparted to friends and neighbors, spreading epidemically throughout almost every association. Galt Mile residents took the time and trouble to weigh claimed improvements to the State’s energy delivery system against the possible actualization of a mind-bending holocaust. Emails poured into the Galt Mile Community Association expressing fear and anger over being confronted by potential incineration. A set of exploratory links following an article about Calypso on the Association web site suddenly experienced an explosion of incremental hits.
In addition to being designated as the “lead” agency, the language directs that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) alone “shall establish a schedule” for all federal and state LNG proceedings and maintain the “exclusive record” of the proceedings. The language only requires FERC to “consult with the State commission of the state in which the liquefication or gasification natural gas terminal is located” – so if a state disagrees with FERC procedures and/or rulings, FERC can simply ignore the state’s concerns. While the Act allows states to “conduct safety inspections”, this is permitted only AFTER the facility has been approved by FERC and built. After providing written notice to FERC of its intentions, since the state can only conduct such safety inspections under FERC guidelines (rather than those of the state’s public utility commission), if a state has tougher safety standards than the federal government, only the weaker federal standard could be enforced. The language is clearly aimed at a July 2004 lawsuit filed by the State of California (challenging the placement of an unwanted LNG facility) claiming that FERC illegally ruled in a March 24, 2004 declaratory order that states have limited jurisdiction over the permitting and siting of LNG facilities inside their borders.
For the $17,495,044 in direct contributions to key legislators and the $112,289,825 spread around by lobbyists, the Energy Industry bought $6 billion in Oil & Gas subsidies, $9 billion in Coal subsidies, $12 billion in Nuclear Power subsidies, $2 billion in Electric Power subsidies and across-the-board regulatory rollbacks exempting compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Laugh it up… half of these giveaways were incentives to build facilities that already existed. Finally, the Act codified the elimination of local licensing approval for LNG facilities. Based on discredited trickle down pipedreams, instead of lowering energy prices, allowing energy industry lobbyists to write the bill is having the predicted effect of sending fuel prices and energy costs through the roof.
Upon recognizing the full extent of this threat, Plaza South residents Bill and Terry Claire spontaneously commenced efforts to organize effective opposition, inviting residents to attend viewings of Riley’s video. When angry residents from Plaza South, Ocean Club, Royal Ambassador and L’Hermitage contacted GMCA officials, they discovered that they were the tip of the iceberg. The Galt Mile Community Association Board of Directors voted unanimously to oppose the project. The vote authorized the creation of a letter to the Governor expressing our concerns and recommending a project veto. To authorize the broadening of several individual efforts into a more effective community-wide campaign, the GMCA Advisory Board voted unanimously at the May 15th meeting to universally oppose the project. On May 7th, City Commissioner Christine Teel wrote to constituents, “I fully support those who oppose this project and will continue to express my opposition to the State and Federal government officials who will ultimately decide the fate of the Calypso Project. As additional information becomes available, including the details of the public hearing, I will share it with the Galt Mile Community Association so they may disseminate it to its members.”
Dozens of counter-terrorism authorities have warned against the establishment of LNG facilities in densely populated areas. A December 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) Maritime Security report confirms that LNG tankers face “suicide attacks from explosive-laden boats, ‘standoff’ attacks with weapons launched from a distance and armed assaults” resulting in a “severe threat to public safety, environmental consequences, and disruption of the energy supply chain.” This Congressional Report by the GAO exhorts that “the Coast Guard - the lead federal agency for Maritime Security - has insufficient resources to meet its own self-imposed security standards.”
FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNTER TERRORISM CHIEF RICHARD CLARKE
Former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke wrote a report entitled “LNG Facilities in Urban Areas” in May of 2005 for Attorney General Patrick Lynch of Rhode Island warning that “Both the proposed urban LNG off loading facility and the proposed LNG tanker transit through 29 miles of Rhode Island have security vulnerabilities that are unlikely to be successfully remediated.” Citing the consequences, he stated, “Many fires could exceed the 2000 BTU limit for the employment of fire fighters, necessitating a ‘let it burn’ approach to many structures. There would be both prompt and delayed fatalities.” Speaking to the economic aftermath, he said, “The financial cost of compensating victims and rebuilding damaged or destroyed facilities following a catastrophic attack on the urban LNG facility and/or LNG tanker would likely exceed any insurance carried by the owners and operators of the LNG facility and tanker.” Clarke continued, “In the absence of adequate insurance to pay victims and rebuild damaged or destroyed facilities, the LNG operators would be transferring the financial cost of the risk they would be creating either to the victims or to governments, or to some combination of both. Governments would also bear costs for greatly enhanced security and consequence management, including mass trauma and burn capabilities.”
AL-QAEDA INFILTRATED LNG TANKERS
Serving as terrorism chief under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton until retiring in 2003, Clarke admonished that senior Bush Administration officials knew “that al-Qaeda operatives had been infiltrating Boston by coming in on liquid natural gas tankers from Algeria” prior to the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Having also held national security posts under Presidents Reagan and George H. Bush, 11-year White House veteran Clarke advises clients about corporate security risk management, information security technology, counterterrorism and dealing with the Federal Government on security and IT issues as Chairman of Good Harbor Consulting.
IAGS POLICY & STRATEGIC PLANNING CHIEF ANNE KORIN
LNG terminals are “a terrorist attack waiting to happen,” said Anne Korin, director of policy and strategic planning at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., that focuses on energy security issues. Korin said the type of attack conducted against the double-hulled French oil tanker Limburg, in which a boat loaded with explosives rammed into the ship, and penetrated both hulls, could be a disaster when directed at an LNG tanker. Chairman Peter Levene of Lloyds, the world’s second-largest commercial insurer, told Houston business leaders that a terrorist attack on an LNG tanker “would have the force of a small nuclear explosion.”
30 MILE VAPOR CLOUD FROM OXNARD ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT
Upon breach of its container, Liquefied Natural Gas rapidly becomes an ignitable vapor cloud that will drift downwind (on shore). Once the gas dispersion levels reach from 5% to 15% of gas to oxygen, ordinarily innocuous sources such as cell phones, cigarette lighters, light switches, engine spark plugs – even a static carpet spark – could trigger ignition. While the gas doesn’t explode upon ignition, it bursts into a wide-spread super heated inferno beyond the suppression capabilities of most fire departments. When asked by local residents about the area endangered by a prospective coherent gas cloud, project representatives contended that there are no studies that demonstrate how far a gas cloud can travel while remaining sufficiently coherent to ignite. In fact, there are.
AFTERMATH OF A 2004 ALGERIAN NATURAL GAS DISASTER - 27 KILLED
In March 2005, the U.S. Coast Guard requested that Sandia National Laboratories review the “Independent Risk Assessment of the Proposed Cabrillo Port LNG Deepwater Port Project” off the coast of Malibu, California. Released in January of 2006, the Sandia Report considered the worst credible intentional or accidental event release of 53 million gallons (200,000 m3) from two tanks of LNG. It was determined that a wind speed of 2 m/s (4.5 mph) resulted in the “worst case” in which the flammable vapor cloud extended about 7.3 miles (6.3 Nautical Miles or 11.7 km) downwind from the proposed offshore LNG Floating Storage and Regasification Unit. The planned placement of the proposed deepwater port is 7 to 10 miles from the Galt Mile beach.
AFTERMATH OF THE 1944 CLEVELAND NATURAL GAS DISASTER
In 1973, 40 Staten Island workers repairing an out-of-service LNG tank were incinerated when liquefied natural gas that had leaked through the tank liner into the surrounding soil and tank wall berm was ignited by a spark from one of the irons or vacuum cleaners used during the repair. Every one of the more than 2 dozen LNG incidents that occurred during the past 50 years was preceded by corporate assurances of adequate safety and security precautions. Not surprisingly, the second factor shared by these incidents is their corporate immunity to damages restitution. Through regulatory slight-of-hand, the governing laws provide the offending corporate perpetrator with a get-out-of-jail-free card, passing the fiscal punishment to the victims and their local governments.
AERIAL VIEW OF RIVERFRONT FACILITY DESTRUCTION
All LNG vessel owners are protected by The Limitation of Vessel Owner’s Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. §181, et seq., a law enacted by Congress in 1851 to provide U.S. ship owners a chance to be competitive with foreign-flagged vessels whose liability was limited under European seafaring codes. The Act limits the owner’s liability to the post-disaster value of the vessel and its cargo contents. Since the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that the sinking of a ship marks the termination of both the voyage and the vessel’s value, the vessel owner’s financial liability in an LNG tanker disaster is severely limited. Notwithstanding prospective widespread damage to property or infrastructure in the $billions, the ship owner’s property exposure (outside the ship and cargo) is ZERO and loss of life and bodily injuries would be limited to just $420 per vessel ton. The Deepwater Port Act similarly limits the financial liability of an LNG deepwater port facility operator to $350 million. The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) amended the Deepwater Port Act (DWPA) of 1974, 33 United States Code 1501, et seq., to include natural gas. The damages limitation was created for offshore oil ports contemplating sufficient liability for an oil spill and cleanup costs, not LNG storage and regasification facilities capable of incinerating entire communities. Bottom line: the losses are passed to the victims and their local governments’ taxpayers.
In addition to threats posed by terrorist activity and human error, the area’s increased exposure to hurricanes heightens the potential danger. The Great Lakes and the Florida Straights are littered with vessels snapped like twigs by devastating storms. Such an event would instantaneously release a tanker’s full complement of LNG into the surrounding ocean. In addition to an incipient vapor cloud, the immediate ocean habitat would experience an environmental holocaust.
CALYPSO SITE MAP - OFF GALT MILE BEACH
In an earlier meeting with project representatives, GMCA officials questioned the placement of the deepwater port off the Galt Mile beach instead of a location closer to the pipeline’s Port Everglades landfall. Apparently, environmental impact studies indicated that the hardbottom seabed environment of locations closer to Port Everglades were more worthy of protection than the Galt Mile site. While discussing placement parameters, they said that they would have preferred installing the deepwater port 40 or 50 miles from the populated shore. They said that the Miami Escarpment, an undersea geological feature about 10 miles from the Fort Lauderdale shoreline in which the sea floor drops precipitously rendered that alternative structurally unfeasible. Since the gas is transported by pipeline from the deepwater port to the shore, consideration should have been given to offshore sites unaffected by this underwater cliff. The deepwater port’s proximity to Fort Lauderdale is obviously unnecessary since the project’s original license placed the regasification structure in the Bahamas, with the gas traveling by pipeline to Port Everglades. By providing a 40 to 50 mile cushion between the installation and the densely populated Broward beachfront, a similar open ocean placement anywhere along the coast would sufficiently insulate the population from any catastrophic ramifications.
Project representatives plainly expressed their reliance on the Coast Guard for protection against terrorist attack. Given the Coast Guard’s stated inability to effectively perform this function due to inadequate resources, the threat assumes unacceptable proportions. Despite representations by officials of Suez North America and Calypso LLC that they will do all in their power to protect against a holocaust, our thousands of neighbors living along the coast are understandably unwilling to risk their lives to provide these companies with more efficient product distribution. In view of the horrific consequences attendant to a security oversight, an error in judgment or hurricane damage, no prospective benefit to the State can justify the potential loss of life and property.
To review the rest of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), enter “26009” in the Docket ID Box on the Advanced Search - Docket Page (Regulations.gov web site) and click “Submit”. Click on the single entry - USCG-2006-26009. There are nine pages of relevant documents. The DEIS documents start on the 4th page, in the sequence USCG-2006-26009-0084 through USCG-2006-26009-0112.1. (Its much easier than it sounds!)
May 27, 2008 - On May 20th, the City Commission of Fort Lauderdale held 2 meetings, a conference meeting at 1:30 PM to review agenda items and a regular meeting at 6 PM at which the Commission addresses issues affecting the city. Several of our Galt Mile neighbors made it their business to attend the May 20th meetings. Playa del Mar resident Fred Nesbitt and Bill Claire of Plaza South were among them. The motivation for their appearance was not some vague political objective. Along with several other Galt Mile residents, they were there because they were afraid.
They recently learned about plans to install a deepwater port called Calypso across from the Galt Mile Beach wherein liquefied natural gas will be transferred from tankers called Transport and Regasification Vessels (TRV), vaporized and pipelined to Port Everglades. Despite that the facility operator’s (Calypso and SUEZ North America) licensing efforts have been underway for more than two years, they never informed the local residents that an error in judgment, a hurricane mishap, an equipment failure or the substantially increased prospect of a terrorist attack could precipitate a holocaust spanning several neighborhoods.
LLOYD'S CHAIRMAN LORD PETER LEVENE
SUEZ Energy North America, Inc. is a subsidiary of a French energy utility management and service conglomerate called SUEZ. One of their businesses is bringing natural gas harvested overseas to the United States for distribution. Specialized tankers transport the gas in a liquefied state at -260 degrees Centigrade to facilities that store and vaporize the liquefied natural gas (LNG) in preparation for pipeline distribution. Gas companies have been applying for LNG facility licenses in coastal communities all over the United States. When these communities learn about the risks associated with these installations, their residents invariably band together in staunch opposition. If a serious breach occurs at any link of this fossil fuel’s chain of transport or storage, igniting the ensuing vapor cloud “would have the force of a small nuclear explosion,” as expressed by Lord Peter Levene (Chairman of Lloyds, the world’s second-largest commercial insurer).
Plaza South resident Bill Claire explained that the dangers attendant to liquefied natural gas facilities were catastrophic. He related that several square blocks of East Cleveland were incinerated when a LNG vapor cloud was inadvertently ignited and that a LNG deepwater port would be a prime target for terrorists. He said that since the Act that regulates licensing was designed to bypass local approval, the armies of SUEZ lobbyists – locally and in Tallahassee – have completed two years of the licensing process under the radar. He said that he first learned about this project and its inherent dangers from articles posted on the Galt Mile Community Association web site in December and the Galt Mile News in January. Christian Chiari from the adjacent Coral Ridge neighborhood added that energy companies have applied for dozens of licenses across the country, anticipating approval of a small minority. He said, “Although the Galt Mile has 15,000 residents, only 3200 are registered voters,” intimating that SUEZ selected a location unlikely to mount unified opposition. Galt Mile Advisory Board member Fred Nesbitt of Playa del Mar warned Commissioners that “no benefit accrues to the City for assuming a risk threatening such catastrophic consequences.”
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL
Mayor Naugle remarked, “It’s the dumbest place in the world to put this thing – next to a heavily populated area.” After discussing whether they should wait until the June 10th Commission meeting to consider the Project, Commissioner Teel stated, “We would be best served to act on this tonight.” SUEZ lobbyist Judy Stern said that since this company wants the Galt Mile to feel safe, “SUEZ has scheduled the Coast Guard to meet with the Galt Mile residents who’ve expressed concerns on May 28th at Plaza South.”
City Commission Regular Meeting
Prior to the 6 PM Regular Commission meeting, four local residents and four representatives from SUEZ registered to address the City Commission. Calypso Project Manager Dan McGinnis told the Commissioners that there will be an acute need for natural gas in the next 5 years. He claimed full compliance with the Deepwater Port process and having met with the Galt Mile residents and many other citizens to explain the project. He called contentions that the project was dangerous “unqualified, unfounded and flat wrong.” He continued, “This project has been deemed safe by the Coast Guard. We will meet next week with the Galt Mile residents to address their concerns.”
NOVA DEAN RICHARD DODGE
Following McGinnis, Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center Executive Director, Dean Richard Dodge said “I’ve worked with Tractebel for many years on environmental issues and concerns and find them to be conscientious. They located the deepwater port in the selected area to minimize environmental damage. There would be minimal impairment of the view.” Incredibly, he then remarked, “As to explosions, I would trust their assessment. You should treat them with respect.” Actually, Tractebel is the company that sponsored the Calypso Pipeline Project when the company planned to build the deepwater port in Grand Bahama Island. When Bahamians learned about the project dangers, they overwhelmed the government bureaucrats that agreed to the LNG facility, forcing its rejection. When SUEZ was refused permission to build the Bahamian facility, the project was moved here.
NOVA SCIENTIST DR. AMY HIRONS
Nova faculty member Dr. Amy C. Hirons spoke next. She said she was asked by Nova to investigate the project’s possible effect on zooplankton and ichthyoplankton. From her dealings with SUEZ, she believes that “they are open, accepting of scientific recommendations, forthcoming and willing to meet the needs of the fishing community.” She said “As the chief scientist, I can say that there is a negligible impact to the hardbottom community, as indicated in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) which we acquired from the Coast Guard.”
CITY COMMISSIONER CARLETON MOORE
Commissioner Carleton Moore told her that the EPA sent a team of scientists to evaluate the Wingate Coal plant because it heavily polluted the surrounding area. He asked if Nova filled that role, were they “asked by the government to investigate on behalf of citizens.” She answered, “I’m a completely independent research scientist.” Moore then asked the source of Nova’s involvement. When Hirons responded, “We were contracted by SUEZ,” Moore smiled and shook his head, stating “so you are paid by the operator, thank you very much, that’s all I wanted to know.”
GMCA ADVISORY BOARD'S FRED NESBITT OF PLAYA DEL MAR
GMCA Advisory Board member Fred Nesbitt from Playa del Mar conveyed that “the General Accountability Office (GAO) stated in a December 2007 report that Calypso was a perfect target for a terrorist attack and it further states the Coast Guard had insufficient resources to protect a LNG deepwater port.” He warned the commission that although they have no input into the licensing process, the City Police and Fire Departments will have to respond to any catastrophe resulting from a breach. To graphically demonstrate the scope of this issue, Fred pointed out that the 33 million gallons of liquefied natural gas carried by one LNG tanker will vaporize into 20 billion or a vapor cloud of 800 million cubic feet, threatening a major holocaust if ignited. He complained “When I asked SUEZ representatives how they would protect the facility from terrorist attack, they responded that a boat would patrol the area and report suspicious activity to the Coast Guard, ignoring the GAO finding that the Coast Guard can’t adequately secure the installation.”
The controversial Energy Policy Act of 2005 saddled the Coast Guard with an inherent conflict. They are charged with approving the LNG license and providing security for the facility, forcing a federal bureaucracy to make an unbiased evaluation of its own capabilities and objectively pass judgment on itself. The Act contains many instances where checks and balances were replaced with Patriot Act-style agency self-regulation.
OAKLAND PARK RESIDENT CHRIS CHIARI
Oakland Park resident Chris Chiari informed the Commission that this project “dates back 10 years, with a planned Bahamian LNG facility connected by pipeline to Port Everglades until it was rejected by the Bahamians as unsafe.” The current Deepwater Port plan is a two year old replacement for the ill-fated Bahamas facility. Chris said “These companies are applying for licenses in scores of locations, hoping to achieve success in a few. Now that the Galt Mile is actively engaging SUEZ, we may avert a terrible mistake.” As a participant on the Broward County Marine Advisory Board, Chiari said, “I’ve heard SUEZ’ contention that this gas was desperately needed when they were planning the pipeline years ago. Simply replacing our need for foreign oil with foreign gas is foolish. A recent New York Times article spoke to huge new gas deposits in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In any event, this type of dangerous facility doesn’t belong here.”
N.Y. GOV PATERSON NO TO LNG
Dr. David Marshall from Plaza South cut to the chase, exclaiming, “We are scared! You should also be scared. We are being asked to live with the possibility of a huge fireball blowing across the beach.” He referred toGovernor Patterson of New York, who recently opposed a similar facility in the Long Island Sound. Another Plaza South resident, Bill Claire, waxed poetic. “When I look out my window, I see a magnificent ocean environment ideal for recreation and the tourist economy that feeds the state. Florida’s wealth begins at the water line.” He insisted that LNG facilities should never be located near densely populated areas, “where lives are at risk.” Claire asserted, “We know what their paid lobbyists and paid scientists are going to say. They think that the old retirees along the Galt Mile who are half asleep anyway will take a nap, and when they wake up, the port will be there.” He admonished that when more people find out what’s going on, the opposition will expand exponentially. He said, “When I ask my neighbors about Calypso, they think it’s a dance program.”
Last to speak was Barry Heimlich, who identified himself as a retired Chemical Engineer and Petroleum Industry executive who is now the President of the Florida Energy Imperative, a Hollywood corporation he shares with his wife, Ellyn. Although he prefers solar and wind power, “natural gas is better than polluting coal or nuclear energy which produces deadly waste.” He maintained that “We do not have adequately reliable sources of power and we should trust SUEZ since the Coast Guard will protect us.” When asked if he works for SUEZ, he claimed that the Florida Energy Imperative is a non-profit independent environmental advocate that has been closely following the SUEZ Company’s activities for years. Enigmatically, it appears that the corporation was only formed on May 24, 2007, a year ago.
CITY COMMISSION VOTES TO ISSUE RESOLUTION OPPOSING CALYPSO
While Mayor Naugle expressed a preference for postponing a resolution opposing the Calypso Deepwater Port as presently located, Commissioner Moore disagreed, exclaiming “I’m a policy maker representing thousands of City residents and I know nothing about this project right in my back yard.” Although the Mayor admitted some familiarity with the project, he said that SUEZ never inquired as to the City’s needs or input. Moore concluded “Since they’ve shown us no accountability, I will allow them none. They ignored city government. If this is such a good thing, why hide it?”
VICE MAYOR/COMMISSIONER CHARLOTTE E. RODSTROM
Commissioner Teel proposed issuing the resolution immediately, claiming that nothing will change the fact that its location is unacceptable. She said “the Galt Mile has responded first, but South Beach and Central Beach residents are also affected, depending only on the prevailing winds.” Echoing Moore’s sentiment, Teel intimated that while not obliged by the process to request the city’s input, SUEZ actions can only be interpreted as “trying to sneak one by.”Commissioner Rodstrom said “Since I favor no additional growth, their statement that this facility will fuel growth turned me off. I think the resolution is good for the community.” On calling the motion, the resolution passed 4 vs. 1, Naugle dissenting absent Coast Guard input.
Check below to personally verify what transpired at the Fort Lauderdale City Commission Meetings on May 20th, to read Commissioner Christine Teel’s Letter to constituents condemning Calypso and/or see the Resolution issued by the City Commission.
Click Here to watch a video of the May 20th 1:30 PM Conference Meeting (2 hours, 26 minutes)
Click Here to watch a video of the May 20th 6:00 PM Regular Meeting (2 hours, 45 minutes)
Click Here to read Commissioner Christine Teel’s letter condemning Calypso (Adobe PDF File)
Click Here to read the City Commission’s Resolution opposing Calypso (Adobe PDF File)
Calypso Meeting “Bait and Switch”!
Two days after the City Commission meeting, GMCA President Pio Ieraci contacted lobbyist Tom Allen from SUEZ North America to confirm a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 28th, at Plaza South prior to notifying Galt Mile Associations that concerned residents would have the opportunity to hear the Coast Guard Security plan. Despite assuring the City Commission that they were going to allay the fears of Galt Mile residents at a meeting in Plaza South, SUEZ decided to “bait and switch” the venue to the IGFA (International Game Fishing Association) building in Dania, halfway across the county. When Commissioner Teel checked her emails on Friday morning, May 23rd, she found an announcement from the RBB Public Relations firm entitled “Public Notice to the Broward County Community” welcoming the public to an “Informational Open House.”
INTERNATIONAL GAME FISH ASSOCIATION HEADQUARTERS
Since Monday was Memorial Day, Calypso set a new standard for fraudulent public access by covert notice, cancelling the Galt Mile meeting and announcing the replacement public event with one business day’s notice. Ieraci asked why SUEZ was moving the location of the meeting after pledging to address the concerns of frightened Galt Mile residents living closest to the LNG facility. Tom Allen said “We decided that we would need a much larger space.” Given their history of poorly attended Calypso meetings due to nearly invisible notice, it became clear that their nine lobbyists (5 for the Calypso Deepwater Port, 2 for the Calypso Pipeline, 1 for SUEZ Energy North America and Judy Stern in Broward) planned to pack the hall with supporters - not unlike the paid scientists giving testimony at the Commission meeting.
Governor Charlie Crist
The meeting is now scheduled for 7:30 PM at the International Game Fish Association Headquarters auditorium at 300 Gulf Stream Way in Dania Beach. The notice states, “An outside moderator will introduce speakers from the U.S. Coast Guard and SUEZ Energy North America, and then facilitate a question and answer session for attendees so any and all issues and concerns can be addressed. We look forward to your attendance.”
To insure that Governor Crist (who is empowered to VETO the Calypso debacle) isn’t informed that no one opposed Calypso at the “public meeting”, it is critical that Galt Mile residents attend the event since SUEZ is likely to limit direct notification to financially engaged supporters. We understand that by surreptitiously moving the meeting to Dania, SUEZ has deliberately made attendance inconvenient for those most affected by its planned LNG deepwater port – Galt Mile residents.
To assist those residents who want to attend the meeting, a bus has been reserved for free conveyance to and from the IGFA HQ. The bus will disembark from in front of the Galt Ocean Club at 3800 Galt Ocean Drive (across the street from Winn Dixie). All of our concerned neighbors are invited. Passengers will receive a "fact sheet" summarizing project issues. Boarding will start at 5:45 PM and the bus will depart at 6:30 PM. Following the presentation, passengers will again board the bus at IGFA for the return trip. Since there are a finite number of available seats, please call (954) 489-9430 to reserve a seat on the bus. After 5:30 PM, call (954) 564-4329. YOUR PRESENCE IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT! See you at the bus!
Calypso Meeting Information
International Game Fish Association (IGFA) Headquarters
300 Gulf Stream Way
Dania Beach, Florida 33004
IGFA Telephone: (954) 927-2628
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
To drive there, take Oakland Park Boulevard to I-95 South. Drive about 6.6 miles to Griffin Road (Exit 23) and take right fork to Griffin Road (SR 818) going west. After a quarter mile, turn left on Anglers Avenue. After a fifth of a mile, turn left on Gulf Stream Way. Continue about a half mile to 300 Gulf Stream Way. BINGO! YOUR HAVE ARRIVED!
June 2, 2008 - * In our County Commissioner’s Spring Newsletter, Ken Keechl reminds us that beneath his mild-mannered public persona is a two fisted budget hawk. Understandably proud of having delivered on virtually every campaign promise he made prior to his surprise upset of District 4 commission predecessor Jim Scott, Commissioner Keechl illustrates last year’s forward progress and exhorts that we prepare for the likely service trade-offs of a lower tax bill. The Broward Board of County Commissioners sifted through their appropriations laundry list last year, weeding out questionable programs, unnecessary projects that were seemingly funded annually by force of habit and expenses that can only be accurately described as embarrassingly overt political pork. With Round Two of Keechl’s crusade against irresponsible County spending around the corner, ascertaining which of the remaining county appropriations targets can stand a haircut will be much more difficult. Trimming the second $100 million from the budget will entail an intimidating stroll through a political mine field by Keechl and his peers on the County Commission.
THE LEASED GALT MILE READING ROOM THREATENED WITH CLOSURE
Downward pressure on available county revenues is anticipated from two sources. As a consequence of the Legislature’s imbalanced tax reform package and softening taxable real estate values, Broward County Commissioners will have to fund required services with substantially diminished budget resources. Services and programs that aren’t perceived as critical could suffer cutbacks or disappear. While investigating what appeared to be county mishandling of renovations to the Galt Mile Reading Room, Commissioner Keechl learned that County Library facilities housed in leased spaces may not survive the 2009 budget exigencies. Keechl admonishes that cutbacks in the hours of operation for parks and libraries are being classified as “acceptable losses” in what is shaping up as a survival struggle for county services. Community bus routes victimized by low ridership are also on the block. Last year, Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Christine Teel reported that unless the local Sun Trolley experienced a substantial increase in passenger traffic, its days were numbered. Undiscouraged by this year’s heightened challenge, Commissioner Keechl identified an alternative or incremental source of savings.
CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICERS - GENERAL FUND COMPARISONS
To protect certain governmental agencies from direct exposure to unhealthy political influence, Constitutional officers are afforded virtual independence from Commission fiscal control. The Supervisor of Elections, the Property Appraisor, the Sheriff’s Office, the Clerk of the Courts, etc. are Constitutionally immunized to the County Commission’s fiscal machinations. Given the reasonable assumption that the Sheriff is more preoccupied with operational effectiveness than budgetary efficiency, Commissioner Keechl is exploring previously taboo territory. Half of the County’s collected tax revenues feed the Sheriff’s coffers. When Al Lamberti filled Ken Jenne’s size twelves, Commissioner Keechl proclaimed at a GMCA Advisory Board meeting that he was impressed with Lamberti’s commitment to Broward County. If Keechl can help Lamberti identify areas (such as overtime and public relations) wherein strategic adjustments could deflate the Sheriff’s resource requirements, the fiscal runoff from Lamberti’s $500 million war chest could go a long way to achieving the additional $100 million in savings that Commissioner Keechl set as a target benchmark. With the supply of “easy fixes” already exhausted in last year’s $100 million savings drive, every dollar spared by the Sheriff will rescue jobs and enable continuation of threatened important programs. - [editor]*
Broward County’s FY ’09 Budget Process
by Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, District 4
COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
As I promised each of you during my campaign to be your Broward County Commissioner, I will never vote to raise your property taxes. My philosophy is simple. I recognize that this is your money, not mine. So when faced with a proposed expenditure, I ask myself the following question: Is this item truly necessary? If not, I have voted against the expenditure and I will continue to do so.
Since taking office in November 2006, and in furtherance of my campaign promise, I have led the charge on the County Commission to lower your property taxes. Last year, we were successful in reducing the County’s FY ‘08 budget by almost $100,000,000.00. It wasn’t easy, but we instituted a hiring freeze; agreed to eliminate unnecessary expenditures; and re-evaluated the need for each and every program offered by the County.
This year I again intend to keep my promise to each of you.
The Broward County Commission has recently begun the FY ’09 budget process. The tax rolls have not yet been certified by our Property Appraiser, Lori Parrish, but based on a significant decrease in property values, and after reviewing some preliminary data; I believe that the Broward County Commission will need to eliminate at least another $100,000,000.00 from our FY ’09 budget.
Make no mistake. This year will be harder than last year. Instead of last year’s hiring freeze, this year some County employees will have to be laid off; others will have to work harder and more efficiently. Already we have approved County Administration’s plans to consolidate certain departments, divisions and sections within the Broward County government’s vast bureaucracy. We will undoubtedly see a slight decrease in the number of hours that our parks and libraries will remain open. Unproductive bus routes will be consolidated or eliminated.
Lastly, in furtherance of our goal to lower property taxes in FY’09, the County Commission has also requested that BSO reduce its budget by approximately 10 percent or $50,000,000.00. Since BSO spends approximately 50 cents of every $1.00 that Broward County collects in property taxes, this request is proportionate and reasonable. Yet, because I am not unmindful that the economy is in a possible recession, I recognize that crime may increase in the near term. As a result, I will not advocate, nor vote for, any reduction of police officers or fire fighters from BSO’s FY ’09 budget.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of expenditures in BSO’s FY ’09 budget that should be reduced. BSO’s overtime and public relations expenditures are just two simple examples of areas that I have asked BSO to review. I am confident that Sheriff Lamberti will work with the Commission over the summer to reduce his budget, while simultaneously insuring that Broward’s residents continue to be safe and protected.
In closing, I would like to once again thank you for the honor of being your County Commissioner. It is a job that I do not take lightly. Together we can, and will, make Broward County a better place for our families and loved ones. As usual, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954 357-7004. Remember, I work for you.
Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.
Since Monday was Memorial Day, Calypso set a new standard for intentionally dissuading public access, cancelling the Galt Mile meeting and announcing the replacement public event with one business day’s notice. Ieraci asked why SUEZ was moving the location of the meeting after pledging to address the concerns of those frightened Galt Mile residents living closest to the LNG facility. Tom Allen said “We decided that we would need a much larger space.” Given their history of poorly attended Calypso meetings due to nearly invisible notice, it became clear that their nine lobbyists (5 for the Calypso Deepwater Port, 2 for the Calypso Pipeline, 1 for SUEZ Energy North America and Judy Stern in Broward) planned to pack the hall with supporters - not unlike the paid scientists who testified at the City Commission meeting.
INTERNATIONAL GAME FISH ASSOCIATION HEADQUARTERS
The meeting was rescheduled for 7:30 PM at the International Game Fish Association Headquarters auditorium at 300 Gulf Stream Way in Dania Beach. The notice stated, “An outside moderator will introduce speakers from the U.S. Coast Guard and SUEZ Energy North America, and then facilitate a question and answer session for attendees so any and all issues and concerns can be addressed. We look forward to your attendance.”
GMCA Engages State Representatives
REPRESENTATIVE ELLYN BOGDANOFF AND SENATOR JEFFREY ATWATER
GMCA President Pio Ieraci contacted our Tallahassee representatives, Senator Jeffrey Atwater and Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff, to apprise them of the machinations SUEZ resorted to after asking the Galt Mile Community Association to arrange a meeting in Plaza South with concerned Galt Mile residents. Senator Atwater immediately agreed to alter his plans and meet with the group of residents that initially fueled the opposition to Calypso. The next day, Saturday morning, the Senator met with GMCA officials Pio Ieraci and Eric Berkowitz, GMCA Advisory Board member Fred Nesbitt, Plaza South residents Bill and Terry Claire, Dr. Dave and Barbara Marshall, Ivan Itkin from L’Hermitage, City Commissioner Christine Teel, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Roseann Minnet and journalist Mark Brown.
SUEZ V.P. DAN MCGINNIS
Upon learning about the “bait and switch” tactic deployed by Calypso lobbyist Tom Allen and SUEZ V.P. Dan McGinnis, Senator Atwater surmised, “It sounds like these people (SUEZ N.A.) hope to create the appearance of holding a public meeting – only without the public. By moving the venue across the county to Dania on such short notice, it is fair to assume that they mean to discourage participation by the folks most affected by their project.” The residents explained to the Senator that although SUEZ has been actively pursuing a license for this deepwater port for several years, three out of Fort Lauderdale’s five City Commissioners knew nothing about Calypso. When Commissioner Teel learned about the project’s potential for disaster, she informed constituents that she intended to recommend that Governor Crist VETO the project. While Mayor Naugle was admittedly aware of the project, he said that he knew little about its dangers and drawbacks. Two weeks later, the City Commission voted to issue a resolution opposing Calypso. Senator Atwater recommended that we attend the Dania meeting. “I don’t think we should give SUEZ the opportunity to mislead the public – and the Governor – by packing the hall with supporters and then announcing that attendees were satisfied that the project was safe and sound,” said Senator Atwater. “It’s important that our voices are heard at this orchestrated event. It’s also important to engage the neighboring communities and their public officials such as Mayor Minnet, as they are all affected by this threat. The Governor needs to understand that this is an apolitical neighborhood issue.”
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL
Stymied by the short notice and the Memorial Day holiday weekend, GMCA officials asked Commissioner Teel if she would help arrange a bus to transport concerned Galt Mile residents to the IGFA (International Game Fishing Association) building in Dania for the Wednesday night meeting. On Wednesday evening, about 50 Galt Mile residents joined Senator Atwater and Commissioner Teel at the bus, despite having been given only one business day’s notice. Another 100 residents from the Galt Mile and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea arranged private car pools to the meeting. District 91 Statehouse Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff and District 4 Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl were already at the IGFA building when the bus arrived.
Act I in Dania Theater of the Absurd
As the meeting convened, the SUEZ panel was comprised of Project Manager Dan McGinnis, SUEZ Energy North America Representatives Fred Staible, Brad Cooley, and Tony Galt, three Coast Guard officials and Bill Cooper, introduced as an independent expert on liquefied natural gas (LNG). The Coast Guard was represented by Captain Karl Schultz (Commander, Coast Guard Sector Miami), Mark Prescott (chief of deep-water ports standard division for the U.S. Coast Guard) and Commander Brian Gove (USCG Chief, Prevention Operations).
(L to R) LOBBYIST BILL COOPER, SUEZ ENERGY N.A. REPS FRED STAIBLE BRAD COOLEY, TONY GALT, PROJECT MANAGER DAN MCGINNIS
The meeting was also attended by groups with which SUEZ had financial dealings, such as several contracted scientists from Nova Oceanographic Institute. Citing deference to the attending local politicians, the SUEZ-appointed moderator called on Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl. After asserting that SUEZ’ decision to locate this facility across from a heavily populated area was insupportable, Commissioner Keechl exclaimed, “I have a personal problem with you. I resent your implication that my constituents who are alarmed by the project are ‘acting irrationally’. Other than the expansion at the South Runway at the Airport, I’ve never seen an issue create such dissention so quickly,” referring to the controversy surrounding the Fort Lauderdale - Hollywood International Airport expansion. “From what I’ve learned recently, their concerns are very real,” said Keechl. Commissioner Keechl subsequently sent a May 30th letter to Governor Charlie Crist expressing his vehement opposition to the Calypso Deepwater Port.
BROWARD COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Christine Teel echoed Commissioner Keechl’s objections, contending that the City agrees that “the public concern is justified.” She proceeded to read an official resolution opposing the project passed at the May 20th City Commission meeting. Speaking next, Senator Jeffrey Atwater said “It would have served everyone’s best interests if SUEZ had addressed the threats posed by their project directly with those most affected by those threats in a calm environment. While I appreciate your efforts in securing attendance by the Coast Guard, many of those residents who harbor the greatest concerns are elderly and were unable to travel to Dania on such short notice. While it is important that SUEZ be accorded the opportunity to explain their project, it is equally important that they address the legitimate concerns of Galt Mile residents and other communities along the shore.” Addressing SUEZ N.A. Vice President Dan McGinnis, Atwater said, “I urge you to arrange another meeting at the Galt Mile right away,” since SUEZ’ questionable decision to switch the meeting at the last minute spoke to their credibility as an organization.
SENATOR JEFFREY ATWATER
The day before, on May 27th, Senator Atwater sent a letter to Dan McGinnis expressing his disappointment with SUEZ’ actions, explaining that McGinnis’ decision to move the venue functionally prohibited participation by many concerned residents. Atwater wrote, “It is imperative that the residents of Galt Ocean Mile have the opportunity to have their voices heard! Their concerns and questions are valid, as this project has the potential of seriously impacting their community.” Insisting that the meeting scheduled to take place on the Galt Mile should have been important to SUEZ, Atwater closed with, “I do look forward to hearing from you shortly as to the time and location of a meeting that is convenient to the residents of the Galt Ocean Mile and surrounding communities.”
REP. ELLYN BOGDANOFF
District 91 Statehouse Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff also served notice on the SUEZ panel that she had already started familiarizing herself with the project and its impact on her constituents, having recently been made aware of the strong neighborhood aversion to Calypso. Doubtless aware of her position as Majority Whip in the Florida Statehouse, Bogdanoff sent a discernible chill through the SUEZ panel when she announced that she had already contacted the Governor about this issue. Digressing momentarily, she intimated the wisdom of SUEZ reconsidering their project and/or its location given the explosive opposition stridently expressed by a sizable and rapidly growing community plurality. Her tone hardened when she described the Governor’s reliable sensitivity to community concerns when weighing an issue’s adverse impacts. After the meeting, she exclaimed “The Governor is looking into what’s happening here. He should discover that this is not a political issue, but a grassroots demand for peace of mind.” Other government officials from Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Coral Springs and Dania Beach registered opposition to the project as well.
After extending the floor to every identifiable politician, the “Independent Moderator” assigned by SUEZ to control the meeting spent the next next 1½ hours “moderating” a discussion between panel members. As they asked one another a seemingly scripted set of irrelevant questions, a Galt Mile resident interrupted, stating, “We’ve been here for almost 2 hours and you still haven’t taken any questions from the Galt Mile residents for whom you supposedly arranged this meeting.” Receiving a nod from Dan McGinnis, the flustered moderator called on GMCA Advisory Board member Fred Nesbitt.
Galt Mile Residents Target Panel
GMCA ADVISORY BOARD'S FRED NESBITT OF PLAYA DEL MAR
Quoting from a December 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) Maritime Security report, Playa del Mar resident Fred Nesbitt said that liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers face “suicide attacks from explosive-laden boats, ‘standoff’ attacks with weapons launched from a distance and armed assaults” resulting in a “severe threat to public safety, environmental consequences, and disruption of the energy supply chain.” Nesbitt pointed out that the GAO report admonishes that “the Coast Guard - the lead federal agency for Maritime Security - has insufficient resources to meet its own self-imposed security standards.” Responding to a newspaper article in which Dan McGinnis claimed that local opponents to Calypso were overreacting to “myths more than anything,” Nesbitt asked the Coast Guard representatives if they consider GAO reports to be myths. When they failed to answer, Fred asked the officers if they considered terrorism a threat. A SUEZ representative intervened, stating “If the Coast Guard thought that this project was dangerous, they would say so.”
GMCA VP ERIC BERKOWITZ
GMCA official Eric Berkowitz answered, “Dozens of counter-terrorism authorities have warned against the establishment of LNG facilities in densely populated areas. In a January 9, 2007 Congressional Research Service Report for Congress entitled “Maritime Security: Potential Terrorist Attacks and Protection Priorities”,Admiral Thad W. Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, stated that “there is a significant threat by vessel-borne improvised explosive devices” and that “vulnerability to small-boat attacks stood out during a 2006 threat assessment.”
AL-QAEDA INFILTRATED LNG TANKERS
Berkowitz continued, “Former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke wrote a report entitled ‘LNG Facilities in Urban Areas” in May of 2005 warning that ‘As LNG imports become a more important sector of our economy, terrorist organizations like al Qaeda will become more interested in attacking them. In addition, LNG tankers, which often travel in close proximity to metropolitan seaports, are undoubtedly attractive high casualty targets for al Qaeda planners. In a recently released document known simply as the National Planning Scenarios, DHS (Department of Homeland Security) indicated that a potential terrorist attack on a chemical or gas tanker is the number six ranked doomsday scenario for the United States government. As a result, DHS is expected to spend at least an additional one billion dollars to secure against this form of terrorist attack. However even those within DHS believe that the United States is a long way away from true preparedness.’” Berkowitz informed the panel that Richard Clarke served 11 years as White House National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism for Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H. Bush.
As his three-minute opportunity to address the panel expired, Berkowitz said “You have made mention several times at this meeting that irresponsible residents have spread an inflammatory rumor that an ignitable vapor cloud resulting from a catastrophic full discharge of a LNG tanker has the energy equivalent of 55 Hiroshima bombs. After investigating the source of this admittedly frightening analogy, I discovered that it wasn't, as you infer, some anti-LNG 'spin' manufactured to elicit unwarranted opposition to LNG facilities, but a direct quote from a 1982 Lovins & Lovins Pentagon study entitled‘Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security’. On page 88 of this report, Lovins contends that “An LNG fireball can blow through a city, creating a very large number of ignitions and explosions across a wide area. No present or foreseeable equipment can put out a very large [LNG]... fire. The energy content of a single standard LNG tanker (one hundred twenty-five thousand cubic meters) is equivalent to seven-tenths of a megaton of TNT, or about fifty-five Hiroshima bombs.” If I'm wrong in assuming that you are already familiar with this study, links on the Galt Mile web site to the original documentation will provide you with confirmation. Now that you are aware that this is not some dramatic metaphor meant to scare up opposition, but reliable information solicited by Armed Forces energy directors in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, perhaps you will better understand the depth of our concerns.”
CAPTAIN KARL SCHULTZ
Plaza South resident Bill Claire referred to a statement by Lord Peter Levene, Chairman of Lloyds, the world’s second largest commercial insurer, who told Houston business leaders that a terrorist attack on an LNG tanker “would have the force of a small nuclear explosion.” Claire also reviewed Congressional Research Service concerns about the prospect of a tanker being commandeered by terrorists. Claire asked what the Coast Guard could do if a hijacked LNG vessel were guided into Port Everglades or beached on the Galt Mile shore and ignited. The SUEZ representative again interjected that the scenario was too remote to address. When Claire pressed for a response by the Coast Guard officers, Captain Schultz admitted that “any such terrorist threat should be taken seriously.”
OAKLAND PARK RESIDENT CHRIS CHIARI
Responding to Dan McGinnis’ claims that SUEZ has been publicizing the Calypso project for ten years, Oakland Park resident Chris Chiari clarified that the Calypso Pipeline was originally designed to transport natural gas from a Regasification facility in the Bahamas to Port Everglades. Explaining that his familiarity with the Calypso Pipeline and the subsequent Deepwater Port license applications derives from his participation on the Broward County Marine Advisory Board, Chiari asked “What happened to the Bahamas gas plant?” SUEZ’ Brad Cooley answered, “For some reason, they still haven’t approved the license.” Chiari retorted, “When the Bahamians rejected this dangerous facility, you moved it to our beach. The project you claim was in the works for ten years was a different project. The current Deepwater Port license application is two years old and nearly no one is aware that it exists, much less the danger it poses to adjacent neighborhoods.”
Deus Ex Machina - Orchestrating the Desired Result
SENATOR JEFFREY ATWATER AND L-B-T-S MAYOR ROSEANN MINNET JOIN GALT MILE RESIDENTS AT SUEZ PRESENTATION
A Coral Ridge resident asked if an ignitable vapor cloud could travel from the Calypso facility to the heavily populated Galt Mile beach. A SUEZ representative contended that their Independent Risk Assessment (IRA) determined that the cloud could only travel 4 miles, 3 miles short of the beach. He said that Sandia National Laboratories participated in the Calypso IRA. Residents pointed out that another Sandia report commissioned by the Coast Guard in January of 2006 stated that the ignitable vapor cloud could travel 7.3 miles, extending a potential holocaust passed the Intracoastal Waterway into Coral Ridge. The same Sandia study refers to the minimum distance from the fire required to survive the attendant 2000 BTU heat flux, a conflagration beyond the suppression capabilities of most municipal fire-rescue units. An additional cushion of 2640 meters, or 1.64 miles, will expose residents to 5 kilowatts per square meter, the maximum survivable heat flux, extending the mortality perimeter well passed Federal Highway. Additional authoritative reports have been issued claiming the deadly cloud can travel up to 30 miles. Ivan Itkin, a Galt Mile resident whose field is nuclear physics, accounts for these statistical variances among risk models by considering the assumptions that the risk assessors were given by the company.
L'HERMITAGE RESIDENT IVAN ITKIN
For example, the Calypso independent risk assessment considers 5 cases of accidental breach. In each case, a LNG tanker is aligned on a North-South axis and a colliding vessel is positioned perpendicular to the tanker. The size of a breach is determined and the amount of LNG that will pour through the breach is calculated. In each of the 5 cases, only one tenth of the amount of spilled LNG is considered when the ignitable effect is measured. Why? Because the experiment assumes that the colliding vessel will plug the hole it creates in the tanker, reducing spillage by 90%. In alternative studies by the same risk assessor, cases were considered wherein the breaches were 90% plugged, 50% plugged or not plugged at all. Of course, the resulting ignitable vapor cloud traveled a lot farther given the additional gas counted toward the pool size. Itkin said, “By controlling the assumptions, the operator can elicit almost any desired result.”
Lking Under the Covers
LOBBYIST BILL COOPER PRESIDENT OF CLNG
During the course of the meeting, SUEZ representatives repeatedly referred questions to a gentleman named Bill Cooper, introduced as an independent expert on liquefied natural gas. When suspicious residents asked Mr. Cooper if he was a lobbyist, he responded by saying he was the President of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG). When pressed, he admitted that he was a registered lobbyist. A quick trip to the CLNG web site revealed that“The Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG) is a trade association of LNG producers, shippers, terminal operators and developers and energy trade associations.” SUEZ attempt to misrepresent Cooper’s objectivity backfired. He was on the payroll – albeit indirectly.
GMCA CHIEF PIO IERACI
Following the meeting, the Galt Mile activists again boarded the bus and returned home. When GMCA President Pio Ieraci opened his email later that night, he found a message from SUEZ lobbyist Tom Allen asking to arrange another meeting with the Galt Mile residents who expressed concern about his project. Mr. McGinnis had apparently received a correspondence from Senate President-elect Atwater that reinforced his constituents’ concerns and disparaged SUEZ attempt to engineer public perception of its project by manipulating the meeting venue. Ieraci informed Mr. Allen that he would contact the GMCA Board and the activists to convey the SUEZ proposal. Leery of Allen’s motives in view of SUEZ recent actions, Ieraci inquired “How can we know whether you will even show up?”
MARK PRESCOTT DWP STANDARDS CHIEF
FYI: The doubt expressed by Playa del Mar’s Fred Nesbitt upon quoting from a GAO report that “the Coast Guard - the lead federal agency for Maritime Security - has insufficient resources to meet its own self-imposed security standards,” was vindicated the next day. After stonewalling Nesbitt’s concern about the GAO report, chief of the deep-water ports standard division Mark Prescott stated in a Miami Herald interview that if the deep-water ports are approved, it is unknown to what degree the site would be guarded. “It may be full time, random, or on an escort basis. Frankly, we may not have the resources to protect it.” Prescott added dogmatically, “But we may be given the resources to protect it,” referring to Calypso’s regulatory right to include local resources in their security plan – funded by local taxpayers - YOU!!!
Information Links RE: Dania Meeting
Click Here to read City Commissioner Christine Teel’s letter to constituents condemning Calypso (Adobe PDF File)
Click Here to read Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl’s letter to Governor Charlie Crist condemning Calypso (Adobe PDF File)
Click Here to read the City Commission’s Resolution opposing Calypso (Adobe PDF File)
Click Here to read Senator Atwater's letter to SUEZ Dan McGinnis disparaging his last minute venue change to Dania (Word Document) .
Click Here to read the December 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) Maritime Security Report entitled “Federal Efforts Needed to Address Challenges in Preventing and Responding to Terrorist Attacks on Energy Commodity Tankers” (Adobe PDF File)
Click Here to read the January 9, 2007 Congressional Research Service Report for Congress entitled “Maritime Security: Potential Terrorist Attacks and Protection Priorities” (Adobe PDF File)
Click Here to read 11-year White House Counterterrorism Chief Richard Clarke's “LNG Facilities in Urban Areas” (Adobe PDF File)
Click Here to read 1982 Lovins & Lovins Pentagon study entitled “Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security” (Adobe PDF File)
Click Here to read an address by Lord Peter Levene, Chairman of Lloyds, the world’s second largest commercial insurer, who told Houston business leaders that a terrorist attack on an LNG tanker “would have the force of a small nuclear explosion.”
Click Here to read the January 2006 Sandia National Laboratories Report entitled “Review of the Independent Risk Assessment of the Cabrillo LNG Deepwater Port Project” (Adobe PDF File)
Click Here to access all the Background Information and Official Government Documents relevant to the Calypso Deepwater Port Project and Pipeline
ALSO Click Here to Extensive list of Additional Pertinent LNG Links
June 24, 2008 - On June 9, 2008, the Galt Mile Community lost a good friend whose contributions continued until the day of his passing. At 99, James T. Gill outpaced peers half his age, effectively blending common sense with fiscal insights borne of extensive experience. He faithfully represented Plaza South Condominium in the Galt Mile Community Association as a longtime member of the neighborhood association’s Board of Directors. James masterfully balanced the needs of his association with those of the overall community.
Originally from the streets of Manhattan in the Big Apple, Jim graduated from Columbia University on 116th Street in Harlem. A banker with instinctive commodities expertise, Jim rose through the ranks of the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company while living across the Hudson River in Fort Lee, New Jersey with his wife Dorothy. Having served as Past President of the New York Board of Trade and the East 34th Street Association in New York, Jim retired as a Vice President of the bank and moved to Fort Lauderdale at the age of 62 in 1971, where he bought Apartment 23L in the brand new Plaza South Condominium.
St. Pius X Catholic Church
Jim participated in the Galt Mile Improvement Project, prompted the City of Fort Lauderdale to attend to the block’s sidewalks and tree beds and fought for Beach Renourishment. In addition to his civic contributions, Jim was an active member of St. Pius X Catholic Church. Beloved husband of the late Dorothy (Strohmeier); devoted father of Robert J. Gill, Carol Ann Gilhooley (Thomas) and Mary Ellen Gill; cherished grandfather of Christine and Nicholas Vogt and Kelly and David Pitts, Jim filled the hearts of friends and family.
Mass of Christian Burial took place on Saturday, June 14, 2008, 10:00 A.M. at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 2511 North Ocean Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Interment Private. Arrangements were by Baird-Case Jordan-Fannin Funeral Home, 4343 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308, (954) 492-4000. Memorial Donations may be made to the St.Pius X Church Music Ministry.
June 29, 2008 - On February 17, 2009, the era of analog broadcast television in the United States will end as the nation’s full power television stations complete their transition to an all-digital system. Digital Television (DTV) is an advanced broadcasting technology that enables broadcasters to offer television with better picture and sound quality. It can also offer multiple programming choices, called multicasting, and interactive capabilities. Multicasting allows broadcast stations to offer several channels of digital programming at the same time, using the same amount of spectrum required for one analog program. With traditional analog technology, pictures and sounds are converted into “waveform” electrical signals for transmission through the radiofrequency spectrum, while digital technology converts these pictures and sounds into a stream of digits consisting of zeros and ones for transmission.
So, for example, while a station broadcasting in analog on channel 7 is only able to offer viewers one program, a station broadcasting in digital on channel 7 can offer viewers one digital program on channel 7-1, a second digital program on channel 7-2, a third digital program on channel 7-3, and so on. This means more programming choices for viewers. Converting to DTV also will free up parts of the scarce and valuable broadcast spectrum. Those portions of the spectrum can then be used for other important services, such as public and safety services (police and fire departments, emergency rescue), and advanced wireless services.
While this change will mark the end of the traditional analog method of broadcasting over-the-air television, it won’t signal the end of free broadcast television. Consumers who rely on antennas (including outside antennas and “rabbit ears”) to receive over-the-air broadcast signals on TV sets having only analog tuners will need to obtain separate digital-to-analog set-top converter boxes to watch over-the-air TV. These boxes receive digital signals and convert them into analog format for display on analog TVs. Analog sets connected to such converter boxes will display digital broadcasts, but without the full, original digital quality.
Analog TV sets that rely on over-the-air broadcasting with an antenna (set-top or rooftop) to receive a signal will be disabled by the cutoff of analog broadcasts on February 17, 2009. One of the following options will insure uninterrupted viewing:
To request a coupon by phone, call 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009). The hard of hearing should call 1-877-530-2634. To apply online, go to www.dtv2009.gov and fill out the online application form and click on the “Submit” button. A Coupon Application may also be mailed or faxed. Coupon Applications can be downloaded in PDF format from www.dtv2009.gov. Download and print the application, fill it out and either fax it to 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632) or mail it to TV Converter Box Coupon Program, PO Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208. You may request one coupon now and one later, but no more than two coupons per household are allowed. Coupon supplies are limited and expire 90 days after they are mailed. Requests must be received by March 31, 2009. TV Converter Box Coupons are plastic cards that look like gift cards.
Coupons are mailed via Standard mail (not First-class mail), with delivery expected around 2-9 days from the mail date. Certified converter boxes are available from both national and local retailers. Remember to call ahead to confirm availability of coupon-eligible converter boxes at the store on the day you plan to shop.
New Television with a Digital Tuner
Purchase a new television set with a built in digital tuner. The Federal Communications Commission’s digital tuner rule specifies that as of March 1, 2007, all new TVs must include digital tuners. This rule prohibits the manufacture, import, or interstate shipment of any device containing an analog tuner, unless it also contains a digital tuner. Despite this prohibition on manufacture and shipment, retailers may continue to sell analog-only devices from existing inventory. As a result, at the point of sale, many consumers may not be aware that this equipment will not be able to receive over-the-air-television signals after February 17, 2009. To address this issue, the FCC has adopted a rule requiring sellers to display the following text if they are selling TV equipment with only an analog broadcast tuner:
This television receiver has only an analog broadcast tuner and will require a converter box after February 17, 2009, to receive over-the-air broadcasts with an antenna because of the Nation's transition to digital broadcasting. Analog-only TVs should continue to work as before with cable and satellite TV services, gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and similar products. For more information, call the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-225-5322 (TTY: 1-888-835-5322) or visit the Commission’s digital television website at: www.DTV.gov.
Many DTVs and digital television equipment will have labels or markings on them that may contain the words “Integrated Digital Tuner,” “Digital Tuner Built-In,” “Digital Receiver,” or “Digital Tuner,” “DTV,” “ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee),” or “HDTV” (Note: HDTV - High Definition television - is one of several digital TV formats). They require no additional equipment to view over-the-air digital programming in digital format.
If your television set is labeled as a “Digital Monitor” or “HDTV Monitor,” or as “Digital Ready” or “HDTV Ready,” it will require a set-top box with a digital tuner to view over-the-air digital programming in digital format.
If your television set is labeled as “analog” or “NTSC,” and is NOT labeled as containing a digital tuner, it contains an analog tuner only and will require a digital-to-analog converter box to view over-the-air digital programming in analog format.
Digital Television Quality Levels
There are many quality levels of digital television programming. The most common are:
Standard Definition TV (SDTV) – SDTV is the basic level of quality display and resolution for both analog and digital. Transmission of SDTV may be in either the traditional (4:3) or widescreen (16:9) format.
Enhanced Definition TV (EDTV) – EDTV is a step up from Analog Television. EDTV comes in 480p widescreen (16:9) or traditional (4:3) format and provides better picture quality than SDTV, but not as high as HDTV.
High Definition TV (HDTV) – HDTV in widescreen format (16:9) provides the highest resolution and picture quality of all digital broadcast formats. Combined with digitally enhanced sound technology, HDTV sets new standards for sound and picture quality in television. (Note: HDTV and digital TV are not the same thing — HDTV is one format of digital TV.)
Gaming Consoles, VCRs, Camcorders, DVD players, etc.
Digital television sets are “backward compatible,” meaning existing analog equipment (VCRs, DVD players, camcorders, video games, etc.) will work on digital TV sets. However, their video will only be displayed in the maximum resolution that is available with each analog product. Manufacturers are producing a number of different connectors to hook equipment together and improve picture and sound quality when DTVs are used with existing analog equipment. Check with your retailer to determine the types of connectors that will work with your equipment.
A VCR equipped with a digital tuner will obviate the need for a digital-to-analog converter box if an analog TV is wired to use the VCR’s digital tuner. However, when the analog TV’s second tuner is required to simultaneously play and record different channels, a converter box will be necessary.
Although portable, battery-powered digital televisions are coming onto the market, battery-powered analog televisions will not receive over-the-air programming after February 17, 2009 unless they are connected to a digital-to-analog converter box. Since battery powered digital-to-analog converter boxes are not currently available, an external power source (an external battery power station or an emergency power generator) would be required to power the converter box.
The Public Spectrum Disappearing Act of 2005
Is this exemplary of an enlightened Congress spreading the fruits of technological innovation throughout the land? Not even close. In the 1990s, telephone companies and communications conglomerates were drooling over broadband signal space. Inefficient analog transmissions plow through wide bands of this severely limited commodity.
By forcing TV stations from their analog channels at a specific deadline (the hard date), the DTV law cleared the way for the FCC to auction off what would become surplus analog spectrum for only $10 billion, paid by communications companies that wanted to grab the channels for wireless broadband services. Watchdog groups statistically supported by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) went crazy as Congress bartered away $28 billion of the publicly owned signal spectrum for pennies on the dollar. To soften the outcry over the giveaway of public property and justify spinning the hijacking as a “Public Safety Act”, a few channels went for free to fire, police and emergency organizations hungry for new frequencies.
The legislation didn’t leave the DTV transition solely in the hands of the free market. Without the proper equipment to convert the digital output back into wave-like analog signals when the hard date hit, 73 million analog TVs dispersed among 109 million U.S. TV households, including cable and satellite TV homes, were expected to go dark. If millions of consumers suddenly couldn’t watch TV because of this government fiasco, lawmakers anticipated that the resulting anger and confusion could precipitate unwanted scrutiny. As such, they included up to $1.5 billion to subsidize digital-to-analog converter boxes.
Unfortunately, the coupon program appears to be underfunded. Of the $1.5 billion allocated to fund the coupon program, $160 million is dedicated to administrative costs, leaving a balance of $1.34 billion for coupon subsidies. The U.S. has about 20 million homes that rely exclusively on free, over-the-air broadcasting, according to officials in the Government Accountability Office and industry executives. These homes have 45 million analog TV sets. A $40 coupon for each TV set would cost $1.8 billion. Providing coupons for the 28 million analog sets in pay TV homes which rely on a rabbit-ears antenna would raise the price tag to nearly $3 billion – twice the amount allocated. Additionally, since the boxes are predominantly priced between $60 and $70, coupon bearers will be forced to cough up another $20 to $30 per set. Unless Congress decides to fund the difference, owners of analog televisions will have to pay an extra $1.46 billion to $2.19 billion to watch “free” broadcast TV.
We recommend a two part strategy for viewers with analog TV sets. First, get your coupons ASAP. Since the vast majority of Galt Mile residents are serviced by cable, satellite or some alternate pay television medium already enabled to receive the digital signal, the local demand for these coupons is anticipated to be minimal (As of June 22nd, only 128 coupons were applied for in zip code 33308). However, if any of your analog sets aren’t connected, GET THE COUPON NOW - almost 18 million have already been spoken for! Then send your congressperson an email expressing your gratitude for his or her vigilance in safeguarding your interests as well as the public trust.
July 15, 2008 - * In January of 2007, newly elected Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl released a newsletter entitled “Our Shared Vision for Broward County”. It reviewed his first five weeks in office, expressed gratitude to his constituents (whether or not supportive of his candidacy) and issued a series of promises. What distinguishes Mr. Keechl from most grateful rookie officeholders is that he made good. His then proclaimed policy program entailed “lowering taxes, protecting our green spaces from development, lessening density on our beaches, and ensuring fiscal accountability”. A few months later, he added “enhancing Broward’s attraction to business, both old and new.”
His July/August 2008 Newsletter holds a mirror to those nascent commitments. When confronted with Tallahassee-mandated tax cuts, he joined his peers last year in cutting expenses, many of which shamefully defined waste and abuse. However, in year two, since most of the overt pork targets had fell victim to last year’s bloodletting, Commissioners were forced to carefully evaluate the remaining programs and services before administering this year’s budget haircut. When pet projects of the individual Commissioners became vulnerable, mutual protection agreements among their sponsors threatened needed services. Often at the expense of collegiality, Keechl tenaciously supported maintaining services that provided lifelines for the disenfranchised voiceless.
When you elected me to the Broward County Commission in November 2006, you, the residents of District 4, sent a powerful message to the Broward County Commission. You supported a new vision for Broward County.
Your votes signaled a desire for lower property taxes. You wanted less politics and more leadership by the County Commission. You demanded fiscal accountability and the elimination of wasteful spending. You were not opposed to additional development, but you wanted “smart growth” focused on protecting surrounding neighborhoods and preserving Broward’s dwindling green and open spaces.
Quite simply, you wanted an environmentally sensitive, business-friendly Broward County Commissioner representing you and your families. I am pleased to report that in the last year and a half, our shared vision is now becoming a reality. In furtherance of our shared vision,
I voted with the majority to lower property taxes two years in a row while simultaneously protecting the social safety net for our less fortunate residents;
CITY COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL AND CITY MANAGER GEORGE GRETSAS
July 29, 2008 - One day prior to every meeting of the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, Commissioner Christine Teel convenes a Pre-Agenda Meeting for her District 1 constituents at the Beach Community Center. By arming herself with their direct input, she can better prioritize issues as they are confronted in the next day’s meeting. She occasionally dedicates the meeting venue to special presentations. The Commissioner notifies interested District 1 residents about each upcoming meeting by email, usually reminding them that “Two or more City Commissioners and/or Advisory Board members may be present at this meeting. All are invited to attend.” In early July, her email targeting the July 14th meeting varied, conveying instead, “City Manager George Gretsas will be attending to present the City’s goals and objectives for the upcoming fiscal year. Mr. Gretsas will discuss his plans for reducing costs, while improving the quality of life for the residents and businesses in the City of Fort Lauderdale. He will be available to address your concerns and answer your questions about issues of interest specifically to District I residents and the future of our City.”
On July 14th, residents that attended the meeting got more than they bargained for. The meeting was moved from the room ordinarily occupied by Commissioner Teel’s pre-agenda regulars to the auditorium. As the audience filed in, they were greeted by City Manager George Gretsas, Commissioner Christine Teel and a host of municipal department heads representing every major city agency. To assist the City Manager field questions after the presentation, Gretsas invited Fire Chief James Eddy, Director of Business Enterprises Cate McCaffrey, Building Services Manager Valerie Bohlander, Code Enforcement Manager Mike Maloney, Public Works Director Albert Carbon and the Executive Officer for Police District 1, Captain Raul Diaz. Gretsas also brought his three Assistant Managers, David Hébert, Kathleen Gunn and Steve Scott.
ASST CITY MANAGER KATHLEEN GUNN
After being lured to Fort Lauderdale from White Plains, New York, where he was the Mayor’s right arm, George Gretsas strapped up, thickened his skin and extricated the city from the deepest, darkest fiscal hole in Fort Lauderdale history. Aside from bringing intensity and a focused work ethic to the job, Gretsas cleverly kidnapped fellow New Yorkers Kathleen Gunn and David Hébert from their respective administrative positions in White Plains and, with native Floridian Stephen Scott, formed the managerial commando squad that disassembled – and then rebuilt – Fort Lauderdale’s organizational infrastructure.
ASST CITY MANAGER DAVID HÉBERT
Each was assigned responsibilities commensurate with their experience and intuitive capabilities. Formerly an Executive Director of the White Plains Downtown Business Improvement District, Kathleen Gunn was charged with overseeing Business and Economic Development as well as Parks and Recreation. By luring a host of mid-size businesses such as the Kaplan University to the City, Gunn substantially expanded the tax base, lowering tax pressure on homeowners. Attorney Stephen Scott is in charge of Administrative Services, providing guidance for the City’s Human Resources and Information Technology Departments. Although he also oversees the Finance Department, Scott says, “When it comes to the City's finances, George is 'hands on'. While we work together, his ideas have been integral to the city's expeditious recovery.” Upon first arriving in Fort Lauderdale, David Hébert was tasked with transforming the City’s Public Information Office into an effective and reliable communications tool. A former advisor to the Westchester County District Attorney in New York, Hébert was later conscripted by Gretsas to serve as a liaison between his office and Fort Lauderdale’s Police and Fire-Rescue Departments. By assisting FLPD to implement recommendations based on findings of the Safir-Rosetti study, Hébert was instrumental in dropping the city’s crime rate.
Early on, Gretsas realized that a majority of the city’s problems were embedded in a municipal culture that fostered departmental fiefdoms organized according to the capabilities and priorities of their all-powerful departmental potentates. Advancement was a function of longevity. With the help of his triumvirate of Assistant City Managers, Gretsas changed the ground rules, insisting that promotions should reward merit, not the length of time an employee was able to survive undetected in some innocuous capacity.
THE GRETSAS SHOW!
To avoid any confusion about his objectives and expectations, he needed to carefully clarify his plans for the elected officials to whom he was answerable and the municipal employees that would benefit or suffer from his intention to infuse every level of city government with accountability. By encapsulating his message in dramatic audio-visual presentations on tape or disk, he could communicate his ideas and immunize himself from politically motivated attempts to mischaracterize his motives.
He first addressed the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board on November 18, 2004, three months after the City Commissioners selected Mr. Gretsas over candidates that were academically and experientially more qualified because, as per Commissioner Teel, “he had a fire in his belly”. Over the next few years, as he implemented the changes he described at that first encounter, the city underwent a remarkable recovery. Since then, Gretsas has annually utilized his trademark audio-visual format to update the community and its neighborhood association.
Fiscal Night turns to Day
GEORGE NARRATES PRESENTATION
Following a formal introduction by the City Manager, his July 14th PowerPoint extravaganza flashed across the screen. Emulating a prologue worthy of Vincent Price or Rod Serling, it opened with, “Our Story Begins - Circa 2003. It was a period of doom in the small southern waterfront community. Hopelessness and desperation were all around. A chill wind blew through the fair city.” Listing the problems that either led to or resulted from the City’s fiscal implosion, each framed entry was superimposed on a caricature of the semi-skeletal “cover ghoul” from “Tales of the Crypt”. The series of destabilizing conditions responsible for the prevalent pessimism included a $21 million insurance deficit; reserve funds depleted; bond ratings lowered; furloughs, layoffs, lawsuits; controversy and service reductions. As a segue to the metaphoric “light at the end of the tunnel” leading to the city’s recovery, the frame slideshow continued, “And through all the chaos and confusion... despite all the dread and terror... love was in the air!”
Having captured the audience’s attention – if not their curiosity – Gretsas looks at progressive annual improvements to the city’s financial health. Had Fort Lauderdale adhered to the national standard for a healthy reserve, roughly 5% to 15% of the annual expense budget, they would have socked away $10 million to $30 million instead of the pitiful 2003 reserves balance of $875,000. That year’s negligible reserves grew to $9.3 million in 2004 (just under 5%), $30 million in 2005, $43 million in 2006 and $67 million in 2007 – far exceeding the national benchmarks and realizing the largest fund balance in city history.
The $20.6 million insurance deficit of 2003 shrank to $13.4 million in 2004, zero in 2005; a $4 million surplus in 2006 doubled to $8 million in 2007 and rounded out to a healthy $10 million fully reserved surplus in 2008. 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 before rising to the current favorable Standard & Poor’s AA rating and Moody’s Aa2 rating.
Turning attention to the City’s tax environment, Gretsas baited the audience, asking if Fort Lauderdale had the highest tax rate in Broward County. When they said YES, he said NO! How about 2nd?, 5th?, 10th?, 15th, NO! A chart demonstrated that Pembroke Park’s 8.5 Millage and Sea Ranch Lakes’ 6.95 Millage claimed the top spots. Fort Lauderdale came in at number 20, after Hollywood, Dania, Sunrise, Hallandale, Deerfield, Oakland Park, Davie and 12 other Broward cities; sporting a Millage of only 4.1193. The City Manager pointed out that taxes were cut in each of the past 3 years, achieving record 10-year lows in 2005 and 2007.
Of the 31 municipal water and sewer rates in Broward County, Fort Lauderdale is the 27th lowest. Of the 27 different municipal Fire Assessment Fees, the “Venice of America” enjoys the 22nd lowest. The proposed budget cuts taxes again (14%) while “preserving city services.” In view of the $11 million lost to the city due to mandated tax cuts, maintaining service levels was a significant achievement. Gretsas explained that the city wasn’t the only player on the TRIM notice, alluding to other entities that absorb resources such as the water district and the school board, among others. He demonstrated the average tax savings for homesteaded and non-homesteaded condo owners as compared to last year. The average homesteaded owner of a $288,305 condo saved $83.83 while the average non-homesteaded owner of a $320,820 condo saved $36.08 more than last year.
Acknowledging that he was risking putting his audience into a somnolent state, the City Manager announced, “To grasp an accurate picture of the city’s financial challenge, residents need to understand the part played by the city’s pensions. As such, consider this as Pensions 101.” Municipal employees belong to either the General Employees’ Retirement System (GERS) or the Fort Lauderdale Police & Fire Pension. Gretsas exhorted that these Defined Benefit Plans will ultimately bankrupt Fort Lauderdale. Employees participating in the General Employees’ Retirement System get 3% of their salary toward their pension for every year they work for the City. After 20 years, they are entitled to 60% of salary for the rest of their lives. To fund this pension system, the city must pay 23% of an employee’s salary. After 20 years on the job, employees belonging to the Fort Lauderdale Police & Fire Pension realize approximately 67% of their salaries for life. Given a multiplier of 3.38%, the cost to the city had escalated to 49% of base pay. These formulas will guarantee onerous tax increases in the near future to finance the exponential growth of fund obligations.
To remediate this threat, the City Manager negotiated recent contracts utilizing formulas based on Defined Contributions (similar to a 401k plan) instead of Defined Benefits. New hires that will belong to GERS will see 5% for each year of a three year contract. This will cap pension expenses at only 9% of base salary instead of the current 23%. Over a 30 year period, the city will realize a minimum savings of $100 million. New Police and Fire-Rescue hires will see 5% for each year of a two-year contract as per their restructured pension agreements. The new arrangement will cost the city 36% of base salary instead of the ruinous 49% that it currently funds. The first year savings alone is anticipated to be about $2.6 million.
Quality of Life in the “Venice of America”
CHIEF OF POLICE FRANK ADDERLEY
Crime index totals reflect significant gains in controlling the crime rate. In 2005, there were 12,719 incidents. Instead of the usual knee-jerk response, hiring more police, the City commissioned a study that reviewed departmental strengths and weaknesses. The Safir/Rosetti Report made recommendations that formed the basis of a police action plan implemented in August of 2005. As a result of reallocating resources in 2006, the number dropped to 11,622. The 11,235 incidents recorded in 2007 were the second lowest in city history. The projected 2008 total, based on first quarter extrapolation, is 11,607. The strategy of improving how the staff was managed instead of hiring more staff swiftly put an end to double digit increases in the crime rate. Gretsas explained, “When we noticed a first quarter increase in the annualized crime rate, we asked Police Chief Frank Adderley to look into insuring that the trend is quickly reversed. We’ve also purchased video cameras for patrol vehicles.”
FT LAUDERDALE FIRE CHIEF JAMES EDDY
Fire-Rescue response times are improving. The statistic that best measures the mission efficiency of any major municipal Fire Department is response time. Units are arriving on scene 23 seconds faster than last year, a 12% improvement. Additional steps to improve response times are also being implemented. Given the departure of longtime predecessor Otis Latin, Gretsas introduced the new Fire Chief, James Eddy.
BUILDING SERVICES DIRECTOR VALERIE BOHLANDER
In 2006, the Building Department finally started to show improvement, thanks primarily to Building Services Manager Valerie Bohlander. Proactive Code Enforcement also started yielding results. To better measure productivity, responsiveness and efficiency, individual performance measures for code inspectors were implemented. 59% of all code cases were discovered by these code inspectors. Reflecting the department’s emphasis on efficiency, 90% of code complaints are now investigated within 24 hours of receipt of a citizen complaint. Neighborhood blight due to insufficiently maintained buildings and lots, buildings in foreclosure or owners tied up with insurance delays will be more effectively addressed thanks to a new ordinance clearing the way for code citations.
Gretsas announced, “We turned the corner in the war on Graffiti through a joint effort by Code Enforcement, Public Works and the Police. Over one year period, 1330 reports of graffiti and subsequent removal took place. While our overall goal is, of course, to reduce graffiti City-wide, our immediate goal is to remove Graffiti within 24 hours.”
In another partnership between Code Enforcement, Public Works and Police, Gretsas claims a lower incidence of illegal dumping. “Our goal is to investigate and clean up illegal dump sites within 48 hours.” Last year, the environmental crimes police made 39 arrests attendant to the 662 illegal dump sites that were expeditiously cleaned up.
A new ordinance governing newspaper boxes is scheduled to go into effect on September 4, 2008 – just after Labor Day. The disconcerting collection of multicolor newspaper boxes of various shapes and sizes will be replaced with less offensive uniform black dispensers.
City Manager Gretsas then focused on Fort Lauderdale’s future, announcing that “The Vision is clear!” He expressed gratitude to “the 2,000 residents helping to plan the where the City will be in 5, 10 and 15 years down the line. Their work on developing cohesive master plans for neighborhoods will become more evident with time.”Downtown Master Plan Amendments portend a mixed use development of housing, shopping and entertainment which will also create jobs and an interesting blend of activities. He foresees beautiful buildings lining pedestrian-friendly streets permeated by a variety of parks and public spaces that will be serviced by an assortment of public transportation options.
Gretsas is also optimistic about the New River Master Plan finally tapping a precious municipal resource to create another major downtown people magnet. The plan would create a waterfront promenade connecting the North and South sides of the River that would help promote a mix of activities along the riverfront. Gretsas explained, “The plan will energize the river by carefully positioning development in a manner that protects view corridors while enhancing its critical mass as a destination.” It addresses housing, shopping, dining and night life as well as recreation and boating. He expects the plan to be completed this summer.
FORT LAUDERDALE RIVERWALK
Plans are also underway to reinvent Riverwalk. Gretsas stated that “The Riverwalk District Public Realm Plan will examine the mistakes made in the original plan so that they may be either corrected or simply redeveloped from scratch. The aim is to create excitement at the Riverwalk.” In anticipation of creating a lively destination area, public access must be maximized by linking adjoining streets, parks and public spaces. To insure that the area fulfills its potential as an entertainment, leisure and recreation magnet, effective management must be established and activities programmed. A Study to maximize the Riverwalk’s natural assets will begin this fall.
A public transportation option for travel within the downtown area, the DDA Circulator, is expected to satisfy a series of municipal needs. It will link proximal destinations. It will also attract activity and encourage longer visits to the area. By reducing traffic it will ease the crushing demand for parking. If installed and promoted properly, it may provide a long-term solution for sustainable City living. Since it could provide a template, Gretsas explained that “the Lightrail could be extended to the beach if successful.”
A plan to provide adequate water resources and drainage capacity to the Fort Lauderdale area has made significant strides during the past few years. To date, 78 projects totaling an investment of $244 million have been completed as part of the WaterWorks 2011 project. The Peele Dixie Water Treatment Plant has successfully come online and 4,250 sewer connections have been completed. $150 million in revenue bonds were obtained as part of the financial plan. So far, WaterWorks 2011 facility projects are 75% complete and pipeline projects are currently 66% complete. A management review concluded that the project demonstrates sufficient management controls by Al Carbon, reliable results and compliance with applicable regulations and contracts.
FT LAUDERDALE EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
The modernization and enhancement of Executive Airport is also in the cards. Incorporating a 20 year development strategy, the Airport Master Plan responds to environmental, community and business interests. The plan, which analyzed enhanced revenue generation strategies, will be completed in the fall.
CITY MANAGER GEORGE GRETSAS
Before inviting residents to ask the attending City officials relevant questions, Gretsas warned against “the development pendulum swinging too far in either direction,” claiming “uncontrolled development is as dangerous as no development. We must keep in mind that neighborhoods are the most important parts of the city and must reflect the vision of their inhabitants.”
The presentation elicited a spontaneous round of applause from attending residents. From his thematic use of 2001 theme “Thus Spake Zarathustra” to open presentation to his closing admonition, Gretsas managed to hold audience attention throughout the presentation. Following the “show” audience members circulated through the room, putting inquiries to the various available city department heads.
If you regret having missed the Gretsas Show and find written reviews that simply divulge informational content aesthetically inadequate, you may still have two opportunities to satisfy your need for dramatic context. The City Manager’s “Goals and Objectives – 2008” presentation was originally made before the City Commission during the June 17, 2008 Conference Meeting. You can either watch an archived webcast of the City Manager making this presentation to the City Commission or download the presentation files and watch the actual presentation.
August 11, 2008 - On August 11th, Bob Wolfe from the Broward County Property Appraiser’s office sent this information to Galt Mile residents considering requesting assistance from the Property Appraiser to understand components of their TRIM notices. The basis for upcoming assessments, the TRIM notice is often the key to successfully adjusting potential tax indebtedness. READ ON! – [Editor]
Fort Lauderdale - Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish announced special office hours to assist taxpayers during the “Truth-in-Millage” (TRIM) season of August and September.
SAMPLE TRIM NOTICE
“Our office is mailing over 755,000 notices of proposed property taxes and to better accommodate the schedules of working families, our offices will be open additional hours to assist taxpayers,” said Parrish. The Main Office located in Room 111 of the Broward County Governmental Center, 115 South Andrews Avenue, is always open weekdays (M - F) from 7:00 AM until 6:00 PM. - but we are extending hours and will stay open until 7:00 PM on weekdays during September 4 - 19, 2008.
The Main Office and the Plantation Office will be open for special weekend hours of 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM on three Saturdays: August 23, September 6, and September 13. All commercial, residential and tangible personal property valuation questions must be directed to our main office. Condominium appraisers are assigned to both offices during this period.
The West Broward Branch Office is located in Suite 111-A at 1 North University Drive in Plantation and is open weekdays from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM.
The Property Appraiser does not set tax rates or collect taxes. The Property Appraiser is responsible for ensuring the fair assessment (value) of all properties and applying all exemptions and classifications.
The TRIM or proposed property tax notice is designed to inform taxpayers of their 2008 property assessments, exemptions and proposed tax rates for each governmental entity. These notices inform taxpayers of their rights as to both challenging property assessments and speaking out at various governmental budget hearings. Any taxpayer who seeks to challenge a property assessment or late file for a qualified property tax exemption should file an appropriate value or exemption petition on or before September 19, according to rules set by the Broward County Value Adjustment Board.
For further information on assessment, exemption and valuation appeal process, please visit www.bcpa.net or call 954-357-6830.
Contact Bob Wolfe of Inter-Governmental Media Relations at (954) 445-5732 or at email@example.com for further information.
Bob Wolfe Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office
August 25, 2008 - Hundreds of Galt Mile residents that joined Fort Lauderdale Police to help locate a missing friend and neighbor, Josephine Frenna, were shocked by the news that her body was recovered in St. Lucie County. While suspicious that she was possibly a victim of foul play, friends and family were joined by the entire Galt Mile Community in mutually supporting the hope that she was unharmed. The hope was dashed on Tuesday, August 25th, when the St. Lucie County medical examiner made public that he positively identified a drowning victim as Josephine Frenna the previous evening. The close-knit Galt Mile neighborhood suffered a temporary disconnect, praying that a discovered mistake would relieve the shock and despair. No such news came.
Ocean Club Condominium
Police began searching for the Fort Lauderdale woman - who recently moved here from Montreal, Canada - following her suspicious disappearance on Thursday afternoon, one day before she was supposed to attend an August 22nd hearing for a restraining order against her husband. Josephine Frenna, 51, was reported missing after her 14-year-old son returned from school to their home in the luxurious Ocean Club condominium at 4020 Galt Ocean Drive and became concerned about his mother’s unexpected absence. Police said her car keys and credit cards were inside her Galt Ocean Drive apartment, but following an intensive search of nearby apartments, hospitals, jails and airlines, declared that she was nowhere to be found. Frenna’s family and friends were interviewed as well. Frenna was last seen Thursday morning, when she accompanied her son to the bus stop in front of the Ocean Club condominium complex.
Friend Steve Stabile
“She went back into her apartment,” family friend Steve Stabile said during a news conference Friday outside the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. “At some point she left her apartment and then her whereabouts are unknown.” Stabile explained “She’s a mother, she’s a daughter, she’s a sister, she’s an aunt and she’s a friend, and yesterday she didn’t show up at her apartment and she didn’t call anybody and that is very unlike Josephine.” Frenna’s family and friends said her disappearance is out of character. “Josephine was the type of person that she’d speak to her mom and dad four or five times a day,” Stabile said. “She’d speak to her sisters, her brothers four or five times a day.” She is a stay-at-home mom and owns the Ocean Club condo she shares with her son. Relatives are taking care of the teen in her absence.
Broward Circuit Court Judge Jack Tuter
Detectives said Frenna was in the process of filing for divorce and had an active domestic violence order against her husband. A hearing was scheduled for Friday morning to secure a restraining order. Although Frenna was absent from the hearing, Broward Circuit Court Judge Jack Tuter extended the restraining order, according to attorney Michael Emery. In her handwritten Court papers, Frenna testified that she and her son were afraid for their lives, contending that her estranged husband, Gerardo DiMarco, is “violent” and “dangerous.” In the restraining order application filed July 14th, Frenna claimed her husband had broken through locked doors with an ax and subsequently changed the locks on their home to prevent Frenna and her son from entering. Frenna claimed that DiMarco issued a threat to throw her off the couple’s balcony and physically grabbed her and “started screaming, cursing at me and calling me names.” In the court-filed domestic violance injunction, Frenna wrote, "He is a threat to me and my son and my son does not want to go with him." Attached to the injunction were photographs of the door that was allegedly axed by DiMarco. Labeled “HORROR,” the pictures focus on a missing chunk of wood near the knob. Court records show that a judge granted Frenna temporary sole custody of her son last month and said DiMarco could only visit the teen four days out of the week. According to her Fort Lauderdale lawyer, Caryn Carvo, Frenna never showed up to a scheduled meeting on Thursday. Frenna had been served with divorce papers on Wednesday. “Her primary concern was her 14-year-old boy,” said Carvo. “Hopefully we will find her, and we will find her in good physical condition.” With the couple in divorce proceedings, Judge Arthur Birken will consider extending the restraining order again on September 18th.
Fort Lauderdale Police BOLO Flier
Crime scene investigators spent Friday morning rummaging through the garbage from the Dumpsters at her apartment complex, looking for any possible evidence. "I don’t know that a crime has been committed," Collins said. “Right now she is a missing person. Until we find out otherwise, we will treat it as that.” Although police haven’t as yet ascertained exactly what happened to Frenna, the case has enough suspicious elements to require investigative participation by homicide detectives.
Fort Lauderdale police Detective Kathy Collins
The 58-year-old DiMarco was located Friday by Fort Lauderdale police and has been cooperative, according to Fort Lauderdale police Detective Kathy Collins. The Canadian couple reportedly moved to South Florida within the last year. Di Marco had indicated he planned to leave Florida and was seeking joint custody of the couple’s son. He tried to get a court order barring Frenna from selling their assets and was named the beneficiary of her life insurance policy. Di Marco’s divorce attorney, Marc Shelowitz, said he had spoken to his client a few days ago to discuss the divorce, but did not know Frenna was missing when contacted on Friday. “I am shocked to hear that,” he exclaimed when informed that Frenna was missing.
Missing Persons Flier
On Sunday, August 24th, Fort Lauderdale police released a Be-On-The-Lookout flier with a description of Frenna’s appearance -- listing her as 5-foot-6 with a medium build and brown, shoulder-length hair. Later in the day, the U.S. Coast Guard discovered a woman in a blue bathing suit in the ocean, 24 miles east of Sebastian Inlet. The sheriff’s office said Monday that the body was that of 5-foot, 6-inch woman, 160-pounds with black shoulder-length hair pulled back. Her toenails were painted red and she wore a dark-blue, floral print bathing suit. She also wore two large diamond and gold stud earrings.
Brother Vito Frenna Spreads Word
“There are enough similarities so we sent detectives down to that area to get further information,” explained Detective Collins. Fort Lauderdale police detectives went to St. Lucie County to determine if the unidentified body found earlier was Frenna. The body was taken to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Fort Pierce Station and the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office continued lending assistance to the investigation. “It has not been determined whether the body is that of the woman whose name has been released by the Fort Lauderdale police as a missing person,” said St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken J. Mascara. “The body had no obvious signs of trauma.” An autopsy was performed on Monday to determine the cause of death. Sgt. Frank Sousa of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department said that they expected results of the dental records check to be completed on Tuesday.
Vito Frenna Enlists Passersby
Frenna’s family - some from as far away as Canada and New York - gathered near her Ocean Club condo on Monday morning to organize a search strategy. They decided to fan out near her beachfront condo to track down clues to her whereabouts. “We want to find out what happened,” said family spokesman Steve Stabile. Since Frenna’s disappearance, her family and friends have rallied together, handing out missing persons fliers and pleading with the public for help. “We’re all very distraught. This is a very close family and we’re grieving.” said her brother, Pat Frenna. Lisa Stabile, a family friend, said Frenna’s disappearance has hit those close to her hard. “The family is distraught, She wouldn’t just leave without notice.” she said.
Ocean Manor President Frank Talerico
Volunteers visited every member association of the Galt Mile Community Association to distribute fliers identifying Frenna for posting all over the neighborhood. Ocean Manor President Frank Talerico, a friend of the family, called GMCA President Pio Iereaci to secure participation of the neighborhood association. Ieraci immediately arranged for an article to be posted in the Association’s web site in hopes of locating Josephine.
The medical examiner in St. Lucie County officially determined on Monday that the woman retrieved from the ocean had drowned. Tragically, with the help of dental records, the Medical Examiner also confirmed that the victim was Josephine Frenna. As the news spread throughout the community, hundreds of ongoing prayers for a brighter outcome were exchanged for expressions of sympathy and grief for the family’s loss. Police said that they will continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding her death. Although the autopsy confirmed that there were no signs of a struggle, her death has not been ruled accidental. Sgt. Frank Sousa said that in addition to awaiting toxicology reports, authorities were collecting surveillance video footage from nearby buildings.
Family friends Steve Stabile, Raymond Vizzi and brother Joe Frenna at Ocean Club Press Conference
On Wednesday, DiMarco’s attorney confirmed that his client was cooperating with detectives, stating that he passed several lie detector tests administered by police investigators. “He reiterated that he had nothing to do with the disappearance,” said Shelowitz. Police reported finding a set of keys in a bag on the Ocean Club Beach, intimating that Frenna was somehow dragged by the current 100 miles to the Sebastion Inlet after going for a swim. The bag was found over the weekend by an employee of a neighboring condo who was unaware of Frenna’s disappearance.
Frenna’s family and friends held a news conference on Thursday, August, 28th, claiming that since she was afraid of the water, it is unlikely that she simply went for a swim. “There is no way that Josephine went into the water of her own volition,” advised family friend Steve Stabile. Stabile made a public plea for help with the case, asking for “any leads, any information that anyone may have that can help us solve this matter.” His sentiment was echoed by Josephine’s brother Pat Frenna, who also threatened, “The person responsible for this will pay the price.”
Commenting on the prospect of Frenna being carried out to sea, oceanographers surmised that although the Gulf Stream could have easily carried Frenna’s body 100 miles north, they questioned how she could have entered the strong currents which start about three miles offshore. They speculated that winds from Tropical Storm Fay were possibly a contributing factor. Friends and family, however, put little stock in the scenario, contending that Frenna’s fear of swimming in the ocean muddies the theory’s credibility.
Anyone with information is asked to call Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.
September 14, 2008 - * In his September 2008 Newsletter, Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl reminds his District 4 constituents that the planks comprising his platform include lower property taxes; fiscal accountability; more open and green spaces; and yearly reserve funding for beach restoration. While somewhat pleased with the Commission’s progress in addressing these issues, he enumerates future challenges facing Broward residents and their Commission representatives.
The continuing contribution that onerous property taxes make toward the economic recession dictates the need for additional surgery. Fulfilling a campaign pledge to track where our dollars disappear to once in county hands, Keechl is looking under rugs and behind doors to nail the disconnect between what we pay and what we get! In addition to excising waste and abuse, he recognizes that increased efficiency for County operations will proportionately lower the County’s tax bite.
B1c ALTERNATIVE - SOUTHERN RUNWAY (9R/27L) EXPANSION OPTION
His second challenge alludes to enhancing the local business environment. The County resources diminished by successfully lowering the residential tax burden could threaten a cutback in services. To offset the reduction in tax revenues, the tax base must be comparably broadened. He describes the airport expansion, the rehabilitation and securing of Port Everglades and the construction of an onsite convention center hotel in Fort Lauderdale as competitive necessities.
Thirdly, Keechl envisions improving on the County’s methodologies for the management of wastewater and drinking water. Anticipating a growth cycle following the current economic downturn, Keechl advocates exploring new conservation strategies such as reverse osmosis, desalination and water reuse. Our District 4 Commissioner promises to keep constituents posted as these challenges are addressed. - [editor]*
“Broward County’s Challenges”
by Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, District 4
COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
When you first elected me to be your County Commissioner in November 2006, I told you that Broward County faced numerous challenges. For too long, the Broward County Commission had been out of touch with the needs of its residents. I agreed to be your voice on the County Commission advocating for lower property taxes; fiscal accountability; more open and green spaces; and yearly reserve funding for beach restoration. I pledged to be an environmentally sensitive, business friendly County Commissioner.
As I have written in my previous newsletters, we have made substantial progress in the last 18 months. (For earlier articles, go to http://www.broward.org/kenkeechl/newsletters.htm.) Nevertheless, many challenges still face Broward County. I will briefly discuss three challenges.
First and foremost, the Broward County Commission must continue to cut spending and lower property taxes. The residents of Broward County are hurting. Quite simply, many are finding it difficult to afford to live in Broward County, and an increasing number are finding it difficult to make their monthly mortgage payments. While the Commission doesn’t have jurisdiction to address the property insurance crisis, we do have the ability to lower the County’s portion of your property tax bill. I will continue to advocate a) for lower property taxes; b) against wasteful spending practices; and c) to streamline and/or eliminate unnecessary Departments, Divisions and Sections within Broward County’s bloated government.
Second, the Broward County Commission must continue to attract (and retain) businesses in Broward County. While we undoubtedly need to expand the types of businesses in Broward, it is without question that tourism and the marine industry are currently our two most important business segments. For the last two years, I have been the Broward County Commission’s appointee to the Broward Alliance, Broward’s public/private business partnership. In this position, I have worked closely with Broward’s leading CEOs so I have firsthand knowledge of the numerous issues facing the business community. I am convinced that the Broward County Commission has made three important decisions which must be finalized. We voted to expand the southern runway at the Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. We voted to expand (in an environmentally sensitive manner) Port Everglades. We voted to construct an onsite convention center hotel in Fort Lauderdale. These three decisions alone will ensure that Broward does not lose its competitive edge.
REVERSE OSMOSIS PLANT
Third, we must address our impending wastewater and drinking water crisis. This issue encompasses quality, as well as quantity. Quite simply, we continue to pollute our oceans with our wastewater, and we continue to consume drinking water at an alarming rate. Fortunately, the County Commission is now taking steps to substantially reduce its release of wastewater into our ocean. Moreover, as your County Commissioner I have learned that we don’t have a lack of drinking water. We have a lack of cheap drinking water. Notwithstanding the current property downturn, increased residential and commercial development in Broward is inevitable. The County Commission must continue to proactively plan for and invest in alternative water supply sources such as reverse osmosis, desalination, water reuse, as well as other options.
Again, these are just three of the issues facing Broward County today. I look forward to addressing each of these issues as your County Commissioner.
Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.
October 1, 2008 - In her September 2008 Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Christine Teel lays out the City’s road map to preserving diminishing tracts of Green Space throughout Fort Lauderdale. Over the past three decades, officials charged with protecting the city’s natural resources have instead bartered them as an accommodation to unscrupulous developers. To exemplify the upcoming challenge, Commissioner Teel reviews an incident that served as a wake up call to local public officials about the importance of controlling development. Not surprisingly, it also marked the beginning and the end of two political careers.
FORMER BROWARD COMMISSIONER JIM SCOTT
Until 2006, former Broward County Commissioner Jim 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. 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.
BROWARD COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
Scott’s “absence of presence” contributed to his political demise, along with a powerful anti-Republican backlash stemming from a nationwide emotional fatigue fueled by a non-stop comedy of errors in Washington. Newcomer Ken Keechl knew that these obstacles facing Scott weren’t enough to overcome his picture perfect political pedigree. 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. The Coral Ridge resident had only to look into his own back yard for the key to victory.
As Chairman and Founding Director of the prolific Tripp Scott law firm, Scott enjoyed unparalleled popularity with developers facing complicated land use issues. One of the firm’s clients planned to turn the American Golf Club in Coral Ridge into high end McMansions. Keechl’s neighbors, aware of his sterling credentials as a land use attorney, looked to Keechl to help thwart the developer’s plan to build 61 homes on the 18-hole public Golf Course. 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. Keechl’s defeat of Scott spelled defeat for Scott’s client. Upon taking his seat in the Commission, Keechl rolled up his sleeves and promised constituents that he would prevent the developmental feeding frenzy from gobbling up Broward’s few remaining Golf Courses. Keechl worked with the Planning Services Division to engineer a Golf Course Conversion Study. By a 9-0 vote in July of 2007, the County Commission directed staff to amend Broward’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan to strongly discourage golf course conversions. After months of political wrangling, the County Commission approved language that amounted to a poison pill for developers with designs on County golf links.
COMMISSIONER TEEL & COMMISSIONER KEECHL PLAN GREEN SPACE RESCUE
With the County Land Use template in place, District 1 City Commissioner Christine Teel opted to follow Keechl’s lead and press the issue in the Fort Lauderdale City Commission. The City, as well as other Broward municipalities, must retool their Land Use ordinances to conform with Broward’s new Land Use Amendment. In her “Green Space” Newsletter, Teel spells out the procedures that lead to compliance with the County Commission’s vision. Representing largely overlapping jurisdictions, Teel and Keechl have evolved into an effective team, providing one another access to their respective political back yards. Their shared interest in this endeavor is not golf, but the underlying oceans of greenery that irresistibly attract developmental adulteration. Golf courses are Broward’s largest remaining source of unmolested contiguous green space. The 18-step procedural maze that the City is about to navigate is a regulatory footrace with developers for control of these valuable parcels. Since the City Commission is charged with ultimately judging the fate of these resources, Commissioner Teel is constrained to remaining objective and precluded from issuing comments that may be interpreted as prejudicial. Notwithstanding, whether these irreplaceable recreational assets endure or disappear into a blend of $million row housing depends on the outcome of this regulatory marathon. READ ON... - editor
From The Desk of
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL
Preservation and expansion of green space in Fort Lauderdale, especially in District 1, have always been among my goals and commitments. During my two terms in office representing you, I have taken the following initiatives to protect, maximize and improve our parks and green spaces:
Successful in the redesign and rebuilding of The Landings open space entryway feature on Federal Highway
Closely monitor any proposal to change privately owned park or open spaces
At many of the homeowners association meetings I attend, residents have expressed concern about potential development on the land once occupied by American Golf Course. In the spring of 2006 the privately owned Coral Ridge Country Club and American Golf Course were sold. This property is a designated open space on both the county and city Land Use Plans and any thought of compromising this gem was a concern to those of us who value more, not less open space.
The new owners at first put forth a plan to close the American Golf Course, build a number of single family homes on part of the property, and improve and enlarge the private, members-only country club. As they presented their proposal to members of the community, as well as submitting an application to the city, the cry was loud and clear. I had serious concerns and the majority of neighbors were adamant in their opposition to any development on this land.
Now, more than two years after the purchase, the American Golf Course, which had been open to the public, is now closed; the Coral Ridge Country Club continues to operate; the application for building homes has expired; there has been no further contact by the new owners of the property with the city’s building department.
There are several issues surrounding this property that need to be recognized:
If the owner intends to develop the property, there are several obstacles, including the property’s county and city land use designation and the city’s zoning designation. Both restrict the usage to park or green space type uses.
The land use amendment process that would have to be followed, if and when the developer applies to change the land use plan or the zoning designation, is lengthy, with multiple opportunities for public hearings and rejection by the various bodies.
The process for amending the land use plan typically goes through the following steps:
STEP IN PROCESS
1) Application submitted to City Planning and Zoning Department (P&Z)
45 days prior to DRC meeting
2) Application reviewed and found complete
3) Development Review Committee (DRC) meeting
Dependent on applicant
4) Applicant prepares responses to DRC comments
Must have DRC sign off 1 month prior to P&Z Meeting
5) City P&Z Board recommendation of approval or denial/Public Hearing
6) City Commission Transmittal to Review Agencies (by Resolution) Hearing
1-2 months after P&Z
7) Broward County Planning Council 1st Public Hearing
2-3 months after City Commission
8) Broward County Commission Transmittal - 1st Public Hearing
2-3 months after Planning Council
9) Review by Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and other agencies
65 days after receipt of application
10) South Florida Regional Planning Council - 1st Hearing
Simultaneous with DCA Review
11) Broward County Planning Council 2nd Public Hearing
2 months after receipt of DCA report
12) Broward County Commission adoption – 2nd Public Hearing
2 months after Planning Council
13) City Commission Public Hearing 1st reading of Ordinance
1 month after County Commission
14) City Commission Public Hearing 2nd reading of Ordinance
2 weeks after 1st reading
15) South Florida Regional Planning Council - 2nd Hearing
1 month after City 2nd reading
16) DCA issues Notice of Intent finding amendment “In Compliance”
25-60 days after receipt (if adopted by City)
17) DCA affected party challenge period
21 days after DCA Notice of Intent
18) Broward County Planning Council Recertification Hearing
60-90 days after adoption by City of Fort Lauderdale
It is important for me to point out that the Fort Lauderdale City Commission is a quasi-judicial body, requiring that the commissioners not pre-judge matters that may come before it. If I am to have a voice and vote on this matter, if and when it comes before the commission, I must continue to keep an open mind. All sides must be able to present their cases before the commission and I ultimately cast my vote based upon all the input. I am sure everyone realizes that I could sacrifice my vote on this important matter if I support either side at this time.
I have always supported and encouraged the city to expand our green space throughout Fort Lauderdale. I will continue doing so, with special emphasis on the needs and desires of the residents of District 1.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions. I can be reached at city hall at (954) 828-5004 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Neighborhoods must reflect the vision of their inhabitants.” - City Manager George Gretsas
CITY MANAGER GEORGE GRETSAS
October 7, 2008 - On July 14th, Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas hosted a presentation entitled “Goals and Objectives – 2008” at the Beach Community Center. The 250 local residents attending the meeting received a “State of the City” style update of Mr. Gretsas’ plans “for reducing costs, while improving the quality of life for the residents and businesses in the City of Fort Lauderdale.” Gretsas’ management team of Assistant City Managers Kathleen Gunn, Stephen Scott and David Hébert also attended the meeting. Anticipating a blizzard of questions following his presentation, Gretsas also packed the audience with Fire Chief James Eddy, Director of Business Enterprises Cate McCaffrey, Building Services Manager Valerie Bohlander, Code Enforcement Manager Mike Maloney, Public Works Director Albert Carbon and the former Executive Officer for Police District 1, Captain Raul Diaz (subsequently promoted to Major of District 3).
After showing a somewhat overproduced PowerPoint portrayal of the City’s recovery from the 2003 phantom budget that pushed the municipality to the brink of bankruptcy, the City Manager addressed the progress of various Master Plans underway in Fort Lauderdale. After expressing gratitude to “the 2,000 residents helping to plan where the City will be in 5, 10 and 15 years down the line,” he informed onlookers that “Their work on developing cohesive master plans for neighborhoods will become more evident with time.”
FORT LAUDERDALE PLAN REVIEW
Fort Lauderdale’s breakneck growth through the 1980s and 1990s left the city continuously playing catch-up, building out the utilities and roads required to enervate every new neighborhood while patching together services for legacy communities. Since Master Plans created to organize this expansion were incessantly raped in Planning and Zoning and City Commission meetings, few successfully achieved fruition.
FORT LAUDERDALE BOX BEACH
So many variances were handed out that neighborhoods rarely reflected the wishes of their residents. Lamenting the unpopular Box-like hotels along the Central Beach, City Manager Gretsas commented “Better zoning may have prevented some of the density issues currently facing Central Beach residents.” Acknowledging the damage sustained by neighborhoods victimized by developer-prompted political tinkering, the City Manager’s presentation intimated a commitment to end that abuse. Adhering to sensible Master Plans created by community input will preclude neighborhoods from becoming amorphous “works in progress” organized around developers’ bottom lines and the campaign “shortfalls” of unscrupulous officials.
One by one, he extolled the virtues of each project and estimated its implementation timetable. Initiated in 2003, the Downtown Master Plan portends a mixed use development of housing, shopping and entertainment with concealed parking garages, vertical open space between towers and Thematic Planning Districts. The New River Master Plan envisions the Riverwalk as a skeleton around which the City must “flesh out” a waterfront promenade connecting the North and South sides of the River and integrates the riverfront back into to surrounding inland neighborhoods while encouraging coherent development for key sites on or near the river. The Riverwalk District Public Realm Plan is expected to kindle its as yet unfulfilled potential as an entertainment, leisure and recreation magnet.
The Florida Department of Transportation is preparing to rehabilitate State Road A1A from north of Flamingo Avenue to just south of Oakland Park Boulevard. Contractors bidding on the lucrative project are charged with improving upon a scope of work that will bring the thoroughfare into compliance with State and local regulations, address traffic safety issues and maintain the neighborhood’s character. To address the third objective, Commissioner Christine Teel recommended that they elicit feedback from the Galt Mile Community Association.
INFAMOUS GALT MILE TRIANGLE
A meeting was scheduled with a consultant and GMCA officials to review the project and clarify relevant safety and aesthetic issues expected to impact the community. Discussion touched on the locally infamous “Galt Triangle”, where the southern end of Galt Ocean Drive empties into A1A (North Ocean Boulevard). Inexplicably, drivers heading south on A1A tend to run the traffic light one block north of Oakland Park Boulevard, precipitating repeated accidents with vehicles entering from Galt Ocean Drive and pedestrians crossing A1A. After considering other traffic and pedestrian hot spots, discussion turned to insuring that the outcome was aesthetically consistent with the surrounding neighborhood.
A1A NEAR OAKLAND PARK BOULEVARD
Although Lauderdale-by-the-Sea worked with FDOT to successfully develop their segment of A1A into a beautiful transportation corridor, A1A really earns its reputation as the “Ocean Highway” – a tailored picture postcard beachfront boulevard – as it passes by the Fort Lauderdale beach. The stretch connecting the two is a dilapidated, dreary, dangerous speedway filled with semi-patched potholes. One block east of A1A, the parallel Galt Ocean Drive is adorned with an impressive host of aesthetic amenities such as pavered crosswalks, pink aggregate sidewalks, landscaping uplights and decorative lamps. Contrasting the Galt Mile neighborhood’s degraded stretch of A1A with these surrounding well-appointed thoroughfares serves to emphasize its similarity to a rank airport perimeter strip.
A1A NEAR CORAL RIDGE TOWERS COMPLEX
A cursory review of the scope documentation revealed that up to 4% of the project budget could be used to address landscaping, including hardscape features such as stained sidewalks, stamped roadway elements and decorative lighting along with any trees, plants or shrubs. The discussion considered stylized neighborhood entry portals, lining the street with palm trees, installing aggregate sidewalks, high end lighting and a stamped concrete surface emulating a pavered roadway or crosswalks (FDOT prohibits pavers on state roads). However, each individual improvement augurs a prospective battle with an army of State, County and City regulators. Expensive traffic studies, engineering and environmental impact reports, demographics and residential density data, product comparisons and fiscal viability projections are only part of the prerequisite documentation required to elicit a Finding of Sufficiency by the Local Planning Agency (LPA).
We lacked all the critical documentation necessary to initiate the community improvements that are either scheduled or already underway in other communities throughout the city. When opportunities such as this FDOT A1A project become available, neighboring communities can simply decide which of their Master Plan’s elements should take priority and include them in the project. Since we have no Master Plan, these opportunities are either lost or severely hampered by unaddressed regulatory pitfalls. If the City had financed a Galt Mile Master Plan, the included improvements would benefit from having been reviewed and approved by the community and fully compliant with every jurisdictional requirement, facilitating passage through regulatory checkpoints that have consistently served as developmental dead-ends.
MAYOR JIM NAUGLE
In annual presentations to the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board, Mayor Naugle repeatedly pointed out that we receive in public services, developmental assistance, municipal maintenance, etc. an embarrassingly small fraction of our tax contribution. The Galt Mile community contributes to city coffers almost as much as the downtown business district yet receives far fewer resources. By leaving attendees to foment a blend of anger, disgust and resentment at having been fiscally shortchanged, the mayor hoped to elicit support for cutting taxes. Instead, he stirred a demand for a greater share of municipal resources. He inadvertently fueled an expectation for fair, if not equal, consideration.
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL
The Galt Mile has always been uniquely self-sufficient. We buried our electrical lines a decade before it became a standard suburban strategy. We created our own environment, evolving a sandblown beachfront side street into an elegant internationally-known boulevard. Our community leaders realized that city politics precluded municipal investment into a high end neighborhood in which half the residents are snowbirds and snowflakes that vote elsewhere. The Galt Mile Improvement Project, this community’s only comprehensive neighborhood development effort, was organized and paid for by the neighborhood’s residents. The city’s contribution was limited to certain engineering drawings, expeditious permit approval and a promise to maintain the improvements paid for via a community self-assessment.
The Galt Mile’s few other improvement projects were either minor “bones” occasionally thrown to the neighborhood or part of some larger city, county or state development. The “Miles Corner” project, wherein the intersection of A1A and Oakland Park Boulevard was rehabilitated, had more to do with cleaning up the northern access to the Fort Lauderdale Beach area than with enhancing this neighborhood. A few years ago, Commissioner Christine Teel finally won a decade-long fight to repair the collapsed drainage utility under the 32nd Street alley (the city wanted the local merchants to fix the city property). Otherwise, every decade or so, we would get a few trees planted around a decorative monolith in return for providing from 19% to 23 % of the city’s tax revenue.
In 2002, after funding preliminary architectural drawings to improve the Galt Ocean Shoppes neighborhood, the city told local merchants that they would have to finance any prospective improvements to City property and cheerfully walked away. After years of futile pleading by the Galt Mile Community Association and Galt Merchants Association President Dr. Alex Leeds, the city finally agreed to make a partial contribution to rehabilitating the area’s inadequate street lighting and installing a community entryway via a citywide matching grant program. In contrast, a quick drive down A1A reveals dozens of community entryways wholly funded by the city.
In most neighborhoods, these improvements would be component to a Master Plan that provided for the community’s comprehensive development. It would include a timetable, architectural and engineering support, a prioritized construction schedule and the financial wherewithal. When municipal funding became tight, certain aspects would be adjusted or postponed. Absent a Master Plan, similar improvements projected for the Galt Mile neighborhood are simply eliminated.
Two operative guidelines to which a Master Plan must conform are “neighborhood character” and “consistency”. City Manager Gretsas said, “We must keep in mind that neighborhoods are the most important parts of the city and must reflect the vision of their inhabitants.” It is no coincidence that each of the City’s official Master Plans is carefully integrated into a larger adjacent or surrounding jurisdiction as defined by the Fort Lauderdale Comprehensive Plan, considering transportation links, greenway connectivity and blending of commercial and residential areas. In turn, the City’s Comprehensive Plan (Chapter 163, Florida Statutes) is required to be consistent with the State Comprehensive Plan (Chapter 187, Florida Statutes), as well as the Regional and County Comprehensive Plans. Each planning level provides a critical link between the neighborhood, City, State, Regional, and County plans.
A1A NEAR 41st STREET
For example, it would clearly benefit the entire State if the State DOT adhered to a Master Plan that imposed consistent standards along the entire “Ocean Highway” instead of the existing patchwork of randomly alternating burnout and beautiful stretches of A1A. As a consequence of standardizing the roadway’s developmental criteria, material costs will benefit from volume purchasing, uniform maintenance procedures will deliver fiscal efficiencies and the State will save millions in repetitive, nearly identical preliminary studies to evaluate structural requirements, neighborhood compatibility, safety factors and environmental criteria for scores of individual one to twenty mile strips of roadway.
While the resources available for neighborhood improvements in FDOT’s A1A plan could easily finance several project components, they will instead be barely adequate to fund the regulatory underpinnings for any single improvement. That expensive documentation groundwork would ordinarily be readily available in a community’s Master Plan.
On September 18th, this costly deficiency was explained to the GMCA Advisory Board. Following some discussion, Board members recommended investigating the viability of applying to the city for a Galt Mile Master Plan. Instead of the current patchwork of minor fixes and opportunistic projects targeting relatively isolated problems, the plan would encompass landscaping, structural and aesthetic improvements for the entire Galt Mile neighborhood, incorporating the pre-existing Galt Ocean Shoppes plan into an overall strategy for commercial development. It would also enhance the neighborhood’s transportation connectivity, address security needs, facilitate traffic flow, clarify expectations for beach and block maintenance, and provide a realistic basis for attracting development consistent with the community’s vision. In addition to providing a viable platform for municipal funding, the Galt Mile will be appropriately prepared to maximize budgeting opportunities from State and County projects that serendipitously include our neighborhood.
If neighborhood development isn’t planned and controlled, instead of extending the ambiance of Galt Ocean Drive west to A1A, these piecemeal fixes will more likely extend the ambiance of A1A east to the beach! While this might please those that long for ‘80s grunge, most Galt Mile residents entertain a more traditional community vision.
October 13, 2008 - * Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl recognizes that today’s prevailing pessimism is inversely proportional to the ebbing confidence we have in our economic environment. The willingness with which we ignored lessons of the recent past (remember Long Term Capitol?) catalyzed the inevitable collapse of a fiscal house of cards. Financing guidelines implemented by the mortgage banking industry were long deemed irresponsible and dangerous by the Federal Reserve Board. The protective banking and insurance regulations discarded as impediments to increased profits were replaced by policies arguably more appropriate for the gaming industry. Despite the frightening repercussions of this multi-institutional implosion, our District 4 Commissioner is unwilling to sink into a melancholy funk. Taking solace in the cyclical nature of our economy, Keechl finds a silver lining in this threatening climate.
Commissioner Keechl contends that the recession reduced the need for county government to rely on political will for motivation to exercise fiscal responsibility. In a nutshell, the Broward Commission was forced to do what the rest of us are doing: learn to do more with less. Six months ago, his expressed plan to cut an additional $100 million from the 2009 County Budget elicited a benign skepticism from peers, bureaucrats and a host of overtly vested program beneficiaries. He was characterized as naïve for believing that the Commission’s March reform commitments wouldn’t melt like butter as September approached.
Incredibly, after reducing 2008 budget spending by $100 million, the County Commission knocked off another $87 million from this year's product. Despite receiving some unexpected help from greedy mortgage bankers and regretful speculators in setting the stage for the Fiscal Year 2009 austerity measures, Keechl did not look a gift horse in the mouth. He paints the huge spending cut “as a step in the right direction.” Keechl’s “matter-of-fact” attitude toward the Budget reductions isn't surprising, given its high ranking on his early 2008 wish list. In fact, Commissioner Keechl identified “making living in Broward more affordable” as one of the primary reasons he ran for the District 4 seat. Against all odds, he did just that! - [editor]*
“Broward’s Tough Economic Times”
by Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, District 4
COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone reading this article that our local, state, and national economies are suffering. Banks are collapsing, the stock market is plummeting, unemployment is rising, and home values are decreasing. At every event I attend, your neighbors are telling me that they are worried—very worried. I get it. It’s a scary time to be raising a family or running a business. And guess what? It’s a scary time to be one of nine Commissioners in charge of a County government as large as Broward County.
But it’s an exciting time as well. And the solution to our temporary economic problems isn’t difficult. Quite simply, as a governmental entity, Broward County must learn to do more with less. And this is imperative because we know from experience that when the economy suffers, the need for county services increases.
By a 7-2 vote, we have just approved Broward County’s FY 09 budget. And for the second year in a row, I have kept my campaign promise to never raise your property taxes. Similar to last year’s budget, the Broward County Commission has cut its FY 09 budget by approximately $87,000,000.00. Before you elected me in November of 2006 to be your County Commissioner, it was common for the Broward County Commission to increase its budget year after year after year. Well, those days are over and property tax relief--at least at the County level-- is finally becoming a reality.
How were we able to do this, especially in these tough economic times? By being fiscally prudent and rejecting historical spendthrift budgets. For the second year in a row, we have continued to consolidate our vast organizational structure (and eliminate unnecessary jobs); we have deferred capital programs where appropriate; and, as a last resort, we have minimally cut back library and park hours during times of limited utilization. Whenever we reduced or eliminated a program, we assessed the impact and worked diligently to minimize that impact if possible. We started funding “needs” and not “wants”--just like we all do at home every day when balancing our families’ budgets.
In closing, I want to tell you that after having served as your Broward County Commissioner for almost 2 years, I am optimistic about Broward’s economic future. One thing is for certain: this isn’t a time for politics. It’s a time for leadership. And this year’s FY 09 budget is a step in the right direction.
Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.
October 18, 2008 - On Thursday, October 16, 2008, thousands of Galt Ocean Mile residents learned about the loss of an irreplaceable friend. Following a tenacious struggle with cancer, Dr. Alexander Leeds passed away. It is unlikely that the colossal vacuum created by his untimely death will soon be filled... if ever. His unrelenting efforts to improve the lives of his neighbors, enhance the community and promote good health for hundreds of grateful patients will be sorely missed. By cloaking a piercing intelligence and soft heart in a laid-back friendly demeanor, Alex naturally commanded the respect and trust of these neighbors, patients and peers.
While many Doctors demonstrate admirable levels of commitment, Alex nourished a long term love affair with his patients. Most physicians identify their patients as customers whose office chart is filled with medical histories, medical claim forms, x-rays and payment ledgers. Alex's practice additionally extended to hundreds of friends, neighbors and acquaintances who, despite never visiting his medical office, unhesitatingly called on him for advice about their health, their homes, their families and with personal problems of every stripe. They knew that his moral compass was as trustworthy as his medical opinion.
Having earned the respect and admiration of his L'Hermitage II neighbors at 3200 North Ocean Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Alex was elected President of their Condominium Association. He was also elected President of the L'Hermitage Community Association, serving the residents of both L'Hermitage Condominium Associations. He deployed sensibility and sensitivity to balance the needs of his neighbors with those of the Associations. Alex and wife Marilyn worked as a team, contending with daily Association issues and helping residents address an endless litany of personal and association problems. He worked with his peers on the board to maintain L’Hermitage’s sterling reputation as a top-flight condominium.
A tireless civic leader, Alex served as a member of the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board, where he contributed to countless neighborhood improvements. Since Alex both lived and worked in the community, his unique perspective proved an invaluable asset to the neighborhood association. Not surprisingly, his fellow business owners elected Alex President of the Galt Merchants Association.
In this capacity, Alex participated in the 32nd Street Alley Partnership. In 1996, stagnant water collecting in the 32nd Street Alley between 32nd Street and Oakland Park Boulevard caused a portion of the alley infrastructure to collapse. If the polluted ponding water were discharged into nearby stormwater drains, it could have infused local rivers, lakes, and canals with a broad range of noxious and toxic contaminants. The Galt Merchants Association, the Galt Mile Community Association, local merchants, businesses, and the City of Fort Lauderdale formed the Alley Partnership to finally address this persistent problem. After more than a decade of working with the City and an evolving merchant population, Dr. Leeds and Commissioner Christine Teel were able to induce the City to rehabilitate the alley's drainage functionality, primarily because Alex elicited the cooperation of contentious area merchants who promised to maintain a clean drainage environment.
During the Holiday season, the Galt Ocean Village Shoppes neighborhood was annually devoid of seasonal lighting. At a meeting attended by group of participating merchants, Community Association representatives Ralph Hamaker from Coral Ridge Towers South and former GMCA President Bob Rozema, City of Fort Lauderdale staffers Hal Barnes, Mike Fayyez and Tom Terrell, and Alfred Russillo of FP&L (Florida Power & Light), Alex and City Commissioner Christine Teel addressed the technical and financial obstacles responsible for the neighborhood’s lack of seasonal illumination. Due to the area’s inadequate electrical underpinnings, Dr. Leeds had to elicit City cooperation to install special outlets and convertors to power the festive atmospheric lighting and FP&L to discount the juice expense. If not for his yearly efforts, the entire largely commercial district and the Coral Ridge Towers complex would have remained a seasonal “no mans land”.
In 2003, Alex transformed a $15,000 capital improvement program grant received from the City of Fort Lauderdale into a viable and exciting Master Plan designed to morph the Galt Ocean Village Shoppes into a vibrant tourist magnet and an exemplary commercial success. The Master Plan serves to heighten the aesthetics, functionality, and economic viability of the area bounded by the Intracoastal Waterway on the west, A1A on the east, Oakland Park Boulevard on the south, and NE 34th Street on the north. Created by the Architectural Alliance under the guidance of City Project Engineer Hal Barnes, the potpourri of storefront, streetscape, and waterfront improvements was carefully designed to enhance the catchment area.
FORMER GMCA PRESIDENT ROBERT ROZEMA
After overseeing the plan's creation, Alex negotiated with participating merchants to commence implementation. Given the transitory merchant population, he was forced to alter his strategy. Alex worked with the late GMCA President Robert Rozema to attract three major project components deemed necessary to enervate the Master Plan. They successfully lobbied City Hall to build the Beach Community Center in the Galt Ocean Village Shoppes neighborhood. Rozema and Leeds convinced the neighborhood association Board of Directors and Advisory Board that two additional major developments would be needed to help fund some of the Master Plan's critical offerings. Several years later, Il Lugano's developer upgraded aspects of 34th Street. When developer Opus South bought the former La Reserve property on the Intracoastal Waterway just north of the Oakland Park Boulevard Bridge, Alex negotiated their enhancing the 32nd Street side of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, a corporate policy change precipitated their withdrawal from the project last year, prompting Alex to immediately commence hunting for a viable replacement.
GALT OCEAN VILLAGE SHOPPES NEIGHBORHOOD
This year, the irrepressible Dr. Leeds consummated a deal with the city to permanently improve some of the area’s lighting deficiencies and install an entry portal to the Galt Ocean Village Shoppes neighborhood. The Galt Merchants Association and the Galt Mile Community Association cooperatively applied to access matching grant funds to help stimulate commercial interest in the area. While stricken and unable to attend Advisory Board meetings, Alex pursued the improvements via telephone and Marilyn made monthly progress reports. Tragically, Alex ultimately encountered the only obstacle capable of stopping this force of nature that brightened our lives for so many years.
As the beloved & adored husband of Marilyn, devoted son of Gertrude, loving brother of Rebecca, loving and worshiped father of Karen, Francene, Mark & Stacy, Robert & Mary, Daniel, Tifini and cherished Papa of Zachary, Victoria, Rachel, Emily, Harmony and Jessica, Alex filled the hearts of fortunate friends and 4 generations of a close-knit nurturing family.
Upon learning of his passing on Thursday morning at 8:45 PM, L'Hermitage II Manager Paul Moore notified friends, neighbors, association and civic leaders that a Chapel Service would be held on Sunday, October 19, 2008 at 2:15 p.m. at Star of David Funeral Chapel (7701 Bailey Road) in North Lauderdale, FL 33068 (Tel: 954-722-9000). Services would be followed by a gathering in the L’Hermitage II Ocean Room at 3200 North Ocean Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Contributions may be made to Sylvester Cancer Center.
October 29, 2008 - On October 22, The Galt Mile Community Association sponsored an event to assist local residents ascertain the electability of the current crop of aspirants to those municipal offices most relevant to the Galt Mile neighborhood. Most Fort Lauderdale residents know little or nothing about many of the candidates running for City seats. Scheduled at the Beach Community Center, Galt Mile residents were afforded the opportunity to meet the four mayoral hopefuls and the three candidates vying for the District 1 Commission seat. Half of the participants enjoyed the politically competitive advantage of name recognition, enabling them to punctuate promises with a track record and opinions with experience. The others embraced the opportunity to introduce themselves to those they mean to govern.
DISTRICT 2 CANDIDATES STEVE GLASSMAN AND INCUMBENT CHARLOTTE RODSTROM
Four men are running for the seat soon to be vacated by Mayor Jim Naugle. Representative Jack Seiler is a well respected term-limited Statehouse veteran whose remarkable talent for weaving homespun logic with legal acuity made him one of the few real Democratic players in Republican Tallahassee. He also has some relevant previous experience, formerly serving as Mayor of Wilton Manors. Former District 2 City Commissioner Dean Trantalis is a nose-to-the-grindstone attorney who effortlessly toggles sensitivity and passion to achieve consensus. Less well known are Earl Rynerson, a former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and San Francisco Human Services Commissioner who owns and operates a specialty tile & stone company called CLAD Tile & Stone. Fort Lauderdale Attorney Steve Rossi is a former FBI Agent whose citywide bus bench advertisements ripened into an arguably prurient campaign slogan – “Sit on my Face.”
CHRIS CHIARI JOKES WITH STEVE ROSSI
The District 1 Commission seat is also up for grabs. Incumbent Christine Teel is a work-a-holic former nurse whose bi-weekly Pre-agenda meetings were precursor to hundreds of neighborhood improvements. After 35 years of honorable service on the Fort Lauderdale Police Force, Former Chief of Police Bruce Roberts apparently decided to trade 5 bosses for 30,000 bosses, opting to pursue the District 1 Commission seat. Rounding out the field was newcomer Attorney Inger Garcia, a former Assistant State Attorney who interned in Miami for Janet Reno before she became the nation’s legal bellwether.
Forming the Format
TIMEKEEPER TERRY CLAIRE
The format was simple. Notice of the event was sent to member associations. Included in the notice was an email address to which residents were encouraged to send questions and/or topics for the candidates. Altogether, 73 residents sent 124 questions and/or topics, mostly by email. 41 were eliminated as non-responsive, although rife with colorful vulgarity. The 83 remaining questions were separated into topics (neighborhood improvements, tax policy, city and/or local events, beach renourishment, municipal services, etc.). The questions were also sorted as appropriate for mayoral or Commission candidates, although many fit both categories. Questions from those topics most heavily weighted were selected. Although certain critically important issues were neglected due to statistical insufficiency, our primary commitment was to insuring that the questions reflected our neighbors’ concerns.
TIMEKEEPER FRANCI BINDLER
An introductory preface was composed for each question to add perspective and help clarify its rationale for the benefit of the candidates and the audience. None of the questions were released prior to the event. Candidates were seated alphabetically, questions were selected randomly and first responders were subject to a rotation, insuring that each candidate was afforded the opportunity to answer some question first and some question last.
GMCA PRESIDENT PIO IERACI POSES QUESTIONS FROM PODIUM
GMCA President Pio Ieraci acted as moderator, posing questions from a podium facing the candidates seated on stage. Riviera’s Franci Bindler and Plaza South’s Terry Claire were the official timekeepers, holding up a green flag to start responding, a yellow flag to alert speakers that they had 15 seconds to complete their answer and a red flag accompanied by a bell signaled expiration of their 3 minute response allocation. Rose Guttman of Ocean Club organized the refreshments and Playa del Mar’s Fred Nesbitt brought “No Calypso” buttons for distribution. By the 6:30 PM start time, about 120 residents, candidates and public officials braved an intermittent downpour to attend the event. The District 1 Commission candidates constituted the first panel. Among the local residents and invited candidates were public officials and candidates for an assortment of other elective seats.
Attending were Mayor Jim Naugle, Central Beach Alliance President and District 2 Commission candidate Steve Glassman, incumbent District 2 Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom, District 91 Statehouse Candidate Chris Chiari, District 25 Senate candidate Linda Bird and former City Commissioner Tim Smith.
District One Commission Aspirants
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSION CANDIDATES
Addressing the candidates, Ieraci pulled the first question from a blind box and read the preface, “At a July 14th presentation at the Beach Community Center, City Manager George Gretsas described a series of local Master Plans for neighborhoods throughout the city that reflect the vision of those communities’ residents. Enshrining a community’s aesthetic, structural, greenspace and zoning objectives into a well designed architectural Master Plan is the most effective protection against developmental anomalies in building height, density issues, connectivity, traffic flow and other developmental concerns described in questions contributed by Galt Mile residents. At a recent meeting with GMCA officials, the City Manager agreed to commence the long, arduous process to develop such a plan for the Galt Mile Community.” Turning to Attorney Inger Garcia, who topped the alphabetical rotation, Pio asked, “What potential improvements can you identify as most beneficial or critically important to a Master Plan for this community?”
ATTORNEY INGER GARCIA
Garcia said that since the beach is the heart of the Galt Mile community, a Master Plan should capitalize on it as a “tourism benefit”. She recommended marketing the resource through the city’s promotional apparatus, targeting vacationers and new businesses. Stating that our coastal asset should be “built out,” she explained “We need to use our beach to attract more business to the area.” After suggesting that the Master Plan feature “more security,” Garcia added “and transparency” – presumably referring to the public workshops that serve as vehicles for conceptual input.
FORMER POLICE CHIEF BRUCE ROBERTS
Next in the rotation, former Chief Roberts asked “Why did it take so long? The Galt Mile should have had a Master Plan by now. The Plan should dove-tail with the existing Galt Ocean Village Shoppes plan executed almost six years ago.”In addition to the streets familiar to condo owners, areas such as Bermuda/Riviera would be included. Identifying the neighborhood’s current lack of a Master Plan as a crippling disadvantage, Roberts admonished, “A Master Plan would enable us to exploit improvement opportunities from State and County projects such as the upcoming FDOT A1A resurfacing.” To punctuate the Plan’s importance, Roberts pointed out that Lauderdale-by-the-Sea was able to share in FDOT funding to beautify their segment of the “Ocean Highway.” The Galt Mile product would have to blend seamlessly with the existing City and County Comprehensive Plans.
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL
Finally, Commissioner Christine Teel rang in, reminding the local audience that the Galt Ocean Village Shoppes Plan was released simultaneously with Fort Lauderdale's fiscal collapse in 2003. She was instrumental in attracting Il Lugano, whose developer donated the significant improvements on 34th Street which were taken from the plan. Until a change in corporate policy induced their withdrawal from South Florida, the Commissioner was working with developer Opus South to make improvements near their La Reserve property, including to the Fire Station and along 32nd Street. To initiate the new Master Plan, she anticipates holding vision workshops similar to the design charrettes she conducted for the Galt Ocean Village Shoppes Plan. She also noted that our timing is fortunate. Since the FDOT A1A project is scheduled for 2011, the Community has ample time to complete any regulatory groundwork prior to its necessity. She also warned that area zoning limits “give property owners the opportunity to build very tall buildings.”
Directing the second question first to Chief Roberts, he asked, “Are you willing to travel to Tallahassee next year to testify on behalf of rehabilitating our critically eroded beaches and how will you otherwise support the Broward Beach Renourishment Project?” Roberts retorted, “I’ll travel to Tallahassee and Washington D.C.” The former Police Chief complained about the dilatory pace of the project, asserting that he would “move it along more quickly” by forging new relationships. He said he has been watching the beach wash away for decades, threatening area tourism and the ancillary businesses.
TEEL - ON CALL FOR TALLAHASSEE
Commissioner Teel reviewed her project-related travels, “I’ve joined community activists traveling to Tallahassee several times. Wearing red t-shirts lettered with the message ‘Save Broward Beaches’ we successfully testified before the Governor and the Cabinet, securing the inclusion of Fort Lauderdale into the project.” She also described traveling to Washington DC and New York on behalf of the Broward Beach Renourishment Project. She explained, “While the city is 100% behind the beach fix, it is a county function. The relationships developed with the Broward Beach Administrator and the Galt Mile Community Association have brought the project to within a year or so of completion. When we get the call next year, we will all climb aboard the jet once again and fly to the Capitol.”
GARCIA - 1000% FOR BEACH RENOURISHMENT
Attorney Inger Garcia also promised to attend the Governor and the CabinetCabinet meeting in Tallahassee. “I fly to Tallahassee all the time. Last year I flew around the State with a group that argued for citizens and Representative Julio Robaina. We collected input from condo owners and helped promote their interests.” Insisting that she would do whatever was necessary to advance the project’s success, Garcia said, “I would do what you want, I am just a conduit.” Acknowledging the critical importance of a viable beach, Garcia exclaimed, “I am 1000% behind this project.”
DECOMPOSING SHIPWRECK BECOMES POLITICAL FOOTBALL
President Ieraci set the stage for the final question to the Commission panelists, stating, “Recently, a growing disconnect between Fort Lauderdale’s beachfront communities and the State Department of Environmental Protection has become increasingly controversial. After issuing a prohibition against effectively clearing the shoreline of beach hazards, organic waste and a shipwreck until turtle nests washed out by storms could be located and marked, DEP officials told the Nova volunteers assigned to the task that since the season was almost over, there was little reason to expedite the project. What should have taken a week to ten days was prolonged for almost a month. Many Galt Mile residents that supported the Agency’s mission to rescue turtle nests were enraged by the callous disregard with which local agency officials treated the beachfront community. Similar sentiments were raised last year when DEP refused to wait until Fort Lauderdale installed turtle-safe lighting before forcing DOT to deliberately darken the city beach for months - skyrocketing the crime rate. Nevertheless, we need DEP’s support to insure Tallahassee’s cooperation with the impending beach renourishment.”
MOUND OF ORGANIC BEACH WASTE
Following a round of applause from the audience, he asked Commissioner Teel, “Since political pressure applied to balance the needs of sea turtles with the needs of beachfront residents could conceivably alienate the FDEP at a time that we need their support to rescue our disappearing beach, what strategy would you recommend to address this ‘Catch 22’ dilemma?”
ENLIST BROWARD LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION
Commissioner Teel admitted that the city passed the Turtle-safe lighting ordinance because they supported the Agency’s objective to rescue an endangered species. She was surprised to discover that some DEP officials “seem to care more about turtles than about people.” Pointing out that these decisions are State and County domain, she said “Some Agency officials repeatedly failed to exhibit common sense.” Despite the DEP levied nest-marking prerequisite to adequately cleaning the beach, Nova volunteers were told that there was little need to expeditiously mark the nests, inflaming the controversy. After observing that a shipwreck joined the garbage collecting on the beach for a month, Teel and City Manager Gretsas arranged an on-site meeting with local DEP officials to elicit a special permit allowing a specialty contractor to demolish the shipwreck and clear the beach. Summarizing the endgame, Teel said, “Within 48 hours the evacuation was completed for $900 - paid by the city - instead of the $10,800 quoted by the regular vendor.” Alluding to Turtle-safe light shielding created and affixed to city lamps in the Fort Lauderdale beach area to comply with the ordinance, Commissioner Teel explained that the City asked if the shields would address Agency concerns. The DEP representative answered, “After you manufacture and install them throughout the neighborhood, we’ll tell you if they are acceptable.” Although perturbed by the vindictive indifference demonstrated by Agency officials, she recommended that we mobilize the Broward Legislative Delegation to act as a go-between.
GARCIA - MAKE CASE IN TALLAHASSEE
Inger Garcia described a multi-step plan. First, she recommended enlisting civic volunteers to clean the beach. Secondly, she would solicit input from the police to better demonstrate to DEP the significant safety hazard (resulting from insufficient lighting). State Representatives can also be recruited to help negotiate a balance between the two issues. She intimated that traveling to Tallahassee may help facilitate some resolution. Garcia reinforced that her actions would reflect the wishes of the community.
NEW RELATIONSHIPS WOULD HELP
Bruce Roberts characterized the dilemma as “a bureaucratic mess.” Although he agreed with Teel and Garcia that we need some plan to insure that both issues are effectively addressed, he admitted to having no simple answer. After contending that this would require an exercise in diplomacy, Roberts asserted that better communication would be a positive consequence of new relationships. He recalled an earlier incident involving refugees that was also clouded by jurisdictional confusion.
Pio Ieraci called on the four residents who earlier submitted requests to directly question the candidates, two of whom responded. President Martin Glazer of Southpoint Condominium asked Inger Garcia how Grayson Walker was affiliated with her campaign. Garcia responded that he was her campaign Treasurer. Glazer then asked if she was involved with a newsletter in which the Galt Mile was repeatedly characterized as a hotbed of criminal activity by condominium boards. She answered, “I write my own column dedicated to helping condo owners know their rights.” She added,“My opinions aren’t his (Mr. Walker’s), I am not responsible for anything he writes.”Glazer retorted,“Do you believe that all Board Members are crooks?” Ms. Garcia responded “Of course not,” clarifying that she advocates transparency for associations.
Michael Katz, another Southpoint Board member, asked Ms. Garcia how she feels about people who deliberately incur unnecessary legal expenses in Southpoint. Since neither Katz nor Garcia explained the rationale for his question, most onlookers surmised that they were addressing either personal or association-specific issues. He also asked if she believed that misusing the law was OK. Garcia answered, “No, I do not think that misusing the law is OK.”
Meet the Mayors
After thanking the Commission Candidates, President Pio Ieraci welcomed the four mayoral aspirants. Prefacing the first question, he stated, “Every major Metropolitan area in South Florida is struggling to maintain services while balancing recessionary budgets strained by diminishing resources. Cities are in competition for police and fire-rescue officers, administrative personnel, technical expertise and other facets of a municipal workforce. However, pension funds that guarantee staff from 60% to 67% of their salaries for life after 20 years of service will bankrupt the city in less than a decade. Although the City Manager has recently made some progress in controlling these unsustainable expenses during the last round of contract negotiations, the skyrocketing growth rates of healthcare and pension benefits can only be supported by huge tax increases. Alternatively, we could face bankruptcy like California cities Vallejo, San Diego or Rialto - which were similarly crippled by burst real estate bubbles.”
ATTORNEY STEVE ROSSI
Addressing Attorney Steve Rossi, he asked, “How can the city keep pace with these runaway pension and healthcare costs without cutting critical services or taxing its residents into oblivion?” Rossi responded “We’ve got to stem the flight of seasoned Police and Fire-Rescue officers from the City of Fort Lauderdale.” Expressing concern about the adequacy of the current level of police and Fire-Rescue services, Rossi exclaimed, “If the City can't afford to pay whatever it takes to keep trained officers here, we will just have to raise taxes.”
BUSINESSMAN EARL RYNERSON
Businessman Earl Rynerson disagreed, insisting that “City Budget and pension costs are out of control. With the values of our homes and businesses way down, we can’t afford to subsidize unnecessary expenses.” Seeking to measure the City’s fiscal behavior against comparably sized municipalities, Rynerson said “Every year, our 170,000 residents pay more in taxes. Other cities that are the about the same size experience budget growth of about 2% to 4%. We do less with more, as our budget jumps 10% annually, almost doubling the budget over the past decade despite a stable population.” He castigated the City Commission for having just approved a 5% salary increase for managerial personnel (non-union municipal employees whose pay was not adjusted in the recently completed contract negotiations). Promising to rid the City of what he called “additional layers of bureaucracy,” Rynerson said, “I will review the entire municipal workforce to determine whether positions are critical to the function of the City.”
REPRESENTATIVE JACK SEILER
Representative Jack Seiler views the budget as a critical issue. Affirming his budgeting credentials, Seiler said that he was an integral part of the team in Tallahassee responsible for reducing the $72 billion State budget to $64 billion. However, of all the critical expenses facing the city, Seiler said “Law Enforcement and Fire-Rescue deserve priority.” While acknowledging the importance of trimming the budget whenever possible, Seiler pointed out the need to balance any savings realized by cutting corners against the cost of recruitment and training. “Of all the City’s responsibilities,” Seiler said, “Maintaining well trained Police and Fire-Rescue services is the number one job. The City mustn’t sacrifice safety and security to the budget.”
FORMER COMMISSIONER DEAN TRANTALIS
Former Commissioner Dean Trantalis took issue with Seiler’s evaluation, exclaiming “We aren’t in danger of losing our police and Fire-Rescue personnel. We are competitive with other cities facing similar budgeting pressures. In fact, we must change the process.” Trantalis insisted that the City’s current fiscal priorities are unsustainable, complaining that “70% of our tax bill is already dedicated to fund police and Fire-Rescue services.” He disparaged the City’s inordinate reliance on property taxes for revenues, promising “I will ramp up efforts to bring new business into Fort Lauderdale. By strengthening the Economic Development unit’s agenda, we can reduce the burden on homeowners by broadening the tax base.”
Turning to Businessman Earl Rynerson, he asked, “While the fate of Calypso rests solely with the Governor, what would you do as Mayor to help convince the Governor to veto the project?” Rynerson smiled and retorted, “It’s not going to happen! I will make it my business to make the Governor understand the dangers of this project.” Rynerson admonished that we should be exploring the use of green energy sources, calling Calypso “a non-starter.” Rynerson said that he would visit Governor Crist in Tallahassee and “politely sit in his office until he agreed to veto the project.”
Dean Trantalis said, “The Calypso project has no public purpose. It offers no benefit to the City or the County while threatening City residents with a potential catastrophe. A French company will make $millions while the local community pays to protect their property and must live with the danger.” Trantalis commented “The City was right to send a resolution opposing Calypso to the Governor. It’s unfortunate that the County hasn’t followed the lead of every beachfront municipality and issued a similar resolution.” He said, “This is an example of private enterprise taking over our lives. We’ve been forced to act as police in safeguarding and protecting our shoreline.” Although millions of residents and visitors from other states and Broward cities regularly enjoy the beach, to preserve this important resource, Trantalis said “we must take control of our destiny.”
ROSSI - WIND & SOLAR BEATS GAS
Steve Rossi said “Governor Crist must take the reins” and pursue a clean energy policy. Rather than installing a dangerous dirty fuel facility across from our homes, Rossi opined, “We should be investing in wind power, solar energy and geothermal technologies.” Rossi called the threat of catastrophe unacceptable and opposes being forced to protect a foreign, high-value terrorist target. He exclaimed “No terrorist ever attacked a windmill or a solar panel.”Rossi expressed the belief that soliciting greater media exposure would strengthen the alliance against Calypso and winning over more communities would enhance prospects for a veto.
GMCA PRESIDENT PIO IERACI
Ieraci read the preface to the last Mayoral question. “Senator Jeffrey Atwater made the ominous observation that 2006 marked the first year that more people left the State than came here. Although we can no longer count on superheated residential growth to fund the City’s increasing expenses, the tax base can still be broadened by attracting new businesses to Fort Lauderdale, thus relieving tax pressure on homeowners.”
SEILER - GET BIOTECH AND E-COMMERCE
Addressing Jack Seiler, Pio Ieraci asked, “What can the City do to enhance its reputation as an ideal incubator for new and relocating businesses?” Representative Seiler expressed dissatisfaction with the City’s current business development strategy. In a simplified summary of that policy, he said “Now... we go into the neighboring county or city and try to get them.” His objection is mostly to the City’s lack of ambition. Seiler advocates expanding the playing field; casting a wider net for new business. He said, “I brought up 4 children in the Capitol of Broward County - Fort Lauderdale. Our primary industry has historically been tourism followed closely by the Maritime industry.” He proposed courting cutting edge industries such as Biotech firms (like Scripps in Palm Beach) and E-Commerce. (Fort Lauderdale is already home to thousands of jobs in Agricultural Biotech and the Biotech equipment and supply businesses. It’s also key part of South Florida’s “Internet Coast”.)
Steve Rossi was adamant about running the City like a business. The same tough decisions that spell survival for any competitive institution need to be made for municipal operations. Rossi said, “I see Fort Lauderdale as an International Center - comparable to Miami.”Almost half the City’s businesses either engage in or support international commerce. He said, “We must develop locations that aren’t being used to capacity and take advantage of the City’s diversity.”
RYNERSON - POLISH THE CITY'S IMAGE
Earl Rynerson exclaimed that this is an area where he can put his 27 years of business experience to good use. He said, “We already enjoy thriving tourism and Maritime industries. I have significant experience with E-commerce, having worked for Hewlett Packard and Commerce One. Fort Lauderdale is an ideal location for high-tech and internet firms.” Rynerson also stressed the importance of a reasonable tax environment to attracting new and relocating businesses. He proposed, “We can polish the city’s image by replacing strip malls with well planned destination areas.”
The Primary is scheduled for February 14, 2009 and General Municipal Elections will take place on March 14, 2009. The Mayor and four City Commissioners are the elected officials of the City of Fort Lauderdale. The Mayor is elected at-large and the City Commissioners are elected from each of the four districts. The three-year terms run concurrently, and all are up for election at the same time. Residents may pick up an Absentee Ballot Request card at the lobby Security Desk in City Hall to request that an absentee ballot be mailed to them for the February 14 Primary and March 14 General Municipal Elections. Residents must either mail the request card using first class postage or hand deliver it to:
Supervisor of Elections, Broward County Governmental Center 115 S Andrews Avenue, Room 102 Fort Lauderdale, FL 8:30 AM - 5 PM 954-357-7050
The City of Fort Lauderdale will NOT accept any Absentee Ballot Request cards.
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. The two processes by which influenza evolves are colloquially known as “Shift and Drift”. Antigenic drift is a function of the small changes in the virus that happen continually over time. The less common antigenic shift derives from abrupt, major protein changes to the influenza A viruses, resulting in a new influenza A subtype unrecognized by existing antibodies. 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.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) met in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on February 21, 2008, to select which influenza virus strains should comprise the 2008-2009 influenza vaccine for use in the United States. During this meeting, the advisory panel reviewed and evaluated the surveillance data related to epidemiology and antigenic characteristics, serological responses to 2007/2008 vaccines, and the availability of candidate strains and reagents.
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 their 19th birthday; 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.), 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 (too young to be vaccinated).
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.
Landmark Study Shifts Vaccination Priorities
As you look around each year, it is impossible to ignore the evolving demographics on the Galt Mile. The community is becoming younger. While the healthy corps of retirees serves to provide substantial stability, the growing number of families and young couples inject the community with new life and a focused interest in the future. To accommodate the change, people are learning to share the pool with kids and foment interests in activities usually frequented by younger people. One thing more, make sure your medical insurance is paid to date.
Statistical confirmation of what most parents know intuitively, that their children spread germs with uncanny efficiency, will substantially ramp up official vaccination policy. Although older children are less impacted by the effects of flu than infants, the additional 30 million school-age kids are a huge target pool with a massive potential for incubation. The members of this group are not targeted for vaccination primarily to protect their health, but to prevent their becoming “Vectors”, or people for whom infection is of less concern than their potential for spreading the flu to more vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Deputy Director Dr. Jeanne Santoli of the Immunization Services Division in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ascribes several benefits to this new data. In addition to crippling influenza’s incubation capability – as is required to mount epidemic attacks on a community – she extols a more direct dividend to expanding inoculation eligibility. School children will no longer miss the thousands of classroom hours lost each year to the flu and their parents will commensurately realize improved work attendance. Santoli said, “We’re all very enthusiastic and anticipate seeing an indirect benefit, but that's something we need to study and carefully watch.”
The most significant benefit of this vaccination strategy will be its impact on the elderly. While babies and infants are certainly highly vulnerable to influenza, a vast majority of the 36,000 flu-caused deaths each winter are people over age 65. The effectiveness of protection strategies against the flu for the elderly has enigmatically plateaued. Despite the annual implementation of comprehensive elderly vaccination programs, death rates haven’t proportionately dropped as projected.
Dr. Stephen C. Aronoff, chairman of the department of pediatrics at Temple University in Philadelphia, explained the CDC policy. “This is the concept of herd immunity; the more people you vaccinate, the less likely you are to see infection in people who are not vaccinated.” There’s no shortage of statistical corroboration for Brownstein and Mandl’s findings. When 85% of the schoolchildren in Tecumseh, Michigan were vaccinated before the 1968 flu pandemic, they reported two-thirds fewer flu cases in the overall population than nearby towns wherein children were not vaccinated. Similar results were recorded in Japan. After immunizing Japanese schoolchildren, infection rates and deaths dropped significantly throughout the Japanese population.
CDC DIRECTOR JULIE GERBERDING
Simply put, the chain of transmission in the vast majority of flu cases includes a school-age child. Immunizing that child, by definition, should eliminate these cases. Director Julie L. Gerberding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that although school-age children have the highest rate of flu infection, last year only 21 percent were vaccinated against the disease, allowing the flu an unchallenged opportunity to incubate and proliferate.
The flu season typically lasts from December through March, peaking in January and February. To adequately prepare, the CDC schedules vaccine for distribution by October. An October vaccination will provide immunity within two to three weeks and last throughout the flu season. All together, the CDC is recommending vaccines for about 261 million people, or nearly 85 percent of Americans. Although 143 million doses were manufactured for the upcoming flu season, CDC has expressed concern about utilizing the entire stock. While they plan to reach 90% of the elderly population, they anticipate serious obstacles to immunizing members in other eligible categories such as young adults with chronic illnesses like asthma, heart disease or a weakened immune system. Chasing down 30 million school children might also prove a challenge.
The Florida Department of Health (DOH) Bureau of Immunization Flu web site is a cornucopia of useful information offering a plethora of Flu Facts. The Fight the Flu how-to page discusses how to prevent the flu, how to distinguish the flu from colds and other symptomatic mimics and, if caught, how to feel better and hasten recovery. A selection of Clinic Locators will help locate a flu vaccination source. A comprehensive set of Flu Links accesses every aspect of this seasonal crisis. Influenza Antiviral Medications are an important adjunct to influenza vaccine in the prevention and treatment of influenza, especially to reduce the impact of influenza on persons at high risk for developing severe complications secondary to infection. A "Get it and Forget It!" Adult Pneumococcal (Pneumonia) Vaccine page addresses a very serious illness that results in more death to people in the United States than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. The voluminous 2008-2009 Flu Archive summarizes the data available on the DOH Bureau of Immunizations online resource.
When shelter director Rick Richter was asked about the lack of scales, stethoscopes, a functional crematorium and other equipment necessary for effecting humane euthanasia, he appeared surprised, casually exclaiming, “Well, then we need to get some for them.” Despite a rule in the county training manual that states, “Keep all other animals both dead and alive out of the euthanasia room,” Richter maintained that “The County believes it is OK to kill cats in front of other cats,”rationalizing that it somehow reduces the animal’s stress!
Under attack by the County Commission, the employees, the Sheriff and a battery of animal activists, Broward’s Animal Care Division could only regain credibility through a thorough vetting by an independent authoritative agency. On February 27, 2008, the Broward County Commission agreed in an 8-0 decision to pay $30,000 to the National Animal Control Association (NACA) for an independent assessment of the department. Although Commissioners debated whether the county should consider a “no-kill” policy for its two animal shelters, the issue died when a proposal to table the item until the commission’s next meeting was deadlocked by a 4-4 vote.
The Broward County Animal Care and Regulation Division has been reborn. It now operates in the humane rational manner that everyone mistakenly thought it had all along. This is only true because Commissioner Keechl decided to expose and clean up a disgraceful embarrassment in his county government back yard instead of sweeping it under the nearest rug. In his November Newsletter, he deservedly takes credit for cleaning up the agency and more importantly, keeping his word. - [editor]*
“Fixing Broward County’s Animal Control Program”
by Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, District 4
COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
When you elected me to be your County Commissioner, I made several important promises to you. First, I promised never to raise your property tax rate. Second, I promised to be an environmentally sensitive, business-friendly Broward County Commissioner. As my voting record indicates, I have kept those promises.
But I made another important promise to you as well. I promised to be your eyes and ears while serving as your County Commissioner. I promised to be responsive to your concerns. If something was wrong at the County level, I promised to investigate it and, if possible, remedy it.
With that last promise in mind, I would like to utilize this month’s article to update you with regard to an appalling situation that several of you brought to my attention: alleged animal abuse and incompetency at Broward County’s animal shelters.
As an animal lover and owner, I was skeptical. Animal abuse at our own taxpayer funded shelters? Unthinkable. Nevertheless, I reviewed the transcript of the television program and demanded an immediate in-house investigation. The in-house investigation revealed numerous appalling practices including: euthanizing cats in front of other cats; mistreating animals by a few employees who inflicted unnecessary pain and utilized unnecessary force; improperly estimating the amount of euthanizing drugs because of the lack of scales; improperly utilizing expired drugs; failing to use sufficient diligence when examining impounded animals for traceable identification; and the improper handling of deceased animals.
FORT LAUDERDALE EUTHANASIA ROOM
To say that I was (and still am) appalled was an understatement. While I believed the in-house investigation to be thorough, I nevertheless demanded an outside review of Broward County’s entire Animal Care & Regulation Division by a nationally recognized program: the National Animal Control Association (NACA). My colleagues on the County Commission unanimously agreed. I am pleased to report that the outside review is now completed, and the Commission convened a special two hour workshop in late October to deal exclusively with the recommendations of NACA.
NACA’s report is extensive and eye-opening. It can be viewed at www.broward.org/animal. Space limitations preclude me from discussing the report’s findings and recommendation in detail. But suffice it to say that many of the problems outlined above were confirmed, and others were uncovered.
Because of your concerns, these appalling practices have been stopped, people have been fired, and, in one case, the State Attorney’s office was notified. Because of your concerns, Broward County’s Animal Control Program is on its way to becoming the type of program Broward’s residents (and their pets) deserve.
Much progress has been made, and I believe this unfortunate episode is behind us. Again, as your County Commissioner, I am your eyes and ears at the Broward County Commission level. If something needs fixing, let me know. Remember, I work for you.
My best to you and your families,
Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.
December 4, 2008 - The Galt Mile Reading Center - one of our local “gems” - will soon be closed for approximately one to two weeks. A popular improvement project to expand the facility was repeatedly raped by Murphy’s Law during the past few years. Broward County leasing specialists rented space adjacent to the Reading Room to accommodate the expansion. Unfortunately, they forgot to check the premises. WHOOPS! The floor and one of the two ceilings were loaded with asbestos! If disturbed, the toxic cocktail would precipitate a virtual mesothelioma epidemic among Reading Center fans.
The Broward Public Works Department’s Real Property Section houses two ancillary components called Asset Leasing Services and Due Diligence Services. Asset Leasing Services is used by the Real Property Section in its capacity as the County’s professional advisor for the leasing of Broward County property, or the leasing of non-Broward County property for Broward County business - such as the Reading Room. Due Diligence Services enables the Real Property Section to act as the County’s real estate advisor in conducting adequate and professional research into and reporting of factors that could affect the use and market value of real property. Both County Services are theoretically required to apply “professional real estate standards and methods in accordance with Florida Statutes, Broward County Code, and Broward County Administrative Code.” Whoever negotiated the Reading Room expansion lease dropped the ball.
In 2005, $471,200 was plunked into the county budget for the expansion ($370,000 for renovation of the new space, $66,000 for furniture and equipment and $35,200 for the rent). On March 21, 2006, the County Board approved a 2,200 sq. ft. lease with landlord Sharon Manelas for the property at 3411 Galt Ocean Drive at a rental rate of $19.08 per sq. ft. for the first year and increasing 3% thereafter. The term ran from April 20, 2006 to June 30, 2009 and cost $3,500 a month with additional operation and maintenance costs estimated at $3 per square foot. The Broward Board simultaneously amended the lease of the existing Reading Room location at 3405 Galt Ocean Drive, giving $6500 to the landlord for the Tenant’s right to make structural modification to the leased premises for the purpose of ingress and egress between the existing library and the adjacent expansion space. Since the Real Property Section neglected to verify the environmental adequacy of the premises, the asbestos wasn’t discovered until October 2006, when the Construction Management Division hired hazardous construction materials specialist Advanced Industrial Hygiene Services to ascertain the extent to which the facility was infused with the toxic fire retardant.
BROWARD COMMISSIONER KEN KEECHL
Since first discovered, the asbestos dilemma was investigated continuously by Property Management, Construction Management and the County Attorney throughout 2006 and 2007. When asked by the “Friends of the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Room” and the Galt Mile Community Association to investigate the lack of progress, Commissioner Ken Keechl surmised that if the county couldn’t devise a cost-effective strategy for using the additional space, it should get out of the lease. In September 2007, Property Management, the Libraries Division, the County Attorney and Construction Management decided jointly to restrict use of the leased space to library offices and storage instead of implementing the more ambitious renovations that were initially anticipated or escaping the lease. The rationale for this strategy centered on the fact that if the asbestos is left undisturbed, it will remain benign. This scaled back compromise seemed appropriate since the lease will terminate on June 30, 2009 and the cost of the original renovation was inordinately high given the area’s utilization limitations.
In January, 2008, after the Friends of the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Room advised Commissioner Keechl that using the tainted space for offices and some programs is better than nothing, they requested that he help “jump start” the project. In February, Facilities Maintenance Division reevaluated the renovation plans and their prospective cost at Keechl’s behest. Simultaneously, Keechl warned Library proponents that the Commission was considering budget cutbacks that threatened the county’s four leased library facilities. Fortunately, the Reading Room was given a fiscal reprieve, allowing further consideration of the expansion compromise.
No one ever accused Broward County of acting precipitously. Following a frustrating six month hibernation period, Friends of the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Room President Herman Gardner asked Commissioner Keechl to take the pulse of the comatose Reading Room project. At Keechl’s request, Library Division Director Bob Cannon summarized the Reading Room’s status in an October 30th response to Gardner. Cannon’s message to the Galleon resident was as follows:
Dear Mr. Gardner:
This is a follow up to your letter to Commissioner Keechl about the Reading Center and the progress concerning the many renovation projects for that library.
GALT READING CENTER COMPUTERS
As you know, we previously agreed that certain improvements to the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center would be made. Several improvements have been made already and several others are pending.
The laptop computers have been delivered. We intend to provide more stacking meeting room chairs and will send an order in November. We have re-wired the kitchen to accommodate the copy machine. The facility has been re-carpeted and painted throughout. We have worked up the shelving improvement plan and have submitted that to our purchasing division for processing and ordering, which should occur in November. The shelving vendor won’t manufacture the shelving until he has the specifications and order in hand.
We hope to move the Public Art by the entrance, where the Friends want a bulletin board. If we are allowed to move the art, the bulletin board will be provided. We have ordered a certain number of shelves in the new shelving order to accommodate CD’s. We don’t think the purchase of the large panels for art in the meeting room is feasible. The room is too small for these panels.
The order for the pull down screen and ceiling mounted projector was awarded to a vendor August 8. We have not received the equipment and have not scheduled installation for these improvements as of this writing.
RESIDENTS ENJOY READING CENTER
As I told you in our phone conversation, we won’t be able to order the shelving until sometime in November and the manufacturing of the shelving and its delivery will take several months before installation. When the shelving and audio-visual systems arrive, the installation of these items will disrupt library operations but only for a short while.
We understand your frustration and the needs related to the use of the meeting room and the high attendance you are experiencing for all the many programs you provide. We are in circumstances that we must meet the needs of the audience the best we can until all the improvements are installed. This is going to take several months.
We appreciate the support of the Friends over all these many years and will work with you cooperatively in the interim as these improvements are fully implemented. I apologize for our slow processes and many procedures but all of them are in place to protect the taxpayers, by making sure our bidding requirements are fair and professional and the vendors selected are qualified and thorough in their work.
When juxtaposed with the nearly $100 K in unrequited rental expense, Cannon’s intimation that the inexcusable delays suffered during this fiasco are somehow beneficial to Broward taxpayers drips with irony. Although Cannon is not responsible for the Real Property Section’s failure to perform an initial environmental assessment of the asbestos laden premises, it shouldn’t have taken almost three years to implement an alternative use plan or relocate the project to a space devoid of toxic construction pitfalls.
CITY MANAGER GEORGE GRETSAS
The next flicker of progress came in the form of a November 24th letter from Director Cannon to City Manager George Gretsas. The letter was a courtesy notification explaining that the Galt Mile Reading Room would be will be closed to the public for approximately one week in the near future for library improvements (installation of more shelving to accommodate additional library materials). Cannon told Gretsas that when an exact date was determined, he would issue a news release and again flag the City Manager.
GALT OCEAN MILE READING CENTER
It appears that we will soon be awakening from this 3 year nightmare. During the past 8 months the Galt Mile Community Association web site received dozens of inquiries about the Reading Room from local residents. Many asked why the County initially agreed to lease the contaminated space and others wondered how long the seemingly endless renovation would take. The greatest confusion, by far, was reflected in questions asking why the county didn’t eighty-six the tainted lease after learning about the asbestos and rent an alternative space more conducive to flexible long term use. In view of the extremely abbreviated term remaining on the lease and the limiting impact of the center’s construction obstacles, the question was often accompanied by theories about the participants’ motives that presumed varying levels of greed and/or incompetence. It provides little consolation that the smart money is on the latter.
If not for the persistent efforts of the Friends of the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center and Commissioner Keechl, three years of expensive serial blunders would have remained safely couched in a bureaucratic cloud. Nevertheless, if fate smiles, the renovation may be completed before the lease expires.
December 19, 2008 - * The Broward Board of County Commissioners reshuffled their governance deck in November, seating District 3 Commissioner Stacy Ritter as Mayor supported by District 4 Commissioner Ken Keechl as Vice Mayor. In his December 2008 Newsletter, our County Commissioner assures constituents that the additional challenges companion to his new office will not distract Keechl from his District 4 responsibilities. While assisting the Mayor in chairing Board meetings, Vice Mayor Keechl will also represent the County in local, state, national and international venues.
Both elected in 2006, Keechl and Ritter share a commitment to nurturing an environmentally sensitive administration marked by economic development. He intends to press an agenda outlined by Mayor Ritter in her November 18, 2008 acceptance speech. The former Statehouse Representative expressed her intention to morph the Florida East Coast rail corridor into a vital countywide transportation center, create a trucking and rail shipping hub in western Palm Beach County to service Port Everglades and promote the greening of Broward County’s carbon footprint. - [editor]*
“Looking out for District 4 as Broward’s Vice Mayor”
by Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, District 4
VICE MAYOR KEN KEECHL
It’s been a little over two years since you elected me to represent you and your families on the Broward County Commission and my pride and enthusiasm hasn’t lessened in the least. Again, I am honored and humbled by your vote of confidence in me.
MAYOR STACY RITTER
On November 18, 2008, my eight colleagues on the Broward County Commission also bestowed upon me an additional honor: they unanimously elected me to be Broward County’s Vice Mayor for the next twelve months. I can’t remember the last time the Broward County Commissioner for District 4 was actually Mayor or Vice Mayor of Broward County. Obviously, I am honored and humbled by their vote of confidence in me as well.
But while looking out for you and your families, I will be simultaneously assisting our new Mayor, Stacy Ritter, in chairing our Commission meetings, and in representing Broward County locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally. I’m looking forward to the challenge.
FLORIDA EAST COAST RAILWAY
Importantly, Mayor Ritter and I share the common belief that Broward County needs to be both business friendly and environmentally sensitive. We both believe that the Broward County Commission should play an important role in identifying and encouraging the development of our economic engines. Therefore, I will be assisting the Mayor with her stated priorities of: a) accessing the Florida East Coast rail corridor to link Broward’s cities with the airport, seaport, courthouse and transportation centers; b) supporting an inland port in western Palm Beach County to maximize rail and truck shipping opportunities for Port Everglades; and c) “greening” Broward County’s operations by creating a comprehensive plan to substantially reduce Broward’s carbon footprint—in a cost efficient manner.
And, of course, I will continue to further my vision (and our shared vision) for Broward County by advocating for lowering property taxes, eliminating wasteful spending, encouraging a more efficient County government, and continuing the protection of our dwindling green and open spaces.
You and your families deserve nothing less.
Broward County Vice Mayor Ken Keechl
Click Here to access Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl’s official web site, call his office at (954) 357-7004 and/or Click Here to send him an email.
December 27, 2008 - In her December 2008 Newsletter, Commissioner Christine Teel reviews some of the “Galt Mile” challenges she confronted during the past year. The nature of these obstacles predisposed the commissioner to enlist assistance from county and State “counterparts” whose jurisdictions overlap or abut her municipal district. By allying herself with our County Commissioner (Ken Keechl) and State Legislators that also represent her constituents as well as officials in neighboring municipalities (Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Roseann Minnet), Commissioner Teel effectively extended her access to areas ordinarily unavailable to Fort Lauderdale officials. This coalition of mutual interests benefitted each of its participants several times during 2008.
On Commissioner Teel’s recommendation, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission issued a resolution condemning the dangerous project. The neighboring municipalities of Pompano Beach and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea followed suit. Barrier Island Neighborhood Associations and civic groups including the Galt Mile Community Association, the Lauderdale Beach Homeowners Association and the Central Beach Alliance likewise sent resolutions objecting to the gas plant’s proximity to the heavily populated Beach communities.
AFTERMATH OF THE 1944 CLEVELAND NATURAL GAS DISASTER LEFT 131 DEAD, 225 INJURED AND 680 HOMELESS
A December 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) Maritime Security report stated that “the Coast Guard - the lead federal agency for Maritime Security - has insufficient resources to meet its own self-imposed security standards.” At a public meeting convened by the Broward Legislative Delegation, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti complained “We’re already pressed for resources to deal with our day-to-day responsibilities in Port Everglades. Where will the money come from to deal with additional needs? What will happen in case of a catastrophic event? We must have the capability to fight anything that might happen in the port as a result of this project. Where will the resources come from for preparation and readiness, not just response? We were already a terrorist target before this project. This will just add one more target that we’ll have to prepare for.” Enraged that Broward taxpayers would be forced to pay untold millions to protect the assets of a foreign company, Senator Atwater exclaimed“Since Broward is already facing a shortfall, where will the resources come from? This is one of the reasons I recommended to Governor Crist that he veto the project.”
THICKNESS MAP OF THE HUGE MARCELLUS SHALE GAS FIELD CLICK MAP FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Commissioner Teel’s reference to facing future obstacles alludes to an upcoming public meeting that Suez must convene in compliance with its regulatory obligations. Since the Governor will monitor the proceedings to verify that the adjacent communities overwhelmingly oppose the project, the Commissioner has joined with other political and civic leaders in lobbying residents to attend the as yet unscheduled meeting and express their concerns. After meeting with Senator Atwater and Representative Bogdanoff, Governor Crist promised to respond accordingly. Commissioner Teel will notify constituents when Suez divulges the meeting date and location.
The balance of her Newsletter updates community efforts to rehabilitate the Galt Ocean Village Shoppes commercial district. A 2002 neighborhood development plan identified several prerequisites to revitalizing the area, including the attraction of three community “anchors” capable of infusing much needed stability to the “revolving door” merchant population. Following construction of the Beach Community Center, Commissioner Teel was instrumental in establishing Il Lugano as the second major addition to the Galt Ocean Village Shoppes neighborhood. Project expectations were partially fulfilled in 2008 when Il Lugano worked with the City and area residents to help upgrade NE 34th Street along the commercial district’s northern border.
Galt Mile Civic Icon Dr. Alex Leeds
In lamenting the passing of civic leader Dr. Alexander Leeds in October, Commissioner Teel framed an unexpected obstacle to further area development. Alex was one of the development plan’s original founders. He was also involved with a failed attempt to solicit developer Opus South to provide the third community anchor. Plans to develop the former La Reserve property next to the Oakland Park Bridge, upgrade Fire Station 54 at 3200 NE 32nd Street and otherwise improve the 32nd Street area were frozen when Opus South reversed its corporate policy and abandoned the project. While searching for a credible replacement, he recently secured municipal financing for future area improvements. His passing left a palpable leadership vacuum in the Galt Merchants Association, the platform from which Dr. Leeds engineered past improvements and fueled his vision of a vibrant tourist magnet competitive with Las Olas Boulevard. The Commissioner closes optimistically, extolling the Galt Mile’s historical propensity for incubating pro-active leadership and successfully pursuing a responsive community agenda.
From The Desk of
DISTRICT 1 COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL
The holidays are now behind us and a new year is offering fresh opportunities to meet new goals and attain additional accomplishments. I spend time during the holiday season reflecting on the past year to evaluate what I did well, what I could have done better and what should be done during the upcoming year. The end of each year is also a good time to consider my relationships with others, both professional and personal, to determine how they can be improved.
COMMISSIONERS TEEL & KEECHL TEAM UP
In 2008 I had the pleasure of enhancing my relationships with other politicians who shared my desire and commitment to improve the quality of life for the residents of Fort Lauderdale, and particularly for those who reside or do business in the Galt Mile area. I fostered relationships with State Senator Jeff Atwater, State Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff, Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl and Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Mayor Roseann Minnet. All supported my efforts for projects and issues that impacted my constituents on the Galt. We always worked as a team, proving that bi-partisan cooperation is the way to move forward and best meet the needs of our constituents.
PLAZA SOUTH'S BILL CLAIRE SLAMS CALYPSO AT BROWARD LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION MEETING
All the politicians came together, along with a large number of residents, to fight the Calypso Liquid Natural Gas Deepwater Port Project. The Galt Mile Association led the way in educating residents and our local and state representatives about the potential dangers associated with the installation of the project. Bill and Theresa Claire, residents of Plaza South, dedicated countless hours to the effort that included presentations to numerous condominiums in the area. We still have work to do, but there is no doubt that the committed group of politicians and residents are ready to face any obstacles to stop the project from being installed off our beautiful beach.
The year 2008 was particularly active on the Galt and I would like to thank the many residents who participated to help improve the area. Il Lugano successfully opened and is now a thriving new addition to the area. The residents of Coral Ridge Towers and I worked together with the developer and city staff to ensure compatibility with the neighborhood. We were able to have new landscaping and lighting installed on NE 34th Street that has enhanced the beauty and safety for the residents. Input from residents and businesses enabled the city to move forward with alleyway improvements and parking by the Galt Ocean Shoppes, which are necessary to encourage economic development for the area.
There are many other individuals who have worked hard to make the Galt Mile neighborhood a beautiful community. We are very fortunate to have so many residents and businesspeople that commit their time to enhance their surroundings. I would like to thank everyone for their interest and concern for their city and community.
I wish everyone a new year filled with good health and happiness.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions. I can be reached at city hall at (954) 828-5004 or by e-mail at email@example.com.