GMCA HOME MAIN PAGE Associations Directors Governance Laws & Statutes Issues
Newsletters Calendar Market Page Vendors Forum Report Card Archives Site Map Contact
LINKS PAGE Finance News Weather Government Directions Travel Dining Entertainment Search

The historical content of the Galt Mile Community Association’s Web Site is catalogued and chronicled in these archives. This content is comprised of articles and anecdotes that are no longer current, but may be useful from a historical perspective.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Please Note - Many of the links included in these articles from the past are no longer active.


The "411"
Free Directory Assistance

Regency Tower President Dott Nicholson-Brown
January 4, 2009 - In most associations, conscientious Board members ordinarily jump on any opportunity to save money. In
the Regency Tower, the Board members are all afflicted with an unrelenting compulsion to aggressively hunt down these opportunities. For eight years, President Dott Nicholson-Brown applied tactics she learned while researching inventories for the U.S. Army to save the association $millions. After spending 14 hours in the office emotionally lambasting vendors into trimming prices, she walks the premises turning off lights in unoccupied areas. Assistant Treasurer Bill Tannenbaum successfully tortured the workers comp insurance carrier into issuing overcharge credits by plastering them with enough evidentiary documentation to cause permanent brain damage. Dee Lanzillo doubled the size of the gym using in-house labor and home cooking. When Iris Anastasi found the following little tidbit and sent it to the President, Dott labeled it “Good Info” and promptly distributed it to the immediate world. While riddled with what sounds like marketing hype, the email was embedded with the following message:

This is something you will want to have and use! I still remember when the telephone company charged me $1.50 to get a phone number from information! My compliments to Google! Just leave it up to Google to come up with something like this!!!

Here’s a number worth putting in your cell phone, or your home phone speed dial: 1-800-goog-411. This is an awesome service from Google, and it’s free -- great when you are on the road.

Don’t waste your money on information calls and don’t waste your time manually dialing the number. I am driving along in my car and I need to call the golf course and I don't know the number. I hit the speed dial for information that I have programmed.

The voice at the other end says, “City & State.” I say, “Garland, Texas.” He says, “Business, Name or Type of Service.” I say, “Firewheel Golf Course.” He says, “Connecting” and Firewheel answers the phone. How great is that? This is nationwide and it is absolutely free!

Following this intriguing anecdote, the storyteller recommends clicking on a link to “” and watching a brief demo of the free service. The message closes with the admonition to “Put 800-GOOG-411 in your phone to get telephone numbers of people anywhere free.”

Although seemingly scripted by a third rate PR wannabe, the point is well taken. A quick trip to the web site revealed the engineering behind this new service. In a nutshell, GOOG-411 is Google’s new 411 service. With GOOG-411, you can find local business information completely free, directly from your phone by calling 1-800-466-4411 (1-800-GOOG-411) anytime. Currently, GOOG-411 is only available in the US and Canada for US and Canadian business listings and English is the only language supported. GOOG-411 can be used from any personal or work phone, whether it is a landline phone, mobile phone or VoIP (web-based) phone. However, calls from pay phones are currently not supported. If you are calling from a mobile device, GOOG-411 can even send you a text message with more details and a map simply by saying “Text message” or “Map it.” Keep in mind that features like the text messaging or mapping commands will only work from a mobile phone. Residential information is not available at this time. You should not use GOOG-411 to seek emergency help, since the service is not able to provide your location information to emergency service providers. If you have an emergency, please dial “911” or your local police/fire department.

VoIP Service
VoIP Phones - OK
You don’t need a computer, an Internet connection, or even the keypad on your phone or mobile device. GOOG-411 is voice-activated, so you can access it from any phone (mobile or land line), in any location, at any time (except for pay phones). While your telephone company may apply usual contractual charges for making a phone call or receiving an SMS (Short Message Service or text message), you will not be charged any additional 411 fee for the service.

No Pay Phone Support
Pay Phones Aren't
Supported - YET!
Using the service is largely intuitive. Just call 1-800-GOOG-411 (that's 1-800-466-4411) and say where you are and what you’re looking for. GOOG-411 will connect you with the business you choose. Since you will be speaking with an automated system, these hints will help: At any point during the call, you can go back by saying “Go back.” Similarly, you can start over by saying “Start over,” or pressing (*) - the asterisk. When you are prompted for your query, use the full names when describing the city and state and business name or business category (for example, “Nick’s Italian Restaurant Fort Lauderdale Florida.”) If you’re having trouble finding the exact name of the business, try saying a category. For example, instead of saying, “Nick's Italian Restaurant,” just say, “Italian Restaurant.” To enter a zip code, either speak the numbers or enter them with the keypad. To spell out a business name, press the (1) key and use the keypad to spell the name.

After receiving results, you can elicit additional information. To get more details, say “details” and to get help, say “help.” If using a cell phone, you can also receive an SMS by saying “text message” or a map link by saying “map it.” GOOG-411 uses listing information provided by Google Maps. Of course, texting will only work if your mobile phone has text message functionality.

Corporate or commercial network operators can use GOOG-411 to provide 411 services to their employees and customers under the certain conditions. First, users should be directed to 1-425-296-4774 instead of 1-800-466-4411 and no additional charge may be levied for using this service. Also, Google reserves the right to suspend or terminate access to the service at any time, provides the service “as is” and does not guarantee service availability. Corporate or commercial network operators are responsible for insuring that their users are aware of GOOG-411’s privacy practices.

For those of you whose fear of identity theft borders on paranoia, Google adheres to the US Safe Harbor privacy principles. To operate and audit their service, Google collects and stores the phone number, along with the time and duration of your call and the options you select each time you use the GOOG-411 service. Google also claims to use your phone number to distinguish you from other users, and ultimately, to better personalize the service. To improve the voice recognition capabilities of the service, they collect and store a copy of any voice commands you make. Google doesn’t directly link the stored copy of your voice commands with your caller ID and these are automatically rendered anonymous after six months. While they seem to guard against privacy abuse, they operate GOOG-411 using certain third party services. They admit to sharing your data with these third parties only if necessary to operate the service.

Upon connecting to a business through the GOOG-411 service, your caller ID information will become visible to that business. Although Google maintains that they will not share your information with anyone except in the limited circumstances as outlined in their privacy policy, there are a couple of ways you can control the way they collect and store information from your calls. First, to delete any information they’ve associated with your phone number in the past, press the star (*) key at the beginning of your next call to GOOG-411. When presented with the privacy menu, press 9 to delete past information associated with your phone number. To confirm the requested deletion, enter the given confirmation code when prompted. You can also press star (*) to cancel and return to your search. After you’ve called GOOG-411 several times, you’ll stop hearing the introduction to enter the privacy menu. However, you’ll still be able to press the star (*) key to access the privacy menu.

Click for Fort Lauderdale, Florida Forecast


2017 Archives

2016 Archives

2015 Archives

2014 Archives

2013 Archives

2012 Archives

2011 Archives

2010 Archives

2009 Archives

2008 Archives

2007 Archives

2006 Archives

2005 Archives

2004 Archives

2003 Archives

2002 Archives

2001 Archives

2000 Archives

Tallahassee Archives


2017 Tallahassee Archives

2016 Tallahassee Archives

2015 Tallahassee Archives

2014 Tallahassee Archives

2013 Tallahassee Archives

2012 Tallahassee Archives

2011 Tallahassee Archives

2010 Tallahassee Archives

2009 Tallahassee Archives

2008 Tallahassee Archives

2007 Tallahassee Archives

2006 Tallahassee Archives

2005 Tallahassee Archives

2004 Tallahassee Archives

2003 Tallahassee Archives


Search GMCA or the web
powered by FreeFind

Search GMCA Site
Search the Internet


The New York Times on GMCA...Click Here!

Click to The Washington Post on GMCA

Click to USA TODAY on GMCA

Click to MS/NBC on GMCA

Click to REUTERS on GMCA

Click to The Miami Herald on GMCA

To avoid having any information associated with your telephone number, you can block your caller ID before you call. With many phone services, you can do this by dialing *67 prior to dialing the phone number. In most cases, you can also block your number through the menus on your mobile phone. For specific details on how to block your caller ID, contact your service provider.

In summary, you don’t have to pay for standard directory assistance anymore. 411 is on the house, at least in the US and Canada. Given Google’s predisposition for global outreach, it is reasonable to assume that this service will ultimately extend to the rest of the planet. For additional information and a box of other free services, you can access the Google Mobile Help Center, the Google Mobile Help Forum or the Google Mobile Blog. Give this free service a try by programming the number into your cell and/or home phones. By the way, some goofball on the blog explained that when his outgoing phone service is suspended due to late payments, he places all of his calls through GOOG-411. Hmmm...

Click To Top of Page

New Gas Finds Zap need for Foreign Imports

Click to a Brochure that Describes the Calypso Deepwater Port - DWP Tanker & Facility View from the Beach
January 14, 2009 - The
foreign-owned company seeking an additional outlet for its liquefied natural gas (LNG) has contracted with an army of lobbyists and public relations firms. GDF-Suez, the French parent of the Calypso project hired the lobbyists to influence Governor Crist, the only person empowered to veto the 18-story gasworks planned for installation off the Galt Mile beach. Since the Governor has repeatedly demonstrated sympathy for the plight of Florida communities facing the type of fiscal, civic and corporeal threats posed by the Calypso gas plant, they announced in early 2008 their plan to mold public opinion to promote their agenda.

3 Weekly LNG Convoys That Cost Taxpayers $250,000 Apiece
The multi-million dollar ad campaign created by Bill Rubin’s high end RBB Public Relations firm spewed dozens of full page newspaper advertisements featuring glossy pictures of hypnotically serene oceanscapes suggesting that a fire-belching natural gas plant would naturally complement any thriving marine ecosystem. While claims of compatibility with the surrounding marine environment were superimposed on the pictures, conspicuously absent were tri-weekly convoys of diesel guzzling LNG tankers surrounded by 8 to 10 support vessels plowing through the prime spawning and nursery area for sailfish, marlin, swordfish, dolphin, baby sea turtles, and dozens of other important marine species. After Calypso turns their spawning grounds into a maritime superhighway, visitors will still be able to purchase picture post cards of those species or view monuments to modern taxidermy in the International Game Fishing Association Museum.

Click to the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety Distrigas Violations The Suez PR spin also contended that LNG plant catastrophes wherein hundreds died from 2000 BTU fireballs were “statistically insignificant”, fines levied by the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety for a litany of security violations in the company’s only other U.S. LNG plant (Distrigas in Everett, Massachusetts) were “misunderstandings” and residents should take comfort in knowing that the Coast Guard is charged with protecting the French company’s assets - despite sworn Congressional testimony by Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen that the Coast Guard lacks the resources to protect LNG facilities. After learning that Broward taxpayers would be forced to finance the $millions required to protect the assets of the French GDF-Suez conglomerate, Senate President Jeffrey Atwater disparaged Calypso’s parent for not revealing the unfunded mandate on his constituents, exclaiming, “That’s why I recommended to the Governor that he veto this dangerous project.”

Stagnant $1.4 billion Cheniere Energy Sabine Pass LNG facility in Cameron Parish Louisiana
Major aspects of the Suez PR campaign are summarized on the Suez Calypso web site. It says, “More LNG imports will reduce the impact that rising energy prices are having on American industry and the American consumer.” Their claim that LNG imports will reduce energy prices is patently untrue. A similar $1.4 billion LNG facility built by Cheniere Energy in Cameron Parish, Louisiana in 2007 sat stagnant during its first year of operation. American buyers on the spot market refused to purchase the outrageously expensive LNG imports. When asked whether the LNG handled at the Calypso Deepwater Port would fiscally benefit Broward residents, Suez official Tom Allen answered “It would not,” admitting instead, “It would go to the highest bidder.”

LNG Tanker
The LNG industry’s sudden proliferation resulted from a unique marriage of economic, political and technological factors. For years, natural gas was considered an oil industry waste product. It was either burned off at the refinery or pumped into the ground to help pressure more productive retrieval from existing oil reserves. When the technology was developed to freeze the gas to -260 degrees F and reduce its volume by a factor of 600, the liquefied product became economically viable to transport and store. After initially enjoying the fiscal and environmental benefits of this suddenly exploitable source of energy, exporting countries began imposing OPEC-like price controls to maximize their finite reserves.

Gas Prices Skyrocket Simultaneously, domestic sources were drying up. Importing countries faced with energy shortages had to buy LNG despite skyrocketing prices. In 2007, when Japan lost several nuclear plants to earthquakes and Spain lost utilization of its extensive hydroelectric power to a drought, they were forced to replace those resources with high priced LNG imports. Prices soared from less than $2 per thousand cubic feet in 1999 to more than $13 as recently as last July. The United States, facing diminishing domestic energy reserves, had to decide between exploiting reserves in environmentally sensitive areas and bringing in overpriced LNG. Serious consideration was being given to drilling in historically protected ecosystems such as the Florida coast, Rocky Mountain preserves and pristine Alaskan tundra.

Click to December 2007 Government Accounting Office (GAO) Maritime Security report As expressed by Statehouse Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff in her June 2008 Newsletter, tax dollars would be better spent developing alternative energy technologies than either financing weapons stockpiles for oil and gas exporting countries expounding policies hostile to the United States or funding protective umbrellas for foreign-owned LNG fleets and facilities. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Roseann Minnet said, “If we continue down this path, we will see increased harm to our environment and rising energy costs. Wind, solar and ocean energy are plentiful in our area. Florida’s future is energy self-sufficiency, not continued dependence on foreign fossil fuels.” Referring to concerns expressed by the General Accountability Office (GAO), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Pentagon that Calypso would be of primary interest to organizations like Al-Qaeda, Minnet continued, “Wind turbines and solar panels are not attractive targets for terrorists.” Clean energy proponents first had to resolve a demotivating dilemma. Since energy analysts agree that these green vehicles are a decade from large scale economic viability, what acceptable interim energy alternative would keep our big screen televisions pumping out 600 channels?

Again, technology came to the rescue! American natural gas production is rising at a clip not seen in decades, depressing natural gas prices and reversing conventional wisdom that U.S. gas fields were in irreversible decline. What’s more, this is being accomplished without invading irreplaceable natural resources. The new drilling boom uses advanced technology to release gas trapped in huge shale beds found throughout North America - gas believed just a decade ago to be out of reach.

horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and hydraulic fracturing techniques This energy panacea resulted from widespread application of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and hydraulic fracturing techniques to access previously irretrievable gas deposits locked in the shale beds. Horizontal drilling, or slant drilling, allows producers to drill laterally beneath cities and neighborhoods. An excellent vehicle for accessing moderate yield reserves spread over hundreds of square miles, horizontal well drillers extract natural gas from vertical fractures in the shale, through the shale pores in which natural gas is trapped, and through absorbed minerals and grains in the shale. Large amounts of water and sand are blasted at the shale, inducing a fracture which provides access to the gas when the water is pumped back out. Extracting gas from shale beds is far more productive and less damaging to the environment than the elusive, costly process of crushing shale rock to produce a form of crude oil.

Black and Brown Marcellus Shale
The trend has significant short and long-range implications for U.S. consumers and businesses. A sustained increase in gas supplies would slow the rise of utility bills, obviate the need for gas imports (including liquefied natural gas delivered in tankers), and make energy-intensive industries more competitive. Energy companies are locked in serious competition for access rights to these abundant new gas reserves, setting off the current sharp increase in leasing and drilling activity.

The Marcellus Shale in the Appalachian Basin
Black or brown shales are types of sedimentary rock, high in organic matter, found beneath millions of acres in the United States. These gas-holding shale beds often span several states. The rock has been known for more than a century to contain gas, but it was considered virtually worthless until a decade ago because standard vertical wells would produce gas for a brief period before dying out. The Barnett shale bed - with reserves of 2.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas, and as much as 30 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas resources (as per the U.S. Geological Survey) - was the first shale field to undergo major development using the new technologies. Its output has increased tenfold since 2001 and currently produces 7% of the nation’s gas supply. Anaerobic bacteria that feed on the former organic inhabitants of what used to be a shallow inland ocean in the Fort Worth basin excrete methane - the primary component of natural gas. It’s just one of at least 24 shale beds in North America. Major shale oil beds in the U.S. include the Chattanooga Shale on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, the Fayetteville Shale of northcentral Arkansas, the Bakken Formation in the U.S. portion of the Williston Basin of Montana and North Dakota, the Woodford in eastern Oklahoma, the Green River Piceance basin in Colorado as well as Utica, Antrim and more than a dozen others. At least two other shale formations, the Haynesville in Louisiana and Texas and the Marcellus in the Appalachian Basin stretching from New York through West Virginia in the Eastern United States, are even larger, classified as super giant fields.

Chairman and Chief Executive Aubrey K. McClendon of the Chesapeake Energy Corporation (CHK)
“It’s almost divine intervention,” quipped chairman and chief executive Aubrey K. McClendon of the Chesapeake Energy Corporation (CHK). “Right at the time oil prices are skyrocketing, we’re struggling with the economy, we’re concerned about global warming, and national security threats remain intense, we wake up and we’ve got this abundance of natural gas around us.” Chris Ruppel, an analyst at the institutional brokerage firm Execution, said “Shale is the most significant domestic natural gas find in 50 years, which means the United States will become gas independent, and more industrially competitive versus Europe for gas-intensive industries such as chemicals, fertilizer, smelting iron and aluminum.”

Click to Execution Desk Analyst Chris Ruppel More than half of U.S. homes use natural gas for heating purposes and the cost of oil is substantially higher than it was a year ago. In recent months, however, increased natural gas production - spurred by the addition of shale sources - has actually caused gas prices to decouple from oil. Natural gas prices have plummeted 40% since July of 2008, while the price of crude is down slightly more than 18%.

Deutsche Bank Analyst Shannon Nome
“Production is clearly growing, and the growth is sustainable,” said Michael Zenker, a natural gas analyst at Barclays Capital. A Deutsche Bank report, by the analyst Shannon Nome, recently estimated that production from the eight largest shale fields was likely to hit 6.6 billion cubic feet (Bcf) a day this year, or 11.8 percent of national gas production, and then rise to 14.5 billion cubic feet a day by 2011 — almost a quarter of domestic production. These statistical objectives are within reach right now, and the surface has barely been scratched for domestic shale gas resources. “It’s hard for me to believe we will have more domestic gas production in six years than we have now,” said Chip Johnson, president and chief executive of Carrizo Oil and Gas, a Houston company involved in several of the shale fields.

Click to Navigant Consulting, Inc Click to Navigant Consulting Report Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NCI) is an independent specialty consulting firm that provides professional services to government agencies, legal counsel and large companies facing the challenges of uncertainty, risk, distress and significant change. According to a recent report by Navigant Consulting entitled A New North American Ocean of Natural Gas, there could be as much as 842 trillion cubic feet of retrievable gas in shales around the country, enough to supply about 40 years’ worth of natural gas, at today’s consumption rate or 118 years’ worth at today’s production rate. Paid for by a foundation allied with the gas industry (cleverly spun as The American Clean Skies Foundation - ACSF), the report is a summary of an acclaimed 89-page benchmark Navigant study also funded by ACSF entitled North American Natural Gas Supply Assessment. On point, there is more than enough available domestic natural gas to bridge the gap between production and demand until alternative fuels become economically feasible - even if it takes decades.

Click to Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) web site Since the pipeline to transport this domestic natural gas already exists, we are faced with a simple decision. Until green energy becomes a viable alternative, do we want to purchase overpriced natural gas from Trinidad, Algeria, Iran, Libya and Oman, molest Fort Lauderdale’s maritime resources (the single largest contributor to the municipal tax base), pay $millions in additional taxes to protect the assets of a French company and live with the daily threat of catastrophic conflagration? Alternatively, should we buy domestic energy that isn’t price-controlled by the OPEC-like Gas Exporting Countries Forum that was formed in Teheran in 2001 and last met in Moscow on December 23, 2008? Hmmm… this is a tough one!

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California
Senior Democrats in Congress are getting behind domestic natural gas, portraying it as an alternative fuel for transportation that can serve as a stopgap until renewable sources of energy, like solar and wind power, become economical on a broad scale. During an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, House speaker Nancy Pelosi of California clarified a Wall Street Journal allegation that her investment in a company producing natural gas for automobiles was not a conflict of interests. She stated, “You can have a transition with natural gas that is cheap, abundant and clean. I’m investing in something I believe in.” Curiously, the Wall Street Journal was not particularly troubled by Dick Cheney’s blind trust packed with enough shares of Halliburton to sink a ship while he cleared the way for corporate contract extensions.

The greatest threat to the advancement of alternative energy resources comes from vested political interests that benefit from high oil and gas prices and irresponsible consumption, bordering on abuse. Preventing the passage of another decade marked by little or no developmental progress will require the rerouting of support and resources traditionally earmarked for the fossil fuel industry. On the bright side, improved prospects for a comprehensive housecleaning at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) could pave the way for cheap, clean, abundant energy – a springboard to economic recovery.

Click To Top of Page

Anti-Calypso Letters and Resolutions


  • Click Here to read the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Resolution opposing Calypso (Adobe PDF File) Click to Adobe Web Site to download free Acrobat Reader
  • Click Here to read the City of Pompano Beach Resolution opposing Calypso (Adobe PDF File) Click to Adobe Web Site to download free Acrobat Reader
  • Click Here to read the Central Beach Alliance Resolution opposing Calypso - Template (Word Document) .
  • Click Here to read the Galt Ocean Club Condo Association Resolution opposing Calypso - Template (Word Document) .
  • Click Here to read the Playa del Mar Condo Association Resolution opposing Calypso - Template (Word Document) .
  • Click Here to read the Plaza South Condo Association Resolution opposing Calypso (Adobe PDF File) Click to Adobe Web Site to download free Acrobat Reader
  • Click Here to read the Las Olas Beach Club Condo Association Resolution opposing Calypso - Click on "View", then "Rotate View", then "Counterclockwise" (Adobe PDF File) Click to Adobe Web Site to download free Acrobat Reader
  • Click Here to Download a Condo Association Resolution Template opposing Calypso - Download and/or Print and Complete (Word Document) .


  • Click Here to read the Galt Mile Community Association’s letter to Governor Crist requesting that he veto Calypso - Template (Word Document) .
  • Click Here to read the Central Beach Alliance’s letter to Governor Crist requesting that he veto Calypso - Template (Word Document) .
  • Click Here to read City Commissioner Christine Teel’s letter to constituents condemning Calypso (Adobe PDF File) Click to Adobe Web Site to download free Acrobat Reader
  • Click Here to read Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl’s letter to Governor Charlie Crist condemning Calypso (Adobe PDF File) Click to Adobe Web Site to download free Acrobat Reader
  • Click Here to read Statehouse Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff's letter to Governor Crist requesting that he veto Calypso (Adobe PDF File) Click to Adobe Web Site to download free Acrobat Reader
  • Click Here to read State Senator Jeffrey Atwater's letter to Governor Crist requesting that he veto Calypso (Adobe PDF File) Click to Adobe Web Site to download free Acrobat Reader
  • Click Here to read State Senator Jeffrey Atwater's 2nd letter to Governor Crist requesting that he veto Calypso (Adobe PDF File) Click to Adobe Web Site to download free Acrobat Reader
  • Click Here to read State Senator Jeffrey Atwater's letter to SUEZ Dan McGinnis disparaging his last minute venue change to Dania (Word Document) .
  • Click Here to read Congressman Ron Klein's letter to constituents opposing Calypso (2007 Word Document) .
  • Click Here to read Oakland Park Commissioner Suzanne Boisvenue's letter to constituents opposing Calypso (Word Document) .

Critical Data

  • Click Here to read the No Calypso! White Paper - Comprehensive Compilation of Critically Important Calypso Information (Word Document) .
  • Click Here to access all the Background Information and Official Government Documents relevant to the Calypso Deepwater Port Project and Pipeline
  • Click Here to the Stop Calypso! web site

Click Here
to Extensive list of Additional Pertinent LNG Links

Click To Top of Page

Galt Ocean Mile

2009 Food Drive

Nick’s Italian Restaurant
January 20, 2009 - On January 15th, early in the morning,
Cooperative Feeding Program Executive Director Scott Woodburn met Fort Lauderdale Real Estate proprietor Domenic Faro and headed to Nick’s Italian Restaurant. They weren’t hungry. The food Scott was thinking about wasn’t on the menu. When they arrived, they navigated to the back of the well-known eatery, where Domenic greeted about thirty of his friends and neighbors scattered about the room. However, Scott and Dominic were there on business. They then greeted City Manager George Gretsas, Assistant City Manager David Hébert, City Commissioner Christine Teel and Property Appraiser Media Director Bob Wolfe, who were also there on business. At 11 AM, everyone took their seats as GMCA President Pio Ieraci convened the neighborhood association’s monthly Advisory Board meeting. Pio called on Scott to address representatives from the member associations on the Advisory Board.

Domenic Faro
Scott and Domenic represent Broward County’s lead agency in the provision of services to the hungry and homeless. For 23 years, the Cooperative Feeding Program has provided counseling and support to help economically besieged families out of the throes of difficult times. In November, as Thanksgiving ritually encourages Americans to appreciate their families and reminds us how good it feels to share blessings, we look forward to extending that warm feeling through the Holiday Season. The Cooperative Feeding Program has institutionalized a methodology for accomplishing that. Last Thanksgiving, the CFP fed more than 4,200 families, distributing turkeys, hams, or gift cards. In keeping with modern delivery systems, they implemented a “Drive Through” to efficiently expand outreach. As the economy increasingly victimizes families, lines at The CFP wind further down the sidewalk, often into the street. Close to 200 showers per week are being provided. More than 350 hot meals are distributed each day, along with another 150 sandwiches for lunch.

First Lutheran Church
The program was launched in 1982 when Pastor Luther Anderson of the First Lutheran Church in downtown Fort Lauderdale turned donations from Church members into a small pantry with food for the needy. The neighbors took umbrage when homeless and hungry people pleading for something to eat filled the street. As the service proportionally grew with demand, it had to undergo several relocations and otherwise adapt. Its initial 1987 501(c)(3) certification as a not-for-profit organization was later restructured as a 501(c)(3) Nondenominational, passing both control and outreach from Lutherans to anyone in need - also enabling eligibility for FEMA resources.

Commissioner Teel & Domenic Faro Present Trophy to Edgewater Arms' Annemarie Adams
From the humble beginnings of distributing a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the homeless, to today’s provision of 1.2 million meals a year, the agency’s dramatic development has reflected both the growing numbers and the growing needs of the poor in our community. Operating solely on the funds and gifts generated by socially conscious individuals, businesses and organizations like the Galt Mile Community Association, the Cooperative Feeding Program doesn’t abide corporate conveniences. A remarkably pork-free 8% administrative overhead - audited - means resources are smoothly expedited from donors to hungry families. Rents were paid and move-in costs were provided to help families facing the tragic national disgrace of homelessness. The CFP has entered into formal collaborative service agreements with about 100 agencies, entitling them to prescreen clients for emergency services.

CFP Executive Director Scott Woodburn
Reading from a letter previously sent to each association, Woodburn requested participation in the upcoming 2009 food drive. To compensate for the economic downturn’s impact on families struggling to survive, he suggested that a special effort be made to surpass last year’s record collections. To help stir the formulaic competition meant to incentivize increased contributions, Woodburn reminded the assemblage that little Edgewater Arms, the smallest member of the neighborhood association, handily won last year’s trophy, both for total and per unit contributions. Domenic Faro, a L'Hermitage resident and local business owner who serves as Vice President of the CFP Board of Directors, introduced the program to the Galt Mile neighborhood two years ago. Partnering with the GMCA imparted legs to the annual local event, creating the competitive framework that yielded two consecutive successful food drives. Scott’s address was as follows:

  • A request for you to

  • Be an important part of the 3rd Annual GALT OCEAN MILE

  • Campaign to reduce hunger in Broward County...

6 tons of Galt Mile Food Fills Van
Our 2008 Galt Food Drive, which included 21 Galt Condo Associations, was a huge success. Over 11,000 lbs of food and money donated and the Edgewater Arms was crowned Champion Condo Association.

CFP Poster Once again we are poised to initiate the 3rd Annual Galt Ocean Mile Food Drive. CFP Director and Committee Chair Domenic Faro, of L’Hermitage invites the entire Galt Ocean Mile Condo Association to join our campaign and participate in another exciting Galt Ocean Mile Food Drive.

Walk against Hunger The month of March has been designated the 2009 GALT Ocean Mile Food Drive month. A special “Walk against Hunger” will kick off the month long Food Drive.

Galt Mile Residents Meet at the Winn Dixie
We have the food collection boxes, posters, mail box stuffers and flyers to help you announce the walk and food drive to your residents and provide a description of what types of non-perishable items are needed.

We will also work with each Condo Association to advise you on organizing the food drive, promotional considerations, food collection and handling pick up and delivery to the Cooperative Feeding Program.

Please take a moment to fill out and fax to us the attached form ASAP. We also would appreciate an opportunity to meet with you and make a presentation to your Condo Association at your next meeting. Please RSVP and confirm the date of our appearance before your Board.

Hunger remains a real problem in Broward County as 1 out of 4 goes to bed hungry every night. With your help, fighting it will be as easy as A-B-C!

Scott A. Woodburn
CFP Development

Team Leaders
(last years Grand Champion)

  • Edgewater Arms: Annemarie Adams, Captain

Team Members

  • Coral Ridge Tower Original: Bonnie Leavitt, Captain
  • Coral Ridge Tower South: Dave Jenkins, Captain
  • Coral Ridge Tower East: James Rainey, Captain
  • Fountainhead, Jennifer Donnelly, Captain
  • Galt Towers: Cyndi Songer, Captain
  • L’Hermitage: Domenic Faro, Captain
  • Ocean Summit: Lee Lowenthal, Captain
  • Playa del Sol: Marcella Santiago, Captain
  • Regency South: Isabela Schita, Captain
  • Regency Tower: Michael DeBoury, Captain
  • Ocean Riviera: Ellen O'Neil Captain
  • Southpoint: Rebecca Olshan, Captain
  • Playa del Mar: Rosie Bowers, Captain
  • Ocean Club: Janet Bolt, Captain
  • The Galleon: Darlene Seachrist, Captain
  • Galt Ocean Club: Ramon Camarena, Captain
  • Caribe: Chuck Swinghammer, Captain
  • The Commodore: Ted Rogers, Captain
  • Plaza South: Charles Baldwin, Captain
  • Plaza East: David Beswick, Captain
  • Royal Ambassador: Marty Weinstein & Glen DeAlmo, Captains

Remember this FOOD DRIVE is for the month of MARCH. The food drive begins with the "5K Walk Against Hunger", Sunday, March 1st. An awards party will be scheduled for the first part of April, TBA! The first official food drive pick up will be Friday, March 13th and the last will be Tuesday, March 31st. 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 12,000 lbs. With 22 members this year, the 2009 goal is at least 15,000 lbs.

GOOD LUCK, have a great time, feel proud, be blessed as you are doing God's work.

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.

Click To Top of Page

Commissioner Ken Keechl’s Corner

January 2009 Newsletter

Broward County Judicial Complex
January 26, 2009 - * At the December Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board meeting, Broward County Vice Mayor and District 4 Commissioner
Ken Keechl reviewed several county issues that impact local residents. Immediately following a discussion about frustrating beach renourishment delays, our newly named Vice Mayor segued to a description of the County Courthouse. “The 50 year-old structure is falling apart. Pipes are bursting on a regular basis, the elevators continuously break down and the building is rife with mold.” Fresh in his mind was the most recent implosion.

Clerk of Courts Howard Forman's Damaged Files
On Sunday night, November 30th, a 2-inch break in a water main sent gallons of pressurized water shooting into the Clerk of Courts Howard Forman's office, flooding the first and second floors of the Broward County Judicial Complex in downtown Fort Lauderdale and forcing the cancellation of all proceedings except for emergency bond hearings and filing restraining order petitions. In addition to damaging computers and the phone system, reports and files in the traffic misdemeanor division, administration division and human resources division as well as confidential pleadings were soaked by the flood. Forman said that since none of the files were scanned into the system, unrestorable documents would have to be pieced together from information in other copies or requested from various attorneys. Vice Mayor Keechl told Advisory Board members that the County Commission faces a dilemma. They must decide whether to replace or rehabilitate the deteriorating structure.

Broward County Judicial Complex closed after flooding
Last February, the courthouse closed when a sewer pipe backed up on the third floor, costing the county about $1.2 million. The courthouse also was shuttered for about two weeks when Hurricane Wilma tore through in 2005, shattering about 175 windows and bursting water pipes as rain inundated judges’ chambers, court offices and the jury pool room. The newer north wing was covered by an inch of water. Recently, former state Senator Skip Campbell, has written county commissioners threatening to sue for negligence and violations of state building standards on behalf of judicial aides Patti Buchholtz and Sue Rentel, who claim mold-related symptomatic suffering from breathing impairment and frequent colds.

Wilma blows out courthouse windows
In 2006, voters overwhelmingly rejected a $450 million courthouse bond issue allocating $339 million for a new courthouse and the balance to build 10 more courtrooms and make other improvements - both downtown and in the county’s satellite courthouses. Assistant County Administrator Pete Corwin estimated that a 700,000-square-foot courthouse would cost about $280 million today, with another $25 million needed to add a 1,000-car parking garage. He said, “$60 million has already been already set aside for courthouse construction projects and the garage cost would be offset by increased parking revenues.”

Commissioner Keechl detailed the problems he has with replacing the courthouse. “Broward voters have already told us that they don't want it - and neither do I.” Keechl explained “In 2006, residents ridiculed the notion of spending money to make criminals and lawyers more comfortable. Make no mistake, that is not the issue. We need a courthouse and this one is falling apart. Although replacing it may make sense financially, doing so while so many people can't make their mortgage payments or feed their families is inappropriate.” Resorting to an analogy, Keechl said that if any of us couldn’t afford to replace a badly leaking roof, we would fix it until our fiscal situation improved. “That is what I think we should do,” said Keechl, “make the necessary repairs and when the economy recovers, build a new one.”

Click to Broward Courthouse Task Force Resolution The Vice Mayor’s January Newsletter summarizes the controversy and reviews the County Commission’s current intentions. Amid arguments to place another $350 million Courthouse bond issue on the March ballot (despite the economic environment’s considerable erosion since the failed 2006 attempt), on December 8th, the Commission passed Mayor Stacy Ritter’s Resolution No. 2008, creating the “Courthouse Task Force Advisory Committee” to review the alternatives. Chaired by Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, the committee serves from January 1st through June 30th and will include one or more 17th Judicial Circuit Court judges, representatives of the State Attorney, the Public Defender, the County Clerk, the Office of Court Administration, one or more local attorneys, a resident from the business community and a municipal official.

While the resolution functionally dispensed with proposals by Commissioners Josephus Eggletion and John Rodstrom to place the bond issue on the March ballot, the controversy will be revisited this summer, when the Committee’s report illuminates the comparative costs of repairing or replacing the Court facilities. Given the current fiscal dynamic, the recommendations will likely envision scaled back versions of the ambitious construction projects previously considered. Since new tax dollars will likely be required to fund virtually any of the alternatives, Commissioner Keechl is polishing up his magnifying glass, stocking extra batteries for his calculator and ordering reserves of fingerprint powder to deter excessive access to the County coffers. - [editor]*

“Broward’s Courthouse Problem:
More Taxes Aren’t the Solution”

by Broward County Commissioner & Vice Mayor
Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
Two years ago I decided I wanted to be your County Commissioner. Why? First and foremost, I felt that the residents of Broward County were being overtaxed. Additionally, I felt that the Broward County Commission needed a new focus. More accurately, I felt that the Commission needed to actually have a focus. In my opinion, too many important issues weren’t being adequately addressed.

I have previously written about a few of these issues: the need to expand the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport; the need to reorganize and downsize Broward County’s governmental bureaucracy; and the need for an amendment to Broward’s land use regulations to promote the protection of our dwindling green spaces.

2009 Broward Board of County Commissioners
In the past two years since Mayor Ritter and I were elected, the Broward County Commission has finally addressed each of these issues. Many additional issues have yet to be addressed, but will be over the next two years. For example, we are finally addressing another pressing issue that has been ignored for far too long: our outdated courthouse in downtown Ft. Lauderdale.

Each of the nine Broward County Commissioners agrees that our downtown courthouse is antiquated and in a serious state of disrepair. We have a mold problem. We have bursting water pipes. We have elevators that constantly break down. We have a parking problem. We all agree that action is necessary. However, we don’t all agree on the same course of action.

Broward County Judicial Complex
A few of my colleagues believe we should build a new downtown courthouse and ask the voters to pay for it by allowing the County to increase their tax bill. I strongly disagree. I believe we should renovate the existing downtown courthouse, and pay for it with existing funds. In fact, I successfully argued against placing a courthouse bond issue on your March 2009 ballot. I was absolutely convinced that asking Broward’s residents to increase their tax bills was a mistake. And to add insult to injury, it would have cost us $3,500,000.00 in property tax dollars to put it on the ballot.

Fortunately, sane minds prevailed and the bond issue will not appear on your ballot anytime soon.

Commissioner Ilene Lieberman
Instead, we all agreed to support Mayor Ritter’s proposal to form a Courthouse Task Force. This Task Force will be given wide latitude to investigate and consider every possibility to remedy our downtown courthouse problem. This Task Force will be headed by Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman and will be comprised of those stakeholders who are involved in the judicial system, along with representatives from within Broward’s business community. The Task Force must present its finding and recommendations to the Broward County Commission within 6 months.

I have said it before and I will say it again: I will never vote to increase your taxes. In these trying economic times, we must learn to do more with less. My philosophy has prevailed on the Broward County Commission for the last two years. And I will keep advocating my philosophy for the remaining two years of my first term.

My best to you and your families,

Broward County Commissioner and 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.

Click To Top of Page

SOE Dr. Snipes Warns:

Act before the Book Closes

Broward Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda C. Snipes
February 2, 2009 - On January 23rd, Broward
Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda C. Snipes issued a press release alerting Broward voters to a rapidly approaching critical deadline. The statement opens with “On Tuesday, February 10, 2009, there will be two cities holding Municipal Primary Elections and one city will hold a Special Election. All voters living in Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors, who were registered (within the state of Florida) on or before Tuesday, January 12, 2009, may vote in the scheduled Election on February 10.”

Fort Lauderdale Mayoral Candidates
She clarifies that while Wilton Manors is preparing for a Special Election to fill the Commission seat vacated by Gary Resnick when elected Wilton Manors Mayor last November, Fort Lauderdale and Dania Beach will hold Primary Elections. The elections most impactive to Galt Mile residents are the contest to determine who will represent District 1 on the City Commission and the Mayoral race. Currently held by incumbent Christine Teel, the District 1 Commission seat is also being sought by former Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Bruce Roberts and Attorney Inger Garcia. A covey of candidates hope to replace departing Mayor Jim Naugle. The heated four-way race includes former Statehouse icon Jack Seiler, former City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, local businessman Earl Rynerson and Attorney Steve Rossi, whose citywide bus bench advertisements were painfully folded into a campaign slogan – “Sit on my Face.”

District 1 Commission Candidates
The special significance that Municipal Primaries hold for nervous aspiring candidates is reminiscent of a reaction often associated with “Groundhog Day”. On February 2nd, if the Groundhog perceives a shadow upon exiting the home burrow, it portends six more weeks of winter. Similarly, if a candidate wins less than 50% (+ 1 vote) of the February 10th Primary vote, it portends four more weeks of campaign anxiety. However, if any of these seven local political aspirants knocks one out of the park by cornering half the votes (plus 1) in the February 10th Primary, they win the seat and send the competition packing. There would be no need to endure an increasingly malicious endgame en route to the March 10th Municipal Elections. Probability Theory presumes that the three-candidate Commission race is statistically more apt to generate a Primary knockout than the four-way split facing the Mayoral hopefuls.

March Municipal Elections in Broward County
After affirming that 11 Broward cities will hold Municipal Elections on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, Dr. Snipes explained that “The voter registration books will close at midnight Monday, February 9 for these upcoming elections. Anyone turning in an application to register to vote the first time in Florida after Monday, February 9 will not be eligible to vote on March 10 and will not receive a voter information card until after the election.” Of course, Fort Lauderdale is listed among the 11 Broward cities facing Municipal elections on Tuesday, March 10, 2009. SOE (Supervisor of Elections) Snipes also dropped a caveat, stating “Please note that Florida law does not permit the SOE to process party changes after the books are closed.”

George Bernard Shaw
Although application requests will still be accepted after the books are closed on February 9th, they will not be processed until after the March 10th Election, leaving tardy applicants without a voter identification card and ineligible to participate. While first time Florida voting registrants and residents seeking to change their party affiliation must do so before February 9th to participate in the March 10th contests, requests for address changes (within the county), name changes, replacement cards, etc. will continue to be processed even after the books close. Given the gravity of current bone-crushing fiscal pressures, filling the Commission and mayoral seats with the best available prospects assumes heightened importance. The results of this election could determine whether the City survives this uncharted economic environment or slowly unravels, carrying us down with it.

Elections presuppose that people are conversant with their best interests and will use their vote to insure that those interests are served. When enfeebled by voter apathy, they bear out George Bernard Shaw’s contention that “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” If you enjoy a functional survival instinct, please vote - for all our sakes.

Click To Top of Page

Commissioner Teel New Year Update

Beach Community Center
February 8, 2009 - In her February 2009 Newsletter, City Commissioner Christine Teel addresses three issues, the wide range of activities available at the Beach Community Center, the timely rescue of the Galt Mile Sun Trolley and a testament to a Galt Mile resident who grabbed the bureaucratic bull by the horns. From the opening days of the Beach Community Center, every room was claimed and put to good use by locals with a wide range of ideas and agendas. Responsive to these varied interests, the city sponsored a host of activities in three categories, Health & Wellness, Arts & Culture and Fun & Games.

Galt Mile residents are usually surprised when initially confronted by the literally dozens of classes in Yoga, Pilates, Line and Ballroom Dance, Water Color Painting, Computers, Ping Pong, Bingo, Mahjongg, Bridge and Planned Day Trips to everywhere! Among the dozens of specialized functions, the Property Appraiser holds seasonal Homestead and Senior exemption advisory sessions, AARP conducts Driver Safety Classes and the Commissioner holds bi-weekly Pre-Agenda constituency meetings in preparation for the following day’s City Commission meetings.

Click to Galt Mile Sun Trolley Page
Last year, Broward County was charged with finding $100 million in budget cuts to accommodate the mandated statutory tax cut. Placed on the block were any local bus venues wherein utilization didn’t justify continued operation. The Galt Mile Sun Trolley fell into that category. While the utilization rates were statistically inadequate, those local residents that did use the trolley proclaimed its necessity for their well being. Activities ranging from doctor visits at Holy Cross Hospital to food and pharmaceutical shopping were wholly dependent on the inexpensive public transportation. Commissioners Keechl and Teel lobbied their respective County and City peers, ultimately staying the planned service termination. As a result, the Sun Trolley continued to operate without interruption.

Strapped and Staked Sapling
During 2008, Galt Mile residents sent emails and letters to the Galt Mile Community Association commenting on adverse aspects of the landscaping along Galt Ocean Drive. Several asked why the trees that replaced those decapitated by Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma were dying within one or two years of having been planted. Others questioned the quality of upkeep, focusing on erratically maintained sidewalk beds wherein wood chips surround browning vegetation. Several actually witnessed strollers inadvertently collide with untrimmed tree branches that were low enough to endanger temporarily distracted pedestrians and unsuspecting bicycle enthusiasts.

One complainant, a Commodore resident named José “Chepo” Vega, volunteered to do whatever was necessary to fix the problem. Following the December GMCA Advisory Board meeting, wherein Chepo was appointed as liaison between the Parks personnel assigned to the Galt Mile area and the Neighborhood Association, Commissioner Teel offered to assist with this endeavor. The Commissioner introduced him to the relevant Parks Department officials, several of whom he subsequently escorted on a January 14th guided tour of the block’s landscaping deficiencies. Through his efforts, the problems are currently being resolved. Chepo is representative of the rich diversity of passionate and competent volunteers working together to improve our lives, arguably our neighborhood’s most valuable asset. – [editor]

From The Desk of
Commissioner Teel

Commissioner Christine Teel
We’re only a few weeks into 2009 and already time seems to be flying by. I hope our full and part-time residents are taking advantage of the many activities scheduled at the Beach Community Center. They offer a full calendar with activities for residents of all ages. Several people who take advantage of this resource have mentioned that they appreciate the opportunity to meet new friends in the community outside of their own condominium. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to stop by to talk with the staff and look at the monthly events calendar.

A few months ago I received a disturbing call from one of the residents on the Galt Ocean Mile who was distraught to learn that the TMA trolley was abruptly stopped. The residents, who rely on the trolley for their doctor visits and trips to the mall at Oakland and Federal, had no prior notice that their only means of transportation would cease. I shared the frustration and disappointment with the Galt residents and worked diligently to get Broward County to resume running the trolley the next regularly scheduled day of operation. Funding was restored by Broward County and I will continue to work with the appropriate officials to keep the trolley running for the Galt Mile residents. If you haven’t taken a ride on the trolley I encourage you to try it. Saving on gas and not having to find a parking space are certainly advantages, but it’s also a fun way to get around town.

José 'Chepo' Vega
I would like to thank Jose “Chepo” Vega, a resident at The Commodore, for his commitment to the Galt Ocean Mile community. Jose contacted my office, concerned that the landscaping on the Galt Mile was not being properly pruned and maintained. Branches on the trees were too low, causing a hazard for pedestrians. I contacted the director of our Parks and Recreation Department, requesting that he meet with Jose on the Galt Mile to evaluate his concerns. The result was that Jose’s concerns were valid and his input invaluable. Jose is now assisting our staff to ensure that the landscaping on the Galt Ocean Mile is maintained in a manner that enhances its beauty and longevity.

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

Christine Teel                

To access additional information about the Sun Trolley, the Galt Mile Route and schedule, Click Here. To access the Sun Trolley web site, Click Here. - editor

Click To Top of Page

Grips Florida Condos

President Charles McMillan of the National Realtors Association (NAR)
February 16, 2009 - On January 2, 2009, President
Charles McMillan of the National Realtors Association (NAR) wrote a letter to James B. Lockhart III, the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). The correspondence expressed NAR concerns about why Lockhart had seemingly abandoned his obligation to promote affordable homeownership. McMillan was referring to Fannie Mae Announcement 08-38 “Updated Flow Business Pricing Requirements”, released on December 29, 2008, increasing fees for mortgages purchased or securitized on or after April 1, 2009. Director Lockhart is the federal conservator and regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government sponsored enterprises (GSEs).

Click to the National Realtors Association web site Rather than accusing the federal bureaucrat of abdicating his responsibility or undermining the Florida real estate market’s recently optimistic recovery indicators, he questioned the Agency’s inexplicable policy contradictions. He first reminded Lockhart about his stated policy, explaining “In your prepared statement on September 7, 2008, in connection with announcing the conservatorship, you expressed concern about the negative impact of higher fees being imposed by the government sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the GSEs) to raise capital. At the same time, Secretary Paulson stated that the primary mission of the GSEs under the conservatorship would be to increase mortgage affordability.”

Director James B. Lockhart III of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)
McMillan then contrasted Lockhart’s statements with his actions, saying, “With that as background, we were completely surprised that Fannie Mae has decided to raise fees, especially so significantly. If we are interpreting the announcement correctly, a borrower with a credit score of 670 making a 20% down payment for a condominium would have the fee increased from 150 basis points to 350 basis points—more than double.”

Click to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) web site Packing his objection into a query, McMillan asked, “What is the need for these fee increases? What alternatives were considered? Is the purpose of increasing fees to shift higher risk borrowers to the FHA mortgage insurance program? What will the impact of such a move be in terms of risk and cost to the government and the taxpayer? Why did Fannie Mae decide to raise fees on borrowers, reducing affordability and counter-acting the positive impact of recent reductions in mortgage interest rates, instead of relying on other sources of liquidity announced by the Treasury Department on September 7 and the Federal Reserve Board on November 25?” After framing his complaint as a plea for clarity, the NAR President requested justification for the Agency’s enigmatic decision, intimating a suspicious lack of transparency.

Fannie Mae Washington Headquarters
Fannie Mae is the 600 pound gorilla of the mortgage business. Established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1938 to provide a secondary market for post-Depression Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgages, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) replenished the supply of lendable money. In 1968, Congress amended its Charter, recreating Fannie Mae as a stockholder-owned, privately managed corporation. To rectify its questionably legal status as a shareholder-owned monopoly, in 1970, Congress chartered another government sponsored enterprise (GSE), the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac). Although they don’t directly loan money to homeowners, they ensure that mortgage lenders and brokers are adequately flush with cash to service the home buying public.

Click to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) web site As GSEs, Fannie and Freddie received substantial benefits. They were endowed with access to an astronomical line of credit from the U.S. Treasury (currently $200 billion); exemption from state and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration requirements; exemption from all state and local taxes (except property taxes); and a “gold star” demand for their securities, since the Government gives those securities the same preferred investment status as Treasury debt.

Fannie Face More importantly, the GSEs benefitted from an illusion. Being perceived as having federal backing for their debt – although they do not – has allowed Fannie and Freddie to borrow at near-Treasury rates and sell their securities at better rates than those of purely commercial firms.

Click to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) web site In return for the GSEs’ competitive advantages, Congress demanded that they undertake certain public purpose activities, notably promoting access to mortgages via HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) in underserved urban and rural communities, in minority communities, and to low- and moderate-income families. The GSEs were also expected to help end discrimination in the lending industry.

Click to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight web site In 1992, Congress enacted the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act (FHEFSSA). This Act further separated HUD’s regulation of the GSEs’ public purposes activities from their safety and soundness components by revising the role of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, an independent financial regulator within HUD. It also established a set of interim regulations for the GSEs.

Fannie Oath FHEFSSA, often referred to as the GSE Act, was motivated by concerns over safety and soundness of the GSEs’ financial underpinnings, rather than affordable housing. Nevertheless, due to pressure from housing advocates, the interim regulations did prescribe certain affordable housing standards for the GSEs. The Act requires the Secretary of HUD to assure that the GSEs meet their housing goals and fair lending obligations. It also expanded HUD’s authority to do so. The Secretary was directed to evaluate the interim regulations Congress had crafted and develop new regulations governing the GSEs.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae On February 16, 1995, HUD released its proposed regulations for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The regulations identified regulatory goals for low-and moderate income home purchases; altered the definition of underserved areas, focusing more on neighborhoods in need; and redefined special affordable housing goals. The Act directed HUD to annually examine these goals and the assumptions upon which they are based and thereafter develop new goals consonant with the current economic environment.

Taxpayers Prop Up Lenders Saddled with two mandates that were empirically incompatible – practicing fiscal responsibility while underwriting high risk loans – the stage was now set for a decade of seemingly schizophrenic lending policies. Further inflamed by unrelenting pressure to generate shareholder profits, the GSEs’ loan portfolios became top-heavy with lucrative sub-prime or “toxic” loans. Free from SEC reporting requirements, Fannie and Freddie purchased ordinarily ineligible “nonconforming” high risk instruments bundled with traditional debt, thereby disguising the degree that toxicity burdened their portfolios. Since Fannie Mae-backed loans typically have the best rates and lowest down payments for borrowers, their policies exert a tremendous impact on the lending industry. Perceiving the GSEs’ liberalized portfolio complexion as an unofficial license to print money, commercial lenders further loosened lending requirements, dispensing with traditional and time-tested risk management formulas.

The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management
When the current real estate recession spread across the country, Federal banking authorities timidly admitted that negligible federal oversight was not the panacea they marketed to the borrowing public. Tripping over themselves to finance properties, mortgage bankers emulsified eligibility standards, requiring only that borrowers demonstrate proficiency in finding their advertised telephone number. Entrenched in a euphoric trance-like state, the industry felt justified in ignoring decades-old lessons learned when hedge funds like Long Term Capital Management decomposed – what goes up, must come down.

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

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Christopher Cox, and Federal Housing Authority Director James Lockhart Testify in Congress
Despite September endorsements by Paulson, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, S.E.C. Chairman Christopher Cox, both presidential candidates and the lame duck Administration, Republicans called the Paulson Plan “Financial Socialism” and Democrats likened it to “buying smog on credit.” When asked how Paulson decided that the Treasury should buy $700 billion of bad debt, a treasury spokeswoman told “It’s not based on any particular data point. We just wanted to choose a really large number.”

Click to the Goldman Sachs web site Paulson’s impending return to the private sector spurred suspicions that he was fatally conflicted. While acknowledging that the crisis was ultimately driven by the falling housing market, instead of trying to modify mortgage debt and stabilize the housing market with loans to homeowners facing foreclosure, the former Goldman Sachs CEO provided bailouts for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, institutions that borrowed huge amounts to invest recklessly in the securities and derivatives based on those mortgages. By ignoring the cause (the failing housing market) in favor of the symptom (the crisis among investment banks), Paulson also insured the health of his blind trust – predominantly comprised of Goldman holdings (including his last $38 million compensation package). In addition to having hired Goldman executives as plan advisors, Paulson charged treasury staffer Neel Kashkari, a former vice-president at Goldman Sachs, with administering the bailout funds. By the time that Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, grabbed the reins, Paulson had already spent half the money.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner
Instead of using the funds to facilitate lending as mandated, TARP recipients have treated the program as a no-strings-attached windfall that could be used to pay down debt, acquire other businesses or invest for the future. The Congressional Review Panel created to oversee the TARP concluded on January 9, 2009: “In particular, the Panel sees no evidence that the U.S. Treasury has used TARP funds to support the housing market by avoiding preventable foreclosures.” The panel also concluded that “Although half the money has not yet been received by the banks, hundreds of billions of dollars have been injected into the marketplace with no demonstrable effects on lending.” Not surprisingly, banks that received $295 billion in bailout money spent $114 million on lobbying and campaign contributions during 2008.

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

GSEs Saved After seizing control of Fannie and Freddie last September, the Federal Housing Finance Agency enacted regulations enabling troubled homeowners to renegotiate hundreds of thousands of delinquent loans held by the two GSEs. In November, they offered a plan that emulated measures already instituted by commercial lending giants plagued with self-inflicted loan portfolio losses. Citigroup had already halted foreclosures for borrowers who live in their own homes, have decent incomes and stand a good chance of making lowered mortgage payments. JP Morgan Chase & Co. expanded its mortgage modification program to an estimated $70 billion in loans and Bank of America later loosened repayment terms for the 400,000 loans held by newly acquired Countrywide Financial Corporation.

Click to the Hope Now Streamlined Modification Program web page Since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own or guarantee nearly 31 million U.S. mortgages, or nearly six of 10 loans, the scale of their relief program dwarfed those of their commercial counterparts. It was accessible to borrowers who were at least three months in arrears, owed 90% or more of their home’s current value, lived in the home and hadn’t filed for bankruptcy protection. Several options were made available for payment relief. For example, interest rates could be adjusted to insure that no more than 38 percent of a borrower’s income addressed mortgage expense. Another option extended loans from 30 years to 40 years with interest-free principal deferments.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chair Sheila Bair
Since more than 4 million American homeowners, or 9 percent of mortgage borrowers, were either behind on their payments or in foreclosure, Agency Director Lockhart justified the program’s intent, exclaiming in November “Foreclosures hurt families, their neighbors, whole communities and the overall housing market. We need to stop this downward spiral.” Critics included Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chair Sheila Bair, who characterized the plan as “a step in the right direction but falls short of what is needed.” Financial analysts asserted that it could unintentionally aggravate the problem, postulating that mortgage owners may deliberately withhold payments for three months in order to qualify for relief.

time is money Three weeks after Lockhart’s Federal Housing Finance Agency sent fees skyward, the other shoe dropped. In announcing an unprecedented set of tough new mortgage requirements, Fannie Mae stunned local Associations by limiting the stringent measures to condominium buyers in one state - Florida. South Florida real estate pundits characterized the policy as a highly prejudicial overreaction to decades of capricious mortgage bank practices across the country. Despite nationwide abuses spanning the full spectrum of property ownership, Fannie’s targeting of Florida condos spurred accusations that Lockhart was creating a sacrificial straw dog. The new requirements intentionally intensify sales pressure on Condo Associations already starved for residents and struggling financially.

These new rules fly in the face of the recently reconstituted Congressional mandate, despite a cursory statement by Fannie Mae officials rationalizing why they singled out Florida and, more specifically, condo borrowers. An Agency spokesperson declared that after reviewing their mortgage loans, they discovered record-high default and foreclosure rates among condo owners. They also cited the excessive number of condos listed for sale, which has driven down prices. Since this is also true for almost every other class of homeownership in dozens of areas around the country (especially in certain West Coast regional jurisdictions verging on bankruptcy), their explanation for exclusively targeting Florida condos strains credibility. The new conditions include:

  1. Lender Shares No more than 15 percent of an association’s unit owners can be 30 days or more past due on association fees.

  2. For new condo buildings and condo conversions, at least 70 percent of units must have been sold or put under contract. That’s up from 49 percent previously.

  3. Fannie Mae will now have in-house underwriting teams extensively review a condominium’s building, its finances and local market conditions. This review will be at the lender’s expense which will make such loans less attractive. (Previously, Fannie relied on lenders to perform these reviews and the lenders controlled the costs); and

  4. Higher equity will be required up front from non-occupant investor owners (15% down) and those purchasing a Florida condominium unit as a second home (10% down).

Lender Condo Blacklist These requirements are arguably oblivious to the difficulties already facing Florida condo mortgage applicants. Over the past two years, many banks have dramatically raised the bar for condo loans, requiring down payments of up to 40 percent in new buildings. Citing a high risk of price declines and defaults, some lenders have blacklisted certain condo buildings while others declared blanket moratoria on condo loans.

Deerfield Beach real estate analyst Jack McCabe
Much of the property glut left by overextended speculators was absorbed during the past year. Applying these heavily restrictive standards just as real estate is again showing signs of recovery is strategically counterproductive to the Agency’s proclaimed objective of “rescuing the housing market.” Fannie Mae’s timing “couldn’t be worse,” said Jack McCabe, a Deerfield Beach real estate analyst who believes the region is mired in a housing recession. “This is effectively going to make it much more difficult to qualify.” McCabe estimates as much as 25 percent of the market in the tri-county area will be shut out of Fannie-funded financing. A litany of industry officials agree, predicting that this policy will worsen the condition it portends to ameliorate. While Fannie Mae is not the only funding source for lenders who want to make condo loans, No. 2 mortgage guarantor Freddie Mac typically follows Fannie Mae’s lead. On January 30th, Freddie Mac issued a Sellers Guide Bulletin increasing fees for cash-out refinancings, interest-only adjustable rate mortgages, and condominium unit mortgages (75 basis points for condominium unit mortgages with loan to value ratios greater than 75%).

Charles Foschini of CB Richard Ellis
Certain others claim that this is just what the doctor ordered - a cold turkey fiscal High Colonic of sorts. Vice chairman of debt and equity finance Charles Foschini of CB Richard Ellis, a Miami Real Estate firm, said “In a climate of increased risk, Fannie Mae’s primary responsibility is to protect investors, borrowers and taxpayers.” Foschini’s contention is that borrowers benefit from knowing they are moving into a well-funded condo association awash in reserves, implying assessment stability. He is unconcerned, however, that his buyer’s peace-of-mind comes at the risk of bankrupting thousands of existing associations struggling to survive.

Lender Shares His perceived protection for taxpayers took the form of a sound bite, “The quicker we can instill sounder underwriting practices for mortgages for Fannie or anyone else the more confidence we’ll have in the market.” While true, it fails to clarify how this action shelters taxpayers. Adequately collateralizing loans is widely considered central to effective risk management and the Congressional Fannie Mae bailout stipulated the revival of sound underwriting practices for mortgages. However, more than doubling the fees and setting significantly tougher credit requirements for only one class of homeowner in only one state is hardly a credible confidence builder.

Lender Shares Spinning the new rules as a boon to investors borders on Burlesque. The action will admittedly precipitate further price declines and more foreclosures. This translates into additional losses for the GSE - and its investors. Perhaps Foschini conjures a secret Fannie Mae shareholder cult based in an abandoned Northwest Pacific logging camp that aspires to personal growth via diminishing equity.

Principal Broker Grant Stern of Miami-based Morningside Mortgage
Industry experts agree on who will ultimately benefit from this policy direction. The “Fannie-less” finance vacuum will create a garage sale for cash-rich buyers. Well funded investment predators will be able to command unprecedented discounts. Grant Stern, principal broker of Miami-based Morningside Mortgage, explained, “Fannie Mae declared Christmas for hedge funds who want to buy bulk in these buildings, but it’s leaving everyday investors and people who want to buy for their own personal use in the dust.” Asserting that the restrictions exemplified the self-fulfilling, cyclical nature of the credit crisis, Stern hypothesized “Fear provokes a knee-jerk reaction that inflames the problem, causing more fear.”

time is money Since the Country is currently navigating uncharted economic waters, Agency officials are understandably having difficulty distinguishing between hopefully productive actions and regressive fear-based reactions. Palm Beach housing investment consultant Shirley Evans waxed metaphorically, “When they realize that they shot themselves in the foot, they will either take aim at their other foot or lower the gun. The GSEs are experimenting and the Florida condo market is the Guinea Pig!”

Lender Shares On the bright side, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has been in a state of perpetual flux since the Congressional GSE rescue. Congress is currently crunching legislation to provide executive agencies with clearer policy objectives. Housing guidance is anticipated from broad recovery bills such as the American Recovery Act of 2009 and dozens of targeted vehicles dedicated to averting imminent foreclosures through debt restructuring, promoting bank liquidity and strengthening regulatory and supervisory oversight of the housing finance system.

Finance Chair Barney Frank
For example, Chairman Barney Frank’s House Financial Services Committee just introduced H.R. 703 and H.R. 787, legislation designed to ease loan modifications and improve refinancing options for troubled homeowners by revamping the HOPE for Homeowners program. While HOPE for Homeowners (H4H) was enacted to help families refinance into safer, more affordable mortgages and avoid foreclosure, program constraints deterred lender participation. Frank’s “adjustment” bills are expected to make the program more lender-friendly while limiting risks to the FHA fund and the American taxpayer. Since President Obama’s challenge will be to artfully weave dozens of such program initiatives into a cohesive recovery policy, we can reasonably expect more agency “experimentation” as new legislation is incorporated into the Obama Administration’s Financial Stability Plan. As intimated by Ms. Evans, if we survive the experiments, we may survive the recession!

Stopping Foreclosure Links

  • Lender Shares HOPE for Homeowners (H4H) - Effective from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2011, the HOPE for Homeowners (H4H) program was created by Congress to help those at risk of default and foreclosure refinance into more affordable, sustainable loans. H4H is an additional mortgage option designed to keep borrowers in their homes. If you are having trouble making your mortgage payments, HOPE for Homeowners may be able to help you, by refinancing your loan into a new 30-year or 40-year fixed-rate loan with lower payments.

    NOTE: Homeowners, contact your existing lender and/or a new lender to discuss how you may qualify for the H4H program.

  • Click to the Hope Now Streamlined Modification Program web page Hope Now - HOPE NOW is an alliance between counselors, servicers, investors, and other mortgage market participants. This alliance maximizes outreach efforts to homeowners in distress to help them stay in their homes. Its purpose is to reach and support as many homeowners as possible. The members of this alliance recognize that by working together, they will be more effective than by working independently.

    Are you having trouble paying your mortgage? Call the Homeowner’s HOPE™ Hotline: 1.888.995.HOPE (1-888-995-4673) or go to their website at Do it today!

  • Click to the Homeownership Preservation Foundation web page Homeownership Preservation Foundation - The Homeownership Preservation Foundation, which operates the 888-995-HOPE™ hotline mentioned above, has a single mission: to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. They are an independent nonprofit that provides FREE HUD-approved counselors dedicated to helping homeowners.

    On this site, you can arrange an online consultation.

  • Click to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) web site HUD Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure - Whether you're in foreclosure now or worried about it in the future, they have information that can help. Foreclosure doesn't happen overnight. They offer solutions for dealing with every stage of the process.

  • HUD Help for Homeowners Facing the Loss of Their Home - If you have been laid off or are facing unemployment, you can keep your home - - if you know the right steps to take. The Department of Housing and Urban Development/Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor and the mortgage industry have worked together to produce important basic information - - and key links to local groups and organizations - - that can help you get through difficult times without losing your home.

  • Click to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) web site Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - Mortgage Payment Dilemmas - Regardless of the reason for your mortgage anxiety, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, wants you to know how to help save your home, and how to recognize and avoid foreclosure scams.

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - Foreclosure Rescue Scams - Fraudulent foreclosure “rescue” professionals use half truths and outright lies to sell services that promise relief and then fail to deliver. Their goal is to make a quick profit through fees or mortgage payments they collect from you, but do not pass on to the lender. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, wants you to know how to recognize a foreclosure rescue scam.

  • Click to the Federal Reserve web site Federal Reserve Mortgage Foreclosure Resources - If you are having difficulty making your mortgage payment, one of the most important things you can do is seek assistance. These resources provide information and links to agencies and organizations that may be able to help you. The Federal Reserve Banks have also established Foreclosure Resource Centers to help address local and regional challenges in their mortgage markets and local communities.

  • Click to the IRS web site IRS - Home Foreclosure and Debt Cancellation - The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 generally allows taxpayers to exclude income from the discharge of debt on their principal residence. Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure, qualify for this relief.

  • Click to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) web site Freddie Mac - Avoiding Foreclosure - No one expects to lose their house to foreclosure, but by understanding the foreclosure process and what may lead up to it, you can be in a better position to recognize and address potential problems that may impact your ability to make every mortgage payment on time.

Click To Top of Page

"How Can We Support That? Its Gone!"

Galt Mile Guts Gallic Goliath

Governor Crist Zaps Calypso
February 24, 2009 - On February 18, 2009, residents along the Barrier Island shared a rare mass ebullience. When Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced that local inhabitants no longer had to fear a potentially dangerous gas plant marring their eastern horizon, most of the population was understandably immersed in relief and gratitude. Not surprisingly, Galt Mile residents were also rightfully proud of themselves and their neighborhood. Absent funds and through sheer determination, they defeated a $110 billion corporate goliath with an intimidating history of international depredations. They also thwarted a regulatory bear trap designed to involuntarily force facilities like these down the throats of communities targeted by paying members of the industry “club”. Ironically, most of the “club members” represented by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – like Suez – aren’t U.S. corporations.

New Contribution Policy Right now, Suez lobbyists in Washington and Tallahassee are railing at selected lawmakers, questioning whether their “campaign contributions” should be redirected to officials more capable of and willing to “whip the locals into shape.” Others are roaming the offices of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), exclaiming the need to remove the single remaining opportunity available to objecting jurisdictions - the gubernatorial veto. When energy industry lobbyists tied the fortunes of LNG to the industry-friendly Natural Gas Policy Act, they overlooked a provision in Title 33, U.S. Code that provides the Governor of the adjacent state with a small window during which a veto can be exercised. Someone’s neck will stretch for neglecting to neutralize that last democratic remnant from the pre-Bush Administration energy laws!

Awakening to a Nightmare

Commissioner Teel Notifies Galt Mile Community Association Presidents Council
During the December 3, 2007 Galt Mile Community Association Presidents Council Meeting, Commissioner Christine Teel casually remarked that a French conglomerate called Suez planned to build a gas plant off the Galt Mile beach. Suez was finalizing the federal licensing process required to construct an 18-story Deepwater Port where seawater will be used to “regasify” or return hypercooled liquefied natural gas to a gaseous state. Surprised, members asked GMCA officials to investigate the ramifications of this project.

Rescue Workers Evacuate Corpses after Skikda LNG Catastrophe
Preliminary review of the history of liquefied natural gas (LNG) revealed its potential for catastrophe. Disasters in Cleveland, Skikda (Algeria), Lusby (Maryland), Staten Island and other locations from 1944 through 2006 raised concerns about the efficacy of project safety measures. A massive compendium of documentation from Federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service established that LNG Deepwater Ports were high value terrorist targets. Additionally, evidence of adverse impacts to the surrounding marine environment spurred concern for the health of adjacent beaches.

City Suez GMCA Meeting On request, City Manager George Gretsas, Commissioner Teel and City Engineer Al Carbone invited Suez representatives to meet with GMCA officials Pio Ieraci and Eric Berkowitz in City Hall. The Suez officials, in turn, were invited to make a presentation about the Calypso project to the member associations of the Galt Mile community. They were informed that after their presentation, each association would independently evaluate project benefits and liabilities. A subsequent vote by the membership would determine the GMCA’s official position.

SUEZ Energy North America or SENA At the April 7, 2008 Presidents Council Meeting, Representatives of SUEZ Energy North America, Inc. or SENA, a Suez subsidiary and immediate corporate parent of the “Calypso” project, explained the project variables and responded to questions raised by concerned community participants. After explaining how the Calypso facility could help satisfy Florida’s growing demand for gas-fired electricity generation, the Suez North America representatives were asked about planned safety and security measures for the project, how they would prevent terrorist attacks, whether the facilities would be visible from the beach, the environmental drawbacks and what would happen if the gas ignited.

Coast Guard Confusion When Suez’ Brad Cooley said that the Coast Guard would protect the facility, he was asked to explain a December 2007 congressional report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) exhorting that “the Coast Guard - the lead federal agency for Maritime Security - has insufficient resources to meet its own self-imposed security standards.” Admitting ignorance about safety and security plan details, the Suez officials marginalized the issues as “statistically insignificant.” Disappointed by the Suez officials’ inability to adequately allay community concerns, attending members voted to aggressively oppose the project. In response, the GMCA Advisory Board appointed a committee to develop strategies for implementing the Presidents Council’s decision.

Birth of the No Calypso! Committee

City Suez GMCA Meeting The initial No Calypso! Committee meeting was attended by GMCA President Pio Ieraci and Vice President Eric Berkowitz, Senator Jeffrey Atwater and legislative aide Melissa Francisco, City Commissioner Christine Teel, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Roseann Minnet, Bill &Terry Claire and Dr. Dave & Barbara Marshall from Plaza South, Playa del Mar’s Fred Nesbitt, a contingent from L’Hermitage I including President Diane Bergheim, manager Patricia Quintero, residents Frances Konstance, Jean Miller, Marilyn Leeds and Ivan Itkin, Irelands Inn proprietor Andy Mitchell, Essex House President Eve Bazar and Ocean Manor President Frank Talerico. Also attending was By The Sea Future publisher Mark Brown. Within weeks, membership swelled to include Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff and legislative aide Aaron Nevins, Central Beach Alliance President Steve Glassman, Oakland Park Commissioner Suzanne Boisvenue, Fort Lauderdale mayoral candidates Jack Seiler and Dean Trantalis, Statehouse candidate Chris Chiari, GMCA Secretary Fern McBride, Playa del Mar’s Linda Eidinger, Lauderdale Beach Homeowners Association President Joe Amorosino and President Brian Donaldson of the Birch Park Finger Streets Homeowners Association.

MIT LNG Expert Dr. James Fay
Over the next nine months, the No Calypso! Committee enlisted the support of public officials and civic leaders, compiled relevant information, and instituted a campaign of sharing whatever they learned with neighboring communities and local officials. Statements made by Suez representatives during meetings in Dania Beach and the Beach Community Center revealed that security costs would fall to Broward taxpayers. Scrutiny of the Suez Environmental Impact Statement uncovered alarming contradictions between their safety claims and scientific studies by Sandia National Laboratories, Dr. James Fay of M.I.T., Dr. Jerry Havens at the University of Arkansas and other LNG hazard pundits.

Senator Jeffrey Atwater
Prior to an August 11, 2008 Calypso Workshop convened by the Broward Legislative Delegation at the Beach Community Center, five months of collected information was compiled into a fully annotated and referenced White Paper summarizing the project’s safety and security pitfalls. Guided by the White Paper, Broward legislators questioned a Suez official about these unaddressed issues. When Calypso representative Brad Cooley said that “Suez doesn’t consider safety and security as relevant issues,” the lawmakers adamantly disagreed. When Cooley refused to explain Suez’ security plan or how it would be funded, Senator Jeffrey Atwater announced “I sent a letter to Governor Crist expressing my opposition to this poorly planned project. It was a mistake to locate this type of facility adjacent to heavily populated neighborhoods.” Statehouse Representative and Majority Whip Ellyn Bogdanoff made a similar announcement during a prior meeting in Dania Beach.

Click to City of Fort Lauderdale anti-Calypso Resolution The Committee transmitted whatever they learned to the Governor’s office to offset unrelenting pressure by an army of Suez lobbyists. Among materials sent to the Governor was the White Paper; anti-Calypso Resolutions by the City of Fort Lauderdale, the City of Pompano Beach, the Town of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and a host of Civic organizations; as well as letters condemning Calypso from Federal, State, County and Municipal officials representing the Galt Mile neighborhood and surrounding communities. The Committee also requested an audience with the Governor (or his staffers), either here or in Tallahassee.

Suez - corporate history from HELL Between August 2008 and January 2009, the committee collected evidence that contradicted Calypso claims of a “negligible environmental impact” and compiled a corporate history that identified Suez with worldwide economic depredations marked by bribery, breach of contract, extortion, pollution (toxic), safety violations and fraud.

Click to Navigant Consulting Report The committee also learned that new slant drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies provided access to previously irretrievable gas deposits locked in 24 huge North American shale beds. Responsible for the precipitous 40% mid-2008 price drop for natural gas, the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook forecast that imported natural gas, while accounting for 16% of 2007 U.S. consumption, will drop to 3% - primarily from Canadian and Mexican pipelines. The 842 trillion cubic feet of retrievable gas in domestic shale reserves portends 50 years of energy self-sufficiency at current consumption rates, obviating the need for expensive foreign LNG imports. This also explains why Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG facility, which straddles the Texas – Louisiana Gulf border, only received 3 LNG deliveries since opening in April 2008, instead of the weekly deliveries anticipated in the company’s prospectus.

Special Assistant to the Governor Maureen Jaeger
On February 4th, the Fort Lauderdale Special Assistant to Governor Crist, Maureen Jaeger, contacted GMCA President Pio Ieraci to express the Governor’s interest in conducting a traditional “Town Hall” meeting in the Galt Mile neighborhood. To accommodate the Governor’s tight schedule, Ieraci remained “on call”, awaiting confirmation of the visit.

Beach Community Center
A few days later, Jaeger told Ieraci that the event would take place in the Beach Community Center on February 18th. Since Crist would arrive at 12:30 PM, attendees interested in posing a question during the meeting would have to register within an hour of the Governor’s arrival, about 11:30 AM. With the Governor’s consent, Ieraci notified the member Galt Mile associations and the No Calypso! Committee about the impending gubernatorial visit. Ieraci also asked each association to post an accompanying hastily improvised notice in some common area venue. A similar announcement was posted on the Galt Mile Community Association web site.

GMCA President Pio Ieraci Introduces Jack Seiler
Quickly mobilizing, the committee met to ensure that the Governor was apprised of community concerns about the Gasworks. A package was prepared for delivery to the Governor. It contained documented substantiation of the dangers posed by Calypso to beachfront communities, the deliberately undisclosed funding requirement for Broward taxpayers and unavoidable devastation of the local marine environment. A more modest package was prepared for the media and hundreds of Fact Sheets were made ready for general distribution.

No Calypso Committee Prepares for Governor's Arrival at tha Beach Community Center
After agreeing on a strategy that maximized furtherance of their objectives, committee members volunteered to assume responsibility for either collecting and/or creating informational materials, developing relevant talking points, distributing buttons and fact sheets at the meeting, communicating with public officials and coordinating with other stakeholders. In consultation with Director Stephanie Smith of the Governor’s External Affairs office, Ieraci was tagged to introduce Fort Lauderdale Mayor-elect Jack Seiler who would, in turn, introduce the Governor.

Showdown at the Beach Community Center

Frances Konstance and Jean Miller setting up in Beach Community Center
L’Hermitage I manager Patricia Quintero delivered boxes of No Calypso Fact Sheets to the Community Center while Playa del Mar’s Fred Nesbitt brought the buttons. With the help of Central Beach Alliance President Steve Glassman and Plaza South residents Bill & Terry Claire, L’Hermitage I activists Jean Miller and Frances Konstance managed their distribution, responding to non-stop resident requests - especially for buttons and “Stop Calypso” tee shirts. While holding a large sign opposing the project, Miller told reporters “I’m here because of my serious concerns about Calypso. I hope that the governor will hear the serious concerns of the people. We want him to know we don’t want something in our community which is potentially dangerous, subject to terrorist attack, potentially going to damage not only our beaches and waters but our homes. If there is an explosion we will be annihilated.”

Plaza South's Terry Claire
While delivering a box filled with anti-Calypso petitions containing thousands of signatures and hundreds of letters she collected throughout the neighborhood, Terry Claire outlined her motives, exclaiming “It is a safety issue. In a nutshell, it is a weapon for terrorists, and a terrorist threat. It is further dependence on foreign fuel from a foreign country.” Husband Bill Claire added “We have a lot of faith in this governor.” Referring to the petitions, the White Paper, condemning emails and documents from Environmentalists, and dozens of other items assembled for the Governor, he said “I think he will receive all the real documentation and do the right thing.”

Click to GMCA LNG Fact Sheet The Community Center swelled to capacity as three hundred people filed into the main hall and an adjacent anteroom served by a video feed. Residents and public officials wore “Stop Calypso” buttons and each room was awash in “No Calypso” posters and signage.

Mayor-elect Jack Seiler introduces Governor Crist
Local public officials populating the first row included Congressman Ron Klein, Mayor Jim Naugle, City Commissioners Christine Teel and Charlotte Rodstrom, City Manager George Gretsas, Allyson Love, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Roseann Minnet and Sea Ranch Lakes Mayor Denise Bryan, School Board member Maureen Dinnen, Sunrise Mayor Roger Wishner, Lighthouse Point City Commissioner and Republican Party Chairman Chip LaMarca, and national secretary Sharon Day of the Republican National Committee.

Congressman Ron Klein
Opening with, “This individual is special. This is a leader who crosses party lines,” Jack Seiler introduced Governor Charlie Crist as “the People’s Governor.” Crist visually skimmed the audience, fixing his eyes on Ron Klein. The Governor praised the first term Congressional Democrat “for his hard work” on the federal stimulus package. Risking some Republican political capital by supporting President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, Crist could receive as much as $12.2 billion over 2½ years for road construction, child care, unemployment checks, job training and Medicaid costs. The $700 million incremental budget abyss that Florida legislators are currently staring into could be handily mitigated when the first $3.2 billion in Federal money hits Tallahassee over the next four months. Turning to Klein, he said, “I’m enormously grateful that it passed, and I know it’s going to help our fellow Floridians in a substantial way. It could not have come at a better time.”

Margaret Gower from Weston
Instead of adhering to his staff’s planned Q & A format, Crist spontaneously extended the floor to a recently downsized Weston resident who explained “I’m 50 years old I’m well educated. I have an advanced degree from an Ivy League school. Yet I’m having difficulty finding a job.” Crist told Margaret Gower that he’d visited unemployment offices throughout the state “to learn more about this issue and how Florida can help.” Harkening back to the federal stimulus package, Crist told her, “For every $1 billion spent on road construction, 28,000 jobs are created. I’m not suggesting you want to work on a road crew, Margaret.”

The Hammer Drops

Fred Nesbitt Describes Calypso Concerns
The stage was now set for the hammer to fall. Crist called on GMCA Advisory Board member Fred Nesbitt, who also serves on the No Calypso! Committee. The Playa del Mar resident was charged with expressing the neighborhood’s concern about the French gasworks. After steadying the microphone, Nesbitt took a deep breath and let fly, “Suez Corporation wants to build liquefied natural gas ports right off of our beach. If you could look straight ahead where they’re building there, you could actually see the liquefied natural gas ports... and the tankers will come to the ports and the gas would come through a pipeline into Port Everglades.” Perusing handheld notes, Nesbitt continued, “Many of us in this room, including myself, believe that this is not a good idea. We’re concerned about the safety of our coastal residents, we’re concerned about terrorist attacks, we’re concerned about our beaches, our environment and certainly the tourist industry here in Fort Lauderdale, as well as Florida.” Seeking to actualize the Governor’s experience, Nesbitt added, “All of us in this room would be vaporized. And I’m sorry to say if you were here you wouldn’t be the governor of Florida.”

Governor Crist says 'How can we support that?'
The room fell silent. Crist smiled and turned back to Nesbitt after a dramatic pause, “I have been studying this and I have been briefed on it a number of times and I don’t think the people who want to do it aren’t well-intentioned, I’m sure they probably are.” A full face smile betrayed any prospect for further heightening the tension. Having absolved the Suez proponents of hypothetical culpability in Nesbitt’s figmental disaster scenario, the Governor delivered the anxiously awaited message “If you think about one of these huge tankers being off the coast of so many of my friends, and so close by, how can we support that?”

Audience Regales Gov Crist with Ovation
As if simultaneously freed of a 14-month sciatic nerve dysfunction, the audience convulsed, blending cheers with animated expressions of gratitude. Residents rose from their seats in sections, ultimately confronting the Governor with a full house standing ovation. Despite having been briefed about the community’s passionate opposition to this project, Crist was clearly surprised by the magnitude and unanimity of the crowd’s response. Succumbing to the extended applause, Crist patiently soaked up the adulation. Nevertheless, some residents didn’t fully fathom Crist’s answer. Evidently preoccupied with posing her version of the same question, a Fountainhead resident asked if Crist would “put Calypso to bed.” He answered politely, “I think it's already in bed. It's gone.”

Nesbitt Admits Surprise
Galt Mile Community Association president Pio Ieraci told reporters, “We’re exuberant. We’re exceedingly happy. We couldn’t be happier.” Nesbitt claimed to be pleasantly surprised, “I was very pleased to hear him say it. Sort of surprised because most politicians sort of dance around and say ‘well, when it comes to my desk I’ll look at it. I’ll think about it.’ But the governor was very firm and very positive today, and we’re counting on him sticking to his word on this issue. If the governor says it’s dead; it’s dead because he has the power to kill it.”

Public officials in the first row Applaud Governor Crist
Public officials in the first row turned to face No Calypso! Committee members seated in the second row, trading expressions of mutual kudos for having pursued this exasperating effort to fruition. Congressman Ron Klein and City Manager George Gretsas thanked Eric Berkowitz and Fern McBride from Regency Tower and Regency South’s Leah Glickfield for their work on this project. Although Senator Atwater was precluded from attending by his responsibilities as Florida Senate President, legislative aide Melissa Francisco - who attended Committee meetings whenever the Senator was in Tallahassee - hugged Ocean Club’s Rose Guttman.

Dr. Dave and Barbara Marshall
Committee members also embraced Commissioner Christine Teel, who organized transportation to the critical Dania Beach Calypso meeting, solicited the City’s anti-Calypso Resolution and played an integral part in every step of the successful campaign. Not surprised by Crist’s announcement, Mayor Jim Naugle disparaged the Suez decision to locate the gasworks near a heavily populated area. He told the Miami Herald’s Beth Reinhard, “I would have thought that the fact that he had his town hall meeting here, he must have reached that conclusion. It’s good news for the Galt and residents up here. I think having a natural gas facility is a positive thing for Florida but it was the dumbest site.” Committee members L-B-T-S Mayor Roseann Minnet, Bill & Terry Claire and their Plaza South neighbors Dr. Dave & Barbara Marshall shared collective expressions of deep satisfaction.

Seiler Praises Governor Crist to press
Although the Governor hosted objections to Calypso by Senator Atwater and Representative Bogdanoff months earlier and his staffers were previously sent supporting documentation by the Galt Mile Community Association, Jack Seiler explained that he also briefed the Governor, exclaiming to reporters “I think it was the right decision. I made clear [to Crist] the concerns of the residents of Fort Lauderdale and the beach area. His comments today put a lot of people in this community at rest.” Crist confirmed Seiler’s input when asked by Reinhard if he selected the Galt Mile venue to announce his views on Calypso, stating, “No, I really didn’t but I was briefed that it might come up.”

As the prolonged demonstration of community approval quelled, the Governor again took control of the meeting. Perceiving the need to ensure that his decision would not be misinterpreted as capricious, the Governor reinforced his answer, “I try to apply common sense when making any decision; whether it’s appointing a judge, vetoing a bill, or saying no to a project. I kind of think about it from a common sense point of view – how can you support that? So I don’t; I don’t support that.”

Governor Crist answers Pat Quintero
With Calypso no longer an issue, the Governor called on L’Hermitage I Manager Patricia Quintero, who complained about delays to the planned beach renourishment and the additional financial burden placed on condo owners when maintenance liabilities from foreclosed units are incrementally assessed to the other owners. Clearly confused, the Governor asked Quintero “Are you asking if the beach renourishment will affect foreclosures?” When Quintero apologetically explained that the two issues were unrelated, Crist turned the microphone over to Mayor-elect Seiler, who characterized the renourishment obstacles as county issues. While acknowledging that incremental assessments resulting from a belabored foreclosure process were inherently “unfair”, Crist opined that keeping people in their homes was a greater priority. Crist referred to a new federal program that will deter foreclosures by forcing banks to modify onerous mortgage terms, explaining, “It will ask banks to wait a little bit longer before they go ahead and create a foreclosure on somebody and encourage them – encourage them very strongly through statutory changes – to renegotiate the mortgage terms so that those of us who are struggling have a better opportunity to be able to meet those terms on a monthly basis.”

Crist Answers Coral Reef Advocate
After a few more questions, Crist announced that he would take one more, pointing to a woman near the stage. When she complained that a contractor who worked on the south county beach renourishment failed to adequately respect a coral reef, the Governor evidently recognized the questioner. During a May 2003 cabinet hearing to authorize the now completed South Broward segment of the beach renourishment, she participated in staging a demonstration for the cabinet, which included then Attorney General Crist. After shaking up a jar of water and sand, the cabinet was warned that “since this would happen to the beach,” they should reject the project. Unimpressed with the demonstration, then Governor Bush and the Cabinet issued the requested permit. Following his sojourn down memory lane, the Governor smiled and answered, “I guess we will just have to get a better contractor!”

Governor Crist speaks with supporters
Following a town hall meeting, the Governor ordinarily poses for a photo op before hitting the road. After the Q & A, Crist remained and spoke with anyone interested in meeting the popular Governor. He spent the afternoon taking pictures with some 180 residents and officials who refused to leave. Sunrise Mayor Roger Wishner pleaded with Crist to replicate a sequel out west. GMCA Board member Rose Guttman arranged refreshments for the event. Unable to pass up this opportunity to administer a lesson in civic economics to the Governor, she announced “I just fed 300 people for less than a thousand dollars, that’s pretty good, don’t you think?”

Miracle on a Shoestring

Alan Silva on Fall River LNG Plant
Scores of communities across the country are waging similar campaigns against LNG facilities for many of the same reasons that motivated Barrier Island residents.
Fall River, Massachusetts
Former Fort Lauderdale interim City Manager Alan Silva recently returned from Fall River, Massachusetts, where he served as City Administrator until his November 2008 retirement for health reasons. While awaiting the Governor’s arrival at the Beach Community Center, Alan explained that Weaver’s Cove Energy, LLC, a subsidiary of Amerada Hess Corporation, proposed building a LNG facility in a densely populated Fall River neighborhood on the Taunton River (almost 10,000 people live within a one-mile radius of the proposed site). Silva noted “This is the only LNG facility ever built in an inner city.” Local politicians and citizens, notably Richard Clarke, the former White House terrorism chief serving Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have been trying to stop the project for years. Silva said “The city spent $millions to rid itself of this nightmare.” Resisting unrelenting pressure from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) officials, Captain Ray Nash, the New England Coast Guard Southcoast Commander, notified FERC in October 2007 that the Weaver’s Cove LNG facility should not be constructed, citing problems with navigating large tankers through and around the Brightman Street Bridge. Incredibly, despite local protests and the Coast Guard recommendation to NOT build the facility, the plan was subsequently approved by FERC.

Click to GMCA LNG White Paper The Galt Mile LNG White Paper enumerates the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s proclivity for ignoring their own regulations and rubber stamping license approvals for virtually any applicant. Court records document their manipulating data in “Independent Risk Assessments” and basing license decisions on discredited studies. When caught endorsing plans that endanger life and property, their governing legislation - the Bush Administration’s Energy Policy Act of 2005 - recognizes them as the sole appellant authority. FERC is autonomously empowered to decide if and when FERC breaks the law!

Click to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) LNG projects are threatening communities in Ventura County, California; Long Beach, New York; Bradwood Landing, Oregon; Gloucester, Massachusetts, the Long Island Sound between New York State and Connecticut, Pleasant Point, Maine, a half dozen Gulf Coast facilities in Texas and Louisiana, Silva’s Fall River LNG plant, Baltimore, Maryland; Boston and Everett, Massachusetts. These, and dozens of other densely populated communities, have literally spent hundreds of $millions to thwart these plans.

Monitor Suez The Galt Mile neighborhood accomplished this on a shoestring. By thoroughly investigating claims made by Suez and the documentation they created to underwrite those claims, GMCA was able to accurately refute Suez statements marginalizing threats to nearby neighborhoods, the environment, our property as well as our lives. It also revealed the company’s predatory history and the hidden costs to Broward taxpayers. Since the uncovered data is fully documented, Suez response has been limited to characterizing Galt Mile residents as “paranoid” and “naive.” Notwithstanding, on February 18, 2009, the paranoid Galt Mile neighborhood demonstrated that its naive residents are neither “gullible” nor “pushovers”, two attributes that Suez was counting on. As admonished by several “paranoid” members of the No Calypso! Committee, until Suez notifies its stockholders that their resources would be more profitably spent experimenting on some unsuspecting community’s water supply, the Galt Mile Community Association will monitor Calypso, Suez, FERC and the Calypso license application.

Great Job! Stop Calypso Button Our beachfront communities have earned the deep breath they took at the Beach Community Center. The No Calypso! Committee and its parent neighborhood associations – who’ve achieved so much with so little – purchased a truckload of self-respect for every Barrier Island resident. The unquestionably corny prospect of substituting passion for funding, truth for media hype and elbow grease for paid lobbyists is laughable. What made this community campaign unique is that, for once, it worked!

Click To Top of Page

Vice Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

March 2009 Newsletter

Click to Broward Beach Nourishment Project March 2, 2009 - * The Broward County Beach Renourishment Project has been underway for almost a decade. Countless studies were performed from 1998 through 2002 to save Broward's 21 miles of critically eroded beaches. When the project encountered political opposition in 2002, hundreds of Galt Mile residents boarded buses to the Hollywood Beach Community Center in support of the Army Corps of Engineers renourishment plan. In April of 2005, the one year renourishment of south county beaches (Segment III) commenced, initiating rehabilitation of the devastated coast from the Broward/Dade County line north to John U. Lloyd State Park. As agreed in the permit approved by the Florida Cabinet on May 13, 2003, the Segment III renourishment would be followed by an 18-month "monitoring period" to review any impacts to the hardbottom environment and use the data to refine permit requirements for the Segment II renourishment. Compiling their observations from March of 2006 to September, 2007, the monitors from Nova Southeast University Oceanographic Center and a coalition of marine engineering firms submitted their evaluation to the County and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

Broward Beach Administrator Stephen Higgins
Broward Beach Administrator Stephen Higgins determined that the issues uncovered by the monitors were eminently addressable. He estimated that the Fort Lauderdale beaches (Segment II) would begin to see new sand by fall of 2008. Lamenting a dearth of available sand for the project, last year Higgins revised the projected start date to the fall of 2009. When asked to investigate the suspicious delays, Commissioner Ken Keechl met with Higgins and a representative from the County Administrator's office. Commissioner Keechl's March newsletter confirms that the new start date is estimated for 2010. Following the February 19, 2009 Advisory Board meeting wherein the membership expressed dissatisfaction with the reasons given for the delays, a decision was made to extend the investigation to Tallahassee. More to come... - [editor]*

“Broward’s Shrinking Coastline: Monitoring Broward’s Beach Nourishment Project”

by Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
As many of you know, my Broward County Commission district includes most of Broward County’s coastline. In fact, it stretches from North Deerfield Beach and goes south to Dania Beach. As your County Commissioner, I remain extremely concerned about our precious coastline’s constant erosion.

Fort Lauderdale’s Shrinking Ribbon of Beach
Broward County has been working on a continuous Beach Nourishment Project for years. Broward County has already completed the first segment of the Project south of Dania Beach.

Segment II, which stretches from the Hillsboro Inlet south to Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades, is next. When Segment II is completed, the rest of our district (from the north County line south to the Hillsboro Inlet) will follow shortly thereafter.

Unfortunately, Segment II was put on hold by federal and state regulatory agencies until they could conclude a period of monitoring Segments II’s effects on our marine environment. Fortunately, the required monitoring is now completed. As a result, and at my constant urging, Broward County is once again aggressively pursuing the nourishment of our county district’s coastline.

Broward County Shore Protection Project Segments II & III Beach Fill Limits
I will continue to follow this project closely and I have been assured by staff that permit applications for Segment II will be submitted this year, likely summer or early fall. However, even with a smooth and uneventful state and federal permit review process--and with no challenges to the permit--Broward County does not anticipate permit issuance before the fall of 2010. Once permits are received, commencement of actual construction can begin one to three months thereafter.

One additional fact of interest; The original Segment II Project proposed to widen Fort Lauderdale’s beaches approximately from the pier at Commercial Boulevard to a point just south of the Bonnet House. Given the length of time that has passed since design of the original Segment II project in 2001, staff will reevaluate the coastline in this area, and, if warranted, expand the area slated to receive sand.

Lastly, staff is currently conducting an analysis of potential sand sources that could be used in the nourishment of our district’s coastline. Upon completion of this sand search in spring of this year, engineering work and permitting activities for the project will resume.

Again, it is important for you to know that the Beach Nourishment Project is a high priority of mine. I am actively working with your elected officials in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. to keep the grant funding coming to Broward for this Project.

And, of course, as this Project continues, I will keep you up to date.

My best to you and your families.

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.

Click To Top of Page

José “Chepo” Vega
Lays some

Commodore Resident José “Chepo” Vega
March 12, 2009 - In early November, Commodore resident José “Chepo” Vega emailed a complaint to the Galt Mile Community Association about the “precarious” state of landscaping along Galt Ocean Drive. A few days later, he followed it up with a call to GMCA Vice President Eric Berkowitz, exclaiming “While I was walking in front of my building, I saw someone walk into a low hanging tree limb. It could have blinded him. Why doesn’t the City pay attention to the landscaping on our block?” Chepo argued that if he knew who to contact about addressing this issue, he would gladly volunteer his time and horticultural acumen. He was invited to apprise
Advisory Board members and Commissioner Christine Teel about his concerns at the next Presidents Council meeting.

GMCA Presidents Council Meeting
At the December 1st meeting, while participants discussed the Calypso Project, Beach Renourishment, monkey business in the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the impact of deliberately dilatory foreclosures on Association budgets, recent successes realized by the Galt Mile Security Patrol and other agenda items, Chepo cornered Commissioner Teel, detailing his concerns. Offering to contact the Parks Department and investigate the problem, she requested that he contact her office the following day.

Poorly Staked Leaning Trees
The next evening, Chepo emailed GMCA officials Pio Ieraci and Eric Berkowitz, reporting his previous evening’s discussion with Commissioner Teel and another earlier that day. Excited about the prospect of finally making headway, he wrote “I spoke briefly to Commissioner Teel at the Monday meeting then called her subsequently at her suggestion. In our conversation I mentioned our concerns about the problems we are having with the sidewalk trees. I told her that the trees are growing bent due to the strong ocean winds and the use of the wrong stakes to prop the trees. I mentioned to her that somebody can injure their eyes with the low branches, etc. I volunteered to meet with anybody from the city that can help solve this problem. Teel told me that she is going to call the persons in charge of the planting and if I did not hear from them in a week, to call her and let her know.”

Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas has Parks Dept Contact Chepo
As directed by Commissioner Teel, commission assistant Eve Bazar sent an email to Julie Richards, assistant to City Manager George Gretsas, explaining, “José Vega resides at the Commodore condo on the Galt. He feels that the trees on the Galt aren’t being pruned properly, and in some cases may cause harm to people since the branches are too low. Mr. Vega talked with the commissioner and would like to meet with someone from P&R (sic - Parks and Recreation) who is responsible for the trees so he can alert them to the problems. Would you please have someone from P&R contact Mr. Vega to discuss this matter. Thanks.”

Parks Department Operations Superintendent Brian Hopper
A week later, Parks Department Operations Superintendent Brian Hopper met with Chepo. On December 13th, shortly after their meeting, Hopper notified Assistant Director Terry Rynard of Parks and Recreation, “I have met with Mr. Vega and we have began trimming and restaking the trees. We will continue this work over the next week or two. Mr. Vega is pleased with our response thus far and was very complimentary of staff. I will follow up when work is 100 prct complete.”

Advisory Board Supports Chepo To recruit additional support from the 27 member associations, Chepo attended the December 18th GMCA Advisory Board meeting at Nick’s Italian Restaurant. Following reports by Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl and City Commissioner Teel, members worked through the packed meeting agenda. Under Other Business,” President Pio Ieraci reported, “A walk-through of the Galt Mile with city representatives was conducted to review the condition of trash cans, benches and the general aesthetics of our beachscape.”

GMCA President Pio Ieraci
Explaining that a full report detailing their findings and potential resolutions would be forthcoming by February, Ieraci turned to Chepo, thanking him for following his original complaint with active pursuit of redress. After announcing, “Chepo is working with the City to address the landscaping problems along Galt Ocean Drive,” he proposed that Chepo be officially vested to represent the Neighborhood Association in this effort. A quick vote affirmed Chepo’s status. After indicating that she would notify the Parks Department about the Advisory Board’s action, Commissioner Teel said that Chepo would “probably hear from them after the Holidays.”

Poorly Staked Leaning Trees
Over the next few weeks, Parks personnel completed trimming the trees and the Department ordered 10 new trash cans. Anxious to participate in the improvements, Chepo fired off an email to Eric Berkowitz on January 3rd, stating, “Eric, I have been waiting for somebody from the city to get in touch with me. I am calling the Parks supervisor on Monday now that the Holidays are over. I would like to share with you some new pictures of the Galt landscape that I feel must be tackled too. The sooner the better. Any chance that we can meet for few minutes tomorrow or Monday?”

Chepo Restakes Trees
Itching to get rolling, on January 7th Chepo emailed GMCA officials “I called Brian Hopper, Parks Operation Superintendent and he will be in touch with me in two weeks. They are very busy finishing the new South Side Park which is due soon and they are a little behind schedule. I will keep you guys posted.” A week later, a relieved Chepo announced, “The City Tree People showed up by surprise. I spent time with them and have pictures. I have some information about the landscape. Let me know if you can use it for the newsletter.” An optimistic Chepo ran up the block and hand delivered pictures detailing the improvements.

José and Brian Hopper discuss landscape maintenance
Chepo buckled down to work with Brian Hopper. In the first report he prepared for the neighborhood association, Chepo summarized the two week project. Following a walk-through with Hopper and landscaping personnel, crews assigned to the project trimmed more than three dozen trees, cutting branches deemed dangerous to marginally attentive pedestrians and passing bicycle enthusiasts. Sizing stakes were installed to better control future growth and broken metal grates framing the block’s trees were repaired and/or properly reinstalled.

Chepo and Parks Staffer Devise Repair Strategy
The trees planted along Galt Ocean Drive have two strikes against them. When Urban Forester Gene Dempsey addressed a 2005 Presidents Council meeting, he explained that a newly hired city horticulturist would supervise the planting of all new “environmentally compatible” flora along the block. The plan went awry in 2007 when Parks personnel discovered that the Green Buttonwoods planted years earlier grew Olympian root systems, irreversibly entangling cables, utility lines, telephone lines and drainage elements. Were they simply torn out, residents in the adjacent buildings would taste life in the 17th century. Having failed to pry out the roots, cut them away or selectively poison certain offshoots, Parks Department Assistant Director Terry Rynard explained that the plans were in trouble. They would have to try rooting smaller trees in areas filled with irretrievable root balls.

Chepo Goes to Ground
José Plants Sidewalk Beds
During a June 2007 landscaping walk through with Rynard and Parks Foreman Tim Southby, GMCA President Pio Ieraci learned why hurricane-damaged trees were deliberately replaced with undersized trees suffering from multi-week life spans. “The silver buttonwoods that we have planted on the walkway were chosen for their size for many reasons,” exclaimed Southby. “The openings in the sidewalk are only so big. Many of the old root systems are still in the ground from the old trees and from other trees along the sidewalk. Electrical and irrigation for these trees runs through these openings, causing us to use smaller and not as mature specimens as we would like to have used.” Southby elaborated, “For this reason we have had to stake and strap the trees in ways we normally would not like to have to use. We know that it isn’t the most attractive method but it is working.”

Green Buttonwood
In 2007, city officials had to find a way to plant new trees without first having to remove the stifling remnant root balls. Initially, unsupported trees were planted in whatever space was available amid the overcrowded root remnants. As often as not, they died. If they could have somehow sustained the trees following their initial implantation, the replacements’ chances for survival would have increased substantially. Tim Southby explained steps taken by the Parks Department to accomplish this objective, “We are also currently topping off most of the buttonwoods to stop adding more stress to the lower trunk and the root system. This will allow the trunk to thicken up and give it the strength that we need to allow the strapping to come off and make the sidewalk area more appealing.”

Braced Silver Buttonwoods
By initially keeping the trees small, their growth resources would be directed towards bulking up their trunks, enhancing their prospects for survival. Southby theorized that this strategy, in combination with concentrating scheduled fertilization, would shorten the period that the trees appeared undersized. Ieraci asked Southby how long the small silver buttonwoods would have to remain staked and strapped. “We hope by June of 2008 the strapping will come off most of the trees except for the ones that we have had to replace in the last few weeks,” predicted Southby. Unfortunately, things didn’t transpire as planned.

Cracked Aggregate Sidewalk
At the time, Assistant Parks Director Rynard agreed with Southby’s assessment, exclaiming “You won’t have to wait ten years to see substantial growth. We’re making the best out of a bad situation. We plan to intensively fertilize the new trees. Once they are firmly rooted, we should see some rapid growth.” Southby also blamed the old root balls for some of the damage sustained by the aggregate sidewalks originally installed as part of the Galt Mile Improvement Project. He explained “The root systems spread under the entire area. We found them wrapped around the tree cover grates and they dislodged sidewalks.”

Trees Properly Staked and Pruned
To successfully fulfill the City’s contractual obligation to maintain the block “in a Disney like fashion,” Parks personnel should have meticulously micromanaged the immature plantings through their initial growth period. They didn’t. Of the staked trees that ultimately survived, many were severely gnarled – strangely reminiscent of the contorted tree gracing the Addams family household’s front yard. Notwithstanding, any trees that lived did so in defiance of a terminally poor prognosis by the Department.

Parks Director Phil Thornburg
On the bright side, nature is reliably unpredictable. With timely trimming and extraordinary oversight, future years may serendipitously bring unforeseen improvement. Admittedly, the key factor is intensive nurturing. Perhaps Chepo is just what the doctor ordered - a committed landscaping advocate. If his efforts insure an ongoing Parks Department policy of properly managing the immature trees, the block may yet achieve the vision shared by a community driven to put a “Smile on the Mile.”

Chepo Goes to Ground Chepo recognized the larger benefit inherent in this cooperative effort, topping off his report with, “This cooperation is a positive sign for completion of future projects, like replacing our deteriorating benches, palm tree pruning and the filling of bald spots of ground cover between the sidewalk and the street.” Expressing gratitude to Commissioner Teel while extending an olive branch to Parks and Recreation Director Phil Thornburg’s minions, Chepo added “With the support of our government officials and dedicated Parks employees, the Galt Mile Association and its residents can look forward to a productive partnership to keep the Galt Ocean Drive safe and beautiful.”

While Chepo’s work will produce a palpable benefit for every Galt Mile resident, of far greater significance is Chepo himself. Galt Mile Community Association officials have long acknowledged that the neighborhood’s greatest asset is the diversity of its residents. The neighborhood association simply provides a vehicle for these residents to define and achieve shared objectives – a forum to focus on improving their lives. It is fueled by self-motivated people willing to work for these improvements. Without José “Chepo” Vega, and the dozens of other volunteers working together on beach renourishment, neighborhood security, block maintenance, insurance dilemmas, community association operations, beneficial legislation, fiscal efficiencies and a dozen other challenges, the Galt Mile would experience the deterioration suffered by any voiceless community.

As long as our neighborhood’s squeaky wheels meet twice monthly to proactively insure its continued good health, Galt Mile residents will continue shaping their own destiny. No need to take my word for it - just ask Chepo!

Click To Top of Page

City Manager 2009 Update

George Gretsas Reviews State of the City

Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Demetrios Gretsas
March 21, 2009 - On January 15, 2009, City Manager George Gretsas attended a meeting of the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board. Board members traditionally inquire about the City’s fiscal health when afforded this opportunity. As such, Mr. Gretsas created a comprehensive presentation summarizing Fort Lauderdale’s transition from a 2003 poster child for fiscal ineptitude to a thriving metropolis in 2009. Since the ambitious steps taken by the City Manager to rescue the City from the brink of disaster were surprisingly successful, the PowerPoint presentation blended humor with facts surrounding the City’s financial recovery.

Beach Community Center
Longtime members of the Advisory Board who’ve witnessed the City’s remarkable reincarnation as well as Gretsas’ annual updates are acutely aware of the City Manager’s positive impact on Fort Lauderdale’s budgetary health. Newer participants received an education about overcoming adversity. Some of the Board’s association representatives recognized aspects of the presentation, having previously attended a similar event six months earlier, when Gretsas made a July 14th conferral of his Goals and Objectives – 2008 exposition at the Beach Community Center.

Former Fort Lauderdale City Manager Floyd Johnson
Understanding the City’s current fiscal dynamic requires perspective. To facilitate questionable City Commission spending habits, former City Manager Floyd Johnson formulated budget policies in 1998 and 1999 that addressed the past year’s expenses with the following year’s anticipated resources, somewhat akin to a household that survives by kiting checks. This fragile strategy presupposes guaranteed annual growth. From 2000 through 2003, the nationwide economic downturn exposed a fiscal house of cards assembled to obfuscate the fact that City Government was living beyond its means.

Former Interim City Manager Alan Silva
When the illusion collapsed, city officials frenetically sought protection from the political fallout, predominantly by claiming ignorance. Admitting failure to adequately fulfill their oversight responsibilities was infinitely preferable to sharing guilt for City Manager Johnson’s budgetary mirages. To stop the bleeding and distance themselves from ambient culpability, they empowered interim City Manager Alan Silva to confront the various departmental fiefdoms that historically operated in virtual autonomy. To enact a more permanent solution, the Commission simultaneously launched a full scale City Manager search.

Fort Lauderdale City Commission Selects George Demetrios Gretsas as City Manager
Digressing from traditional search parameters to address criteria consistent with the “Condition Red” state of the City, newly elected City Commissioner Christine Teel teamed with commission peers Hutchinson, Trantalis and Naugle in supporting the selection of Gretsas over stereotypically more accomplished candidates. Instead of the classic sycophant, the City needed a work-a-holic organizer capable of holding together a departmental confederacy while reconfiguring its dysfunctional underpinnings.

Former Assistant Police Chief Stephen Robitaille
The Commission’s overzealous pursuit of a municipal consolidation policy aimed at achieving a modest financial benefit instead produced gross inefficiencies. Gretsas reversed the policy, expanding the 9 City Departments into 16. After relieving the effects of overconsolidation, he imbued the heads of the reconstituted Departments with some clear and non-negotiable responsibilities. Having elicited a detailed list of goals and objectives from each department head, Gretsas based their advancement (or dismissal) on their success (or failure) in attaining those goals.

Former Police Chief Bruce Roberts
Debilitating contract disputes were also settled by refocusing the criteria for advancement from longevity to merit. Instead of tolerating budget busting expenditures for Police and Fire-rescue overtime, Gretsas commissioned studies that addressed chronic staffing shortfalls with administrative efficiencies. Assistant Police Chief Stephen Robitaille told Advisory Board members that he credited implementation of Safir Rosetti recommendations (a study commissioned by Gretsas to enhance police efficiency) with reversing the burgeoning city-wide crime rate. At a subsequent Advisory Board meeting, Commissioner and former Police Chief Bruce Roberts confirmed Robataille’s assessment, crediting weekly COMPSTAT meetings and implementation of a Tactical Impact Unit (to better focus on current crime trends) – both Safir-Rosetti recommendations – for the improved crime stats.

Outsourced to Waste Management
Gretsas reviewed the economic viability of every municipal department. By outsourcing 60% of the city’s trash collection responsibilities to Waste Management in 2004, the City Manager saved the taxpayers another $890,393 annually. Inclusion of outside engineers in a fast track effort to expedite building permits helped unclog the longstanding log-jam in the Building Department.

Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Demetrios Gretsas with Management Team - CLICK TO LARGER VIEW
With a close-knit management team blended from imports like David Hébert and Kathleen Gunn and budget crisis survivors like Steve Scott, Valerie Bohlander and Kate McCaffrey minding the municipal machinery, Gretsas enabled Commissioners to concentrate on stretching and allocating the City’s resources while negotiating the daunting five-year rebuilding period. Cooperating top level officials in Fire-Rescue, Police, Parks and other city departments were rewarded with a return of those resources previously lost to budgetary constraints. With Gretsas’ team managing daily operations, the City Commission could concentrate on fleshing out depleted departments, restoring shaken employee morale and recapturing the City’s future.

Gretsas Works With City Commission
Gretsas’ high octane management ethic cleared the way for the City’s return to solvency years ahead of schedule. Although Gretsas’ relationship with the previous City Commission was one of mutual respect, he harbors no illusions about his position in the municipal food chain. Exclaiming, “I don’t believe the bureaucracy is in a position to set policy, and that includes me. Its way inappropriate,” Gretsas acknowledges that he operates at the discretion of the City Commission.

In summary, the presentation follows the City’s fiscal fortunes from the 2003 Budget crises through 2009. Reminding onlookers of the City’s desperate financial straits in 2003, Gretsas stated, “the city had negligible reserves, a $21 million insurance deficit, festering labor disputes, a building department drowning in chaos, ineffective service delivery on multiple levels and rock-bottom employee morale.” Each in turn, he addressed how these challenges were met.

In 2003, Gretsas determined that “a reasonable target for the City’s reserves would be 7%... minimum.” He also established criteria governing the use of reserve resources, such as “their unavailability for use when addressing recurrent expenses.” Gretsas anticipated achieving this goal by 2007. The nearly invisible $875,000 in 2003 grew to $9.3 million in 2004 (just under 5%) and $30 million in 2005. Bingo - and two years ahead of schedule. In 2006, reserves grew to $43 million, $67 million in 2007 and last year reached a record $78 million - the largest fund balance in City history.

The $20.6 million insurance deficit of 2003 shrank to $13 million in 2004, zero in 2005 and rounded out to a healthy $4 million fully reserved surplus in 2006. The surplus grew to $8 million in 2007 and $10 million in 2008. In response to Fort Lauderdale’s revived fiscal credibility, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s ratings for the city’s general obligation bonds turned from negative to positive in 2005. By 2008, Moody’s conferred a strong “Aa2” rating on the City’s bonds while Standard & Poor’s rated them a solid “AA”.

Commenting on Fort Lauderdale’s tax environment, he pointed out that 22 of the County’s 31 municipalities had higher millage rates than Broward’s most populated City. The tax rate was cut three years running with record 10-year lows in 2005 and 2007. Of the 31 municipal water and sewer rates in Broward County, Fort Lauderdale is number 27, the fourth lowest in Broward. Of the County’s 27 different municipal Fire Assessment Fees, Fort Lauderdale's is number 15 - safely in the lower half of represented cities and towns.

While his Goals and Objectives presentation is primarily designed to educate residents about the City’s progress in realizing their vision and apprise them of potential obstacles, it also serves as a stern reminder that straying from fiscal responsibility is a recipe for disaster. Now that the City’s financial playing field is once again level, it faces new dangers. One embodies the adage that “those that forget history are doomed to repeat it.” New residents and some newly elected public officials armed only with an anecdotal perspective of the budget crises have naively marginalized the warning inherent in his presentation, characterizing Gretsas’ militant commitment to fiscal prudence as a paranoid overreaction or intimating some nefariously camouflaged hidden agenda. Residents and officials that lived through the crises know better. When Gretsas is attacked for safeguarding the City’s coffers, an investigation into the detractor’s motives usually reveals a self-serving political and/or financial agenda that often includes a haircut for taxpayers.

Click to Police and Fire Pension Web Site
One such flashpoint is inherent in Gretsas’ stated concern about the City’s healthcare and pension benefit expenses. Municipal employees belong to either the General Employees’ Retirement System (GERS) or the Fort Lauderdale Police & Fire Pension. Since the taxpayers ultimately guarantee the viability of these Plans, Gretsas has persistently warned the City Commission that an economic downturn would force taxpayers to make up the funds’ market losses. Additionally, he exhorted that since the funds’ rate of growth far outstrips the City’s anticipated resources, taxpayers would again be left holding the bag.

Click to General Employee’s Pension System Web Site
The City Manager is responsible for negotiating contracts with the city employees that work for us. As our spokesperson at the negotiating table, he must balance the needs of the employees with the needs of the taxpayers. Before reporting impacts of the recently concluded labor agreements, he added fiscal perspective to the issues facing the city.

Prior to the contract negotiations, employees participating in the General Employees’ Retirement System received 3% of their salary toward their pension for every year they worked for the City. After 20 years, they were entitled to 60% of salary for the rest of their lives. To fund this pension system, the city must pay 23.43% of an employee’s salary. The new agreement mandates that new hires belonging to GERS will see 5% increases 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.

After 20 years on the job, employees belonging to the Fort Lauderdale Police & Fire Pension annually realize approximately 67% of their salaries for life. 24 years on the job translates to an annual lifetime benefit equal to 81% of their pay. Given a multiplier of 3.38%, the cost to the city had escalated to 49% of base pay. According to the new contract, new Police and Fire-Rescue hires will see 5% increases for each year of the two-year deal in return for a minor pension restructuring. The new arrangement will cost the city 36% of base salary instead of the 49% that it formerly funded. The first year savings alone is anticipated to be about $2.6 million.

The Police and Fire-Rescue pension agreements portend a significant burden for taxpayers in the immediate future. In 2001, the $4.4 million paid by the City in Police and Fire-Rescue pension costs represented 10.5% of their payrolls. By 2008, the $21.3 million city contribution represented almost 50% of their payrolls, an increase of 384%. In addition to the incremental 50% on payroll costs, the taxpayers have to make up for any market losses sustained by the fund. Since the fund value sunk from $491 million on January 1, 2008 to $378 million on November 30, 2008, taxpayers must cough up the lost $113 million.

An alternative retirement strategy available to Police and Fire-Rescue employees is known as the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP). Up to 5 years before retirement, a police officer or firefighter can collect their full pension while still working for the city and collecting their full salary. The money is placed in a special account where it accumulates with interest and is tax deferred. When the employee finally leaves city employment, the money is distributed in a lump sum payment.

To demonstrate the plan’s actual impact on retirees, Gretsas presented the packages given to the last 3 retired Assistant Chiefs. In 2007, an Assistant Chief received a lump sum cash payment of $469,683.22 and an annual pension payment of $78,097.20. He did a tad better than a colleague that also retired in 2007 with a lump sum cash payment of $449,929.36 augmented by annual pension payments of $74,812.80. When a third colleague retired in 2008, the $461,189.33 lump sum abetted an $82,279.32 annual distribution.

City of Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Stations
The presentation documented the 2003 to 2009 timeline improvements to the crime rate, Fire-Rescue response times, proactive code enforcement, response times for the removal of graffiti and cleanup of illegal dump sites. New ordinance amendments governing noise and newspaper boxes are being enforced to better balance residential and commercial needs. While the City’s beaches and parks already get high marks from residents and visitors, infrastructure improvements are proceeding apace for the Waterworks, Fire-Rescue and Police stations, roadways and City Hall. Economic development must secure the City’s reputation as an international boating capital and tourism Mecca as well as fuel growing high technology, global trade, financial services and biotech industries.

Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk
Community redevelopment for each neighborhood is planned around the vision of its residents. Dynamic enhancements are planned for critical residential and commercial corridors such as the Galt Mile, North Federal Highway, the Central Beach area, Davie Boulevard, South Andrews Avenue and Sistrunk Boulevard. Major objectives include creation of a world class downtown urban center, turning the New River into a waterside showplace destination, energizing the Riverwalk and establishing a cutting edge rail system.

New City Commission gets down to Business
Just how closely the City Commission was listening to the City Manager’s admonitions is no longer relevant. A new lineup of rookie commissioners (save one) with a mixed bag of skills is charged with making city services affordable and effective. Aside from our new mayor’s sterling credentials as a consensus builder with a reliable political rudder, the City of Fort Lauderdale has become a political science classroom. Insurance adjuster Bobby DuBose and attorney Romney Rogers will hopefully benefit from Jack Seiler’s experience and leadership.

Commissioner Bruce Roberts' New Challenge
While he brings a unique perspective to the table, once Bruce Roberts fathoms that accountability to tens of thousands of bewildered constituents is significantly more exasperating than umpiring a bureaucratic conflict between the City Manager and the police union, his street-tested moral compass should give rise to a surprisingly competent City Commissioner.

City Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom
Given her District 2 election mandate, Charlotte Rodstrom will likely spend another three years on the short end of countless 4 to 1 commission votes while painting George Gretsas as an obstacle to consensus. Since declining property values have washed out the City’s magic hat of windfall tax rabbits, residents have grown increasingly leery of losing a cornerstone of the city’s fiscal stability. Anticipating that Gretsas will adapt his style to befit the new commission, Mayor Seiler applauded the substance of his contributions and admitted needing his help with the budget.

Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Demetrios Gretsas
As exclaimed by the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, Commissioner Rodstrom’s criticism “unfairly puts much of the blame on his (Gretsas’) shoulders.” She has repeatedly pointed out that other candidates for the 2003 City Manager position scored higher on tests administered by Management & Personnel Systems Inc. of Walnut Creek, California, a professional search firm retained by the City. Finalist George Kolb, who was the City/County Manager of Augusta, Georgia, a Harvard graduate and scored a stellar 90% on the test went on to Wichita City, Kansas, where he was forced out of his job under pressure from the City Council. Michael K. West, the Johnson City, Tennessee City Manager and a legacy from Fort Lauderdale’s budget office who scored a healthy 77.7% on his test went to a small town in Alabama called Dothan. Applicant Thomas Hoover, the former City Manager of Worcester, Massachusetts who scratched out an average 59.3% on the test went to Royal Oak, Michigan where he unsuccessfully applied for jobs in the Florida communities of Venice, Ocala and Deltona while getting the boot from Royal Oak. Test scores notwithstanding, it appears that Fort Lauderdale copped the biggest "bang" for its "City Manager buck".

George Gretsas has done everything the City Commission has asked of him, from hard-nosed negotiations with the city's unions to infusing each municipal department with accountability. While he will have to make adjustments to accommodate the requirements of the new commission members, they will discover that he is an invaluable resource. The Commissioners will soon realize that absent Gretsas, they would be forced to take the heat he eats for breakfast. Of course, they could replace him with a commission puppet and turn the budget into a pork buffet. After all, what happened in 2003 could never happen again – right?

Click To Top of Page

Galt Ocean Mile

2009 Food Drive

Halfway There

CFP Executive Director Scott Woodburn
March 27, 2009 - Scott Woodburn, the
Cooperative Feeding Program sparkplug that pulled together the Galt Mile food drive during the past three years, has again undertaken to sharpen competitive instincts and stimulate collections. At a January 15th meeting of the Galt Mile Community Association’s Advisory Board, Woodburn notified participants that the economic downturn had exploded the program’s client ranks, burning through food stores at an unprecedented rate. The program’s Executive Director is passionately committed to restocking the endeavor’s severely depleted resources. To enhance perspective of the strain burdening the besieged feeding program, Woodburn exhorted, “Hunger remains a real problem in Broward County as 1 out of 4 goes to bed hungry every night.”

On March 23rd, Woodburn sent an email to the Galt Mile associations participating in the current food drive. Emulating a race caller at the Belmont Stakes, Woodburn gave an engaging play by play describing the state of affairs as the Galt Mile donors rounded the halfway mark.

Reviewing the relative success that competing associations realized halfway through the drive, Woodburn opined that “The final place standings should be very close this year.” Following a reminder that cash is now accepted toward an association’s point total at the rate of $1 per pound, Woodburn returned focus to the real motivation for donating foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and money, explaining “Your donations will change lives. Your donations will save lives.” Point taken! Please read his email followed by a summary of the first half stats:

The 2009 Galt Ocean Mile first half results.

David Jenkins for CRT South - second most food donated - overall and per unit
As you can see from the results of our first food collection not only have we set new records from food and cash donations but there is an exciting race for total points. Just 12.5 points separate Coral Ridge South and Edgewater Arms, or Third and fourth just 28 pts separate Southpoint and Coral Ridge Towers Original and for fifth and sixth place just 39 pts separate Playa De Mar and Regency South. Right down the line the separation between Condo Associations is just a few pts. The final place standings should be very close this year.

Annemarie Adams for Edgewater Arms - most food donated per unit and Recognized Champion
Remember there are two Championships Awarded: Total Points and Points per Unit, plus every Condo Association will receive a food drive certificate of appreciation.

Edgewater Arms & CRT South are the Champs Very close and exciting - as we are seeing new associations getting excited about the drive. If everyone will continue with the effort just think how much of a difference we will make this year. Good Luck everyone, keep up the great effort, check out the deals at WINN DIXIE, just two weeks left!

One dollar equals one pound of food You all will remember that we added the option to donate money to the drive. That's because The Cooperative Feeding Program can leverage that cash donation and purchase food at .19 cents per pound. For the purpose of the drive totals every dollar donated equates to 1 pound of food and the donated food and cash adds up to total points.

Thank you for a great start to the Food Drive. Your efforts and donations will make a difference. Your donations will change lives. Your donations will save lives. What a great gift to your neighbors and community.

6 tons of Galt Mile Food Fills Van
The final food pick up is scheduled for Tuesday, March 31. Our “after the food drive celebration and awards ceremony” will be in April. Arrangements will be announced.

Keep up the great work! Imagine the difference we can make working together to make this year’s food drive a record success.

Scott A. Woodburn
CFP Development

Halfway Point Collection Results
(21 Participating Associations)

AssociationsTotal lbsTotal DollarsLbs and Money
1.   CRT South688.5 pounds  $6381326.5 pts
2.   Edgewater Arms244.0 pounds$1070 1314.0 pts
3.   Southpoint672.0 pounds     672.0 pts
4.   CRT ”Original”466.0 pounds  $175   644.0 pts
5.   Playa del Mar434.5 pounds    $10   444.5 pts
6.   Regency South405.5 pounds     405.5 pts
7.   CRT East329.0 pounds    $25   354.5 pts
8.   Ocean Riviera365.5 pounds     365.5 pts
9.   Plaza South339.0 pounds     339.0 pts
10. Ocean Club224.0 pounds  $100   324.0 pts
11. Fountainhead297.5 pounds     297.5 pts
12. Galt Towers286.5 pounds     286.5 pts
13. The Galleon244.5 pounds     244.5 pts
14. Royal Ambassador  96.0 pounds  $100   196.0 pts
15. Playa del Sol178.0 pounds      $6   184.0 pts
16. Ocean Summit156.0 pounds     156.0 pts
17. Galt Ocean Club140.0 pounds     140.0 pts
18. Plaza East111.5 pounds     111.5 pts
19. Regency Tower  97.0 pounds    $10   107.0 pts
20. Caribé  80.5 pounds       80.5 pts
21. Commodore  30.5 pounds       30.5 pts
Totals5886.0 pounds$21348020 pts

Remember, the Galt Mile Food Drive ends on March 31st. Drop off the bags, bars and boxes of stuff in your kitchen that are just taking up space. The can of grape leaves that Aunt Martha gave you. The can of ravioli behind the jar of Prego. Come on. What about that can of spam you bought on sale in Sam's Club. Give it up!.

By the way, Click Here to see the Team Captains for each association.

Click To Top of Page

Commissioner Ken Keechl’s Corner

April 2009 Newsletter

April 2, 2009 - * "Who is this guy?" As a rule, Broward residents occasionally notice whether their elected representatives are faithful to campaign promises. If they percieve a fifty to sixty percent batting average, they are more than satisfied. District 4 Commissioner Ken Keechl has built his Commission career on disappointing political cynics. He is the exception that proves the rule. Keechl refuses to compromise on his promises to constituents.

Keechl Addresses Budget Issues
When he spouted the typical campaign drivel about lowering taxes without eviscerating services, safeguarding the County's natural resources and shrinking County government, constituents gave him high marks for playing the right music. With the possible exception of friends and colleagues, few realized that Keechl is fanatically committed to every representation he makes - before, during and after the campaign. He also promised to keep his constituents abreast of County affairs, fiscal issues and impending problems. Like clockwork, Keechl grinds out a monthly Newsletter targeting that commitment.

With the new County budget on the table, Commissioner Keechl's April Newsletter opens with a review of his contributions to the County Commission's successful budget-cutting efforts in 2007 and 2008. Tracking the dollars saved as if they were frequent flyer miles, Keechl reminds us that $90 million was cut from the 2007 budget and another $87 million was clipped from last year's product. With the two-year running total up to $177 million, he then fast-forwards to the current budget.

Given the economic downturn, Keechl explains that the accompanying drop in property values has prompted some commissioners to limit budget surgery to a millage rate increase that will yield the same amount of taxes collected last year. The millage rate required to match the previous year's collections is known as the "rolled-back" rate. While this would cut the equivalent of a respectable $45 million from the FY 2010 budget, our budget hawk isn't happy. Characterizing the millage rate hike as a tax increase, Keechl is lobbying his Commission peers to retain last year's millage rate.

 Former County Commissioner Jim Scott
He admonishes that if "we keep the County millage rate at last year’s rate of 4.888, the County’s FY 2010 budget would shrink by an additional $135 million dollars." He is quick to point out that this would result in "a combined three year cumulative and recurring budget decrease of $312 million dollars." Straight up, when Keechl promised to squeeze the bloated County budget, did anyone realize that we elected the most effective tax-cutter in District 4 history? Keep in mind that Keechl predecessor Jim Scott had a state-wide reputation for fiscal conservatism. Sorry Jim, its time for you to move over! - [editor]*

“Lowering Broward County Property Taxes
Again in FY 2010”

by Broward County Commissioner & Vice Mayor
Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
When I campaigned to be your Broward County Commissioner, I promised that I would never vote to increase your property taxes. I have kept that promise for the last two years. I intend to keep it for the next two years as well.

For Fiscal Year 2008, I voted to lower property taxes and shrink the County’s budget by approximately $90 million dollars per year. My colleagues agreed by a 9-0 vote.

For Fiscal Year 2009, I voted to lower property taxes and shrink the budget by approximately $87 million dollars per year. My colleagues agreed by a 7-2 vote.

Since these are recurring, yearly savings, the result of these two votes was to shrink the Broward County budget by almost $177 million dollars per year.

How did we do this? We instituted a hiring freeze, which reduced operating expenses drastically. We reduced capital projects by prioritizing and funding “needs” while postponing or eliminating “wants”. We paid off certain debt (to lower yearly interest costs) and we minimally raised certain fees (which hadn’t been reviewed or raised in more than 13 years!)

On February 17, 2009, the County Commission had its first Fiscal Year 2010 budget workshop. The good news: the majority of my colleagues agreed to lower property taxes for a third consecutive year. The bad news: we couldn’t agree on how much to cut from the FY 2010 budget.

Due to the decrease in property values county-wide, some of my colleagues want to raise the property tax (millage) rate applied to all taxable real property in Broward to a certain rate known as the “rolled-back” rate. Technically, this is not considered a “tax increase” because it will bring in the same amount of property taxes as last year. If 5 or more of my colleagues agree, the FY 2010 budget would decrease by approximately $45 million dollars (for a combined three year cumulative and recurring budget decrease of $222 million dollars.) Not bad.

Nevertheless, while I believe the County Commission has made real progress over the last two years, and while I believe that $45 million dollars is a real reduction, I don’t believe it is good enough.

In order to keep my promise to you and your families, I believe I cannot, in good faith, vote to raise the County’s millage rate on the assessed value of any real property you own in Broward County. To me, an increase in the millage rate equates to a tax increase. If 4 or more of my colleagues agree with me and we keep the County millage rate at last year’s rate of 4.888, the County’s FY 2010 budget would shrink by an additional $135 million dollars (for a combined three year cumulative and recurring budget decrease of $312 million dollars.)

2009 Broward Board of County Commissioners
My colleagues and I will continue to discuss the FY 2010 budget for the next several months. I will, of course, continue to fight to lower your property taxes as much as possible. And based on the first budget workshop, I am confident that the majority of the Broward County Commission will eventually vote to once again lower your property tax burden by decreasing the size of Broward’s budget by at least $45 million, and possibly by as much as $135 million. I will keep you apprized of our discussions.

My best to you and your families.

Broward County Commissioner and 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.

Click To Top of Page

Chief Commissioner

Bruce Roberts Clears the Air

April 8, 2009 - Contract negotiations are, by definition, largely adversarial. When completed, the parties ordinarily acknowledge that each side was simply doing its job as they cordially agree to reconvene upon expiration of their current work product. Strangely enough, after the City’s contract negotiations, a huge billboard suddenly appeared off Sunrise Boulevard just west of Interstate 95 exclaiming, “Your Fort Lauderdale Police Officers want to thank you for your support” followed by “Paid for by the Lowest Paid Police Officers in Broward County.” Needless to say, they aren’t.

City Manager George Gretsas and Police Chief Frank Adderley
Instead of leaving understandable residual animosity at the negotiating table, police union officials decided to exercise a post-negotiation political agenda. Newspaper reports confirmed that union officials were mounting a campaign to dismiss their contractual adversary, the city manager. Following the engineered removal of Gretsas, his “rookie” replacement will be motivated to uncommon generosity during the next round of contract negotiations in just over a year, ignoring taxpayer concerns about exorbitant pension benefits. The elimination of Gretsas would yield an additional benefit. The alliances made en route to accomplishing their objective would provide them extraordinary input into municipal operations - as if they were elected by the City’s residents.

John & Charlotte Rodstrom
Although the City Commission is responsible for insuring that maneuvers like these are unsuccessful, commissioners are often beset by contradictory incentives. While fighting on behalf of taxpayers to protect a besieged budget, Commissioners are also expected to elicit incremental allocations for district constituents. However, knocking off the City Manager to green light a raid on the City’s coffers will require enough reconstructive spin to sink a ship.

Lobbyist Judy Stern
The recently conducted municipal elections were deconstructed into a political battlefield for control of the city treasury. Seeking an anti-Gretsas ally, Charlotte Rodstrom supported Commissioner Bruce Roberts’ successful candidacy against Christine Teel, hoping his primary objective would not be to represent the interests of his constituents, but those of the City’s police union. When husband John Rodstrom was asked by former Sun Sentinel political writer Buddy Nevins about claims that he was pressuring lobbyists to donate to Roberts’ campaign, Rodstrom said, “I’m not going to comment on that. Charlotte is not involved in any way. She wants to fire City Manager George Gretsas and so does Roberts.”

GMCA Director Rose Guttman
While attending another City Manager presentation at the Downtown Business District, Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom and her campaign muse - lobbyist Judy Stern - cast aspersions on Gretsas’ fiscal management - an opinion not shared by Fort Lauderdale’s attending business community. When GMCA director Rose Guttman asked Rodstrom and Stern to explain their non-specific criticisms, Rodstrom said, “I know things that you don’t about Gretsas.” Guttman pointed out that Rodstrom didn’t answer her question and wailed away, “If you have some information to support your accusations, present it. If not, you should be ashamed of yourself for deliberately misrepresenting the truth.”

Bruce Roberts at Galt Mile Security Patrol kickoff
Since Bruce Roberts eked out his 2511 - 2442 commission seat victory by a 69-vote hair, he faces governing without a mandate. In his favor, Roberts’ tenure as Police Chief - during periods of rising and receding crime rates - was marked by integrity. While attending GMCA Advisory Board meetings, Roberts was responsive to neighborhood concerns. He initiated the A1A Traffic & Noise Control program to stop unrestrained motorcycle and drag racing between Commercial Boulevard and Oakland Park Boulevard. He also supported the Galt Mile Security Patrol, acknowledging that it was the only way to address the “Quality of Life” crimes afflicting the neighborhood. At several Advisory Board meetings, Roberts explained that Law Enforcement resources in every major municipality are of necessity allocated to areas afflicted by the highest crime rates and the most serious Part 1 crimes. While attending the June 2007 Security Patrol kickoff event at Galt Ocean Club, Roberts said “The Security Patrol will finally address the area’s specific security needs. Staffing the patrol with Fort Lauderdale officers will make it professional and effective.”

FOP President Jack Lokeinsky
However, many residents have expressed reservations about Roberts’ commitment to serving the community. During the election, dozens of Galt Mile residents complained about having received unsolicited telephone calls from persons identifying themselves as police officers, whose message forewarned that the city was facing an unparalleled crime wave unless Roberts is elected. As Chief, Roberts had a spotty relationship with the union, wavering between goat and golden boy. Suddenly, after abruptly quitting the force and announcing his candidacy for the City Commission, the mercurial union leadership steeped him with unqualified support. Union President Jack Lokeinsky and union attorney George Tucker (and wife Phyllis) punctuated their endorsement with September 7th contributions to Roberts’ campaign. Tendered one day after the police contract was finalized; Roberts’ rancorous letter of resignation clarified his sympathies with elements of the union’s agenda.

Lt. Alfred Lewers Jr.
This isn’t the first time the police union sought to assume control of an organization with which it was at odds. At Town Meetings convened by the local NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 2006, more than 80 residents testified about personal experiences with racial profiling and police misconduct. Lt. Alfred Lewers Jr., coordinator of FLPD’s Recruiting, Background Investigations and Training Unit, undertook to polish the police image in communities where it hasn’t always been positive and bring more minority officers on to the force. Lewers sent an e-mail to officers suggesting they join the NAACP as a means of increasing understanding and easing tensions.

Broward NAACP President Marsha Ellison
In a response that outraged civil rights proponents, FOP president Jack Lokeinsky sent a memo to membership outlining a strategy to depose the current NAACP President, Marsha Ellison. Expressing disdain for the NAACP’s stance on racial profiling, discrimination and police misconduct, he asked FOP members to join the NAACP for the express purpose of ousting Ellison. Appending Lewers' positive memo, Lokeinsky wrote, “The FOP is tired of the current position of the President of the Broward Branch of the NAACP. In an effort to vote out the President and her views of the police, I support the membership drive. A one-year membership allows you to make the change and get rid of this us against them attitude.”

Florida NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze
Not surprisingly, Florida NAACP president Adora Obi Nweze said at a press conference outside the Fort Lauderdale Police Department “The NAACP’s national headquarters will scrutinize all new membership applications in Florida to counter attempts by the Fort Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police to join the civil rights group and vote local president Marsha Ellison out of office. The national office will not accept the memberships of anyone who doesn't support the organization.”

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

Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Demetrios Gretsas
Whether or not the residents of District 1 support the City Manager or the police union concerning the adequacy and/or affordability of the City’s pension obligations, they are absolutely united in expecting their Commissioner to give their concerns priority. At several candidate forums, when Roberts was asked if he intends to fire the City Manager if elected, his response evolved as the campaign progressed. Whereas he initially equivocated, as he realized that the question actually probed his motivation for running, his answer became more conciliatory - albeit with a caveat. He told the Sun Sentinel that he could work with Gretsas with the condition that he “change his management style.” Roberts found himself expending significant political capital denying that his candidacy was part of the Police union agenda of blowing off Gretsas and his opposition to pension parachutes.

Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley and Commissioner Bruce Roberts
Roberts is aware that his first order of business is to dispel constituent concerns that he is a “one trick pony” whose elective goals end with a questionable midnight contract revision. Local residents are otherwise delighted with Roberts stated intention to reinvigorate a residents’ vision for city neighborhoods, promote balanced redevelopment, renourish the beach, squeeze the budget, achieve consensus and lay the groundwork for a Galt Mile Master Plan. He picked up a truckload of credibility upon calling for changes to the police and fire pension funds and exclaiming his willingness to trade on his rank and file support to address their ballooning threat to the City’s financial stability.

Seiler and Roberts
His opening salvos at City Commission meetings were also encouraging as Roberts lined up with Mayor Jack Seiler to freeze spending until the Commission had an opportunity to separate the budgetary chaff from the wheat. On March 31st, Roberts met with GMCA officials to discuss the prerequisites for a Galt Mile Master Plan. Following the meeting, Roberts again confirmed that his relationship with the City Manager will depend on the substance of his contributions and his ability to adapt to the revamped Commission’s vision for the city. He was also enthusiastically anticipating upcoming opportunities to actualize District 1 campaign commitments.

To this end, Roberts will issue regular newsletters to keep constituents abreast of his progress and continue to hold pre-agenda meetings similar to those popularized by predecessor Christine Teel. He also intends to use neighborhood association meetings as a forum for inclusion. Roberts is playing all the right music. Barring some gross blunder, he will soon earn the community support barely evident during the March 10th election. Commissioner Roberts built a sterling public service career on trust. He is smart enough to stick with what works. The Commissioner will attend the upcoming April 16th Advisory Board meeting - as good a place as any to start clearing the air!

Click To Top of Page

Vice Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

May 2009 Newsletter

Click to Broward County Ethics Commission web site April 18, 2009 - * In his latest newsletter, Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl confronts an issue often neglected by many of his peers... Ethics. Given the relative ease with which many elected officials break faith with commitments, “Government Ethics” is widely considered little more than a cynical oxymoron hovering between “Commercial Art” and “Military Intelligence”. To Commissioner Keechl, however, Ethics is serious business. It is also meaningful to the 57% of Broward voters who last November supported the creation of a Broward County Ethics Commission to formulate a Code of Ethics against which actions of Broward Commissioners can be measured.

Keechl also reminds us that he characterizes himself as a Moderate Democrat. He further explains something that anyone who has worked with the commissioner already knows - that his conscience, not his political affiliations, anchors his moral compass. Since he uncompromisingly makes decisions based on what is best for the County and its residents, he has been remarkably successful at achieving consensus among a politically diverse constituency comprised of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and others.

2009 Broward Board of County Commissioners
Currently, Broward County Commissioners are governed primarily by state law which requires that commissioners abstain from voting on issues from which they, their families or their businesses could profit. They also must file annual financial disclosure statements and reject gifts offered in exchange for their votes or to promulgate nepotism. Skeptics point to the conflict inherent in the Broward Commission selecting 9 of the 11 appointees.

University of Miami Law Professor Anthony V. Alfieri
University of Miami Law Professor Anthony V. Alfieri disparaged the Commission’s lack of a continuing enforcement mechanism. Director of the Law School’s Center for Ethics & Public Service, Alfieri noted that no resources were allocated to investigate violations. The Broward Commission has repeatedly suffered humiliating ethics breaches. In 2005, Josephus Eggelletion was fined $2500 for voting to award a trash-hauling contract to a company he had lobbied for in Miramar in 2001. Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin was fined $15,000 last year for voting to approve grant applications for Southwest Ranches that were written by her husband. And the hits just keep on coming!

Broward Property Appraiser Media Director Bob Wolfe
Since the Broward Commission’s 9 Democrats are charged with choosing the majority of the Ethics Commission, Commissioner Keechl sought ideological balance by reaching across party lines and appointing Bob Wolfe, the Republican Media & Government Relations Director for the Broward County Property Appraiser’s office. Bob has personally helped thousands of Galt Mile residents contend with exemption dilemmas, valuation disagreements and petitions of every stripe. The well-known and widely respected Wolfe wheels from one venue to another, attending neighborhood advisory board meetings and conducting outreach clinics that help homeowners wade through mounds of exemption and portability paperwork. Keechl closes with a request. He would appreciate our input relevant to the new body, hopefully before he addresses the Ethics Commission on June 10, 2009. - [editor]*

“Ethics Reform Should Be a Non-Partisan Issue”

by Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
Everywhere you go, you hear it: another elected official has been accused of unethical behavior. It’s really a shame. As Henry Kissinger once said, “90% of the politicians give the other 10 % a bad reputation.” He may have been exaggerating, but not by much.

Fortunately, the people have had enough. In November 2008, the residents of Broward County voted overwhelmingly to establish a Broward County Ethics Commission whose “sole purpose shall be to establish a Code of Ethics for the Broward County Commission.” I supported the establishment of an Ethics Commission then, and I support it now.

Click to Broward League of Cities The Broward County Ethics Commission will be made up of 11 members: each of the nine County Commissioners will appoint one member from his or her district, and the remaining two members will be appointed by the Broward League of Cities. The Ethics Commission will propose a Code of Ethics to the entire Broward County Commission by March 2010. If the Commission fails to adopt it within 6 months, the proposed Code of Ethics will be presented to the voters for acceptance or rejection on the November 2010 ballot.

I am often asked to characterize my political philosophy. I respond by labeling myself as a moderate Democrat—one who is simultaneously environmentally sensitive, business friendly, and fiscally conservative. But, more importantly, I have always said that, as your County Commissioner, I represent everyone in District Four—Democrat, Republican, Independent or otherwise.

My voting record and my numerous appointments to various County Boards over the last two ½ years demonstrate my philosophy, including my recent appointment to the Broward County Ethics Commission. After much reflection, I selected Robert Wolfe, a well known, active, and widely respected Republican, as my appointee. I did so because I believe that Bob will bring a different (and important) perspective to the Ethics Commission. Bob and I have discussed (and will continue to discuss) how together we can strengthen Broward’s ethical standards.

In the meantime, I welcome your input. I will speak before the Broward County Ethics Commission in June. If you have any ideas about ethics reform in Broward, I would like to hear them. Feel free to email me at

My best to you and your families.

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.

Click To Top of Page

Commissioner Roberts Thanks to Voters

New City Commission gets down to Business
April 30, 2009 - In his first Newsletter to District 1 constituents, City Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts expresses appreciation for his seat on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission. Acknowledging that 4 of the 5 municipal representatives are neophytes, he observes that the Commission's new complexion signifies that the voters were exclaiming their predisposition for change. In a refreshing declaration, Commissioner Roberts admits that while he may not be able to expeditiously answer certain concerns expressed by constituents, he intends to explore these issues with District 1 residents in hopes of arriving at a mutually acceptable resolution.

City Commissioner Roberts or Chief Roberts?
Focusing on his thirty-five years of public service, our new commissioner identifies citizen participation as the catalyst for progress. Drawing on his extensive experience with safety and security issues cultivated during his long and distinguished career as a local law enforcement icon, Roberts characterizes Public Safety as the cornerstone of civilization. He correctly points out that human communities initially coalesced to more effectively protect themselves. After promising to exploit his law enforcement experience for the benefit of the entire city, he targets the City's greatest challenge, how to make one dollar pay for two dollars worth of services.

City Manager George Gretsas
Cutting to the chase, Roberts explains that the Commission's first meeting directed "the City Manager to freeze current fiscal year expenditures, except for public safety, with the goal to carry forward savings into next year’s budget." This directive will allow the new Mayor Jack Seiler adequate time to institute his plan for a zero-based budgeting policy. It also was the first official interaction between Commissioner Roberts and City Manager George Gretsas since Roberts' election.

During his campaign, Roberts promised to work productively with Gretsas with the understanding that Gretsas would address the new commission’s priorities. Since the election, both City officials have agreed to bury any residual controversy and wrestle through tough budget issues together. Many Galt Mile residents initially expressed concern about candidate Roberts' motives for aspiring to the District 1 Commission seat. Upon hearing of Roberts' post-election public commitment, they were relieved to learn that Roberts was willing to sacrifice his alleged personal agenda in favor of steering the District - and the city - through the ongoing economic crunch. – [editor]

From The Desk of
Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
I would like to extend my thanks to all of the 4,953 voters from District I who participated in the March 10, 2009 municipal election. It is obvious, citywide, that people do want a change and now is the best time for that to happen. With three new Commissioners and a new Mayor we will move forward with a renewed energy for positive change. I stated in my campaign that I would bring back your voice to City government, and I mean just that. I have an open door policy, and if you contact me I promise to respond quickly. I may not have immediate answers, but you will receive a reply right away. I will engage residents and businesses in District 1 and throughout the City to help find creative solutions to the issues we face.

City Commission with Roberts
As your new Commissioner, I am employed by you and will listen to you and work for you; revitalizing community involvement in political decisions by keeping everyone informed. Early in my thirty-five years of service to the community, I realized that the most successful government achievements came when citizen participation was incorporated into those efforts. Public safety is and always has been one of the few very basic services citizens demand from their government; indeed, it is the primary historic reason people have banded together to form governments. A stable community fosters economic development, which, in turn, opens the door for a safe community. A safe community nurtures a better quality of life for its citizens who can then take full advantage of all this community has to offer. By bringing back community policing, our citizens will be directly participating in a partnership to solve their neighborhoods’ problems. By bringing back training, our public safety professionals will be better equipped with the skills and tools needed to better address the chronic problems associated with homelessness and crisis intervention scenarios. By bringing back a focused technology with practical applications, resources will be deployed to improve response times, reduce crime, increase visibility and control budgets. At our first commission meeting, we directed the City Manager to freeze current fiscal year expenditures, except for public safety, with the goal to carry forward savings into next year’s budget.

Click to Cardinal Gibbons High School District 1 residents will now have the opportunity to meet with me at Pre-Agenda Meetings on the Monday before a Commission Meeting which are usually the first and third Tuesdays of the month. The meetings will be at 6:00 p.m. at Cardinal Gibbons High School, Media Room (2900 NE 47th Street) and are for the purpose of reviewing and discussing the upcoming City Commission Agenda. I encourage you to take part in these informal and open meetings.

Please contact me to become involved in your community; we need your input, ideas and your commitment to make Fort Lauderdale the best it can be.

If further information is needed, please feel free to contact my assistant Robbi Uptegrove at 954-828-5033 or by e-mail at

Bruce G. Roberts                

To access the City Commission Meeting Agendas and Minutes, Click Here. To actually watch the meetings recorded and archived on the Commission Meetings Video Webcast and Archives web site, Click Here. - editor

Click To Top of Page

Galt Ocean Mile

2009 Food Drive

Final Results

CFP Executive Director Scott Woodburn
May 11, 2009 - The 2009 Galt Mile Food Drive was over. In keeping with tradition,
Cooperative Feeding Program Executive Director Scott Woodburn sent emails to the participants. The CFP sparkplug notified team captains, Association volunteers and other local program supporters that the recent drive was an unqualified success. Initially concerned about the economic downturn's impact on donations, Woodburn seemed relieved by the final results.

The email opened “Thanks to all, for your efforts in producing a records setting Food Drive. Not too many folks showed up to celebrate the successful food drive competition.” Turning the focus to the event's competitive underpinnings, he continued, “Congratulations once again to our repeat Grand Champions the Edgewater Arms. I have attached the final results, please share with your board and president.”

He explained why the annual effort was being shifted to a different - hopefully more productive - month, “Considering the results, I think we will keep the month of March as our Official Galt Ocean Mile Food Drive Month. Thanks again and we'll see you again next year.” The email carried two attachments, a letter entitled, “The Final Note” and an Excel spreadsheet compilation of the final statistical summary - “Final Results”. The letter, fueled by hope and infused with enthusiasm, is as follows:

The Galt Ocean Mile Food Drive Final Note

David Jenkins for CRT South - second most food donated - overall and per unit
WOW, who would have thought, a record setting year for the 2009 Galt Ocean Mile Food Drive. We set a goal of 15,000 lbs and for all intent and purpose we did it! Super congratulations to all our condo participants for a wonderful record setting effort in our 2009 Food Drive.

Annemarie Adams for Edgewater Arms - most food donated per unit and Recognized Champion
Our 2009 Galt Ocean Mile GRAND CHAMPIONS for the second year in a row is the Edgewater Condo Association ([sic] - Coop Association). What can you say about that wonderful group at the Edgewater Condo Association ([sic] - Coop Association)? The smallest among us, with just 86 condo units ([sic] - coop units), the Edgewater just blew away the competition again this year with an astounding effort accumulating 3,658 total points and averaging a magnificent 43 points per unit.

Edgewater Arms & CRT South are the Champs Congratulations to Annemarie Adams, the condo campaign Captain, the Condo Association Board, and the residents who made the fight against hunger in their community a personal campaign. ([sic] - Edgewater Arms is a Cooperative Association)

David Jenkins for CRT South - second most food donated - 3rd in lbs per unit
Congratulations to the Coral Ridge Group. Coral Ridge South hung in there second in total points followed by Coral Ridge Towers Original who was in a fight with up-comer South Point under first time leader Rebecca Olshan. She sure made Bonnie sweat it out.

CRT East - Jim Rainey - 5th in total food donated and 7th in food donated per unit
Jim Rainey’s, Coral Ridge East group was solid again followed by our second smallest association the Fountainhead under Jennifer Donnelly. You have got to watch out for those smaller Associations. They stay under the radar but in the end can make a huge impact. Jennifer got a big increase out of her residents and place 6th overall in total points and second in points per unit with 5.1. She also gets my high five for her food collection box decorations.

Fountainhead guided by Jennifer Donnelly - 2nd Place - Lbs Per Unit
Following the Fountain Head was Cyndi Songer’s Galt Towers and Rosie Bowers and her Playa del Mar Group separated by just 11 lbs. and then the Rivera, Galleon, Plaza South and Ocean Club, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th & 13th place who were separated by just 50 lbs.

Southpoint - Rebecca Olshan - 4th in total food donated and 5th in food donated per unit
In the per unit category, no one could touch the 43 points per unit from the Edgewater but the Fountainhead followed in second with 5.1. Coral Ridge South’s 4.5 and Bonnie Leavitt's Original 3.2 were third and fourth. Things started to tighten up with South Point and the Rivera at 2.4 tied at fifth, then Coral Ridge East at 2.3 at 6th, the Galt Towers, seventh at 2.2 and a bunch at 2.1 points per unit.

Playa Del Mar - Rosie Bowers - 8th in total food donated and 14th in food donated per unit
Thank you for a great effort in making this Food Drive the best yet. Your efforts and donations will make a difference. Your donations will change lives. Your donations will save lives. What a great gift to your neighbors and community.

Imagine the difference we can make when we work together. We can work magic. Thanks for making this years food drive a record success.

Remember on this Tuesday, April 7 at the St Lawrence Gallery 5:30 to 7PM will be our Food Drive celebration and we will crown our 2009 Grand Champion Edgewater plus every Condo Association will receive a food drive certificate of appreciation.

Scott A. Woodburn
CFP Development

Collection Results
(21 Participating Associations)

Total Lbs & $$$ (Points)Lbs & $$$ per Unit
AssociationTotal PointsAssociationPoints/Unit
Edgewater Arms3658.0 pointsEdgewater Arms43.0 points/unit  
CRT South1529.0 pointsFountainhead 5.1 points/unit
CRT ”Original”1089.0 pointsCRT South 4.5 points/unit
Southpoint  970.5 pointsCRT ”Original” 3.2 points/unit
CRT East  761.5 pointsSouthpoint 2.4 points/unit
Fountainhead  648.5 pointsOcean Riviera 2.4 points/unit
Galt Towers  565.0 pointsCRT East 2.3 points/unit
Playa del Mar  554.0 pointsGalt Towers 2.2 points/unit
Ocean Riviera  480.5 pointsRegency South 2.1 points/unit
The Galleon  450.0 pointsOcean Club 2.1 points/unit
Plaza South  448.0 pointsThe Galleon 2.1 points/unit
Ocean Club  435.0 pointsCaribé 2.1 points/unit
Regency South  430.0 pointsRoyal Ambassador 1.9 points/unit
Playa del Sol  416.5 pointsPlaya Del Mar 1.5 points/unit
Royal Ambassador  406.0 pointsPlaza East 1.4 points/unit
Plaza East  385.0 pointsRegency Tower 1.4 points/unit
Caribé  313.0 pointsPlaza South 1.3 points/unit
Regency Tower  283.0 pointsPlaya del Sol 1.1 points/unit
Ocean Summit  262.0 pointsOcean Summit 1.1 points/unit
Galt Ocean Club  140.0 pointsGalt Ocean Club 0.7 points/unit
Commodore   78.0 pointsCommodore 0.4 points/unit
Total Lbs Collected14,316.0 points  


One dollar equals one pound of food That’s right! Our community contributed more than 7 tons of food and sundries to local families that are suffering through a tough time. The formula used as a comparative basis assigns one point for each pound of food and/or sundries donated as well as one point for each dollar contributed. Your anonymous contributions will be held up as an example 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.

Click To Top of Page

President Barack Obama
May 28, 2009 - Last year, the
Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 provided for a first-time homebuyer tax credit of $7,500. Since the terms required repayment, the tax credit was essentially an interest-free 15-year loan. In February of 2009, congress passed President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package, increasing the tax credit to $8,000 and building in an incentive for making the first 36 mortgage payments. If beneficiaries of the $8,000 tax credit hang on to their new homes for at least three years, they need not repay the tax credit.

Also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009, about 35% of the stimulus package is earmarked for tax cuts and 65% is dedicated to government spending, the Laurel and Hardy of economic recovery. Half of the new spending will target infrastructure like roads, highways and renewable energy. The other half will be disbursed to states for economic stabilization and stemming unemployment. While fueling local employment will help insure that working homeowners are equipped to meet their mortgage obligations, the Federal Government hopes to simultaneously massage the housing market by stimulating new homeownership.

Where will the $787 Billion Go?

* Tax Relief - includes $15 B for Infrastructure and Science, $61 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $25 B for Education and Training and $22 B for Energy, so total funds are $126 B for Infrastructure and Science, $142 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $78 B for Education and Training, and $65 B for Energy.

As often occurs with lawmakers’ work product, the term first-time homebuyer is a misnomer. In fact, the legislation embraces anyone who hasn’t owned a primary residence for at least 3 years before purchasing a qualifying home. For married couples, if either husband or wife maintained an ownership interest in a primary residence during the 3 years prior to the new purchase, they are ineligible for the tax credit. Qualifying is also conditional on purchasing the home after April 8, 2008, and before December 1, 2009.

Ownership of a primary residence in the United States is the eligibility threshold. Recent ownership of a vacation home, rental home, or any residence outside the United States will not trigger disqualification. The tax credit could benefit anyone currently relocating their primary residence to the Galt Mile neighborhood from Canada or anywhere outside the United States. Although homeowners officially residing in Boston, New York, Chicago and other parts of the country are ineligible, their tax-paying non-homeowner children may qualify! Homeowners victimized by Wilma or Katrina are eligible if they haven’t used their property as a primary residence for three years prior to the new home purchase.

The credit is calculated by taking 10 percent of the home’s value - up to a maximum of $8,000. It is reduced or eliminated for higher-income taxpayers. To receive the full $8,000, a single applicant’s yearly modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) cannot exceed $75,000 while married couples can earn up to $150,000 annually. The phase-out range for a married couple filing a joint return is $150,000 to $170,000 and $75,000 to $95,000 for single taxpayers. If two or more taxpayers who are not married purchase a principal residence and otherwise satisfy the requirements, IRS Notice 2009-12 provides that they can divide the credit in proportion to their purchase price contributions, according to their ownership interest or in any manner deemed “reasonable” since they are both technically eligible for the entire credit.

Since a tax credit (such as the one described in the original 2008 legislation) is ordinarily applied against one’s tax liability, a taxpayer owing less than $8,000 wouldn’t realize the full amount. To avoid the politically unpopular perception that the resource is regressive, the 2009 bill regenerated the benefit as a refundable tax credit.” In other words, while there are maximum income limits for qualifying first-time homebuyers, there are no minimum income criteria. After applying the credit to any taxes owed, any remainder is sent by check as a refund from the IRS.

Click to IRS Form 5405 If you made an eligible purchase in 2008, you must claim the first-time homebuyer credit on your 2008 tax return. For eligible purchases in 2009, the credit can be claimed on the 2008 or 2009 income tax return. To claim the tax credit, you must file form IRS 5405 “First-Time Homebuyer Credit” along with your amended 2008 return (assuming you've already filed for 2008) or your 2009 return.

Exceeding the income phase-out range ($95,000 or $170,000 for joint filing married couples) or owning a primary residence in the U.S. within 3 years of purchase aren’t the only eligibility obstacles. You are also precluded from participating if you are a nonresident alien, if you sell the home before the end of the year or if you purchased the home from a close relative (spouse, parent, grandparent, child or grandchild - although homes purchased from step relatives are acceptable). Those of you who were about $8,000 shy of owning your home can now cut the deal. If you could only remember the number for that 2 bedroom overlooking the pool and beach...

Stimulus Package Tax Credit Links

  • Click Here for details about the “Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008”, the legislation that underwrites the 2008 tax credit

  • Click Here for details about the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009”, the legislation that underwrites the 2009 tax credit

  • Click Here for an explanation of the “$8,000 First Time Home Buyers Tax Credit”

  • Click Here for the actual text of the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” (H.R. 1), A.K.A. - the “Stimulus Package”

  • Click Here for an explanation of the “Stimulus Package”

  • Click Here for an Executive Summary of the “Stimulus Package”

  • Click Here for form IRS 5405 to claim the tax credit

Click To Top of Page

Neighborhood Fight Ramps Up for

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center
June 2, 2009 - The
Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center serves as a portal to the world for literally thousands of local residents. Broward County’s Herculean budget deficit has placed the tiny storefront branch of the huge Broward County Library System on the chopping block. In a frenetic marathon to offset the Property Appraiser’s projected 15% drop in the County’s tax base, County Commissioners are gouging away at libraries, parks, animal shelters and other “non-critical” services loosely characterized as “quality of life” expenses. County budget director Kayla Olsen projected the shortfall between $135 million and $160 million.

Nova Southeastern University - Alvin Sherman Library
Along with the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center in Fort Lauderdale, libraries scheduled for execution are the Beach Branch in Pompano Beach, the Hollywood Beach Library, the Riverland Library in Fort Lauderdale, the Pembroke Pines Library, the Century Plaza Library in Deerfield Beach and the Lauderhill Mall Library. The branch library on Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale (not the ArtServe Section) is also on deck for last rites. Operations at the County’s 11 largest libraries that were cut from 70 to 58 hours a week last year will be further reduced to 48 hours a week this year. Special programs organized for all libraries are mere months away from the big sleep. The county plans to incrementally save $5.7 million by breaking its decade-old 40-year contract with Nova Southeastern University to build and operate its Alvin Sherman Library.

Click to Broward County Library Fueled by highly competitive commission districts perpetually pressing for parity, Broward’s Library Division mirrors the county’s big government spending environment. Its 37 libraries occupy 1.5 million square feet of space and cost the county $64 million last year. It’s the nation’s largest library system and number 84 in terms of volumes held.

Budget Bites Broward

Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl
In April, District 4 Commissioner Ken Keechl extolled the Broward Commission for trimming $90 million from the 2008 budget and $87 million from the 2009 budget, shrinking the County’s annual intake by $177 million. He also complained that his colleagues were considering an adjustment to the Millage rate that would produce the same revenue as last year - characterized as the “rolled-back” rate. Given the smaller tax base, the millage would have to be increased to yield the same intake. While he acknowledged that the strategy would cut another $45 million from the Budget and increase the cumulative 3-year recurring tax savings to $222 million, he expressed a preference for matching last year’s millage rate, thereby dropping the County into a $135 million black hole. The cumulative 3-year recurring tax savings would jump to $312 million.

Broward Budget Cuts The problem is this. Cuts made over the past two years targeted many questionable projects and irresponsible spending strategies, the absence of which often went predictably unnoticed. Programs that were underutilized, ineffective or otherwise unjustifiable were expunged. Programs created to address issues that were no longer relevant were gratefully terminated. Projects that owed their survival to an inherent automatic annual refunding process withered when finally scrutinized. Simultaneously, the County Administration consolidated overlapping services and streamlined delivery to enhance fiscal efficiency. As such, many of the cuts were absorbed in stride.

In his Budget newsletter, Keechl summarized how the County underwrote the Budget cuts, stating, “We instituted a hiring freeze, which reduced operating expenses drastically. We reduced capital projects by prioritizing and funding ‘needs’ while postponing or eliminating ‘wants’. We paid off certain debt (to lower yearly interest costs) and we minimally raised certain fees (which hadn’t been reviewed or raised in more than 13 years!)”

With the pork mostly eviscerated during the previous reductions, cuts are starting to hit bone. When that happens, Commissioners must meticulously negotiate and then carefully explain lost services to their constituents, remitting assurances that the pain is being equitably shared. Since there is no reasonable standard for comparing resources received by a district’s inhabitants versus their contributions, determining whether their losses compare favorably with those of residents in other districts is tantamount to catching smoke.

Galt Mile Reading Room Becomes Target

Broward Sheriff's Office Loss of the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center would represent a gross injustice. In exchange for making huge annual contributions to the County tax coffers, Galt Mile residents receive almost nothing in return. Half the County budget funds the Broward Sheriff’s Office. While we are very grateful for Sheriff Al Lamberti’s vocal opposition to the threat posed by Calypso, virtually no BSO resources protect the Galt Mile neighborhood. Since we pay the City of Fort Lauderdale for providing our Police and Fire Protection, our county tax contributions actually subsidize neighboring jurisdictions that use BSO services. We enjoy no local county parks or recreational resources and even fund our own beach maintenance and security. Other than four or five annual Property Appraiser outreach opportunities at the Beach Community Center, the County spends almost nothing for our slice of the Barrier Island.

Click to Broward Beach Project Of course, we are awaiting the long-delayed Broward Beach Renourishment. This significant neighborhood improvement will directly benefit every Galt Mile resident. Notwithstanding, since the beach is one of the County’s primary financial engines, it will also benefit every Broward resident. There is one County enterprise, however, that was organized uniquely to enrich life in our community - the tiny Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center.

Residents Enjoy Galt Mile Reading Center
While the beach is the heart of our neighborhood, this mini-library is certainly its soul. Arguably the most popular local resource on Galt Ocean Drive, it has provided battalions of mostly elderly residents with a convenient location to research almost anything, meet with friends or simply log in some quiet time. Most of the locals are on a first name basis with every staffer, including temporaries and substitutes. Five regular staffers help the 2,390 residents that visit the Center each week locate “New York Times” best-sellers, DVDs of foreign films, health-related audio books or search Google for exotic recipes. Often unable to finish enjoying their selected resource by closing time, library clientele check out 1,695 items each week.

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center Computers
Whether enrolled in a Senior Self Defense class or Introduction to Computers, Galt Milers that perceive the mini-library as their community center keep the sidewalk planter in front of the Reading Room filled with fresh flora. Visiting authors review their works, local poets recite their creations and culture groups celebrate their unique ethnicities. Despite its modest designation as a “Reading Room”, since the library is networked into the massive Broward library system, it is a doorway to the planet.

Click to Friends of Broward County Libraries The thousands of previously technophobic local residents who were first introduced to the internet in Reading Room classes keep the six free online computers busy through lockup. Facilitated by the “Galt Ocean Mile Friends of the Library,” a local 12-member chapter of the umbrella Friends of Broward County Libraries, integration of the Reading Center into community life was swift and spontaneous. Many of the individual condos and co-ops along the Galt Mile post library events and information on their bulletin boards and newsletters, functionally treating the resource as an association amenity. Almost every Galt Mile family holds one of the 5,338 library cards registered by the Galt Ocean Mile branch. Given the influx of younger families into the neighborhood over the past decade as well as visiting grandchildren, the 126 cards registered to kids unlock a well-rounded children’s section.

Hazardous Materials - such as Asbestos The Reading Center provides a unique example of government serendipitously “getting it right”. The facility’s sterling utilization statistics clearly confirm its status as an unqualified success. Ironically, its overwhelming popularity blossomed despite a series of County bloopers that might have ordinarily undermined any other institution. By 2005, the explosive demand on the Reading Center prompted the County to authorize an expansion. In the years that followed, the popular improvement project was repeatedly victimized by ineptitude and administrative blunders. When Broward County leasing specialists rented space adjacent to the Reading Room to accommodate the expansion, they forgot to check the premises. 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.

Broward Library Director Bob Cannon
From 2006 through last year, Broward Library Director Bob Cannon intermittently promised a patchwork of remedies to the quandary when pressed by the Galt Mile Friends group. Other than occasionally closing the doors for assorted toxicity tests and engineering options, little was accomplished. An angry Commissioner Ken Keechl agreed to help expedite a reasonable resolution to the dilemma. When he announced last year that the Reading Room might fall prey to ambitious County budget cuts, he promised to help insure its survival. Although enraged and discouraged by three years of county double-talk, local Friends President Herman Gardner frantically sought to keep the parties communicating. On October 30, 2008, Cannon wrote to Gardner, outlining the division’s most recent progress, apologizing for the indefensible delays and thanking him for his patience and support.

GMCA President Pio Ieraci
After reading recent media releases confirming that the tiny Reading Room was part of a multi-branch burnt offering to county bean counters, Gardner received hundreds of phone calls from angry residents offering to wage war on virtually anyone threatening to close their library. He contacted District 4 County Commissioner Ken Keechl and Galt Mile Community Association President Pio Ieraci, seeking to verify the reports. The Commissioner admitted that county staff recommended closing library branches, targeting primarily those housed in locations leased by the county. To help assuage Gardner and a rapidly growing constituency that expected Keechl to keep the doors open, the Commissioner explained that the reports were describing preliminary events considered at Budget Workshops. He said that the final verdict wouldn’t be cast until the September Budget Meetings.

Galt Mile Prepares Defense

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center
Gardner, a Galleon resident, decided that it was time to act. After enlisting the assistance of GMCA President Pio Ieraci to help organize neighborhood support for the Reading Room, he convened a May 2nd Saturday meeting at the Library. Having learned about the meeting by word of mouth, some fifty mostly elderly attendees squeezed into the little meeting room intermittently used for Election Day polling purposes. Expressing sentiments ranging from indignant anger to glum futility, each described how the library anchored their lives.

Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter
Southpoint octogenarian Sally Sober (AKA Sara) announced that she communicated with Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter’s office to inform her about the meeting. Convinced that Ritter would soon arrive, Sober rehearsed her defense of the Library. “The truth is it keeps me alive. It is a part of my life that can’t be replaced. It is as important as food and water. ” When it became evident that Ritter wouldn’t show, the feisty Sober admonished, “We have to let Ms. Ritter and Mr. Keechl know that if we lose our Library, they will lose their jobs.” Following a round of applause, several residents that participated in defeating the Calypso Gasworks months earlier offered to help organize opposition using similar strategies. Tasks assigned to various volunteers included distributing petitions to every association, creating fact sheets summarizing the issues and more effectively alerting local residents to the impending threat.

Scores of residents attended a second organizational meeting two weeks later – too many for the modest meeting room. Dozens of worried elderly patrons testified about the Center’s stabilizing impact on their lives. In addition to detailing their participation in various events, the renderings shared a common theme – the library patrons were able to come and go “under their own steam.” A Royal Ambassador resident clarified, “Each year, my world gets smaller – but I can still get across the street on my own. I don’t need to ask anyone for a lift and I don’t have to cut into my food budget. The Library helps me feel self-sufficient and independent. I can still enjoy life’s gifts without asking for permission or help.” Looking around the room, he added, “We all feel that way.” Instead of the usual nods and expressions of passive assent, the room burst into applause. His statement touched a nerve. As his increasing infirmities narrowed access to long-held interests and activities, his appreciation for the Library’s offerings grew exponentially. The Center’s convenient access empowers elderly and disabled patrons with a degree of control lost to them in other areas of their lives.

Friends President Herman Gardner was invited to attend the May 21st GMCA Advisory Board meeting. After apprising association representatives about the Reading Center’s prospective demise, the board voted unanimously to vest Gardner with the authority to represent the neighborhood with respect to saving the Library. Several Advisory Board members volunteered to take a direct part in any rescue strategy. Although Commissioner Keechl is the community’s voice on the County Commission, Ieraci agreed to help elicit active participation by other local public officials.

Terry Claire
Engineered by Plaza South resident Terry Claire, within a month, thousands of petition signatures were collected at 26 participating associations. A “resolution of support” template was created and distributed to the member associations for approval by their respective Boards and a letter writing campaign was initiated. The third organizational meeting was held on May 30th.

At that meeting, Bob Evans from Galt Towers lamented that the county didn’t understand the neighborhood’s relationship with the Library. He explained, “There is more here than just books. Thousands of us come here to share cultural experiences and attend classes. This little storefront connects us to the world. Walking across the street opens the door to theater, poetry and literature. Losing this center would be a disaster for hundreds of my friends and neighbors.” Almost one third of the average 2,390 patrons hosted by the center each week attend classes, poetry recitals, book and theatre reviews, and various cultural events co-tailored over years by residents and staff. “Sending us off to the Imperial Point branch to take out a book resolves nothing.”

In the Same Boat

Century Plaza Branch Library
Since 7 small branch libraries are threatened with closure, members weighed the pros and cons of coordinating survival campaigns with some or all of them. Some closely mirror our reasons for requesting special dispensation from the County Commission. The Beach Branch in Pompano and the Century Plaza Branch in Deerfield Beach are frequented by large numbers of elderly residents who also view their facilities as lifelines to the world. Like the Galt Mile Reading Center, they provide social opportunity, emotional sustenance and intellectual stimulation – “Quality of Life” necessities often lost to relocated retirees. While the Galt Mile Center and Beach branch in Pompano pull double duty as local polling places, the Century Plaza branch does not.

Deerfield Beach Commissioner Marty Popelsky
Neighborhoods surrounding some of the 6 other leased libraries are equally adamant about saving their branches as the Galt Mile. A recent newspaper article reported that Deerfield Beach Commissioner Marty Popelsky, seeking to align support for the endangered Century Plaza Branch, said at a City Commission meeting, “Please contact the County Commission; fax your county commissioners. There are 12,000 people per week using it versus 3,000 people at Percy White (Library).” In fact, they are both only frequented by roughly the same number of weekly patrons as the Galt Mile branch – about 2500. However, Popelsky’s misstated exuberance was matched by County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who vowed to “fight to the death” to keep the Century Plaza library afloat.

Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs
One group, Friends of the Broward County Library, has taken up the gauntlet for every threatened branch. On May 11th, they sponsored a writing campaign to County Commissioners using pre-printed post cards distributed to all 37 Broward branch libraries. When questioned about the campaign’s efficacy, Broward Friends President Evelyn Grooms reinforced the importance of pressuring the County Commissioners.

Beach Branch in Pompano Beach
After considering potential alignments, the Galt Mile residents focused on rationales unique to their neighborhood. While these neighboring facilities share similarly impressive utilization statistics, their clientele represents about a third to a half of the surrounding neighborhood. The Galt Mile Branch is regularly used by about 80 percent of the surrounding community. The residents finally agreed to adopt a hybrid approach. Although community activists would limit their struggle to rescuing the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center, they would encourage Commissioner Keechl to work with Commissioners representing other districts with branches leased by the County. In addition to Kristin Jacobs, Keechl might approach Sue Gunzburger, whose Hollywood Beach Library is at risk, and Josephus Eggelletion, the Commissioner representing the endangered Lauderhill Mall branch.

Imperial Point Branch Library
Another understanding arose from the May 30th strategy meeting. The residents agreed that they needed to demonstrate a balance between the County’s prospective savings versus damage done to the community. If the Galt Mile branch is closed, county staffers expect its nearly 6000 cardholding registrants and thousands of cardless patrons (family members and visitors) to find their way to the Imperial Point Library on Federal Highway. Instead of pushing a walker across the street, disabled residents without access to a vehicle will have to plan their daily visits around public transportation and pay their way to and from a facility that is miles away on the mainland. To the library’s disproportionately large complement of fixed income patrons plagued with mobility issues, the Imperial Point branch may as well be on the moon.

A County Dog and Pony Show?

How will the County benefit from the closing the library? The facility’s stated operating budget is $378,381 ($233,213 in salaries and $145,168 in operational costs). Of the $145,168 in operational costs, $114,000 was earmarked for rent and $31,168 paid utilities, custodial expenses, equipment, books, supplies, etc. However, since the rent included $44,000 for the unused adjacent toxic space wherein the lease recently expired, the net rent is actually $70,000. That reduces the annual operational expenses to $334,381.

Galt Mile Librarian Marlene Barnes explained that the terms of their union contract (Local 1591 of the Amalgamated Transit Union) will dictate the fate of the unit’s 5 staffers (and their $233,213 in salaries). Barnes said, Director Cannon told us that some of the 750 library employees may or may not be at risk. Since the contract requires the county to rotate employees to other county positions based on seniority, we should all be transferred to other county jobs if the Center closes.” Since the Reading Center staff will continue to draw their salaries, albeit from other Broward branches or agencies, the net savings drops to $101,168. Since the county’s net cost to service the Center’s 124,280 annual resident visits and 88,140 items checked out each year costs less than 82¢ (82 cents) per visitor, no other county service remotely approaches the inherent cost benefit. If scrutiny supports that the other 6 ill-fated branches yield the negligible prospective savings realized by closing the Galt Mile branch, it would recast the staff recommendation to close the facility as a dog and pony show. Not surprisingly, several residents noted that “By canning one big shot, we can pay for the library for the next two or three years.” The question is... which big shot?

What Can I Do?

The final decision about whether the libraries become extinct will be made by the Broward County Commission at the September Budget Meetings. Prior to making decisions about budget issues, the County convenes a series of Budget Workshops. They are held at the Broward County Government Center (Room 422) at 115 South Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, 33301. The remaining meetings are scheduled from 1 PM to 5 PM on Thursday, June 4th, Tuesday, June 16th and Tuesday, August 18th. We understand that the Library cutbacks will be considered at the June 16th Budget Workshop. The two Budget Meetings are scheduled for September 10th and September 22nd at 5:01 PM. We understand that the final verdict regarding the Libraries will be considered at the September 22nd Budget Meeting.

Therefore, residents that oppose closing the Galt Mile Reading Center can do so at the June 16th Budget Workshop and the September 22nd Budget Meeting. For additional Information, please call County Administration at (954) 357-7350. You can also contact District 4 County Commissioner Ken Keechl at (954) 357-7004. To address the Commission at any of these events, call County Administration to learn about any required preliminary procedures. In the interim, Please contact the County Commissioners to ask that they rescue the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center.

Address correspondences to the individual Commissioner at the Broward County Government Center, 115 S. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale 33301. Insert their respective room numbers as indicated below. Click on the Commissioner's name to view his/her Broward County web page. Click on their email links to send emails. DO IT TODAY!

  1. District 1 Commissioner Ilene Lieberman: Room # 417, (954) 357-7001, email:

  2. District 2 Commissioner Kristin Jacobs: Room # 421, (954) 357-7002, email:

  3. District 3 Commissioner and Mayor Stacy Ritter: Room # 413, (954) 357-7003, email:

  4. District 4 Commissioner and Vice Mayor Ken Keechl: Room # 412, (954) 357-7004, email:

  5. District 5 Commissioner Lois Wexler: Room # 414, (954) 357-7005, email:

  6. District 6 Commissioner Sue Gunzburger: Room # 421, (954) 357-7006, email:

  7. District 7 Commissioner John E. Rodstrom Jr.: Room # 416, (954) 357-7007, email:

  8. District 8 Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin: Room # 410, (954) 357-7008, email:

  9. District 9 Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, Jr.: Room # 413, (954) 357-7009, email:

To send one email to all nine County Commissioners, Click Here

Click To Top of Page

Commissioner Ken Keechl’s Corner

June 2009 Newsletter

Broward County Judicial Complex
June 23, 2009 - * Commissioner Ken Keechl’s
January Newsletter addressed the quandary posed by Broward's deteriorating Courthouse. Characterizing the mold-ridden structure as “antiquated and in a serious state of disrepair,” Keechl advocated a cost efficient renovation instead of funding new construction. His words echoed recommendations made to the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board at their December 18, 2008 meeting.

Click to Broward Courthouse Task Force Resolution Intimately familiar with courthouse functionality, our fiscally conservative District 4 Commissioner acknowledged the need to thoroughly investigate the issues surrounding this important and expensive undertaking. As such, he supported Mayor Stacy Ritter’s December 8, 2008, resolution creating the “Courthouse Task Force Advisory Committee.” True to his policy of documenting our tax dollars’ planned itinerary, Commissioner Keechl’s June Newsletter sheds light on the Task Force’s findings to date.

Click to Broward Courthouse Task Force Web Site Chaired by Broward Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, the committee officially became the Broward County Courthouse Task Force and included Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, Clerk of Courts Howard Forman, Lauderhill Commissioner (and former Broward League of Cities President) Margaret Bates, Chief Assistant State Attorney Chuck Morton, Broward County Court Administrator Carol Lee Ortman, 17th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Vic Tobin, Circuit Court Judge Peter Weinstein and other representatives from the legal and business communities. During their January 1, 2009 through June 30, 2009 operational term, the task force met on January 23rd, February 27th, April 3rd and concluded business on June 19th.

Broward County Judicial Complex
In “Part 1” of his Courthouse Recommendations update, Commissioner Keechl enumerates the alternatives considered by the Task Force, including a renovation of the existing structures, adapting some reasonably proximal commercial space and decentralizing functionality to satellite courthouses. Ultimately, they recommended building a new scaled-down courthouse for approximately $328 million. After narrowing potential locations to a site on the New River and the site currently occupied by the judicial garage, they opted for the garage site, citing its superior accessibility and connectivity. The new structure will accommodate expansion and the West and Central Wings of the existing complex will be demolished. New technology and innovative courtroom design will diminish space and parking requirements.

The Task Force developed some extremely creative financing options that doubtless appeal to our “Blue Dog” Commissioner. Inasmuch, Commissioner Keechl wraps up his Newsletter with a tickler, advising us to tune in next month (for Part II) to learn how the Courthouse can be built without increasing property taxes (... you’re going to love this!) Squelch that “glass eye” expression... Keechl has a habit of delivering on his promises. - [editor]*

“Broward County Courthouse Task Force Recommendations, Part 1”

by Broward County Commissioner & Vice Mayor
Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
In previous articles, I have discussed the continuing problems plaguing our Broward County courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. As a result of bursting pipes, increasing mold, broken elevators, security issues, and a chronic shortage of courtrooms and parking, judges, jurors, litigants, and employees are suffering. In fact, the County has recently been sued by several court employees alleging that the courthouse is dangerous and unfit for occupancy.

Recognizing that the current situation is unacceptable, last December the Broward County Commission established a Broward County Courthouse Task Force (“Task Force”) to make recommendations to the County Commission “regarding alternatives for financing, development, construction, improvement and other matters” relating to the downtown courthouse. The Task Force recently submitted its Report to the County Commission. I would like to devote this month’s article to summarizing its findings regarding the need to build a new Courthouse. And I would like to devote next month’s article to discussing financing issues.

Wilma blows out courthouse windows
Not surprisingly, the Task Force concluded that the current courthouse is in critical condition. All building systems have exceeded their useful lives and in the event of a Hurricane Category 2 or above, the structure will sustain significant damages, if not total destruction. Moreover, the current layout of the building is not conducive to a modern courthouse; there is not enough space for all judicial and court-related activities; and there is no room for expansion.

In contrast to building an entirely new structure, the Task Force considered a renovation of the current courthouse. The Task Force concluded that renovation would not be cost effective. If the County Commission decided to renovate the downtown courthouse instead of building a new structure, the Task Force and its experts believe that the courthouse would need to be totally gutted and the structure would have to be hurricane hardened. Moreover, renovation would inevitably require that the entire building be brought up to the current building code. Lastly, the County would incur additional costs to lease space for employees displaced during the renovations. Obviously, these costs would not be incurred with new construction.

110 Tower
The Task Force also evaluated the possibility of acquiring and remodeling an existing office building, such as the 110 Tower. The Task Force and its experts concluded that it would be difficult to achieve courtroom height requirements in a standard office building and it would also be very difficult to achieve adequate separation of the public, inmates, and judges.

Broward County Main Jail
The Task Force also looked at the feasibility of moving functions off-site and how to maximize the use of our satellite courthouses. The possibility of moving the downtown courthouse to another location in Broward County was also considered. In the end, the Task Force recommended keeping the main courthouse downtown due to the proximity to the Main Jail; the County’s investment in the salvageable East and North Wings of the current downtown courthouse; and the need to continue to provide all judicial services in one location. Moreover, due to land and parking limitations, the West and South satellite courthouses could not be expanded.

In the end, the Task Force recommended that a new scaled-down courthouse should be constructed on the site of the current judicial garage. By building on County-owned land, the overall cost of the project would be lessened. In the past, the County Commission had suggested building a new courthouse at a cost of approximately $510 million; the Task Force’s new scaled down courthouse would cost approximately $328 million. Similarly, previous County Commissions envisioned a new courthouse comprising nearly 900,000 square feet; the Task Force’s new scaled down courthouse would comprise approximately 675,000 square feet. The Task Force also recommended additional parking to meet existing and future courthouse needs.

Lastly, and importantly, the Task Force also recognized that the funding for any new courthouse should avoid an increase in the property tax burden on Broward’s residents.

I have previously acknowledged the need for a new or renovated courthouse. However, I have made it clear that I will not vote to increase the property tax burden on you in the process. Next month’s article will look at the feasibility of building a new courthouse without increasing your property taxes. As always, the devil is in the details.

Until then, my best to you and your families.

Broward County Commissioner and 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.

Click To Top of Page

Chepo Moves Galt Mile

Landscaping into High Gear

Commodore Resident José “Chepo” Vega
July 1, 2009 - Late last year, the Galt Mile Community Association
Advisory Board charged Commodore resident José “Chepo” Vega with overseeing the city’s landscaping activities along the Galt Mile, a project for which he expressed both aptitude and a passionate interest. Congruent with an understanding brokered by former Commissioner Christine Teel between the Parks and Recreation Administration and the GMCA, Parks Director Phil Thornburg assigned a Parks official to hammer out an improvement plan and timetable with Chepo. In mid-December, Chepo began working with Park Operations Superintendent Brian Hopper, his counterpart in City government. Over the next few months, City crews under Hopper began staking unstable trees, trimming low-hanging branches that posed a threat to inattentive pedestrians and rehabilitating the grates that frame trees along the sidewalk. The successful project kickoff served to mold Chepo and Hopper into a productive team.

Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts
During the April 6th Presidents Council meeting, Chepo was introduced to newly elected District 1 Commissioner Bruce Roberts, who agreed to seamlessly step into his predecessor’s shoes and move the project along. Five days later, Chepo sent Roberts a courtesy email explaining “It was a pleasure meeting you at the Galt Ocean Mile meeting last Monday. I am sure that with you and the many hard working people on your team, we can look forward to a continuous and productive time during your administration. As promised, I will keep you posted about the Galt Mile safety and landscape project I have been working on for the last few months. I appreciate your interest in them.”

Parks Director Phil Thornburg
To adequately coordinate the next step, the principals planned a diagnostic tour of the target area for May 14th. On May 8th, Commissioner Roberts’ assistant Robbi Uptegrove notified Parks Director Phil Thornburg that Roberts - who was recently seated as Vice Mayor by the City Commission - would be unavailable until after June 12th and requested an alternate date for the walk-through. By contacting each of the participants, Uptegrove was able to organize the event for Monday, June 22nd at 10 AM.

Greek Islands Taverna
Early that morning, the Vice Mayor accompanied Chepo, Hopper, GMCA President Pio Ieraci, Beach Foreman Mark Almy and Commodore residents Jack Friedman and Bill Fleckenstein on an area tour to identify landscaping deficiencies and prepare a realistic performance schedule. Starting at the Greek Islands Taverna Restaurant, the group worked their way north. In addition to documenting the requisite rehabilitation and ascertaining which City Department was best adapted to address each task, they noted problems specific to certain associations and vendors - for which they may carry some liability.

Beach Foreman Mark Almy, GMCA President Pio Ieraci, José “Chepo” Vega, Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts and Park Operations Superintendent Brian Hopper

Chepo and Parks Employee Maria Torres Devise Repair Strategy
The next day, a flurry of correspondences between the principals defined how they would proceed. Not surprisingly, Chepo got the ball rolling, asking Brian Hopper when he would “have the schedule for the bald spot planting, pruning and any other work to be done.” Hopper answered “I’ll write up a punch list of the things we discussed. Included in that will be to do an assessment of gaps (or bald spots) in the landscaping that will list how many and what type of plants we would need to obtain. You should receive that this week. Once I get approval to buy the plants I will have Maria contact you to say when the work will be done.” Maria Torres is a Parks employee whose longtime assignment to the Galt Mile has endeared her to countless Galt Mile residents.

GMCA President Pio Ieraci
Since the project will draw on resources from several municipal departments, Hopper sent Julie Richards (Assistant to the City Manager) a version of the walk-through “punch list” that sorted the various responsibilities by department. He asked that the information be appropriately routed and promised to keep her apprised of progress made by his Parks personnel. Copies of Hopper’s punch list were also sent to Vice Mayor Roberts and GMCA President Pio Ieraci. In turn, Ieraci forwarded copies to Chepo and GMCA Vice President Eric Berkowitz. Hopper’s summary is as follows:

Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts, José “Chepo” Vega, GMCA President Pio Ieraci and Park Operations Superintendent Brian Hopper

Brian Hopper's Walk-Through Punch List Summary

Per our walk-through of the Galt with Commissioner Roberts yesterday (6/22), the following items will be addressed:

Parks Division Responsibilities:

José and Brian Hopper discuss landscape maintenance
1. Allow groundcover and hedge plant materials to grow in to the edge of sidewalk

2. Broken irrigation head on east side of road, across from Sly Fox

3. Indian Hawthorn (shrub) replacement to fill in gaps in all areas of Galt, most were on South end

4. Remove smaller branches sprouting from base of Seagrape tree near the Greek restaurant

5. Remove Sabal Palm growing amongst the Seagrape tree (sabal in poor condition)

6. Remove remnants of palm-like tree near Greek restaurant; consider replanting of a palm in its place

Unstable Tree Grate Packed with Mulch
7. Inspect all tree grates for stability (mulch was underneath some, causing them to see-saw just a tiny bit)

8. Directional prune all Silver Buttonwood trees to allow for greater pedestrian clearance

9. Confirm that Winn Dixie owns seagrape trees to the rear of store, if so; ask them to lift the trees to eliminate hiding spot

10. Place soil and rat bait station at one silver buttonwood tree grate

I will let you know when the above items are addressed. However, some of them (like pruning issues) will be a gradual process.

Public Services:

Tree Grate Defect by Playa del Mar
11. Section of sidewalk higher than curb, suggest shaving down sidewalk to avoid edge/trip hazard. On east side of road, across from Wachovia and Amtrust banks.

12. Minor breaks in concrete on edge of tree grate, near Playa Del Mar

13. Regrade section of raised sidewalk that was previously graded, needs more gradual slope. (exact location will be sent)


Contact AT&T regarding abandoned utility boxes

Obtain info on entryway landscaping at sign (part of development agreement)

José “Chepo” Vega Reviews List with GMCA President Pio Ieraci, Park Operations Superintendent Brian Hopper and Beach Foreman Mark Almy

Chepo works with Parks Employees
True to his word, Hopper loosed his minions on the Galt Mile sidewalk beds a few days later. Pleased with the expeditious progress, Chepo dashed off emails to Pio Ieraci and Eric Berkowitz, stating “I must say that I am flying high with the landscape progress! The palm trees are being trimmed, the Winn Dixie Sea grape trees have been pruned, the sprinklers heads are being taken care of, etc. I just spent over an hour with the tree trimmers at the Greek Isle restaurant and the pruning result is just fantastic. Everything looks clean and inviting. The palm trees that were being strangled by the sea grape trees are free and can see the day light again. Will keep you posted.”

Given Chepo’s propensity for detail, he contacted Hopper and enumerated some of the punch list’s shortcomings. Although delighted with the impressive results, Chepo asked that the following items abet Hopper’s work product:

1. Fill in hedge areas with Silver Buttonwood as needed.

2. Sly Fox Sabal Palm pruning.

Galt Mile Portal Monument
3. New planting is needed on 34th Street next to the synagogue and next to Nick’s restaurant. Nothing has been planted there for a few years.

4. New planting in front of the Galt monuments on 34th & 35th Streets.

5. Finish planting area in front of public parking, next to Bank Atlantic.

6. Extend grass around all palm trees and trees close to the Galt Monument and the Greek Isle restaurant area to eliminate so much mulch around them.

Chepo and Parks Department Crew
While summarizing his observations in an email to Hopper, Chepo demonstrated a penchant for diplomacy. To officially recognize the Parks personnel actualizing the plan he developed with Hopper, Chepo credited them by name, adding “The work being done by Mauricio Sisterna, Larry Mathews and Ernesto Campisi is outstanding. I even learned new things about tree pruning today.”

Park Department Operations Superintendent Brian Hopper
The list composed by Hopper distinguished the City’s responsibilities from those of the neighborhood association. For instance, a sizable number of utility boxes suffering an advanced state of deterioration were located in front of several buildings. Thought to have been originally installed by BellSouth to service association residents, the neglected boxes appear to be abandoned. GMCA agreed to contact AT&T, further investigate their necessity and, if appropriate, arrange for their removal.

In addition to the official data collected to define the city’s scope of work, the group documented problems attributable to individual associations and local vendors. Since the alleged perpetrators are members of the Galt Mile Community Association or the Galt Merchants Association, the City agreed to allow the neighborhood association to address these violations in a discreet manner. To protect four member associations and one vendor from embarrassing and potentially expensive violation notices, they will be contacted and informally asked to correct their respective problems. Since some of these “indiscretions” violate municipal ordinances, if an association or the vendor refuses to comply, the City can pursue legal alternatives, including fines and/or other penalties.

When you hit the street, check out Chepo’s handiwork. He promised to document future progress with pictures and a comprehensive report. Thanks, Chepo, we are all in your debt – big time!

Click To Top of Page

Broward Budget Battle

County Commission Cuts Costs

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
July 7, 2009 - In his
April 2009 Newsletter, Commissioner Ken Keechl said, “For Fiscal Year 2008, I voted to lower property taxes and shrink the County’s budget by approximately $90 million dollars per year. My colleagues agreed by a 9-0 vote. For Fiscal Year 2009, I voted to lower property taxes and shrink the budget by approximately $87 million dollars per year. My colleagues agreed by a 7-2 vote. Since these are recurring, yearly savings, the result of these two votes was to shrink the Broward County budget by almost $177 million dollars per year.”

Over the past two years, the cuts targeted questionable projects and irresponsible spending strategies, expunging programs that were underutilized, ineffective or otherwise unjustifiable. Programs that somehow survived obsolescence were terminated and projects imbued with an automatic annual refunding process were reviewed and squelched.

Simultaneously, the County Administration consolidated overlapping services, froze hiring, reduced capital projects, paid down debt and selectively raised fees to levels currently comparable with similar jurisdictions. While the cuts raised concerns among certain constituencies, they went predictably unnoticed by the greater public.

Broward County FY 2010 Budget Web Page Fast forwarding to the current budget, Keechl said, “On February 17, 2009, the County Commission had its first Fiscal Year 2010 budget workshop. The good news: the majority of my colleagues agreed to lower property taxes for a third consecutive year. The bad news: we couldn’t agree on how much to cut from the FY 2010 budget.” Characterizing this as a major hurdle for the Commission, Keechl proceeded to diagnose the disagreement.

Broward Board of County Commissioners
Some of Keechl’s colleagues were considering an adjustment to the millage rate that would produce the same revenue as last year - characterized as the “rolled-back” rate. Since the Property Appraiser’s 11% valuation decline reflects a significantly lower tax base, only raising the millage would yield the same intake. While Keechl acknowledged that the strategy would cut another $45 million from the Budget and increase the cumulative 3-year recurring tax savings to $222 million, he expressed a preference for matching last year’s millage rate, thereby creating a deficit of $135 million. The cumulative 3-year recurring tax savings would jump to $312 million.

Having already trimmed away the high-visibility pork, the Commission’s remaining budget reduction targets are fitted with political price tags. Pumping out politically correct sound bites in February and March, every commissioner openly advocated “making the tough decisions” and “living within our means.” As described by County Administrator Bertha Henry, “The low-hanging fruit has been plucked, and this will be a very tough year.” However, when confronted with raising the millage rate or cutting services, Commissioners began waffling - testing the merits of compromise and exhorting against “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom
At the early Budget Workshops, Budget and Management staff made cost-cutting recommendations ranging from the obvious to the ridiculous. Certain items were placed on the table for reasons other than saving money. Commissioner John Rodstrom has long wanted to repeal a law requiring county contractors to pay more than the minimum wage to workers. Including it in a cost cutting recommendation buys him a shot at wiping it from the books. He’s also against building a new addiction recovery center in a location anathematic to constituents. Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion has questioned if the county is duplicating children services with other agencies. Many of these items are admittedly on the block for primarily political purposes. By cynically identifying them as money saving opportunities, commissioners can potentially revise the outcome of appropriations battles that were previously lost.

Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs
While Keechl has consistently advocated spending cuts to balance the budget, Wexler, Eggelletion, Rodstrom and Jacobs hinted empathy with a compromise. In late April, Jacobs insisted that a tax hike “isn’t off the table,” stating “We are bare bones now. We’re talking about the quality of life.” Citing improved cost projections for fuel, utilities, insurance and payroll, County Budget Director Kayla Olsen revised the shortfall from $129 million to $108.3 million before the June 4th Budget Workshop. Following that event, Kristin Jacobs asked “Where does the public set its values? Is it willing to lose all these services or is it willing to pay a little more this year?” In mid-May, Josephus Eggelletion insisted that he wouldn’t vote for any budget that lays off a county employee. Commissioners had to measure the anticipated backlash from deep service cuts versus raising taxes during a recession.

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 Public Defender, the Broward State Attorney, our Legislative Delegation, the Property Appraiser, the Sheriff’s Office, the Clerk of the Courts, etc. are constitutionally immunized to the County Commission’s budgetary machinations. While the Property Appraiser and the Supervisor of Elections split about $30 million, or about 4% of the overall budget, the Broward County Sheriff gets about 50 cents of every dollar collected by the County.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti Addresses Broward County Commission
Asked to proportionately shoulder half the $108 million deficit, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti offered to lay off 177 employees, close the old stockade jail and end an inmate drug rehabilitation program. While the gesture initially appeared to confirm Lamberti’s intention to cooperate, the sheriff’s concessions were seeded with poison pills that actually increased costs. The $722.1 million budget plan submitted by Lamberti exceeds last year’s budget. Of the 177 positions Lamberti offered to cut, nearly 77 of them are currently vacant, or filled by secretarial staff, administrative personnel or inexperienced trainees. Since redistributing roughly 430 inmates to Broward’s four other facilities will create a state of severe overcrowding, Lamberti expects the Commission to decline his offer to close the 1950s-era, low-security stockade. The resulting unsafe conditions could provoke Federal fines and/or a mandate to build additional facilities - functionally cancelling the $9.4 million savings. Circuit Court Judge Marcia Beach, who heads the Drug Court Program, called Lamberti’s offer to discontinue jailhouse drug treatment penny wise and pound foolish. Since drug treatment reduces recidivism, it reduces the Sheriff’s greatest expense – the size of the inmate population.

Circuit Court Judge Marcia Beach runs Drug Court Program
Following the June 4th Budget Workshop, Lamberti made clear that he would rather have the money than the Commission’s respect. To mollify a vociferous “pro-spending cuts” constituency, Lamberti played his “public safety” card, equating unsafe streets and fires burning out of control with any adulteration of his budget. Dispelling misconceptions about his willingness to play hardball, Lamberti openly engaged in a war of nerves with the all-Democrat Broward Commission, complete with a planned partisan endgame in Republican Tallahassee.

Commissioner Ilene Lieberman
The first stage of Lamberti’s strategy was to completely circumvent every commissioner by appealing directly to their constituents and democratic political organizations. Playing verbal ping pong in the media, when Commissioner Ilene Leiberman said, “I would hope he’d understand we’re all in this together and that in this time of financial crisis, we all have the same obligation to limit the burden on the taxpayer,” the sheriff retorted “Just when people want to feel more safe, the commission’s asking me to make them feel less safe.” After spreading his message at a June 7th event sponsored by the gay political club Dolphin Democrats, on June 8th, Lamberti attended a community forum sponsored by the Democratic Party’s Black Caucus of Broward County, where he admonished the County Commission to tap some of the county’s $232 million in reserves. “They say it’s the rainy day fund. Well guess what? It’s raining outside,” said Lamberti.

Simultaneously, The Sun-Sentinel investigated Commission allegations that the Sheriff doled out 12% raises in a union contract and huge overtime allocations to BSO employees. The newspaper reported that Lamberti spent $28.7 million last year on overtime and 800 BSO employees - about 15 percent of the 5,664 total - received at least $10,000 in overtime in 2008. Only 332 of the 7,305 county employees answerable to the County Commission broke $10,000.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti Fumbles War of Records
Launching a retaliatory strike, Lamberti requested records demonstrating overtime statistics in Commission administered county agencies. Compared with Lamberti’s $28.7 million 2008 overtime expenditure, county government paid $11.9 million for overtime even though the county has almost 1,700 more employees. The average employee working for County Commission-controlled agencies earned $1,632 in overtime while the average Sheriff's Office employee earned $5,072. Realizing that his overtime stats reflected poorly on his administrative skills, the Sheriff blamed the disproportionate overtime on the Fire-Rescue unit he inherited from the Commission, who previously froze hiring and promotions for 10 years.

Broward County Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger
As the June 16th Budget Workshop approached, the Commissioners leaned toward supporting the $108 million spending reduction. On June 13th, Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger said, “People are hurting because times are tough and we need to live within our means just like families must do.” 7 of 9 commissioners declared that they were not prepared to raise taxes. Four of the nine commissioners that are up for re-election next year are actively dodging a potential backlash over raising tax rates.

County Administrator Bertha Henry
To force a decision from Commissioners whose stated public and private preferences were contradictory, County Administrator Bertha Henry formulated an experiment. At the June 16th Budget Workshop, she offered a compromise that entailed raising the millage rate from last year’s $4.89 per $1,000 in property value to $5.43 per $1,000 in value (just shy of the $5.53 rolled-back rate), cutting $28.1 million and laying off 81 county employees. Henry’s proposal would avoid shutting down libraries and parks as well as substantial reductions to bus routes and social services. The plan went over like a lead balloon.

Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion
After warning that the Sheriff may successfully dodge the $55 million in departmental cuts by soliciting support in Republican Tallahassee, John Rodstrom demanded that Mayor Stacy Ritter adjourn the agenda and summon Lamberti to the Budget Workshop to discuss cuts. Rodstrom summed up, “We have a sheriff refusing to be here, refusing to negotiate with us and we are put in a really bad position.” Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion added “This is not a place for the faint-hearted. If you believe we’re doomed, then we are.” When Mayor Stacy Ritter sent for Lamberti, he declined, exclaiming, “What they (county commissioners) want me to do is to negotiate in front of the cameras and I’m not about to do that.”

Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter
The 4-hour Workshop ended as it started, with a $55 million donut hole in the county budget. Visibly angry at having been shunned by Lamberti, Mayor Stacy Ritter said “The sheriff has drawn a line in the sand and he has dared us to cut his budget. He will appeal to the governor and I say go ahead and let him go. He will not like the amount of money we give him and he will appeal to the governor and the Cabinet.” Refuting the Sheriff's contention that cutting his budget would cripple public safety, Ritter argued “We have some ideas on how to cut that budget without cutting public safety.” She asked why his budget funds an office of recruitment since the sheriff is laying off people and not hiring. To fill the Sheriff's budget entry for a general purpose message board costing $24,000 for law enforcement management, Ritter offered to go to Office Depot to buy a cork board for $10. She reminds the Sheriff that spending $28.7 million on overtime is not a prerequisite for public safety.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti Denies Heated Conflict
Following Ritter’s post-June 16th Budget Workshop observation that “The discourse with the sheriff has gotten pretty heated, and probably will get more heated as we go through the budget process,” Lamberti responded “I disagree that it’s gotten heated. I have never disrespected them. I have always been respectful toward them and yet they have called me names.”

Broward residents are becoming disgusted with the political burlesque staged daily by their public officials. The Budget process has been supplanted with Schoolyard Theater, with both sides postulating feverishly to undermine the other’s credibility. While admittedly fearful of alienating voters, the players seem to share the opinion that budget decisions are too important to be left to the public.

Governor Crist and the Florida Cabinet
Since the Sheriff can appeal any Commission decision to the Governor and the Florida Cabinet if it affects his budget, the issue will be decided in Tallahassee if the Sheriff so chooses. Given that three of the four Cabinet members are Republicans and three of the four are also candidates for statewide office, it will be a longshot for the nine-Democrat Broward Commission to salvage an apolitical non-partisan decision when pitted against a Republican Sheriff spinning public safety. We recently witnessed how Crist’s handlers advise the Governor regarding Public Safety issues when he vetoed the Sprinkler Retrofit Extension Bill (SB 714) - despite its near unanimous passage by the legislature.

The constitutional protections available to the Sheriff were designed to insulate elected county officials from partisan politics. They weren’t conceived to disenfranchise the county’s residents. Whether provoked by perceived slurs or part of a cleverly devised and executed political plan, the Sheriff’s Tallahassee option will deprive Broward taxpayers of input into their own fiscal future. By exporting the decision to the State Capitol, Lamberti can ignore the County Commission, override the preference for spending cuts expressed by the people of Broward County and force a tax increase.

Whatever the outcome, Sheriff Lamberti has convincingly shed that component of his public persona reminiscent of Andy of Mayberry. Broward’s top law enforcement official has proven politically equal to high-powered BSO predecessors and the Broward Board of County Commissioners. With the cat out of the bag, Lamberti can no longer rely on the element of surprise as the process heads into the summer months. Commissioners will never again display that “Deer caught in the headlights” expression adorning countless early June news videos.

The next official venue for undertaking budget issues will be the 1st of two budget meetings, scheduled for 5:01 PM on September 10th in Room 422 at the Broward Governmental Center (115 S. Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, Florida). The 2nd budget meeting will take place on September 22nd at the same time and location. The new budget’s effective date is October 1, 2009.

Click To Top of Page

New Budget is on the Money

George Gretsas Drafts Fiscal Road Map

Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Demetrios Gretsas
July 21, 2009 - A few months ago, City Manager George Gretsas was considering life in other cities. As a rule, City Managers don’t experience long and prosperous careers in one location. They bounce from town to town, where they are usually presented with the mess created by the previous City Manager. If they enjoy some success in correcting the problem that was likely responsible for their predecessor’s demise – while publicly crediting the ruling junta for their achievement – they buy a few more years. If not, they pack and move to the next town. There are, however, exceptions that prove the rule. Not surprisingly, those cities and towns that suffer the least turnover are among the nation’s most stable, well run communities – a fate that most of us envision for the “Venice of America.”

Fort Lauderdale City Commission Selects George Demetrios Gretsas as City Manager
In 2004, George Demetrios Gretsas was going about his business as the Mayor of White Plains’ strong right arm when a colleague handed him an advertisement taken from the New York Times. The “ad” described a nightmare employment opportunity in Fort Lauderdale - the City Manager position. “Come to sunny South Florida – Fort Lauderdale verges on bankruptcy – low employee morale – contract disputes – budget crisis – scapegoats welcome...etc.” He immediately applied for the job for which he was ultimately chosen. This anecdote, although simplistic and steeped in prosaic license, illustrates the City Commission’s rationale for selecting Mr. Gretsas over candidates that were academically and experientially more qualified. Gretsas thrives on challenges. Nonetheless, it didn’t disappoint the Commission when he remarked that his primary loyalty would be to “the elected officials” as opposed to any particular constituency or city staff. Despite his lack of hard credentials as a City Manager, the City Commission’s gamble on what former Mayor Naugle characterized as “the fire in his belly” is still paying off.

The City’s journey from the brink of bankruptcy in 2003 to glowing fiscal health today is largely the handiwork of Gretsas and an evolving management team that he has continuously populated with talented and motivated personnel. A review of the City’s fiscal statistics offers a mini-portrait of Fort Lauderdale’s remarkable recovery during the past 6 years. The 2003 $21 million insurance deficit metamorphosed into a $10 million surplus. The 2003 reserves were funded with a meager $875,122 (it would have been $86,330 if hiring and expenditures weren't frozen). Last year, the City featured a $78 million reserve fund, the largest in City history. Fort Lauderdale’s water & sewage rates are the fourth lowest of the 31 Broward municipalities. Of the County’s 27 different municipal Fire Assessment Fees, Fort Lauderdale’s is number 15 - safely in the lower half of represented cities and towns. The municipal tax rate was cut during each of the past three years with record 10-year lows in 2005 and 2007. To draw a comparative perspective, 22 of the County’s 31 municipalities had higher millage rates than Broward’s most populated City. Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s ratings for the city’s general obligation bonds, which were unceremoniously interred in Boot Hill in 2003, turned from negative to positive in 2005. By 2008, Moody’s conferred a strong “Aa2” rating on the City’s bonds while Standard & Poor’s rated them a solid “AA”.

It is nearly impossible to engineer the kind of changes required to ameliorate the City’s dysfunctional 2003 fiscal pathology without disaffecting some ambitious political interests and alienating long-ensconced bureaucrats. For five years, Gretsas closely followed directions handed down by the City Commission. Since his arrival, curious residents viewing channel 38 and later channel 78 watched Commissioners describe visions for certain neighborhoods or voice concerns about departmental deficiencies and charge the City Manager with finding a viable resolution. After witnessing an annual parade of municipal improvements and successful outcomes, they came to appreciate his no-nonsense management style. Prior to the March 10th election, the vast majority of Commission criticism was limited to one source and lacked specificity. Commenting on Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom’s repeated attempts to fault Gretsas for fiscal problems fostered by the economic downturn, the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board exclaimed that Commissioner Rodstrom’s criticism “unfairly puts much of the blame on his (Gretsas’) shoulders.”

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
In 2008, when voters replaced 4 of the 5 City Commissioners, Gretsas’ critics mounted a campaign to oust the work-a-holic City Manager. When former Sun Sentinel political writer Buddy Nevins asked Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom if he was backing then candidate Bruce Roberts in hopes of supporting his wife’s efforts to replace Gretsas, Rodstrom said, “She wants to fire City Manager George Gretsas and so does Roberts.” However, once elected, her new peers appropriately stated that they would each judge for themselves whether Gretsas is a liability or an asset. Newly elected Mayor Jack Seiler and Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts both acknowledged Gretsas’ manifold municipal contributions and extraordinary fiscal skills, clarifying that their concerns were “with his style, not his substance.” Seiler and Roberts also characterized as “non-negotiable” the need for Gretsas to adapt his management style to better address the new commission’s priorities. At a GMCA Advisory Board meeting, Seiler said, “It’s up to George. If he can change his style to fit the new commission’s needs, we will all benefit from his contributions.” During separate interviews, rookie Commissioners Bobby B. DuBose and Romney Rogers expressed their intentions to base any judgment of Gretsas on his future performance.

New City Commission
When asked about the new Commissioners’ expectations, Gretsas exclaimed, “They’re right! It’s incumbent on any City Manager to adjust to a new administration. It’s my job to help them realize their vision for the City, not mine.” The City Manager explained that he did the same thing for the previous administration. “The improvements I helped deliver were either conceived or approved by the City Commission. Since the City Manager is a high profile position in Fort Lauderdale’s form of Government, I would often mistakenly receive the credit for successful policies or the blame for those that failed.” Gretsas explained that his success or failure is more accurately measured by how effectively the Commission’s policies are implemented. As to his budgetary marching orders, five priorities required by the new City Commission are enumerated in his Budget Message. They are (1) no property tax increase; (2) no increase in fire assessment fee; (3) maintenance of adequate reserve funds; (4) no reductions in vital City services; and (5) no layoffs. While this is a tough bill to fill, Gretsas has repeatedly demonstrated a special talent for budget challenges. The Budget staff’s handiwork regularly snags a Government Finance Officers Association (GOFA) Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the City.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti Confronts Broward Commission
Since March, Fort Lauderdale residents have been following the Broward County budget process with an understandable degree of apprehension. Attempts to close the budget gap created when the Broward Commission decided to freeze last year’s millage rate precipitated a civil war within County government. The Broward Sheriff is locked into a political iron man contest with the nine county commissioners over spending cuts. Threats to close local libraries created a state of perpetual apoplectic rage in the affected communities. Bus routes will be closed, children’s and senior’s programs will be defunded, Tri-Rail funding would shrink, parks will be open fewer days each week, classes and cultural programs will be cancelled, hospital support programs will be terminated, animal shelters will be closed, every single county employee will be force furloughed and hundreds more will get the boot. However the conflict between the County Commission and the Sheriff plays out, certain jail facilities will be closed and the hit law enforcement will take prompted Sheriff Lamberti to red flag a public safety crisis. Anxious Fort Lauderdale residents, fearing a micro-replay of county events, have been nervously awaiting the new city budget. Would the City raise taxes to stabilize services? If not, would they be forced to close parks or community centers? How many employees would receive pink slips?

On July 17, 2009, when the City Manager released a first draft of the new city budget, city residents who missed the 2003 budget crisis learned why their neighbors who lived through it hold the City Manager in high esteem. The answers to the above concerns are “NO, NO and NONE”. Property Taxes will not be increased. In summary, taxpayers will see an average savings of $162.78 with homestead exemption and $276.24 without homestead exemption on the City portion of their tax bills. A condominium with homestead exemption would pay an average $213.10 less in FY 2010 compared to a non-homesteaded condominium, which would pay $262.60 less on average. However, some homesteaded single-family homeowners will see a $2 or $3 tax increase due to a “recapture” provision in the “Save Our Homes” constitutional amendment. The Parks and Community centers will remain open. While the Fire Assessment Fee will be frozen, the average monthly water and sewer bill will increase by $11.79 ($6.70 a month for sewer, and $5.09 a month for water). Remarkably, not one city employee will lose their job or suffer unpaid furlough days. In fact, general employees will receive $2,985,216 for their 5% COLA raises and $2,029,903 for their 7.5% merit raises – as negotiated in last year’s contract. Since the Police and Fire-Rescue contract will expire on October 1st, any inflationary impact derived of their upcoming contract negotiations could require some manner of accommodation.

The difference between the FY2009 millage revenues of $123.4 million and the $112.1 million projected for the new budget is $11.3 million or a 9.2% drop in property tax revenues. The City will also lose $2 million in sales tax and half cent tax revenues, $2.1 million in permit fees, $600,000 in State shared revenue and $1.8 million in lost interest income. Fort Lauderdale will suffer a $17.5 million loss of key General Fund Revenues. Subtracting the $288.7 million in anticipated expenses from the $258.7 million in projected revenue yields a net shortfall of $30 million.

To offset this gaping deficit, Gretsas’ budget team first assembled a cost cutting package amounting to $20 million. They saved $3.9 million by freezing 68 already vacant positions, $500,000 in reduced part-time funding and $2.6 million in reduced payroll funding (63 new vacancies that won’t be filled). By pressing one more year of service from 71 of the city fleet’s vehicles, a reduced Vehicle Purchase Plan (106 instead of 177) will serve up a savings of $3.3 million. They saved $300,000 by eliminating non-mandatory travel and conferences, $3.6 million by retiring debt, $2.9 million from Pension Reserve draw down (2nd Payment) and $3.6 million in other operating expenses. The remaining $10 million budget gap will be plugged from reserves. The budget also assumes receipt of certain other resources. Cameras installed at key intersections will record red light violations for which the vehicle owner will be ticketed by mail, prospectively adding $1.8 million to city coffers. The bottom line should also be padded with $900,000 in fleet auction revenues and $165,000 from confiscation related litigation.

Fort Lauderdale’s FY2009 millage rate was 4.1193 ($4.1193 for every $1000 in property valuation), a 23-year record low. The millage applied to finance city operations (excluding debt service) in the FY2010 budget is also 4.1193. The millage for operating and debt purposes is 4.2536. The millage freeze featured in this budget is not a “technical” tax manipulation as permitted by statute, but the real deal. State law holds that if a jurisdiction collects the same amount of tax revenues as the previous year, they technically did not increase taxes. Of course, if the taxpayer base decreases or property valuations hit the skids, each taxpayer has to pay a higher tax rate – called the rolled-back rate – in order to match the previous year’s collected revenues. Using this magical language, a jurisdiction can send every property owner a higher tax bill while cheerfully announcing that they didn’t raise taxes! God bless Florida! Incidentally, the new “rolled-back” rate – which was NOT APPLIED – is 4.5995.

While the budget draft is good news for City residents, it represents only 22% of the total tax bill. The other taxing authorities account for almost 80% of the whole nut. The School Board cuts a 38.4% slice and Broward County gets 25.3%. The North Broward Hospital District gobbles 8.8%, the South Florida Water Management District gets 3.2%, Children’s Services sees 1.9% and the Florida Inland Navigation District is in for .2%.

The City Manager has traditionally convened annual Goals and Objectives presentations to help deliver fiscal updates to the Commissioners, neighborhood associations, civic groups and business associations. The well organized PowerPoint audio-visual extravaganza reviews the City’s fiscal and operational evolution from historical and statistical perspectives. Nested in the fiscal history is a plate demonstrating how the City’s Reserve Fund evolved since just prior to his arrival. Gretsas’ accompanying narrative elucidates The national standard for a healthy reserve is roughly 5% to 15% of the annual expense budget. The City’s Reserve Fund grew from a handful of marbles in 2003 to $78 million in 2008.

In a testament to irony, a small yet vocal cadre of critics repeatedly reproached the City Manager throughout 2008 for locking away this money, demanding instead that it be used to address certain politically inconvenient operational shortfalls. One critic indignantly proclaimed “The money belongs to the City, not the City Manager,” reasoning that Commissioners should be able to use those funds to help out their neighborhoods or pay salaries. Notwithstanding, Gretsas held his ground and repeated what became a mantra It’s inappropriate to use reserve funds for operating expenses, they are emergency funds that are socked away for a rainy day. Because the City Manager weathered the misguided rebukes and stuck to his guns, the City is now able to peel off the $10 million needed to plug the shortfall and still feature a Reserve Fund that exceeds national standards. When Mayor Jack Seiler was asked about using the Reserve Fund to spare residents a tax increase, he quipped “With this current economic crisis, it’s certainly raining.”

Click to Fort Lauderdale FY2010 Budget Proposal While Gretsas’ budget denizens (Office of Management and Budget staffers) performed much of the heavy lifting in developing the budget, the groundwork had previously been laid by the City Commission. During their first meetings following the March 10th elections, the City Commission froze existing vacancies and current year fiscal expenditures. In early April, Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts explained to the GMCA Advisory Board that the new Commission wouldn’t exclude legacy expenses from scrutiny. He said “The current recessionary environment demands that every project and program be reviewed and prioritized. Except for items impacting public safety, everything must be placed on the table.” When Mayor Seiler addressed the board, he exclaimed “The key to managing the City’s resources in this tough economy is ‘Zero-based Budgeting’. By dispensing with any preconceived fiscal assumptions, no expense can be approved without first being justified.” He diplomatically added “With all due respect, we can only use budget decisions made by the previous administration as a general guide; we will not approve anything that we don’t consider necessary.” By first sifting through the voluminous list of prospective expenses and applying a needs-based standard, the Mayor and Commissioners eliminated capricious disbursements, obsolete programs and pork-laden projects before the City Manager began surgically dissecting the remaining liabilities.

Although Broward County and Fort Lauderdale share the objective of freezing the millage rate for the third consecutive year, the County is so enmeshed in conflict that Governor Crist specifically warned the parties against bringing their bloodletting to the State Capitol! While Broward County Government Center has deteriorated into a budget battlefield, in Fort Lauderdale, some municipal wheels will turn at a marginally slower pace and 71 city employees will have to tough out one more year before upgrading to new city vehicles. Despite Mayor Seiler’s admonition that residents would “feel these cuts,” this budget draft will gratefully be a poor stimulus for local sales of aspirin, Mylanta or Valium.

New City Commission gets down to Business
This is the first draft of the municipal budget. It will be squashed, stretched, seasoned and tenderized over the summer. The City Commission will likely use their September Regular Meeting venue – the first and third Tuesday at the 1st floor Commission Chambers of City Hall (100 N. Andrews Avenue) – to invite public input, criticism and/or accolades. Unless the Public Meeting dates are altered, those of us nursing relevant contributions must wait until September 1st and September 15th at 6 PM. Bring a snack… and perhaps some Tylenol.

ATTENTION: On August 2nd, the FY 2009/2010 Budget Public Hearing date was changed from September 1st to September 9th at 7:00 PM. Check back in case they CHANGE IT AGAIN!

Although we clearly owe a debt of gratitude to Mayor Seiler, Vice Mayor Roberts and the other Commissioners, without Gretsas’ five-year rehabilitation of the city’s fiscal underpinnings, this proposed budget would be a fairy tale and City Hall would be consumed in the same controversy plaguing its Broward counterpart. Inasmuch – thanks, George!

Fort Lauderdale Budget Links

  • Click Here to read the first draft of the new FY2010 Budget Proposal
  • Click Here to review the FY2010 City Commission Budget Discussion Presentation
  • Click Here to view the FY2009 / FY2010 Annual Operating Budget Presentation
  • Click Here to read the Adopted FY2008 / FY2009 Annual Operating Budget
  • Click Here to access the past decade of Fort Lauderdale Annual Operating Budgets

Click To Top of Page

Property Apprasier Extends Office Hours for Trim Season

BCPA Offices also to open for 3 Saturdays to help working families.

Bob Wolfe of BCPA
Bob Wolfe
August 13, 2009 - On August 6th, 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 823,000 notices of proposed 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 8 - 18, 2009.

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 22, August 29, and September 12. All commercial and tangible personal property valuation questions must be directed to the Main Office. Residential and 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 TRIM or proposed property tax notice is designed to inform taxpayers of their 2009 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 tax assessment by petition or late file for a qualified property tax exemption must do so before September 18, according to rules set by the Broward County Value Adjustment Board.

For further information on assessment, exemption and valuation appeal process, please visit or call 954-357-6830.

Contact Bob Wolfe of Inter-Governmental Media Relations at (954) 445-5732 or at for further information.

Bob Wolfe
Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office

Click To Top of Page

Vice Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

August 2009 Newsletter

Broward County Judicial Complex
August 18, 2009 - * At a meeting on December 18, 2009, Broward County Vice Mayor and District 4 Commissioner
Ken Keechl reviewed several county concerns with the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board. Immediately following a discussion about frustrating beach renourishment delays, our Vice Mayor segued to a worrisome description of the County Courthouse. “The 50-year old structure is falling apart. Pipes are bursting on a regular basis, the elevators continuously break down and the building is rife with mold.”

Clerk of Courts Howard Forman's Damaged Files
Keechl’s heightened angst was prompted by a November 30th water main break that sent gallons of pressurized water shooting into Clerk of Courts Howard Forman’s office, flooding the first and second floors of the Broward County Judicial Complex in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Following his November 2006 election upset, Keechl enumerated a comprehensive list of objectives and commitments that directly impact every District 4 constituent – and most county residents. Among his promises was a commitment to tag and follow tax dollars. Since courthouses don’t come cheap, the Vice Mayor informed the Advisory Board that the County Commission was faced with a costly replacement or rehabilitation of the deteriorating structure.

Click to Broward Courthouse Task Force Resolution In his January 2009 Newsletter, Keechl summarized the issue for his entire District 4 constituency, explaining that the sizable expense warranted an authoritative study of the Commission’s alternatives. He supported Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter’s resolution to create and charge a committee with fully vetting the issue. Once formed and populated, Ritter’s “Courthouse Task Force Advisory Committee” officially became the Broward County Courthouse Task Force and convened meetings on January 23, February 27, April 3, and June 30, 2009.

Click to Broward Courthouse Task Force Web Site After the Task Force completed their comprehensive review in June, Vice Mayor Keechl issued the first of a two-part summary of the Task Force’s findings in his June Newsletter. Running down the alternatives considered by the Task Force, Keechl explained that they considered renovation of the existing structures, adapting some reasonably proximal commercial space and decentralizing functionality to satellite courthouses. Ultimately, they recommended building a new scaled-down courthouse on the site of the current judicial garage for approximately $328 million. Revealing a previously veiled flair for the dramatic, The Vice Mayor piqued public curiosity by promising to reveal a financing resolution with no tax impact for Broward residents in his next Newsletter.

Click to Broward Budget War In his August Newsletter, the Vice Mayor describes two financing alternatives currently being debated by the Broward Commission. The first option, raising funds through the sale of voter-approved General Obligation Bonds that are serviced with property taxes, would increase the tax burden on property owners. Having emerged from the County Budget Wars sporting an intimidating reputation as a bare-knuckled juggernaut of tax restraint, Keechl admonished “It should come as no surprise that I strenuously object to this proposal.”

Click to Broward County Certificates Participation Refunding He prefers paying for the project with a Chinese menu of existing resources and revenues raised by selling Certificates of Participation Bonds (COP). After the existing resources are applied to the $328 million project outlay, the balance of $133 million must be addressed by one of the two debt instruments. The COPs are serviced by general revenues, not property taxes. Here’s the magic - revenues no longer needed to service expiring, previously issued bonds residual to older library and parks projects would be redirected to service the new COP bonds. POOF! No tax bite! Not sure? ... READ ON! - [editor]*

“Broward County Courthouse Task Force Recommendations, Part 2”

by Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
In my last newsletter,
Broward County Courthouse Task Force Recommendations, Part I, I discussed the continuing problems plaguing our Broward County courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. ( As a result of bursting pipes, increasing mold, broken elevators, security issues, and a chronic shortage of courtrooms and parking, our local judicial system is in turmoil. In fact, the County has recently been sued by several court employees alleging that the courthouse is dangerous and unfit for occupancy. Each of your nine County Commissioners has previously expressed a view that this problem needs to be addressed now. Unfortunately, we don’t agree on how to pay for the new courthouse. In this month’s newsletter, I would like to address this issue and tell you my view.

Last December the Broward County Commission established a Broward County Courthouse Task Force (“Task Force”). After studying many possible alternatives, in the end the Task Force recommended that a new scaled-down courthouse should be constructed on the site of the current judicial garage. By building on County-owned land, the overall cost of the project would decrease. In the past (and before I was elected), the County Commission had suggested building a new courthouse at a cost of approximately $510 million; the Task Force’s new scaled down courthouse would cost approximately $328 million. Similarly, previous County Commissions envisioned a new courthouse comprising nearly 900,000 square feet; the Task Force’s new scaled down courthouse would comprise approximately 675,000 square feet. The Task Force also recommended additional parking to meet existing and future courthouse needs.

There are two options being debated on how to pay for the new Courthouse.

The first option, which I don’t support, is to allow the residents of Broward County to vote in 2010 on whether we should issue General Obligation Bonds (GOB) to pay for the courthouse. Although the intricate financial details of this proposal are beyond the scope of this article, suffice it to say that, if adopted, the tax burden on property owners would increase. As I wrote earlier this year in my newsletter, Broward County’s Courthouse Problem: More Taxes Aren’t The Solution, I will never support a proposal that has the effect of raising the property tax burden on you and your families. So it should come as no surprise that I strenuously object to this proposal.

The second option, which I do support, is to pay for the new Courthouse from existing revenue and Certificates of Participation Bonds (COP). Broward County has set aside $120,000,000.00 for a new jail and future courthouse capital projects. We should use that money now. Moreover, during the last session, the Florida Legislature increased the Courthouse Facilities Fee from the existing $15 fee to a $30 fee. This potential revenue (as much as $4,000,000.00 annually) can be utilized as well. Lastly, the County can issue COP bonds. The debt service on these bonds would be satisfied from payments no longer needed on expiring, previously issued bonds! The end result: a new Courthouse and no increased tax burden on the residents of Broward County.

In closing I would like to add one final thought. When I campaigned for the honor of being your County Commissioner, I promised that I would address the needs of Broward County that had been ignored for so long by past Broward County Commissions. And I promised you that I would do so without increasing your property tax burden. This solution to our Courthouse problem fulfills both those promises.

My best to you and your families.

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.

Click To Top of Page

Commissioner Roberts On the Budget

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
September 2, 2009 - Our District 1 City Commissioner and Vice Mayor Bruce G. Roberts is no longer an unknown political quantity. After squeaking by incumbent Christine Teel in the March 10th election runoff, residents nursed nagging concerns over his motives for leaving his iconic niche as the City’s top cop and chasing down a seat on the municipality’s governing body. During those first few months, Roberts had to dispel rumors questioning whether he would drain the City treasury to fuel the police pension and/or take vengeance on the City Manager for past grievances in an economic environment wherein his fiscal skills were considered critically necessary. Additionally, locals wondered if he could make the transition from municipal bureaucrat to public representative.

After weathering months of glass-eye looks from constituents, the former City Police Chief has proven to be an unrelenting, no-nonsense work-a-holic. Instead of simply denying the rumors, he shifted into high gear, attacking neighborhood problems while working with the Mayor and the City Manager to grind out a remarkable budget. In his opening act, Roberts not only filled former Commissioner Christine Teel’s shoes, he wore them out.

Vice Mayor Roberts, Chepo and Pio Ieraci during Walk-Through
Upon hitting the streets, Galt Mile residents can’t help noticing that the block’s landscaping has been cleaned up and filled out, ending nearly three years of neglect. Much of the horticultural rehabilitation responsible for the newly pruned and braced trees, neatly groomed sidewalk beds and aggregate repairs was catalyzed by Commissioner Roberts. When the Commodore’s José “Chepo” Vega was charged by the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board with spearheading the landscaping upgrades, he worked with former Commissioner Christine Teel to define the project’s scope. Following his election victory, Roberts jumped in, successfully securing the municipal resources required to actualize project objectives. While working with Chepo, the neighborhood association and Parks personnel to clean up the block, Roberts also planted long-missing traffic signage along the beachside corridor and helped end the Mardi Gras of streetside newspaper boxes by enforcing the codes governing their appearance and placement requirements. During a recent Galt Ocean Drive walk-through with GMCA President Pio Ieraci, Chepo and several Parks Department officials, dozens of strolling Galt Mile pedestrians thanked the Vice Mayor for helping to deliver such palpable results so quickly.

Click to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) web site Roberts met with neighborhood association officials to begin laying the groundwork for the creation of a Galt Mile Master Plan. He has also participated in a public meeting solicitous of residents’ input to better define their vision for the neighborhood. The Vice Mayor is closely monitoring a Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) project to resurface that segment of State Road A1A that passes through the Galt Mile community. Although his primary concern centers on securing a functional result that’s aesthetically compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, he is particularly interested in FDOT’s mandated requirement to allocate roughly 5% of the project’s funding for landscape and hardscape features. If approached properly, these resources could be used to fund some attractive neighborhood portals along the Ocean Highway, divesting it of the offensive similarity it currently bears to a third world strip mall.

New City Commission gets down to Business
Roberts’ full plate of District 1 responsibilities has been matched by citywide demands. In addition to the their ongoing municipal housekeeping responsibilities, Roberts and his Commission peers were faced with the City’s most difficult fiscal challenge since the 2003 Budget Boondoggle. Directed primarily by Mayor Jack Seiler and Roberts, the City Commission sought to develop a budget strategy that balanced the municipality’s servicing needs with those of besieged taxpayers trying to survive the economic maelstrom. To avoid the debilitating conflicts evident in the County and most of our neighboring cities and towns, they created budget guidelines for City Manager George Gretsas, requiring that they be incorporated into the FY 2009/2010 City Budget.

Click to Fort Lauderdale FY2010 Budget Proposal In the Vice Mayor’s August Newsletter, he reviews those guidelines. The new budget will neither increase property taxes nor Fire Assessment Fees. Vital services will be unaffected as will the morale of City Employees previously concerned about job security. Despite Mayor Seiler’s admonition that residents would “feel these cuts,” most residents will be hard pressed to notice any budget-based effects, save higher water and sewer fees and slightly overgrown bushes in some parks. City Manager George Gretsas performed some masterful fiscal gymnastics to offset two-thirds of the resource shortfall precipitated by the 10.5% decrease in Broward County taxable property valuations. He addressed the final third – about $10 million – with funds from the City’s well endowed reserve. By insuring that the new budget’s reserves continue to substantially exceed national standards, Gretsas adhered to a Commission Guideline admonishing the maintenance of adequate reserves.

Click to Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) web site The Vice Mayor’s years in law enforcement understandably prompt the additional focus he gives public safety. Roberts expresses well-deserved satisfaction over the City having achieved a Police Department vacancy rate of 1% (5 out of 498 FLPD job slots). He is equally delighted by the prospect of filling the remaining openings by tapping federal recovery grant monies. The $3.2 million he expects from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) administered by the U.S. Department of Justice will finance 12 additional police officer positions for 3 years - affording the City Commission additional flexibility to expand the force if necessary.

City Manager George Gretsas
Roberts has converted an army of believers from the main body of skeptics he faced subsequent to the election. Since the treasury remains unlooted and the Vice Mayor has publicly affirmed that the City Manager has been doing a good job, little remains to further fuel their original suspicions. Having personally witnessed his revived enforcement of the City’s agreement to maintain the Galt Mile in a “Disney-like manner”, his moderating influence on Police and Fire relations and his contributions to the new draft budget, Roberts’ District 1 constituency has coalesced around the belief that on March 10th – they lucked out! In finally aligning the mandate he will need to meet upcoming challenges, the Vice Mayor once again let his actions do the heavy lifting.
– [editor]

From The Desk of
Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
It is that time of year when your City Commission, with your input, reviews and approves a new budget. The five priorities of your City Commission are:

  1. No Property Tax Increase: Taxpayers will see an average savings of $162.78 with homestead exemption and $276.24 without homestead exemption on the City portion of their tax bills. The budget proposes no increase to the current operating millage rate of 4.1193, the City’s lowest tax rate in 23 years—among the lowest of Florida’s 20 largest cities and among the lowest in Broward County.

  2. No Increase in the Fire Assessment Fee: The proposed budget does not increase the fire assessment rate.

  3. Maintenance of Adequate Reserve Funds: The City’s reserve funds remain strong and provide a critical component to keep the City’s bond rating among the best of Florida’s largest cities. Best accounting practices recommend that reserve funds range within 5% - 15% of general fund, and our own ordinance mandates a 7% reserve fund. This budget contains a reserve of more than 18%.

  4. Click to Fort Lauderdale FY 2009/2010 Proposed Budget No Reductions in Vital City Services: The proposed budget places a priority on public safety - allocating resources to combat crime, increase proactive code enforcement measures, improve aesthetics, reduce nuisances, address homeless issues and implement green initiatives. No reductions have been made that adversely impact the safety of our citizens. Of the 498 positions in the police department, only 5 positions remain vacant at this time.

  5. No Layoffs: The national unemployment rate has risen to a 26-year high and the local unemployment rate has nearly doubled in less than a year. While many government budgets propose adding to the unemployment lines, the proposed budget for the City of Fort Lauderdale secures the livelihood of hardworking City staff while maintaining the City’s bottom line. By focusing on how we can do more with less, there will be no adverse impact on key City programs and essential services. Nevertheless, 128 vacant positions were eliminated.

New City Commission
The public hearings for the review of budgets are usually conducted at the regular City Commission meetings, however, the first public hearing has been rescheduled for September 9th at 7:00 P.M. in the City Hall Commission Chambers. The second hearing is tentatively set for September 23rd. The budget hearings are open to the public, and the public is encouraged to attend and participate. Prior to the September 9th meeting, there will be a Budget Workshop on September 2nd at 7:00 P.M. at City Hall. Again, this is open to the public. Information about the City’s proposed fiscal year 2009/2010 budget may be viewed at

Click to Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) web site As you know, public safety is one of my main priorities. We now have only 5 vacant Police Officer positions out of 498. We have also been awarded a $3.2 million federal grant that will enable the Police Department to hire 12 additional police officers and fund those positions for 3 years. The grant is part of the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP), an initiative funded by the President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Click to Sunset Blue web site EVENTS: FREE Sunday Jazz Brunch - held the First Sunday of every month at Riverwalk from 11 am to 2 pm. (Broward Center for the Performing Arts to DDA Plaza.).

Sunset Blue Series: FREE Jazz and Blues music on Sunday evenings during September at the 3300 Block of NE 33rd – sponsored by North Beach Shops and Restaurants.

Bruce G. Roberts                

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

Click To Top of Page

The “Two Flu” Blues

Seasonal and H1N1 Strains Slam South Florida

September 12, 2009 - U.S. health officials are readying an unusual flu vaccination campaign for this fall, but the initiative is already dogged by public confusion, experts’ doubts and a raft of unknowns. 2009 is the year of the “two-flu” blues, requiring what Health Department honchos believe will be 3 inoculations to properly protect against this year’s deadly influenza onslaught. Along with the seasonal flu vaccination, we have the unique distinction of facing possibly 2 more to insulate ourselves from the effects of the H1N1 Swine Flu.

The Swine Flu

Surgically Masked Mexico City Subway Riders
First identified in April 2009, the influenza A virus subtype H1N1, referred to as the “novel H1N1”, is thought to be a reassortment of four known strains of influenza A virus. While one of the four varieties normally infects humans, one is endemic in birds, and two endemic in pigs (swine). Transmission of the new strain is human-to-human, so eating cooked animal products presents no danger since the virus cannot be transmitted by eating foods.

Sand Sculpture Flu alert on beach in India
After the Mexican government closed down most of Mexico City’s public and private offices and facilities to help contain the initial attacks earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be a pandemic in June. As the virus spread globally, WHO noted that most illnesses were of moderate severity. When the Southern Hemisphere entered its flu season, the disease burned through a largely unprepared South America, especially in less developed countries with limited healthcare systems.

1918 Spanish Flu Ward in Walter Reed Hospital
In July 2009, the CDC confirmed that most infections were mild (similar to seasonal flu), recovery tended to be fairly quick, and deaths to date had been only a tiny fraction of those annually ascribed to the seasonal flu. However, the real danger derives from the reported instability of the new virus strain, rendering it capable of mutating into a more virulent strain. The CDC pointed out that the 1918 flu epidemic – which killed hundreds of thousands in the United States – was preceded by a wave of mild cases in the spring, followed by more deadly outbreak in the autumn.

President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) 2009 Influenza Assessment In their August 7th report to the White House, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) distinguished between the effects of the seasonal and H1N1 strains of influenza. Chaired by John Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, Eric Lander, the head of the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Harold Varmus, the chief executive officer of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the 21-member group of scientists and engineers reported that while the seasonal flu averages 200,000 annual hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths, the 2009 Swine flu variety is expected to place 300,000 victims in intensive care and produce up to 90,000 fatalities.

Novel H1N1 Influenza Virus
On the bright side, University of Maryland researchers discovered that since the H1N1 influenza virus grows much faster than seasonal flu viruses, it is unlikely to recombine or exchange genetic material. The studies also confirmed findings by other researchers that the swine flu virus is able to grow deeper into the victim’s lungs, crediting it with a predisposition to viral pneumonia. That may be why some victims with underlying medical conditions are more likely to develop severe illness from infections that are ordinarily symptomatically mild. The severity of these cases appears to be proportional to the strain placed on the victim’s immune system.

University of Maryland Bioinformaticist Steven L. Salzberg
After studying the mapped genetic sequences of H1N1 samples received from the CDC, University of Maryland Bioinformaticist Steven L. Salzberg confirmed that the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain is a swine-origin influenza virus that resulted from a reassortment of two previously circulating strains – a “triple-reassortant” swine influenza that has been circulating in North America since 1998 and an H1N1 strain that has been circulating for decades in swine populations of Europe and Asia. Neither of the two strains has ever proven contagious in humans. Of the genes inherited from the Eurasian strain, one codes for a neuraminidase enzyme – the N1 in H1N1 – which controls the expansion of the virus from infected cells (the speed with which it proliferates). More importantly, it has reportedly never been seen in humans, thereby precluding any developmental immunity. Shazam! Salzberg resolved why the H1N1 virus has been able to slice through human populations like a hot knife through butter.

Unprecedented Immunization Campaign

H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine
In response, government health officials are mobilizing to launch a massive swine flu vaccination campaign this fall that is unprecedented in its scope – and its potential for complications. To defend against the second wave of the Northern Hemisphere’s first influenza pandemic in 41 years, the campaign aims to vaccinate at least half the country’s population within months. Although more people have been inoculated against diseases such as smallpox and polio over a period of years, the United States has never tried to immunize so many so quickly. Unfortunately, when the new wave of infections begins peaking in mid-October, only about a third of the expected vaccine will be available.

Sinovac Biotech Web Site What health officials don’t yet know is exasperating. They don’t know how many shots need to be administered for an effective series. They don’t know the proper dosage to recommend. Although the single dose vaccinations under development by Switzerland’s Novartis and China’s Sinovac Biotech would relieve the strain on supplies caused by manufacturing delays, neither is likely to elicit U.S. approval by the seasonal deadline. Health pundits are also desperately trying to formulate a strategy to help the average person distinguish between the annual campaign against influenza and overlapping efforts to combat the swine flu pandemic.

Novartis Web Site The dilatory deliveries of swine flu vaccine stem from several obstacles. A production bottleneck is plaguing factories that infuse syringes with the H1N1 vaccine. Instead of the 120 million doses promised by mid-October, only 45 million will be available for inoculations, although the pipeline will grind out an additional 20 million doses each week until the CDC’s entire 195 million dose order is fully distributed by December.

Sanofi Pasteur Biotech Web Site Another obstacle inures to the actual vaccine recipe required to combat the H1N1 strain. The ingredients that reactively enable vaccines are grown within eggs. The procedural chemistry underlying development of these ingredients has become another bottleneck. Manufacturer’s laboratories are extracting far fewer doses per egg for the swine flu vaccine than for vaccines addressing the regular annual outbreak. When French manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the Sanofi-aventis Group, took longer than expected to finish brewing their regular complement of winter flu vaccine, the low-dose dilemma came to light.

Department of Health and Human Services chief of vaccine procurement Dr. Robin Robinson
Health Department officials are interceding to help offset production impediments as they surface. Department of Health and Human Services chief of vaccine procurement Dr. Robin Robinson surmised “Hopefully there are ways to bring that number up.” To enhance the “per egg” dose production rate, the CDC has delivered new “seed strains” of the virus to the impacted manufacturers. As to the logjam caused by the problematic packaging of the vaccine into syringes, Robinson asserted “We’re trying to bring on more manufacturing.” His plan is to pressure manufacturers who’ve fulfilled their orders to share their facilities with those encountering delays.

CSL Biotherapies Web Site An expected jurisdictional gadfly added to the prospective delays when Australia’s CSL Biotherapies notified the U.S. that its shipments would arrive later than promised because the company is mandated to first complete filling a 21 million dose vaccine quota for corporate home Australia, where the flu season is winding down. Although the U.S. signed a $180 million contract with CSL first, Robinson admitted, “There was always the possibility they could do that. Our laws can do the same thing. We don’t, but we could.”

Lastly, health authorities ran into a snag while attempting to ascertain the dosage values and the number of doses comprising an effective course of treatment. It took far longer than anticipated to create the reagents necessary to accurately measure the strength of the vaccine, without which an effective dose cannot be established.

New Seasonal Flu Strategy

Although seasonal Influenza uniformly slices through communities without regard to sex, race, national origin or other traceable census sort categories, it poses a grisly threat to two specific groups. While babies and infants are certainly highly vulnerable to influenza, a vast majority of the 36,000 victims succumbing to flu-related deaths each winter are people over age 65. Despite the CDC’s annual implementation of comprehensive elderly vaccination programs, instead of realizing a commensurate lowering of death rates, the effectiveness of protection strategies against the flu for the elderly has enigmatically plateaued.

While flu vaccine protects 75 to 90 percent of healthy young people, studies suggest that protection appears to plummet to 30 percent among persons 65 and older. Through 2008, CDC policy for addressing this inexplicable obstacle centered on research probing whether increased doses or adding immune-boosting compounds would intensify protection for the elderly. Last year, the flu gurus at CDC noticed a Harvard study that altered their prevention strategy.

Boston Epidemiologist John Brownstein
The study linked exposure to children to influenza contagion rates and symptomatic severity. Over four winters, Harvard researchers matched 157,542 adults demonstrating flu-like symptoms in Boston area emergency rooms with Census data in 55 zip codes. Flu symptoms hit first and hardest in those zip codes inhabited by the most kids. Every 1 percent increase in the child population brought a 4 percent increase in adult ER visits for the flu.

Associate Professor Kenneth D. Mandl, M.D. of Harvard Medical School
Published last summer in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the study by epidemiologist John Brownstein and Dr. Kenneth Mandl intimated landmark changes in how modern medicine should tackle Influenza. Until then, children under 5 were prime candidates for flu vaccination, given the high death rate for youngsters and infants contracting the disease. Starting last year, government programs extended the primary target focus for vaccinations to all children from age 6 months to 18 years.

Harvard Flu Study in Boston
The study statistically confirmed what most parents have intuitively known for generations, that their offspring spread germs with uncanny efficiency. Although older children are less impacted by the effects of flu than infants, the 30 million school-age kids included in the ramped up vaccination policy are a huge target pool with a massive potential for incubation. The schoolchildren weren’t targeted for vaccination primarily to protect their health, but to prevent their becoming “Vectors”, or people for whom infection is of less consequence than their potential for spreading the flu to more vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

“The impact of kids and the flu is clear,” says study co-author John Brownstein of Children’s Hospital Boston. “It doesn’t mean the areas without kids are protected from flu. It just means they experience flu later and at lower rates.” He considers crowded schools, preschools and day-care centers to be disease distribution centers, locations that foment and/or perpetuate local epidemics. By defusing these distribution hotbeds, many prospective local infestations will never achieve the critical mass necessary to spread the disease epidemically.

Deputy Director Dr. Jeanne Santoli
Deputy Director Dr. Jeanne Santoli of the Immunization Services Division in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ascribed several benefits to this new data. In addition to crippling influenza’s incubation capability – a critical component to 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.”

Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics Dr. Stephen C. Aronoff at Temple University
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 entire Japanese population.

Former CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding
Simply put, the chain of transmission in the overwhelming majority of flu cases includes a school-age child. Immunizing that child, by definition, would theoretically eliminate these cases. Former 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, only 21 percent were vaccinated against the disease before last year, allowing the flu an unchallenged opportunity to incubate and proliferate.

Policy Targets Schools

Novartis Web Site In preparation for an expected outbreak of H1N1 influenza this fall, South Florida health departments are setting the first line of defense in area schools. In these scholastic bullrings, health care matadors armed with cases of loaded syringes will match up forms signed by parents with battalions of screaming adolescents. To combat the threatened swine flu epidemic in Broward County, the schools are implementing unprecedented policy preparations in deference to last year’s CDC prevention revelation. Since the strain has exhibited a statistical predisposition for people whose age ranges from 5 to 24, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a host of new precautions for Broward and Miami-Dade public schools. They include:

The new policy of creating a hygienic firewall in the schools to insulate the larger community from a potential epidemic manifested a variety of other preventive measures. Strong teacher admonition for students to wash their hands will anchor the assault on spreading the virulent disease. Students will be made to stay home when sick and use their sleeves to catch coughs and sneezes, not their hands. (Good luck on achieving that!)

Should a local outbreak intensify, the CDC said schools should urge healthy siblings of flu victims to stay home while screening students and staff daily for symptoms. To reduce close contact contagion rates, schools can hold classes outdoors or in larger rooms, sequester students in one room all day, and cut back on busing.

Broward Schools Web Site When the first scheduled delivery of swine flu vaccine arrives in Broward by mid-October, school clinics will be among the first official dispensaries. The schools have prioritized efficiently immunizing the student body, save those individuals burdened by compromised immune systems or groups for whom the vaccine portends other medical complications. As a matter of policy, schools will remain open despite an outbreak unless mounting teacher and/or student absences cripple the institution’s ability to function.

Broward Schools Web Site In South Florida, at least 24 of the 36 children who died from Swine Flu through August 8, 2009 were additionally afflicted with serious ailments such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, lung disease, heart disease, developmental delays or cancer - and usually more than one, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among the 12 who suffered no apparent chronic illness, eight developed severe bacterial infections along with flu, giving health officials a possible reason that otherwise healthy children succumbed to H1N1 flu.

CDC Director Thomas Frieden
CDC Director Thomas Frieden said “When you get the flu, your immune system can be weakened and you become susceptible to other infections. We have seen this in the past with the seasonal flu.” In a message to parents, Frieden exclaimed, “Most children who get swine flu recover just fine with little treatment, but families and doctors should be cautious if high-risk children get sick, or if a sick child seems to get better and then gets another fever that may indicate a second infection.”

So far the virus has proven symptomatically mild with an abbreviated term of illness - lasting only a few days on average. More importantly, it hasn’t laid claim to the high number of lives that ordinarily define the severity of a pandemic. Of the one million people in the U.S. that were infected by early September, only 556 fatalities were reported nationally, 66 in Florida, seven in Broward County and five in Palm Beach County.

Vaccine Priority Swap for the Elderly

Swine Flu The high priority groups differ statistically for the two flu threats. For the seasonal flu vaccine, target groups include children aged 6 months to 19 years, pregnant women, adults 50 and over, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, anyone with a chronic medical condition, health-care workers and people in close proximity to high-risk individuals.

Novartis Web Site For the swine flu vaccine, federal officials have added young adults aged 19 to 24, who have been disproportionately affected by the swine flu. Surprisingly, health authorities have also lowered the vaccination priority of older adults (unless they have an underlying medical condition) because they’ve demonstrated a greater resistance to the infection. In all, swine flu vaccine priority groups comprise about 160 million people nationwide.

Lenox Hill Hospital pulmonary specialist Dr. Len Horovitz,
Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, first defined the confusion surrounding the CDC’s seemingly counter-intuitive priority adjustment for the elderly, admonishing “In the seasonal flu, the priority is the elderly but they’re at the bottom of the ladder for H1N1, so that’s a change the public will have a problem with.” He then shed some light on why the elderly were able to more effectively resist the disease, stating “People seem to have some partial immunity to the swine flu if they are born before 1957,” referring to the natural immunity that a prior exposure would have cultivated.

Dr. Christine Mhorag Hay, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, described how this lowered priority would impact the elderly, explaining “This doesn’t mean that older people shouldn’t get the swine flu shot, just that they won’t be first in line.”

National Influenza Map

Add This To Your Web Site!

Flu Links

Click To Top of Page

Commissioner Ken Keechl’s Corner

September 2009 Newsletter

Keechl Addresses Budget Issues
September 24, 2009 - * Constituents who engage Broward Vice Mayor
Ken Keechl in conversation come away from the experience with two new data points. In addition to any information gleaned from the discussion, they are unambiguously convinced that Keechl is passionately consumed with his Commission responsibilities. Whether initiating some long-needed improvement or reacting to an unanticipated County dilemma, Keechl’s actions are often predictable. They are guided by a credo that he publicly proclaimed three years ago, while running for the Commission seat that he’s laudably filled.

As a Commission candidate, Keechl described what he would do if elected and explained exactly how he would accomplish each task. The only omission was the timeline. Since then, following his progress has become reminiscent of ticking off items in a shopping list. Every month or two, constituents can simply cross off another of Keechl’s promised achievements.

His September 2009 Newsletter enumerates some of his major accomplishments. In fact, each of the items described in this three-year summary correspond to a prior newsletter topic he published to keep constituents abreast of his progress. Following his election victory in November 2006, Keechl said “The overwhelming local issue of the 2006 campaign season was property taxes. They are too high – period.” Three years later, he accurately exclaims, “Broward’s annual budget is $300 million smaller today than it was when you elected me. That’s $300 million dollars in property taxes every year that’s staying in your families’ checkbooks.”

Port Everglades strand of Mangroves
In that same November 2006 Newsletter, Keechl said “Preservation is a cornerstone of smart growth – we cannot stop development, but we can grow in a way that meets the needs of our increasing population and at the same time fosters a distinct and inviting environment in the County.” The current Newsletter describes how an adjacent strand of Mangroves were held safe during the rehabilitation of Port Everglades and how the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport expansion was delimited primarily by the projected environmental impact.

American Golfers Club - Keechl Campaign Plank
One of the Vice Mayor’s original campaign platform planks – that precluded construction of mediocre “McMansions” on the American Golf Club in Coral Ridge – evolved into a post-election crusade to protect Broward’s few remaining large green spaces from uncontrolled development. He subsequently sought to amend the Comprehensive Land Use Plan by infusing the developmental prerequisites with a “poison pill”. Since golf courses are traditionally treated with pesticides and arsenic-laden herbicides, the amendment (which passed unanimously) acts as a deterrent by requiring pre-development Phase I and Phase II environmental reports showing the absence of environmental contamination. Also, Keechl’s approval of 4,392 additional County boat slips was contingent on the simultaneous passage of a Manatee Protection Plan and the reservation of 513 boat slips for future public use.

When investigators revealed how Broward County’s animal shelter buried bagged animals that may not have always been dead in a landfill, left other animal carcasses rotting in maggot-infested bags for days, ignored food shortages, permitted shelter employees to set aside dogs with high resale value for friends and/or profit, left pharmaceutical stockpiles unlocked (in violation of state standards) and failed to check for microchip implants, tattoos and other identifying elements ordinarily used to reunite pets with their owners, Keechl led the charge to reverse the abuses and permanently prevent their reoccurrence.

Click to Broward County Ethics Commission web site Since 57% of the Broward electorate demanded the creation of a Broward County Ethics Commission to formulate a Code of Ethics against which actions of Broward Commissioners can be measured, each of the 9 Democrat commissioners was charged with appointing a panel member. Keechl reached across the aisle and selected Republican Bob Wolfe to provide the panel with a modicum of ideological balance.

During a County Commission meeting hiatus, Keechl traveled to Tallahassee and lobbied lawmakers to reject counterproductive legislation designed to circumvent County Land Use requirements. In his spare time, he promotes economic growth in the Broward Alliance, addresses local transportation obstacles with the Downtown Ft. Lauderdale Transportation Management Authority (DFLTMA), works with the Public Safety Coordinating Council to facilitate local law enforcement issues and resolves property assessment dilemmas through service on the Value Adjustment Board. It’s been rumored that sometimes, he sleeps. Read on...

“Third Year Report”

by Broward County Commissioner & Vice Mayor
Ken Keechl, District 4

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
I can’t believe that it’s been almost three years since
you elected me to be your Broward County Commissioner. And I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year since my colleagues elected me to be Broward’s County’s Vice Mayor. I still pinch myself every single day. Yes, being a County Commissioner is a time consuming endeavor, but there isn’t a better job in the world. Seriously.

Commissioner Keechl Being Sworn in
From my first day on the dais, I have championed our shared vision for a different Broward County. And over the past three years, the direction of the County Commission has changed — for the better. I like to think that my advocacy has been partially responsible.

First and foremost, I have been an ardent advocate for lower property taxes and decreased spending. At my constant urging, in the last two years we have decreased spending by $200 million; this year we are on course to reduce our budget by another $100 million. As a result, Broward’s annual budget is $300 million smaller today than it was when you elected me. That’s $300 million dollars in property taxes every year that’s staying in your families’ checkbooks.

Click to Golf Course Conversion Policy Recommendation I have also advocated for an environmentally sensitive, yet business friendly approach to running Broward County. Many successful results can be seen in a number of initiatives over the past three years. For example, we have expanded our seaport to remain competitive — without destroying in the process a precious mangrove strand located in the port. We have finally agreed to a much needed expansion of our southern runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. I sponsored a Comprehensive Land Use Plan amendment which strongly discouraged golf course conversions into residential developments, and my amendment requires environmental contamination inspections. I supported a “boat siting” plan which added 4,392 boat slips throughout Broward, but only after the plan contained a strong manatee protection element. And I made sure that it was funded by the users of the boat slips, and not your property taxes. I have consistently advocated for “green” buildings for all new capital projects as well.

Click to Broward Alliance web site You asked me to be your eyes and ears on the Commission. As a result, I demanded an outside investigation of Broward’s animal control department when I learned of employee animal abuse and negligence. These practices have been stopped. I have supported sensible ethics reform for the Broward County Commission. I have successfully argued that all budget meetings should be televised so that you see how your tax dollars are being spent.

Over the final year of my first term, I will continue to be your advocate for our shared vision for Broward County. I will continue to be your environmentally sensitive, business friendly, fiscally conservative Commissioner. And I will continue to be your eyes and ears on the Broward County Commission. After all, you and your families deserve nothing less.

My best to you and your families.

Broward County Commissioner and 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.

Click To Top of Page

Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts

Post-Budget Plans &Warped Water Rates

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
October 1, 2009 - In his September 2009 Newsletter, Fort Lauderdale’s District 1 Commissioner and Vice Mayor Bruce G. Roberts looks at some of the City’s post-budget watershed fiscal issues. Keenly aware that we have stumbled into a historically unprecedented economic environment, Roberts has assumed responsibility for keeping his constituents abreast of their investment in Fort Lauderdale.

Click to Fort Lauderdale FY 2009/2010 Proposed Budget He repeats last month’s review of the policy tenets sent by the new City Commission to City Manager George Gretsas for incorporation into the FY 2009/2010 municipal budget. The five guidelines were intended to insulate the City from the type of dissention and controversy epidemically afflicting jurisdictions across the country. The State of Rhode Island faced shutting down for a half month to make ends meet. Closer to home, Broward County’s budget war resulted in credibility scars that could take years to heal.

Seiler and Roberts
Absent some unforeseen economic catharsis, almost every jurisdiction nationwide anticipates facing greater difficulties in FY 2011. Since the City’s FY 2010 budget has been approved, the Vice Mayor is looking ahead to next year’s challenge. As candidates for their respective City Commission seats, both Jack Seiler and Bruce Roberts exclaimed a need to implement zero-based budgeting. Since that policy dispenses with fiscal assumptions made by past administrations, it will necessitate reviewing every existing program, plan and policy fueled by tax dollars. The benefits are self-evident. Unjustified expenses and obsolete policies will no longer be grandfathered into spending plans - unless approved anew by the current administration. Mayor Seiler told GMCA Advisory Board members
“Zero-based budgeting is the most thorough methodology available for cleaning up regressive and/or non-productive appropriations, especially those designed to intentionally avoid scrutiny,” an unfortunate consequence of programs vested with automatic renewals.

Click to Police and Fire Pension Web Site
A zero-based budgeting agenda burns time. Since it entails justifying the need for every expense, it cannot be delayed until next year’s budget season. In his report, Roberts reviews three other financial objectives that require immediate attention. While the City needs to equitably balance fees and examine the comparative fiscal efficiency of too many or too few department heads, if unsustainable pension and health care costs aren’t expeditiously reformed, the city could face bankruptcy in short order.

The third issue tackled by the Vice Mayor came to light after August 1st, when the city applied the recently approved increased utilization rates to water and wastewater (sewer) bills. Since the City posted on their web site that “The rate changes will result in an increase of less than $10 per month for 72 percent of single family residential customers,” association members (grouped in the other 28%) naturally extrapolated that their share of the burden would be somewhat larger. Receipt of the August bills revealed several unanticipated consequences of the rate hike. Upon learning about these problems at the September 24th GMCA Advisory Board Meeting and while assisting with the successful neighborhood effort to rescue the Galt Mile Reading Center from the Broward budget axe, the Vice Mayor agreed to further investigate.

Click to Fort Lauderdale's new Water and Sewer Rate Ordinance The rate ordinance disproportionately punishes residents living in vertical communities – with a vengeance. A unit owner whose monthly use exceeds 1000 gallons will pay more than twice the amount billed to single family homeowners for the same water utilization. Although increases to both fixed and commodity charges for water and wastewater were expected and applied across the board, the new formula used to assess block rates (1000 gallons per month multiplied by the number of units) is designed to financially bloodlet common interest communities.

Although primed with a full spectrum of creative revenue magnets, the new rate ordinance holds a special paradox for snowbirds - the service availability charge. Customers who discontinue active service will incur a monthly charge for the availability of water and/or wastewater service to their property. Since the City incurs fixed costs to maintain a degree of service readiness for a property, they are charging residents for the opportunity to buy water as an offset to this outlay. To escape this charge, potential water consumers can no longer simply stop using water; they must remove any toilets, sinks, faucets, spigots and water meters from their property.

If one aggressively hyperventilates, moments before passing out, the rationale for this expense as applied to single family homes may conceivably become vaguely discernible. However, since the water and wastewater service to our high rise buildings is always active, charging out-of-residence snowbirds an opportunity fee to offset a non-existent “readiness expense” for their individual units is a bad joke.

Click to Fort Lauderdale Department of Public Services Lastly, as associations tried applying the new fees and rates to the utilization figures featured on their bills, the totals failed to confirm the amount they were being charged by the City. When L’Hermitage I Manager Pat Quintero called the Water Department responsible for the billing charges and asked how they arrived at their totals, they admitted ignorance about the enigmatic billing formula and promised to scare up someone that could explain the charges.

Ordinarily, one might be forgiven for assuming that these suspiciously rapacious water and sewer rates were implemented to indirectly assist with offsetting the budget shortfall. In explaining that the City’s Water and Sewer Fund is an enterprise fund, the Vice Mayor refutes that contention. Since revenues paid into an enterprise fund can only be used for fund expenses, they are unavailable for general budgeting purposes. For Roberts’ summary of these continuing fiscal dilemmas, read on... – [editor]

From The Desk of
Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
The Budget Hearings for the 2009/2010 fiscal year are now over and the proposed budget has been approved! For all of you who wish to view it, you can log on to the City’s web page ( As previously mentioned, the new budget meets the five consensus priorities established by your Commission:

  1. No Property Tax Increase: The operating millage rate remains at 4.1193.

  2. No Increase in the Fire Assessment Fee:

  3. Maintenance of Adequate Reserve Funds: Our reserve funds will be at a level of 18.2% of the General Fund. This exceeds the national standard of 5 – 15% and our own ordinance requirement of 7%.

  4. No Reductions in Vital City Services: public safety will not be compromised.

  5. No Layoffs: However, 76 formerly budgeted vacant positions were eliminated and 60 additional vacant positions will be further scrutinized during the new fiscal year.

Click to Fort Lauderdale FY2010 Budget Proposal The newly adopted budget had to deal with a $30 million dollar shortfall compared to the previous budget. In order to meet that shortfall, $20 million dollars were saved primarily by eliminating positions and by reducing operational expenditures. The remaining $10 million dollars came by drawing down on the Fund Balance. It should be noted that your Commission further challenged the City Manager to target the return of that $10 million dollars to the Fund Balance at the end of the fiscal year and to develop a Five Year Financial Plan.

During the coming year, your Commission will be working closely with the Budget Advisory Board as it implements several key recommendations intended to further reduce expenditures and hold the line on taxes:

  1. City Commission to Address Future Budget Issues
    Conduct a true zero-based budgeting analysis of departments

  2. Examine service fee assessments

  3. Study and recommend pension reforms

  4. Examine and assess the need for the current number of supervisory and management personnel

During the past months, we have had many people calling regarding the increase in their water bills. After reviewing a consultant’s study recommendations, and after two public hearings at the Regular Commission Meetings held on July 7, 2009 (Agenda Item 09-0864) and July 17, 2009 (Agenda Item 09-1038), the new City of Fort Lauderdale water and wastewater rates took effect August 1, 2009. The new rates include the following:

  1. Fixed charges for water and wastewater were increased

  2. Water and wastewater commodity charges were increased

  3. The number of blocks for water commodity charges increased from three to five to encourage water conservation

  4. As water consumption increases, the rate per thousand gallons increases to encourage water conservation

Click to Waterworks 2011 The City’s Water and Sewer Fund is an enterprise fund. This means all funds collected are maintained within the Water and Sewer Fund and are used for water and wastewater related expenses only. During a stronger economic time, the City elected to invest in its infrastructure by replacing aging water mains and rehabilitating wastewater systems. The new rate structure enables the City to pay for those improvements, address unfunded federal and state mandates, and account for increasing operating costs. The City’s Bond Rating Agency determined a need for a comprehensive water and wastewater rate study to evaluate the utility’s financial stability, water conservation initiatives, required operating standards, and capital improvement plan. In order to meet current and future expenditures, the new rate structure and charges recommended in the study were implemented on August 1, 2009 and adopted into the new fiscal year’s budget. The new rates are also posted on the City’s web page (

Bruce G. Roberts                

If you need to reach Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts, please contact his assistant Robbi Uptegrove at 954-828-5033 or by e-mail at To access the City Commission Meeting Agendas and Minutes, Click Here. To actually watch the meetings recorded and archived on the Commission Meetings Video Webcast and Archives web site, Click Here. To review the new FY 2009/2010 City budget, Click Here. For more information about the increases to water and sewer rates, Click Here. - editor

Click To Top of Page

Galt Mile Residents

Rescue Reading Room

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center
October 8, 2009 - On September 22, 2009, the
Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center dodged a bullet. Arguably the community’s most popular local asset, the mini-library has been under the County budget gun for months. Although regarded as a convenient and useful amenity by many residents along the Galt Mile, a large group of indomitable seniors view the library as indispensible to their independence, quality of life and peace of mind. They inspired their friends, neighbors and public officials to see through the engineered budgetary spin and prevent the library from falling prey to county politics.

Click to Broward County Library Since the City of Fort Lauderdale provides our Police and Fire Protection, the 26% of our tax dollars paid annually to Broward County actually subsidizes neighboring jurisdictions that use BSO services. We enjoy no local county parks or recreational resources and even fund our own maintenance and security for a beach that is admittedly one of Broward’s main economic engines. The only County resource dedicated to enriching life in our community is the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center.

Broward Library Director Bob Cannon
In April 2009, Galleon resident Herman Gardner considered his options. While elected president of the Friends of the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center in 2004, his 2006 priorities focused primarily on salvaging the snake-bit expansion plans for the storefront Reading Room. Broward County leasing specialists neglected to check the space they rented to accommodate an expansion prompted by the increasing demand on the existing facilities. The discovery of asbestos in the floor and one of the two ceilings forced Gardner and Broward Libraries Director Bob Cannon to revise their expectations for the tainted adjacent space. Gardner grew flustered as Broward authorities spent the next two years fumbling through a series of planning miscues and construction delays.

Former Commission Aide Kathy Singer
Fed up, Gardner called on District 4 Broward Commissioner Ken Keechl to investigate the County’s disarming incompetence. Enraged and embarrassed by Broward’s numerous gaffes, Keechl met with County Administration staffers and Director Cannon, who responded with an apology and an exclamation of gratitude for Gardner’s patience. Keechl charged former Commission Aide Kathy Singer with soliciting regular updates from Cannon about future progress.

Broward Vice Mayor Ken Keechl
As the Broward budget battle heated up, seven satellite libraries sited in locations leased by the County became political budget fodder. To demonstrate their commitment to “making the hard fiscal decisions”, County Commissioners Lois Wexler and John Rodstrom served up the small neighborhood libraries as offsets to the $108 million budget deficit, insinuating a savings of several million dollars. Newly seated as Vice Mayor, Keechl gave Gardner the bad news.

Residents Enjoy Galt Mile Reading Center
Shedding his ordinarily soft-spoken and accommodating persona, Gardner got mad. He contacted Galt Mile Community Association (GMCA) officials Pio Ieraci and Eric Berkowitz, requesting assistance with saving the besieged Reading Center. Along with Commissioner Keechl, the neighborhood association looked into the prospective budgetary benefit of closing the small libraries. Scrutiny of the Galt Mile facility’s financial records revealed the claimed savings to be a fabrication. They also noted that the Commissioners behind the budget recommendation had none of the threatened libraries within their districts.

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center Computers
Since the terms of their union contract (Local 1591 of the Amalgamated Transit Union) would simply rotate the unit’s 5 staffers to other County positions and/or agencies at full pay if the Galt location was defunded and the inventory maintenance costs would continue unabated irrespective of a potential relocation of the books, tapes, computers, etc., the budget savings was a negligible few thousand dollars. Even the meager rental savings would be burdened by moving and storage costs and moving damage losses to the inventory. Additionally, the County would remain on the hook for $53,000 of the $70,854 annual rental expense if they pulled the plug.

Following a unanimous May 21st vote by the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board empowering Gardner to represent the community’s interest in the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center, a committee was empanelled to help protect the storefront neighborhood asset. After accepting Commissioner Keechl’s offer to help save the facility, the committee convened 4 open meetings at the library and formulated a strategy based on the Vice Mayor’s input. The committee organized a community-wide petition, created and distributed a resolution of support template to the 26 member associations and local civic organizations, and initiated a letter writing and email campaign targeting all nine County Commissioners.

Nearly 5000 petition signatures and 33 pro-Reading Room resolutions (associations, Houses of Worship, Civic groups, etc.) were forwarded to Commissioner Keechl’s office, where they were copied and distributed to his Commission peers. Hundreds of supportive emails and letters simultaneously flooded the Commission chambers. Within a few weeks, the Commissioners that favored closing the local libraries were suddenly more receptive to alternative budget fixes. At the final Budget Workshop in Mid-August, several commissioners told the Vice Mayor that they would support holding safe the 7 threatened leased libraries, especially the Galt Mile facility.

County Commissioner Lois Wexler
Notwithstanding, the Vice Mayor advised that the Reading Room would remain “at risk” until the final budget is approved on September 22nd, at the second of the two scheduled Broward Budget Meetings. The reason for his admonition soon became clear. During the first Budget Meeting on September 10th, when County Commissioner Lois Wexler unexpectedly revived her recommendation to close the Reading Room, Commissioner Keechl rallied sufficient support to temporarily fend off her “sneak attack”. The event underscored Keechl’s warning to the committee that “This is politics and the Commission members are under pressure. Despite any claims or statements made prior to the final budget meeting, there are no guarantees.”

Tee Shirted GMCA Library Supporters
While the Library Committee meetings were underway, hundreds of residents expressed their intention to attend the final budget meeting and verbally pummel the Broward Commission. Planned statements ranged from carefully measured fiscal, cultural and civic justifications for the library's survival to markedly less cogent expressions of fear, disgust, frustration and anger.

Save our Library Tee Shirt
When asked for his input, Keechl said, “The final budget meeting is likely to be a marathon event, with scores of residents speaking about dozens of issues. After a time, anyone within earshot of largely repetitive complaints, supplications and comments will tend to become numb to the proceedings.” Since the Commission members had already been made aware of the community-wide scope of this issue by the tidal wave of petition signatures, resolutions and correspondences, the Vice Mayor recommended that the group be limited to a highly identifiable contingent of about 30 residents rather than swamping the chamber with hundreds of angry supporters. He also suggested that it would be more effective if one person summarized resident concerns on behalf of the group.

Fred Nesbitt
Taking a page from the strategy implemented to oppose the Calypso gasworks, L’Hermitage I Manager Patricia Quintero ordered tee shirts scripted with “Save our Library” and Playa del Mar’s Fred Nesbitt secured matching buttons to identify group members at the County budget meeting. GMCA President Pio Ieraci was selected to deliver the committee’s message. The only remaining obstacle was transportation.

City Commissioner and Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts
Fortunately, our District 1 City Commissioner and Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts (that’s right, we are represented by Vice Mayors in both the City and the County) learned about the Committee’s efforts while attending a GMCA Advisory Board meeting. When apprised of the problem, he offered to sponsor a bus to carry concerned residents to and from the meeting at the Broward Governmental Center.

On Friday, September 18th - four days before the event - each of the 26 GMCA member associations were informed about the plan and posted notices inviting concerned residents to reserve a seat on the bus. By Tuesday morning, more than 40 seats were snapped up, somewhat exceeding Commissioner Keechl’s recommended quota of 30 attendees. The over 90 additional applicants that called through 3 PM were informed that although the bus was full, they could still attend via alternative means of transportation.

Terry Claire
Although Vice Mayor Roberts was called away to address a Tuesday afternoon emergency, his Commission Assistant Robbi Uptegrove met the bus at 2:30 PM with GMCA officials Pio Ieraci, Eric Berkowitz and Fern McBride. At 3 PM, the bus left Southpoint with a sizable group of L’Hermitage, Commodore, Coral Ridge Towers complex and Southpoint residents (including the irrepressible octogenarian Sally Sobel). The bus headed north up Galt Ocean Drive, stopping to board one or two individuals from some associations and larger groups from Edgewater Arms, the two “Regencys”, Ocean Club, The Galleon and Plaza South (led by the indefatigable Terry Claire). The passenger list was unexpectedly swelled by a half dozen extra friends and/or family members of registered riders. En route to the meeting site, passengers wiggled into their tee shirts and buttons.

GMCA Secretary Fern McBride
Upon arriving at the Governmental Center, GMCA Secretary Fern McBride expedited the County registration protocol for the 50 Galt Mile residents disembarking the bus. They were soon joined by several carloads of additional Galt Reading Room supporters. By the 5:01 PM start time, the entire center section of the Commission Chamber was filled with white and red tee shirted library proponents. Within an hour, the Commission called on Pio Ieraci, who launched into the reasons why the Reading Room should never have been threatened with closure. After clarifying the Vice Mayor’s strategy to spare the Commission hours of redundant concerns, he summoned the group, whereupon the entire center section simultaneously rose to their feet.

Tee Shirted GMCA Library Supporters
The Commissioners were visibly relieved when Ieraci disclosed that he was speaking for the attending Galt Mile residents. In closing, he reminded the Commissioners that the neighborhood demonstration was “dialed down” by design, intimating that they should think twice before repeating their threat again next year. Two library supporters who insisted on personally addressing the Commission briefly punctuated Ieraci’s remarks.

Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter
Seemingly appreciative of his abbreviated presentation, Mayor Stacy Ritter responded by guaranteeing that the Galt Mile Reading Center would remain open. When she followed with an observation that 118 people had signed up to address the Commission, the Galt Mile group cut short their standing ovation and headed for the exits.

GMCA President Pio Ieraci
Within minutes, the center section was empty. As the locals exited the building, swarming reporters interviewed Ieraci, Herman Gardner and randomly solicited comments from anyone in a tee shirt. Savoring the successful outcome of a summer-long campaign, the participants’ return trip spontaneously evolved into a celebratory party. Prior to being dropped off at their respective buildings, the residents thanked Robbi Uptegrove for her invaluable help and asked that she convey their appreciation to Vice Mayor Roberts for providing the bus and standing by his constituents.

Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion Leaves Court
Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion joined Kristin Jacobs on the losing side of the after midnight 7 vs. 2 vote approving the final budget. Insisting that the budget was tainted by the 52 County jobs sacrificed to avoid a tax hike, Eggelletion issued an ominous warning to his peers “The direction that you take determines your destination.” Eight hours later, headlines were plastered across every South Florida media outlet alleging that Eggelletion’s part in a Bahamian money laundering scheme led the FBI to slap on the cuffs. Hmmm…?

Click To Top of Page

Vice Mayor Ken Keechl’s 10/2009
Budget and Library Letter to Constituents

Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center
October 24, 2009 - * Broward County District 4 Commissioner and Vice Mayor
Ken Keechl has been delivering on his promises with religious regularity since elected 3 years ago. Since then, he has informally assumed a role as the Commission’s unofficial fiscal ombudsman, fighting relentlessly for tax cuts, spending control and financial accountability. Keechl’s inclusion marked a reversal of the County Commission’s previously unrestrained spending policies. His constituent letter summarizes the Commission’s effort to relieve the tax burden on County residents.

Tee Shirted GMCA Library Supporters
A budget measure to close the seven leased county libraries - including the heavily patronized Galt Mile Branch - was recommended by several of his peers (whose districts “coincidentally” lack any leased libraries). Last Spring, at the request of the Galt Mile Community Association and the Friends of the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center, the Vice Mayor devised a strategy to keep the local library’s doors open. Thousands of local residents signed petitions to save their Library, dozens of associations and civic organizations passed resolutions supportive of the neighborhood reading center and hundreds of letters, faxes and emails flooded the Commission chamber, insisting on the Library's continued survival.

Keechl Orchestrates Library Campaign
At the final County Budget meeting on September 22, 2009, a sizable Galt Mile contingent filled the meeting room. Following a statement by GMCA President Pio Ieraci summarizing community opposition to the planned closure, Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter confirmed that the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center would survive the budget meeting, reprieving the popular local asset at least until next year's budget exigencies.

Although the successful campaign was choreographed by our Commissioner and implemented by “Friends” and GMCA, it succeeded because the entire neighborhood addressed this challenge with one - very loud - voice. We owe a debt of gratitude to Commissioner Keechl for his part in saving the Galt Mile Reading Center (which is also our official polling site). Galt Mile residents and others who’ve sent the hundreds of emails since the budget meeting were also gratified that the 125,000 resident visits anticipated through next year will brighten and enrich the lives of thousands of their friends and neighbors. ... READ ON! - [editor]*

Broward Commission Approves 2010 Budget

Galt Ocean Mile Library Stays Open
No Property Tax Increases

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
Broward County Commissioners successfully approved the 2010 fiscal year budget without raising property taxes and the Galt Ocean Mile Branch Library will remain open.

Residents Enjoy Galt Mile Reading Center
The five-year lease agreement on the Galt library remains in place and residents can continue to utilize the library that they fought so hard to keep open.

“I promised that I would not vote to raise taxes and I said that I would do whatever was necessary to keep the Galt Ocean library open. Fortunately, the majority of Commissioners agreed and we were able to keep the millage rate the same—and keep the Galt library up and running. The voice of the people was heard loud and clear.” said Vice-Mayor Ken Keechl.

Cutting $108-million dollars from the property tax supported general fund meant that some services had to be cut. Broward County libraries will be closed on Sundays and parks will be closed on Wednesdays.

The $3.3 billion budget decreased by $314 million compared to the 2009 budget. This means that the average homeowner will see a minimum reduction of $214 on the county portion of their property tax bill. The countywide millage rate in Broward County remains at 4.8889.

Broward County Commissioner and Vice Mayor
Ken Keechl

Click To Top of Page

Bogus FHA Website

Scams Galt Mile Residents

Broward Coalition President Charlotte Greenbarg
Broward Coalition President
Charlotte Greenbarg
November 6, 2009 - Senior AmeriFirst Underwriter Theresa Schmitz forwarded an email with an importance designation of “High” to Broward Coalition President Charlotte Greenbarg on October 28, 2009. Given her fiduciary responsibilities, Terri is recipient of official informational bulletins from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The message was originally from Congressional Liaison Cheryl Marken of HUD’s Miami Field Office.

Click to Bogus FHA Modification web site Addressed to “HUD Partners and Elected Officials,” Marken’s email states: “HUD’s Web team has confirmed that the site is NOT a HUD site. The site has good information (all copied from legitimate HUD sites), but when you click on ‘contact us’ we do not know who ‘us’ is. The proper HUD authorities are investigating this matter, and I do not know if anything can be done other than preventing unauthorized entities from using HUD’s seal, but it is important that you know this site is out there and not affiliated with HUD or FHA.” The message closes with a warning, “FOREWARN your friends, family or neighbors of this recent HUD warning to stay away from company listed.”

Click to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) web site Of the three Galt Mile residents who recently sent emails to the Galt Mile Community Association asking about the fraudulent website simply entitled FHA Modification, only one had already divulged personal data. She was referred to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to hopefully limit the damage wrought by these identity thieves. The web is ablaze with sites similar to Impressively bedecked with HUD and FHA logos, the site would pass even informed scrutiny as an official government offering. In fact, it is a “phishing” website.

In the field of computer security, phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, account numbers, Social Security Numbers and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. While most phishing expeditions are promulgated to access existing accounts, others seek to elicit names, addresses, telephone numbers, names of family members and identifying information useful for initiating new accounts. Ordinarily, an email is used as the hook, baited with an anxious admonition to confirm mottled bank account or credit card data, claim some mysterious refund, address an account threatened with suspension or verify a recent nondescript charge or withdrawal.

The “mark” is sent to a web site impeccably designed to mimic a credible and trustworthy institution, where logins, passwords, account numbers, email addresses, etc. are cheerfully harvested by crooks that will either sell the data or simply bang away at the newly accessible accounts. Although the websites of banks and Online Payment Services are traditionally simulated, the scam is metamorphic, adapting to take advantage of opportunities indigenous to the economic climate. As such, many recent rip-offs were socially engineered to exploit lucrative real estate and mortgage lending opportunities.

After acquiring email lists either stolen and brokered on the black market or purchased from mostly questionable commercial data purveyors such as First Data Solutions or 1st Source Information Specialists, Inc., the scammers usually cast a wide net, randomly hooking a few victims. If a customized list enumerates clients of a particular financial institution, the more targeted variation of the scam is known as spear phishing. After TD Ameritrade announced in September 2007 that their database of 6.3 million customer email addresses, account numbers, dates of birth, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers and trading activity was hacked, the thieves decided that the stolen information would be geometrically more valuable if packaged with user names and passwords. They launched a follow-up spear fishing attack. To help violated customers contend with the resulting blizzard of baited spam (junk emails), the company purchased $6 million of spam-blocking software from Trend Micro Internet Security.

When an attack is directed at certain high profile business targets such as senior executives and major stockholders, the term coined for such ambitious enterprise is whaling. A Survey conducted by leading information technology firm Gartner Research found that during the 12 months prior to August 2007, 3.6 million people in the United States lost $3.2 billion to phishing assaults.

Russian Business Network - London Front
By inserting links to an often imperceptibly misspelled URL or subdomain, bogus websites imitative of those managed by HUD, Fannie Mae, FHA and a wide variety of mortgage banks are soaking additional $billions from unsuspecting online targets. The current economic turbulence has nurtured a battery of predatory mortgage bottom feeders, foreclosure frauds and other recovery-related scams conducive to phishing. When mimicked institutions that actively monitor the internet discover a fake internet presence, they simultaneously alert customers (potential victims) and report the suspected website to the authorities. Unfortunately, the international nature of these crimes undermines implementation of a concerted effective response to violators. Almost half the thefts in 2006 were committed by groups operating through the St. Petersburg-based Russian Business Network, a legally bulletproof web host for sites specializing in child pornography, patent piracy and other variants of cybercrime.

In March, HUD found a site that bilked $millions from unwitting mortgage clients, To demonstrate the international nature of this criminal enterprise (as officially classified by the FBI in 2004), the Domain name was registered in Germany and the site was hosted in California. Newspapers and local governments nationwide issued releases warning readers and constituents against potential victimization. On March 30, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) won a Stipulated Preliminary Injunction, freezing the site’s assets.

Since then, the FTC has been closing similar sites at a healthy pace. As evidenced by the recent HUD warning, the phishing business is adequately lucrative to outlast these disjointed deterrent strategies. For a few hundred dollars, rudimentary familiarity with HTML (Hypertext Markup Language - the main coding language on the internet) and lust for a quick buck, any slime ball can set up a phishing bear trap. Since rooting them out is only useful for limiting the prospective damage, it is imperative that people never respond to online requests for personal information. To avoid victimization, first install good virus protection software. Some downloadable freeware versions are adequate for this purpose and most internet service providers offer free online or email protection (including Comcast and AT&T). If an email or an instant message stirs concern about any of your accounts, call the bank or credit card issuer and make an inquiry. Protecting yourself is seldom that simple. DO IT!

November 20, 2009 - ALERT! - Since posting this article on the GMCA website, 2 Galt Mile residents reported receiving suspicious emails with the following content:

We are contacting you in regards to an unusual activity that was identified in your mailbox. As a result, your mailbox has been deactivated. To restore your mailbox, you are required to extract and run the attached mailbox utility.

Best regards, technical support.

Another email contained the following text:

Dear user of the mailing service!

We are informing you that because of the security upgrade of the mailing service your mailbox ( settings were changed. In order to apply the new set of settings click on the following link:

The hackers want the user to click on a link provided below the text, initiating one of two consequences. In one case, the link triggers installation of a computer virus. The other carries the user to a site with another link that the user is encouraged to click, which also infects the user’s computer with a virus.

In both cases, the links in the emails are coded to simulate valid communications from the user’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) or web host, but they are not. They LOOK like they contain either your web-site address or your email address, but they do not. A quick “Google” of the text revealed that this malicious email is nationwide, with client admonitions from IndyWeb, a web host serving Indianapolis, Indiana and local web hosts such as Host Depot. Please be extremely cautious with these kinds of emails and don’t hesitate to delete them ASAP.

Click To Top of Page


Golf Traco Windows Tournament

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

The Date: Friday, November 6th, 2009
The Time: 11:00 A.M.
The Place: Bonaventure Country Club
200 Bonaventure Boulevard
Weston, Florida 33317

Tournament Information

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

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

After Golf

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

The East Course at Bonaventure Country Club

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

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

Click to Community Association Institute, Southeast Florida Chapter web site For more information, call Jill Proietti at 954-816-0661 or Email: Click Here for the 2009 Golf Tournament page on the Southeast Florida Chapter of CAI web site.

Click Here to register for the CAI-SEFL 2009 Golf Tournament. Click Here for info about sponsorship opportunities for the Golf Tournament.

Click To Top of Page

Impacts Associations

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Making Balloon Animals for Legislative Leaders
November 12, 2009 - If you’ve been preoccupied with a hunt for cross-dressing Nazi operatives in the Obama Administration, rumors that rookie Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor endorsed wholesale castration to socially re-engineer Western Culture, and allegations that federal health care initiatives are a collaborative product of East German Stasi expatriates, Chilean DINA deportees and former SAVAK agents, perhaps you are unaware of the newly passed
Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) did a respectable job of nutshelling the new law, describing its impact as follows:

  • “All tenants must receive a 90-day notice before being evicted as the result of a foreclosure.

  • With some exceptions, the law requires that in the event of foreclosure, existing leases for renters are honored to the end of the term of their lease.

  • Click Here to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) The stated exceptions are for tenants without a lease, tenants with a lease terminable at will under state law, or where the owner acquiring the property will occupy it as a primary residence. In these cases, the tenants must receive a minimum of 90 days notice to vacate the property.

  • This law does not affect the requirements of any state or local law that provides longer time periods or other additional protections for tenants.

  • The new law does not require any agency to issue implementing regulations; these protections apply to foreclosures after May 20, 2009.

  • FDIC examiners will monitor and enforce compliance with the requirements of this law in the same manner as other consumer protection laws and regulations.”

Senators John Kerry and Christopher Dodd
Characterizing tenants as “innocent victims of the foreclosure crisis,” Senators John Kerry, Kirsten Gillibrand, Harry Reid, Christopher Dodd, Edward Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Jeff Merkley and Richard Durbin sponsored an amendment to a mammoth housing bill, the “Help Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009” (S. 896). They filed Senate Amendment 1036 (S. Amdt. 1036), the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act to legally insulate hard-working tenants living in foreclosed properties from consequential dispossession. The Tenant’s Rights amendment survived a May 6, 2009 Senate Vote of 57 yeas, 39 nays and 3 not voting. Later that day, the parent Housing Bill overwhelmingly passed through the Senate by a vote of 91 yeas, 5 nays and 3 not voting. On May 19, 2009, the House of Representatives also voted the bill favorably, with 367 yeas, 54 nays and 12 not voting. It was signed into law the next day by President Obama and designated Public Law 111-22. The Tenant Rights Amendment became Title VII in the new law.

Senate Vote for Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act

The new Act effectively inserts a tenant-friendly non-disturbance clause, common in commercial leases, into a residential context inclusive of condo and co-op rentals. The recessionary real estate environment has nurtured a variety of exploitive landlord/tenant relationships. Speculators actively dodging foreclosure measures have packed unrented units with friends and relatives, hoping to cloak incriminating paper trails and derail foreclosure proceedings while inequitably forcing neighbors to financially absorb their defaulted obligations. Conversely, many rental units are legally leased to legitimate tenants. The new law aspires to discriminate between warrantable tenancies and speculator smokescreens.

The law is applicable only to “bona fide” leases and tenants. The act states that a lease or tenancy shall be considered bona fide only if:

  1. the mortgagor under the contract is not the tenant;

  2. the lease or tenancy was the result of an arms-length transaction; or

  3. the lease or tenancy requires the receipt of rent that is not substantially less than fair market rent for the property or moderated by any federal, state or local subsidy.

In other words, the law protects any person who entered into an arms-length, market value lease prior to a served notice of foreclosure, provided that the tenant is neither the mortgagor nor a relative/friend/accomplice of the served titleholder/landlord. Bogus tenancies and/or rental agreements are ineligible for any protections described in the act. The law is scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2012.

Click Here to Community Advocacy Network of Florida - CAN When confronted by “bona fide” tenants, new owners that intend to occupy units as primary residences can plan on moving in 90 days after serving notices to vacate, despite the terms of any existing leases. If titleholders do not intend to occupy the units, they must honor the full terms of any existing leases, provided that the tenants continue to make timely rental payments. In a recent Community Advocacy Network (CAN) alert, Association Attorney Donna Berger considered how the changes could affect associations.

Donna Berger Esq.
One incremental association impact of the new law inures to “nuisance” tenants that interfere with association operations and/or repeatedly violate association rules despite having been properly warned and legally noticed. When a foreclosing association or bank previously issued a post-sale writ of possession to an abusive tenant, the troublemaker had to make tracks posthaste and the dilemma was discharged. Under the new law, a minimum notice of 90 days is prerequisite to an eviction. How much longer it could take after that depends upon the length and legitimacy of the lease and whether the new titleholder plans to move in.

Click Here to the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act Most foreclosing associations will gladly continue to collect a market-value rental income from “bona fide” tenants. However, Berger admonishes that new untested laws traditionally breed abuse. If the tenant claims that the rent was fully pre-paid in cash to the former owner/landlord and therefore seeks exemption from further payments, Donna argues that such arrangements are not representative of an arms-length transaction – especially in the current economic climate – thereby denuding the tenant of the act’s protections. Oral agreements also lack credibility as arms-length contracts. If a “bona fide” rental arrangement is governed by a renewable monthly lease or a lease with three months or less remaining prior to expiration, a properly noticed tenant can be ousted after 90 days.

“Bona fide” or not, if a tenant fails to pay the rental obligation, the association/landlord will have to navigate an often onerous eviction process, replete with questionably recoverable legal fees. Berger recommends that associations notify their attorneys immediately after foreclosing a tenanted unit, whether or not the tenant is in default. If payments aren’t received as required in the lease and the tenant slips into default, the attorney must be prepared to initiate the removal process by issuing the appropriate default notice. A rapid response will lighten the burden on the other association members since they must ultimately compensate for the defaulted association income.

Berger focuses on a tactic useful for functionally abbreviating or eliminating altogether the 3-month waiting period, a potential sales deterrent. The law allows new owners to immediately serve any tenant with the 90-day notice upon taking title, whether or not they intend to occupy the unit. If the new owner subsequently sells the unit to a purchaser that intends to occupy the unit, the buyer will not have to wait 90 days to move in - only the balance of time remaining from the original 90-day notice. The seller’s actual intentions with regard to occupying the unit become legally irrelevant. For example, if the resale closing is scheduled on the 90th day of the initial notice, the purchaser can move in immediately.

The act moves the law a bit closer to a feudal English real property system known as Attornment, wherein a new landlord had to obtain consent of a tenant prior to the alienation of land. Given the reciprocal relationship between landlords and tenants, it was considered unreasonable to subject a tenant to a new landlord without approval. Abolished in 1705, Attornment also extended to lifelong lessees. As currently utilized, the term refers to an acknowledged landlord-tenant relationship.

Click To Top of Page

Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts

FAA, Football & Fire-Rescue

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
November 18, 2009 - District 1 Commissioner and Vice Mayor Bruce G. Roberts carved his public personna from a passionate commitment to public safety. The City’s former Police Chief pursued that objective throughout a sterling career in law enforcement. He opens and closes his November 2009 Newsletter with reference to another municipal force preoccupied with Public Safety, Fort Lauderdale’s Department of Fire-Rescue. He characterizes the new Fire Station located at Executive Airport as a "state-of-the art fire-rescue and training facility" that houses the City’s new Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The Newsletter’s parting shot recruits participation in the Department's Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, enumerating the City’s Fire Stations that serve as collection locations for non-perishable foodstuffs.

Roberts considers the municipal impact of three events - one that has long been identified with Fort Lauderdale and two new opportunities that will likely provide some relief to the local economy. Although it suffered a 30% drop in attendance compared to last year, the jury is still out as to whether the beseiged local marine industry considers the recent 50th Annual International Boat Show to be a positive or negative industry indicator. The upcoming Pro Bowl and Super Bowl events scheduled for Landshark Stadium in Miami, however, are pure fiscal gravy.

Click to Pro Bowl website
Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President Nicki Grossman
Ordinarily held in Hawaii, it is impossible to know how much Fort Lauderdale will siphon from the $28 million that the Pro Bowl historically dumps into the surrounding local economy, which is squarely centered in Miami. A one-time occurrence, Hawaii has successfully negotiated a recapture of the event for next year and thereafter. Following on the heels of the Pro Bowl appetizer, the Super Bowl is the world’s largest special event. While Miami will accrue the lion’s share of the expected $350 million injection into the local economy, Fort Lauderdale and other nearby communities will enjoy this serendipitous fiscal shot-in-the-arm. On January 30th, one day before the Pro Bowl, Fort Lauderdale residents with or without tickets can watch team preparations at an open practice at Lockhart Stadium (1350 N.W. 55th Street). This unprecedented alignment of the two events is expected to enhance the local economic benefit exponentially. Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President Nicki Grossman has said that the Pro Bowl "could mean an additional $150 million for local businesses on top of the impact from the Super Bowl." From her lips to God’s ears... read on...
– [editor]

From The Desk of
Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts

Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts
Within the last few months, I have taken several tours of the Executive Airport to view the facilities, operations and the new Fire Department. It is the newest public safety building recently opened on the grounds of the airport. The station serves the Executive Airport and the surrounding community, and includes an engine company, EMS unit, aircraft rescue and firefighting apparatus, the fire-rescue training bureau and the City’s new Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The new station replaces former Stations 53 and 88, which were combined to create this state-of-the art fire-rescue and training facility. The Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport serves over 200,000 aircraft operations per year, one of the busiest General Aviation airports in the country and the 61st busiest airport overall. Over 700 aircraft, including 115 jets and 37 helicopters, make Executive Airport their year-round home. It also contains a 24-hour FAA Air Traffic Control Tower, an Instrument Landing System, U.S. Customs & Border protection service, Police Substation and 24-hour contract security, hotel, conference and restaurant facilities on the grounds or within one mile, over 1.3 million square feet of office and warehouse space in the Airport’s Industrial Airpark, and another 5 million square feet in the surrounding Uptown Business sector.

Click to Fort Lauderdale's 50th Annual International Boat Show website The 50th Annual International Boat Show was held October 29 through November 2, 2009. Total attendance was estimated at about 100,000, down from about 140,000 last year, according to Show Management, which produces the show. Sales figures were not immediately available, but the number of vendors was forecast to be down about 17 percent. Despite the drop in foot traffic, the show's organizers and many vendors said the increased level of interest in new boats brightened the forecast for an industry that suffered major blows during the global economic downturn. The boat show, which is the largest in the world, serves as a bellwether for the year ahead for the maritime industries. The marine industries contribute an estimated $18 billion to Florida’s economy annually and over $13 billion to Fort Lauderdale/Broward County. The economic impact of the boat show was estimated at $500 million.

Click to Pro Bowl website At the October 6, 2010 City Commission conference meeting, the City Commission gave tentative approval of a recommendation to declare portions of January and February 2010 an extraordinary special event for the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, given the huge economic impact and prestige associated with the events. The City’s economic well-being is substantially dependent upon tourism and greatly enhanced by attracting visitors to special events. The Super Bowl, the world’s largest special event, is a major economic catalyst that will benefit the populace as a whole in the City of Fort Lauderdale as well as surrounding communities and charities.

Click to Super Bowl website This event will provide an excellent opportunity to focus attention on Greater Fort Lauderdale’s sporting venue, which is a desired amenity to many businesses and residents. The economic impact of the most recent Super Bowl was pegged at $350 million. The impact of the last Pro Bowl was reportedly $28 million. The average Super Bowl attendee spends four nights in a hotel. Of the attendees, 85% are from another state, 70-90% arrive by plane and the average fan spends $1,500 - $2,000 during his/her stay.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue’s 37th Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue’s 37th Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive is underway. The City of Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Department and the Firefighters Benevolent Association invite you to donate non-perishable food and share the spirit of Thanksgiving with Fort Lauderdale families in need. Now through Saturday, November 21st, non-perishable food may be donated at any Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Station from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Donations are also being accepted at the Firefighters Benevolent Hall and Fort Lauderdale City Hall during regular office hours.

Fire-Rescue Stations:

Bruce G. Roberts                

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

Click To Top of Page

Federal Health Care Legislation Progress

House Passes Health Care Bill
November 24, 2009 - In its quest for a health care Holy Grail, Washington DC is narrowing the gap among plans currently under Congressional consideration. By a vote of
220 Yeas vs. 215 Nays, the House of Representatives squeezed through H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, on November 7, 2009. Spun off the abandoned H.R. 3200 in October, the bill’s passage partially addresses President Obama’s stated objective for the two houses to pass separate bills by the end of the year.

Blue Dog Democrats Barter Amendments
This House product is the result of two major concessions negotiated to promote inclusion of contingent groups that previously represented ideological stumbling blocks, “blue dog” Democrats and moderate Republicans. In late July, Democrat leaders cut a deal with conservative rank-and-file rebels to release the legislation from committee captivity. To ransom the hostage bill, they reduced the federal subsidies designed to help lower-income families afford insurance, exempted additional businesses from a requirement to offer insurance to their workers and changed the terms of a government insurance option.

House Vote for H.R. 3962 - the Affordable Health Care for America Act

Senate Health Committee’s Democrat Chris Dodd and ranking Republican Mike Enzi
To win support adequate for passage, they agreed to toughen restrictions on abortion funding, as demanded by an anti-abortion coalition of lawmakers backed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Before voting on the bill, the House passed an amendment to the pending legislation that prohibits federal funds for abortion services in the public option and in the insurance “exchange” created by the legislation.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Democrat Max Baucus and ranking Republican Charles Grassley
Before the Senate agrees to pass health care legislation, they must also merge several bills currently being vetted. Prior to Senate Health Committee Chair Edward Kennedy’s replacement by Tom Harkin, Democrat Chris Dodd and ranking Republican Mike Enzi approved a bill in July. The Senate Finance Committee Democrat Chair Max Baucus and ranking Republican Charles Grassley approved its bill on October 13th. Before delivering a Senate Bill to the White House, the Senate’s Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin must first merge the various products while retaining enough of each bill’s offerings to marshal momentum adequate for passage. The single greatest political obstacle facing the Senate leadership are issues related to the Public Plan (a government sponsored health insurance plan) as provided for in the House bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin
Allowing the government to compete with private insurers is anathematic to the Senate. Along with Republicans and whatever Joe Lieberman is, many Democrats are palpably uncomfortable with the prospect of establishing another taxpayer funded corporation, anticipating its potential evolution into an entitlement program. If they can’t find a politically palatable version of the Public Plan, Reid and Durbin may have to place it on the chopping block.

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine
To circumvent this obstacle, the Democratic leadership is considering what’s known as the trigger option. A supporter of Health Care legislation, Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine exclaimed that if premiums keep escalating and local health insurance markets remain in the grip of a few big companies over the next few years, she would support a government plan. Democrat moderates such as Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana agree, having stated “If the private market fails to reform, there would be a fallback position. It should be triggered by choice and affordability, not by political whim.”

This federal “fooz ball” tournament won’t impact anyone’s health care decisions until the final changes proposed in these bills are enacted and approved by the White House sometime in the next year - or two. Notwithstanding, Medicare recipients are faced with more immediate concerns.

Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
Open Enrollment Period

Click Here to Medicare web site The annual open enrollment period for the Medicare prescription drug benefit is underway and will continue from November 15 until December 31, 2009. During this period, those currently enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan have an opportunity to switch plans, or they can remain in their current plan – unless it is discontinued.

Medicare Donut Hole Many plans have made important changes to their benefits for the upcoming year, including changes to monthly premiums, deductibles, the drugs that are covered or included on the plan formulary, the costs of drugs (co-pays), coverage in the “donut hole” (a painful gap between basic and catastrophic coverage limits) and other policies that impact access to particular drugs. Many plans have altered requirements for prior authorization, step therapy and quantity limits. If you are satisfied with your current Medicare drug coverage, you need not do anything. However, since new plans with different options are now available in Broward and Miami-Dade, Galt Mile residents should re-evaluate their current plans, taking into account factors such as coverage policies, monthly premiums and their specific drug needs.

Several free resources, both online and over the telephone, are available to assist you in choosing a Medicare prescription drug plan or comparing your plan with others available in Broward County. They include:

  • Click Here to Medicare web site Medicare Website Tools: Available on the Medicare website (, are two important on-line tools and advice about skirting the infamous “Donut Hole” coverage gap, including:

    • Medicare Options Compare and Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder: The Plan Finder will allow you to identify plans in Broward or Miami-Dade and to compare your plan with others available to you. Importantly, the Plan Finder will identify which plans cover the drugs you take and includes features that provide you with an estimate of your out of pocket expenses for each plan you review, including the costs of specific drugs. Information on estimated monthly mail order drug costs compared to retail drug costs is also available. The Plan Finder also rates the plans based on a number of different factors.

    • Formulary Finder: The Formulary Finder enables you to identify plans in your state that cover the drugs you need.

    • Lower Your Costs During the Coverage Gap: This section of the site provides tips on how you can lower your out-of-pocket costs, including through assistance programs.

  • Click Here to My Medicare Matters web site Sponsored by the The National Council on Aging (NCOA), the Access to Benefits Coalition (ABC) and AstraZeneca, this web-based decision-making tool offers information about Medicare Drug Plans, staying healthy and Medicare coverage basics. A section called “Review 2010 Choices” focuses on why those currently enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan should consider changing plans, when it is appropriate to do so and how to pick a new plan. For those initially seeking a plan, “Start with 7 Simple Steps” explains eligibility, how to evaluate current drug coverage, cost, and how to pick a plan. The site provides links to Medicare’s Prescription Drug Plan Finder and instructions for using the Plan Finder tool.

  • Medicare Hotline, 1-800-Medicare: Call Medicare’s toll-free hotline, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for English and Spanish-speaking customer service representatives prepared to answer questions about the Original Medicare Plan and approved health plans currently available. TTY users please call 1-877-486-2048.

  • Click Here to Medicare & You 2010 Medicare & You 2010: Information about the Medicare program, including the prescription drug benefit, can be found in the 2010 edition of the Medicare & You handbook, which was mailed to all Medicare beneficiaries in October, 2009. Since the handbook is traditionally misplaced in Medicare households, it is also available online at The handbook includes tips on selecting a plan and an overview of plan options. Those already enrolled in a Medicare drug plan should have received an Annual Notice of Change that describes changes in the benefits offered by your current plan.

  • State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP): SHIP is a national program that offers one-on-one counseling and assistance via telephone and face-to-face interactive sessions to people with Medicare and their families. For Galt Mile residents, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs provides administrative and management support for the SHIP program. The eleven Area Agencies on Aging serve as partners with the Area Volunteer Coordinators in developing and overseeing the program and arranging for training of SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) volunteers. The Elder Helpline toll-free number (1-800-963-5337) provides access to counseling statewide. For Snowbirds – to find SHIP offices in other states, go to

  • Click Here to Medicare Access for Patients Rx (MAPRx) web site MAPRx: Medicare Access for Patients Rx (MAPRx) is a coalition of patient, family caregiver and health professional organizations committed to safeguarding the well-being of patients with chronic diseases and disabilities under Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage. MAPRx member organizations collaborate with national and state policymakers to ensure that beneficiaries can access medication therapies they need and deserve. The MAPRx website,, provides helpful information and answers to questions. It also includes a list of useful Florida resources for additional assistance.

Additional Financial Help is Available

Extra Help in paying for Medicare prescription drug costs is available for those with limited incomes, including through the Social Security Administration and via many other little-known public and private sources.

Click Here to Social Security Online Social Security: Under the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit, you may be eligible for Extra Help to pay for all or most of the premiums, annual deductible and copayments. You automatically qualify for Extra Help if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and have Medicare; receive Medicaid and have Medicare; OR your state pays your Medicare premiums. You also may qualify and can apply for Extra Help through the Social Security Administration (SSA), People with Medicare may qualify for Extra Help if:

  • Annual income is limited to $16,245 for an individual or $21,855 for a married couple living together. If you support other in-residence family members, have earnings from work, or live in Alaska or Hawaii, the income limits increase.

  • Resources (bank accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.) must be limited to $12,510 for an individual or $25,010 for a married couple living together. A house, a car, a $1,500 burial allowance (for singles) or a $3,000 burial allowance (for couples) are all excluded from consideration.

If your income or assets exceed the stated limits, you should still apply for Extra Help. The Social Security Administration considers other deductions that enhance eligibility. To quickly and easily determine your eligibility for Extra Help, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to apply over the phone or to request that an application be mailed to you, visit the SSA website ( or your local Social Security office.

Click Here to Web Site Another online tool sponsored by the National Council on Aging, will allow you to search for private and public programs that can help you pay for prescription drugs and other health care costs.

Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs: Many pharmaceutical manufacturers have organized assistance programs for people, including those enrolled or eligible for the Medicare Drug benefit.

Please Note: Assistance programs have eligibility requirements. Some apply income/resource limits, some are specific to people without any form of drug coverage and others are unavailable to those who are eligible for Medicare. Verify a program’s access requirements first!

Warning: There are other companies that offer to connect consumers to these same programs for a fee - some of which use or mimic their names and logos without permission. The programs listed will help you find assistance free of charge. You will never be asked for money!

Click To Top of Page

40 Year Old Condos Require
Recertification Inspections

By Marcy L. Kravit, CMCA, AMS, PCAM

Galleon Manager Marcy Kravit
December 1, 2009 - Going back to the 1960’s, condominium developers were making their mark on the Fort Lauderdale oceanfront. Developers constructed more housing in Fort Lauderdale than any other city in Florida during the 1960’s. For the many retirees and snowbirds flocking to South Florida, the City of Fort Lauderdale seemed to be one of the most desirable locations during that time. The Galt Ocean Mile was rapidly growing to be a popular location for high rises that were constructed along the Intracoastal and oceanfront.

Galt Mile - facing South from the Ocean Manor Hotel
Over time, the buildings have suffered from the salt air exposure resulting in deterioration of their structures and experienced water intrusion. As a result, the concrete spalls and weakens; these conditions have produced exposed steel, wood and electrical wiring issues.

While many had purchased condominiums to avoid the maintenance required with a single-family home, unit owners along The Galt Ocean Mile are discovering that condominium buildings that are reaching their 40 year anniversaries are required to perform inspections and address the much needed repairs and restoration.

4564 El Mar Drive Balcony Collapse in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea (2006)
Over the years, several buildings have experienced an abundant quantity of modifications and repairs which may have been performed without permits, were not according to building codes and may at this time pose potential safety hazards and liability. Some condominiums may have just aged and contain hidden risks that may have gone overlooked and ignored.

Click to 40-year or Older Building Safety Inspection Program
40 Year and Older Building Safety Program require that all buildings, except single-family residences, duplexes and minor structures shall be recertified. The inspection is for the purpose of determining the general structural condition of the building which affects the safety and general condition of the structural integrity and its electrical systems pursuant to the Building Code. The written report is required to include an impressed seal and signature of the Engineer or Architect who has performed the inspection. An engineer is certifying and taking responsibility for the safety and structural integrity of the property.

The 40-year or Older Building Safety Program was created in 2005 and is now in effect throughout Broward County. Modeled after Miami-Dade County’s program which has been in effect since the 1970’s, Broward’s program calls for structural and electrical safety inspections for buildings 40 years old or older, and every ten years thereafter.

Fort Lauderdale Building Department
The system works as follows: when a building becomes 40 years old the Code Compliance Section of the County or City in which the building is located sends out a "Notice of Required Inspection" to the association. From the date of the notice the association has 90 days during which to complete the required inspection. Based on the result of the inspection, the building will be structurally and electrically recertified for 10 years or there will be improvements required for the recertification.

If improvements are required, the association is given a total of 180 days to complete the required improvements. A follow up report is then submitted by the Engineer stating that these improvements have been made and the building recertified.

For deficiencies that cannot be corrected within the 180 days, the timeframe may be extended by a Professional Engineer of Registered Architect and it must be specified and approved by the Building Official. Repairs or modifications of deficient conditions that are incidental and non life threatening may be completed within a specific time frame as well.

The forms and minimum construction guidelines for a structural inspection include the following:

  1. Masonry walls

    1. General Description

    2. Cracks

    3. Spalling

    4. Rebar corrosion

  2. Floor and Roof Systems

  3. Steel Framing Systems

  4. Concrete Framing Systems

  5. Windows

  6. Wood Framing

  7. Exterior Finishes and noting any Structural Deficiencies regarding stucco, veneer, soffits, ceiling or other.

The forms and minimum construction guidelines for an electrical inspection include the following:

  1. Electrical Service

  2. Meter and Electrical Rooms

  3. Switchboards/Meter/Motor Control Centers

  4. Grounding

  5. Conductors

  6. Auxiliary Gutters/Wireways/Busways

  7. Electrical Panels

  8. Disconnects

  9. Branch Circuits

  10. Conduit Raceways

  1. Low Voltage Wiring Methods

  2. Building Illumination

  3. Fire Alarm Systems

  4. Smoke Detectors

  5. Generator

  6. Site Wiring

  7. Swimming Pool/Spa Wiring

  8. Wiring to Mechanical Equipment

  9. General Additional Comments


It important to note that, in many cases, buildings older than 40 years that have not received a Notice of this required rectification… it is incumbent on the association to acquire this initial 40 year recertification whether a notice has been sent or not. Additionally, it is the responsibility of the association to recertify their building every 10 years thereafter. A building that has not been properly recertified can pose a liability to owners in the event of a failure or accident.

The Galleon Condominium
The Galleon Condominium Apartments located on The Galt Ocean Mile in Fort Lauderdale, was built in 1967. The 18-story, 214 unit condominium suffered from hurricane Wilma and numerous repairs on the structure were performed to restore the building after the hurricane. The Galleon was in the midst of a structural inspection by their engineer to evaluate additional balcony and building repairs when the condominium received their notice for their 40 year inspection from the City of Fort Lauderdale. The notice was mailed to the law firm Kaye & Bender as they were listed as The Galleon’s registered agent. The Board was aware that this was coming and they were proactive in addressing the inspection. According to their engineers from SRI Consultants and Henz Engineering, The Galleon had not suffered to the extent of other associations. The board has always been committed to ensuring the structural integrity of the building and the resident’s safety. The engineers have completed their inspections within the required 90 days and the association has 180 days to complete the necessary repairs. Board Members Donna Oppert, President and Charles Steinmetz, Building Committee Chair recently met with their structural and electrical engineers to review the reports. The association has determined that they will require more time to complete the repairs and has requested an extension.

Broward County Board of Rules and Appeals Official Seal The City of Fort Lauderdale requires a permit and charges a $200.00 fee for the reports to be reviewed. The inspection must be dropped off in person. Extensions are granted on a case by case basis.

Broward County Board of Rules and Appeals Official Seal In 2010, The Florida State Statutes 718.113(6) indicates has indicated that buildings 4,650 square feet or more and dating from 1924 to 1968 are to be reviewed. In 2009, 910 property folio numbers were listed for inspection, but since the number of units and individuals property owners may be in a single building, the number of structures to be inspected County-wide is significantly less than 910. Broward County anticipates less than 900 structures annually that will fall under their program guidelines in future years.

It should be noted that Florida State Statutes 718.113(6) indicates, “As to any condominium building greater than three stories in height, at least every 5 years, and within 5 years if not available for inspection on October 1, 2008, the board shall have the condominium building inspected to provide a report under seal of an architect or engineer authorized to practice in this state attesting to required maintenance, useful life, and replacement costs of the common elements. However, if approved by a majority of the voting interests present at a properly called meeting of the association, an association may waive this requirement. Such meeting and approval must occur prior to the end of the 5-year period and is effective only for that 5-year period.”

Whether or not your building is 40 years old and is located in Broward or Miami Dade County, it is required by statute that an inspection be performed. It is important to be proactive in budgeting for such an inspection and to implement a preventative maintenance plan in order to prepare for the necessary repairs as your building matures.

For Your Edification

Click to the Southeast Florida Chapter of the Community Associations Institute web site Marcy Kravit is General Manager of The Galleon Condominium at 4100 Galt Ocean Drive in Fort Lauderdale. Her professional designations include Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA), earned from the National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers (NBC-CAM), Association Management Specialist (AMS) and Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM) - additional accreditations awarded by the Community Association Institute (CAI).

Click to the Southeast Florida Chapter of the Community Associations Institute web site A columnist for the Florida Community Association Journal, contributing writer to other periodicals and local newspapers and former Board member of the Community Association Management Professionals (CAMP), Marcy also serves as Secretary of the Southeast Florida Chapter of the Community Associations Institute, working closely with Board members Lisa Magill, Michael Bender and former L’Hermitage Manager Don Westbrook. Marcy has volunteered to share her singular expertise with Galt Mile neighbors via authoritative contributions to the Galt Mile News and GMCA website.

In the above article, Marcy quotes Florida Statute 718.113(6), which ominously states, “As to any condominium building greater than three stories in height, at least every 5 years, and within 5 years if not available for inspection on October 1, 2008, the board shall have the condominium building inspected to provide a report under seal of an architect or engineer authorized to practice in this state attesting to required maintenance, useful life, and replacement costs of the common elements. However, if approved by a majority of the voting interests present at a properly called meeting of the association, an association may waive this requirement. Such meeting and approval must occur prior to the end of the 5-year period and is effective only for that 5-year period.”

Governor Charlie Crist Signs 2008 Condo Bill
Although this bizarre legislative lemon is unrelated to the Broward ordinance, it might tweak your memory. It is one of the many provisions included in House Bill 995 (HB 995), the 2008 Omnibus Condominium bill sponsored by Representative Julio Robaina that ultimately became Chapter 2008-28, Laws of Florida. This bill originally mandated that, despite an association’s documents, Board members could serve maximum terms of one year, disallowing staggered terms. It also mandated that every association in the state produce fully audited financial statements annually, notwithstanding the association’s size or fiscal needs. The 87-page bill contained dozens of other expensive one-size-fits-all regulations that sparked uproar from condo owners across the State.

Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff Works Out Bill Kinks
While being vetted in committee, the sponsors couldn’t explain why a small 4-unit association with storm damage, runaway windstorm insurance rates and a $12,000 budget should pay $thousands for an audited financial statement every year. They remained similarly mute with respect to many other enigmatic regulations as queried in several House Staff Analyses. Fortunately, Majority Whip Ellyn Bogdanoff refused to allow the bill to progress without modifying the incomprehensible and/or damaging provisions. Bogdanoff addressed scores of poorly drafted regulations, insisting that the sponsors either justify each one or amend it accordingly. For example, they amended the one-year term requirement to allow an association’s unit owners to vote on whether or not two-year staggered terms were preferable, especially for associations with 9 or 11-member governing boards.

As initially filed on February 19, 2008, the provision referenced by Marcy originally required every association in the State to undergo an inspection on October 1, 2008 and every five years thereafter. On March 12 and April 9, 2008, reviewing legislative committees responded to corrective testimony by adopting strike-all amendments to the bill, wholly abandoning the text and replacing it with a Committee substitute. A consulting Engineer’s subsequent committee testimony brought into focus that the bill failed to identify exactly what should be inspected.

As the session wound down, the final version also neglected to indicate what associations should do with the inspection reports. There was no subsequent requirement to address threats to safety or reconsider the reserve assessments expected to ultimately fund an item’s replacement cost. Associations that simply pay tens of thousands of dollars for the investigation and file the report away would have fully complied with this poorly drafted exercise in misdirecting resources. Engineers also questioned the benefit to new buildings that are compliant with State and local building codes, since they are fully inspected prior to receiving a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). As applied to associations that occupy older buildings in Robaina’s Miami home district, they were already subject to Miami-Dade’s 40 year-old Building Safety Inspection ordinance – which effectively satisfies safety objectives and served as the blueprint for Broward’s 2005 ordinance. Again – the nondescript inspection requirement described in the Statute has nothing to do with the Miami-Dade and Broward County 40-year Safety Recertification ordinances addressed in Marcy’s article.

Seeking to relieve condo owners of an unjustifiable expense, Bogdanoff successfully pressed for an amendment that implemented the existing opt-out provision, allowing associations to side-step paying for a costly undefined report lacking any mandated purpose. Not surprisingly, Florida associations have overwhelmingly opted out of this obtuse provision since its October 1, 2008 effective date. Since this understandable association response requires a burdensome and expensive full membership vote, the provision is a sterling candidate for inclusion into next year’s “Glitch Bill”. Glitch bills are legislative vehicles designed to reverse unproductive, unworkable or damaging laws passed in earlier sessions, whether an intentional part of some personal, political or financial agenda, a short-sighted response to emotionally charged issues supported solely by anecdotes or well-meaning work product victimized by poor drafting and/or skewed research. They flourish whenever lawmakers fall asleep at the wheel and the electorate fails to poke them awake! - [editor]

Click To Top of Page

Broward Mayor Ken Keechl’s Corner

December 2009 Newsletter

Broward Mayor Keechl Makes Acceptance Speech
December 14, 2009 - * Despite the relative brevity of his tenure on the Broward Board of County Commissioners, District 4 Commissioner
Ken Keechl was elected Mayor of Broward County by his Commission peers on November 17, 2009. Actually, he was preordained as the County’s top dog last November when Stacy Ritter was elected Mayor and Keechl was named Vice Mayor. In Broward County, the Commission practices a variation of Mayoral musical chairs, allowing every member one year in the largely ceremonial catbird seat after first spending a year as Vice Mayor.

Keechl served as Vice Mayor in Stacy Ritter's Administration
When Keechl snagged the unanimous nod as Vice Mayor last November, he bypassed members substantially senior to the then second-year District 4 Commissioner. Two factors probably impacted his meteoric advancement. The formula under which the Commissioners rotate also enables each District to share in the one year advantage enjoyed by their representative. While Keechl seemed to leap-frog certain colleagues with lengthier legacies, it was District 4’s turn in the sunshine.

Secondly, Mayor Keechl has forged a squeaky clean reputation. The only mildly critical media spin suffered by Keechl during his 3-year Commission service stemmed from the legal demise of a former law partner who was indicted for fraud and money laundering years before Keechl was elected - pretty thin stuff. Given the intense scrutiny recently afforded Broward politicians by Federal and local investigative authorities, placing Keechl on point will serve to dampen the credibility of questionable accusations leveled at the Broward Board.

Broward County Judicial Complex
Since winning his Commission seat, Keechl has effectively steered County government in a direction more consistent with his campaign agenda. He never barters his vote on the cheap, requiring environmental concessions and fiscal accountability in exchange for his support. In his first Newsletter as Broward Mayor, he describes the inherent upcoming challenges, including the completion of substantial capital projects at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades, as well as construction of a new Courthouse - all during a recession. While the public has only recently fueled a thirst for disemboweling crooked service providers, lobbyists and contractors along with their political and legal facilitators, Keechl has been actively stumping for an enforceable ethics code for years. Despite the imposing scope of his new county-wide responsibilities, the Mayor maintains that District issues will continue to rate a higher priority. ... READ ON! - [editor]*

“Looking Out for District 4
as Broward County’s Mayor”

by Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl, District 4 Commissioner

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my job is an awesome responsibility! Last year, my colleagues honored me by electing me to be the Vice Mayor of Broward County. I have enjoyed the position over the last twelve months. On November 17th, they honored me again by
electing me to be the Mayor of Broward County for the next twelve months. I look forward to the challenge. And make no mistake: in these economic times, it will be a challenge.

Click to Broward Budget War First and foremost, I intend to use my position to continue our shared vision for Broward County. As we have done over the last 3 years, we must continue to lower property taxes and to streamline Broward’s vast governmental structure. We have decreased Broward’s annual budget by more than $300,000,000.00 since you elected me, and we have eliminated 1300 positions as we operate Broward County as a more efficient business. But our work is not yet done.

Click to Broward Budget War In order to recover from this recession, we must see to fruition our previously approved capital projects: the expansion of our southern runway at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport; the expansion of our seaport; the construction of a new downtown courthouse; and the upgrading and “greening” of our infrastructure. These projects will benefit Broward County over the next 50 years. They will create jobs. But they must be funded without property taxes. Each of these projects can be done. I will make it my top priority to keep them on track.

Click to Broward County Ethics Commission web siteLastly, I was raised to believe that people are basically honest and want to do the right thing. And I don’t exclude elected officials from that view. But you cannot escape the fact that local government currently has an image problem. And as they say, “perception is reality.” So, I support the work of the Broward Ethics Commission. As I wrote in a recent article, this Committee was created by the voters in November 2008 and is tasked with bringing forth a Code of Ethics to be presented to the Broward County Commission. If the Commission fails to adopt the proposed code, it will be placed on the November 2010 ballot for acceptance or rejection by Broward’s voters. I intend to work very closely with this group to enact substantive ethics reform. It’s the right thing to do.

It’s going to be an exciting year. I look forward to being Broward’s Mayor, but my top priority is being your County Commissioner. That’s why you elected me.

My best to you and your families.

Broward County Commissioner and
Mayor Ken Keechl

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

Click To Top of Page

Galt Ocean Mile

2010 Food Drive

Playa del Sol Hosts 12/7/2009 Presidents Council Meeting
December 21, 2009 - On December 7th,
Cooperative Feeding Program Executive Director Scott Woodburn and Fort Lauderdale Real Estate proprietor Domenic Faro made their way to Playa del Sol Condominium Association to attend a Presidents Council meeting. Four years ago, Domenic and Scott approached the Galt Mile Community Association with a proposition. Drawing on relationships cultivated as a L'Hermitage resident and local business owner, Domenic had requested space on the Presidents Council meeting agenda. As Vice President of the CFP Board of Directors, Domenic Faro sought to stir interest in sponsoring a food drive. That 2007 Galt Ocean Mile food drive laid the groundwork for their Playa del Sol address.

Domenic Faro
Scott and Domenic represent Broward County’s lead agency for the provision of services to the hungry and homeless. For 25 years, the Cooperative Feeding Program has provided counseling and support to help economically besieged families out of the throes of difficult times. At the December 7th Presidents Council Meeting, they announced that the 4th Annual Galt Ocean Mile Community Association food drive would take place during the month of March, 2010. Scott told attendees that the food drive would follow the annual 5K Hunger Awareness “Walk against Hunger”, a traditional kickoff precedent to the month long competition among member associations. Early Sunday morning, February 28, 2010, participants in the 5K Walk will meet at the Winn Dixie prior to and after the event.

Tornado Body Dryer
The Cooperative Feeding Program helps 700 individuals each and every day. In keeping with modern delivery systems, they implemented a “Drive Through” to efficiently expand outreach. As the economy increasingly victimizes families, lines at The CFP wind further down the sidewalk, often into the street. They provide about 50-60 showers a day to individuals and families who have lost their homes. They plan to build additional showers in order to reduce long waits of four to five hours for a shower. To save money on paper products and truncate potential shower accidents, they installed environmentally friendly Tornado Body Dryers. More than 400 hot meals are distributed each day, along with another 175 family food boxes.

First Lutheran Church
The program was launched in 1982 when Pastor Luther Anderson of the First Lutheran Church in downtown Fort Lauderdale turned donations from Church members into a small pantry with food for the needy. The neighbors took umbrage when homeless and hungry people pleading for something to eat filled the street. As the service proportionally grew with demand, it had to undergo several relocations and otherwise adapt. Its initial 1987 501(c)(3) certification as a not-for-profit organization was later restructured as a 501(c)(3) Nondenominational, passing both control and outreach from Lutherans to anyone in need - also enabling eligibility for FEMA resources.

Scott Woodburn & Domenic Faro Present Trophy to Edgewater Arms' Annemarie Adams
From the humble beginnings of distributing a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the homeless, to today’s provision of 1.2 million meals a year, the agency’s dramatic development has reflected both the growing numbers and the growing needs of the poor in our community. Operating solely on the funds and gifts generated by socially conscious individuals, businesses and organizations like the Galt Mile Community Association, the Cooperative Feeding Program doesn’t abide corporate conveniences. A remarkably pork-free 8% administrative overhead - audited - means resources are smoothly expedited from donors to hungry families. Rents were paid and move-in costs were provided to help families facing the tragic national disgrace of homelessness. The CFP has entered into formal collaborative service agreements with about 100 agencies, entitling them to prescreen clients for emergency services.

CFP Executive Director Scott Woodburn
Scott read from a letter he sends to each Galt Mile association several months before the food drive. While requesting participation in the upcoming 2010 food drive, he explained that a special effort should be made to surpass last year’s record collections to compensate for the economic downturn’s impact on families struggling to survive. To help stir the formulaic competition meant to incentivize increased contributions, Woodburn reminded the assemblage that little Edgewater Arms, the smallest member of the neighborhood association, handily took the trophy in 2008 and 2009, both for total and per unit contributions. Since the Program anticipates serving 7,000 families between the first week in November and the last week in December - functionally draining resources - Woodburn outlined a new objective of 20,000 lbs of food for this year's food drive. Scott’s letter is as follows:

  • A request for you to

  • Be an important part of the 2010 GALT OCEAN MILE

  • Campaign to reduce hunger in Broward County...


6 tons of Galt Mile Food Fills Van
Hunger continues as a real problem in Broward County. The Cooperative Feeding Program (CFP), a United Way agency dedicated to reducing hunger in Broward County, is constantly organizing annual food drives with local Homeowner and Civic Associations to help provide year-round assistance to the poor, many of whom would not have adequate food without your help.

Click to CFP Poster Following the huge success of our 2009 Galt Food Drive where over 15,000 lbs of food was donated, and the Edgewater Arms was overall Champion again for the second consecutive year. The committee member would again invite the entire Galt Ocean Mile Community Association to join our team and participate in the new and exciting 2010 Galt Ocean Mile Food Drive.

Walk against Hunger The 2010 GALT Ocean Mile food drive will again feature a special 5K Hunger Awareness “Walk against Hunger” kickoff event, on Sunday, February 28 followed by a March month long food drive.

Galt Mile Residents Meet at the Winn Dixie
Last year we had all Galt Condo Associations participate, We have posters, stuffers and flyers to help you announce the walk and food drive to your residents and provide a description of what types of non-perishable items are needed. We can also advise you on organizing the food drive, promotional consideration, food collection and handling delivery to the Cooperative Feeding Program.

Please take a moment to fill out and fax to us the attached form ASAP. We also would appreciate an opportunity to meet with you and make a presentation at your next association meetings.

Hunger remains a real problem in Broward County as 1 out of 4 goes to bed hungry every night. With your help, fighting it will be as easy as A-B-C!

Scott A. Woodburn

Cooperative Feeding Program
1 NW 33 Terrace, Ft Lauderdale, Florida 33311

Click To Top of Page









































Click To Top of Page

GMCA HOME MAIN PAGE Associations Directors Governance Laws & Statutes Issues
Newsletters Calendar Market Page Vendors Forum Report Card Archives Site Map Contact
LINKS PAGE Finance News Weather Government Directions Travel Dining Entertainment Search
Webmaster EPB