Friday, September 30, 2011

Waterman Campaign on track

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Which is the most egregious?

1) Multiple campaign signs on a yard when you are only allowed two? As we are trying to clean up the slum and the blight and have people obey ordinances, shouldn't the mayor and campaign workers do the same?


2) or displaying your campaign literature at our public Utility building? It is prohibited to display campaign signs on publicly owned property but the City has no actual policy prohibiting literature. When speaking to the Clerk's office she said, "The City frowns on it and we usually ask them to remove it."

John Davidson - Don't Miss Him

John Davidson Adds New October 19 Show Date

Will Return in February and March for Several Shows

ATLANTIS, FL — John Davidson’s brand new cabaret-style show at Atlantis Country Club “50 Years as a Hollywood Square” — a celebration of his 50 years in show business — sells out as soon as it is announced, so Davidson adds new shows. The legendary singer and TV personality will perform on Wednesday, October 19. The October 20, 21 and 23 shows sold out immediately as they were announced. The trim, youthful Davidson, who turns 70 this year, has wowed audiences around the globe and received rave reviews for his energetic, versatile performances that showcase his many talents and captivating personality.

There is no cover charge for the John Davidson dinner show; however, a minimum of $15. per person for food and beverage is in effect. Advance reservations are required. Doors will open at 5 p.m. for cocktails and dinner, and the John Davidson show is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Davidson’s 2012 performance schedule includes select dates at Atlantis Country Club throughout February and March 2012. Reservations are now open for individual seats or group buyouts of up to 140 guests, an ideal arrangement for social and fundraising events. Banquet pricing starts at $26 per person plus tax and gratuity.

Open to the public for more than 35 years, Atlantis Country Club is home to a championship 18-hole golf course and fine restaurant, lounge and café. The club is located at 190 JFK Boulevard, Atlantis, Fla., off Congress Avenue between Lantana and Sixth Avenues, near JFK Hospital. For more information or reservations, visit www.AtlantisDine.com or call 561-965-5788.

Greater Lake Worth Chamber of Commerce - Tom Ramiccio

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The Chamber Board met last night. The first item on the Agenda was discussion on Tom Ramiccio...to reinstate him as Director. There was a motion made by Tara Pregnolato of the Palm Beach Post to re-order the Agenda regarding item number 1 (Ramiccio) and seconded by Dan Perrin. The vote was unanimous. Essentially a re-ordering is a polite way to say "no." There was no desire from the Board to bring the item back.

Billions in Tax Credits to Illegal Aliens

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It’s an Obama World.

Not only do illegal aliens not have to worry about being caught and deported – they even get billions in tax credits.

The Washington Post reported:

The Internal Revenue Service allowed undocumented workers to collect $4.2 billion in refundable tax credits last year, a new audit says, almost quadruple the sum five years ago.

Although undocumented workers are not eligible for federal benefits, the report released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration concludes that federal law is ambiguous on whether these workers qualify for a tax break based on earned income called the additional child tax credit.

Taxpayers can claim this credit to reduce what they owe in taxes, often getting refunds from the government. The vagueness of federal law may have contributed to the $4.2 billion in credits, the report said.

The IRS said it lacks the authority to disallow the claims.

Wage earners who do not have Social Security numbers and are not authorized to work in the United States can use what the IRS calls individual taxpayer identification numbers. Often these result in fraudulent claims on tax returns, auditors found.

Lake Worth City Annex, a big part of Lake Worth's History

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City Hall Annex
Once the pride of Lake Worth

The Old Lake Worth City Hall, also known as the Lake Worth City Hall Annex, is an historic site in Lake Worth, Florida. It is located at 414 Lake Avenue. On May 18, 1989, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Back in October 2010, we discontinued a lease agreement with the Lake Worth History Museum and the Lake Worth Art League in order to provide additional space for City Staff and City programs. That was the reason given. Rumor had it that the then mayor, Rene Varela, wanted to give the building to the Palm Beach Historical Society or the County. He had no sense of our history either, being here only a short time and then sneaking off in the middle of the night--no good byes, no nothing, just a note read by someone from the dais. His campaign treasurer back then is now doing the same job for Waterman.

He and the City Manager, both newcomers to the City with no sense of the importance of our history but both in agreement that certain important assets be self-sustaining, insisted that our Museum be just that. It was decided that it would become a non-profit and be responsible for its own survival and the museum was to try and raise funds in order to sustain itself and keep our history alive. The city literally cast off our Museum and the City discounted the importance of it never considering the residents. It was closed down because of an estimated cost of a measly $50,000 a year to operate. The rest of the commission sat there and their silence was consent. The Museum and the Art League were both kicked out/closed prior to 12/31/10 due to what the City later said were needed renovations.

The museum collection is extensive and had to be packed up carefully over many months. We were to get a new site for the museum. What has happened to that idea? And what has happened to our Annex? Are any improvements ever going to occur? Was one little thing done to our building this year? When asking an employee if the building has undergone any renovations of any nature this year, the question left her confused..."none that I know of" was the answer.

In checking the Capital Improvement Plan for 2012/2016, I can't find the word "annex" anywhere in the five year plan. The schedule of projects for this coming budget year totals 25,923,439. This figure includes the casino and beach redevelopment of approximately 10,881,209. Is it the $688,000 scheduled for what is called the "customer service building?"

As our centennial comes up in 2013, which is a really big deal by the way, we now have a Centennial Committee. That information is yet to be uploaded to the city's web site so no one knows, even individual appointees, who is on it or when it meets. We no longer have a museum. And for the last two years, we no longer have our Commissioner and Mayoral history on the walls at City Hall.

Our City Hall Annex, an important part of the history of our City, is still being used for the Utility customer service department. It is looking a little weary, falling in step with so many of our public buildings.

Signs have not been updated and still indicate
that there is a City Museum


Our somewhat now blighted City Hall Annex

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tonight's Sky

Even on a heavily overcast night, we still have a beautiful sky in Lake Worth

Sun peeking through the clouds

Allen West says Obama is a Socialist

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We have a few Socialists right here in Lake Worth.

Tom Ramiccio back at the Chamber?

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HOT RUMOR

The Board of the Chamber of Commerce is meeting tonight to bring back Tom Ramiccio as director. I was told that he has the votes.

Dan Perrin of Dorsey/E. Earl Smith Memory Gardens is leading the initiative to re-instate Ramiccio. A friend of Tom Ramiccio on the Board of Directors is Roger Manning, Banyan Printing where Ramiccio is employed. Some of the Directors who have been known to support Ramiccio in the past include Greg Rice, Dave Vespo, and Betty Resch. :) I have been unable to reach them for a comment.

Talk about disconnect.

Copper Wire Theft and other Missing Millions

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Commissioner Golden brought up copper wire while discussing the beach redevelopment project. This reminded me of our stolen copper wire.

Back around 2006, the City of Lake Worth had a lot of copper wire that was stolen. To this day, the city has no idea who absconded with our property or if they do, they're not talking. Someone was in charge but never held accountable. There was a lot of funny stuff going on back then. Scot Menke, our Internal Auditor, found a lot of "funny" stuff and wanted people prosecuted. Later, our present city manager came on board and fired him. He was just into too much and asking far too many questions.

"In today's market, that wire would be worth between $6 mil and 10 mil dollars," a source said. At that time, I even saw a fellow rolling a container of copper wire up the street on 2nd Avenue North right near our Utility. Thinking he was just a worker, I thought the action was peculiar, just another anomaly in our quirky little city. Afterall, no one would be stealing something in broad daylight, would they? I dismissed my suspicions. On top of that, the guy appeared to be an immigrant and I didn't want my "racist" views to overcome rational thought. "Hey guy, roll that up the street and I'll give you 10 bucks."

Well, that was the wrong thing to do. Right now, there are people stealing copper wire off of 33 miles of some of our major streets and highways around here during the day when the power is off. In Palm Beach County, thieves have stolen 175,000 feet of the valuable copper and auto drivers are left in the dark. Officials are literally in the dark as they have no clue as to whom the thieves are. Read about it here.

They are blaming these thefts on the economy. The economy is only an excuse; SCUMBALLS ARE SCUMBALLS IN ANY ECONOMY. It's when criminals steal our property, our cash or vote on special assessments.

Not that thievery is still going on at our Utility, but Lake Worth Utilities is still the black hole. The Utility makes the most money and spends the most. The Commission did not even query the $1.3 million they want to spend this year on the 138kv tie-line, etc. The main reason that no one ever challenges anything going on at our Utility is because NO ONE KNOWS a damn thing about it. So the Commission happily approves millions. A couple of our experts were fired for challenging lack of controls there that affected Homeland Security--whistleblowers-- and now we are in a big law suit.

One of the biggest problems we have today within our city is that most of our Commission blindly votes and believes in Staff's every word. You have to wonder if they study the back-up or if they even have the time. Commissioner Maxwell has said on many occasion that he either did not have the back-up or got it late. A Department head wants something; he gets it, usually on Consent with no discussion. Our city could be picked clean and they wouldn't ever figure it out even if they were to awaken from that deep sleep...sort of like the followers of Jim Jones.

Now that the Commission has approved the Budget and everything in it, I would hope that the Commission direct that the Internal Auditor not only be independent as a contract employee but to do a little investigative work at the Utility. Let's make sure that millions more are not "missing" and that we can account for all of our property.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Citizens Come First

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Citizens Come First, Political Action Committee, was formed in Palm Beach County on December 26, 2007.

Our first campaign was for the defeat of three ballot issues voted on by 3 out of the 5 City Commissioners in Lake Worth who wanted to grab the power. This was placed on the January 29, 2008 ballot.

The people spoke loud and clear.

1. Three year Commission terms:......NO (68%) YES (32%)

2. Eliminate run-off elections:......... NO (67%) YES (33%)

3. Residency requirement for
Police & Fire Chiefs:..............NO (49.76%) YES (50.24%)

Because of the confusing ballot language of Item 3 (we wanted our chiefs to reside in the City by Charter), it lost by 21 votes.

I call all of this to your attention because the Mayor wants to revisit terms again. She said at the Public Hearing on the Millage (where she voted to raise our taxes) that there soon would be a workshop on the term issue to discuss extending their term from 2 to 3 years. She felt that the commission salaries should go up when the terms are extended. Susan Stanton agrees in extending terms.

The salary issue was first publicly noticed in the September 22, 2011 Lake Worth Herald. The hearing to discuss commission salaries will be on October 4 and term limits will be discussed in a future workshop. Read the Palm Beach Post article.

Does the will of the people count for anything?

Florida Fair Districts

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Progress Florida says, Florida voters passed the Fair Districts amendments in 2010 so that politicians would stop selfishly drawing legislative and Congressional districts to protect themselves, but House Speaker Dean Cannon is still spending our tax dollars fighting them.

The Fair Districts amendments were supported by 63% of Florida voters, and seven court decisions have said the amendments are constitutional1. Why is Dean Cannon still fighting? Enough already.Tell Speaker Cannon: Drop the taxpayer-funded lawsuit against Fair Districts.

Lake Worth - Some Kind of Stupid

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Why can't the City call a spade a spade? Why can't they simply tell us the truth? The assessment for fire services is not for services at all. They tell us that it will be going for fire pension costs. But even if that is so, which it's not, pension costs are not services. What's more, they are not a public benefit. It would be better described as "making a killing."

We recently found out that there is absolutely no line item for pension costs. Why not? The City plans on dumping this money into the general fund...in the pot, for general services that they can spend for what they want, when they want. If this were not the case, it would be a dedicated line item every year in the budget.

So, what could this money really be going towards?

renovations at the Utility building on 2nd avenue North for $700,000
11th avenue North sub-station for $1,300,000
138kv tie-line for $700,000
curb and gutter repair for $1,669,000
sidewalk, bike striping and road improvements for $950,000
the new public services administration building for $1,281,480
Lake Worth Park of Commerce project for $1,700,000

42% of the five Year Capital Improvement Plan is budgeted in this coming year. Why is that? The billboard settlement money in the amount of $1,800,000 has been taken out of the CIP and now dumped into the general fund. Why is that? Who is watching over our cash? This was dedicated money per commission vote for the new city hall complex. Don't forget, the Finance Advisory Board approved of even more capital spending over 5 years than what is now in the CIP, $61.4 million over 5 years.

The citizens of Lake Worth have been conned by its very own Commission, the people who are supposed to be watching over our purse strings and watching over the residents. The only reason we are being special assessed for this amount is because the city manager wants to assess us for the air that we breathe--and it's fun just grabbing the cash and seeing us jump up and down like we're all on a pogo stick.

We don't need cheerleaders for Lake Worth, Commissioner. We need people to see through the mist and watch out for us.
Reminder:
Special Assessments for Fire Services may be used by local governments because fire services provide a special benefit by protecting property. Special Assessments for Fire Services are valid in Florida so long as they confer a special benefit to the property being assessed and the cost assessed is fairly and reasonably apportioned among the properties that receive the special benefit.

FIRE PENSIONS DO NOT PROTECT OUR PROPERTY but even if it was some other reason, it is going around a law that was created for local governments to come up with a solution to pay for an emergency cost that was un-budgeted and that benefited the property. Inefficiencies and over spending are not emergencies.

We keep hearing the same old tune coming out of City Hall...we are in a Financial Urgency and taxes need to be fair. We have had a system of taxation in this country for God knows how long and no one has complained about "fair." Not until now. Not until Lake Worth got into the act. I no longer can buy that financial urgency explanation. Yes, we need money...who doesn't? The City Manager knows this assessment stinks. The Finance Department knows this is wrong. The Commission, who knows? Baaaa.
That's the sound you hear when you are about to go to slaughter in just 40 days and 40 nights.

Mojito's wins Law Suit against Lake Worth

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Even though Mojito's, now known as The Speakeasy Lounge at 129 N. Federal Highway, came before the Planning & Zoning Board as well as the Lake Worth City Commission and were denied nightclub status, a Judge says otherwise-- Mojito's IS a nightclub and it can stay opened until 5am.

Because this establishment was allowed to stay opened past hours since 1947 and they violated our Ordinance for all those years, they are "grandfathered in" says the Court.

In the end, it didn't matter what the residents wanted, what the churches wanted or what our laws allowed-- a 2am closing time.

The City now has lost another law suit. And it all stems from past governments for 60 years looking the other way and not enforcing our Code. Even when you get a government in power that tries to do the right thing and enforce our Ordinances, it can't.

What a crock. Have another mojito.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pension Bonanza | Last of 3 parts
Retirees can make a million
BY DANIEL CHANG AND DAVID SMILEY, Miami Herald, 9/25

Charles Barbera retired in 2003 with a $124,905 annual pension after 27 years with the Hollywood Fire Department. Six years later, he retired again — this time as a millionaire.
When Barbera first “retired,” he entered the Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP, a public sector perk that’s unlike almost anything seen in the private workplace. It allows long-tenured employees to technically retire and start receiving a pension into a tax-deferred savings account while still working and cashing a paycheck.

Critics call it a double dip. But many local and state governments say the DROP is a money saver, or cost neutral at worst. And it is wildly popular among public employees.

Here’s why:
During the six years Barbera was in the DROP, he was able to earn an average $144,000 salary. All the while, his pension money piled up in his savings account in monthly increments. At the end of the sixyear DROP period, Barbera, by then a 51-year-old deputy chief, retired for real, surrendered his job and salary and began collecting his pension directly. And the money in his DROP account — worth $1,146,537 as of October 2010 — became his to do with
as he pleased. “Other than the Lotto, there’s no way in life that a blue-collar, middle-class person can accumulate that kind of money,” Hollywood Fire Lt. Russell Chard, who completed the DROP in March with a $600,000 account balance and now receives an annual pension of $86,700, said of the program.

Barbera and Chard do not share the concern of people with 401(k) accounts, who have gotten queasy watching their retirement nest eggs shrink with the Dow. Hollywood’s firefighter pension fund guarantees them an 8 percent return on money in their DROP accounts, regardless of market performance. Theoretically, the guarantee is not supposed to cost Hollywood taxpayers a dime — if administrators who invest pension funds can achieve at least an 8 percent return. But if they fail, the city and its taxpayers must make up the difference.

And in recent years, cities have had to pour tens of millions into their pension programs annually to shore them up. Hundreds enrolled in city programs Barbera, who could not be reached for comment, has plenty of company. Hundreds of South Florida city employees have DROP accounts of varying sizes.

In Miami, roughly one in five employees are in the DROP. Of the 144 Hollywood firefighters with accounts as of October 2010, six had amassed $1 million
in savings. Many more, like Chard, have accounts worth in excess of $500,000. Hollywood police
officers get the same arrangement as firefighters. But because their salaries and pensions tend to be lower — and they typically spend fewer years in the DROP than firefighters — very few police officers have DROP accounts greater than $400,000.

Under Hollywood’s rules, all can leave their money in the fund — taking advantage of that guaranteed growth rate, which was reduced to 6 percent for those who entered the program after 2009 — until running up against IRS limitations that kick in around age 70.
The program was not solely conceived as a nest-egg builder for late-career city and state employees. It was designed to be a retention device for governments, allowing them to hang onto valued employees like Barbera while preparing for a successor to step in.

It is often touted as financially beneficial for public pension funds. That’s because when employees shift into the DROP, their pension benefits are capped — meaning their monthly retirement benefit can grow no bigger no matter how much money they earn in subsequent years. Also, the city is finished paying into the pension fund on their behalf, a significant savings. Employees in the DROP are, likewise, done making payments toward their pensions.

“When I hear people call the DROP double-dipping, my blood boils,’’ said Stephen Cypen, a South Florida labor attorney who represents the Hollywood Firefighters Pension Fund and believes the program is a win-win proposition. Whether the DROP is truly cost neutral is a matter of some debate. There is little dispute that offering 8 percent guarantees can put a strain on cities and their pension funds during a down economy. “Why would the government, especially small government, take the liability for the stock market going up or down,” said Harris Solomon, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who has represented South Florida cities in
pension hearings before the state. “If you’re going to guarantee some of your rates of return, then you need to be a giant investment house.

And as we’ve seen, even they, our giant banks that are in theory experts in this — Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers — can’t do it. Why would we think that a local government can figure out how to invest at a guaranteed rate when the heads of the largest brokerage firms in the world and the banks couldn’t figure it out?’’

In Hollywood’s case, almost half of the city’s nearly $10 million contribution into its firefighter pension
fund in 2010 went to make good on the 8 percent guarantee, Finance Director Matthew Lalla said in a
June 22 email to commissioners.
“This is obviously not sustainable,’’ he wrote.
Hollywood won’t have to sustain it forever. Earlier this month, city voters passed a referendum that,
among other things, shuts the door to the DROP, effective this coming Saturday.
The differences from city to city
Though most longtime employees would be foolish not to go into the DROP if one is offered, the
program does come with disadvantages. Some cities do not allow workers to collect disability if they get
hurt while in the DROP.
There are also potential tax penalties for employees who want to cash in on their DROP accounts at a
young age.
Throughout the past 20 years, variations of the DROP have been implemented by Fort Lauderdale,
Hialeah, Miami, Miami Beach and Pembroke Pines, among many others. These DROP programs, like
pension plans, differ widely:
• Pembroke Pines guaranteed 8 percent annual growth on DROP accounts for police officers and
firefighters from 2004 until May 2010, when city officials negotiated a reduction to a guaranteed
minimum of 5 percent. Any police officers or firefighters hired after May 2010 will receive the same rate
of return as that realized by the pension fund’s investments.
Like Hollywood, Pembroke Pines allows police officers and firefighters to leave their DROP accounts in
the fund to reap the investment returns, even after they have separated from the city.
The city had a DROP for general employees but closed the door in 2010.
6
Pembroke Pines adopted the DROP in the mid-2000s, a decade later than Hollywood, so the number of
people in the program is much smaller, and consequently so is the city’s liability for the guaranteed rate.
“You didn’t get a lot of big hiring in Pines until after Hurricane Andrew [in 1992, when the city saw an
influx of storm refugees],’’ said Daniel Rotstein, human resources director.
Still, Pembroke Pines will carry considerable legacy costs for those who retired before the benefit was
curbed.
“There’s a good 25 to 35 years of that,’’ Rotstein said, “because if somebody retires at 45 and their life
expectancy is 85 … it takes a while to work that liability down.’’
• In Coral Gables, firefighters can remain in the program for eight years and other employees five years.
Their accounts are guaranteed a minimum 3 percent return. They get more if the plan’s investments do
better than that.
• In Miami Beach, accounts are tied to the performance of investments and an individual’s proceeds
must be removed from the pension fund or rolled over into an independent account shortly after they
leave the city’s employ.
The firefighter and police pension fund got its deferred retirement program around 2000. Miami Beach
commissioners created a DROP for general employees in 2009 despite early warnings from the
administration that doing so could boost labor costs.
• Miami general employees can receive their salary and pension simultaneously for four years;
firefighters for five, and police for seven. Like Miami Beach retirees, they get no guaranteed return on
the money held in the accounts. Accounts increase or decrease in value in lockstep with investment
performance.
Even without a guaranteed return, recently ousted Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito was able to leave
the DROP after six years with a $904,000 account balance to go along with an $118,000 pension. That
DROP figure doesn’t include a city-matched account created when Exposito became police chief in
2009.
A 48-year-old Miami deputy fire chief is one of many who figure to do about as well as Exposito. Since
enrolling in the DROP in April 2010, the deputy chief has benefited from a $222,000 yearly DROP
payment, to go along with his $193,000 salary.
Miami also offers something called a BACDROP, tailored for the employee who, for whatever reason,
regrets not entering the DROP a few years earlier.
Under the BACDROP, a worker can retroactively enter the program and instantly accrue a nest egg
equal to several years’ pension payments.
In January 2010, Capt. James Pace of the fire department entered the BACDROP and immediately
tallied $390,000. But there’s a tradeoff: Pace’s annual pension took a 22.5 percent hit.
7
The end of a lucrative era
Lt. Robert Suarez, president of the city’s fire union, said the era of the half-million-dollar-and-more
DROP fund is fading away, at least in Miami. The city has slashed salaries in the past couple of years,
and altered its pension system, capping retirement benefits at $100,000 a year and freezing the growth
of those worth more than that.
“The benefits you’re looking at are not what the city is offering anybody now,” he said.
Those new pension reforms, however, don’t affect the large portion of Miami’s 4,000-strong workforce
already in the DROP. Their retirement benefits are set in stone.
Dan Martinez, president of the Hollywood firefighters union, said the 8 percent guarantee that seems so
generous today was actually the result of a concession made by employees in 1999.
“During the tech stock boom, we were making huge returns,” Martinez said. So much so, that the city
wanted the firefighters to settle for an 8 percent guarantee, which they did.
These periodic recalibrations of the DROP in various cities have created a multitiered system where
workers performing the same tasks receive markedly different benefits.
And then there is the case of Charlie Dodge.
In 2002, the Pembroke Pines city manager retired and entered the DROP. The following year, he
proposed that the city hire him and his assistant city manager, Martin Gayeski, as private contractors, for
a total initial cost of $669,000.
The City Commission agreed. Dodge’s firm went on contract as city manager and superintendent of the
city’s charter schools.
Employees who leave the city’s payroll don’t stay in the DROP.
But Dodge did. By 2007, Dodge was done with the DROP. In 2010, he was instrumental in closing the
general employees’ pension plan to new employees, including the DROP, as a cost-cutting move.
Dodge did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Rotstein, who became human resources director in 2008, said Dodge’s deal would not be allowed today,
but added that the city manager gained little because general employees didn’t get a guaranteed rate on
their DROP accounts.
“Most people would rather have the money in their hot little hands,’’ he said.
That’s true of Robert Jenkins, a Miami Beach policeman who was president of the city’s Fraternal Order
of Police. He entered the DROP six years ago when he was in his 40s, achieving six-figure savings. But
there was a hitch: Jenkins left the DROP too young to avoid a 10 percent IRS penalty for withdrawing
the money before roughly age 60.
In Miami Beach, fund value is tied to investment performance, and Jenkins watched his account value
sag during the 2008 market meltdown.
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“I can’t touch that money,” said Jenkins, 50. “I wish I could. I lost money in the DROP and now I can’t
even take it out.”
But he’s not going to end up on the street. In January 2009, four months after he finished the DROP and
separated from the city, Miami Beach wanted to hire a new parking manager. The city chose Jenkins.
The pay is $45,000. He doubled that last year, tacking on more than $44,000 in overtime.
Jenkins also gets his $85,000 pension.
Join

The Passing of Joe Kroll and others

Comment Up
The City Manager says, "It is with sadness that I must report the resignation of Mr. Joseph Kroll, the City's longstanding Public Services Director.

Mr. Kroll resigned this week to explore new horizons and challenges in both his professional and personal life. Joe has been an outstanding member of the community for many years and will be sorely missed.

Joe will continue his employment with the City until the end of October and will be assisting in the recruitment process for his replacement. These will be large shoes to fill as Joe has worked tirelessly throughout his years with the City, devoting so much of his precious personal time to both our residents and the City Administration, particularly in the role of Emergency Management Director. We are all going to miss him and his energy." What she meant to say was, "don't let the door hit you in the azz on the way out."

Words are cheap. To tell you the truth, it was extremely sad last night when the Mayor read the list of those recently gone from Lake Worth...long time employees, all of them. It literally got me emotional and choked me up. Charles Stevens, our IT man, is leaving after 27 years and the City, instead of the usual watch for long service, gave him an inscribed clock wrapped up in black ribbon, an appropriate color for the occasion. We all applauded after his brief speech. Then he was gone too. Just like he had never been.

RIP

Snook Islands Project

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We deserve an uplifting message in order to get away from taxes, taxes, and the City spending our money like there's no tomorrow, but it's not to be. Although the Snook Island Project is an uplifting message, there are a few golfers who are ticked off and it's not from hooking their shots.

Money is not being spent on our golfcourse greens as promised. All you owners who live on the golfcourse--be prepared and don't be surprised when the City assesses you for a golfcourse capital project that takes place in front of your property. Well, after last night, you just never know and I am sure that Andrew Marra, editor of the PB Post, would probably agree to that one too!

No surprise in Lake Worth - Budget approved and Millage increased -

Comment Up
Essentially, what that means is--
you have been taken over by Aliens.

The House was not packed last night. People had already given up from the last meeting. Public Hearings are essentially a waste of time. "Minds" are already made up. Two candidates were in the room taking notes. One spoke.

The Budget: Impossible to follow--impossible to read--it's about as transparent as a steel door. The budget went up from last year. Instead of reducing spending, it has been increased. But 3 commissioners voted for it last night (Mulvehill was absent) as well as raising the millage. Just a few short days ago, Mayor Waterman rejected the fire assessment (for all the wrong reasons) but last night she voted FOR the Budget that has the fire assessment in it. How can anyone be turned in such a short time? Aliens.

As someone said, "The three stooges were on the dais tonight"--talking down to the citizens and sucking up to Staff, complimenting them on a wonderful "500" page Budget. They don't even know the number of pages in it so it's no wonder that they have no compunction to make us pay and pay. Staff couldn't even tell us the proposed budget amount figure when asked by Maxwell.

It was a kiss fest to those who were about to rape the citizenry. They gave compliments to FAB Chair Pickett's Presentation that was not presented at all (it was in the back-up and they could read it they were told), ignoring the parts they did not like such as eliminating the Conservation department. The FAB sided with Staff 100% on the Budget and insisted that it was not a rubber stamp to the city manager. The commission gave political kudos as well to the IBEW, and no one explained how the DROP plan, left in the contract, is a benefit to those who pay it. We all wonder why these negotiations took so long. Kisses were given all around instead of where they really counted, to the people for whom they represent and pay the taxes they just voted to raise.

The Mayor tried to be polite to the taxpayers who showed up. Her contempt almost got away from her and it shows more than anyone sitting on the dais. How dare anyone question their authority. There was a totally condescending and arrogant attitude from the pack; they were the only ones who knew best and would not defy the city manager, the leader for whom they worship. Commissioner McVoy is trying his damdest to get to the front of the pack, if not already there.

One person who spoke to me about the meeting had this to say: "It's not any surprise that she (Stanton) got what she asked for; the commission is oblivious in managing the city. It is the responsibility of the CM and staff to present direction and when it is as misguided as the current proposals are, the expectations have to be lowered.

The very first thing that needs to happen is the leadership of LW-- all of them have to admit they have a serious problem and not bury their heads in the sand. Then, and only then, will they be able to start to correct the dysfunctional issues that are all around them. People would have more respect and offer more support if they admit the reality and not pretend everything is ok; it's not. This is where the CM needs to be a leader and begin the process, but she is so enamored with herself that the process can't start. And the commission is so on her side because of her tyranny status and believe that they are on the leading edge of political correctness."

The four on the dais have put themselves in the hands of the city manager and thus the entire populous of Lake Worth is in jeopardy. They could have found cuts in the budget; they did not try even though we spoke often, wrote to them as well, and asked that they do. No one bothered. They accepted the city manager's assessment of the legal robbery/fantasy--grab the cash and get in a better financial position, even though the city keeps leading us all down the garden path to bankruptcy through wasteful spending. Our message has always been, stop the spending. Their message--we can't.

As a friend said, "Someone has to finally say it's over, the citizens have. Now it's time for someone to be a leader." No aliens need apply.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Union Pensions - Out of Sight

“The people responsible for the fiscal discipline of the government budget are also the people who are relying on the political support of the people they’re providing these benefits to. So you have an inherent conflict of interest,” Werther said. “The problem is: Who’s representing the interest of the taxpayer?”

Read more:
Municipal Pensions a bonanza for Employees/

Beneful Dog Park Contest

Tracy and Dani did not win the Beneful Dog Park Contest for 2011. However, they are still winners to us. Please go to Dream Dog Park to view the winning entry.

Tracy and Dani say, "We didn't win :-( Thank you all so much for your support."

Manage the City as a Business, not a Black Hole

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By: Anonymous Guest Blogger


No one is claiming that the city should default on its pension obligations. To suggest that is ludicrous, yet that doesn't preclude the fact that the CM is doing little to make effective changes. She is very quick to suggest that government employees have benefits that private sector personnel don't receive--take for example the overtime issue which is purported to save $157,800 annually on the IBEW contract. The stated savings will cost many times that number if the linemen want to retaliate. Stanton can make all the claims she likes but she will never know what is about to hit her. Good luck recruiting any new linemen or retaining any apprentices.

LW has a very negative reputation as it is, and this will only exacerbate the stigma associated with LW. Stanton doesn't have a utility background and it shows.

Back to the pension issue--it is always stated that it is the "unfunded liabilities" that is the source of the city's problems. That may well be, yet the biggest source of that is the DROP plan, in addition to the pension being a defined benefit rather than a defined contribution, such as the contract employees receive at a 10% per year. That in itself is over the top. Stanton needs to identify how many private sector employees receive a 10% defined contribution stipend. She has no issue calling out the union employees all the while taking very good care of herself.

Under the current contractual language the issue of unfunded liabilities remains, not only for the IBEW, but also the police and fire contracts. This is not much different than the early out they offered a few years back when Wendy Newmeyer, the former CM, and others were offered an opportunity to "retire" early. That cost the city in excess of 1 million a year. You, don't hear much about that one do you.

Isn't it ironic how the current CM is so concerned about the law. She didn't seem to be concerned about the law when she changed the health issuance for the employees without any negotiation-- how did that work out for her? Her inability to make effective changes to the pension plans will continue to cost the taxpayers big dollars over time. It is easy to bury your head in the sand when all you need to do is assess the taxpayers to cover the shortfalls. This will be an ongoing problem year after year until the plans have serious changes made, just as the private sector has mandated. It is being done in the union sector also. It takes strong leadership and direction to accomplish the changes. It is being done more often than not, a far better direction than ignoring the problem.

What Susan Stanton is doing is blaming everyone and taking her eye off the ball, just another example of her dictatorship mantra and poor direction for the organization. She is taking LW down the wrong path and missing the real issue that will fix the city for the long term. She is way too short sighted to make any effective changes.

A great question to ask Stanton is what it cost the city per year for the DROP plan alone and why she didn't negotiate it out of the IBEW contract. If your bills get too expensive, then the organization should look for opportunities to reduce those bills, not just increase revenues (taxes) to placate the employees. Manage the city as a business, not a black hole. It isn't improving. It appears to be getting worse and even the employees are suggesting that is so. The beach project is an example of the continued dysfunctional culture that starts with leadership.
~~~

Editor's Note #1: The author of the above blog is an industry expert who works in Utilities.

Editor Note #2: In speaking to pension plans, Susan Stanton says,
In Lake Worth, there is no limit on the “Deferral.” In Lake Worth, its unlimited. It's what my past CM’s have recommended and or have not suggested was wrong. But, compared to the 10% the city places in my retirement account, it is less then the 40% of compensation they put into the former CM and Administrative Service Director. Change is coming …slowly …but surely.

Coming Soon

Coming up a little later--

Everyone has an opinion. Some are valid; some are not. One of the readers of Lynn's Little Bit of Trivia wrote a piece that puts it all up front and personal, right in the face of the City Manager who he says is responsible and can do more.

Do you agree or disagree with the writer? Can anything more be done to stop these outlandish costs? Is Susan Stanton doing enough? Not enough? Can change take place at all or do the Unions have us between a rock and a hard place? Are we going in the right or the wrong direction? Are we fated to having more assessments to stay afloat? If so, how long?

Let us know later what you think.

Special Commission Meeting to adopt the Millage and Budget

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City Commission-Special Meeting at 6:00 PM

The purpose of this special Commission meeting is to adopt the Fiscal Year 2011/2012 Millage Rate and Operating Budget. The real purpose is to screw the taxpayers.

The chair of the Finance Advisory Board, John Pickett, will be speaking. The FAB, as you know, already approved the City Manager's Budget so don't look for any reprieve on special assessments even though the City Manager should have had a line item over the past several years for this obligation. But why bother doing that when you burn through millions in reserves and you have the sucker public at your finger tips? Now all of this lack of budgeting has come back to bite all of us. Telling us that we have no money for this huge pension cost, the property owners will now be taxed more in a form of a a special assessment.

This is the meeting where they will be able to spend all of your cash. No one can understand this Budget. The past year, the city had a decline in property values of 3.57%. However, they are raising the millage 7% over roll-back rate. They have raised taxes at every instance other than garbage that went down in flaming defeat and the Public Works Director is gone. Who knows what happened here but giving wrong supporting argument to justify a tax increases is just not cool.

The City Manager has reduced her Budget in various ways and we say "bravo:"

personnel
$1.2 million in the cost of the PBSO
The $900,000 Fire supplement that would have gone up to $1.3 million
The City received $1.8 million from the Billboard Settlement that has gone missing somewhere.
That is $3.4 MILLION.

But yet, the City Manager, with the Commission's approval, implemented a $1.5 million fire assessment to pay for fire pension costs, that are not a personal benefit to us, an unnecessary tax. There is much that can be cut in the Budget.

Today's Post says that the City is going to vote for a "slight increase" tonight. Nothing is "slight" when it is 100% higher than it was last year. They all conveniently forget that an assessment IS a tax. And we will have to listen to the Dog & Pony Show again, convincing us that this tax is necessary, legal, etc., etc., etc.

Where does all of the money go? It's not the library Commissioner McVoy. It's not the Sheriff either. Is it legal fees? Is it maybe the pension costs? Will other pension costs be thrown over on a special assessment or was the fire pension just a bogus reason to grab the cash by calling it "fire services?" Please report back. Perhaps the Mayor explained this at her "coffee."

The taxpayers of this City can't afford special assessments to pay for whatever the city staff left out of the budget. You have X amount of dollars coming in--look to cut costs.

Sid Dinerstein has Solution to Run-Away Costs

Below is Mr. Dinerstein's Letter to the Editor in Sunday's newspaper. As it all hits home and is especially relative to Lake Worth, we are publishing the "unedited"version sent to us by Sid.

The second paragraph is particularly powerful and it is exactly what happened in Lake Worth. Elected officials forget who they represent. Mr. Dinerstein suggests cutting costs rather than raising taxes.


"This letter is in response to the editorial of September 16, To serve and protect budgets.

Last week we watched the annual county budget dance where we first threaten the (politically) weakest in the county, then watch as they tell their tales of woe, and finally wind up with our humanitarian Commissioners putting their hands ever deeper into our now shallow pockets to extract more guilt money.

I want to change the conversation. Today we have a mediocre county, awash in falling home prices and rising foreclosures. Our existing businesses can’t expand and prospective business owners won’t come here. The average property tax bill is $9,000 on the $400,000 house that can only be sold for $200,000.

My solution is the following: I propose we pay all Sheriff’s Department and Fire & Rescue personnel an average annual wage and benefit package of $100,000. This is at once extremely generous while also being well below the current pay packages of $120,000 (Sheriff’s Department) and $140,000 (Fire & Rescue). And while I realize that these employees are sometimes at great risk. I also realize that they don’t do it for the money. They do it because of their call to serve. In the event of a tragedy, no amount could ever compensate; not the $120,000 for the Deputy, not the $140,000 for the Fireman, not the $38,000 for the soldier in Iraq.

My $100,000 would immediately free up $140 MILLION in annual property tax relief. Now that’s a game changer. We could use $130 million for immediate and significant property tax relief and make every property instantly more valuable. We could protect the disabled bus riders and the swimming pool users. We could restore the Sheriff’s programs and hire more deputies, all without touching our reserves.

Palm Beach County has extraordinary potential, from our beautiful beaches to our bountiful harvests to our recreational lake. We have great weather and great wealth. This letter is a call for Leadership equal to the potential of our people and our geography."

Sid Dinerstein
Chairman
Republican Party of PB County

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lake Worth Budget Changes

As a result of the policy direction provided by the City Commission, the proposed FY 2011-2012 Budget includes the following changes:

· Reduction of 47 full time equivalent positions
· A total millage rate of 5.4945 mills
· Creation of the Leisure Services Department
· Funding of the Internal Auditor
· Reduction of the electric utility tax from 10% to 8%
· Reduction of the Conservation rate from $2.60 to $1.95 per 1,000 kWh
· Increase of the water rate by 5.25%
· Increase of the sewer rate by 13%
· Proposed special assessments for fire services and street lights services

You don't raise taxes in a down economy - Obama

Coffee with the Mayor

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Well, former mayor Rene Varela's idea of politicking with the electorate has not died.

Rachel Waterman is now having a one hour coffee tomorrow at the Farmer Girl Restaurant, 1732 N. Dixie at 8:30am.

Have her explain all the latest "goings on" and why we keep burning through money and raising taxes.

Yesterday's Storm

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Yesterday we had a brutal rain and wind storm that knocked out power in Lake Worth even causing a fire near the 1800 block of North D Street. Power lines literally fell on nearby homes. Here in my community, lighting struck a transformer according to LW Utilities and many of our residents had no power for about four hours. Winds were so strong that it blew a palm branch up to the 2nd level of our building.

The Utility company came last night to make the repairs and I was told not to get too close in case the transformer blew?! He was here for about 1/2 hour.


Former Mayor Speaks

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Ron Exline speaking out against the fire assessment

The Free Lunch

Well, Randy Schultz gets it!

As Lake Worth votes to raise taxes here, there and everywhere, it is too bad that Lake Worth staff and officials don't get it.

Read his editorial today, Budget Reality? Not for all.

Sunday's Sermon

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cain wins straw poll

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Herman Cain wins Florida straw poll.

"Folks, this is what you call momentum," Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, said in a video message from his campaign bus. "The Herman Cain train is picking up steam."

Read about it here.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

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Booing of Gay Soldier

Tony Plakas, Executive Director of Compass, stated, "I think what people will remember is that group (of Americans there) was booing a member of the U.S. military."

I always said--if I were born black, I would be at the front of that bus. If I were gay, I would be doing exactly what Tony is doing. However, sometimes it is impossible to see anyone's point, whether right or not, that differs.

Rick Santorum said that injecting social policy as well as sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military and should not be an issue. "Social experimentation in the military is tragic," he said. "Sex should not be an issue," he further stated.

The gay community made a big deal of the booing when Stephen Hill, gay soldier, asked his question. When you listen to the tape, there was little booing and that was blown out of proportion. There was, however, a lot of clapping after Rick Santorum spoke to the issue.

The Chain of Command - Lake Worth

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We all know that we have been in trouble for a very long time. We hired Susan Stanton to fix it all. We expected her to be a miracle worker. In some respects she has done very well. She works her "azz" off. She is our CEO in all of this turmoil to lead us out of the hole, however, the confusion and agitation seem to be rolling down hill like a snowball to hell. There is no doubt in my mind that she is highly capable, highly qualified. But--have we expected too much in the 29 months she has been here?

She has terminated employees whose contributions were not up to her expectations. I found out a few weeks ago that Gina Baker took a "voluntary lay-off." She recently "terminated" our IT guy who has been with us forever and has terminated others who were well thought of. Stanton has re-organized and has hired some good people but those who want to hang on have to play in her ball field with her rules. She has decreased departmental budgets. She has negotiated contracts with the PBSO and the IBEW. She has managed to get us into new law suits, numbers in the 3 digits I have been told.

Are our employees allowed to be thinking people? Are they the types to say "No, city manager, doing it this way would be better...perhaps Johnny Longboats is not the best for our Casino." Maybe the residents do not want the beach to stay opened well into the morning hours causing noise, more expense in public safety, turtle lighting for $2 million. Instead of those under the chain of command finding ways to justify what the CM wants, are there better choices and decisions for our city that they are afraid to mention? I worry about that.

When money is spent, the City Commission rarely asks questions. We sit and listen to the lip service right out of that weekly private one-on-one. During the Finance Advisory Board meeting last week we found out that the city paid for Compass' air conditioning to the tune of $250,000. Did that ever come before the Commission? What was the justification other than the city manager's belief that we should pay for any and all costs relative to our property.

Cara Jennings stated on April 7, 2009 that, "I liked my interview with Ms. Stanton and that she was willing to build a team...that she had a horizontal style of management instead of a chain of command." I have no idea what that means. I was there for the interview and was highly impressed. Stanton has built a team of managers who know who the boss is. I worry about independent thinking--Is it being suppressed? Do we have a bunch of "yes" men? I am sure that they all have on their kid gloves when expressing their ideas. However, the chain of command is evident and Stanton is at the top of that chain. Nothing happens without her knowledge. We have seen what has occurred when she allowed a few managers to do their own thing--Bryant Park parking lot disasters and Union deals. William Waters, the new Community Development Director, will have leeway as new departments are organized, with 6 new departments and 4 new employees. Perhaps he will be a special exception, probably not.

Right now the CM is increasing taxes and special assessments on all of us in order to have a cushion going forward to make up for all the missing millions and to meet these expenditures that have been allocated in her budget. Millions have been spent over the past few years and no one can tell us where. Was it on all the law suits? Was it the black hole at the utility? Ask one Commissioner where the Cash reserves went and see what they tell you. With more public meetings under this city manager than any in the history of Lake Worth, it just seems that the City is less transparent and that the public is out of the loop. No one really knows what's going on.

Our public commentary has been reduced to 2 minutes and what we say is no longer recorded in the Minutes. Does that tell you anything about this management style? Because of the way the citizenry has been treated, it is now an easy thing to do to be curt from those who speak from the dais to actually throwing one of us out of the chamber. We are talked down to. They go over and over their propaganda like we are total jerks. It is a constant Dog and Pony Show and the only ones falling for it are the commissioners. I thought that we were the bosses.

On Tuesday we had 2 minutes to tell the City just what we thought about them grabbing our cash for what the city tells us is for a pension that is out of control--a one way trip to the moon.

We all know that since the line item for pension costs was eliminated that this money just gets thrown into the pot. Why hasn't the commission insisted that the city manager have a line item and pay this expense just like the city always did in the past prior to Stanton? Commissioner Maxwell brought it up for this special assessment. There is nothing "special about it other than it is a con on the taxpayers. Why haven't they insisted that we stay within a reasonable budget and reduce the spending...delay some capital improvement projects? They did not listen nor did they care. This is no way to run a "business."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Beach Redevelopment not costed properly

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Quote of the Day: Lake Worth Commissioner Suzanne Mulvehill said, "It sends a message out into the community that we're ineffective and inefficient in how we're managing this project." Resident, Peggy Fisher, expects the City to live within its budget. However, now that they have passed special assessments, there is little incentive to do so. Oh, we made a gigantic mistake--we can just assess, problem solved.

Candidate Debate

Update:
The first candidate debate (Meet & Greet) of the Season will be hosted by Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association.

When...Monday, October 3, 2011

Time...7pm

Where...Compass Community Center

Union Pensions

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Last night Staff gave us the old line in order to soothe the pain of paying for firemen pension costs that will do nothing but go up, up and up. It was said that firemen take a lot of risk--it's a dangerous job--therefore we have to pay and pay and pay until they bleed our city and taxpayers to death. I didn't tell them to choose that as a profession, did you?

Pension benefits are a problem all over and Lake Worth is no exception.

"You say that, look, this is not about individuals. We have a system-wide problem in our state, and our city," he said. "At the end of the day, the taxpayers are on the hook, and I don't believe taxpayers should be left on the hook for a system that's not honest to them, and not honest to the people who are contributing to it. Now, one individual is not the problem," said Rham Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago

Republican lawmaker calls for end to union leaders' costly pension perks--Cross proposes legislation to close 1991 loophole

Read more at The Chicago Tribune.

Dustin surfaced!

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While our Lake Worth City Commission deems it fair to raise our taxes in spite of public outcry, Lake Worth Mayoral candidate, Dustin Zacks, speaks to the foreclosure issue--just another reason why people are hurting. You would think that a few on the Commission who have been through this process or who have lost their jobs, would understand that what they are doing really hurts people. Is that the objective of elected leaders?

Special Fire Assessment

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Last night was a kick to the head, no doubt. And the most revealing thing about it was the fact that this Commission that kicked us all to the ground did so with empty noggins and gave the Stanton line to justify it all. Gee, we sympathize with you. "We all pay it too," said the Mayor. Ah, Mayor, I don't think that you do pay it but we would be happy to send you our bills so that you can be part of the team.

Even Commissioner McVoy, who did not show up until after public commentary, commented. It was all the same old company line even bringing up the library. Gosh, is there any originality to the argument when you want to screw the people? We have never said that government should never spend any money, Commissioner. The problem here is that YOU have forgotten whose money it is. Is there ever any possibility that your mind will not be fed with garbage and manipulated by the city manager to the point of being a zombie?

The vote, as you all know, ended up on a 3/2 with Maxwell and Waterman dissenting. Waterman dissented for all the WRONG reasons. She didn't think it was appropriate to tax it this year because of hard times and instead, wanted to deplete our reserves down to zero and push back two new positions to be hired at a later time in the budget cycle. She voted "no" which was a smart political move. The entire matter comes back to the public on October 4.

Now I ask you, if you, Mr/Ms Homeowner, have a fixed bill that you know will go up every year, do you rob your savings to the point of a zero balance to pay for it for just one year? Have you ever heard of anything like that unless, of course, you want to go bankrupt? Whatever happened to cutting the spending? Whatever happened to stopping the waste? Whatever happened to your old laptops? Whatever happened to eating hamburgers instead of steak? You get my drift. The reason this country and this city is in the shape it is in is not only that people have less money and their property values have fallen like a rock, but it is the government spending. Everyone "gets" that but government. It is easy to rob that cookie jar.

Last night when Commissioner Maxwell asked about the reserves, Staff said it was $5 million that was spent. A few weeks ago we heard the figure $12 million and then we heard $15 million. They had so much of our money that they have NO idea what they spent or where they spent it or even why. Even the amount of the missing millions has them totally confused and they act like it is hay, not real greenbacks. It is constantly shuffled here, there and everywhere but in the meantime, it is the public that gets the big shuffle. Where's our money?

Ron Exline was right. The city could find this money by stopping the spending and pulling it from another account. But folks, that is not the objective here. It is simply to steal your money and unfairly assess you so that the city can once again get a reserve account. The other objective, of course, is to open the can of worms for future assessments, the creative way around inefficiency. The very people who robbed all of our reserves, now want us to put the money back in the kitty.

All citizens spoke out against the tax, even a preacher, a woman in a wheel chair, and just average folks from the community talking about the hardships, etc. but the Commission had already closed their ears before they entered the chamber, singing "I only have Eyes for you," as they glanced at the city manager.

Instead of Joe Kroll leaving, perhaps it is a good time for everyone to pack their bags.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lake Worth is Hot

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Joe Kroll no longer with the City of Lake Worth.

Fire assessment passes on a 3/2 vote with Maxwell and Waterman dissenting. It comes back on October 4 because Government Services Group screwed up (so what else is new?) and sent out notices to former property owners. Notices subsequently had to be re-sent.

The folly of Wind turbines at the Lake Worth beach

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This afternoon at 2pm there is a workshop (yes, another one) on the beach redevelopment. We will learn why the developers want to take millions more of our money and can't work within budget. They will blame it on the other guy, the usual suspect, and Staff will give us ways that it all can be accomplished by eliminating more from the project.

The recommended project element changes are:
§ Deferrals
§ 1 Small Trellis
§ 1 Entry sign
§ 33% of Benches
§ 2 Cisterns at pavilions
§ 1 small shade sail
§ Solar on pavilions
Material Changes include:
§ Change Bike Trail from concrete to asphalt
§ Playground surface change to rubber mulch (change location)
§ Change promenade material from colored concrete to entry portal pavers with rest
standard concrete
§ Change Casino walks from colored concrete to pavers
§ Change Casino concrete road to asphalt with paver crosswalks

The add/alternate items include:
§ Wind Turbines and pedestals (a feature that Commissioner McVoy is gaga over)
§ Sculptured Landform
§ Granite Markers

The Elements recommended for Utility Capital Improvement Project Funding include:
§ Parking Lot and Roadway Lighting
§ Water System
Elements not in the ILA and previously funded through other sources include:
§ Decal Parking Lot
§ Sanitary Lift Station

"Wind turbines need wind. Not just any wind, but the nicely flowing, smooth, laminar kind. That cannot be found at 30 feet height. It can usually not be found at 60 feet. Sometimes you find it at 80 feet. More often than not it takes 100 feet of tower to get there. Those towers cost as much or more, installed, as the turbine itself. How much tower you need for a wind turbine to live up to its potential depends on your particular site; on the trees and structures around it etc. Close to the ground the wind is turbulent, and makes a poor fuel for a small wind turbine."

Read about the truth regarding wind turbines here.

As wind turbines need wind to produce energy, how much wind do we get at the Lake Worth beach?

Wind speed at the Lake Worth beach.

As this is not the time to get silly about "green," all wind turbines should be deleted from this budget freeing up over $130,000. Solar panels should be explored and discussed more.

NSP2 Grant - Lake Worth CRA

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The Lake Worth CRA Consortium applied for and received $23,237,500 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Redevelopment (HUD) on January 14, 2010. This funding is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and is better known as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Funding will be primarily used to purchase, rehabilitate and demolish foreclosed homes within the City of Lake Worth. Some funding will also be available to provide homebuyer counseling, "green" maintenance, financing and subsidy programs for working class individuals. The Consortium consists of 20 community based organizations and local companies.

One thing that we know for sure, the CRA must spend all of this grant money within the allotted time or they will lose the money. A lot of good things can come from this grant.
  • We have to spend 50% ($11,618,750.00) of our grant by February 11, 2012
  • We have to spend 100% ( $23,237,500.00) of our grant by February 11, 2013
  • We have spent 25% ($5,726,495) as of September 19, 2011
Last night the Planning & Zoning Board met to discuss a proposed CRA project that will be funded with the NSP2, specifically, a townhouse development which was unbeknown to me as there was no backup. Knowing that time is of the essence with the NSP2 grant, the P&Z tried to accommodate the CRA by having this on the Agenda. It is a proposal to build 13 townhouses on Lake and Lucerne. The P&Z is there to make recommendations before a final plan is submitted to them for approval. It is their job to make decisions in the best interest of Lake Worth. This was only a workshop to gather information, discuss, recommend, etc.

The public showed up en masse again, rallied for the purpose to persuade the P&Z that anything built in that area is better than nothing at all. Some were even close to being insolent about it. The P&Z, and rightfully so, was concerned about townhouses in general. The simple fact is hundreds of units that have been built in our city are empty, in foreclosure and are bringing down the values of nearby residences. When Cara Jennings recalled the mistake on The Lucerne, she got dissed by the audience. But Jennings is correct and taking a responsible approach.

My first impression of this was that some developer who had some plans for 3,000 s.f. townhouses had discovered/found sucker Lake Worth with a CRA that has a lot of money...a place that he could perhaps dump his project with the idea that they would be artist studios--studios on first levels and living arrangements upstairs. How convenient for him. He would get his money and get out. They looked like cookie cutters all in a row. In fact, 50 years ago, this type of housing was called Row Houses. The first ones I ever saw were in Philadelphia. I had never seen anything like it and hated them on sight. I was used to beautiful single family houses that all looked different.

The biggest question I had in my mind was, how would a poor artist afford a 3,000 s.f. townhouse? The developer, as well as Joan Oliva, Director of the CRA, could not even give an answer as to what someone would have to pay for one of these...not even a guess. No clue. The average working person can not afford a 3,000 s.f. house nor would many of them even want one. And these are being built for poor people.

How do they even know that anyone would buy one? The setbacks don't look that favorable and it appears to have way too much impervious surface. One thing we don't want are just more townhouses for townhouses sake with them eventually sitting empty causing more slum and blight. The roofs will be flat and we will end up seeing many people sitting on their roof tops, drying laundry no doubt. Instead of 20 immigrants living in one, these will be so big that you can probably get quadrupled occupancy. The deed restriction will have a 15 year restriction.

The P&Z Board did the right thing last night. Just because the CRA is in a rush doesn't mean that they should be.

Lake Worth - A House of Cards

Tax, tax, tax, tax, tax.
Spend, spend, spend, spend, spend

Comparing Last year's Budget Summary to this coming Year's
  • In looking over last years public notice Budget Summary, revenues are lower on last year's estimate. Ad valorem taxes are up this year. We are raising only a $million more from last year even though the special assessment is higher. We know that there have been multiple amendments to the Budget throughout the year and we have burned through our cash reserves. Where did all of these millions go?
  • Special Assessments, a new item on this year's summary, are projected to bring in revenue in the amount of $1,750,856. I am guessing that this is fire and street lights? Who knows, as they told us the fire pension special assessment was to raise $1.45 mil. Perhaps it is wrong as the city did not plan on garbage revenue staying the same.
  • Sales and Use taxes revenue will add $800,000, down from the projection from last year even though we just implemented a new Certificate of Use Tax that should bring in much, much more and we have many new businesses that have located to Lake Worth.
  • Overall, our expenses are up and our revenues are up. Where are the cuts in spending? The City has told us that overall, department by department, spending will be down 11% from the previous year.
Whatever you see in the newspaper public notice is an estimate of what we will get in revenues and what we will spend. It is seldom accurate.

Once a city special assesses to raise revenue, it would take nothing short of a miracle to erase that tax in future years. The City is doing everything possible to raise your taxes by coming in the back door. They want to assess everything and anything possible. That is the plan. I want the City to live within a budget just like we have to do without taking the easy way out--raise taxes.

Maybe we will luck out and all those six cities as well as Palm Beach State College will pay us the $10 mil plus that they owe for sewer once this audit is concluded. That should be any day now. Perhaps collections will force those deadbeat entities to pay what they owe on their utility bills such as the School Board. And what about all those code enforcement fines? The city can't continue to operate as a charity with the taxpayer picking up the tab that continues to grow.

Tonight's meeting is very important. It has everything to do with your future and your quality of life in Lake Worth. If you allow a special assessment, there is no turning back. You will be taxed unfairly forever.




Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Business Booming in Lake Worth

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We need more of this type of story on Lake Worth.

Business Booming In Lake Worth - West Palm Beach News Story - WPBF West Palm Beach

E-Verify victory

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JUDICIARY COMMITTEE JUST DEFEATED THE POISON PILL AMENDMENT DESIGNED TO KILL MANDATORY E-VERIFY FOR THE REST OF THIS CONGRESS

PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT VICTORY TODAY

By a vote of 18-16, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee defeated an amendment by amnesty-champion Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) to eliminate the state preemption language in the mandatory E-Verify bill.

The reason this vote was so dangerous was because so many ANTI-amnesty conservative groups were lobbying anti-amnesty Republican Members so hard.

For more information go to Numbers USA

House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee

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Pointing to tough economic times for consumers, the chairman of the Florida Public Service Commission cautioned Tuesday about being "overly aggressive" in adding renewable energy.

"We're way behind other states (in renewable energy),'' Rep. Jeff Clemens pointed out. So?

Read more about it here.

Lake Worth Stays with PB County Fire/Rescue