In many ways, it's the story of the City of Hallandale Beach, writ large, a story of longstanding general incompetency and non-existent supervision, shortsighted management coupled with apathy.
In short, a general sense that you shouldn't mention the fact that the city's elected officials and workers have grown SO accustomed to not being held to account, that to actually expect results was not only too much to ask, but in a sense, only asking for MORE trouble.
That this sort of customer-unfriendly attitude would not be tolerated in most other communities around the country goes without saying.
It's the reason that I finally decided to, chose your metaphor, "bite the bullet" and create a blog that would cover the sorts of quality-of-life issues that I noticed daily in my travels throughout Hallandale Beach, Aventura and Hollywood.
There will be dozens of posts along these lines in the coming weeks and months, examining everything from the city's incompetent & non-existent coordination of FDOT contracted construction along US-1 and HBB, the preposterous non-existant street lighting conditions all around the city -but particularly on the three main streets in town, US-1, Hallandale Beach Blvd. and A1A.
I will especially delve deep into the longstanding myriad safety/aesthetic problems at the the beach, which are the responsibility of the city's Dept. of DPW.
This includes, among other things, the city's only having one working bathroom sink in the Men's restroom at North Beach -out of four- from Thanksgiving 'till last week, a total of four months, and the city's contracted out lifeguards from Jeff Ellis & Associates NOT having access to a jet ski to make rescues of beach goers, even while rip tide conditions have been worse than any in memory, et al.
This particular posting though concerns the epidemic and longstanding problem of illegal dumping in Hallandale Beach, and goaded into finally doing something about it, the City of Hallandale Beach announced that, YES, it had a solution.
So Jennifer Lebovich, the Herald's then-HB correspondent, wrote about the policy:
December 31, 2006
City takes aim at illegal dumpers
The city is offering rewards to people who report illegal trash dumping as part of an effort to clean up the streets in Hallandale Beach.
BY JENNIFER LEBOVICH
Hallandale Beach is cracking down on people who illegally dump trash in vacant lots and on neighborhood roads in the city.
The Police Department has distributed door hangers and passed out brochures explaining how residents can report illegal dumping.
Broward Crime Stoppers also offers up to a $1,000 reward for tips that lead to the arrest of people dumping illegally, city officials said.
The efforts to keep trash piles and other hazardous materials off city streets ties in with the city's Weed and Seed program, a federally funded initiative aimed at revitalizing neighborhoods.
''The illegal dumping is definitely something we are constantly addressing,'' said Becky Wright, the city's Weed and Seed program coordinator.
Residents who spot illegal dumping should write down the location, what is being dumped, the color and make of the vehicle and a description of the people, if possible, and call the non-emergency police line at 954-765-4321.
The Department of Justice awarded $175,000 to the city in October for the Weed and Seed program. Hallandale Beach will receive the grant money for five years and may get additional funding next year, Wright said.
Weed and Seed money is aimed primarily at improving an area called the Palms of Hallandale Beach, ringed by Pembroke Road and Hallandale Beach Boulevard to the north and south, and Dixie Highway and Interstate 95 to the east and west.
The area was identified for the program because of its higher crime rate, Wright said, adding that half of the funds focus on crime prevention and the other half goes to the Police Department to help reduce crime.
Weed and Seed program members are trying to start another initiative called Guiding Good Choices, a five-week parenting program ''designed to help parents guide their kids away from using substances,'' Wright said.
The group also is starting a job training program for people in the community and plans to set up a program to work with people who have been in jail to help them find a job and a place to live.
Then there was the natural follow-up three weeks later in the Neighbors section of the Herald:
Neighbors Section, Southeast, p. 12
Police implement anti-dumping plan
January 21, 2007
EILEEN SOLER Special to The Miami Herald
Call it a New Year's resolution. Hallandale Beach police are on a mission to put the brakes on illegal dumping -- the sooner the better. "But first we educate," said Capt. Ken Cowley, who is heading the effort.
Hundreds of no-dumping door hangers have been placed at residences throughout the city in recent weeks. Six no dumping signs have new homes and 25 more will be placed in coming weeks. Hundreds of pamphlets have been distributed, and No Trespassing signs -- to deter dumpers -- went up at the train tracks along Dixie Highway.
But Cowley said citizen support is the real key to spreading the word that police are keeping a sharper eye on dumping and dumpers will be prosecuted.
Crime Stoppers of Broward County is helping residents assist the drive by offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of illegal dumpers.
"The residents are the ones who see the dumping. We need them to report it," Cowley said.
According to Florida law, dumping less than 15 pounds of noncommercial litter is not a criminal offense, but it carries a $500 fine. Dumping more than 15 pounds of trash but less than 500 pounds is a first-degree misdemeanor that could cost the guilty party up to $1,000, a year in prison, community service and three three points on his or her driver's license.
Dumping more than 500 pounds of commercial trash or hazardous waste is a third-degree felony punishable by up to a $5,000 fine, five years in jail, community service, reparation to the property and the victim, or forfeiture of the vehicle.
"How would you like it if you tried to make your neighborhood nice but people kept dumping trash in your front yard?
The residents are the victims," Cowley said.
Two people have been arrested since the campaign kicked off six weeks ago.
James McCray, a resident since 1999, supports the project. He is one of several workers from Gulfstream Apartments in the city's southwest section who regularly pick up discarded goods from city sidewalks.
"It's a great idea to clean up a big problem. Just last week, I had to clean up three truckloads right off the street," McCray said two weeks ago.
A recent Friday tour of the city's southwest section with local police revealed streets lined with tidy homes and nicely kept lawns but dotted here there and there with piles of furniture, bedding, appliances, broken toys, palm fronds and black plastic bags loaded with garbage.
Several unlabeled jugs of liquid spilled from one hill of trash into the street where children played.
Three unattended pickup trucks loaded with debris were spotted, and another truck, moving through streets loaded with furniture, was stopped by police to teach the driver about dumping laws.
"We have to get the word out. It's all about education," Cowley said.
Workshops will be scheduled shortly for landlords and tenants about rules for discarding trash and other common issues that affect the quality of life at apartment complexes and other multi-unit residences.
The city's Department of Public Health is ready to issue vouchers for residents to take bulk accumulation outside of the city's regular bulk pickup schedule to the Eco Waste dump station at Pembroke Park.
Residents also are asked to call the department when they spot a new dump.
McCray is all for doing his part. "It's late at night when most people come through dumping. They come from wherever they are and dump trash in our neighborhood. It's not right."
For information, call Hallandale Beach Police Community Officer Martin Jackson at 954-457-1400.
Copyright (c) 2007 The Miami Herald
A few days later, on January 27th, the Herald even deigned to dignify this new program by mentioning it in on their editorial page:
CRACKDOWN ON DUMPERS TIMELY
People who get caught and fined for illegal dumping in this city can't say that they haven't been warned. The city is on a mission to keep its streets clean. So Hallandale Beach police have distributed hundreds of no-dumping door hangers and pamphlets with notices of a crackdown. New no-dumping and no-trespassing signs grace more city streets than previously, and more are coming.
Crime Stoppers of Broward County has pitched in by offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of illegal dumpers. The campaign is timely now that visitors are increasing to play at the two newly opened slot machine venues or catch a day at the races.
The problem? It's an abject failure, from beginning to end.
Nothing ever gets done, even when you call.
The day that particular editorial ran in the Herald, there was a pre-existing, three-day old problem that hadn't been properly dealt with by the City of Hallandale Beach and their news crackdown on illegal dumping.
It's the very reason that with the exception of Keith London last month, I've NEVER voted for an incumbent member of the Hallandale Beach City Council -and neither should you.
And never voted for mayor Joy Cooper!
It's also why I particularly loathe William Julian, the member whose insipid comments and questionable lack-of-action make one wonder if he's living in the same town he's supposed to be representing, since he actually takes credit for the way that things are here, something that an objective but critical observer with any sense of quality-of-life issues would find ludicrous.
Julian's comments on development and traffic congestion are all over the place, depending upon who he's speaking with or whether he's "on the record" with the media.
He has a very John Kerry-like quality.
(For the record, I loathe John Kerry, and have ever since I first saw him in action in 1988 at a U.S. Senate hearing dealing with US-Latin American drug interdiction.
I saw how poorly he had a grasp of the basic facts that the other members of the committee, much less the witnesses and the staffers, took for granted. It was apalling as Kerry he talked for the sake of talking -and the cameras.
He was THE most poorly informed person in a crowded room in the largest hearing room in the entire U.S. Senate office complex.
Months later, after seeing him drive past me by himself in his convertible to the RFK 20th Anniversary Memorial out at Arlington National Cemetery, which I'll have a future posting on- which is weird when you think of how many Massachusetts people were going to this event, including his staff, I even dated two different smart and attractive female LAs from his personal staff.
They, like me, veteran Democratic activists and national Democratic campaign workers, voted AGAINST him for President in 2004, almost entirely because we'd seen first hand what a poorly qualified candidate he was, for reasons that most people had never witnessed upclose and personal.)
To better understand the nature of this abject failure of a problem, let me tell you the story of one Hallandale Beach corner on US-1 in particular, which has a long history of being the dumping ground of local residents and area contractors who are too damn lazy to dispose of their garbage appropriately -or legally.
It's a corner that I have called the HB Code Compliance office about 6-8 times over the past few years, usually reaching Corrine Yoder, even requesting that, at a minimum, a "No Dumping" sign be placed there, with the requisite info about fine amounts and a contact number to report violations.
The sort of sign that you take for granted when you travel throughout this country.
A sign was never put up.
The NW corner of US-1/Federal Highway and S.E. 7th Street is directly opposite the Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino, the city's largest tourist draw, is next to the U.S. Post Office and one long block south of the City of Hallandale Beach Municipal Complex.
It is also directly next to the North Miami Beach Water Interconnector unit that Hallandale Beach can draw water from in case of an emergency.
On February 1st, 2007, I was walking along the sidewalk and discovered the newest contribution to that neighborhood: cat & dog feces mixed-in with bathroom tiles.
Early February 2007 photo by South Beach Hoosier
Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino in background
Early February 2007 photo by South Beach Hoosier
It's exactly what an illegal dump of cat and dog feces mixed-in with bathroom tiles would look like if you wanted to dump it!
Later that day, a Sunday, I read Soler's article and resolved that if the mess was still there after Monday, I'd call the number mentioned in the story rather than HB's Code Compliance office as I had many times in the past.
Tuesday afternoon, the mess was still there, so I called the Officer Jackson mentioned in the article, and, unable to speak to him, left a very specific description of the situation on the city voicemail, mentioning that the corner was a regular magnet for illegal dumping by residents and contractors, and reminding him that the city had never placed the appropriate sign there.
Weeks and weeks later absolutely nothing has happened.
There will be dozens of posts along these lines in the coming weeks and months.
I have notebooks full of notes and ancdotes which help paint the picture of a city that is run neither well or properly, but rather by the seat of its pants.