Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hurricane preparedness in Broward County and Hallandale Beach

Upside down hurricane evacuation sign on A1A at 1800 S. Ocean Drive, south of Hallandale Beach Blvd., in front of The Related Group's Beach Club, taken May 29th, 2007;
photo by South Beach Hoosier

June 1st, 2007, the first day of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, and the City of Hallandale Beach is already behind the proverbial eight-ball, as the above photo ominously foreshadows.
Yes, it's already later than you think.

If you're a regular reader of Hallandale Beach Blog -or have simply come to it by accident- you need to know that the main reason that I personally hold the City of Hallandale Beach in such low regard, and, frankly, am so contemptuous of it, is that because in the three years since I returned to South Florida (I grew-up in North Miami Beach) from the D.C. suburbs of Arlington County where I lived for 15 years, is because I've personally witnessed, on a daily basis, their chronic inability to do even the smallest aspect of responsible governance correctly or promptly.
Whether it's keeping supplies in the public rest rooms at the beach, keeping street lights on, cleaning up debris along the city's three most-heavily traveled roads, or, if you can believe this, responding to traffic accidents on US-1 -in front of their own building- in less than 20 minutes, as I witnessed last year, after personally walking into the Police Dept. HQ.
Twice.

(See my April 3rd post on HB's joke of a city dumping policy, compete with photos, where junk was dumped just two blocks from HB's own City Hall, directly across the street from Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino, and phone calls to the appropriate individual produced no tangible results. Ever.
So there it stayed there -for months.)

Things that are taken for granted in other parts of the country -much less, the absence of a resolutely hostile attitude from city employees- fester here for months and even years in some cases, with nary a care expressed by either the elected/appointed officials or HB city employees.

It's a simple point, one that can hardly be expressed better than this:
If, as a city, you consistently prove that you can't handle the simplest tasks, the sort of problems that require easy, straightforward solutions, how can I possibly trust you to handle difficult problems that require real leadership and difficult choices to be made that have very tangible consequences to your own residents, as well as those of Aventura and Hollywood, who must, necessarily, travel over roads in HB?

What do you expect from people who run a city where the most well-known thing in the entire city, The Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino, the city's largest employer, is NOT pictured on the city's website photo montage?
Hard to believe, but true!

Let me show you two photos that really speak volumes, photos I had planned on using in other contexts on the blog, but which now require their use here.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a municipality in Florida, no matter how small or parochial, where you could routinely park your car in what is clearly understood to be a FIRE ZONE.
It's just something that's not done.

Yet in the City of Hallandale Beach, city employees have routinely parked in front of City Hall's east and south entrances for hours at a time, as I've witnessed for three years.

I've recently seen city cars parked there for up to three hours at a time, and actually been there to witness HB EMS personnel being forced to wait for city or resident's cars to move their vehicles from the entrances to City Hall, so they could pull their ambulance or truck up to the sidewalk and attend someone inside City Hall, as happened in April, something that I've mentioned in phone conversations with both Chief Daniel Sullivan and Chief Johnson.

Believe me, from talking about it with them, the EMS first responders are LONG past being pissed-off about it, yet HB Fire Chief Daniel Sullivan, who's been a member of the force for 24 years and Chief for 8 years, along with that all-star braintrust of City Manager Mike Good, City attorney David Jove and Mayor Joy Cooper, apparently see no need to have the City of HB come into the 21st Century and conform to the same societal norms, rules and regulations that any responsibly run city or town requires of its commercial property owners and merchants, and homeowners with respect to fire hydrants.

You know, commercial property owners such as the RK Diplomat Center on Hallandale Beach Boulevard, where there are plenty of such Fire Zone signs.
How can the city be so clueless?

How can they be so blind to something so obvious in FRONT of their own City Hall?

Where's the simple sign that reads something along the lines of "FIRE Zone, No Parking/Tow Zone, By Order of HB Fire Chief"?

(Just as a point of information, this past Wednesday, on my way over to the library, I saw yet another scofflaw, an HB city car parked in front of the eastern entrance to city hall, #3340 645, FL license plate 13829, parked there from 3 p.m. 'till at least past 4:45 p.m. That's just par for the course.)

And the City of Hallandale Beach City Hall Crew wonders why it's considered a laughingstock by South Florida residents and local media?

Photo of eastern front of City of Hallandale Beach Municipal Complex, May 29th, 2007; photo by South Beach Hoosier

Photo looking east on State Road 858/Hallandale Beach Boulevard, May 29th, 2007; photo by South Beach Hoosier.

Quick: What does the sign say?

The gateway to the beach is a perfect example of the City of Hallandale Beach's neglect and their city employees' and contractors' chronic inability to see the forrest for the trees. (Or the sign for the bush.)

This bush has been growing steadily larger since last summer, yet, somehow, nobody in city government seems to notice that the drawbridge warning sign with flashing yellow lights is disappearing because of a lack of common sense pruning and maintenance.
Not even members of the HB City Commission who pass it just about everyday, like Francine Schiller?

Yes, exactly like someone who lives on A1A.

Hmmm... I'll bet that's how HB senior citizens get stuck walking across the bridge when it goes up, don't you think?
I realize that it's a state bridge, but am I supposed to believe that nobody who works at City hall has never seen it? Really?

I first met Alex Baird, the City of Hallandale Beach's EMS Division Chief last week at the Hallandale Beach branch of the Broward County library, realizing once I showed up that I'd incorrectly written down the meeting info, having placed it for later in the week. C'est la vie!

Part of Mr. Baird's duties include, apparently, being the face of hurricane preparedness in the city, and towards that end, he helped conducted the meeting in the the much larger HB Cultural Community Center from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

(You might recall that the CCC is the place where last December, I saw State Senator Steve Geller, the Florida House Minority Leader,

http://www.flsenate.gov/cgi-bin/View_Page.pl?Tab=legislators&Submenu=1&File=index.html&Directory=Legislators/senate/031/
wearing his other hat, that of lobbyist, where he was at a public meeting attended by me and a handful of others -plus the Miami Herald's Jennifer Lebovich, who was sitting by herself at the table next to me- to hear what his client, Millennium, was planning to do with their property at 2500 HBB.
No shocker that -expand upward and outward.

See #12 on http://www.hallandalebeach.org/DocumentView.asp?DID=203

2500 HBB is the VERY SAME building where the very popular and well-regarded Padrino's restaurant is located, where a horrific murder took place last year that was solved not by HB Police ingenuity or detection, but rather because the guilty suspect was dumb enough to quickly use his victim's credit cards at a Wal-Mart, and was photographed by the store's security cameras -along with his girlfriend- after being alerted by a store clerk who sensed that something wasn't quite right with the transaction.

I was very tempted to ask about the poor security there, the self-evident and longstanding parking lot lighting problems.

The problem?
Oh, that the first five lights you encounter upon pulling into the parking lot there are either broken or obscured by tree branches, including the two lights closest to the sidewalk on HBB, which have been broken for months and months and now into years.
Yes, years as in plural.

In the end, I bit my tongue. Bit over the next few days, I'll have photos to buttress my point.
safety is NOT a concern of Millennium.)

I must admit that though I only spoke to Mr. Baird for a few minutes, I was impressed, since besides the fact that he has a very serious job, I got a real sense that he was forthright and honest, and thus, not one of the armies of City of HB drones who seem to do as little as possible for their paycheck, especially when responding to citizen complaints.

It's a sign of the times that since it's the City of Hallandale Beach you're dealing with, the following is what greets you when you go to the City of Hallandale Beach's NEW website, the supposed new-and-improved one that was years in the making -to replace the one where, to cite but one embarrassing example from many, the police chief, Thomas Magill -who was so busy snapping photos at last night's meeting- didn't have an email address.

You had to know the name of his secretay in order to send him an email.

When you check the link, you find out that Baird's bio isn't there, which would've proved helpful in getting some sense of his professional background, prior to the actual meeting:

"You are here:
Home > Staff Directory

Alex Baird
Fire & Rescue Title: EMS Chief Phone: 954-457-1481
Return to Staff Directory
No biography exists for this person."

I'll hope to have more info here on the blog regarding Thursday's meeting over the next few days. In the meantime, add this to your list:
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/weather/hurricane/
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Monday, May 14, 2007

Early May storm surge affects beach conditions; Hollywood intrigue

Photos below from Thursday, May 10th, 2007, after a very strong storm surge hit South Florida's coast and swallowed up large stretches of the beach, leaving both clear signs of beach erosion and large pools of standing water everywhere, including on the inland side of the the HB lifeguard stations.


Looking due east

Looking northeast towards Hollywood Beach

Taking the surge in stride and taking advantage of cooler water

The Related Group's Beach Club employees man a sandbag crew after the storm surge hit Hallandale Beach.

Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa beach after storm surge, which left standing water near cabana area and storm wall.

http://www.diplomatresort.com/

_________________________________________

Below are a couple of recent articles about the latest imbroglios impacting Hollywood and its pols:

See Bob Norman's H-wood Mayor Shuts Out Sentinel, Sort Of on his The Daily Pulp blog, complete with New Times reader response: http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2007/04/mara_shuts_out_sunsentinel.php ___________________________________

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/broward/sfl-srecords08may08,0,750017.story?coll=sfla-news-broward

Feds examining campaign finance reports in Hollywood

By Ihosvani Rodriguez

May 8, 2007

Hollywood

A federal agency that conducts union corruption probes has obtained campaign finance reports for the 2004 Hollywood mayoral and commission races, city officials said Monday.

A Miami-Dade County-based investigator with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General made a telephone request May 1 for copies of the election records, but did not indicate why the agency was interested in them, said Hollywood City Clerk Pat Cerney.

Cerney said investigator Jim Stone was also interested in looking at the latest reports for the 2008 mayor and commission races. Those records are available on the city's Web site.

Reached at his office Monday, Stone declined to comment. Agency spokeswoman Adriana Menchaca-Gendon in Washington, D.C., said it was the department's policy not to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

Stone works in the agency's Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigation subdivision in Miami-Dade. The office investigates the activities of the nation's labor unions, according to the agency's Web site and Menchaca-Gendon.

City Commissioner Cathy Anderson said she heard of the request and noted it came about a week after media reports of the latest campaign financial filings.

"It's very depressing what's going on in Hollywood," she said. "It seems everyone is investigating one thing or another."

Union contributions are legal and common in Hollywood elections. Unions representing a wide variety of workers, including city employees, firefighters and teachers, donated at least $500 to most incumbents in re-election campaigns, according to the 2004 campaign records.

Mayor Mara Giulianti's latest reports for her 2008 re-election campaign stand out because of the amount of money she reported receiving from an international plumbers union with a major business interest in Hollywood. Giulianti reported accepting in February at least $25,250 from plumbers and political action committees related to the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada. In 2004, Giulianti reported receiving $1,000 from the group.

The union's national pension fund owns the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa.Giulianti could not be reached despite phone messages left at her office and on her cell phone Monday. Union representatives in Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment.

Giulianti's opponent, Commissioner Peter Bober, and other city commissioners seeking re-election in 2008 reported receiving no money from the union as of March 31. With the exception of Commissioner Richard Blattner, everyone currently on the dais reported receiving at least a $500 check from the plumbers union's political action committee in 2004.

Coral Gables attorney Susan Norton, whose law firm represents management in labor disputes, said in cases such as this, the Labor Department could be trying to make sure the union follows federal guidelines and properly reports campaign contributions. Norton has no involvement with the plumbers union or Hollywood in this instance.

Ihosvani Rodriguez can be reached at ijrodriguez@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7908. ____________________________________

Miami Herald

http://www.miamiherald.com/416/story/99462.html

May 7, 2006
Law firm rules roost at City Hall
BY TODD WRIGHT AND RONNIE GREENE

The won-loss record of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff reads like a boxing champ's: 36-0, with a string of knockouts, stirring comebacks and contested TKOs.
In Hollywood City Hall, this undefeated, undisputed king of contracts, fundraising and influence is a lone lobbying outfit that bills itself as the ''hometown'' law firm in Broward County's third most populous city.
Combining big-money political contributions, deep roots in Hollywood and a highly personal touch with city commissioners, the firm has cultivated an unshakable voting bloc that nearly always includes Mayor Mara Giulianti.
Meanwhile, its client list has skyrocketed -- from 12 in 1999 to 52 in 2005. The next busiest lobbyist in Hollywood listed nine clients last year.
As Hollywood aims to transform itself from sleepy town to destination city, with new high-rises on the beach and condos breaking ground downtown, some insiders say Becker & Poliakoff's lobbyists have garnered so much influence they're now the gatekeepers of the city's growth.
''Every major decision in the city of Hollywood went through them,'' said Sam Finz, the city manager from 1992 through 2002, who said he quit largely because of the firm's influence. ``I felt it was bad government and the taxpayers suffered sometimes.''
Bernie Friedman and partner Alan Koslow, the law firm's two most public faces at City Hall, are longtime Hollywood homesteaders who say they only push projects that will enhance the city.
Koslow, a former Hollywood city attorney who served with four of the current seven members, still addresses them as a confidant.
''I don't think we take undue advantage at all,'' he said in an interview. ``We know how far to go without taking advantage.''
Friedman, a resident since 1960, is a longtime fixture in Hollywood political circles.
''The reason why we have an insider's view is because we roll up our sleeves every single day,'' he said.

`WE ARE SO VISIBLE'
The firm's lawyers are regulars on community boards and at black-tie galas for charities ranging from the Boys and Girls Club to the Hollywood Art and Culture Center. They raise funds for the city's Artspark and the American Jewish Congress.
''Part of the reason people come to us first is because we are so visible in Hollywood,'' Friedman said.
Consider just how visible:
• The firm and its clients bankrolled, conservatively, more than $1 of every $6 to commissioners' campaigns, or $130,000 of the $770,000 to come in since the 2004 elections through 2006.
The firm affixes postage to many commissioners' campaign mailings and helps some new politicos decide whether to run, mapping strategy at an office conference room or over lunch at the nearby Deli Den.
''I have never had to raise money without their help,'' said one beneficiary, Commissioner Fran Russo, who is paid $28,000 a year as a city commissioner. ``I am the poor commissioner. I needed the money.''
• From 2004 to 2006 Becker & Poliakoff's lawyers appeared before commissioners 36 times requesting yes votes for a range of development deals, zoning changes, grants and contracts.
They won every time -- 36 wins in 36 months.
''I have joked more than once referring to us as the economic development agency for the city of Hollywood,'' said founding shareholder Alan Becker, a Florida legislator from 1972 to '78. ``We bring good projects, and we should win.''
• Downtown, its clients have been green-lighted to build $370 million in projects, more than all other developers combined.
Those clients have won approval for $37 million in property tax incentives. The share of new tax revenues their clients will pocket is more than twice that of other developers.
• While representing clients seeking business with the city, Becker & Poliakoff maintains a $50,000-a-year contract as Hollywood's lobbyist in Tallahassee. Hired in 1992, it has kept the job in a series of 15 no-bid extensions.
''The conflict slaps you right in the face,'' said City Manager Cameron Benson.
Mayor Giulianti, longtime friends with Friedman and Koslow and a beneficiary of major campaign support, declined to discuss her relationship with the firm.

CONSTANT PRESENCE
Becker & Poliakoff is headquartered just outside city limits on Stirling Road, but its satellite office could well be City Hall. Finz, the former city manager, recalled how Koslow and Friedman would often be walking out of a commissioner's office as he entered to brief his bosses.
At the negotiating table, Finz said, ``They were quick to tell you what the outcome is going to be. They would blow me off because they knew damn well the vote would go their way.''
Friedman said he was surprised by Finz's comments.
''I always thought we had a great relationship, and I don't ever remember disagreeing with him,'' he said.
The commission, led by Russo and Giulianti, ousted Finz in 2002, two months before his planned retirement. Friedman said the manager's departure had ``absolutely nothing to do with me or Alan Koslow.''
At City Commission meetings, where votes are cast on everything from small grants to million-dollar developments, the firm is a frequent presence. Friedman once dialed some commissioners on the dais as they prepared to vote on a major beach development deal, drawing the ire of City Manager Benson.
'I offer my sincere apology if, in any way, I have made a `mockery' of a Hollywood City Commission meeting,'' Friedman wrote in 2005 after helping his No. 2-ranked client win the contract. He promised to stay seated, not use his cellphone or ``make any hand or face gestures.''
The firm's ties to the commission date three decades, when veteran Commissioner Cathy Anderson met Freidman's father at the bank where she worked, not long before she took office. Dr. Charles Friedman held an account and would often have young Bernie make deposits.
A dozen years ago, Friedman hosted a birthday party for Anderson at the Becker & Poliakoff office, and the lobbyist's daughter dressed up in costume to celebrate. ''I have always felt that Bernie is an honorable, ethical person. I view him as a loyal friend,'' Anderson said.
She added, ``They're the only people that raise any money in Hollywood.''

DELI POLITICS
Before Russo decided in 1999 to run for office, she sat with Friedman at the Deli Den, a favorite haunt near the firm's office. In a lunch meeting Russo said felt more like a job interview, he asked about her vision for Hollywood.
''He basically said they would support me and drum up money for me,'' Russo said. ``But that doesn't mean I was going to vote for them.''
Yet she has, records show.
The firm made good on its promise to Russo again in 2006, when Commissioner Peter Bober suggested barring developers and corporations from contributing to city campaigns and limiting private donations to no more than $200. Russo wanted to pocket as much as she could before any change took place.
''I told my campaign people to call Bernie,'' Russo said. ``They were ready to go.''
The firm quickly secured multiple $500 donations totaling more than $14,000 from its clients, companies that often appear before commissioners.

RESTRICTION FAILS
Ultimately, Bober's reform failed 4-3. Russo, Anderson, Giulianti and then-Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom beat it back.
The four, the biggest recipients of campaign support from the firm and its clients, have been consistent yes votes for Becker & Poliakoff issues.
''What's the big deal?'' Friedman asked, noting that some clients are represented by other politically active firms who also fund-raise. ``To make a generalization that raising money has something to do with votes is insulting.''
Not everyone agrees.
'It's like, `If you do for me, then I'll do for you,' '' said Commissioner Sal Oliveri, who is occasionally among the minority voting no. ``In my opinion, they for the most part have a pretty strong voting bloc on the commission.''
To Becker & Poliakoff and many Hollywood officials, the firm's role as the city's Tallahassee lobbyist has been a clear success. To others, it's a clear conflict.
Friedman, the city's advocate in the capital, recently alerted city leaders that most of their priorities received funding this year, from $200,000 for Rotary Park to $1.4 million for beach renourishment.
In last year's legislative session, Becker & Poliakoff represented gambling establishments -- while working for Hollywood, which opposed increased gaming.
''That to me was an eye-opening experience that I felt very uncomfortable with,'' said City Manager Benson.
Said Friedman: ``We represent Pompano Race Track. Pompano has zero to do with the city of Hollywood.''
Broward County bars its capital lobbyists from lobbying county commissioners during the legislative session. Hollywood doesn't.
Oliveri once tried to force his colleagues' hands: Have the firm be a lobbyist before Hollywood or for it. His motion never gained support. ''Some of my colleagues might be afraid to challenge Bernie because he is a big mover and shaker in all the campaigns,'' he said.

HIGH-RISE SYMBOLS
Along the beach stand striking symbols of the firm's imprint: The 39-story, $800 million Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa that towers over the city's south beach, the even taller Trump Hollywood luxury condos rising nearby, and a planned 17-story $110 million hotel-garage to anchor Johnson Street.
''One of the reasons for our success is we were in the right place at the right time,'' said Koslow, noting how the Westin Diplomat triggered a development domino effect.
Said Anderson: ``We had no development for decades here until developers discovered us, and they had a lot to do with that.''

MILLIONS APPROVED
Its downtown clients have been approved to build five projects with budgets totaling $370 million -- though Friedman noted that only one crane is at work and other developments are years away.
Hollywood's Community Redevelopment Agency, which has control of the millions in new property tax dollars anticipated from developments in the downtown and beach districts, has been unusually generous to clients of Becker & Poliakoff.
With city commission approval, the downtown CRA has agreed to return to the firm's clients 42 percent of new property tax money to be generated in the projects, or $37 million of $89 million. Each client has its own negotiated settlement; they range from 21 to 81 percent over many years, records show.
Developers the firm doesn't represent have been approved for $308 million of downtown projects -- and just 18 percent of new tax money.
Koslow said incentives are a must for complex redevelopments in the city's aged business core. ''That's a project that isn't getting built otherwise,'' he said.
When Koslow rises to address commissioners, he speaks with a familiarity opponents lack. Koslow often sits in the seats generally reserved for city staff, while other lobbyists and vendors find spots across the aisle.
''If you want to kill all the deals that are proposed, if you want to kill them, just put it in there,'' Koslow said last June, as commissioners debated public disclosure requirements that could affect his beach condo-hotel clients.
Taken aback, Commissioner Bober suggested that Koslow had ''made a threat,'' before taking the words back.
''It was not a threat,'' Koslow replied. ``I have never made any threat up here. I just make a persuasive point.''
Later, Anderson suggested limiting the numbers of units that condo hotels could have -- a move that in combination with other zoning strictures would all but stop new beach condo-hotels.
After three hours of debate, the restrictions looked destined to pass. Abruptly, Mayor Giulianti called a recess.
''I'm taking a break. I think that you need to explain or somebody needs to explain to people,'' the mayor said.

ANOTHER KO
The mayor did not make clear to whom she was speaking. But during the 18-minute recess, Koslow sidled up to Anderson. When the meeting reconvened, Anderson's potential reform had died, another KO for Hollywood's hometown firm.
''I would hire them, too,'' Commissioner Russo said. ``They get the job done.''

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Me in the Summer of 2016

Me in the Summer of 2016
Above, me in June, pre-recent haircut, near acres and acres of orange groves off Scenic U.S. #17 in Frostproof, FL, while visiting hot/humid Central Florida, which I'm convinced is where heat/humidity goes in the Summer to get away from it all... The oppressive heat & humidity there is literally everywhere you go. :-(

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation
"In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation." -South Beach Hoosier, 2007.

Sweden

Outside the Swedish Embassy, Georgetown Harbour, Washington, D.C., USA #Stockholm ❤

First official look at our Lara Croft #tombraider #tombraidermovie

A post shared by Roar Uthaug (@roaruthaug) on

North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers

North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers
Before I was a Hoosier, I was an NMB Charger, Class of 1979.
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