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.

Monday, March 31, 2008

HB ignores city website's problems and Gulfstream Park

Thanks for swinging by the Hallandale Beach Blog to take a peek at what's going on around the area and my take on that, good, bad and in-between.

I've been juggling quite a lot of things in the air over the past few weeks, both personal and professional, so apologize to those of you who make a point of giving me some of your time occasionally, to see what's what in this part of Southeast Florida, hard by Gulfstream Park Racetrack and the Atlantic Ocean.

I've still got a lot of HBB posts in frozen storage, waiting for your eventual perusal, that I've already written, and hope to defrost them over the next few days, perhaps even before the next scheduled City Commission meeting on Wednesday April 2nd.

They're waiting, not-so-patiently, for some fact-checking inquiry emails I sent out to some third parties, so I can post them without having any doubts as to their factual accuracy or contentions.
Over the next few days, I'll expect to post some of those for you to compensate for the paucity of posts here lately.

I think you'll see that the wait was worth it, since there are many areas of discussion and debate that I've not commented on since the beginning of the year.

Some of those comments will be about what's transpired -or hasn't- since the beginning of the year, as well as thoughts and reflections on the all-day Special HB City Commission Meeting on February 27th at the HB Cultural Community Center.

That particular public meeting attracted a hardcore group of about 2-3 dozen for most of the day, with others drifting in for periods of time to check out what was going on, especially after lunch.

As it happens, for whatever it's worth, one of those late-arriving people was Comm. Dorothy Ross, who was a no-show until approximately 1:22 p.m.

The day resembled nothing so much as a roller coaster, with moments of real insight and lucidity quickly followed by moments of high camp, bathos and over-reaction to reasonable questions posed to staffers.

The scheduled agenda was a discussion of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Lower East Coast Plan Requirements, the EDAW Citywide Master Plan and the Citywide Traffic Study by HDR Engineering, Inc.

I was present from just before the 10 a.m. kickoff until about 6 p,m., and left only because I'd already heard the EDAW presentation before, right after Christmas, which was about 75% complete by the time I split.

Plus, I'd gotten no sleep the night before and the coffee at the Cultural Center didn't agree with me.
Or maybe I'm just too used to the coffee from Denny's and Dunkin Donuts, and the Folgers I buy that I liberally use French vanilla cream with to get it just right.
Next time I'll know to bring my own.

F.Y.I. - According to some on the dais, there'll be an encore performance of the EDAW presentation some night in the near future, though I didn't hear a specific date mentioned.

I'll try to find out when and where that'll be and share the news with you here.

Some past essays that have heretofore not yet posted are due primarily to the photos I've taken not coming out quite as well as I either wanted or expected.

This is especially the case with a series of photos I've taken over the past few months of
a.) construction activities at Gulfstream Park,
b.) the Broadwalk along Hollywood Beach,
c.) ongoing construction of Trump Hollywood,
d.) the unsightly physical conditions of the beach,
e.) current locations of prospective commuter train stations, as well as various activities at
f.) the Arts Park at Young Circle.

The latter issue in particular is still a subject of great frustration with me, for the City of Hollywood's STILL not coming thru on assurances made to me at City Hall last February concerning public safety issues on the east side of the circle.

Plus, there's that old reliable, the complete absence of a single bus shelter, 15 months after the road construction activities on the Circle concluded, and the old bus stop positions were reinstituted, at the largest transit stop in SE Broward.

I hope to arrange a meeting sometime soon with Mayor Peter Bober's staff to discuss some of these matters, since I've been a vocal supporter of his efforts over the years to change the dynamics of Hollywood, a place that I first saw when I was seven-years old.

It's been very frustrating not be able to post certain of these comments, since I aim to be timely and topical here, but I've noticed over the past few months that my photos, whether taken with my old but always reliable Canon camera, or a Fuji disposable, seem, well, blah to be honest, on my Blogger page.

Certainly more so than many of my friends' photos -with similar cameras- on their own blog pages around the country, especially up in the D.C. area.

I hardly need to say here that good photos really help amplify a particular point or contention, so this inability to post many of the photos I've already taken the past year, has caused me lots of aggravation and gnashing of teeth.

I recently got a new digital camera which should hopefully allow me to post my comments and photos in a much more contemporaneous fashion.

Some other examples of posts not published include my observations on the all-day Hallandale Beach City Commission meeting regarding the approval of the DOMUS project's variance on U.S.-1 and S.E. 8th Street, where the Italian restaurant was formerly located, across from Gulfstream Park.

I wanted to write about my conversations with the Norberg family, the antics of State Rep. Steve Geller, in his role as lobbyist and grand inquisitor on behalf of a client, using every legal trick in the book to prevent a nearby Hallandale Beach property owner from publicly opposing his client's request for the change.

I found his performance truly appalling and hope to post a rough transcript of it here later for your perusal.

Considering how much the face and dynamics of Hallandale Beach and U.S.-1 will be changed forever once this gets built, the Herald deciding not to send a reporter, thereby missing the anger, theatrics and histrionics, really speaks to how uneven the Herald's local coverage is.

Not that their national or state coverage is anything to shout about either, with a few exceptions, as I'm constantly mentioning at my other blog, South Beach Hoosier.

Most of these posts will take the form of taking a serious look at some of the sort of everyday things that make me particularly cringe everytime I see them in Aventura, Hollywood or Hallandale Beach, since they are well within the scope and capability of most cities, just not these apparently.

Obviously, one of the things I'm very behind in commenting upon is the City of Hallandale Beach's proposed Master Plan, which was unveiled for the first time just after Christmas at a community forum at the HB Cultural Center before roughly about 100 or so interested city residents.
http://www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/DocumentView.asp?DID=437

In the next few days I'll also have some thoughts on the two Resident Forums hosted by Comm. Keith London that I've attended recently, including the first one back on February 19th, the night before what was scheduled to be the next-to-last evening Commission meeting of the six-month 'experiment' the Commission voted for last year.

You'll recall that the debate last year among HB residents who showed up at HB City Hall consisted largely of arguing the self-evident point that evening meetings allow the greatest number of citizen taxpayers to attend.

Each Forum with Comm. London was held in Room 192, a small room adjacent to the City Hall Chambers, and lasted roughly two hours, attracting a very vocal and opinionated group of HB citizens.

I was very pleased to be there even under the cramped conditions, especially to hear some honest and passionate back-and-forth about issues that need to be addressed in the city, even if I didn't always agree with every idea I heard.

To state the obvious, these Forums were an excellent idea, and it's a pretty sad reflection on the past civic practices in Hallandale Beach that nobody ever thought to do it before.
(As of today, at least, nobody has ever told me of a prior practice.)

Frankly, it should've been the actual practice of all city commissioners here all along, sort of like a professor's office hours.

There are always some things you just don't want to say aloud in class -or before a microphone at a City Commission hearing.

These Forums provide that opportunity, esp. for the city's residents who are on the shy side.

Before I forget, I did want to second Comm. Keith London's apt comments at the Feb. 27th meeting about something I could hardly believe, though I saw it for myself.

He spoke with what I thought was the appropriate amount of pique regarding the sheer absurdity of members of the Commission being handed documents by staffers after walking into the Cultural Center for that all-day meeting, and being expected to digest 42 pages -over a cup of coffee and a bagel!

Then being expected to digest it all and ask some probing and relevant questions based on what you've read -as opposed to whatever ones you walked in with.

I though those comments were long overdue, but raise an even bigger question.

Why in the world would anyone think that would produce good results?

And why are SO MANY bad practices within the City of Hallandale Beach allowed to persist?
Personally, I've always thought that there ought to be a LOT MORE information available to HB citizens in advance of those City Commission meetings, as well as the Planning and Zoning Meetings, the only two meetings that the city requires COMCAST to televise.

In that respect, the contrast with the City of Hollywood could hardly be more stark, since I routinely receive an automated email notice from them days in advance of a meeting, complete with an agenda and information or links about the topics.

There's no need to reinvent the wheel!

Honestly, the information has already been gathered and inputted by the staff, and the computer does all the hard work, so what's to argue about?

That would allow citizens to print-out whatever parts of the meeting they're most interested in at home, and either bring that print-out with them to the meetings, or refer to it while watching the telecast from home.

Where's the downside to this?

Compare that to what the City of Hollywood does by making everything available at your fingertips.

http://www.hollywoodfl.org/city_clerks/comm_meeting.htm
City Commission Agendas
Regular Meetings are broadcast live on the internet on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 1:00 PM EST. Meetings are also broadcast live on the City's cable television Channel 78.

City Commission Agendas
City agendas are in Adobe Acrobat format (pdf) through DocDepot, an online searchable repository for the agendas, minutes and results. Click here for information on how to download the free Acrobat Reader.
Please click on the DocDepot link, which will open a new window. You will then be able to search by meeting date or a keyword to find a specific agenda.

Also, I've never mentioned it thus far this year, but there continue to be really nonsensical problems with the city's website, a subject that ought to be a subject for future discussion at Commission meetings, so citizens can highlight their real world problems with the site.

Last year, the website caused such incredulity on my part that I made two separate trips to the City Manager's office, last September and October, in order to find out if I was just the latest in a long line of people complaining -or the first.

Once there, I broke it down very simply and asked the secretary/receptionist there to try to access something on the city's website on her computer that the Mayor and City Manager had claimed at an earlier hearing were, in fact, there.

The secretary/receptionist had no luck accessing the info either.

Reason: because it wasn't there.

Their office also seemed to have no idea in September and October that the most recent "Agendas & Minutes" actually posted on the website were from April, counter to what had been said publicly.

Not that you could actually even find the Minutes, though.

Trust me, the problems remain long after the finger-pointing & buck-passing have faded into bad memory.

For instance, at http://www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/index.asp?NID=226 , as recently as two weeks ago, it was impossible to access the links for Meeting Agendas prior to May 16th, 2007, nor was there any kind of explanation why or even a link to where they were now located.

If it had been incorporated into the actual Minutes from those hearings, which would make sense, why was there no information stating that, much less, a link taking you to this magical place? Incompetency or laziness?

As it is, if you try to access the first five agendas on that page, i.e pre-May 16th, you will get the following message:



We're sorry, but there is not a web page matching your entry.

You entered: www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/DocumentView.asp?DID=371&referrer=http://www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/index.asp?NID=226

Because of numerous bad experiences with them since I moved here, I've never been a fan of the City Clerk's office performance to begin with, for reasons I'll tell you about in greater detail in the future, since it's too exasperating to get into any detail here.

But I will tell you that their passive aggressive attitude towards city residents, almost trying to bait them into getting upset, has twice led me to complain to the City Manager's office since last summer alone.

And those are just the two incidents I actually had the time to follow through on, rather than let it pass without comment.

And trust me, I hear similar complaints about that office too often around town for it to be unique to me.

Another disturbing thing is that on the drop-down menu for the City Commission, the word Agendas appears twice, when it's only needed once, and the first time, it's under the category "Agendas & Minutes."

But, of course, as you might surmise, there are NO actual Minutes to actually be found there, and haven't been since I can remember.

Where exactly are the HB City Commission Minutes since June 20, 2007 on the city's website???

And why are COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY AGENDAS listed under the City Clerk's office rather than their own CRA drop down menu?

And why is the only item listed from almost eleven (11) months ago, May 4, 2007?

And just to make it better, as if that wasn't embarrassing enough, when the page actually opens up, it says, "We're sorry, but there is not a web page matching your entry."

You entered: www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/DocumentView.asp?DID=373&referrer=http://www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/index.asp?nid=578

Click here to go to the home page

So what happened to that information exactly?

Did it just disappear?

That's par for the course in the inexplicable and serpentine world of HB's City Hall.

Nobody can explain to me why City Advisory Boards and Committees are listed under both the City Commission and under City Clerk on the drop-down menu, when there's no logical reason that someone would think to look there first.

Here's Aventura's simple method of dealing with this:
http://www.cityofaventura.com/commission/advisory.htm#traffic

Logically, Advisory Boards and Committees should have their own line of drop-downs, along with the info I suggested above, along with a page informing the public what their recent activities have been.

And why is there no list on the city website of members of the various city Advisory Boards, with information about their terms, along with information about whom the particular staff contact is?

Again, the City of Hollywood shows exactly how this should be handled to make it easy for everyone concerned:
http://www.hollywoodfl.org/html/CitizensTransportation.htm

On the HB city website, why is the City Manager's photo on the City Commission page, when his is office is a separate entity that works for them, and has its own separate page already?

And why does the City Manager's office page not list the staff's names and their particular areas of responsibility or expertise, so that when you call, you know whom to direct your inquiry to?




Where's a simple flow chart?

And why is there a Calendar function to the right of the Development Services homepage that lists the City Commission meetings, but NOT one on the City Commission's own home page?

That I suggest is crazy.

When the city's website was finally changed, there was much talk about how it'd make things easier.

Did nobody think to run the sort of routine diagnostic or organizational examination of it prior to it coming online to check for problems?

It sure doesn't seem like it.

Speaking of Development Services as I was a few minutes ago, is there a reason why the online version -the only version?- of Current Development Activity In The City of Hallandale Beach
http://www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/DocumentView.asp?DID=203 has NOT been updated since last February, to reflect any changes?

It's 14 months later!

Plus, we all know what the deal is with The European Club, so why can't the website be accurate 12 weeks into a new year?

Because I had to leave the February 20th City Commission hearing around 10 p.m., right after the discussion of the Pension Board, I never got the opportunity to hear the Commission discuss the pros and cons of Item 8C, about placing campaign finance reports on the city website, though I did read the staff material available.

I'll hope to gave some info on that soon, so we'll BOTH know.

It's yet another common sense move the city should make towards transparency, but that, once again, may in fact be the kiss of death for it.

Finally, though I still have lots on my mind and stored up in the computer, I'll close with this golden nugget for you readers to ponder -and if you have an answer to it, let me know.

It's a matter that should be of concern to everyone in the city who values history and accuracy, since it shows how blind and oblivious the City of Hallandale Beach usually is.

I've personally wondered about it since the first day the city's website changed, and I mentioned it to almost everyone I met at the time, to see if they had noticed it, too.

When I've been at public city meetings or forums and have seen City Hall folks try to give either me or other citizens the run-around or brush-off, rather than simply answer a question or acknowledge a genuine problem, and try to get it resolved as efficiently and expeditiously as possible, I've thought of this one thing until my head literally hurts.

How is it possible that in the City of Hallandale Beach in the year 2008, when there is one entity above every other that has always received and commanded the Lion's Share of publicity for this town, there are ZERO photographs, especially of an historical or iconic nature, of Gulfstream Park anywhere in City Hall's public areas, or a current or past one on the city's website?

Yes, Gulfstream Park Racetrack, the place right across the street from City Hall that employs all those people and brings in all those visitors who spend money here.

In fact, the word Gulfstream never appears on the city's own website page labeled History of the City http://www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/index.asp?nid=333

How is that at all remotely possible???

Who was the Hallandale Beach genius who decided that made sense?

To me, that's beyond insane, that's reason enough for junking the City's website and starting over from scratch, but this time, asking for citizen input, even of high school kids, because it's indeed certifiable proof of some very poor management and oversight at City Hall.

It's worse that obliviousness, it's routine!

We all know that people who've relocated here and made the kind of financial investment they have into their expensive homes and condos in Hallandale Beach, like over at The Duo, did not sign up to live in a city that gives every impression of NOT having the faintest clue as to what they're doing, and, in the process, give citizens the worst possible return for their investment and taxes, scoffing at normal transparency.

Citizens here are entitled to so very much better than they've been getting at City Hall for years.
Again, how can a City Hall that ignores Gulfstream Park's longtime economic and social contribution to the city over the years, ever expect to be taken seriously by its residents and the larger South Florida community?

Beats me.

To quote the immortal words of young Hamlet, the Danish Prince: "Aye, there's the rub!"

To see photographs and drawings on old postcards of Gulftream Park Racetrack's glamorous past, complete with its royal-palm lined club house entrance, fantastic cantilever grandstand, et al, see: http://www.cardcow.com/search2.php?substring=gulfstream%20park

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