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Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Bob Norman 3/27 column on Hallandale Beach's purchase of Tower trailer park
...well, to say the least, this recent Bob Norman story in The Broward Palm Beach New Times leaves out a ton of context.
The sort of important nuanced details which, if mentioned, would make it NOT quite such a one-sided David vs. Goliath narrative, which is clearly Norman's intent here, as it so often is in his columns.
(And me in particular, I love David vs. Goliath stories, for obvious reasons.)
I say that from the p.o.v. of someone who actually attended the HB City Commission meetings last year on the subject, and who attended the subsequent public forums held at the HB Cultural Center, taking copious notes as per usual.
Now I don't claim to know or have all the pertinent facts in this real estate deal, but having been there, and taken notes, I think I'm in a better position to comment about what was said and discussed, and the general tenor of the meetings, than Norman, whom I never saw at any of these meetings.
The Miami Herald's Jasmine Kripalani somehow managed to find time in her busy day to make it to the public forum, but I guess Norman was too busy.
Perhaps howling at the moon or fulminating against someone in authority that got under his skin.
From my vantage point in the room, he was a no-show, so keep that in mind while you read his column.
As it happens, in my opinion, that public forum was largely an ad hoc attempt by the city to respond -finally- to the universally negative PR media hit they took all over the area, as this story rolled out, often being greatly exaggerated in the retelling far beyond what really happened.
That Cultural Center public forum was very lively and featured a number of Tower Mobile Home and RV Park residents who verbally attacked everyone present from the city who was involved in the process, including HB Mayor Joy Cooper and City Manager Mike Good, and trust me, they didn't mince their words, either.
I'll leave it to you to decide whether it was more lively and engaging -if erratic- than a City Commission meeting because Mayor Cooper was NOT in a position to wield her trusty gavel, since for much of the meeting, she was leaning against one of the walls up towards the front, listening and talking to other city officials and occasionally making comments.
I truly wished it had been televised, because it would've been Must-See TV that night on the local 6 p.m. news.
Having been witness to what transpired there, I should mention some things which would not be apparent to you if you relied solely on what's been said around town about that meeting, and in subsequent stories and columns, like Norman's.
Many of the residents, though well-intentioned, mis-spoke about basic, commonly-known facts, which was, perhaps, understandable, given how angry and mad they were, and in some cases, were perhaps not entirely comfortable speaking in public.
But I also think it's fair to say that there were a lot of people present who didn't want to know the facts, and didn't make any serious attempt to understand what the process was.
They just wanted to protest and threaten, and in some cases, may've honestly believed (or been told) that if they showed up and hollered a bit, the city would change their mind about the acquisition.
(You and I both know that was simply never going to happen.)
That was their right, of course, to do as they saw fit, it's just that in all fairness, their behavior and demeanor should be brought up, since it's never mentioned in Norman's column.
The deal itself really hit home the morning after the Commission approved the deal, when Local10/Channel 10 sent out a film crew to the Tower Mobile Home and RV Park, and reporter Jeff Weinsier found residents who knew nothing about the deal and what that meant for their future.
It was very powerful and compelling stuff.
That first segment with the despondent residents aired at Noon, and later in the afternoon, Mayor Cooper was interviewed at City Hall, forced to respond to the criticism for the 6 p.m. newscast.
Video didn't work last week, as is often the case with non-recent video on Channel 10's website, as opposed to Channel 4's, which I never have a problem with.
See also http://www.sharedemergency.com/New%20TowerMobileHomePark2.0.htm and
FYI: Sound didn't work at beginning, and is produced by group clearly opposed to city's effort.
Vice Mayor Julian, portrayed in Norman's column here as the sympathetic-if-clueless HB official who really wants to do the right thing, after-the-fact, was, to my recollection, actually one of the chief cheerleaders for the project when the City Commission voted to approve the deal.
In fact, as is his norm, I specifically recall him congratulating City Manager Mike Good and his staff "for the great job they did" in securing the property for the city at the price they did.
(I'll have to look at my notes again, but that's how I recall it.)
At that point, it was so utterly predictable to me how the whole thing would shake out -and blow-up in the city's face.
It's Hallandale Beach.
Of course it's going to blow-up in their face from not being properly prepared!
Why would you expect this time to be any different from any other time?
Personally, I suspect the city didn't do more to prepare that community for a simple reason.
They didn't want to publicize their efforts for fear that another party would swoop in and make a competing bid, perhaps offering more cash up-front to get the deal done.
Simply put, the city didn't want to be in a bidding war!
(Don't know the financial terms the city made as to whether it's one big lump sum payment to the property owner, or spread out in order to decrease personal tax liabilities. I strongly suspect the latter.)
Based on Norman's version of events, William Julian would seem to be born-again, having switched sides now that he's cast a vote that he regrets.
(Actually, what I think Julian really regrets is making a vote that might actually matter to voters in the city next time he runs for re-election.
The video of him at that City Commission meeting that night might prove VERY helpful to any prospective candidate running at the same time as Julian, who, in case you forgot, came in second in total votes to Keith London when they ran last March.)
Updated: Hallandale Beach vice mayor no 'greedy scumbag developer,' to fight for Tower Park elderly
But did you happen to notice what was missing from Julian's aspect of the story, something fundamental to the narrative itself?
What was missing were questions from Norman to Julian about why he voted for the acquisition in the first place, if he now thinks it's so obviously a bad deal for the community.
It's that sort of tortured logic one constantly encounters when one enters the city limits of HB, which, of course, is not really any kind of logic at all.
Much as was the case with John Kerry, Julian, having already voted for it, now would like to vote against it.
To me, it speaks to the unevenness of Norman's column that he never includes any comments by someone who could actually speak to the city's real (long-term) rationale for the deal, though to me, it seems rather self-evident.
(Why would Norman not ask someone, anyone, that basic question? Perhaps because he knows he wouldn't like the answer, since it would directly undermine the very premise of his column. Maybe, for once, the city actually showed some smarts, even if unintentionally and cruelly.)
Here's my own theory, borne of knowing the area reasonably well and how people around here usually think.
Which is why, perhaps, things don't get done.
The property on Old Federal Highway directly across the street from the Tower trailer park -immediately west of the U.S. Post Office- will prove in the long-term to be much more valuable and desirable -and marketable- as a result of the deal.
It's far easier to sell young, upper middle-class Soccer Moms (and their spouses) on the idea of moving into a condo in Hallandale Beach, IF, instead of being near some commercial strip on Hallandale Beach Blvd., and its often nightmarish morning and afternoon traffic, as is the case now with The Duo, they're across the street from a nice new green park, adjacent to one with soccer and baseball fields -Peter Bluesten Park.
Plus, the ballpark, being closer to the FEC railroad tracks, has lights which are just far enough away as to not make them annoying at night.
Additionally, once it's finished, they'll just be three blocks away from the new Village at Gulfstream Shopping area across U.S.-1.
Frankly, that's a much better marketing hook than selling the idea of buying a condo located across the street from an old run-down trailer park, which, as anyone who lives in the area can tell you without exaggeration, often attracts a lot of very strange characters at night.
I've even heard people at the beach sitting on a bench near me discuss it like it's common knowledge, and they're just stating the obvious.
When/If the FEC commuter train becomes operational, as I suspect it will, with an HB train station located on HBB, less than a ten-minute walk away, residents of that condo will have quick access to downtown Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.
Buh-bye to 1-95 gridlock!
Now that's a powerful marketing hook!
( I should know. The flexibility and dependability of mass transit, in this case, WMATA, the Washington D.C. Metro, http://www.wmata.com/ is why I chose to live in Arlington County and not in Washington itself.
I lived in D.C. for the first 18 months I was in the area, including six months on Capitol Hill
near Senator and Mrs. Moynihan on East Capitol Street, and a year living in Tenleytown
on Nebraska Avenue next door to the Japanese Ambassador's residence. のバスサービス
See http://southbeachhoosier.blogspot.com/2007/01/when-reporters-choose-sides-play.html )
So in many ways, from the city's p.o.v., it would be a long-term investment that might pay big dividends in the future, making that part of the city a more desirable place to live than it is now.
Not that I necessarily think the city fully realizes all the things I've just put out on the table for you here, though!
For now, the city talks about that area being used as some kind of park area, and many talk about it being an important future component of the city's Master Plan.
That may well be so, but I'd bet money that five years from now, at the very least, it'll be a medium-sized condo complex.
Frankly, for all we know, some future pro-reform mayor of Hallandale Beach might be moving in there in the next few years, once that project is complete, since the water pipes for it have already been put in place over the past few years, esp. on S.E. 8th Street.
That's the street, that, four years later, still lacks the yellow rectangular Street Hump signs parallel to the humps, as is common in the rest of the city.
This, despite Planning Director Christy Dominguez continually saying at the all-night public meeting last year on the DOMUS project, how terribly concerned they all were at City Hall with road conditions on that street and the surrounding area.
What a laugh!
I specifically mentioned it to the mayor and city manager when they came over to my seat that night during a break, even mentioning how many times I've contacted City Hall over the years trying to get it dealt with.
What's happened since?
While it may seem like a small thing, it's illustrative of the city's longtime inability to do things
competently, efficiently and with courtesy.
That's why it's been such a longtime bête noire of mine.
Broward Palm Beach New Times
Hallandale draws a bead on its most vulnerable citizens
By Bob Norman
Published: March 27, 2008
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