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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hardly Breaking News: Anthony A. Sanders' Political Honeymoon is Over

My comments follow the spot-on comments of South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo below.
It's a copy of an email I'd already been writing long before Michael Mayo's powerful one-two punch of Sunday and Monday, with his column and blog posting on the latest (but certainly not the last) Hallandale Beach ethical scandal at City Hall.

Once I saw his column early Sunday morning, online, and then re-read it again over lunch at Denny's, I knew that the time had come to finally send out the thoughts that have been percolating inside my head since last August.

I post that email here with the hopes that perhaps reading Mayo's words and perspective, along with mine, might finally penetrate the brick wall of some in the community, who refuse to acknowledge what's been right in front of them at City Hall for so long, in all its petty and galling form.

I sent this out as an email on Tuesday afternoon to not only citizens, residents and business owners I know in Hallandale Beach, Hollywood and Aventura, but also to many print/TV reporters, columnists, producers, editors and management at South Florida media properties, most of whom I either know or have communicated with at some point in the recent past.
Many of them are quite familiar faces, people whose names you'd recognize, while others were folks who toil behind-the-scenes, but whose opinion helps decide what does and does not appear in print or on screen.
Yes, gate-keepers.

I also made a point of sending a copy to some of their sharper counterparts around the state in Orlando, Tampa/St.Pete, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and points in-between, whom I've also communicated with in the past on one issue or another, often about transit and transportation policy.

Many of them have also written about similar govt. excesses and abuses of power, or violations of the Sunshine Laws throughout the state, so they have a natural interest in the subject and want to know when and where it's happening again.

Unethical and anti-democratic behavior by locally elected government officials and their employees, coupled with efforts to usurp Florida's Sunshine Laws, ought to be of concern in every Florida community and news room, regardless of where it's located.
It simply can't be tolerated, and after the people behind it are exposed, they need to be properly punished and made an example of, to discourage similar behavior elsewhere.

In the current sad case involving Hallandale Beach, the serial offenders are 4/5ths of the elected City Commission, the City Manager and the City Attorney, whose collective ethical standards are so malleable and self-serving that they actually take umbrage at you describing the truth about what they do.

How dare I tell the truth about what they do!

Don't I know that Mayor Joy Cooper went to The White House recently?
Yeah, I know -big deal.

Neither President Obama nor his staff had any earthly idea of who and what Mayor
Joy Cooper is, and what she's capable of, for if they did, she'd never have been allowed to get past the White House security gate she went through, a gate I have more than passing familiarity with.

No, an elected official who consistently displays the sort of anti-democratic behavior and ethical scruples of Joy Cooper would never been allowed to set foot anywhere near the White House when Jed Bartlet was president, because you can be damn sure that either Toby Zeigler or Josh Lyman -or both!- would've made it crystal clear to Miami mayor Manny Diaz what the consequences would be if he didn't have a heart-to-heart talk with Cooper at the hotel.

Something along the lines of:
"Mayor Cooper, The White House says you can't come over for the League of Cities ceremony.  They found out about your completely un-necessary $3,700 City Hall office construction project, and didn't like the way it looked.  They were greatly concerned that a Florida reporter might ask if you are an example of the kind of person who will be making spending decisions with the economic
stimulus funds Washington is sending out."

Right, someone who bills city taxpayers for a new City Hall office that's not necessary, and who enjoys staying overnight at upscale South Florida hotels on the taxpayers dime when her home is less than an hour away, because it feeds into both her imperious attitude and bottomless well of vanity.

As someone who knew both the facts and the City Hall attempts to evade and obfuscate, not just with the Sanders' property in question here, but with all the other questionable incidents over the recent past, some of which have yet to even see the light of day, I was happy to temporarBoldily play the role of Paul Revere.


I also took the liberty of sending a copy of this to many South Florida politicians and state legislators, in particular, the entire Broward County Commission.
I did that so that they could NOT once again claim they didn't know anything about it, an excuse I and other Hallandale Beach citizens have heard far too many times in the past when illegal or questionable things happened in this community.

There's no denying that the "It's just Hallandale Beach" excuse is a very powerful one, as I've been told before by reporters and columnists that I respect, and as there's been so much anti-democratic negativity emanating out of Hallandale Beach City Hall for so very long, at a certain point, people outside the immediate community reach a saturation point and don't want to hear any more about it. 

But those of us who actually live here think we deserve much better than what we've been given, and will start holding publicly accountable the very people in government and law enforcement who are supposed to protect and preserve the rights of the public under both state and county laws -or report on same

As it happens, I also sent a copy of this to the offices of Governor Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum, so that their staffs would know in no uncertain terms, exactly what the citizens of this community are up against at Hallandale Beach City Hall -determined serial offenders.
______________________________

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

For one politician, Hallandale Beach's land purchase seems heaven-sent

Michael Mayo

News Columnist

February 22, 2009

The Hallandale Beach City Commission moves in mysterious ways. Take the case of Higher Vision Ministries and the Eagle's Wings Development Center in the city's impoverished northwest area.

At a hastily called Feb. 12 special meeting, the commission approved buying the church-owned property where the Eagle's Wings community center stands for $235,000.

That's $35,000 more than the city's most recent appraisal of the land (in November), nearly $90,000 more than the value listed by the Broward property appraiser and $190,000 more than the church paid for the land in 2001.

Considering the way the economy and local real estate market have been tanking, that's a pretty sweet deal for Higher Visions.

So who runs the church and the social-service center? Pastor Anthony Sanders.

The same Anthony Sanders who's a Hallandale Beach commissioner.

"We were supposed to do this two years ago, long before I was on the commission," Sanders said Friday. "Back in early 2007, the price was $350,000. This should have been done a long time ago, but the city kept dragging its feet."

Sanders, elected to the commission in November after being appointed last summer, abstained from the 3-1 vote. He said the price was fair, noting two other appraisals that valued the property at $275,000 and $230,000.

But one city-sponsored appraisal put it at $147,000, and the most recent valued it at $200,000.

Given the circumstances, Commissioner Keith London (the lone dissenter) said the city should have waited longer. Or at least had the sense to take up the matter as a clearly labeled agenda item at a regular commission meeting.

The land purchase wasn't listed on the agenda for the special meeting. It was brought up as "other business" during the session called by Mayor Joy Cooper on an unrelated matter. The meeting wasn't held in the commission's usual spot where sessions are videotaped, but instead was in an upstairs room without cameras.

"Does this pass the smell test?" said London. "I don't think so."

You'd think Hallandale Beach commissioners, who took a public relations pounding for engineering a pay raise in a similarly sneaky way a couple years ago, would have learned by now.

The city, through its Community Redevelopment Agency, has vague plans to build an affordable housing project on the block where the center stands.

"We're doing it for the good of many, many people in Hallandale," said Vice Mayor Bill Julian, who approved the deal with Cooper and Commissioner Dorothy Ross.

London didn't understand the rush: "If somebody said we have to buy this parcel by a certain date to complete a plan or it will fall through, then I could see doing it. But there is no plan."

I called City Manager Mike Good to get their version of events but didn't hear back.

Sanders said the deal closed on Feb. 13, the day after the special meeting, with the money already in the bank. The Eagle's Wings center hasn't been given an eviction date, he said. The center, which provides computer and other training classes and submits food-stamp applications for residents, was open on Friday.

"Is it standard to buy a property from a commissioner and then let them use it rent-free?" London said.

Sanders said London is grousing because of "envy."

"This isn't a personal thing," London said. "It's a finance issue."

Sanders' church bought the property for $45,000 in 2001. Eagle's Wings has received $130,000 in city grant money this decade, along with county and state contracts. The nonprofit agency's 2007 tax return listed income of $113,190 in government grants.

Sanders, a longtime activist in the northwest area, said the city's purchase of the property is "just a drop in the bucket," noting the $12 million the city spent to acquire land for a park in a better part of town.

Sanders has been critical of the redevelopment agency's stagnant efforts in the northwest. Two-thirds of Hallandale Beach falls within the CRA boundaries, including robust areas near Gulfstream Park.

"When the economy was up, we didn't do anything [in northwest] and now the economy is down and they say we can't do anything," said Sanders. "So when can you do something?"

Seems like Sanders' commission colleagues have already done plenty for him.

Reader comments at: http://www.topix.net/forum/source/south-florida-sun-sentinel/TFOEQPNE0606QV7J6


Michael Mayo followed-up his spot-on Sunday column with a Monday post on his blog, Mayo on the Sideheadlined, Hallandale mayor: Land deal didn't need commission approval

http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/columnists/mayo/blog/2009/02/hallandale_mayor_land_deal_did.html



Reader comments at: 


-----------------


Now we have witnessed not so much the 'last straw' as much as the last logical move that we've all, more or less, been anticipating since the 'August Surprise" resignation of Commissioner Fran Schiller.
A calculated move that suddenly brought Pastor Anthony Sanders into our midst at Hallandale Beach City Hall within five minutes of the announcement of a future vacancy, all without ever allowing the public to comment in any way before the vote took place.

A vacancy that was filled like a 'Rush-order' in five minutes, despite their being another regularly scheduled HB City Commission meeting two weeks later, well
before Schiller's resignation would go into effect.
A public meeting where HB citizens and residents could've spoken to the sort of qualifications or qualities they preferred in an interim commissioner, not
what kind Mayor Cooper and City Manager Mike Good preferred.

At a minimum, regardless of the public's own individual personal preference for a replacement, most would've insisted that the position be filled in exactly the same way as the last vacancy was handled in November of 2006, 21 months before, where Cooper and Good's City Hall repeatedly crowed to the press about theimportance of having a transparent and deliberate process in choosing Joe Gibbons' interim successor.

So what happened to that deliberate process back in August?
Simply put, that process became an Inconvenient Fact, and got in the way of what they wanted to do.

Deep down, are you really surprised that the same City Hall crew that made their TRIPLE 'salary grab of 2007' or that approved Mike Good's over-the-top city manager's contract in December, all without the item being properly placed on the agenda, being properly noticed for the public, and without any staff/backup documents being offered before the vote, over lunch, would do it again?

As I've said so many times, there's nothing coincidental about it -that's their default M.O., modus operandi.
They're serial offenders without any shred of remorse.

Seriously, why, given the current economy and the awful financial condition of the city, would Mayor Cooper want to spend over $3,700 for construction of a new office for herself, when there was nothing physically wrong with her existing one?
Because she can, and she doesn't really care at all what you think about it. 


COMMISSIONER REQUEST

REQUEST #048/09

DATE: January 5, 2009  

        TO: Bill Brant, Director Public Works

        Jennifer Frastai, City Manager Administrator  

FROM: Commissioner Keith London  

THRU: D. Mike Good, City Manager

Your browser may not support display of this image.

The following information/action was requested by Commissioner Keith London as noted: 

      RE: Commission Office Expenses  

Please provide me with the following information: 

  • Copy of the time sheets for everyone who worked on Mayor Cooper new office space.
  • Wages including benefits for everyone who worked on Mayor Cooper new office space
  • Copy of expense reports for materials to create Mayor Cooper new office space.
  • Copy of receipts of materials
  • Original letter asking for a new office from Mayor Cooper
 

Additionally, please include what all commissioners have requested for office improvements                           

__________________________ 

      Please take the necessary steps to complete the request and submit a Summary

       Report to my office no later than January 19, 2009.

__________________________ 

DATE: January 13, 2009      

TO: D. Mike Good, City Manager 

FROM: William Brant, P.E., Director, Public Works, Utilities & Engineering  

Your browser may not support display of this image.RE: Above Commission Request 
 

SUMMARY REPORT:  

Staff received request on November 18, 2008, (W/O # WF0031889, WF 0031987) to install window in room 202, move the Mayor's furniture and paint Commissioner Sanders Office. This project was completed by December 31, 2008.  

Staff respectfully request to consider this CR completed and closed. (MM) 


Labor / Wages  

Pedro Perez $35.91 hr  48 hrs $1,724.00 Mayor's Office 

Michael Harris $27.37 hr 24 hrs $560.00 Mayor's Office 

Donald Williams $30.21 hr 7 hrs $211.00 Mayor's Office 


Edward Ryan $30.21 hr 8 hrs $241.00 Sanders Office

Total   87 hrs $2,736.00 


Invoices  

K&K Mirror $360.00

Home Depot $237.40

Sherwin Williams $232.44


Total $829.84 


PROJECT TOTAL $3,565.84 


Staff Researching Request  

Michael Morse $54.16  1.5 hrs  $81.24  

Dean Lettera $59.71  1.5 hrs  $89.56 

Yolanda Benitez $26.07  1 hr  $26.07

Total   4hrs  $196.87 
 

PROJECT TOTAL INCLUDING ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF  

84 HOURS $3,762.71 

___________________________________

Department Head Signature       Date 
 

Department Director/Staff Time to Complete: 4 hrs

Your browser may not support display of this image.

Your browser may not support display of this image.City Manager/Staff Time to Complete: 

_________________________

DATE: January 19, 2009     

TO: D. Mike Good, City Manager

FROM: Jennifer Frastai, City Manager Administrator

Your browser may not support display of this image.RE: Above Commission Request

SUMMARY REPORT: 

The following is a list of furniture expenses:

Mayor Cooper's:

Conference Table: $968.08

Desk Chair: $333.98

Guest Chair: $230.45

File Cabinet: $423.85

Delivery/Set up/Freight: $205.00


Commissioner Sanders:

Desk Chair: $203.49

Desk Accessories: $242.43

Guest Chair (2): 334.80

_____________________

Department Head Signature       Date

Department Director/Staff Time to Complete: 2 hrs

Your browser may not support display of this image.City Manager/Staff Time to Complete: 


So why do you suppose Mayor Cooper waited until AFTER the November election
to demand a new office, despite their being nothing wrong with her old one?

It's not an aberration, it's simply the way they WANT to do their 'business':
self-dealing and doling out your tax dollars to the favored few, away from
the public glare of both citizen's notice or the attendant prying eyes of the local media, such as it is.

There's a logical reason that all these particular matters happened in a HB City Hall room, over lunch, where not a single camera is present, and where Minutes of that particular proceeding won't be publicly available for many, many months:
Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper, City Manager Mike Good -and yes-man City Attorney David Jovewho continually winks at both the spirit and letter of our state's Sunshine Laws- are desperately trying to evade public scrutiny and accountability, otherwise they'd stop doing the same thing over-and-over, year-after-year.

But they're not stopping, are they?

Back in early August, Arturo O'Neill was sitting next to me in the HB City Hall Chambers the moment that Comm. Fran Schiller's "surpriseannouncement was made public.
Arturo immediately turned to me and even before Mike Good finished reading the Schiller resignation letter that he himself had written, said something amazingly prescient and remarkable.

Arturo said that he thought that Mayor Cooper would name Pastor Sanders
 as interim HB commissioner, and might, in effect, leverage that interim
appointment for her political support in the future, plus support the city's
purchase of the Sanders' property, even at a higher cost than seems logical, given the current real estate market, the property's location, and, certainly not least, NO specific public plan to actually do anything there that anyone could point to.

In exchange for his seat at the dais and the mayor's support, at some point in the future, Sanders would try to elicit/create public support in NW Hallandale Beach to re-visit the crazy and unpopular waste plant idea that Mayor
Cooper and City Manager Good attempted to foist on that community for so very long.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our new Nostradamus -my friend, Arturo O'Neill.
So far, 100% accuracy!

As soon as Arturo said it, it not only sounded 100% plausible to me, it sounded
exactly like the sort of crude sweetheart deal this HB City Hall crew would do,
regardless of how it looked publicly or the costs involved, financial or otherwise,
since as a practical matter, they practically dare HB citizens, residents and the press to do something about their unethical and questionable behavior by continuing to engage in it.
They've found a form of behavior and mode of operation that fits their particular self-interestsand they have no desire to abandon it.

Six-and-a-half months after Sanders was named a Hallandale Beach Commissioner, we now clearly see the logical and predictable result of that tactical move in August by Cooper & Company, just as Arturo presciently predicted.
We see the logical result of the Miami Herald and South Florida's Sun-Sentinel's editorial board election endorsement of Sanders for November's election, where the Sun-Sentinel wrote a story about the HB city commission
race AFTER their endorsement, and the Herald, well, they NEVER wrote even a single story about the HB race.

We see the logical result of the Herald's management and editors consciously choosing to NOT send a reporter to cover the HB City Commission meetings since early June of 2008, at the Joint City Commission meeting with the City of Hollywood, noteworthy for Mayor Cooper strongly suggesting the idea of Hollywood joining them in a lawsuit against the state because of their upcoming outfall requirements.

I've already mentioned to many of you over the past few weeks at venues all over the area that as far as I was concerned, Anthony A. Sanders' political honeymoon had long since ended, and that the very folks in this city who voted for him must now must be wondering just what exactly they got for their troubles in November.

I know for a fact that they wonder, because people have told me so, stopping me at grocery stores, coffee shops and even over at the beach, to share their disappointment and chagrin.

Of their dashed hopes that he'd be a positive voice for change and reform on the HB City Commission, and begin to undo the taint that has been attached to it for so many years.
And how they watch the Commission meetings from the Chambers or from their home on the city's under-utilized cable channel and wonder when he's going to actually -finally- ask a single good probing question from the dais that reveals some degree of knowledge about what's going on all around the city.
Instead, he gives the same canned responses and glittering generalities he's
been spouting for six months.

They wonder when he's going to actually show some independent thought, and
challenge something Mayor Cooper or City Manager Good says or does, not for the sake of disagreeing, but rather because he honestly disagrees with them and has what he believes is a better solution in mind to resolve a problem.
Instead, he simply nods in agreement, hour-after-hour, month-after-month.
Not a voice for change, reform or accountability, but rather just an echo chamber,
someone happy to be on the dais.

In the political and govt. system the City of Hallandale Beach operates in,
Sanders is supposed to represent ALL the citizens and residents of this city,
not just the ones in the NW part of the city, though you wouldn't necessarily
know it by what he and his supporters actually say and do.
And I say that as someone who gave him the benefit of the doubt, and who has long been in favor of a HB City Commission that was comprised of both fixed districts as well as at-large seats, like Aventura's.

If you're really curious and want to see what the real appraisal numbers for the Sanders property were before Mayor Cooper & Company appointed him to the commission, or forgot exactly how we got to this sad point, where the
public-be-damned is HB City Hall's motto, just go to my blog, since I publicly identified them LAST year.

Sanders property at 501 N.W. 1st Avenue, Hallandale Beach, Florida
The appraisal information then was as follows:

LB Slater Appraisal #13057 $147,000

LB Slater Appraisal #13057a $147,000

Butterfield Appraisal #8785 $275,000

Broward County Property Appraiser Value $146,360

Speaking of municipal boondoggles, if you haven't already seen it, please see the article and comments here:

As you may've noticed in the email address field above, I'm sending a cc of this to many people whom you've undoubtedly heard of or seen before, each of whom has power or influence to some degree by virtue of their job.

Some of them actually know all about what's been going on here in Hallandale Beach, and have either asked me or others about it via phone calls, emails or face-to-face encounters here in town, where they've seen for themself what things are really like here, dismayed at how self-evident the problems are, even while HB City Hall whistles past the graveyard.

Still others are folks who haven't shown any interest at all, but really ought to have, given their jobs, yet don't even bother to feign interest when they're made aware of what's been going on here for so long under the current HB City Hall crew.
I won't name names here, but they all know which category they fall into -and so do I.

In the future, you might want to ask some of them. especially the media people,
why there's such a pronounced indifference to what's going on here in the year 2009.

Ask them why it's so difficult for their media organization to cover local non-crime news in this part of Broward, and, IF this is going to continue, why
should you want to read/watch the words/video of people who are, at best,
indifferent to what's going on where you live.
It's your choice after all, and in the year 2009, they need you MUCH MORE
than you need them.

In particular, you might want to ask that question to the Herald's David
Landsberg, the paper's publisher and president. 
I will tell you, though that for myself at least, the longer the newspaper makes the conscious choices they do, which ratify the status quo, the less the Miami Herald's future, if any, is an emotional issue for me, and becomes merely an
academic question.

As for me, I no longer concern myself with the personal feelings of South Florida politicians, government employees, news reporters,  editors, producers and media management, who act like what I can readily observe everyday around me in this part of Broward County, is either NOT really happening, or isn't important.
I disagree and will make my future choices accordingly, and suggest that you do the very same.

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