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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hallandale Beach insiders to offer goodies/new propaganda TV channel to HB City Hall for $200k CRA loan Wed. morning


Wednesday March 4th, 2009
1 a.m.

Sorry to be contacting you at such late notice but I've been under the weather the last two days, and only got around to writing this late Tuesday night.
As you'll see by the information I've placed at the bottom of this email, it concerns a matter to be voted upon Wednesday morning at a SPECIAL CRA meeting that is jaw-droppingly bad from a public policy p.o.v., which, on its own, doesn't preclude it from passing in HB 4-1, as we've seen over and over the past few years.

I'm writing you because something is afoot here in our city that promises to be one of the most over-the-top plans to ever be considered in a town that has seen a never-ending series of absurd things at HB City Hall.
Quite literally, in exchange for a $200,000 loan of CRA funds, Mayor Joy Cooper and Company are considering a quid pro quo for City Hall to increase their web of propaganda across the city to include large condos and businesses.
Really.

Like we're all not really living in a real city but doing the extended stay thing at The O'Hare Westin -a hotel I'm very familiar with- and I'm checking flight info on the TV from my room, except rather than helpful information, it's 100% positive propaganda about HB City Hall.
Can you imagine?

Do you recall what I wrote/joked about last year on my blog, after the city purchased space in the vanity sheet rag, the South Florida Sun-Times, and ran a completely preposterous ad masquerading as news about Pastor Anthony Sanders and the funny appraisal numbers for his property?

[001.JPG]

I joked that with a little more advanced warning and time, the city hall employee dispatched to write that condescending tripe on taxpayer time might've even written that Sanders was born in a log cabin -that he built himself.
(A la the jokes about Chuck Norris.)

This in a city like Hallandale Beach where there are currently ZERO graphics during HB City Commission or PNZ meetings identifying the issue being discussed, the particular time it occurred, etc., etc.
In other words, absent the very basic things which would make it possible to actually follow it intelligently at home on the city's existing cable channel.

The HB City Commission could change that policy overnight if they wanted to, since they not COMCAST control every aspect of the channel, but they don't want to do that for the same reason that they don't want to change their longstanding policy of voting on items NOT on the public agenda, done without public notice, and done without relevant supporting staff/independent documents, in a city hall room that doesn't have a TV camera to capture the magic moments.
It serves their own interests, not the public's.

Which means that the Minutes of those meetings in the hideaway might be available by Christmas!  (If then!)
That doesn't happen by accident, of course, but rather because that's how Mayor Joy Cooper and City Manager Mike Good want the city to function.

But as we know, it doesn't really function very well at all, does it?
Nope, problems go years and years without solutions, despite how simple they are to resolve. 

Compare the bare-bones HB City Comm. meeting broadcasts with those held in our neighbor to the north, the City of Hollywood, which is happy to be in the 21st Century and to have left the Pony Express behind.
There, their on-screen broadcasts show agenda number and title, as well as the exact time of the comments,

The fact that they also stream their city commission meetings online live, and even make it possible, a few days later after editing, to just watch the portion of the public agenda you want to see on your computer, is so simple and convenient you can't imagine.
Oh, that's right, you can imagine it, since it's already happening right next door.
Today, not in Disney's Tomorrowland pavilion.

And did I mention that when Hollywood Dept. directors speak about some issue, they usually use Power Point presentations that are actually shown on TV that make it easier for viewers at home via cable TV or computer to follow what's happening?
That RARELY happens in HB now.

The city's continued unwillingness to use the resources of the cable channel THEY ALREADY HAVE for anything else other than their own meetings, like video of Hallandale High school events, video of other city advisory board meetings, descriptions of the effects of construction projects around town, hobby programs, etc., the very sort of things that most towns around the country ALREADY do without a second thought.

But naturally, our reality is that the Joy Cooper-Mile Good crew is dead-set AGAINST it, as was evidenced by that absurd vote last Fall, when all but Comm. Keith London voted against the idea of the City Manager's own staff even looking into the idea of proving more programming.

That's the vote where Comm. Dotty Ross showed every one of her eighty-something years in embarrassing fashion by actually saying that she was concerned that it would well turn into "Saturday Night Live," an odd comment given that any programming on the city's cable channel would still need to be approved by the commission.
Incredibly, it's like Ross didn't fully realize that she was already one of the censors of what actually gets shown on the city's cable channel.
But she is.

Seriously, what's more embarrassing, Ross' archaic, anti-democratic notions, or her actually thinking SNL in any way represents cutting-edge humor? 
It's a wonder that she didn't say something about Lenny Bruce!

Besides the abstract idea of it, consider who the people are who are involved in this loan from the city's CRA.
They are NOT people who have spoken out in favor of increased accountability,  transparency or fairness at Hallandale Beach City Hall, and tangible solutions for longstanding city problems that have been kicked down the road, month-after-month, year-after-year.

Or who've even showed an ability to bring real jobs to the city, given that these are the very people who are, apparently, too dumb to even know they can get their HB Chamber of Commerce meetings mentioned in the Daily Business Review -for free.
Every ethnic/professional/CoC/affinity business group in South Florida gets their meetings mentioned there in a regular listing -except Hallandale Beach's.

The HB Chamber that received $50,000 from City Hall, yet does what exactly, given their meager results and lack of standing in the community?
(In case you haven't seen it in a bit, the HB CoC website is a joke, literally just a roster of members. That's what $50,000 in taxpayer money gets you?)

And in case you didn't notice, co-applicant Joe Kessell is a past President of the HB Chamber.
Yes, the HB Chamber of Commerce that has no directional signs on a city street indicating where it's located, or even a sandwich board near the sidewalk, like most cities in America.

But somehow that all fits in a city where there are ZERO directional signs anywhere in it indicating where the City Hall is located.
Or the HB Police Dept. HQ.
Or the HB Fire/Rescue HQ.
Or even the HB Cultural Center, behind City Hall.
Even at the city's busiest intersection, U.S.-1 and Hallandale Beach Blvd., just three blocks away.

Showing a very different approach, Gulfstream Parkhas directional signs as far away as Ojus on W. Dixie Highway in north Dade, to show its location miles away.
And there are similar signs near The Flashback Diner, even though it's directly across the street from the main Gulfstream Park entrance on U.S.-1. 

For Joe Kessell"It's a Small World, Afterall," to continue that Disney allusion.
No, they are cronies and associates of the very people in charge who are responsible for HB's longstanding laughing-stock status.

They could care less about Mayor Cooper spending $3,700 for a new city hall office even though there's nothing wrong with her old one to justify the expense.
She just wanted it, and that was enough.

And in case it hasn't dawned on you yet, these are the very people who disparage efforts by people in the community like you and I who actually attend meetings, and know what's going on, to make the city's elected leaders and their notoriously lazy employees accountable to the people, and actually respect the spirit and letter of Florida's laws, most especially, the Sunshine Laws.

Yes, the very state laws that HB City Attorney David Jove seems to be so unaware of that he's twice looked the other way and allowed them to violate it just since Thanksgiving alone, as we know all too well, what with the approval of the City Manager's over-the-top contract and the purchase of the Sanders property at tens of thousands of dollars more than it's truly worth in the year 2009, for a city project that nobody at HB City Hall can actually point to, describe or explain with a straight face.

Oh, and what about this particular group's eligibility for CRA money?
Have they met the meager standards the city requires?
In the words of the city's own Robert Moses, Richard Cannone, they have NOT.

"...Under the current Business Incentive Program requirements, applicants are required to own the real property, in which they want to expand and/or relocate.
This applicant does not own the real property, in which they are looking to operate this business....

In any other city, that should make it case closed, but not here with Joy Cooper and Mike Good in charge, and their three rubber stanps in tow: Julian, Ross and Sanders.
What's a few requirements among pals? 

And what do you know, they actually show the very property that Sanders just made a killing on from the city as a signed client:
Eagles Wings Development Center 501 Foster (Signed)
Now that's convenient!!!

I wonder if he'll mention that in the opening disclosure portion of the
meeting?

The more you read the details of this, the more you come to realize that the city's existing cable channel ought to already be providing the very programming these characters say they'll offer in exchange for $200,000 of taxpayer funds.

Notwithstanding the absurd proposed Marlins Stadium taxpayer bailout of owner Jeffrey Loria, there is little chance that such a one-sided, deal could even get thru the front door of 99% of South Florida's municipalities, much less, actually get on the public agenda with the City Manager's staff approving it.
But as we all know too well, Hallandale Beach isn't like any other place in the Sunshine State.
That's a point that my blog post tomorrow evening on city hall competency, replete with photos, will make crystal clear in ways that will get it noticed, even in Tallahassee.
Trust me, seeing will be believing, even for those of you who claim that nothing
here will ever surprise you!

Let me leave you with this anecdote.
Last Wednesday night, for yet another Special HB CRA meeting, I spoke to Sun-Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo for a moment or two, before he moved to the other side of the room.
Nothing deep, just some general pleasantries just days after his spot-on Sunday
column and later blog post about the Sanders land deal.

I'd shown up to the meeting feeling a bit queasy from something I'd eaten earlier, so
once I saw that the Forest City proposal wasn't going to get the scrutiny I thought it deserved, I jotted down a few things for Mayo to read before he left the City Commission Chambers.
Just a few handy facts so he'd know exactly where he was.

I pointed out to him that just as had been the case for at least three weeks that I personally know of before the November election, EVERY single public parking lot light alongside HB City Hall and the HB Police Dept. HQ was out.
(They still are, a week later!
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!)


I then told him that later, as he sat in his car on northbound U.S-1 at the traffic light in front of Gulfstream Park, be sure to take a look at the four green internally illuminated street signs at the intersection.
I told him that only one of the four signs worked, and that one, the east-side U.S.-1 sign, was more like a 30-watt bulb in what should be a 100-watt bulb, i.e. barely noticeable.
Then I told him what you all know -that this intersection, in front of HB City Hall, in front of the city's largest private employer, had been exactly like this for well over FOUR YEARS.

Four years of the Mayor, the City Manager, the Police Chief, the Fire Chief, the City Commission and all the city employees ignoring the problem, even though I've mentioned it for years.
But they do nothing. 

I told him something along the lines of doubting that the folks running the Seminole
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood would tolerate that sort of thing in front of
their property for more than a single night, if that.

So after writing all this, I folded my sheet of paper and placed one of my business cards on it and suggested that he look at the note before he left.

And as Paul Harvey would famously say at this point, "and now you know
the rest of the story."


Below, the photo I snapped late Tuesday afternoon. 
I've highlighted the item below in red
_______________________________________________




REGULAR AGENDA (Supporting Docs)
CITY COMMISSION, CITY OF HALLANDALE BEACH
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 04, 2009 10:00 AM

1.    CALL TO ORDER

2.    ROLL CALL

3.    PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

4.    PRESENTATIONS AND REPORTS

A.   Presentation of Certificates to the Student Citizens of the Month

B.   Presentation from Navarro Security Regarding Services Provided to the Golden Isles Safe Neighborhood District AR# 002/09

C.   Discussion of Public Works Construction Projects

5.    PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (to be heard at 10:15 A.M.)

6.    CONSENT AGENDA

A.   Approval of Minutes - Special Meeting August 1, 2008, Regular Meeting September 29, 2008, and Regular Meeting October 15, 2009(Supporting Docs)

7.    PUBLIC HEARINGS (to be heard at 10:30 A.M.)

A.   An Ordinance Of The City Of Hallandale Beach, Florida, Amending Chapter 32, Article V, of The City Of Hallandale Beach Code of Ordinances, The "Zoning And Land Development Code"; Amending Section 32-790, "Time Limits And Revisions"; Providing For Conflicts, Providing For Severability; Providing For An Effective Date (Second Reading)(Staff: Director, Development Services)(See Backup) CAD#010/08 (Staff ReportSupporting Docs)

The Ordinance was passed on First Reading on February 18, 2009 with a vote of 5/0.

B.   An Ordinance Of The City Of Hallandale Beach, Florida, Amending Chapter 32, Article VIII, “Notice Requirements” of the City Of Hallandale Beach Code Of Ordinances, The “Zoning And Land Development Code”; Providing For Conflicts; Providing For Severability; Providing For An Effective Date (Second Reading) (Staff: Director, Development Services)(See Backup) CAD #032/07 (Staff Report,Supporting Docs)

The Ordinance was passed on First Reading on February 18, 2009 with a vote of 5/0.

8.    CITY BUSINESS

A.   Pursuant to Chapter 23, Section 23-105, Award of Contract, Request Authorization to Award Bid #FY2008-2009-002, Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) NE 2nd Street Drainage Improvement Project, to the Lowest Responsive, Responsible Bidder, Tenex Enterprises, Inc., in the Total Amount of $639,325.50. (Staff: Director, Utilities & Engineering) (see backup)CAD#017/05 (Staff ReportSupporting Docs)

B.   Consideration of a funding request from Digital Outernet Inc.(DOI), through the CRA Economic Development/Business Incentive Program in the amount of $125,000, as outlined in the Staff Report. (Staff:  Director, Development Services)(See Backup)  CAD# 005/02 (Staff Report,Supporting Docs)

TO BE HEARD IN CONJUNCTION WITH COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY ITEM # 3.A.                         

9.    COMMISSIONER REPORTS

10.  OTHER

11.  PLANNING AND SCHEDULING MEETING (to be heard during lunch recess in Room 257)

_____________________________________
http://www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/files/2009-03-04/staff%20reports/00004099.htm



CITY OF HALLANDALE BEACH, FLORIDA
MEMORANDUM

DATE:          February 18, 2009

TO:               D. Mike Good, City Manager

FROM:         Richard D. Cannone, Director of Development Services

SUBJECT:   Digital Outernet Inc., Business Incentive Loan Applicant CAD# 005/02                                                  

PURPOSE:

Consideration of funding for Digital Outernet Inc. (DOI), through the CRA Economic Development/Business Incentive Loan Program (ED/BILP). 

BACKGROUND:

In FY1999-2000, the City Commission/Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Board of Directors approved the establishment of an Economic Development Incentive Program. In establishing this program, the City Commission/CRA Board of Directors directed that each request for incentive assistance be placed on the agenda for consideration. Award of an incentive would be considered if a new business was seeking to locate within the City/CRA or if an existing business was expanding.

Under the Economic Development Business Incentive Loan Program (ED/BILP) loan terms 15% of the loan is forgiven and the remaining 85% is payable at 4% interest over 10 years. The applicant will be required to sign a promissory note and mortgage documents, to secure the remaining 85% of the loan.

DISCUSSION:

On November 24th, 2008 staff received a Business Incentive Loan Program application, Letter of Intent and Business Plan from Digital Outernet Inc., a new start up venture, registered with the State of Florida. Digital Outernet, a digital sales and advertising company, is seeking financial assistance in the amount of $200,000, through the CRA Business Incentive Program.

The company seeks to install approximately 125—32” or 42” LCD screens in approximately 40 - 60 businesses, condominiums and (8) City facilities throughout the City, which will provide advertising and/or marketing material, through what the company identifies as the “City Channel” network. The company intends to create an additional 9 -12 new jobs. Currently, the corporate structure outlines five (5) board executives, which are as follows:

1.    Steve Fecske                       President
2.    John Hardwick                     Executive Vice President
3.    Albert Cohen                        Chief Technical Officer
4.    Steve Tcherchain                Director of Technology          
5.    Joe Kessel                           Vice President of Sales

Staff along with the City Manager have met with representatives from Digital Outernet over the course of 8 months to discuss the business plan and items related to the operations of the business. During these meetings staff discussed the following items: security (i.e. equipment and data protection), overall benefits to the City, the company’s financial stability, organizational ownership and responsibilities.

  1. Benefits: The benefits offered to Hallandale Beach are primarily intangible, and include:
    1. The City will receive free services from the City Channel’s production for signage creation.
    2. The City will be able to schedule special programming, such as events, fund-raisers and employment opportunities and advertise at no cost to the City.   
    3. The City Channel offers the City an additional media outlet to distribute pertinent emergency information to residents.

  1. Revenues: No additional revenues will be provided to the City, other than funds received from the loan repayments.

CRA PLAN COMPLIANCE:

As part of the Updated Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Plan approved in 2004, the approval of funding for this venture would support the following goal, objectives and policies of the CRA Plan:

  1. Goal #2: The CRA shall implement projects and programs addressing targeted needs as well as area-wide concerns within the CRA.

  1. Objective #2: The CRA shall strive to improve the overall visual appearance of the CRA and strengthen economic development and viability.

  1. Objective #3: The CRA shall strive to encourage public relations and public awareness of activities within the CRA.

  1. Policies:

1c. The CRA Plan shall be reasonably flexible in accomdating private sector initiatives and future economic trends and opportunities

2e. The CRA, in coordination with the City of Hallandale Beach, may implement one or more subsidized or outright grant programs for the exterior and interior improvements to the commercial property, for expansion of existing business and for new business location within the CRA.

Considering the current economic downturn seen on local, state and national levels, CRAs are instrumental in stimulating and promoting economic development throughout their local area and neighboring communities. The City and the CRA approach economic development from various fronts such as:

1. Creation - New businesses develop in the community through entrepreneurial activities;

2. Attraction - New industries come into the community, either through the relocation of existing businesses or the establishment of new branch locations;

3. Retention - Companies, which are already established in the community, remain in the community and do not shut their doors or move elsewhere;

4. Expansion - Existing business establishments expand and increase their production or services offered. This leads to enlarging the physical location size, hiring new employees, and purchasing additional materials and supplies.

The DOI business model could afford local participating businesses the ability to create economic development activities, such as increased foot traffic and market exposure, which in turn could sustain our local business economy.

CONCLUSION:

Under the current Business Incentive Program requirements, applicants are required to own the real property, in which they want to expand and/or relocate. This applicant does not own the real property, in which they are looking to operate this business. The proposed location of operation is 708 Foster Road, which is owned by the Williams Family Trust, whereby DOI is leasing the building. Due to the applicant not meeting the ownership requirement, staff is requesting the City Commission/CRA Board of Directors consider waving this requirement and allow the City Manager to negotiate other means of securing funding and repayment.

Based upon staff’s analysis of the information outlined in the DOI Letter of Intent and Business Plan, staff is requesting City Commission/CRA Board of Directors consider of the request for funding subject to the following conditions:

  1. Digital Outernet scale back their funding request to $125,000.
  2. Change their network name from “City Channel” as residents and business owners may think it is a City service.
  3. Establish a small business bank account before funding is awarded.
  4. Apply and obtain the proper Business Tax License, prior to the release of funding.
  5. Release funds similar to the Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP).
  6. Waive real property requirement and allow the City Manager to negotiate other means of securing funding and repayment.
  7. Business to provide the Development Services/CRA Department with an audited Annual Performance Review every year during the funding term of 10 years.

For FY08/09 the City Commission/CRA Board of Directors approved the budget of $395,694, for the CRA Economic Development/Business Incentive program.



RECOMMENDATION:

The City Commission/CRA Board of Directors to approve the request from Digital Outernet Inc., for economic development incentives in the amount of $125,000, to assist in start-up expenditures, as presented. In addition, authorize the City Manager to negotiate the funding terms and disbursement of funds in the best interest of the City, subject to the following conditions:
  
  1. Digital Outernet scale back their funding request to $125,000.
  2. Change their network name from “City Channel” as residents and business owners may think it is a City service.
  3. Establish a small business bank account before funding is awarded.
  4. Apply and obtain the proper Business Tax License, prior to the release of funding.
  5. Release funds similar to the Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP).
  6. Waive real property requirement and allow the City Manager to negotiate other means of securing funding and repayment.
  7. Business to provide the Development Services/CRA Department with an audited Annual Performance Review every year during the funding term of 10 years.



Prepared By: ____________________________
                      Bobby Robinson, CRA Manager

Reviewed:

_________________________                                                        _____________
D. Mike Good, City Manager                                                                       Date


___ Approved                                  ___ Denied                              ___ Hold for Discussion

Comments:

______________________________

Contract and background info is at:

Page 9 is particularly absurd!

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