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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mayor Cooper's mercurial temperament makes CRA meeting a mockery of democracy!



Mayor Cooper's mercurial temperament makes CRA meeting a mockery of democracy!


Wednesday March 4th, 2009  4:00 p.m.

Very early this morning I wrote an email and later blog post borne out of my concern for a Special CRA Meeting today concerning the consideration of a loan application for a large sum of CRA funds for what I believe is a truly speculative and hare-brained scheme that has more holes in it than even, yes, Swiss cheese.

Things reached such a low today that Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper decided after the public agenda had already been placed on the city's website and printed, that members of the public like me who wanted to speak to the issue -in my case, after waiting for three-and-a-half hours since it started- that this issue was not actually a CRA matter, but rather "city business" and therefore, the public WASN'T allowed to speak.

That was the explanation that I was given around 1:35 p.m. or so by acting City Clerk Shari Canada, and a few minutes l
ater, after seeing the way that things had seemingly all been set-up for a particular desired outcome, approval of the plan, I left and began thinking of what I'd say here, not having planned on writing anything until tomorrow.
And THAT bit of craziness and anti-democratic posturing came after lots of invective, threats and implicit mau-mau-ing by Comm. Anthony A. Sanders and some of his ardent supporters against Comm. Keith London over the city's purchase of the Eagles Wings Development Center on N.W. 1st Street for a price that many people, including myself, believe to have been excessive to say the least.

My own sense of things was that many of the people who showed-up in the Chambers did not properly understand either the timeline for the purchase nor the lack of a coherent city strategy behind the purchase, which would at least make some sense from their p.o.v..

Instead, the city, having now paid for the Sanders property, has no particular plan on what to do with it, including a tear-down and new building of some sort, and you now have the bizarre situation where the city is leaning towards letting the current occupants stay there for either free or a nominal charge, even paying taxes and other expenses, since, what do you know, Eagle's Wings doesn't have a new place to move into.
If that's the case, and it is, where, literally, there's no city plan for the property and no place for the current ccupants to move into now and continue with their myriad activities, why did the city of HB insist on doing the purchase now, saying that it had to be done right away?

So quickly, in fact, that Mayor Joy Cooper and City Manager Mike Good couldn't even wait until the next regularly-scheduled HB City Commission meeting, where a debate could take place and people could make their case for and against at a time and place that everyone in the community knew and understood?

Now that's a very good question.
You might even say that it's 'the $235,000 Question.'
That, of course, is the amount that city has paid Comm. Sanders and his wife for the parcel.


Hallandale Beach City Commission Chambers
March 4, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier

Hallandale Beach City Commission Chambers
March 4, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier
Hallandale Beach City Commission Chambers
March 4, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier
Hallandale Beach City Commission Chambers
March 4, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier
Hallandale Beach City Commission Chambers

March 4, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier
Bottom photo, left to right, seated:  acting City Clerk Canada, City Att'y David Jove,
Comm. Keith London, Comm. Dorothy Ross, Mayor Joy Cooper, Comm. William Julian, Comm. Anthony A. Sanders, City Mgr. Mike Good. 
Standing: principals Steve Fecske, President, and Sanders-supporter John Hardwick,
Executive Vice President.

Frankly, I was reluctant to get any closer to the dais than this during the agenda item,
given how testy Mayor Cooper was getting, actually making a motion to cut-off Comm.
London's line-of-questions about Steve Fecske's business experience,a not-unimportant question.
Shocker!
Commission rubber stamps Julian, Ross and Sanders promptly voted for the motion.

To me, the principals' Power Point presentation was, in a word, preposterous.
Literally, a montage of print ad bumpers like you've seem a million times before at a movie theater before the Coming Attractions reel starts, plus a couple of vague words thrown together on blank pages that sounded to me like they'd been ripped-out of a textbook on creating business plans they checked out of a library.
Vague, vaguer, vaguest.

They were clearly -embarrassingly obvious to meattempting to make a play for a yes vote by bending over backwards to make it seem like this effort of theirs would somehow help the city's African-American community, especially youth, with lots of talk about internships.

But there was next-to-nothing about their presentation that was actually unique to the City of Hallandale Beach, as well as its peculiar place in the South Florida area, demographically
and geographically, and everyone knows that these issues affect every aspect of life here,
for both good and bad.
Well, except for Fecske complaining about two specific HB businesses not being interested
in their particular idea, and requesting help (from the city?) in getting those two businesses
to change their minds on a corporate level.

Personally, I've been to what seems at times like millions of audio/video presentations -good, bad, indifferent and quite spectacular- while working in Chicago and Washington for, with and against some of the largest law firms in the country, as well as some of the most capable and resource-rich corporations in the country, as well as in two separate efforts to bring MLB to Northern Virginia, as I've previously written about here.
(I worked on some of the largest corporate mergers in American history while working in Washington, doing my bit for the cause.)

Trust me, I was literally cringing -when I wasn't giggling inside!- so eager was I for you all to see as quickly as possible how absurd and feeble this business plan of theirs was.
Most troubling from an academic p.o.v. was that their plan completely ignores everything
we know about human and consumer behavior, the worst of all possible sins for a project
based on marketing to the public.
Guess what?  People say one thing and do another.

You don't have to have read famed marketing guru and Kellogg professor Phillip Kotler,
or even had the pleasure of hearing him in person in a classroom like me, to know that,
yet these guys seem completely unprepared for clients to change their fickle minds quickly
after they see how poorly the plan performs.
That these guys didn't seem hip to that, only showed how deep a hole they've dug for
themselves, strategy-wise.

Sort of like the city's purchase of land without a particular plan for what to do with it, no?

I will try my best to get some of the video of this meeting onto my blog soon and also put
it on YouTube  for you to see.
I particularly recommend Fecske's obfuscations about his background as Comm. London
asked him some tough-but-fair questions about his involvement with the adult entertainment
industry.
These were questions that came up after Mayor Cooper said something about not wanting
the city to have these TV sets on their property if they would be showing ads for the Cheetah
Hallandale Beach's very own Cheetah!

I nearly lost it then when Cooper said the club's name, so often have I heard their ads on
WQAM sports programs!

To my way of thinking, London's questions tended to show that Fecske was at least slightly
exaggerating both his business track record and his ties to other companies that he said were
no longer in operation, one of which he headed and claimed was a $20 million company in
documents made public.
But London had a printout from the State of California website that said one of the companies
alleged to be kaput was actually still in operation as of yesterday, while another listed Fecske's
wife as the receiving agent.
H-m-m-m...

Fecske tried to make himself a martyr, and offered to answer questions in writing later.

Free business consultation of the week: Dude, you're asking for a loan of over $100K
from a city's CRA and you don't want to answer some easy questions about your own
business experiences?
Really?

After London got City Manager Good  to admit that the city had NOT performed any background or credit check on Fecske, I just thought to myself, this sounds exactly
like something you'd see on NBC Dateline.

One where you didn't catch the beginning of the segment but when they come back from the very next commercial break and do their requiste show story V.O. recital for people just tuning-in, you absolutely know that before the end of the program, someone will be saying adios after having received mucho dinero from a small town promising them the sort of (high-tech) answers to their simple problems that they want to hear, leaving townsfolk a little chastened and a litle wiser.
And much poorer!

That Mayor Cooper and Comm. Julian called these perfectly reasonable questions of Comm. London an "interrogation," tells you everything you really need to know about the simpleton nature of their own questions, which were more in the line of positive affirmations for what this traveling businessman selling hope from the back of his wagon before heading off to the next city over the horizon wants to hear.

And did I mention that Mayor Cooper never publicly said anything about the public NOT being allowed to speak to the assembled citizens in the Chambers and those at home watching on the city's bare-bones cable TV channel would know.
Nope!

That's just not her style.

It was only after Arturo O'Neil and I walked up to the City Clerk's sign-up area on the side of the dais, separately, that the City Clerk, in a rather snippy mood, said that the mayor had used her prerogative and decided it wasn't an HB CRA meeting, and that the public would NOT be allowed to speak -about a loan from HB CRA funds that was originally to be $200K, then $125k.



Above, Hallandale Beach resident and civic activist Arturo O'Neill outside the HB Commission Chambers around 1:45 p.m. this afternoon, after he and I witnessed yet another unbelievable anti-democratic performance by HB's Usual Suspects at HB City Hall: Cooper, Good & Jove.

A lot of people say that's life in Hallandale Beach, that, in fact, that's why the management and editors of the Miami Herald haven't sent anyone here since June.
I forgot, what do they call that new journalism award they hand out to newspapers for NOT covering local news.
Oh right, The Rocky Mountain News Memorial Out-of-Sight, Out-of-Mind Award

But honestly, to see Mayor Cooper display her sort of venal, autocratic despotism so brazenly today -with her poodle, Comm. William Julian snapping to attention when she left the dais for a few minutes- almost daring someone in the city or elsewhere to actually do something, like file a formal lawsuit or multi-layered ethics complaints against her and many other people
on that dais, esp. the ethically-challenged Julian, well, that day is getting MUCH closer
than she knows.

Queen Cooper is soon going to learn that her continuing fits of malevolent anti-democratic
attitude and tactics won't win her any points with people who can decide her future and
who don't give a damn about who she met with when she was in Washington, D.C.



Shocker! The city's full-page ad in last week's Sun-Times touts the mayor, of course.

By the way, in my original email below, I make reference to how long it takes for the Minutes of those Special meetings to ever see the light of day.
You know, the ones that Mayor Cooper intentionally conducts away from the glare and
scrutiny of cable TV cameras, the press or the public up in Room 257.
The room where votes are taken despite there being no public notice or published agenda?
Well, today under the Consent agenda there was a motion to approve Minutes for such
Special meeting from August 1st.  
Yep, just like I've always said: Seven months later.

This sort of practice makes sure that the Minutes are done far too late to be of any practical
value to the citizen taxpayers of this city who pay Cooper's salary and support her in the
new office she had built for herself for $3,700 on the second floor.

FYIThe big blog post I promised below about HB incompetency, complete with photos, will be up sometime on Thursday, not later tonight as originally planned.
But I can tell you that after I left the City Chambers when it was clear what was going to
happen-democracy be damnedI had Arturo come out and eyewitness exactly what I will be
sharing with you soon.

Arturo was just dumb-founded by what I showed him, as you, too, will be on Thursday
when you come to the blog and see for yourself.
Seeing is believing.

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