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, Europe 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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wednesday's Hollywood City Commission meeting on pensions/benefits promises to be one to remember

August 30th, 2009

In case you haven't seen this morning's Miami
Herald editorial yet, there's a lot to ponder...

As it happens, I happen to receive the City of
Hollywood email agenda notification for city
commission meetings, which I got on Friday,
complete with working links to staff reports
and comments.

That's unlike the situation in Hallandale Beach,
whose City Clerk's office doesn't post this
information onto their awful website until Monday
morning, often less than 48 hours before the
HB city commission meeting is slated to start.
HB City Hall does the same for the agendas for
Planning & Zoning meetings.

The developers and their lobbyists and attorneys,
like Steve Geller or Debbie Orshefsky know
full-well what's coming-up before you citizens,
whom the City of HB thinks aren't important
enough to get that information until just two
days beforehand.

That's not by accident, it's intentional.
That's the way Mayor Cooper and City
Manager Mike Good want it.

The better to keep you in the dark for
as long as possible!

Police contract is before the Hollywood
commission on Wednesday afternoon and
I'll be there for what promises to be quite a
heated and maybe even philosophical meeting.

According to the info I received, the meeting
starts at 1 p.m. and the union pension matters
get going about 3 p.m..

Also, just for disclosure purposes, so you know,
my father was a Miami-Dade County police
officer for over 25 years, and was on the
Board of Directors of the Dade County PBA
for over 20 years.

(The first night of the McDuffie Riots, when he
was told to report immediately,
I had to drive
him from North Miami Beach where we lived
then, down to the downtown
Police Dept. HQ
at the Civic Center, not far from the Orange
-around midnight.

On the drive there and back on I-95 and the
826, I saw parts of Miami on fire, and heard
gunshots ringing
everywhere while also listening
to the radio broadcasts of what was going on.
Just in case I was pulled over on the expressway
by some cops,
since everyone was ordered to
stay off the roads, I was given the
business card
of a police commander or lieutenant for them
to contact
to prove I had a legit reason to be

Not that this experience prevents me from fully
realizing how drastically things need to change
with regard to the conduct and attitudes of the
HB Police, starting from the top with Police Chief
Thomas Magill, who needs to be fired for reasons
I've already enumerated on the blog and in past
emails, but also including getting rid of some HB
cops who, quite simply, have no business being
let loose in the community with a gun and a shield
and their perpetual bad judgment.

My blog post on the HB Police situation, complete
with photos, which I've been working on for awhile,
will take place soon, hopefully, later this week.
Trust me, there's an awful lot you don't know about,
which is why photos are so very helpful.

Also wanted to share this very interesting tidbit that
I first read about at Eye on Miami yesterday/early
this morning

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Miami-Dade County: There Could be Trouble Brewing. By Geniusofdespair


We need to be vigilant to make sure that similar
efforts to weaken the checks and balances and
existing threshold of public accountability for
passage, isn't tried at the Broward County
Commission, to benefit their developer pals
at the public's expense.

As one of the commentators responding to this
post presciently remarked, this seems nothing
less than a clear shot to pre-empt FL Hometown
before next November's election.
The other comments are quite on target as well.

I recently spied a copy of a similar fishy-smelling
paid county advert in the Herald re some other
upcoming M-D County hearings, which might be
the source of an upcoming blog post of mine.


Miami-Dade County: There Could be Trouble Brewing. By Geniusofdespair

So, what about the myriad low-lights, lies and
half-truths that took place at HB City Hall this
past week at the HB budget workshop, huh?

I'll have that here on Wednesday morning.
Miami Herald
Editorial http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/story/1207387.html#nonePosted on Sunday,

Unsustainable pension pandering

OUR OPINION: Cities and police and firefighter unions must renegotiate budget-busting pensions

August 30, 2009

Warnings not heeded about pension burden

It's as if we're living through a remake of The Blob .

In our real-life version of the 1958 horror classic, the pink undulating clump has morphed into a fearsome mass of 25-years-and-out cop and firefighter pensions.

The sheriff, like the knucklehead cop in the original movie, refuses to heed warnings that this oozing insatiable blob threatens to devour the county budget.

Hollywood commissioners likely to approve firefighters' pay contract

As Hollywood commissioners weigh shutting parks, delivering pink slips and hiking the tax rate to close a $22 million budget gap, they are poised to approve a union contract ensuring steady pay raises and solid pension benefits to city firefighters.

The proposed contract, set for a vote Wednesday, would give firefighters a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment each year for the next three years -- on top of raises they already received for promotions and long-term service. A separate pension agreement guarantees a minimum rate of return to employees, regardless of how well the market does.

Critics say the contract, even with its generally modest increases, comes at a time the city cannot afford it and puts a spotlight on escalating government pension costs.

Miami politics, pensions a tricky balance

It's a political plum any politician would savor: endorsements from the four major public employee unions in South Florida's biggest city, Miami.

Yet for Miami mayoral candidate Tomás Regalado, the support carries with it a tough question: To what extent, if any, will Regalado crack down on union pension benefits that threaten the city's bottom line?

And will mayoral opponent Joe Sanchez -- trailing Regalado in some polls -- use his foe's union support to his own advantage?

Miami faces worst financial crunch in more than a decade

Despite an unprecedented high-rise building boom that broadened the tax base for most of the decade, Miami is sliding toward the brink of its worst financial crunch since 1996, when the city flirted with bankruptcy and ceded daily control to the state.

The city has depleted its reserves by more than $50 million to plug operating deficits in four of the last five years, a downturn that began well before the nation's economic meltdown.

To make ends meet, Miami has been moving money from its capital improvement funds to the general city budget -- a practice akin to a homeowner repeatedly taking money set aside for a home improvement project to pay the grocery bills. These moves were not easily accessible to the public.

We ask our police officers and firefighters to do things we won't do because of the risks involved.

In exchange we pay them more, make sure they are well compensated for any harm received on the job and allow them to retire at an earlier age than other government workers because of the stress and risks they face. All of this is fair.

What isn't fair is how much political clout the first responders' unions wield in local governments and in Tallahassee to the detriment of taxpayers.

That clout gets commissioners elected with low turnouts and generates favorable laws in the Legislature.

But when city commissioners agree to hefty raises and more benefits for police and firefighters the pandering creates problems for taxpayers -- as has the Legislature when dumping unfunded mandates on local governments to curry favor with police and firefighters unions.

That's what happened in 1999 when the Legislature approved and then-Gov. Jeb Bush signed a change into law that limits how cities can use a long-standing state fund that helps pay for local police and firefighter pensions. The fund is financed by an excise tax on property insurance premiums -- after all, what do first responders protect, if not property and lives? The Legislature told cities that they could no longer use the fund for basic pension costs -- only to tap into it for extended benefits for police and firefighters.

A double whammy

Lawmakers passed the bill to cities and mandated better benefits. This double whammy, plus a series of later legislative-inspired local tax cuts, has put big burdens on cities even without the recession.

Government pensions are funded by contributions from workers, their employers and the return on investments. With the stock market in free fall in the past year, cities find themselves having to pony up far more than usual for pension funds to make up for investment losses.

And while the stock market shows hopeful signs of recovery, South Florida's housing slump and the recession it fueled are taking big chunks out of municipal budgets.

It's unsustainable.

The city of Miami will pay an extra $32 million into its pension funds in 2009-10. Consider that since 2001, Miami's pension bill has risen from $13.9 million to $60.8 million this year. Pension costs are projected to rise to almost $100 million by 2010.

That will consume almost one-fifth of the city's operating budget -- a Herculean challenge for a city that has a high poverty rate and dwindling property tax revenue because of empty condos and foreclosed homes.

Unrealistically generous

Many Broward cities also are scrambling to close pension holes created by unrealistically generous pension promises. For its firefighter fund alone Hollywood will pay an additional $9.2 million next year, more than double what the city contributed five years ago -- a portent of future pension demands.

Many cities are planning layoffs and cutting back services to balance budgets. Pension costs are just one contributing factor. But in Miami, which misused firefighter pension funds in the 1980s to pay for other city obligations, pensions based on out-of-control salary bumps threaten to bankrupt the city.

Under the so-called Gates settlement, Miami must use general-revenue money to keep the pension plan whole if stock market returns plummet, as they did last year.

Renegotiate contracts

Eventually the stock market will stabilize, and South Florida pension funds will see higher returns again, providing some relief. But cities will still be on the hook for ever higher police and fire pension costs.

The benefits are now so out of whack that taxpayers simply can't sustain them.

Yet city officials keep pandering. Hollywood is renegotiating its police, firefighter and general employee contracts as it faces a $22 million budget gap.

Incredibly, commissioners and Mayor Peter Bober agreed to give firefighters a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment each year for the next three years, on top of raises they already received for promotions and long-term service. This salary-and-pensions contract will set the precedent for the others still in negotiation.

The firefighters union made some concessions: New hires' starting pay will drop 14 percent, and they will be guaranteed a smaller return on their pension investments (now at 8 percent; the state's is at 6.5 percent) if they enter the Deferred Retirement Option Program, which is another disaster in the making.

To their credit, union officials in several cities have also said they'll work with their city leaders to find ways to reduce costs.

Clearly, pension-plan concessions are going to have to be part of the solution. Taxpayers are at a breaking point.

Reader comments at:

See also: Hollywood Budget: A Stone Unturned
at http://www.balancesheetonline.com/money.htm

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Hallandale Beach Blog is where I try to inject or superimpose a degree of accountability, transparency and insight onto Florida and local Broward County government and public policy issues, which I feel is sorely lacking in local media now. On this blog, locally, I concentrate my energy, enthusiasm, anger and laser-like attention on the coastal cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood and Aventura.

If you lived in this part of South Florida, you'd ALREADY be stuck in stultifying traffic, paying higher-than-necessary taxes and continually musing about the chronic lack of accountability among not only elected govt. officials, but also of city, county and state employees as well. Collectively, with a few rare exceptions, they couldn't be farther from the sort of strong results-oriented, eager work-ethic mentality that local residents deserve and expect. But seldom if ever see...

This is particularly true in the Broward County city I live in, the City of Hallandale Beach, north of Aventura and south of Hollywood and right on the Atlantic Ocean. Here, the "Perfect Storm" of years of apathy, incompetency and cronyism are all too readily apparent. Sadly for its beleaguered residents, HB is where even easily-solved, quality-of-life problems are left to fester for YEARS on end, because of myopia, lack of common sense and ineffective supervisory management. It's a city with tremendous potential because of its terrific location and well-educated populace, yet its citizens have almost become numb to HB City Hall's frequent outrages and screw-ups, the result of YEARS of the worst kind of mismanagement and lack of foresight. On a daily basis, residents and Small Business owners wake up and see the same old problems that have never being adequately resolved by the city in a logical and responsible fashion, merely kicked -once again- further down the road for others to solve in the future.

I used to ask myself, not always rhetorically, "Where are all the enterprising young reporters who want to show that through their own hard work and enterprise, what REAL investigative reporting can produce?" Hearing no response, I decided to start a blog of my own that could try to do some of these things, taking the p.o.v. of a reasonable-but-skeptical person seeing the situation for the first time with fresh eyes, and wanting questions answered in a honest and logical way that citizens have the right to expect.

Hallandale Beach Blog intends to be a catalyst for positive change in public policy and goivernment engagement. If there's one constant gripe in South Florida, regardless of your age, race, nationality or political persuasion, it's about the fundamental lack of PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY of Florida's state, regional and local govt./agency officials, elected and otherwise. Hallandale Beach Blog aims to be a small step towards regaining some of that needed accountability, whether it's thru shining some well-needed public scrutiny on the issue or pol, or requires a higher degree of follow-up investigation and public exposure of the incompetency, cronyism or negligence -South Florida's usual governing style.

Paradise Lost? South Florida

Paradise Lost? South Florida
TIME magazine of November 23, 1981: Paradise Lost? South Florida . Click photo to see original article.
Unless otherwise indicated, all ORIGINAL photos appearing here were taken by myself. © 2014 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved. The use or modification of original photos or original images appearing on this blog WITHOUT the written permission of the author is expressly prohibited. DO NOT modify or alter any original photo/image on this blog and use it in any other media, whether for commercial advertising, marketing purposes, political campaign advertising, or on any Social Media platform or digital media forum. Do NOT modify or alter the photos or use them in a confusing way that suggests sponsorship or endorsement, or in a way that seeks to confuse Hallandale Beach Blog with another blog. This includes but is not limited to sites such as Dipity, Facebook, flickr, MySpace, Pinterest, Posterous, Topsy, Twitter, YouTube or VIMEO. Original photos and images also can NOT be used as avatars or icons on website forums.

A fish rots from the head down, and so does local government in Hallandale Beach, FL

A fish rots from the head down, and so does local government in Hallandale Beach, FL
City of Hallandale Beach Municipal Complex, 400 S. Federal Highway. The City of Hallandale Beach Municipal Complex: If it's true that a fish rots from the head down, so it does in local government in Broward County, FL. This monument sign on the west side of the intersection of U.S.-1 and S.E. 5th Street, across from Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino and the Village at Gulfstream Park retail complex, alerts you to your proximity to HB City Hall and the HB Police Department HQ. It's a place and culture whose very own words and actions have made clear to taxpayers of this city -regardless of age, race or income- that it holds itself apart from and above from the very citizens it's supposed to serve, often acting like they don't have to follow the same laws that govern everyone else in the state of Florida and the U.S., whether of logic, reason or contracts. (More to the point of this blog, the Florida Statutes on Sunshine Laws and Public Records.) City employees in Hallandale Beach routinely refuse to answer perfectly reasonable questions posed to them by taxpayers, and as I have found out myself and witnessed, are not above berating you for even having the nerve to ask! As it happens, it's also not a very safe area, despite who operates here, and over the past nine years, the public parking lots have often been pitch-black for 6-9 months at a time, including in front of the HB Police Dept. HQ. Then-Police Chief Thomas Magill even shrugged his shoulders at City Comm. meetings when told about this a few times. As if they couldn't make a worse first impression, at one point, even the spotlights shining on this sign didn't work at night for over FOUR YEARS, either. October 13, 2012 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.


The welcoming party that greeted me at the luggage carousel at Arlanda Stockholm Airport in January of 2013 was... ABBA. As seen in my May 7, 2013 blog post. Click photo to see that post!


Hej #STHLM, jag saknar dig, hejdå. So wish I was there RIGHT NOW!

Solrea - Sveriges bästa resesök

Solrea - Sveriges bästa resesök
The colder and snowier it got in Stockholm, the more this simple ad seemed like genius. Sometimes, you don't have to reinvent the advertising wheel. When you're a travel agency and it's cold and snowing, make your target audience think of summers and traveling to an inviting warm beach. Above, one of the many Sistaminuten.se display ads I saw on the side of pay phones throughout Stockholm. This one was located on Ringvägen, across the street from the Åhléns Dept. store (with the Hemköp grocery store in the basement that I frequented) west of busy Götgatan and the Skanstull T-bana, the southern commercial heart of trendy and fun Södermalm. January 11, 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved. I used this photo in my April 22, 2013 blog post titled, Tourism game-changer for South Florida travelers & Fort Lauderdale-area businesses -but only if they're smart and start planning now. Ruminations on the upcoming Norwegian.com flights b/w Ft. Lauderdale and Oslo, Stockholm & Copenhagen, and the need for Broward's hospitality industry to take full-advantage of the opportunity; @Oslo, @norway, @stockholm, @sweden, @copenhagen, @denmark. Click photo to see that post

More travel advertising in Stockholm

More travel advertising in Stockholm
Speaking of advertising, only two blocks from the wonderful 4trappor B&B I stayed at in Södermalm, Stockholm on my trip -and also located on Ringvägen- were two more display ads promoting travel. The one in the distance is for SAS, Scandinavian Airlines Systems, which I flew on to Stockholm, and the one in the foreground, on a public telephone booth, is the "Holiday is where the Heart is" ad campaign for VING. January 12, 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved. Click the photo to see their TV ad!

Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino and Village at GP retail complex, Hallandale Beach, FL

Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino and Village at GP retail complex, Hallandale Beach, FL
Entrance monument to Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino and The Village at Gulfstream Park retail complex on U.S.-1 & SE 3rd St. Hallandale Beach, FL. October 5, 2010 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

Hallandale Beach Water Tower, looking east from State Road A1A/South Ocean Drive; May 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

Singer/songwriter Full of Keys (Anni Bernhard)

Singer/songwriter Full of Keys (Anni Bernhard)
Singer/songwriter Full of Keys (Anni Bernhard) wearing the teal-colored Miami Dolphins cap I gave her in January 2013 (in Stockholm) while recording her 2nd album, "The Grazing Grounds" at Sandkvie Studios in Visby, Gotland, Sweden. Also pictured here are sound engineer and co-producer Linus Larsson and musician/DJ/co-producer Mats Jönsson, April 12, 2013.Click the photo to see her videos, read my blog posts and Tweets about her and learn more about this dynamic and original talent with personality to spare!

North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers

North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers
Before I was a Hoosier, I was an NMB Charger, Class of 1979.

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation
"In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation." -South Beach Hoosier, 2007.

Let's end the 29-year NCAA title drought!

Let's end the 29-year NCAA title drought!
IU All-American and U.S. Olympian Steve Alford on the cover of the 1987 Indiana University basketball media guide, months after IU won the NCAA basketball title.

The NCAA Championship Banners

The NCAA Championship Banners
Assembly Hall, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. I was there in 1981 for NCAA Title #4 vs. North Carolina. Click on photo to go to the IU Basketball homepage.

Sebastian the Ibis, the U-M mascot

Sebastian the Ibis, the U-M mascot
Like longtime U-M fans everywhere, including me, Sebastian the Ibis, the U-M mascot, hasn't had very much to cheer about lately, given the general state of mediocrity and underwhelming performances coming from the Hurricanes. Isn't it about time for fans to finally see some tangible signs that the new AD is moving things in the right direction? Where are the signs? I'm NOT seeing them. The woeful U-M Women's program is largely composed of teams that are NOT even close to being competitive for NCAA titles like their ACC competition, and they don't even field Women's Lacrosse or Field Hockey teams. It's embarrassing! Click on Sebastian for retrospective photo gallery of The Orange Bowl

Risk för snöras, istappar

Risk för snöras, istappar
One of the many such warning signs that I saw on buildings and on sidewalk barricades while in Stockholm in mid-January 2013, alerting you to the possibility of falling snow and ice, often by men shoveling it off roofs. This one was spotted on a residential building in the Södermalm area of Stockholm, on Ringvägen, while I was walking over to the Åhléns Department store on Götgatan. It wasn't until I was walking back later to the B&B that I noticed the inflated Santa that some resident had intentionally placed outside of their window, so it looked like Santa was falling! January 13, 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Congratulations Sweden - 200 years of peace! Solveig Rundquist (@RundquistS)

Ringvägen, Stockholm, Sweden

Ringvägen, Stockholm, Sweden
Poster display seen on Ringvägen, in Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden. January 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved. Here's snapshot of the poster featuring the ubiquitous St. Erik, whose crowned head is the City of Stockholm's coat of arms. The Affischplats plan in Stockholm, while not perfect, strikes me as a pretty good compromise in helping cultural and civic groups catch the public's eye in a way that's better than a free-for-all of groups plastering posters on the sides of buildings and utility boxes, and watching as the weather makes a mess of them. The tangible effort the city makes to get the public involved in a genuine and meaningful conversation about what is going on long-term for the city as a whole, or in a particular neighborhood, is very impressive, and made me wishful that the local government employees and planners where I live and write about regularly in my blog and in conversations with other concerned civic activists did even one-third of what Stockholm's planning employees seem to do as a starting-point.

Using a map of Stockholm and my Samsung mobile's Latitude app to find out where some friends and contacts in Stockholm were before I called to let them know I'd arrived from Arlanda Airport and had checked into the B&B in Södermalm. If only it had been an OpenStreetMap! January 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved; Click the photo to see OpenStreetMap's amazing map of Stockholm and a whole world of useful maps you never even knew existed

Which European country has the most attractive citizens?

As seen in my July 31st, 2013 blog post titled, "Which European country has the most attractive citizens?" Sweden won in a landslide with almost four times as many votes as second-place France, with Spain third and Norway fourth. Yes, seeing is believing!; Norwegian.com's non-stop flights from Fort Lauderdale to Oslo start in 4 months! :) http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2013/07/boredpandacom-poll-of-europeans-asked.html