A common sense public policy overview from David in South Florida, offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt./public policy, sports and pop culture of the U.S., #SoFL and Europe, esp. the #UK, #Sweden and #France, via my life in #Texas, #Memphis, #Miami, #IU, #Chicago, #WashingtonDC & #SoFL. In particular, #Broward & #MiamiDade County, and the cities of #HallandaleBeach, #HollywoodFL & #Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln.

Photo in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A, September 2008; March 2018 photo below of HB's North Beach and southern Hollywood Beach, looking left-to-right, looking north, HYDE Condominium, Etaru Japanese Robatayaki restaurant, and Hollywood Beach in the distance, with umbrellas. All photos by me, © Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.
"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill

Monday, February 28, 2011

If you think your City Hall is screwed-up, read Hallandale Beach City Comm. Keith London's review of a recent day at the office -and it's all true!

The following comments are an email that I and many other Hallandale Beach citizen taxpayers and residents received from City Commissioner Keith London about the last City Commission meeting, most of which I was present for.
From my perspective, they ring 100% true.

If anything, I should've started posting these review comments of his years ago to give you all a more complete idea of what well-informed people in this city who favor genuine financial accountability, public policy transparency and simple common sense, are up against in the form of mayor Joy Cooper's Rubber Stamp Crew, and the maladroit City Manager Mike Antonio.

Antonio is quickly losing his few remaining supporters in this city thru his frustrating and inscrutable decision-making that consistently puts this city's citizens on the bottom of the political pyramid.

is NOT elected and does not make the public policy of this city but rather is supposed to carry out the entire commission's will, not just do the bidding of the mayor, including getting items on the agenda, yet his longstanding amnesia on this simple point is getting harder and harder to explain away -even among people who supported his getting the job.

He consistently makes decisions that are either NOT his to make, or which leave the public on the outside looking in, with little to no information, even when it's supposed to already be public.
Just like his predecessor, Mike Good.

From my conversations with people all throughout the community, the upcoming city Quadrant meetings here are looking to be pretty brutal for Antonio, as well as for DPW Director John Chidsey and some other city high-profile employees, as they have precious little positive to show for what they've done the past year, especially at their salary levels and benefits packages.

By no stretch of the imagination are HB taxpayers and business owners currently getting a dollar's worth of performance for every tax dollar going straight into city paychecks, or, being doled out to contractors for services "supposedly" rendered.

, Chidsey and other Hallandale Beach city employees are continuing to perform in a completely unsatisfactory manner, and they can pretend all they want, but they're in for a major shock in the coming months as the public scrutiny on them and their behavior, words and professional performance only increases.

Wheels are definitely in motion...



The following is an update of agenda items and other issues discussed at the Wednesday, February, 16 2011 City of Hallandale Beach Commission Meeting.

Highlights of this Wrap-Up

· Commissioner Lewy undermines yet another one of Commissioner London’s motions

· City Manager Antonio adds supplemental agenda item at last minute to discuss multi-million dollar contract

· City Commission authorizes the spending of $38,750 without any back-up information

· Mayor Cooper states the City of Hallandale Beach only has a “dog-run NOT a park”

· St. Borromeo’s Church is still for sale

· No second to have Public Meeting with NE residents prior to moving forward with two way traffic on NE 8th NE 10th Avenues





WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2011 1:30 P.M.




4. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (to be heard at 1:35 P.M.)

· Dr. Judy Selz spoke regarding not being provided information regarding charitable contributions and the Mayor’s/Commissioners travel expenses.

o Commissioner London commented on a document that was provided to Dr. Selz by the City Manager and had information redacted

o Providing documentation in this manner makes the City look like they are trying to hide something; hence not being transparent and accountable



A. Proclamation Proclaiming March 6 - 12, 2011 as Problem Gambling Awareness Week (PGAW)

B. Proclamation Proclaiming February 20 - 26, 2011 as National Engineers Week

C. Parks and Recreation Summary Report

D. Presentation of Certificates in Recognition of the 2010 Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award Nominees


E. Recognition of Armin Lovenvirth as the 2010 Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award Recipient.



A. Approval of Draft Minutes - Regular City Commission Meetings of September 1, 2010, September 15, 2010, November 17, 2010 and February 2, 2011 and Special City Commission Meetings of September 15, 2010, September 27, 2010 and September 29, 2010

· Commissioner London made motions to revise/clarify the meeting minutes as follows:

o September 15, 2010 meeting – include comments from Commissioner London stating he wanted the City of Hallandale Beach Chamber of Commerce to become self-sufficient; and the storage trailer at the Upper Deck Bar and Grill should be allowed to remain on the premises

o September 29, 2010 meeting – include the statement that Commissioner London has never received meeting minutes from the Golden Isles and Three Islands Safe Neighborhood Districts advisory boards

· As I have repeatedly stated, I will not approve minutes that are more than 30 days old

· Passed 4:1 – LONDON NO

B. Pursuant to Chapter 23, Article III, Authorize the City Manager to Approve Additional Engineering Services to Tank Engineering and Management Consultants, Inc. (TEAM) to Perform Detailed Engineering and Design on a New Pipe Section for an Inlet Pipe for the City's Elevated Water Tank, in an Amount not to Exceed $2,000.00. (Staff: Director of Utilities and Engineering)

· Passed 5:0


A. A Resolution of the City of Hallandale Beach, Florida, Authorizing the City Manager to Enter Into a Construction Agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for Hallandale Beach Boulevard and NE 8th Avenue and NE 10th Avenue Intersections Improvements Project (Staff: Director of Utilities & Engineering)

· Commissioner London requested City Manager Antonio answer the following questions regarding this project:

o Residents wanted to know if the two-traffic project was planned prior to the Ben Gamla School proposed project - ANSWER: the two-way traffic project was proposed prior to Ben Gamla

o Did the Northeast Quadrant residents have a community meeting regarding this project? – ANSWER: NO

o What is the source of funding for this project? – ANSWER: CRA $150,000; Transportation Fund $630,00; General Fund $100,000 – Total approximately $1 million and total monies spent thus far is $60,000

o The Hallandale Square Project, according to their development agreement with the City, is supposed to contribute approximate $335,000 towards the cost of this project which has not happened to date; if the City commences this project now, will the City lose this money? ANSWER – No concrete answer was provided

· Please click on the following links for studies showing that One-Way Streets are Safer and Better than Two-Way Streets

o http://debunkingportland.org/onewaystreets.htm

o www.Independenceinstitute.org/cad.aspx

o www.denverpost.com/news/ci_3876477

· Commissioner London made a motion to delay going forward with this project until the City holds a Community Meeting regarding this project – NO SECOND

· Passed 4:1 – LONDON NO

B. Discussion of Converting the Temporary Lane Modifications at Hallandale Beach Blvd and Dixie Highway to a Permanent Change. (Director: Utilites & Engineering)


· Item deferred

C. Discussion on Allowing Dogs at Joseph Scavo Park (Staff: Director of Parks and Recreation)

· This item was sent to the Parks Advisory Board after the January 18, 2011 meeting on a 3-2 vote (LONDON and ROSS NO) to discuss a plan and location for a dog park

· Mayor Cooper was adamantly in favor of this project as she stated there currently are no dog parks located in Hallandale; only a dog run in Golden Isles

· The Parks Advisory Board agreed unanimously NOT to move forward with a dog park until the Parks Master Plan is complete. (Commissioner London suggested that at the January 18 meeting)

· Commissioner London stated he supports a dog park in the City as long as it is developed appropriately and properly and ends up being an area that enhances the City

· Motion to Delay this project until the Parks Master Plan is complete - Passed 4:1 – Cooper NO

D. Discussion of Establishing a Charter Review Committee (City Attorney)


· The City will be forming a Charter Review Committee

· This Committee is appointed every eight (8) years to suggest changes to the City Commission

· This is a seven (7) member board of which the Mayor and Vice Mayor will appoint two members each and the remaining Commissioners have one appointment

· The Board sunsets after six (6) months

· If the Commission votes in favor of any changes/revision, it is then placed on an electoral ballot for the residents to have final say.

· Please feel free to provide any suggestions or comments as it relates to the Charter and City of Hallandale Beach when these public meetings are held

· Please click on this link if anyone has interest in applying to be a member of the Charter Review Committee: http://www.hallandalebeach.org/forms.aspx?FID=60



· Commissioner London made a motion to establish five (5) Vision Commission retreats (as suggested by a consultant to the City) – NO SECOND

o Commissioner Lewy offered a friendly amendment to change the number of retreats from 5 to 3 – Friendly Amendment not accepted

o Mayor Cooper stated she did NOT want any vision retreats

· Commissioner London asked City Manager Antonio when the Commission would start receiving a budget advisory report from the City Manager – ANSWER: The City Manager stated he decided we did not need one

· Commissioner London asked if St. Borromeo Church was still for sale?

o This is the property that Mayor Cooper and former City Manager Mike Good wanted to buy for $3,000,000 with no plan. Both wanted us to act immediately because the archdiocese stated there was another buyer. That was approximately one year ago.

· The City Manager brought forward an item to fund a citizen survey at a cost of $38,750 without any back-up material

o Passed 4:1 – LONDON NO

10. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (to be heard at 7:00 P.M.)


A. Summary of City Commission Action Taken During the Afternoon Portion of the Meeting

12. PUBLIC HEARINGS (to be heard at 7:15 P.M.)



E. A Resolution Ratifying a Contract Between the City of Hallandale Beach, Florida, and the Hallandale Beach Professional Fire Fighters Metro Broward Local 3080 District 10 Affiliated with International Association of Fire Fighters, Relating to Relations Between the Employer and the Fire Union Employees of the City of Hallandale Beach

· This was a last minute agenda item provided to the City Commission less than 48 hours before the meeting

· There was no fiscal impact statement, no actuarial study attached as well as pertinent back-up information to discuss an item of this magnitude

· This is a multi-million dollar contract with the City’s Fire Department and approximately 60 pages long

· This is inappropriate to bring this item forward to the Commission or “OUR” residents without adequate time for review and questions

· When asked, the City Manager stated he brought this forward quickly because he promised the Fire Department he would do so for them

· As much as I support the City of Hallandale Beach’s Fire Department, I do not support the manner in which this item was brought forward; this does not represent transparency and accountability!

· Passed 4:1 – LONDON NO

I welcome and will gladly add those individuals who may not currently be included on my email distribution lists. Please feel free to forward those email addresses and contact information to me.

Please contact me if you would like unsubscribe to any future emails.

For all you who are unable to physically attend and participate at the City Commission meetings, these meetings are replayed on Comcast Channel 78 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday @ 12:00 P.M. and Mondays and Thursday @ 6:00 P.M.

Commission Meetings are now being web streamed and archived. Please visit: http://fl-hallandalebeach.civicplus.com/index.aspx?NID=717

You are always welcome to contact me with questions or suggestions and I encourage you to contact the rest of the City Commission with your questions or comments.

Other good contact information:

Keith S. London

City Commissioner

Hallandale Beach

954-457-1320 Office



Controversial red-light camera issue on Tuesday morning's Broward County Commission agenda at 10 a.m.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Broward Politics
blog video:
Broward County Clerk Howard C. Forman says mushrooming red-light cameras -and tickets- will create new pressures on resources/finances of Broward Courts


Article at:

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Broward Politics blog is at: http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/broward/blog/


Tuesday morning's Broward County Commission agenda includes the red-light camera issue, which is why I will likely be there on Tuesday IF I can switch some things around in my schedule.

Regardless of whether I can attend Ruesday morning in person or not, I will post the information and photographs I want to make them aware of here on the blog by 9 a.m. and email it to them.
Please come back here Tuesday morning so you can see for yourself what this program looks like in Hallandale Beach, and judge whether or not it seems reasonable or well-executed.

Red-light cameras in Broward County is agenda item #23 for March 1st, starting at 10 a.m.

My friend and fellow Hallandale Beach activist Csaba Kulin penned this email earlier this afternoon about this issue.

Honorable Mayor Gunzburger, Vice Mayor Rodstrom and County Commissioners,

I am not a supporter of "red light" cameras not because I want people to break the law and get away with it. I am against it because my city, Hallandale Beach has done such a poor job installing a red light camera about a year before the State actually allowed them. The City made it a "code violation" and collected about 2 million dollars for not stopping twice or three times prior to turning right on red. That is not the issue I am writing about now. We will fight that battle with our City Commission.

I understand you will vote on allowing the cities to tie into the County's traffic control system. I am not in favor of it but if you do I urge you to make a small amendment to the ordinance.

If they want to tie into the system, any intersection with traffic cameras should have a "count down" device next to it, similar to the one you see at cross walks. That would warn law abiding citizens to get ready to stop and avoid rear end collisions. Cities collect plenty of money from fines to absorb the additional expense.

I hope you decide to consider my suggestion, it would make red light cameras safer and more palatable to the residents of Broward County.

Csaba Kulin
Vice President
United Condominium Associations of Hallandale Beach

Late this afternoon, a post by Brittany Wallman bout the red-light camera issue was posted at Broward Politics blog.

Broward's Rodstrom offers counterproposal to red light cameras
By Brittany Wallman February 28, 2011 06:11 PM

Drivers already hate sitting at red lights. Maybe they’ll get to hate it for two seconds longer.
One Broward County commissioner suggests that would be a better way to keep motorists safe from red-light runners than watching them with enforcement cameras.

Read the rest of the post at:


The bill in the Florida State House to repeal red-light cameras is Bill 4087, which was filed by State Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-New Port Richey, and the companion in the State Senate is Senate Bill 672, filed by Sen. Garcia, whose district is based out of Hialeah.

Broward Politics
YouTube Channel:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tens of millions wasted here and there... soon, it's real money; Regardless of cost, BMV will always be Jennifer Gottlieb's "baby" boondoggle


This video goes with
O'Matz and Fitzpatrick article of February 23, 2011 below
The embed code causes the video to appear here twice.

BrowardPalmBeach New Times
Daily Pulp
Grand Jury Report: School Board Blew Hundreds of Millions of Taxpayers Dollars While In Lobbyists' Pocket By Bob Norman,
Sat., Feb. 19 2011 @ 6:36AM

Well, it's finally official.

The Broward County School Board wasted hundreds of millions of your dollars while doing the bidding of a select group of contractors and lobbyists. You've been reading about that here for the past five years. Now the statewide grand jury has found the same thing.

The final grand jury report was released last night (yes, that means they aren't going to issue indictments). To get an idea of its tone, understand that it stated flatly that were it not for a constitutional mandate to have a school board "our first and foremost recommendation would have been to abolish the Broward County School Board altogether."

Read the rest of the post at:


BrowardPalmBeach New Times

Daily Pulp

Grand Jury Slams Jennifer Gottlieb's "Beachside Boondoggle"

By Bob Norman,
Sun., Feb. 20 2011 @ 8:38AM

The Sun-Sentinel obtained some comments from school boarder defending themselves from the findings of the statewide grand jury.

Said Broward Schools Supt. Jim Notter: "I've built a 37-year career by being passionate about digging through the data, emphasizing accountability and getting things done right."

Sure. Except when he was willfully violating state law to allow the lobbyist and contractors to take over the school district and waste hundreds of millions in taxpayers' money.

Read the rest of the post at:


South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Notter vows to stay as superintendent of Broward schools
Promises to address grand jury findings

By Megan O'Matz and Cara Fitzpatrick, Sun Sentinel

February 23, 2011

Broward Schools Superintendent Jim Notter vowed Tuesday to stay on the job despite being bashed in a grand jury report for allowing a self-serving School Board to use the district as a multi-billion dollar piggy bank for friends and cronies.

"I have no plans to resign or retire at this point in time," said Notter, who is in his fifth year as head of Broward Schools and who earns about $300,000 a year. However, he said he takes responsibility for the report's "devastating" findings and promised to regain the public's trust in him and the Board.

Notter was flanked by a majority of the Board at the hastily called news conference. "Yes, we do have confidence in the superintendent," said chairman Benjamin J. Williams, a board member since 2000.

Notter's comments followed Friday's release of the statewide grand jury report, which accused the School Board and senior management of "malfeasance." It concluded the level of mismanagement and ineptitude was so great it could only be attributed to widespread corruption.

The report portrayed a district run by individuals who directed contracts to friends, pushed unnecessary building projects, insisted on costly changes to construction projects, opened new schools before all safety measures were addressed, and paid contractors in full despite unfinished items.

The grand jury did not indict anyone, however, citing "weaknesses" in state law that make prosecution difficult and statutes that do not cover certain behavior that likely should be deemed criminal.

Notter said he and his staff will "go through this report point by point," and produce a detailed response to the public within 30 to 45 days.

Of the problems, he said: "We will fix it."

The grand jury took a year to investigate the district, prompted by the September 2009 arrest of then School Board member Beverly Gallagher for bribery. She was later convicted. Another one-time board member, Stephanie Kraft, has since been charged with bribery and is awaiting trial. She's pleaded not guilty.

In the past year, Notter said, the school system has implemented several reforms, some of which the grand jury also recommends.

Board members no longer sit on committees that select insurance companies, banks, construction firms and architects to do business with the district. A lobbyist registration policy was strengthened to include penalties. Ethics training was stepped up. And contractors are not given final payments until all inspections are complete and safety items addressed.

One of the grand jury's chief concerns was that schools were open with only "temporary" occupancy permits, signifying not all fire safety, plumbing, electrical and design items were addressed. Rather than fix the issues within the required 90-days, the district let matters rest for months and even years.

What's more, record-keeping was so poor that the grand jury said the number of projects still with temporary permits, or no occupancy documents, could be as high as 200, a figure it found "appalling."

Notter was at a loss to say how many school buildings still have unaddressed safety issues but promised to find the answers.

Outside of the news conference, the School Board carried on with its normal business during a day-long workshop, holding mannerly discussions on class size, building accessibility and budgets.

As customary at workshops, it did not take public comment.

The panel did, however, debate provisions of a proposed ethics policy that would restrict board members from accepting gifts over $50; bar them from serving on committees that select contractors and insurance providers; and force them to disclose outside work such as consulting agreements.

It would also require the district to maintain a record of each lobbyist visit to board members and would compel members to report each time they solicited funds for charities.

While the School Board insisted it wanted a strong ethics policy in place quickly, it sent the proposal back to staff for further revisions.

"Let's make it crystal clear to everybody so I don't have to ask my secretary what is proper and what is not," board member Maureen Dinnen said.

Of particular concern was a requirement that board members disclose when they solicit donations for charity. A few said they found it unnecessarily burdensome to have to report on their "mommy" activities such as raising money for their children's rugby teams or Girl Scout troops.

"I sold thousands of boxes of cookies," said Girl Scout troop leader and School Board member Robin Bartleman. "How can you make it so it's doable for us?"

During a break at Tuesday's workshop, School Board member Jennifer Gottlieb was mobbed by reporters questioning her involvement in the construction of Hollywood's Beachside Montessori school. The grand jury called it a $25 million "boondoggle," exemplifying "everything that is wrong with the Board and the District."

Shrinking enrollment did not justify building the new K-8 school there, the grand jury said, but the district pressed on, in part because it was Gottlieb's "baby." The report slammed the Board and administrators for allowing Gottlieb to "unilaterally shove through a pet project." Gottlieb's son attends the school.

On Tuesday, Gottlieb said plans for the school were under way before she was elected in 2006 and she had no hand in choosing the site or the contractor. She did, however, advocate it being switched from a regular curriculum to a Montessori approach, in which children learn at their own pace.

"I pushed for a program that was successful," Gottlieb said of the curriculum.

Reader comments at:


South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Can Broward School Board, Notter make things right?
Public needs to demand answers, accountability
Michael Mayo Sun Sentinel Columnist
7:34 PM EST, February 23, 2011

Broward Schools Superintendent Jim Notter calls himself "a data nut." He also calls himself "a form follows function nut," whatever that means.

So here was my data question to him after a scathing grand jury report: How many Broward schools are still operating with "temporary" certificates of occupancy, meaning they might not have passed final safety inspections?

"I do not have that data at this time," the Data Nut said at a Tuesday news conference.

Notter said the district has rehired a consultant to sort it out.

How reassuring.

"I understand that some parents might have concerns," Notter said. "I need to rebuild confidence."

It's more than a little disconcerting that the country's sixth-largest school district is so scattershot it doesn't have centralized building records. Especially with the umpteenth grand jury lambasting the district for its odd construction and inspection practices.

So maybe it's time for Notter to rebrand himself.

Maybe he should call himself a Reform Follows Dysfunction Nut.

That is, if Notter gets the chance at more reforms after another black eye for the school district.

Notter was in full damage-control mode on Tuesday, when he tried to stanch the wounds from the grand jury report.

He said he takes full responsibility, but won't step down. He said the district will have a point-by-point response … in 30-45 days (the better to let the hubbub die out?). He pointed to his post-Hurricane Wilma stewardship, even though a federal audit found the district didn't properly document how it spent millions in emergency grants.

Notter had eight of nine School Board members flank him in an apparent show of solidarity — new member Laurie Rich Levinson skipped out — but it's hard to say if he has long-term support.

"We need to give him the opportunity to respond," Levinson told me Wednesday. "But we do need to talk about a lot of things. There's some change that needs to be made internally, obviously … it's the staff in general, senior management people who have been here a long time."

Notter, a longtime district administrator, is in his fifth year as superintendent. That's about the time when many leaders reach their expiration date. Especially those who serve elected school boards looking for easy scapegoats during tough times.

Notter says he's not going anywhere. He vowed to stay and fix things.

The question is, can he be trusted to fix things?

Then again, can the School Board that would pick his successor be trusted either?

Four members are recent arrivals elected in November, but five are holdovers who collectively got scorched by the grand jury. When they weren't being called corrupt or meddlesome, they were being labeled wasteful and incompetent.


So who's going to save students, parents and taxpayers from this lot?

It's up to us. It's time to start caring, time to demand better answers and accountability.

Next Tuesday's regular board meeting, where public comment will be allowed, will be a good start.

The grand jury chided the School Board for allowing too many big decisions involving big bucks to be decided without proper public input, often stashing them in the "consent agenda" where items are voted upon in one fell swoop.

This Tuesday's all-day board workshop was a weird exercise in denial. After the grand jury report, you'd expect some outrage or at least some grandstanding by new board members.

But things were business as usual, and oh so polite. Except for Levinson, board members sat like willing movie extras when it came time for Notter's news conference.

New board member Dave Thomas had made comments to the Sun-Sentinel about a no-confidence vote, but it didn't happen. At the workshop, Thomas seemed more concerned about ditching a proposed tough new ethics policy.

Board members shrilly twisted the guidelines, making it seem as if harmless fundraising activities like selling Girl Scout cookies would get them in trouble. (All they would have to do under the proposed new rules is declare their activities on a form, and not pressure anyone into donating because of their position).

They'll continue working on the policy.

How tone-deaf can they be?

It's time for some outside voices to start chiming in. If you care about our schools and our kids' education, show up for the next School Board meeting Tuesday at 9:45 a.m., at district headquarters, 600 SE Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

Otherwise expect the same old sad song to play on.

Reader comments at:


South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Beachside Montessori expense seemed right at the time, Notter says

By Rafael A. Olmeda, Sun Sentinel

8:51 PM EST, February 25, 2011

The $25 million decision to construct a Montessori magnet school in Hollywood was easier to support before the school was built than it has been to defend since, Broward Schools Superintendent Jim Notter said Friday.

He said he stands by the decision, but in the wake of last week's blistering statewide grand jury report criticizing district leadership, he acknowledged it's a tougher sell in 2011 than it was in 2008.

"At the time, we felt it was an appropriate expense," he said. "In retrospect, could we have done things differently? That's always a possibility."

The district is still compiling its formal response to the grand jury report, with the Florida Department of Education expecting answers next week.

The report faults district leadership for failing to stop the construction of Beachside Montessori Village after changing enrollment figures made it clear the neighborhood didn't need a new school.

The grand jury called it "a microcosm of everything that's wrong with the board and district."

School Board member Jennifer Gottlieb, whose son attends the Hollywood magnet school, was portrayed, but not named, in the report as a meddling influence.
She continued to insist this week she did nothing improper.

"If the school were empty and we had to hold enrollment drives to get people to apply, I could understand the criticism," she said.

The Broward State Attorney's Office is reviewing the 51-page report, including the six pages that deal with Montessori, to determine whether legal action will need to be taken.

By a number of standards, Gottlieb said, the magnet school is a success.

Still in its first year, it has a large and active parent teacher association, has conducted tours attended by 150 to 200 families interested in enrolling their children next year, and logged 700 applications last year in the first week they became available, Gottlieb said.

But critics have pointed to inequities in the school's population, including a high percentage of non-Hispanic whites (65 percent, compared to 30 percent in the district) and, according to Notter, a relatively low percentage of students on free and reduced lunch programs.

Admission was based in part on a random lottery, with slots set aside for children transferring from Virginia Shuman Young Elementary school in Fort Lauderdale, another Montessori school.
Among those students were the children of Gottlieb and Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober. The school also gives preference to students enrolled in Montessori's pre-k programs, which cost $135 a week.

The grand jury report focused on the story behind the school's construction, steering clear of criticizing the school itself.

"…After 2006, Beachside became a particular board member's 'baby,'" the report states. "…It is well known to virtually all District employees that most, if not all, Board members have pet projects that it's best not to interfere with, no matter how wasteful or unjustifiable the project may appear to be."

Gottlieb challenged the report's characterization of her involvement.

"I did not 'meddle' in this project at all," she said. "The idea to build it was made before I was elected.''

She also said she was not responsible for making Beachside a K-8 school, a change from the original elementary school plan that necessitated delays and design changes and drove up the cost, according to the report.
Specific figures weren't given.

When the new school building wasn't ready for the start of the 2010-11 school year, the district housed the Beachside Montessori magnet program at nearby Bethune Elementary and Attucks Middle schools.

"That proved you could have moved a Montessori school into the existing facilities without having to construct a new building," said Cliff Germano, secretary of the North Central Hollywood Civic Association.

When the new school was conceived, the neighborhood schools were overcrowded.

"It was supposed to benefit the local community," Germano said. "But by the time the board got ready to build the school, enrollment had dropped. Now the nearest schools were under capacity. But the board decided they were going to build it anyway."

That was against the wishes of then-Deputy Superintendent Michael Garretson, who tried to have the plug pulled on the project in 2008 only to run afoul of Gottlieb, according to the report.
She "stated emphatically that the school would be built and it would be built with that contractor," the report states.

Gottlieb acknowledges continuing to support the school and Notter defended her role.
"She never did anything inappropriate to influence or advocate for any decision that was not in the best interest of the children in the district," he said.

Gottlieb said the district had already purchased the land, exercising eminent domain to buy and demolish homes and duplexes [at a cost of $6 million, according to the report]. In that light, it made sense to change the plan from a neighborhood school to a magnet that would draw students from the southern half of the county, she said.

With a son in Fort Lauderdale's Virginia Shuman Young Montessori school, Gottlieb was familiar with the program and committed to replicating it elsewhere in Broward. The new school seemed an ideal site, she said.

But critics said she stood to benefit personally because students from Shuman Young who lived south of Interstate 595 would be automatically accepted into Beachside Montessori. Gottlieb's family lives in Hollywood.

Beachside Parent Teacher Association President Stephanie Sardelli said she would have brought her children to any Montessori school, whether at a new building, out in the western part of the county, or at Bethune and Attucks.

"I was happy at Bethune and Attucks," she said. "I don't think it matters where the program is located. It's a terrific educational model that deserved to be duplicated."

Reader comments at:


Beachside Montessori Village 2230 Lincoln Street, Hollywood, FL 33020