Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The role of PAL in the City of Hallandale Beach, and specifically, in the larger debate about the HB Parks Master Plan and the city's priorities

Below, an email sent to Hallandale Beach City Manager Mark A. Antonio about Thursday morning's 10 a.m. presentation of the Hallandale Beach Parks Master Plan by consultants from Bermello Ajamil & Partners (B&A).

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July 13th, 2011


Dear City Manager Antonio:


I don't know whether I'll be able to attend Thursday morning's meeting on the Hallandale Beach Parks & Rec. Master Plan, so I'm sending this email now so that my longstanding concerns -shared by MANY other HB citizens- can be received and addressed whether I make it to the meeting or not.


Before I get into the bills of particulars, I would like for you to spend a few minutes before the presentation begins and publicly explain what the role of HB PAL is in this city, and, specifically, what their role is and has been within the larger public debate on what the priorities of the City Commission should be with regard to any publicly-financed parks, ball fields, swimming pools or Dog Parks in the future.


I'm not sure whether or not you're familiar with what I have stated previously on this subject or not, but among other things, I'm NOT a fan of the way that the people associated with the HB PAL like to throw their weight around, seemingly able to do whatever they want or get whenever they want in the way of resources, including getting the city's mobile electronic message, boards or information sandwich boards placed on medians along HBB or U.S.-1 or anywhere else whenever they want, but actual important city events I could name, seemingly can NOT use them.


I'd also like to state publicly that I and more than a few people in this city believe it's a clear conflict-of-interest for someone like Barbara Southwick to be on both the PAL Exec Board AND also not just be on the city's Parks & Rec. Advisory Board, but be it's obstinate Chair.


Far too often for comfort, she seems oblivious to the legitimate and reasonable concerns of others in the community, much less, the dozens of longstanding problems at the city's fields, parks and beach that many of my friends and I have previously discussed in private among ourselves, with photos to back up our concerns, esp. the issues of public safety and incompetent and slothful city employees who do NOT perform professionally or with courtesy.


(Just to name a few of many I could cite: the dreadful public safety conditions of Bluesten Park at night because of inadequate or missing public lighting -near the pool and in the parking lots on S.E. 5th Street; the new taxpayer-financed recycling bins being completely underutilized and yet kept directly in the path of the Fire Emergency exit since April of last year; the lights of the walking trail/Paracourse located on the NE corner of the park going from only five of 25-plus working to just 5, and fairly recently, ALL of them being out at night.

It's hard to figure out how so many HB city employees can be OBLIVIOUS FOR SO LONG when these things are self-evident to anyone paying attention...


And speaking of self-evident, don't mention it, but the street lights on Old Dixie Highway adjacent to the park and City Hall have been out for well OVER A YEAR. Somehow, despite all the city employees and vehicles that go by there at night, including the Police Dept., they ALL have managed to completely ignore it and not taken steps to contact FP&L.)


Last July at a City Workshop at City Hall on auditing, Barbara Southwick took the opportunity to go off on a completely unbelievable and mean-spirited personal harangue against several concerned HB citizen taxpayers who actually attended the meeting and contributed their thoughts.


She went on at length, choosing to blame HB citizens for the city's problems instead of the elected officials and city employees who are, in fact, not only responsible, but who are PAID to do their job competently and professionally.

But Barbara Southwick was just warming-up.


Days later, at the first public Parks & Rec. Master Plan meeting, held at the North Beach Community Center, the first time the public had been allowed in the facility since it was given to the city MANY YEARS prior, Southwick AGAIN tried to manipulate the scope and nature of the proceedings by trying to invalidate the legitimate concerns and thoughts of concerned citizens with whom she disagreed with.


That particular day, that included most of the citizens present, some of whom wanted to make sure that more activities for older kids, esp. Middle-School age kids, were brought into the discussion and seriously considered, including, possibly, at Scavo Park.


That PUBLIC city park, of course, is not PRIVATE land nor is it located on a condominium where a Board of Directors could create whatever rules they wished for, provide security at their own cost, or otherwise legally keep other HB citizens out.


It's crystal clear to many in this city from the many Parks & Rec. Master Plan meetings that have been held the past year that many residents living near that public park have come to believe that HB City Hall has given them what amounts to a heckler's veto on any ideas or plans relative to the park's future that are NOT palatable to them personally.


It's a public park in a city that's starved for parks, yet they act like they can prevent other residents of the city from enjoying it or even making suggestions for improving it for the larger community.


(Just to remind you, the city NEVER posted any promotional fliers, erected any sandwich boards on or near the beach or sidewalk for that first Parks Master Plan meeting, nor did they post any inside the North Beach parking garage -near the ticket dispensing machine- or at the South Beach parking lot, all of which should've happened ten days prior. Nothing on the medians of HBB or U.S.-1, either.

That would've been a good time to have the city's mobile electronic message board on the sidewalk near the Water Fountain the previous weekend, so people could see it and make plans to attend, but it didn't happen- Again.)


At one point in the proceedings at the North Beach bldg., when I was asking a question from the back of the room -where I video-recorded the entire meeting- Southwick actually stood-up from her seat as if to answer it, even though my question was obviously directed to the consultant, Randy Hollingsworth.

I did my best to keep her from deconstructing my questions but she STILL insisted on answering, and even managed to get in her unsolicited two cents during other residents questions, too, something that was totally inappropriate and galling.
Why was this allowed to take place, over-and-over?
It was a thinly-veiled attempt to shield her and her PALs from any valid public criticism, of which there is plenty, even if not vocalized there.

A number of people came up to me after the meeting -or contacted me in the days following- and said that they were upset that Southwick seemed free to interrupt whenever she felt the urge, and it only added to her reputation of a bully who consistently tries to squelch open public debate in this city.

I've been told recently that PAL has, apparently, told the city what THEY would like to see on a temporary basis at the former Tower Mobile Home site purchased by the city, adjacent to Bluesten Park, on Old Dixie Highway.
I'm confused, when was THAT public discussion held about what the community might like to see on an interim basis?

Once again, it seems that PAL is wagging the dog, instead of being one voice out of many in this city.

It's hard not to notice in such a small community that certain people seem to have an ability to effectuate what actually happens here in ways that are completely disproportionate to the larger community, and which are often both inexplicable or contrary to the public good.

In that respect, it's hard NOT to notice that while there have been any number of city-sponsored public meetings/forums/workshops that have lacked adequate public outreach/communication the past few years -far too many for me to name here- yet somehow, the Hallandale Beach Tennis Center -which has a direct connection to Barbara Southwick- has been able to keep an information sandwich board advertising tennis lessons on the east-side median of Hallandale Beach Blvd. & 14th Avenue... since LAST YEAR.

Above, April 24, 2011 shot I took looking east on Hallandale Beach Blvd. 14th Avenue, near the Publix, Walgreens and Winn-Dixie, of that HB Tennis Center lessons sign that has been on the east-side median since LAST YEAR. Does everything in this city REALLY need to be based on who you know? April 24, 2011 photo by South Beach Hoosier.

People in this city see that day-after-day and it causes them to ask questions about how and why things like that continually happen, even while, for instance, there have been no fliers publicly distributed and posted, no information sandwich boards erected, or mobile electronic message boards strategically positioned, advertising the PUBLIC meetings for the city's newly-installed Charter Review Commission, which is surely as important if not more so than tennis lessons.
Not even on the city-maintained permanent message board on S.E. 3rd Street and U.S.-1 in front of the County library branch.

Yes, the same message board one that for months has mistakenly advertised the second City Commission meeting of the month at 7 p.m., despite the change to 6 p.m. a number of months ago
.

There's no need to respond to this in writing, I'll look for your reply at the meeting, either in-person or via computer if I can't make it.


Below, a copy of an email sent to some other HB residents in May who are also concerned about
what's going on in this city with public parks and the public beach -or isn't.

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That email I referenced at the end will be posted here on the blog soon, as I will also come back to this post over the next few days and add some photos I meant to post but was too tired to spend time downloading.

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