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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Csaba Kulin on Hallandale Beach's crony capitalism deal with a fake newspaper that stands ethics on its head and takes CRA money in exchange for being a City Hall propaganda machine


Above, the September 12, 2010 issue of the Stongsville Post, a genuine "community newspaper" that reports both sides on issues and controversies in its part of suburban Cleveland, Ohio

Today I'd like to share with you a copy of the email my friend and fellow Hallandale Beach/Broward County activist Csaba Kulin sent out on Monday concerning the continuing controversy surrounding what Csaba and I and many other concerned HB residents have long believed is the city's completely unethical and financially unsound arrangement with a faux newspaper located here in the city.

The problem is simple to understand: in exchange for operating as a propaganda arm of Hallandale Beach City Hall and its mayor of the past ten years, Joy Cooper, the owners receive funds from the city's CRA, which is generally supposed to be used to eliminate blight within the CRA zone of the city.

Since Csaba brings up his former full-time home of Strongsville, OH in his email from yesterday, I thought it was important to preface his new email with another instance where Csaba used Strongsville as a means for comparison to what passes for normal here in Hallandale Beach, so you could judge for yourself.

That instance comes from a Bob Norman blog post from last year, before he left the NewTimes for WPLG-TV, Channel 10, the ABC-TV affiliate here in South Florida, which concerned an email Csaba had written to Mayor Cooper and the other four members of the City Commission contrasting municipal spending habits and patterns of Strongsville to those in Hallandale Beach.  

BrowardPalm Beach NewTimes
Bob Norman's Pulp
Hallandale Beach Mayor Defends City in Sloppy, Error-Filled Email
By Bob Norman
April 27, 2011 at 8:54 AM Comments (55)

Ever heard of Strongsville, Ohio?
Neither had I, but it's apparently a suburb of Cleveland and a place where Hallandale condo president and activist Csaba Kulin used to live.
Kulin is amazed at the bloated cost of Hallandale Beach's budget compared to that of Strongville and recently wrote a letter about it to the City Commission.


----- 


Dear Friends and Hallandale Beach Residents,
I am sure by now you read or heard about the "sweet deal" the South Florida Sun Times receives from the City of Hallandale Beach. In case you are not aware of it, I included the link to the Miami Herald and the Broward Bulldog articles. My name was mentioned in both articles, so I decided to make a comment to both publications to state my position.

I hope you will find the stories informative. At the bottom you can see my comments.
Sincerely,
Csaba Kulin 

From personal experience, I'm a great believer in the importance of an "independent community newspaper" that covers issues that larger mass circulations newspaper can't or won't cover. I know something about that because when I'm in Ohio for part of the summer every year, the town I lived in full-time before moving to Hallandale Beach has one of the best "community papers" in the country, the Strongsville Post. There was no community issue or policy that the Post won't send reporters to examine or report upon, and because of that, the newspaper remains trusted, popular, a good place to advertise a product or service, and accepted as an important part of the community there.

Conversely, that same experience informs my opinion that the South Florida Sun Times (SFST) failed the “independence” test the moment it asked for and accepted money from the City of Hallandale Beach for services NOT provided. The SFST, having accepted funds that could have been better spent elsewhere within the CRA zone to eliminate blight, has for years adhered to a policy that's ever mindful of biting the hand that feeds it.

As opposed to the Post in Strongsville, OH, the SFST has become a one-sided house organ in its "reporting," and has thus become both irrelevant and a subject of open ridicule throughout the community, practically a punch line. In my own condo complex, we routinely discard large bundle of unread copies that were placed in the condo lobby into the recycling bins every week.

A legitimate newspaper that aspires to consider itself a "community newspaper" should, without even having to think about it, write about both sides of an issue or policy, and must encourage and publish opposing points of view. So in our case here in Hallandale Beach, routinely publishing something against the “party line” given by Mayor Joy Cooper in her so-called "columns," rather than NOT publishing anything that challenges what she says, as is currently the case. And the same goes for publishing Letters to the Editor without censorship with respect to topic and content. They ought to publish updated police blotter and proceedings of the City Commission Meetings. The SFST currently does NONE of these things.

If the SFST continues to operate in its current fashion, they might as well change their name to PRAVDA.

The Hallandale Beach CRA, with policy set by the elected City Commission and the mayor, has had more than its share of problems in the recent past. One episode in particular is worth mentioning here as it's indicative of the sort of favoritism and cronyism it has practiced in the past, a story never mentioned in the SFST. A loan in the amount of $125,000 loan was given for what was called at the time, THE CITY CHANEL, and was promoted and developed by Steve Fecske of California, and his local partner, a person very well-connected to HB City Hall. Mr. Fecske’s previous expertise includes, among other things according to Google's search engine, developing pornography web sites.  Like Seinfeld said, “not that anything is wrong with that”.

The night of the city commission meeting, Hallandale Beach taxpayers showed up in force to vehemently oppose the proposed loan on its merits, as well as the transparent way the commission waived its own meager requirements that the business group did NOT meet. Commissioner Keith London took the lead in objecting to it from the dais, but because the mayor supported it, it passed. Where was the SFST?

Well, forward to today, the local partner has since passed away, the money expended from the CRA is lost, and nobody in charge is asking any questions about it. And the South Florida Sun Times remains silent.

In November, voters of Hallandale Beach will have a chance to make major changes in the way this city is governed and the public policies that guide it. Concerned voters who want a better-managed and more transparent City Hall that is proactively accountable to taxpayers, and NOT in love with crony capitalism excesses like the loan to the SFST, should heed the recent lessons that have cost them and their neighbors both money and lost opportunities to make this a better community, and should vote for reform candidates.

Csaba Kulin, candidate for Hallandale Beach City Commission

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