Below is a copy of an email that I wrote last Friday night to South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter Tonya Alanez, who along with Sun-Sentinel columnist and blogger Michael Mayo, were in attendance at the March 7th Hallandale Beach City Commission meeting, sitting just a few feet away from me, as I recorded certain parts of the meeting and watched the usual antics of the Joy Cooper Rubber Stamp Crew, this time, as they tried to prove a negative -why the Marcum LLP report was actually, well, apparently good news.
Yes, just ignore those 250 or so "exceptions" Marcum made note of in doing a very shallow review of just some records the city was willing to cough-up, not the array of ones the citizens of this community wanted reviewed for other factors, including fraud, given the millions of tax dollars involved.
No, this is NOT that promised review of the March 7th meeting I mentioned a few posts back, where there were a number of public policy issues that really stood out and demand your attention and notice.
For instance, Comm. Alexander Lewy foolishly making a motion to preclude the elected city commission from actually speaking on the matter of the RK Associates development project on N.E. 14th Avenue so the public in the Chambers could hear their rationale for voting however they were going to vote, on an agenda item I had forgotten was even going to be discussed that night.
Perhaps Lewy did so because developer RK has a solid and consistent history of late of NOT living up to their word or the signed agreements with the city on behalf of the city's taxpayers, something you'd think that City Manger Antonio felt was worth mentioning.
Those of us paying close attention to these matters the past few years already know, though I doubt that would include either Comm. Lewy or Sanders, given that they voted for the motion along with Comm. Ross and Mayor Cooper.
When I showed-up for the evening meeting I hadn't planned on speaking during the Public Comments on that agenda item, but after witnessing Lewy's galling gambit, and listening to an incredulous and quite reasonably-exasperated HB citizen, Michele Lazarow, ask Lewy to explain why he felt the need to make such an unusual motion -which I may've have witnessed maybe once in the past six years that I can recall off the top of my head- and her NOT hearing a good response from Lewy the Liar, I decided that someone need to be reminded of the pink elephant in the room.
After admitting I hadn't planned on speaking, I reminded everyone there in the room and at home watching via their computers, with great specificity, that RK was a serial violator, picking on but the lowest-hanging fruit -their complete failure three years later to comply with the city's signage requirements in the Publix grocery store parking lot off of NE 14th Avenue and HBB, per the surveillance cameras and the next-door Publix Liquor store.
The signs were supposed to be present when the liquor store opened but three years later -NADA!
I know about this because I'm the person who three years ago walked the city's wet-and- shriveled-up paper Code Compliance complaint into Publix and handed it to their on-duty manager, after seeing it lying on grass near the parking lot one rainy day while walking back to my home from a walk up to the beach and back.
Like me, it was soaking wet, and it looked to have long since been separated from the wooden stick it had been attached to, far from where anyone at Publix or RK would ever have sees it.
Yes, a case of Classic HB Theater of the Absurd!
Again, those required signs were STILL missing three years later!
And as if I could have scripted it better myself, that night, RK said it wanted to provide LESS than the required number of parking spaces the city's own staff was asking for.
Last I heard, they STILL owe the public parking spaces for other parts of their retail complex north of Hallandale Beach Blvd. over where the Kirova Ballet studio is located, towards Diplomat Parkway, but...
But again, this isn't THAT blog post!
March 16, 2012
Dear Ms. Alanez:
re your article, Hallandale Beach bans 'human signs' but halts enforcement
Hmm-m...if you knew the true facts, you'd know why that Lewy quote from your article is a perfect combination of faux sanctimony and utter hypocrisy, and even more than is usually the case with any self-serving thing Comm. Lewy says, it's a case of consider the source...
"Without any type of regulations, we would have sign wavers on every single street corner and every single block," Commissioner Alex Lewy saidLet me explain why.
As is customary in most American cities, the hefty candidate packets given to all city candidates in Hallandale Beach by the City Clerk's office upon filing have a section that details the city's own rules regarding where campaign signs can and can't be legally placed within the city.
(Did you know the City of Hallandale Beach also forbids candidates for any political office from using (independently-owned) bus benches within the city limits?)
So, given this information, you'd naturally think then that the same city Code Compliance Dept. that actually cited Comm. Keith London in 2010 for having his one campaign sign on his own front yard -since only one is allowed- a few inches too close to the sidewalk, WOULD see all if not some of the many illegally-placed Alexander Lewy campaign signs in front of and around HB City Hall itself for days and days during both Early Voting and prior to the 2010 General Election in November, right?
I mean especially since the Code Compliance office is right there at HB City Hall, and most of the cars in the City Hall parking lot off of U.S.-1 are assigned to Code Compliance, despite the fact that MANY MANY MONTHS often go by when those vehicles DON'T MOVE, while city residents continually strain to find a place to park for important evening meetings there, right?
And then when you add in all those myriad political campaign signs that have been plucked by Code Compliance for whatever reason, whether illegally or not, and which remain in the back seats of those very cars for days if not weeks at a time, as anyone who has been to City Hall at those particular times knows, including former candidates, well, it's so noticeable that observant people like me even snap photos of the signs in the cars, and see the same signs inside, day-after-day.
But to answer my own question, no, the city's Code Compliance office DIDN'T see those Lewy signs just feet away from their own cars, they just look the other way.
That's how things are done here.
There's your enforcement of sign ordinances in this city -special rules for special people.
That is, unless you walk into City Hall and wait 10 minutes like I did for someone from that office to actually come to the public window so you can tell them and make a formal complaint when they say they'll get to it.
Unless you won't leave until you actually send a city employee outside their own building to pick the illegal signs up, and then wait and follow the city employee to see that they actually do it, since the signs have either been there illegally for days or the better part of a day, depending upon what day it is.
"Without any type of regulations, we would have sign wavers on every single street corner and every single block," Commissioner Alex Lewy said.It never ends with him.
City spokesman Peter Dobens said the city is confident that its ordinance is constitutional but as a precaution has suspended enforcement while awaiting additional legal review and an opinion from City Attorney Lynn Whitfield.
"The city doesn't believe that it is a free speech issue, because it's clearly an advertisement. However, when it came up, that's when the city said, 'Let's take a look at it,'" Dobens said.
Now that's funny!
It's really too bad that as has been the case for YEARS now, the Sun-Sentinel, the Herald and all of South Florida's TV stations missed the two public meetings, where the City Commission showed no interest in the First Amendment rights of HB business owners, as well as the city's P&Z meeting weeks before that.
I'm sure that if this had been attempted in another city closer to, well, the oblivious Herald's own HQ, given the likely economic results, it would've gotten some coverage, but if it happens in HB, no, everyone in the news room just shakes their head and says, "No, we'll pass."
Not that this lack of living bodies in the back of the room stopped me:
Regulating signage & advertising during a bad economy? Oh, so that's the ticket to economic recovery in Hallandale Beach
As it was, when I specifically asked the city's staff at the P&Z meeting during public comments whether or not any of those affected businesses, especially the ones that the city was clearly targeting, had been informed about the proposal, that meeting as well as the upcoming Commission meetings by the city, i.e. them, to ensure some degree of fairness, given that nobody was there, they basically shrugged their shoulders.
There's your evidence of the City of Hallandale Beach going the extra-mile for local businesses!
And yet how entirely predictable was the result of the city's actions?
I already knew from experience that there would be a drop-off for the affected businesses, and as you dutifully reported...
Seven out of 10 customers said they came to his gold-buying business because they remembered his Uncle Sam sign holders, Ezekiel said. Business is now down about 40 to 50 percent, he said."We're crippled enough in this economy, there's no reason to cripple us more," Ezekiel said. "It's like a billboard, they constantly see it, he makes them laugh, he makes them smile and they remember and they come in."When the business closes up, and it becomes yet another one of the many, many empty storefronts in this city, esp. on HBB in particular, be sure to make plans to come back around HB City Hall and ask the same city commissioners who voted for it whether they have any second thoughts, and even better, just whom do they think is really going to rent those storefronts anyway, some upscale businesses looking to relocate?
And yet even while they purport to be working towards solving a problem few people think is a real problem, the city looks the other way as the folks from PAL -who already get plenty from HB taxpayers, with little oversight- can put up their advertising signs, sandwich board signs and even city-owned electronic message boards all over town, regardless of whether it's fair or even placed in a safe location, something they don't do for even the city's own important meetings.
Yes, like the Golden Isles Tennis Center where the mayor plays, whose sandwich board sign has been on a median near the Publix on HBB almost un-interrupted for years.
Huh, I wonder why?
Over-and-over in Hallandale Beach under Mayor Cooper, it's a case of special rules for special people.
Next time you're driving south to Hallandale Beach from Hollywood on U.S.-1, one of the city's three main streets, pay attention to how many city blocks on your right -the west side- between Atlantic Shores Blvd. and NE 3rd Street actually have an open business.
There's one (small) block.
Though you and I have never officially met or spoken, you're probably smart enough to realize in advance that you are never going to get anything even remotely resembling the unvarnished truth from the city's not-so-talented and not-so-observant new taxpayer-financed spin-meister, Mr. Dobens, given that this city under this administration, for all its lip service, prefers to keep its residents in the dark for as long as possible, rather than trust them to make up their own minds with freely-shared information.
I strongly suggest you take a look at these contemporaneous comments and photos of mine so that when the city loses its case, as I'm sure they likely will, you'll at least have some knowledge for better understanding that they never really took anyone' else's opinion into consideration.
That's how they do it here under the present Joy Cooper Rubber Stamp Crew.
Or, you can just do a Google Images search for "alexander lewy" "campaign signs" and get much the same.
The first dozen or so photos that appear in the search results are all ones that I snapped at the time -there's your proof of both his obliviousness and his hypocrisy, both of which have been on almost continuous display since he was elected, and which shows no sign of abating.
As for your Friday night post, VIDEO: No love lost between Hallandale Mayor Joy Cooper, Commissioner Keith London
you DON'T mention that the predicate for this was City Manager Mark A. Antonio and his staff failing to make copies of Marcum LLP's supposed last-minute four-page addition to the public record, actually available to the public, who'd been waiting for the agenda item to come up for quite some time.
Marcum's reps publicly stated that they had turned over the documents to the city at 4 p.m., but though Antonio and his highly-paid staff of assistants had well over five hours to make copies by the time it finally came up -since it was NOT on the city's own website, and yet would be voted upon- Antonio & Co. failed to do the logical and responsible thing, which in case you forgot, even Mayor Cooper was not very happy about either.
So, Antonio having failed to do something simple and obvious, while they yakked and yakked and actually debated whether or not to direct the staff to make copies, someone showed some initiative and got positive results.
Which is why they took the 15-minute break after Comm. London returned with copies for everyone in the room to actually read for the first time, including the taxpayers in the room, whom they all supposedly work for, though you wouldn't know it from their attitudes and work ethic.
While I like most concerned residents of Hallandale Beach am glad to see someone from the South Florida news media actually showing-up here for a change -and actually staying for the whole meeting- while I'm mindful of the fact that you have limited space, if you can't actually make more of an effort to incorporate any of the actual context or nuance that's actually going on here, frankly, in my opinion, it's actually almost worse than nothing, because it perpetuates the popular idea among the extant news media that the residents of this particular community are entitled to LESS actual democracy, transparency and competency in government than other communities, or news coverage, simply because of where we live in South Florida.