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.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

As we get closer-and-closer to the real targets in Hallandale Beach of Broward IG John W. Scott's inquiry, longstanding questions begin to get the overdue attention they always deserved, while many of the 'Usual Suspects' have good reason to be VERY concerned; @MayorCooper, @SandersHB, @AlexLewy


Above,  501 N.W. 1st Avenuewhich in Hallandale Beach polite society and public policy circles is considered THE most egregious example of dozens of exasperating and highly-questionable examples of dubious government spending and crony capitalism that've taken place on Mayor Joy Cooper's watch, and one of the most dubious of any in Broward County, which is REALLY saying something. It's the infamous former property owned by HB Comm. Anthony A. Sanders that has seen so many tens of thousands of Hallandale Beach taxpayer dollars and CRA dollars poured into it. For what, THISphoto by South Beach Hoosier
© 2012 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

As we get closer-and-closer to the real targets in Hallandale Beach of Broward IG John W. Scott's inquiry, longstanding questions begin to get the overdue attention they always deserved, while many of the 'Usual Suspects' have good reason to be VERY concerned; @MayorCooper, @SandersHB, @AlexLewy

AFTER the city vastly overpaid for it, despite having no written or organized plan for what they'd actually do with it once they had it, just like the dozens and dozens of other properties it owns in NW Hallandale Beach, you probably won't be too surprised to hear that it was rented it to a non-profit run by a woman with a real curious knack for tapping into HB taxpayer and CRA largess, 
Deborah Brown, sometimes, even without the elected HB City Commission either approving it or even knowing about it until after-the-fact.


© 2012 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

The city charges her a grand total of $10 a year in rent.
So remind me again, why the hurry to buy it?

To this very day, Mayor Joy Cooper, City Manager Mark A. Antonio and Comm. Anthony A. Sanders, himself, the seller of the property, can't logically explain to you with a straight face why it was so urgent that this parcel be bought ASAP, or show you any written plan or strategy for it.
The current belief among most HB residents is that the reason breaks down as something along the lines of, "Because."
Because Mayor Cooper wanted it done.
Yes, the same reason given for almost anything that ever happens in this city. 

(Of course, these are also three people who can't logically tell you why the Mayor ignored its own rules in filling Commissioner vacancies in rushing Sanders in as interim commissioner without following the very procedures used the year before, and her refusal to allow the public in the Comm. Chambers to speak about it.
The answers are elementary: Mayor Cooper didn't want to be reminded she was bending the rules and didn't allow the citizens the opportunity to speak because she didn't want the spectacle of her being continually criticized.
Then-City Attorney David Jove, as always, just sat there like a bump on a log, unwilling to remind the mayor what the city's procedures were. I guess he just closed his eyes and counted his pension. All of that was the predicate for the situation that exists today.)

In my last blog post early Friday afternoon, I mentioned last week's Broward Bulldog article by Bill Gjebre that dealt with the continued refusal of most Hallandale Beach elected officials and city employees to fully cooperate with Broward Inspector General John W. Scott and his professional investigators.

Broward Bulldog
Hallandale refuses full cooperation in county probe; Which commissioners are targets?
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org 
June 14, 2012 AT 6:29 AM
Hallandale Beach City Manager’s Office has refused to fully cooperate with the Broward Inspector General’s Office investigation into the city’s management of the Community Redevelopment district.
Read the rest of the post at
http://www.browardbulldog.org/2012/06/hallandale-refuses-full-cooperation-in-county-probe-of-finances-which-commissioners-are-targets/

What I hadn't counted on was that in-between my writing that post early Friday morning and posting it later, Bill Gjebre had updated his story with a piece that was dramatically more case- specific about what areas the Broward Inspector General's office was looking into and whom was thought to be under the most scrutiny.
We were given some facts and asked to connect-the-dots in our head since the IG's Office won't comment on an ongoing investigation.

Broward Bulldog
Details emerge about Broward IG’s Hallandale probe; payments to commissioner’s wife eyed
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org 
June 22, 2012 at 6:20 AM
A Hallandale Beach program that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollar in grants and contributions to community groups is a key focus of the Broward Inspector General’s widespread investigation of city management practices.
Read the rest of the post at:
http://www.browardbulldog.org/2012/06/details-emerge-about-broward-igs-hallandale-probe-payments-to-commissioners-wife-eyed/

What has made my situation odder is that most of what follows below was actually written before Gjebre's fact-heavy update was posted online, and soon making the rounds all over Hallandale Beach and Broward County via email and IMs among the civic activist and public policy set, a smaller circle to be sure within the larger circle of Broward-area government and politics, and one that prefers its officials clean and sober and free of crony capitalism taint.

Most of the people I know who follow things closely here in Hallandale Beach already believed that they had a pretty good idea who the most plausible and likely targets in town were, besides former CRA employees, in part I'm happy to say because of some of my fact-based posts here  the past few years asking some pretty reasonable questions about where the money was going that the city refused -and still refuses- to answer.
Still, I didn't expect that so many of the people I have specifically mentioned here in the past would show up in one article.

I must say, with no false modesty, when you re-read the odd connections I uncovered and wrote about on April 12, 2012, in my post titled, An IG investigation! Finally! Plus, more curious CRA matters to ponder - William Gjebre in BrowardBulldog: Broward Inspector General's office zeroing-in on Hallandale Beach after numerous reports re city's curious CRA loans and land purchases with no written plan in place for the latter, it's uncanny how many of the same names and faces re-appeared in Friday's Bulldog piece:

http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2012/04/ig-investigation-finally-plus-more.html


As you might've imagined, that remains one of my most-read posts of the year, one that I sent a copy of to the IG's office to examine and help connect-the-dots I figured they were dealing with, given the lack of cooperation they were getting from the city.

That particular post also proves that despite what some of the apologists for our 'Usual Suspects' in town might think, my intuition and nose-for-news are much more highly-developed than they knew.

Now they know!

The individuals and groups who presently and formerly occupied the property located one block west of this Palms of Hallandale Beach monument sign on W. Dixie Highway and Foster Road -which, this being Hallandale Beach after all, the illuminated lights are almost always out at night- pictured at the top of this post, have a lot to worry about.

Their days of operating in the shadows are coming to an end because after years of obfuscation by Mike Good and Mark Antonio, HB taxpayers want to know what that money is going, and they want to be able to see it clearly on the city's website or the group's own website.
If it wasn't clear to them a few weeks ago it should be clear to them now -the days of a handful of people in this city feeling like they have an entitlement to govt. dollars are over.

In the minds of HB residents and voters, there's STILL ethical and financial questions lingering over this particular property, too, like vultures circling a dead body in the desert.
But the powers-that-be at HB City Hall prefer to ignore them and look away.
And as I hardly need tell you, that's no way to run a city.
Which is why we need some new faces on the Commission!


© 2012 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

Fortunately, the IG's professional investigators don't have to do what Mayor Joy Cooper or City Manager Mark. A. Antonio or Comm. Antony A. Sanders or his wife Jessica wants them to do, nor do they have to take their word for anything.

No, the IG agents live in the world of puzzle pieces, evidence and what you can prove, not Cooper, Antonio and Sanders' world of intentional misdirection and studied issue avoidance.

That critical difference should be causing lots of people in this town to not sleep quite so soundly at night. 

Equally concerned should be a whole host of former city employees, of whom the most obvious is former City Attorney David Jove, who played the role of Wooden Indian for so very many years under City Managers Mike Good and Mark. A. Antonio, saying nothing and doing nothing while questionable and unethical things were done right in front of him.

(Yes, all of those hundreds of HB City Commission and CRA meetings I attended and bitched about the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel consciously NOT sending anyone to cover them, and now, the logical result is that both newspapers and all four English-language TV stations in South Florida have ZERO employees who are up-to-speed on what's been going on here for years. 
Yes, the logical result of completely inadequate local news coverage is a useless press corps.)

But as everyone in town was always been quick to say even when the inexplicable and the shady doings were happening right in front of us as citizens, Jove wanted to keep his job and his sweet pension, so...    

By the way, good luck trying to find anything at HB City Hall or on the city's website that approximates a copy of an objective third-party analysis of the so-called "job training" program that involved Jessica Sanders.

Guess we were all right when we said last year that it was a good thing that Comm. Lewy didn't succeed in steering $200k to the Comm. & Mrs. Sanders and their group at a City Comm. meeting -after midnight, with hardly anyone there.
The one where he made his motion without ever identifying them by name.
This one below!


MONDAY, AUGUST 1, 2011
While you were sleeping: Comm. Alexander Lewy's budget chicanery & Liberal Guilt just cost you another $200,000-plus. For what and for whom, exactly?
http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/while-you-were-sleeping-comm-alexander.html

And let's not forget the faux newspaper, The Sun-Times, which receives CRA money and only has to re-pay half of the loan.


Above, the faux newspaper that receives CRA funds that are intended to end blight in the city, the South Florida Sun-Times. Maybe if they actually tried to gain some integrity by finally covering what's really happening in this city objectively, and airing both sides of an argument on public policy, they wouldn't be the subject of so much derision and mockery by this city's residents, but they aren't interested in actually reporting fairly, only in providing cover and succor to the comfortable, the well-heeled and their pals at HB City Hall. Until that ends, nobody will ever take anything they touch seriously. April 17, 2012 photo by South Beach Hoosier.
© 2012 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

Miami Herald
IN MY OPINION
Hallandale Beach paper shows way to make easy money  
By Fred Grimm  
February 14, 2012
Money problems have pretty much flummoxed the newspaper industry. Corporate executives spend a lot of time obsessing over various strategies to recapture lost revenues. I worry about Strategy Number 17, which entails columnists in sandwich boards.
Who would have guessed that the solution to the industry’s financial problems would come from a little weekly newspaper in Hallandale Beach? The South Florida Sun Times gets all the credit for the brilliant new business plan: free money. Much better than cranky old guys in sandwich boards.
The Sun Times cache of money comes from the city of Hallandale Beach. The BrowardBullDog.org, a regional non-profit dedicated to investigative journalism, reported last week that the weekly newspaper received $50,000 from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency back in 2009. The money was ostensibly a loan, but special terms excuse the newspaper from the burden of paying back more than half the money. The Sun Times gets away with repaying the other half at only 2 percent interest over 10 years.
This is what’s known in the financial sector as “one sweet deal.”
CRAs are special defined urban districts that levy taxes to fund infrastructure improvements. Stuff like slum clearance, water and sewer projects, street lights, sidewalks.
In Miami, CRA funds have occasionally been diverted toward the improvement of private property owned by the close relatives of unscrupulous politicians. We know this because newspapers like The Miami Herald dig into the CRA records and report the scandalous truth. Then the unscrupulous politician goes on radio and says unkind things about The Herald. This is the old, tried, true but not very profitable model of newspaper journalism.
In Hallandale Beach, a city conjured out of the Broward tomato fields by mob boss Meyer Lansky, the Sun Times has invented a better way. The newspaper doesn’t investigate the questionable distribution of CRA funds. The newspaper takes the funds.
The $50,000 was the first “loan” given out under a CRA program supposed to rescue struggling city businesses. BullDog.org reports that the Sun Times was the only business in the program allowed to shrug off half the loan.
BullDog.org, looking at the tax records filed with the CRA, noticed that the president of the “struggling” Sun Times was paid $259,193 in 2007 and $239,054 in 2008. The weekly’s vice president received $192,052 and $229,010 those same years.
Experts in employee compensation have a special term for this level of pay: “Wow!”
Under the old newspaper model, a courageous, slightly overweight, aging but still virile columnist would have gone berserk, suggesting that with that kind of executive pay, no wonder the Sun Times needed a bailout from the city. And why on earth, the columnist would ask, would the mayor of Hallandale Beach push such a dodgy deal through the city’s CRA?
Except that Mayor Joy Cooper, the potential object of the Sun Times columnist’s scorn, also happens to be the Sun Times columnist. Admittedly, her style does not recall Chicago’s Mike Royko (“The subject of criminal rehabilitation was debated recently in City Hall. It’s an appropriate place for this kind of discussion because the city has always employed so many ex-cons and future cons.”) or New York’s Jimmy Breslin (“Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”)
But there she is, the mayor/columnist, with her regular space in the Sun Times, with an unfettered opportunity to enhance her public persona. Meanwhile, City Commissioner Keith London (or any other critic of municipal policy) is nowhere to be seen in the pages of the uncrusading newspaper. That may be because London has not only railed about the $50,000 loan, he has criticized the $105,000 the city has spent advertising in the Sun Times over the past two fiscal years. The Sun Times deals were never approved by the city commission, he complained.
(In 2009, a letter was mailed out to city businesses on official Hallandale Beach city stationery stating: “Just about everyone is feeling the effects of the economy and doing what we can to get through tough times. In an effort to promote and support local businesses, the city encourages all businesses to advertise in the city’s only local newspaper.” The love letter was signed by both Mayor Cooper and City Manager Mike Goode.)
A columnist under the old newspaper model would argue that the mayor has a very suspicious relationship with the recipient of so much city money. But the columnist under the much cozier Sun Times model, with the free money strategy, would write, “Hey, suckers. I’m the mayor. I do what the hell I want.”
Read the readers comments at:
http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/13/2639870/hallandale-beach-paper-shows-way.html

As I mentioned here last week, the owner of this faux newspaper that's supported by Hallandale Beach CRA dollars, thanks to contributor and Mayor Joy CooperCraig Farquharpublicly lied about not having an opinion on the controversial Diplomat project in 2009 and 2010, but many people, including me, have actually seen a copy of his email to Broward County urging its passage.

Plus, here's the official record that Craig Farquhar, this recipient of HB taxpayer largess that the taxpayers are actually AGAINST, this so-called person with "no position" on this issue is a stone-faced liar: Page 13 of the Broward Planning Council's Minutes of February 25, 2010.
is that enough proff for you that he's a hypocrite?
Right there under Speakers in support of PH 8, six spaces after Joe Kessel, five spaces before Patricia Genetti.

Yes, of course, Farquahar is a member of the Hallandale Beach Chamber of Commerce!
I told you it was the center for crony capitalism in this town -and he's the proof of that.
He received a $50k CRA loan, only has to repay $25k.
http://www.broward.org/PlanningCouncil/Documents/PlanningCouncilMonthlyMinutes/02252010Minutes.pdf

Newcomers to this blog take notice:
Broward Bulldog
Sweet deal for owners of Hallandale newspaper that features mayor as columnist
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org 
FEBRUARY 9, 2012 AT 6:11 AM
A weekly newspaper in Hallandale Beach got a $50,000 city “loan” under terms so favorable that half of it – $25,000 – amounted to a taxpayer giveaway because the city did not require it to be repaid...
Read the rest of the story at: 

See for yourself:
http://web.me.com/mike.butler/Change_Hallandale/Updates/Entries/2010/2/26_CIty_Raises_Taxes_while_Wasting_Money_on_Private_Companies_files/SunTimes_PromissoryNote.pdf

Or, see my February 14, 2012 blog post titled, 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

Yes, plenty of people who are associated with the Hallandale Beach Chamber of Commerce have profited off the public's teat, which is something that Craig Farquhar has managed to do for years, yet he is a person who almost nobody in town would recognize.
But I'm sure the manager of his bank does.

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Cityline on A1A and the beach

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Where Hollywood meets Hallandale Beach on State Road A1A, Hyde Beach Resort & Residences meets the iconic beach ball-colored Water Tower

Hallandale Beach City Hall

Hallandale Beach City Hall
May 30, 2017 photo by SouthBeachHoosier
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