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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Outsourcing isn't the real problem with beach safety in Hallandale Beach, but rather the actions -and in-action- of David Jove, Mike Good and Mark Antonio at HB City Hall; #HallandaleBeach

North Beach, Hallandale Beach, FL. May 30, 2012 photo by South Beach Hoosier. 
© 2012 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved
Outsourcing isn't the real problems with beach safety in Hallandale Beach, but rather the actions -and in-action- of David Jove, Mike Good and Mark Antonio at HB City Hall; #HallandaleBeach
Based on the eight-plus years I have of seeing how often Hallandale Beach has been mismanaged, the issue of outsourcing beach safety on the city's public beaches to third-party contractors has never been the main problem, though it seems to have become one now in the eyes of a lot of people who don't know all the facts, including some local and out-of-state reporters, who are latching onto that as a convenient straw man they can attack, often for political reasons.
While it's understandable to a certain extent for people who don't know the true extent of how badly run things are here to think that must be the problem, it isn't.


People, esp. residents of this city, feel a need to explain away the justifiable anger and upset they have over what has happened here recently that's gotten the name Hallandale Beach into headlines and stories all over the world for all the wrong reasons.
But they'd be better off looking closer to home at people whose names they already know.

The real problems lay at the desks -and feet- of a handful of highly-paid people who formerly toiled at Hallandale Beach City Hall.
People who'll be making more then $3 Million in pensions in the future for time they were given credit for that was actually done PRIOR to the current pension plan.
Yes, millions of dollars.


In my opinion, based on all I know and have observed from the center of the storm, the real problems with beach safety in Hallandale Beach are in the actions and non-actions of former City Attorney David Jove and former City Managers Mike Good and Mark A. Antonio.


Yes, the buck stops with them, and what's left over for sloppy seconds rests entirely with the ineffective and tone-deaf fivem-member Hallandale Beach City Commission, that with the exception of Keith London, never actually wanted to look under-the-hood to see what was really going on, even though oversight, rather than policy-making, is actually what most local officials are better at than policy-making.
Here, unfortunately, they are bad at both, since taking some pride in being diligent about mastering the pertinent policy information is not a trait the majority of the commission necessarily values.


Now, though, with Jove, Good and Antonio out of the picture, this city's residents have inherited all manner of bad public policies and unsound decision-making that we'll be paying for and dealing with for many, many years, to say nothing of the huge pensions their assistants will be receiving for the very same reason -credit given for prior years under a different plan, not actually work done under the pension plan in question.


A pension plan pushed on the HB City Commission by yet another former City Manager, R.J. Intindola, who the city's own figures show pockets an EXTRA $96k a year because of this plan that was approved one year before he retired.
A pension plan that ran counter to what the majority of local governments were then migrating to.

Trust me, here on this blog in the coming weeks and months, you will be getting the genuine jaw-dropping pension numbers on these characters -and others- that will animate at least some of the coming political campaign conversation in this town the next 16 weeks until Election Day.
Teaser Alert -NOT: Bill Julian's fingerprints will be on it.

Bur that's in the future, so for now, let's turn our attention back to the topic du jour, beach safety and the incident that brought it to worldwide attention.
My comments after the article. 

--------------------------------------
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Fired Hallandale Beach lifeguard to receive key to city; contract with company may sink
By Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel
5:42 p.m. EDT, July 6, 2012

HALLANDALE BEACH—
City leaders plan to give the lifeguard who was fired earlier this week the key to the city while considering showing the door to the private company that canned him.

Mayor Joy Cooper said Friday she remains horrified by the way Tomas Lopez, 21, of Davie was fired for leaving his post on the beach to help rescue a drowning man outside the company's legal boundaries. Lopez worked for Jeff Ellis Management, an Orlando-based firm that has been providing lifeguard services for the city since 2003.

"I know people across the country are as outraged as I am," Cooper said. "This doesn't reflect our culture. We are a small, caring community."

The city plans to issue Lopez the symbolic key during a ceremony on Monday. The unidentified man who needed rescuing is also expect to attend the event, the mayor said.

Company officials have since apologized to Lopez over the firing and offered him his job back. Lopez has turned them down. The company also announced it would be looking at its emergency protocol policy and possibly retooling it.

But those revisions may come too late, given that Lopez's firing seems to be an international public relations nightmare for both the city and the private firm.

The incident and the company's contract could become an election issue for most city commission members who are seeking re-election in November. Some of the political opponents, including former Vice Mayor Bill Julian, have already made it a campaign issue by pushing for the services to be provided in-house. When it comes to beach safety, Julian said "the real issue is that I think we can do better. We need to bring back our own guys."

Commission members, including Cooper and her bitter political nemesis Commissioner Keith London, have each said they want to revisit the idea of contracting out lifeguard services.

London, who is facing Cooper for the mayor seat, told residents and supporters in an e-mail sent Friday that the incident has provided the opportunity for a second look at beach safety.

"During a time when Hallandale Beach is attempting to attract more visitors with families and young children, I believe this is an opportunity, in light of a near tragedy, to review and potentially enhance the services provided by our first responders," London wrote.

The city began outsourcing the lifeguard responsibilities nine years ago as a cost-cutting measure. In 2009, the city renewed a three-year contract with Jeff Ellis Management worth roughly $1 million.

The contract is set to expire in September.

In firing Lopez, company supervisors said he ran past the boundaries the firm is contracted to protect. Company officials initially said Lopez put swimmers in his area in jeopardy and the firm could've been sued. A review of the contract specifically indicates that the boundary must be protected at all times.

The company is required to reimburse the city $100 for each day a lifeguard is not present.

In 2007, the firm reimbursed the city $500 after it pulled its lifeguards off the beach because of rough conditions. A woman nearly drowned while the stands were left empty and had to be rescued by beach guards from adjacent Hollywood.

Hallandale Beach is the only city in Florida the company provides ocean lifeguards. It does provide guards at community pools for numerous municipalities around the county, including in Hallandale Beach, Dania Beachand North Lauderdale. The lifeguards have said they get paid $8.25.

Dania Beach considered hiring the firm in 2005, but residents and employees vehemently opposed the move saying they were worried about the quality of the company's ocean-rescue training.

Gerry Falconer, president of the lifeguards group United States Lifesaving Association's southeast region, said the company has never sought certification through his association. He said there are several companies that provide similar services around the country, but most are designed to provide lifeguards at public pools.

"It's apples and oranges. At a wave pool, if things go bad, you can just hit a switch and turn the waves off," he said. "You can't do that on the ocean."

Company officials have long stood by its own certification training called the International Lifeguard Training Program, which they say includes ocean training and recognized by insurance companies.

Lopez said Friday he underwent the company's lifeguard training at a pool, which consisted of rigorous swimming and physical exercises. He then had training on the beach after he was hired.

Company president Jeff Ellis could not be reached for comments on Friday. He did say earlier this week he plans to provide city officials with results of an investigation about this week's incident.

Mayor Cooper said she plans to address the issue at the commission's first meeting in August.

-----

To me, outsourcing lifeguard duties on the city's public beaches were never the main problem here, but rather former City Attorney David Jove NOT doing a satisfactory job of completely spelling-out the city's reasonable expectations and requirements in the contract at the time, and subsequently, the City Managers and City Commission's complete failure to provide adequate oversight and suggest timely contract changes when appropriate.
Our old friend, lack of oversight, is the central problem, like dozens of other issues that we all could name that have long plagued this community.

Everything else devolved from that, including HB City Hall's failure to ever talk to the lifeguards themselves, just like the city NEVER spoke to the city's Mini-Bus drivers before they came out with their Transportation Master Plan. 
Really!

Why wouldn't you speak with your own employees and contractors first to see what suggestions they had before you spend so much money, so you can be sure to get the input of people who deal with a situation on a daily basis and incorporate their valid concerns or suggestions?
It's completely counter-intuitive and an example how often common sense has been ignored in this city over the years because that was NOT the way City Manager Good and Antonio wanted things done.
With them, it all started with themselves -top-down, despite the fact they they are not the ones who set policy.

The HB Parks & Recreation may nominally oversee the lifeguard contract, but again, that's in name only, since nobody in that  dept. had or has the power to do anything once the contract was signed. 
No, it all lay with the City Manager's office, and there, Good and Antonio both failed.

For many years, when their supervisors weren't around, the lifeguards have specifically told me exactly what they were missing in the way of resources and tools to do their job to the best of their ability, or what problems they were having with the city NOT doing what they said they were going to do, and taking forever even IF they did it.
Like the state of the lifeguard stands themselves, which are physically sub-par compared to other communities in South Florida.


South Beach, Hallandale Beach, FL. May 30, 2012 photo by South Beach Hoosier. 
© 2012 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

And as I've been saying and writing, and as the city already has known for a long time, the lifeguard stations are NOT currently grounded for lightning strikes.
What happens if one is struck overnight during a storm and destroyed, what's the city's back-up plan to have one in place the next morning?
What's the plan?

The truth is that we all already know based on years of experience that there is no back-up plan.
There never is.



Looking south towards North Beach, Hallandale Beach, FL from the Hollywood cityline. Though you really can't see the South Beach station from North Beach, HB City Hall thought they could share one jet ski, when it actually worked! 
What more can you say? May 30, 2012 photo by South Beach Hoosier. 
© 2012 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

Whether it was NOT having message boards on the side of the lifeguard stands that they could actually write on anymore because of excessive physical wear-and-tear from the sun and graffiti -and the city being a year behind in getting replacements- or NOT having a single  working jet ski to reach swimmers in peril in strong winds/undertow conditions because the last one was broken, and the city had no back-up plan, and refused to rent one until the previous one was fixed, the problems lay with the city, not the contractor,


Think about the fact that even when it was working, the city expected the two lifeguard stands to share one jet ski among them, separated by hundreds of yards.
When seconds really count!


It's absolutely ridiculous!


But this was how the city "managed" things on the beach on a daily basis for years.
That's NOT Jeff Ellis & Associates' doing, that's the city's!

As I wrote the other day, for quite a long time during the past 2-3 years, the lifeguards had nothing to cope with those sorts of wether/physical conditions, so this whole debate, upsetting as it is, could well have come a whole lot sooner, under much more tragic and deadly circumstances, with genuine drowning victims and lawsuits against the city that they could never possibly prevail in, leaving all of us on the hook.

That they didn't come sooner isn't because of anything the city has actually done, but rather in spite of everything the city HASN'T DONE.

Hope you can attend Monday morning's ceremony at HB City Hall at 10:30 a.m., because my sense of things is that given the amount of lingering concern and anger that remains, it could well prove to be a whole lot more interesting than anything Mayor Cooper is currently counting on.


And don't even go thru the pretense of having a meeting on beach safety in August if you aren't going to require David Jove to answer questions honestly, under oath.

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