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, Europe 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.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Csaba Kulin takes a hard look at the 2013 budget for the City of Hallandale Beach and is VERY troubled by the ominous numbers and spending trends he sees. We need to "do more with less."

Above, where so very much of the damage is done to taxpayers and business owners of this city thru faulty financial decisions, bad judgement about public policy, and an almost complete lack of old-fashioned oversight: Hallandale Beach City Hall. April 17, 2012 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2012 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved
My friend and fellow Hallandale Beach and Broward County activist Csaba Kulin has taken a hard look at the 2013 budget for the City of Hallandale Beach, and he's VERY troubled by the ominous numbers and spending trends he sees. We need to "do more with less."

August 12, 2012
Dear Residents of Hallandale Beach.
On Monday and Tuesday, August 13 and 14, 2012, starting at 4:00 P.M. in Room 257 at HB City Hall -not in the Commission Chambers- extremely important budget negotiations will be taking place that DIRECTLY affects you and your family's financial well-being and quality of life in this city for the next 20-30 years. In short, our future.
I strongly urge you to personally attend these meetings in person and let your own voice be heard, because we know from experience that if the Commissioners are left to their own devices and biases, common sense and logic will rarely if ever intersect in these budget proposals.
I suggest that if at all possible, you try to read as much of the documents the City Manager has provided, as they are very good, but since it's several hundred pages long, I'll attempt here to highlight the most important sections of each area.
If Mayor Cooper follows the published agenda, City Manager Crichton will present and the City Commission will review the Proposed 2013 Budget on Monday.
After that, the City Manager will present for PUBLIC discussion, the three MAJOR INITIATIVES (Item 6A):
1. The issuance of a $56.7 million 20-30 year bonds to finance the Parks Master Plan recommendations, the new Main Fire Station and the Post Office Acquisition.
2. Proposed Natural Compressed Gas (CNG) Project.
3. Community Partnership Grants: Best Practices, Grant Management and Accountability.
REVENUES. The General Fund revenues are projected to go up from $46.2 to $51.2 million, a five (5) million or 10.9% increase. The increase is due to a slight increase in property values and new construction. Total revenues are projected to increase from $79.5 to $85.9 million, about $6.4 million (8.1%).
EXPENSES. The General Fund expenses are projected to go up from about $51.9 to $57.8 million, a $5.9 million or 11.4% increase. Total expenses are projected to go up from $91.5 to 95.5 million, about a $4.0 million (4.3%).
Yes, almost $100 Million to run a city of our small size and population: 4.2 square miles, under 40,000 people.
Per capita spending of somewhere under $25,000 a year per resident.
I don't know about you, but I and my neighbors have long thought that we were not getting a dollar's worth of quality service for a dollar's worth of taxes. We are most certainly NOT getting $25,000 of value a year.
USE OF RESERVES. The City has budgeted over the past number of years Reserves or “rainy days funds” to finance the shortages between income and expenses. The amount ranged between $3.7 million in 2006 to $7.9 million in 2012. Most years the actual use of Reserves was less than budgeted. 
Last year the City budgeted $7.9 million and will use $4.8 million of the Reserves. Next year the City budgeted $6.5 of the $21.8 million Reserves, leaving the City with a total balance of $15.2 million. The City estimates that in 2014 we will use another $7.0 million, and in 2015, that we'll use another $7.0 million leaving the City with only a $1.2 million Reserve.
In 2016, three short years away, the City will have ZERO Reserves and will not be able to cover out expenses (see page 16).
To make matters worse, this budget, as far as I can see, does not include the additional $4.2 million “Budget Notes”.
In future years the City would have additional annual expenses operating the new parks ($1.7 million), payments on the $56.7 million bond issue (about $3.0 million).
After all, you don't just buy something like land for a park and open the doors. You have to carefully maintain it, yet it's common knowledge throughout this City that they've consistently done a poor job for years of properly maintaining the City's largest park, Bluesten Park, and yet that's only two blocks away from City Hall. That sort of myopic mismanagement is NOT an encouraging sign.
Why should we count on better results in the future from the same people who have been shown themselves to be chronic under-achievers for years?
COMMENTS: You may question why in today’s economic condition, the City’s expenses have to increase by 11.4%. One of the main reasons is that the City is adding 26 new full-time and 22 part-time employees costing the City $1.8 million dollars. Staffing level goes from 449 full-time equivalents (FTE) in 2012 to 492 FTE in 2013. That is 33 FTE higher than last year.
Our motto should be “do more with less” and we go the other direction.
As you may know, we will soon have a a new Marina on Three Islands Blvd. (3 P/T employees) and a new lifeguard program (10 full-time and 15 part time employees), but the City also added 16 other employees to the City’s payroll.
The result of the City's years of over-staffing and under-performance is that we now have the following frightening facts staring at us: the average cost of each City employee has gone from $58,592 in 2003 to $104,861 in 2013.
That is an amazing 81.83% increase. 
If the financial management of the City is allowed to continue as it is now, the residents will see a significant increase in property taxes in order to pay for the mismanagement of our City.
ISSUANCE OF BONDS. The City Manager Recommends that the City issues $56.7 million 20-30 bonds to pay for the park Master Plan recommendations, the new Main Fire Station and to purchase the Post Office property.
The City already paid for B.F. James, Joseph Scavo and South Beach Parks, so why does the City want to borrow that $8.0 million if is all paid for?
The North Beach Park is paid by the developer who leased it. Both of those items add up to about $10.0 million. So the bonds should actually be about $46.7 million.
There two types of bonds available. General Obligation Bonds (GO) and Revenue Bonds (RB). The General Obligation Bonds require that the voters approve the issuance of the bonds. The survey recently commissioned by the City said that only 36% of the population is willing to pay $10 to $85 per $100,000 valuation to fund parks. The City Manager does not want to spend money on an election therefore she does NOT recommend General Obligation Bonds.
Interestingly enough, City Manager Crichton neglects to mention that the City is already paying for an election in January 2013.
The Revenue Bond does not require a vote of the residents. The City pledges the income from the improvements to pay off the bonds. A good example would be Turnpike bonds -it's paid off using the actual tolls collected. In our case, we do not receive a lot of revenue from parks and the City pledges the revenue from property taxes to pay off the loan.
In my opinion, the City stretches the spirit of a revenue bond, but that has never stopped our City Commission.
Needless to say, the City Manager recommends the Revenue Bonds approach, and forget about asking those pesky taxpayers to weigh-in, since you can never be depended on by them to be a “Rubber Stamp” anyway.
NATURAL COMPRESSED GAS (CNG) PROJECT. This is a environmentally-friendly proposal, but even the attached study questions its feasibility. I do not think our City should be on the “bleeding” edge of this project. We need to have a lot more economic study information as to actual costs and payback numbers. It is important to further investigate the project.
I hope this will help you understand the issues facing the City and you will realize the importance of attending Monday’s meeting at 4:00 P.M.
I am attaching a spread sheet with 2003 to 2013 employee costs, count and comparisons. Also you will find the links to the supporting documents provided by the City.

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Hallandale Beach Blog is where I try to inject or superimpose a degree of accountability, transparency and insight onto Florida and local Broward County government and public policy issues, which I feel is sorely lacking in local media now. On this blog, locally, I concentrate my energy, enthusiasm, anger and laser-like attention on the coastal cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood and Aventura.

If you lived in this part of South Florida, you'd ALREADY be stuck in stultifying traffic, paying higher-than-necessary taxes and continually musing about the chronic lack of accountability among not only elected govt. officials, but also of city, county and state employees as well. Collectively, with a few rare exceptions, they couldn't be farther from the sort of strong results-oriented, eager work-ethic mentality that local residents deserve and expect. But seldom if ever see...

This is particularly true in the Broward County city I live in, the City of Hallandale Beach, north of Aventura and south of Hollywood and right on the Atlantic Ocean. Here, the "Perfect Storm" of years of apathy, incompetency and cronyism are all too readily apparent. Sadly for its beleaguered residents, HB is where even easily-solved, quality-of-life problems are left to fester for YEARS on end, because of myopia, lack of common sense and ineffective supervisory management. It's a city with tremendous potential because of its terrific location and well-educated populace, yet its citizens have almost become numb to HB City Hall's frequent outrages and screw-ups, the result of YEARS of the worst kind of mismanagement and lack of foresight. On a daily basis, residents and Small Business owners wake up and see the same old problems that have never being adequately resolved by the city in a logical and responsible fashion, merely kicked -once again- further down the road for others to solve in the future.

I used to ask myself, not always rhetorically, "Where are all the enterprising young reporters who want to show that through their own hard work and enterprise, what REAL investigative reporting can produce?" Hearing no response, I decided to start a blog of my own that could try to do some of these things, taking the p.o.v. of a reasonable-but-skeptical person seeing the situation for the first time with fresh eyes, and wanting questions answered in a honest and logical way that citizens have the right to expect.

Hallandale Beach Blog intends to be a catalyst for positive change in public policy and goivernment engagement. If there's one constant gripe in South Florida, regardless of your age, race, nationality or political persuasion, it's about the fundamental lack of PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY of Florida's state, regional and local govt./agency officials, elected and otherwise. Hallandale Beach Blog aims to be a small step towards regaining some of that needed accountability, whether it's thru shining some well-needed public scrutiny on the issue or pol, or requires a higher degree of follow-up investigation and public exposure of the incompetency, cronyism or negligence -South Florida's usual governing style.

Paradise Lost? South Florida

Paradise Lost? South Florida
TIME magazine of November 23, 1981: Paradise Lost? South Florida . Click photo to see original article.
Unless otherwise indicated, all ORIGINAL photos appearing here were taken by myself. © 2014 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved. The use or modification of original photos or original images appearing on this blog WITHOUT the written permission of the author is expressly prohibited. DO NOT modify or alter any original photo/image on this blog and use it in any other media, whether for commercial advertising, marketing purposes, political campaign advertising, or on any Social Media platform or digital media forum. Do NOT modify or alter the photos or use them in a confusing way that suggests sponsorship or endorsement, or in a way that seeks to confuse Hallandale Beach Blog with another blog. This includes but is not limited to sites such as Dipity, Facebook, flickr, MySpace, Pinterest, Posterous, Topsy, Twitter, YouTube or VIMEO. Original photos and images also can NOT be used as avatars or icons on website forums.

A fish rots from the head down, and so does local government in Hallandale Beach, FL

A fish rots from the head down, and so does local government in Hallandale Beach, FL
City of Hallandale Beach Municipal Complex, 400 S. Federal Highway. The City of Hallandale Beach Municipal Complex: If it's true that a fish rots from the head down, so it does in local government in Broward County, FL. This monument sign on the west side of the intersection of U.S.-1 and S.E. 5th Street, across from Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino and the Village at Gulfstream Park retail complex, alerts you to your proximity to HB City Hall and the HB Police Department HQ. It's a place and culture whose very own words and actions have made clear to taxpayers of this city -regardless of age, race or income- that it holds itself apart from and above from the very citizens it's supposed to serve, often acting like they don't have to follow the same laws that govern everyone else in the state of Florida and the U.S., whether of logic, reason or contracts. (More to the point of this blog, the Florida Statutes on Sunshine Laws and Public Records.) City employees in Hallandale Beach routinely refuse to answer perfectly reasonable questions posed to them by taxpayers, and as I have found out myself and witnessed, are not above berating you for even having the nerve to ask! As it happens, it's also not a very safe area, despite who operates here, and over the past nine years, the public parking lots have often been pitch-black for 6-9 months at a time, including in front of the HB Police Dept. HQ. Then-Police Chief Thomas Magill even shrugged his shoulders at City Comm. meetings when told about this a few times. As if they couldn't make a worse first impression, at one point, even the spotlights shining on this sign didn't work at night for over FOUR YEARS, either. October 13, 2012 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.


The welcoming party that greeted me at the luggage carousel at Arlanda Stockholm Airport in January of 2013 was... ABBA. As seen in my May 7, 2013 blog post. Click photo to see that post!


Hej #STHLM, jag saknar dig, hejdå. So wish I was there RIGHT NOW!

Solrea - Sveriges bästa resesök

Solrea - Sveriges bästa resesök
The colder and snowier it got in Stockholm, the more this simple ad seemed like genius. Sometimes, you don't have to reinvent the advertising wheel. When you're a travel agency and it's cold and snowing, make your target audience think of summers and traveling to an inviting warm beach. Above, one of the many Sistaminuten.se display ads I saw on the side of pay phones throughout Stockholm. This one was located on Ringvägen, across the street from the Åhléns Dept. store (with the Hemköp grocery store in the basement that I frequented) west of busy Götgatan and the Skanstull T-bana, the southern commercial heart of trendy and fun Södermalm. January 11, 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved. I used this photo in my April 22, 2013 blog post titled, Tourism game-changer for South Florida travelers & Fort Lauderdale-area businesses -but only if they're smart and start planning now. Ruminations on the upcoming Norwegian.com flights b/w Ft. Lauderdale and Oslo, Stockholm & Copenhagen, and the need for Broward's hospitality industry to take full-advantage of the opportunity; @Oslo, @norway, @stockholm, @sweden, @copenhagen, @denmark. Click photo to see that post

More travel advertising in Stockholm

More travel advertising in Stockholm
Speaking of advertising, only two blocks from the wonderful 4trappor B&B I stayed at in Södermalm, Stockholm on my trip -and also located on Ringvägen- were two more display ads promoting travel. The one in the distance is for SAS, Scandinavian Airlines Systems, which I flew on to Stockholm, and the one in the foreground, on a public telephone booth, is the "Holiday is where the Heart is" ad campaign for VING. January 12, 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved. Click the photo to see their TV ad!

Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino and Village at GP retail complex, Hallandale Beach, FL

Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino and Village at GP retail complex, Hallandale Beach, FL
Entrance monument to Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino and The Village at Gulfstream Park retail complex on U.S.-1 & SE 3rd St. Hallandale Beach, FL. October 5, 2010 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

Hallandale Beach Water Tower, looking east from State Road A1A/South Ocean Drive; May 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

Singer/songwriter Full of Keys (Anni Bernhard)

Singer/songwriter Full of Keys (Anni Bernhard)
Singer/songwriter Full of Keys (Anni Bernhard) wearing the teal-colored Miami Dolphins cap I gave her in January 2013 (in Stockholm) while recording her 2nd album, "The Grazing Grounds" at Sandkvie Studios in Visby, Gotland, Sweden. Also pictured here are sound engineer and co-producer Linus Larsson and musician/DJ/co-producer Mats Jönsson, April 12, 2013.Click the photo to see her videos, read my blog posts and Tweets about her and learn more about this dynamic and original talent with personality to spare!

North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers

North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers
Before I was a Hoosier, I was an NMB Charger, Class of 1979.

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation
"In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation." -South Beach Hoosier, 2007.

Let's end the 29-year NCAA title drought!

Let's end the 29-year NCAA title drought!
IU All-American and U.S. Olympian Steve Alford on the cover of the 1987 Indiana University basketball media guide, months after IU won the NCAA basketball title.

The NCAA Championship Banners

The NCAA Championship Banners
Assembly Hall, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. I was there in 1981 for NCAA Title #4 vs. North Carolina. Click on photo to go to the IU Basketball homepage.

Sebastian the Ibis, the U-M mascot

Sebastian the Ibis, the U-M mascot
Like longtime U-M fans everywhere, including me, Sebastian the Ibis, the U-M mascot, hasn't had very much to cheer about lately, given the general state of mediocrity and underwhelming performances coming from the Hurricanes. Isn't it about time for fans to finally see some tangible signs that the new AD is moving things in the right direction? Where are the signs? I'm NOT seeing them. The woeful U-M Women's program is largely composed of teams that are NOT even close to being competitive for NCAA titles like their ACC competition, and they don't even field Women's Lacrosse or Field Hockey teams. It's embarrassing! Click on Sebastian for retrospective photo gallery of The Orange Bowl

Risk för snöras, istappar

Risk för snöras, istappar
One of the many such warning signs that I saw on buildings and on sidewalk barricades while in Stockholm in mid-January 2013, alerting you to the possibility of falling snow and ice, often by men shoveling it off roofs. This one was spotted on a residential building in the Södermalm area of Stockholm, on Ringvägen, while I was walking over to the Åhléns Department store on Götgatan. It wasn't until I was walking back later to the B&B that I noticed the inflated Santa that some resident had intentionally placed outside of their window, so it looked like Santa was falling! January 13, 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Congratulations Sweden - 200 years of peace! Solveig Rundquist (@RundquistS)

Ringvägen, Stockholm, Sweden

Ringvägen, Stockholm, Sweden
Poster display seen on Ringvägen, in Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden. January 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved. Here's snapshot of the poster featuring the ubiquitous St. Erik, whose crowned head is the City of Stockholm's coat of arms. The Affischplats plan in Stockholm, while not perfect, strikes me as a pretty good compromise in helping cultural and civic groups catch the public's eye in a way that's better than a free-for-all of groups plastering posters on the sides of buildings and utility boxes, and watching as the weather makes a mess of them. The tangible effort the city makes to get the public involved in a genuine and meaningful conversation about what is going on long-term for the city as a whole, or in a particular neighborhood, is very impressive, and made me wishful that the local government employees and planners where I live and write about regularly in my blog and in conversations with other concerned civic activists did even one-third of what Stockholm's planning employees seem to do as a starting-point.

Using a map of Stockholm and my Samsung mobile's Latitude app to find out where some friends and contacts in Stockholm were before I called to let them know I'd arrived from Arlanda Airport and had checked into the B&B in Södermalm. If only it had been an OpenStreetMap! January 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved; Click the photo to see OpenStreetMap's amazing map of Stockholm and a whole world of useful maps you never even knew existed

Which European country has the most attractive citizens?

As seen in my July 31st, 2013 blog post titled, "Which European country has the most attractive citizens?" Sweden won in a landslide with almost four times as many votes as second-place France, with Spain third and Norway fourth. Yes, seeing is believing!; Norwegian.com's non-stop flights from Fort Lauderdale to Oslo start in 4 months! :) http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2013/07/boredpandacom-poll-of-europeans-asked.html