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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Part I: Investigating the continuing dysfunction, lack of appropriate disclosure of public information and the generally imperious anti-citizen attitude at Hallandale Beach City Hall under Mayor Joy Cooper; Matters that anyone could see if they just looked -I looked and here's what I found in late February 2013

This email was the first of two emails sent to City of Hallandale Beach (COHB) officials and employees at Hallandale Beach City Hall in the last week of February regarding longstanding problems that citizens continue to experience with the lack of timely public disclosure of public information, proper legal public noticing of scheduled public meetings, and the continuing problems with the city's clunky website, to say nothing of very curious choices about what is and is NOT placed on the city website by city officials.

It's instructive to note that any Hallandale Beach resident or visitor going to the city's website would've found the very same things that I did when I was looking. 

My only advantage, if you can call it that, was being familiar enough with how poorly-constructed the city's website is and how decidedly non-user friendly it is, with almost no intuitive feel to it at all.

And, of course, the common sense borne of experience to actually notice what was missing and to be able to double-check other places on the website to see if it'd been placed there by either mistake or on purpose, or was simply MIA.

For the tens of millions of dollars the City of Hallandale Beach annually spends, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me and many other concerned residents and small business owners in this city to expect that a current city employee drawing a paycheck actually engages in some degree of quality control and checks things once in a while, to see if everything is where it is supposed to be, and to aggressively fix problems when they encounter them, something which is NOT happening now.

Not by any stretch of the imagination.

A reasonable person might think that the head of the city's IT Dept, Ted Lamott, or the city's public spokesperson, Peter Dobens, might be the two people who by title are the ones that ought to be doing that as part of their job already.

That it wouldn't actually be necessary to mention it to them.

Yes, because that is more or less what they're already being paid for, isn't it, public communication.

And yet we STILL have a website that is not well-organized enough, one that lacks even a basic directory that is properly constructed.

Instead, when searching for information, even when you use the proper name or subject fields, relevant and germane information does NOT appear.
And much of the information placed on the website is placed there in a format that is NOT searchable.

Why would you consciously chose to do that unless what you want to do is make the search query more difficult for users instead of easier?

Lamott and Dobens are paid to make information available to the people who need it, including taxpayers and residents, but nobody I know in this city thinks they're getting their money's worth from either one of them, and that includes yours truly.

Two years ago, I spoke in minute detail to Lamott following a City Commission meeting he had spoken at, after which I spoke for three minutes under public comments about the longstanding website problems that continued to be ignored by him and the city.


We spoke outside the Commission Chambers in the City Hall breezeway and I told him with one glaring example after another that taxpayers were fed-up with problems never being resolved to their satisfaction.
I gave him my contact information and told him that i expected him to get cracking on fixing the problems.

Well, this being where we are, I'm sure that regular readers of the blog will not be surprised to discover that none of the specific website problems I told him about were ever dealt with, and Lamott never contacted me, despite having proclaimed how much he wanted feedback.


Yes, the same exact situation that has occurred so many times in the past with me and others I know in dealing with HB city employees.

They say they want to know but when you tell them what the problems are, you never hear from them again, i.e the Jennifer Frastai Rule.

This email was sent on February 26th, 2013 to the following people:

Sheena James, City Clerk, COHB; Ted Lamott, Director of IT, COHB; Renee C. Miller, City 
Manager, COHB; V. Lynn Whitfield; City Attorney, COHB; Liza Torres, CRA Director, COHB;
Michele Lazarow, Commissioner, COHB -just elected in November and someone I voted for.

-----
Why isn't today's Hallandale Beach Planning & Zoning meeting listed on the city's website calendar?

Last month's CRA Advisory Board meeting, a meeting mandated by the City Commission in December, as well as the eventual Visioning meeting, were also NOT listed on the city website's calendar.

Additionally, that CRA Advisory Board meeting was NOT posted on City Hall's public notice bulletin board near the elevator, even as the meeting was starting.

Why in the year 2013 is getting accurate and timely PUBLIC information onto the city's own website SUCH a difficult and continuing problem for the city?

And shouldn't making sure that public information is actually made public quickly something that logically Peter Dobens should be responsible for, given not only what his position is in the city, Title: Public Relations / Public Information http://www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/directory.aspx?eid=165 but former City Manager Mark Antonio's tortured rationale for why the city would hire yet another employee in the first place to perform such tasks?

Before Dobens was hired, Antonio was very adamant at public meetings about that and yet taxpayers and residents continue to see the city fail or unable to do very simple tasks with regard to making public information "public" that other cities seem to be able to do quite easily.

Why in the year 2013 is the city sometimes using Micro Office Word 97 for the P&Z agenda instead of PDF, as is the case today?

Who, specifically, decided to change the format of the HB P&Z meeting Minutes from Verbatim to Action Minutes, given that those meetings are held during the day when few people can attend, instead of at night as they ought to be, or, as I'd prefer, Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. when the largest number of Hallandale Beach residents can attend and participate?

On complicated or controversial matters, someone who was did not physically attend the meeting would have a very hard time following just how it came to be that decisions were made the way they were, if one were to rely solely on the new Minutes format.

Context is important and under a new system that eliminates context, a HB resident or interested party is left with few choices other than to try to find someone who attended the  meeting and have them explain what happened and why.

As someone who has been VERY critical publicly of the city's website for many years at public meetings for self-evident reasons, what are taxpayers to make of the fact that on the website now, in Docs  under "General Announcements," there has been nothing added there since January of 2012?

Thirteen months without any additions of any kind?
Really?

This has the cumulative effect of making me and other residents think that a.) a lot of relevant material is completely missing and was never uploaded when it was supposed to be, and should still be now, and, b.) that the whole category needs to be completely re-imagined and re-configured to be made more accurate and timely so that residents can find information more easily.

There should also be a parameter on that category, if it is kept, that allows a customer to pull either up "Most Recent" or "Most Popular" or both, so you don't have to swim thru ALL the listed documents while looking for something specific.

Frankly, the current category and layout has the practical effect of making you forget what you are actually looking for about halfway thru wading thru the list.

Why are Mayor Cooper's so-called (South Florida Sun-Times) "columns" posted on the city's website?

I would appreciate it if you could please forward to me the name and contact information for the CRA Advisory Board's attorney, as they are not listed on the city's website. 

As it happens, there's nothing current or accurate on the city's website about when the CRA Advisory Board will have their next meeting, or even whether they still need members, and if so, for what categories. http://www.hallandalebeachfl.gov/?nid=50#HBCRA

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