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, July 23, 2013

Part 2 of 2 - re Hallandale Beach's groundbreaking tonight at B.F. James Park and the lingering controversy re the swimming pool situation in this small city. How a death at a city pool in 1991 -and race identity politics- continues to roil this city's political and financial decisions. How poor choices made today out of anger or opportunism by Cooper, Sanders & Lewy may sharply limit the options of a majority of city residents for years into the future

Part 2 of 2 - re Hallandale Beach's groundbreaking tonight at B.F. James Park and the lingering controversy re the swimming pool situation in this small city. How a death at a city pool in 1991 -and race identity politics- continues to roil this city's political and financial decisions. How poor choices made today out of anger or opportunism by Cooper, Sanders & Lewy may sharply limit the options of a majority of city residents for years into the future 
I've heard from a few different people regarding what I wrote yesterday about tonight's groundbreaking tonight at B.F. James Park, and how the cost of that park doubling up to $5 Million, as a result of what's being done with a swimming pool there, may well mean that there's now NOT enough money to fix South Beach Park, which is actually the busiest park in the city and the busiest part of the city beach.

Some of the readers who wrote thought I might be unaware of what happened here years ago, and how many of those negative attitudes I described in my email and subsequent blog post here might explain some things we are seeing now, so felt obliged to tell me what they remembered.

Long story short: Five-year old boy drowns at City of Hallandale swimming pool in 1995 that was later known as Peter Bluesten Park....Big lawsuit against the city...
This drowning comes four years after City of Hallandale closed and then covered-up a swimming pool at Dixie Park in Northwest Hallandale, outraging residents.

It's all largely in the 1995 Miami Herald article I have copied and pasted at the bottom of today's email/blog post so you know the facts as publicly stated.

Though I wasn't living in HB then, being up in Arlington County, VA -45-minute walk from Key Bridge and Georgetown- I have read lots of the newspaper articles about what really happened at that city pool and have met and heard people from NW and elsewhere complain about how indignant and angry they were that the HB City's Commission of the time's
ham-handed response.
This followed by four years the city closing and then covering-up of a pool in NW HB, rather than resolve the larger questions that existed at the time.
Like fixing and rehabbing the pool complex and not neglecting it so much in the future. 

(Though to be fair, there STILL seems to be a lot of misunderstanding and "mis-remembering" of the basic facts of the case, and some of that is responsible for the lingering and unsupported conjecture about what "really happened." 
In our community, just as is true with lots of others in this country, some people much prefer to have their own "facts" they choose to believe, and ignore facts they deem inconvenient.)

The NW community felt like they'd been taken advantage of and punished for the simplest of all reasons -they had been! 

I also know from first-hand experience that that incident was brought up A LOT when Comm. Sanders was running for office the first time in the weeks before the Nov. 2008 election, after he had been appointed in that sham procedure that summer that Arturo O'Neill, sitting next to me in the Commission Chambers, predicted moments before it happened.

The one where Mayor Cooper intentionally ignored the city's established rules and procedures for filling a vacancy that had been used the year before -with Keith London after Joe Gibbons was elected to the Florida Houseand refused to let the public speak at the meeting.

That's a meeting that someone at Mike Satz's office should have been able to use as a stepping stone towards a big promotion if anyone there had been paying even the slightest attention, given ALL the illegality and fraud that intentionally and knowingly took place that night.

Sanders and his supporters specifically argued that if Sanders or another African- American from NW was not there on the dais, there would always be the possibility that the city's powers-that-be at HB City Hall, who in the past as well as today, continue to show a disturbing patronizing and  condescending anti-democratic, anti-resident attitude, would do the same
thing again.

That's a hard thing to argue against when you know it's 100% true, which is a psychological burden that anyone who wants better and smarter pro-reform people on the HB City Commission as a whole, like me and so many others of you in this city honestly DO, have to deal with, even though we had nothing to do with why that psychological burden is actually there from 18 years ago..

The problem, of course, is that the very person who is there from NW is so completely unsatisfactory and underwhelming, so consistently NOT up to the task of the very job he ran for and won -twice.

That's why I specifically mention online in my blog on how consistently and rather maddeningly unprepared Comm. Sanders is for meetings, his very poor communication skills with constituents -ignoring them for years by refusing to return phone calls and emails, and then, per the very controversial Diplomat LAC proposal, refused to come to the affected neighborhood in NE HB! 
Something I've mentioned many times on this blog when it happened.

In the days before that Diplomat LAC issue came before them, people from other parts of Broward County who served on Broward's Planning Council -like HB Comm. Michele Lazarow does now- actually drove to HB to see for themselves the area in question and see how it might be negatively affected by all the many condo towers the size of The Duo, esp. traffic, because THEY were so conscientious and keen to know all the facts and as much context as possible re such an important public policy decision.
A decision that they well understood would permanently change the face of this city, with its ONE east-west road thru the city.

Meanwhile, a member of the HB City Commission continually refused to meet with HB residents in their own NE neighborhood -Comm. Sanders.

Yes, Comm. Sanders, who runs for elective office only to ignore the majority of the city's residents -constituents!- from the start! 
Most people would do the exact opposite once they got elected to keep them motivated and in the fold, but his choice is to ignore them

I've really hit hard on Comm. Sanders lack of a work ethic when it comes to the most basic aspects of his job, regardless of where he lives: ensuring proper oversight and public accountability of the city's operations by the elected city commission.

Oversight, the one thing Sanders is supposed to do is the very thing he consistently is least interested in, because he's unwilling to do the work required, preferring instead to swallow whole everything he is told by the City Manager's staff, which comes with an agenda that is NOT positive for either HB residents, taxpayers or small business owners.

Comm. Sanders is, by any reasonable standards, woefully unprepared and even worse as his votes earlier this month re the HB CRA showed, unwilling to change, adapt or evolve.
Unwilling to do the right thing when the golden opportunity is just sitting there, waiting for him to put-up or shut-up after all these years, per the AG's Opinion or getting the FL JLAC to do an audit of the HB CRA.

Instead, Sanders did what he has always done -protect the mayor's flank and given in to the very city employees who are responsible for so very much of the longstanding problems in this city, problems that are NEVER properly and permanently fixed, solved or eliminated.

And so here we are... again, spending more money than is either logical or prudent, all because of what happened in the past in this small city.
Which will limit our community's choices in the future. 

Miami Herald
By Greg Brown,
 Herald Staff Writer
August 13, 1995
Just five weeks on the job, Pastor Nathan Robinson finds his flock in turmoil -- engulfed in anger, grief and confusion.

Everywhere he goes, harried faces plead: What happened to 5-year-old James Lee Johnson, who drowned July 24 in Hallandale's City Park pool? 

Robinson will lead a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the pool. Another group led by Hallandale activists plans a community meeting at 5 p.m. today at St. Ann's Episcopal Church, 701 NW First Ave., Hallandale. 

The telephone rings perpetually at St. Luke Primitive Baptist Church in Carver Ranches. Some callers allege racism against James, who was black. While the camp counselors in charge of James were black, the lifeguards on duty were white. Others call to grieve or learn new information. 

"I have to address this church in the morning. I have to address the family almost every night. I have to address people when I walk down the street in Carver Ranches," Robinson said. 

"I have to give them answers. They ask questions. It's a position God has put me into." 

Anger is a natural reaction to such a meaningless death. James, under the eyes of four adults, drowned unnoticed in four feet of water at the pool at 202 SE Fifth St. in Hallandale. According to police documents, two minutes of inattention left James floating face down. 

James' death the next afternoon, July 25, at Miami Children's Hospital has been ruled an accidental drowning. He was buried July 29.

Some in Hallandale see the death as proof that the city's elected officials, all of whom are white, care little about what happens to the city's mostly black northwest section. 

Neighbors of the Johnsons in West Hollywood are numb with shock. They want answers. Now. 

"I'm both angered and appalled at the whole situation," said Lynnessa Wooten, 34, who lives near the Johnsons outside Carver Ranches. 

Wooten says racial issues divert attention from Hallandale's responsibility -- to explain how the boy died. 

"I think it started the instant they found that child at the bottom of that pool," she said. "I think at that instant somebody started covering the city of Hallandale's rear end." 

The commissioners say they are upset by the death, too, but can't speak in detail about the accident. They say they haven't been officially briefed. With a lawsuit likely to be filed against the city, they say, public comment would be improper. 

Karen Woodfin, 28, of Hallandale, is white. Her daughter, Amber Le-Master, 6, was in the swimming group with James on the day he died. 

A stranger to James' mother, Yvoncia, Woodfin attended the boy's wake July 28. She called Pastor Robinson to talk about the loss. 

She, too, says race is beside the point. 

"My daughter was in that camp from the first day. It could easily have been her," said Woodfin. "A drowning, a death, being hit by a car. It can happen to anyone. It doesn't hit that close to home until it happens to you." 

But civic activist Angie Glass, 58, has no qualms about raising the question of race. For her, James' death is the result of city negligence toward the northwest neighborhood. 

Before the civil rights movement, Hallandale's blacks were segregated in northwest Hallandale. Starting in the mid-1950s, Glass said, the neighborhood's dirt roads turned to gravel and were eventually paved. Road signs were installed. 

She prefers those days of a segregated community that blacks could call their own. Northwest "was an excellent community," she said. "We had our ma-and-pa grocery stores. We had our theater. We had a pool." 

The few amenities in the neighborhood have now deteriorated. The city has made no credible moves to rebuild them, Glass said. 

In 1991, the pool at Dixie Park, in the heart of northwest Hallandale, closed, deemed a hazard beyond repair. Today, a muddy crater stands in its place. 

"Everything we got in the '50s they've taken back," Glass said. 

For residents like Cathy Williams, 39, the disparities are crystal clear. 

"It's always considered another town," said Williams. "You look at the landscaping in the southwest section. You look at the pool in the southwest section. They refurbish the paddleball courts every other year. It's a big difference, and it's not a secret. It's lying right there." 

City commissioners adamantly deny that they've shortchanged the northwest. Between 1988 and 1994, the city obtained more than $3.6 million in federal grants to improve the neighborhood. 

Hallandale's city government faces more than criticism from some of its residents. It may face a lawsuit. 

James' family says it plans to sue. Under state law, a city must be warned six months before a lawsuit can be filed. A letter from a Miami law firm representing the family was received by the city this week, but City Attorney Dick Kane says it doesn't constitute a proper notice of intent to sue. 

Hallandale has been sued before for accidental drowning. In 1994, the city and county settled a suit filed by the parents of Willie Roberts, an 8-year-old boy who drowned at a county park under the supervision of a city camp program. 

And in May of this year, the city paid $170,000 to the family of Ramon Turnquest, a 7-year-old boy killed crossing under the care of a city-paid crossing guard. The driver of the car was considered primarily at fault in the Turnquest case. 

City negligence is not necessarily the cause of these accidents, Kane said. 

"The greatest swimmers in the world drown. The most careful people have accidents," Kane said. "My point is, you shouldn't attribute liability to the city because of an accident." 

Commissioner Dotty Ross campaigned in the northwest section before taking her seat in March. 

A volunteer water safety teacher at City Park in the early 1960s, Ross is flabbergasted to hear that people are complaining about the city's handling of James' death. Amid a dozen pink phone message slips on her desk, she said, not one is about the drowning. 

"When you're in public office, the telephone calls I get are not accolades. People call to complain about things." 

She takes the anger to heart. It's a tragedy, Ross said, and the city's image is important when emotions are involved. Hallandale is not taking the death lightly, nor the feelings of blacks who feel slighted. 

"If that's their perception, it's just as real."

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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