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.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Csaba Kulin and I on the future path for Hallandale Beach taxpayers to get overdue accountability on the HB CRA from JLAC, since Comm. Anthony A. Sanders has once again refused to do the right thing by taxpayers, just like he has dozens of times the past few years, where he's actively worked against HB residents/taxpayers best interests, esp. re CRA oversight and accountability


The following is a letter that my friend and fellow Hallandale Beach and Broward County civic activist Csaba Kulin and I have been working on the last week or so.

-----

Last week, some of you finally got the opportunity to see Csaba's e-mail to Hallandale Beach Comm. Anthony A. Sanders about the important July 10th meeting of the CRA Board of Directors.

When Csaba was walking up and down the streets of the west side of town last Fall, and bore witness to the angry comments of Hallandale Beach taxpayers and voters, more than once he told me that he wished he'd had a camera crew following him so they could record some of the things he heard residents express to him as he asked for their vote and told them about his position on the issues facing this city that has been so poorly run.

One frustrated Hallandale Beach resident after another said something along the lines of, “We don't see any visible changes as a result of the $70 million spent by the CRA

Many of those same residents said “all the CRA money is spent on the east side of the city.

You'd hardly be surprised to discover that residents on the east side of town did NOT see any signs of CRA-funded improvements, either.

In our opinion, considering how very poorly and incompetently the HB CRA has been handled for so many years by the HB Commissioners acting as the HB CRA Board, which we have made a point of saying out-loud at meetings, the changes that Commissioners Julian and Lazarow asked for regarding the report -which HB City Manager Miller, City Attorney Whitfield and CRA Attorney Zelkowitz co-wrote, that had to be sent to the Florida Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, the JLAC- were extremely reasonable and logical from the perspective of ALL of the city's residents.

But unfortunately, despite being given a golden opportunity to do the right thing, yet again, Comm. Sanders failed to step up to the plate and do the right thing by the community so they could get the truth that has long been denied them.

His failure on July 10th, to NOT support the common sense motion made by Julian and seconded by Lazarow, has once again shown him to be someone who is completely tone-deaf to the best interests of the entire community, which is bad for everyone concerned, though he seems not to realize it.

To us, Comm. Sanders seems genuinely in the dark about the true level of his unpopularity across town, and seems to have mastered the art of actually making things worse, and he did just that again last Wednesday night.

Here is what we believe we as a community need to do: 

1.) Ask the JLAC to perform a complete audit of the HB CRA. The residents of our city, especially residents of the CRA district, have a right to know, once and for all, where did the $70 million go? Do you agree?

Dave has already been busy sending certain members of that Committee information about what has been routinely going on here for years, especially the two Co-Chairman, Rep. Ray and Sen. Abruzzo from Palm Beach, as well as Sen. Jeremy Ring, who is from northern Broward.
They are fact-filled emails that really do make the case for JLAC to do an audit that HB residents can all trust.

Dave also believes that HB residents need to take the initiative and should be writing members of JLAC directly, not only about the need for a CRA audit, but also for them to strongly consider the possibility of the Comm. having a "field hearing" here in Hallandale Beach in the coming weeks, like September.

That way, the members can see for themselves how badly things have been done so contrary to what is supposed to be happening, and hear directly from HB residents themselves. 
The Committee members know from what they see and hear around the state that if they don't get ahead of this issue now of what is and isn't appropriate, they will have lots of requests from other CRAs in the future, so better to deal with it now while they can.

Here are the names of the committee members, which is equal parts Democrat and Republican, Senators and Representatives:

2.) Ask the office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for an opinion as to what type of expenditures are appropriate for a CRA, especially one for a city our size and with the amount of money we have. We are NOT Orlando or Miami Beach or Gainesville and what we do here should be logical and sensible for this community, not just copying what other larger cities do.

Chapter 163 is the Florida Statute that covers CRAs, so don’t we want to hear what the FL Attorney General has to say?

Mayor Cooper has an opinion, but we're convinced like so many other residents that her's is based almost entirely on her own political self-interest and ego, so that she can brag to her mayoral friends and Florida League of Cities pals around the state about what "her" city is doing. It's always about her.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s hired guns at City Hall have an opinion, but to nobody's surprise, it's the same as her's.

Is it really too much to ask that we get another legal opinion, one that's free of bias and that is also free of charge? 

"What's the harm?" 

That's exactly what Comm. Sanders should've realized and said in voting for the Julian motion but didn't Wednesday night.

3.) Commissioners Julian and Lazarow wanted the City to do the right thing and pay back to the CRA Trust Fund some $400,000 that was specifically identified by the Broward Office of Inspector General (OIG) as NOT being CRA obligations. 

They didn't make it up out of thin air, they got it directly from the report that was so critical of the city's abysmal management controls.

Don’t we want to ensure that every penny illegally spent by the City from the CRA Trust Fund be properly refunded to the CRA for its future use? 

On that count alone, you'd think Comm. Sanders would support the Julian motion, but Comm. Sanders didn't and didn't seem to care what the logical result of that would be.

How many times can we watch him make one bad judgment after another, one bad vote after another, which does real harm to this entire community?

Csaba didn't know who exactly was at the meeting in the Chambers since he was watching via his computer up in Strongsville, but he figured that since this was a chance to make things right for both the CRA and the community at large, and since the above proposals were so obviously beneficial to the CRA district, even Comm. Sanders would be able to see it and support common sense.
Csaba told me the next morning on the phone that like many of you, he, sheepishly, admits that he was wrong -again- in thinking that Sanders would finally do the right thing.

Well, trust us, that's a mistake that nobody in this town will ever make again -assume Comm. Sanders will actually do the right thing by the residents and taxpayers of this city.

While we've run into yet another easily-avoided roadblock to fundamentally reform this community and make it more responsive and transparent to all its residents and business owners, the cause endures and the hope will never die that one day, some day, we'll finally have a government in this city that's truly responsive, honest and fair to its own residents.

But it's going to take a lot of hard work from a lot of serious-minded people, because the people in charge at HB City Hall right now have no plans on changing their ways, and every incentive of trying to keep real reform as far away from City Hall as long as possible.

Please let us now what you think.

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