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 and Europe, especially the UK 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.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

re Hallandale Beach's three-day 2013 Budget debacle last week: More thoughts & questions about what you didn't read about it in the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel, as Carli Teproff and Susannah Bryan continue NOT seeing the forest for the trees, or mentioning very important facts and context; If one reporter who perpetually ignores what she sees and doesn't try to find out what's really going on in this city is bad enough, why do we need another? What we need even less than incurious reporters are thin-skinned autocrats on the dais who are afraid to tell the truth and unwilling to admit when they're wrong; @MayorCooper

re Hallandale Beach's three-day 2013 Budget debacle last week: More thoughts & questions about what you didn't read about it in the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel, as Carli Teproff and Susannah Bryan continue NOT seeing the forest for the trees, or mentioning very important facts and context; If one reporter who perpetually ignores what she sees and doesn't try to find out what's really going on in this city is bad enough, why do we need another? What we need even less than incurious reporters are thin-skinned autocrats on the dais who are afraid to tell the truth and unwilling to admit when they're wrong; @MayorCooper

Not that you asked, but the worst of all possible combinations in South Florida is now found in Hallandale Beach: continual government lies & misrepresentation and lazy journalism that doesn't tell the truth or share important context. 
Meanwhile Concerned HB residents like Maggie Ivanovski, Csaba Kulin and Rob Raymond continue to play very important roles in this city even while others in this city who could shirk their civic responsibilities
Despite lots of patience from Hallandale Beach residents waiting for them to actually go out into the community and find out what's really going on, reporters Carli Teproff and Susannah Bryan have shown over time that they aren't interested in asking good-but-pointed questions of powerful people in this city, based on actually knowing something factually that City Hall didn't hand them.

That being so, here are the first few simple questions of more that'll come that you ought to be pondering over the next few weeks as those September city budget meetings approach that Mayor Joy Cooper wants to be a formality, where she has HB citizens playing the role of punching bags.

a.) How much money from the city's Reserve fund has the HB City Commission taken out each year over the past six years, i.e. since 2008, all while Joy Cooper has been mayor?

b.) What's the grand total of that amount from those 6 years? 

c.) How much is in the Reserve now?

d.) Why does the city under Mayor Cooper continue to use Reserve funds every year to pay operational expenses instead of making more strategic cuts in personnel or policies to better reflect the fact that the economy in this city is NOT booming?
The Village at Gulfstream Park is NOT booming, it's actually knocking over already-built buildings -Cadillac Ranch- that probably never should have been put up in the first place.

e.) Why did City Manager Renee C. Miller and CRA Attorney Steven Zelkowitz both say publicly that some CRA docs had already been dealt with promptly and appropriately according to state laws and requirements when the truth may well be that they STILL haven't been? (More on this soon.)

If you really want to get a financial fright, ask HB civic activist Maggie Ivanovski to tell you how much money in salaries and benefits the HB City Manager's office consumes in her proposed budget, while continuing to do such a poor job of actual oversight, yet remaining oblivious to longstanding problems in this city that are right under their nose and which they and Dept. heads have ALREADY been told about many, many times.

Ask HB civic activist Csaba Kulin if it's true that he figured out after going thru the City Manager's proposed budget that the person who will be in charge of the yet-to-be-built
City of HB pool at B.F. James Park will be making a salary of $120,000 a year once it opens next year.
It is true.

Ask Hallandale Beach businessman Rob Raymond if the so-called "improvements" in front of his very successful medical equipment business and all along N.E. First Avenue/Fashion Row seems like it's worth it, given how much unsafer that road is now, especially at night, and the large number of drivers who have hit the new curbs jutting out towards the now one-lane road since the city opened that area -even before the curbs were painted yellow.

The "improvements" that were supposed to be finished by last year's holiday season of Chanukah and Christmas but which were stopped twice for reasons that were never properly explained to the businesses there. 

Now the curbs jutting out towards the road are various shades of black over yellow from all the drivers who continue to hit them since ALL the street  lighting is on the west side of the street  -away from the curbs and the parking spaces.
(If there aren't photos of this as you read this now, come back within 24 hours and they'll be here.)

The older man who recently banged on Rob's business's front door after driving and hitting a curb, who was slightly injured physically -but apparently, quite shaken-up emotionally, and angry- whom Rob let in and spoke to -and wisely, also photos of the curb- is someone whom Mayor Cooper wants to wish away, because that man's unhappy reality in this city now doesn't fit into her fantasy, where she is admired and respected, not loathed and resented, as is the true state of things in this city among people who pay close attention, which, admittedly, is never a majority in this city.

Given the way that the businesses along N.E. First Avenue/Fashion Row have been repeatedly taken advantage of by both the city and the CRAvery likely, on purpose, a situation made worse by the blatant disrespect that new CRA Director Daniel Rosemond has shown the business community at a meeting I've mentioned previously that the HB Chamber of Commerce and other so-called "business leaders" were no-shows at.

Tell me, why should someone as successful as Rob, someone whose business is so very successful that unlike any other business in this city, people actually fly from around the world to South Florida just to do business with him, keep his business in Hallandale Beach, and not just relocate it up to Hollywood or somewhere else where he won't get the perpetual double-talk and flat-out lies from city and CRA employees like he continually does here?
Good question!

Mayor Cooper and her pro-crony capitalism pals around town and on the City Commission
-Anthony A. Sanders and Alexander Lewy, who want almost all CRA money spent only in Northwest HB, instead of thr entire CRA district- better start thinking about it, too, before Rob and others finally decide they've had enough of the city and CRA's broken promises, red tape and intentional headaches, to say nothing of the years and years of uneven enforcement of laws and rules in this city by City Hall towards both individuals and small businesses.
Just saying...

Read the two very incomplete and superficial accounts of what happened last week at Hallandale Beach City Hall and see if you can notice what important context is missing from the articles that's both very important in a well-run city and that both of these articles fail to mention at all?
Something noteworthy that both Carli Teproff and Susannah Bryan FAIL to disclose to their readers that they really ought to know but don't because... well, that's a good question.
Answer is after the articles.

Miami Herald
Hallandale Beach homeowners will pay a little more in property tax
By Carli Teproff
August 2, 2013
After commissioners made a few cuts to special projects and dipped into the city’s reserves, Hallandale Beach residents will likely see the same tax rate as last year, officials decided this week.
While the commission proposed to keep the tax rate at $5.6833 per $1,000 of assessed property value, taxpayers can still expect to pay slightly more because of rising property values. 
Over a two-day workshop, commissioners agreed they did not want to raise taxes, but with rising costs, needed to draw on their rainy-day fund. The reserve account is now about $22 million, from which the city plans on pulling $3.9 million. 
Read the rest of the article at:
http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/02/3539845/hallandale-beach-homeowners-will.html


South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Hallandale using $4 million in reserves to balance next year's budget
By Susannah Bryan, Sun Sentinel 
5:28 p.m. EDT, August 4, 2013

HALLANDALE BEACH—
Residents won't see a hike in their city tax rate or fire fee next year, city leaders vow.
Instead, City Hall plans to use $4 million in reserves to balance a $56.7 million budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. That would still leave taxpayers with $17.5 million in emergency reserves.
During a recent budget workshop, Commissioner Michele Lazarow suggested the city might want to stop relying so heavily on its "rainy day" fund. Last year, the city used $6.5 million in reserves to balance the budget.
Read the rest of the article at:
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-budget-hallandale-forecast-20130801,0,2150121.story

What was conspicuous for NOT being mentioned in either article is
a.) that last Wednesday night, the HB CRA Board cast preliminary vote at their Budget 
meeting requiring that all members, other than "professionals," must live within the
HB CRA district, i.e. west of N.E. 14th Avenue.

Commissioner Alexander Lewy made the motion, seconded by Mayor Joy Cooper, and the third vote was by Commissioner Anthony A. Sanders.

Lewy cast this out-of-the-blue decision as a "philosophical move" with some truly laughable self-justifying comments by Mayor Cooper, already made VERY, VERY ANGRY by some "inconvenient facts" cited at meeting by former HB Commissioner  Keith London, myself and some uncomfortable questions posed by Commissioners Michele Lazarow and Bill Julian, including questions about the transferal of millions of dollars without the CRA Board's knowledge.

It became truly pathetic after the City Clerk explained that the reason the CRA Advisory Board is done the way it is is now is because -wait for it- there was NOT ENOUGH INTEREST by residents living only within CRA district, so volunteers from all parts of city were welcome.
Another vote on this matter is coming in September.

If finalized, this would mean CRA Advisory Board Comm. Chair Leo Grachow, Chad Lincoln and Robert "Bob" Selz would all be kicked-off and replaced.

To me, it was just another transparent attempt by Lewy the Liar to try to curry favor with African-Americans in HB and turn the CRA Advisory Board into yet another rubber stamp group.

Basically, a variation of same reason he wanted the vote for the Parks Bond issue next August when much of city is gone for the summer instead of in November.
Lewy wants to create another reason for as many HB residents as possible to turn out at the polls, so some of them can vote for him in the FL House District 100 race.

b.) the residents of Hallandale Beach were NOT allowed to speak during two of the three meetings that took place last week, and comment after the myriad presentations by the various Dept. heads and city officials, many of whom said things that were simply not true and used numbers that neither add up or make sense given the size of this city.

So why didn't Teproff and Bryan mention that, since the tenor of the conversation of the room would've been quite different if the city's officials and employees knew that they could be corrected and have mistakes pointed-out, and have residents at home watching on TV or via the Internet to know when they were being served up a fresh slice of B.S.?


But then HB citizens weren't allowed to speak at the city's Visioning meeting earlier this year either, and that glaring and galling fact has somehow NEVER been mentioned in the Herald or Sun-Sentinel, though mentioned here on the blog at least twice, below.


MARCH 2, 2013
'Visioning' and Public Participation: Comparing and contrasting Ft. Lauderdale and Hallandale Beach's approach to planning for the future -one is open to constructive criticism & suggestions from its populace, and the other is stealthy and closed-minded. Guess which one I live in?; @MayorCooper]

MARCH 5, 2013
To Hallandale Beach's frustrated and beleaguered taxpayers who've reached their limit after SO MANY YEARS of unsatisfactory performance by city's DPW -esp. re proper maintenance/appearance of public beach and city parks- outsourcing some DPW tasks ought to be on the table for active consideration. So why is City Manager Renee Miller not even going to consider the idea during the next year given DPW's dismal track record?

Before I give you Teproff and Bryan's office email addresses so that you can ask them those questions yourself if you so choose, here's an email that I sent out last week that gets to the very heart of the matter that both of these reporters completely ignored, to the dismay of anyone paying attention to what happens in this city.

Last Monday, the first day of the city's Budget workshop, the public could only speak before the meeting started, not after anything was actually revealed or described in depth.
Which led to the following email of mine on Tuesday July 30th at 1:09 p.m.
Subject: FYI: Csaba Kulin on Hallandale Beach Mayor Cooper's welcome and ideas on open government
Though I already knew about it from being there in person for the beginning of the first day of Hallandale Beach's Budget Workshop before heading home and then watching the rest of it at home on my computer, and then talking to him about it late last night, the following is an interesting email that my friend and fellow HB civic activist Csaba Kulin sent to a few people within the past hour.

It's very revealing, but not so about him, so much, though it is revealing of his dedication to this community, despite how much it takes him for granted, but also about the toxic civic discourse that takes place daily in the city with Joy Cooper as mayor.
Not that her frightful behavior and contempt towards citizens is Breaking News, per se, but it's good to be reminded from time-to-time of what we are actually up against.

Not just a woman possessed of truly bad judgment, and illogical and almost frightening thinking on public policy, but someone genuinely anti-democratic in every way that really matters to citizens and genuinely mean-spirited  to boot.
That's who we have as mayor of this town.
it's time for some of you who've been sitting on the sidelines to open your eyes and stop pretending otherwise.

-----

Dear Friends,

I traveled 1200 miles, paid for my own airplane ticket, read a 900 page budget book, created charts, spread sheets and notes to be in Hallandale Beach and to be prepared for the budget workshop. I intended to attend all three days of the workshop as I have done previous years. I dare to say that it is a lot more than 99.9% of our other residents are willing to do. So what do I get in return? Insults and some more insults from Mayor Cooper.

When I walked in the Commission Chambers I walked over to the dais to say “good afternoon” to VM Lewy and Commissioner Sanders. As soon as I got to the dais VM Lewy asked me about a letter I sent to JLAC recently. We had a civilized discussion about the reason behind my action. In the middle of that discussion Mayor Cooper arrived at the dais. She immediately started in a loud and agitated voice to berate me. She asked me “why do you bring up this matter again?” she told me that I am “sore loser”, referring to the fact that I lost in the last election, and other unkind, insulting comments.

I responded to her that I did not bring up anything, VM Lewy asked me a question. To VM Lewy credit, he backed me up by saying to the Mayor that “I asked Mr. Kulin a question, he did not bring it up”. I was taken aback by her angry and disrespectful manner but I did not respond in kind.

The situation did not better after the Mayor stated that “I will not allow any more public comments tonight. The public will have a chance to speak again at the time of voting on the completed budget” I assume in September. That was a direct insult to the two or three residents in the Chambers. What are the residents? Potted flowers or someone to be seen but not heard. So I left the meeting. I see NO reason to expose myself to such insults even if I lost an election.

Many times an informed resident sitting in the room can point out certain facts commissioner may have overlooked in the “heat of the battle”. How could that not help to come up with a better solution? Besides that, the Commission is talking about our money.

I am writing to you because I want to memorialize for the future this incident. I hope you see the wrong in Mayor Cooper’s behavior and if you do, you may consider urging your Commissioners to change the rules so each resident may comment on every item on the Agenda. There is not room full of people willing to speak on every item. Most of the time you can count the residents in the Chamber on one hand.   

In light of this kind of treatment I will need to reconsider how much time and effort I should spend in the future to have a better and more efficient city government. 

Sincerely,

Csaba Kulin

-----
Later that day I sent the following update at 6:45 p.m. 

Update: Adamant about not allowing the public of this city to speak for even a few minutes at Hallandale Beach's Budget Workshop that will already likely run 6-7 hours today -and still ongoing as I write this- except before the meetings start and any info is mentioned by the Dept. heads, Mayor Joy Cooper was defeated 4-1 on a motion to overrule her by the other HB Commissioners.

Csaba, Maggie and myself have already raised some legitimate questions and concerns about the City Manager's proposed city budget, and we know you have questions, too.

Come on down and watch a taste of some real participatory democracy in action, albeit small steps, but all very much against the mayor's wishes.
One small step at a time...

But the next day, it was gone.

Look at all you would not have known if you depended solely on the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

cteproff@MiamiHerald.com
sbryan@tribune.com or 954-356-4554

It could hardly be more clear that the current beat reporters assigned to this city, who are very infrequent as it is since their papers also have them cover Hollywood, which has its meetings on the same days, do NOT have what it takes to give residents of this city the information they want in a timely and informative fashion. 
The newspapers need to find someone else who does.
Just saying...

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