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.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Why is it so hard for Hallandale Beach officials to be honest about public policy with residents, taxpayers and small business owners? City's 2014 Parks Bond issue increasingly looks like a very dubious deal that'll backfire on taxpayers, and more like a ploy by city officials to get good short-term PR while simultaneously allowing them to use voter-approved funds for other purposes, like pet projects of the mayor and city commission, instead of Parks. Aesthetics/maintenance of city's parks have long been an embarrassment to residents! But Mayor Joy Cooper, the City Commission and the current and past 2 City Managers have just looked the other way for YEARS instead of holding people -and themselves- accountable for results, even though compelling proof was just a block away at Peter Bluesten Park

City of Hallandale Beach Monument sign at 400 S. Federal Highway in front of Hallandale Beach City Hall. Yes, the sign's lights STILL DON'T come on at night, and haven't since current HB City Manager Renee C. Miller has been in charge of the day-to-day operations of this city -June of 2012. So, that's about 15 months and counting. And it's just the tip of the iceberg here. July 11, 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved
Well friends, here we are a month later and there's still no official response from responsible officials at the City of Hallandale Beach regarding what I and many other Hallandale Beach residents believe are some highly-questionable decisions being made regarding the city's proposed 2014 Parks Bond issue involving that involves tens of million$ and an effort to finallt try to improve the city's Quality-of-Life.

Among other questions currently lacking an obvious answer is:
a.) Why is the Hallandale Beach Parks Bond vote now scheduled for August instead of November's General Election, when greatest number of HB voters can vote at the same time that they are voting for Governor, other statewide races, state legislative races and two Hallandale Beach City Commission seats -those of Comm. Alexander Lewy's and Comm. Anthony A. Sanders?
b.) Why does the city seem absolutely determined to phrase the Bond question in such a manner that voters will NOT have assurance that all funds voted upon and approved are ONLY spent for city parks maintenance and expansion? Instead, based on what has been heard publicly on this matter, it seems that it will be written so that the City Commission could use any voter-approved Parks Bond revenue for other purposes, instead of only for Parks, like more pet projects of the mayor and the city commission, despite the city's parks long being an open source of embarrassment and frustration to HB residents, esp. those with kids who know what other area cities offer their residents.

As of Noon today, there has been no response from Sarah Shamah, whom HB Parks and Recreation Director Cathie Schanz said I should contact regarding my germane questions about some park issues. (Schanz even cc'd her.)

Not that Director Schanz has tried to answer these questions, either, despite my sending an email reminder to both of them on September 20th, reminding them both that I expected a full response to my handful of very reasonable questions that the city's taxpayers are entitled to know before it's too late.

Since I didn't have any luck hearing from them, why don't you contact them yourself and ask them why they won't answer some simple questions honestly and in a reasonable time frame?

From my perspective, one month seems plenty of time to get around to answering some pretty simple questions.
Here's their contact information:
"Shamah, Sarah" - sshamah@hallandalebeachfl.gov
"Cathie Schanz" - cschanz@hallandalebeachfl.gov

Cathie Schanz, CPRE Director, Parks and Recreation   
Cultural Community Center 
410 SE 3 Street Hallandale Beach, FL  33009 
Phone:  (954) 457-1452   
Hours: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Friday

As most of you regular readers of the blog know from my many past posts on the subject of the city's poorly-maintained city parks, while I have been a very strong and vocal supporter of the HB Parks Master Plan  in general, 
http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/final-hallandale-beach-parks-rec-master.html
and have attended 95% of all the meetings on it all over this city from the  very beginning -even attending the Parks Advisory mtg. to hear the pitch from the consultants at Bermello Ajamil Partners Inc. before the public officially heard it at a City Commission meeting-
I remain unconvinced that in a city that's only 4.2 square miles in total, that it ought to have two separate swimming pools within two miles of one another, since that makes zero financial sense for this city's already under-the-gun taxpayers, especially since Northwest HB comprises only 13% of the city's population according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and you can catch a city MiniBus for free that takes you from that exact spot to the existing pool in less than 15 minutes.
Fix the existing pool you have and make it better.
But that sort of logic doesn't appeal to City Hall, since this is a city that annually borrows millions of dollars from its Reserve fund simply to pay normal operating expenses instead of cutting costs and expenses.

Here's the original email and below that are some reason that i think things are being constructed in such a deliberate fashion that disadvantages Hallandale beach taxpayers and gives the City Commission more money to squander and waste on pet projects that help them politically.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Schanz, Cathie
Date: Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 10:39 AM
Subject: RE: re Hallandale Beach Parks/Rec. and taxpayer dissatisfaction with cost of B.F. James Park DOUBLING and a prospective Parks bond issue that prevents strict accountability of taxpayer dollars
To: "DBS", Parksrecreation
Cc: "Shamah, Sarah"


Hello Mr. Smith,

Thank you for contacting me with your comments and concerns regarding the Parks projects. 

I trust you found last night’s meeting informative.  If you require additional information on the projects, you may wish to contact our Capital Projects Manager, Sarita Shamah, directly.  I have copied her on this email.

All the best,

Cathie Schanz, CPRE
Hallandale Beach Parks and Recreation Director

From: DBS  
Sent: Monday, July 29, 2013 11:47 AM
To: Schanz, Cathie; Parksrecreation

Subject: re Hallandale Beach Parks/Rec. and taxpayer dissatisfaction with cost of B.F. James Park DOUBLING and a prospective Parks bond issue that prevents strict accountability of taxpayer dollars

----
And yes, after I wrote it and sent it out, on very little sleep, I realized that I'd actually reversed what I'd meant to say about what sort of Bonds that voters should be voting upon. But you get that by now I suspect, so I've left it below as it was when originally written -and very tired.

After the fact-filled Bulldog article that really makes a great predicate for better understanding this whole issue of the city's longstanding habit of purchasing land, then largely neglecting it and then buying yet more land, all with little actual idea of what to do with it, is my original letter to HB Parks Director Schanz. 
The one that led her to emailing me the name of Sarah Shamah, someone whom I'd never heard of, as a person to speak with.
Trust me, you'll be reading that name more in the future here on the blog as we investigate the doubling of costs of the new city park in Northwest HB, something my friend Csaba Kulin has already been hard at work looking at for a while.

Broward Bulldog
Hallandale Beach takes a bath on land deals; properties for redevelopment sit idle for years
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
OCTOBER 6, 2011 AT 6:13 AM

-----
July 29, 2013

Dear Parks Director Schanz:

As the city's public budget meetings begin today, and despite the fact that the HB City Commission participated in a groundbreaking last week at the proposed B.F. James Park, did you know that there is STILL NOTHING on the City of Hallandale Beach's website explaining why the costs of that
particular park have DOUBLED.

No public explanation, no nothing.
From around $2.6 Million to over $5 Million.

This week the taxpayers of this city will expect to hear a serious and detailed explanation for why this park in Northwest Hallandale Beach will now cost TWICE AS MUCH as originally planned, but whose additional cost will now put at serious risk any work anytime soon at dowdy and depressing South Beach Park, the busiest part of the city's public beach

They will also expect a detailed explanation for how it is that despite knowing this fact for some time, you, the City Manager and the City Commission have completely failed to provide ANY sort of public explanation to this city's residents on the city's own website.

An explanation that sounds reasonable and plausible, not just a case of the City Hall being unable to control themselves and deciding to turn the proposed park and pool into a Christmas Tree, with more and more elaborate decorations and ornaments laden on top of it.

If the Hallandale Beach City Commission votes this week 
a.) for General Obligation bonds, wherein monies approved by voters via a referendum can be spent by the HB City Commission on something other than Parks, instead of voting for Revenue Bonds that strictly limit any
voter-approved monies to Parks usage,

and/or,

b.) votes to place this Bond issue on the ballot in August of 2014 when much of the city is still out-of-town for the summer, rather than in November of 2014 during the General Election, when the largest number of Hallandale Beach voters can participate, in conjunction with other concerned Hallandale Beach residents, I will happily lend my enthusiasm to a public effort to initiate a public signature campaign to negate these Commission votes.

Votes that would, necessarily, give Hallandale Beach taxpayers less control, accountability and confidence in the future use of any prospective Park funds, and which would, necessarily, punish Hallandale Beach voters who are NOT present -during the hottest month of the year.

You know, August.
It's the same entire month that the HB City Commission will be taking off in a few days?

I have long publicly supported the improvements of parks and recreational spaces in this city, often finding myself the only person in this entire city who  would publicly declare how poorly they were maintained by DPW, and publicly say how unsafe they were at night, with little concern shown by either the City Manager or Police Chief at the time, to say nothing of the DPW Director, who was unconcerned with park lights that were out for years at a time.

But make no mistake about it, we'll vigorously fight against and vote NO on any Parks Bond issue that is of a General Obligation nature or which is held in August.
We will help educate and encourage other HB taxpayers and small business owners to vote NO as well for reasons of lack of appropriate financial accountability and oversight mechanisms.

Here's how simple the math is.
Using the city's own rules, 25 people with signature sheets each only need to get 4 signatures a day of registered HB voters for three weeks to get the minimum required number of signatures to negate the vote.
But of course we'd have much more time than merely three weeks to get the desired signatures  

And honestly, what HB citizen would be against the idea of making sure that the Bond vote is taken when the largest numbers of voters could participate, in November of 2014, rather than in sweltering August?
And what HB citizens who are in favor of HB Parks improvement and expansion, like me, would be willing to let the present or future City Commission take the money that voters might approve in a Bond issue and use that money instead on their own pet projects or more goodies for the professional staff instead of only to be used for Parks? 
Or towards the construction of more unnecessary city buildings?.

The correct answer is nobody I know in the entire city, except maybe the current HB City Commission itself. And the City Manager and her well-paid staff who don't actually live here.

Remind me again why B.F. James Park will have a brand new pool with bells-and-whistles 1.7 miles from the existing city pool at Peter Bluesten Park, the city's largest park, that's also scheduled to be changed and 
improved in the next few years? (Or at least, so we were told last year.)

The main city pool that in the nine-plus years that I've lived here has NEVER had even one directional sign on U.S.-1, two blocks away from it?

Which is why some people don't even know the city has a pool.
Even people who in the past few years have been elected President of the HB Chamber of Commerce.

And yet despite all these things, HB taxpayers just can't seem to get any straight answers.

A search for docs on B.F. James Park leads us here:

Take a good look at what it says there.
Or rather what it doesn't.

There was nothing on the city's website prior to last week's groundbreaking about what this park will actually look like when it's finished, though we know what the city said they wanted most on the 2.35 acres in Northwest HB:
 Family orient pool  Basketball Courts  Passive Open Space  Pedestrian walkways  Playground  On and off site parking 

That is to say, at
there's nothing that's more recent than 18 months ago -February  10, 2012!

Oh, wait, that link to the city's Park Master Plan doesn't show what it will look like either.
Awesome!

It looks like Hallandale Beach and its 4.2 square miles may well soon have two, with the new one located exactly 1.7 miles from the other.

The reality of the matter is that if you want to go swimming in this city it is both cheap and convenient already. 
In fact, you can catch the city's mini-bus at O.B. Johnson Park and be taken to Peter Bluesten Park and the existing swimming pool for free in less than ten minutes.

Here's a Google Map that shows exactly this point..

While I have been a very strong and vocal supporter of the HB Parks Master Plan  in general, 
and have attended 95% of all the meetings on it all over this city from the very beginning -even attending the Parks Advisory mtg. to hear the pitch from the consultants at Bermello Ajamil Partners Inc. before the public officially heard it at a City Commission meeting- you can't convince me that a city this small having two separate swimming pools within two miles of one another makes financial 
sense for this city's taxpayers.

Especially in a city that borrows money every year from its reserve fund to pay normal operating expenses instead of cutting costs and expenses.

The money used for the second pool would be much-better spent being used to create something in the spaces that the city has already bought and purchased for park land for MILLIONS, esp. on Old Dixie Highway, since at present, all those acres of dirt have had nothing done to them other than, foolishly, a fence
being erected around it in June of 2012, even though nobody was ever there because, oh right, there's nothing there.
So why the fence?

In any case, the city left the gate open -there was NO lock on it!!!

Which is why in no time, people were consistently dumping materials there that became hills, which I have dozens of photos of from the past year.
That area only got cleaned-up LAST MONTH!
It only took a year for the city to get that mess a block from HB City Hall cleaned-up!

Even worse, there is no sign of any kind along Old Dixie Highway indicating WHEN it will be an actual city park after MILLIONS of dollars have already gone out the door.
Where's the specific timetable and benchmarks?

That, Director Schanz, is why a line in the sand is being drawn right now.

--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dobens, Peter <pdobens@hallandalebeachfl.gov>
Date: Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 4:37 PM
Subject: Hallandale Beach Breaks Ground, Begins Work on Two City Parks
To: "Dobens, Peter" <pdobens@hallandalebeachfl.gov>


LOGO C
Hallandale Beach
Breaks Ground, Begins Work
On Two City Parks
B.F. James Park, Joseph Scavo Park  
For immediate release                                                                              Contact: Peter F. Dobens, public relations
DATE: Friday, July 26, 2013                                                                               954-457-1493, orpdobens@cohb.org

HALLANDALE BEACH –Construction crews have dug in and started turning soil in the redevelopment of the first two of 10 Hallandale Beach parks slated for reconstruction in the Citywide Parks Master Plan.
Hallandale Beach City Commissioners broke ground on the two projects this week; B.F. James Park, 101 NW 9th St., on Tuesday, July 23, and Joseph Scavo Park, 900 Three Islands Boulevard, on Wednesday, July 24. Hours later, both parks had construction fences up and crews clearing the way for the new parks. B.F. James Park is expected to open in June 2014. Joseph Scavo Park is planned to open in March 2014.
B.F. James Park, a $5 million project, will include a new swimming pool, basketball courts, exercise area and playground. The park includes lighting and restrooms.
Joseph Scavo Park, undergoing a $2.6 million redesign, will include two dog parks, exercise trail, covered sitting area, basketball court, covered playground and restrooms.
Hallandale Beach earned the “Playful City USA” designation this year and is living up to the moniker. The Citywide Parks Master Plan designed by architects and engineers Bermello Ajamil & Partners, calls for complete makeovers for 10 of the City’s parks over the next few years. Along with B.F. James Park and Joseph Scavo Park, the City is working to secure state, county and City permits to rebuild South Beach Park and North City Beach Park. Both projects are expected to begin as soon as the permits are issued.
Also, the park projects are part of the City’s award winning Community Benefit Plan.  The plan requires contractors to use City residents and City-based subcontractors in any municipal capital project worth more than $1 million. More than 50 percent of the skilled and unskilled laborers and sub-contractors working for the projects’ general contractor, Burkhardt Construction, are Hallandale Beach residents or businesses. The Community Benefit Plan attracted national attention from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Hallandale Beach
“Progress. Innovation. Opportunity”


B.F. James Park Groundbreaking, Construction
07-23-13 BF James (101)a
07-26-13 BF James Construction (18)a
Groundbreaking, Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Under construction Friday, July 26, 2013



Joseph Scavo Park Groundbreaking, Construction
07-24-13 Joseph Scavo (71)a
07-26-13 Joseph Scavo Construction (10)a
Groundbreaking, Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Under construction Friday, July 26, 2013


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