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.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Thoughts re role of Tri-Rail Coastal commuter rail on HB/Hollywood redevelopment, per City of Hollywood's community meeting on Monday Aug. 24 for its Regional Activity Center re-zoning, which includes U.S.-1 & Pembroke Road

Received the following email from the City of Hollywood last Tuesday and sent it and my thoughts below it out to about 125 interested and concerned people around the area.
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http://www.hollywoodfl.org/list.aspx?MID=517
Learn About Proposed Zoning Changes in the Regional Activity Center

The City of Hollywood invites you to a community meeting on Monday, August 24 at 6:00 p.m. at Hollywood City Hall, 2600 Hollywood Boulevard, Room 219 to discuss the planned re-zoning of the Regional Activity Center (RAC).

The RAC encompasses Downtown Hollywood and includes Federal Highway from Sheridan Street to Pembroke Road and Hollywood Boulevard from US-1 to Interstate 95. The Regional Activity Center land use designation is intended to encourage attractive and functional mixed living, working, shopping, education, and recreational activities, in areas of regional importance. To guide sustainable development, the City is undertaking ambitious zoning changes in the RAC to accommodate future growth, while preserving the character of existing neighborhoods.

The Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), Department of Community and Economic Development and Department of Planning have hosted a series of community meetings with residents living in and around the RAC to review the proposed zoning changes. This community meeting is open to all residents interested in the RAC re-zoning.  

For additional information, contact the Department of Community and Economic Development at 954.921.3271 or go to RAC Re-zoning.

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The map of the proposed RAC is at http://www.hollywoodfl.org/index.aspx?NID=884

I'm going to make some phone calls and find out who will be speaking at this meeting next Monday at Hollywood City Hall.

I'm especially interested in finding out if anyone from Tri-Rail will be present to publicly speak about the latest estimates and deadlines about the Tri-Rail Coastal service, since from the looks of things, there doesn't seem to be anyone locally following up on that and holding them to account in turning big words into some tangible action.

Most of you know from experience that I'm someone who has been a longtime public advocate for much-better public transit service and facilities in SE Broward County, and have long lamented publicly at both City Halls how often Hallandale Beach and Hollywood residents seemed to constantly take it on the chin on common sense matters that are relatively easy to resolve policy-wise, and would be supported by the public, but, for whatever reason, always seemed to lack an advocate for the public at City Hall willing to push their own bureaucrats into action.
Perhaps because they are not considered sexy issues, per se.

For instance, to mention but a few things I've written about frequently with photos to show the sad reality of what SE Broward transit riders are forced to put up with,

1.) How about making sure there are actually some bus shelters on the east side of U.S.-1 in Hallandale Beach, instead of just one, located one block south of Pembroke Road, practically in Hollywood? Really.

2.) How many years has the Buzz #1 Express to downtown Fort Lauderdale -that begins at Aventura Mall on north-bound trips- used the two small bus benches opposite the McDonald's on U.S.-1 as their ONLY Hallandale Beach stop on the northbound trip, instead of the under-utilized SuperStop bus shelter in front of Gulfstream Park, opposite the Flashback Diner?

Yes, the expensive, under-utilized SuperStop bus shelter that the County and the City of HB required Forest City and MAGNA/Gulfstream Park to build as part of the development agreement to create The Village at Gulfstream Park.
You'll recall that the developers said they'd provide shuttle service from that site to the Tri-Rail station on Hollywood Blvd. -but they never did, did they?
NOPE!!!

Yes, as some of you may recall, that would be the same SuperStop that was used as a de facto home base by an army of homeless people for at least six-to-eight months from late 2013 to 2014, despite being located less than two blocks from Hallandale Beach City Hall and HB Police Dept. HQ.
Both looked the other way at what was happening, which made both bus riders and bus drivers angry since it was pitch-black at night -on purpose. 
How did HB City Hall and HBPD ignore what was right in front of them???

3.) Honestly, how is it that so many years after the Hollywood ArtsPark was created by Broward County that Hollywood residents have had to tolerate ZERO bus shelters at Young Circle, near the Publix, to keep them out of the sun & downpours?
That should have been done at least eight years ago, with advertising revenue used to defray the costs of several attractive state-of-the-art bus shelters at the site that's not only where the largest number of passengers south of downtown FTL get off and on, but also right near the two corners of the Circle where Hollywood City Hall and the Hollywood business community
have long claimed that they wanted to see interesting upscale retail and residential living located, to give the city some dynamic activity.

As I've written many times before on my blog and said aloud at transportation forums throughout South Florida, one of the most positive things that can help jolt the Hollywood and Hallandale Beach economies -not just the downtown areas of Hollywood and HB but especially the under-developed and under-utilized areas along the FEC tracks that are perfect for Transit Oriented
Corridor related development, i.e. mixed-use building with retail on the bottom floor and reasonably-priced residential above- is reliable and safe Tri-Rail Coastal service to Downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

(Yes, as many of you know from past conversations with me, because I've seen how beautifully it works like a charm in Stockholm (especially in the fascinating and trendy Södermalm 
neighborhood that I vacationed in two years ago, which from my point of view, EVERYTHING that residents of Coconut Grove and parts of Coral Gables near the University of Miami wish they were now -but aren't.
We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we just make it possible for it to succeed as soon as possible.)

Why? Because giving people the option to be able to relax in the morning and drink their coffee or
smoothies and read a newspaper or zone out on their devices on a train before they get to work beats the hell out of driving to work thru frustrating gridlock.
And people will pay for that option.

I know because when I lived and worked in the Washington, D.C. area for 15 years, my housing options always put a premium on access and proximity to the a Metrorail station. That's why I lived where I did in Arlington County and paid a premium in rent for the privilege of always being a 15-20 minute walk to a Metro station.
Those last seven years, that meant living in a great and safe residential area of hilly Arlington less than a mile from the Ballston Metro station, which itself was located below a Hilton hotel and a block from the National Science Foundation HQ and several federal govt. agencies.
(And as longtime readers of the blog know, that was the townhouse that President Ford's 
daughter Susan used to live in, which still had the Secret Service intercom system in it when I was there.)

As most of you know, I have long felt that Hollywood and Hallandale Beach could benefit from that Coastal service faster and in more tangible and positive ways than any other two cities in Broward.
So why aren't we hearing from our elected officials about what's really going on with it?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wither #Broward's #tourism and reputation among the smart set among U.S. & foreign travelers? Or will #CommonSense get a second chance in Broward?

Wither #Broward's #tourism and reputation among the smart set among U.S. & foreign travelers? Or will #CommonSense get a second chance in Broward?

My email to some of the members of the Broward County Commission on Monday, in advance of their meeting Tuesday about transportation options for broward residents and tourists, including ride sharing apps like @Uber and @lyft.

I'll have some thoughts and some analysis of the decision made Tuesday here on the blog by Friday afternoon.

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August 10th, 2015

Dear Commissioners:

I'll admit it - I really wanted to comment earlier.
But I've tried my best to show some patience over the past few weeks before sending this email to you, since I wanted to wait a bit after the July 31 operational deadline came and went for @Uber & @lyft in Broward County.  

In anticipation of the Broward County Commission discussing/revisiting the ride-sharing ordinance on Tuesday, here's my thoughts re Uber & Lyft -and what I see as the continuing anti-consumer/anti-public transit situation at FLL- which I've been writing off-and-on for weeks.

Frankly, unless the current status quo changes, it'll be quite interesting to see and hear what visitors to Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport tell TV reporters in the future when they're asked at the airport, while waiting near the baggage claim area, what they think about the fact that Broward County, the Sunshine State's second-largest county, has decided to forbid the use of popular transportation sharing apps within its borders. 
Bet I can predict what those visitors say to the reporters. 

As best I can determine, I've read every single newspaper article & column, tweet, blog post and aired TV segment about the matter, good and bad, that's been filed from somewhere in Broward County and environs, no matter how obtuse, incoherent or fact-challenged -or simply argumentative for the sake of being argumentative!
At this point, I'm pretty certain I know from all of this what people on and off the dais and in the community have said, claimed, denied, or otherwise thrown into the water to try to muddy things up for whatever reason.

I'm pleased to be hearing of late that some of your colleagues have, for whatever reason, come to see that their initial approach was perhaps less-than-satisfactory for a large number of Broward residents
than they originally thought. 
Especially for the many people in Broward who work unusual hours or who often need to get to places not located near any sort of reasonable public transit.

Trust me, my friends and former colleagues located overseas all know 
about what's taken place here over the past few months. They're very sharp and well-informed people to begin with, and most had already heard about the ridiculous news before I first thought to mention it to them the past few weeks. Still, they're shocked.

I'd like to think they had a much-better grasp of the facts and the real 
subtext and nuance after I sent them -and any journalists they knew in their own city- some helpful links to the myriad print and TV stories about the issue here, where, given a chance to do the smart and pragmatic thing, a majority of the Broward County Commission thought that firmly embracing the past with a passion was more important than admitting that the future everyone's been talking about was... already here. 
And wisely embracing that instead!

Because surely, given a choice, the Broward County Commission would 
recognize that it was time to admit that no amount of their pretending or wishful thinking were going to change that basic fact. 
But look what happened when given a choice.
The Broward County Commission chose poorly.
And NOT wisely.

Now that so many helpful innovations have been brought to the market by the sharing apps, it's hard for me to see that the public is willing to accept simply going forward WITHOUT them

It's hard not to reflect on this and also not observe how perverse it is that 
for so many years, the Broward County Commission has delighted in patting itself on the back for choosing an approach that the majority declared was "forward-thinking" when it came to some social issue.
This, even when a majority of Broward's population might NOT have necessarily been in favor of that change of approach in policy, or even thought it logical.

Yet, as the Commission has now proven again, it's equally happy to pat itself on the back for doing the opposite, and opposing a pragmatic and forward-thinking approach when it comes to economic and entrepreneurial issues that ARE strongly supported by the majority of the general public.
That's what you call a #disconnect.

Oh, and that glorious past?
A past where taxi drivers at FLL airport have routinely ripped-off domestic and 
foreign visitors left-and-right for years by driving routes to locations around the area that were NOT the shortest distance between any two points. 
Or even close to the shortest.

The disappearance of the simple (and much-missed) southbound exit from the 
airport onto U.S.-1/Federal Highway towards Dania, Hollywood, Hallandale Beach and points beyond, only facilitated this duplicity by the existing taxi drivers, and made a long-festering problem worse and more self-evident to anyone who was paying the slightest attention.
A fact I've recounted in precise detail to you all in a previous email.

Last year I told some of you the tale of a good friend (and fellow civic activist) 
from Hallandale Beach who, TWICE, after getting off a flight from Ohio, was offered a taxi drive home to Hallandale Beach... via a trip west to 595 and then State Road 7 and then...

Recognizing the scam for what it was -with the licensed taxi driver using the 
half-assed, poorly-conceived stop-gap U-turn north of the airport on U.S.-1 as a means to further confuse riders- my friend voiced his strong disapproval before things got worse.

That this same shady and illegal maneuver was tried by a LICENSED Broward taxi driver 
TWICE on one well-informed Broward resident within just a few months, says a lot about the severity of the problem that everyone ignores around here, not least, the South Florida news media.

Funny how the public never hears anything about taxi drivers getting punished 
for taking advantage of customers, esp at FLL and Port Everglades. 
Given Broward's penchant for capturing data, why isn't there a link to something useful like that prominently posted somewhere on the County website homepage?
Say, along with the name of the taxi company, a brief description of what took place, the amount of the fine imposed on the company by the County AND the number of infractions against that taxi company within the past year -or longer?
I'm all for warnings and Yellow Cards in soccer, but it's long past time for some Red Cards and ejections to take place at FLL, too.

Meanwhile, how do visitors to Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, 
esp. ones used to taking public transportation from the airport back to their home -in D.C., Chicago and Stockholm to name but three places I know- react when they first encounter Broward's public transit stop at FLL?
Specifically, the #1 Bus?

Tell me, does that bus stop STILL consist of a solitary bench without any shade 
or cover of any sort, despite the weather we have here?
Does that bus stop STILL lack any posted timetables that might help visitors consider their options?
Does that bus stop STILL lack a posted map there of the area?

Does FLL and its Director still believe that NOT having good sensible direction 
signs at the airport to the #1 bus stop, in the year 2015, is a good way of #branding?
I ask about that because you will recall that I mentioned to you last year that on separate occasions, I asked people working the official Help Desk at FLL how and where to catch a public bus. 
They didn't know.
Really.

Yep, that's how bad reputations start -and then get worse when nobody in a position 
of authority cares enough to resolve the problem on the public's behalf.
Which is why in the year 2015, there ought to already be an Advisory Board for Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport that consists ENTIRELY of Broward citizens, with ZERO city or county officials.

And none of the Usual Suspects put forward by the Broward League of Cities and the like who always seem to have as their first goal, gaining more ultimate power and control for local public officials -always at the expense of Broward's beleaguered taxpayers.

I genuinely hope that if things go well on Tuesday as far as the entire Commission actually giving #CommonSense a second chance in Broward, some of you will also seriously consider supporting my idea of creating an appointed Broward Citizen Advisory Board for FLL.
I believe that can serve as a dynamic to make things better there for citizens, taxpayers and visitors to our area, the latter of whom deserve to have their first impression of the area be a positive one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Common sense questions about public policy, process and public engagement -to say nothing of financial risk- continue to dog @AllAboardFla and the Fortress Investment Group as they seek $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds from the Florida Development Finance Corporation for their planned Miami-to-Orlando express train, via Fort lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Some observations on what we know and what reporters should have been asking all along, but were NOT.

This is an expanded version of an email that I wrote about All Aboard Florida that was sent out around South Florida and Florida this morning shortly after I received a Twitter notification from someone at the group FloridaNOTAllAboard@FLNOTAA who describes themselves thusly:
"We are a grassroots group of citizens who have created this page to help facilitate communication and inform residents that are affected by AAF."
floridanotallaboard.com

Since I'd been planning on posting something about All Aboard Florida this week, once I received that message, I decided to write something today instead of waiting until later in the week.

Those of you unfamiliar with some of the issues here and my own perspective on the frustrating and often confounding public transportation scene in Florida may want to consult my blog post from March 26th and use that as a predicate:
South Florida has once again redefined the meaning of "Free Ride." But shouldn't we all realize by now that when it comes to #TransportationPolicy in #SoFL, there's no such thing as a free ride? But #Miami pols, @Tri_Rail & @AllAboardFla can't help themslves when it comes to taking taxpayer dollars and taking credit for something BEFORE the facts are ALL in
http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2015/03/south-florida-has-once-again-redefined.html

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So, look who seems to have finally woken up from many years of his Rip Van Winkle-like slumber? 

Columnist Michael Mayo of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, who for many years was one of the few full-throated voices in the South Florida news media willing to publicly tell the truth and speak ill of the powerful, comfortable, affluent and influential of our part area of the Sunshine State. 
That is to say, the same small handful of people of means and influence in South Florida who, over the years, have become quite accustomed to them and their favorites pet causes being catered to (and indulged in and promoted) by the South Florida press corps, no matter how wrong or dubious they were regarding an issue of public concern. 
To an extent, frankly, that would be embarrassing in most parts of the country, but which has become commonplace here, where there's a real paucity of reporters with old-fashioned notions of serving the public FIRST.

That is also to say that Michael Mayo was someone who used to be mentioned and linked to rather frequently here at Hallandale Beach Blog, in large part because of his willingness to call things exactly what they were here in Hallandale Beach and environs with respect to the illegal, unconscionable or downright stupid things that routinely took/take place at Hallandale Beach City Hall.

Mayo, to his great credit, unlike the majority of the news media in South Florida, was NOT content to just look away or merely swallow whole the PR spin served up by the usual Suspects at HB City Hall, whether Mayor Joy Cooper or her usual partners in dubious/unethical/shady shenanigans that embarrass the beleaguered residents of this ocean-side Broward city just north of the Miami-Dade County line, namely, HB City Commissioners Anthony A. Sanders and William 'Bill" Julian.

But for whatever reasons -and I have my own educated hunches- things changed with Mayo and what he chose to write about and make his primary focus.
To me and several other people in my circle of friends and acquaintances in South Florida and around the Sunshine State, he seemed to retrench, which was disappointing, given how few people seemed willing to do what he did in the first place.
The change made him seem like he not only avoided going after low-hanging fruit in our area that needed to be swatted at, but not even bother to aim for high-minded fruit on the top shelf, either.

But for today at least, he's back with some well-placed energy and moxie, asking overdue questions that others in the #SoFL media universe have been very, very reluctant or afraid to ask publicly.


"But the bigger question is this: If All Aboard Florida is such a good idea and has a reasonable chance of success, why is it falling on junk bond investors to back them, instead of AAF’s deep-pocketed corporate parent, Fortress Investment Group?"

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
All Aboard Florida bonds involve 'high degree of risk'
By Michael mayo
August 4, 2015
11:37 a.m.

Getting $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds approved by a state board on Wednesday looks to be the easy part for All Aboard Florida.

The seemingly harder part for the proposed Miami-to-Orlando express train: Getting investors to buy the risky unrated bonds (junk bonds, in financial parlance), and being able to make an estimated $105 million in annual debt payments to repay the bonds.

Read the rest of the column
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/michael-mayo-blog/sfl-mayo-aaf-bonds-20150804-story.html




This is esp. interesting in light of my tweets last week to Brian Bandell of the South Florida Business Journal reminding him of the tone-deaf and self-inflicted problems of All Aboard Florida a few years ago when it came time for them to actually engage the public in Broward County, whom they wanted to completely ignore in their original scoping meetings.

But then I started complaining about it loudly and publicly via emails, phone calls and blog posts to some responsive local officials -and certain key news media members- in South Florida, who agreed with me that given the scope of what was at stake, the All Aboard Florida geniuses core belief that they could literally force everyone in Broward who was interested in this plan -because there's a Fort Lauderdale station- to have to travel to a not-great area of downtown Miami at night, on a
weeknight when the Miami Heat were in the NBA playoffs, was probably NOT the greatest idea in the world.

But the decision to ignore Broward's residents -AAF's own future customers!- was entirely indicative of the decision-making prowess of the AAF braintrust.

Personally, I'm not against the idea, I merely find it hard to believe that in August of 2015 that there remain SO MANY basic questions, policy and process, that are both unasked and unanswered to my satisfaction, and clearly part of that has been because of the cheerleader attitude taken by so many in the South Florida press corps towards this plan.
That sort of bias and un-professionalism reminds me of the same media's attitude towards the Dolphins' terrible idea just a few years ago of forcing taxpayers to pay for stadium improvements at Dolphins Stadium, i.e Joe Robbie Stadium.
(You recall how badly that flopped, given that the owner of the team and the stadium, Stephen Ross, is only one of THE richest Americans alive today.)

The South Florida media was played like a fiddle by the Dolphins and their PR people and lobbyists, 
with several usually-solid reporters even being reduced to playing the role of little kids on "exclusive tours" of the stadium with the Dolphins then-President Mike Dee.
(Okay, you got it out of me -it was Lauren Pastrana of CBS4 News in Miami. For mojnths I watched her story out at the stadium and it made me cringe every time.)

That is to say, the media could look and listen to what was said, but seemingly couldn't ask adult questions. 
Like perfectly reasonable questions about why the Dolphins seem to have intentionally chosen NOT to repaint some areas of the stadium so that it would look worse as they and the NFL engaged in a PR battle via the media to force South Florida taxpayers to pay the freight so that perhaps the NFL might deign to have the Super Bowl played there in the future.
Some day.
Maybe!

A basic question I have had and never seen answered adequately is how will the City of Fort Lauderdale and/or Broward County government and All Aboard Florida legally keep the Fort Lauderdale train station-cum-transit center from being over-run by the army of transients and 
homeless, which has been the sad reality for the Broward County Transit main HQ off Broward Blvd. & Andrews Avenue the past few years, as anyone who has used it or gone to the McDonald's next door well knows.

It's both sad and tragic on many levels and... made worse by the fact that it is within two blocks of the Broward County Govt. HQ building and Fort Lauderdale City Hall.
But that everyday reality is also why some people don't use public transit and specifically don't go THERE.
Despite the fact that both are places that people ACTUALLY go to in real numbers.

If the public doesn't buy into a Fort Lauderdale train station/transit center right away, or have doubts about their safety and that of their family, no amount of PR spin and attempted media manipulation will prevent it from quickly becoming a No-Go Zone.
Another White Elephant monument to South Florida's long history of elected officials and "insiders" being persuaded/conned into forking over taxpayer dollars and rights for what was supposed to be, after all, yes, a private enterprise endeavor.

"But the bigger question is this: If All Aboard Florida is such a good idea and has a reasonable chance of success, why is it falling on junk bond investors to back them, instead of AAF’s deep-pocketed corporate parent, Fortress Investment Group?"


Yes, what is the reason for that lack of enthusiasm?


You can follow Lisa Broadt, aka @TCPalmLisa for live coverage of the meeting.






I encourage you to do so.

Adios!

Some older elements and building blocks formerly seen at Hallandale Beach Blog, such as photos, graphics and videos have been moved into cold storage. Visit them again or see what you've missed at: http://hallandale-beach-blog.blogspot.com/

Me in the Summer of 2016

Me in the Summer of 2016
Above, me in June, pre-recent haircut, near acres and acres of orange groves off Scenic U.S. #17 in Frostproof, FL, while visiting hot/humid Central Florida, which I'm convinced is where heat/humidity goes in the Summer to get away from it all... The oppressive heat & humidity there is literally everywhere you go. :-(

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.

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.
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