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, September 26, 2015

The Tri-Rail Coastal commuter train in South Florida offers a dynamic opportunity to change and IMPROVE old ways of thinking and living. So why is Tri-Rail doing such a poor job of letting the public know what's REALLY going on? I ask Hollywood's City Manger that very question, since the cities of Hollywood, Hallandale Beach and Aventura are ideally positioned to benefit economically more quickly than any other cities on the commuter line

The Tri-Rail Coastal commuter train in South Florida offers a dynamic opportunity to change and IMPROVE old ways of thinking and living. So why is Tri-Rail doing such a poor job of letting the public know what's REALLY going on? I ask Hollywood's City Manger that very question, since the cities of Hollywood, Hallandale Beach and Aventura are ideally positioned to benefit economically more quickly than any other cities on the commuter line

Below is a slightly-expanded version of an email about the Tri-Rail Coastal commuter train that I sent on September 18th to the Hollywood City Manager, Dr. Wazir Ishmael
It follows a previous letter that was sent to him and dozens of other people in South Florida about the same subject. I've deleted some email addresses below for obvious reasons.

An Open Letter to Mayor Carlos Gimenez: A World­Class Community Must Have Open Data Governance http://miamiopendata.org/docs/open-data-letter.pdf

Dr. Ishmael: 

Just a note to let you know I'll  be writing you next week with respect to how/when Hollywood might adopt some of the sort of innovative thinking described above in the tweet from Miami Open Data to Miami-Dade Mayor Gimenez.

Thanks also for your quick response to my recent email re the Tri-Rail Coastal, below.

As a result of my years taking the El train into downtown Chicago everyday from my home across the street from the Bahá'í Temple in suburban Wilmette, three blocks from the end of the EL line at the Linden CTA station, https://goo.gl/maps/84tDQ  https://goo.gl/maps/jGZHz 

and years later, from my upscale neighborhood in Arlington into Washington, DC via METRO 
everyday from the Ballston station next to the National Science Foundation HQ, 

I became over time, without realizing it at the time, a strong advocate of well-planned and sensible 
public transit. And have only gotten more personally involved in the subject once I was in DC. and then down here.

But I get VERY frustrated at what I perceive to be the snail-like pace I and other observers see from Tri-Rail these days, and the even slower public engagement approach taken by them to share what's actually happening with respect to tangible milestones with the public and the business community.

Just as is true in parts of Hallandale Beach along the FEC Corridor, it's absurd to imagine that there's an entire army of people chomping at the bit to invest in some business or property development along N. 21 Avenue and Adams BEFORE some definite word comes from Tri-Rail as to when an actual station will be near there, and making sure that everyone knows what's what.

And yet Tri-Rail now pretends that everyone in the community is psyched, and that Tri-Rail can just keep doing what they're doing.
Whatever that actually is...

Dr. Ishmael, based on my conversations with people who keep their eyes open, everyone is, most assuredly, NOT psyched NOR convinced that Tri-Rail is doing everything they can to best effectively communicate the truth/facts to the public, whatever that is.

Seriously, they were so slow to get going on Social Media that they could NOT even get the Twitter name they wanted because other people beat them to the punch.
That damning fact is one I have shared in emails with lots of people as well as on my blog and in a few tweets.
It's indicative of many things about their counter-intuitive approach.

Most people who come to know me at least reasonably well come to appreciate that just because I'm pro-transit, doesn't mean that I will support or make excuses for truly half-assed plans, efforts or results of the sort that the public too frequently sees from transit groups and agencies down here.

I refer you to this pertinent May 6, 2013 blog post of mine:

More Transit Policy Woes in South Florida: With stealthy and self-sabotaging friends like All Aboard Florida and SFRTA/Tri-Rail, pro-transit advocates in South Florida don't need any more enemies; 'All Aboard Florida' fails to schedule a single public scoping meeting in Broward County this Spring despite Fort Lauderdale being a proposed station, while SFRTA chief refuses to answer a simple question -Will Hallandale Beach have a station under the proposed Coastal line plan?; Just because you're pro-transit doesn't mean you have to ignore displays of transit incompetency or mismanagement when you see it!

To me, in short, Tri-Rail's sitting on their hands far too much.
That is, when they aren't prematurely patting themselves on the back for being the proverbial engine bringing dynamic economic changes to the under-developed and under-utilized FEC Corridor area
Something that has YET to actually happen.

Meanwhile, in Miami, as you can see below, looks like some developers are pricing out people whom I suspect would look perfect in Hollywood, Hallandale Beach or Aventura taking the Tri-Rail Coastal to work, whether that's in downtown Miami or downtown Fort lauderdale - or neither.
But who want to avail themselves of opportunities.

@SFlaBizBandell New Wynwood could price out hipsters who made it thrive
Just something to think about.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Wazir Ishmael
Date: Tue, Aug 25, 2015 at 9:13 AM
Subject: RE: re Redevelopment in Hollywood, tonight's public meeting re proposed RAC, and the role of Tri-Rail Coastal

Hello David!

Thank you for the valuable input.  We will certainly reach out to the folks at Tri-Rail to ensure their participation in any future RAC events.

The rail portion could prove to be an integral component to the future success of the RAC and having spent time in Portland, Oregon and the UK I am very familiar with the incorporation of multi-modal opportunities as significant catalysts to development and redevelopment.

Once again, thank you for your insights and suggestion.


Wazir Ishmael, Ph.D.
City Manager
City of Hollywood
2600 Hollywood Boulevard
P.O. Box 229045
Hollywood, FL  33020
Office:  (954) 921-3201
Fax:     (954) 921-3314

Sent: Monday, August 24, 2015 4:06 PM
To: Wazir Ishmael
Cc: Patricia Asseff; Jaye Epstein
Subject: re Redevelopment in Hollywood, tonight's public meeting re proposed RAC, and the role of Tri-Rail Coastal

August 24, 2015 

Dear Dr. Ishmael:

I'm writing you today to follow up on an email -below- that I sent out last week 
to a few hundred concerned residents and Small Business owners in Hollywood
and Hallandale Beach regarding tonight's public meeting re a proposed RAC 
for Hollywood, a plan that includes U.S.-1, Pembroke Road and what I believe 
continues to be the greatly under-developed and under-utilized area along the 
FEC corridor, which could and should be a dynamic that adds much to the city's 
future success.

I quite realize that at this point that it's too late for the city to arrange for some 
well-informed reps from Tri-Rail to be present at tonight's meeting -so that they 
can add some valuable information to the mix so that everyone attending has 
THE most-recent and accurate information.
Rather, I'm writing in part today to encourage you to do whatever you have to 
do in the future to make sure that subsequent public meetings on this important 
subject include them.

That is, so long as they are prepared to state specifics, since my experience 
over the past few years as a longtime civic activist and public transit advocate 
-borne of experience in Chicago/Evanston/Wilmette and Washington,D.C./
Arlington County, VA- is that Tri-Rail seems to often hedge their bets depending 
upon whom their audience is.
Upbeat and somewhat specific to the local news media, but reticent and evasive 
when the public wants some specific answers to simple questions that are not 
available on their website and which their officials do not respond to.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 4:13 PM
Subject: Thoughts re role of Tri-Rail Coastal on HB/Hollywood development, per City of Hollywood community meeting on Aug. 24 for Regional Activity Center Re-zoning that includes U.S.-1 & Pembroke Road

My comments follow the announcement.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: News and Announcements <listserv@civicplus.com>
Date: Tue, Aug 18, 2015 at 5:38 PM
Subject: Community Meeting for Regional Activity Center Re-zoning - August 24

Email Notifications
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.

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.

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?

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 is everything that 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, just make it possible for it to succeed.)

Why? Because giving people the option to be able to relax in the morning and drink
their coffee/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 residential area of hilly Arlington
less than a mile from the Ballston Metro station, which itself was located below
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?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

#Ethics still matter in South Florida! Stephanie Kienzle of Votersopinion.com keeps her eyes firmly on what's going on with the VERY CURIOUS legal antics of FL state Rep. Joe Geller, even as most of South Florida's news media keeps ignoring what's right in front of us.

According to ever-vigilant Stephanie Kienzle at VotersOpinion despite what appears to be his obviously unethical -and possibly illegal- delay tactics, it looks like Florida state Rep. Joe Geller is going have to face the music for lying to the Courts in Miami.

Geller certainly plays a mean game of four-corners defense to try to run the clock out, but then consider Geller's client: North Miami Beach City Council member Phyliss Smith, who is accused of... wait for it: absentee ballot fraud!

And it's abundantly clear that she has considerably less than a fig-leaf for a defense.
And did I mention that she refused a court order to turn over relevant records?

VotersOpinion blog
September 17, 2015

Despite the obviously unethical, and possibly illegal, delay tactics employed by Joseph S. Geller, Esquire, the lawsuit filed against North Miami Beach “Councilwoman” Phyllis Smith is finally moving ahead.  In a few short days, she’ll be compelled to answer the allegations of absentee ballot fraud.
Read the rest of Stephanie's fact-filled post at: http://www.votersopinion.com/2015/09/17/is-the-fat-lady-about-to-sing/
Some of you more informed readers will recall that earlier this year while wearing his legislator hat, Joe Geller tried to make logic stand on its head by offering a bill that would, as the legislature's own website put it:
"Repeals requirement that write-in candidate reside within district represented by office sought at time of qualification."

Who could possibly think this is a good idea for civic engagement, public accountability and genuine transparency? 
Joe Geller did. 

Fortunately, the bill died:

(For those of you reading this who don't know, Joseph S. Geller is also the former mayor of the long ethically-challenged town of North Bay Village in northern Miami-Dade County, and more recently was elected to the state House of Representatives last November as a dependable knee-jerk Liberal vote.
Thus, Geller represents those parts of southeast Broward County that are the most important parts of our "beat" on this blog: Hallandale Beach and Hollywood, and necessarily, Geller's various actions and antics in Tallahasse and locally are part of our regular focus.

Yes, he's the brother of the former state Senator for this area, lobbyist/lawyer/developer mouthpiece Steve Geller, who was the frequent subject of so many posts on this blog in the past, including when he ran for Broward County Commissioner in 2010 -BEFORE actually living within the district. 
Fortunately for everyone in this area, and common sense, his track record in office and strange sense of what he as a lawyer/lobbyist was entitled to do was found wanting, and Commissioner Sue Gunzburger was handily re-elected, with stronger ethics in Broward one of her key legacies.) 

Kudos to my friend, truth-telling Stephanie for keeping her eyes firmly on the ball while most of the South Florida news media seems to be too distracted and giddy from the return of the football season to notice that there ARE still a LOT of very unsavory things going on with pols in South Florida 
and the Sunshine State that ARE worth investigating and making public.
And worth prosecuting!

Tomorrow on my blog I'll have some interesting details and background info you may want to peruse regarding another case of an official in power in South Florida whose track record makes clear that he is an unrepentant serial abuser of the public trust.

Despite this, he remains both surprisingly aloof and intent on maintaining his very clear sense of entitlement, despite self-evident facts that would make others in his position resign out of either sheer guilt or embarrassment.
Or both!

But he remains steadfast and without remorse, making decisions that affect lots of South Florida residents everyday.

Such is the price we all pay for living in an area of the country where to our collective and continuing dismay, we have FAR MORE than our fair share of elected officials and govt. officials with more self-confidence and hubris than common sense.

Stay tuned!

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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