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.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Saturday's Broward County Charter Review Commission meeting in Hollywood, 10 AM at the Anne Kolb Nature Center. Creation of a county-wide elected mayor among many other topics to be discussed at workshop.

Just found out about this Saturday morning Broward County Charter Review Commission meeting at the Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood earlier this evening.
It will be held at 751 Sheridan Street at 10 AM tomorrow, and will last until 1 PM.




http://www.broward.org/commission/pages/sunshinemeetings.aspx
Saturday, January 28, 2017
10:00 AMAgency: Charter Review Commission, Purpose: Subcommittee Workshop Meeting, Committee: Governance Subcommittee, Location: Anne Kolb Nature Center - 751 Sheridan Street, Hollywood, FL 33019 The Governance Subcommittee will have a workshop meeting from 10:00AM - 1:00PM.

Despite not finding out about this until tonight, I'm going to try to my best to make this meeting, which is not surprising given my many past public -and critical- comments on some of these issues and the often quite inexplicable public votes and performance of the 2008 Broward CRC, which, counter-intuitively, voted AGAINST putting many important public policy issues on the November ballot for the voters of Broward to decide for themselves, one way or the other.

For me and most people I know and trust in Broward County, the most noteworthy of these issues was the creation of a county-wide elected Mayor, which I strongly supported then and support now, for many of the same reasons.
It seems clear to me that the past history and current reality of this county makes this position a requirement if Broward County is ever going to come anywhere close to reaching its true/full potential, as well as give the public of this county someone they can put their trust/faith in, but also hold personally accountable in a way that the county's current power structure does not allow or encourage.
With results that we can see everyday that are less-than-satisfactory for all concerned.

Many, if not most of you, also know that if such a position were to be created anytime in the near-future -whatever that is- I would very much be in favor of former Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober seriously considering a run for that particular office.

As I've stated previously in various forums, tweets and blog posts, as well as emails to some of you, I believe Peter Bober has precisely the right mix of personal and professional qualities, abilities and person-to-person skills that would make him not just a formidable candidate, but also someone who could help give this usually-fragmented and often-parochial county some much-needed unity of purpose, as well as Common Sense leadership and demands for public accountability of the county's bureaucracy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Faux newspaper in Hallandale Beach finds out that elections DO have consequences -new pro-reform HB City Commission ends city's advertising deal with South Florida Sun-Times

So, that shoe finally dropped that everyone in Hallandale Beach and environs as well as the larger South Florida civic activist community had been hoping for and waiting for since... what seems like forever.
(Yes, election results have consequences. Even in Hallandale Beach. Perhaps you've heard.)

That would be the shoe literally dripping with ethical and journalism conflicts of interest, rife with egregious examples of crony capitalism, plus, one of the frequent secondary issues in South Florida,
the South Florida's news media's own longstanding disinterest (and condescension) in covering certain kinds of public policy/scandal stories unless they happened in cities or places that had more cachet and pop than Hallandale Beach does.

I was at the Hallandale Beach City Commission last month when this matter of keeping campaign promises came up,  and more than a few people in the crowd -including me- were quick to ask themselves, "So where's someone from the faux newspaper in the room to actually write this down?'

The irony of this thought course was that because they DON'T cover the city accurately or fairly, because that would upset the apple cart and their deal with Mayor Joy Cooper, there was no one there from the South Florida Sun-Times to hear the news in-person.

And now it's too late for them.
That city advertising money is gone for good! 
Gone With The Wind!

I "reported" on this within 90 minutes of it happening via an email to about 150 people in South Florida, including many of you readers of the blog, but haven't written about it since because I've been waiting to add some facts and photos to what I was going to post here.
Today's Florida Bulldog story, though very welcome, caught me by surprise, hence there's not as much original content for you here as I hoped to have the first time I mentioned it on the blog this year.
But trust me, more is coming!

People in the city who follow what goes on here are eager -even giddy- to talk about this matter, and what it represents in getting this city turned around and finally moving in the right direction -towards some semblance of normalcy and general competency and accountability.
Any journey begins with the first step.
And this is clearly a step in the right direction.




Florida Bulldog
Hallandale Beach halts advertising in local newspaper where mayor is a columnist
By William Gjebre, FloridaBulldog.org

JANUARY 25, 2017 AT 4:59 AM
Hallandale Beach city commissioners have pulled the plug on city advertising in the local Sun Times newspaper featuring articles by Mayor Joy Cooper that drew fire from commission colleagues as “propaganda” for the mayor.
Cooper used the platform regularly before and after the weekly newspaper received a favorable — and controversial — $50,000 loan from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). The Sun Times, according to city documents, has been paid nearly $400,000 in city advertising to publicize events since 2003, most of the money coming after the loan was made during the 2008-2009 budget year.
Read the rest of the article at:
http://www.floridabulldog.org/2017/01/hallandale-beach-halts-advertising-local-newspaper-tied-mayor-cooper/

Having written about this subject dozens of times the past ten years, I will be updating this blog post throughout the day.














Below, a nugget reflecting the reality of life in Hallandale Beach in 2008, as reflected in one of my emails:

Do you recall what I wrote/joked about last year on my blog, after the city purchased space in the vanity sheet rag, the South Florida Sun-Times, and ran a completely preposterous ad masquerading as news about Pastor Anthony Sanders and the funny appraisal numbers for his property?

[001.JPG]

I joked that with a little more advanced warning and time, the city hall employee dispatched to write that condescending tripe on taxpayer time might've even written that Sanders was born in a log cabin -that he built himself(A la the jokes about Chuck Norris.)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Want to see history made before your eyes? Long-overdue financial accountability & oversight starts tonight in Hallandale Beach re CRA: "Let's see where the money went" That's what I've been saying/writing for years...

Want to see history made before your eyes? Long-overdue financial accountability & oversight starts tonight in Hallandale Beach re CRA: "Let's see where the money went" 
That's what I've been saying/writing for years...

History gets made tonight and for a change, it's GOOD news for Hallandale Beach's long-beleaguered taxpayers and Small Business owners.
See Keith London's email below

ICYMI: Where did Millions of Hallandale Beach CRA dollars go? Years later, HB taxpayers still want answers, and the #FL state legislators responsible for preventing a much-needed JLAC audit of the HB CRA at the time still DON'T want to publicly talk about it. Seems like déjà vu, no? 


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Keith London
Date: Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 2:30 PM
Subject: "Let's see where the money went"
To: David

 
David,
 
With a new year comes new responsibilities.
During 2015-2016 fiscal year, our city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) did a budget amendment (cut) of $7.4 million in order to balance the budget of approximately $15.5 million dollars – my question is: Where Did the Money Go?
We will be discussing/voting on a first-ever CRA forensic audit 7:00 PM, Monday January 23, 2017. 
Here is a link to Mondays CRA agenda item 10B:
DISCUSSION OF CITY OF HALLANDALE BEACH COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY FINANCIAL OVERVIEW. (SPONSORED BY HBCRA BOARD OF DIRECTORS)
The CRA board of directors\ city commission must provide accountability for your tax dollars and I want to ensure we are doing everything to “provide a dollar of services for every dollar of tax revenue” either by the city or the CRA. This is why I believe an audit is imperative. We need to know how much monies are in the account and provide the highest level of services to our residents, taxpayers, and visitors. 
See below for an article from the Florida Bulldog for more information.
Keeping you informed, 
Vice Mayor Keith London
-----
 
 
The new majority on the Hallandale Beach City Commission will seek the first-ever forensic audit of all expenditures by its troubled Community Redevelopment Agency for the past five years, including finding out why $7.4 million had to be cut to balance the agency’s budget this fiscal year.
 
Current Vice Mayor Keith London and Commissioner Michele Lazarow had been frustrated in seeking such an audit by the previous commission majority headed by Mayor Joy Cooper.
 
The November city commission election resulted in London and Lazarow gaining the backing of new City Commissioner Anabelle Taub. Cooper was reelected, but failed to gain another commissioner to back her and her ally, Commissioner Anthony Sanders. They’re expected to vote on the audit, aimed at determining whether any wrongdoing occured, later this month.
 
“Let’s see where the money went,” London said. “We are going to get to the bottom of this.”
 
The new commission trio already has flexed its power in a remake of city hall.
 
It was responsible for the ousters of City Manager Daniel Rosemond and City Attorney Lynn Whitfield, and replacing them with long-time South Florida government administrator, Roger Carlton, and a new city attorney, Jennifer Merino. Merino was general counsel for the Broward Inspector General’s Office, which investigated and severely criticized the spending practices of the city’s CRA four years ago.
 
“It’s time to clean house of the city manager and the city commission … the collusion,” Lazarow said.
 
Now the new commission majority will be seeking answers about the spending of the much-troubled CRA.
‘We need to find out’
 
“We need a full forensic audit [of the CRA],” London said. “We need to find out about the $7.4 million, and we need to know what we have left.”
 
London was referring to last August when city commissioners, who are also directors of the CRA, were forced to cut $7.4 million from the proposed $25.9-million CRA budget for this year after being told by the city administration that the agency had counted land purchases by the agency as cash.
 
At that meeting, then City Manager Rosemond said an “adjustment” had to be made — the city commission had no choice but to approve the budget cut.
 
Prior to that, London said the city manager had given commissioners assurances that cash was available to the CRA, only to learn that the value of the city-purchased land by the CRA cannot be counted as cash.
 
Both London and Lazarow lobbied for a forensic audit of expenditures at that time, but lacked a third vote. The commission instead voted to seek a forensic audit that delved only into CRA land purchases.
Making matters worse, London said, Rosemond later came back and told commissioners that he was unable to engage any firm willing to conduct the forensic audit of land purchases — and, therefore, no firm was hired.
 
That all changed, however, with the November city commission election. Lazarow was reelected, along with newcomer Taub. London was not up for reelection.
 
Now in the majority, London said he wants audit to cover CRA spending back to 2012, the first year city commissioners established a separate funding account for the agency.
 
“We need to know what we have,” he said.
 
“We have to inquire about the $7.4 million,” said Lazarow, adding she plans to back London’s request for a forensic audit when he brings it up for a commission vote. Taub, who was not available for comment, is also expected to back the request.
 
City co-mingled CRA funds
Prior to 2012, the city had co-mingled CRA funds with city funds. That practice started in 1996, when the CRA was established under state law. The agency has been funded through property tax increases in the CRA boundaries.
 
It was only when the Broward Inspector General’s Office began its probe and issued a scathing report that some changes were made, including separating CRA-collected funds from other city tax revenues. Florida Bulldog had reported about questionable loans to local businesses and land purchases through the CRA nearly a year before IG investigators descended on city hall in April, 2012 seeking records and questioning officials as the probe became public.
 
After a 14-month investigation, the Inspector General’s Office in 2013 stated the Hallandale Beach CRA had “grossly mismanaged” millions of dollars in funds between 2007 and 2012. It found $2.2 million in questionable expenditures by the CRA, including inappropriate loans and grants to local businesses and non-profits, as well as the improper use of bond proceeds.
 
Before and after that report, London asked for a forensic audit of agency funds, but was outvoted by his commission colleagues.
 
Mayor Cooper denied the city had done anything wrong. The city commission majority at that time then ousted the agency’s recently appointed CRA executive director, Alvin Jackson, who won praise by the Inspector General for efforts to improve the CRA.
 
The city commission, over the objections of London, placed the agency once again under the direct management of the city manager. Except for Jackson’s short tenure, city managers have had full control of the CRA since 1996, during which the agency failed to keep adequate records, including changing loan and grant policies in violation of existing rules.
 
Both London and Lazarow said they are pleased with the new appointees, in particular Merino, 36.
 
“She has knowledge of our city,” said London, referring to Merino’s work with the agency that investigated the city’s CRA.
 
“Merino has a history [with the city],” Lazarow said. “She has been watching our meetings.”
 
Carlton, 69, has held several key positions with public agencies, among them: Miami Beach city manager (1992-1995), executive assistant Miami-Dade county manager (1977-1981). 
 
 
 
Paid political advertisement paid for and approved by Keith S. London
Keith London for Hallandale Beach City Commissioner, Seat 2
613 Oleander Dr
Hallandale Beach FL 33009-6531 United States



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Where did Millions of Hallandale Beach CRA dollars go? Years later, HB taxpayers still want answers, and the #FL state legislators responsible for preventing a much-needed JLAC audit of the HB CRA at the time still DON'T want to publicly talk about it. Seems like déjà vu, no? Sobel, Braynon, Gibbons & Jones are no Profiles in Courage!

Where did Millions of Hallandale Beach CRA dollars go? Years later, HB taxpayers still want answers, and the #FL state legislators responsible for preventing a much-needed JLAC audit of the HB CRA at the time still DON'T want to publicly talk about it. Seems like déjà vu, no? Sobel, Braynon, Gibbons & Jones are no Profiles in Courage!
So now that in 2017 the Hallandale Beach City Commission has a 3-2 pro-reform majority on it, intent on undoing a lot of the serious damage that has been done to the city the past dozen years under Mayor Joy Cooper, you probably won't be too surprised to discover that quite a lot of people in Hallandale Beach, Broward County and South Florida are STILL very interested in finding out where all the millions of Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) dollars were going for years. 
Not surprisingly, that includes me and many of you readers of this blog.

And not just because it's Hallandale Beach, but the larger issue of municipal CRA performance in Florida and whether cities have successfuly thwarted the original intent of what the state legislature meant to do when they created the enabling legislation.

In fact, the Florida Bulldog's William "Bill" Gjebre has a new fact-filled article on that very subject today that I am only too happy to highly recommend to you, and link to below.

I've even included a few links and tweets re just some of the dozens of things I've written about the HB CRA over the past nearly-ten years this blog has been in existence to give any of you newcomers to the blog some much-needed context and nuance for understanding this newest call for some much-needed financial accountability.

Along with Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Keith London and a few of my friends who are fellow civic activists, like Csaba "Chuck" Kulin, I've been among the most-outspoken and VOCAL critics of the operation of the city's CRA program, with me particularly liking to engage with and call-out the pathetic reporting efforts of the local South Florida news media that so often ignored the scandal that was, literally, right in front of them.

But most could not be bothered because it was taking place in Hallandale Beach, not Pembroke Pines, Doral, Hialeah, Pinecrest, Palm Bay, Aventura or... 
Yes, that geographical discrimination that local reporters have been guilty of down here for so many years, where some stories are reported upon simply because of where they take place, not the core of the facts and the issues involved. :-(

More specifically, how and why under Mayor Joy Cooper and her Rubber Stamp Crew, and a succession of City Managers, for so many years  the Hallandale Beach CRA was allowed to operate with nothing resembling the sort of basic financial accountability and oversight that you'd expect of an entity that spent millions of dollars -on the public's behalf.
With so very little tangible to show for that money that was supposed to address the problems the CRA is tasked with solving or fixing.




Florida Bulldog
New majority on Hallandale commission wants to know: Where did CRA millions go?By William Gjebre, FloridaBulldog.org  
January 18, 2017 at 5:05 AM

The new majority on the Hallandale Beach City Commission will seek the first-ever forensic audit of all expenditures by its troubled Community Redevelopment Agency for the past five years, including finding out why $7.4 million had to be cut to balance the agency’s budget this fiscal year.

Current Vice Mayor Keith London and Commissioner Michele Lazarow had been frustrated in seeking such an audit by the previous commission majority headed by Mayor Joy Cooper.

Read the rest of the article at:
http://www.floridabulldog.org/2017/01/new-majority-on-hallandale-beach-commission-wants-to-know-where-did-money-go/



























Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reminder: There's a killer still at large four years later in #HallandaleBeach. What's new in the 2013 Double Murder of Toronto couple, Rochelle Wise and David Pichosky?

Above, one of the alternating empty Hallandale Beach Police Dept. vehicles that play the role of Scarecrow on Three Islands Drive in northeast Hallandale Beach. Police vehicles that rarely if ever move, which even the dumbest of area criminals know as well as local residents do. The empty police cars are right near the Three Islands Safe Neighborhood District security guard stand that isn't manned, right near the security cameras that didn't/don't work.  
They're just props! Some protection!
February 10, 2013 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved

Reminder: There's a killer still at large four years later in Hallandale Beach. So what's new?
Precious little judging by what the Hallandale Beach Police Dept. says and shares with the public they are supposed to work for, a longstanding problem for this dept. as I've detailed here in the past many times.
http://hallandalebeachfl.gov/Search/Results?searchPhrase=Rochelle+Wise

So the reality is that the Double Murder of a Toronto couple in Hallandale Beach four years ago this week, with the usual Hallandale Beach flourishes of incompetency and counter-intuitive foul-ups, is STILL unsolved.

Four years ago today, most of us in South Forida woke up to the shocking news that a hard-working, civic-minded and apparently quite beloved Toronto couple were viciously murdered in their winter-time Hallandale Beach home, in one of the quietest areas of the city, Venetian Park.

Then as now, the evidence is clear that the initial failure of the Hallandale Beach Police, the Broward Sheriff's Office and Broward Crime Stopper's to share relevant information with the local community in a timely enough manner, has had very real consequences.
Unfortunately for the public and the family of the victims, they are bad consequences.

This baffling and counter-intuitive approach by all involved likely prevented possible leads from emerging then that may well have made a tangible difference in actually connecting some fragmentary clues, and helping to solve the entirely senseless murder of Donny Pichosky and Rochelle Wise.

A few of you may even recall receiving an email from me four years ago today with the news about a double-murder taking place in a city that, while full of corruption and incompetency, had been, mercifully, low on senseless murder. 
I sent that email of mine on my first full day of a two-week trip to Stockholm, after I'd read the details about it online that morning in my hotel room, almost not believing what I was reading. 
But there was no mistake, was there?

In that email, I asked what-if-anything you'd heard that thus far had not yet been mentioned in published media accounts, as well as whether you were personally aware of any attempt by HBPD or other LEOs of at a rapid public information outreach campaign taking place in the general area.

My fear, quickly confirmed by so many of you, was that it was the usual HBPD routine of chasing-its-tail after-the-fact.
Just as had been the case in 2010 with the Lynda Meier disappearance following her visit to the Bank of America on Hallandale Beach Blvd. one morning, after which, she was never seen alive again. 
Just her car driving west on Hallandale Beach Blvd. and US-1, via FDOT camera footage

My fear that morning while in Sweden was the same as it would have been if I'd been bak here: that HBPD would put on a good Dog-and-Pony show for the local news media but NOT communicate effectively with the very people who might've seen something at the time, without knowing it at the time.
And despite the fact that HBPD had to get to those people right away and had no time to waste.
But waste time is exactly what they did.

That same mentality by HBPD is what had caused me to get so angry in 2010 with the Meier case because HBPD and HB Crime Watch -the latter then led by Alexander Lewy before he was elected a HB City Commissioner months later- did NOT do the bare minimum you'd expect from such a group, esp. in such a time-sensitive case.
The sort of thing that we have all routinely seen done in a TV newscasts, a fictional drama or in motion pictures. Why?

Because it's common sense.
Because we know that people have a short memory and attention span for what seems like inconsequential things/facts that don't fit their daily lives.
So you have to get that information from those people before it completely evaporates.
But those efforts, the sort of thing we all have a reasonable right to expect in case of such an emergency, sadly and rather predictably, didn't take place.

Specifically, some of you will recall that I was calling out HBPD's handling of this double-murder case almost from the very beginning, most egregiously, their choosing NOT to pass out fliers
themselves in the immediate area of the crime in Venetian Park, or to use trained volunteers from the Crime Watch group.


They compounded this by also refusing to post fliers in nearby popular stores or restaurants until long past the point that any possible witness had long since forgotten what they might've seen or heard many weeks and months before for a fleeting second.
There was not a single police flier about this double murder posted on the bulletin board at Panera Bread until July! Five months later!

I know this because I have a photo of the flier there shortly after it went up -too late.
Many of you received a copy of it from me in an email that July bemoaning HBPD's inability to get out of their own way.

And in case you might've forgotten, Michele Lazarow, the HB City Commissioner who lives closest to where this crime too place, someone who actually lives not so far away, and who'd just been elected weeks before, was NOT allowed to attend HBPD's meeting with the neighborhood.
A meeting that Mayor Joy Cooper was allowed to attend.
What does that tell you?
What sort of image does that convey?

There's so many aspects of this particular case that stink to high heaven and still cause me to grieve for this family and their inability to get the closure they need and deserve.
to say nothing of the enormous amount of time it took for HBPD to finally release a photo of a person of interest, and then, made that photo hard to near-impossible to find on the city's own website!

But rather than repeat them all here, in case you want to have your memory jarred in a profound way, here are my last two blog post about this double-homicide, though there have been MANY more emails detailing the numerous policy and procedural failings of all the relevant parties and the failure of the South Florida news media to publicly question and criticize what in any other part of the country would be coming under justified criticism.

(If you want to know more, contact me and we can always meet at Panera Bread and detail and dissect the HBPD blunders all over again.)
:

FEBRUARY 11, 2013 
Still no new news or facts in Hallandale Beach re January's double-murder of Toronto couple in Venetian Park neighborhood; Important Three Islands neighborhood public meeting tonight at 7 p.m.

SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 
Crime and (No) Punishment in Hallandale Beach: Observations on Rachel Mendleson's spot-on Toronto Star article on January's double-homicide of a Toronto-area couple in the Three Islands neighborhood of Hallandale Beach, which remains unsolved 8 months later. I still believe the Hallandale Beach Police Dept. has done a very poor job of engaging in outreach and making it as easy as possible for the community to access relevant info about the case that could prove helpful, just as HBPD and HB Crime Watch completely botched public outreach in 2010 following the disappearance of HB resident Lynda Robin Meier, who has never been found. Just like others at HB City Hall, HBPD continues to never learn from experience


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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