A common sense public policy overview from David in South Florida, offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt./public policy, sports and pop culture of the U.S., #SoFL and Europe, esp. the #UK, #Sweden and #France, via my life in #Texas, #Memphis, #Miami, #IU, #Chicago, #WashingtonDC & #SoFL. In particular, #Broward & #MiamiDade County, and the cities of #HallandaleBeach, #HollywoodFL & #Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln.

Photo in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A, September 2008; March 2018 photo below of HB's North Beach and southern Hollywood Beach, looking left-to-right, looking north, HYDE Condominium, Etaru Japanese Robatayaki restaurant, and Hollywood Beach in the distance, with umbrellas. All photos by me, © Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Next week's Hallandale Beach budget meetings will be a forum for hard and long-overdue questions to FINALLY be asked in public, with honest answers required. HB residents and Small Business owners are in no mood to roll-over and take it like they've been forced to do the past dozen-plus years, as city/CRA funds were wasted in every way imaginable, with no oversight or accountability by people whose jobs it was to provide both

Above, Hallandale Beach City Hall. August 21, 2017 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2017 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Next week's Hallandale Beach budget meetings will be a forum for hard and long-overdue questions to FINALLY be asked in public, with honest answers required. Hallandale Beach residents and Small Business owners are in no mood to roll-over and take it like they've been forced to do the past dozen-plus years, as city/CRA funds were wasted in every way imaginable, with no genuine oversight or accountability by people whose jobs it was to provide both!
Updated and Corrected August 23, 2017 at 11:35 PM

Below, for your consideration, some carefully chosen words of wisdom, borne of experience, to carefully think about in the coming days before the City of Hallandale Beach city and CRA budget meetings take place next week, Tuesday August 29th and Wednesday the 30th, at Hallandale Beach City Hall, which is open to the public.
At the bottom, following my comments, I have a copy of some well-thought out concerns
from my good friend and fellow Broward County civic activist, Csaba Kulin, someone who has been working tirelessly for years in 1,001 ways for HB to be the well-run city its residents want it to be. 
And deserved all along.

In my opinion, next week, many LONG OVERDUE actions will need to be taken by the HB City Commission to ensure that steps are being taken so that genuine financial accountability will FINALLY be undertaken that protects the city's residents and Small Business owners immediate and long-term future needs
It's hardly surprising that some of those necessary actions will cause some immediate pain and hardship to more than a few people, mostly city employees.

But in my opinion, however painful, these cost-cutting moves need to take place now because despite what Mayor Joy Cooper has been saying to her loyal minions and acolytes around the city and to the news media, such as it is, Hallandale Beach is in very dire financial situation.

Not quite where the City of Hollywood finds itself now financially, but not so far behind that the situation in HB could not be MUCH WORSE if bad and preposterous decisions of the sort that had become normalized at HB City Hall continue.
Preposterous decisions that continually rewarded poor performance and completely-inadequate oversight, and put HB taxpayers behind the financial eight-ball.

In my opinion, that's because rather than making some hard-but-necessary decisions in the past, of making some necessary sacrifices towards the long-term good, the Cooper Rubber Stamp Crew borrowed and borrowed and borrowed. 
And to what end?

Too often, to pay current operating expenses, the worst possible reason if done more than once for a non-emergency.
It has been my experience over the years that there are more than a few residents and city employees in HB who have a completely unrealistic opinion as to what the proper function and purpose of a city government is.
As I expect will be shown next week, finally, the city's core function is NOT to provide a job and a good-paying pension to anyone with a heartbeat, regardless of their ability and actual performance.

This particular city budget will be the first one that will be examined in depth by three people on the Commission -Keith London, Michelle Lazarow and Anabelle Taub- who genuinely want MORE public accountability and oversight over how city funds are spent since I first returned to South Florida in late 2003, after 15 years of living and working in the Washington, D.C area.
That's a very long time for hard-working people and Small Business owners in HB to have to wait for the sort of overdue common sense and hard questions that are normal pretty much everywhere else in cities when it comes to budgets.

More than a few of HB's Small Business owners have moved out of town specifically because of the combination of foolish financial and public policy decision-making being done at HB City Hall, often based on which of the Cooper Rubber Stamp Crew's friends could benefit from city funds.
Many of them are the very same people who were given a look by the Broward Inspector General
Names that I have mentioned on this blog many times over the years, and spoken to many of the same people reading this now, including print and TV reporters..

But in Hallandale Beach, for years under big-spending and thin-skinned Mayor Joy Cooper, the tradition for the City Commission was to essentially tell every Dept. head and every bureaucrat appearing before them at budget time that they were doing a really great job.
Somehow, everyone is in charge yet nobody is responsible!

And then the City Commission would borrow money from their Reserves to give them baubles and gloss that would make this city appear semi-normal, when it was anything but that.
For far too long, collectively, the five-member HB City Commission did NOT take their financial oversight responsibilities seriously at this time of the year, with some members NEVER asking one question, even  when it came to funding the largest Departments in the city. Why?

One of the answers, perhaps the most obvious to someone like me who knows their backgrounds, is that for so very long, none of them were current or former business people who had either owned or operated a very successful business for any reasonable period of time.
They've literally had no business acumen to draw up on.

But it was also true that one of the reasons might be that, simply put, for many of the past City Commission members, being liked by city employees, going along to get along, always seemed to be more important to them than being respected for doing a good job.
Every year, thru their words and actions, the Hallandale Beach City Commission showed that they really didn't know how to handle or mange public money.
Instead, whatever the city's senior staff said was okay by them.

But some of us knew then -and know now- that the city's bureaucracy, particularly its highest-ranking and highest-paid bureaucrats, often weren't telling the WHOLE TRUTH
Weren't always disclosing important facts or potential conflicts, or even filling the City Commission in on what the practical long-term effects of doing something would necessarily be.
You know, the very sorts of things you would think their job would require them to do if they really wanted to keep their job?

Above, Hallandale Beach City Commission chambers. August 17, 2017 photo by South Beach Hoosier. © 2017 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

In the opinion of myself and many other concerned people in this area of SE Broward, Florida's third-largest county, the bureaucracy has used that inattention to detail by the Commission to allow a succession of poorly-performing City Managers and Assistant City Managers to say and do pretty much whatever they wanted.

As if they were the ones really making policy.
And they were - in conjunction with Mayor Cooper.

How many times have I personally seen the other four City Commissioners finding out at a Commission or CRA meeting or Workshop, about an important decision that had been made at City Hall without their knowledge or required assent/consent because Mayor Cooper and some bureaucrats had decided it needed to happen?
Dozens and dozens of times...

Making the role of the publicly-elected representative sort of an afterthought, right?

For instance, to cite a particularly galling case, that time in 2013 when Gulfstream Park 
Race Track & Casino, the largest employer in the city, and located directly across the street from Hallandale Beach City Hall, started building "temporary" horse barns on the south side of the track and to the southeast of the Village at GP retail complex off U.S.-1/South Federal Highway, without having been issued building permits? 

So because they were used to getting what they wanted from the mayor, whose campaign they had always dutifully contributed to, they just kept doing what they wanted because they knew they could pick up the phone and call the mayor and bypass the normal administrative process, as well as their attempts to punish the city's Building Inspectors for actually doing their job correctly.
So without any information for the other Commissioners to read, Mayor Cooper tried to get them to waive the $52,000 in fines incurred by Gulfstream, owed to both the city and the State of Florida. 

Fortunately, that effort failed. 
That time.

Local 10 News
Mayor wants $52K fine against Gulfstream Park waived

No vote taken on waiving fine at Hallandale Beach budget meeting
Author: Bob Norman, Reporter, bnorman@Local10.com
Ben Candea, Senior Web Producer, bcandea@local10.com
Published On: Oct 04 2013 06:13:16 PM EDT   

Updated On: Oct 04 2013 11:51:10 PM EDT

I'm the person who actually called investigative reporter Bob Norman at Channel 10 shortly after I was an eyewitness to this craziness and gave him the incredible play-by-play of what had transpired, along with some needed nuance and context.
And what do you know, soon thereafter, this story appeared on TV to make crystal clear to people throughout South Florida what had taken place in Hallandale Beach.

After several lengthy emails to the many Usual Suspects throughout our area and the state -including many of you reading this post today- describing the dysfunctional situation that never got investigated by the broward inspector general, I posted this photo-filled blog post on November 5th, 2013:

On Wednesday night, Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper has to defend her freelancing, breaking of city's rules in order to help her friends at Gulfstream Park Race Track & Casino with bldg. code fines they EARNED. Again! Her campaign contributors, Gulfstream Park, must really love her "Special Rules for Special People" form of advocacy, but why does she save her energy & love for a multi-million dollar company instead of insisting they follow the law and finally fix up their appearance problems?


I especially like this part of what I  wrote:

...It's clear that Joy Cooper, quite literally, sees herself as indispensable.
But she is the mayor of a small city with a city manger form of government, not the mayor of a large urban city with a strong-mayor form of government, yet despite this difference and the well-understood written rules about what is and is not acceptable, she just keeps doing whatever she wants and dares anyone in a position of authority to stop her.

Cooper continues to show that she wants to make as many important decisions for the city (and everyone else) as possible, without adequate vetting and public disclosure.
As she tried to do on September 25th...

Based on what they have said and done the past nine months in genuinely reforming or dismantling many aspects of the incurious culture and operations at Hallandale Beach City Hall, clearly those days have come to an end under Vice Mayor Keith London and Commissioners Michelle Lazarow and Anabelle Taub.
The possibility of being a normal city and erasing the label of being a perpetual municipal laughingstock in South Florida is at hand.   

After everything that I have seen and observed over the years in Hallandale Beach, where people with responsible jobs and impressive titles -and accompanying large salaries- were neither impressive or responsible to HB taxpayers best interests, I believe the best plan to put the city on a more sound financial footing is one that forces "Innovation by Subtraction" down the throats of HB city employees.

Far too many people within the city's bureaucracy have grown complacent and shown that they can not manage effectively or sensibly.
Let's stop pretending they can, and start making some long overdue changes.

My plan as of today, unless some big news comes up that takes my attention elsewhere, is to give LOTS of examples of this during those upcoming meetings, often with relevant photographs or video here at the blog to illustrate my points.

At bottom is the email that Csaba sent recently to Hallandale Beach City Manager 
Roger Carlton, with a cc to City Attorney Jennifer Merino.

After getting Csaba's email, my initial thought was to write a lengthy email of my own to Mr. Carlton, largely echoing and expanding upon many of Csaba's common sense thoughts and concerns.
But I've decided that I'll wait a bit so that I can be even more specific to Mr. Carlton and others about, how in my opinion, it seems that after a generally positive start, he's been more slow than I'd like to fully grasp the reality this area has had to live with for so many years regarding the city's policies, practices and budget priorities.
(How people with self-evident conflicts of interest had far too much access to and control over public funds, as well as the setting of public policy.)

Namely, who said what, who did what, and who in a position of authority,did nothing at all, when doing nothing only made very bad things even worse.
And what better time to acquaint Mr. Carlton with the facts and reality than when the city's budget is being written, examined and voted upon?
Clearly, there is MUCH he has to learn about what's been going on in HB for years,

Hallandale Beach City Commission - Budget Special Meeting Workshop, held at City Commission Chambers, 400 South Federal Highway

Tuesday, August 29th and Wednesday, August 30th, 2017, at 11:00 AM 
Details and attachments: https://hallandalebeach.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=555917&GUID=586EC10D-C1D1-49F5-8CCA-80B383C4F014&Options=&Search=

Wednesday August 30th Workshop - 11:00 AM
Agenda: https://hallandalebeach.legistar.com/DepartmentDetail.aspx?ID=20843&GUID=020E7D1D-F811-4643-8FDD-0986CEBA0ED4

Reminder: It's NOT too late to read or comment on my recent blog post, re the #YoungCircle Roadway Feasibility Study that I believe will make #HollywoodFL traffic worse, NOT better

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Csaba Kulin
Date: Fri, Jul 28, 2017 at 3:24 PM
Subject: Comment on Bulldog Article Comment
To: "CM. Roger Carlton"
Cc: Jennifer Merino 

Dear City Manager Carlton,
In the second Florida Bulldog article (7/19/2017) about Commissioner Sanders “pattern of misconduct” you were quoted “… It is extremely disappointing that there is no outrage in the community about these programs. No demands for reform have been publicly made to date”.
I disagree with those comments. Our community has been loud and clear on this topic for almost a decade.
We just could not get past Cooper/Julian/Sanders/Lewy to do anything about it.  
Do you want us to demonstrate on the steps of City Hall?
Do you want us to disrupt City Commission Meetings like an unruly mob?
Do you want us to threaten members of the City Commission?
No, that is not us.
We did better than that. We elected Commissioners Lazarow and Taub with a mandate to “drain the swamp” at City Hall.
Along with Vice Mayor London they hired a new City Manager, a new City Attorney and we expect you to clean up the mass left behind by the previous administrations.
We want you to focus the ongoing forensic audit on identifying all fraudulent transactions, recover all ill-gotten funds, and prosecute everyone who broke the law.
We remember the 100 million dollar budget of the past; we remember the 480 employee count. During the last five years it grew to a 135 million budget and 560 employees. How many of these new employees working on the “core functions” of the City?
I know you are busy so I will not go on. I am confident you will do your best and I support you in this effort.
I know it hard to put “genie” back in the “bottle” is six months.
I copied a few friends and encourage them to comment on this topic. They may have some additional good ideas for you to consider.
Csaba (Chuck) Kulin

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