January 31, 2016 - In his opening 2016 Newsletter, District 4 County Commissioner Chip LaMarca polishes the economic halo adorning Port Everglades, including a record-breaking number of cruise passengers serviced on December 20, a decision by corporate cash cow Florida International Terminal LLC to renew its lease, and an unprecedented jump in rail freight attributable to the recently completed Intermodal Container Transfer Facility. Given his passionate concern for pets and Broward’s feral fauna, LaMarca reviews three newly approved programs crafted to abate the occupancy rate in the County’s animal shelter, and steers cat-lovers to grant recipient “Stray Aid & Rescue”, a mobile Wilton Manors spay/neuter clinic that will also vaccinate for rabies, clip an identifying ear notch and treat for debilitating feline bugs - for only $2 (a negligible co-pay to subsidize the rabies shot). LaMarca closes with an opportunity for ambitious conservationists to win $1000 for engineering and implementing a local water conservation program. For the Commissioner's first 2016 District 4 update - read on...
Roberts: FLPD: Vacation Rentals; NTAS
January 24, 2016 - In his January / February 2016 Newsletter, City Commissioner Bruce Roberts celebrates Fort Lauderdale’s designation as a Digital City for using technology to facilitate municipal objectives, notes that the Winterfest Boat Parade snagged 9th place in the 10Best and USA TODAY’s Readers’ Choice awards for Best Holiday Festival (although he neglected to mention that Fort Lauderdale was named number 3 in the Readers’ Choice runoff for Bikini-Watching), applauds the City’s number 10 ranking in a 4th quarter 2015 Industry Report by HomeVestors / Local Market Monitor listing the Top Ten Cities for Real Estate Investment, considers a pilot program that implores smokers to desist in certain City Parks, endorses “Reality Check”, which enables FLPD officers to treat wayward juveniles with a portable version of Scared Straight, warns against “self-radicalized” terror-mongers using the internet to up their game, summarizes initial impacts of the City’s new Vacation Rental Ordinance and relishes Port Everglades’ record-breaking growth. May as well get started...
Banned Bus Booted Back to Galt Mile
January 12, 2016 - On August 10, 2015, Broward County Transit (BCT) Operations Representative Oscar Correa told association officials that Broward County buses would clog Galt Ocean Drive throughout the A1A Greenway project’s duration - which he estimated at “two - possibly three years.” After three months of fomenting fear and frustration while chewing up public and private infrastructure, the neighborhood association and Commissioner Chip LaMarca negotiated their removal with Broward County Transit Director Tim Garling. In October, Broward County Transit (BCT) announced that the layover sites of four Broward bus routes would no longer obstruct Galt Ocean Drive. In December, one of the Route layovers was smuggled back to the Galt, reviving fears that Correa was right. What happened?
December 2015 LaMarca Letter
January 2, 2016 - In his December 2015 message to constituents, District 4 County Commissioner Chip LaMarca applauds Broward County Transit (BCT) for launching full-featured new buses onto local thoroughfares, describes how a burdensome access glitch to the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center will soon be corrected, advises pet owners to protect their furry companions against rabies, wandering off or getting snatched, and cites local photographer Fred Johnson for landing the cover page of the 2016 Florida Association of Counties Calendar. About buses - although we were promised that Buses from Routes 72, 36 and 11 would no longer use the Galt Mile as a depot, perhaps you noticed that Route 72 buses are again being stacked along Galt Ocean Drive. Is this a mistake - or did our Broward Officials play fast and loose with the truth??? We'll soon see.
Segment II: Sandman at Hand
December 22, 2015 - For the past year, Galt Mile residents were repeatedly assured that the Segment II beach renourishment would begin following the November conclusion of Sea Turtle nesting season. It didn’t. For some veteran Galt Mile residents, nearly two decades of crushing disappointment replaced enthusiasm for the project with a numbing cynicism – on a hair trigger. Having grown accustomed to flimsy excuses, bureaucratic foot-dragging and political double-talk, leery Galt Mile residents attending a December 16 Segment II kickoff meeting seemed incredulous when project planners announced the January 4 start date. Working with the Feds, the State and 3 North Broward municipalities, Broward Officials finally pulled it off. During a Q & A, when Broward Beach Administrator Nicole Sharp divulged project details, even diehard skeptics conceded that the Beach is about to be fixed. See for yourself...
November 2015 LaMarca Letter
December 11, 2015 - In his November 2015 Newsletter, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca updates his District 4 constituents about the Segment II Beach Renourishment, notes that Port Everglades is entering the Preconstruction Engineering & Design (PED) phase, invites you to pay your property taxes, outlines the Conservation Pays rebate program for High Efficiency Toilets (HET’s), describes FPL's SolarNow exhibit at the Young at Art Museum and Library, applauds the Broward County Aviation Department's new Maintenance Facility for earning the LEEDs (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Certification, outlines free NewVenture courses for budding entrepreneurs, and exhorts boating enthusiasts to watch for Manatees that migrate into the intracoastal to forage when the temperatures warm. For the Commissioner's District 4 November update - read on...
Galt Link: New LBTS Hookup
December 4, 2015 - From his seat on the Board of the Downtown Fort Lauderdale Transportation Management Association (DFLTMA) - the Sun Trolley’s parent agency - Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bruce Roberts learned that the Galt Mile route's ridership statistics inexplicably tanked along the leg that serviced Holy Cross and Imperial Point Hospitals - threatening the viability of the neighborhood's bus service. Installed last December as Sun Trolley Executive Director, Robyn Chiarelli cut a deal with Galt Mile Officials. After launching an informal referendum to determine if the declining ridership was due to a statistical glitch or the neighborhood's evolving transportation proclivities, Chiarelli used the resident feedback to reconfigure the Galt Link. While no one was watching, she simultaneously resolved an inherited fiscal snafu that might have otherwise crippled the service. Curious? - read on...
October 2015 LaMarca Letter
November 24, 2015 - In his October 2015 Newsletter, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca updates his District 4 constituents about the impending Segment II Beach Renourishment, applauds Port Everglades for earning LEEDs (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for energy-efficient improvements to Cruise Terminal 4, welcomes the next generation of informational Sea Turtle signage headed for Broward beaches and announces a series of free ACT and SAT preparation courses offered at seven branch Libraries (although not available at the Galt Mile branch).
Roberts: Boat Show; King Tides; P.L.A.Y.
November 15, 2015 - Opening his November - December 2015 Newsletter with a measure of Holiday Season gratitude for his constituents, their input and our City, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts welcomes the economic windfall generated annually by Fort Lauderdale’s International Boat Show, issues a blistering warning about the dangers of celebratory illegal fireworks, details a progressive after-school program called P.L.A.Y., cites the City Website for achieving a third place national ranking for government websites, reports City efforts to beat back the autumn King Tide seasonal flooding, credits the Transportation and Mobility Department (TAM) with securing a $42,000 grant to fund three additional painted intersections, notes that the City scored awards for “Small American Cities of the Future 2015/16” in the Overall and Economic Potential categories, invites participation in a combined Open Streets - Winterfest Family Fun Day event on November 22, bids farewell to a relatively uneventful Hurricane Season, and applauds the 300 volunteers who advanced 20 community projects by participating in the October 24 “Make a Difference Day” events. Among the topics parsed in his newsletter, his description of the current King Tide seasonal flooding as “unprecedented” carries a warning - which concerns you!
Knock the Rust off Governing Docs
November 1, 2015 - On October 19, 2015, Association Attorney Donna Berger blogged about a threat to associations that never knocked the rust from their governing documents. If the declaration, Bylaws, etc. that anchor an association aren’t regularly updated, the structure and protection they was designed to provide erodes. Berger likens relying on outdated documents to using a map where the topography has completely changed. Getting lost in a statutory Twilight Zone can cost a bundle - payable by unit owners. Over the past few years, lawmakers enacted a litany of new rights and protections for association homeowners - which may not apply to your association - or YOU!
LaMarca: Enjoy the Ride!
October 23, 2015 - On April 28, the Broward Commission sought to legalize services provided by transportation network companies (TNCs) by amending the Motor Carriers Ordinance with stiff regulatory requirements for drivers, maintenance standards for their personal vehicles, incremental insurance coverage, even a mandated local business office, prompting the TNCs to suspend access to its online platforms for Broward customers. As Uber recruits pressured reluctant commissioners with a truckload of emails rife with abusive complaints, they conceded to empowering the TNCs to self-regulate, while verifying compliance by perusing their books twice annually. Having successfully engineered the elimination of regulatory roadblocks, the TNCs resumed service in Broward following enactment of an October 13 Ordinance revision amenable to their business model. Read on for LaMarca's take on the sea change...
Feds OK Beach Project
October 15, 2015 - Once again, the Galt Mile community is anxiously awaiting the long-delayed Segment II Broward Beach Renourishment. Every non-comatose Galt Mile resident knows the project is scheduled to begin in November 2015 - just days away. Given the shrinking beach’s critical importance to the neighborhood’s economy and their quality of life, Galt Mile homeowners - and their associations - have passionately pursued its rescue for more than twenty years. 50 years - if you harken back to a 1965 entry in the Federal Register, when the 89th U.S. Congress appropriated a then whopping $1,093,000 to flesh out Broward’s severely eroded coast (Section 301 of Public Law 89-298, October 27, 1965). While the Galt Mile has never been this close to a beach fix, diehard skeptics numbed by decades disappointment will refrain from celebrating until they feel new sand between their toes. Here's where the project stands...
September 2015 LaMarca Letter
October 1, 2015 - In his September 2015 Newsletter, Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca probes the 2016 Broward spending plan (later approved by the County Commission), summarizes the most recent chapter of the County’s political tug-of-war with Uber and Lyft, describes how five deep-pocketed developers armed with political capital hope to bag the Convention Center Hotel, welcomes an early taste of the windfall fueled by the competitive improvements to Port Everglades, and underscores September’s designation as “National Preparedness Month” with events conceived to protect property owners from meteorological mayhem. The following may help fill in some blanks. - read on...
The Galt Mile Bus Blockade
September 23, 2015 - About two weeks after the Galt Mile A1A Greenway Project kicked off on July 27, 2015, residents in several local associations noticed daily traffic jams in front of their homes – invariably caused by Broward County buses. Dismayed association officials soon learned that the buses - often parked on both sides of Galt Ocean Drive – weren’t an anomaly. Seeking to minimize traffic impacts on work zones adjacent to planned A1A Greenway improvements, FDOT and the City asked Broward County Transit to shift buses that ordinarily "layover" on A1A - to Galt Ocean Drive. As a result, buses that formed up three and four deep on the east side of A1A just south of 41st Street were now boxing in Galt Mile associations - while threatening their drivers and pedestrians. To find out whether the problem will spread - or end - read on...
Roberts: Galt A1A; Fire Award; Sharrows
September 15, 2015 - In his September 2015 Newsletter, City Commissioner Bruce Roberts updates his Galt Mile constituents about the improvements currently underway along their section of State Road A1A, applauds Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue for its recognition as a "Class 1" agency by the Insurance Services Organization (and for completing accreditation through the Commission of Fire Accreditation International), explains how the City’s upgraded credit rating will lower the tax bite for debt repayment, reviews a controversial Vacation Rental Ordinance crafted to quell concerns about abusive tenants without financially crippling responsible and compliant landlords, announces the inaugural implementation of “sharrows”, an infrastructure design feature that may help abate runaway cyclist and pedestrian fatalities, invites constituents to fill vacancies on City Boards or Committees and welcomes their attendance at his twice-monthly pre-agenda meetings. Read on...
LaMarca: Dog Days in District 4
August 31, 2015 - Following a year of high-testosterone ring toss for control of a County ordinance, the Broward Board and Uber are crafting an endgame that allows both sides to claim victory – and save face. Elsewhere in his August 2015 Newsletter, District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca benchmarks a year of speeding cargo to railheads across the US via the Port Everglades Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) - progeny of the Port and the Florida East Coast Railway (FECR), showcases pet-tracking facial recognition technology by Finding Rover, announces the Third Annual Go SOLAR & Renewable Energy Fest, applauds recognition of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) as “Airport of the Year” by the Air Line Pilots Association International, celebrates August as Water Quality Month and invites constituents to "Stay Connected" using County social media. Check it out...
Galt Mile A1A: Speedway to Greenway
August 24, 2015 - What a mess. The long-rumored transmogrification of A1A along the Galt Mile is upon us. Since 2006, City and State (FDOT) bureaucrats have been pledging to transform the Galt Mile’s blighted A1A “speedway” into an opulent beach boulevard that safely embraces vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles while appealing to visitors and local residents. When neighborhood residents voted to approve their preferred design option in 2009, recessionary pressures compelled planners to split the venture into two less financially intimidating projects. An initial component that was completed in February, 2013, reduced the number of traffic lanes from 6 to 4, and modernized roadway infrastructure in preparation for a second project meant to “fine tune” traffic control and enhance the route’s appearance. Its successful completion will also deliver on a 6-year old promise to elevate the County's most decrepit stretch of A1A into a thoroughfare worthy of its 2009 designation as a "Florida Scenic Highway." Its about time...
Beach Lighting: The Code Letters
July 31, 2015 - When Fort Lauderdale passed its original Beach Lighting ordinance in 2003, official State policy was to dig up turtle nests on heavily populated “donor” beaches and transplant the eggs in mostly barren “recipient” beaches. The City plan backfired when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reversed its policy in 2006, and prohibited moving the nests without good cause. Instead of enforcing its ordinance on stretches of uninhabited beach, Commissioners suddenly faced blacking out heavily populated beach neighborhoods - endangering residents and visitors; drivers and pedestrians; while shredding its tourism economy. Commissioners optimistically assumed that Code officers would enforce the ordinance selectively, suppressing poorly conceived provisions that marginalized public safety. Unfortunately, as Code Managers were expunged amid administrative shake-ups, departmental policy flip-flopped between cooperative outreach and abusive tactics that immersed the ordinance in controversy while impairing its objective. During the past decade, these management lapses were often punctuated with caustic notices threatening civil fines for non-existent or unverified violations. At a July meeting engineered by City Commissioner Bruce Roberts, Code Compliance and Galt Mile officials addressed the latest version of this ill-conceived chronic threat and outlined a plan to quash future incarnations. To connect the dots, read on...
LaMarca: Summertime in District 4
July 22, 2015 - In his July 2015 Newsletter, District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca laments the threatened departure of transportation network companies (TNCs) Uber and Lyft from Broward County, reviews an honorarium for 28 Broward County centenarians, announces newly available online access to Business Tax Receipts required by the County for all Broward businesses, celebrates July as Park and Recreation Month by citing benefits available in Broward parks, promotes a Defensive Driving Course to curb preventable collisions in deference to National Safety Month, seeks to protect pets from the adverse impacts of stressful Independence Day festivities and recommends a Training Course offered by the Office of Economic and Small Business Development that could equip building trades entrepreneurs with a competitive advantage. Tap in...
Roberts: Fleet Win; Storm Plan, CO Gas
July 9, 2015 - In his July 2015 message to constituents, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts explains how the City complemented its hurricane preparedness strategy with planned applications for Federal funding, distilled its highly technical Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) into a user-friendly fiscal primer, credits Fleet Services Program Manager Carlos Berriz for the City Fleet clinching the 36th top spot in a field of 38.000 American public fleets, details how the Uptown Link - a shuttle bus launched last summer to service the Cypress Creek corridor - was administratively melded into a Sun Trolley and lists noteworthy municipal events through September. Jumping on two incidents recently splashed in the media as attacks by the “Silent Killer,” Roberts takes a hard look at Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning. So should you...
Galt Mile Sun Trolley: Use it or Lose it!
June 26, 2015 - Late last year, Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bruce Roberts warned neighborhood association officials of a possible threat to the Sun Trolley’s Galt Mile route. Along with Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca, Roberts serves on the Board of the Downtown Fort Lauderdale Transportation Management Association (DFLTMA), the Sun Trolley’s parent agency. Having learned about an inexplicable decline in ridership on the Galt Mile route segment along Oakland Park Boulevard to Federal Highway, which services the Coral Ridge Mall as well as Holy Cross and Imperial Point Hospitals, Galt Mile officials met with interim Sun Trolley Executive Director Tara Crawford following a June 18 Advisory Board meeting. Since a drop in ridership could be used to downsize or end the neighborhood’s local bus service, association officials stressed how truncating the service would burden Galt Mile residents, and explored options to either enhance ridership or mitigate the impact of a service cutback. Here's what happened...
LaMarca: May - June 2015 Update
June 14, 2015 - In his May - June 2015 Newsletter, Commissioner Chip LaMarca adds another chapter to last month’s missive about legalizing Transportation Network Companies in Broward. The District 4 Broward Commissioner also describes County plans to open a Broward County Animal Care and Adoption Center that will house approximately 400 dogs and cats in a more comfortable environment than many of the homes they might be adopted into. LaMarca closes his message with an infrastructure update. Having rifled a quarterly asset management report filed by FDOT Maintenance Division, the Commissioner applauds the structural health of county bridges. However, the report also reveals some disconcerting data about those spans most often traversed by Galt Mile residents. Take a look...
Broward Beach Boss Bags Brass Ring
June 1, 2015 - After reviving the dormant Segment II beach project in 2011, former Broward Beach Administrator Eric Myers spent the next 3 years chasing the required State and Federal permits. Having won a hard-fought struggle with FDEP for a State permit, when his crusade for a Federal Permit was taken hostage by NOAA Fisheries, an agency in the Commerce Department, Myers retired - passing the baton to Broward Natural Resource Administrator Nicole Sharp. Joined by District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca, new beach boss Sharp hunted the remaining regulatory brass ring – a Federal Permit to reclaim vanishing Segment II beaches. Since the high-powered politicians recruited by Myers failed to dent the bureaucratic brick wall that cloisters Federal Agencies, Sharp turned to a resource for whom the federal regulatory jungle serves as a playground. It worked. The Segment II beach fix is scheduled to begin in November! Here's how she did it...
Roberts: Road Fix; CodeRED; High Tides
May 20, 2015 - In his May 2015 Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts explains how the Vision Zero Initiative can reverse the city’s astronomical pedestrian fatality rate while enhancing bike safety, offers contact information for reporting a variety of municipal concerns, lists dates when anticipated high tides may spur seasonal flooding in low-lying areas, spells out registration protocols for the CodeRED notification system, applauds Fort Lauderdale’s recent citation by NerdWallet as the 11th Greenest City in America and reviews the Advisory Board seats currently available to prospective District 1 volunteers. Describing a budgeting measure implemented to curb our tax bite, Roberts outlines how microsurfacing will stretch revenues by extending the useful life of municipal infrastructure. However, unless the city can successfully address unanticipated misconceptions about the project's purpose, public appreciation for the ad valorem relief could be marred by a firestorm of disappointment.
LaMarca: Early Spring Update
May 10, 2015 - In his April – May 2015 message to constituents, Commissioner Chip LaMarca opens by reporting his receipt of an elusive federal permit for the long-awaited Galt Mile beach renourishment and projects a November project kickoff. After applauding county measures to conserve water, LaMarca reviews Broward infrastructure improvements, citing fiscal hallmarks achieved by Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, "Green" Paratransit and Express buses launched by Broward County Transit and construction of a Biogas Cogeneration Electric facility that will morph organic waste into electrical power for the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Pompano Beach. LaMarca also updates the controversial entry of transportation network companies (i.e. Uber, Lyft, etc.) into the Broward market, a local microcosm of a simmering conflict between unregulated web-based services and their traditional brick and mortar counterparts, which may change how the world does business!
Gypsy Dent Grifters Sting Galt Mile
April 26, 2015 - On your way out of the supermarket, while juggling groceries earmarked for the trunk, some guy parked next to you points out a dent in your car. Inveighing that this is your lucky day, he holds out a business card and mentions that he is an auto body repair technician who just got home from a long day at the service garage. What might ordinarily cost you $700 - $900 at the auto body shop, he will do for a mere $250. What’s more, you can watch as he restores your vehicle’s former glory. How can you go wrong? After carefully eyeballing his embossed laser-cut business card, you agree. When you wake up tomorrow, and you realize that you actually gave a stranger $250 to destroy the finish on your car, you'll spend the day struggling with whether you should file a police report - or make believe it never happened. You're not alone - Gypsy Dent Scammers have arrived on the Galt Mile!
Lawmaking Realtors Pursue Profits
April 15, 2015 - Among the most controversial 2015 association bills are House Bill 611 filed by Rep. John Wood (R - Winter Haven) and companion Senate Bill 736 filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel - known as the “estoppel certificate” bills. Owners of properties governed by a community association must provide buyers or lenders with a statement of their financial status with the association prior to selling or refinancing their homes. As per State law (s. 718.116(8), F.S.), a condo seller (usually through a realtor or title company) will ask the association for a summary of his or her property's association debt as of a certain date - known as an Estoppel Certificate. Drafted by realtors and supported by title companies, the legislation was designed to flip the script, and shift the cost of preparing estoppel letters from the realtors’ paying customers (sellers) to the associations – an attempt to saddle the seller’s neighbors (that’s us) with the expense. Not surprisingly, the bills' legislative sponsors are both realtors who will directly benefit if successful. Golly Gee Willikers!!!
Roberts: Bike Plan, Quiet Zone, Bridges
April 4, 2015 - In his March - April 2015 Newsletter, City Commissioner Bruce Roberts introduces Lewis Landing as the City’s newest Park, notes technological improvements to Fort Lauderdale’s online Property Information Reporter, applauds the City’s participation in the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly America program, expresses his intention to serialize planned infrastructure improvements in his newsletters - beginning with the Bridge Master Plan and recognizes the Transportation and Mobility Department for having snagged the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization’s prestigious Transit Priority Award. The Commissioner opens his message to constituents with an enigmatic heads-up for those disturbed by paralyzing noise – either from heightened seasonal air traffic at Executive Airport or federally mandated train horns. Ironically, their respective endgames differ as night and day.
Developer Statutes OK Latent Defects
March 26, 2015 - When mortgage bankers cold cocked the world economy, and eliminated disposable income from the average family budget, overnight, millions of people could no longer afford their own homes; much less buy a new one. With the housing market at a standstill, developers with time on their hands turned their gaze to Tallahassee, where they are deified by lobbyists and worshipped as campaign cash cows by lawmakers. Fed up with court-ordered penalties for delivering substandard construction, in 2009, developer trade associations embarked on a multi-year strategy to block defrauded homeowners from plundering future profits. Since the courts refused to back off when developers were caught violating State law, they bought play for pay politicians to circumvent the offending statutes. While consumers snoozed, 4 such bills became State Law. Those strange fingers you feel on your wallet belong to a rookie lawmaker whose 2015 bill threatens every Floridian, with a special land mine for association homeowners.
Galt Presidents Council Kicks Off 2015
March 18, 2015 - On February 2, the Galt Mile Presidents Council convened its first 2015 meeting at Fountainhead Condominium. The agenda, traditionally packed for the year’s inaugural meeting, addressed a threat to the Galt Mile Sun Trolley, a media driven controversy over the City’s Homeless policy, and a predictable outburst during a Beach Renourishment update. Ordinarily, Presidents Council meetings are kept confidential, ostensibly to promote a free exchange of ideas (which range from revelatory to hysterical). Since many of the issues undertaken at the February meeting are of critical concern to all Galt Mile residents, traditional “discretion” will be set aside. See for yourself...
LaMarca: March 2015 in District 4
March 5, 2015 - In his March 2015 Newsletter, Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca reviews a regulatory benchmark for Port Everglades, record passenger traffic at Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport, Broward’s environmentally friendly commuter mini-buses, tax incentives for expanding businesses, an FP&L solar energy pilot program, a County adoption program for homeless pets, a Centennial celebration of the 13th Annual Broward Water Matters Day and a County event commemorating National Women’s History Month. Given his unrelenting support for Port Everglades, it’s no coincidence that LaMarca’s March message to constituents opens by applauding a long-awaited Federal green light for infrastructure improvements that will cement the Port’s future as a regional economic powerhouse. Here's Chip...
Chepo: Cutting the Galt Mile Canopy
February 20, 2015 - In early November, 2008, Commodore resident José “Chepo” Vega emailed a complaint to the Galt Mile Community Association about the “precarious” state of landscaping along Galt Ocean Drive. A few days later, he followed it up with an offer, exclaiming “While I was walking in front of my building, I saw someone walk into a low hanging tree limb. It could have blinded him. Why doesn’t the City pay attention to the landscaping on our block?” Since Advisory Board members were fed up with a decades-long cycle of neglect and block-wide brownouts followed by unconvincing apologies by Parks officials, when Chepo volunteered his time and horticultural acumen, he was appointed as the neighborhood's first Block Maintenance Liaison. Chepo has pressed, pushed, pulled and prodded City, County and association officials to whip the block into shape. While annually amputating dangerous low-hanging branches, Chepo observed that half the block's trees are gnarled, twisted and puny, resembling runted cartoon mutants. Here's why...
Roberts: Lobby List, Firehouse, King Tide
February 8, 2015 - After opening his January/February 2015 newsletter with an outpouring of gratitude for the absence of an opponent in the municipal primary - and a plea to support his fellow incumbent Commission candidates - District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts enumerates the City’s stand on issues soon to be undertaken by the Legislature, announces the completion of an interim facility that will temporarily house Fire Station #54 until the permanent structure is erected (City Project #P10914) at 3201 Northeast 32nd Street and outlines how recently implemented infrastructure improvements diminish the adverse impacts of rising sea levels due to Global Warming. Before closing with an offer to help constituents address their municipal concerns, Roberts welcomes Jenni Morejon as the new Director of the Department of Sustainable Development, the parent agency of Building Services and Code Compliance, two City divisions that are shaking off a bumpy history. Read on...
2015 Galt Mile Wine & Food Festival
January 30, 2015 - On Saturday, March 7, 2015, the 3rd Annual Galt Mile Wine & Food Festival will unfold in our back yard, resurrecting last year’s sequel to the 2013 inaugural event, when thousands of local residents and visitors were rewarded with a delightfully entrancing weekend afternoon – right across the street. The festival is produced by BocaRaton.Com and The Bites! Network – in partnership with the Galt Mile Community Association. From 4 to 8 PM, attendees will choose from scores of fine artisan wines, craft beers & spirits while enjoying distinctive food tastings; live cooking demonstrations; and authoritative insight into pairing each dish with the perfect libation - as outlined by some of South Florida’s most experienced sommeliers and renowned Top Chefs. To otherwise sample these extraordinary signature offerings, restaurant patrons would have to visit each establishment and order its iconic fare - an exercise that would take months and cost a fortune. Instead, you can spend a lazy Saturday afternoon trying them all, one masterpiece after the other, while strolling across the street from your home. By the way, as per an understanding negotiated by the neighborhood association, attending the event will enhance the value of your home. How? Read on...
Galt Mile Construction Migraines
January 19, 2015 - Throughout 2013 and 2014, the Galt Mile was bubbling with construction. Weeks or months after attending Special Assessment meetings convened to fund the improvements, unit owners watched engineers and contractors reincarnate badly eroded building features - preserving the value of their homes and their quality of life. Last year, some of the neighborhood’s largest associations underwent extensive concrete restorations, insuring that Plaza South, SouthPoint and Plaza East remain among the City’s most important properties. The neighborhood association monitors these projects, watching for unanticipated or abusive regulatory obstacles that might unfairly burden assessed unit owners and impede furure improvements for every association. Despite political tripping hazards rooted in turf protection, bureaucratic arrogance or garden variety stupidity, Galt Mile associations survived a tricky year.
Homestead Express: 2015
December 29, 2014 - The Florida Constitution provides all legal Florida residents with a tax-saving exemption on the first and third $25,000 of the assessed value of their owner/occupied homes, condominiums, co-op apartments, and other “permanent residences” - if they qualify. Homesteaded properties are eligible for the invaluable “Save Our Homes” tax cap. Also available are a host of traditional and recently added exemptions for seniors, veterans, widows/widowers, active military, the blind, disabled persons and properties with build-outs for Mom, Dad, Grandma and/or Grandpa. Apply for exemptions in person, at an outreach event (Beach Community Center), by mail to BCPA, interactively online or by requesting “homesteads-on-wheels” (for house-bound applicants). Although exemption applications are considered "timely" if submitted by the March 2, 2015 "soft" deadline, they will still be accepted until the September 18, 2015 "hard" deadline if accompanied by any moronic excuse for dragging your feet. If you miss that, a "Good Cause" sob story won't make a difference - you're screwed!!! Learn about the 2015 incarnation of the Homestead Express!
Galt Mile Holiday Season Leftovers
December 17, 2014 - As we wend our way through the Holiday Season, events sometimes meld into a blur, and occasionally slip by unnoticed. While their relative impacts are less than critical, the following news snippets are either enlightening, or scratch an itch. In one recent incident, after a disabled Coral Ridge Towers South resident was victimized by a local merchant, his caretaker and a local news personality teamed up to script a final chapter worthy of the Holiday Season. Those with a passing curiosity about what happened to Commissioner “No” will learn the outcome of her latest local endeavor to re-enter public service. Finally, a summarized agenda item from the December GMCA Presidents Council meeting at Plaza South illuminates the status of our long-awaited Beach Renourishment. If you enjoy easy reading, check out these Holiday Season leftovers!
Galt Mile Sun Trolley - A Bumpy History
December 10, 2014 - While most Galt Mile residents maintain vehicles in the garage or parking deck, our demographics include a larger than average community of dedicated pedestrians. Some lament being barred from a driver’s license by a DMV eye exam. Others evangelize the wellness dividend of endless constitutionals. Few will admit that they were forced to choose between a car, prescribed heart medication and one daily alternative to canned tuna fish. For necessities they can’t reach on foot, they needn’t humble themselves by asking for a lift – they board the Sun Trolley. For scores of our neighbors, the community bus is more than an eclectic party favor, it’s their sole access to medical or “quality of life” resources the rest of us take for granted. For an inside perspective of the Galt Mile Sun Trolley's bumpy history, Read on....
Galt Mile: Predators vs. Security
November 29, 2014 - As homeless-related incidents proliferated in the City over the past decade, they also exploded across the Galt Mile, mushrooming from a handful of cordial tithing opportunities to robberies, thefts and assaults. For years, a few well-meaning snowbirds slipped daily handouts to homeless regulars who were fixtures on nearby association or sidewalk benches. As predicted by four consecutive District 1 Police Commanders, these congenial bench dwellers were soon replaced by roving groups of street punks. While investigating a variety of security strategies to beat back the growing threat, the neighborhood association stumbled on an option that fell into the "Goldilocks Zone" of Security Services. Although rated by Security Pundits as "highly effective", the service was among the least expensive alternatives - a serendipitous impact of Galt Mile's tightly packed demographics. After the community's beachfront associations unanimously approved initiating the Galt Ocean Mile Security Patrol in 2006, the crime rate dropped precipitously. Unfortunately, predators who slipped through the cracks have staked out several neighborhood sites, turning them into gauntlets.
Roberts: Homeless, Bullet Train, A1A Fix
November 20, 2014 - In his November - December 2014 Newsletter, after conveying seasonal tidings, City Commissioner Bruce Roberts announces the construction kickoff for All Aboard Florida’s downtown Fort Lauderdale station, reviews construction progress along A1A, asks constituents to name citizen volunteers worthy of official recognition, applauds NOVA students for recruiting a record number of “Adopt-A-Neighbor” volunteers (who assist homeowners with property improvements) and encourages registration for local CodeRED emergency alerts. After warning about elevated threat levels for storm surge ascribed to seasonal high tides, he concludes with a list of upcoming municipal events. However, in his opening message, Roberts laments an emotionally charged media campaign - orchestrated with the help of politically vested outsiders - and designed to reverse a city policy that balances the needs of the homeless with those of the general public.
So - Who's Driving the Bus?
November 10, 2014 - The 2014 general election unleashed a second nationwide Republican wave in the last 15 years. This temperamental political alchemy twice flushed Rick Scott into the Governor’s Mansion by a handful of votes. . By garnering 48.2 percent (2,861,390) of the vote, versus 47.1 percent (2,800,808) for former Governor Charlie Crist, Scott pulled off his paper thin (64,267-vote) repeat victory. In 2010, he ambushed Alex Sink by 61,000 votes. Depending on which side of the aisle they call home, Floridians have Broward voters to either thank, or blame, for the next four years of Scott’s erratic stewardship. It seems that many West Broward voters used Election Day to catch up on their sleep. The following is a rundown of those currently empowered to make decisions on your behalf, and the stats they generated on November 4. Also posted are the voter responses to the 3 proposed constitutional amendments and the 2 Broward ballot questions. Dig in...
Homeless: New Laws for New Plan
October 31, 2014 - On July 20, 1993, the City of Fort Lauderdale passed Resolution 93-143, in which Beach Rule 7.5(c) prohibits panhandling, begging and soliciting on the Fort Lauderdale beach and nearby sidewalks. The nation’s first city to prohibit the homeless from begging “in a nonthreatening manner” in a public place, when outraged constitutional watchdogs – spearheaded by the ACLU – heatedly beat a path to the courthouse, the entire nation was dumbfounded when they got the boot. Carefully navigating a First Amendment tightrope, both former City Attorney Harry Stewart and predecessor Cynthia Everett have successfully drafted a half dozen ordinances that curb behavior deemed dangerous, inappropriate, a health hazard, or just plain disgusting (i.e. defecating on the sidewalk). Enacted in conjunction with a revised policy to address homelessness and reclaim city parks and sidewalks commandeered as flophouses. City officials claim that the new policy will deter activities that enable homeless behavior while increasing resources to programs and organizations that address the root causes of homelessness.
Broward Ballot Backwash
October 11, 2014 - The 2014 General Election Ballot contains two questions raised by Broward County, one sponsored by the Broward Board of County Commissioners and one proposed by the Broward School Board. Given the ethical tar pit that serves as the Broward County Commission’s historical bioniche (along with numerous County agencies - including the School Board); approving these initiatives without some measure of insight is tantamount to shooting oneself in the foot. The following missive will help Galt Milers sort through the two issues. After the official title and ballot summary (as featured on the actual ballot) - we scripted a brief diagnosis of underlying issues surrounding each voter “inquiry”. While most voters will see past the reauthorization oversight glitch in the first ballot question, the second question will epidemically fuel an $800 million Election Day migraine.
Constitutional Target Practice
October 2, 2014 - On November 4, 2014, as Floridians reconfigure their Federal, State and local governments, Galt Mile residents will wrestle with decisions about their representation on the County Commission (Chip LaMarca or Ken Keechl), in the Florida Statehouse (George Moraitis or Scott Herman), in the Florida Senate (Maria Sachs or Ellyn Bogdanoff) and on the "Hill" (Lois Frankel, Paul Spain or Raymond Schamis). We will also be asked to decide myriad open Judgeships and positions on District Boards and Commissions. Given the limited impact they have on our lives, most voters would rather flip a coin than self-educate about filling more obscure elected positions (County judges, the Water Board, Children's Services, etc.). Unfortunately, since this also holds true for most Ballot questions and proposed Amendments, unscrupulous politicians use them as vehicles for realizing outrageous measures that would otherwise wither under minimal scrutiny. The 2014 ballot houses three proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution and 2 Broward County Ballot questions. Sponsored by tricky doggies, some aren't what they appear to be. Read on...
LaMarca: Budgets & Buses
September 24, 2014 - In his Autumn 2014 Newsletter, District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca disparages plans by the Broward Commission and Broward County Transit to stick it to Taxpayers – and fare payers. For years, the County Board relentlessly funded an endless quest for pork. When the recession vaporized the seemingly bottomless property tax windfall, it forced a temporary suspension of irresponsible county spending. As the housing market rebounded last year, LaMarca proposes to leave some of the incremental property tax revenues in your pocket. Having finally implemented policies that began reversing years of decline, Broward County Transit (BCT) earned an upswing in ridership. Instead of utilizing increased farebox revenues to finance additional improvements, BCT decided to bang their new customers. Transit Gurus agree that nothing deters ridership like a fare hike. What's wrong with this picture?
Roberts: Hurricanes, Bus Link, Firehouse
September 10, 2014 -In his September - October 2014 Newsletter, City Commissioner Bruce Roberts exhorts District 1 constituents to adequately prepare for hurricane season, announces a recently launched Uptown Bus Link that more conveniently connects destination sites in the business district along the Cypress Creek corridor, reveals a new city telephone number for non-emergency public safety calls, acknowledges three Fort Lauderdale beach resorts named in Florida’s Top Ten by travel website “emantravels.com”, applauds recognition by Firehouse Magazine that Fort Lauderdale’s Firehouse 2 was the second busiest in the state and its Engine 8 was the busiest in Florida and number 10 in the nation, asks that constituents protect themselves by exercising prudent public safety measures and concludes with a list of upcoming civic events. His opening reference - a reminder to prepare our families for hurricane season - should disturb some Galt Mile associations - since they haven't updated their hurricane preparedness plan in almost a decade. Here's a test. Do you know anything about your association's Hurricane Plan?
Docs vs. Glocks
September 1, 2014 - During a July 21, 2010 medical interview with 26-year-old Amber Ullman, Ocala Pediatrician Dr. Chris Okonkwo asked the Summerfield mother of 3 girls about child-proofing her home. Consistent with 1983 TIPP protocols established by the American Academy of Pediatrics, medical director Okonkwo of Children’s Health of Ocala routinely asks if stairways and backyard swimming pools are gated with childproof locks, if each child has a car seat and bicycle helmet, whether smoking parents do so in the house and if driving teenagers have cell phones. When the physician asked if guns were kept in the home, Ullman went ballistic, prompting Okonkwo to end his tenure as her pediatrician - and triggering a series of cosmic showdowns. Within months, Florida lawmakers passed a law that criminalized free speech in the examining room, as Florida physicians who ask gun owning parents if they store their guns safely can be fined $10,000 or lose their license. Welcome to the Gunshine State!
A Galt Mile Secret Weapon
August 14, 2014 - Unless association officials are familiar with what neighboring associations are paying for security personnel, maintenance staffers, bookkeepers, receptionists, department supervisors, general managers, landscapers, etc., the association risks allocating too much or too little to fill open positions. Every competent association Treasurer is keenly aware that poorly managed compensation will skyrocket annual unit owner maintenance assessments. In 1996, Galt Mile Community Association (GMCA) officials explored the benefits of building a database that member associations could use to better manage labor costs. While saving Galt Mile associations untold $millions in the following 18 years, the annual Presidents Council Wage & Salary Survey evolved under the radar. Its time to let in some sunshine. Here's how it works...
A1A: Final Fix and Facelift
August 6, 2014 - Shortly after Superstorm Sandy mangled 4 blocks of A1A and sliced away much of the Galt Mile beach, on December 10, 2012, more than 300 local residents, their elected City, County and State officials and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) bureaucrats converged on the Beach Community Center. Since our future, both individually and as a community, hinges on the fate of our beach, we needed to know what remedies were being considered to restore Fort Lauderdale’s devastated coastal infrastructure. FDOT District Secretary Jim Wolfe explained how a turn lane and a greenway would be added to the 2-lane thoroughfare that was hastily carved from the roadway’s 2 surviving southbound lanes. After outlining plans for the $8.3 million short-term fix that was subsequently completed in June 2013, Wolfe said that the long-term solution would feature an elevated roadway bookended with bike lanes, and structural protections that would immunize A1A to future storm damage. Following 18 months of navigating its statutory construction process, FDOT kicked off the final plans to restore A1A on July 28. Here's how they are currently rebuilding Fort Lauderdale's Ocean Highway ...
LaMarca: Summertime in District 4
July 27, 2014 - Commissioner Chip LaMarca opens his July 2014 Newsletter with news of a County program conceived to reverse an annual summer spike in the tragic drowning deaths of local children who never learned how to swim. Turning to his older constituents, he warns against being lulled into paralysis by a decade of cyclonic calm (Superstorm Sandy excepted), urging utilization of Broward’s recently enhanced online Hurricane preparedness resources. After recommending a wide range of little known summertime family activities offered in Deerfield Island Park, LaMarca lists a series of "Let’s Talk Transit" meetings (that you already missed) and harkens to new art and performance projects that celebrate the upcoming "Broward 100" Centennial (which you haven’t missed). Given the seasonal inflation of Broward's homeless community, our District 4 Commissioner concludes by describing new homeless initiatives funded by healthy federal grant. See why this should resonate with Galt Mile residents...
Roberts: Award; Action Plan; Budget
July 19, 2014 - In his July - August 2014 Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts savors municipal accolades bestowed on the City of Fort Lauderdale by the National Civic League. The League’s 1953 Chair, pollster George Gallup, characterized the All-America City Award as “A Nobel Prize for constructive citizenship.” All-America City Award finalists help define their homes by submitting three outstanding community projects. Specifically, the city was recognized for anticipating that a Chinese Menu of neighborhood improvements would ameliorate the failed culture of a school annually distinguished by an illiterate graduating class and transitioning a diurnal commercial storage district into a 24/7 Arts Center – “FAT Village”. A third project, entitled “Northwest Gardens Healthy Places” glorifies a reclaimed neighborhood’s “walkability”, while deliberately omitting how the creative bartering of contractor tax credits was leveraged to build a thriving neighborhood in the heart of a decaying ghetto. Why? Read On...
LaMarca: Reclaiming Room Nights
June 30, 2014 - In his June 2014 Newsletter, District 4 Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca advocates stoking one of our County’s key economic engines. Strategically located at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades tourism nexus, enhancing the County’s aging Convention Center with a dedicated hotel and a facelift will plug a fiscal leak through which the County loses tens of $millions in new business every year. Without an affiliated hotel, the Convention Center is precluded from even bidding on more than one third of the prospective convention opportunities – those that require dedicated lodging. To compete with other second tier convention cities that offer onsite lodging, the Center must offset their lack of a hotel with a laundry list of expensive perks, further squeezing embattled profits. Three prior attempts by the County Commission to correct this competitive shortcoming fizzled, squelched by economic eccentricities, questionable judgment, turf protection... and greed. Number four could prove the charm - if the Broward Board avoids the pitfalls that earmarked those failures!
The Beach vs. The Bureaucrat
June 22, 2014 - A bureaucratic blood blister that threatened the chronically delayed Segment II Broward beach project with an added 18-month freeze has been excised. To help quash one of the more asinine impediments faced by this snake-bit project, District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca scripted major roles for the entire Broward Congressional delegation, both of Florida’s U.S. Senators, the Galt Mile Community Association and an army of Galt Mile residents. With officials in Pompano, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and Fort Lauderdale playing bit parts, the eerie plan placed the beach fix back on track for its post-Halloween kickoff. In finessing or slugging their way over, around or through some of the Beach Project's most exasperating, infuriating and pointless obstacles since its inception 49 years ago, LaMarca and retired beach boss Eric Myers got a taste of the frustration experienced by Galt Mile residents for decades. For a tour of the asylum, Read on...
Fort Lauderdale Tilts at Windmills
June 12, 2014 - On February 17, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) into law. A Keynesian response to the recessionary tar pit in which the previous administration couched our economy, the stimulus package sought to offset the loss of private spending with government spending. In addition to annually salvaging 1.6 million jobs from 2009 to 2012, the fiscal gambit helped avert a looming depression. The Recovery Act also funded a series of Department of Energy (DOE) Grand Challenges, starting with the $1/watt SunShot Challenge, which seeks to make solar power cost-competitive with electricity from fossil fuels by the end of the decade. Obama then launched the EV Everywhere Challenge, which set 2022 as the deadline for creation of a five-passenger electric vehicle that could economically and functionally compete with internal combustion engine vehicles. To help achieve this objective, after assembling a consortium likened to the Manhattan Project for Battery Technology, the DOE funded demonstration and deployment projects across the country (including 4 electric vehicle charging stations fueled by wind turbines in Mills Pond Park). What's more, if this consortium keeps hitting its marks, our planet is in for a wild ride!!!
Assn Advocates Grease the Wheels
May 27, 2014 - A majority of the content in the 2014 Omnibus Association Bill was adopted by sponsors Moraitis and Ring from a legislative agenda created by collaborating association officials from across the state and tailored by Community Association advocates. Prior to the Legislative session, these association officials examined the operational pitfalls and regulatory inequities that encumber common interest communities – and characteristically inflate the financial burden on unit owners. With organizational guidance from association advocates, the issues were prioritized and compiled into a legislative wish list. For decades, legislation favorable to association homeowners was enacted once every five or six years. In the five years since 2009, four major association bills were brought to fruition via the above process. While Statehouse Representative George Moraitis (R - Fort Lauderdale) was instrumental in driving this legislative windfall, he had a secret weapon. Working with association officials and the Galt Mile's voice in the Florida Statehouse were a unique cadre of legislative catalysts who call themselves "Association Advocates." As a result of their efforts, Galt Mile residents will enjoy more than a dozen new rights and protections as of July 1, 2014. Read on...
2014 Omnibus Association Bill
May 19, 2014 - Last year, our District 93 Statehouse Representative George Moraitis teamed with State Senator Thad Altman (R - Melbourne) to pass House Bill 73, the 2013 session’s Omnibus Association bill. Broadly supported by association officials and advocates, the legislation repaired a litany of statutory glitches, erased deadlines for costly elevator and generator retrofits, forged tools to deter foreclosure-related delinquencies, simplified approval for 2-year board terms, strengthened financial reporting requirements for condominiums, approved impact glass windows for hurricane mitigation and shaped a dozen other Association improvements, many of which provided cooperatives with certain rights and protections historically monopolized by condominiums. Having pledged to continue addressing Statutory shortfalls in this year’s session, in February, Moraitis and Broward Senator Jeremy Ring filed 2014 association bills with scores of new rights and benefits, including the extension of several other essential Condominium protections to cooperative homeowners. Unanimously approved in the Statehouse and Senate, READ ON for a comprehensive summary of the new association bill's bag of tricks...
Roberts: Chlorine; Wind Power; Crime
May 12, 2014 - District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts opens his May 2014 Newsletter with optimistic news about the falling crime rate, describes Mill Pond Park as the City’s “in situ” laboratory for a tech-enhanced sustainable power source, reveals a new email address for Commission meeting input, notes a scheduling change for the Sun Trolley’s Galt Mile route, updates progress towards realizing the projected Schlitterbahn Waterpark, announces a cyclical chlorination cleanup of the City’s Water System, welcomes an improved Lauderserv Citizen Request Management System powered by QAlert technology and applauds a new study that cites Fort Lauderdale as the number 3 municipality in the nation for foreign-born tech entrepreneurs (after Miami and San José, California). While chlorinating the water system is largely a beneficial and safe process, the City should reveal the potential health risks to those with compromised immune systems or undergoing dialysis. For Roberts May 2014 constituent update, Read On...
LaMarca: Mayors; Vote Site; Navy Days
May 3, 2014 - In his May 2014 Newsletter, District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca lists agenda items from a District 4 Mayors Summit, affirms approval for an early voting site convenient to the Galt Mile, announces receipt of a long-awaited federal reimbursement for the South Broward Segment III beach renourishment completed in 2006, discusses in progress transportation projects along State Road A1A and the I-595 Express and recalls Broward Navy Days events during Fleet Week. In this final item, LaMarca refers to the USS New York, a warship fitted with skeletal steel salvaged from the World Trade Center's “Ground Zero” and named after the State and City where an unfathomable catastrophe unfolded on September 11, 2001. 7.5 metric tons of twisted Twin Tower steel forms the bow stem of an amphibious transport designed to fight the war on terror. Read on...
Animal House: Disability Bill Busts
April 25, 2014 - During the 2014 Legislative Session, bills were filed in the Statehouse and Senate that would prospectively impact how requested service animals must be integrated into no-pet and pet-friendly community associations. Currently, two Federal Laws – the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA) – as well as a Florida Statute (Chapter 413.08, F.S.) dictate how associations must accommodate animals that provide therapeutic benefits to disabled persons. During the past decade, there has also been an epidemic of pet owners who abuse Federal and State disability laws to fraudulently circumvent an association’s no-pet rules. By soliciting documentation evidencing a fictitious infirmity from a complicit medical professional, owners have sought to immunize themselves against association repercussions for harboring a house pet in contravention of the governing documents. Sponsors claimed that the legislation would help clarify Disability entitlements while addressing burgeoning abuse. As occurs with predictable regularity in Tallahassee, they seem to have lost sight of their objective. Read on...
Roberts: NextDoor, Quiet Zones, Bus Link
April 18, 2014 - In his April 2014 Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts looks at the progress of local Bridge Repairs, a new bus link that better integrates the City's economically burgeoning uptown neighborhoods, a Broward MPO effort to quell growing concern about a serious obstacle to the proposed All Aboard Florida high-speed rail link connecting South Florida and Orlando, availability to District 1 residents of the free NEXTDOOR social networking software (the potential backbone of a virtual "Neighborhood Watch") and recognition by the National Complete Streets Coalition of Fort Lauderdale's 3rd place national ranking for having successfully implemented the program's policies. Although most South Florida residents are aware of the All Aboard Florida (AAF) rail project, familiarity with "Quiet Zones" - as referenced in the newsletter - is largely limited to residents in communities exposed to a daily blast cacophony by locomotive horns. Unless local MPOs along the project's planned route find some grant money, taxpayers will have to fund Quiet Zones to protect adjacent communities. They are not cheap! Read on...
Florida Home Grown Flood Insurance Fix
April 4, 2014 - As the Feds mop up the flood insurance nightmare they catalyzed two years earlier, some Tallahassee lawmakers are promoting legislation that would supposedly provide a “robust, competitive, private market alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).” Senate Bill 542, sponsored by Florida Senator Jeff Brandes (R - St. Petersburg), rolls out a welcome mat to private insurers willing to write residential flood policies in Florida. Built on the belief that flexibility will breed competition, Brandes’ bill would provide policyholders with menu options for selecting benefit amounts and deductibles, allowing homeowners to decide how much or how little coverage they want or need to purchase - ranging from a property's full replacement cost to the residual balance on a mortgage. It would also enable carriers to offer a buffet of insurance products from which policyholders can pick and choose, parceling coverage for contents, living expenses, secondary structures, etc. If the bill performs as marketed, it will be rubber-stamped by grateful lawmakers in other States with threatened flood plain communities. If not, the fiscal fate of those constituencies will remain hostage to the kneejerk eccentricities of a conflicted Congress.
Flood Insurance Wack-A-Mole
March 25, 2014 - When recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy saddled the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with a $24 billion debt, the U.S. House and Senate scrambled to pass The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12). Along with extending the program's shelf life by five years, it tightened operational protocols, mandated a plan to repay the Katrina debt, modernized mapping technology and otherwise enhanced its actuarial credibility. Using faulty FEMA affordability projections, bill provisions that eliminated rate subsidies veiled a fiscal time bomb that later triggered homeowner hysteria in 20,000 communities across the Country and mass apoplexy on Capitol Hill. To avoid rate-shocking homeowners with annual premium increases of $2000 to $10,000, and crippling the recovery of tenuous housing markets, Congress fast-tracked relief legislation to the White House, where President Obama signed the bipartisan Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 into law on March 21, 2014. Broward homeowners dodged a bullet!
LaMarca: D4 Doings, Beach Botch, Vote
March 16, 2014 - In his March 2014 Newsletter, District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca opens by touring March municipal events in Pompano, Lighthouse Point (his hometown) and Deerfield Beach. The Commissioner closes with a plea to “get out the vote”. Bookended by these District 4 housekeeping pleasantries, LaMarca ignites a flare for constituent help with the long-delayed Segment II beach renourishment. The Broward Shore Protection project mandates regulatory approvals from myriad Federal, State and local agencies. LaMarca and Broward Beach Administrator Eric Myers have been religiously slugging their way through these regulatory minefields. By the end of January, one obstacle remained - a boilerplate biological opinion by NOAA Fisheries. Upon investigating why repeated phone calls, emails and official correspondences went unanswered, they learned that the documentation sent to NOAA Fisheries - a line office in the Department of Commerce - was sitting UNOPENED on a bureaucrat's desk - ostensibly due to insufficient agency resources. Although County officials lack the juice to crack the Federal malaise, LaMarca contends that our Congressional representatives wield the appropriate political capital. That's where you come in. WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!
2014 Pre-filed Association Bills
March 8, 2014 - In 2014, the annual dog and pony show in Tallahassee began on March 4th. As always, lawmakers whose agendas are shaped by the demands of proactive constituents or score-keeping campaign contributors jump-start their legislative wish-list by filing before opening day. This year, Representative George Moraitis filed House Bill 807 (HB 807) on February 4, 2014. Two days later, Senator Jeremy Ring (D - Broward) filed companion Senate Bill 798 (SB 798) in the other chamber. The bills form the early skeleton of the 2014 Omnibus Association Bill. Several Association bills that were pre-filed seek to increase the Safe Harbor limits that enable banks to dodge paying assessments on units frozen in foreclosure limbo. Others address the statutory underpinnings of Commercial Condominiums, the termination of an association, towing junkers left in the association parking deck and long-awaited rights and protections for parcel owners in Homeowner Associations. To see how the 2014 session is shaping up... Read on...
FLPD: Nailing the Bad Guys with Math
March 1, 2014 - By crunching data that marries historical consumer behavior with emerging trends, Walmart and Netflix adapt how they tailor their on-shelf product mix to specific events (i.e. what they stock before a hurricane, or after a holiday). Long utilized in business, predictive analytics has now been adapted to fight crime. Using the technology to "stop crime before it happens", the municipalities of Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Memphis, Rochester, Santa Cruz and Philadelphia ascribe sizable drops in the crime rate to predictive analytics. In January 2013, the City of Fort Lauderdale teamed with IBM to adapt its proprietary advanced analytics module to crime prevention under the company’s “First of its Kind” program, wherein researchers and clients use real-world applications to shake out the wrinkles of cutting-edge technologies. After an anticipated drop in Fort Lauderdale's crime rate, the City plans to implement the technology to streamline every City Department. Welcome to the 21st Century!
Galt Mile Wine & Food Festival
February 23, 2014 - On Saturday, March 1, 2014, the 2nd Annual Galt Mile Wine & Food Festival will filter through our back yard, resurrecting last year’s blockbuster inaugural, when thousands of local residents and visitors were rewarded with a delightfully entrancing weekend afternoon. The festival is produced by BocaRaton.Com and The Bites! Network in partnership with the Galt Mile Community Association. From 4 to 8 PM, attendees will choose from scores of fine artisan wines, craft beers & spirits while enjoying distinctive food tastings; live cooking demonstrations; and authoritative insight into pairing each dish with the perfect libation - as outlined by some of South Florida’s most experienced sommeliers and brilliant Top Chefs. To otherwise sample these extraordinary signature offerings, restaurant patrons would have to visit each establishment and order its iconic fare - an exercise that would take months and cost a fortune. Instead, you can spend a lazy Saturday afternoon trying them all, one masterpiece after the other, while strolling across the street from your home. By the way, as per an understanding negotiated by the neighborhood association, attending the event will enhance the value of your home. How? Read on...
Winn-Dixie: Frog Becomes a Prince
February 16, 2014 - Until recently, the Galt Mile Winn-Dixie has struggled to shed a reputation for sub-par service, product lines befitting a third world banana republic and an environment more conducive to changing tires than handling food. Notwithstanding divergent opinions about the store’s customer service and product availability, raw convenience prompts almost every Galt Mile resident to cruise the aisles on a regular basis. After decades of failed attempts to improve the store, a rupture in natural law elevated the Galt Mile Winn-Dixie into a viable competitor for shoppers long loyal to Publix and Whole Foods. While implementing a marginally successful post-bankruptcy reorganizational comeback, former Winn-Dixie CEO Peter Lynch experienced a revelation. Instead of performing long overdue modest repairs to badly deteriorated stores that ran $1 to $2 million per store, Lynch would spend $5 to $6 million to completely gut the store's shell, and build upscale, attractive markets with product lines tailored to the community - a process called "Transformation". Since the company began developing Transformational stores in 2010, each new store turned a profit. Fortunately, the Galt Mile store was one of a handful selected for this process each year. In short, we lucked out. Check it out - you will not believe your eyes!
Help Save the Beach!
February 9, 2014 - Beach renourishment projects require regulatory approvals from myriad Federal, State and local agencies and stakeholders. To comply, Broward Beach Administrator Eric Myers spent the past few years submitting volumes of required documentation, timely responding to redundant agency inquiries and endlesly tweaking project parameters. In turn, every agency with standing approved the Segment II project... except one. Despite having received all the required documentation from Myers, the National Marine Fisheries Service (AKA NOAA Fisheries) - an agency in the Department of Commerce - remained silent. Phone calls, emails and official correspondences went unanswered. Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca repeatedly went to Washington D.C., where he learned that all of Myers' documentation was sitting untouched on a bureaucrat's desk - collecting dust. During a pathetic Potomac "two-step", he was informed that the agency lacked the resources to read the documentation and return an opinion, despite having expeditiously done so for similar projects to the north and south of Segment II (Hollywood and Hillsboro). Since County Commissioners are ill-equipped to awaken dormant Federal bureaucracies, LaMarca and neighborhood association officials agreed that the logjam would only be broken if Galt Mile residents pressured our larger-fisted Federal Lawmakers to disturb the agency siesta long enough to send one lousy boilerplate opinion to the County. In short, WITHOUT YOU - OUR BEACHES WILL NOT BE FIXED!!! Read on to learn how you can help save our beach!!!
LaMarca: 2013 - The Year in Review
January 30, 2014 - In his first Newsletter of 2014, Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca takes us on a 12-month jaunt through the challenges he faced in 2013. Long concerned for the wellbeing of Veterans, LaMarca opens by radiating satisfaction for having engineered a free Broward Bus Pass for low-income Vets and participating in many of last year’s Fleet Week events - despite the Fleet’s conspicuous absence due to cost-cutting measures in the Military. LaMarca outlines his involvement in municipal events across his District 4 domain - including a mid-Summer Resource Fair in Deerfield Beach, the redevelopment of Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach (and thwarting the planned departure of its popular Beach Library from the Barrier Island), the evolution of a Culinary Arts District in Oakland Park, a “bridge to Pier” revitalization project along Commercial Boulevard in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, and the reclamation of storm-damaged A1A in Fort Lauderdale. Touching on Beach Renourishment and Port Everglades, LaMarca also revisits his commitment to enhancing the County's critical infrastructure while celebrating a limited victory against the often fatal practice of texting while driving. Read on for 2013 - the Year in Review!
Roberts: Algorithms; NCIP; New Bridge
January 23, 2014 - Commissioner Bruce Roberts opens his February 2014 newsletter by rolling out the welcome mat to new constituents from Laudergate Isles and Bal Harbour who were shifted into his jurisdiction - after the 2010 Census documented a sizable population disparity in the City's four Commission Districts. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department’s decision to beat back a rising crime rate with predictive analytics represents a paradigm shift in local law enforcement. Instead of beleaguered Police analysts pouring through thousands of reports in criminal justice databases to uncover crime connections, an IBM algorithm will crunch the data almost instantaneously. In every City where the technology was implemented, the crime rate plummeted. While it doesn't predict crime, as occurs in the Sci-Fi epic "Minority Report", it substantially increases the opportunity for Police Officers to be in the right place at the right time to either disrupt criminal activity or make quality arrests. Listed among the planned NCIP projects in the Commissioner's newsletter, a replacement of sidewalks throughout the Galt Mile neighborhood has been approved by the City, although it has neither been scheduled - nor funded. Read on for the whole update...
Fort Lauderdale Water Park
January 10, 2014 - When the City of Sarasota hijacked the Baltimore Orioles spring training program in 2008, the vacated Fort Lauderdale Stadium wound up in the City Commission’s lap. They could have either held a garage sale to attract another club, which would mean fixing it up and taking a beating on the rent, or consigning the once proud facility to a slow death hosting little league finals. Although City Commissioners endorsed a Schlitterbahn Development Group plan to redevelop the property into a 64-acre world class Water Park at a June 15, 2010 Commission meeting, it melted down when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) refused to consent, as required by the 1947 agreement that conveyed the property to the City. Now that the City and Schlitterbahn have finally hammered out mutually agreeable terms with the FAA, the revived plan will transform Lockhart Stadium into a state-of-the-art tournament-sized multi-use athletic field that will permanently house the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, an immense futuristic Water Park, a Sports Village and a Resort featuring tree-top cabins with five-star accommodations - right down the block on Commercial Boulevard!!!
LaMarca Report to Galt Mile
December 30, 2013 - At the December 19 GMCA Advisory Board meeting, our County Commissioner scrutinized the economic engines spearheading Broward’s recovery. While applauding a slide in the State’s unemployment rate to 6.4% (in contrast with the national rate of 7%), LaMarca noted that the jobless rate in Broward County had dropped to 5.3%. He attributed the promising job stats to new construction fueled by the rebounding real estate market and 49 consecutive months of increasing tourism. LaMarca observed “For every 85 visitors to Broward County, one job is created. If you take into consideration the 12 million visitors in 2012, that’s a lot of jobs. Those same visitors spent roughly $10 billion here.” He said that they come here to place their toes in our sand, punctuating the importance of the upcoming Segment II beach renourishment. LaMarca has long advocated enhancing the County’s critical infrastructure, including transportation hubs, a convention center and our shrinking beaches. In his final message in 2013, LaMarca updates the Galt Mile about Port Everglades, the BB&T Sports Complex, the Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale International Airport and our long awaited beach renourishment. Read on for his comprehensive report about Broward's economic building blocks.
Homestead Express - 2014
December 22, 2013 - The Florida Constitution provides all legal Florida residents with a tax-saving exemption on the first and third $25,000 of the assessed value of their owner/occupied homes, condominiums, co-op apartments, and other “permanent residences” - if they qualify. Homesteaded properties are eligible for the protective “Save Our Homes” tax cap. Also available are a host of traditional and new exemptions for seniors, veterans, widows/widowers, active military, the blind, disabled persons and properties with build-outs for Mom, Dad, Grandma and/or Grandpa. Apply for exemptions in person, at an outreach event (Beach Community Center), by mail to BCPA, interactively online or by requesting “homesteads-on-wheels” (for house-bound applicants). Although exemption applications are considered "timely" if submitted by the March 3, 2014 "soft" deadline, they will still be accepted until the September 17 "hard" deadline if accompanied by any moronic excuse for tardiness. If you miss that, a "Good Cause" sob story won't make a difference - you're screwed!!! Learn about the 2014 incarnation of the Homestead Express!
A1A Greenway at Crossroads
December 8, 2013 - On October 8, 2013, the City of Fort Lauderdale convened a Town Hall style meeting at the Beach Community Center to discuss a seven-year old promise to local residents. Diana Alarcon of the Transportation & Mobility Department presented a plan to reconfigure the newly narrowed A1A between Flamingo Avenue and Oakland Park Boulevard into a Greenway – as envisioned by City planners. Unfortunately, the plan described by Alarcon bore little resemblance to the design option selected by neighborhood residents. When City traffic planners altered the design outcome, scores of angry complaints from Galt Mile residents and merchants flooded the neighborhood association. Since the revisions threatened to strangle the neighborhood, unless planners made some critical course corrections before they began mixing concrete, the fast-growing acrimony would explode. Leery of trashing years of planning and an $18 million appropriation, neighborhood association officials and Commissioner Roberts met with City traffic planners to hash out a resolution. Read on to learn what happened... and how this project evolved!
LaMarca: WRDA, Vet Bus, Workshops
November 20, 2013 - While announcing a follow-up series of “how to” workshops for vendors stalking county business and celebrating approval of his pilot program to provide a free bus pass to eligible veterans, District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca’s November 2013 constituent update applauds Congress for throwing Port Everglades the key to its future. For more than seven years, Congress has been unable to pass legislation authorizing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works program, which constructs critical navigation and water infrastructure projects across the nation. On October 23, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives convincingly slam dunked the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRDA) by a vote of 417-3, setting the stage for the appointment of a conference committee to mitigate differences between the House and Senate versions. Enacting the WRDA will provide long-awaited access to roughly $7 billion squirrelled away and collecting dust in a Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. This will empower the Corps to realize competitive improvements to the Port that will cement its future as a regional economic powerhouse. Read on for LaMarca's full update...
Roberts: Economy, Road Kill, Housing
November 11, 2013 - In his November 2013 Newsletter, Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts reviews a variety of economic and community reinvestment opportunities that contribute to the City's fiscal balance. Unless Fort Lauderdale increases Marina capacity for super-yachts, the Marine Industry may find a new Ground Zero, costing Fort Lauderdale one of its two main economic engines. Roberts also informs us that Fort Lauderdale may soon see food and beverage service on its Blue Wave Beach, Good Morning America reported that the Venice of America has been named one of the top 10 cities for families, a citywide Pavement Management System will soon cut the cost of maintaining City roadways, responsibilities that the City took over from the County include disposing of hazardous waste and road kill (really!!), and reminds residents to report streetlight outages. The Vice Mayor applauds the redevelopment of blighted blocks in the long decaying Northwest Neighborhood, one of several Affordable Housing successes achieved by a public-private partnership with the Carlisle Development Group - a Miami-based enterprise which is facing Federal charges for swindling tax credits. Read on...
South Florida Sand Saga
November 2, 2013 - Buried in a 2007 beach status report by former Broward beach Administrator Stephen Higgins was a seemingly innocuous statement, “The County will be investigating the use of sand from other locations, including locations outside of the United States, for future nourishment of Segment II.” Higgins' informal concerns over a minor obstacle to a local problem cloaked a dire threat to South Florida's economy. More important than the super-yachts that fuel Florida's $multi-billion marine industry, the opulent resorts that attract $billions in vacation revenues and South Florida's import/export trade gateway to the world, is a relatively bland, mundane commodity - SAND. As observed by FDEP’s Lonnie Ryder “Beaches are the backbone of tourism in the state of Florida. As your beaches go, so goes your economy.” The granules that form Florida's beaches - and its beach-based economy - are in short supply in Broward and Miami-Dade. If State and Federal plans to regionalize management of a newly confirmed sand windfall off the Treasure Coast go south, we will regularly be buying sand from inland mines, the Bahamas or squeezing it from empty Pabst and Michelob bottles.
Surf Fishing on the Galt Mile Beach
October 24, 2013 - A 67-year old amateur angler lives two buildings south of his “lucky” casting spot. The former New Jersey native looks to hook tarpon or jacks in the Spring and snook throughout the Summer. “I used to tie strings from the lines to my fingers because half my time here is spent dozing in the beach chair.” At the October 17, 2013 meeting of Galt Mile Advisory Board, Edgewater Arms representative AnneMarie Adams surprised her peers. Out of the blue, she asked if fishing was allowed on the Galt Mile beach. Failing to explain why, AnneMarie was disturbed when an acquaintance informed her that fishing on the beach (A.K.A. surf fishing) was not permitted. Following an uneasy silence, members began discussing the drawbacks of fishing where people swim. Following a brief debate about whether fishing on the beach was regulated by a City or County ordinance, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts agreed to run it by the City Attorney. When she came up short, we looked into it. Here's what we found...
New CAM Law - HB 7119
October 15, 2013 - Since House Bill 7119 addressed issues that primarily impact Homeowner Associations (HOAs), it sailed through the 2013 legislative session below the radar of most Galt Mile Condo and Co-op residents. Sponsored by Representatives Mike LaRosa (R - St. Cloud), Joe Gibbons (D - Hallandale Beach) and Frank Artiles (R - Miami) with a collateral push from the House Judiciary Committee and the House Business & Professional Regulation Subcommittee, the new law extended regulations that have long protected Condominium (Chapter 718) and Cooperative (Chapter 719) members to also shield parcel owners in Homeowner Associations. Leery of an attempt to usurp the right of HOA members to Home Rule, the bill was meticulously monitored throughout the legislative vetting process. The controversy surrounding HB 7119 blurred one of its less well known objectives. While primarily revising provisions in Chapter 720 (The Homeowners Association Act), the bill created a new subsection (7) to Section 468.436(2) F.S., relating to licensed community association managers. In short, Managers or Management Companies that violate provisions in Chapters 718, 719 or 720 get a whiff of the abyss. Read on...
Plaza South Lights the Way
October 7, 2013 - On June 28, 2013, Plaza South President Andy Surdovel, who also serves on the Galt Mile Community Association (GMCA) Board of Directors, contacted some of his peers in the neighborhood association. Under a City-issued permit, Plaza South was completing long-planned upgrades to its pool deck. When designing a deck lighting plan, their landscape architect selected fixtures approved on the Florida Fish and Wildlife website. A permit application submitted to the City was retuned unapproved with an enigmatic turtle graphic stamped on the document. Upon contacting the City to learn why the building department responded to their application with a marine hieroglyphic, the project engineer was told that since the project extends east of the Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL), it must also be approved by the State. Surdovel strapped up his boots before embarking on a regulatory scavenger hunt that will soon be duplicated by neighboring Galt Mile associations. For Surdovel's unprecedented itinerary and regulatory roadmap, Read On...
A Look at the Proposed Law
September 30, 2013 - When they passed the original Beach Lighting ordinance in 2003, City Commissioners never anticipated that its strict interpretation would cripple entire neighborhoods and endanger people’s lives. Pressured by FWC and radical members of Sea Turtle support groups to enforce the law as written, City officials blacked out entire neighborhoods and darkened State Road A1A. In the ensuing backlash, complaints poured in from coastal residents fearful of walking down their own block after dark, endangered drivers and pedestrians, angry tourists who vowed to never return, struggling merchants in faltering commercial beach neighborhoods and residents flustered by inconsistent and contradictory enforcement policies. As soap box demagogues on either side of this issue sniped at one another, City officials realized that the vast majority of City residents – including most responsible environmentalists – favored a beach lighting plan that protected both people and sea turtles. When City Commissioners charged City Manager Lee Feldman with creating a vehicle for this expanded objective, he decided to use the State’s model Beach Lighting Ordinance as its foundation. Unfortunately, it was never meant to be plugged into a municipal code. Read on to learn why - and how it needs to be clarified before it is etched in stone.
LaMarca: Back to Work
September 23, 2013 - In his September 2013 message to constituents, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca seeks to honor the heroes of Patriot Day (changed in 2012 to the National Day of Service and Remembrance) with a plan to provide disabled veterans with free transportation. The “Patriot Pass” he describes is remarkably similar to the “Patriot Passport” distributed by Miami-Dade Transit to honorably discharged veterans who are permanent residents of Miami-Dade and whose annual income is $22,000 or less. To evidence the County’s fiscal stability, LaMarca cites Broward’s unemployment rate, which remains below those of the State and Nation. He conveys the Commission’s intention to minimally maintain reserves at two months of general fund operating revenues or expenditures - a national benchmark for county budgets. Finally, our District 4 County Commissioner thanks Galt Mile residents for participating in an eerie public hearing during which the Broward Commission approved an anti-association law intimating that ordinary people are morally ill-equipped to govern themselves.
Roberts: Budget; Seaweed to Soil; CRA
September 15, 2013 - Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts kicks off his September 2013 Newsletter with some eleventh hour budgeteering in preparation for the spending plan's final pit stops in September, explains how the City turns seaweed into soil, profiles the constituent calls fielded by his office, reviews the Community Redevelopment Agency's mission and current challenges, applauds City firefighters for replacing the stolen bike of double amputee Hector Picard (thereby enabling his grueling cross-country marathon trek to raise funds for an armless baby's prosthesis), updates the project progress of three City infrastructure build-outs and lists noteworthy upcoming municipal events. Mark Almy, a Parks Department supervisor charged with transforming seaweed into mulching soil (as described by Roberts), saving the City $180,000 annually, also works with Roberts and GMCA Advisory Board member Chepo Vega from Commodore Condominium to maintain Galt Mile landscaping in a "Disney-Like Manner". For details, Read on...
Broward's Anti-Association Law
September 8, 2013 - On August 30, 2013, Executive Director Donna Berger of the Community Advocacy Network (CAN) issued an alert to association officials. She was concerned about an ordinance under consideration by the Broward Board of County Commissioners, admonishing “This proposed ordinance may have far-reaching impact on all types of community associations in Broward County – and possibly the rest of the state if other counties follow Broward’s lead.” Berger explains that the proposed ordinance would affect an association’s authority under its governing documents to scrutinize proposed leasing and sales transactions and to issue an approval or denial in connection with same. Reminiscent of the Condo Killer bills that floated through Tallahassee from 2004 to 2006, the County Board is attempting to usurp the right of Broward’s Condo, Co-op and HOA members to govern themselves.
Fixing a Broken Law
August 19, 2013 - On October 30, 2012, City Manager Lee Feldman convened a round table meeting to examine mitigating unintended consequences of the City’s poorly drafted 2003 Beach Lighting Ordinance. In addition to wreaking havoc on the City’s tourism industry, a policy that forced the entire beach area into darkness for 75% of the year was fatally crippling the beach neighborhood’s viability as an economic engine, imperiling drivers and pedestrians along A1A and opening serious security and safety breaches in beachfront residential communities. In beachfront hotels, management personnel reported complaints by scores of visiting tourists that “fear of crossing the street” would preclude their return. Since consequences of the ordinance that were marginalized when passed in 2003 have since mushroomed into significant threats, officials would have to reshape the ordinance to promote Sea Turtle survival without crippling the City or endangering its residents.
Filling Some Big Legal Shoes
July 26, 2013 - In January of 2012, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler announced that City Attorney Harry Stewart was cashing in his chips. The 72 year-old Stewart is one of 131 staffers who snapped up the early retirement buyout offered by the city. To keep the City’s legal machinery humming until an executive level search process could yield a suitable replacement, Commissioners asked the City’s highest paid employee to continue managing Fort Lauderdale’s legal affairs for 15 more months. Shortly after Pinecrest Village City Attorney Cynthia Everett outpaced a field of legal hopefuls for his vacated position, Stewart’s eleven-year tenure with the City of Fort Lauderdale ended on July 11, 2013. Since taking control of the City’s legal armory, Stewart transformed a catch-as-catch-can department that hemorrhaged money into the most formidable City Attorney’s office in the State. Want to know how?
Roberts: Stewart, NextDoor, Sun Trolley
July 17, 2013 - In his July 2013 Newsletter, Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts bids farewell to former City Attorney Harry Stewart and former Fire Chief Jeff Justinak, reviews a budgetary debate about optionally raising the Fire Assessment Fee or the Millage Rate, relishes a high profile accolade won by the City, discloses an extension of the Lien Amnesty Program, looks at District I usage of the “NextDoor” online gossip swamp, recommends viewing an educational mass murder, and delivers favorable performance and utilization reports for the Sun Trolley and the Broward B-Cycle program. Be sure to check out the massacre brought to you by FLPD. While the production values are shaky, the malevolently disturbed shotgun-wielding bald “perp” that central casting adorned in a stereotypical black outfit and sunglasses may have a bright future on YouTube.
Broward Property Appraiser to Galt Mile
June 30, 2013 - On June 20, 2013, Broward County Property Appraiser (BCPA) Lori Parrish sent two trusted officials from her office to address the Galt Mile Advisory Board. Deputy Property Appraiser and BCPA Media specialist Bob Wolfe was joined by Condominium and Cooperative Division Coordinator Maureen Morrison. Three weeks earlier, Parrish released an invaluable market barometer for real estate in Broward County - the “2013 Estimate of Taxable Values”, a statistical compilation generated annually on June 1. Based on last year's sales, the report totals the estimated gross taxable value of properties in each of Broward’s 31 municipalities, tax districts and the County’s unincorporated area. More importantly, it compares the 2013 values to those of 2012, portraying how each of the included jurisdictions are evolving. After suggesting that the data underscores a housing market bounce-back, Morrison and Wolfe outlined new voter-approved exemptions filtered from otherwise obtuse Constitutional proposals on last November's ballot, reviewed slapstick tax legislation and closed with a Q and A.
Home Run at L'Hermitage I
June 21, 2013 - Over the years, current or former board members, property managers and engaged residents from every Galt Mile association have contributed to the neighborhood’s success. Occasionally, one association provides more than its fair share of civic sparkplugs. The four Galt Mile Advisory Board members from L’Hermitage I have been chronic contributors to community causes. They made their bones during the Calypso crisis. Since then, L’Hermitage I President Diana Bergheim, Vice President Frances Konstance, Secretary Virginia “Jean” Miller and Property Manager Patricia Ivette Quintero have been on a roll. A few months ago, the ladies of L’Hermitage I entered their home in a statewide recognition program for Florida condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners associations - the Florida Communities of Excellence. After being recognized as one the top three associations in the State for Safety and Security and number one for Disaster Preparedness, they were named "Community of the Year," the program's highest accolade. To round out their remarkably successful competition, Property Manager Pat Quintero was designated one of Florida's four "Managers of Excellence." Not too shabby!!!
LaMarca: Transportation Hubs & Tourism
June 8, 2013 - Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca opens his late May 2013 Newsletter by shaping an “Old Blue Eyes” seasonal classic into a metaphor for Broward’s recovering economy. Not only are Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport gateways for growing tourism revenues that flood into Broward “from across the sea”, their development as economic engines has deflated the ominous 2010 10.1% unemployment rate to a much less intimidating 5.7% by March of 2013. LaMarca spells out how enhancements to Broward’s economic infrastructure translated into thousands of new jobs, fast-tracking the entire region's recovery. Along with competitive improvements to transportation hubs like the Port and the Airport, LaMarca considers the impending Beach Renourishment equally critical to the County rebound. Our District 4 Commissioner also reviews the events of Fleet Week, shakes up his staff and applauds Florida's first and only statutory prohibition against texting while driving. Read On...
Bogus Website or Bogus Alert?
May 31, 2013 - On May 8, 2013, the City of Fort Lauderdale Police Department issued a Press Release entitled “Bogus Website Victimizes Community”. A website called “FindSportsNow”, which claims to be “the first and only centralized location for sports and recreational listings in the United States,” explains as its mission “to connect you to the leagues, teams, clubs, pickup-games and classes that interest you most.” A Fort Lauderdale resident who paid a registration fee on the website for a Parks Department program subsequently called the City to confirm acceptance. Since the website was never authorized to act on behalf of the City, understandable suspicions about the unauthorized “registration” procedures - including the collection of a credit card number and other personal information - prompted Detective DeAnna Greenlaw in the Public Information Office to announce a fraud investigation and warn against using the "findsportsnow" website to sign up for City events. As of May 25, the investigation is ongoing.
Tenant Rights vs. Deadbeats & Psychos?
May 24, 2013 - When the sputtering economy chewed up their disposable income, tens of thousands of association members survived by renting out units that long served as vacation homes or retirement properties. The crippled housing market also burdened common interest communities with thousands of non-contributing units in various stages of foreclosure. To survive, near bankrupt associations were forced to lease this frozen inventory until the toxic units could be recycled into the market and sold. The thousands of unit owners and their associations drawn into the rental market overnight - often as neophyte landlords - helped pave the way for controversial House Bill 77. While a vast majority of those who rent units are "good neighbors" who comply with association rules, bill provisions that enable associations and their unit owners to dump rent deadbeats, tenant terrorists and/or recidivist rule breakers provoked opposition by consumer watchdogs. Fed up with watching a few nightmare tenants sponge off the budget or terrorize neighbors, ordinarily pro-consumer association advocates held their nose while quietly supporting this bill. Why? Read on...
Roberts: Free Tree, E 911, BCPA Cop
May 17, 2013 - In his May 2013 Newsletter, Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts applauds a National Softball Association of the Deaf (NSAD) decision to hold their 2014 tournament in Mills Pond Park, promotes a program that adds trees to the City canopy by utilizing online services, extolls a new Sun Trolley service that caters to tourists on a layover, discloses the financial fruits of adding a fraud-busting Fort Lauderdale Detective to the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office, portrays the Broward B-cycle Program as an environmental success story and offers a list of important upcoming events. However, Roberts’ leads off with kudos for a County decision to assume responsibility for funding a unified Emergency 911 Service, ending an extended war of nerves between Broward County and its 31 municipalities. It also relieves our City and County officials of having to explain that our tax dollars were being used by both sides to slug out the issue in court.
Association Bill Unanimously Approved
May 9, 2013 - On April 26, 2013, the Omnibus Association Bill - House Bill 73 sponsored by George Moraitis - cleared its final legislative hurdle and was ordered enrolled in preparation for a trip to the Governor’s desk. Following the unanimous approval of three Committee Substitutes in two House Subcommittees, one full Committee and the full House, the bill sailed through the Senate - also without one negative vote. As statewide association advocates for Condos, Coops and HOAs offered prospective input, Moraitis concentrated on bulking up historical deficits in association law, such as the long neglected rights of Cooperative owners. Systematically omitted from Association Bills, Cooperative homeowners lack many of the statutory rights and protections enjoyed by their condominium neighbors. Having fully recovered from last year's meltdown, the bill goes a long way to mirror those provisions for Cooperatives.
Roberts: BMPO, Beach Parking, Survey
April 25, 2013 - In his early Spring Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts applauds the City’s Public Works personnel in the Utilities Bureau for winning repeat accolades from the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association (FSAWWA), describes how to leverage $6 into a year of free beach area parking, delivers access to a statistical snapshot of last year’s first half condo sales and residential rental activity, and links us to feedback distilled from a December 2012 online Neighborhood Survey that may add perspective to the City’s visioning objectives. An opening article looks at past and planned projects approved by the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Comprised of a local panel of business and political "Masters of the Universe", each County's MPO decides if, when and how transportation infrastructure improvement projects are implemented. They interact with neighboring MPOs to address regional projects. Roberts' insight derives from his service on the BMPO governing board.
The Citizens Circus
April 17, 2013 - After bouncing Interim Citizens President Tom Grady on June 13, 2012 – an appointee of the Governor who studied ethics under Charles Ponzi – the Citizens Board installed Barry Gilway, a 40-year insurance industry veteran from Maryland. Faced with differing rates that vary by county, Gilway observed that “Rates are not adequate within Miami-Dade, Broward and Hillsborough counties,” and surmised “If rates were taken to full adequacy in those counties, it has the potential of completely destroying both home building and retail sales.” In the next few months, Citizens implemented a bogus reinspection program that stripped statutory mitigation discounts from 250,000 windstorm homeowners, adding $200 million to their bottom line while prompting a class action lawsuit. In October, Gilway received a rate increase from OIR of 10.8%, adding another $250 million to Citizens' coffers. Hammered through vetting committees with apocalyptic visions of disaster and admittedly false data, controversial Senate Bill 1770 would explode the 10% statutory rate cap by 30% to fund expensive private reinsurance, skyrocket rates by 60% to 70% and empower a gubernatorial finger puppet to set insurance rates. Unless...
LaMarca: Pressing the County Agenda
April 8, 2013 - His boots strapped since January, District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca has been shuttling between Tallahassee and Washington D.C. armed with the Broward Commission’s 29-page legislative agenda. In his April Newsletter, LaMarca summarizes his progress in the State and National Capitols. On March 13 and 14, he joined the Broward Legislative Delegation in their annual “Broward Days” promotion of County interests in the State Capitol. As “Team Leader” of the Broward Days’ International Business and Trade Committee, LaMarca spearheads County efforts in Tallahassee to insure Port Everglades' future as an economic powerhouse by developing its competitive muscle. Having assumed the lead County role in cultivating and collecting beach renourishment resources, he chased a $20 million federally reimbursable appropriation in Tallahassee to help offset the impending $40 million Segment II project cost. In Washington D.C., he dunned our deadbeat Federal government for the $12 million it still owes the County on its $26 million obligation for the Segment III renourishment of south county beaches. To learn what else he tackled while “on the road,” read on...
What Were They Thinking?
March 28, 2013 - While closely monitoring a handful of high profile association bills during the legislative session, politically active Common Interest Communities and their advocates tend to overlook scores of bills that, although targeted to other purposes, adversely impact their interests. The following two needles in the 2013 legislative haystack will not only harm unit owners, the underlying rationale for their existence strains credibility. Fueled by political “quid pro quo” and cruising below the media radar, these thinly veiled pork piñatas stand an excellent chance of becoming law – while we sleep. One is an "in your face" patronage bill masquerading as an attempt to shield Homestead Exemptions from abuse. The other is a "pro-bank" wolf in "pro-association" clothing. See for yourself - read on...
Bad Bill: Negligence & the Rabbit Hole
March 15, 2013 - In 2010, 2011, and again this year, Palm City Senator Joe Negron filed bills that seek to legally immunize Design Professionals (architects, engineers, landscape architects, interior designers & surveyors) to damages resulting from their own negligence. An outraged public convinced former Governor Charlie Crist to veto this anti-consumer gremlin in 2010 and lawmakers marooned it on the calendar in 2011. With design professional trade association lobbyists greasing a smooth ride in vetting committees, Senate Bill 286 is sliding through the legislative gauntlet. No other class of professional has ever been so completely financially insulated from the legal repercussions of malpractice, wrongful acts, or misconduct. Until now - along with doctors, lawyers, and accountants - these licensed professionals have been prohibited by statute from limiting exposure due to their own negligence. Once enacted, if an engineer designs a defective roof, oversees and signs off on construction deliberately peppered with building code violations, when it collapses later that day, the association would not even be legally entitled to an apology. This bill is a prime candidate for the 2013 session's "Shaft the Public" award. Read why...
Galt Sun Trolley: Back from the Brink
March 5, 2013 - Having survived an up-close view of the Abyss, the Sun Trolley’s Galt Mile Route has come roaring back from the brink of oblivion. On October 10, 2008, after promising to save the Galt Mile route, former Sun Trolley Executive Director Les Hollingsworth surreptitiously drafted a termination notice condoning its demise! When the GMCA revealed Hollingsworth’s betrayal, a phalanx of angry residents who attended the October 21, 2008 City Commission meeting convinced Commissioners to abort the termination. After giving Hollingsworth the boot, Interim Executive Director Chris Wren met with GMCA officials to script a new survival strategy for our besieged local bus service. Since then, connectivity upgrades engineered by Wren and Managing Director Patricia Zeiler turned the Galt Mile route into a shopper's panacea; ridership has exploded and vendors have been pleading for status as a Sun Trolley destination site. Among a series of recent service upgrades, last month Imperial Point Hospital was added to the Galt Mile route. For the whole story - Read on...
Galt Mile Wine & Food Festival
February 25, 2013 - Grab your significant other, your best friend or the whole gang and spend the most spectacular Saturday a Culinary Enthusiast can imagine along the most famous beach front condo strips in Florida. Please your palate, step into your stride and mingle among the best chefs in South Florida at the Inaugural Galt Mile Wine & Food Festival on Saturday, March 2, 2013 from 4 PM to 8 PM. Each of the participating chefs specialize in signature dishes with which they have become identified. To sample these extraordinary offerings, patrons would have to visit their various restaurants over several months and lay out big bucks. At the Galt Mile Wine & Food Festival, participants can achieve this in a few hours - and for a pittance. By the way, the spotlight it brings to the Galt Mile won't exactly hurt the value of our homes.
2013 Omnibus Association Bill
February 15, 2013 - The beneficiary of wisdom filched from a legislative catharsis, on December 28, 2012, District 93 Statehouse Representative George R. Moraitis filed House Bill 73. Building on the momentum of his successful 2011 Omnibus Association Bill (HB 1195), Moraitis and former Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff teamed up last year to file House Bill 319 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 680. The third of three consecutive bills assembled from the combined wish lists of Condominiums, Cooperatives and Homeowner Associations across the State, the bills whizzed through vetting committees in both houses en route to an anticipated soft landing on the Governor’s desk – when disaster struck. When conflicted attorneys slipped a pro-lender amendment into the legislation, it enraged association supporters. During a subsequent series of events reminiscent of episodes from the Three Stooges, the legislation self-destructed. Having learned the hard way, a regretful Moraitis refiled for the 2013 session - without the scam amendment.
LaMarca: County Wish List to Tally
February 8, 2013 - On January 8, 2013, the Broward Board of County Commissioners approved a 2013 State Legislative Program. The 29-page legislative libretto features a buffet of proposals with widely varying impacts, ranging from critical appropriations to concessions for paper-thin local special interests (regulatory requirements for competitive eating contests, standardized parasailing guidelines, etc.). Given the County’s Democrat voting plurality, eight of the County’s nine governing Commissioners are Democrats. As the sole Republican on the Broward Board, Chip LaMarca’s stock goes up every January, when tagged to carry Broward’s wish list to the State Capitol. As promised, Beach Renourishment tops the list, followed by the financial fuel to complete time-critical infrastructure improvements in Port Everglades - as well as some other issues that resonated with LaMarca. To learn what they are - Read on...
Fast-Track Foreclosures: Round III
February 1, 2013 - Last year, Naples Representative Kathleen C. Passidomo filed House Bill 213 - the Fair Foreclosure Act. She anticipated prodding lenders into reviving stalled Florida foreclosures and lifting 368,000 properties out of hopelessly clogged dockets and into the market. The huge backlog of Florida foreclosures mired in judicial limbo burdened communities with 1.7 million deteriorating vacant structures while banks were left holding portfolios filled with bad paper. Killed by the banking lobby, Passidomo is reviving the bill in 2013. On January 3, she filed House Bill 87. In addition to providing associations with a vehicle that will finally force lenders to recycle frozen properties currently draining association budgets, the bill should shrink the 858 days that the average foreclosure case will gobble up before being finalized in one of Florida's 20 Circuit Courts. Non-judicial states with comparably astronomical foreclosure rates, like California and Nevada, complete the same ordeal in 4 months. Without legislative relief, Florida’s recovery will remain hostage to this bloated backlog of bad loans.
Roberts: Beach Fix, Parker, Lien Deal
January 24, 2013 - After opening with evidence of the City’s improving economic outlook, Commissioner Bruce Roberts’ January 2013 newsletter jumps to Beach Renourishment, summarizing progress of the City - County - State (FDOT) short term A1A recovery plan before concluding with a confirmation that resonates with every Galt Mile resident - exclaiming “that we are on schedule for the long overdue Phase II beach renourishment project.” He then describes a lien amnesty program that will incentivize the rehabilitation of homes long frozen in disrepair by upside down mortgages and enable the sale of abandoned properties currently buried in code violations. A follow-up on State-wide efforts to criminalize the ever-changing chemistry of designer drugs bespeaks Attorney General Pam Bondi’s December 11, 2012 emergency rule outlawing 22 new synthetic variants. Dwarfed by these well publicized, high profile updates is a less noteworthy item about a service to help drivers find parking spaces in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Actually, the nascent technology that enables this service could change the way cities worldwide operate in the immediate future.
The Mercenary Snitch Bill
January 17, 2013 - On June 17, 2010, as Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish closed a two-hour presentation to the Advisory Board, GMCA President Pio Ieraci expressed concern about a notice sent by Parrish to Galt Mile associations requesting that they “turn over any information about unit owners that may have improperly applied for a Homestead Exemption.” Pio said “I am disturbed by this request. Not only are we being asked to do your job, I believe that it’s wrong to violate the confidentiality of our members’ information.” Following a heated defense of her request, Parrish relented, conceding that associations are obligated to safeguard their residents’ confidentiality, while casually observing that “Nobody likes a rat.” Two and a half years later, Sarasota Senator Nancy Detert (District 28) is looking for a few good rats. On January 7, 2013, she filed SB 182, legislation drafted to deter abuse of Florida’s homestead exemption. Despite laudable objectives, the bill’s provisions range from poorly conceived to openly dangerous. By using a bounty to incentivize mercenary snitches and forcing associations to rat out their members, the bill would unproductively overwhelm the Property Appraiser’s limited verification resources while immersing associations in a maelstrom of legal jeopardy.
The Bad Blood at BSO
January 7, 2013 - The Broward Sheriff’s Office is an Oligarchy, an agency where every scrap of power resides with the elected Sheriff. As such, voters reasonably assume that the agency’s integrity depends on the Sheriff’s character. In the past decade, BSO has struggled to shed its reputation as an ethical sewer. As demonstrated by both campaign teams in the recent election, voters select a Sheriff based on the candidate's ability to dodge or shed mud. As long as the Broward Sheriff is a partisan Constitutional Officer, survival at BSO will remain focused on politics, with re-election as its Holy Grail and public safety relegated to an afterthought. The problems plaguing BSO have less to do with the Sheriff than the political culture that drives the institution. Promotions and jobs are bartered for votes and lucrative contracts go to campaign contributors while demotions and pink slips await anyone unwilling to serve as a political asset. Whether incoming Sheriff Scott Israel can overcome BSO’s pathological susceptibility to corruption remains to be seen. Here’s the playing field.
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by Pio Ieraci
A New Day
As defined in our by-laws, the Galt Mile Community Association is dedicated to improving the operation of our buildings by cooperative efforts and study, improving and protecting the area and the environment within the Galt Mile community and to securing the cooperation of City, County, and State authorities in the furtherance of these objectives. It serves to promote amicable relations among neighboring associations (and their residents) and an environment that lends itself to mutual assistance and cooperation.
In essence, GMCA is a forum to identify and address concerns of its member associations, their residents and common neighborhood objectives. It also provides a resource for members to analyze and educate themselves about mutual issues and interests, including legislation relevant to the operation of its member associations, maintenance of safety and living standards, the rights of their owner-members and the value of their homes.
Every member association is a fully autonomous entity whose resident-members have the right to decide for themselves who should represent them and the rules under which they choose to live - free of outside interference. As such, we do not participate in the internal governance of any member association sought and legally propagated by its member-owners. Every Association in good standing enjoys equal access and full participation notwithstanding the ideology of its current administration.
While individual associations are capable of resolving their internal issues, there are many shared problems that can only be resolved through cooperation. Eliciting the political assistance necessary to effect local neighborhood improvements or protect our rights in Tallahassee and Washington requires the cooperative unity afforded by a strong neighborhood association. For decades, the Galt Mile Community Association has also been a platform for individual associations with similar needs and problems to take advantage of our collective experience by directly sharing information.
I believe that the key to our continued success will hinge on full participation. Every Association should have a reliable voice in the creation of policies that affect us all and a designee responsible for bringing critical data back to their membership.
We’ve never faced more extraordinary challenges. Although our legislators took their best shot at alleviating our insurance dilemma, it appears that their efforts will not prevent enormous hardship for thousands of our residents. Despite our internal security, neighborhood crime is taking an increasing toll on hapless victims - our friends and neighbors! Fortunately, close cooperation among our 26 member associations is producing effective responses to many of these issues. By inviting broader input, we hope to continue developing answers to upcoming challenges.
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