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.
Long & Short: A1A & Beach Fix Plans
December 25, 2012 - On December 10, more than 300 local residents, their elected officials from the City, County and State, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) bureaucrats and representatives from environmental, business and civic organizations converged on the Beach Community Center. While the public officials were there to float long and short term A1A recovery proposals, residents who packed the SRO Monday night event were passionately preoccupied with the future of their beach. In FDOT's $3 million short term solution, after punching steel sheets 45 feet into the ground to isolate the 4 blocks of rebuilt roadway, the County will extend the adjacent beach by 20 to 40 feet with 50,000 cubic yards of sand. Longer term, FDOT envisions the temporary 2-lane A1A configuration abutted with a third “left turn” lane, bike lanes and a long-planned Greenway. After 47 years of frivolous renourishment delays, apprehensive residents were relieved by Eric Myers' confirmation that neither project will impact the December 2013 start date for the Segment II beach fix. Here's what happened...
Presidents Council: Sea Turtles & Sandy
December 17, 2012 - On December 3, 2012, the Galt Mile Community Association convened a 7:30 PM Presidents Council Meeting at Plaza East Condominium. After thanking Plaza East President Glenn Rollo for hosting the final meeting in 2012, Presidents Council Chair Pio Ieraci announced that the agenda was predominated by two issues that are critically important to Galt Mile residents and their associations. To address a growing community anger stemming from abusive and enigmatic Sea Turtle policies, an authoritative forum was configured to explain how these concerns will be resolved going forward. Since our future, both individually and as a community, is inextricably tied to the fate of our beach, we needed to know what remedies were being considered to restore Fort Lauderdale’s collapsed coast, 4 soggy blocks of A1A and our Galt Mile beach.
City and GMCA to Settle Turtle Woes
December 8, 2012 - On October 30, as Hurricane Sandy was stripping beaches along the eastern Seaboard, City Manager Lee Feldman convened a round table meeting to examine a State (FWC) Sea Turtle nest marking policy that has soured neighborhoods, blistered tourism and turned the City’s signature resource into a battlefield. Additionally, the City’s poorly drafted 2003 Turtle-Safe Lighting Ordinance that forces the entire beach area into darkness for 75% of the year was fatally crippling the beach neighborhood’s viability as an economic engine, endangering drivers and pedestrians along A1A and opening serious security and safety breaches in beachfront residential communities. If unable to stem the growing problems, officials would have to reshape the ordinance to promote Sea Turtle survival without crippling the City or sacrificing its residents. Weeks later, City Code Enforcement officials met with Galt Mile representatives to revive an enforcement formula that elicited compliance by balancing the needs of Sea Turtles with those of local residents and their associations.
LaMarca: Economy Needs Beach Fix
November 26, 2012 - Galt Mile residents have been living in Beach Renourishment hell for decades. In the 47 years since the Broward County Shore Protection Project was authorized by Section 301 of Public Law 89-298 (October 27, 1965), the initial $1,093,000 cost to rehabilitate the entire County coastline has exploded exponentially. If compared to the inflation-adjusted 1965 estimate of nearly $8 million, the current price tag of $90 million for Segments II and III suggests an $82 million “dawdling” penalty. In his November 2012 Newsletter, Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca outlines the undermining factors that have long plagued this project and explains how they have since been mollified. Mined from upland sources and trucked to staging sites in Pompano, LBTS, the Galt Mile and Fort Lauderdale, beach fill matched in size and color will fatten skeletal north county beaches while minimizing environmental, regulatory and political obstacles.
Roberts: Explorers, Pill Mills, St. Marking
November 19, 2012 - In his November 2012 message to constituents, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts snapshots municipal and district issues heading into the holiday season. As affirmed in the September budget hearings, he laments a negligible tax rate increase to service City debt and applauds a revival of the FLPD Explorer program, which prepares young prospective police officers for life on the force. He explains technological advances in the City’s street resurfacing capabilities and reviews an ordinance that will diminish the adverse impacts of abandoned homes. Roberts updates an in-progress Galt Mile experiment that may resolve a statewide controversy over abuse of the One-Call utility marking system. He also briefly mentions a recent skirmish between the State and a local pill mill. This minor disruption to clinic operations brings focus to the tediously slow process of shutting down an industry that plants 14 Floridians each and every day.
Nest Feathering 101: Lawyers vs. CAMs
November 11, 2012 - The Florida Supreme Court has delegated to The Florida Bar the duty to investigate and prosecute allegations of unauthorized practice of law (UPL). The Standing Committee on Unlicensed Practice of Law supervises circuit committees (which investigate UPL reports and submit findings to the statewide standing committee). A formal advisory opinion is then filed with the Florida Supreme Court. On March 28, 2012, then Chairman George Meyer of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar (RPPTL Section) sent a request to the Standing UPL Committee to determine whether certain activities constitute the unauthorized practice of law if performed by Community Association Managers. On September 21, 2012, the Committee determined whether the performance of 14 specific activities by a CAM manager constitutes UPL. Amid accusations of nest feathering and despite several badly skewed rulings, each violation is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to one thousand dollars. Since UPL is a criminal offense in the State of Florida, insurance or contractual indemnification provisions are often inapplicable - for managers AND/OR board members who play lawyer.
What's That Strange Taste?
November 2, 2012 - Last November, more than a dozen Galt Mile residents sent emails to the neighborhood association complaining about the odd taste of their tap water. Several of our neighbors surmised that vengeful kids, having been ejected from the beach on Halloween by the Galt Mile Security Patrol, somehow sabotaged their association's water. In fact, the City of Fort Lauderdale's Water Services temporarily altered the chemical purification process as part of a regular system maintenance program. On October 27, 2012, Galt Mile Community Association President Pio Ieraci sent a notice to member associations alerting them to a repeat performance of last year's purification effort. Entitled, "Free Chlorine" the City Newsletter message mirrored a notice posted on the City website exclaiming "Preventive Maintenance of Drinking Water System Set for October 30 to November 20, 2012". The text of the message is as follows:
A Constitutional Junkyard
October 23, 2012 - Of the five methodologies available to amend the Florida Constitution, citizen initiative petitions and legislative Joint Resolutions are the most common. This year, Republican legislators cobbled together several failed bills that withered under Committee Review or public scrutiny. Using partisan pressure to eke out the required two-thirds majority in both houses, they prepared 11 Joint Resolutions for ballot eligibility. Since the ballot process barely skirts the public radar, politicians can promote openly anathematic issues with little fear of political reprisal or constituent backlash. To inoculate their handiwork against the same fatal public scrutiny that buried the bills from which they were sourced, they were mixed in with a fistful of poorly timed tax exemptions and a few amendments so fatuous that Constitutional watchdogs on both sides of the aisle concede them as “filler”. To avoid the wallet pounding that could follow ticking off “yes” or “no” based on creatively spurious ballot titles, Read On...
Summer of Scam - 2012
October 12, 2012 - An eclectic group of sleaze bags logged in substantial overtime this summer. Each of the following scams either threatened or victimized Galt Milers during the stickiest June through August in years. Thousands of cash-strapped utility customers were stung by a low-tech nationwide fraud using a hook based on the weather, the political climate, Facebook and the “allure of the freebie”. Another scam targeted the men and women who manage our homes, threatening their license and livelihood. The last one, conceived by our clever Governor, will insure that the State of Florida maintains its squirrelly reputation as the nation’s mortgage fraud “Olympian” while the Venice of America perseveres as “Fraud Lauderdale.” Curious? Welcome to Florida's 2012 Summer of Scam!
Comcast on the Galt Mile - 2012 Edition
September 30, 2012 - About 20% of our Galt Mile Associations will negotiate bulk television contract renewals this year. Whether conducted by a committee, some board members or a building manager to whom this task was delegated, the Federal law that forced broadcasters to transition from analog to digital transmissions on June 12, 2009 will critically impact their efforts. Comcast’s competition remains paper thin, as alternative bulk television service providers DirecTV and Dish Network are still using a contractual format that requires executing an additional (second) agreement with one of several broadcaster-authorized local vendors to perform maintenance services. Unfortunately, these small companies commonly cycle in and out of business, often resurfacing as some virgin enterprise that carries no liability for agreements executed under their previous incarnation. Despite years of courting Galt Mile associations, AT&T's promise to challenge Comcast with its first viable competitor is currently limited to Uverse internet services in associations along Galt Ocean Drive. To see how a renewed 2012 Comcast contract may affect you, read on...
LaMarca: My Favorite Time of Year
September 20, 2012 - In his October 2012 newsletter, as Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca takes us on an autumn stroll through our strikingly opulent beaches and parks, he turns our attention to a local reflection of a national disgrace. It boggles the mind that one sixth of the families in the greatest country on the planet suffer from chronic hunger. When people all over the world close their eyes and dream of paradise, most of them envision South Florida. Of the nearly 49 million Americans (32.6 million adults and 16.2 million children) that struggle with hunger, 938,000 live within spitting distance. Since Galt Mile residents have participated in annual food drives for years, LaMarca’s newsletter should resonate here. Broward County’s 365 Food Drive, a perpetual food distribution collaboration with “Feeding South Florida”, collected more than 6,775 pounds of food since January. If you missed an opportunity to soften life for some Broward families by clearing your shelves this year, our voice on the County Board points out that it’s not too late.
Roberts: Next Door, Vision & Dispatch
September 6, 2012 - In his first message to constituents following the summer Commission hiatus, District 1 Commissioner Bruce Roberts serves up an eclectic buffet of events and initiatives. Along with a curiously sadistic methodology for encouraging the removal of illegal signs by torturing scofflaws with “robocalls” and a new venue for participating in the visioning process, he outlines an innovative Police Department tactic that utilizes Nuisance Abatement procedures to deter criminal activity. The Commissioner also describes a new technology installed along Broward thoroughfares that will expedite traffic information and a new high speed rail connection between Orlando and Miami. However... the Commissioner opens his newsletter with cryptic assurances that negotiations to implement an integrated Public Safety Dispatch System will not jeopardize our neighborhood, despite an impending litigation. If his presumption about your familiarity with “the ongoing dispute” is misplaced, here’s how a county-wide effort to comply with a decade-old voter mandate degenerated into the political equivalent of “Monday Night Slammo!”
Saving a Species: Lighting or Lawyers?
August 29, 2012 - At the May 17, 2012 GMCA Advisory Board meeting, among the issues that City Commissioner Bruce Roberts pledged to address over the summer was an inconsistent and imbalanced enforcement policy for beachfront turtle-safe lighting. At a subsequent Presidents Council meeting a few weeks later, City officials vowed to revive a previously successful compliance process that fell prey to late 2010 personnel changes in City government. When association officials were given the floor, it became evident that the enforcement issue veiled a Pandora’s Box of frustration and animosity that had grown exponentially over the sea turtle nesting season. A series of ill-conceived policies enacted by Fish and Wildlife in Tallahassee had systematically alienated beachfront homeowners whose cooperation is critical to the program's success. After mandating a tenfold expansion of the area surrounding each nest site and blocking the removal of rotting seaweed that admittedly generates toxic concentrations of bacteria and fungi, complaints that rolled in from coastal communities across the state finally snagged their attention. Read on....
GMCA, City & One-Call to Zap Graffiti
August 12, 2012 - For more than a decade, the Galt Mile Community Association (GMCA) fumbled enforcement of a City promise to maintain in a “Disney-like manner” the self-funded landscape and hardscape assets included in the 1993 Galt Mile Improvement Project. In late 2008, the GMCA Advisory Board unanimously appointed José “Chepo” Vega to perform an ongoing review of these features along Galt Ocean Drive and the surrounding area. Despite Chepo's mythic success in stabilizing erratic neighborhood maintenance via his dogged pursuit of City and County officials, Chepo was flummoxed by "Utility Graffiti", the markings used to locate underground utility elements in anticipation of nearby excavation. When the GMCA met with Sunshine State One-Call (the State-sponsored agency responsible for protecting the interred utilities) last year to develop a methodology to remove markings for completed projects, the process crashed and burned. On August 6, 2012, a second bite at the apple succeeded. If it works, it will become standard practice in neighborhoods throughout Florida. Here's the plan...
FEMA to Scrap Commission Rebates
July 26, 2012 - On April 4, 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the termination of a program enacted in 2006 that allowed agents writing national flood insurance policies to rebate a portion of their commission to cash-strapped customers. The competitive edge enabled mom and pop agencies to snag grateful clients from disgruntled industry giants. Voluntary commission rebates of up to 15% play a critical role in the fiscal survival strategy of thousands of Florida associations (some local beachfront associations saved between $2000 and $10,000 annually). Why did FEMA suddenly reverse a policy that helped consumers without costing the agency (or taxpayers) a dime? Fearful of alienating prospective employers when faced with “life after government service”, when politically powerful insurance juggernauts sent lobbyists to convince FEMA that competition is “un-American”, FEMA bureaucrats jumped on the bandwagon. If enough people sign an online petition sponsored by the Community Advocacy Network (CAN), we can quash this blatantly anti-consumer policy blister! Read On...
LaMarca: The Convention Center Cure
July 17, 2012 - Any roadmap for Broward’s economic recovery must include putting people back to work. In his July Newsletter, District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca reminds constituents of his campaign promise to expedite the County’s recovery from the effects of the collapsed housing market. After repeatedly piling pork into the annual County spending plan, tanking property values finally prompted long overdue fiscal restraint by the same County Commissioners who fleeced Broward taxpayers for decades. However, simply forcing the spending plan through an ever-tightening fiscal shredder won’t reverse the County’s fiscal dilemma. Until recycling the backlog of toxically submerged homes revives property values, the County’s skull-blocked economy can best be awakened by stoking its economic engines. Among the infrastructure build-outs on LaMarca's plate is a desperately needed convention center hotel. The County is annually losing tens of $millions in convention business to venues with dedicated lodging facilities. If done properly, it won't cost taxpayers a dime. While his plan isn't fancy, its got teeth.
Homestead Express - 2012
July 11, 2012 - 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 the March 1 "soft" deadline is long gone, you've two months to meet the September 18 "hard" deadline. If you miss that, no "Good Cause" sob story will help. Learn about the 2012 incarnation of the Homestead Express!
Comm. Roberts’ July 2012 Newsletter
July 3, 2012 - Record-worthy for its volume of content, Commissioner Bruce Roberts’ July 2012 Newsletter offers something for everyone. Roberts updates our search for a new City Attorney, warns about Hurricane preparedness, invites participation in the visioning process (including a series of District-specific Telephone Townhall Meetings respectively hosted by each District’s Commissioner) and posts a calendar of summer events. Our Commissioner outlines Broward’s participation in the DOE's competitive Sunshot Program (specifically - Go SOLAR! the Broward Rooftop Solar Challenge). He explains how we can best highlight local neighborhood events, save money with a free Prescription Discount Card, and read two ballot-ready City Charter Amendments. Two items warrant a closer look. The Galt Mile Sun Trolley's ridership uptick and City plans to criminalize designer drugs currently sold in retail shops all over town. These are not your Grandmother’s Bath Salts!
Presidents Council Season Finale
June 23, 2012 - Tackling an overstuffed agenda in the final Galt Mile Presidents Council meeting before the summer hiatus, officials from almost every Galt Mile association heard from a panoply of public officials and local bureaucrats. Along with updates by State and County representatives, reports from member associations about shared operational stumbling blocks and a spot review of the failed 2012 omnibus association bill, a delegation of municipal officials helped defuse community enmity over enigmatic threats mailed by the City to unit owners and their associations. After apologizing for the ill-conceived correspondences and discussing contradictions that belabor municipal policies for Utility Graffiti, open permits and turtle-safe lighting, officials from building services, code compliance and the City Manager’s office expressed their intention to cooperatively develop non-contentious resolutions with Commissioner Roberts and neighborhood association officials. Surprisingly, the process is already underway. In a July 24th forum being staged by Roberts, the first agenda item will be the recent explosion of Utility Graffiti. Curing open permits dating back to the Renaissance and a balanced turtle-safe lighting process will follow later this summer.
Red Light Cash Cameras - Round Two
June 10, 2012 - Despite the budgetary enticements of red light camera enforcement, the City of Fort Lauderdale postponed consideration of an automated citation system until two years ago for good reason. Before 2010, no Florida Statute provided for the prosecution of violations based on red light camera evidence. More importantly, the City Commission was leery of entanglement in a litigious constitutional controversy. Choking on a $31 million budget deficit, the City Commission opted to risk tap dancing across a legal mine field. Program vendor American Traffic Systems (ATS) promised that the program would deter traffic violations, free up police officers, and dump $millions into city coffers. After a year and a half of tolerating what Broward Mayor John Rodstrom described as "a total disaster," and that "anything that could go wrong went wrong," Fort Lauderdale is planning to quadruple the number of camera-baited intersections. By the way, one third of the 15 new cash-camera corners are within spitting distance of the Galt Ocean Mile.
Panhandling: A Line in the Sand
May 31, 2012 - Whether registered by people heading into work, students cutting through Stranahan Park to the Library or tourists returning to their hotels, the unprecedented number of panhandling complaints clogging City Hall finally reached a critical mass. When the cost of tolerance suddenly included sacrificing the neighborhood’s public park and rendered streets increasingly unsafe for families, disaffected residents ramped up pressure on City officials to “contain” the problem. With some 1,600 guests of the city fluffing the bushes each night before nodding off in public parks (incremental to the 7,000 squirreled away in shelters), the City Commission decided that a strategy to reclaim these resources for the general public should be integrated into the City’s Homeless policy. To buttonhole soliciting without triggering First Amendment land mines, retiring City Attorney Harry Stewart stitched together a Chinese menu of court-tested prohibitions that should bar the downtown business district to panhandling. City officials will either sustain the new policy or pull the plug based on how it impacts the City's image. Gee... what a surprise!
LaMarca: Seasonal Storms & New Blood
May 24, 2012 - In the June - July, 2012 edition of his constituent Newsletter, District 4 County Commissioner Chip LaMarca confines his focus to two issues - a new hire and the panoply of Hurricane resources available to Broward residents. Heeding LaMarca’s recommendation that disabled and elderly persons participate in the Broward County Vulnerable Resident Registry could save the lives of pro-active registrants. The Commissioner recently rebalanced his staff, installing John David Newstreet as his District Director. Since his responsibilities include interfacing with LaMarca’s County constituents, some background is in order. Read on...
Roberts: Atlantech, Mix it-Curb it, B-cycle
May 17, 2012 - District 1 Commissioner Bruce Roberts peppered his May 2012 newsletter with a blend of event alerts and interesting informational tidbits. The listed resources are both useful and easily accessed although some of the issues could benefit from context. For instance, the heartwarming morality play about the New Boston Atlantech Tower will leave his constituents (with the exception of those who participated in the agreement) scratching their heads. Other issues Roberts touches on are Homestead Exemption Fraud, Sea Turtle Nesting Season, accessing Fort Lauderdale's Customer Service Center, FPL’s On-line Calculator, the Great American Beach Party scheduled for Memorial Day, Gene’s Green Scene - City Forester Gene Dempsey’s new blog on the City’s website, the new "Mix It. Curb It." Single-Stream Recycling Cart Program that's is the works and information about B-cycle - a new European style bike-sharing system recently installed in 26 locations throughout Broward County - including 3 in the Galt Mile neighborhood. Check it out...
FDOT to Squelch Galt A1A Speedway
May 10, 2012 - On May 3, 2012, the City of Fort Lauderdale and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) convened a meeting at the Beach Community Center to inform neighborhood residents about a $2.1 million FDOT plan to rehabilitate State Road A1A (SR A1A) from Flamingo Avenue to Oakland Park Boulevard. Among the 35 “interested parties” who attended the 6 PM meeting were curious local residents, apprehensive neighborhood vendors and relieved association officials. After banging around on the back shelf since 2007 and 6 years of tweaking, the long-rumored project was reanimated and fitted with a May 7, 2012 start date. Hopefully the first of two stages anticipated to elevate the dilapidated, dreary, dangerous speedway filled with patched and unpatched potholes, extensive spiderweb cracks and catch-as-catch-can landscaping into a thoroughfare worthy of its recent designation as a "Scenic Highway", the plan is expected to yield a long sought after incremental benefit - especially for our neighbors in Coral Ridge Towers South and East. It should deter the weekly deployment of A1A as a drag strip!
Myers Breaks New Beach Plan
April 22, 2012 - It’s no revelation that our beach has been rapidly dwindling from the effects of tidal erosion. Given the shrinking beach’s critical importance to the neighborhood’s economy and its residents’ quality of life, Galt Milers and their associations have been passionately vested in its rescue for more than a decade. Annually since before the Millennium, Galt Mile residents had been repeatedly assured by Broward officials that their severely eroded beach would be renourished “next year”. Enthusiasm was slowly replaced by a numbing cynicism as frustrated residents increasingly reacted to empty county promises like rats on a shock plate. Having redesigned the Broward Beach Project with input from participating governmental agencies and every jurisdiction with standing, Myers plans to widen beaches in Pompano, the Galt Mile and Fort Lauderdale by placing 750,000 cubic yards of sand mined from an upland sand source along two separate portions of the Segment II shoreline. On April 2, 2012, Myers addressed the Galt Mile Presidents Council, detailing the revised project’s scope, sand source, cost and the Segment II timetable. Want in? Read on...
Critical Beach Meeting!
On May 2, 2012, Broward County Natural Resources Administrator Eric Myers is convening a 6 PM “Beach Nourishment Project Environmental Assessment Scoping Meeting” at the Beach Community Center. How the audience reacts to the presentation will determine whether or not our Galt Mile Beach is extended about 100 feet into the ocean or left to disappear completely. After more than a decade of fighting to repair our eroded beach, our time has come - the decision is in our hands. However, unless we show up in strength, outside political interests who oppose the project will insist that they are speaking on your behalf. Please be there - ITS YOUR BEACH!!! Click Here to learn about the beach plan. Click Here to learn about Scoping Meeting.
LaMarca: The Price of a Promise
April 12, 2012 - After decades of mutely watching legislators design election districts blemished by incumbent and party advantages, Florida voters in 2010 finally took back a process that lawmakers had long ago turned on its head. When the electorate approved Constitutional Amendments 5 and 6, lawmakers newly deprived of the right to rig elections began swapping constituencies, changing chambers or jumping the aisle to exploit any remaining legal election advantages. Galt Mile residents recently witnessed this new phenomenon in their own back yard. When retired Lieutenant Colonel Allen West abandoned a constituency that launched his Congressional career, his departure triggered a round of political musical chairs that ultimately forced Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca to decide between political ascendancy and keeping his promises. To his credit, he decided to stick around and fulfill pre- and post campaign commitments. LaMarca's message to constituents headlines an early April Newsletter that reviews the projects on his plate and snapshots clear evidence of the County’s economic headway. For details, read on...
Florida Fair Foreclosure Act D.O.A.
April 4, 2012 - Although Florida’s foreclosure filing spree has cooled, the knee-deep case load it created is choking Florida courts. The huge backlog of Florida foreclosures mired in judicial limbo clouds surrounding communities with eroding structures while banks are left holding portfolios filled with bad paper. Since major lenders like Citibank and Bank of America often lack legitimate documentation, they have little incentive to pursue a speedy judgment after they clear the mortgage from their books as a loss. As a result, foreclosures in Florida take almost two years (676 days) to perfect, more than twice the national average. By deterring Florida lenders from playing hide and seek with the presiding Judge, Naples Representative Kathleen C. Passidomo’s House Bill 213 might have prodded lenders into reviving stalled cases and lifted 368,000 Florida foreclosures out of hopelessly clogged dockets and back into the market. One of the association bills left at the alter as the session closed, you will probably see this bill reincarnated in about seven or eight months.
Roberts: Turtle Lights, Air Show, SusDev
March 23, 2012 - On March 13, 2012, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce G. Roberts was up for re-election. When GMCA Secretary Fern McBride returned from voting at the Galt Ocean Mile Library polling site shortly after Noon, she announced that only 34 people had cast votes all morning. The site's electoral output doubled at 2 PM, when some 40 attendees of a Book Review hosted by Library maven Herman Gardner opted to fulfill their civic duty while Gloria Kline interpreted Alice LaPlante’s “Turn of Mind”. Perceiving Roberts' victory as a forgone conclusion and the election as a formality, most Galt Mile residents realized that they forgot to vote while watching results on the evening news. After locking up another three well-deserved and hard-earned years of public service, Roberts rolled up his sleeves and cranked out his March, 2012 post-election update. Roberts kicks off his second term with comments about the planned turtle-safe lighting along A1A, the City's new Department of Sustainable Development, the Full Sails in Fort Lauderdale outdoor public art exhibit, the upcoming Air Show and some neat tricks on the City's redesigned Geographic Information System (GIS) website.
Lawmakers OK Construction Defects
March 13, 2012 - When the Lakeview Reserve Homeowners Association sued Pittsburgh-based Maronda Homes in 2007 for severely pitted streets and a defective drainage system, the trial court ruled against the homeowners. On October 29, 2010, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed the lower court, ruling that home buyers and homeowners’ associations are entitled to recover damages for Breach of Common Law Implied Warranties from the builder or developer who saddles them with substandard construction. Despite its pendency before the Supreme Court of Florida, the construction industry lobby called on Bradenton Senator Michael Bennett, an electrical contractor, and Miami Statehouse Representative Frank Artiles, a State of Florida licensed general contractor, real estate agent and public adjuster, to file legislation prohibiting common law implied warranties of fitness, merchantability and habitability from applying to residential construction, thereby engineering an end run around the Court. If House Bill 1013 is approved by Governor Scott, when buyers in new condos, co-ops and HOAs face defective construction, they are... well... screwed. Period.
Safe Harbor Scam
March 3, 2012 - After decades of mounting futile challenges to the lending industry’s air-tight control over Florida’s banking laws, association attorneys in the early nineties exploited a chaotic economic environment and created what’s known today as the lenders’ Safe Harbor provision. It refers to the miserable pittance due to associations when foreclosing lenders take title to a defaulted unit. Over the past decade, association attorneys have been pushing the legal envelope to thwart lender delays responsible for destroying hundreds of client associations. An eerie controversy unfolded recently when Representative George Moraitis decided to place a provision in his Omnibus Association Bill that will protect lenders from the devastating financial consequences of their delays. Certain association law firms supporting the bill have been trying to convince their client base that this will somehow speed things along. Evidentally, one firm is currently representing banks in actions against associations and the other has decided that verging on bankruptcy is preferable to irritating lenders.
Allen West: Final Galt Mile Message?
February 16, 2012 - Amid a whirlwind tour of town hall meetings, Congressman Allen West made a pit stop at the Beach Community Center from 5 to 7 pm on January 11th before heading to the Jupiter Community Center on January 13. Addressing a healthy local turnout of roughly 150 Galt Mile constituents; West blended patriotic dramaturgy with a dark picture of our future. After marching a perimeter around the Beach Community Center auditorium, a police honor guard preceded a strained rendition of America the Beautiful. A Powerpoint presentation used to rally the weekday dinnertime audience was punctuated by the theme from “Patton”. Since the event was hosted by the neighborhood association to broaden local access to the District 22 Congressman, GMCA President Pio Ieraci moderated an hour-long question and answer period. Rather than rehashing the evening’s animated discourse, West provided a policy brief for release to his Galt Mile constituents. It may be his last as our voice in congress. To survive the effects of redistricting, three weeks later he bailed out of the District 22 race in favor of the newly configured District 18. Adios Colonel!
LaMarca: Feb 2012 Galt Mile Update
February 9, 2012 - On February 6, 2012, Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca addressed the Galt Mile Community Association Presidents Council at the Fountainhead. LaMarca has kept his campaign promises. He saved the Galt Library. As the County Commission gadfly, he questioned irresponsible spending and exposed the pet projects of fellow commissioners on one of the most corrupt County boards in the State. After confirming that his priorities are still public safety and jobs, he brought focus to beach renourishment. Suddenly, all hell broke loose. Having experienced unprecedented levels of frustration, angry association leaders grilled the Broward Commissioner about why they were still waiting for the decade-old beach plan to be realized. Ironically, LaMarca is one of two Broward officials that revived the project after it was nearly buried by State and local bureaucrats. When the emotional tsunami abated, LaMarca ran down his recent efforts to forward the County agenda in Republican Tallahassee, a job for which he is drafted by his Democrat peers each January.
Roberts: Pension Reform & the Economy
January 28, 2012 - In his February 2012 newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts courageously flouted a long observed political taboo when he addressed municipal pension benefits. For politicians with a functional survival instinct, exploring the netherworld of public employee pensions is ordinarily a recipe for disaster. Nearby municipalities like Miami, Pembroke Pines, St. Petersburg and Hollywood, where employee retirement plans account for more than half of the total payroll, are struggling to avoid the pension-driven fiscal black hole that sucked the life out of Vallejo, California in 2008, Prichard, Alabama in 2009 and Central Falls, Rhode Island last month. A few years ago, Fort Lauderdale began taking steps to rein in the growth of annual pension obligations that skyrocketed from $10.6 million a decade ago to $52.2 million last year. Roberts also celebrates the city's economic turnaround as substantiated by the latest data from Realtor.Com and the Global Business Travel Association.
Citizens to Dump Beachfront Assns
January 20, 2012 - In December, Florida Insurance Agents launched a campaign to inform some beachfront condo and cooperative clients that their rates are about to explode (quadruple). The Agents were compelled to warn their customers about the unavoidable impact of an item on the December 14, 2011 meeting agenda of the Citizens board. It addressed capping coverage at $1 million for buildings where more than 25 percent of units are rentals. Currently little more than an informal guideline that has been arbitrarily applied for the past few months, its official enactment would force a difficult choice on beachfront associations peppered with short-term rentals. They can harden their building shells and pray that it passes muster with some sympathetic admitted carrier, retool their Governing documents to limit rentals or get mugged in the seedy world of surplus lines. However, since the disastrous plan is actively supported by our Governor, there’s still a good chance that it will implode.
Dammit... Where’s the Water?
January 7, 2012 - By 8 PM on Christmas Eve, board members in Galt Mile associations began fielding complaints from neighbors asking why their water was off. Along with the understandable blend of panic and anger were recriminations by the usual suspects - every building’s small but vocal group of goofballs who blamed their downstairs neighbor, the building manager, global warming, NAFTA or the United Nations. Since the City switchboard was seemingly on a prolonged lunch break, local residents without water spent Christmas Eve in the dark about their predicament. While City Manager Lee Feldman plans to cure the worrisome communications lapse, the City recommends that residents take advantage of a service that reliably provides emergency notifications. Also, if your curiosity was piqued by the City's near-magical two-hour recovery from a 42-inch water main rupture, read on...
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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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