The Citizens are furious.
It was quite a rare effort that included nearly 100 of Fort Lauderdale’s leading Citizens. They had come together to propose changes to the City’s Development Code. The Code is the set of rules that decides everything about buildings. How big can they be. How much set-back must they have. Even how many and how big the shade trees must be.
They were fed up watching townhouse after townhouse built with sheer three story walls towering over the little house next door, with only 10 foot between them. They wanted the Code to allow neighborhood friendly- front porches built further into the front yard. They were aghast at new townhouse strips that had a row of garage doors, little grass and puny trees. They got together, worked for months, and crafted a proposal.
There were anti-development activists as well as developers. There were the new “Green” architects and the established well known architects. Add in neighborhood Presidents, a smattering of lawyers, some Commission candidates, and you have a brew that you’d expect the City Commission would pay heed to.
So far you’d be wrong.
The irony is that the two Commissioners that have been branded as development fans are the only two that have gone along with the Citizens’ plan to restrict the Code. They are Commissioners Carlton Moore and Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson.
The other three, Naugle, Rodstrom, and Teel, who have consistently rattled their sabers and declared that they would change the Code to be more neighborhood friendly, have stopped the effort in it’s tracks.
This Tuesday, Commissioner Teel has agreed to revisit the issue, and the Citizens are watching closely. Teel might switch over and side with Moore and Hutchinson, and the effort will move forward again.
The redevelopment of the neighborhoods has stalled this year due to an ailing housing market, and little damage is currently being done, but things won’t stay down long.
And this being an election year, many hope that might be enough to encourage at least three of them to do the right thing.
The City is leaking. Leaking information that is.
The story, from four reliable sources, has Assistant Chief Frank Adderley taking over as Chief of Police at 4 p.m. today. Though no official notification has been offered, a press conference is rumored to be taking place this afternoon when the promotion will be announced.
Assistant Chief – (soon to be Chief) Adderley protecting his soon to be boss
Apparently, the deal involves Chief Roberts, who quit with protest yesterday, leaving the building today, not to return. No information about contract buy-outs could be obtained yet.
The speed in which the turn around is happening shows that the Administration understands the gravity of the Chief’s move yesterday, and they want to put it behind them as soon as possible.
I’ll have more for you later!
When I posted the following piece this morning about the Police Chief and the internal power struggles that were happening in the Police Department, and rumors that the Chief might not last long, I had no idea that he would resign just hours later!
Chief Roberts and his replacement ?
To read the Chief’s resignation letter, check out Brittany Wallman’s (Sun-Sentinel) blog post at http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/broward/blog/2008/05/lauderdale_police_chief_slaps.html
If you didn’t catch my post this morning, I’m including it again here…..
The Fort Lauderdale Police Union and the City’s Management and Commission reached agreement yesterday on a contract, but just barely. All the Police Officers except one refused to vote to protest what they consider to be unfair and incompetent management.
The blood has been boiling for months, tension is high, and many neighborhoods have seen abrupt increases in their crime levels.
Behind the scenes, all this turmoil has sprouted an internal fight for control.
George Gretsas, the City Manager has ultimate control, but those just under him have been jockeying for position:
The Chief of Police
Chief Bruce Roberts started as a Patrolman 35 years ago and has served as Chief for about 6 years. He has been in the unenviable position of instituting the will of the City Manager and keeping the respect of his troops. That has put him (at times), at odds with both.
The Assistant Chief of Police
Assistant Police Chief Robert “Bobby” Carter is an up and comer.It is widely believed that he is high up in the running should the Police Chief not opt for a new contract himself in November, or even leave earlier. Many of the Police Officers feel that Carter has taken the side of the City Manager over them.
Assistant City Manager David Hebert was personally selected by City Manger Gretsas as his man in the Police Department. The rank and file have never been happy with that position. Hebert is considered by many in the Department as the main source of their unease. They point to Hebert’s lack of Police experience and believe he was put there to see that Gretsas’s edicts were being carried out.
Now that the Police contract dispute is over, many expect changes at the Department. Stay tuned!
Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom has agreed to an interview.
And I suspect this will be a first for Fort Lauderdale. An interview by blog!
Commissioner Rodstrom talking to neighborhoods
I am sending Commissioner Rodstrom the following questions by way of this blog post. She has agreed to send me her answers, and I will share them with you when she does.
If you think I missed an important question, add it as a comment, or send it to me privately at Tim@TimSmith.com. The Interview follows:
1.) So Commissioner, you have really been working hard for your District. You have had some successes, and some failures. What are you the proudest of accomplishing so far, and what disappoints you the most?
2.) You are the newest member of the Commission, but after 2 years on the job, is it everything you thought it would be? If not, what would you change?
3.) There has been criticism that you and your husband John should not both be in elected positions at the same time. Do you think that criticism is valid?
4.) During your campaign, you were quite critical of the development community. Now that our economy has slowed and Real Estate values have plummeted, has your opinion on development changed?
5.) Would you comment on the performance of the City Manager in your opinion?
6.) Are you running for re-election? If so, when do you expect to announce that?
7.) Will you be endorsing any mayoral candidate?
8.) Is there anything you’d like to add?
thanks, our readers anxiously await your responses ! thanks, Tim Smith
A Detective for the Broward County State’s Attorney office came knocking this morning. He handed me a mandatory subpoena to testify as a witness next week.
My testimony is required in the investigation into Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson’s purported illegal use of public funds for her Campaign for Mayor. According to the State Attorney’s office, an investigation has officially started.
Here is a copy of the subpoena!
The Detective/Investigator had called me first to ask me where I could be found, so he could serve me with a subpoena. Not knowing what the subpoena was all about, and as is human nature, I first thought I telling him I was in Timbuktu, and maybe he should call again in the Spring!
But my curiousity got the best of me and I asked: “what’s the case?” When he told me it was the Commissioner Hutchinson postage matter, I was surprised. You see, I think the damage to Hutchinson and her political future is already done, and this can’t do much more than rub salt in that wound.
But that’s just my opinion….
To read my earlier posts on the matter, click here : http://blog.timsmith.com/2008/04/03/postage-gate-update.aspx
We Provide….You Decide !
The following graph shows the Citys’ “All Funds” Budgets from 1998/99 through 2007/2008.
The Citys’ budget must always be balanced. Whatever they take in, they must either spend or save in a rainy day fund.
Starting in 2003, revenues skyrocketed mostly due to the increased value of real estate in the City. The charges for services (water, garbage etc.) also escalated during those years.
The tax rate has always stayed nearly the same, about $5 dollars for every $1000 of your property’s value, but as your home and the commercial properties increased in value, the tax bills took off with them !
As the City took in more and more money, they found ways to spend it. The biggest increases were for salaries, fringe benefits, and pensions, which went up 24 % – from 24 million to 30 million – in one year.
Another big expense was for equipment (trucks, machines, upgrading water plants and the like). One year saw an astonishing 76% increase in equipment purchases.
Also, insurance costs rose 11% in one year and overtime expenses rose 12% in one year.
But this year will be different! With property values plumetting, and the State Legislature cutting, city governments will feel the pain. The days of Gravy Train budgets are over, at least for now.
The Fort Lauderdale Charter Review Board, charged with looking over the rules that govern the City, began a review tonight that has been stalled for months. After a number of false starts, things actually began to crawl forward this evening.
Part of the hold-up has been the powerful and opinionated membership that makes up the committee. Tonight, they were all on their best behavior. Dan Lewis, who has experience on the County’s Charter Review Board as well as the City Board, let other members take the lead. And Judy Stern, who is known as the most brazen of Broward’s political campaign consultants, kept her jabs at Lewis, her perennial foe, at a minimum.
Much of the credit for the forward momentum seemed to belong to the new Chair, Greg Durden. He kept things civil, and seemed adept at his new post as referee.
The Reviewing Panel Actually Reviewing
Despite the progress, the results were not very impressive.
There were three items on the agenda to review, and one got passed on to the Commission (and hopefully to the voters). It was also the easiest; a citywide referendum to allow the Commission’s Auditor and the City Clerk to hire and fire their own employees, without City Manager involvement. This will make those Departments completely independent of the City Manager, and therefore loyal to the elected officials.
The other two items that were deferred to future meetings were whether to change the City Elections to November (to coincide with Presidential Elections), and whether to allow resigning Commissioners to have a say in their replacements.
The public was invited to comment, and the harshest comments came from Art Seitz, a well known beach activist, known for his rather outspoken style. His comments ranged from “Let’s not have anymore morons like Keno”, to “don’t let these bums hang around for eight years”.
The panel adjourned after about an hour and twenty minutes and agreed to meet again soon.
Police Chief Bruce Roberts canceled an appearance at a question and answer session scheduled for the Fort Lauderdale Council of Civic Associations on Tuesday.
The appearance by the Chief had been on the books for months, and comes after the Council voted last month to make Public Safety the groups’ first concern. A notification was sent out by the Council today. It follows:
Subject” URGENT NOTICE !!!!
May 13, 2008 Meeting Change
Chief Roberts called today an advised that he will not be attending the meeting on Tuesday to answer the questions provided by the Council. He advised that the contract negotiations were in a sensitive final stage and as such felt that it would be more appropriate to respond to our questions at the June meeting. This delay allows each party adequate time to consider the offer and come to a mutual conclusion. He apologized for the lateness of the notice but provided it as the discussions reached this stage.
Because we have not provided for an alternate speaker, I would appreciate any help you might have in filling this void.
Industry insiders admit that the long tortured contract negotiations between the Fraternal Order Of Police and the City might be nearing a deal. The City offered their last best offer in negotiations last Tuesday. The Union head, Jack Lokeinsky, is expected to take the contract offer to his members for a vote in the coming weeks.
The City’s offer will bring the Department back nearer the top of pay scales compared to other Broward County Police Departments. The Fort Lauderdale Police had dropped to the bottom of those scales in the last few years and morale has suffered.
The speech cancellation also furthers speculation about the Chief’s future with the Department. High ranking officials in the Department tell me privately that the Chief’s failure to deliver the City a contract approved by his Officers might be the fatal blow that ends the Chief’s contract with the City and a long, distinguished career with the FLPD. The Chief’s contract is up for renewal in November.
It also renews rumors that Roberts might be considering a new career – politics. Some talk about the irony that Roberts might just be canned by City Manager George Gretsas, only to have Roberts then run for the City Commission and become one of Gretsas’s new bosses! Roberts lives in District I, currently represented by Commissioner Christine Teel.
CAUTION: You are about to enter an Obama Zone
If you think Barack Obama is a Muslim, or if you think he is a terrorist masquerading as a Presidential candidate, or if you think he is a black radical, or if you just don’t plain like him, you may want to pass on this post.
You see, I am supporting Obama, and when it was looking bad last week, and some were saying that Obama might even lose North Carolina, I got busy. I have a reputation of pushing people to get involved when they don’t like what’s going on, and I had to pony up!
Off I went to North Carolina.
I was about there, thinking about the race, and there, right in front of me, was a sign!
I started to feel better!
I pulled into Charlotte, and it’s a big city. I didn’t have any idea where Elizabeth Avenue was (Obama Headquarters), so I asked a guy next to me in traffic; “Hey Bud, do you know where Elizabeth Avenue is?” And get this …. he says “are you going to the Obama Headquarters?” “Follow me”. I was certain it was divine intervention.
I signed up to volunteer!
Before you can say “Jack Robinson” (whatever that means), I was knocking on doors.
And at the end of a long day of walking, talking, running from dogs, extinguishing rumors, etc., I was bushed. But then we heard that Michelle Obama was speaking at the Auditorium downtown, and I had heard that she was a really dynamic speaker, so I thought I’d see for myself.
As luck would have it, they needed more white people to sit on the stage behind Michelle Obama (don’t want to feed into those black radical rumors!), and I was pulled out of line and sent to the stage. I hurriedly combed my hair and tucked in the tee-shirt – and I was ready!
She was good. She spoke for about 40 minutes, no notes, lots of passion. The crowd was big and excited. I managed not to shuffle around in my seat too much, but I was sure we all had those stupid “yes I’m sitting behind the candidate and looking like a doofus” look on our faces.
When she finished, she came by for a chat!
The next day was more of the same – walking, talking, hanging doorknob political pieces and the like.
But the mood on the street was good. I smelled victory. And by 7:30 that evening, a sweet victory it was!
Jim Lewis wants to replace term-limited Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner and Mayoral Candidate Cindi Hutchinson as the Commissioner for District 4.
Lewis is the third candidate that has thrown his hat into the ring for District 4. The others are local attorneys Coleman Prewitt and Romney Rogers.
Jim sent us his Press Release about his entry into the race, and we sent him back some questions…. The exchange follows:
Tim – So Jim, that’s a pretty impressive Press Release, sounds like you’ve been giving the issues alot of thought. When and why did you decide to run?
Lewis – I decided to run about a month ago. I’m running because I’m concerned about the direction that Fort Lauderdale is going in. We must act swiftly, to maintain the quality of life of our residents.
Tim – By the sound of your Press Release, you think the city has been pretty mismanaged as of late. do you place the blame for that on anyone in particular? … the current Commission?….the Mayor?…. the City Manager?…. lack of teamwork?…vision?…leadership void?…what?
Lewis – I’m not interested in placing blame on anyone for past mismanagement of the city. I do sense there is a lack of teamwork hampering City Hall’s ability to provide quality services in an efficient manner.
Tim – You handled some pretty famous cases in your law career, including Lionel Tate. Do you think some will hold that against you? What do you say to them?
Lewis – My law career spans 27 years both as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. Nobody likes a criminal defense attorney until it’s you or your children that are in trouble. I believe my experience with the criminal justice system will be an asset in improving Public Safety. In order to avoid any appearance of conflict, I will not accept any cases involving the Fort Lauderdale Police .
Tim – You say you are against any more hi-density development. Is the Downtown done in your opinion? Would you change zoning rules to stop more hi-density development on the beach and downtown?
Lewis – I’m against anymore hi-density or hi-rise development on the beach. Downtown is close to maximum redevelopment, but luxury residential hi-rises between Broward Blvd. and Sunrise Blvd. can strengthen our tax base downtown and not overly stress our services.
Tim – I like your approach to the campaign – a $10,000 self-imposed limit, no contributions from the development community. You do realize that means you will basically have to finance the run mostly by yourself ?
Lewis – I’m prepared to finance my own campaign myself, because I’m not going to allow anyone to even think they can influence my vote because they gave me money. Elections should not be bought and personal wealth ought not to be a prerequisite for public office. Ten thousand dollars is plenty of money to get my message to the residents of District 4.
Tim – your current competition….an openly gay lawyer, an openly religious lawyer, and you…where do you fit in there?
Lewis – I’m the country lawyer form the City of Fort Lauderdale. My only agenda is to insure a high quality of life for ourselves and for our children. I promise not to use this office to press any moralistic agenda. I believe in hard work, and honesty above all else.