Rodstrom Answers !

     A first of it’s kind, interview by blog. 

     You’ve been waiting. The Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom interview follows.  

                              
                        A two-fer ! John and Charlotte Rodstrom


Tim,
Here are my responses and thank you for your patience as you know last week we had some issues at City Hall.


Question #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?


1.  Yes, Tim I have been working hard but that is why I was elected.
 I have had many successes and few failures, some of my proudest accomplishments are:
*  The acquisition of the SMRCA passive park, which I was able to obtain through the Land Preservation Bond Fund.
*  The Beach Master plan and Zoning in Progress (ZIP)
*  The new zoning category RS-8A which provides protection from   McMansions in existing neighborhoods
* Street enhancements for Progresso Village
* Birch Finger Street parking
*  Finalization of the Las Olas Gateway project.
*  I am also very proud of the relationship I have with our residents, police and code personal.  I have worked towards our goal for safer and better neighborhoods.
*  The preservation and relocation of the Stonewall Library to Art Serve.
Some on going items include: moving the historic Anne Beck House to Middle River Terrace Park in order to serve as a community and education center.  In addition I am seeking land acquisitions to the Middle River Terrace Park and Sistrunk passive park. The Flagler Greenway Project is moving forward, and we are in the process of obtaining A1A Scenic Hwy designation, as well in the planning stages for the re-development the Hall of Fame Recreation Complex, I will continue to work with neighborhoods to facilitate the under grounding of utilities for neighborhoods that desire this through special assessment, I am continuing the crime and code efforts as well as developing ways to provide economic development on 13th Street.


My disappointment was when the H.O.M.E. Inc. project was rejected by my colleagues.  This project would have served as the catalyst for redevelopment in Middle River Terrace and on 13th Street.
I will continue to press this issue because I am committed to projects like this which the community greatly needs.


Question #2
You are the newest member of the Commission, but after 2 years on the job, is it everything you thought it would be or not, what would you change?


2.  The job of serving as the District Two representative is everything and more I thought it would be.  I truly enjoy the work and the results I have achieved. The only thing I would change would be the speed and efficiency in which government operates.  Government works much slower and less efficient than I work. I am developing ways to achieve more timely results in the future.


Question #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?


3.  I have not heard any criticism, quite the contrary the residents seem to be very pleased with how things have worked out.  The correspondence I receive reflect that my residents feel they have a stronger voice on more levels.  In addition my husband’s colleagues on the County Commission have been very responsive to my district’s needs.  I have a great working relationship with county government and the county staff.  Having that connection has helped me to serve my constituents very well.


Question #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?


4.  No, I have always believed in quality not quantity when developing in the city I love.  The economy and the real estate market have fluctuated for years but once a building goes up it remains for a lifetime.    I served on the City Planning and Zoning Board for three years and I saw projects pass that should have never been approved. There is a need for re-development in parts of my district and other parts like the Barrier Island which needs to be protected.


Question #5
Would you comment on the performance of the City manger in your opinion?


5.  My comments are now part of the public record as it relates to the City Manager.  City Commission conference meeting June 3rd stated under commissioner reports. 


Question #6
Are you running for re-election?  If so, when do you expect to announce that?


6. Yes, I am running for re-election and I plan to announce before the end of the summer.  


Question #7
Will you be endorsing any mayoral candidates?


7.  It is too soon to tell but probably not since I will be running for re-election and I will be on the ballot at the same time, however I will reserve that right until filing. 


Question #8
Is there anything you would like to add?


8.  Yes, I have enjoyed working for District Two and I wish to continue, I only ask that residents continue to support my efforts.  Thank you again for your patience with my responses and for giving me the opportunity to do your BLOG interview, this was great.


Sincerely,
Charlotte



     OK Readers, hope you enjoyed Rodstrom’s interview! Who do you want next ?… Let me know …… Tim 



 

Big Name about to Jump in Mayoral Race?


     It’s been a long time since Fort Lauderdale had a Mayor other than Jim Naugle. A long, long time! 

      Naugle joined the City Commission in 1985 and was elected Mayor in 1991. He has served longer than any Mayor in the history of the City (six consecutive terms). Naugle is finally term-limited due to the term limit law that was proposed by me in 1997, (everybody say thank you Tim!) and passed into law by referendum of the Citizens. The term-limit law passed by about 80 %. 

     The election for the new Mayor is early next year, and has already drawn two big name candidates – Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson, and State Representative Jack Seiler. Also in the race is lesser known attorney Steve Rossi, and a handful of others have told friends that they are considering running.

     Now it looks like another big name is about to get in.


                                    
                        former City Commissioner Dean Trantalis

     Trantalis served only one term as Commissioner of District II and it looked like he’d had enough of Politics, but I had been hearing rumors. Rather than hunt Dean down by phone, I just walked into his Law Office on Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors a few days ago. I asked if Dean was in, and a voice rang out of his office …” Go Away”. He recognized my voice! And there was little chance of me going away! We talked for awhile and he told me he had been seriously exploring getting in the Mayor’s race. Dean’s official response to my question follows:

       “I have been speaking with numerous friends and advisors as to the purpose and viability of my running for a position on the City Commission. As the political landscape continues to evolve, and as we identify what goals this city has the power and opportunity to achieve, I am reviewing what role I might play in this process.” 

 

                                                                           DEAN


     Trantalis’s entry into the race would surely change the dynamics of the race. Some of his former supporters have already committed to either Huchinson or Seiler, and it’s not certain if they would jump ship and support Dean.

     Damn it’s a good year to be a Political Blogger!

Citizen Snubbing Update !

     The Citizen’s proposal is on life support.


                                                  

     Which is an improvement from last week!
 
     You will remember that the Citizens had banded together and worked on a proposal to make changes to the Development Code (all the rules for building anything in Fort Lauderdale), that would make the next bunch of homes and townhouses that get built fit better into the neighborhoods. The Committee was a broad spectrum of all the Citizens, about 100 of them. 

      
They met for over a year, and worked out a plan…… a great plan!

     The proposal wound it’s way to the City Commission for consideration.

     They liked it, sent it to staff.

     They hated it, stalled it, moved it around in circles.

     Another year later, it finally arrived back at the Commission, and the Commission was to pick a consultant to study it ( Caution: watching government work can be painful!).

     They didn’t pick the consultant. They squashed it without comment.

     The Citizens were about to revolt! And it’s an election year.

     At the next meeting, Commissioner Teel brought it back to the Commission for reconsideration.

     It got tabled until the next meeting! Are you dizzy yet? Maybe that’s the point!

     Stay Tuned ! (if you dare).

Will City Commission Snub Citizens Tuesday?

     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. 

Police Chief Replacement Happening Now!

     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!

UPDATE ……Power Struggles at the Police Department !

     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.

                                                          David Hebert
                                          

     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!


Commissioner Rodstrom Interview

     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                                                   

Tim Smith Served Subpoena !

     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

Fort Lauderdale City Budgets –

     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.

     



                                       

Charter Review Starts Reviewing !

     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.