Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Home values in Cooper City, among other things...

According to the latest Zillow Real Estate Market Reports, home values in Cooper City decreased -20.60% in the third quarter of 2008, compared to the third quarter of 2007. Nationally, home values decreased -9.7% during this same period. U.S. home values continued to slide for the seventh consecutive quarter, declining 9.7 percent from a year ago, and falling 12.8 percent since the market peak in 2006.

This is also the first quarter that a significant number of markets show flat or negative five-year annualized change. Additionally, one-third of homes sold in the past 12 months sold for a loss, and 14.3 percent of all homeowners have negative equity.

This report highlights that the current national crisis is affecting our Cooper City residents regarding their home values more than it is affecting the nation as a whole.

As such, I believe that it is incumbent upon my fellow commissioners and city staff to economize to the maximum extent that is prudent, not to stick to a budget that increases the cities expenditures by 18.5%, including numerous "nice to do" and pork barrel projects. Things like a 150% increase in the item for the city's anniversary seem beyond the pale in spending for items that have no true need for such an increase and are largely for show and tell. This is a small item, but it is symptomatic and a mere example of a budget that contains a lot of "wish list" items that included $250K for a records building, $900K for subsidies for water conservation, a code re-write to the tune of $300K to $500K by the time its all said and done.

This is not the year to indulge desires and personal agenda's, but rather the real needs of the city. It is also becoming clear that there is also more bad news on the way for the city and its residents...

1. The large losses in the city's pension funds will have to be made up, largely from the tax payers and those using city services, along with our reserves. So far, the new commission has done nothing to even recognize and face the problem, let alone to develop a short and long term plan to resolve the apparent problem. Pensions and benefit solutions are not easy, but ignoring it simply makes it worse. The commission recently appointed a few so called 'experts' to the Pension Fund Board. Where are they and what are their specific plans of action? Nary a word has come from the Pension Board.

2. The "recovery" and build-out of Monterra will be further delayed. Even when it begins to build out again, those 1,700 new residences will be a drag on the value of all other existing residences in Cooper City. This means either a further decline in existing home values, or a much longer time for existing homeowners to recover some of the declines they have experienced. That is, those 1,700 new homes will not help the average existing resident at all for many years to come. Quite the opposite...

Regarding the future homeowners in Monterra, the special development district has been increasing their borrowing that is to be repaid, not by the developers, but by the future homeowners. As the build-out is extended the interest charges climb, accrue and the future burdens (special annual assessments) get to be bigger and bigger. This will increase the overage cost of home ownership in Cooper City and decrease the economic attractiveness of our community. One can believe that those new homeowners will look to the city to provide funds to help mitigate their burden in one form or another---that is the other 10,000 owners of existing residences.

The state Governor, legislature and the people have voted to reduce the burden of local and state taxes and fees on all Floridians and the residents of Cooper City. They rather obviously want the governments to spend less money in total, be more efficient, and cut out the waste and pork barrel largess going to special interests and their lobbyists.

The response of many governments has been, on the contrary, to hike fees and other assessments. This has happened in Cooper City. Some of our elected officials and staff just do not seem to want to do what the people, on the whole, want them to do. Therefore, we have the 18.5% increases in the city budget at a time where doing so is simply unconscionable.

It is past time for the commission to start going over the 2009, budget part-by-part, line-by-line, with an approach that says: If you cannot justify your request with an objective benefit to cost evaluation, then the item will be held to an amount for 2009 that is 1% les than the rate of inflation. I will expect the city staff to obtain 1% efficiency improvements as being well within the abilities of competent professionals.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cooper City Economics

I continue to be struck by the relevance of Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson even though it was published over sixty years ago. Hazlitt pulls no punches from the outset, reminding us that "Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man." As we have seen, the human costs of these fallacies are massive. The 'Lesson' Mr. Hazlitt teaches continues to be timeless. If we are going to evaluate policies, whether they are policies enacted by governments, corporations, institutions, or individuals, then we have to look at how those policies affect everyone, not just favored constituencies or select, special interest groups.

The recent severe financial crisis and resulting worldwide economic recession that has been forecasted for years is finally unleashing it fury upon us. State tax collections are at their weakest level in years and one key revenue source, sales taxes, are showing no growth in the first three quarters of 2008. Continued slowing in the economy, especially as of late, means further declines in tax incomes can be expected. The result is that our city leaders who have just completed action on 2008-09 fiscal plans are likely to face the need to make budget cuts and major adjustments in the short months ahead.

States and local governments have been squeezed from several sides in recent years. Fiscal savings from falling welfare caseloads are much smaller now, so there’s less money for states and municipalities to shift over to services. Federal grants have been falling, and non-health, welfare and safety services will be further strained by the recent growth in those non-essential expenditures. Recent weaknesses in state and local tax revenues are definitely creating new pressures to cut spending right here in our city.

Public and publicly induced private investments have provided fuel for neighborhood-level development, enabling community-based activity to go to scale. Flexible federal and local dollars, generally in the form of tax credits and block grants, together with federal regulations prodding banks to lend, have previously contributed to a significant flow of capital available for community development, but no longer.

We will have to soon deal with hard truths and tough choices if we are to responsibly deal with local reforms. Nationwide, there are over 18 million state and local public employees, making up 14 percent of the nation's total work force. These employees do much of the real world of domestic governance. We literally could not live without them, yet that 14 percent of our national workforce are actually dependent on your hard earned tax dollars. They provide our water, collect our trash, vaccinate our children, police our communities, and administer traffic safety, airports, and the systems we need to communicate with each other.

They do much of the teaching, training, and counseling in our public schools, universities, and community colleges to prepare our children for fulfilling careers. They are responsible for environmental clean-up and protection programs. They design and carry out programs to lift our most needy out of poverty and into jobs and housing. They operate the hospitals that are the last hope of the uninsured. They staff most of our prisons, as well as our court system.

Not a day passes during which their work does not touch and shape our every day lives. Yet, there is a growing consensus among both citizens and public officials that state and local institutions of government need to drastically improve their efficiency, reduce their capacity and improve performance if we are to meet the challenges of our rapidly changing economic and social systems.

Any new cuts in social services or assistance will be imposed on spending levels already below where they were several years ago. Several shifts in recent years in the relationships between fiscal capacity and city expenditures for unnecessary ‘feel good’ programs have hampered our ability to provide for necessary services without raising taxes or going into debt. This year’s deficit is $1.6 Million dollars of your hard earned wages and income, yet I still espouse that we should have begun this new fiscal year with a zero-based budget, as I always have.

Making the tax system in our city more responsive to economic growth is a high priority for us all. It is good policy to have a relatively balanced system with significant reliance on a variety of taxes and methods of taxation for several reasons. Six of the most important tax revenue schemes that Cooper City is likely to focus on in the near future are: 1) making our tax system more responsive to the immediate lack of local economic growth; 2) broadening our options in relation to local tax bases; 3) making the local tax system more balanced between residents and businesses; 4) paying more attention to how our local tax burdens are distributed; 5) giving local government departments more revenue options, and; 6) employing additional user fees and charges in appropriate contexts when dealing with local government ‘non-essential’ services.

The dilemma facing Ben Bernanke and his Federal Reserve Board, as well as the other central banks (beginning with the European Central Bank), is not at all comfortable. For years they have shirked their fiduciary responsibility, and now they find themselves in a blind alley that will definitely affect each and every one of us. They can either allow the recessionary process to begin now, and with it the healthy and painful readjustment or they can procrastinate with a "hair of the dog" cure. With the latter, the chances of even more severe ‘stagflation’ in the not-too-distant future will increase exponentially.

As someone recently stated on a financial blog, “Even as government races to fix the financial crisis, it still makes time for the more mundane tasks that serve its constituents. To that end, my township trustees recently approved October 31 as Beggar's Night. So while I struggle to explain the credit crunch to my children, I can send them off to dream of costumes and candy, all thanks to government.”

Now is the time for courageous leadership, not politics as usual. Now is the time for empowered public servants, an engaged citizenry, and new ideas. I believe that the path to a high performance government based on the trust and lead strategy is clear: Give the city leaders the authority to act and keep petty politics out of the issues we now must be forced to face. We must engage citizens in the business of government without personal agendas, while at the same time encouraging them to be partners in the problem-solving process, not ignoring them or allowing them to become victims of government. This can be accomplished by removing the barriers to a stronger leadership from the Commission, a lean, responsive government, a high performance work force, and also removing the barriers to fiscal responsibility, along with the uncertainties, and a previously mentioned responsive citizenry.

I believe that all of us in Cooper City can benefit from a close look at how we frustrate high performance. We will soon find that ‘piecemeal change’ will not produce the brand of reform that is now necessary to get us back on a solid financial track. Too many governments, especially ours, have scattered authority among too many other non-local officials, boards, and authorities. The city council needs to set broad policy in concert with department officers and then put that policy to work. That means avoiding the tendency on the part of staff to parcel out executive-level proposals to a patchwork of committees and various special interests and consultants. You can delegate the decision, but you certainly can’t delegate the responsibility.

I echo and reinforce what many residents have been saying for some time now: To affect real reform, the structures and systems that underpin our local city government must adapt. Internal bureaucracies need to be de-layered so that the front line is in touch with upper-level management. Personnel, procurement, and budget systems need to be amended so that those tasks are not filtered through myriad layers of management or subverted by reams of rules.

The role of our public employees in pursuing future commission policy cannot be overstated. They need to be both encouraged and challenged. Those employees who no longer care about challenging their daily work or accomplishing something worthwhile should (and will be forced to) leave; those who still want to make a difference must develop and broaden their skills. Far too many of our front-line employees have spent their entire proud careers learning narrow specialties that no longer serve the public well.

Far too many managers are still stuck in the micromanagement mindset that substitutes for the mentoring, coaching, and team-building that our front-line employees need. Given a chance to participate, those front-line employees have to be ready to take up the challenge, wear many hats, and share their ideas. In turn, their managers need to listen to them and to trust them to accomplish agreed-upon goals in the way they think best, and to lead them by coaching and championing, not by politics of dictation and discipline.

Ours is a frank and urgent call for change in the nature of these relationships. How they evolve in the months and years to come will offer Cooper City a choice between two quite different futures. The first is mired in the hidebound, outmoded ways of doing business that too often get encrusted in our governmental institutions. The second emphasizes leadership and trust on a basis that I believe is fully appropriate to a strong constitutional republic and a trustworthy local government.

Achieving a higher performance level will not be easy. Comprehensive reform never is. The temptation will always be toward tinkering with the process, making safe and small-scale adjustments, escalating turf protection and continuing with politics as usual. After all, some on the commission have been recently asking for all of the stakeholders in local public service to give up something, and to take on more responsibility in return. Yet, I firmly believe that whatever any one group gives up, it will receive much more in return. I also believe that if all the various interest groups view this mindset in terms of one broad quid pro quo, positive momentum for comprehensive action will be automatically created.

If we don’t act now, the result from a stand-firm approach that allows elected officials, public servants, and some ill-informed citizens to hide from the kinds of tough choices that would infuse new energy and purpose into public service, would force nonresponsive bureaucracies into the forefront of “no apparent change”. I have a deep disappointment in the way that the city commission and city staff have handled themselves in regards to the budget, both past and present. I just want to make it very, very clear that I see myself as a minority on the dais who will continue to be increasingly responsible to our residents and business owners regarding the way we spend their hard earned money.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Dangers of Going Green...In Cooper City

Cooper City has a new 'Green Advisory Board'. It's purpose, among others, is to provide recommendations for improving cost saving measures and energy efficiency for city owned facilities. The Board's duties also incude research and recommending the implementation of rules and regulations regarding the subject-matter, if and when required.

Green building is a growing trend across the country. Eco-friendly homes are being built with recycled wood, solar panels and energy efficient appliances -- but what is healthy for the environment could hide a growing problem in its walls.

Amanda Keating is glowing about her new green home. "I’m really proud to live here, and I like to show off." But before you build green, you need to know that if you don’t build these eco-friendly homes right -- you could be facing a costly problem.

"You can very quickly get into mold, rot and corrosion kinds of problems," said Roger Morse, a green home consultant with Morse Zehnter Associates in Troy, N.Y.

Morse says knowing where and how to go green is important. "Materials that are recycled, which take in water much easier than natural materials, end up in a place where they absorb water," he said. Industrial hygienists who often solve mold problems say the materials most at risk for mold include recycled wood, oriented strand board and paper. The more recycled it is, the more risk of being damaged by water.

Keating’s home is mold free -- since she used protected recycled wood for walls. She also used 40 percent more insulation than code, which cost about $5 thousand extra. Keating says her choice is paying off. "I was pleasantly surprised by how much the house was appraised for," Keating said. Building green increased the value of her home by 10 to 15 percent.

Mold, Rot and Corrosion can be increased drastically by recycled materials as they take in water more easily than natural materials. Mold's good side is that Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by accident in London in 1928 when he left plates of bacteria cultures unwashed in his lab for several weeks. When he returned, he found that mold had grown on one of the plates, and the bacteria were not growing around it.

Difficult solutions exist yet recycling is an excellent concept, but we often waste more precious and costly energy reprocessing our recyclables than we gain, creating more greenhouse gasses and defeating the purpose of 'going green'.

Furthermore, to date, no one has found a cost-effective means of recycling used food containers into new food containers. More efficient processes will bring us closer to the goal of not wasting our resources.

Although there is a demand for recycled bottle-grade plastic, the high cost of cleaning post-consumer beverage bottles, strict FDA requirements, and outmoded technology have favored the use of virgin plastic instead of recycled in the manufacturing of beverage bottles. Instead, most beverage bottles collected for recycling are reprocessed into non-food products such as fiber and strapping.

We must also consider and address the exceptionally high Mercury content of those cost effective flourescent light bulbs. Now, if only they made one that works on a standard dimmer switch...

Learn more about the dangers of 'going green HERE and HERE.
www.ivanhoe.com/science Used with permission

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cooper City FY '09 Budget Synopsis

While we all are a bit down on free markets this week, and as we hear local governments complain about tight budgets, the case for lower taxes and limits on new government programs still makes sense for all levels of government, particularly at the local level. Officials close parks because it's easier than fighting fraud, unable to say no to unsustainable pension plans for their employee/supporters or choosing to fire their overpaid friends, thinking it will provoke a backlash of folks screaming for higher taxes....yes, that is how out of touch our 'leaders' are these days.

It really is simple. The taxpayers must make them hold the line on spending as next year’s budget deficit will be much larger, and make no mistake about it, we will have to look at real cuts right here in Cooper City. The problem is exemplified when only 4 of our constituents showed up at the final budget hearing and only three objected to the excessive and unnecessary planned spending. Yikes!

Has any critical review determined that a park, teen egg hunt, mommy-son/daddy-daughter day or any of the other 'fun' programs, paid for by your hard earned tax dollars, constitutes a "valid municipal purpose," one that promotes the health, safety and welfare of the city? It’s not a question of how much it costs (it really is very minimal) or why Cooper City' s 'fun programs' exist, or why they may make Cooper City “Someplace Special” or why we intend to keep it that way. I believe it is a flawed opinion by a misguided commissioner and a department director that state that these types of services are for a 'valid municipal purpose'.

It truly makes me question the priorities of this Commission and staff, that our previous city manager strenuously reminded each of us about. And, it is most definitely a question of priorities. Is there is any doubt that these programs do not promote the health and welfare of the city, are not directly related to a valid municipal purpose and that there is no doubt the provisions of those programs are not in any way related to a municipal purpose? Are they rationally related to the health, morals, protection and the financial welfare of this municipality?

Maybe a certain commissioner along with some employees should stick to other ways of justifying the haphazard utilization of very hard earned tax dollars, not utilizing flawed arguments and ad hominem attacks to justify their fundamental lack of knowledge of the ‘how and why' government exists.

I was also somewhat dismayed at the waste of valuable time and taxpayer’s money at the budget hearings, particularly the excessive time spent to entice a department director to facilitate an opinion and to join in a fallacious attack on me (subsequently along with a prominent resident) which had nothing to do with the logical merits of my arguments or assertions that directly related to our next budget. Yet, that director can't seem to get a handle on sub-par performance by a contractor.

I suppose he was too busy supporting the attack and justifying a flawed position rather than finding out how to correct poor performance or how to terminate the 'contract' for nonfeasance. Any future contract with the city should have a cancellation provision or two for non-performance and/or poor performance of contracted work. Yet, it should be clear to all that the purpose of the characterization offered was to discredit my offering of logical arguments, and specifically, to invite others to gang up and discount my arguments regarding the prioritization of how we must begin to implement new ways in which we spend the taxpayers' dollars.

I believe that it is irresponsible fiscal management to pursue such 'fun' things and new programs until we can assess our financial state in more comprehensive terms. There may be a questionable degree of integrity here, and I believe there still may be a hidden agenda. This is why I believe that my motion to order a forensic audit (at a very miniscule cost) should have been supported in order that we would all know exactly where we stand at this point. No second was even offered yet the rumor was that others on the dais wanted the same opportunity.

This is the first time that this city commission has faced a deficit and has chosen to tap into reserve funds in a very, very long time. The current commission and manager didn’t create the problem but were compelled to address it. I am not yet convinced or quite sure that increased tax dollars spent on landscaping, new park equipment, grand parties for founder’s day, increased mowing and tree trimming and all of the ‘fun’ stuff, along with new programs, are the answer to our future financial stability and success.

My priorities for this budget year were the big ticket items; abolition of the 'records building' at the cost of a quarter-million dollars, a three-hundred thousand plus dollar water conservation program, at least four automatic contract renewals to the tune of multi-millions of dollars and a 'code re-write' at the potential cost of up to one-half million dollars, among others.

A preliminary search & review of the minutes of the P&Z since January 2007 reveal the following: Since Jan of 2007 P&Z has only had to address 10 variances. How many came before the Commission are unknown because that information is for some reason not readily available. Most of the variances that came before the P&Z are minor in terms of the magnitude of the requested change. The amounts of variances have been trivial except for the Chevron station.

It sounds as though $350k + (more like $500K before it’s all over and done with as stated previously) to rewrite the many ordinances involving zoning or other minor issues, including any barber pole colors or design, seems totally unjustified. What I would like to know is, why didn’t staff do an analysis and a complete justification on this matter before recently asking us to approve this matter and place it on the budget agenda? How many of the ten items for a variance were brought before the Commission?

I would also like to know why P&Z cannot handle this issue, particularly when it consists of land use attorneys, litigation attorneys, ex-commissioners and others, including seasoned staff, who are fully capable of addressing this particular issue on an as needed basis, along with one of the biggest law firms in the county, if not the state, Weiss-Serota now working for us! They even state that they have 'decades of collective experience' in the constantly evolving area of land use and zoning law.

They further espouse that 'As counsel to local government entities, [their] attorneys possess knowledge of the local government planning and zoning process. Their work includes the drafting and preparation of state mandated comprehensive land use plans and land development regulations, as well as the representation of boards and commissions considering development decisions within a wide variety of local government environments.'

If P&Z cannot handle this germane and seemingly trivial and non-invasive issue as far as workload goes, this commission needs to immediately and seriously look at re-appointing members of the P&Z board who can indeed handle the issues. I would like to have kept the money in reserves and direct the Manager to do his homework and come back to us with full and complete justification for spending upwards of up to a half million dollars if not more. Now I tend to really wonder why they were hired, being touted as the best available and how much research was (claimed to have been) done, and here we are not taking full advantage of a fully capable in-house counsellor/contractor on this subject matter. Again, priorities are not apparently a concern, and there are definitely personal agendas involved here.

One question posed by me was 'Is the proposed budget consistent with the Commission's recent goals and objectives?' I think not...yet I am happy that the manager chose to support my contention that all contracts should be send out for bid under an RFP process. Not only are we more likely to get the best mix of quality and price, but the residents can have more faith that the commission and administration are conducting city business and spending our money efficiently and honestly. The process will also better enable Cooper City residents and businesses a full opportunity to bid.

I also believe that we have businesses in Cooper City that can provide these services. If they are competitive, I would feel much better about our own residents and business owners getting the work that is paid for by Cooper City taxes. There has been a lot of rhetoric at commission meetings about supporting Cooper City businesses, entrepreneurs and working folks. It is time to put our money where our mouth is. There is no guarantee, of course, that businesses in town would win the bids on price and/or quality evaluations. However, providing a 120 day bid period would provide for sufficient notice and time for local people to compete.

Cooper City, its commission, employees and residents need to be ahead of the curve regarding the current economic situation and how it directly affects our great city. We should be way ahead of the situation, not lagging behind and spending every dime we have, and then some. There should exist very clear objectives and checkpoints, every 90 days or so, in order to be apprised of the real time costs, and we must take action where and if appropriate.

Governments should seek ways to cross-train employees, or seek other efficiencies to compensate for the loss of revenues instead of raising fees and taxes. In any event, local governments have few other options, and they should be doing everything possible to cut expenses.

In closing, I fully agree with a comment at the 8-14-08 P&Z meeting which stated, "Everybody is feeling the crunch and you [the current commission] are spending our money like it is yours and not ours, it’s ours." My feeling is that it's too bad that this person didn't attend the budget hearings, or contact me in order to voice his concerns...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cooper City Strategic Issues and Project Goals for 2008-09

Cooper City Strategic Issues and Project Goals for FY 2008-2009

The Cooper City Commission met on July 24th in a 'goal setting workshop' to discuss strategic issues in regards to the future of the city and its Strategic Plan. These are long term issues for which either a discussion opportunity for the Commission will be scheduled or which staff will prepare a recommendation for Commission consideration or possible future action.

The full Commission, senior staff and directors participated in the workshop and agreed on the following priority issues for Commission discussion:

1. Community safety
2. Ensuring that the distinctive features of the City are retained

The Commission, senior staff and directors agreed on the following issues approved for Commission discussion:

1. A strategy for Monterra
2. Support and expansion of the business community
3. Promotion and support of the community schools
4. Balancing efficiency and effectiveness to ensure quality services are provided at reasonable cost.
5. Management and measurement systems such as Management by Objectives, Workload Measures, etc?

The Commission, senior staff and directors agreed on the following issues to be assigned to staff for initial planning:

1. Community and public engagement
2. Measures to assess our progress and impact
3. Redevelopment
4. Common transportation (public or privately operated)
5. Maintaining and developing infrastructure
6. Naming rights for public facilities
7. Bike paths/greenways
8. Internal communications
9. Employee outsourcing

The Commission, senior staff and directors participated in the workshop and agreed on the following priority goals:

1. Establish Cooper City Marketing Committee
2. Establish cameras as red light

The Commission, senior staff and directors agreed on the following endorsed goals:

1. Update Hurricane preparedness plan
2. Review needs for city equipment
3. Improve web-cast capacity
4. Report to community on status of school facility plans
5. Hold meetings with HOA directors
6. Review car take-home policy
7. Examine increase in user fees for recreation
8. Revise citizen survey

The Commission, senior staff and directors agreed on the following discussions to be scheduled at a city public presentation, workshop or meeting:

1. Senior Advisory Group
2. Utility Advisory Council
3. Outsourcing options for internal services

If there are any ideas and comments that you may have in regards to these issues, feel free to contact me and convey them so that I, along with the rest of the Commission, can formulate a successful plan to implement these goals and objectives.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When a Tax is not called a Tax in Cooper City...

When a tax is not called a tax in Cooper City...

Municipal budgets are shrinking rapidly and money is getting really tight at all levels of government. While it's no secret to savvy residents and smart Commissioners, some wonder how the city can keep up its spending habits on non-health, safety and welfare issues without eventually becoming bankrupt. In response to this immediate and legitimate challenge, municipalities like Cooper City are going to be soon looking for new, imaginative ways to finance municipal services, including that of extra feel good programs along with necessities such as police protection. One of the options that were addressed by one commissioner is the imposition of a ‘special assessment’ relating to police and ‘crime’ services.

Commissioner Lisa Mallozzi (Dist.2) has asked about the possibility of imposing a law enforcement assessment. The Commissioner is on the Broward League of Cities Sustainability Transportation sub-committee that meets later this month and would apparently like this to become a legislative agenda issue, apparently statewide. Specifically, she asked for a definition of what would constitute a property crime. Apparently, the purpose would be to determine the proportionate amount that those crimes are of the total crimes to be the basis for the development of a law enforcement special assessment. The interim City Manager has asked the City Attorney and the BSO Commander to develop that information. The attorney stated that any property that is impacted by the crime would be improved real property and the crimes would likely be burglary, criminal mischief, etc.

It sounds like the Commissioner is talking to the wrong people; other politicians in government, and not her constituents. My immediate response was that "We already have an assessment in place. It's called TAXES!" This is nothing but a ploy by some municipalities, and now a Cooper City Commissioner, to double tax and to that end we must not follow. It is improper by any means. Any special assessment tax would also require enabling legislation to authorize it by the Florida legislature that finds that such services would yield a special benefit to real property.

A special assessment is a term used in to designate a unique charge that the government can assess against real property parcels for certain public projects. The most universally known special assessments are charges levied against lands when drinking water lines are installed; when sewer lines are installed; or when streets are paved. A special assessment may only be levied against parcels of real estate which have been identified as having received a direct and unique "benefit" from the project.

While this type of assessment holds some merit for certain municipal services, it should be equated with simply imposing an additional and somewhat unnecessary tax. In fact, a law enforcement special assessment has been deemed unlawful because those services provide no special benefit to real property. See this opinion by the State Attorney General.

The test for determining whether a special benefit is bestowed to real property is not whether the services confer a ‘unique benefit’ or are different from the benefit provided to the community as a whole. Rather, the test is whether there is a ‘logical relationship’ between the services provided and any direct benefit to real property. Only certain real property can be specially assessed. The "property" to be assessed must be real estate as opposed to "personalty". Personalty is a taxation term which means personal property.

Special assessment levies are not ad valorem property taxes even though they may be collected on a property tax bill. A special assessment is based strictly upon the concepts of "need" and "benefit." Special assessments must confer a specific and special benefit upon the real property affected by the assessment. A special assessment is like a tax in that it's an enforced payment from the real property owner and may possess other benefits similar to a general tax. However, it is entirely different and governed by entirely different principles. It is imposed under the theory that the portion of the community required to bear it receives some special or outstanding benefit in the enhancement of value to the property against which it is imposed as a result of the improvements made with the proceeds of the special assessment. This equates to the fact that if you do not pay the special 'tax', they can sell your house on the courthouse steps.

I think that if something waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's more than likely a duck. In simple, plain English, if it seems like a tax, it probably is a tax (of some sort, just by another name). However, there is an important distinction between special assessments and taxes. A legally imposed special assessment is not really a tax per se looking at it from a legal sense. While the payment of both taxes and special assessments is actually deemed mandatory like property taxes, there is not a requirement that general taxes provide specific benefits to the property. Instead, they are levied throughout the city for the general benefit of residents, business owners and real property.

The City of North Lauderdale attempted to impose a special assessment on owners of property for the purpose of providing an "integrated fire-rescue program." The city created an ordinance that would fund the cost of an integrated fire, rescue and emergency medical service program through a special assessment tax levied on all property owners in the city. A group of commercial property owners sued the city in opposition to the tax and the case of City of North Lauderdale v. SMM Properties, Inc., wound up in the Florida Supreme Court.

The property owners agreed that a portion of the special assessment that provided services imposed a special benefit on their properties and did not oppose it. However, they sued on a portion of the special assessment which was deemed as improper because their properties were not deriving any special benefit from the services. They argued that the assessment provided a service to all citizens in the city.

It appeared that the city had a good case regarding the commission’s support of the special assessment. Another Florida case, Lake County v. Water Oak Management Corp., 695 So. 2d 667 (Fla. 1997), delineated a two-pronged test to be used in reviewing the validity of any special assessments. The first prong was whether or not the services at issue provided a special benefit to the assessed property. The second prong was whether or not the assessment for the services was a properly apportioned tax. In the City of North Lauderdale case, there was not an issue as to the apportionment of the assessment. The only issue to be reviewed by the court was the determination of whether the services provided a ‘special benefit’ to the property.

In the Lake County case, the court upheld a special assessment imposed for fire protection services that was correctly opined by the 5th District Court of Appeal in Case No. 94-2729. The City of North Lauderdale said that Lake County's fire-rescue program was similar to its own as both programs were funding more than just fire protection and suppression services.

The property owners argued that Lake County's program was limited and did not confer a special benefit. The opponents further argued that the assessment was paying for a function provided by employees as part of their normal duties, the property owners in Lake County were really only paying for the normal services, and the special assessment in Lake County did not assess property owners for services outside the employee’s regular job duties. The court looked at the differences between the Lake County program and the North Lauderdale program. Having made a determination, the court then went on to ruling whether the assessment met the first prong of the test by providing a special benefit to the assessed property.

The city went on record to say that their services would enhance the use of property in the city. This, in turn, would enhance the value of the property, and this enhanced value could be anticipated to be reflected in the real estate tax charge for value of the property.

The court disagreed, finding that the service was not a special benefit to the property. The court noted that services benefit people, not property. The court ruled that the city's opinion that the assessment conferred a special benefit on property was frivolous and had the indication of a tax because it was proposed to support many of the general sovereign functions of a general tax.

The court said that the city made comments its ordinance that there was a 'special benefit' to the assessed properties but stated that there was nothing in the record to support these assumptions by the city. There was no evidence of any special benefits that would be provided to the property from the provisions of such services, no studies conducted by the city documenting any specific benefits, and no testimony or expert witnesses were offered to indicate how the portion of the assessment providing for special services would specifically benefit the real property.

The court ruled that the services portion of the special assessment by the City of North Lauderdale was a general tax because it failed to provide any unique or special benefit to real properties. There were no indicia how the services would directly enhance the value of the real properties of which the assessment was imposed upon.

Although some services, particularly those of police or fire services, may provide a sense of security to individuals, neither the service nor the sense of security is provided to the real property. Consequently, the court concluded that the services in question did not provide any special benefit to the property, and therefore that portion of the program could not be funded by a special assessment.

Of the utmost importance to any property owner who feels aggrieved by a special assessment levy is a legal concept known as the "presumption of validity". This means that the courts must regard the actions of local government with deference and presume that the government did everything correctly. At a minimum, any challenge to any special assessment must prove that the government did not act lawfully. That challenge is vey difficult, time consuming, costly and significant. For all of these reasons, it is critical for any person or property owner, particularly a business facing a special assessment, to fully participate in any and all public hearings and monitor the special assessment process from its earliest stages to completion.

Tighter budgets will require greater creativity in funding at all levels of government both county and local. However, when considering the use of special assessments as an additional revenue source under the guise of some alleged 'special benefit', particularly at the local level, keep the following in mind...it’s still just another tax.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The First Amendment Means Nothing In Cooper City...Here We Go Again!

"Here we go again...The First Amendment means nothing in Cooper City." These are the words of Attorney Frank Zemel, who plans to file another federal lawsuit if the Cooper City Commission approves the new 'Community Assembly' ordinance which is scheduled for the second reading at tomorrow evening's commission meeting. According to today's Sun-Sentinel story, Cooper City "may be flirting with yet another federal lawsuit centering on religious freedom." "It's about money in Cooper City," Zemel said in one article I recently read online. Former Cooper City attorney Alan Ruf said he is confident the city's ordinance complies with federal law, based on their review. Apparently not...

We need to resolve this issue now! It has been dragged out for way too long and this lawsuit is not in the best interests of the city. I have been the sole commissioner who has openly supported the Chabad of Nova and have pushed feverously to get this issue fully resolved to no avail. As I stated to the Sun-Sentinel, we are at this point in a 'survival' and 'mitigate the damages' mode, while simply trying to comply with a federal court order that was issued quite a while ago. We had no choice but to update the ordinance because it neglected to allow religious assembly in certain parts of town, and that's what got us, more correctly the previous commission, into trouble in the first place.

The commission allowed the P&Z Board to recommend the appropriate ordinance changes, and according to our lawyer David Wolpin, the city has a right to limit the number of religious institutions allowed in one shopping center. The amount of people and cars that too many 'community assembly' businesses bring to a retail center causes proven ingress, egress and safety issues thus interfering with the other businesses. This was just one of the reasons it was limited to three according to my recollection of the discussions held at a May commission meeting. It's not discrimination, it's called common sense although the issue should have never come to the commission without full approval by the legal wizards.

While some may agree with these public comments, I firmly believe that Rabbi Posner has his synagogue and his congregation's absolute best interests at heart. The story also reported that Attorney Zemel said that he will continue to sue Cooper City "on Posner's behalf" until he gets the city's attention. Apparently, we are going to trial in August without the commission being afforded the opportunity to discuss the issue in the shade or being provided with a strategy. We have three lawyers working on this issue and we can't resolve it? My position is this; stop screwing around! How can I defend the city's position or explain anything to my constituents on this issue without an update from the attorney? I can't say why...

The bottom line...The treatment of the Chabad Nova that has resulted in a lawsuit against Cooper City is just downright shameful. The past Commission and the Mayor took a 'back seat' regarding this issue and have not demonstrated the necessary leadership to fully address this issue. The legal fees alone in this case will be astronomical (they already are) and the residents of Cooper City will be penalized financially just as the residents of Hollywood have been. How embarrassing...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I believe in the First Amendment...

I would like to thank most of the voters in Cooper City for their awareness and perceptiveness in not signing the recent unwarranted, frivolous and malicious attempt at a recall effort. By seeing it for what it really was, you have reaffirmed my faith in the voters of this city that when fallacious and shameless lies are perpetrated, the wisdom of the public see's though it and that the truth will always prevail.

Many issues were brought up by the recall perpetrators during the effort that were outright false statements with no actual basis in fact nor demonstrable proof to support them.

The facts are that the allegations in the recall petition were patently false, and the entire democratic process was deliberately abused by a few extremists with a hidden agenda in order to discredit me and those that I associate with and publicly support.

These perpetrators and signators are the same people who have never once contacted me either via e-mail nor telephoned me personally in order to express themselves or learn of my concerns and to come to know what I stand for. They have simply taken the lies, rumors and smear campaign tactics from the past incumbents and their supporters and assumed them to be truthful without any attempt at verifying their truthfulness.

I strongly believe in the First Amendment, however with that there comes a equal responsibility. Every person has the right to say how they feel about another person.

Unfounded accusations, such as a person is a wife beater or is guilty of something as despicable as Anti-Semitic remarks, which I personally abhor, without any verifiable facts or actually labeled as being Anti-Semitic when the person is not, is not acceptable under any circumstances.

Political commentary or satire doesn't constitute Anti-Semitism nor rise to the terms of 'Slander and Defamation of Character' nor merit any type of criminal hate crime or legal action, as no such Anti-Semitism or hate crime actually occurred concerning this contrived debacle. The fact that I was falsely accused of these things directly by Mayor Debby Eisinger, Ex-Commissioners Elliot Kleiman, Bart Roper, Lori Green, Greg Ross and many others greatly disturbs me, as it should you. This is the kind of unethical disparaging and frankly extremely dirty 'smear campaign' politics and violations of the law that has given Cooper City such a bad reputation over the past few years, which I have personally not participated in, and it should not be tolerated whatsoever by any of the good citizens of this community.

Based on what I perceive to be the expectations of the majority of Cooper City residents, I am fully committed to the following; a more effective, efficient and reduced budget, saving more money for the taxpayers, using what we are getting and what we have in a better manner as far as tax revenues, hiring the absolute best city manager we can afford, reducing the over taxation by utilizing any budget overages and excessive revenues in a more prudent manner, performing a forensic audit so that we all know exactly where we stand (I have been advocating this for the past 18 months) and assuring the new city manager of a clean slate, and opposing the purchase of property for $3.5+ million for new post office that Cooper City will never, ever see regardless of the opinion of a few.

Based on what has been communicated to me by the majority of Cooper City residents that I have spoken with, I am committed to making the Cooper City government run more like a business. To act as a problem solver in dealing with the challenges facing Cooper City over the next few years. My focus will continue to oppose runaway taxes, uncontrolled and unnecessary spending, inefficient and excessive regulations, and to always observe the limited, enumerated powers of our Constitution and our Oath of Office, and insist that the entire Commission abide by them and our City Charter, not ignore them.

Thank you, and I look forward to your continued input and support

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Effort to Recall Cooper City Commissioner Falls Flat

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Effort to Recall Cooper City Commissioner Falls Flat

Cooper City, Florida – The effort to recall a popular commissioner in Cooper City has been abandoned. The petition to recall Commissioner John Sims stemmed from a blog that Sims allegedly owned. At issue was a picture posted on the blog of the Mayor of Cooper City, Debby Eisinger, with a superimposed Hitler moustache on her upper lip. Sims denies any involvement or wrongdoing.

The Broward Sheriff’s office initiated a hate crime investigation into Sims involvement with the blog but suspended it when there wasn’t sufficient evidence to proceed. The recall effort was started by former Cooper City Commissioner Elliot Kleiman and the former campaign manager for Mayor Debby Eisinger, Lori Green. According to Kleiman’s website, the group obtained the necessary signatures to fulfill the first requirement but said the continued effort would be too costly and that “In these times of economic hardship it was felt that requiring Cooper City to spend approximately $110,000 at this time was not prudent and, therefore, it was decided not to pursue the petition drive beyond the current stage”.

However, inside sources to the recall effort said that the required number of signatures was never obtained. “I’m not sure why they started the petition in the first place other than to make a political statement. Had the governor chose to remove Commissioner Sims, we wouldn’t have a choice. We would have to pay for a special election anyway” said Renee Delotta, community activist and consultant on several local campaigns. Delotta said the die was cast right after Sims was swept into office just over a year and a half ago. “There is a group of people in this city that despise Commissioner Sims and would do almost anything to see him out of office”, Delotta continued.

When asked how he felt about the failed recall bid Sims responded, “It didn’t really bother me one way or the other. It was a politically motivated move by several sore losers who simply wanted me out of office and used spurious, misinformation to try to accomplish their purpose.” Long time Cooper City resident Victoria Bikos agrees. “Commissioner Sims is edgy, forthright and has strong convictions. Because of that he has challenged the status quo. He has endured orchestrated and relentless attacks but still keeps on going. He’s the only one on the Commission dais that regularly votes his conscious.”

Sims said he’s glad the matter has been put to rest. “Now we can get back to the business of our great city. It’s time to put all of this behind us and move on.” When asked if he would run for reelection at the conclusion of his first term he responded, “The verdict is still out. Let’s just say I am weighing my options.” Commissioner Sims can be contacted via phone at (954) 439-5612 or email at johnsims@bellsouth.net.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I am your Commissioner

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am YOUR Commissioner.

I was duly elected by YOUR votes.

I stand on the merits of my record.

I am the lone commissioner who supported the CHABAD NOVA, attempted to resolve the issue and still attempt to do so to this day.

I proposed the Hate Crime Resolution for this City, and have taken my own initiative in meeting with Rabbi Pinney to clarify any misconceptions.

The anti-Semitic comments and illustrations were not registered, sponsored nor authored by me, and I vehemently condemn any such act or participation in any such act, which depicts an affront to any member, or, any part of our civilized society.

I am, and will remain, fully committed to the position that the people of this great city have elected me to serve in.

Thank you.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Cooper City Manager Replacement Proposal

The purpose of this communication is to provide the City Commission with my thoughts and a typical general overview of the correct process for selecting and hiring a new municipal City Manager along with standard options regarding the process of hiring the new City Manager, an estimated budget, minimal requirements, and a tentative time frame among others. Because the future success and growth of our community depends on having a great Manager, filling the shoes of our departing Manager can indeed be extremely stressful, not only for Staff but for the community at large. The following is a summary of my expectations followed by a somewhat detailed dissertation and analysis of the required process.

Due to the complexity of hiring a City Manager, many municipalities utilize the services of an Executive Search Firm (ESF) to assist Commissioners with this important process. Conversely, some municipalities have continued to utilize their in-house Human Resources staff. Utilizing in-house Human Resources staff is not recommended for Cooper City due to their relative inexperience and lack of short-range planning regarding this most important matter.

Staff should provide a short list of executive search firms who have extensive public sector experience for our reference and review. The purpose of engaging the services of a ‘Public Sector Executive Search Firm’ is to seek out and recruit experienced candidates and to assist the City in selecting only the highly qualified individuals who meet the profiles and needs of the City of Cooper City and who might not otherwise apply. Prior to the 1990s, cities, counties, and states governments approached their work with a more localized focus rather than regionally or even nationally.

Today, the climate and needs of our city, Broward County, and the State has changed to encompass a more collaborative approach with our neighboring communities and beyond. Public Sector Executive Search Firms can greatly assist the City of Cooper City in reaching the best qualified candidates for the position no matter their current location.

Public Sector Executive Search Firms specialize in searching, recruiting and placing the best qualified candidates for a specific position. The long-term and short-term needs of the city and its residents are considered as well as the culture and dynamics of the organization. Public Sector Executive Search Firms who work with clients in the public sector spend most of their time networking with city managers, assistant city managers and others who have vast expertise in the public sector and know who might be looking for a new position.

Indeed ,what Cooper City does next to replace Chris Farrell could be the second or third most important decision we have ever faced. This is no time for politics. It is a time for clear mindedness and a definite plan. Let's ensure that it happens as it needs to happen. Positive feedback is welcomed...

View the standard proposal HERE (Word.doc, 152Kb) or HERE (Adobe.pdf, 92Kb). (For the benefit of those falsely and maliciously accusing me of plagiarism, portions of this document were used with permission by the Colorado Municipal League, and its legal counsel, as it is deemed Public Domain, available for use by all and for any purpose)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Commission Is Facing A Big Challenge

Ladies & gentlemen, thank you for this opportunity to allow me to address you. It is truly an honor to represent you and to voice your concerns to this administration. This new commission is facing a big challenge. Although one of those challenges is leading our city go from the top ten, to number one on that Family Circle list, our first challenge will be building a consensus within a commission often accused in recent years of being out of touch with regular citizens. I think each and every resident and member on this dais can make a difference, simply by bringing respect to the commission.

One of the first changes people will see is that there is going to be a new commission that stresses accountability, respect and open government.

Now that the election is over and we are in a transition mode to the new commission, a reprehensible mantra has appeared. This mantra seems to be emanating from a group that before and during election that viewed those who were seeking change as breeding hostility, animosity and in some cases much worse. This group appears to want to paint the advocates of change with the tarnished brush of divisiveness, and they have attempted to color their efforts with the dark and sinister palette of despicable anti-social behavior.

Please understand, and let it be clear, that the advocates of change are simply those who see what they perceive as those things requiring change and have sought, through peaceful and proper channels, the voicing of their concerns.

There needs to be a level of respect whether you agree or disagree with your colleagues, residents or this administration. Also let it be very clear, that this commission will no longer tolerate the antics that were allowed and displayed here in the past. The rule addressing this indeed will indeed be fully and swiftly enforced.

One could suggest that it is those who have shouted the loudest and attacked the most, and sought to disparage and demean others, were in fact those who oppose any person that has the courage to stand before this commission and voice their opinions and valid concerns.

In fact, it has been brought to my attention that there has been more than one instance of individuals, who without regard for anything but themselves, have made up lies in order to win at all costs and to further embarrass this city. Campaign related conduct has been appalling in the past 3 or 4 elections in this city and it must cease and desist now.

It's sad to hear people say some of the things that I have heard in the past few elections; false accusations, lies, innuendos, rumors, speculation, conjecture and outright bias, prejudice and hatred. Believe me when I say that I can understand the frustration as I have constantly been on the receiving end.

I have attempted, through much effort, to bring to light several things that have been of value to me and others in setting forth the view I have of issues that need to be addressed by this commission, to only be met with distasteful malicious attacks. Using your influence to allow ad hominem arguments or to enlist the help of uninformed residents to do it for you, especially here, is nothing short of disgraceful. This kind of distasteful political strategy must be seen for what it is...nothing more than the inability to debate and discuss the issues that truly face our families and community.

Rather than castigate, depreciate and denigrate those who choose to stand up and be counted when they felt that the circumstances warranted it, we should be open, fair, and also thankful that our system of government allows us to have that opportunity and we should be appreciative that there are those who are interested, concerned and courageous, yes, courageous enough to be willing to subject themselves to the microscopic scrutiny of their fellow citizens. We seldom have a chance to truly act in way that fulfills the promise of that which we all have made, yet we have some candidates who have been elected who have promised to do just that, and for that I am very thankful.

I feel optimistic and excited about working with the new commission. Socrates pointed out that dissent, like the housefly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating is very high. He said, "If you kill a man like that, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure him," because his role was that of a housefly, "to irritate people and whip them into a fury, all in the name of truth." I fully understand Socrates, as I was myself labeled an ‘anti-government dissident’ by a member on this dais. We need truth and honesty in this city and in this government, nothing more, nothing less.

We also need to curtail the influence of the city's most powerful movers and shakers, such as lobbyists, developers and outside business groups. We will continue to work with the development community, but we are going to be doing it a lot smarter and giving residents more say on what projects should be done and how they should proceed.

We have a much greater chance to build a consensus with this new commission. The keys to doing this effectively will be based in honesty, consistency, fairness, listening skills and trust. Under the new leadership, this group can indeed find common ground and be more flexible in making decisions that will meet everyone’s requirements.

I was thrilled to hear this past election season, from all three elected candidates, the discussions and direct support on issues that I have previously addressed. Issues that I have championed such as more police & fire, better essential services, top down reviews of the way we do things, restoring financial integrity, increasing public trust, instilling balanced economic smart growth, demanding enhanced and more schools, governing with integrity, implementing local ethics initiatives and instilling positive change. Both newcomers will an opportunity to become part of this cohesive group that can appropriately disagree, discuss the issues and ultimately guide this city to arrive at a better place. This is good for the citizens and for Cooper City.

If there's one constant gripe, regardless of your age, race, nationality or political persuasion, it's about the fundamental lack of PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY. My goal is to be a small step towards regaining some of that needed accountability, whether it's through public scrutiny, or requiring a degree of investigation and follow-up, public exposure of incompetency, cronyism or negligence. In other words, a catalyst for positive change.

It is now up to all of the residents of Cooper City to keep us accountable in this administration and make sure that we all follow up on our campaign promises. We won't be able to keep them all. But at least do what you can to support us and work with not just those you support from a political standpoint, but with each and every one of us to bring respect and dignity back to this city. In turn, all of us here on this dais must always be open, accountable, fair, honest, unbiased and consistent. If not, we will not become the leadership team that the residents of our great city deserve and expect.

Government has not been very good at being creative and thinking outside the box, but now we will have to do just that in light of tax issues that we are obligated to enact. This commission must unify this community while raising the standards for public office. We must also ensure the health, safety and welfare of our residents at all costs and increase the confidence of the residents of our city, by not only utilizing the existing programs now in place, but by implementing future programs to ensure the success of our city and of our citizens.

Those enhanced services will have a direct, and an indirect and long lasting positive effect on the people of our city. We must also partner with the many local communities that we neighbor with in order to secure, improve and promote public safety initiatives in our many and diverse communities.

We must bring integrity and stability back to the city, and enhance our public service capabilities beyond its traditional roles, all for the people of Cooper City, even with reduced revenues. We must strive continually to drastically improve and maintain the integrity of the City Commission.

As current local leaders, we must promise to commit ourselves to exclusively serve, to support, and to perform our duties with honor and respect for the benefit of all citizens regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or preference.

We must continually fight to do right, fight all wrongs, and to use our wisdom and that of the community to utilize common sense and maintain fairness in all that we do. We must take great courage to stand against racism, bias, anti-cultural values, and bigotry in all of its many facets.

Those issues are what are important, and yet those issues have been ignored because this commission has spent too much time going on the defensive. It’s time to go on the offensive and not be reactive. It’s time to take positive, decisive action to restore public trust and make our community someplace special once again. I intend to continue to do just that regardless of the opposition and challenges that we will certainly face.

Our goals are simple, yet they entail very complex issues. We must always be extremely honest and always work for the good of the people. Throughout the course of our lives, and our service as your Commission, with your support, we can and will make a real and lasting difference in all of our lives and in our vastly diverse communities.

It’s time for a new era of activism and direction in our city. The time for change, new leadership and new programs is now. I welcome the positive change that has occurred this past election, which I am sure, will continue in this administration. Together, if we focus on these issues, we will make a better future for our families and our community. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Future of Cooper City

I stated in the March ’07 edition of this magazine, “One cloud however remains and looks more ominous with each passing day. That is the cloud of public distrust...The responsibility for this distrust rests squarely on the shoulders of our administrators.”

Public distrust is still at an all time high, which was clearly conveyed in the recent Presidential primary and elections. The January 29th election is now history. While we all forecast a reformed city commission, things may not be so obvious. This past election was about positive change. Its now time to take positive action for the well being of our residents.

First off, let me congratulate the new commission. I can say for certain that we will all work very hard to serve the public and do our very best to be the cohesive leadership team that our residents and business owners rightfully expect. I can also assure you that the new commission will work to address the major outstanding issues in our city. Issues such as retirement buy-outs, more extreme water and sewer fee increases, ordinances that should not be on the books... maybe you get my point and maybe not.

There have been many problems over the past few years that seemingly have not been addressed effectively, timely or appropriately. I also foresee a one-and- a-half month ‘hustle’ to get controversial issues passed prior to the swearing in ceremony that may indeed affect our city for years to come.

As I see it, there are two steps that need to be taken. First, the newly elected commission along with all employees must, more than anyone else, play by the same rules at all times. It is imperative that public officials be independent, impartial and that public office not be used for personal or political gain with the new commission.

If we can’t trust our elected officials, who can we trust? Again, true leadership and trust in government demands integrity, honesty and humility. When a mistake is made, it demands tacit admission and swift rectification. This is why it is so important to implement my ethics committee proposal forthwith.

We, as a commission, still have major issues to resolve such as the police and fire personnel increases necessary to protect our residents and the new developments, water and sewer infrastructure issues including new sources, school overcrowding and lack of responsible support by the school board, increased taxes, the golf course, Monterra, commission communications and leadership issues along with many others such as resident participation, which is at an all time low.

As a new commission, we must foster balanced ‘smart growth’, implement Management by Objective, improve and maintain the city’s common areas, address unfunded mandates and liabilities, address ten year budget projections, reduce our current budget, implement more diverse programs, increase employee morale, improve efficiency and customer service, return our city to the residents and most importantly, restore fiscal responsibility and accountability to public office.

My main point is this...our city’s leadership team, the new commission, must do the right thing based upon the will of the people even though they individually may no longer have a vested interest in their political office after the election. We should diligently serve as elected public officials and do exactly that until the last second of our current term in office.

The new commission needs to make our municipal government more like a business; a problem solver, not a problem creator. Our focus should be combating runaway taxes, skyrocketing and uncontrolled spending along with inefficient, excessive regulation. Working together with the residents and business owners of Cooper City, the new commission must pledge to bring back integrity, trust, responsibility, communication, commitment and accountability to all areas. Together, we will all help and continue to make Cooper City truly “Someplace Special.”

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New Water Restrictions in Effect for Cooper City

New water restrictions are in effect since January 15th. I am in favor of water restrictions and we all must do our part to conserve water. I do everything I can to save and/or recycle water. Today while going to breakfast, I noticed that that there are too many residents that just don't care. I saw three houses that had sprinklers on today and they were city and/or county employees.

We have only one day to water our lawns. I don't think the city, county, and water management districts are making it clear that there are new restrictions. I saw it on the news, but have not heard a thing on the radio nor received a mailing about the new restrictions. Let's get serious. We do not have water to waste. Do people think that when the water runs out at our tap, we can still buy bottled water?

The water shortage is all over the country and getting worse. We ALL have to do our part to conserve our precious resource.

Click HERE for the new water use restrictions (Adobe PDF, 175kb)