Friday, December 4, 2009
Cooper City residents are now able to watch local City Commission meetings broadcast live on the Internet. Users can also instantly replay all or part of those meetings at their convenience through a link on their City’s web site (www.coopercityfl.org and click on the link titled “Archived Mtg Videos”).
The City will officially launch the new webcasting technology at the December 8, 2009 City Commission meeting enhancing the accessibility of Commission Meetings to citizens who may not have access to Comcast Channel 78.
Currently the City televises the regular City Commission meetings on Comcast Channel 78. These meetings can be accessed live at their regularly scheduled time.
“The City is very excited about this new technology as a way to outreach to a greater number of residents and members of the community,” said Bruce Loucks, City Manager. “This is one of the Website enhancements that the City has been working on and looking forward to for the past year.”
At our last meeting, the Cooper City Commission has approved a Building Department Garage Enclosure Initiative. This allows for any Cooper City resident, who has received a Notice of Violation for an 'illegal' or un-permitted garage enclosure (constructed without the proper building permits before November 10th, 2009), to obtain the required building permits.
This will ensure that the garage enclosure meets the Life Safety Requirements of the 2007 Florida Building Code for the proposed use of the space. This initiative also applies to any resident who suspects that they may have an illegal garage enclosure constructed without permits, possibly installed without their knowledge. The deadline to obtain compliance, within this initiative period is March 1st, 2010. Please contact the Building Department for further information at 954-434-4300, ext. 230.
As many of you are well aware, the Broward County School Board is considering potential school boundary changes that would require some students of Pioneer Middle School to be transferred to other middle schools outside the City limits.
At the October 29th meeting of the Broward County "Staff Working Group" a recommendation was made to amend the Interlocal Agreement for Public School Facility Planning (ILA) to continue use of a 110% permanent capacity level of service standard, but changing to 8 concurrency service areas. A significant reduction in the number currently used. In essence, this recommendation will allow the School Board to hold off the need for action on the proposed Pioneer Middle School boundary change and the subsequent "domino" effect this change will cause throughout the County.
Procedurally, the "Staff Working Group", which is comprised of staff representation from the School Board, the County and the Municipalities will forward their proposal to the County Oversight Committee for further review.
The recommendation of the County Oversight Committee is subsequently forwarded to the Broward County School Board, County and Municipalities for approval. In order for the ILA to be amended, the County, the School Board and at least 75% of the Municipalities, which includes at least 50% of the population within Broward County, must vote for approval.
While the amendment process will likely not occur prior to the School Board vote on the "Superintendent's Boundary Recommendations", the recommendations brought forth by the ILA committees should be helpful in providing alternatives to the proposed boundary changes. As of this writing, the process has been delayed possibly up to a year.
Please contact your Broward County School Board Member to learn more. All Cooper City residents are encouraged to attend upcoming Broward County School Board meetings to make sure that your opinion is heard on this controversial issue. You can learn more at http://www.BrowardSchools.com. All I request is that we keep politics out of this issue. It is about our kids, not an issue to be utilized for personal or political gain.
SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO COOPER CITY! -- In keeping with an old holiday tradition, BSO Fire Rescue Station #28 firefighters will help rollout Cooper City’s Annual Holiday Santa Program by escorting Saint Nick onboard a Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue truck as he delivers gifts to hundreds of local kids.
This year's Santa visits are: Saturday, December 19th & Sunday, December 20th
Registration: Monday, November 30th through Friday, December 11th 10:00 am - 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday ONLY
Cost: $30.00 per stop
Checks payable to: City of Cooper City
We hope to provide a wonderful visit with Santa for everyone so anxiously awaiting.
Santa will begin his route at approximately 6:00 PM each night and will end when all stops have been visited. Please be patient with Santa's arrival, as 911 emergencies take priority.
Please Note: Firefighters are unable to predict Santa's arrival, so please DO NOT call the fire station. Please label gifts clearly.
Please have gifts secured outside your home, clearly labeled so that Santa's elves may easily find them or have someone meet us out front with the gifts when you hear the sirens.
On behalf of the Broward Sheriff's Office, Department of Fire Rescue & Emergency Services, we thank you and wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. You can call Santa's Hotline Number at (954) 436-7310 for more information!
I hope all of you had a Happy Thanksgiving, and I certainly want to wish all of you a Happy and Joyous Christmas and Holiday Season. I hope that 'Santa' is good to everyone as we all have alot to be thankful for. Also, let's not forget our men in blue, our military members and our veterans for their faithful and dedicated service, and let's especially not forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep our counrty free and safe. Think of them and their families this holiday season...and have a great weekend!
Friday, September 25, 2009
We’ve now adopted an increased budget and spending rather than a decreased budget and reduced spending. My proposal(s) to cut unnecessary and discretionary spending were either ignored by the staff and other members of the commission, or responded to with threats of proposed layoffs which may have created a crisis situation. I've never known of a city commission that didn't want to know the implications of their actions, until the new commission was seated. I simply attempted to lay a foundation and the groundwork for our city which needs to continue to move aggressively into the future at an affordable cost to our residents and business owners without raising taxes.
The adoption of a 23.2% increase in the fire assessment tax only illustrates the current governing body's inability to do the real work that is needed to bring Cooper City’s budget into reality mode. Absolutely no-one on the commission or staff did their due diligence and homework on the issue.
Also, the mayor is obviously not willing to lead the city into prosperity, nor is she willing to lead the way in cutting expenditures and has her head firmly planted in the sand. Being in a state of denial regarding the city and our residents is absurd, reckless and misguided. Cutting expenses more aggressively will leave a cushion of future reserves as well. This is not rocket science and as the old saying goes, “If you feed the beast, it grows. If you starve it, it will shrink.”
We are looking at several more years of extremely challenged times because of the unpredictable nature of the ad valorem tax base. Thank goodness there is one commissioner who places the city's residents and business owners as a priority.
Regarding the recent federal arrests of Broward politicians, public servants and civic leaders are supposed to hold the bar high on themselves before holding the bar high on others. A leader’s example is supposed to inspire and serve others. In my eyes, these public officials that were recently charged with public corruption sold us out for a pittance. Issues like this tarnish everybody who is in public service, even the employees. Sort of like the same way people generally think about lawyers. Thank goodness the FBI prosecuted them under the honest services fraud laws and then said "We are not done".
So what exactly is honest-services fraud? The typical case of honest services fraud is that the public is not getting what it deserves: honest, faithful, disinterested service from a public official. Honest Services Fraud is very broadly defined and encompasses any scheme to defraud citizens of an intangible right to honest government from public officials. A scheme to defraud is defined as "a departure from community standards of fair play and candid dealings” and/or “a willful act with intent to deceive or cheat."
I will also include that it is considered a deprivation of honest services as anything that encompasses the misuse of public office. Intent is all that is required to be found guilty. Concrete parameters outlining the duty of honest services should not be necessary in order for a person to be charged with violating this duty. The prosecution simply must show that the scheme would have deprived an individual of interests protected under the law. It all boils down to trust and betrayal.
A public official has a duty to disclose information regarding any personal interest that may affect his or her judgment and therefore undisclosed, biased decision making, regardless of tangible loss to the public, which constitutes a deprivation of honest services. How many times have we seen this violated in our own city business dealings? Not only are we required to disclose who we have spoke with on business matters, we are required to explain the substance of our communication, which is rarely, if ever done.
Public officials do not have to receive personal gain from their scheme. In general, courts have held that "The prosecution need not prove that the scheme was successful or that the intended victim suffered a loss, or that the defendant secured a gain. The gist of the offense is a scheme to defraud.” Need a summary? Here it is: "The loss of good faith services alone establishes the breach."
The city's sole role, according to the charter, is to protect the health, welfare and safety of The People and safety should be number one in my eyes. Our city government does not exist to promote business, economic development, or the welfare of selected public officials and their friends. In the terms of our own charter, the city government is supposed to be honorable.
Simple honestly is the core value of any system of government and ethics. The profound truth is that you cannot legislate truthfulness, fidelity, ethics or dedication. A public official is either honest or dishonest. If he or she is not completely honest in his or her dealings and decisions on behalf of The People, he or she will not be any more honest the day after a code of ethics is enacted than the day before.
Our residents and business owners want honorable, efficient and responsive local government. As such, I urge each and every person in our city to report to the proper authorities, any and all information regarding any personal interest that may affect the judgment of anyone on the commission, a staff member, an advisory board member, or vendor/contractor including any and all appearances of impropriety, no matter how small or insignificant, and whether in the past, present or future. Our government can only be ‘cleaned up’ and made completely honest with the help of The People that we are privileged to serve.
Friday, September 18, 2009
We have had an increase in residential burglaries on weekdays when homeowners are at work. Burglars pick empty driveways, knock on front doors to see if anyone is home then smash rear sliders to enter the home. Witnesses observed a dark compact vehicle and a tall, thin African-American male at two scenes. If you observe suspicious persons or vehicles in your neighborhood, please dial 911 immediately. Activate your alarm system and be extra watchful for vehicles or people that look out of place.
The more information you have the safer you can be. Registering for BSO's CyberVisor will enable you to receive e-mail or text messages from the Broward Sheriff's Office with information on criminal activity, traffic, events or other security concerns arising in your business or residential neighborhood. You may also sign up to receive important messages from Sheriff Al Lamberti or breaking news from our Media Relations staff. To get started, simply enter the required information below and choose one or more of the BSO-patrolled cities from which you would like to receive information. Once signed up you will need to confirm your e-mail address, so please keep your e-mail application open. You can register for BSO's CyberVisor HERE
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his heavy burden of trying to make a living, and attempted repeatedly to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a small, tied up leather sack lying in the road underneath where the boulder had been. The leather sack contained many, many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold riches were for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. There was also a prayer from the King that he would become the most respected person in the city. The peasant immediately learned what many of us, especially those in politics, never understand!
Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our immediate condition. The obstacle now in 'our path' is the cost of running your local government and the fact that ‘Together We Can’ does not apply any more to all of the residents and representatives that you elected, but only to a choice few who’s agenda is not that of the will of The People.
We need to move that levity approach to the ‘togetherness’ obstacle out of the way in order to improve the condition of our stakeholders; our residents and business owners! The only way for that to occur is if we work together to move the political and personal obstacles initiated on the commission dais out of our cumulative path toward success. I ask everyone to join together and help me in removing any and all obstacles in city hall that hamper your future success here in Cooper City.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
As you may or may not be aware, Cooper City has been recently battling a drug problem in our town. More particularly, we have been battling a certain pharmacy at the corner of Stirling Road and Palm Avenue that is sometimes labeled as a ‘pain clinic’. The Commission recently passed a law to deal with these types of pain clinics and illegal drug issues, along with the Florida Legislature. Kudos to both entities for strengthening our local drug laws!
Why am I blogging this? Because of this Sun-Sentinel newspaper article. This week I received an e-mail from our city manager regarding a previous newspaper article posted on the Sun-Sentinel website regarding a drug bust on July 23rd. The e-mail was forwarded to me by the city manager which emanated from the BSO public relations office.
Not knowing about, or being informed as to what the issue was, I searched the online version of the newspaper and found nothing. I subsequently asked the city manager what newspaper article he was referring to, which is when I was told that the article was promptly removed from the Sun-Sentinel website. Nothing further was thought about regarding this incident. It was simply an incident and drug bust between two Cooper City residents and BSO police officers in my opinion.
Let me give you a bit of additional information on this case. Last week, this story was on the Sun-Sentinel website for about 10 or 15 minutes before it was taken off. You may ask, why was it removed from the website? Apparently, because the complaint was originally made by the public defender’s office against a BSO deputy and not the alleged criminal.
The only problem was that the alleged criminal had not yet made any complaint to anyone other than the public defender’s office, and BSO had no knowledge of the issue before it went to press, therefore not having the opportunity to comment before the story was hastily posted on the Sun-Sentinel website. I have no idea if the complaint is legitimate or not, but I thought it was interesting that the Sun Sentinel would name someone as a drug dealer suspect without any hard evidence, or at that time, even a complaint.
I discussed this issue with Chief Hale on the phone this week in detail, and again at our budget meeting on Monday evening. I initially asked Chief Hale what the issue was all about and he informed me that it was about a drug bust, and that “the father” (allegedly Mr. Ronald Dwayne Sigers Sr., 40, of Cooper City) allegedly drove his 16 year old son to a drug deal and was subsequently arrested. I was also informed that the entire issue was based on the fact that that the suspect, Mr. Sigers, subsequently complained that the BSO officer grabbed him by the crotch. The Chief also informed me that originally, there was no mention of this incident or any complaint lodged by the alleged suspect; Mr. Sigers, until last Thursday.
Whenever the police arrest and subsequently frisk someone, they have to check their crotch, as this is the first place that drugs and weapons are hidden by criminals. It's not a pleasant thing to do, but it is an absolute necessity of police work and it is absolutely necessary in order for police officers to save their own lives. With that said, most of you would not even want to get near or even touch the alleged criminals that the police sometimes encounter, much less check their pants for dope and guns.
The formal complaint came apparently after the news of another BSO Deputy being charged with sexual assault was reported in the Sun-Sentinel, and hit the airwaves on CBS 4. Mr. Sigers filed a complaint of the un-named deputy ‘fondling’ Mr. Sigers and grabbing his crotch. I see a new trend…Getting arrested for a crime and subsequently claiming to be groped in the crotch by the police in the hopes of getting the charges dismissed.
Chief Hale also told me that someone from the state attorney's office contacted the Sun-Sentinel, not only discussing this incident with them, but giving the newspaper much more detail than was necessary on this matter before BSO was even aware of the incident.
My first question is why wasn’t the complaint filed immediately upon booking, and secondly, why did the state attorney contact the newspaper and give them information on this case, and thirdly, why did the state attorney say anything about this case to anyone outside of the immediate investigation team in the first place? The state attorney involved in this matter should be reprimanded for interfering with a criminal investigation at best.
"Because Mr. Sigers wrote a letter to the State Attorney, and the [Sun-] Sentinel forwarded a copy to us, Sheriff [Al] Lamberti felt that we should initiate an internal investigation to bring out all the facts," BSO said. "Since that process has started we are now prohibited from further discussing the matter." According to the Sun-Sentinel, Mr. Sigers stated in his letter to the State Attorney that "This experience left me horrified…"
I am not prohibited from discussing this matter, and what I have to say is this…
Mr. Sigers, your alleged drug deal in our beautiful city leaves me and many, many other parents, residents, business owners and children horrified!
A complete lack of discretion, and respect for our city and the law has again tarnished our good name. Now we have to apparently witness a deliberate and apparently frivolous attempt to tarnish the reputation of our fine police officers. Police officers who routinely risk their lives fighting gun toting drug dealers, who are simply doing their job, who are simply protecting their very lives and that of our children and families against criminals, drug dealers and possible carriers of weapons when they make an arrest. As such, in Cooper City, we have zero-tolerance for drug dealers. I hope that if anyone dealing drugs in Cooper City is ever found guilty and convicted, they throw away the key…
Monday, August 31, 2009
I don’t know about you, but it tells me that this country and government is just delaying the pain. The risk in holding any investments in US dollars is tremendous! The government, including ours in lil’ ol’ Cooper City, is turning the recession into a depression. It also tells me that our government called the Municipal Corporation of the City of Cooper City, has not done its due diligence in protecting its residents and business owners from excessive costs and fees in a time of recession.
Yes folks, the national economy and crisi directly affect all of us whether you see it, feel it or not. Consumers aren’t buying anything of real value right now. The consumer is scared and won’t infuse capital into the system for a long time. The government is on the short squeeze & the last thing you want to do is get in bed with the government! What happens when all of this passes over? We will have inflation like we’ve never seen before. Probably upwards of up to 400 to 500% in the next few years.
What does this have to do with us, lil’ ol’ Cooper City? Well, for one, our General Employees Pension Fund was at least $4 million in the hole a year ago. It may very well be another $2 million in the hole on top of that for this year. We spent lots of money on consultants for water conservation matters and water studies, when in reality, it was more than likely a political action, and we raised water rates up to 75% because we lost revenues due to the people’s proud and meaningful conservation efforts in saving water.
There was no 6 month review of the 2008-09 budget. 1 in 16 residents in Cooper City are unemployed, almost 350 homes are now in foreclosure, and we want to spend $3.5 plus million dollars on basically what amounts to water enforcement, we want to buy a backhoe for 300+% more than monthly rental costs, we cry ‘poor mouth’ yet we have millions in cash per the auditor. We were lied to for 3 or more years about the so-called ‘reserve funds’, we completely ignore the Enterprise funds, and the department heads threaten layoffs when asked to suggest cuts in expenditures and discretionary operating costs, when they could have easily found and submitted ways to reduce expenses and costs, and eliminate known waste. The problem is the Department Heads don’t want to cut discretionary expenditures. They haven’t ever had to do it, so the backup data which threaten layoffs that is before us tonight is the end result.
As tenured employees and professionals making well over 6 figures a year, they should be able to do a simple task such as provide detailed specifics on cutting expenses and waste, not just say “we have to lay off employees”, which would contribute to the already high unemployment rate in our city and county.
The fire assessment for a residential single family was just approved for a 23.1% increase and the total of the fire assessment in revenues per the recent trim notice for next year says Cooper City will derive one million two hundred thousand in additional revenues, in English that’s $1,200,000.00, when we are all scrimping and scraping every dollar we can justify. What is that $1.2M going to be spent on? That question should have been answered at the last budget workshop.
The question arises as to what exactly does the trim notice mean when it says that the City will receive $1,200,000 in funds? If the funds are collected by the county and then returned to the city are those funds entered into a special fund for payment for the services of the BSO fire division or are they placed into the general fund? Or are they meant for some special purpose expenditures? I know asking these questions is a little on the late side but they only arose once I received my TRIM notice.
Just the fact that this workshop is today at 5 PM tells me that this commission does not care about its stakeholders. A 5 PM start time is ridiculous and absurd. If the majority on the commission have so much to do that they couldn’t have had this meeting at a later time to cater to their constituents, then there is a problem. It is downright insulting to our residents and business owners, most of who don’t even get off of work at 5 PM, much less have to rush home, feed their family and try to make it to the budget workshop before adjournment.
Cooper City has a history of spending money like crazy. The resulting debacle is what we have before us now. The ‘voodoo economics’ practiced in Cooper City is largely due to decided fiscal issues a few years ago which are definitely affecting all of us now.
As such, the current Cooper City commission just hasn’t done the job that the residents and business owner’s expect us to do. We bicker about petty nonsense, personalities and collectively allow it to happen at each and every commission meeting while we sit back and 'cry poor mouth'. The Mayor can’t play by the rules, and the rest of the commission can’t seem to lay out a solid financial plan and a future for our city in this economic crisis due to the politricks, hatemongering and bias and prejudice emanating from, and occurring at city hall. It is very apparent that we sorely lack real leadership in Cooper City.
As such, for this Commission to approve this proposed budget as submitted would be a disgrace and an injustice to our constituents and the city’s stakeholders.
PS, there were some issues that were addressed and at least in consensus, parenthetically yet to be confirmed, scheduled for the budget hearing of September regarding the water meter project and capital expenditures. Stay tuned for more...
Monday, August 24, 2009
What we have is a national, state and county/local government that is completely out of control regarding the recent expenditures of taxpayer dollars. True leaders in our city should consist of private business owners, not ‘go-along-to-get-along’ politicians, who will unfortunately approve this upcoming budget because they just don't want to challeng the 'status quo', or they don't understand what it is we are all facing. The commission should consist of the same type of business oriented leaders that understand that during a recession you don't charge your customers more money just because you refuse to make the cuts that are necessary and expected when revenues are down. Some on the commission just don't seem to get it. I guess it's because it is not their money. If they disagree, rather than attack me, I say "put your money where your mouth is, and reduce this budget drastically!".
As public officials, we are in a position of Public Trust and as such, we have a sole duty to provide honest services while in elected office and to do our absolute best to assure absolute public confidence in the government. This has simply not been the case in our beautiful city since even before I was elected. The public’s trust is imperative and is determined by civic values such as open government, integrity and professionalism. Although the integrity of our Mayor and some on the commission has been sorely lacking, I won't discuss that issue here, as it is a subject for another upcoming article.
Schemes to defraud citizens of an intangible right to honest government services and irrational spending in a recession by public officials runs rampant at all levels and must be stopped. It's only the beginning…Government needs to completely slash their budgets like the rest of us have had to do, but this should not come as a surprise to anyone who understands the problem.
Our budget process is in full swing and as such, I recently requested answers from our new City Manager to some questions that I had, and some that I was asked by my constituents, such as "What is your plan to control overall spending? I'd like to see you propose an across the board 10% cut in operating costs on paper. Easily done...Send me a proposal." No reasonable response or attempt to control spending has been given.
I also asked "Are there any pay raises scheduled for employees?" The response was that a '2.5% merit increase has been budgeted based on satisfactory performance. A lump sum longevity increase of $1,500 has been budgeted for 34 employees who are at the top of their pay range.' Although no Cost Of Living Allowance was budgeted this year, my concern is that if the money given is a merit raise, why is it given to 'satisfactory' employess, those who are expected to do their jobs and do it well?
The proposed 2010 budget reflects only a a 1% reduction in discretionary operating costs in the General Fund (see page 11 of the budget) yet the proposed 2010 budget shows a 5% increase. The 2008-09 budget showed an 18% increase on top of a 5% police increase for a total of 23%. To reach a 10% reduction level in discretionary or operating costs spending would possibly require an additional $867,000 and may have service level impacts. What services? Who knows, but any cuts would certainly not impact the 'feel good' programs liked by the majority on the Commission. Instead, any cuts proposed and subsequently implemented may indeed impact essential services that are there for health, safety and welfare reasons.
At the August 11th workshop we discussed, at length, whether to continue funding the Broward County Transit program rather than discuss much more important items such as the extreme pension fund losses and how to ensure that the pension fund is fully funded. If this is the desire of the Commission to review non-priorities and waste excessive amounts of time on mandatory and required city services, we would have to establish additional workshops to review the budget proposal and what other 'services' would be reduced. The problem is, we are already looking at September along with having no mid-year budget review of '09.
An ominous storm cloud is gathering monthly as governments try to pay for the lucrative pension promises made to their employees. And these clouds are not just over a few city skies. They are virtually everywhere. Government employee pension funds across the nation are in a crisis. The Cooper City Police and Firefighters' pension funds alone had net losses of $2.1 million and $1.3 million respectively for FY 2007-08. However, BSO, not the City, is responsible for any losses as part of our merger agreement. You still pay for that, so don't be mislead. The Cooper City General Employees Pension Fund had a net loss of $1.9 million, on top of a $4 million loss. This is clearly a national, systemic problem. In fact, American taxpayers are exposed to a total of more than $350 billion in combined unfunded government pension liabilities just this year alone.
Commissioners still need to pull out their red pens. It's clear that the majority's budget choices reflect personalities, non-priorities and past incompetent budget behavior. Just look at the steep climb in spending per the Finance Director's charts! Spending such as $12K for Commission travel, and city attorney costs of almost $400,000 when the reason given by Commissioner De Jesus to hire long time friend of the Mayor, and neighbor to Commissioner Curran was “to save money” is disgraceful, and disingenuous.
I feel that our local government must change their ‘Spend it or lose it’ attitude and they must immediately tighten their belt like all of us have had to do in the recent past. The question that all of us should be asking is “What does this proposed 2010 budget specifically do?” We just don’t know. There is a severe lack of backup material and an apparent lack of fiscal responsibility in the air.
The departmental and fund comparisons are budget to budget, rather than the 2010 proposed budget compared to actual numbers for 2007 and 2008, and the easily, but not provided projected year-ending 2009. What this means is that we are comparing estimated 2010 to estimates in the budgets for 2007, 2008 and 2009. This is a poor and misleading practice as there is no reason to use the estimates for 2007 and 2008 because we have the actual results for 2007 and 2008.
Some commissioners and residents think that this budget proposal is well done and a fantastic presentation. I disagree. It is almost a trivial exercise to provide a very close estimate for how 2009 will end up. As of now, the staff should have 10 months of 2009 numbers already on the books. They know their run-rate numbers for Year-To-Date. I think that the City Manager should have these numbers, and he should provide them so that we can estimate our budget a little better than trying to make a 'best guess' at it.
It is standard management practice to request budget and expense estimates from departments all throughout American businesses. The City knows, or should know almost to the dollar, what each department expects to spend vs. the run rates through 9/30/09. This would be a much better and much more accurate method than using budget estimates made as much as a year ago. The Manager gave us numbers that he very possibly knows are incorrect as to the real world (the 2007 and 2008 budget figures) and, so far, he refuses to estimate the year-end 2009 numbers when he easily can do so.
So, in essence, the commission and the public are given comparisons that mean little to nothing in terms of actual budget experiences, facts and trends. Somehow or another, we all need to be comparing actual numbers to requested departmental budgets as much as possible, otherwise, we are just comparing one guess to another.
I suggest that all of you ask your Commissioners and the City Manager to re-submit his comparisons using actual '07 and '08 numbers, estimated year-end '09 actuals and proposed '10 budget numbers. I have done so with no response, which is nonfeasance in my humble opinion. I am trying to obtain for my constituents, a much more responsible budget for 2010 that is more in line with the economic recession, current and future hardships being faced by many, many Cooper City residents. As such, it's very obvious we are not hurting for money, but we are indeed spending way too much.
A 'balanced budget' is simply not my idea of prosperity. Costs of Police & Fire are up, along with costs associated with our utilities infrastructure. We must make further deep cuts regarding waste and unnecessary spending in the proposed upcoming budget in order to put even more tax dollars back into the pockets of our families, businesses and employees. We must drastically reduce the extreme operating costs of our local government and increase its level of customer service. No one person or party can claim to have all of the answers. In the end we all must work together, residents and this administration alike, and the people must get what they have long demanded government to do...Be fiscally responsible with their hard earned money.
Another thing that is critical, is that government must focus on results, not politics nor process. And I know that if we all work together, we can succeed. I invite all of you to the budget workshops and public hearings (posted here) and I implore you to give valuable and much anticipated input throughout the entire budget approval process.
Let me know what you think our budget priorities should be. The Commission cannot satisfy everyone’s concerns, especially in this economic recession, but your concerns on what should and should not be spent and/or cut are very important issues to me. Just as important are your concerns of where local government waste or inefficiencies are occurring. If you have any concerns to convey toward your elected officials, please be as specific as possible. Comments such as “Don’t hurt the bus program” are not going to give us specifics on what to propose in our upcoming budget meetings.
At the heart of the local government budget and pension crisis is a set of incentives that encourages elected officials to make decisions in which they don't have to bear the consequences for. Since your elected city and county officials will not immediately bear the costs and consequences of the budget and employee benefit increases that they are responsible for and supported, there is no incentive for them to show future fiscal responsibility and restraint.
At the end of the day what we should be doing is simply our job...public service. In this process, we've got to ensure that our tax dollars are spent very wisely and only on the bare necessities...needs, not wants. Budgets should reflect the desires and relevant issues of the community, not that of those in power. As I stated in my public commentary, politics must be completely eliminated from the budget process. We need open, honest government in Cooper City. We require and demand a Commission that works together for the will of The People!
As long as the Mayor and individual Commisisoners remember that we all serve The People, and we work together to do what is right, putting aside our continually ensnaring and petty personal, negative and political differences, the goals of prosperity that all of us share and dream of can be achieved right now. A house divided cannot stand. In public service, it is always important to remember, we serve our boss “We The People”.
Contact your Commission members and city staff, and demand that they cut discretionary spending for this upcoming budget. Otherwise, your taxes will continue to increase...
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Cooper City Commissioner challenges multi-million dollar ‘hi-tech’ water meters as excessive and unnecessary spending
August 12, 2009 Cell: 954-445-6997
Cooper City Commissioner challenges multi-million dollar ‘hi-tech’ water meters as excessive and unnecessary spending
Commissioner John Sims displaying an example of
Cooper City’s Multi-million dollar water meters
Cooper City, FL – Cooper City District 1 Commissioner John Sims released a statement today saying that “Cooper City residents cannot afford to spend an assumed $4.7 million dollars on new electronic residential water meters that will take more than 15 years to recover the costs.”
“Our residents are hurting financially, and many have lost their jobs or have seen their incomes drop substantially. For the Cooper City Mayor and Commission to even consider spending four-plus million dollars at this time on unnecessary, hi-tech water meters is a travesty and an insult to our employees, residents and business owners. We should be looking to cut spending, to cut unnecessary programs and to give back excessive, surplus revenues to our stakeholders in the form of tax cuts. We should not be increasing discretionary expenditures in a time of economic concern. I would question such a large expenditure at this point in time when it is not a priority, who would benefit from the project, and who would lose their jobs. It makes no sense at all to fully implement this project in our fiscal year 2010 budget”, Commissioner Sims said.
The City Manager, Mr. Bruce Loucks, is recommending converting all of the city’s water meters to a high tech meter that use a wireless network, possibly eliminating the meter reader jobs. If in fact the jobs are truly eliminated, and not simply transferred to another area, it would take decades to recover those salaries over the costs of the new system.
Although no cost to benefit analysis, efficiency and performance or collection rate data justification has been provided by city staff to date, Commissioner Sims said the initial loan amount for the project is estimated to be approximately $3.2 million.
Allowing for an average annual interest percentage rate of 5.5%, the total equates to about $4.7 million for the hardware, not including future maintenance, replacement and non-warranty expenditures. The city may or may not be able to receive a low interest bank loan to fund this massive project. If not, the total interest rate may indeed be much higher, pushing the cost upwards and possibly above $5 million.
Commissioner Sims has urged all Cooper City residents and business owners to contact their elected officials and the City Manager, asking them to reduce or eliminate any and all unnecessary or discretionary spending at this time. He further stated “Please call your Mayor and Commissioners and tell them ‘no’. We need less spending, not more. I ask you to attend the upcoming Commission budget meetings and voice your concerns about the rising and excessive costs of managing your local government” Sims said.
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If you would like more information about this topic or to schedule an interview, please contact Commissioner John Sims.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Last month's July 20th budget workshop and July 21st Commission meeting was an absolute disgrace. It was unprofessional, an embarrassment, it was deliberately confusing, it was uncalled for and it was a deliberate attempt by the commission liberal majority (Eisinger, De Jesus, Curran) to continue to silence residential critics of our Commission.
The main motion before us was never properly discussed and voted on due to the blatant politricks, bias, inconsistencies and lack of leadership by our Mayor and her long time friend (who she conveniently forgot to disclose) David Wolpin.
I, for one, will not stand by and watch this great city destroy itself under a mediocre and biased leadership, that drifts from one political issue to the next without complete resolution of the major issues, while eroding our basic purpose in life...freedom from government rule, freedom from party politics and excessive taxation, while eroding the sole purpose of government, health safety and welfare of our community.
We’ve trusted but one person to do what’s right for all of us, our new City Manager. My view of government does not place trust in one person, or political party. My trust is placed in our core values we all share that transcend individual people or party politics.
Government has never been more untrustworthy, and has never more dangerous, than when our desires blind us to its great power to harm us under the guise of a ‘valid municipal purpose’.
We’ve had a terrible smelling economic stew brewing in Cooper City. We now have cooking, a new and indigestible concoction that consists of inflation, recession, high unemployment, runaway taxes, deficit spending, Pension costs that may eventually bankrupt us, all improperly seasoned with a growing and unstoppable energy crisis and topped off with unnecessary ‘feel good’ programs in order to boost political posturing that have all taken priority over the health, safety and welfare of our community.
It’s a brew that turns my stomach, as it should yours. Our city government has become more biased, unfriendly, questionable, overgrown and overweight under the Eisinger regime, and it is time that our city government goes on a strict spending diet.
Tax decreases should not be opposed by only a tiny minority in our city, and on our city commission, as opposed to true fiscal responsibility and responsible growth in the right direction for our city’s future.
We cannot look to tomorrow or next year. We must look to 3, 4, 7 or 10 years from now in order to keep Cooper City “Someplace Special “for our children and families.
We all need to apply and demand common sense and increased fiscal responsibility to our city government like we all must apply in our daily lives now. We must not only demand it now, we must all hold city hall fully accountable.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
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Friday, June 12, 2009
This is a long overdue Bill that now puts the kibosh on the spending of public funds for political agenda's by the city regarding advertisements concerning an issue, referendum, or amendment that is subject to a vote of the electors.
The Bill states that "...A local government or a person acting on behalf of local government may not expend or authorize the expenditure of and a person or group may not accept, public funds for a political advertisement or electioneering communication concerning an issue, referendum, or amendment that is subject to a vote of the electors."
What a great law this is! I, for one, am fed up with seeing how government haphazardly spends our money to push their political causes. This Bill is long overdue, and I was certain that the counties and cities lobbying very hard to defeat it may have prevailed. Fortunately the Governor didn't cave in to the political pressure, and did the right thing.
I am proud to have supported this Bill while in Tallahassee earlier this year, due to the fact that I believe that our local government should not be expending our tax dollars on issues that may not be agreeable to you, nor should the local government be spending our money on issues that may (usually) benefit(s) some person, commissioner, city department or a vendor, either financially or politically.
The Bill "does not preclude an elected official of the local government from expressing an opinion on any issue at any time" as long as taxpayer funds are not used to convey their opinion.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Please read the below release...
A Message from Sheriff Al Lamberti
“This afternoon I announced our agency’s new gun violence prevention program. The goal of this program is to reduce the level of gun violence in Broward County. This is not a short-term initiative but a new BSO philosophy. This proactive program aims to remove illegal weapons from the streets and to impede illegal ownership of guns. Our deputies will be trained to spot, track and prevent gun crimes. New technology will be introduced to track and match shell casings to guns used in homicides and robberies. And through Crime Stoppers, rewards will now be made to callers who report people who have weapons illegally or who posses banned weapons. The Crime Stoppers program, Gun Stoppers, will award up to $100 for the recovery of an illegal weapon and up to $1,000 for the arrest of someone carrying a gun illegally. To make a report, call (954) 493-TIPS (8477) or (866) 493-TIPS toll free. Remember, you will remain anonymous. I am confident that if we work together, Broward County will remain a safe place for all of our families.”
NOTE: I would also urge each and every one of you to support Sheriff Lamberti’s FY 2009-10 budget and his fight against any reduction of it, and give him your full support (See attached .pdf file). This politically created budget issue is not about party politics...It is about keeping our streets and our precious families safe in a time of apparent turmoil in these trying times. Unscrupulous criminals are in our neighborhood and city as evidenced by the BSO RED ALERT of March 12th. These criminals are coming into our local neighborhoods and communities with no regard for your life, your safety, or that of your family. Don’t forget about our brave BSO Firefighters also!
Government’s sole function is simply that of health, safety and welfare of the public at large. Nothing more, nothing less. Make no mistake about it, we need to ensure that our city government, Debby Eisinger, Lisa Mallozzi, James Curran and Neal DeJesus, along with myself and the Office of the Broward Sheriff, are doing just that. Ensuring your safety and that of your family, while ensuring the safety of our communities and families at large, is the absolute number one priority of any government entity. Don’t allow the County’s apparent mis-management of taxpayer money get in the way of your safety and that of your family...
For more, read here...
Saturday, June 6, 2009
President Elect Lydia Kruger helped to rally the troops. Lydia was there bright and early 'barking orders' at all of us ;) Now, the Kiwanis Club of Cooper City is ready to clean up Christie Schafale Park and plant marigolds.
Lydia's first task was to get us to wake up and pay attention, so that we could get a group photo. Man, did it get hot out there really quick!
Even the kids in the neighborhood showed up to help! In fact, helpers of all ages showed up!
Lydia's next directive was to get another photo 'just in case'...What a beautiful park! While we planted the Marigold's Bruce Blittman cleaned all of the visible trash from the park, and to our surprise, it was spotless!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Actually, the Commission and the P&Z board have had numerous meetings since the P&Z's inception regarding sign codes. Also, the P&Z Board has also gone over this issue many, many times in the past 7 or 8 years. At this point, I don’t feel it is the P&Z Board’s job to figure out what is wrong with the sign code, if indeed anything is wrong with it at all.
The issues are really quite simple…You have a very small business interest that wants to have new or different 'looking' signs, and you have vast residential interests that want our community to remain a bedroom community, who would like to see almost no signs at all.
Some on this commission apparently have indicated that there were some particular business interests that they had heard from, and they would like those interests to be addressed, yet those specific concerns were not laid on the table for any real specificity except for one or two issues, one being an 'open' [for business] sign and the other a 'monument' type sign.
One of two aforesaid issues on addressing the specific problem, along with giving a specific directive to come back to the Commission with a proposed change for a vote, was that of an ‘open’ [for business] sign not being forced to be 4 or 5 feet back from the front window of an establishment, which was the only real issue at hand this afternoon. There has not been any desire to make any significant changes to signage because apparently the city, the P&Z Board and everyone else, likes things just the way they are.
There hasn’t been a sign waiver variance request in the past few years to my knowledge. When someone requests a variance, we as a city, can indeed cause excessive wastes of time and money as it is. The system process is grossly inefficient to some, but the wheels do turn albeit slowly. My opinion is that the P&Z Board should handle sign changes, approving variances on an as needed basis and forward their decision to the Commisison for approval. I don’t know of any business owner that has not received approval on any variance when they have properly applied for it, as long as they agreed to comply with the rules, policy and procedures set in place.
There is absolutely nothing happening in this City, either from a development or a business aspect, which is compelling the Commisison to make any changes to the sign code. There is also no specific reason for this Commission to have asked the P&Z Board to re-review our sign codes, and to try and figure out what we need to change and why, and then convey that info to us. I believe that we don’t need to change anything at this time.
Asking the P&Z Board to re-review the waiver, or variance process, may be the only applicable and valid directive, but this Commission does not need to micromanage the proces or the sign code, which in doing so, may ultimately open up a lot of issues (i.e., Pandora's Box) which will ultimately create more political controversy and dissention on the dais. I don’t believe that we know what we, as a Commission, want in regards to sign code changes, if any. If so, the previous discussion(s), issues and subsequent directive(s) would have been clear and concise, of which they were not.
I think the economy alone, and possibly one or two Commissioners/Mayor, may be the driving political force on this non-issue. We have a code that works! If somebody wants to change what we have, simply because they want a different kind of sign or something else, then let them petition the P&Z Board with a request for a variance or a waiver. Seeing that there is no major development in the near future, no request for variances, no specific complaints so as to justify changing the code and avoiding more pressing issues that we should be addressing, there is no reason to do this at this time.
The city has rcently spent hours upon hours going through the sign code, even to the point of debating this afternoon and showing the Commisison what other cities do versus what Cooper City should do. It’s not about what other cities do. It's about what our stakeholders want and a valid municipal purpose. We decided to save $350,000+ of our tax dollars because it didn’t make sense to re-write the land use codes in this current financial environment. As such, it does not make sense to needlessly re-write the sign codes.
This issue should be an extension of that previous land use directive, yet the sign issue is continually being pressed. We have spent a lot of time to get to the point of where we started at...the sign code does not need to be re-written. There is currently a specific and detailed remedy and process in place for those residents and business owners who seem to require a variance from the existing code, or for those who want an 'open' sign up against the window.
I believe the sign code issue is a non-issue at this juncture, and unless someone can give specific and compelling reasons why we should change the sign codes rather than approve variances, I will vote against any changes outside of simple sign code amendments placed on the agenda. We need to address more pertinent issues such as the loss of pension funds of $1,415,475 in October, and another $438,573 in November, for a total of about a $4M loss, and we need figure out the funds eventual replenishment (yes, we are on the hook for that amount folks), the loss of about $5M in unrestricted reserves, a 23% budget increase, among other serious issues forthwith.
We have the cash in the bank to bring the General Employees Pension Fund to 'par', yet the Mayor, and Comissioner De Jesus felt that was not the answer. The city would not be "throwing good money after bad" (Quote by the Mayor) if it made timely contributions to push the plan back into 'parity' and bring it up to a good vesting ratio. It seems that the employee pension fund has recently made good profit on interest bearing investments such as CD's, Treasuries and high grade corporate and municipal bonds.
When I heard those two on the commission questioning, at our last meeting, why they should put money into the fund when it is very likely to lose value, my thoughts were that either they had not read the data provided by the City Manager or the Actuarial reports, which showed some gains in interest bearing investments as well as major losses in stock equities, or, they didn't understand much about pension fund financial management, or, they misssed it when the fund manager specified that they had begun to make changes in the fund portfolio towards the aforesaid higher interest bearing investments rather than continue to invest in stocks and mortgage backed securities. It's a no-brainer, but you have to 'follow the money' to understand their reasoning for not doing what we, by law, must do.
Unless these major, priority issues are fully addressed and resolved immediately, I will vote against any change in the 'sign code' at every opportunity.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Mrs. McCoy has many years of experience in public service as a servant of The People of Cooper City on the Planing and Zoning Board, and will indeed continue to do the right thing for the residents and business owners of Cooper City. She will also continue to be a great asset to the management, operations and recommendations to the City Commission of the P&Z Board.
Welcome back Marianne!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The event was planned as a gathering of residents and neighbors with autism and with BSO police and fire department personnel.
The event had a few goals, one which was to introduce members of the autism community with Cooper City's BSO law enforcement personnel, the BSO fire department personnel along with city employees, and two, to educate the general public, city employees and BSO police and fire personnel about the special needs and behaviors of those with autism spectrum disorder.
The UM-NSU Mobile Family Clinic vehicle was in attendance which facilitates preliminary screening assessments for the disorder. What a nice vehicle and program that was!
I enjoyed learning about the local awareness programs that are in place and the recent success in treating the disorder from BSO Fire Chief Richard Sievers and BSO Police Chief John Hale. From what I have learned, Autism is indeed treatable. Children do not "outgrow" autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to very significantly improved outcomes.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The Florida Department of Education recognized the following Cooper City schools for their Five Star award which shows committment to students' success through involvement in the community:
Embassy Creek Elementary (14th year), Pioneer Middle (8th year), and Cooper City High (1st year).
A "Five Star" school must demonstrate 100% achievement in the areas of community and business partnerships, family involvement, volunteers, student community service, and school advisory councils.
Left to right: Commissioner James C. Curran, Wendy Doll (Principal - Cooper City High), Cynthia Novotny (Principal - Griffin Elem.) Commissioner Neal de Jesus', Angie Moodliyar (Assistant Principal - Griffin Elem.), Robert Becker (Principal - Embassy Creek Elem.), Mayor Debbie Eisinger, Commissioner John Sims, Gail Silig ( Assistant Principal - Cooper City Elem.), Commissioner Lisa Mallozzi, Linda Arnold ( Principal - Pioneer Middle), Nadine Weltman Laham.
The outstanding adult volunteer awards went to Stephanie Ferrara of Cooper City Elementary, Elizabeth Gainsburg of Embassy Creek Elementary, Sandra Gerstle of Cooper City High, and Susan Safra of Cooper City High.
The Outstanding Volunteer Program Organizer awards went to Mayor Eisinger, Elissa Elias (Embassy Creek Elementary), Ginette Hartmen (Cooper City Elementary) and Vito Scotello (Cooper City High).
The Outstanding Senior Volunteer awards went to James Hood (Cooper City Elementary), and Steven Schultze (Embassy Creek Elementary).
Alina Freeman (Embassy Creek lementary) and Diana Morales (Cooper City Elementary) recieved a Five-year VAST pin and award for 200 hours of service and the Ten-year award went to Mary Edinger of Cooper City High.
Cooper City was recognized with a 'School Based Partnership of the Year' award, and Cooper City High was nominated at the High School level.
CONGRATULATIONS to our 2007/2008 recipients!
Thursday, April 30, 2009
RESIDENTS ATWITTER OVER CYBERVISOR, THE BSO COMMUNITY ADVISORY SYSTEM
If you live or work in Broward County, the Broward Sheriff’s Office has something important to tell you. Thanks to a new ground-breaking online community advisory system, it can.
By simply registering online for CyberVisor, residents can receive important e-mails or text messages from the nation’s largest fully-accredited sheriff’s office about their safety, their neighborhoods and their commutes including:
* criminal activity, such as vehicle or home burglaries
* traffic information, including road closures and construction zones
* upcoming events, like car safety seat inspections or Shred-a-Thons
* important safety tips to keep your home, business and property safe
* be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) alerts for wanted suspects or missing children
BSO has always used technology to stay connected to the people it serves. Now it has created its own, secure, no-cost advisory system to communicate with the public. CyberVisor is the first advisory system of its kind created only for public safety news and information.
Similar to Twitter, CyberVisor allows the commands in BSO’s multiple jurisdictions to communicate with the residents and businesses they serve.
“Given the state of our economy, those of us in public safety must take advantage of every opportunity to keep residents informed,” Sheriff Al Lamberti said. “CyberVisor gives us a way to do this at virtually no cost. The more information people have, the safer they are.”
You can find BSO online at www.sheriff.org and on the agency’s Facebook fan page, where you can see important public safety messages, agency photos, check out job opportunities and monitor wanted criminals. To sign up for CyberVisor, “The BSO Community Advisory System,” visit www.sheriff.org/cybervisor.
This report by Dani Moschella 4/30/2009 1000
Thursday, April 23, 2009
In addition, there was superb food and refreshments served. There were also plenty of historical photos and memorabilia throughout the center, and the classroom sponsored a video presentation. All in all, it was a fantastic gathering filled with happiness, comeraderie and great opportunities to meet again with both new and old friends.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The ordinance is not fully vetted nor properly written, in my opinion, and I have placed it on the next agenda for further discussion. It also shouldn't have been written based on politically favored reactions to recent and few abuses, but on what is "reasonably expected" of the residents and public officials. If future discretions are found to occur, and are outside of those ‘unwritten’ standards (similar to the unwritten rules that continually arise on an as needed basis), then clear and actionable severe repercussions could be available. Not a good way to treat our valued shareholders, I'd say.
The majority of the Commission has not acted like true professionals on this issue, but more like unskilled amateurs, particularly in Parliamentary procedure, and are no longer interested in any meaningful dialogue, nor have they been intent on listening to each other’s opinions outside of their own in a meaningful manner in its recent agenda discussions. There is no real leadership at city hall, so I guess that means that this is the way we will continue to operate.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Many have said to me that they believe the Ordinance was developed to funnel the new city attorney and his law firm more money in exchange for campaign donations and other ‘favors’. Their nickname apparently has now become 'Rainmaker', and the way the Ordinance was written, the contractor-magistrate will be held accountable to absolutely NO ONE! Not even the Commission. The city attorney will also be the Magistrate’s "legal advisor" along with having the title of 'city prosecutor'. Also, the way the Ordinance is written, any violations will be adjudicated by a city contractor-vendor who will be paid directly from the proceeds of his or her fines and assessment adjudications. Can you say “conflict of interest”?
The Special Magistrate is an attorney and member of the Florida Bar who is appointed by the majority of the City Council to preside over Code Enforcement matters. The Special Magistrate has the jurisdiction and authority to hear and decide alleged violations and exercise the powers of a Code Enforcement Board as provided in chapter 162, Florida Statutes.
The Special Magistrate also has the authority to subpoena people and records, hear cases involving suspected violations, order rulings on violations, assess fines and order liens to be placed upon property. There would be less of an appearance of impropriety with a Code Enforcement Board than a Special Magistrate. Accountability is so important to this city, and all of us campaigned on the issue, yet none of the other commission members have been accountable in their actions on this particular issue, more particularly accountable toward the residents.
Why do they think we need this? Cooper City used to have this system in place, and it was deemed to be bad for the city. Cooper City doesn't seem the type of city that is in need of such a hastily prepared legal ‘set up’, after all, that's why we all live here. We're basically a bedroom community with minor crime and code problems. Unfortunately, the rest of the commission supports this debacle with no solid facts or data to justify it, no valid or substantial cost-benefit analysis, no offered justifiable facts or data for reasons other than stated in the Ordinance and no set of valid figures on which to base a future review other than a 'best guess'.
We don't need this ordinance, and we don’t want it! Why potentially spend more money on more lawyers, and fix something that currently isn't broken? If it is broken, why hasn't it been delineated in black and white by the City Manager? If it costs less, then show me the cold hard cash. If it’s better, show me why, not just take the word of the City Attorney on the matter, with all due respect. If the County Court Judge’s aren’t doing their job as alluded to, why aren’t they being held accountable? Apparently, the “inform, warn and cite” practice that this city has supported for so long, will no longer be available to its shareholders upon passing of this hastily initiated Ordinance. This is another non-issue that's bad for the city, bad for our image, and bad for you...if you agree, show up Tuesday at the Commission meeting and voice your objections.