Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cooper City Sign Code Workshop Synopsis

The Cooper City Commission held a sign code workshop this afternoon at 4 PM at Cooper City hall. First, I want to thank the members of the Business Advisory Board and the Planning and Zoning Board for their participation in the process of bringing the Commission the issues that are of concern to this evening's sign code workshop.

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

Cooper City Planning and Zoning Board Appointment

I would like to proudly announce my appointment of Mrs. Marianne McCoy to the Cooper City Planning and Zoning Board. Please welcome her, as she is an invaluable resource, a wealth of knowledge, and a great person!

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

Cooper City Autism Awareness Day Event

Cooper City's Autism Awareness Day brought out many families and neighbors with autistic children to the Cooper City Fire Station on Saturday May 9th from 11 AM to 1 PM.

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!
We are all very grateful to Mr. Bruce Blitman, Esq., for the hard work he put into making this event a success. Mr. Blitman is a Certified County, Family and Circuit Civil Mediator, a Qualified Arbitrator and Umpire. He is also a constituency board member of the University of Miami -Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.

Mr. Blitman informed all of us that the Broward County Autism Society of America, which had a great assessment program at the function, recently completed training with BSO police and fire personnel to help them understand and recognize common behaviors of the autism, in order to further promote public safety.
Since 1965, the Autism Society of America (ASA) has been a leader in serving people with autism, their families and the professionals. ASA supports research that will help families living with autism.

Demonstrations and displays were performed by BSO police and fire personnel regarding their duties and how they interact with the public on a daily basis. We all learned a great deal from the presentations that were given.

BSO police and fire personnel from the Cooper City District were in attendance. There was also plenty of food, fun and cold drinks.

In addition to the Broward County Autism Society of America sponsoring the event, the Cooper City Kiwanis Club was also a sponsor, and lots of volunteers there to help out throughout the festivities. A big THANK YOU goes out to the Cooper City Kiwanis Club volunteers which included not only Bruce Blitman but also Steve Cummings, Lydia Kruger, Mike Kadel, Linda Victor, and others.

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.

I fully support and congratulate the Broward County Chapter of the Autism Society of America, Cooper City Kiwanis Club, and Mr. Bruce Blitman for their fine volunteer work and donations of time, sweat, food and supplies during this event. I am certain that next year’s event will prove to be an even greater success!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cooper City wins at Community Involvement Awards

On April 30th, Cooper City was honored to be selected for numerous awards at the Broward School Board's Community Involvement Awards ceremony held at the Broward County Convention Center.

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.

You can learn more about this program HERE, and HERE .

CONGRATULATIONS to our 2007/2008 recipients!