Coffee With A Cop

West Palm Beach Police Dept. are inviting residents to join them for a cup of coffee.

When: September 28,2016

Where: McDonald @ 2421 Okeechobee Blvd. between 8-10 AM

Join your neighbors and local officers for complimentary coffee and conversation. There will be no speeches or agenda,just a chance to get to know the officers in your neighborhood, ask questions,and discuss ideas.

I particularly like the “discuss ideas” with the police.

Do you have an idea or suggestion on how to make the streets, your neighborhood and your loved ones safer? An idea or suggestion is not useful unless it is shared with the people who can make a difference.

If you watched the news this month you heard about a shooting at a strip mall in Houston where several people were shot. A video captured the sounds and sights of residents running from the sound of gunfire, while 5 or 6 police officers ran toward the shootings.

That shooting come days after a shooting at a Washington state mall that left five people dead.
A 20-year-old man stabbed 10 people at a Minnesota mall before being shot to death by an off-duty police officer. Even when the officer has a day off, they are still on duty protecting us.

In Sept. WPB had 3 separate shootings in the Northend of the city and you can’t take anything for granted. You can no longer assume you can safely walk in your neighborhood or shop at a mall. The crazies are out there, and you never know when or where they will strike.

The residents can’t fix the problem without the police, and the police can’t fix the problem without our cooperation.

Please join the police for coffee and conversation. Your idea may change things for the better and make us all safer.

What have you got to lose?

Peace in the Streets

The City program “Peace in the Streets” continued monthly throughout the summer led by Rev. Kevin Jones who organizes and gets the word out inviting residents to join in the march in an attempt to show solidarity in a troubled neighborhood.

The City provides a police escort with a minimum of six officers to accompany the walkers, who split into two groups to cover more of the neighborhood.
We talk to the residents who are outside and ask permission to place a “Peace in the Streets” sign on their property.
We offer young men between the age of 18-24 an application for “The Mayors Initiative Program.” The City has arranged with businessmen to hire these young men in an apprenticeship position. With the amount of new construction jobs this could be a dream come true for many.

Over the summer walkers have had their own personnel police escort due to the lack of participation from residents which I admit can be discouraging when only five or six people show up to walk neighborhoods in 90 degree temperatures, until you notice many of the homes have no air conditioning. Then you take a moment to thank God for what you have and the advantages He has given you.

I admit to becoming discouraged and wondering if we even make a difference in people’s lives and then a resident offers you a bottle of cold water, another takes the time to thank you, another places a sign in their yard,a young man says he is looking for work and fills out an application. Yes, we are making a difference.

This last Thursday I arrived for the march to see 20-25 folks ready to march with us, a very pleasant surprise.
Channel 5 was present and I assume due to a relatively peaceful summer, the problems are back with a vengeance with three shootings in Sept; and they realized there was a story to be told.

I spoke with a resident who accepted a yard sign and we talked about the recent shootings when she pointed to a group of young men standing on a corner 2 blocks away.
I asked if they were gang members, and she replied yes, that’s “their” corner to sell drugs.

At a recent City Commission meeting I invited residents to join us in the Walk for Peace hoping a few more folks would attend.
A resident watching the meeting from home, named Matt Chambers, made the decision to join the Sept. walk and had the foresight to send his own invitation on his Facebook page. I saw many new faces in the crowd, and they mentioned they were from the south end of the city, and I asked them why they were walking today, and they said they read it on Matt’s Facebook page.
I credit Mr. Chambers for the turnout, and a sincere “Thank you” to him for taking the time to attend and send out invitations.

This is the difference one man can make.

The next march is to be held on 10/20/2016 at Coleman Park,1116 21st. St to start 6:00 PM.   Please join us.

One Cent Sales Tax Increase: What do you Think?

Last March the city asked voters to vote “Yes for WPB Jobs” with the signs going up throughout the city, and 68% of voters agreed, not realizing they were voting to grant property tax exemption to new businesses and the expansions of existing ones. This is exactly what government depended on, voters not being familiar with the issues.
Sneaky and underhanded but effective.

The State of Florida along with WPB,  PBC Officials, and the Public School System are hoping to strike it rich if voters allow a one cent increase in the sales tax.
Here is my opinion on why you should vote No, and I offer examples.

Lets take schools and the information below was taken from the Florida Lottery website.

“Nov 4 1986 By a two-to-one margin, Florida voters approve a constitutional amendment authorizing the state to operate a lottery for the purpose of generating additional “funds for education.”

Did the State set up designated funds for schools with the lottery windfall? No, they did not. The billions, over thirty years were placed in the “General” fund, for politicians to spend as they see fit, including taking dollars from public schools and transferring it to political friends/allies who opened for profit Charter Schools, with hundreds failing in Florida. Another slap in the face after the school failures the money was not returned, not sought, and the failed school owner is allowed, in some cases, to keep the land and building.

It’s not what you know, but who.

According to Fortune Magazine who wrote on 1/13/2016 the article states where the money went from the recent $1.5 BILLION Powerball lottery.

50% Jackpot winners=========           $750 Million
5% Administration===========          $37.5 Million
5% State General Fund========           $37.5 Million
11% Other=================           $82.5 Million
29% Education==============          $217.5 Million

21% of the $1.5 billion did not go to education, and you have to love the explanation where 11% went to “other” What is other? I believe $82.5 million deserves a better explanation than “other”.
The figures above represent $157.5 million not used for schools, and that is the report from one lottery.

“Other” is not raising teachers salaries, not building new schools, not repairing older schools, not insuring every student have books/supplies.

If you find the time to examine your tax bill for 2016, look where your taxes were spent. I offer mine as an example.
School Local================$201.08
School State================$403.61
Over $600.00 paid in 2016 for schools.

If the BILLIONS raised in the State Lottery over the last 30 years went to education, Florida would be graduating valedictorians instead of reading about “failing” schools.

A story in the PB Post written 4/29/2015. Here are a few highlights from the story. PBC, Florida School Board approved a contract for incoming school superintendent Robert Avossa, which included a base salary of $325,000.00, the highest paid in the state of Florida. Along with his salary he received $40,000.00 consulting fee for 21/2 weeks of orientation, $1,000.00 monthly stipend, a car, extra $24,000.00 annually for his retirement fund, a one million dollar life insurance policy, smart phone, computer, along with other perks brings his total compensation to $361,000.00 annually.

July 17, 2016. Story in the PB Post “Official demoted in bus crisis out-earns boss in new post” tells the story of Steven Bonino who works in a job created for him as part of his removal from his previous post as former chief of support operations and is earning $111,000.00/year.

What do you imagine the teacher who is responsible for your child 6=7 hours a day= 5 days a week earns?

At a recent WPB City Commission meeting City Administrator Jeff Green stated “Groceries” are not taxed. Mr. Green is correct.
Buy a loaf of bread and cold cuts, not taxed.
Buy a sandwich, ready to eat, Taxed.
Next time you are shopping take the time to read the sign that state what item’s can be found in a particular isle. The vast majority of the items are taxed. Next time you shop pay attention to your sales slip to see what is taxed.

Purchase a new car for $25,000.00.
Sales tax at 6% will cost you $1,500.00
Sales tax at 7% will cost you $1,750.00

Gas for your new car @ $2.25/gal. and you use 20 gal.
Sales tax @ 6% =$2.70
Sales tax @ 7% =$3.15
How many times a year do you fill your gas tank?

Family of four eat dinner at a restaurant. Bill comes to $80.00
Sales tax@ 6% = $4.80
Sales tax@ 7% = $5.60
How many times a year do you eat out?

Now lets look at the extra penny sales tax and businesses.

One story written on April 17,2016 “ex-cons defunct theater was on the list for sales tax funds” tells the story of the shuttered Prince Theater in Pahokee, which was purchased for $8,500.00 and was scheduled to receive $1.4 million dollars for a new makeover.

Despite no public vetting of the projects by government officials, county commissioners and school board members have embraced the proposal, agreed to commit $121 million to finance 23 private construction projects. Prince Theater was one such project, despite the councils assertion that each project had been “rigorously vetted.”
How many other projects slipped by and will receive tax payer dollars?

Once again I repeat it’s not what you know–but who.



New Sheriff In Town

On Aug.25,2016 I attended the Internal Auditor meeting and as usual received excellent information on city run business, which I will share with you.

 Mr Strout and his staff finished two audits namely HCD (Housing and Community Development) and the Fleet report. Two very important and time consuming audits.
This story will concern HCD.
HCD is responsible for planning, administering, implementing, and monitoring Federal and State housing programs, and is charged with administration of the City’s federal awards from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD ) In 2013 and 2014 the City was awarded $6,552,701 and $5,254,517 respectively.
Statement of Objectives:

1}  To determine whether HCD is managed in accordance with HUD requirements and whether the City Administration exercised reasonable administrative oversight over the consultants brought in to manage the Department.

2}  To review fiscal policies and practices to ensure that drawdowns were made correctly, program income was captured, and fiscal information was properly recorded in both the City’s financial information system and HUD’s system.

3} To ensure that grant recipients met the qualifications for assistance and that all files were maintained in accordance with departmental policies.

Audit Conclusions and Summary of Findings:
1}  All four consultants hired to provide technical services to HCD, provided some services prior to the execution of their contracts and or contract amendments.
2} The City did not fully utilize processes to evaluate vendor performance.
3}  Community Redevelopment Associates (CRA) did not have adequate staff on site to manage its engagement.
      NOTE: Not to be confused with Kim Briesmeister’s City’s CRA. 
4}  The vendor selection process needed improvement.
5} A few files did not contain all required documentation.
A breakdown of the Conclusions and Summary Findings of the IA report.
 1}  CRA was paid $95,829 prior to the execution of a contract pricing amendment FY 2014. After reviewing the summary of paid invoices provided by the Finance Department, it was determined that CRA was not paid in accordance with their 2014 contract amendment. The fee for one program was contracted at a total payment of $13,224, which equates to $1,102 per month. Historically, these programs were paid on a straight-line monthly basis. However, in 2014 the vendor was paid on an accelerated payment schedule of $2,171 per month, nearly double the contractual rate.
 The contractor was subsequently terminated effective June 1, 2014. As a result of the termination, there were a series of contractors brought in to assist HCD staff, until a new director was hired in November 2015, namely Armando Fana, Director of HCD, and his Administrator Assistant Jennifer Ferriol, and a staff of 12.
The August 25 meeting I heard many accolades concerning Mr. Fana and Ms. Ferriol, and the turnaround in the department. Mr. Fana stated he could not have done it without Ms. Ferriol and she stated she could not have done it without her staff. No glory hounds here, but credit for all. 
On June 17,2016 a story was posted titled “The Report Is In” and was the IA report on the Procurement Dept, and the many problems that occurred within due to a staffing problem, and apparently a lack of interest from Deputy City Administrator Miller who oversaw the department.
Note:  Credit must be given to Mayor Muoio who changed procedure and now has HCD reporting to her office, bypassing Deputy City Administrator Dorritt Miller who oversaw the department and it’s many former problems. Remember the story in the PB Post two years ago