Shameful City Commission Meeting

5/21/2018 City Commission Meeting with 28 items on the agenda.

At the beginning of every meeting Mayor Muoio makes a point of reading the “Civility and Decorum” which sets the standard for the meeting, what is and is not allowed. There are 5 items listed. I draw your attention to #1. “Officials shall be recognized by the chair and shall not interrupt a speaker”

The City Commission Chamber was nearly filled to capacity with residents who wanted to address item # 22: Resolution No.134-18 accepting the Downtown Mobility Plan, and the supporting Citywide Bicycle Masterplan, the Downtown Parking & Transportation Demand Management Study and the Okeechobee Corridor Study. Item #22 was moved to position #28,
My opinion: Discourage residents from staying.

When #22 was called Mayor Muoio stated in part “I know a lot of you are here to discuss “Flagler Shores” and the OBD (Okeechobee Business District) I want to make a point of clarification were not here tonight to talk about “Flagler Shores” and not here to talk about the OBD. Is that clear? Good, and thank you”

The mayor then called on Scott Kelly (Assistant City Administrator) to address the residents with a con job presentation.
Mr. Kelly first sentence started with “One thing I want to make clear is we have heard stories we are trying to force people out of their cars, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. During Mr. Scott’s soft sell, the Mayor interupted him twice. (See #1 above)
My opinion: Mr. Scott statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
On Clematis St; between N.Quadrille and Dixie Hwy. there are 18 parking spots which consist of 1- handicapped, 1- 15 min. parking and 1 for library book drop off.
A few months ago the city removed 3 parking spaces on Clematis to make room for “Parklets” which consisted of placing a table and 2 chairs in the street gutter so people could have lunch or dinner. How would one out of control car have impacted their dining pleasure?
I attended a meeting at City Hall and there were approxamately 8-10 covered meters with “No Parking” After residents complained the spots were re-opened.
The city wants to expand the sidewalks. How? I see 2 choices move city hall back a few feet or remove the parking spaces. Can you see another way?
In all fairness Mr. Kelly tried hard to ram the mayor’s agenda down our throat.

Now it’s time to hear from the residents on the Downtown Mobility Plan, and Mayor Muoio
repeats ” I’ll tell you up front were not taking comments involving “Flagler Shores” or the OBD. If you come up and start talking about “Flagler Shores” I’m going to ask you to sit down. If you don’t I’ll have you removed.”

First speaker up:
Robert Garvy (who’s website “Fix Flagler” was developed to inform residents what the city was planning with their Downtown Mobility Plan and how the city’s brainstorm “Flagler Shores” has affected the city.)  Nice guy, well spoken, very professional, and not the least bit intimidated by city officials.

Mr. Garvy began to speak and did sin by saying “Flagler” not Shores, just Flagler.
Mayor interrupts him about “Flagler Shores” and he told her “I have not mentioned Flagler Shore’s” and back and forth, eating up the clock.
Mr. Garvy continues speaking.
The magic 3 min. bell rings, and Mayor informs Mr. Garvy his time was up.
He had 2 more sentences to complete which would have been within the 3 minutes time frame if the mayor hadn’t interrupted him. He finished the sentence, and the next thing the room is aware she is calling for “Seth” to come forward. Seth is the police officer stationed in the back of the room. Mayor Muoio was about to remove Mr. Garvy from the room when he finished, turned and took his seat. My opinion: Mr. Garvy did the intimidating.

In hindsight Mayor Muoio’s plan not only worked, it was brilliant.
After her treatment of Mr. Garvy, people left the chambers, when she called people forward to speak they had left the building. Others refused to make a statement for fear of how they would be treated.

Gail L. Coniglio, the Mayor of Palm Beach addressed the commission with her concerns about the Downtown Mobility Plan, and how it would affect residents crossing the bridge on Flagler to evacuate during a hurricane. If  Mayor Muoio has her way Palm Beach would evacuate by bike.

I have to wonder if Mayor Muoio would push such an unpopular program if she was in her first term as Mayor. She has less that a year to go so remember the past election, and remember which commissioners listened to residents and which ones are hoping voters have short memories.

There are 2 meetings on the horizons concerning the city’s plan, and I encourage residents to attend, stand strong and speak up. Your opinion is just as important as the next guy, including elected officials.

DAC (Downtown Action Committee) June 13
City Commission Meeting June 23

We should change city name from WPB to Related

As hard as I try to accept the recent election of City Commissioners I read the Palm Beach Post and find myself upset all over again. Here are some examples of why.

Understand the City Commissioners serve as the CRA board of directors.

4/29/18 story by Tony Doris: “Transformative project can’t even get a vote”
“Plans for a major north-end development with micro-condominiums, affordable apartments, offices, a grocery and a park, have collapsed over city commissioner concerns the developer couldn’t make it happen.”
Commissioner Neering (who was 1 of 3 commissioners to vote against Related “One Flagler” brought the item up for discussion, and couldn’t receive a second to move the conversation forward. Why?

Commissioner James was quoted as stating “The financing plans for this one seemed unnecessarily complex and sophisticated.”

Commissioner Ryan also quoted “I listened, I heard the financing and the cost of construction, and I knew this was not a real deal.”

Two new commissioners sworn in 4/5/18 and attended the CRA meeting held 4/23/18 a full 19 days in their new position had this to say in part.

Commissioner Lambert “I wasn’t comfortable with the financing”

Commissioner Shoaf while not uttering the word Financing but did say “she wants smart growth, but the right kind, as well as other aspects of how the deal was structured”

Commissioner Neering was “dumbfounded” none of his colleagues would second the motion to discuss the project.
Commissioner Neering–it’s not a Related project of course they aren’t interested in discussing it.

Mayor Jeri Muoio, who is solidly behind the Related project’s and strongly supported Lambert’s campaign was quoted in the PB Post calling her win “good for business.” I agree with the mayor 100%. Unfortunately it will be bad for residents.

Now I expect both James and Ryan along with the mayor to take these two women “under their wings” and show them how business is done in WPB.
They now have the votes needed to move any Related project forward, and move forward they will.
Money well spent by developers.

“One Flagler” which residents were solidly against was defeated by Commissioners Materio, Neering and Moffett, and after the election I spoke from the podium and said it would be brought back for consideration. Well, 5 weeks after the new commissioners were sworn in it is on the agenda for the planning board for 5/15/18 @ 6:00 PM in City Hall.
This is an extremely important meeting and if you can attend, please do, and speak up. “Friends” of City Hall will be on hand telling the board what a wonderful project this will be.
Gee, maybe Related will bring pizza again and place kids not old enough to vote in the chairs so residents must move to the Flagler Room.

Related plans to build an 18 story 300,000 square feet, Class A office tower dubbed 360 Rosemary.
With Related’s 4 friends on the commission this shouldn’t be a problem.

One of my recent stories I wrote about how close the City, Related and the Chamber of Commerce are. If you missed the article I repeat they are thisclose. So how about the commissioners work on this for their next project as their always concerned about money for improvements residents ask for.

The Chamber Of Commerce rent’s a city owned property located at 401 North Flagler Dr. for $1.00/year. No, that’s not a typo error and you read it correctly, $1.00/year.
Tax collector appraises the building at $10,929,710.00
City owned property pay’s no taxes.
It is illegal to place election signs on city owned property and when a resident sent an e-mail to Mayor Muoio, Jeff Green, City Commissioners and Code Enforcement about a “Lambert” sign on the Chambers site and asked that it be removed. Mayor Muoio said to leave it alone, so it may be tough for Ms. Lambert to consider raising their rent.

Citizens for Thoughtful Growth West Palm Beach

Below is a piece written by Citizens for Thoughtful Growth West Palm Beach, and includes a piece in the PB Post written by Tony Doris. Everyone receiving this e-mail was asked to share it, so that is what I am doing. WPB Watch will follow up with a story later in the week. Thanks for taking the time to read and understand and hopefully attend the important meeting listed below.

Please share this information
To tidy up one detail before we move to the next block buster news:
CMX Zoning/Carefree update
CMX Zoning Proposal

The CMX Zoning proposed by the City for Dixie Highway from 25th Street South to the City Limits (spillway) was voted down 6 to 1 by the Planning Board at the April 17th Meeting. As you may know, the CMX Zoning Proposal would have allowed the Carefree Theater Project to move forward as it is currently being proposed.

Thank you to everyone who attended and spoke. You did a great job.

The Planning Board is an advisory board to the Commission, so it is possible that the proposed plan could still move forward for approval at some point in the future.
According to statements from City Hall the plan is off the table for now. Stay tuned, as we know things change rapidly.

Okeechobee Business District ——–It’s BACK

The Zoning and Land Use Changes for the Okeechobee Business District that would have enabled the construction of the 25 Story One Flagler (or something similar) immediately behind the Christian Science Church met with defeat last year by a 3-2 vote of the City Commission.

The City is bringing the proposal back through the process AGAIN. Notices were mailed out to surrounding property owners and residents this past week.

The other issue that was rolled out this week was the new “Mobility Plan” to address congestion and other traffic issues on Okeechobee Blvd. and other areas of the downtown.

AND….In case you missed it, the PBC Tourist Development Board is investigating the need and economic feasibility of expanding the Convention Center and the Kravis is building an additional parking garage and expanding the lobby. Won’t that make Okeechobee a fun place to navigate?

The following meetings are scheduled and we really need a BIG turnout for every meeting as the lack of turnout is often used as justification that people have no problem with what is being proposed!

Planning Board

Tuesday May 15th at 6 pm in the City Commission Chamber at City Hall

Downtown Action Committee

Wednesday June 13th at 9 am in the City Commission Chamber at City Hall

Unfortunately, we have no details other than a legal description of the three requests that were sent out.

After a citizen asked for additional information, they received an email from a City staff member stating that the staff report and backup would be made available to the public on Friday May 11th at 5 pm on the City web site. So if anyone has questions, that would give them one full working day prior to the day of the Planning Board meeting to get information. We will send out an update as soon as we have anything new.

Below is a very informative article written by Tony Doris on the front page of the Palm Beach Post. Our local press is vital, or we wouldn’t get any information at all.

Is 25-story waterfront office back on table despite height concern?

By Tony Doris – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

The battle lines over downtown waterfront development have re-formed.

Fresh off last year’s 3-2 defeat of the Okeechobee Business District plan, Mayor Jeri Muoio has told staff to study the rezoning effort again, to help attract desperately needed Class A office construction downtown. Two of the three city commissioners who voted against the plan are gone, raising the prospect that yeas will out-number nays this time around.

At the heart of the fight last year was The Related Cos.’ proposal to build a top-flight, 25-story tower 300 feet from the waterfront, in a zone that currently allows no building taller than five stories. Muoio’s staff proposed the new zoning district ostensibly to promote office construction generally but it was clear the only project on the table that it would immediately promote was Related’s, the city’s most prolific development firm, and that stirred opposition.

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A bloc of residents fearing blocked views and traffic logjams on Okeechobee Boulevard, Flagler Drive and the Royal Park Bridge, fought the city and the firm, despite the promise of jobs, attractive architecture and an endowment to preserve the historic, African American-designed First Church of Christ, Scientist. Town of Palm Beach officials expressed concerns over the project’s potential to impede access over the bridge.

But at a mayor-commission work session Monday, during a discussion of a consulting team’s just-completed “mobility study” of downtown traffic solutions, the mayor turned to her director of development services and urged him to try again.

The city needs to make sure it has places for people to live and work, the mayor said. It has plenty of the former, with several apartment buildings about to come on line, but not enough Class A offices, she told Development Services Director Rick Greene.

“If they can be working downtown, that cuts down the use of cars, significantly…. I would like to ask my staff to take another look at the Okeechobee Business District and see if we can work this through, including recommendations that are in the mobility study…. Let’s look at how we can bring more jobs into the city by having more Class A office space.”

Within days, the district was on the agenda once again, for the city’s Planning Board to consider. That meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 15 at City Hall. Groups that opposed the District proposal the first time are urging members to show up in force.

It’s unknown how the revived proposal will differ from the original, and whether it will gain be drawn to include the Related site, which was roundly criticized as “spot zoning” last time. The new plan has not been made available to the public.

City Commissioner Paula Ryan, whose district includes downtown, said Friday she was open to creating an Okeechobee Business District if it was more than just a redrawing of zoning lines. The city should see it as “an innovative district” whose provisions include incentives for connectivity with surrounding neighborhoods, transportation alternatives to connect people with their offices and other destinations, and affordable housing, she said. With the right provisions, it could help transform the area into “a massively connected mixed-use corridor,” Ryan said.

CityPlace officials have not said whether they would revive their One Flagler office tower project, which they spent many months designing and trying to sell to the community, only to lose the chance when the commission voted the district down.

Gopal Rajegowda, senior vice president of The Related Cos., said recently that for the moment the company is focused on starting another downtown office tower. That 18-story tower, 360 Rosemary, is slated to rise at the corner of Rosemary Avenue and Evernia Street, possibly as soon as later this year.

Community Outreach Team

It all began when Pastor Kevin Jones had an idea, and discussed it with Lt. Bullard and both had a meeting with Police Chief Mooney who saw the possibilities. It went from idea to planning to create a Community Outreach Team. I would approximate 45-50 residents young and old, black and white, men and woman attended.
It was a successful joint effort between Pastor Kevin Jones and the WPB Police Department.

Step one:
Residents were invited to the Police Department and heard an excellent presentation by Dennis Hardiman, Sergeant Criminal Investigations. Here is what we learned.

The WPB Police Department Homicide Unit was formed in June of 2006, and is comprised of six full time investigators and a unit supervisor (Sergeant). Each investigation is approached as a team. When a homicide occurs, all members of the team respond to the scene.

Reporting of the crime to 911.
Officers arrive, locate and treat a victim, secure the scene and witnesses.
Investigators are called to the scene.
A briefing is conducted along with a preliminary scene walk through.
Determine if a search warrant is necessary.
Evidence marking, sketching, and collection.
Canvass for witnesses and video surveillance.
Eye-witness statements on scene or a different location.
Conduct a final scene walk through to ensure everything is completed.
Identifying the victim.

If deceased:
Next of kin notification.
Attend the autopsy for cause and manner of death.
Once the scene is completed evidence processing begins: photographing each piece of evidence in detail, swabbing for DNA, locating fingerprints and completing ballistics analysis.

The Homicide Unit and CSI (Crime Scene Investigators) respond as teams to the scene.
Depending on the scene additional detectives, CSI or supervisors will respond.
Once the Homicide Unit and CSI’s arrive a briefing is held to gather pertinent facts from responding officers, to identify victims and witnesses, and resources needed.
Upon completion of the briefing, detectives are given assignments such as lead investigator, co-lead, crime scene, interviews and canvass/videos.
Investigators may have to prepare search warrants to enter a property, residence, vehicle or structure.
CSI may take several hours to locate and mark potential evidence.
Investigators could remain on scene while witnesses or suspects are interviewed to corroborate their testimony.
Once the evidence is located and marked the medical Examiner is contacted, and asked to respond for their investigation. Depending on their location, this could take hours.

Medical Examiner– a medically qualified public officer who’s duty is to investigate deaths occurring under unusual or suspicious circumstances, to perform postmortems, and initiate inquests.
F.S.S. 406.02-Duty to report; prohibited acts-without an order from the office of the district medical examiner, willfully touches, removes, or disturbs the body, clothing, or any article upon or near the body, with the intent to alter the evidence or circumstances surrounding the death, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Once the scene is cleared evidence processing begins.

Today, one of the most crucial items of evidence is DNA which is collected at the crime scene from the victim and may also contain the suspect’s DNA.
DNA recently led police to arrest Joseph DeAngelo in connection with crimes attributed to the East Area Rapist, over 30 years since he allegedly committed 12 murders and 45 rapes from 1976 to 1986.

Photographing and documenting injuries are imperative to corroborate statements.

The police dept. provided those in attendance with homicide stats from 2006-2018. I will include the stats from 2017 which was the deadliest year to date with 27 homicides, 9 cleared and 18 still open cases. Of the 27 homicides 23 were committed with handguns,2 with rifles, 1 blunt instrument and 1 other.

“Why does it take so long at a scene?”
Investigators only have one chance to gather evidence. They use a systematic approach and all scenes are processed the same way. Once the scene is clear it can be contaminated by citizens or family members returning to the scene, therefore any newly found evidence may be excluded at trial.
Obtaining a search warrant may take hours.

The victim will not be moved, manipulated or examined without the consent of the Medical Examiner. There is only one investigator on call for Palm Beach County. If the investigator is on another scene investigators have to wait until they arrive.

“Why are some cases treated differently?”
No case is treated differently, they are all treated equal. Some homicides have large complex, even multiple scenes containing more evidence which takes longer to process.

“Why do I never get all the facts from the investigator?”
In most cases family members of the victim are provided limited information. Investigators keep certain information private,this information would only be known to the suspect or a witness in the case.
Investigators use this private information to corroborate a suspect or witness account of the incident.

“Everyone knows the suspect, Why isn’t he in jail?”
Investigators usually have a possible suspects name in the beginning stages of the investigation.
Unfortunately witnesses are reluctant to cooperate with the police for fear of retaliation or being ostracized in the community. This is known as the neighborhood code of silence.
Without witness testimony police heavily rely on forensic evidence. Just because forensic evidence places a person does not mean they committed the crime. Unless a confession is obtained the suspect could reasonably explain why his DNA or latent fingerprints are at the scene. With the backlog of cases in Palm beach County the processing of forensic evidence could be a year away.

What you have read so far is the presentation given by Sergeant Hardiman to local residents who wanted to learn the procedure the police used on homicides, and what residents could do to assist them when they happen.
Then he opened the floor to questions and discussions.

After the police spend hours on the scene collecting evidence, taking photographs, interviewing possible witnesses the Medical Examiner arrives and repeats the process. One resident wanted to know why the M.E. couldn’t use the evidence the police collected. The answer was they collect their own. More hours needed.
If the police see a wallet in the victims pocket they are not allowed to remove it for the victims name without calling the M.E. for permission and that puts a hold on notifying next of kin.

When homicide is committed in the North end of the city, words get out quickly and family members start arriving before the investigators are finished their job. Family members, the parents, and especially the mother’s are hysterical to see their child laying in the street bleeding. Their instinct is to run and hold the child in their arms, tell them they are loved,and plead with them not to die.

The police can’t allow relatives near the deceased for fear of contaminating the crime scene, possibly removing suspects DNA, while leaving their own. I would find it impossible to console a grieving relative, answer their questions, worry about contaminating the crime scene while searching for additional evidence.

In my opinion the police are focused and concentrating on the evidence and fear of possibly overlooking something. Remember they have one chance to get it right and get a killer off the street before he strikes again.

Sergeant Hardiman recalled looking at video’s of a crime scene and seeing 5-6 eyewitnesses standing and watching and when the police questioned them no one saw or heard anything. I could never understand why a resident wouldn’t come forward and point out a killer to police. The Sergeant explained the police recognize the fear residents have and if they talk to police they or their family could be the next target.
He did a much better job of explaining it than I could. Fear is fear and you can’t get around it, but something has to change.
As I write this story the news just reported another murder in W.P.B. off 37th St. and Broadway.

The Community Outreach program began when Kevin Jones had an idea and I’m excited to see how far we can take it. Do you have an idea you believe may help stop the violence? The idea is no good in your head, share it with the police or send an anonymous letter.

Below is an excerpt from e-mail from Chief Mooney to residents who attended the meeting.

“We will get to work on planning the next step in this endeavor to create a Community Outreach Team and set of protocols to define our purpose and expectations. I really do appreciate the community support you have all shown towards enhancing the working relationship between the residents of WPB and your Police Department. I will be in touch soon. Thanks again for attending last night.”