Sunset Lounge–Starting Over!

Below are excepts from a newly released story on the Sunset Lounge and the ignominious failure the City made in their attempt to find an operator.  My comments in Italic, entire story can be read below, and it contains links to stories on Channel 5 which makes for interesting reading.

FOX 29 WFLX

“Both potential operators of Sunset Lounge disqualified by city”

“It’s back to the drawing board to find an operator for a signature West Palm Beach redevelopment project.”

The latest twist comes after the city disqualified both of its bidders over alleged lobbying violations.

The city said Vita Lounge LLC, the minority group first selected, “blatantly violated” an ordinance against lobbying for the contract through Facebook posts and e-mails.

Vita denied the accusation and filed a lawsuit.

“The city then disqualified Mad Room Hospitality for allegedly making “courtesy contact with the mayor and a commissioner during the prohibited contact period.” Commissioner Peduzzi was the lone vote to approve Mad Room Hospitality along with Mayor James. Can we presume he was the Commissioner contacted?

In a statement to Contact 5 Thursday afternoon, the co-owner of Mad Room Hospitality said they were “improperly disqualified by a technicality.”
As a result of all of this, the city canceled the request for a proposal meant to find an operator to run the Sunset Lounge.

“The city’s community redevelopment agency said it costs about $26,000 a month to maintain the empty building.” $26,000 a month maintenance for an empty building. A PRR (Public Records Request) needs to be made. Readers were sent the Internal Auditors report on the CRA where millions were unaccounted for, what’s a few more thousand? Think about that when your trying to buy gas, food, money for the parking meters.

“A city spokesperson told Contact 5 that the CRA board will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the next steps and future operations of the Sunset Lounge.” Will meet in the coming weeks, not in a hurry to do what needs to be done, and give the contract to Vita who 4 Commissioners originally voted on before Commissioners Lambert and Ward changed course. Commissioners Fox and Warren stuck to their convictions to stay with Vita.

“Mad Room Hospitality was improperly disqualified by a technicality and the city, in my opinion, realized its error which is why they changed their course in posting the letter it did to DemandStar.”   DemandStar, a company that handles Government Contract Bids, RFPs & Procurement. A PRR needs to be made to view the letter the city sent to DemandStar.

“We have requested from the City a letter rescinding their improper cancellation and we expect this to be forthcoming.”

“The city of West Palm Beach allows a responder to communicate with the city at the execution of a contract/agreement or once the solicitation stage has ended. It was clear then and remains clear now that the solicitation stage had ended.” Contract not signed.

“Ultimately, the City has to do what they feel is best for the community and we only want the best for the Sunset Lounge and the Historic Northwest District. Mad Room is not interested in pursuing this project further at this time.” 

“For what it is worth, which we also made abundantly clear to the City–(which seemed to ruffle some feathers)-Mad Room does not feel Vita was treated fairly by the City of West Palm Beach.” Wow!

We certainly wish the City the very, very best in moving this project forward as the Community deserves and needs this project to flourish.”
https://www.wflx.com/2022/08/11/both-potential-operators-sunset-lounge-disqualified-by-city/

In closing the CRA has spent in the Downtown City Center a total of $174,271,223. Northwood/ Pleasant City $19,101,585. for a total of $ 193 million, 372 thousand, 808 dollars. I recently received part 2 of the Internal Auditors Report on the CRA, and that story will be coming shortly. Here are a few lines from the audit released.

Opportunities for Improvement
1. Inadequate Controls and Oversight of CRA Expenditures.
2. Insufficient Oversight of the Incentive Grant Program.
3. Fixed Assets Variances.
4. Lack of Tracking and Monitoring of CRA Properties.

In my opinion the city should seriously consider disbanding the CRA and stop wasting taxpayers dollars.

The end!

IA Report June 22, 2022

My comments in Italic

IA (Internal Audit) report is lengthy and below is what jumped out at me. I have included the entire report below for your review. If you take the time to read it something may jump out at you that I missed.

The Internal Auditor (IA) dept. is overseen by the City Commissioners and the report (part 1) was issued when the dept. was severely understaffed.

IA Responsibility:

“Perform audits and provide services to help the City achieve the highest level of effectiveness and efficiency with uncompromised integrity. Promote compliance with laws, rules, regulations, policies, procedures, contracts, and agreements through reviews and analyses of the City’s services and activities.”

Contents: Page 3:
BACKGROUND    Page 1
STATEMENT of SCOPE Page 2
STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVES Page 3
STATEMENT OF METHODOLOGY  Page 3
STATEMENT OF AUDITING STANDARDS  Page 3
AUDIT CONCLUSIONS AND SUMMARY OF FINDINGS Page 4
NOTEWORTHY ACCOMPLISHMENT  Page 4
CRA ORGANIZATION CHART   Page 5
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT  Page 6
1. STAFF ASSIGNED TO THE CRA  Page 6
2. MONITORING PURCHASES   Page 9
3. COMPREHENSIVE OVERSIGHT OVER CRA ACTIVITIES   Page 12
4. CONTRACT PROCUREMENT  Page 14
RESPONSE FROM CITY ADMINISTRATION   Page 16
RESPONSE FROM RMA (CONTRACTOR)   Page 17
AUDITOR’S COMMENTS   Page 18

ATTACHMENT A – PBC INSPECTOR GENERAL (IG) REPORT  Page 25

ATTACHMENT B – GOVERNOR’S EXECUTIVE ORDER AND RELATED DOCUMENT  Page 26

Page 1: Community Redevelopment Areas in the City of West Palm Beach:

“The CRA consists of two separate Redevelopment Districts the City Center Community Redevelopment Area, more commonly known as the Downtown CRA, and the Northwood/Pleasant City Community Redevelopment Area.”

CRA Funding:
“The primary funding source available to the CRA consists of Tax Increment Revenues. Tax Increment Revenues are a unique tool available to cities and counties for redevelopment activities and are used to leverage public funds to promote private sector activity in the targeted redevelopment areas.”

Page 2: CRA Management and Staffing Contracts:

“Up until 2013, the CRA was managed and staffed by the City of West Palm Beach. In 2013, a competitively bid contract to manage and staff the WPB CRA was awarded to Redevelopment Management Associates (RMA) for a three-year term to commence on January 1, 2014. In September 2018, a new contract was entered into with an effective date of October 1, 2018, and it was not competitively bid.”

CRA Revenues:

“From 2014-2019
“Downtown City Center CRA: $174, 271, 223” Appears to me the City considers Downtown the only area in need of improvement. The City should look at areas of the city that are pitch black at night. I’m sure residents would appreciate lighting.

Northwood/Pleasant City CRA:   $19,101,58”  Home of the Sunset Lounge. City (James) is concerned the City is paying a few thousands a month while waiting for MadMen LLC although the Commissioners approved Vita LLC  the contract.  He was a City Commissioner for 8 years, was not concerned about millions.

Total spent in 2 areas: $193,372,808.00, click to enlarge.

 

 

 

Page 3: Statement of Scope:

“The scope of the audit was from January 2014 through December 2019 (audit period) which is the period of time since the City outsourced the management and staffing of the CRA to RMA.”

Statement of Objectives:

“The objectives of the first part of this audit were to:
a. Determine whether the CRA was adequately staffed and had sufficient oversight over day-to-day operations; and
b. Determine whether CRA funds were used for CRA activities and properly accounted.”

Statement of Methodology & Statement of Auditing Standards.  Also on page 3.

Page 4: Audit Conclusions and Summary of Findings:

“We concluded that there were opportunities to improve internal controls and management and oversight of the CRA operations. Specifically:

1. We found that some RMA employees assigned to the City’s CRA did not meet minimum qualifications for the positions they filled.
2. We found that there was inadequate oversight over the purchases made on City PCards such that p-cards were issued to non-City employees, purchases were not allocated to projects, purchases did not have sufficient justifications, and some purchases were not permissible under the P-Card policy.
3. RMA employees, acting as CRA staff, did not have comprehensive documented and/or established project management processes and procedures, that would have allowed them to independently provide comprehensive information on all CRA activities and the associated public funds.
4. The second contract with RMA did not go through a competitive bidding process, though it was approved by the Commissioners. We found that the supporting documents did not clearly indicate that a). a new competitive bidding process was required to obtain a new contract, and b). the Commissioners were being asked to waive this requirement. The procurement of the first contract was assessed by the Palm Beach County Inspector General’s Office and the report has been attached.”

Noteworthy Accomplishments:
“We acknowledge that the CRA under RMA’s management has been instrumental in improving various streetscapes and increasing community engagement through marketing and special events such as Bowties and Bourbon, the Heart and Soul Festival, and BBQ, Blues and Brews. We commend the Finance Department for taking immediate corrective action and deactivating the P-Cards.”

Page 6 – 8 Opportunities for Improvement

1. “Staff Assigned to the CRA

“Auditing standards indicate that disclosures should be provided when there are limitations or uncertainties with the reliability or validity of evidence. As such, we provide the following disclosures.
Over the course of audits, multiple attempts are made to obtain the data necessary to complete the review. Further, auditors follow up with audit clients to ensure that the data obtained is accurate. During the audits, we notify the audit client when we identify potential concerns and we provide sufficient information to facilitate a candid discussion. Specifically, we found the following concerns at the time the individuals were hired by RMA:”
Pages 6 -8 contain more info; and I encourage readers to take the time to read these 3 pages and notice the lack of over site from City leaders, concerning the contract with RMA not honoring the contract with unqualified employees earning from $95 to $155/hr. Two Employee closely related to RMA partner. It’s disgraceful.

Page 9-11:
Monitoring Purchases:

Condition

“The City’s Procurement Card Policy states that employees who have regular status with the City are eligible to obtain a purchasing card (P-Card). RMA’s contracts did not grant regular City employee status to RMA employees. RMA’s contracts clearly stated that some expenditures were subject to reimbursement and administrative fees and other expenditures could be paid for directly by the City. The contracts did not mention P-Cards. Based on our review, we found that an average of two RMA employees were issued P Cards with monthly spending limits of $10,000 per card and the majority of purchases were placed on an administrative assistant’s P-Card.”

Inadequate Oversight of Purchases

“From 2014 through 2019, there were about 1,040 P-Card transactions totaling about $253,000. Based on our review, we found insufficient oversight of purchases made as follows: For example, we identified purchases for:
1. Award luncheons/banquets and applications for awards (over $4,000),
2. Gift Cards (over $2,000), and
3. Work pants and shirts for RMA Employees (over $2,500).”

Once again I ask readers to read pages 9-11 for more shocking disclosures of the CRA and RMA.
As I have mentioned multiple times the importance of the WPB Internal Auditor Department, and Beverly Mahaso, Chief Internal Auditor, and her limited staff, who gave the City a straight forward and balanced report to help the city with it’s problem solving. If not for them we would not be aware on the millions of taxpayer dollars wasted, and/or missing. The good news is the City has not renewed the contract with RMA, and it is now being overseen by Christopher Roog, Executive Director of the CRA. Will the City do anything to re-coop money wasted by abuse? I doubt it. Let sleeping dogs lie.

CRA Audit 6-22-2020

The end!

 

Sunset Lounge CRA Meeting 7/25/2022

There are 2 item’s for discussion: (1) Sunset Lounge Operations & (2) 314 Clematis St; ended the meeting.The entire meeting ran for 1:07:57, and it’s included at the end of the story. Please take the time to listen to nearly 50 min. of conversation on the Sunset Lounge. Listen to the Mayor push his agenda, and the 2 Commissioners (Fox & Warren) who refused to be pushed and stood strong. Commissioners Lambert & Ward joined James, and made the vote 3 -2 to move forward with MadMen.

Commissioner Peduzzi was absent from this important discussion.

6/27/2022 CRA Meeting Discussion on Sunset Lounge. The vote on which company would receive the contract. Commissioners Fox, Lambert, Ward and Warren voted for Vita LLC, a local company owned and operated by African Americans. James and Peduzzi voted for MadMen LLC from Miami.

7/12/2022 Local group disqualified from operating Sunset Lounge for violating rules, city says. 15 days after Commissioners approved Vita LLC James found a way to disqualify them.

7/25/2022 28 days to overturn the vote. 13 days later, back before the Commissioners

What this meeting was all about is James wanting the Commission to vote to move forward with MadMen, and I honestly never saw the man push so hard to make his point, or Commissioners find it tough to stand their ground.

If you are inclined to listen to the meeting Commissioners asked questions and again Commissioner Warren had a problem with residents in attendance not being able to comment. James assured her when it was brought back before the Commission for a vote to approve a contract with MadMen that is when residents have 3 minutes to comment and share their thoughts. And I assure Commissioners and residents if it is brought back for a vote and 5,000 African Americans showed up to speak it would be to late. At this point it’s a done deal, and MadMen have the contract.

As predicted, Vita LLC has filed a lawsuit against the City of WPB, and Channel 25 (WPBF) who realized the importance of the Sunset Lounge, had their camera rolling at the meeting. Investigative Reporter, Terri Parker reported the story and below are excerpts. The entire story can be read below.

“Vita Lounge LLC files lawsuit against West Palm Beach for disqualifying it from running historic Sunset Lounge

Vita Lounge LLC, a local company that was abruptly disqualified from running the newly renovated Sunset Lounge after winning the bid, has filed a lawsuit against the city of West Palm Beach.

Vita Lounge LLC says it was improperly removed from the agreement to run the historic Black jazz club and is also preparing an emergency injunction asking a judge to stop any negotiations with other companies.

Meanwhile, in a special Community Redevelopment Agency meeting, commissioners decided to move forward with negotiations with the runner-up — Mad Room Hospitality, a Miami company that some local residents from the largely Black northwest community don’t want.”

There is hope the court’s involvement will bring some justice to the African American community.

Sunset Lounge is located in the Historic Northwest section of the city, and this is important as readers will be made aware of at the end of the story.

The Sunset Lounge was owned and operated by African Americans, a place of their own in which they had a great amount of pride and still do. The more I research, the more I learn. Let me share.

Thelma Starks, who died in 2018, often shared memories of the Lounge with the media. “My husband always insisted you dress properly at the Sunset,” she told a reporter, in 2002. “You didn’t come in looking like you were going to a picnic. He wanted you to come in with a coat on, a tie on and no hat. …When Louis Armstrong performed, more whites than anyone else turned out to attend. Everyone dressed up to go there. It was so glamorous.” With its 16-foot-high ceilings, polished wood walls and red drapes, the Sunset sought to rival whites-only ballrooms in its scale and elegance. Its sense of propriety extended to guests’ behavior. As longtime patron Emmett Cooper recalled to the Palm Beach Post in 1990, “There were certain things you just did not do at the Sunset, like swearing or using profane language and things like that.” Click picture to enlarge,

The picture is a list of upcoming weekly meetings being held in the City. BKJ (Before Keith James) the list was automatically sent to residents who signed up to receive them and made it easy to mark your calendar if you wanted to attend. If a meeting was cancelled you also received notice. I draw your attention to the only meeting dated for today 7/28/2022 @ 5:30PM. “Education Advisory Committee” Click to enlarge picture.

While I was looking for information on the City website I ran across this notice listed under ‘Events” July 28 Historic Northwest Community Meeting 6:00PM It has the word “Meeting” in the title, so why is not listed in the weekly meetings, afraid the black community would attend? Another event noticed for Aug.4,2022 “National Black Business Month Community Mixer” Is there no end to the City’s hypocrisy? Click to enlarge picture.

Chanel 25 (WPBF) Terri Parker Story  https://www.wpbf.com/article/vita-lounge-llc-lawsuit-against-west-palm-beach-disqualifiying-historic-sunset-lounge/40711215

CRA meeting held 7/25/2022 can be seen & heard below.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEG39fp1EPA

The end?

Need Abuse-Visit City Hall

Update 7/27/2022 @ 11:42AM

 

The next story was intended to inform WPB Watch readers on the CRA meeting held July 25,2022 @ 3:00PM, which I attended, and was off to a bad start soon after I entered City Hall.

I walked into City Hall, went through security to attend the CRA meeting and the discussion on the Sunset Lounge.

For those of you that are not familiar with City Hall let me set the stage.

After entering the building, City Commission Chambers are located at the first right. Walk a few feet down the corridor and you will notice a table where the agenda’s are laid out, and residents pick one up, and if they park in the city garage a machine will validate their parking ticket.

The second door on the right you will find the City Clerks office where they are responsible for distributing the agenda’s. When a larger than usual crowd attend a meeting they may run out of agendas, which they did.

I walked back and started for the clerks office to inform them and ask for the agenda when I heard screaming. I stopped and someone was screaming at the front door. There were a few people standing around, couldn’t see any fighting so I continued into the office. Next thing I know a PSC guard is standing next to me yelling I was supposed to be at the meeting, not the clerks office. Told him I was there for an agenda. The clerk was in the process of printing up more when the guard approached him and demanded he not assist me.

He came back to me and started yelling again which I didn’t hear half of what he said due to the mask he was wearing but decided to ignore him. He left and next thing I know there is a WPB cop standing next to me asking what was going on. I explained to him what had occurred when the clerk walked up and handed me an agenda, left the room to place the others on the table.

So when the PSC storm trooper guard couldn’t stand being ignored or stop the clerk from doing his job, he ran and got a real cop who listened to my explanation and handled the situation easily. No problem.

I learned the guards name is Brandon, from another employee, after he refused to give me his name, stating it “wasn’t my concern”  a tall man of color, and built like he could put a bull down and sporting a beard under the mask. He should not be assigned to city hall. He has no idea how to interact with residents and I learned it was me he was yelling at from the front door. Not professional. There are cameras all over and his actions should be investigated. Brandon may be more suited for a city park where he could bully and intimidate the homeless.

Story on the CRA meeting will be posted later today or tomorrow.
The end!

Sunset Lounge

Updated 7/23/2022

Mayor James and the 5 City Commissioners oversee the CRA, and it’s similar to the City Commission with Administration (James & Johnson) directing staff to sell a particular project to insure the Commissioners make the right decision, many times not being told the entire story, or what could possibly go wrong.

Where administration run into trouble is when companies make a presentation in order to be selected for a project for example the Sunset Lounge.

Channel’s 5 (WPTV) and 25 (WPBF) have both reported on this very important issue. Much of what you are about to read are excerpts from media stories, and the story links can be found below.

Let’s begin with a little history.

“The Sunset Lounge was one of the premier African American entertainment venues in the South during the 1940s and 1950s and featured such notable artists as Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Ike and Tina Turner, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and James Brown to mention a few African American entertainers who appeared.”

“Often dubbed as the “Cotton Club of the South,” the Sunset Lounge is a historic music and entertainment venue located in the Historic Northwest District in the city of West Palm Beach, FL.”

“I have been in West Palm Beach since 1962, and that was the only place that persons of my ethnicity were allowed,” recalls Ike Robinson, former city commissioner of West Palm Beach. “We couldn’t go to the Breakers. We couldn’t go to Bradley’s. We couldn’t go to the Everglades Club. A lot of people think the Sunset was the entertainment mecca, and it was,” Robinson adds. “But I think the Sunset was the cultural equator. The Sunset provided for the community to come together, intermingle, socialize and learn. I’m talking about the bougies, the potentates, the workingman, the people who serve the people in Palm Beach.” Mr. Robinson’s quote can be found below in the bocamag and I encourage readers to read the entire piece.  Readers now have an idea of how important the Sunset Lounge was, and still is to the African American Community.

City (Procurement) issues RFP (Request for Proposals) F/ Sunset Lounge

Two companies responded, Mad Room Hospitality and Vita LLC, made their presentation at the CRA meeting on 6/27/2022, and the City did not allow enough time for both presentations, questions and answers. The regular City Commission meeting on 6/27/2022 started at 5:00PM and Commissioner Lambert asked for the CRA meeting to continue immediately following the City Commission meeting. Both CRA meeting are included with the story, and I ask readers to view:

CRA Meeting 6/27/2022 Discussion on Sunset Lounge Part 1

Commission Chambers where the majority of residents were African Americans. After the meeting progressed and the camera panned out many more African Americans can be seen in the back of the room. If you want to see/hear James condescending and demeaning remarks please listen from time frame 6:15 to 12:26. 6 min & 11 sec. of trash talk and don’t let his facial expressions go unnoticed.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBkN7lEwlUk

The City Commission Meeting ran for 2:50:27 and when Commissioners returned to the CRA meeting much of the audience had left.

CRA Meeting 6/27/2022 Discussion on Sunset Lounge Part 2

Part 2 contains questions and answers and the vote on which company would receive the contract. Commissioners Fox, Lambert, Ward and Warren voted for Vita LLC.
Mayor James and Commissioner Peduzzi voted for Mad Room Hospitality.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ecu0PkVn_BA

Who are these two companies?
Mad Room Hospitality operates in the heart of Miami’s most vibrant and cultural neighborhood, Little Havana, and appears to have filed a $27.9 million dollar lawsuit against  the City of Miami in 2021
https://dockets.justia.com/docket/florida/flsdce/1:2021cv23485/600932

Vita Lounge LLC Is a locally owned and operated minority company, and I searched the web for lawsuits and any disparaging news and found none.
Congratulations to Vita LLC and the 4 Commissioners who voted to award them the contract.

Not the end!

Channel 25 Terri Parker reports:
West Palm Beach cancels agreement with local company to run historic Sunset Lounge

“Just two weeks after Vita Lounge LLC won the bid to operate the historic Sunset Lounge in West Palm Beach’s largely Black northwest neighborhood, their agreement has been abruptly canceled.”

In a statement to WPBF 25 News, the city writes:
”Vita Lounge LLC blatantly violated the anti-lobbying provisions of the RFP (request for proposal)”
“According to a city procurement investigator, before the vote, Vita supporters posted an appeal on Facebook and sent emails to residents, asking them to email the city recommending they choose the locally based Black-run company rather than the competing company from Miami.”

“Send emails asap to commissioners@wpb.org. Let’s get them across the finish line and keep the sunset in our community where it belongs.”

“Not everyone was convinced – Commissioner Joe Peduzzi and Mayor Keith James voted for the other company.”

“The last thing I want is to be here two, three years from now with somebody saying we just can’t do it,” James said.  Is James saying a local black company isn’t capable of successfully fulfilling their contract? Is he dooming them without giving them a chance? What’s wrong with residents emailing their Commissioners?

Recently Posted on the city website:

“Bids List Important: Contact by a Bidder (or anyone representing a Bidder) regarding any active or pending solicitation with the Mayor, any City Commissioner, officer, or City employee other than an employee of the West Palm Beach Procurement Division is grounds for disqualification.”

I wondered how James would get around to eliminating Vita from competition, and here you have it.

This reminds me of a story I wrote for WPB Watch in Nov. 2021 Let’s review.

Tent Site:

The Tent Site is a piece of city owned property that has been dormant and a terrible eye sore for 24 years, until the Cohen Brothers has a vision to build “West Palm Point”
8/17/2020 City commissioners, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency board, voted unanimously for the West Palm Point project to rise on the 2.4 acre property at the corner of Okeechobee Boulevard and South Dixie Highway.
8/17/2021 Planning Board recommended approval.

In my opinion Administration did not want Developer Charles Cohen anywhere near this property and did everything possible to discourage them.

City Commission Meeting held to discuss Tent site:

Commission President Peduzzi heads the meeting due to James absence. It’s the end of the meeting and Commissioner Peduzzi asks the City Clerk if there are any comments emailed to the City. Well, yes there are. In fact there are 77 comments to be read. Due to the amount the Clerk is advised to just read the names and addresses, and if they are in favor or opposed to the project. I listened and wrote every name and address down.
All 77 comments were opposed to the Cohen project, and if that’s not surprising to readers this should be. The vast majority who opposed live in my area, District 2, called the Villages and live many miles from the Tent Site.

Someone please explain to us why it was OK for 77 residents to email the city and oppose the Cohen Brothers project, but emailing the city to ask for their support for a black owned company Vita LLC disqualified them.

City Commissioners:

In my opinion you listened to residents and made the right vote to approve Vita.
What do you do now? I know of 3 commissioners who opposed James and all 3 decided not to seek re-election. That speaks volumes to me.

https://www.wpbf.com/article/florida-west-palm-beach-sunset-lounge-vision-historic/40459091        channel 25

https://www.wpbf.com/article/west-palm-beach-cancels-agreement-company-run-historic-sunset-lounge/40628055#     channel 25

https://www.wptv.com/news/region-c-palm-beach-county/west-palm-beach/sunset-lounge-operator-disqualified

https://www.bocamag.com/into-the-sunset-the-story-of-the-sunset-lounge-in-west-palm-beach/         Ike Robinson’s quote

https://wpbwatch.com/2021/11/tent-site/

My money’s on the belief James action in cancelling the Vita contract will bring another lawsuit to the City. Keith’s not worried, it’s only taxpayer’s money. Readers judge for yourself the leadership of WPB and decide if you want to continue with the status quo and give James another term as Mayor of WPB

The end!

Homeowner fined $50.00 /day for placing artificial turf in her front yard!

A story on channel 5 (WPTV) tells the story of Judy Barron, a homeowner, who is being fined by the City of WPB $50.00/day for placing artificial turf in her front yard, and when you are done reading the story you will read who has not been fined for the same violation. Below are excerpts from the story and you can read the entire story below. My comments in Italic

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —” During these hot summer days, keeping lawns green can mean higher water bills, prompting some residents to turn to artificial turf. But not every city is on board with this decision.
Homeowners don’t have to water it, put down fertilizer or cut it every week. It’s similar to what you see at sports stadiums.

But in West Palm Beach, as good as it may look, there are restrictions.

Judy Barron loves her artificial turf lawn.”It’s very comfortable on my feet, like walking on carpet,” Barron said. Stretched across the front of her house on Alpine Road, it has the look of a well-manicured golf course.

Lush and green, she said she often gets compliments but not from City Hall.
“Oh yes, $50 a day I’m being fined since the end of March,” she said.”
Elsewhere in the city, in public places, it seems artificial turf is allowed. WPTV spotted it in areas in and around Rosemary Square.” Rosemary Square is owned and operated by Related Group, Real Estate Developer, the City’s favorite developer for high rise buildings.

Barron said she plans to keep on fighting the fines.” Between 3/31/2022 and July 15,2022 there are 106 days X $50.00/day = $5,300.00 in fines and growing.

On June 30, 2021 WPB Watch posted a story on the subject titled “Artificial Turf Has Residents Damn Mad.”

The City allows homeowners to place Synthetic grass in the back yard, and both sides of their home. The City does not allow Synthetic grass in the front of their home. To my knowledge the City does not explain it’s reason.

Synthetic lawns help in saving the surrounding air and soil from further pollution of harmful chemicals that usually come along with keeping a well-manicured, natural lawn.

Water conservation: Synthetic grass makes it easy to comply, dramatically reducing water usage without sacrificing aesthetic standards set by homeowners’ associations. Conserving water is not only Eco-friendly, it’s budget-friendly, in a big way.

Non-allergenic, Synthetic grass doesn’t grow. Goodbye, grass pollen.
No harmful chemical residues. Synthetic turf requires no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers to remain beautiful and bug-free.

That’s safer for your family, and safer for the environment. thanks to eliminating the expense of ongoing lawn care. After that, it’s all savings. Plus, an attractive grass lawn boosts the resale value of your home.

City Commission Meeting held on June 28, 2021 residents waited for a chance to address the Mayor and City Commissioners and complained about Code Enforcement filing complaint’s against homeowners for installing Synthetic grass in their front yard.

City Commissioner Lambert after listening to residents, asked the Mayor to set a workshop to discuss the issue. The audience applauded her realizing someone not only heard their concerns, but was willing to discuss it. Good for her.  Over a year later was the workshop scheduled, or did it fall through the cracks?

A fine against a business on Clematis St. who removed three tree’s without a permit was fined a total of $37,500.00. Double click picture to enlarge.

The City of West Palm Beach will hold a General Municipal Election on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 to vote for the mayor of WPB. That’s less than 8 months away, and someone will step up to challenge Mayor James and if he is re-elected it’s not by the people who voted for him, but by the people who didn’t cast a ballot. Please think about that.

https://www.wptv.com/news/region-c-palm-beach-county/west-palm-beach/artificial-lawn-results-in-50-a-day-fine-for-west-palm-beach-resident

The end!

City Honors WPBFF

On June 27, 2022 the City of West Palm Beach honored our Fire Fighters with a presentation for Surfside Remembrance and Recognition for the Champlain Towers South Condo collapse in Surfside, Florida.

Below is a list of the brave men and women who volunteered to aid in the search and rescue for survivors and then a secondary search to locate any unaccounted-for victims.
FF Bryan Bartlett, FF Michael Beets, Lt. William Charbonneau, FF Elizaveta Clavijo, LT. Jacqueline Curtis, FF Jennifer Collins, FF Stephen Diaz-Lies, Lt. Brian Dolan, FF Josh Forbes, FF Luis Gonzalez, Driver/Engineer Iris Hernandez, FF Robert Jacques, Driver/Engineer Travis Kolb, Lt. Brett Koning, FF Nolan Lynch, FF Gil Mendez, Lt. Wilmer Morales, FF Alejandro Moreno, FF Richard Murphy, Lt. Jason Ramirez, Capt. Gregory Rogers, FF Benjamin Shultz, FF Daniel Valentin, Capt.

Adam MacKillop and his K-9 Phire (pronounced Fire) who is a female Black Labrador Retriever. Capt. MacKillop and Phire searched the collapsed rubble for victims. She is a live search K-9 who looks for live victims. Dogs can smell up to 100,000 times better than a human and play a key role in search and rescue. These USAR canines are highly trained and tested to National standards regularly. She was one of dozens of canines used in the response.

“Canines’ Role in Urban Search & Rescue: Canine search teams play a critical role in supporting local and state response efforts with the capability to locate disaster survivors and human remains using canine teams (dog and human handler).”
https://www.fema.gov/emergency-managers/national-preparedness/frameworks/urban-search-rescue/canines

Fire Chief Diana Matty also responded to the collapse and got to witness the selfless service of the firefighters involved in this mission, which lasted for 28 days. Chief Matty proudly said that with the robust response from the local fire departments in Dade County the State of Florida USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) Teams, and FEMA ( Federal Emergency Management Agency) the remains of all 98 victims were able to be located and returned to their families.

“The Surfside condo collapse: An operational play-by-play, from deployment to AAR. (After Action Review) Detailing the US&R (Urban Search & Rescue) system in Florida, challenges faced by SAR crews, and lessons learned from the catastrophic incident”

https://www.firerescue1.com/search-rescue/articles/the-surfside-condo-collapse-an-operational-play-by-play-from-deployment-to-aar-MdeZSFpKWYysL246/

After the presentation I met the Fire Fighters in the City Courtyard and thanked them for their service and what they did for Champlain Towers and one firefighter remarked they followed the lead of their Fire Chief Matty and remarked she was a great leader. I regret not asking for his name.

K-9 Phire: Was also at the presentation and I asked permission to pat her and it was granted. I approached her and she immediately laid down, rolled over on her back and looked at me as if to say well I’m ready, are you going to rub my belly or not? I rubbed away.
Channel 5 (WPTV) SURFSIDE, Fla. — “On the one-year mark since the Surfside condominium collapse, first responders are reflecting on their time spent working at the collapse site. West Palm Beach firefighters recall grueling search in aftermath of Surfside condo collapse. Firefighters feel sorrow for those they couldn’t save”

West Palm Beach Fire Rescue Lt. Jason Ramirez and Lt. Jacqueline Curtis spoke to WPTV and told their stories of sorrow at not being able to save more people.

Another hero was Anthony Zorbaugh “We knew that people needed to eat,” he said. “So the biggest thing for us was to come down there with our product, with what we had, and be able to serve food. So the amount of chaos and the devastation that you’ve seen down there is life-transformational for our staff that was there.” Read the story below.

https://www.wptv.com/news/state/miami-dade/west-palm-beach-firefighters-recall-grueling-search-in-aftermath-of-surfside-condo-collapse

You hope you never need the assistance of the WPB Fire Department, but if you do they are ready and willing to put it all on the line for us and then deal with the aftermath.
In your travels if you see these hero’s out and about, please take the time to thank them for their service and watch the smile come across their faces. Always good to know your appreciated!

The end!

Happy Birthday To Me, Here’s Your Parking Ticket!

Updated 5/26/2022 @ 10:00am Received a response from James campaign with a request to make a correction to the story. Appears the birthday card was paid for by Keith James for mayor campaign and taxpayer dollars were not used.

The card came in the mail, and I can’t recall ever receiving a card from the City before. The front of the card included a quote from Maya Angelou “Life is not measured by the number of  breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”

The front of the card reads: Happy Birthday from Keith James, Mayor of West Palm Beach. The opposite side has Keith James name 4 times and includes his business address on Okeechobee Blvd.

This bother’s me on many fronts and raises questions which I will never receive an answer.

How does the City know when my birthday is? Why did James decide to send greetings to residents? I have a theory and it concerns his bid for re-election.

My birthday card:

Question: Who paid for the printing, postage and labor to send the cards? Did James mean it when the card said “I believe the people– like you– are what makes West Palm Beach such a special place to live. On your special day, I’d like to wish you a wonderful birthday. Yours in service” I was having a good day until the mailman arrived, and I started to think.

Mayoral Town Hall Meetings:

I attended 2 of these meetings and James spent the time telling residents what a great job he was doing in the City. The last 15 minutes was spent on residents concerns. James never answered a question but instructed staff to gather their information and it would be followed up. Residents were invited to the buffet table where a nice selection of food and drink was offered.

Question: Who paid for the event, taxpayers or James campaign fund? He did meet with residents so I’m betting taxpayers money paid for all the re-election events held.

As I’m writing this story I’m listening to channel 12 news when they report on the new parking rate increases in WPB.

Reporter Kara Duffy interviewed Jay Brown a downtown resident, who was “shocked” by a recent development. Hear the interview below.

https://cbs12.com/news/local/residents-business-owners-sign-petition-to-repeal-downtown-parking-rate-increase

Below are excerpts from the City Minutes, and the entire document can be read below. My comments in Italic, and underlined to draw readers attention.

3/21/2022 City Commission meeting: Item # 8.4 Resolution No. 88-22 amending existing parking rates and hours of operation for the City Parking System.

“Edward Davis, Parking Systems Administrator, discussed the downtown parking rate structure as follows: introduction-impact of parking rates being too low, reason for parking fees; metered parking-Clematis improvement impacts; current on street parking rates comparisons; current off street (garage parking) rates; off street (garage parking); on street parking rate re-structure; future upgrade/maintenance; citation fines (current); WPB proposes citation fines; and proposed monthly parking permit rates.”

“Mayor James asked Mr. Davis to explain about the benefits of making these changes so people will know that it is not about making money. He said that this is about changing behavior as we have been working on this for two years and it is time to implement it”

James was sworn in as Mayor on April 4,2019, nearly 3 years in office, so it was his idea to dig deeper into small business and residents pockets. Of course it’s about making money, every dime collected on parking fines goes to the City, and they will offer a reason why it is needed.

“Mr. Davis said that by changing these rates they are trying to create an atmosphere of compliance”

Compliance? James is forcing people to bypass WPB to dine and have a few drinks with friends for a nearby city that doesn’t rob them with obscene parking rates, or a two hour time frame. Imagine sitting with friends having dinner and you jump up and leave the restaurant because your two hours are up at the meter. You can’t feed the meter, you have to move your car, find another space. Where are you dining next time? I bet not in the downtown City of WPB.

In my opinion, James is destroying a city he claims to love, and will destroy most small businesses in the area. There is a parking problem downtown, a problem he created with the streetscape design in 2019 when there were 121 parking meters on Clematis St. and now there are 49 meters and in his wisdom he removed many handicapped parking spaces.

Tickets for overtime parking currently is $27.50 they’re proposing $37.50 for the first offense second offense within six months it’ll cost you $75.00 and if you get three in one year it’ll be $150.00.

The deck is stacked against residents and especially small business, and the hospitality workers who depend on your business. Read the minutes below:

03212022 CC Minutes

Mr. Davis making the presentation to the City Commissioners for their approval of the new parking rates named three cities and their hourly parking rate.

“Delray Beach two dollars, Fort Lauderdale 3 to 4 dollars, Boca Raton 2 to 3 dollars and West Palm Beach new rate will be $2.50 per hour”

His information was easily verified by googling the cities, which I did.

Delray Beach: On-Street Parking is available for $2/hour for up to 3 hours between 12 p.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Beach Parking — Street parking is $1.50/hour for up to 3 hours seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Beachside public lots are also $1.50 per hour seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Public Parking Garages are free if you arrive prior to 4 p.m. and thereafter a $5 flat fee from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday. Parking is free in public garages on Sundays.

Fort Lauderdale: The city’s rates currently run from $.50 to $2 an hour on the barrier island, $1 to $1.75 an hour downtown, and $.50 to $1.25 an hour in other parts of the city. Residents would be charged $1.50 an hour for the beach and downtown areas and $1 an hour in other sections of the city under the new proposal.

Boca Raton: Be ready to pay the next time you park your car in downtown Boca Raton. The city is phasing in parking meters for street-side parking.
It will cost you $1 per hour during the day and $2 an hour overnight. A city spokesperson said the goal is to create turnover downtown and bring more customers to businesses. But some business owners worry meters will scare customers away.

Mr. Davis neglected to mention downtown Lake Worth parking was free, but did mention there are three parking meter’s on the 200 block of Clematis Street.

Commissioners please do your homework and stop accepting what staff presents as the whole truth. Population of WPB is 114,646 that’s the people who’s interest you are supposed to protect.

Common sense goes a long way. Bottom line poor planning poor management, City Commissioners voting on issues with not enough information.

The end!

 

Parking Rates Recap

March 21, 2022—City Commission Meeting:

Ordinance/Resolution: “RESOLUTION NO. 88-22: A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, ESTABLISHING NEW RATES, FINES AND HOURS OF OPERATION FOR THE CITY PARKING SYSTEM”

Staff member, Parking Administrator Edward Davis and Assistant City Administrator, Amando Fana along with Mayor James had the job of selling the new rates to the Commissions and they did a good job. Two residents spoke against 88-22 and one resident requesting the rates not be changed and another asked the commission to table it until Commissioner Fox was in attendance and also mentioned he didn’t hear about the meeting until 3:21 that afternoon. The City Commissioners passed it unanimously and the new rates went into effect May 1, 2022.

May 4, 2022— West Palm Beach Merchant Group Meeting: Led by Rodney Mayo.

Meeting was held with the West Palm Beach Merchant Group concerning the new parking rates and the 5 City Commissioners were invited to attend and hear the problems the group anticipated with the parking rate increase.

Of the five invited Commissioners Fox, Lambert, Peduzzi, Ward and Warren only Fox attended. Not invited, but attended was Edward Davis, Parking Administrator and Amando Fana, Assistant City Manager.

May 9, 2022— Recap Merchant Meeting Wednesday May 4th written by Rodney Mayo reads in part:

(1) “The parking department referred to a study of unlimited hours for street parking and the negative impact it had on businesses. Could we please get a copy of that study along with any updated parking studies that may have followed the study dated September 2017?

(2) City Staff referred to a study regarding Sunday parking fees and the net result of decreasing problems with brunch customers downtown. Could we please get a copy of that study?

Parking department was looking into how many spaces will be available for employee parking downtown at the discounted rate of $50. We were told there is some jumbling around of spaces and an accurate number was not available last week at our meeting. With an estimated 2,500 hospitality workers along the Clematis corridor it seems imperative we have a number of spaces available for our staff. Even if it is somewhat of a rough estimate we need to know if this number is 100, 500, 1,000, 2,000 etc. The Merchant group has expressed strong concern over this issue as businesses are already experiencing employee complaints of not being able to afford to work downtown with $20 parking rates for a full shift currently. Hospitality employees are bearing the cost of these new rates now and we would hope city staff would have this figured out and the structure in place prior to enacting the rate increase”

Dear Mr. Mayo,

Hopefully, but I doubt you received the 2 studies mentioned above. Let me share with readers my PRR sent to the City, and their reply.

May 11, 2022— RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST of May 11, 2022, Reference # R031390-051122

The City of West Palm Beach received a public records request from you on May 11, 2022.

Your request mentioned:

“How many spaces will be available for hospitality workers, employee parking in the five garages listed below ? Please list parking spaces available for each garage.
What will be the cost of parking in a City Garage for an 8 hour shift?
How many hospitality workers, employee’s have requested their name be placed on a waiting list to secure a parking spot in the 5 listed parking garages?
Banyan Garage at Banyan Blvd & Olive Ave, City Center Garage, Clematis St. Garage at Clematis & Quadrille, Evernia Garage at Evernia St. & Dixie Hwy; Police Garage on Clematis Street” 

May 13, 2022 1:46 pm— City’s response to my PRR:

“The City does not answer questions in response to a public records request; however, there are no documents in response to any of the questions.”— “This email is to notify you that no records exist. Your request has been closed.”

May 13, 2022 3:39 pm— “This is the response added in the system. I have attached the City’s public records policy regarding responding to questions.” “No files exists for the questions, Daniel Giust” Who is Mr. Giust? 

Public_Records_Request_policy_05012020

 

Double click to enlarge pic.

Parking Meter No more free parking on Sunday, Holiday’s and between the hours of 7:00 PM til 7:00AM.

New Rates:

Effective May 1, 2022

Meters Enforced 24/7

2 Hour Max. 6 AM to Midnight

Vehicle must be moved After 2 Hours

Overnight Parking

Midnight to 6 AM

Paid by ParkMobile Only

We Accept

Discover MasterCard Visa

Dollar coins, Quarters and ParkMobile

Meter Malfunction Please Call (822) 1500

Handicapped Parking:

If you have a Handicap Placard you are allowed to park where a handicap sign is located, or park at a parking meter for four (4) hours at no cost. Clematis St; one city block between Quadrille and Dixie there were three (3) handicapped spots. Now there are Two (2). Roxy’s on Clematis has the handicapped sign stenciled on the street, but no sign on a pole. Please fix it or someone will park, and receive a $250.00 fine.

 

 

Paid by ParkMobile Only:

Millions of people have a smart phone, millions more do not. You can’t use ParkMobile with a dumb phone. Older residents would have a problem downloading the app. Remember we didn’t grow up with computers!

Dear Commissioners,

When the Ordinance/Resolution was passed on March 21, 2022 Commissioner Shoaf represented District 1, and the reins were turned over to Commissioner Ward. Common Sense would dictate this was not going to be popular with business owners, employees and residents.

As mentioned above 2 residents spoke against the new rates. It appears no one was surprised the Commission Chamber was empty, so once again you were told one side of the story— Mayor James and City Administrator side. Empty chamber should have been a heads up.

If you haven’t signed the petition to help our down town businesses and hospitality workers who depend on the generosity of patrons to enable them to pay rent and put food on the table and not into a parking meter here is one more opportunity.

https://www.change.org/p/city-of-west-palm-beach-increased-parking-rate-repeal/u/30506895

The end.

 

City of West Palm Beach Increased Parking Rate Repeal.

Below was written by Rodney Mayo in an attempt to keep residents apprised of the major change to the parking rate increase that will effect every resident who owns an automobile. There is more to the story and I ask readers to take the time to read the entire piece.

Also included is a petition that will be presented to the City Commission in the hopes they will not approve the new parking rates.

The City’s motto “We Want To Hear From You” please take them at their word and sign the petition. If not you——who?
Residents who have signed the petition (Reason for Signing) have left comments on why they have signed and interesting points were made.

“The City of West Palm Beach passed a sweeping parking rate increase, the largest in the history of our city at the commission meeting on March 23, 2022. Despite the parking department showing an annual profit of 2.5 million dollars last year, the adopted increases include 24/7 enforced parking, flat rate weekend parking, added rates on Sunday, increased event rates, increased monthly rates, increased penalties and a 300% increase in metered parking rates. The one benefit the City claims of the new program is 50% discounted hospitality employee parking. Unfortunately, they do not disclose there are no spaces available at this rate in most all the garages.

The City Commission adopted these new rates after giving less than 48 hours’ notice to the public. The merchants and residents were not given the opportunity to participate in the discussion. The City references a zoom meeting on March 3 of 2021, over one year prior, as sufficient notice and opportunity for merchants and residents to be a part of the process. That zoom meeting comprised of 5 city employees and no merchants or residents.
These new parking rates will hurt the already struggling businesses who are finally rebounding after 2 years of the pandemic. Residents who do not have assigned parking spaces will bear an additional cost of $300 per month in a time of skyrocketing rental rates and inflation. These new parking rates will make the City of West Palm Beach the costliest city to park in all of South East Florida, less a few special districts in South Beach”

https://www.change.org/p/city-of-west-palm-beach-increased-parking-rate-repeal

The end!

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