Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Commission Authorizes Study for New City Hall at Annual Retreat

Skylight Effect with Vertical Arthitecture

At the Lauderhill Annual Retreat, the Commissioners discussed a variety of subjects concerning the future of the next few years of the city. One of the most significant discussions concerned the future of a City Hall.

Analysis was presented showing three alternatives. Tearing down old City Hall, and rebuilding. Taking old City Hall down to the structure and rebuilding. Finally, rebuilding a new city hall on Oakland Park Blvd. at the site of the old Publix building. Each idea presented different issues to the city, and a different cost.

Bottom line was that trying to rebuild at the site of old City Hall would cost between $5,750,000 and $7,250,000. It was also stated that by choosing the least expensive alternative at the old site still would not the provide the city with a building that would be sufficiently safe from future hurricanes.

The third alternative of building a new city hall at the old Publix was approved by the Commission to pursue and enter into further discussions. It was explained that factoring in tax revenues the city would generate by selling off the realty for housing at the old City Hall site, the overall cost would ultimately be under $1,000,000. Additionally, a new city hall on Oakland Park Blvd. would help to spur significant economic development in that corridor.

Though the final decision has not been reached, it is clear of the present direction of the city. The time to potential completion would be between 2 to 3 years. The building is expected to be 40,000 square feet, be 4 floors, and have a skylight appearance to the building. A reference was made concerning a similar type of building constructed in Boulder, Colorado.

Part of the discussion was the type of housing that would be built at the old City Hall site. The available 8 acres may have highest value as townhouses selling from $250,000. However, there was an interest in having it developed as single family homes as well. The intent is to provide to the Central Area of Lauderhill something that would enhance the area, and bring up property values, while also improving their neighborhoods community look.

Other matters covered at the Retreat concerned:
1) The expenditures on the Great Neighborhood Bond, including the construction of the Walls;
2) Progress on the CRA's;
3) What the Commission needs are for the temporary City Hall being built out at the Corporate Park of Inverrary;
4) The creation of a Charter Review Committee;
5) Special Events Programs for the future; and
6) How the city would handle the expenditure of funds for education.

The Charter Review Committee idea was directed to the City Attorney to draft up an ordinance to require every 10 years for a committee to be created. It would spend a specific amount of time reviewing the Charter and Code, sending recommendations to the Commission. Then it would be sunsetted. It is expected that it will be brought to the Commission by April, and would be sponsored by Commissioner-Elect Benson.

Ideas for Special Events for the future included a desire to continue an Annual Valentine Concert, possibly expanding into a concert series, and the creation of a City Choir.

Finally, the Commission decided to allow the Educational Advisory Board to recommend to the City Commission the expenditures of funds from the $100,000 set aside for education. These funds were authorized in the last budget of the city, and require city staff to monitored all authorized grants to make sure the funds are used as directed.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

How to Vote Absentee

Lauderhill City Elections are on March 14. There are two items to vote on, the Mayor race and a Charter Amendment to move city elections to November from March. For those who cannot go to the polls on March 14, they can vote via absentee. But to do so requires you to request an absentee ballot first. Either by mailing in a request card, requesting through the internet, or requesting by phone.


To obtain an absentee ballot, the easiest way is to log on to www.browardsoe.org. From there you will go to election information, and then you will see where you can directly request the absentee ballot. This method does not require you to fill out a paper card and mail it back in. Also, you will be able to assure that your request is filed. Later you will receive in the mail the ballot to complete and mail in.

For more information you can contact the Supervisor of Elections at 954-357-7055. You can also request one by calling the same number. Please have your voter card information available.


If you do not get your absentee ballot in the mail in a reasonable time or have any questions/problems on voting, call the Supervisor at that same number. Remember, you must get the ballot back timely for it to count.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Lauderhill's Code of Ethics for Candidates

Several years ago, the Mayor wrote and had passed the "Lauderhill Ethics Code for Candidates." The purpose of which was to protect the public from unwanted intrusion, respect the rights of the public, and to prevent improper or unfair activity during a campaign.

Some elections are very electric, with accusations and claims of unethical behavior. Such behavior can include the removal of an opponents properly placed signs, and campaigning in places that are prohibited. Actually the ordinance is quite extensive and covers a variety of issues. Even if a volunteer of a candidate violates the ordinance, then it is a violation by the candidate itself. Candidates must keep their volunteers under control. If a candidate cannot live by these reasonable ethic rules when running for office, what would the public expect of them if they should take office.

Such rules provide:

1) prohibiting the running of a negative campaign, or make statements which is false or misleading;
2) not campaigning in gated communities or condominium associations without the prior permission of the association;
3) requiring the candidate to determine the truth of statements before making them;
4) prohibiting of placing of signs on city property such as swales and parks;
5) placing of signs on private property without prior permission;
6) prohibiting the interference with a voter from voting.

Therefore, if a candidate or volunteer is going door to door in a condominium that does not permit such activity (and there may not be such an association that allows for this); or if a sign is on your property without permission; or if a worker for a candidate tells a property owner that because one candidate has a sign on their property all candidates are permitted to put a sign on the property; these would be in violation of the law, and should be reported to the City for appropriate action, 954-714-5566. As a property owner, you also have the right to remove any signs that you don't want on your property.

These rules are to preserve the integrity of the election, and are in addition to any other federal, state or county law.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Where Have All The Inspectors Gone?

One of the most challenging problems following Hurricane Wilma has been the time needed to rebuild. As we all know, when we want to do some work on our property, a new roof, porch, driveway, etc., it requires a permit to be issued by the city. For this, inspections are also required at several points in the construction work.

So why does it take so long to get the permits and the inspections? It is because of three factors:

1) The extraordinary amount of number of permits and inspections required because of the hurricane damage and rebuilding;
2) The lack of an insufficient number of people that can properly issue permits and provide inspections; and,
3) The failure of the property owner to present proper papers to be approved for the work, or proper construction to pass inspections.

Answers are: the number of permits and inspections required is beyond the city to prevent.; the work is there and we must find a way to handle it; and, finally, which is in the control of the property owner and is avoidable, is to simply hiring qualified contractors, and following instructions on the procedures given.

The problem that is in the city's control is problem #2, which has been the stumbling block for all governments. The lack of qualified personnel. While the first step in construction is to obtain a permit was a significant problem (Lauderhill has finally caught up on the backlog), the main problem is that the city has insufficient inspectors to complete the work. This problem, which the city is working to rectify, exists throughout the county, and no city, or the county itself, has been able to avoid. This is because there is a lack of certified inspectors available for the work needed. To help solve this problem, the city has finally been able to contract with an independent firm to provide additional inspectors for the city during this period.

But why would there be a lack of these inspectors for the city to hire? It is because the certification is conducted by the county's Board of Rules and Appeals, and they are historically very slow at certifying these inspectors.

For a government to fully inspect construction, the city must have Chief Inspectors in several areas: including Plumbing, Electrical, Structural, an overall Chief Building Inspector, and others. It has been a struggle over the years to obtain and keep these qualified Chief Inspectors. Governments and private contractors often hire away from other governments these inspectors, and generally there is a serious shortage of inspectors to draw from in the first place. Salaries and working conditions generally are the cause of inspectors being hired away to other employers.

This ongoing problem is not going away any time soon. Until such time that the Board of Rules and Appeals decides to work towards making sure there are an adequate number of qualified inspectors available, this problem will exist. To date, no such initiative has been forthcoming.

Lauderhill will do what it can to help get us through this time. It would greatly help if your contractor properly follows all instructions and completes the work correctly. If your contractor is blaming the city for the delays, you may wish to reconfirm this directly with the city. It has been known that not all problems stem from the city, and property owners will readily accept the explanation from their contractor that the problem comes from City Hall, when that is not always true. If a property owner is having a particular hardship, it is possible we can try and expedite the situation, and at least get to the cause of the problem. Please contact one of your elected officials, including the Mayor, if such assistance is needed.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mayor Helps Create the Southeast Florida Transportation Council

On January 11, 2006, the Southeast Florida Transportation Council (SEFTC) had its first meeting on the Broward County Library. Created by the Broward County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the Palm Beach County MPO, and the Miami-Dade MPO, its purpose is to help create and coordinate regional transportation plans within the 3 counties.

Mayor Richard J. Kaplan of Lauderhill was elected as Chair Pro Tem, Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons was elected Vice Chair Pro Tem. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Martinez is the third member of the council.

Already, the council voted to extend its membership to St. Lucie and Martin Counties at such time that they wish, and presented draft plans of regional transportation systems.

SEFTC has the authority to apply for State and Federal grants to help plan and fund regional transportation projects. It will also be working with other transportation partners, such as the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Department of Transportation (DOT) District 4 & 6, the Florida Transportation Commission, the 2 Regional Planning Councils within the region, among others.

It is recognized that SEFTC is a planning organization, and an extension of the Metropolitan Planning Organizations of southeast Florida. It is not an operator of transportation systems, like a bus company or tri-rail, or even a transportation authority. However, the need for planning before operations was established many years prior by federal legislation. Only through a coordinated effort will the region create the type of transportation services, particularly as to Mass Transit, and help bring to the region the dollars needed to implement such systems.

Meetings are planned to be quarterly, and it is hoped that at the next meeting in April, SEFTC will have a Regional Transportation Plan ready to vote upon.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

City Hall To Move Again

On October 24, 2005, the City of Lauderhill was changed forever. Much of the damage caused by Hurricane Wilma has either been fixed or is in the process of being fixed. But in several cases, major damage to several areas will take several years to recover from. City Hall is a prime example of this major damage.

Made unusable by the storm, City Hall needed to immediate relocate itself. At the time, parts of the Old Publix shopping center were scheduled to be torn down. Fortunately, the owner agreed to hold off demolition, to allow the city to move into this space as a temporary headquarter for a few months. This gave the city a few months to figure out its next step.

Though a decision for a permanent move is not completed at this time, (See the article on "What Happened to City Hall?"), the need to find another place for an extended period of time was of prime importance. The problem was that we needed at least 20,000 square feet in the Oakland Park area (being the center of the city), for up to 3 years.

Fortunately, the city was able to secure such a facility at the Corporate Park At Inverrary, 3800 Inverrary Boulevard. Space is being planned to build out the offices to house City Hall. Planned is space for the Commission Meetings and to relocate the Commission and Mayors office as well.

If plans proceed as expected, City Hall will be moved there by March. Further announcements will be forthcoming.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Official Song of Lauderhill

Sid Feffer, a long time Lauderhill resident, and Lyricist, recently presented to the city for consideration a song entitled "Lauderhill." On January 9, the City Commission adopted the song to be the Official Song of the city. Mr. Feffer lyrics were set to the tune of "Babyface."

At the meeting, copies of the song were handed out, and all joined in singing the new official song together. Copies of the song lyrics can be obtained through the City Clerks Department, 954-714-5566.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Walls of Lauderhill

One of the capital improvements provided under the Great Neighborhoods Bond, passed by the voters in March 2005, was the installation of Walls throughout the Homes of Inverrary and on the west side of the city. These walls were to replace many of the wood fences along the major arterial roads of the city, many of which were becoming in disrepair. Specifically, the walls on 44th Street are already under construction, and the program was to be completed over the next 4 years.

However, Hurricane Wilma created a significant problem for the wood fences. Many of them were torn away, leaving major gaps. Lauderhill then decided it would not be financially prudent to repair the wood fences, just to tear them down again in a short time. So it was decided instead to accelerate the wall program. Design plans are being created for the remaining walls, and as soon as they are completed, the construction will begin. Completion is hope to occur during 2007.

Before construction does begin, the city wants to make sure the design and color scheme is acceptable to the community, and will continue to inquire on this subject, as it has in the past. The question however remained on clarifying which walls were intended to be replaced. They are the wood fences are along 82nd Ave. to just south of 50th Street, along Pine Island Road south of 50th Street to 44th Ave., 44th Ave. from Pine Island Road to just west of University Drive, 44th Ave. from west of Inverrary Blvd. to the canal at Waterford Park, from the corner of 44th Ave. south along Inverrary Blvd. West to the beginning of Hawthorne Place, 44th Ave. from east of Inverrary Blvd (starting from the edge of the shopping center) east to the city borders, and along Inverrary Blvd. from University Drive to the canal (just north of 44th Ave.).

For a more detailed map of the walls, please e-mail me at kaplan4mayor@comcast.net. I will then send you a pdf file of the map.

Royal Palm Elementary Student Wins Essay Contest

Ashley Campbell, a 5th Grader at Royal Palm Elementary School, won this year's Essay Contest, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Plantation United Methodist Church. The event is presented by the Plantation Interfaith/Multicultural Committee, which is chaired by Lauderhill's own Dr. Ruby Lobban. The Theme of the event was "Celebrating The Dream."

Other finalist were: Philip Schwab, 3rd Grade, Plantation Park Elementary School; and Eric Voeltz, 4th Grade, Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El. Participating in the program are 8 churches and synagogues in the area. Father George Clements was the Keynote Speaker.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Turnpike Exchange at Oakland Park Blvd.

A resident posed a question on why we can't have a turnpike interchange at Oakland Park Blvd. That discussion has been going on for over 12 years, and no resolution has been found. It is both an issue of great concern to Lauderhill, and a really important question. Why isn't there an interchange there?

Back in the early 1990's monies were allocated by the State and County to study an interchange. At the time there was no interest to proceed, and ultimately the study was never completed.

A few years ago, interest renewed itself on looking at an interchange again, initiating in Lauderdale Lakes. This was in conjunction with the plans to widen the turnpike and adding noise walls. The City of Lauderhill supported such a study, but had several concerns. Primarily the concerns had to deal with traffic flow on Oakland Park Blvd. With numerous traffic lights from State Road 7 to Inverrary Blvd., it was hard to figure how the directing of traffic onto these streets without redesigning the traffic lights on Oakland Park Blvd., would be possible.

The Turnpike Authority did develop a computer design showing how it could manage this traffic. The problem was that the design was fatally flawed, and provided assumptions that would not be possible. My favorite one was the removal of the Inverrary Waterfall. With this failure, the Turnpike Authority was sent back to review this matter with the request of only a partial interchange.

Their original design was to put another traffic light on top of the bridge over the turnpike to provide a full interchange. This would have only made the situation on Oakland Park much worse. Their answer was that since the traffic was so bad anyhow, adding to it wouldn't make much more of a difference. The partial interchange idea would have allowed Sun-Pass entry onto the Turnpike, but only from specific directions.

The problem was, and remains to this day, is that the Turnpike Authority has only shown interest in building a full exchange, not a partial exchange, which could be implemented. The other problem, redesigning the lights along Oakland Park from State Road 7 to the Turnpike has never materialized. The City of Lauderdale Lakes, where this problem exists, has never initiated any progress to resolve. Without the internal interest and dedication of its resources to initiate such changes in their city, little will be produced towards implementing a solution.

The Lauderhill side of the equation is at two points. First is the misalignment of Rock Island Road and 55th Avenue. This we had tried to fix, but since the solution involves a taking of private property, to which the property owner is not interested in, this has led us to a dead end. The other is the removal of the pedestrian walk over. The city has proposed to its removal and realignment to the 55th Avenue traffic light, and this may occur.

Therefore, until the Turnpike Authority returns with a better design to the problem, willing to accept half a loaf, and the City of Lauderdale Lakes pushes to remove several of the lights on Oakland Park, which would require the construction of service lanes, not much will happen in the near future towards an intersection.

This is not to say that there are those that would like to get this accomplished, including the author. However, it would take an extraordinary act of cooperation and compromise to see this through. The City of Lauderhill, on several occasions has supported such movement, only to find a lack of willing partners to proceed.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Night Cricket Tournament Begins

On January 21, starting at 5 PM, the 4th Annual Mayor Kaplan's International Cricket Cup Tournament will commence. This tournament matches teams representing 7 countries, plus the Lauderhill team (USA), and 2 matches are played each Saturday night over then next few months.

This version of Night Cricket has become extremely popular, both for its quality of play, but also for its fan friendly approach to the game. The games are typically 20 Overs (meaning 120 balls are bowled for each team), and each game last for approximately 2-3 hours.

The tournament admission is free, and is held at the Lauderhill Sports Park on West Oakland Park Blvd., just east of University Drive. Some games had attendance up to 600, so it is recommended that some may wish to bring lawn chairs.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Basketball and Cheerleading Registration

Beginning on February 7, registration begins for Basketball for boys and girls 7 to 16, and Cheerleading for girls 7 to 16. Registration will be at the Sadkin Community Center Gym, 1176 NW 42nd Way, from 5 to 7 PM

Benson Elected Commissioner

Former Councilman Hayward Benson, Jr., has been elected to serve as Lauderhill's newest Commissioner. Serving the city for one term in 1980, Commissioner-Elect Benson won a second term when the qualifying period expired and he drew no other challengers to the seat.

Dr. Benson will occupy Seat 4, which became an open seat when Commissioner Mirsky decided to not run for re-election. The term of office is 4 years, and he will take office at a ceremony at 12 noon on March 17. The place of swearing in has not yet been set.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mayor Kaplan Receives Endorsement

The Broward Metro Newspaper, a popular South Florida newspaper part of the Saturday Edition, recently announced that it was endorsing Mayor Richard J. Kaplan for Re-Election as Mayor of Lauderhill. The election is to take place on March 14.

Lauderhill Gives Seniors Additional Homestead Exemption

The City Commission has approved unanimously, on first reading, to grant Senior Citizens an additional $25,000 Homestead Exemption on Lauderhill's Real Estate Taxes. The exemption would apply to those Lauderhill residents owning homestead realty in the city, who are over 65, and earn less approximately $22,500. Application for this exemption must be through Broward County's Property Appraisers Office. If passed on second reading, expected on January 30, the exemption will go into effect in 2007, though it may be worked out to apply toward 2006 taxes.

County documents show that presently about 800 residents, from Lauderhill's population of 66,900, qualify for this exemption. The revenue the exemption will cost the city is about $156,000, and is about 8 cents of the property tax rate. It is also possible that more within the city may qualify, increasing the estimated loss of revenue.

For those who are already approved for this exemption from Broward County taxes, the exemption will be automatically applied to Lauderhill's. For more information, contact the Broward County Property Appraiser.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Notes of the Commission Meeting of 1/9/06

On January 9, the City Commission met and worked through over 25 items. The highlights of the meeting were:

1) To eliminate the Special Residential Facility Overlay Zoning District for Cannon Point;
2) To provide for an additional $25,000 homestead exemption from city real estate taxes for Seniors over 65, making less than about $23,000, effective 2007;
3) Adopting the Sid Feffer "City of Lauderhill" song as the official song of the city;
4) Approving the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Lauderhill and the AFSCME Union;
5) Approving the funding for replacing the roof at Veterans Community Center. The damage to the roof was caused by Hurricane Wilma;
6) Re-Approving the Special exception Use of the Synagogue of Inverrary Chabad to allow a 127 sleeping room ACLF at the corner of 44th Street and Inverrary Blvd.;
7) Approving the Lease at the Corporate Park of Inverrary for up to 3 years for the purposes of establishing a long term temporary City Hall;
8) Approving a Special Exception Use for a Drive Through Land for a new restaurant, at the site of where Moe's previously was located on Commercial Blvd. (Super Target Center); and
9) A discussion requesting written information of exactly where the walls would be constructed on the West Side of the city and in the Homes of Inverrary Area.

Several of these items will be featured in a separate article subsequently.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Valentine Concert in the Sports Park

On Saturday, February 11, at 2 PM, a free Valentine Concert with be Presented by County Line Chiropractic at the Lauderhill Sports Park on West Oakland Park Blvd. In conjunction with the City of Lauderhill, Mayor Richard J. Kaplan was able to secure the sponsor and the Magic City Philharmonic Pops Orchestra will perform. The orchestra is composed of professional musicians, many of which previously were with the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. A vocalist will be also performing with the orchestra, and will include some big band pieces as well.

County Line Chiropractic recently opened a new office in Lauderhill at the Super Target Shopping Center next to Starbucks, 5425 N. University Drive, Lauderhill. Their phone number is: 954-741-4656. http://www.countylinechiro.com.

Transportation services are being considered for this event, and it is recommended that blankets and chairs are brought to the park. For more information on the orchestra itself, the following link is provided: http://www.magiccitypops.info.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Paint It Broward

For several years, free paint has been made available to residents of Broward County. This paint is of good quality, and has been made from recycling unused paint. The paint comes in Off White, Beige, Terracotta, Gray and Turquoise. For more information and/or to receive this free paint, contact the City of Lauderhill at 954-730-3085.

Friday, January 06, 2006

How Lauderhill is Responding to Hurricanes

On October 24, 2005, our community was visited by the worse hurricane ever to hit this area, Wilma. The devastation caused exceeded Hurricane Andrew, and affected all of Broward County. A State of Emergency was declared, and a county-wide curfew was put into place. Over 95% of the electricity in Broward was out, and 98% of the water and sewer systems failed. Three-quarters of the traffic lights throughout the county were down, and it was clear that the public was not prepared for such an event.

Cities are the first responders in such emergencies, and are not supposed to be the only responders. But when other governmental agencies failed to respond timely, it fell to local governments to do what they could in their limited capacity. Many lessons were learned, the greatest lesson for cities were that in these times, the only ones that you can rely upon is yourself. If someone else comes along to help, great, but don't hold your breath. Therefore, where deficiencies have been found, cities are now working on backup plans to make sure that in the future they will be better prepared, without the need to solely rely on other governments to step in with help.

However, before figuring out where we can substitute the missing support expected from higher governments, we must look at what we are supposed to handle, and how well we handled it. As first responders, a city's responsibility is to (along with Lauderhill's response):

1) Restore and maintain as needed, water and sewer (our system was the only one that continued to work throughout the emergency. No boil water orders or sewer backup occurred in the city served by the city. Repairs were immediately addressed and fixed before causing system failures. There was a breakdown in the newly annexed area which uses Broward County Water and Sewer. The city is trying to resolve this with the county);
2) Clear roads of debris (began within 24 hours)
3) Respond to police and fire/paramedic calls (continual. In fact we had 110 calls for fire/EMS service in a 12 hour period. The previous record was 61. In a 24 hour period, we had over 600 calls for police and fire/EMS);
4) Set up traffic controls as needed (set up within 24 hours at critical intersections);
5) For the protection of the public, establish a curfew (this was implemented immediately, and Lauderhill was the last city to fully lift their curfew. This soft curfew served to not only significantly reduce injury and damage, it also gave our public safety officers more time to deal with reported emergencies);
6) Evaluate damage to the city and report to other governmental agencies (began within 24 hours);
7) Determine unsafe structures, close as necessary, and coordinate with the county/state/red cross for the residents needs (this is where we had significant problems). (Began with 24 hours);
8) Help coordinate disaster relief stations with the county, state, and FEMA (continuously as permitted by them);
9) Institute repairs to city structures and facilities (began within 24 hours and continues);
10) Arrange for hurricane debris removal as guided by FEMA (debris pickup began with 1 week and we conducted 2 pickups); and
11) Set up emergency permitting station to allow residents and businesses to begin expedited repairs (set up within 1 week at an outdoor tent since we lost City Hall).

We did find that there were several areas that we could improve upon, which include areas that are not necessarily our responsibility, and we are working on those now:

1) Prior to Hurricane Wilma, the Mayor had already written and passed restrictions on the planting of Ficus and Black Olive Trees in the future. Other restrictions on landscaping may also be considered;
2) Gas Stations and ACLF's had power losses, limiting the ability to obtain gas to the general public, and putting seniors lives in danger. We are in the process of changing our laws to require all gas stations and ACLF's to have emergency power back up systems;
3) Fortunately, while some cities did not have sufficient emergency supplies, Lauderhill did prepare. We had water, food, tarps, etc. to use, but we did run short on some supplies due to the unanticipated delays in re-stocking from other governments. Therefore, we established alternate suppliers to supplement our needs, and advised other cities of the availability. We are also working on expanding our ability to stockpile additional supplies;
4) While Lauderhill did have generators to keep our systems running, we need to obtain more to cover weaknesses in the system;
5) Since traffic lights went down, we put limitations on traffic flow, and used our officers to direct traffic at major intersections. We did secure some state officers to assist in this matter. To relieve our officers of this duty, we are in the process of obtaining emergency portable traffic lights. Recently the Mayor found a vendor who has these products for sale/lease;
6) Lauderhill's City Hall suffered major damage. This is a weakness in our infrastructure. The City and Commission are reviewing answers to avoid this problem in the future (see prior article on this subject);
7) Throughout Lauderhill, electricity was lost. Steps are being considered to try and avoid this problem in the future. Inspection of poles, requiring electric lines to be buried or at least coated, are some of the considerations. However, State Legislation will be required to imposed many of these changes;
8) At a recent Town Hall Meeting of State Legislators, the Mayor pointed out that while FEMA may reimburse a majority of hurricane expenses, it will be some time before that occurs. In the meantime, cities must either use their surplus, and to the extent they have insufficient surpluses, they must borrow the money. Either way, cities have a loss of revenue, while the State of Florida has a windfall of sales tax revenue. It was pointed out that Florida could provide interest free loans to cities to cover cities using this windfall, until reimbursed by FEMA. Reimbursement usually takes up to a year after the disaster. A bill was filed in the Legislature by State Representative Greenstein, though there is no reported action on the bill
9) While the city does have fuel storage tanks, it became clear that we need to have the capacity to store more fuel. Therefore, larger and more fuel tanks are being obtained;
10) To keep city building operating, we are looking at retrofitting them with electrical alternative quick connects for portable generators;
11) A breakdown in the county's dispatch and communication system was a significant problem, which needs to be corrected. During and after the storm, Lauderhill found it necessary to do its own dispatch, and communication systems throughout the county that were still operating, were overloaded. This issue was handled by the city during the storm, and a better, more permanent answer countywide, needs to be implemented;
12) Though Lauderhill did an extraordinary job of trying to get out public information, we found that Broward County led the information delivery to the media. The problem was that much of this information was either incomplete or outright incorrect. This is a county wide problem which we are working to rectify for the next emergency;
13) There was a breakdown by the Red Cross, county, state and FEMA, as to the PODS (Points of Distribution Stations). Incorrect information was given to the city and its residents about location, time of operations and supplies to be available. Much of the promised materials never arrived. Staffing of the PODS, beyond city employees and local volunteers, were also an issue. These are external issues we are working to resolve;
15) Fortunately, following Wilma, the weather was much cooler than normal. If this had been August, and the temperature had been in the 90's, without electricity, we would have faced a much deeper crisis. To address this, we are looking at alternatives to address this problem. We are also looking to the Public to see if they may be able to prepare for this problem on their own, if these conditions should occur;
16) We noticed that many did not take proper precautions before the storm, and therefore excessive damage and injuries occurred. It appeared that after so many close calls, the public may have become complacent, and this is one of the greatest problems we endured. It is now realized by the Public, that they need to improve their homes, put up shutters, and have sufficient supplies to survive for at least 72 hours. We believe that our experience has taught us to prepare better, and the city plans to try and emphasis this need to a greater extent to prepare in the future.

As you can see, while we may have done well as a city, there is much more we can do in the future. The next time we plan to be better prepared, and to assist our residents and businesses to do likewise.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Mayor Seeks Re-Election

Today, Mayor Richard J. Kaplan, filed papers to qualify to run for another term as Mayor of Lauderhill. His slogan for this campaign is "Proven Leadership That Works." Over his previous term he was named the first ever Mayor of the Year in 2004 by the Florida League of Cities, and received the 2005 Vision of the Future Award by South Florida Commuter Services for his work in transportation. Additionally, Lauderhill last year was named an All America City by the National Civic League. One of the most prestigious awards a city can receive, and one of only about 500 cities that have received this award since it began some 25 years ago.

This election he has announced opposition, and therefore had already started campaigning. Those that wish to help may e-mail him at: kaplan4mayor@comcast.net, or call him at 954-752-1732 (w); 954-742-6967 (h). He has available lawn signs, bumper stickers for those desiring them.

Political advertisement paid for and approved by Richard J. Kaplan, non-partisan, for Lauderhill Mayor-Seat 5

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Lauderhill Chamber of Commerce New Offices

As of January 2, 2006, the Lauderhill Chamber of Commerce will open its new office at 5557 W. Oakland Park Blvd., next to the Old Publix, and at the site of Lauderhill's temporary City Hall. The office number is 954-605-5996. It's been a long time coming to get this space, and through the work of the City, in negotiations with the property owner, this space was secured to assist those wanting to do business in or from Lauderhill.