Thursday, January 31, 2008

Repaving East Lauderhill

General Asphalt Inc. has started milling and resurfacing several streets just west of 47th Avenue between NW 19th Street and NW 23rd Street (Castle Garden Area). In addition, to the resurfacing there will be new drainage installed in area that has been identified as inadequate drainage. In fact, this project shall take several months to complete all the different phases.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ribbon Cutting for Renaissance Park

On Friday, February 1, at 3 PM, the city will have have a Ribbon Cutting ceremony to open Renaissance Park. The 5 acre park, located north of old city hall, on 55th Avenue, is part of rebuilding of Lauderhill, particularly in the Central Area of the city. Hence the name, "Renaissance Park."

Funds to build the park ($600,000) came from the 2005 General Obligation Bond overwhelmingly approved by a vote of city residents. The park also contains the city's first public art project.

All members of the Public are invited to partake of the event. For more information, please call us at 954-730-3000.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

2008 Brings In New Political Season

As we enter 2008, a new Political Season is upon us. For some time already, candidates have been campaigning for many of these available positions. Most notable has been for President, but there are many more positions up for grabs. These positions can have a much more pronounced effect on your day to day lives, particularly at the State and Local levels.

Already many have declared they are running for County Commission Seat #9, representing Lauderhill south of Oakland Park Blvd. More are expected to open accounts as well. They are challenging a long time serving incumbent, which is somewhat rare when they are all from the same political party, Democrats.

The City of Lauderhill also will be having its regular elections in November. This is the first time elections for city officials will occur in November, which was implemented by the voters in 2006 as a cost cutting move.

Three seats on the City Commission will be open, numbers 1, 2 and 3. Seat 4 and the Mayors Seat #5 are not up for re-election until 2010. Several individuals have already pulled papers to open accounts for these available seats. Without pulling and filing papers, candidates cannot raise funds needed to campaign. Later in September, candidates will have to qualify for the seat by filing additional papers, and paying a registration fee.

Once an individual has opened a campaign account, regular filings of campaign reports are required, showing where funds were raised and where they were spent. Candidates who fail to follow state law in reporting this information, or following state laws on campaigning, are subject to anyone filing a campaign violation with the State. The State will not investigate any violations of the campaign laws unless someone files a complaint. In their investigation, if they find other violations not alleged in the complaint they are unable to pursue them unless another complaint referencing them is subsequently filed. Complaints must be filed in good faith, or the complainer may be subject to fines and penalties.

Also, it is expected that on the ballot will be Charter Amendments to the City. More information and details on these Amendments will be forthcoming. Additionally, during the year, information about the candidates will be written about, to keep you better informed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Federal Update Affecting Local Government

HOPE VI Reauthorization Passes House on Thursday, the House passed H.R. 3524, the HOPE VI Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2007. The HOPE VI grant program is the only major source of federal funding available to local governments for the redevelopment and improvement of public housing. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, H.R. 3524 would reauthorize the HOPE VI program at a level of $800 million a year through 2015. In addition to funding, the bill requires that all public housing units in existence as of January 2005, that are proposed for demolition be replaced on a one-for-one basis. The bill also gives public housing agencies flexibility in meeting the one-for-one replacement obligations by establishing a limited waiver for compelling circumstances (such as a severe shortage of land).

The bill also increases the amount of HOPE VI funds that can be used for community and social services, including vocational and employment training, and counseling to improve financial literacy. Finally, the bill establishes green building requirements on redevelopment projects to create healthier living environments and lower utility costs. The bill now heads to the Senate, where quick action is expected.

Coalition Fights for Restoration of Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Funding. A coalition of public safety and local government associations, has been meeting with Congressional leadership to urge restoration of funding to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, better known as the Byrne-JAG program. Byrne-JAG provides grants to state and local governments for a broad range of innovative activities, from preventing and controlling crime to improving the criminal justice system.

In FY 2007, the program was funded at $520 million. With the threat of a veto, competing priorities and a compressed timeline on appropriations, for FY 2008, Congress appropriated only $170.4 million for the program.

Transportation Commission Issues Report; NLC Member Input on Transportation Issues Requested The Commission mandated by Congress to review the nation's transportation system and provide recommendations for the next reauthorization grabbed headlines this week with their proposal to raise the gas tax substantially over the next few years. In addition to the revenue concerns expressed by the majority of the 12-member panel, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission recommended a future switch to new methods of raising revenue, a major new investment in intercity rail, more accountability in how transportation dollars are spent, a focus on metropolitan transportation, and greater emphasis on environmentally-friendly transportation options.
To view the Commission's report, click on:

House and Senate Leaders, White House, and Federal Reserve Chief Pushing for Economic Stimulus Package. In a show of bi-partisanship, congressional leaders, the President, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, Ben Bernanke, expressed their support for an economic stimulus package that would help jump start the faltering economy. The President, who was not expected to lay out his ideas for spurring the economy until his State of the Union address, is now expected to offer his recommendations on Friday, January 18. The Federal Reserve Chairman has indicated already that he fully supports a temporary and targeted stimulus package. There appears to be agreement that the package finally passed will range between $100 and $150 billion.

Among the elements of a package being considered are: (1) a one time tax rebate for working and middle class families; (2) expanded unemployment insurance coverage; (3) increased funding for home energy assistance programs; and (4) increased funding for the food stamp program. Congressional leaders have said that they believe an economic stimulus bill could be drafted and passed within a month if a broad outline of an agreement can be reached in the next several days.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lauderhill Is Not Sending A Mailer

In contradiction to a published newspaper report of Monday, January 21, the City of Lauderhill is not sending out a mailer on the subject of the constitutional amendment being voted upon. Though the City Commission has passed a Resolution in opposition to the amendment, and a mailer was considered, the city did not proceed with an informational mailer campaign. The cost, which is less than the $20,000 quoted, was still felt to be too expensive for the city to afford.

It is hoped that enough information concerning the problems with the constitutional amendment will be sufficient to inform the voters in this election to vote against it, and the voters will have to rely upon this limited material to make a decision.

Lauderhill To Receive Federal Grant

A federal grant for the City of Lauderhill is contained in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed by Congress. It is presumed the White House will not veto it. The grant contains $750,000 for the U.S. 441/SR7 Interchange at 11th Street, Lauderhill, Broward County, FL. We have to thank our federal legislative leaders, and especially Congressman Hastings, for assisting in this matter.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Notes of the Commission Workshop, Commission Meeting and CRA Meeting of 1/14

On January 14th, the Commission held a Workshop Meeting, CRA Meeting and a Regular Commission Meeting. The following are some points of interest:


1) Discussion on Code Blue Emergency Call System (Requested by Mayor Kaplan). The Commission requested the City Manager to investigate and report to the Commission on if and how it could be implemented, along with how it could be paid for. The system, which is the same that is installed in many universities and hospitals around the country, is a pole that is placed in parks and commercial centers throughout the city. In case of an emergency, someone can push one button to summon assistance through 911. When the button is pushed, a blue light is activated giving notice to the surrounding area. Not only would it assist in providing help quickly, it could also serve as a crime deterrent. For more information:

2) Discussion on signage for Inverrary Country Club. A request is being made for an electronic sign to be facing the Turnpike, which presently the code prohibits. The purpose of the sign would be for promotion of events at the Country Club. After significant review of the situation to try to avoid unintended consequences, the Commission asked staff to review and advise how we could implement modifications in the code to implement. The discussion included future events going on at the Country Club.

3) Discussion on financial impact of new non-ad valorem assessments. The staff advised the Commission that the County is increasing the costs of notice from 15 cents/piece to 50 cents/piece, even though they use bulk rate postage. The city will look into alternate ways to send notice. Otherwise, we will absorb the additional unbudgeted increase. This is just another example of how cities are paying more every day for the normal costs of operations required by a city.

4) Discussion of a retirement incentive program. A plan was presented showing how employees currently eligible for retirement could be given a onetime payout, assuming hiring new staff at lower salary for the balance of FY 2008. The number of employees presently eligible is 86, and the savings projected in the first year is $854,477.36. However, this could cause a brain drain, though alternately could provide new blood. The Commission agreed to allow the City Manager to proceed with his recommendations and report back to the Commission.

5) Discussion of City Flag to be flown at the Swap Shop. Since the flags are already there, and since we have not been able to obtain any cooperation from Broward County to place one at the County Park, the Commission authorized the City Manager to proceed.


1) Discussion of reallocating of CRA funds from the Central District to the State Road 7 District, which come from the county. The funds come from development costs. Since the housing anticipated in the Central District is substantially less than originally forecasted, not all of the funds from the county would be eligible for that area, but could be applied to State Road 7 instead. This would avoid losing needed funding.

2) Passed Resolution No. 08R-01-01, providing Vice Mayor Bates, with Deputy Vice-Mayor Benson serving as her Alternate, to as an appointment to the Community Development Entity. The Entity serves as an Advisory Board to the CRA, as needed by Federal Rules.



A. Presentation by Fire Lieutenant Jeffrey Levy, to recognize voluntary service above and beyond the call of duty. Whereas, while on vacation in Southern California, the Lieutenant volunteered to assist in the fires of last summer. He provided medical triage assistance at Charger Stadium in San Diego to victims of the fire.

B. Presentation by Marie Wells and students from Smart School, concerning their recent college tour.


1) Ordinance No. 08O-01-100, establishing guidelines for the location and relocation of public transit amenities, passed 5-0


1) ORDINANCE NO. 07O-12-159: Approved, 5-0, the ordinance to require that any modification of a site plan for city-initiated developments exceeding $30,000.00 shall require major review.



1) RESOLUTION NO. 08R-01-01, tabled 5-0, the renaming of NW 34th Avenue to "Maye Frances Brooks Jenkins Blvd.," from Sunrise Blvd. to Broward Blvd. Because of the controversy on several issues, the Commission requested the 2 different Associations effected to try and work out a solution.

2) RESOLUTION NO. 08R-01-02, passed 5-0, approving the non-exclusive space usage and license agreement with the Archdiocese of Miami for the city to license and use 1.9821 acres to expand St. George Park. With a $25,000 one time payment, and an annual license fee $14,000/year, with a 3% increase/year.

3) RESOLUTION NO. 08R-01-06, passed, 5-0, urging Florida citizens to consider the consequences of the proposed constitutional amendment concerning property taxes that will appear on the Jan. 29th ballot, and opposing said proposal. Also, the Resolution supports a constitutional amendment prohibiting unfunded state mandates in order to reduce property taxes, and urging the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission to develop measures consistent with this Resolution. (Requested by Mayor Kaplan). See adjoining articles.

4) RESOLUTION NO. 08R-01-11 and 08R-01-12, passed 5-0, approving the job position of Comptroller and Assistance Comptroller.

5) RESOLUTION NO. 08R-01-16, passed 5-0, authorizing the filing of a grant application for Florida 5310 Capital Assistance Grant in the amount of $84,895, to purchase a city bus.


6) RESOLUTION NO. 08R-01-20, passed 5-0, approving the agreement between Royal Palms at Inverrary HOA and the city to provide for local traffic control and public safety in the area known as Royal Palms at Inverrary.


RESOLUTION NO. 08R-01-21, requesting to approve amending the Special Exception Use of Sembler Company, on property on Commercial Blvd. (at the old movie theatre), to allow a restaurant drive in to have extended operational hours then previously granted to them. Previously, the hours start at 10 AM, and the request was to make it 6:30 AM, with the elimination of Sunday hours altogether. The dB level without a wall is 37. With a wall it would be lower. Also, the wall presently is called for on 8' on the north side of the wall, and 9'6" to 9'10" on the south side. The NW Homeowner Association advised in an e-mail that they can accept an 8:30 AM opening if the wall is 10' wall. Residents want a 10' wall and not starting at 6:30 AM. The applicant responded that at this time they cannot commit to do a 10' wall the entire way, but maybe for part of the wall. If we do not grant the relief requested, they will leave a 8' wall and Sunday hours. Three areas of the wall were shown that a 10' wall would be beneficial, and if the hours can be worked on, maybe a solution could be found. The item was tabled to the next meeting 5-0 so that the effected parties to discuss it and come to an agreement.





Friday, January 18, 2008

eLauderhill Recommends

On January 29, the polls will be open to vote in the Presidential Primary. Besides voting for a candidates for President to represent your political party, you will also be asked to vote on a Constitutional Amendment. The following is a list of those ballot questions, and eLauderhill New's recommendations:

Democratic Primary for President:

Hiliary Clinton
John Edwards----------------eLauderhill Recommends
Barack Obama

Republican Primary for President:

Rudy Giulianti
Mike Huckabee
John McCain
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney-----------------eLauderhill Recommends
Fred Thompson

Only candidates that have received prior substantive votes from other primaries, and are qualified, are listed. The decision as to who is recommended is not based upon their ability to win, but their ability to serve best.

Constitutional Amendment:

"Property Tax Exemptions; Limitation on Property Tax Assessments

This revision proposes changes to the State Constitution relating to property taxation. With respect to homestead property; this revision: (1) increases the homestead exemption except for school district taxes, and (2) allows homestead property owners to transfer up to $500,000 of their Save-Our-Home benefits to their next homestead. With respect to nonhomestead property, this revision (3) provides a $25,000 exemption for tangible personal property and (4) limits assessment increase for specific nonhomestead real property except for school district taxes."

eLauderhill News recommends against. See prior article.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

eLauderhill News Recommends Against the Constitutional Amendment

On Jan. 29, voters will decide to amend the Florida Constitution to primarily double the homestead exemption, and to provide portability as to the Save Our Home Amendment. On its face, it sounds like a good idea, and would seems to be a popular idea saving the average residents money. However, beneath the surface, the amendment would do a disservice to Florida, and will have significant repercussions to our community. Therefore, eLauderhill News recommends AGAINST it.

The reasons for consideration of this amendment is to find a way to reduce taxes, and help the homeowner so they are not locked into a house forever, which was caused by the Save Our Home Amendment in the first place. One bad piece of legislation will not be corrected by passing another bad piece of legislation.

Home prices are controlled by supply and demand. The Save Our Home Amendment created an artificial cap on sellers, while buyer demand nationwide increased. Therefore, we were actually in a period of hyper-inflation, as it relates to our home values. Now that the national economy is nearly into a recession, the buyers are few, and we are going to create a whole new group of sellers. Therefore, we will have hyper-deflation on home prices.

I know that these sellers will be seeking new homes to buy, but not as quickly as many believe. Plus, many of them will be downsizing, which will create a larger glut of the more expensive homes in our areas.

The other part of this equation is that local communities, which already have gone through a mandatory cutback of the tax rate, will have to do it again. Many in the community have seen first hand how this limited cutback has significantly effected their services. Additional reductions of taxes will have a much bigger impact. All for a very small tax reduction. Besides, as it was recently pointed out, cities can offset the tax lost by imposing tax rate increases. But all that will do will be to hurt even more the non-homestead property, and the newly purchased homesteaded property. The only ones that will get any advantage by this amendment will be the homestead property owner who has owned their property since before 2003.

Finally, and probably the best reasons not to support this Amendment, is that this Amendment does nothing to fix the broken, inequitable, unfair property tax system in Florida. In fact, it makes it worse. It will pass down to our children a burden that they will not be able to afford. It hasn't helped that because of this tax structure, among other unresolved problems, more and more residents are leaving the state.

Already, with all of the projections of massive increases of population expected, we are seeing the opposite in the near term. More people voting on these issues vote by leaving the state, not staying here. If not for those immigrating to Florida from foreign countries, you would already be seeing a net loss of population statewide, and particularly in South Florida.

Rather than pass a hastily prepared Amendment, would it not be best to give the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission time to do its job. They are presently studying these issues, and are expected to put on the ballot for November proposed Amendments, that hopefully will address these deficiencies in the present laws.

Therefore, it is recommended that you VOTE NO on the Constitutional Amendment.

In furtherance of this position, the City Commission passed the following Resolution also asking you to VOTE NO.


WHEREAS, the City of Lauderhill supports property tax reform because the current property tax structure created by the state and imposed on cities is unfair and unsustainable in that certain property tax payers are forced to assume tax burdens that, in fairness, should be borne by the owners of all types of properties, and similarly situated homeowners are treated differently for purposes of ad valorem taxation;

WHEREAS, the City of Lauderhill supports a tax structure that is fair and equitable for all property owners, is competitively neutral and allows cities the flexibility to provide adequate services to their citizens;

WHEREAS, the state continues to force cities to raise property taxes to fund state initiatives at the expense of services to their citizens; that is, the state continues to place “unfunded state mandates” on cities;

WHEREAS, the state continues to shift its constitutional responsibility to adequately fund public education to local school districts by forcing school boards to increase their “required local effort”; that is, the state continues to force school boards to raise property taxes as a condition to the receipt of state revenues;

WHEREAS, the state has proposed an amendment to Florida’s constitution that increases the homestead exemption, permits the portability of Save Our Homes, provides a $25,000 exemption from the tangible personal property tax and places a 10% per year assessment limitation on non-homestead properties;

WHEREAS, said proposal compounds the disparities and inequities imbedded in the current property tax structure and in current appraised values and ignores the dramatic influence “unfunded state mandates” and the state’s shifting of its educational funding responsibility have had on property tax increases; and

WHEREAS, the fiscal impact of the amendment is unknown, and thus the proposal fails to adequately inform citizens of its impact on their essential services, including education and public safety.


Section 1. The City of Lauderhill urges Florida citizens to consider the proposed amendment will compound existing disparities and inequities for Florida’s property tax payers and fails to resolve the disparities and inequities in appraised values.

Section 2. The City of Lauderhill urges Florida citizens to consider the fact the proposed amendment ignores the dramatic influence unfunded state mandates and the state’s shifting of its educational funding responsibility have had on property tax increases.

Section 3. The City of Lauderhill urges Florida citizens to consider the impact of a proposed amendment to the constitution for which the fiscal consequences are unknown.

Section 4. The City of Lauderhill opposes the proposal scheduled to appear on the January 29, 2008 ballot because it fails to resolve the disparities and inequities embedded in the existing property tax structure and in current appraised values and fails to address unfunded state mandates and the state’s practice of requiring local school boards to increase school property taxes.

Section 5. The City of Lauderhill supports an amendment to the state constitutions that prohibits “unfunded state mandates” and required the savings derived therefrom to be used to reduce property taxes.

Section 6. The City of Lauderhill supports a prohibition on the state’s existing practice of requiring local school boards to increase school property taxes to fulfill the state’s constitutional obligation to adequately fund public education.

Section 7. The City of Lauderhill urges the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission to develop meaningful and comprehensive tax reform measures that are consistent with this Resolution.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Inverrary Town Hall Meeting with Senator Jeremy ring

On Thursday, January 17th, at the Environ Cultural Center, Senator Jeremy Ring will hold a Town Hall Meeting. The meeting is open to all, and questions will be taken.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lauderhill is Awarded Tree City Growth Designation

The City of Lauderhill has again been awarded the Tree City USA Growth Award for 2007. This award recognizes our forestry program in trying to preserve the tree canopy and with strict landscaping requirements.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Early Voting Opens

Early Voting has opened for the January 29th Presidential Primary. Locations for voting in, or near, Lauderhill, are at the Lauderhill Mall, and the Tamarac Library on Commercial Blvd.

Besides voting on a candidate for your party's nomination as President, you will also be voting on the Florida Constitutional Amendment concerning the Homestead Exemption.

eLauderhill News recommends against supporting the Constitutional Amendment, and an article will be forthcoming concerning the reasons. However, the basis for this recommendation is that it will not only do nothing to resolve the unfair, inequitable tax structure of our state, it will actually make it worse, besides creating more of a major burden to local government to provide needed services requested of our residents. Therefore, more cuts in services will be required.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lauderhill Police Department Receives Award

An agent in charge of the United States Marshal’s Service for the Southern District of Florida presented an award to the Lauderhill Police Department for its participation in Operation Falcon. This was a seven day nationally coordinated fugitive round-up which led to the arrests of 5,571 fugitives and 521 fugitive sex offenders nationally.

In South Florida, 435 fugitives and 40 fugitive sex offenders were taken into custody. In the City of Lauderhill, 13 fugitives and two sex offenders were arrested.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

CASA Opening Ceremonies

On Saturday, January 12, at the Lauderhill Sports Park, CASA will be holding its Opening Ceremonies for its new Soccer Season. The first game will be at 5 PM, with the main game at 8 PM. At 7 PM, between the two games, will be the opening ceremony. The games, which will be on most Saturdays and Wednesdays over the next few months.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Federal Funding for Local Activities

Although the House and Senate supported individual spending bills that reflected modest increases or level funding for programs important to cities and towns, Congress eventually acquiesced to the President's budgetary cap and passed an omnibus spending bill that reflected the President's overall spending goal of $933 million.

Although Congress was forced to find $22 billion in cuts to meet the President's request, funding for many programs important to cities and towns was not cut back to the President's proposed spending.

Housing and Community Development

In the area of housing and community development, the omnibus bill included $3.6 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, which is $100 million less than the program received in last year's budget but $600 million more than the President requested. In earlier versions of spending bills passed during the session, the House and the Senate approved $4 billion for this important program.

In a continued show of support for the HOPE VI program, which is vital to local government efforts to preserve the stock of quality public housing units, Congress ignored the President's request to eliminate this program and instead funded it with $100 million, $1 million above the FY 2007 level.

Transportation and Infrastructure

Recognizing the need to replace aging infrastructure, the omnibus bill includes funding at the authorized level for the highway program at $40.2 billion, which is $631 million more than the President proposed. The bill also includes $3.5 billion for airport improvement grants, and an additional $1 billion for bridge repairs and inspections. Federal transit programs would receive $9.5 billion, more than last year's amount but less than the original conference report adopted by the House and Senate. Amtrak would receive $1.3 billion, the same as last year but substantially above the President's request of $800 million.

Public Safety and Crime Prevention

In response to reports that showed an increase in violent crime across the country, the House and the Senate had earlier rejected the President's proposed 94 percent decrease for the popular Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. The omnibus bill includes $587 million for the COPS program, which is $35 million more than the FY 2007 level. However, this spending level falls short of the $725 million for the COPS program that the House approved earlier in the session.

to view a chart of the approved spending levels for various programs.

Immigration Reform

In June, the Senate voted 46-53 not to limit debate on bi-partisan comprehensive immigration legislation (S. 1639). This doomed the bill and the issue for the remainder of the 110th Congress. Although Congress was unable to reach agreement on a comprehensive measure, lawmakers did defeat attempts to restrict local government authority to enact immigration-related measures. The rejected provisions included efforts to prevent the use of federal funds by cities that have adopted policies involving privacy restrictions related to immigration status, restricting the use of English-only provisions, or providing rental housing for illegal immigrants. In the omnibus spending legislation, Congress did provide a nearly $2 billion increase in funding for border security and enforcement of immigration laws.

Housing Finance System Reforms Receive Priority Attention

Congress and the Administration have considered several proposals to address the crisis in the housing market; so far, one bill has become law.

On Dec. 20, the President signed into law H.R. 3648, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. Under current law, if the value of your house declines and your bank or lender forgives a portion of your mortgage, the tax code treats the amount forgiven as money that can be taxed as income, which can make a difficult situation even worse. This bill creates a three-year window for homeowners to refinance their mortgage and pay no taxes on the debt forgiven as a part of the transaction. Other federal initiatives to address the housing market crisis are pending and will continue to be debated in 2008. Those include:

· Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending

Congress and the Administration have offered separate, and in some ways competing, responses to predatory lending and unsound investment practices central to the current home foreclosure crisis. This crisis and the resulting credit crunch are spreading well beyond the housing market and are now impacting the cost of credit for local government borrowing, as well as local property tax revenues.

The House passed legislation, H.R.3915, would prohibit certain predatory lending practices and make it easier for consumers to renegotiate predatory mortgage loans. The Senate introduced similar legislation late last year (S.2452). Leadership in both chambers reached out to NLC for support and assistance to enact or advance their respective bills. Both chambers are expected to continue to focus efforts on this issue and the legislation in 2008.

Meanwhile, the Administration proposed new lending rules, under the existing authority of the Federal Reserve, similar to key consumer protection provisions contained in the pending legislation. However, Democratic leaders have attacked the Administration's efforts as not going far enough to help as many homeowners as possible. NLC will review the proposed rules and submit comments regarding them in the first quarter of 2008.

· Foreclosure Mitigation Assistance

In addition to legislation that would fix the mortgage system prospectively, the House and Senate are also considering NLC-supported measures that would help homeowners currently facing foreclosure either keep their homes or reduce the financial penalties in the event of a foreclosure.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) modernization legislation, which passed both chambers (H.R. 1852/S. 2338), would help a larger number of homeowners refinance out from high-interest sub-prime loans and into federally-insured lower-rate conventional loans, especially in high-cost housing areas. Legislation to reform the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (H.R. 1427) also would increase the refinancing options for struggling homeowners. Although both bills enjoy varying levels of support, significant differences remain between Congressional leaders and the Administration on the level of assistance they should provide.

Affordable Housing Trust Fund Legislation Passes the House

Last October, the House passed the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act (AHTF), by a vote of 264 to 148. The bill would provide more than $1 billion in new resources annually for the production, preservation, and rehabilitation of 1.5 million affordable homes over ten years. Sixty percent of the funds would go to cities and towns, and 40 percent would go to states. Funds could be used for construction, rehabilitation, acquisition, and preservation of affordable housing.

Funding for the trust fund would come from non-budgetary sources, including the Government Sponsored Entities (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as interest earnings generated by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), ensuring that AHTF funds will not be affected by the annual appropriations process and will not compete for funds with other programs, such as CDBG and HOME. The Administration opposes the legislation out of concern that it would, among other things, create an undue and counterproductive reliance on the FHA and the GSEs. In late December, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) introduced a companion proposal in the Senate, S. 2523.

Eminent Domain Amendment Defeated

In December, NLC successfully lobbied against eminent domain legislation being considered in the Senate as an amendment to the Farm Bill, H.R. 2419.

Introduced by Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), the provision would have preempted state and local land use laws by prohibiting any state or local government from exercising eminent domain authority over any "farmland or grazing land for the purpose of a park, recreation, open space, conservation, preservation view, scenic vista or similar purpose."

With opposition from NLC, state municipal leagues, elected officials, and other local government groups, the amendment failed to get the 60 votes needed to continue consideration of the amendment, and Sen. Craig withdrew it.

Collective Bargaining on Hold For Now

In December, NLC successfully defeated efforts in the Senate to attach mandatory collective bargaining legislation to the Farm Bill, H.R. 2419.

Early in the year, the House passed legislation that would require state and local governments to enter into collective bargaining agreements with public safety employee unions and essentially "federalize" the traditional employment relationship between local governments and their respective public safety employees.

On Dec. 13, in response to opposition from NLC, other public interest groups, state municipal leagues, and others -- without a vote -- Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) withdrew the amendment that would have added the mandatory collective bargaining language to the Farm Bill (H.R.2419). During Sen. Reid's floor speech, he expressed his intention to take up the legislation in the future. NLC will continue to oppose the legislation on the grounds that it interferes with states laws, violates federalism principles, and may be unconstitutional.

Permanent Ban on Internet Taxes Defeated

Faced with the expiration of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), members of Congress introduced several bills that would have made the ITFA permanent. The ITFA, or "Internet Tax Moratorium," prohibits state and local governments from taxing "Internet access" charges.
As an alternative to legislation that was gaining momentum, NLC and several of its state and local partners pushed for a temporary extension of the ITFA, rather than the permanent one favored by many in the business community.

Congress and the President eventually rejected a permanent moratorium and enacted the Internet Tax Freedom Act Amendments Act of 2007, H.R. 3678, which extended the ITFA for seven years, clarified the definition of Internet access and retained the grandfather protections for states and local governments that taxed "Internet access" prior to 1998.

Repeal of the Three Percent Withholding Requirement Still Possible

NLC lobbied in support of two efforts by Congress to delay from 2011 to 2012 the implementation of a new unfunded mandate that requires federal, state, and local governments, who spend more than $100 million on goods and services, to withhold three percent of all payments to contractors and vendors and to remit those monies to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Although the legislation did not pass, House leaders continue to support the delay and are likely to move this legislation in 2008. NLC will continue to lobby for the repeal of this onerous requirement that would force local governments to become collection agents for the IRS.

Oral Arguments in Video Franchise Lawsuit Scheduled for February

After NLC successfully defeated attempts in the 109th Congress to pass a national cable franchise law, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stepped in to fill the void. In 2007, the FCC issued its First Order preempting local government's jurisdiction over the franchising process with respect to new entrants in a local cable market.

NLC and several partner organizations are challenging the decision in a lawsuit that is pending in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case has been fully briefed with the Court, and oral arguments are scheduled for February 2008 with a decision expected no later than June 2008.

In November 2008, the FCC issued a Second Order to address the franchising process with respect to incumbent cable providers. NLC also opposed this order for similar reasons as the First Order and has asked the FCC to reconsider its decision and to block implementation of the Second Order; that request is pending.

Energy Legislation Becomes Law

With NLC's support, Congress and the President enacted historic comprehensive energy reform legislation aimed at moving the U.S. toward greater energy independence and security, increasing the production of clean renewable fuels, and increasing the energy efficiency of products, buildings and vehicles.

The Energy Independence and Security Act (H.R. 6) authorizes a new $10 billion Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program to provide grants to cities, counties and states for innovative practices to achieve greater energy efficiency and lower energy usage.

The legislation also raises the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars, light trucks, and SUVs sold in the United States for the first time in 32 years to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon.

Climate Change Proposals Receive Attention in the Senate

Congress considered several similar climate change bills last year. America's Climate and Security Act (S. 2191), which passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last year, would limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, manufacturers, petroleum refiners, and other sectors of the economy. The bill also would reduce total domestic emissions by 18 to 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and by 62 to 66 percent by 2050. The Global Change Research Improvement Act of 2007 (S. 2307) is aimed at helping federal, state, and local officials adapt to the possible consequences of global warming. The bill, which passed the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee in December, would establish a "national climate service" within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assess the impacts of climate change at state and local levels. Both climate change bills could see action on the Senate floor early next year.

Authorization for Water Projects Becomes Law Over President's Veto

With NLC support, Congress overrode the President's veto of the Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 1495). This bill authorizes more than $23 billion for Army Corps of Engineers water projects, including over 900 projects for navigation, environmental restoration, and hurricane, flood or storm damage reduction in 23 states.

Amtrak Reauthorization Passes the Senate

The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007 (PRIIA), which passed the Senate in November, would reauthorize Amtrak through 2012 and provide $11.4 billion for the rail system over the next six years. This six-year authorization, which NLC supports, would provide Amtrak, whose last authorization expired in 2002, with stability and allow for long-term planning. The bill proposes $3.3 billion for operation subsidies and $4.9 billion for capital improvements, plus $1.4 billion for upgrades of other urban rail systems. Over the life of the bill, Amtrak's operating subsidy would be reduced by 40 percent through cost cutting, restructuring, and reform, while capital funding to Amtrak and the states for intercity passenger rail projects would be increased. The bill features a new funding source, the Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program. The purpose of the grant program is to grow Amtrak rider-ship while allowing states to take a more active role in designing their own specific rail solutions and bearing a greater share of the cost. The House will likely introduce a bill early next year that builds upon the Senate version.

Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization

Congress was unable to reach agreement on a reauthorization of federal airport programs in time for the September 2007 expiration of the program. However, Congress currently extended the program, as well as the taxes that support it, in the omnibus appropriations bill. The Administration had sought major changes in the program, including a change in the tax structure supported by commercial airlines, reduction of general revenues for airport programs, and elimination of programs for small airports. Congress rejected most of the changes in the reauthorization bills but was unsuccessful in reaching agreement on the imposition of new fees on private jets. The reauthorization bill approved by the House did include an increase in the ceiling for passenger facility charges from the current $4.50 to $7.00, an increase supported by NLC. The Senate has yet to reach agreement on a proposal.

Surface Transportation Reauthorization

Aging infrastructure and congested highways will continue to keep transportation funding on the Congressional agenda as debate on the future of the federal surface transportation program gets underway. Concern over shortfalls in revenue from the Highway Trust Fund, the inadequacy of current financing methods to keep up with demand, and the bridge collapse in Minneapolis has renewed attention on the safety of crumbling roads, bridges and tunnels.

While Congress has maintained spending on roads, highways, bridges, and transit programs, the calls for an updated national vision for transportation that includes the connection between transportation and energy will begin with the release of the National Surface Transportation Revenue Study Commission findings early in the second session of the 110th Congress. Congress remains skeptical of the administration's reliance on public private partnerships as the answer to national surface transportation needs, and the debate will intensify as the September 2009 expiration date for the current surface transportation program approaches.

State Children's Health Insurance Program Expansion Defeated

Congress twice sent legislation to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to the President for signature, and twice he vetoed it. Both bills, which NLC supported, would increase funding substantially for this program and provide health insurance for 10 million currently uninsured children.

The President's objections to both measures include: (1) the overall cost of the program, (2) eligibility standards, (3) access to insurance by children of undocumented workers, and (4) adult enrollment in the program. Before concluding the session, Congress extended the current authorization until March 2009, and increased funding slightly to ensure that all children currently eligible would continue to receive SCHIP benefits.

Terrorism Risk Insurance Act Extended

On behalf of NLC-RISC, NLC lobbied in support of an extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). TRIA provides insurance coverage for terrorism events, which private policies widely exclude from coverage. The bill which became law, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, H.R. 4299, includes a seven-year extension of the program and retains the current $100 million trigger for coverage.

One-Year Alternative Minimum Tax Fix Approved

After House and Senate wrangling over solutions to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), the House adopted the Senate version of a one year fix that would provide relief for up to 21 million taxpayers who would have otherwise been subject to this tax. House Democrats initially resisted the Senate's removal of revenue-raising offsets, but gave in when it became clear that the President would not support the House bill. When Congress considers retroactive relief for some expiring tax credits and deductions in 2008, it is expected that House Democrats will revive the AMT one-year patch debate and again propose offsets for this $50 billion tax-relief measure.

Streamlined Sales Tax Proposals Introduced

The Sales Tax Fairness and Simplification Act (S. 34/H.R. 3396) would grant states that have complied with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA) the authority to require out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax on remote sales. While NLC supports simplification of the sales and use tax system, we have serious concerns that the bills require states to administer and collect local telecommunication taxes and fees. It is unlikely that these bills will gain momentum in 2008, as collection of sales taxes on Internet purchases would be viewed by many citizens as a tax increase, a perception that neither political party would want to be associated with during a presidential campaign year.

Education Legislation Stalled in House and Senate

Despite efforts by committee chairs in both the House and Senate to reauthorize No Child Left Behind (NCLB), both the House and Senate failed to make any headway. The House held hearings on draft reauthorization language, and the Senate had listening sessions. But neither the House nor the Senate committee chairs formally introduced legislation, and efforts to address NCLB reauthorization are not likely to be considered until after the presidential election.

Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization

Efforts to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) stalled completely due to demands from organized labor to substantially alter the governance structure and redirect the program away from dislocated workers toward economically disadvantaged youth and adults. While reauthorization bills that would retain the governance structure have support in the House and Senate, action is unlikely until after the presidential election.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mayors Unite Behind CDBG Legislation

The United Stated Conference of Mayors along with four other national organizations representing cities and local elected officials, and housing and community development practitioners are acting in support of the Community Foreclosure Assistance Act of 2007, introduced by U.S. Senator Norm Coleman. The legislation would provide $1 billion through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to local governments and states to address the impact of foreclosures. Foreclosure – based rental assistance would also be provided to renters through the legislation.

“We highly commend Senator Norm Coleman for pushing his legislative initiative which not only provides additional funding for CDBG, but allows more flexibility in the program by increasing the public services cap and lowering the current low- and moderate income requirement from 70% to 50%, ” said Conference President Douglas H. Palmer, Mayor of Trenton. “We look forward to working with the Senator in any way possible to help pass this important legislation.”

Local governments are experiencing the growth in sub- prime mortgage foreclosures with dire predictions for citizens, neighborhoods, and local economies. With the mortgage crisis predicted to get worse over the next year, local governments are poised to tackle the issue on multiple fronts including: working to gain support of strong federal antipredatory and bankruptcy legislation, support of reform and modernization of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and through legislation such as the Community Foreclosure Assistance Act, assistance to citizens who have lost or are losing their homes.

In addition, the bill allows local governments and states to request a general waiver to further provide foreclosure assistance. The Conference and other partnering organizations are also requesting that the legislation permit 10 % of the funds to be used for administrative costs.

The four other participating organizations joined with the U.S. Conference of Mayors in support of U.S. Senator Coleman’s CDBG legislation include: the National Association of Counties; the National Community Development Association; the National Association for County Community and Economic Development; and the National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Let's Play Scrabble!

S C R A B B L E CLUB, #273, meets on Wednesday nights, 6:45 PM to 10 PM, at Veteran's Park, 7600 NW 50th Street. $2.00/night, Prizes.

For more information call Sandee Bloom at 954-726-6449, or Veteran's Park, 954-52-1459.