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Cocoa Beach: If It’s Such A Great Idea…..Part 4 – The Duck Version.

Sometimes people can get lost in conspiracy theories. We read some research on the subject which said that people are drawn to conspiracy theories because it often means that they have information or beliefs that others don’t. At the same time, not all conspiracy theories are wrong. Part of what comes in to play is both Occam’s razor and the ol’ adage “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

In regards to Ballot Question #1 in Cocoa Beach, we are going to put out some things that disturb us in regards to the City’s role in all of this. You are going to have to decide whether they are ducks or whether we are quackers. (See what we did there?)

In this month’s issue of the Cocoa Beach Explorer, there are several things that make us go “what?”

For example, on page 5 under the “Mayor’s Message,” we find this:

If passed, the language that the Ballot Question would replace is found in section 6.04 of the City Charter which reads:

Sec. 6.04. – Building height limit.

No structure, no part of any structure, and no attachment to any structure shall be erected to a height greater than forty-five (45) feet above crown of abutting road. Structures, if razed, shall be replaced only by structures which conform to the height limits of this section. No owners of structures destroyed or substantially damaged by explosion, fire, flood, wind, erosion, or other disaster shall be denied the right either to rebuild or to raze and rebuild to the same height in the same location. The city commission may grant a variance to individual parcels upon petition and proof that the variance will not be contrary to the public interest when, owing to special conditions, a literal enforcement of this section would result in unnecessary hardship. To grant such a variance, the city commission must make findings of fact that the petitioner has met the legal standards for variance as set forth in the City of Cocoa Beach Code of Ordinances, and the variance must be approved by a concurring vote of four (4) members of the city commission after due notice and public hearing. A request for variance will be considered after a written petition is submitted to the city commission indicating the grounds on which the variance is sought. After the petitioner has submitted a sufficient petition, the request must be scheduled for public hearing before the city commission as expeditiously as possible, and not earlier than thirty (30) days from the day of submission of a sufficient petition. Notice and hearing requirements for such variance shall be in accordance with the provisions for variance set forth in the City of Cocoa Beach Code of Ordinances.

There is no mention of “habitable space” in this section. None. The measurement is of the overall height of the building. That’s what the current Charter language allows for.

Therefore when Mayor Malik says that the ballot question would “retain 45 feet as the maximum building height for habitable space to maintain a low-scale residential community,” that’s not the truth. Question #1 does not “retain” the current height limits but instead allows for more height of buildings within the City of Cocoa Beach.

We have to wonder if voting “yes” on Ballot Question #1 is such a good idea, then why does the Mayor of the City feel the need to misrepresent its impact?

The false message from the City is continued on page 4 of the same digital magazine:

We’ve already discussed the first misrepresentation in yellow and don’t feel the need to revisit it.

The second point highlighted in green is false too. Builders were always allowed to build a wash through that was incorporated in the building height. That was a choice made by builders and not specified anywhere in the City Codes or charter. In other words, a “wash through” was never mandated by the City and therefore the idea of a “wash through” cannot be “retained.”

“Permits screening…..” (highlighted in magenta) is also misleading. You won’t find anything in the City code that doesn’t allow the screening of rooftop equipment. It just isn’t there. This wording makes it seem like Ballot Question #1 changes something in regards to the look of the roof. What Ballot Question #1 does is increase the height of the building and allows 10 more feet of building height for screening. Buildings could always screen their roofs so this too is misleading.

The final point of “allows new construction….” is also not true. The Ballot Question does not address anything dealing with safety, health or “user friendly.” The question deals only with the height of the building.

On page 5, the City then put out this graphic:

(click for larger version which will open in a new window)

The problem is that the bottom height of the building is wrong. It gives the impression that the building is still only going to be allowed to be 45 feet tall. (Sort of like “retains the 45 feet as the maximum building height” that the article and Mayor Malik had written.) That’s a lie. Simply a flat out lie. As shown in the graphic below, the Ballot Question actually allows an increase in the overall height of the building of over 18% and that is before taking into account the flood plain and calculations.

At the October 4, 2018 Commission meeting the discrepancy was brought up and what was decided was that the magazine would print a retraction and a corrected version of the graphic in the next issue.

We have no idea how that will work. People have a tendency not to look at informational graphics they have seen before. In other words, most people won’t look at the corrected graphic and simply move on.

We think that is not even the real issue here.

The graphic, as we said, is consistent with the misinformation the Mayor and the City cite in the magazine itself. Secondly, as the graphic was made “in house,” was there no one who when they made the graphic understood what the measure allows? Was there no supervisor who looked at the graphic to make sure it was correct before sending it away? Was there no supervisor who looked at a proof of the writing and the graphic on what is arguably the biggest issue to come before the voters in a long time to make sure everything was correct?

We can’t decide whether the graphic with the misinformation was deliberate or a case of being willful distortion of the truth. If the graphic had made it past one level (ie the designer) we would say that it was a mistake. But three people within City Hall? Three people approving the misinformation to the voters? We have a hard time believing that was just a “mistake.”

Once again we have to ask “if Ballot Question #1 is so great, why does the City need to be putting out misinformation about it?”

Last week we posted concerning a PAC misleadingly named “Protect & Preserve Cocoa Beach.” In that post we wondered how a PAC that had filed reports claiming they had never taken in donations or made any expenditures had somehow managed to put up large numbers of signs (including large ones) and sent out a mailer on Ballot Question #1. It was, as we said, an economic miracle.

(As an aside, on October 9, 2018, the treasurer of the PAC resigned “because of the several contrived crisis created by several associates which culminated in the badgering of myself and my staff.” A new treasurer was appointed the same day who also happens to the the chairperson of the PAC.)

The PAC has filed a new report covering the time period between October 6 through October 12. The magic continues as every contribution the PAC has received – all $41,325 has come in to them on just 2 days.

The PAC has expenditures of $35,266.04 in just two days – October 9th and 10th.

If Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking were alive they would be amazed at the time travel ability of this PAC.

Here’s why:

During the Commission meeting of October 4, 2018, Mayor Malik held up one of the mailers saying he had received it. He also said that he had seen the signs and wanted to get some for his use.

It is therefore safe to say that the expenditures for the signs and the mailers were made prior to October 4.

By law, the PAC has to report the expenditures within 2 days of the expenditure itself. (See Florida Statute Chapter 106.06.) Nearly a week after the Mayor showed the mailer and said he was going to get some of the signs he had seen around town, the PAC claimed the expenditure was made. That’s late according to the law. (Unless you believe in time travel.)

Furthermore, the two expenditures are shown as “campaign materials” and “campaign advertising.” Once again, this runs afoul of the Florida Statutes that say the expenditure report must be detailed. The PAC, by law would have to break down how much was spent on signs, how much was spent on the mailers, how much was spent on postage, etc., all of which is missing.

Sadly, the City of Cocoa Beach is the legal “gatekeeper” for these reports. As the PAC is registered with the City (because it is a local issue) the City is charged with making sure the PAC follows the laws including the laws on filing the required reports and the accuracy of those reports.

Clearly, that didn’t happen.

The question is “why didn’t it happen?”

Why didn’t the City hold to PAC to the lawful standard as they are required to do?

There are two possibilities that we can think of. First, the City employees are incompetent. We don’t believe that for a second.

The second is that they have been told or have their fingers into the wind to know that the the Mayor, some Commission members and the City Manager want this Ballot Question passed and nothing – and we mean nothing (even laws) – will stand in the way of its passage and those advocating for its passage.

The misnamed “Protect & Preserve Cocoa Beach” gets a pass on the laws because they are promoting and supporting what the Mayor and other City Council members want.

No matter what, these three things that we have talked about all come back onto the City of Cocoa Beach and those within its hallowed City Hall.

Again we find ourselves asking, if Ballot Question #1 is so great, why are people like the Mayor, graphic artists, supervisors and others making false misrepresentations and allowing the law to be broken?

As we have reviewed this post, we keep thinking “are we wearing tinfoil hats here? Or is it a case of walking like a duck, looking like a duck, etc?”

We have an answer for that:

Quack.



11 Responses to “Cocoa Beach: If It’s Such A Great Idea…..Part 4 – The Duck Version.”

  1. Concerned says:

    Thank you ROH for all of your efforts in opening the eyes to the “Residents” of Cocoa Beach about Question #1 on the upcoming ballot. I have done a little online research of the contributions and expenses of the PAC and found it so easy to see through the “quacks”. It is legal to make an “unlimited” contribution to a PAC. The large dollar donations to the PAC in question were made by individuals, employees, and entities of the hotel/motel and development industries. These include $3,500 from an architectural firm and its owner, $3,000 from tourist service companies and their owner, $10,000 from two executives/employees from the Hilton, $10,000 from a local surf company, $2,500 from an investment corporation whose executives own multiple local hotels, as well as numerous other hotel/developer industry contributors.

    I loved my job before I retired; however, I don’t think I loved it enough to contribute $5,000 from my personal accounts to a cause that would benefit my employer. It makes one wonder where the funds for these contributions really came from.

    There was a $34,266.04 expense listed as campaign materials provided by Vancore Jones Communications LLC. This company is a lobbying, campaign consulting, and media consulting corporation from Tallahasse, FL. They are bombarding the facebook account for the PAC with videos of support for this issue. They are using local commission candidate Tim Tumulty, Vice Mayor Ben Malik, and our local firefighters. I do not believe that a current sitting commission member or our city employees should be taking a formal stand on a particular issue. As a citizen of Cocoa Beach they are entitled to voice their opinion, but should not use their employment in relationship to the issue. This has been placed on our ballot for the “CITIZENS” to decide. The majority of the firefighters for the city do not even reside within our city. They have stated they spend over one third of their time here therefore they should be entitled to voice their opinions. I strongly disagree. They are no different than any other individual that lives outside of the city limits and commutes to work here. These other professions are not publicly voicing their opinions on the ballot issue.

    We, as the voting public, who will be directly impacted if this ballot issue passes, need to diligently get the word out to our neighbors.

    This matter certainly “quacks” like a duck.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Concerned,

      Thanks for the comment and the kind words.

      We are only trying to get the facts out there and this post was our first where we ventured off a little bit. Still, we wanted people to see the evidence of what we were basing our thoughts and conclusions on.

      We think it is pretty clear that elected officials and people within City Hall are being told to support this to the point of lying to the people and misfeasance. We certainly cannot stop that other than to let people see what is happening. As we wrote the other day to another commenter:

      We think what this is going to take is citizens talking with other citizens. It is going to take citizens sending links to each other for posts on this site and perhaps others that talk about what is going on. It is going to take citizens using social media to talk about the issue and refer people to sites like this one. that look at the facts.

      You can go to the front page of our site and search for “Cocoa Beach” and or click on the tag “Cocoa Beach” which should bring up the posts.

      We and we suspect the citizens, cannot outspend the misleading groups (including the City itself) but we can out talk them. We can spread the word like a modern day Paul Revere.

      This tidbit from commenter Hometown cannot be overlooked either:

      Not that it matters, but i found it interesting how CB hotel and motel PAC made their donation on 9/19 but the protect and preserve PAC says they received it on 10/9. Must have been delivered by pony express.

      By law, any donation that a PAC receives must be recorded within two days of its receipt and then disclosed on the next financial disclosure report. That obviously didn’t happen and the gatekeepers of the law – the City of Cocoa Beach – simply said “nothing to see here, move along.”

      Despite PACs and politicians and City employees, there are still more average citizens who can, and should spread the word. If people are happy or not happy with the distortions and misinformation the City and its elected officials have put out, they should vote accordingly.

      Thanks again for the comment.

      A. Afterwit.

  2. Hometown says:

    Once again, you guys at ROH have done a great service for our community in pulling together and summarizing the facts, many thanks.

    It’s up to us residents now to get these facts out to the residents so they can make an informed decision come Election Day. The special interest groups and their marketing tactics have already spent $35,000 and flooded the city with signs along A1A and misinformation being spread on social media. Unfortunately, their tactics seem to be to start calling anyone who disagrees names and shouting them down.

    I saw on another website bog where a homeowner made their own sign against question one for their yard. That’s a start but we’ve got to get the word out now through any and all means. Since we don’t have the finances that the special interest groups have, word of mouth is probably our best option so spread the word to all your CB resident friends and when you do ask them to tell their friends.

    Vote no on question one and candidate tumulty (who is backed by the same folks spreading the misleading information).

  3. CB Local says:

    I was initially willing to consider voting for this but several things have really turned me off. The mass marketing by this PAC and the constant high pressure sales pitches from the fire department, the guy from the planning board and others. I know when I’m being sold.
    I can’t stand those Tim Tumulty videos telling me how I should vote- like I don’t have a mind of my own. That’s the same thing Ben Malik does, berates and belittles everyone to do what he wants. Am I the only person in town who remembers what Tumulty was like last time he was on the commission? He was in the pockets of the hoteliers and special interests then and he is again now.
    Anything that requires this much selling automatically makes me suspicious. We can not afford to get this wrong so I vote no.

  4. Bill Geiger Jr. says:

    Yes it is me again. So you want to talk about Illegal? Looks like no one is watching the hen house (or should I say the duck house?)

    https://scontent.ftpa1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.15752-0/p480x480/44658288_927360594130195_2493153619688292352_n.jpg?_nc_cat=106&_nc_ht=scontent.ftpa1-1.fna&oh=e28824c49b30568bfaa335dc8ab9089a&oe=5C4D1081

    • AAfterwit says:

      Dear Bill Geiger Jr.,

      Thank you for your comment.

      It appears that you are saying that the sign in your image is missing the disclaimer as required by law.

      It is and we think that is wrong as well. It’s an easy remedy for them to fix and whoever is putting up the signs should do so immediately. (We have no idea who it is.)

      We aren’t sure why you consider this “a bone.”

      Did you think that we’d support one illegal action over another? Or is this simply a game of “they did it too!” for you?

      Sorry, but we gave up that childish notion in the second grade. Perhaps you like relative moralism, but we are not fans of it.

      So instead of saying “look at what these people are doing,” do you have anything substantive to add to why the Mayor and the City lied and continue to lie to the people of Cocoa Beach?

      A. Afterwit.

  5. Concerned says:

    Further research of treasurer reports of the Preserve and Protect Cocoa Beach PAC, Commissioner Mike Miller and Tim Tumulty have uncovered additional suspicious information. The large dollar contributions made by employees of the Hilton made me dig a little deeper. The property appraiser records for the Hilton list the owners as 1550 North Atlantic LLC. International Palms lists their owner as DAD 1300 N. Atlantic LP. When looking up those corporation records on Florida State Division of Corporations website sunbiz.org, both properties list the address for registered agents as Driftwood Hospitality Management LLC in North Palm Beach, FL. It is not hard to connect the dots now since we know that International Palms wants to redevelop their property. They even hired an attorney who made a twenty minute plus presentation to the Charter Review Committee encouraging them to INCREASE the height limits. It is in their best interest to get this passed and get certain individuals elected to the next commission who would be favorable to their development. They have 13 acres they want to develop. Higher means more profit for them. They don’t care about the RESIDENTS. I beg the voting public to really think about what voting yes on this will mean to Cocoa Beach. I will be voting NO.

  6. Hometown says:

    To any resident creating or purchasing a sign for their property, you should get a sharpie and write “PD. Pol. Ad. By “your name and address”” on the sign to be compliant with electioneering regulations. Easy to do and shows we are the side complying with the Regulations. Takes five minutes, make it so.

  7. hometown says:

    Correction: Excerpt from the electioneering communications handbook:

    The disclaimer must read:

    “Paid electioneering communication paid for by (name and address of person paying for the communication)”

    Have sharpie will comply 🙂

    • AAfterwit says:

      hometown,

      Thanks for the comment.

      We are not sure you are correct in this clarification, although it may be a distinction without a practical difference.

      An “electioneering communication” is defined in FS 106.011 as:

      (8)(a) “Electioneering communication” means communication that is publicly distributed by a television station, radio station, cable television system, satellite system, newspaper, magazine, direct mail, or telephone and that:

      [….]

      (b) The term “electioneering communication” does not include:
      1. A communication disseminated through a means of communication other than a television station, radio station, cable television system, satellite system, newspaper, magazine, direct mail, telephone, or statement or depiction by an organization, in existence before the time during which a candidate named or depicted qualifies for that election, made in that organization’s newsletter, which newsletter is distributed only to members of that organization.

      A sign does not appear to us to be a “electioneering communication but would qualify as a “political advertisement.”

      Florida Statute 106.43 reads:

      (c) Any other political advertisement published, displayed, or circulated before, or on the day of, any election must prominently:
      1. Be marked “paid political advertisement” or with the abbreviation “pd. pol. adv.”
      2. State the name and address of the persons paying for the advertisement.
      3. State whether the advertisement and the cost of production is paid for or provided in kind by or at the expense of the entity publishing, displaying, broadcasting, or circulating the political advertisement.

      In a practical sense, we don’t think anyone is going to get into trouble for their own sign saying it is a electioneering communication or a political advertisement.

      We do, however, think your first post was more correct. (If that makes sense.)

      Thanks for the clarification.

      A. Afterwit.

  8. […] In an piece authored by Mayor Malik and a graphic in an online magazine, several claims were made. One of the claims was that the question “retains 45 feet as the […]

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