Cocoa Beach: Questions And “Unfunded Mandates.”

(image courtesy of the City of Cocoa Beach)

We weren’t planning on doing this post today, but hey, why not?

There were two “interesting” things we noticed at the Cocoa Beach Commission meeting last night and we’ll take them in the order they happened.

During the Staff reports, City Attorney Skip Fowler reported on the litigation concerning the Ocean Dunes project.

Mr. Fowler reminded the Commission that the judge in the case had denied the City’s motion to dismiss based on failure to file in a timely manner. Fowler than gave an overview of the steps in the lawsuit (motions, counter motions, pleadings and answers) following which there would be a three judge panel seated to decide the case. While the date of the decision would be based on the Court’s schedule, Fowler said he expected the decision would be “maybe in April – probably in May.”

Then Fowler said something truly curious:

Assuming that you haven’t changed your minds and wish to do something different, then we’ll proceed in that direction.

“Haven’t changed your minds?” Who is this “you” and when were they asked about proceeding with defending the lawsuit?

Commissioner Skip Williams then asked:

COMMISSIONER WILLIAMS: When you say ‘you’ve not changed your minds,’ who specifically on this Board…..

CITY ATTORNEY SKIP FOWLER: The four who voted in favor of the variance.

WILLIAMS: So as far as expending additional City funds, basically to defend a rational from a property owner variance, the City is spending additional funds by having you help them defend their variance.

FOWLER: That’s largely correct. What we are defending is the Commission’s decision and that clearly is in accordance with the property owner’s desires.

WILLIAMS: Well, I would have thought that the burden of defending their rational would have fallen to the property owners and not required an incurrence of additional funding from the City Commission….

FOWLER: Well, they’re in there too, Commissioner. I didn’t mean to suggest that we are carrying all…

WILLIAMS: Well, I’m just saying it’s kind of a blindside to me that we are spending…..what do you think those costs will evolve to?

FOWLER: Well, that’s a good question. I could see it could easily go $15,000 to $20,000.

WILLIAMS: So I want to ask this Commission was it your expectation that the attorney would spend $15,999 – $20.000 to rationalize and to defend the rational for the variance on behalf of the property owner?

FOWLER: No, I expect the judge to….

WILLIAMS: I want to ask the Commission, sir.

FOWLER: I’m sorry. I thought you were speaking to me.

Cocoa Beach: UPDATE: Commission Meeting Tonight. (Also Known As “Oh Crap, Did We Miss This One.”)

We are going to do something that we seldom (if ever) do – use a comment as the entire post. (Or at least the focus of the post.)

One of our readers noticed that while he felt that our discussion on the County Appraisers and Tax Collector interlocal agreement was important, there was another issue on the agenda of importance:

K. New Business:
Approve proceeding with the design for the construction of a new City Hall, Police Department and Parking Structure, following Option D, as presented at the February 9, 2017, Commission meeting, and requests that Staff begin the planning and the budgeting for the project.

We stopped reading after “proceeding with the design for the construction of a new City Hall, Police Department and Parking Structure,” and did not realize that the agenda item would present, vote upon, and essentially give the approval of the basic design plans, including locations.

Geez, did we screw that one up.

Here’s the comment that was left for us and we are presenting it because we don’t think we can add more to it.

These are important issues, but I believe the big issue facing our city is the proposed option D for the new downtown police dept, city hall, green space, and parking structure. While I agree these facilities require updating I really hate the idea of placing the police secure parking along our main drag (S. Orlando ave.). This would be a poor use of high value real estate and an eyesore for folks traveling thru our city.

Below is a copy of an email I sent to the commissioners and city manager. If you agree (or disagree) I urge you to either show up at the meeting to voice your concerns or email them with you inputs. Thirst decisions will be very tough but will affect the look and feel of our downtown area for many years to come. Now is the time to voice your inputs.

(click on image for larger resolution)

Dear Commissioners and City Manager:

I am resending my original input to voice my objection to having the PD parking along our main drag (South Orlando) as it looks like happens if you select option D. I realize there are many ways to skin this cat but IMHO placing a parking lot along our main thru-way would be an eyesore and a turnoff for both tourists and residents – also a very poor utilization of high value real estate. Put the PD parking lot back on Brevard ave.

Please consider placing the new PD next to the fire department – I believe there is a lot of synergy to be gained by locating these two buildings in close proximity (meeting spaces, training classrooms, communications antenna’s and towers, backup power units, etc). No need to have separate stuff at two separate locations when you could put it all together and share common items between police and fire.

A nice green space and city hall along our main drag would be very attractive and make our city look great, additionally by putting the green space along S. Orlando you locate it closer to the proposed parking structure which would seem to make more sense than having to have folks park in the garage and walk across A1A to access events at the new green space as option D would have you do.

Also, as I stated in my previous letter it seems like a bad idea to co-locate police parking and public parking in the same structure due to security concerns.

The writer and commenter is dead on point. No matter how you feel about this, you should show up and express your support or concerns as this is a long term project for the City of Cocoa Beach.

Thanks to the writer for noting our omission and making a great comment.

Cocoa Beach: Commission Meeting Tonight.

The Cocoa Beach City Commission meets tonight at 7:00 PM for a regular meeting.

The agenda can be found here.

There is one item on the agenda that gives us pause.

4. Approve an Interlocal Agreement with the Brevard County Property Appraiser (BCPA) and Brevard County Tax Collector (BCTC), to contract with a third-party vendor, Tax Management Associates, for the review of the validity of all residency-based property tax exemptions; the City agrees to have 28% of the proceeds of the collections paid to the vendor. (If no liens are filed and paid, the vendor will not be paid. This agreement has no immediate impact on

the budget, and in the future will decrease the number of exemptions that are improperly claimed and increase the property tax revenue to the City.)

In theory, it is a great idea to stop tax fraud. It is a great idea to have people pay back taxes for deductions and exemptions they have taken in the past illegally.

Our concerns are what we give up to get the tax money.

1) The third party deal reminds us greatly as to the stop light cameras and other “outside lawyers for hire in civil suits by the government.” There is a perverse incentive to “get” more people. Even though the contract says it is the Brevard County Property Appraiser who has the final say in proceeding with actions against tax payers, the incentive for the company is to find more candidates of alleged cheating. We would be interested in seeing data from other counties as to the number of people who TMA alleged were cheating, but were not.

2) The agreement does not stipulate who pays for the removal of a tax lien if in fact it was improperly applied to a property. Should a citizen pay the costs of going to court to defend an accusation like being a tax cheat when they are not? It seems that the contract between the County and TMA tries to isolate the TMA from any legal consequences of being wrong. We aren’t sure that seems right. If a company is acting on the direct of the County and something goes south, the company has legal responsibilities as well.

Cocoa Beach: Board Of Adjustment.

The Cocoa Beach Board Of Adjustments meets tonight at 5:25 and while we usually just keep an eye on these proceedings, we have been asked to cover this meeting a little more extensively.

The agenda for the meeting can be found here.

The first agenda item in which a variance is requested deals with the marina / restaurant / parking area at 400 West Cocoa Beach Causeway.

The owner of the property is requesting a variance on building two outdoor seating areas – one on the first floor and one on the second – overlooking the Banana River. The deck areas will allow an additional 90 patrons on the decks to the 160 person capacity of the restaurant on the inside.

The first issue is the parking for the restaurant. The area around the restaurant does not have enough parking spaces as required by the city codes. That means the restaurant will have to go elsewhere for parking. They are trying to negotiate a parking agreement with the AT&T lot next door to allow parking that would supplement that of the restaurant and bring the parking requirement up to code.

It’s Here Again. (Again.)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a repost of a post that got a lot of negative reactions from people. To this day, we don’t understand why people reacted to it other than they disagreed with us on other issues. Perhaps this hit a little too close to home on how they show their affections to a spouse of loved one throughout the year.

We will say it again, if you are only demonstrating your love for another on Valentine’s Day, you are doing this whole “love thing” wrong. You should demonstrate and iterate your love each and every day of the year. People should also be cognizant that there are others who have lost spouses or are simply lonely and Valentine’s Day can and does cause heartache to those people. While we agree, that was not the focus of our post.

Our post was a call to arms, if you will. A reminder that if you have a special loved one in your life, you should let them know how blessed you are each and every day and not just one day of the year.

Today is the day.

The worst holiday known to mankind is here: Valentine’s Day.

It is not that we think the idea of love and romance is a bad thing. We are all for it. (Nice to know, eh?)

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

Our objection to this holiday is that if you aren’t telling your loved on that you love them daily and showing them that you love them daily, you are doing something wrong. In short, every day should be “Valentine’s Day” – not just February 14th.

We love sappy stories like this one we posted last year:

Eternal love

Full text below the fold.

Cocoa Beach: Speech Is Not The Same As Fried Chicken.

As many of our readers know, we have been talking about Cocoa Beach’s “rules” that don’t allow for “negative personal comments.” The despite the rule being UnConstitutional, the Commission decided to let the rule stand and to task the City Clerk with finding “best practices” for meetings and report back next year. (Apparently it is acceptable in Cocoa Beach to say “we don’t care about your rights but we’ll get back to you in a year.”)

However, it is not only the Commission that has rules that limit “negative personal comments.” The Boards of the City have the same or similar rules in place. The fact that the Commission did not remove their rules on speech left Boards to do the same.

One such board is the Planning Board.

This past week on February 6, the Planning Board held their first meeting since October of 2016. When reviewing the policies and procedures of the Board, a board member asked about the very thing we have been talking about – whether the Commission and therefore Boards could limit the content or viewpoint of what the public speaker was saying. As the member was asking the question, Chairman John Byron of the Board interrupted him several times as Byron is prone to do throughout all meetings in which he participates.

Byron then said (starting at about 29:40:)

Byron: For four years…eh…eh….It has been my practice and I would hope to continue it to be big and easy, pretty open when people comment but when they start making disparaging remarks about individuals that falls under the part of state law that under “b” says The chair has authority to maintain orderly conduct and proper decorum and to rule a speaker out of order should comments depart from the proposition before the board. Attacking Zach Montgomery is not the proposition before the Board and so state law says I can rule them out of order. This is meant to express this a bit more. On “c” and d it would be my hope to gently and on “b” as well on er a rather on “a,” “c,”. and “d,” it would be my hope to gently ease people in the direction of goodness and light rather than hammering them down and saying ‘get out of here.’ It’s a balancing act… you’ve seen it…

Marsha Segel George: Oh yes, way too many times…

Byron: But all the way through the Supreme Court bodies have the right to specify, to be specific about time, place and method of free speech. And that’s what this does. So that’s my answer to it. And if ever I do something that the Board doesn’t like, there are procedures in Robert’s Rules to appeal the ruling of the chair and if the votes, you override it.

Where to begin?

The 9th Circuit’s Ruling On The Immigration Executive Order.

9th Circuit rules against Donald Trump’s constitutional travel ban proving once again their liberal bias.
(image courtesy of AF Branco at Comically Incorrect.)

Yeah, well, maybe not.

As you are probably aware, a three person panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a temporary restraining order (TRO) against an Executive Order (EO) issued by President Trump on immigration.

The text of the EO can be found here.

The 9th’s decision can be found here.

There are going to be people who applaud the decision and those who are against it.

We are somewhere in the middle.

First, some background. The EO is Trump following through on campaign promises he made during the election. We like the idea that a politician is trying to fulfill their campaign rhetoric, but the fulfillment has to be done in a legal manner.

There are two laws in play here.

The first is 8 USC § 1182:

(f) Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. Whenever the Attorney General finds that a commercial airline has failed to comply with regulations of the Attorney General relating to requirements of airlines for the detection of fraudulent documents used by passengers traveling to the United States (including the training of personnel in such detection), the Attorney General may suspend the entry of some or all aliens transported to the United States by such airline.

8 USC § 1182 was passed in 1952 by the Congress. As you can see, it gives the President the authority to suspend entry into the country of any class (group) of people.

The second law that is in play is 8 USC § 1152(a)(1)(A) which was passed in 1965 as part of the The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

8 USC § 1152(a)(1)(A) says the following:

Cocoa Beach: A Peek At The Presentation.

Last week, we sent our mouthpiece to the Cocoa Beach Commission meeting to comment and make a presentation on the speech issue that had occurred in several meetings.

Several things happened, none of which were very good.

First, our representative had been told previously that his time to talk at the podium would begin when he began to speak. As he had to bring up the PowerPoint presentation onto the screen so everyone could see it, it does not seem right to penalize a speaker for having to open a file and have it appear on the main screen. Yet that is what happened. His time began when he got up to the microphone, not when he started talking.

That came into play as we as a group had practiced what he was going to say. We timed it. We had his presentation down consistently to be between 2:50 and 2:54. Without fail, that is what he was running. When the buzzer went off way before the end of the presentation, he was perplexed and thought he had blown it. It was not until someone from the audience said the Commission had started the timer early that he realized he had not messed up the timing at all.

For every speaker following him, the timer started AFTER the speaker began speaking.

We thought you’d like to see what the presentation was so here it is. We have added the PowerPoint slides in the correct positions. What we do and what he did was read the section and then click to change the slide without looking. We can’t reproduce that on a blog, but you can see what was said and the slides.

You may be wondering who “Ring Lardner” was and why the reference to him.

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