Lucky, Lucky Us!!

by Diana DiMeo 
February 2010

Santa Claus made an early visit to the Ocean Mall on Singer Island, opening Johnnie Longboat's

 
  Santa Claus greets COASI members at their
December meeting

 on 23 December.   It was a 'soft opening'; however, people came out of the woodwork to once again enjoy the food and feel of a special island treasure.  This speaks volumes that Longboat's, which was closed for 20-plus months during the rebuilding of the Ocean Mall, had standing room only without any advertising.  The food is as good as ever, the design is upbeat and welcoming, and a number of the former staff have returned so there are some familiar faces greeting diners.  Welcome back, Lenny! 

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Santa Claus also welcomed all who attended the December 2009 COASI (Community Officers Association of Singer Island) meeting held at the Oceans Edge.  The room was packed despite the time of the year.  Council Chair Dawn Pardo, Singer Island's representative on the Riviera Beach City Council, spoke briefly. There were several questions about the FPL franchise fee that is paid to Riviera Beach.  The current franchise agreement began in 1982 and will expire in 2012.  The new agreement would bring more money to the city.  FPL

 
Diane Simon, COASI president, greets Chair
Pardo and announces COASI's donation of 50
dictionaries to the DOTS reading program.
 

and the city had reached a preliminary agreement.  However, one citizen lobbied some of the council members, which resulted in derailing the agreement.  Another meeting with council was scheduled to accurately explain the agreement and its ramifications.  Chair Pardo and/or Council Person Davis will insure that the agreement gets back on the agenda for approval.

Ms. Pardo closed her remarks by stating that the city is making steps forward and improvement is visible.

It is very interesting to note, that the current Riviera Beach Council, in a move that is a 180-degree turnaround from previous councils, has/is actively seeking grant funds and government stimulus monies to fund beneficial projects within the city.  Stimulus funds approved to date are going toward some of the A1A beautification, and technological advances in the police department.  The Workforce Alliance Summer Youth Work Program was also funded by stimulus monies.  Chair Pardo thanked everyone for their support of the Christmas toy drive and the dictionary drive for Riviera Beach students.  It is very evident that Ms. Pardo's efforts are bearing fruit. 

City Manager Ruth Jones was the featured speaker at the meeting.  The city manager addressed three major areas for her efforts:

    1)  Righting the ship --turning it right side up and moving ahead:  Ms. Jones strongly believes that it is important to address those areas within the city government that are not working and correct same or eliminate them.  It is also important to assess what is running well, is effective, and support and/or improve them.   This is the budget season, so close scrutiny is being given to a balanced budget, keeping in mind that what was done in the past is not necessarily right for the current economic environment.  One example that Ms. Jones used was the Pension Plan.  She felt that it must be looked at closely and necessary changes made.  Other areas, such as the employee furlough program were also mentioned.

     The government must budget wisely as do families and all other businesses in order to survive and succeed in these difficult times.    Ms. Jones has been scrutinizing every department within the city and has put pressure on all department heads to take an active, self-motivated role to make his/her department efficient and effective.  She mentioned that one way to accomplish streamlining is to partner with non-profit organizations who are providing services to the residents that are a duplication of services being done by the city.  It is more cost effective for the city to drop such services and provide support to the non-profits and/or organizations that are already performing the same service.  Another way to lower the budget is to seek out more volunteers to help staff the library and other city offices and/or services, utilizing the many and varied talents of individuals who live within the city.  

      2)   Public Safety:  The city has received grant monies for law enforcement.  The programs funded by these monies will enable the police department to be the most technical, logistically-run police department in Palm Beach County.  The city has funding for 14 cameras for Riviera Beach, which are in house, for a front line effort to help control the violence in Riviera Beach.  One grant has paid for a system that can tell the police that a gun has been fired and from where it was fired resulting in a faster response time to violent activities. 

      Code enforcement is another key player in the safety and efficiency of any city and Ms. Jones noted that this area needs improvement.   She stated that the city must also be smarter in setting up its contracts (e.g. Waste Management).  She stressed the importance of residents reclaiming their community. 

      Ms. Jones agreed with Chair Pardo's earlier statement that the investigation of the Police Department is very good for the overall improvement of the department and the safety of the residents. 

     3)  Insuring that Riviera Beach has economic and employment opportunities:  The city must find ways to increase economic opportunities for our commercial properties and foster industrial growth as these are major contributors to the economic success of the city.  Ms. Jones emphasized SMART growth that is appropriate for now but also good for the future -- timing is important!  She mentioned that is was a good thing that we did not get what the city wanted from eminent domain as we would have a lot of empty and unfinished projects now. 

From left to right: Daniel Bates, Commissioner Karen Marcus,
Congressman Ron Klein, Representative Carl Domino, Council
Chairperson Dawn Pardo meet with residents concerning the
breakwater project.
Riviera Beach Mayor Masters, Chair Pardo,
Councilpersons Brooks and Davis-Johnson join
with Marriott executives to cut the ribbon at the
opening of the Marriott Oceana Palms.

     Ms. Jones will be putting together incentive packages aimed at enticing businesses to settle in   Riviera Beach.  While other cities offer incentives as a matter of course, at present, the city has no such package.  Training is also a big player in the economic/employment growth of the city; new industries need to know that there are qualified personnel within the city to make up their work force.   She would like to see Riviera Beach establish a training facility and is working to that end.

     People need the training not only to fill current jobs but also the jobs of the future.  Concentrating on training for energy efficiency applications will be a focus for the future. 

     It was noted that a lot of the work done toward economic development does not appear in the public view.  There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into developing incentives, such as permitting ease, tax incentives, etc.  Riviera Beach is going to increase its efforts towards developing a first class economic development program aimed at beating the competition and attracting new business to the city.    

City Manager Ruth Jones closed by stating that we need to bring forward the positive attributes of Riviera Beach.  To that end, funding has been put into the budget for marketing and branding Riviera Beach. 
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Recently, Chair Pardo was made aware of the fact that over the past twenty years, many letters have been sent back/forth between residents, Riviera Beach and Florida Power & Light regarding the lack of lighting along Pine Point in Palm Beach Isles.  Chair Pardo worked with the city's finance manager and the city manager to identify funds to install new lighting along this street.  Within the next few months, lights will be installed to light up this roadway at long last. 

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Breakwaters:  Congressman Ron Klein met with residents in a public meeting, open to all residents, at the Corniche condominium on 8 January concerning the breakwater project that is in its final stage of permitting.  Joining the congressman was County Commissioner Karen Marcus, Daniel Bates, County Environment Resource Management, Representative Carl Domino and Riviera Beach's District 4 Representative, Dawn Pardo.  There was a fantastic turnout for this open forum.  Each of the aforementioned gave an update on the project from his/her  perspective.  

Congressman Klein stated that his office was advised that the two biological opinions concerning the breakwaters will be completed, date certain, at the beginning of February.  Mr. Klein said that while environmental issues needed to be accommodated, 'where there is a will, there is a way' to come to a beneficial solution for all.  Commissioner Marcus advised the audience that Congressman Klein's interaction was pivotal in breaking down barriers in the federal government, which were slowing down the permitting process.  She re-iterated that the funding was in tact, and that she was 'cautiously optimistic' that the permit would be granted. 

There is one caveat in that once the permit is granted, there is a 30-day period in which an objection can be filed.  Should the objection lead to an administrative hearing, the project start date could be extended out one year or more depending on the complexity of the objection. 

Chair Pardo, Commissioner Marcus and Senator Atwater are planning to meet with Surf Riders, who are opposed to this permitting, in an effort to educate them on the importance of installing the breakwaters in this area.  This is an attempt to come to an agreement allowing the permitting to occur.  Senator Atwater was not in attendance; however, he sent his assurance that the state funding would remain in place for this project.

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Another redevelopment milestone was celebrated on 13 January.  At 10:00 a.m., there was a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the Marriott Oceana Palms timeshare at 3200 North Ocean Drive.  This first-class project was built using 33% local minority subcontractors, and 75% minority labor participation with 50% of the labor force coming from Palm Beach County.
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A big 'thank you' to all of you, residents, associations and businesses, who participated in the dictionary drive put together by Chair Pardo for the Riviera Beach Saturday reading program.  Prior to starting the reading session on 9 January, Ms. Pardo and Florida Representative Mark Pafford (West Palm/Royal Palm) distributed dictionaries to each of the DOTS (Developing Optimistic Thinkers Success) Academy's participants.  There was a positive electric charge in the air as each student came forward to receive his/her own dictionary. 

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Chair Pardo and Representative Mark Pafford
distribute dictionaries to the DOTS program
students.
Start of the Little Blue heron construction
project.

The water tank next to the firehouse on Singer Island is having extensive work done on the inside mechanisms.  As soon as this work on the interior is complete, the outside will be painted.  It is planned to have both the water tower and the firehouse painted in a color more in keeping with the other buildings that surround them.

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The Little Blue Heron Bridge replacement project started on 14 December 2009 as promised.  Prep work was done prior to the Christmas holiday.  Work took off in earnest at the start of this year.  Completion is scheduled for Spring 2011.

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Chair Pardo and former Councilperson Cedrick
Thomas in Washington, D.C. to petition for
stimulus funds.
 

The fountain on the parkway at Bamboo Road in Palm Beach Shores is getting a facelift.  The fountain pump will be replaced and the structure will be patched and painted.  

The Palm Beach Shores Town Commission has implemented Project Lifesaver, which uses state of the art technology to assist those caregivers for people suffering from Alzheimer's, autism and other related mental dysfunction disorders (ARMD).  The program places personalized radio transmitters on persons who may wander from the safety of their homes.  The transmitters make it easier for the police to find those afflicted people who cannot help themselves.  Since Palm Beach Shores is surrounded by water on three sides, it is extremely important to locate residents who get easily lost and disoriented. 

Palm Beach Shores will hold an election for mayor and two of its commission seats on 9 March. 

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It is very one-sided to focus only on the negative aspects of any issue.  Yes, there are a number of things within Riviera Beach that still need attention.  However, focusing on the positive changes and movement forward will provide an incentive for more positive changes.  Accentuating the positive can lead to eliminating the negative (yes, there was a song to this effect many years ago) and foster more advances. The current Riviera Beach City Council has done more to advance this city under the direction of Chair Pardo than any other council in recent history.  Lucky, lucky us in that Ms. Pardo has announced that she will run for re-election to continue the work she started after her election in 2008.  Election date is scheduled for Tuesday, 9 March.  Please come out and support her colleagues with your vote.  Based on their track record, another term in office will benefit Riviera Beach and continue to address the concerns of residents who live on Singer Island.

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Please note:  The expressed opinions may or may not be the same as those shared by Seabreeze Publications Inc.