By: Sharon Aron Baron
This year, several newsworthy articles made our list of most talked-about stories of the year.
Although you may have thought 2014 would be a slow year since last year was so busy with a city commissioner’s recall, there were still important stories around our city.
There weren’t too many surprises in the recent election that took place in November. We had an appointed city commissioner who won unopposed and an appointed mayor and commissioner who easily won their elected seats. No, the most important stories of the year weren’t even about the elections but were news items that weren’t always reported by mainstream media.
Here are our top 10 stories of 2014:
10. Tamarac’s Old-Fashioned Sunday Blue Laws
We reported on our archaic Sunday Blue Laws in Tamarac that forbids stores or restaurants from selling or serving alcohol before noon on Sunday. This means no drinks at the Colony West Golf Club. Not even a Bloody Mary can be served legally before noon on Sunday. This would be illegal.
Thanks to Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan, those laws are repealed in our neighboring city, and most recently, the city commission in Coral Springs just repealed theirs.
Blue laws are designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday activities for religious reasons, particularly the observance of a day of worship or rest. Since they fall on a Sunday, this consideration was not given to Jewish people since their day of worship is on a Saturday.
Some would argue that those that are inconvenienced should stock up on Saturday. This Tamarac law is more about being inconvenienced; this is a religious law that is old and needs to be removed. Our residents need to clarify that this law is a clear violation of the separation of Church and State.
Either something must be done in City Hall, or residents need to hit our stores and restaurants where it hurts and shop and dine in neighboring cities. Let’s repeal these Sunday Blue Laws now in 2015!
9. Parks Reopen on Mondays
This was big news. Since our inception, Tamarac Talk constantly reported how unfair that parks were closed every Monday due to budget cuts. Yet, our neighboring Coral Springs, Sunrise, and Lauderhill managed to balance their budgets without shortchanging residents’ usage of their parks. I had spoken to the commission about this, published articles over the years, and finally, our residents had enough and let our City Commission know how they felt about it as well.
Parks, including our dog park, reopened in 2014 every Monday for all to enjoy once again. A big win for the residents of Tamarac.
8. Mayor resuspended from office by Governor Rick Scott
Back in January 2014, Mayor Beth Talabisco was again suspended by the Governor from office. In July 2013, an appeals court ruled that a Broward judge was out of line when she threw out corruption charges against her.
Talabisco was initially charged in 2011 with accepting illegal campaign benefits from developers Bruce and Shawn Chait for her support on their land project and suspended from office. A circuit court judge threw out the charges in 2012.
Talabisco’s trial is set for February. This past year, since being suspended, she has kept a low profile and has sold her Woodlands Country Club home.
7. Grand Reopening of Colony West Golf Course
The City spent millions of taxpayer dollars to get the Colony West golf course up and running to save open space never zoned for commercial land use. Now that the City is in the golf course business, it’s not even offering the very residents footing the bill a discount on a round of golf.
The new general manager says that over 40,000 rounds of golf have been played there in one year. According to them, that’s an average of 109 rounds of golf each day. Let’s see if they can keep up the momentum all year long. We’ll be watching to see how much more money they will be sinking in those holes in 2015.
6. Tamarac and the Red Light Scam Cams
In 2012, our city commission approved a deal with American Traffic Solutions for red-light cameras throughout the city. It was supposed to be a cost-neutral contract which means it should not have cost us any money, right? Fast forward to 2014, and it has set our city back $37,000 in administrative costs during the first year of operation.
In February, Mayor Harry Dressler made the news when he didn’t seem to have a good answer to why a city would place a red light camera in front of a hospital entrance. Residents who needed to get to the emergency room used due care when turning left in the emergency room entrance when there were no cars around and found that they were hit with a red light ticket violation for $158. There was no sympathy from the city-appointed judge magistrate, who would not excuse the infraction, even when the defendants brought in medical proof.
The red light camera still exists at that same spot today, although no camera is installed on the other side! This is a slap in the face to all of our residents. But the good news is, a lawsuit filed in November in the federal district court in Miami asks the court to order American Traffic Solutions (our camera provider) to reimburse every Florida driver who paid a red light camera fine dating back to July 2010. Red Light Cameras.
Stay tuned for more on this in 2015.
5. Commissioners and their Outrageous Car Allowances
In May, we reported that Tamarac city commissioners receive generous car allowances for tooling around their small districts. Still, after researching what other Broward County commissioners make, some taxpayers are being taken for a ride.
City commissioners in Tamarac earn around $29,000 annually, and the mayor earns even more. On top of this, as well as a host of other benefits, they receive a $700 monthly car allowance to get around a city that’s only 12 square miles. This is enough to fill a tank over 14 times or make payments on a pretty expensive car. There is no reason to pay our commission enough money to pay for car payments, gas, and insurance. The car allowance should help the Mayor or Commissioner compensate them for mileage on their car, not pay for the very car that they drive. Full story.
4. Report Showing Dangerous Contamination Levels Beneath Woodmont Golf Course
In July, we reported a disturbing report from two independent companies who have reported environmental and health issues connected to building on top of the former golf course at Woodmont Country Club.
There are plans to build 152 single-family homes, a 27-hole golf course, and 28,000 square feet of commercial space in the Woodmont Country Club. Still, high levels of arsenic contamination in the soil and groundwater, far exceeding soil and groundwater residential cleanup target levels, have been found, according to two studies performed by Solutech Environmental Consultants and Professional Service Industries, Inc.
“The environmental study that was left out of the development agreement is a major health hazard to the community,” said Neil Karman, President of The Pines at Woodmont III, to the City Commission in June. “This is a pandora’s box. The builder needs to remediate the situation that will be closely followed by Broward County, costing some millions of dollars.” More information on Woodmont here.
We’ll keep you posted on this.
3. Panhandling Problem
Every day we have the same panhandlers on our most dangerous intersections. I felt that I could assist our homeless by finding them shelters rather than giving them spare change, so I started carrying around lists of Broward County shelters that I received from County Commissioner Martin Kiar. On it was all the area shelters that a homeless person could receive services from. Several of our homeless did not seem too receptive to my offerings, nor did they seem appreciative of the help, and I saw them out there afterward, continuing to ask for money.
Why didn’t they want to receive free help at a shelter? Why would they want to continue to panhandle?
One answer: because it’s lucrative.
Residents have to quit giving them money. If they feel compelled to give the homeless money, they should give it to the shelters instead that provide them the things they need like food and shelter.
One year ago, the City Commission made a unanimous motion to authorize a study for City staff to evaluate street canvassing and soliciting at our most dangerous intersections. During this time, the City of Coral Springs and Lauderhill completed their studies and banned panhandling on their busiest, dangerous intersections.
Meanwhile, we haven’t done squat.
One year…one year it’s taken for Tamarac’s Broward Sheriff’s Office to complete a study, the City Manager says. Is he blaming BSO?
Let’s hope one of these homeless panhandlers doesn’t get hurt in the meantime. It’s hazardous out there—more about the panhandling issue.
2. That Corny Palladium Award
For most of the year, banners hung around the City, stroking the City Manager’s ego about winning the Palladium award for efficiency.
What was the Palladium Award? Find out here.
The City won the Palladium Award because it translated strategic concepts into measurable results.
Well, now, that will get people to move to Tamarac. “Because young families want to move to an efficient city,” said no one ever.
The City Manager applied for this award, flew to Boston on the City’s dime, and was presented with the award, which was captured on film in which he showed everyone at the Chamber Holiday party, nearly putting the crowd to sleep.
Yes, while most cities brag about their events, concerts, or markets on their city street banners, well, we want others to know we have a balanced scorecard for executing strategy.
Oh yes, and the banners cost $6,900.
1. Charter School Feeding Frenzy in Tamarac
Why do so many Charter Schools want to make Tamarac their next home?
Charter schools are unlike public schools in that they are public schools that receive state tax dollars but function with their own boards of directors and enjoy substantial independence from state and local regulations.
Most of them are for-profit, like Charter Schools USA, which runs “Renaissance Charter School at University” in Tamarac. Notice that they would not use the name “Tamarac” as part of their school, preferring to use a street name instead of our own city, unlike their Plantation and Coral Springs locations.
I’ve asked them repeatedly for comments on this with no reply. Why the City of Tamarac did not have any say in the name of a school that so desperately wanted to move in was an oversight on their part. They have to live with the fact that their Charter School is named after a street, and Charter Schools USA got away with it.
Oh, and don’t forget that I first wrote the story about Charter Schools USA Founder Jonathan Hage last year, who, along with his wife Sherry, the Chief Academic Officer, sends all four of their children to Pine Crest Schools – a private school. Tuition for four children at Pine Crest Schools costs over $100,000 a year. Sure, you can give me that song and dance about school choice and whatever, but their school choice says to me, “Hey, my schools aren’t good enough for my own kids.” That’s what it says. And he’s making money off our own kids in the meantime. Yacht 2 Yacht 3
Don’t you think charter schools are financially lucrative? Why do you think everyone is trying to set them up in our city? These are money-makers. Take a look at Jonathan Hage’s yacht called Fishin 4 Schools which Tamarac Talk and Coral Springs Talk wrote about this past year. Charter Schools USA Founder Sets Sail for Riches
This past summer, a drop-out prevention high school managed by Newpoint Education Partners asked the city for a special exception to open on McNab Road. The same company managed this charter school as the Magnolia Academy for the Arts and Magnolia Academy for the Arts and Technology, which closed this fall leaving over 200 students stranded.
Fortunately, the commission said “no” to Newpoint and their drop-out prevention school. But weeks later, another charter school called CHAMPS appeared before them, asking for a special exception to open at the former site of the Kathleen C. Wright Leadership Academy on Prospect Road, which was closed by the State last year after the school received two F grades in a row.
But now the City, with no agenda item whatsoever, decided that we need a new middle and high school here in Tamarac.
In Kings Point! At the Sports Complex!
The school is called Doral Academy. Let me get this straight: we want a charter school here in Tamarac that was just rated a B named for a City in Miami?
The City never authorized a study to justify if there were kids here that needed another school so close because just a mile away, JP Taravella, another high school, is currently accepting reassignments because it’s under-enrolled.
What does our City know about building a school?
Who slipped this in on the agenda?
Well, it seems that City Manager Michael Cernech did.
Was there ever a vote to request an RFP (request for proposal)? No.
This back-asswards way of doing things in Tamarac stinks, and finally, the residents of Kings Point are catching a whiff of what’s going on.
I’ve been asking for several years now why Tamarac does not have an Education Advisory Committee or Board. Surrounding cities such as Sunrise, Coral Springs, Parkland, and Lauderhill have Educational Advisory Boards of educators or former educators who have first-hand knowledge about schools. Besides acting as liaisons between our city and our schools, they can advise the commission before voting.
No, we depend on city staff to make educated recommendations. Do we want to go down as the stupidest city ever? Where having an art committee is more important than an educational committee?
It looks like we are.
Keep in mind that the City staff and the City Commission do not know anything about schools and education fundamentals. The sad truth is they rely on our City Manager and his staff who know nothing as well. Want to read more fun stuff about this? Check it out here. In the future, stay tuned to more about the charter school saga right here on Tamarac Talk.
It looks like the news will continue in 2015.
Tamarac Talk welcomes your stories. If you have a tip, share it here by contacting Tamarac Talk here.
- Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and Tamarac Talk, Coral Springs Talk, and Parkland Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2011 to provide News for the residents of Tamarac and is the #1 News Source for Residents.
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