Sunday, September 6, 2009

Keep Squirreling It Away, Cooper City

Relief for Tax Payer Residents Who are Hurting in a Recession, or

Keep Squirreling It Away for “City Emergencies”/Questionable Expenditures


The city has well over $20 million in unrestricted surplus funds that it could use to provide tax and fee relief to a community in the depths of a severe recession.

One would think that the staff and city would be tightly controlling expenses and giving relief to the residents.

Yet, the city staff and commission have so far proposed:

1. An increase in the actual $’s most of us will pay for our home taxes---not the tax rate, just the tax dollars out of your wallet.
2. An increase in the fire assessment fee that every resident property owner will pay
3. A further 4% increase in your water fees on top of the 20.5% they have imposed since the Spring of 2008. That is a total increase of 25% in less than 2 years
4. A new expense of $3.2 million in FY 2010 to be spent on replacing water meters.

The staff proposes to borrow the money. With interest, we are talking a total cost of between $4.5 and $4.75 million.

A. One of the “benefits” of the new meters is that they will capture about 8% more of the water flow to homes that the existing meters miss. The immediate downside to residents, thanks to the new meters, is that we will show an 8% increase in water usage and will pay about 8% more for water. So, for 2010 you will pay about 12.3% more than today and a total increase of about 35% more than in early ‘08.


Some on the commission and staff seem to believe that the city government should not touch its accumulated, very ample and excessive surpluses to provide residents with such “non-essential” things as tax and water fee relief. They seem to say that those surpluses are only to be used in “emergencies”---like hurricanes.

They certainly are not talking about making residents’ economic emergencies a priority--in a recession.

What they don’t say is that the city uses those surpluses all the time for non-emergency and favored projects. More about that in another article.

Facts about hurricane “emergencies”.

The city had to deal with hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 ( Wilma, October 2005 ). There was some wind damage in 2003/004 and considerable damage with Wilma. The city government took care of recovery, repairs and replacements of city property, trees, roads, etc. The city used some of its surplus funds, while applying for and receiving assistance---including FEMA.

Here is what the city reported to the State of Florida as its surpluses during and after those years.

2003 to 2007

Year /Surplus /Cumulative Surplus

2003 /$3,875,000 /$3,875,000
Fairly normal year. City budgets a
breakeven, but makes a surplus.

2004 /$5,052,000 /$8,927,000
Another surplus year for City

2005 /$6,469,000 /$15,396,000
City surplus increases after 2003/
2004 storm seasons. Wilma hits just
after the start of City’s FY 2006
2006 /$4,701,000 /$20,097,000
City makes a very good surplus even
while paying for Wilma.

2007 /$12,862,000 /$32,959,000
City makes a huge surplus as it
receives most FEMA recovery money.


1. We have had tropical storms and hurricanes. The city has, in no way, suffered any financial “emergency” because of hurricanes. When we had a major one, the City’s surpluses actually increased.

2. Some staff and some commissioners will need to get another excuse to justify keeping tax and water fee relief from the residents in a recession, while prioritizing the surpluses for their other projects. Some good, some mediocre and some just downright silly and “pork”.

3. The city staff and commission can well afford to provide the residents:

A. a 4% reduction in the property tax rate in 2010.
B. a 4% roll-back in the current water rates and forego the planned 4% increase for 10/1/09
C. a removal of the increase in the fire assessment fee
D. a postponement of the water meter project

Best regards,

Ed Wooley

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You call that a Commission meeting?

Once again commission meetings in Cooper City are truly something to behold. The adjective "dysfunctional" takes on a definite new meaning. Of course some have said that incompetence, childish, orchestrated, disrespectful,acting stupidly (to borrow a phase) all seem to echo a large degree of criticism of the Commission.

While I could only view it from afar ( The Comcast marginally adequate video) it seems only fair to let one of those who was there comment. To that end the following is extracted from an email received and edited in order not to reveal the sender's identity.

(a portion of the email)

Tuesday night's Commission meeting was an absolute circus and a disgrace. It was an embarrassment, it was deliberately confusing, it was uncalled for and it was a deliberate attempt by the commission majority (Eisinger, De Jesus, Curran) to continue to silence residential critics of our Commission, and members of the Commission.

The main motion Sims presented on the agenda was never properly discussed and voted on due to the blatant corrupt politics, bias, inconsistencies and lack of leadership by our Mayor. Comm. Sims was half way through his time of 5 minutes when it was his turn to speak, and Debby Eisinger simply didn't like what he had to say. Yes, he had already been speaking for over 2 minutes, and he was properly recognized and had the floor.

Why can't the paper (Sun-Sentinel Online Edition) report the truth and facts!?

This is our illustrious Mayor's way of continuing to shut anyone up who doesn't agree with her or whoever she doesn't like, always running to her friend ( of 18 years & hired by the gang of three) the city attorney, which (who ED.)makes questionable comments. At least Mr. Sims isn't afraid of her and her embarrassing antics.

Mayor Eisinger is a disgrace to our city! Recall her!

We can only conclude that lessons have not been learned. Ineptness, incompetence, and just plain bad behavior continues to run unbridled under the leadership of a Mayor who still is unable to conduct a meeting when the other commissioners are not the head nodders and who may have an opinion that is not in agreement and thusly speak out representing the view point of their constituency unlike that of recent past commissioners.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cooper City and the $$’s

Below is a letter that was forwarded to us. It has been sent to many and especially the City Commissioners.
We are confident that many others would like to hear from someone who definitely has an opinion of what really is going on at the city. We have reviewed it and feel it should be shared with everyone.

To all:

I am glad that the special workshop has been called. For several years we have been misled, in my judgment, as to the City's financial standing and health by dubious reporting of unrestricted reserves, what could and could not be transferred from one fund to another at the commission's discretion, what was and was not required by law and regulation and what was and was not within the guidelines of generally accepted accounting principals. As a result, the commission never seemed to know with certainty what its available recourses were and/or how big an opportunity or problem it faced.

Some progress has been made. At last the commission seems to understand that it can transfer money between W&S (Water and Sewer) and the general fund ( and vice-versa ) as in its judgement seems necessary and prudent. Hopefully, it now understands that there are not 2,3 or 4 sacrosanct reserve funds. There is only 1 unrestricted reserve fund, portions of which it can "earmark" for convenience sake as being "thought of" as for one thing or another. Otherwise city funds can only be restricted by contract terms, the law and /or state and county regulations. Neither the staff nor the commission can "restrict" funds without a legally sufficient reason.

However, we still seem to have some in the staff and/or commission who wish to manipulate the picture for some purposes or another by calling things "restricted" that are not according to law, regulation or the opinion of the Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting Programs or just good common sense.

For instance, in the 2007 CAFR (Cumulative Annual Financial Report) the city manager had to say that the city staff wanted to call some $7.7 million in future interest requirements as requiring that amount of cash and investments should be called "restricted" and not counted in unrestricted reserves. The GOFOA said that the staff and city should not do that. But, the staff did it anyway. The city manager said that doing it the way the GOFOA said was proper would have shown unrestricted reserves as $23.2 million for FY2007 vs. the $15.5 million the staff wished us to see.----- about a $7.2 million difference.

This approximate difference is still with us today in the material distributed on 6/11/09. By my calculations from that material the city had at least $25,171,780 in unrestricted reserves (surplus) on 9/30/08. The staff's number would be in the range of $18 million or some $7 million in difference. Most of that difference comes from projected interest payments that will come due over a number of future years for W&S bonds and notes. The staff wishes to say that this money needs to be "restricted".

This is just plain silly. First, the Water and Sewer is running at about a $1,500,000 surplus on an annual basis. This is far more than enough to cover its current principal and interest bills. It is also analogous to saying that a person who takes out a $200,000 mortgage at 6% for 30 years should be required to set aside and not touch an amount equal to all the interest that he will pay over the life of the mortgage--say, $350,000 to $400,000 ----as a "reserve" or "restricted". It makes no more sense for a city government to do so than it would for a homeowner.

The commission needs to straighten out the staff on this and very quickly. We have major financial matters to handle. We do not need to be dealing with misleading numbers. The staff did a mediocre job of providing an outlook for FY 2009. With 2/3 of the year done, they could have easily projected year end 9/30/09. They did not.

All you get by digging is that the general fund has a $600,000 plus surplus through 5/31/09 and the proprietary funds are running at about a $1,500,000 surplus rate (about 16% of revenues). The staff also shows projections through 2013, with dubious assumptions showing that we will eat up more than the general fund surplus by 2013. Unfortunately, they provide no such 5 year projection for the enterprise funds. So we are only given half a picture here. So, we do not have a projection for the city for all its responsibilities. The commission needs to insist that it be given a projection for all of its activities, including the pension funds, ASAP. This "piecemeal" just has to stop.

My own bottom line is that the city has more than enough funds to take care of its core, critical jobs and responsibilities such as police, fire and a new fire station and essential, repeat essential, W&S and road/sidewalk maintenance projects for the next 2 or three years without raising taxes.
The first thing it needs to do is to put the $4,000,000 that was lost (due to stock market investments) by the general employees pension fund into the fund to make it whole and keep our word and commitments to our employees. But, it does not have enough money to waste on needless building and special interest projects, such as a new city hall, needless code rewrites and various other giveaway programs.

Best regards,
Ed Wooley

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hello, Cooper City Mayor are you listening?

Open Government in a Democracy

by Jordan Loar

Exercising a policy of open government is fundamental to a successful democratic government and its society. It is the antithesis of government officials planning and executing secret transactions behind locked doors in a smoke filled room. An open government supports the basic democratic principle that the government’s authority rests with the society it governs. Toward safeguarding that power, citizens must have open access to information relating to government activities.
Judge Damon Keith of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals points out that, “Democracies die behind close doors.” The role of an open government in a democracy is to provide transparency, accountability, and openness. These principles are not simply hypothetical ideas. Each one can be functionally applied through suitable legislature, policies, and organizational frameworks at all levels of government.

Transparency means that dependable, pertinent, and timely information about government’s business is publicly available. To accomplish this, an open government’s role is to enact laws and policies that afford rights of access to information. It strives to grant a relatively easy path for citizens in obtaining information collected, distributed, and preserved by the government. Achieving this transparency is a complex process that often necessitates the careful balancing of opposing interests. An open government continually searches for the best way to allow judicious public admittance to information while at the same time protecting national security and individual privacy. Toward this end, government officials must actively apply government legislation like the Freedom of Information Act and its nine exemptions. Placing emphasis on the fullest responsibility of disclosure in concert with encompassing, balancing, and protecting all interests.

Accountability means that it is possible to identify and hold government officials responsible for their actions. This trait of an open government helps ensure that government officials do not operate behind closed curtains while managing the government as their own exclusive club. James Madison, “The Father of Our Constitution”, forewarned, “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or, perhaps both.” Without this check, government officials are more prone to make decisions contrary to the public interest, misuse their authority, and engage in fraudulent activities.

Openness means that government officials must pay attention to citizens’ proposals when devising and implementing public policies. Their responsibility regarding this is to establish government policies instructing how citizens should be consulted during policy making. Moreover, it is just as important to stipulate how policy makers are to account for public input when reaching decisions. Open forums and town hall meeting are two examples that lend themselves to citizens’ voices being heard and recognized.

The role of an accessible government is to promote democracy and good government. Essentially, it is the soul of democracy. Implementing transparency, accountability, and openness into the government’s administration secures the trust and confidence of the public towards the government that serves them. It ensures that its citizens’ rights are respected and protected while simultaneously reducing the potential for unwarranted secrecy and corruption.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What ever happened to the Chabad Lawsuit?

Did the Cooper City ever resolve this issue? Did the judge not say we had to pay?
Were there not legal fees to be paid? Until we get the word let the following be a reminder of that which brought this to be.

(Letter from a reader follows)

Let's see if I have this straight:

1. Some commissioners, the mayor, the city administration and members of the Planning and Zoning Committee had practiced religious discrimination against this small Jewish Chabad for years--all the while proclaiming that they were not. And all the while, they seemed to refuse to reach a settlement with the Rabbi for the harm he and his mission had received at their hands.

2. Finally, a federal judge found that, indeed, they had so unlawfully discriminated and ordered a jury trial for damages. The City continued to refuse to a} apologies for religious discrimination and b} violating the law and the Constitution. The City officials also seemed to continue to refuse or be unable to reach a settlement. All the while, the city continued to run up its legal costs, the costs of its outside lawyer and the legal costs of the Chabad. The only winners up to this point were the lawyers. If the aim of the mayor, some commissioners, some members of the P&Z committee and some of the city administration was to enrich some lawyers, they have succeeded.

3. Now, a federal jury has found the City to be guilty on all four counts--repeat all four counts, which I take it to mean that the City had no legal, ethical or moral basis to its position at all to begin with.

4. The City will now have to pay the Chabad some $325,000, plus an estimated $500,000 in the Rabbi's legal fees plus, of course, it has been paying its own legal fees all along. When it’s all done, we should be looking at something like $1,000,000 in absolutely wasted money on an unethical and illegal piece of nastiness that could have been used to either reduce taxes or provide improved city services. Put another way, the City has "burned" the costs of a full year of improved fire and police service, many improvements for our youth sports programs or any number of positive things for residents.

5. The City will now decide whether to appeal the court's findings. My hope is that the City decides not to appeal, to issue a formal apology to Chabad and to do all that it can to help the Rabbi find a location suitable to his mission in Cooper City ASAP. Any further contest on the part of the City would, in my judgment, only serve to waste more of the people's money and further tarnish our reputation.

6. The Rabbi's attorneys have said that they may also file suit again because of the latest round of city ordinances passed. Whatever the costs of the first fiasco, our costs may well continue to go up. That is a very good reason to finally do the right thing. I have my doubts that some of the powers- that -be will see it this way. After all, it is not their money they have been wasting: it is the hard earned money of thousands of residents. It's free money to the powers-that-be.

7. Mr. Wolpin and Mr. Burke have expressed an opinion that the City's insurance carrier will probably cover the costs of the damage awards {and legal fees?}. I would not rely on that opinion. It seems to me that the City government's practices have gone beyond negligence and into the realm of willfully contributing to the unnecessary harm suffered. Misbehavior. Insurance companies normally do not have to pay a policy holder if the cause of his damage is almost entirely the result of his own misdeeds and negligence: like your house burns down because you stored 1,000 gallons of gasoline next to a gas water heater in your garage and refused to correct the situation even after many people pointed out the danger.

Altogether, this is just a shameful and expensive blot on Cooper City. The powers -that -be should start doing the right thing or we should start drives to oust some of them from office so they can never again treat anyone this way and to waste our money so foolishly.

If I am incorrect in any of the above, please let me know.

Ed Wooley