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    Overheard on the Web, and other Web links
    From The Herald's Research Editor

    Tuesday, December 21, 2004

    More holiday cheer 

    HouseBlingers is another site highlighting lavishly decorated homes, based in the UK. Most of the homes are in English towns.
    (Via Guardian NewsBlog.)

    Sheila Lennon is collecting links to games for a snowy day.

    Not holiday-related, but this would be fun to spend time reading on a day off: Overheard in New York, in which someone writes down those conversations you overhear while shopping, in restaurants, or in the Subway. Fascinating. Why hasn't someone done this earlier?
    (Also via the Guardian.)

    posted by liz at 5:14 PM
    What a wonderful invention it is, this thing we call the Internet!
    Come and check it out if you get the time 8-)
    Wake up Florida residents. Our "representatives" at the local level are selling us out. Big time.

    Why on earth would Florida state officials want to reign in the over the top spending of local governments? Why would all taxpayers deserve to have their money saved by themselves rather than wasted by out of control local politicians? There are lots of examples. One can be found in Surfside, Florida, where there used to be outstanding government, but now there is the most wasteful, inefficient, incompetent government ever in the town's 70+ year history. This year they passed the most bloated, fat, wasteful, unproductive town budget ever, serving up a perfect reason for strong state imposed medicine to cure this growing disease.

    Here's the factual background.

    Surfside 1935: Local residents obtain state approval and create an independent municipality, the Town of Surfside, based on their desire to maintain a community with independence from Miami Beach and to have a small, accountable, and efficient local government to reflect the priorities and well being of its own residents. Over the 7 decades to follow, Surfside has its ups and downs, but generally does a superb job at serving its residents, remaining debt free, and being a widely recognized example for cities and towns and villages all over the nation.

    Surfside 1990 - 1992: Mayor Eli Tourgeman enacts foolish budget policies with a 3-2 vote of his Town Commission that put the Town into the red, ending his term with town deficits. Tourgeman supports a number of major zoning variances and tries to break down the zoning code to get approval for a 20 story condo despite a height limit in the code of 12 stories. The voters turned back Tourgeman's approval in a referendum that defeated and reversed the condo project's variance approval. In 1990 he was elected mayor, in 1992 he was voted off of the commission when voters saw his real priorities and he came in last from a field of 10 candidates.

    Surfside 1992 - 2004: Mayor Paul Novack and a new Town Commission unanimously enact budget corrections and fiscally responsible policies and every year for 12 years the town operated under balanced, stable and efficient budgets, with production of increased levels of town services, and numerous capital projects undertaken and completed that upgraded the parks, playgrounds, streets, drainage system, business district, Veterans Park, Town Hall, and much more, all with no debt, no bonds, and with the building of significant town surplus funds to serve the town's present and future. The town attracted a new Publix and many new restaurants and shops for the business district and made improvements and expansions to town parking facilities. Plans are made for a new town library and hi-tech information center to go on newly acquired property on the west side of Collins Avenue. The town was internationally recognized as a model community, and in 2003 Novack was honored as the state-wide "Community Steward of the Year" in Tallahassee. Mayor Novack was elected by the voters six times to serve as mayor, not one variance for height or density or setbacks or uses were ever approved during his tenure, and he retired from office in 2004 with official tributes from the Florida House of Representatives, the United States Congressional Record, and many others.

    Surfside 2004 - 2006: Mayor Tim Will and a new Town Commission operate the town carefully and responsibly with balanced budgets, continued expansion of town surplus funds, obtaining a grant to help pay for the new library project, and making plans for the renovation and upgrading of the Community Center. The project would have made vast improvements to the facilities and would not have involved any closure or reduction in use by residents. There was no debt, no bonds, and yet there were even further enhancements of many town services. The town was honored by statewide organizations for superb levels of municipal accounting and auditing and outstanding transparency and performance with public funds. After several productive terms on the Town Commission, and service on the Town's Planning and Zoning Board, and a term as Mayor, Mayor Will retired from public service.

    Surfside 2006 - 2007: Mayor Charles Burkett and a new Town Commission spurs, devises, creates and presides over a new town budget that is the largest and by far the most expensive and bloated budget in the town's history, spending more on lawyers than ever, needlessly paying millions of dollars of town funds to "settle" dubious law suits that objective outside reviews found had no merit at all with payments made to the claimants (Burkett campaign supporters) just before Courts were set to rule in the Town's favor, spending over $300,000 on a town charette to document Burkett's plans to change zoning laws and other pre-conceived notions for the benefit of non-resident commercial interests, hired a large law firm for a minimum annual fee of $600,000, no town projects or improved service levels, serious draining of town surplus funds, hired many new consultants with large fees paid by the town, and initiated plans for a public relations campaign to approve putting the town into deep debt with bond issues for as much as $50 million to substantially raise tax burdens on residents for many years to come. The town newsletter is expanded to include political attacks and misinformation every month at a cost of approximately $100,000 in taxpayers' funds for the one year alone. No projects are undertaken, and the community center pool is closed on a ruse after a pool pump has a minor short that the town fails to repair or replace. During his first year in office many respected town employees leave Surfside including its Police Chief, Town Engineer, Town Comptroller, Tourist Director, Public Works Director, and others, all of whom are replaced with "old friends" and campaign workers of Mayor Burkett. Burkett refuses to release his financial disclosure documents from court cases and his membership on City of Miami Beach boards and committees. Information surfaces that indicates he is really a resident of Miami Beach despite owning a house (one of his many, many properties in Florida) in Surfside. Mayor Burkett seeks to contract out services such as fire service, sanitation services, police services, and administrative services to the City of Miami Beach and private companies. His first year in office ends with a disastrous record of misfeasance, a vastly inflated town budget, and negative results for the community.
    Although it challenges ones imagination, the Burkett criminal team's second year is even worse than the first year. No one appears willing to stop them.
    Yes, I think something(s) are so very wrong here in our once sleepy little seaside community. There are simply too many coincidences, happenings, facts and cronyism that do not add up.
    The recent NewTimes report: "Slime and Schemes In Surfside" - "Welcome To Surfside: A Cop, A Couple, and A Lot of Slime" by Francisco Alvarado reveals the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If this iceberg continues to grow and move around pretty much unnoticed, it will sink the ship.
    As much as the Town desperately needs a new or renovated Community Center, Pool and Library… however, more urgent and important, residents need to both know and feel that ‘our’ small hometown has good governance…something, many of us do not believe to be the case.
    Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett has underbudgeted, mismanaged, overspent, and plundered the town budget. He has sent the town into a financial nosedive. He temporarily reduced tax rates to look good politically but most important he has bloated spending to historic high levels and his fiscal policies have squandered much of the town's reserve and put the operating budgets into risk of going into default in 2008. Burkett's "leadership" has been a disaster for the town but he is an actor and faker and finger pointer and a devilish manipulator.
    The town of Surfside library is closed because of the crazy politics of Charles Burkett and Howard Weinberg.

    The Surfside town public pool is closed because of the crazy politics of Charles Burkett and Howard Weinberg.

    The Surfside town auditorium and party and meeting rooms are closed because of the crazy politics of Charles Burkett and Howard Weinberg.

    Surfside services and facilities and resources are lower than ever, its budget is fatter than ever, its legal fees are higher than ever, its officials' hypocrisy and deceptions are more than ever, and who loses --- residents and taxpayers!
    Post a Comment

    Elisabeth Donovan

    Elisabeth (Liz) Donovan was a Herald librarian for 10 years, and Research Editor for 13 years. She came to The Herald in 1981, following several years at the Washington Post. She started blogging in 2000, with a news research blog, followed by the blog at in 2003. A frequent speaker and writer on news research, she was honored in 2004 by the News Division of the Special Libraries Association for her contributions to the field.

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