CROSSING OUR FINGERS
Date: Thursday, August 28, 2008 @ 12:38:18 EST
Topic: Opinion


THE SELL-OUT OF OUR CITY

CROSSING OUR FINGERS

“We gave up our own Police department so that we would not have to pay for liability insurance and training,” so says Sheriff Bradshaw. Nowhere in today’s article did the Sheriff say that we would be safer under his control. No where did he say that crime would be reduced. No where did he indicate that any changes would occur other than our patrol cars now having the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office insignia and our very same 91 officers would wear green shirts.

There is a very big advantage of having your own police department because you have complete control of the city’s police force. Having the same local officers in the area strengthens Lake Worth residents’ appreciation and trust of the police. Some we know by name and can call directly when we have problems. One of the important things is having a relationship with your law enforcement officers. After two years with the Sheriff, these men can and probably will no longer be here. The residents of Lake Worth will become a number rather than a name.

Politics came about in Lake Worth in 1913 when we elected our first city commission. Our first police chief was appointed that year and there really was no crime but then, there were less than 500 residents. Instead, the Chief of Police’s main jobs were clearing and repairing the streets and he acted as a deputy tax collector. His annual salary then was $75.00. The speed limit on Dixie Highway was 10mph. Our Chief in 1913 had a rifle but it was not used for protection; it was used for fishing.

At the end of World War II, Lake Worth had many immigrants who came through a legal process and settled here, building homes and establishing businesses, assimilating and contributing to the growth and the health of our city. We are a city built out now with an estimated number of residents at over 37,000 and approximately 16,000 housing units. Demographics have rapidly changed. As of 2000, the three most spoken first languages in Lake Worth were English at 56.61%, Spanish at 26.57%, and French Creole which was spoken by 9.17% of the population.

There certainly is a larger population to police now than in 1913 and nearly half of our population do not speak English or speak very little. We have seen a mass escalation in crime. We have way too many undocumented people with few job skills to contribute to the health of our city and we have been encouraging more. So a rise in criminal activity may not be due to fewer police, but rather rising unemployment, day laborers making very low wages and contributing little if nothing to our city, crowded housing conditions, high rental rates giving the potential criminal no hope but to take what is not his.

Palm Beach County Commissioner, Robert Kanjian, said it best when I talked to him a week ago. “There are three problems with Lake Worth: CODE, CODE and CODE.” There are higher costs for city services due to code violations. We are all paying the price. We must solve our code issues, have owner occupied houses, and when we do, property values will rise again.

The recent change of control of our local police force is solely tied to our economic health. Former city governments negotiated bad, one-sided union contracts. As economics changed here and unemployment occurred and more undocumented workers moved in, taxes went up, insurance went up, and many properties became rentals to the illegal immigrant. People who could no longer afford to live in their houses and could find no buyers, ended up leasing them out to people--never doing background checks and looking the other way on the number of people occupying the dwelling, desperate to get their rental money any way possible. They have not overseen their properties and have allowed them to become blighted, run-down and have violated our city ordinances.

City commissions were devising every method imaginable to raise the tax base, sacrificing single family neighborhoods in their quest for more money, sacrificing regular maintenance of city assets because they did not have the money or needed it for other services. Blight happened. Crime went up. This caused cutbacks in city services including losing the possible control of our beach, the selling out of our waste water, voting to spend multi-millions on our water supply by going to PB County putting a match to the $14 million already spent on our Reverse Osmosis system, as well as outsourcing our very own police force thus dismantling our City and turning it over to the County. They never addressed the true cause, code enforcement. Who wants to invest in Lake Worth when it looks like a Third World country? Name one.

I blame this entirely on management and our City Commissions who have not looked after our City, who have sold us out and a Mayor and two Commissioners who believe that we can’t manage our way out of a wet paper bag and who have given up on Lake Worth.

I suspect that on November 1, we will probably be blitzed with more sheriffs’ vehicles on our city streets in order to make an impression with the people. After that first quarter, it will be back to the same 91 officers we have now. Everything will be the same. Back to normal. Let’s check in one year.

One thing that is a given is that we will be one million dollars poorer after that first year and subsequent years (because they have raises of 7%, 7% and 7.5% built into the Contract) and with the same, identical officers we now have. We will no longer have the infrastructure to ever have our own police department again should this not work out.

Crossing our fingers and hoping for the best is no way to run a city.

L. Anderson
8-28-08






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