Apopka Commissioner Scolds citizens during Commission Meeting

It happened right during the most recent Apopka City Commission Meeting. During the public comment section, things got a little heated when the topic turned to the Apopka Historical Museum. People more familiar with that whole business can comment on the exact issues involved; it was right at the end of that discussion that Commission Diane Velazquez chose to make herself heard. Getting on her soapbox, she began with how she felt “singled out” during meetings, and after a short statement about how her husband got involved with the Museum, lambasted the public, HER constituents, with a “I am Commissioner Velazquez, hear me roar” scolding. WOW! Where did that come from?

She went on to say how many people who spoke gave her the passive-aggressive treatment. I do not even know what to make of that psyco-babble statement. She stated, “I can think of so many occasions of how many times I have been berated up here, insulted”. Problem is Commissioner Velazquez, I and many others cannot think of a single instance where you personally have been berated or insulted at City Commission meetings. During the Public Comment Section of the meeting, ordinary citizens, people who voted for YOU, speak their minds to the ENTIRE Commission. If there are instances where people have been rude or insolent, they have been called out and asked to refrain from insults. Is your skin that thin, or is your ego that large?

Velazquez went on to toot her horn with accomplishments and involvements with the Community. There is NO DOUBT that the good Commissioner is very active and involved with our Community, her involvement is part of the reason she was elected. Possibly, the recognition she receives in almost weekly stories in the media and the photos are not enough for Velazquez, she wants more. Again, how much more credit for doing your job does your ego need?

Commissioner Velazquez also addressed criticisms that call her “she” or “her” or “his girl”, “I am no one’s girl up here. I am COMMISSIONER Diane Velazquez; I am a City Commissioner for the City of Apopka..” Perhaps the criticism that she is “someone’s girl” is a bit sexist, although does have a ring of truth to it. Check out Velazquez’s voting record.. She votes with the Mayor a good 90% or more of the time; they serve on several boards, including LANGD’s, together; they even shared the same campaign manager and consultant, and campaign ideas, when both were running for election almost 4 years ago.

Finally,  at the end of her tirade, Commissioner Velazquez demanded respect from citizens, “I am a City Commissioner for the City of Apopka. I just ask each of you to respect me as I respect you”. Really, Commissioner, you respect us? Like when during the Public Comments section of the meetings, most commissioners, including you, are shuffling through papers or checking your phones, hardly paying attention at all to what WE the citizens are saying? Do you mean THAT kind of respect? At least you do not have that classic, combination  sigh/eye roll movement down yet. Respect is something that is EARNED, not demanded simply because one is an elected official. I will ALWAYS respect the office, the office holders earn my respect with their conduct and demeanor.

Perhaps Commissioner Velazquez is feeling a bit smug and superior because as of now, it appears she will be running unopposed for that cushy green chair. Perhaps a good scolding was just what COMMISSIONER Velazquez felt her subjects needed, a reminder that SHE IS COMMISSIONER VELAZQUEZ and we best not forgot that. I am wondering if we should address her as “Her Royal Highness”. What I DO know is that Commissioner Velazquez has a very healthy, even over-inflated sense of ego and self. What I would like to say to the good Commissioner, with all the issues our City faces and with almost constant calls for all to work together for the betterment of our City, is this: If any criticisms directed towards you are too much for you, perhaps reconsider your decision to run for a second term. Otherwise, Get over yourself, Commissioner, knock that chip off your shoulder and earn that respect you so ardently demand. Realize this: It is NOT ALWAYS about you!

 

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Apopka Commissioner Scolds citizens during Commission Meeting

Mayor Joe’s Greatest Hits

Many of us have been preoccupied with getting our homes, yards, lives and finances in shape after a visit from a most unwanted guest, Hurricane Irma. Aside from missteps and mishandling of hurricane debris cleanup, with one contractor taking off  the morning the job was to get started, what else has Mayor Joe of Apopka been up to? Well, a quick listing below with follow-up on many of his activities to come in later posts.

Mishandling of and an inability  to secure a bid on a splash pad for our City and not following best procurement practices for such an expenditure;

The various, ongoing and costly problems with the city water treatment facility and also Anuvia;

Several money losing events run by the city of Apopka, including the Annual Old Florida Festival. Taxpayer losses from this event in the thousands of dollars are just shrugged off by the City. And the Orchestra in the Park event, not sure how much this one lost, but I am sure losses were substantial.

Thousands of dollars of RESERVE money going to fund pet projects run by Friends of the Mayor: “Apopka begins and ends with an A” anyone?

Just recently, Mayor Joe played Santa Clause to city employees by doling out thousands of taxpayer dollars in cash bonuses to them for doing such remarkable work during the Hurricane. In the real world, it’s called doing your job.

The costly mishandling from the very beginning of the lawsuit the City filed against everyone’s favorite public trough feeder, Richard Anderson (again, this topic deserves its own blog post, and it will get it). Safe to say, Apopka loses will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars on this fiasco. What kind of person negotiates a settlement, then votes against it?

One program that is very curious that must and will get more attention, but deserves mention here is that of the new scoreboards at the Northwest Orange Recreation Dept. The item was part of the Consent agenda for the City Commission meeting of March 1, 2017. Even though it was pulled for separate discussion, the end result was that the three musketeers, Mayor Joe, along with the always reliable commissioners Velazquez and Becker voted to spend a total of over $61,000.00 of Apopka taxpayer money as deposit and to install electricity for each scoreboard location. A company called Major Display Scoreboards out of North Carolina was the lucky lottery winner that day after a short presentation of this Scoreboard program by someone named Shorty Robbins. Question: WHERE are those amazing scoreboards, and what exactly does Apopka have to show for expenditure of taxpayer money, gotten from reserves.

As our budget and taxes continue to climb, Mayor Joe views Apopka’s hard earned and well-saved up reserves as his personal piggy bank to be raided anytime he wants to do something that is not part of the bloated budget. He recently told Commissioner Bankson at one of this year’s budget meetings, after the good Commissioner dared speak up in favor of a more robust reserve fund, that the City does not “have the luxury of larger reserves”. Yet, he spends money on fancy sounding do-gooder programs run by friends that produce NO measurable goals or successes. Mr. Mayor, being a wise and frugal steward of the taxpayer money is NOT a luxury, it is YOUR duty and your RESPONSIBILITY to the taxpayers of Apopka! CUT spending and increase the reserves; it really is that simple.

There will be much more analysis in the coming months of these and other missteps our Mayor is sure to make. The blog practically writes itself..

Mayor Joe’s Greatest Hits

City of Apopka once again gets screwed over by Former CAO Anderson

Anyone who knows anything about Richard Anderson, Former CAO for the City of Apopka knows several things about him. He is adept at finding ways to take millions in Apopka taxpayer money. He has the morals of an alley cat (no insult to alley cats intended). He left the scene of a late night accident that HE caused, not even bothering to check on the other driver, even though he was a former EMT, and FIRE CHIEF for the City of Apopka and had an obligation to render aid;  nor did he even place a 911 call to report the accident, or summon for help. Even though the City of Apopka was paying him $11,000/month to be a lobbyist for the City, he failed to report that he never REGISTERED as a lobbyist; he just took his $11k/month. It is this last statement that formed part of the basis the City of Apopka used to file a lawsuit against Richard Anderson, in June 2016 for breach of contract to the City, along with the facts of the accident, and to terminate his consultant/lobbying contract with the City.

Now comes word of a potential settlement agreement whereby the City of Apopka will pay Richard Anderson $60,000.00  presumably to get Anderson out of the City’s hair once and for all. According the Mutual Release, this $60,000.00 would take care of ALL claims, counter-claims and liabilities for all time.  The City Council will vote on this settlement this coming Wednesday June 19, at their evening Council meeting. Now, I’m no attorney and do not pretend to understand the underlying legal issues involved, all I have is a reading of the settlement agreement and the past relationship between City Apopka and Richard Anderson.

The fact that Anderson was not actually registered as a lobbyist for the City was first reported almost 4 months earlier than the filing of the original suit, in February 2016. At that time, while reporting this, I made note of Mayor Kilsheimer’s appalling lack of concern for Anderson’s dishonesty, nor of the complete waste of at least $11,000/month of Apopka Taxpayer money; Mayor K stating in an interview, “Richards’s status and business practices as a lobbyist are his business… I never felt like I had to get into how Richard conducts his own business”.

At that time, I also called for IMMEDIATE termination of Anderson’s contract and the return of $165,000.00 by Richard Anderson based on the false premise the money was paid to Richard Anderson. The City did NOTHING, then 2 months later, came Anderson’s accident and its fallout; even THEN the City did nothing until 2 months later, in June, finally terminating Anderson’s contract and filing suit. The weasel then had the nerve to file a counter-claim against a City which had already paid him close to $1,000,000.00 since September 2014.

So after a year of legal wrangling and mounting legal bills, somehow, Anderson once again has the City by the throat and the City, which filed the original suit, is the one having to payout a potential settlement to a criminal on felony probation. What kind of settlement is this? WHY wasn’t a demand made that  Anderson pay-up a settlement to the City? WHY wasn’t there anyone in the settlement room defending the City of Apopka against the corruption of a swamp dweller?

The bottom line: If the City had dealt with Anderson’s dishonesty in February 2016, when it was first reported, we would NOT be facing this rotten deal now. And APOPKA might have gotten our money back instead of having to swallow hard, yet again, and pay out another $60,000.00 to a despicable worm. This settlement will prove two things: One, Apopka’s Mayor does not have the best interests of the City in mind. And Two: Crime and corruption DOES pay, and apparently keeps on paying! I expect the City Council will vote for the Settlement to make this matter and other things we do not know about go away, and maybe it’s easier that way. But Apopka voters, DO NOT forget your Mayor is up for re-election next spring. Do NOT forget how much his ineptitude has already cost our City, nor how much it will continue to cost us.

 

City of Apopka once again gets screwed over by Former CAO Anderson

Red Light Cameras in Apopka Will Modify Peoples’ Behavior

This past Wednesday 6/21, the City of Apopka voted 3-2, to renew a Red Light Camera contract with American Traffic Solutions, for the Intersection Safety Program. During the Public Comment portion of the meeting, preceeding the official presentation and vote, about a dozen people spoke against renewal of the contract, and against the Red Light cameras themselves. Although several of the commentators were straight forward, several took advantage of the TV camera and reporter presence to make their comments with a more dramatic and theatrical flair. Several expounded on the tyranny of red light cameras, and questioned the constitutionality of the cameras. One speaker even threatened to sue each of the commissioners who would are vote in favor of the cameras, for dereliction of duty by not upholding their oaths of office.

After all the comments, the time came for the actual presentation of the Intersection Safety Program. After a nearly 20 minute presentation by Police Captain Fernandez stated over and over that he was not “selling” the program; in fact, that is EXACTLY what he was doing; and touting the program’s ability to “modify peoples’ behavior”.

Let me repeat that and then let it sink in for a second. After all the dog and pony, and all the drama and theatrics, after all the data and statistics that were sited, and the videos shown, the bottom line is the government run Red Light Camera Program is about “modifying peoples’ behavior”. A chill ran up my spine as the Captain seemed to make this the centerpiece of his presentation.  DO NOT get me wrong: Red light camera runners DESERVE any punishment the law sets for them. My daughter and I were involved in a bad car accident in 1999; a guy going around 50 mph, ran a red light and plowed into my vehicle. My daughter just recently underwent her 4th knee surgery as a result of that accident and I have still have neck and back problems. But here’s the thing, I do not believe for ONE second that a red light camera would have modified that guy’s behavior.  And they probably won’t modify the behavior of people who think they can beat the camera, or beat the ticket in court. But none of that matters to a government in search of ways to modify their citizens’  behavior.

The presentation given by Capt Fernandez the other evening, about red light cameras improving safety and saving lives, was all smoke and mirrors to cover their real purpose: modifying people’s behavior! The red light cameras are not about safety, they are not about the paltry revenue streams. Like Agenda 21 and even CRA’s, which were also on the meeting agenda; the purpose of government programs like red light cameras is to get people to behave in a certain manner, to modify their behavior in such a way that is pleasing to government. Because after all, Big Brother IS watching you.

 

Red Light Cameras in Apopka Will Modify Peoples’ Behavior

Practical Solutions for the Apopka Task Force on Violence

On June 2, 2017, the three principles of the Apopka Task Force on Violence  will present their report at a National Conference on violence in the black community. The report, presented originally in December, 2016, found that it will take almost $2 million of taxpayer money funneled through a still unnamed high quality and reputable not for profit, for a 5 pronged attack on violence.

Throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars and reinventing the wheel with a myriad of new and unproven government programs is not the answer because there are many programs already in place run by local churches and businesses that stand ready and willing to help.

One supposition of the Report is that CRA housing  is one answer. Why push a government program that one of the principles of the Violence Report appears to have a huge stake in, whether financial or political? While decent housing is certainly a weapon in the war on crime, why not work with Habitat for Humanity which is already building 58 affordable homes in the South Apopka community? Push to work with them on more affordable housing communities and other projects.

What about jobs? In this City, when presented with companies offering real jobs and opportunities wanting to come to our area, all we hear from community leaders are howls of protest about “dirty Jobs”.  Those “dirty Jobs” people turn their noses up at are good paying, high quality, high tech manufacturing jobs with excellent futures. Most WILL provide training to those who are willing to put in the time to train and learn. These holier-than-thou self appointed leaders of “South Apopka” should do a little more practical research into private organizations and businesses who already have proven jobs training programs. Check out:

Machining Training Solutions in Longwood, a leader in skills training with an innovative program called “80 to Work”. After two weeks of intensive training, a person with little or no skills is ready to work and become a  productive, contributing employee to a manufacturer almost immediately. Other training programs are also available, and MANY are paid for by potential employers. These programs offers job and life skills that will transfer from job to job. Many machine shops and fabricators in our area are desperate for workers and many are willing to TRAIN people willing to work. THESE are the type of jobs that will present REAL pay, real benefits and REAL futures. Also, check out all the educational and employment resources the Manufacturer’s Association of Central Florida  have to offer to those willing to put a little effort into their lives.

Work with some of our top employers right here in Apopka, like Qurvo, Collins Manufacturing ; Mullinax Ford, as well as exploring the many opportunities  opening up in Apopka with the New Wekiva Plaza, the Kelly Park Crossings, and other fine opportunities. Nothing is quick or easy; people will need to work hard and be patient! People must be willing to learn and show respect to employers and teachers. Many hospitals, including Florida Hospital offer training opportunities leading to fulfilling careers. Work with the UCF Incubator or even the Chamber of Commerce to seek out opportunities instead of creating new, expensive and unproven government programs .

Education and jobs go hand in hand; As for Education opportunities, don’t wait for them, go out and get them. Work with the School Board and school parent organizations. Reach out to these local churches and organizations and see what they are willing to do, or already doing, without having a carrot of taxpayer money dangled in front of them. Stop the duplicate efforts of programs already in place, tripping over each other in the process.  Stop making excuses, “I can’t”;  “I’m poor”; “people are racist”; “no one will give me a chance”. THESE are the type of excuses that stop a productive life in its tracks. Check out Junior Achievement, which according to its website “fosters work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and uses experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential”. They also provide the training, materials, and support necessary to bolster the chances for student success. Business people and other volunteers share their workforce experience with students, all while teaching sound economic principles and reinforcing class curricula.

All of these programs and more are available for a fraction of the $2 million price tag being proposed in the Task Force Report. If you really want to help these kids, stop throwing out generic and non-specific feel-good programs. Stop holding conferences and forums where self-important theories are discussed, but nothing ever gets done.  Instead look into real world solutions for these problems; solutions that are already in place and stand ready to serve, if asked.

Practical Solutions for the Apopka Task Force on Violence

Stench from Apopka Mayor’s Office is NOT from the Water Treatment Facility

Certified Second Chance Inc. a for-profit business “social purpose company” filed their initial papers on February 3, 2017. Just 6 days later, on February 9, 2017, a bill was filed in the Florida Legislature by Rep Kamia Brown (D) on behalf of this brand new company, requesting $500,000.00 in STATE Taxpayer money. The bill, HB 2809, is a simple one page request for a non-recurring sum of $500,000.00 from the General Revenue Fund appropriated to the Department of Corrections to fund this for-profit business. As of this morning (4/16/17), current status is that the Bill’s first reading was on 3/7/17; further action on this bill appears to be unscheduled for now.

According to Appropriations Projects Request form, filed per House Rule 5.14, the requested  $500,000.00 of the TAXPAYER money will go toward Salaries and Benefits ($100,000.00), Equipment/Travel/Supplies/Other ($100,000.00) and Contracted Services/Study ($300,000.00). The request does not mention even ONE DIME going towards helping convicted felons reintegrate back into society. Apparently the “social purpose” type of corporation for this venture was chosen because the State of Florida has a special provision that will require they demonstrate they are in business to convey a public benefit. Hmmm, who are these social purpose do-gooders?

According to the original business filing from February, the principles, all listed as directors are: Joseph Kilsheimer, Mayor of Apopka. currently earning a taxpayer funded salary of $150,000.00. Robert Olszewski (otherwise known as Bobby O), currently running for Florida House District 44. A candidate for FL house, going to that same legislative body asking for $500,000.00 to fund a for profit business he want to start up. Deveron Gibbons, out of St. Petersburg, a former mayoral candidate whose campaign Kilsheimer worked on. And finally Allen Chernoff, involved in the City of Life Foundation, the same foundation that has received over $70,000.00 from Apopka Taxpayers for the program, Apopka Begins and ends with an A. Plans are to continue to fund this program with Apopka taxpayer dollars through infinity. To date, I am not aware of a single, concrete, positive result yielded from this program.

Now, in several interviews, Mayor Joe stated he does not see a problem, a conflict of interest with his current job as Mayor of Apopka, because “this is not an Apopka project”. The City Charter was cited as the excuse that Mayor can be involved with this as long as it does not interfere with his duties and obligations as Mayor. City Attorney Shepard also reportedly told the Mayor that he “must avoid businesses interests that do business with or are regulated by the City”. As noted above, The City of Life received thus far, up to $70,000.00 of APOPKA TAXPAYER Funded Money. I would like to have the City Attorney clarify his statement to the Mayor in light of the relationship between the City of Apopka and the City of Life.

Let’s tie this all together, ok? Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, who receives a taxpayer funded salary of $150,000.00/year, and for better, or definitely worse, is the FACE of Apopka right now. EVERYTHING he does reflects directly on OUR CITY, so just diving into this business venture poses some real ethical and moral problems. The largest Mayoral salary in Orange County is apparently not enough for Mayor Joe, a liberal who spends Apopka money, including reserves like it’s his personal ATM; he is now asking for a boost of another $500,000.00 of State taxpayer money? Mayor Joe is going into business with Chernoff, who already gets plenty of APOPKA taxpayer money; the public trough feeding is pretty good. I don’t know what to make of Bobby O’s involvement here, except that Bobby O and Mayor Joe are  close personal friends, and Mayor Joe HAS endorsed the Candidate for Florida House District 44. Bobby O apparently also sees nothing wrong with going to the Legislative body he is running for and asking for $500,000.00 in Florida taxpayer money. I do not know much of the relationship between Mayor Joe and Gibbons, except as noted above.

Does this pass anyone’s smell test?? The stench coming from all of this is almost as bad as the stench coming from the Wastewater Treatment plant and Apopka’s on-going water problems. Elected officials should view themselves as public servants, and  view their time in elected office as a privilege, not as a money-making venture. If Mayor Joe wants to go off and run his own business, LET HIM, AFTER he is voted out of office in 2018. Till then, Apopka taxpayers pay him plenty of money to represent OUR interests, not his own.

Stench from Apopka Mayor’s Office is NOT from the Water Treatment Facility

Apopka Task Force on Violence Report paved with good intentions

Recently, a group of concerned citizens gathered together to start examining reasons for and solutions to the crime and violence problem in the south part of Apopka FL, aka South Apopka. After months of meetings, focus groups and more meetings, an ambitious, bold and as it turns out costly plan was formulated and presented to the Apopka City Commission. A holistic plan of attack was presented that included: Job creation, educational opportunities, government accountability, crime prevention initiatives designed to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community.  And at the end of it all, a request for $1.8 million dollars of taxpayer money, to be funneled into and dispersed via a “high quality and reputable not for profit organization”, who at this point, is still nameless. The plan is long on theory and solutions are presented as a word salad of up to the minute feel-good about ourselves buzz words and plenty of blame placing. Several of the suggestions in the report are variations of programs that already exist or will be started shortly.

Only a couple of sentences in this 40 page report talk about accountability or getting the community to  buy-in to the theory and proposed solutions. Plans like this are filled with good and noble intentions; however, plans like this also tend to not only see blacks as helpless victims that can only be lifted up by  good deed doers, but can enable a mind-set of self-pity among the black community. The War on Poverty has been fought for decades, with little measurable economic, educational, or employment success; what does that tell you about the chances of success of plans like this one.

So,what is the answer? More money? More costly programs with few measurable metrics to gauge success? Blacks must ultimately help themselves; they must WANT to take the lead in solving their own problems and re-inventing their communities and their lives. They must take ownership of the conclusions and solutions, and take pride in their communities. Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery and fought his way out of it to become a Great Statesman and freedom fighter said, “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us. If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, let them fall… All I ask is give him a chance to stand on his own legs”. Douglass recognized the limits of government benevolence and that it would be up to blacks themselves to ready themselves to meet the challenges of improving their lot in life.

Just this past week, I dialogued with one of the chief authors of this plan, who apparently took exception to my daring to challenge this plan. When I told him my questions and comments were too involved to do via text, I was asked not  to waste his time as he is very busy and involved. So I won’t. He suggested I come up with my own plan. So, I plan to explore each aspect of the Apopka Task Force on Violence Report, in detail in the coming weeks.  Again, while I applaud the efforts of all involved in this task force, including this very busy, self-important gentleman, I question the blame placing, conclusions and amount of money necessary to accomplish the lofty goals of the Task Force, or whether the goals are even attainable. The plan, in its many phases is full of good intentions, no doubt; but we all know what road those can pave.

Apopka Task Force on Violence Report paved with good intentions