4 years in the life of Apopka FL

With the Apopka City elections less than 30 days away, campaign season is in high gear. Mail-in ballots have been sent out, and over 600 ballots have already been returned, according to reports. Apopka has approximately 31,000 registered voters. It would be considered a successful election if we can get 15%-20% to actually vote this time out. Of all the rights and freedoms we as Americans have, the right to vote is the most sacred, yet the one right taken completely for granted. As a Nation and as a City, we MUST do better.

Apopka has candidates running for both seats on the City Commission; however, most eyes are on the race for Mayor of Apopka. Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson is challenging current Mayor Joe Kilsheimer. The race for Mayor comes down to these questions:  Do the citizens of Apopka want to see our City spiral out of financial control and into bankruptcy and high taxes in the next couple of years, OR do we want some semblance of financial control and balance restored to the City’s financial life?WHAT has happened to the City’s balance reserves, built up over time and carefully managed by Mayor John Land.  And WHY is our exploding budget being managed, not by careful and prudent spending policies, but by loans and withdrawals from our reserves?

These last 4 years of Mayor K’s administration has seen more than it’s share of missteps and more questions than answers. Let’s review shall we? Let me know if I’ve missed anything.

Right after taking office, Mayor K saw the first order of business as voting himself a salary of $150,000., making him the highest paid Mayor in Orange County;

An inability to get a simple splashpad built, or even to secure acceptable bids for said splashpad; constant missteps in getting a Town Center started. After a sweetheart sale of the designated property, which saw the City LOSE over $12,000,000.00, the first shovel of dirt has yet to be turned. Which means, the City STILL does not get tax revenue on that land.

Several times over the last 4 years when employees were unable to cash their paychecks because the money wasn’t in the bank account. Of course, each time it was the bank’s fault; a pending lawsuit by several employees who were told to work overtime, during lunch periods, without pay;

On-going issue with the City’s wastewater facility and practices, resulting in, you guessed it, a lawsuit against the city;

A very nice deal with a developer, MMI, for them to build what amounted to a private off-ramp from the 414 leading right into their very nice development. The City fronts them millions to build the ramp, and low and behold, very nice contributions from these developers start showing up on Mayor K’s campaign contributors list.

In the ongoing saga of the City Manager who will not go away, former CAO Richard Anderson, involved in a hit and run accident (he hit then he ran), resulting in serious injury to the other driver, ended up suing the City of Apopka for wrongful termination. Then after Mayor Joe was involved in a complicated settlement deal that HE brought to the City Commission for approval, Joe did the only logical thing he could do: he voted AGAINST his own deal..

He dug up almost $60,000.00 from the reserves to pay for 4 scoreboards from a company in North Carolina, over a year ago. Only problem is the scoreboards have yet to be delivered, or even seen, except by a few.

Apopka begins and ends with an A – nothing more than a liberal feel-good program that has accomplished little, if any concrete, measureable results. Did I mention this program is run through a foundation, City of Life, run by a friend of the Mayor’s. Amount given thus far to the Mayor’s friend is in the 10’s of thousands of dollars.

Millions lost from a communications tower that is still in the box because the brain pans in the Kilsheimer administration did not secure a location before buying the tower.

Thousands of dollars in losses from City Run “festivals” like the Symphony under the Stars and the Old Florida Festival among them.

About a year ago, Mayor K and 3 of his buddies, including the friend from the aforementioned City of Life Foundation, put forth a private business plan worth $500,000.00 to a friend in the Florida State Legislature, for taxpayers to pick up the enormous tab.  Fortunately, this money grab died in committee.

And the on-going debate about the City of Apopka’s budget reserves, disappearing rapidly under Mayor K’s administration. Mayor Joe recently claimed at a City Commission meeting, that “sometimes no policy is a policy” and also, “the city does not have the luxury of having a reserve policy”.  With a little fancy arithmetic and some misdirection, Mayor K is trying to discredit Candidate Nelson’s claims about where the reserves were and were they are now. He even hired a blogger from Tampa, of very questionable reputation and ethics, to write a post filled with non-truths, attempting to debunk Nelson’s claims. However, Candidate Nelson’s information comes directly from the City’s OWN budget information, posted on the City’s website. Mayor Joe: figures DO NOT lie, but liars indeed figure.

This little walk down memory lane serves as a reminder of what happens to a City when it is irresponsibly and inexcusably mismanaged. Not to benefit all the Citizens, but a small percentage of campaign donors, developers, personal friends and a core base of joe-bot like supporters. So, which do you want, a city that will soon drown in its own debt, a city that will not be able to provide even basic city services in a few years? OR do you want a City that will be vibrant, growing and thriving because of sound fiscal policy and led by someone who gives personification to the term Public Servant. MY choice has been made: Bryan Nelson has received my vote and I pray he receives YOUR vote!

 

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4 years in the life of Apopka FL

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

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

Sludge and Scoreboards in Apopka Begins and ends with an A.

Just some random thoughts about all that has happened in Apopka this week..

Seems like our City is withdrawing over $60,000.00 from our Reserves to buy scoreboards for the NorthWest Recreation Complex. Apparently, a deal of lifetime that just could not wait till the 2017-2018 budget, Mayor Joe believes these works of beauty will attract sports tournaments to the Complex. Excuse me, but I would LOVE to meet the Tournament director whose criteria for a location for their tournament is a scoreboard.. Really!

Another $63,000.00 will be spent by the City to clean up the mess left by Mayor Joe’s friends at Anuvia Fertilizer. Apparently, the method of creating fertilizer introduced by Anuvia causes some excessive biosolid waste that was being run through Apopka’s aging water treatment facility, more than the treatment facility could handle. Now a firm has to come in and dispose of the excess biosolids, and also the removal of sludge buildup. YUCK!! According to Anuvia, the City agreed they could handle all this when they signed off on the permit 3 years ago, and after Anuvia paid about $1.5 million in impact fees. Guess someone did not read all the way through what they were signing off on, huh? Also, although some of these problems can be attributed to poor management at the facility, Mayor Joe’s insistence that this was the fault of the previous administration (gee, where have we heard THAT before) does not hold water (even the yucky kind going through the water treatment facility).

One other thing that made me laugh this week was reading the account of the latest meeting of the Lake Apopka Natural Gas District Board of Directors. Apopka’s own Mayor Joe is on the Board of Directors and apparently balked at granting a salary increase and bonus to the District’s general manager. Joe stated at the meeting, “we should endeavor to establish benchmarks, targets .. so we know how close we are to performing our goals. That would establish a more transparent way of measuring performance as opposed to just a list of accomplishments”. THIS from a man who thinks nothing of giving tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a friend of his to run “Apopka Begins and ends with an A”, a program with ZERO measureable goals or benchmarks, just a lot of liberal feel-good phrases and empty promises.

Sometimes it seems like our City leaders are more like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Seriously though our City will face some major budget issues sooner rather than later unless we tighten the belts NOW and stop trying to please everyone and every liberal cause out there. Budget and property tax rate setting time is right around the corner; I wonder what we are in store for.

Sludge and Scoreboards in Apopka Begins and ends with an A.

Apopka Mayor blames citizens for budget woes

Did anyone see the latest angry tirade from Apopka’s Mayor. Joe Kilsheimer lashed out at Apopka taxpayers during last week’s budget workshops, basically blaming Apopka residents and scolding us because he has to say no to requests from citizens. He went on to also blame the last administration (from at least 2-1/2 years ago) for “hiding things” and “keeping things secret” and they weren’t honest with citizens. “We are now, for the city’s history, being honest with people and telling them, ‘this is what it takes to run your city… and this is what it’s going to take”. Does our Mayor really underestimate the citizens of Apopka that much that he has to arrogantly lecture people about how government works? I would like to know exactly what “stuff” the city hasn’t been funding. Because Apopka has a GREAT police department and a top rated fire department. Is it the “feel-good” festivals, or a community theatre group, or some ill-conceived program that put thousands of dollars into the pocket of a good friend, but yielded little if any results.  Hey Joe, here’s an idea, take care of City functions FIRST. Police and fire protection, water and sewage, and other things that basically only a full service City can handle. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING else: fancy splash pads and skate parks, feel-good “festivals”, education programs that yield little positive results, or any other PORK is what happens after all the city functions are paid for. THAT is how a City is run, and that is Apopka has been run, at least till you came on the scene.

People will understand that certain recreation department activities should be user-fee based, not funded by taxpayers. And responsible citizens understand that government is not and should NEVER be all things to all people. But what we don’t understand is the Mayor of Apopka throwing another temper tantrum, stomping his feet, lashing out at citizens and blaming everyone else but himself for the City’s perceived woes. Taxpayers MUST live within our means, and so must any responsible city government. Commissioner Bankson was quite right when he said, “we can’t go into a spiral where we go deeper in debt and there’s no plan to come out of it… Let’s look at it in a frugal manner”. Yet he, along with the other Commissioners and mayor voted for the higher property tax rate anyway.  O well.

Responsible citizens understand this:  NO we cannot nor should we, have it all.. It seems to me that that the Mayor is trying to play more to his cult followers who want everything NOW! Legacies are nice, but leaving the City in a fiscally sound position should be the top priority of our City leaders. There is no reason to ransom our future for the instant gratification of now. Mr. Mayor, most citizens of Apopka ARE patient, and will continue to wait. So stop blaming an entire city for your frustrations. We need true leaders right now, grownups, not petulant children. We understand we can’t have it all now, do you?

Apopka Mayor blames citizens for budget woes

Being Mayor of Apopka is Hard Work

Being Mayor of a City of 45,000 people is apparently MUCH harder than anyone could imagine possible. Just ask the Mayor of Apopka, Joe Kilsheimer. During a budget workshop last week a line item in the budget calling for the hiring a Chief of Staff was discussed. When asked about this request, Mayor K replied, “It is a struggle on a regular basis; all things come to the mayor’s office. Just the routine kind of handling situations, and then there are extra requests for meetings, places to go”. WOW, really Mr. Mayor, the job of mayor is a struggle? With all due respect, what  did you think the job was going to be? Attending ribbon cuttings, making speeches at events, polishing your own public image? Did you think it would be all play and no work? At $150,000.00 of taxpayer’s money a year, the job should be MOSTLY hard work, very little play.

The proposed Chief of Staff salary (including benefits) would have been $119,687. Our Mayor’s salary, among the highest in Orange County Florida, is $150,000.00 per year. I did not see anything in the story from the Apopka Chief indicated that Mr. Mayor was requesting a corresponding decrease in his own salary. And a Chief of Staff, really, Mr. Mayor?? You are a MAYOR, not a Governor, President or King. We already have a Chief Administrative officer…isn’t he already performing the job of Chief of Staff?

The reason for the request for Chief of Staff is revealed by The Mayor’s request for travel expenses/budget ($16,870), to cover attendance at various legislative and congressional conferences in DC, Tallahassee and Miami. When questioned about this line item expense by Commissioner Doug Bankson, the Mayor defending several of the proposed conferences that “he feels strongly about” attending…. “It’s about making connections on behalf of the City of Apopka with important decision-makers in Washington”. Wondering exactly what type of connections and which decision makers the Mayor is referring to? I mean, yes, in order to get the Mayor’s signature City Center going, Apopka will need some MAJOR funding to re-do the roads leading to the City Center. But what other connections?

I must admit, when I read this story, I laughed my head off. I thought it was some kind of joke, but Mr. Mayor your administration has been the joke, mostly from day 1. The overall City Budget tops at over $100,000,000.00, when just three short fiscal years ago the budget topped at somewhere around $60,000,000.  Some of the expenditures are justified: the new fire station for instance, and the hiring of fire personnel to staff it. And requested police expenditures. A city’s first responsibility is the SAFETY of it’s residents. But I guarantee that a close reading of the proposed budget will reveal a lot of PORK spending in order to justify the expense of last year’s Visioning Process.

Mr. Mayor, may I respectfully suggest that if this job is too hard for you, consider your future. Being Mayor is not a glamour job, but tough, roll-up your sleeves work, as is the job of the City Commissioner. It seems this job is beyond your comfort zone, and maybe a return to cushy private public relations consulting is just the ticket for you.

Being Mayor of Apopka is Hard Work