Sewer System - Cooper is the Antidote to the Mismanagement by Dean Trantalis
Born and raised in South Florida, Ken Cooper has spent all but a few years outside of Broward county. After graduating from South Broward High School, Ken went to the University of Florida for his undergraduate studies in business. Upon completion, he swiftly returned to South Florida to attend Nova Southeastern University’s Broad College of Law in Davie. A Florida native through and through, Ken is passionate about preserving the beauty of Florida, especially in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale.
As a local resident for most of his life, Ken has witnessed the evolution of Fort Lauderdale’s growth issues first-hand. As the city grew in population, and development began to explode, two clear issues arose – would the city’s sewage system be able to handle these expansions, and what would happen to a city which had not been designed for such growth?
Unfortunately, we now have some of the answers to these questions, and they are somber to say the least. Under Dean Trantalis’s leadership, Fort Lauderdale had the largest sewer break and resulting leak in the history of the state. As a result, the city was slapped with more than a $2 million dollar fine – flushing tax-payer money instead of sewage down the drain. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he refused to take responsibility for the problem – and continues to do so. He claims the former commission is responsible for failing to solve the long-known infrastructure problems that caused the sewer break… which would honestly be a pretty good excuse if it weren’t for the fact that he was part of that commission. In fact, Trantalis is directly responsible for the crisis – he was the only commissioner that voted against the infrastructure bond that would have saved taxpayers millions! As a result of his negligence, the hard-working taxpayers of Fort Lauderdale are forced to atone for his mistakes – what could have been a 500-million-dollar replacement will instead cost approximately one billion dollars.
We know that extensive development causes a strain on city infrastructure. Trantalis claims he is against development, but actions always speak louder than words. Trantalis’s law firm focuses purely on real estate closings – it should come as no surprise that developers have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign. Not one to miss a marketing opportunity, Trantalis has not only allowed, but also celebrated, the groundbreaking of the tallest building in Fort Lauderdale. Doesn’t sound very anti-development, does it?
Fort Lauderdale doesn’t have room for the type of mishandling and hypocrisy Trantalis brings to the table – it’s time to restore transparency in politics, protect our citizens and their hard-earned cash, and prevent overdevelopment of our beautiful city. In conjunction with his formal education and prior banking experience, Ken Cooper’s successful law firm proves he has an aptitude for business endeavors – but it is Ken’s down-to-earth and candid demeanor that truly makes him the perfect candidate to reset the history of mismanagement in Fort Lauderdale. Ken Cooper is ready to push boundaries and pave the way to a brighter future for our city.
Due to the city’s negligence, we find ourselves in an emergency situation where the competitive bidding process was abandoned, thus resulting in tens of millions of dollars in additional spending by the ratepayers. A masterplan has already been completed for our city’s infrastructure though it has been ignored. If I were Mayor, I would follow the comprehensive utility strategic masterplan and systematically upgrade the system using a procurement process that includes the following:
– Prequalification of the general contractors
– Guaranteed maximum price
– A payment and performance bond
– A liquidated damages clause;
-An arbitration clause for unforeseen circumstances
Moreover, if, for whatever reason, the highest-ranked bidder defaults on the project, the contract could automatically be awarded to the second qualified bidder without the need for conducting a second procurement process. The city has never embarked upon a project of this scale, and a stringent procurement process is essential.
In order to avoid excessive interruptions of our daily life and benefit from overall cost savings, I would complete the water and sewer projects at the same time. These pipes are very close together under the ground and are both relatively the same age, which makes this a common-sense approach.
Restoring the Quality of Our Waterways
Ken Cooper believes that Fort Lauderdale should quarantine the Tarpon River and the water surrounding George English park. This will allow the City to bring in dredges that can remove the raw sewage, which has been left there. That same raw sewage would be put into tanker trucks and then be taken to the sewer treatment plant. Ken does not believe in using backhoe type dredges, which would cause disbursement of the toxic waste.
– Cooper proposes reintroducing mangroves and oysters back into the environment to clean our waterways naturally. This idea has been touted by local activists but ignored by our current Mayor.
– Ken Cooper proposes installing protein skimmers in the Fort Lauderdale waterways. Such skimmers would allow over 300 million gallons of saltwater to be treated per year.
– Cooper proposes installing “water baskets” on our stormwater runoff drains to catch debris, preventing it from entering our waterways where it sinks to the bottom and decays. This is a simple low-cost measure to keep our water channels clean.
Currently, on the books, there are permits to build new buildings that will double the downtown area population. The city has to control how much we can develop in our city without causing damage to our overall infrastructure.
The City Commission has approved changes to the ULDR to make the code more development-friendly. Moreover, they have routinely approved projects as exceptions in excess of the already development-friendly code. These exceptions need to stop, and the newly approved revisions have to include a sunset clause in order to review the negative impact of the code changes. Additionally, we need to dramatically increase impact fees on developers so that they are the ones funding their burden instead of the taxpayers. As your Mayor, I would implement these policy changes to guarantee that your quality of life in the future will be livable and sustainable. Failure to address these issues will continue to lead to overdevelopment, excess traffic, infrastructure failure, and a heightened tax burden for our existing taxpayers. Existing taxpayers should not be called upon to support the infrastructure required due to the excessive overdevelopment our city is seeing.
Encourage New Business and Keep Existing Businesses
Our city has always been tourism, service, and hospitality oriented economy. Unfortunately, our city has allowed the basic quality of life issues to erode, putting these fundamental sectors to our economy in jeopardy. Our drinking water is yellow, our waterways are polluted, and we have sewage in our streets. That is not the type of city that attracts tourists or anyone for that matter. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, relying solely upon tourism, service, and hospitality is no way to differentiate our economy. We are fortunate to have a large concentration of educational institutions nearby that are educating professionals who should be critical to our local workforce. Instead, we have seen a brain drain from our community because we have failed to attract the businesses and industries that could support the people we have educated. I see an opportunity to attract new business sectors to our community, diversifying our economy, and stopping this brain drain. For instance, I believe there is an opportunity to attract technology, medical, pharmaceutical, clean energy, and science/research jobs related to our marine life and local ecology. We need to create a public campaign for starters showing that we are open for business and willing to attract new business. We can do this by working in a collaborative effort with the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, whose sole purpose is to attract professionals with higher-paying jobs to our city. Many of the ways to achieve this sort of economic diversification are already in place. However, we need a Mayor who is willing to champion these efforts and prioritize. I want to be that Mayor.
Right now, we need a huge marketing program to bring people back to Las Olas, the beach area, and Fort Lauderdale in general. We need to promote further the “staycation,” “work-from-hotel’, and “workcation” concepts that have been successful in other parts of the country to restart the primary economic drivers of our City. We need to market Fort Lauderdale as a destination for these concepts across the country. Additionally, we need to keep our low tax rate to maintain the existing businesses and attract new businesses. I believe there are ways to eliminate government waste and improve efficiency within the City’s budget to ensure we can keep our taxes low.
There have been at least sixty-three (63) boil water alerts in the last two years. It’s clear that Mayor Dean is clueless as to how to solve those problems and has no intention of figuring it out. Instead, he will wait until the water pipes explode and then say taxpayers have to spend another billion dollars ($1,000,000,000.00) to fix them.
The city budget is more than eight hundred million dollars per year ($800,000,000.00). Why isn’t money set aside each year for infrastructure, instead of waiting for the pipes blow up? Why don’t we plan and prepare instead of scrambling for funding solutions once disaster strikes? It is obvious that both water plants need to be replaced or completely overhauled. In fact, this should have been addressed before the last sixty-three (63) boil water alerts, or at least at some point between the first and the fifty second. This mismanagement is appalling – we need a new mayor, one who is not a politician.
After the last protest and the “rubber bullet” incident, the city realized they do not have any effective guidelines for using force or dealing with a nonpeaceful protest. Since then, I have read after the protest that happened months ago. They had a “one-day” training program last week. You’re kidding, one day!
– Implement the proper use of force rules and regulations and perpetually train our officers in those rules and regulations. I am not in favor of reducing their budget or de-funding the police.
– Require any by-standing officer to intervene if another officer violates any policies
– Require new training of all officers in de-escalation techniques and mandate which methods are to be used
– Create a unified, city and county-wide collection of use-of-force database
– Empower the existing citizens review board and give them more authority and discretion to review police conduct to stop the protection of bad police officers
– Body cameras on every police officer that cannot be turned off
– Increase the number of hours for the training of all police officers.
Consultants are highly skilled workers, who are hired by an organization to provide temporary expertise for specific, unusual issues. Consultants are not expected to teach you how to do your job, nor do your job for you.
When I worked in banking, it was my job to know how to run my department and how to make decisions that needed to be made. If I was unfamiliar with something, like a new telephone system, it was my job to learn. Inexperience is not an acceptable excuse for failure.
Fort Lauderdale’s City Commission spent over one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) on consultants to perform tasks and make decisions that people employed by the departments in question, like water treatment, should already know how to do or learn how to do. There should be no reason to hire wastewater consultants when there are already people fulfilling this job function at the wastewater treatment plants.
Construction Cost Overruns
When Dean ran for Mayor in 2016, he promised his voters that he would manage development. This was a blatant lie. Instead of managing development, he he allowed buildings more than thirty (30) stories high to be built than any other City Commissioner or prior Mayor ever has. This isn’t a shocking coincidence – when you look at his campaign contributions, over $150,000.00 are from developers.
Why is it that every construction project is over budget? Surely, at least some projects should be completed on-time and within budget. Perhaps when politicians take political contributions from every construction entity, there is no incentive to stop construction overruns.
Campaign Finance Reform
Some candidates for the City Commission have more than $350,000.00 in campaign contributions. The only reason a City Commissioner would need that much money to be re-elected is if they were abhorrently incompetent and needed to improve their image, marketing, and strategy. Otherwise, the only logical reason behind such an absurd amount being raised is because they are political payoffs. Following suit, Dean Trantalis’ campaign has raised more than $150,000.00 from developers alone!
The city campaign funds should be limited to $100,000.00 for Mayor and $50,000.00 for City Commissioner. Limiting campaign funds provides an equal and fair platform for citizens to run an election campaign in the city. Above this amount, it is too easy to cover your oversights and brainwash everyone into thinking that you are doing a great job when in fact, you are deliberately lying to them.
Of course, limiting campaign funds won’t stop the soft money provided by developers, unions, lobbyists and others who desire to have political favors lined up, but it’s a start.
The Current Commission is Talking About Raising Your Taxes
Now that there is a huge sewer catastrophe and approximately 63 plus water breaks. With a one billion dollar ($1,000,000,000.00) price tag on the sewers, he is going to raise your taxes due to his negligence. He has not even discussed how he plans to pay for the water treatment plants. When the budget was $500,000,000.00 the city was run better. Dean has been on the commission since 2003, a career politician, always blaming it on someone else. There should have been a properly funded separate infrastructure fund for the perpetual infrastructure repairs. This is NOT SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE DONE BY BOND ISSUE after BOND ISSUE. There should not have been a five hundred million dollar ($500,000,000.00) bond issue for a new police station. There should have been a sinking fund of money set aside each year so that when the new police station was needed the funds were there. This lack of foresight has lead to the catastrophe that just occurred.
Bond Issue After Bond Issue - BOND ISSUES ARE A TAX
They sound nice, but they are on your tax bill every year. The city is now run by BOND ISSUE after BOND ISSUE. There is no planning for the future by placing funds in a “sinking fund” for future major projects. Dean has been on the commission since 2003, but for that four years he missed while under investigation, and has not saved any money for the future, like sewer lines. He robbed the water department and paid the bills for the city. The State of Florida had to come in and stop the stealing. Now Dean says it wasn’t him, it was the prior commission. Come on Dean – you are the prior commission! You robbed the water and sewer department and never replaced the sewer lines that the ONE MILLION DOLLAR ($1,000,000.00) consulting report said would explode if they were not replaced. Dean said he didn’t believe it. Now Dean is trying to take credit for what he did and now say he stopped the practice. Spoken like a true politician! Do it, steal it and then take credit for stopping it, when the truth is the State stopped you and you were the city commissioner that was doing it. Now we are going to pay higher water bills for Dean’s stealing of the water money.
The city budget when I was on the Budget Advisor Board was approximately $500,000,000.00. Today is has risen to more than $800,000,000.00. With $300,000,000.00 why are there so many more problems in the city? Dean had to know that in 2003 we needed a new police station, whether you think so or not, but at any rate, why in 2003 didn’t you put aside $5,000,000,000.00 per year to pay for it and not float a bond. Why are we robbing Peter to pay for Paul and getting more and more in debt at the incompetence of the city. With an additional $300,000,000.00 you could set aside $50,000,000.00 in a sinking fund and not float bond issues. Bond issues are debt, just like the federal government with 16 trillion in debt, how much do the tax payers want to pay in taxes.
– Cooper proposes to put incentives to reduce wild spending of the city by giving bonuses to city employees who reduce costs and INCREASE EFFICIENCY.
This means you can’t just cut the budget to get a bonus, there has to be an increase in efficiency. By doing this there would be a perpetual motivation to save money rather than spend it.
The mayor says he has fixed the homeless problem, except I see more homeless at the library, 17th street, and all over the city than we have ever had. It is estimated that seventy percent (70%) of the homeless have psychological problems and don’t know how to get out of their position. A significant amount of them are veterans. This is a sad statement on our country that we don’t take care of the veterans and those who cannot take care of themselves.
The best idea that I have researched was a city coordinating all the federal programs that already exist and conjoining the state and local government programs together. They organized social workers to give the homeless rides to an auditorium where all the federal workers with programs were there. All the state and local workers were there. The social workers took them from table to table and filled out the forms that a person with psychological problems could not do independently. They found housing to get them off the streets. They found mental health programs for them. They had them apply and obtain all the benefits already there for them, but they didn’t know how to apply for themselves.
The other 25% of the homeless are estimated to be drug and alcohol-related homelessness.
The same social workers placed them in programs with rehabilitation.
The last homeless group is estimated to be 5%, which are the people that lost their job and did not have enough money saved to sustain them until they found another job. The same social workers found them homes and jobs to get them back on their feet.
That solved the problem for the city. That coordination of benefits that are already in place I would implement in Ft. Lauderdale.
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