City Budget Squeeze
March 15, 2013, 3:28 PM
Filed under: Budget, City Staff, Residents, Taxes

A recent budget workshop for City Commissioners demonstrated that the City is recovering from its 2011 financial meltdown. Nonetheless, property tax revenues are cautiously projected to remain more or less flat for several years to come. (We’ll be watching for City staff’s mid-year revenue projections expected later this month for any significant changes in the forecast.) The City has stated its commitment to improving City employee salaries and benefits insofar as the budget can support it – a little at a time.

Working against our strapped City’s potential salary and service improvements, however, is litigation spawned by the City’s two Pension Boards.  The Police Pension Board and the Firefighter Pension Board are City Boards whose purpose and members are listed on the City’s website along with those of the 17 other City Boards (African-American Advisory Board, Historic Preservation Board, Education Advisory Board, Green Team, etc.).  But unlike the other City Boards, the two Pension Boards have the power conferred by State statute to sue and be sued.

After Hollywood voters approved the Pension Referendum in September 2011, the trustees of each Pension Board voted unanimously to sue the City in an effort to overturn the pension changes that resulted from the Referendum.

Each Pension Board pays its administrative expenses including legal fees from the pension fund it administers. Every year the pension plan’s actuary examines the plan’s financial obligations and tells the City how much it must pay into the plan.  The plan will be short whatever amount was spent on legal fees and the City will have to make that up. So when these Boards sue the City, the City pays not only its own legal fees but those of the Boards as well.

Last December, the City won a Motion to Dismiss the two Pension Board suits (now consolidated), but the judge’s ruling allows the Boards to correct their pleadings and start over. This litigation between the Pension Boards and the City is at an early stage. But already the combined legal fees of the two Pension Boards come to nearly $400,000 with the City having spent about $60,000 on its own defense.

With the City on the hook for both sides’ legal fees — an amount that seemingly will reach the millions at the rate this litigation is moving -– the City’s ability to improve employee salaries and city services is lessened.  Such a result is harmful to both Hollywood employees and Hollywood residents.

Separate from the Pension Board litigation, the Unions are seeking to have the pension changes invalidated as a violation of their collective bargaining agreements. These actions, which began in the courts, are now being adjudicated in the State’s Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC).

So far the only winners in the Pension Board litigation are the private law firms engaged in the Pension Boards’ lawsuits. We urge the Pension Boards to drop these costly unproductive suits.

As for the Unions, we can only hope that all three City Unions will enter into negotiations with the City in a mutual effort both to rebuild trust and to work out creative and sustainable salary/benefit structures that will help all their members. Only then can we move forward together to create a sound footing for a more prosperous, successful Hollywood.

Hollywood Playhouse
October 14, 2012, 4:28 PM
Filed under: Development, Historic Preservation, Neighborhoods, Residents

“…a growing body of research suggests that the arts can be a valuable engine of civic renewal….The arts can nurture social capital by strengthening friendships, helping communities to understand and celebrate their heritage, and providing a safe way to discuss and solve difficult social problems.”  Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

The Hollywood Playhouse, a successful community theater for 50 years, fell victim to poor planning and developer greed a decade ago. The property is in foreclosure with bank and  City engaged in litigation over its future.  The City Attorney is recommending a settlement that would allow the bank to sell the property to a private party, with the stipulation that the City be allowed to use it for public purposes at least four times a year.  This would be a sad end to our community theater. At 5 PM on Wed., Oct. 17, the City Commission is scheduled to vote on this proposal.

A Better Alternative

Hollywood Resident Rene Barrett is a strong advocate for saving the Hollywood Playhouse.  She says “It takes a village!” to save our community theater.  To launch such a project would take more than talk, more than deploring mistakes from the past.  We residents would have to donate our time, our skills, and our money to make it happen.

Can we do it?  Read Rene’s article posted below.  It is followed by a few thoughts of ours to help you answer this question.

Hollywood Playhouse – by Rene Barrett

The Hollywood Playhouse is very special.  We can’t lose it.   I think it  has the potential to prove to be the best resource this city could ever have.

HP was self-sustaining and successful for 50 years.  In its heyday we had busloads of people coming from condos in the tri-county to this easily accessible facility.  The history of success is immense.  It included recognition by the Kennedy Administration in the early 1960’s.

We need people who are willing to roll up their sleeves.  What makes community theatre successful are the associations that can be made with the community by providing opportunity for a diversity of uses, such as for universities, community education programs, children’s theatre, community arts programs; creating a teaching venue for dance, music, voice, stage craft, etc., etc. Look at the successful Inside Out Theatre in Weston. The Ft. Lauderdale Children’s Theatre has been in business for 60 years.

There are so many ways to utilize this renovated building that has office space, kitchens, a large rehearsal hall, dressing rooms and several large rooms for multiple purposes.  As a 501C 3, just as one example, we can apply for grants from United Way to give music and dance lessons to Hollywood children. Hollywood Playhouse could provide a venue for touring plays as well as mounting its own productions.  Parks & Recreation and the Art & Cultural Center could utilize this facility.  An established production company might like this for their home.

A question has been raised that the demographics have changed in Hollywood, and indeed they have.  They have improved.  Hollywood now boasts a diverse cultural population that would provide a mission for this theatre to create a venue where various groups can have their artistic cultural events.

There are many ways that you can help. The first is to sign the petition at:

Come to the next City Commission meeting on Wednesday, October 17th at 5:00 pm. If you are willing, please step forward and speak from your heart. If you belong to a neighborhood organization or to an art or theater organization, think about what value this little Theatre facility could have for your organization and let the Hollywood City Commission know.

If the City Commission agrees to demonstrate the leadership needed to secure the Hollywood Playhouse, we will need to begin to raise funds to restore the facility. Donate; help to run the fundraising drive; write a grant; help us to organize. We will need to paint, refurbish and restore the theater. Theaters need carpenters, electricians, etc. Would you volunteer to make this happen? What are you good at? We need very active community support. 

If we don’t try, this mini-Shubert Theatre will be lost forever. We can only do.

Editors’ Thoughts

Will Hollywood residents pull together to take the lead in creating a public-private partnership to purchase the property from the bank? We can do this if we choose.

Will we raise significant dollars? (If 3,000 Hollywood residents would contribute $10.00 per month for a year, we would have $360,000 to put to the cause.)

Are you willing to donate your time, skills and $10.00 a month to reclaim Hollywood’s community theater?

Bottom Line:  If we want to save the Hollywood Playhouse, it’s up to us to do the job.  It’s not governments that save community theaters. It’s communities!