Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tough times in Southwest Ranches

Dear Southwest Ranches Friends and Neighbors:

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening and if I don’t see you later…well then…Good Night!

Thursday, 9/17 at 7 PM is the final budget hearing for the Town ofSouthwest Ranches. It is this Wanch’s opinion that the Town Council should show leadership and cut taxes. Give the residents a break! Cut the waste, reduce service and allow people to spend their money on other things like food and clothing.

If you feel strongly one way or the other voice your opinion to the council tomorrow night. See below for an article published today in the Sun Sentinel.

That’s All Folks!!!

Wanch Waggler

South Florida

Tough times in Southwest Ranches

With final budget vote looming, town lacks money for basic needs

By Susannah Bryan

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

5:05 PM EDT, September 16, 2009


For nine years, this semi-rural town with the leave-us-alone attitude has boasted one of the lowest tax rates in the county.

No more.

Southwest Ranches faces spiraling costs and its highest tax rate yet, along with a $350 fire fee -- the highest in
Broward County.

On Thursday at 7 p.m., council members will take a final vote on an $11.2 million budget for the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

Even with its mansions and $1.2 billion in assessed property value, the 13-square-mile town doesn't have the money to build its own public safety and Town Hall complex, for an estimated $7 million. Nor does it have the millions needed to repair its roads or cure its drainage woes, Councilman Freddy Fisikelli said.

"In the past, we weren't taking in enough money to pay our bills and we still aren't," said Fisikelli.

Like Fisikelli, longtime resident
Bob Hartmann worries Southwest Ranches, founded in 2000, might be gobbled up one day by an adjoining city like Davie, Pembroke Pines or Weston -- a worst-case scenario, he concedes.

Marygay Chaples, the town's historian, insists it will never come to that.

"It won't happen while I'm alive," said Chaples, a 50-year resident of the area. "We will fight to the bloody end to keep what we've got."

Even if it means higher taxes for the town's 3,200 homeowners, she said.

"That's the price you pay for being in a rural community," said Vice Mayor Steve Breitkreuz, who blames the fiscal crisis on previous officials.

"I certainly don't think we're on the edge of being taken over by another town," Breitkreuz said. "But I do think it's time to right the ship and live within our means."

Town Administrator Charles Lynn, hired in May as the third man to run Town Hall, oversees 11 employees and a $5.9 million contract with the Broward Sheriff's Office for police and fire service.

The town contracts most of its services to private companies and nearby cities, but may need to bring some functions in-house to save money,
Lynn said.

"We have been tightening our belts -- we're whacking and cutting and carrying on," said

Southwest Ranches, which borrowed $5 million to incorporate and has $2.2 million in reserves, is no worse off than any other municipality in the region, according to

Under his budget proposal, the town's 8,500 residents will see their tax rate increase from $3.50 to $3.94 per $1,000 of assessed property value. With the higher tax rate, the town expects to collect $4.5 million in property taxes next year -- the same as last year.

The plan to raise the fire fee from $296 to $350 would add $1.2 million to town coffers. Increasing the solid waste assessment from $562 to $687 would add $1.5 million.

Even with the tax increase, it's still not enough to run the town, said Fisikelli, who disagrees with
Lynn's claim Southwest Ranches is no worse off than elsewhere.

"Our financial condition is worse than other cities," Fisikelli said. "We don't have the revenue to support the town. That's our problem."

With no plans to grow in size or population, Southwest Ranches has to make do with its current tax base. With only one small commercial plaza, the tax base is nearly all residential.

Some residents say they expect their taxes and fees to keep creeping higher, but that doesn't mean they like it.

"We have sat here for nine years and have not been able to fix but one road and that was a small road," said Chaples. "And now they want to raise rates."

Hartmann would pay an additional $283 in taxes and fees next year under
Lynn's plan.

"The bottom line is we aren't going to have enough money to run the town without raising taxes," he said. "I don't want to move because I get taxed out of the neighborhood."

Resident Vince Falletta wants to see budget cuts, not higher fees.

"Don't tell me I have to raise taxes in order to save the town," Falletta said. "We need to cut the budget to save the town."

The good news, optimists say: Bankruptcy is not an option.

"Towns don't go broke," Fisikelli said. "They just raise taxes."

Susannah Bryan can be reached at or 954-572-2077.

Copyright © 2009, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Disgraced former council member Don Maines goes the extra mile for FPL!

Dear Southwest Ranches Friends and Neighbors:

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening and if I don’t see you later…well then…Good Night!

More than a third of the customers, politicians and business leaders who praised Florida Power & Light at three South Florida forums on a proposed $1.3 billion rate hike have financial or family ties to the company and its employees, a Sun Sentinel analysis found.

Read the Sun Sentinel article below.

Disgraced SWR council member Don Maines' excuse for supporting FPL is not even plausible. He mentions that he got the idea to support the largest rate hike in FPL history in apparently casual conversation. Sure! Don Maines hangs out will FPL managers? When Don, while riding your horse down Griffin Rd? That is about a believable as me stating that “W” and Laura are stopping by this afternoon at the Wanch’s for drinks. He implies that he was not aware of the hike until then. Doesn’t he read the papers? Stories have been in the two local papers for more than a month. It is likely the conversation when more like this:

Ronnie said, “Donnie, we need your support”.

Donnie inquired “For what? Hay for the homeless? Horse feed for the poor?”

Ronnie stated, “FPL is looking for more money.”

Donnie bumbled, “But I paid my bill, I think?”

Ronnie remarked, “No, this is a chance for you to really help us out” while wondering why he called and thinking, “We’re not this desperate yet.

Donnie said, "I don't have any extra money for them!"

"No we just want you to show up and say a few kind words for FPL".

Donnie questioned, “Do you need me to show up somewhere on my horse?” with a big smile on his face.

Ronnie shouted, “No” into the phone and pounded his fist on his desk.

Then Donnie thinks to himself “I will show SWR that I am still important and I will help the machine, they really like me and know how important I am.”

“I’ll be there boss, just tell me where and when. Just tell me what you want me to say. Bandit will figure out what trails will get us there!”

Maines supports this mammoth increase for the residents of SWR because his lobbyist gave him $500 when he unsuccessfully ran for office last year. We are not sure whether Mr. Maines did this because it was a chance to stand up and announce himself as Southwest Ranches Council Member Don Maines or that next time he runs for office in our town he will be able to go to FPL for a contribution like he has gone to Ron Book and Ron Bergeron in the past.

For those who think Maines does not have continuing political aspiration, you are mistaken. Remember, this man has used his office for political vendettas, was recently convicted by the Florida Election Commission for a election violation, and now he has sold out our community and the rest of South Florida to FPL for his own glory and a chance to garner future contributions. He salivates for press. Right now, he has no power, but does have powerful puppeteers.

How low will he continue to sink? He knows no shame!

That’s All Folks!!!

Wanch Waggler

Meet some of the FPL cheerleaders

Sun Sentinel

September 13, 2009

Examples of people who praised FPL at three South Florida hearings who have financial ties to the utility:

Pam Calzadilla mentioned that she works for the American Heart Association at a customer hearing in West Palm Beach but not that the group gets about $5,000 a year from an FPL company and about another $20,000 from FPL vendors whom the utility encourages to donate.

She said Don Kiselewski, an external affairs manager for FPL who is on AHA's Heart Ball committee, asked her to attend. "I would have gone either way whether they gave money or not," she said. Joan Goodrich, executive vice president of the Broward Alliance, said at the hearing in Fort Lauderdale that she supports the utility's "plans to provide affordable, reliable, sustainable, quality, state of the art green energy." Goodrich didn't mention that FPL donates about $50,000 a year to the group. "Strong, responsive utilities are one of those top business factors companies look at when looking to make an investment in a community," she told the Sun Sentinel.

Howard Berger, a Lauderhill city commissioner, and Don Maines, a former Southwest Ranches city council member, praised the utility at the Plantation hearing. Neither mentioned that FPL lobbyist Ron Book contributed $500 to each of their campaigns last year, according to finance records, because they both said they did not know Book was an FPL lobbyist.

Maines said he's in touch with several FPL managers and one mentioned the hearings in conversation and "asked how I felt about FPL. I said I have a good feeling. They said would I be willing to say that? I said, 'Sure, be glad to.' "

Berger said he read about the hearing in a newspaper.

Gary Hines told PSC members that he supports the FPL rate hike at a West Palm Beach hearing, but didn't mention that he's a senior vice president at the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. Hines told the Sun Sentinel that FPL donates about $10,000 a year to the group "but that has nothing to do with my wanting to be there." An FPL employee active in his group personally invited him to the event but he said he planned to go anyway because "there are certain things I'm not willing to do without" like reliable electricity.

Nicole Christian, president of the Northern Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, also testified in favor of FPL at the West Palm hearing but said she didn't mention her position because she attended "purely" as a customer. FPL paid about $7,000 a year to help sponsor chamber events and $2,000 for membership dues.” I shouldn't be denied the opportunity to speak" just because of the affiliation, she said. She said she read about the event in mailers and e-mails. "I had time in my schedule so I actually contacted someone I know at FPL to say I heard about this and I'd like to go speak."

Copyright © 2009, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lest We Forget 9/11/2001

Dear Southwest Ranches Friends and Neighbors:

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening and if I don’t see you later…well then…Good Night!

The attached is from a resident with spirit kindred with the Wanch!

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Mon, Sep 7, 2009 at 2:50 PM
Subject: Lest We Forget 9/11/2001

Those of you who know me personally and have visited my home, you know I fly the American Flag 24 hours a day, lit properly at night and replaced when worn.

I do not always agree with the choices that our elected officials make for our Country, but I will never forget the sacrifices made by those who gave us the right to elect those officials and give them a chance to do the right thing.

Our Flag is simply material. The sacrifices that were made to make that symbol "awesome" should be remembered everyday because the material that is used to make that symbol "awesome" is very human.

If you don't have a Flag, get one. The price you'll have to pay to buy and fly the flag is nothing compared to the price that was paid to make it "awesome."

____________________________________ A SWR resident

We have three days to get the word out all across this great land and into every community in the United States of America.

If you forward this email to least 11 people and each of those people do the same ... you get the idea.


On Friday, September 11th, 2009, an American flag should be displayed outside every home, apartment, office, and store in the United States.

Every individual should make it their duty to display an American flag on this eighth anniversary of one of our country's worst tragedies. We do this to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11, their families, friends and loved ones who continue to endure the pain, and those who today are fighting at home and abroad to preserve our cherished freedoms.

In the days, weeks and months following 9/11, our country was bathed in American flags as citizens mourned the incredible losses and stood shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism. Sadly, those flags have all but disappeared. Our patriotism pulled us through some tough times and it shouldn't take another attack to galvanize us in solidarity. Our American flag is the fabric of our country and together we can prevail over terrorism of all kinds.

Action Plan:

So, here's what we need you to do:

(1) Forward an email with this info to everyone you know (at least 11 people).
Take a moment to think back to how you felt on 9/11 and let those sentiments guide you.

(2) Fly an American flag of any size on 9/11. Honestly, Americans should fly the flag year-round, but if you don't, then at least make it a priority on this day.

Thank you for your participation.

God Bless You and God Bless America!

That’s All Folks!!!

Wanch Waggler