Billions $$$ Problems Metastasized Under Mayor Dean Trantalis

BY BUDDY NEVINS

It doesn’t take Miss Cleo to suss out the future of Fort Lauderdale. 

Just ask Mayor Dean Trantalis.

“There will be an increased cost of living and doing business in Fort Lauderdale,” the mayor told the Sun-Sentinel.

Dean Trantalis

Boy, that’s an understatement. 

Money will be needed to fix the sewers, which seem to be hemorrhaging more waste into the streets and waterways almost every day.

How much money?  

Lots. Lots and lots. Hundreds of millions. Maybe even a billion or more. 

But that’s only one intractable problem facing Fort Lauderdale.  

There is: 

*Gridlock paralyzing major streets. It would cost billions for overpasses or mass transit to even make a dent in this problem.

*King Tides. Untold millions more will be needed to keep the ocean from totally inundating vulnerable parts of Fort Lauderdale.

*Less and less affordable housing. The City Commission has permitted thousands of luxury condominiums and homes, raising the price of housing and making Fort Lauderdale increasingly unaffordable for teachers, first responders and others who lack sky-high salaries. 

*Water problems. Drinking water will become more expensive as salt water intrudes further and further into the interior of Fort Lauderdale. 

*Insurance rates rising. Surging seas and sewage damage is surely going to send up the cost of insurance. And when, not if, there is a hurricane……

*Homeless.  It remains out of control, despite lip service from the City Commission. This is the classic “broken glass” issue, the theory that anti-social behavior detracts from residents and visitors way-of-life.

I passed the city park recently at 10 a.m. There were no children in the playground, which was no surprise since a half dozen homeless men were passing around a bottle while lounging on the swings. 

One person I know was spit on after refusing to give money to a homeless man in the parking lot of a business along SE 17th Street, a thoroughfare for many tourists. 

Homeless and these other problems have been aggravated by a Fort Lauderdale City Commission and various mayors whose one goal was to develop every piece of land possible, while ignoring the infrastructure. 

Mayor Jack Seiler might have been a growth-at-any-cost politician, firmly in the pocket of development lobbyists. But Mayor Jim Naugle, who was nominally slow growth, was also part of the problem.

Naugle fought taxes to pay to cope with salt water intrusion and new sewers….20 years ago!  

And Trantalis? He has been on the commission eight years when many of the most disastrous decisions were made before becoming mayor almost two years ago.  

So the problem has been metastasizing on Trantalis’ watch. 

If the election was held today, no doubt Trantalis and most of the commission would be thrown out of office by residents angry at the recent sewer breaks. 

But the election is a long way off. Still, one political consultant opined that the infrastructure mess and the almost-sure increase in taxes will make a potent weapon against commissioners and Trantalis in the future. 

So what are residents to do? 

Prepare to pay up.  And pay up. And pay up to save an increasingly unaffordable place to live.

Or move. 

I hear North Carolina is nice.  



35 Responses to “Billions $$$ Problems Metastasized Under Mayor Dean Trantalis”

  1. Let’s Examine This says:

    One big difference in the times of the three Mayor’s you mentioned. Two, Naugle and Dean served as Mayor in times of great propserity

    What everyone forgets, Seiler served as Mayor during the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. He had no choice but to be pro growth. It was one of the only avenues of revenue available to protect the economic interests of the city and its residents. Yes, it went south when the infrastructure problems arose, but that wasn’t on the table during the recession. On the other side during the recession, city residents had no tax increasesa nor loss of city services, which was uncommon for this time in history.

    As for the others, Naughle,as you noted, played the “wink wink I am a Democrat” game while playing fiscal conservative. during his time, the city was very prosperous and should have put mechanisms in place to deal with this. As we all know, Jim, was not a forward thinker.

    As for Dean, since being Mayor he voted against the money for storm water repairs. Is there really a need to discus Naugle,Seiler or any other players in FTL past? Dean had the chance to right this situation and voted against it.

  2. Jean Churcherilla says:

    Unfair. Dean has always been a slow growth advocate. He was on the losing end of many 4-1 votes on the commission. To point to him and hold him accountable for this infrastructure nightmare that has been festering for decades is ridiculous.

  3. Boomer Smith says:

    Dean was there since the early 2000s. He was part of the problem. If he ws a slow growth advocate like #2 says, he was a very ineffective one. He didn’t fight hard enough.

  4. FORMER Fort Lauderdale Resident and Taxpayer says:

    You forgot about the crumbling bridges, the lack of sidewalks, and canals that need dredging. By the time you add in the new police station, city hall, water treatment plant, to the others costs that you mentioned, the city is looking at a minimum of $3-4 billion to fill in the hole it has been digging for decades. It will probably a lot more when you finally can total it up.

    The roots of this mentality go back at least 20, if not 25, years. Trantalis and this commission has started the process to undo the 9 years of damage done by City Manager Lee Feldman — who operated with the full support of Jack Sieler, Romney Rogers and Bruce Roberts. Trantalis was simply outvoted on most occassions. Commissioner McKenzie is/was simply AWOL on anything happening in the city, but then he doesn’t live in Fort Lauderdale, so why should he be concerned? That said, the cuurent city commission continues to raid the Water & Sewer fund for tens of millions of dollars annually.

    The prior dysfunctional commission headed by Jim Naugle had no clue what was going on ….City Manager Gretsas and his White Plans Mafia liked it that way. Before that Floyd Kelly was forced to resign when the coffers literally (and I mean literally) ran empty due to unforeseen health insurance costs. No one was watching the store.

    The rotting infrastructure is only a symptom of the underlying disease: many City Commissions, for the past quarter of a century, have caved to the police and fire unions, bolstering their pension plans at the expense of necessary repair and maintenance. The only item in the City of Fort Lauderdale’s budget that has consistently increased over the decades is its Retirement Costs. The city tries hard to obscure this fact by channeling money to the pension plans through different accounts: some of it is in the Fringe Benefit account of the General Fund, which is where it should be. But a lot of it is routed to the pension plan via the Debt Service Fund to pay off the city’s Pension Obligation Bonds. And $5+ million in state insurance surtax dollars diverted to the Police & Fire plan and are lumped into “Other Expenses” as so-called “Contributions”.

    This isn’t about a poor city unable to pay its bills. It’s about developers and their lawyers looking for “public-private partnerships” (i.e., private profits at the public’s cost). It’s about a bunch of insiders looking to fleece the pockets of the outsiders (no new taxes for waterfront mansions but plenty of regressive new fees on the little guy, like the fire-rescue assessment). But at this core, it’s about a bunch of lazy residents who don’t care, don’t vote and don’t pay attention until the $#!t bubbles up in their driveway. Then all of a sudden it’s a crisis.

    Some of this is due to the death of the local press — TV won’t cover these issues unless there is a broken sewer pipe or collapsed bridge to grab your attention. Blogs like this poke at the edges, but what this community needs are long-term watchdogs at the nuts-and-buts meetings and someone who can translate the arcane into everyday language. Brittany, Larry and the editorial board at the Sun-Sentinel try, God bless them, but it is a hollowed out organization….and who knows how long they will last.

    Good luck — you’ll need it.

  5. Floridan says:

    Blaming individual commissioners for the problems FtL finds itself in is rather facile. The problem is the ongoing drumbeat against taxing citizens to pay for the services they receive.

  6. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Election is not that far away.Do I blame Mayor Trantalis for the sewer ruptures of course not.

    However,when your saying it’s going to cost the residents mucho money to pay for all this I say BS.

    When u r paying 10grand fora sofa in your office.When u r approving raises for a city auditor who now makes over 250 thou/yr.When u r authorizing the city manager to pay ast city manager( Hernandez) over 225 thou per year.When u r dishing out millions,millions to give homeless people free apartments.

    When u r throwing a gay pride festival in the middle of season- gay pride is in June not February.

    Its paying out severance pay totaling over 100 thou just because u did not want her anymore,,or should i direct that to Comm.Glassman( who iniatiatiated it).It’s hiring aides to the comm.ast.costing us 50 thou a pop.Its going to China.Its going to Israel to gay pride( thank u Comm.Mckenzie).

    See u in November Dean….

  7. Chaz Stevens, Stuper Voter says:

    I’ve been telling everyone for a decade+ … Seiler is a rat and a liar. And Jack, if you’re reading this, we both know what I am saying is true…

  8. Fed Up Resident Paying Taxes says:

    By what right does Trantalis think that City Commissioners deserved doubling their salaries last year while not fixing our most pressing problems. He should be defeated on just that “accomplishment” alone.

  9. Stormwatch says:

    Interesting that you list traffic and gridlock as #1. I’m sitting on a Tri Rail train at 7:02 am going from Delray to Ft. Lauderdale and most seats are full. Brightline just announced ridership of over 1 million passengers in a year. Yet, Broward County and Ft. Lauderdale refuse to make high-speed or elevated rail a priority. But thats the tip of the iceberg. South Florida has always been a “What’s in it for me”? Town. Political leaders ignored the future. That’s why there’s all these problems.

    FROM BUDDY:

    When Metrorail and Metromover was constructed, Fort Lauderdale had an opportunity to build a fixed-rail mass transit. The idea was seriously floated. It was one more missed opportunity, just like the lack of highways into downtown Fort Lauderdale, which Miami constructed years ago.

    Rail is part of the answer, but the question has always been whether it is worth the huge investment and continued revenue it requires to operate.

    First, Tri-Rail cost an astronomical amount to build the stations, buy the rail cars and the right-of-way. Way over a billion.

    Second, Tri-Rail’s fare covers just over 12 percent of its operating budget, with the rest coming from government and other sources in the form of “operating assistance,” a euphemism the transit line uses for the aide it received, mostly from non-rail riders. As one of those non-rail riders paying taxes, you are welcome…

    Third, Tri-Rail really doesn’t go where many riders want to go. It goes nowhere near Sunrise, which has more workers than downtown Fort Lauderdale. It goes nowhere near the university complex of Davie. And so on….

    So rail is only part of the answer, and surely not an answer for Fort Lauderdale, where the city is strangling on local drivers just trying to move around.

  10. Chaz Stevens, Former Contender says:

    Let’s talk about LarryB of the Sun-Sentinel….

    LET’S NOT. OFF TOPIC!!!!

  11. Randy Fleischer says:

    Rupturing sewers and King Tide are not the fault of any elected official. We all should see this coming and should have been dealing with it since the turn of the Century . . .
    No one has dealt with it . . . or will deal with it until the sewage is stinking up their own living room. Then what happens??? if there is no real money solution . . . that does not cost billions in tax dollars . . . .everyone needs to get off the coast . . . hopefully your property is still worth something . . . because it will not be worth much for long!

  12. Felix M says:

    The Villages. New everything including sewers. Not near the ocean. It will be the last thing standing.

  13. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    #8 Yes,for the cherry on top.Trantalis was the lead cheer leader to give himself and the others a huge raise.While constantly raising fire, sewer and any other fee For.lau residents have to pay.The litany goes on and on.Then to discover ( thank u moles in city hall with trusting me with your concerns)that over 60 percent of monies taken in goes for staff.Unacceptable.Oh I’m ready.Bring( Dean’s Gay mafia friends) your mugs shots.Bring on my arrest record.Bring on your threats from your surrogates telling me they will destroy me.Bring it on..

  14. Chaz Stevens, Former Contender says:

    127 millions gallons of brown water…

    Let’s just assume that’s all water… and ignore the floatsam for the moment.

    Water weighs 8 lbs, 127M gallons is 1,016,000,000 pounds or 508K tons / 406K metric tonnes.

    The largest aircraft carrier in the world, the Gerald R. Ford, displaces 100K tonnes and the Pioneering Spirit, a 1,253-foot-long crane ship used to install and remove offshore oil platforms, weighs in at 365K tons.

  15. Gadzooks says:

    North Carolina is nice but so will be Wilton Manors, Oakland Park, and other nearby surrounding towns. Look to them for rapid growth in the near future as people who can’t afford to live in Fort Lauderdale proper move out, but not quite as far as N.C.

  16. ES says:

    #1 – Seiler took office in March 2009. The Recession was over in July 2009. In the next 8 years while he and Feldman ran the show, and while the economy prospered, he did NOTHING to plan for future infrastructure. In fact, he did everything in his power to work against it. He and Feldman, and their minions, Mckinzie and Roberts, should be ashamed of the total dereliction of responsibilities during their terms.

  17. Stormwatch says:

    Buddy, when will people understand that mass transit isn’t supposed to be profitable? NYC mass transit has never turned a profit and never will. But take away the NYC subway and Manhattan comes to a grinding halt and real estate values plummet. It’s not mass transit’s job to be profitable. It’s job is to move mass amounts of people in highly populated areas from point A tp point B..C, D, E, F and G. It’s not getting any less expensive to build and it’s inevitably needed.

  18. Tell the Truth says:

    @16 ES
    you left out Herbst. As auditor and overseeing funding shell game he never spoke up as overseer of tax funds.

  19. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    But Broward voters keep electing them. Something in the water?

  20. Just sayin' says:

    4. FORMER Fort Lauderdale Resident and Taxpayer
    Spot on. Every word.
    Trantalis flagged the $4M ‘contribution’ to the ‘shortfall for police and fire pensions’ a few years back when the “Investments” did not yield the desired funds for the year. It was buried in back-up and Feldman never thought it would be found. But the funds stayed as allocated. The prior mayor and commissioners were mum. Taxpayers were mum.

    More pipes will rupture soon enough because the gpm being pumped based on all the new fixture counts in the new buildings have exceeded the capacity. The replacements are being made because it is east of US 1 in Dist 4. Remember when the millions of gallons of sewage washed over SW Fort Lauderdale (Dist 4) a few years back and the residents had little recourse. No where near the effort was made to clean those yards and streets up. Pathetic and misplaced ‘Vision’ by all.

  21. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Then just last night Mayor Trantalis states to the television media ( channel 10) that he and comm.would approve 65 million.U got the money.The residents just in the last election gave u over 200 million.Wait.Then Dean states sewer/ water etc will see an increase in your bill in the next few months.

    Again,sock it to the residents.These residents are getting gafted.Will see.

    Then I’m getting from Trantalis surrogates that think twice etc against running against Dean etc,if anything it’s encouraging me even more to run against him.Although.these ” gay New Yorkers” want me to run against Comm.Glassman.

    Its kinda weird,they like Dean,but not so much Glassman.Not to worry Glassman will have not one but several to run for District comm.

    Lastly, heard that Comm.Mckinzie moved.out of the 8th floor comm.office to 7th floor.All because his ast.used Dean mayoral stationary and some went berserk(why).

    To close,hang in there Comm.Mckinzie if.im sitting in the mayor off your coming.right back.I will even give.u Dean’s 10 thousand dollar sofa( floor sample) to boot
    .

  22. selective concern says:

    agree with #20 Regal Trace 1,820,000 mill gallons. awful.

  23. right wing says:

    dean the dream spent his Saturday cozying up to doprah.sewage problems vs miss know it all.????”every way you look at it you lose”.

  24. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    #6.In reference to the sofa.Add in the table/chairs – Bingo.Like I made it up.Nice try some of u.

  25. Just one vote says:

    5. Floridian
    “…the problem is the ongoing drumbeat against taxing citizens to pay for the services they receive.”
    So what exactly do the property taxes for each property give citizens? The tax base valuation in this city is in the billions.
    Not to mention the fees on the water/sewer/garbage monthly bill that have risen 8%-10% annually since 2012 (including the 7 municipalities that are “Large Users” of FLL water. In the early 2000’s bulk pick-up was twice a month in FLL. When the county contract for tipping fees per ton of trash was renegotiated circa 2014 or thereabouts to +/- $53./ton, FLL chose to NOT Pass on the savings to property owners getting trash pick-up, thanks to Feldman and his sidekick Mayor Jack. At every turn the city residents/property owners were the loosers. And the voters kept re-electing these clowns. Three terms. Many voters may regret not electing Charlotte Rodstrom as mayor in 2018. but that will be only one of many regrets the highly taxed east of US1 property owners regret when they try to sell their property.

  26. Taxpaying Resident and Voter says:

    We need a pause in building to ascertain the impact on sewers and other infrastructure. We need it now.

  27. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Couple of corrections.The 10 grand for the sofa.Also inc.table/ chair( blue velvet- who knew).It still was unnecessary.Also the voters approved what was it 800 mill bond to improve parks etc.The 200 mill the comm.approved.From my understanding.But when u have a sitting,current comm.( Mckinzie) move to another floor because his comm.ast feels uncomfortable is wrong).It’s amazing that concerning the sofa that u run to the reporters etc.My response was how much has this free apartments for homeless cost.us?.Don’t answer that but send me.furniture invoices ( like Houdini – I got the invoice(copy) that fast.

  28. Ft. Ldle Resident says:

    @11.Randy
    So what will it be? Seawalls, or working sewer pipes? Ft. Ldle cannot afford both

  29. jb mcdaniel says:

    Having spent a lot of time in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano as a kid, I have tremendous affection for these cities. Exceptional natural beauty and wonderful, creative people made these places special. I sincerely loved being there and missed it all when away. But, for at least the last 30 years exceptionally poor planning, fiscal irresponsibility, and “leaders” with their hands out to developers have all but ruined an American paradise. For a long time I was very sad about this, but that has now been replaced by anger over not just failed leadership, but over what seems intentional, willfully bad decision making. It is not just the increased population. That can be handled. Cities can be grown without sacrificing their heart and natural beauty…if they have good leadership and responsible citizens to hold the politicians accountable. Big if…In Lauderdale’s case the pols like Seiler gave developers free rein at the expense of the city and its taxpayers. Can the harm be reversed? Who knows…But for certain, citizens are going to be asked to pay dearly for the past mistakes of those who were supposed to be acting in their interests. Don’t let the cycle repeat. Step up and be heard and don’t back away….Remember, to paraphrase, ‘the fault is not in our stars, but within ourselves’…Solutions reside in the same place.

  30. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    #29.Could not agree with u more.Also to note.It was brought to my attention that on Mayor Trantalis financial report he listed the Riva condos on Federal as income.As he and his law firm( same difference) is doing the closings there.So why i think this is siginicat is he since being mayor not only did he and the comm.give himself and others a raise ( if they all get reelected) he also enriching himself with this Riva involvement.Lastly to address whether im running for mayor because I will devoute my entire time to running and if elected will be my only commitment.This is not an easy decision to make After all I am self supporting.No free apartment for Robert Walsh( u get it)..

  31. Taxpayer says:

    Mayor Jack is quoted in the Sun Sentinel thanking advisory appointees who laid out ‘plans’ for the city’s water and sewer systems back in 2017. His lame attempts to save face in light of the hundreds of millions of raw untreated sewage that spewed in the most expensive neighborhoods of the city is pathetic. On the bright side had the ruptures not happened in these pricey enclaves easy of US1, little would have been done. Mayor Jack will never have an elected office in/from Broward after this environmental debacle. With any luck there will not be any more sewer mains exploding to remind all that Mayor Jack’s watch over the city was neither responsible, prudent or wise. Carpe diem Mayor Trantalis!

  32. God help us. says:

    It’s inevitable that we will be going through a downturn in the economy in the near future and will be having to discussion of how do we increase growth.Sadly the results of the past eight years will not go away soon. Taxing in some form will be the only answer to pay for the needed fixes.

  33. Just One Vote says:

    Sadly the mayor, commissioners and the city manager will continue to raid the water/sewer fund for the next 4 years (maybe only 3) taking $20million dollars a year out of it to fund city workers and other general fund expenses. Illustrates how Fort lauderdale had lived way beyond its means for years. The bare minimum 16% of the annual city budget is in the Reserves as required by the State of Florida, and funds are re-allocated monthly by this city mgr and Feldman, the prior city mgr since 2011. Taxpayers and residents have no right to complain because their silence made them complicit and allowed this for nine years under the prior electeds, and now almost 2 years under this regime.

  34. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Here’s what Jack Seiler’s friends suggest!

    30-story towers and more proposed for Searstown site in Fort Lauderdale: A group of gleaming towers would rise with their glass framing, becoming part of a string of newly proposed buildings for the Searstown plaza and nearby properties near downtown Fort Lauderdale.

    https://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-lauderdale-sears-site-overhaul-20200114-yjkoagaebvb4tdbdb5jlnrzcr4-story.html

  35. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @17: Your point is true but irrelevant. It’s true that public transit should not be expected to pay for itself. But the relevant question here is whether or not rail is a cost-effective means of providing public transit.

    When Buddy says “Rail is part of the answer” but questions its cost-effectiveness, he’s only half correct. It is precisely because rail is not cost-effective that rail should NOT be part of the answer. Whether elevated, tracked, or tunnelled, rail is a financial disaster and, rosy fake scenarios notwithstanding, must be avoided completely.

    Investments need to be made instead in many new electric bus charging depots and in large new electric bus fleets.

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