The construction industry in Florida has been hit particularly hard. Unemployed construction workers in the state number more than 331,900. A new website, ReConstructFL.com, has been launched to provide job listings, construction contracting opportunities and information on stimulus projects around the state. The site is a collaboration between the Florida Home Builders Association and Florida State University, with funding from the state agency Workforce Florida.
President Barack Obama made one of his best appointments last week. He named consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren to oversee the implementation of a new agency that looks out for consumers’ interests when conducting business with financial institutions such as banks and mortgage companies. Warren was one of the first people to sound the alarm about Wall Street’ recklessness and greed and it was she who originally proposed the idea of such an agency. Warren will work with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to get the agency up to speed. Good.
Palm Beach County
Lori Eve Barfield, 34, was arrested Sunday, Sept. 19, after her children tested positive for cocaine and were found living in squalor. The two toddlers, whose ages have not been released, were reportedly wearing soiled diapers when police arrived at their Palm Beach Gardens condo. The children were placed in protective custody. In June police went to the condo after a 911 call from Barfield who believed her children had mistakenly ingested Oxycodone pills.
Amid increasing protests from the blue-blood residents of the Tropic Isle and Tropic Bay communities, Wal-Mart has scrapped plans to build one of its supercenters on Federal Highway just south of Linton Boulevard. The proposed store would have brought much needed construction jobs and permanent employment for hundreds but those wealthy communities opposed having the store near their waterfront homes.
BUS DRIVER PROTEST
Terence Hightower, 40, a transportation supervisor with the Palm Beach County school district, was the target of protests on Monday, Sept. 20. More than 40 bus drivers alleged he mistreated, verbally abused and bullied employees. As per policy, Hightower is not commenting. The protests were followed up with each of the protestors filing individual complaints against Hightower.
SHERIFF’S DEPUTY LAYOFFS
Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti announced this week that 247 jail deputies who did not accept a demotion and a $10,000 pay cut will be laid off. The sheriff said that there are plenty of out-of-work people waiting to take their jobs, if they don’t want them. The deputies reacted by protesting in front of the Broward Sheriff’s Headquarters west of Fort Lauderdale. Lamberti said the move would save the department $5 million annually. Times are hard and the sheriff is right to cut salaries as opposed to firing people. However, if those salary cuts had been done across the board, including his own, and done in a fair manner, there probably would not have been much protest. The sheriff should re-think this.
WATER METER THEFT
Steven Baggs is known as one of friendliest guys you will ever meet. That’s why everyone was shocked when BSO deputies showed up at his workplace to arrest him on Thursday, Sept 16. The city of Deerfield Beach employee was charged with stealing water meters and backflow preventers from the city’s water department, where he worked. Backflow preventers keep contaminants from entering the water supply system and are required on all new construction. According to sources, Baggs is cooperating with authorities and other arrests may be forthcoming.
Michael Kessler, of the Kessler International, and his team of auditors are scrutinizing a non-profit housing organization called Pompano Beach CEHDA Inc. which consists of a group of mostly church-based community redevelopment agencies. It seems many of the grants and other benefits the organization received from the city of Pompano Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency were not supported by proper documentation, which has raised questions.
The Miami Herald is laying off an additional 49 workers, including seven full-time and two part-time positions in the newsroom, publisher David Landsberg ann-ounced. Four full-time and two part-time newsroom positions are also being cut at the Spanish language El Nuevo Herald.
On Aug. 12, Homestead city officials deleted $30,000 worth of work from a $103,000 contract awarded to All Air of South Dade in February. The company performs maintenance on the city’s air conditioning units at various facilities. All Air immediately began notifying officials that some of the air conditioning units had problems. These range from units not being installed properly, to some with missing parts and others that were installed without the proper permits. The problems exist at the police station, the Phicol Williams Community Center and even the recently completed William F. "Bill" Dickinson Community Center. The company’s employees have been threatened with arrest if they are seen at those sites that were deleted from its contract. Citing a clause in the contract, the city has provided no reasons or explanation for the decision. Acting City Manager Julio Brea did not respond to questions but something in the milk ain’t clean here. Most municipalities would get a qualified second opinion and move to address the issues. Then there is this question: Who inspected this work when it was originally installed?
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE WALK-A-THON
Safe Space Foundation, along with the South Florida Times and the Miami Heat, will host the third annual domestic violence “Awareness Walk and Expo” on Saturday, Oct. 2. There will be special guests, food, games and fun. Onsite registration is $25 and $50. Participants will receive gift bags, on a first-come first-served basis. Check in is at 7 a.m. and the 2-mile walk begins at 9 a.m. It will take place at the Senator Gwen Margolis Amphitheatre, 16501 NE 16th Ave., North Miami Beach. For more information call 305-758-2804.
FIRED MANAGER COOPERATING
Former Homestead City Manager Mohammad “Mike” Shehadeh was cooperating with authorities in their investigation into corruption inside city hall, his attorney has confirmed. His attorney said that is the real reason behind Shehadeh’s firing. In any event, Homestead city hall is abuzz with reports of conflicts of interests, kickbacks and even deals that voided the electrical bills of some residents and businesses. Ouch!
Elgin Jones may be reached at EJones@sfltimes.com.