Donald Trump’s first weeks in office remind economist of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

As University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith weighs President Donald Trump’s economic policies, he thinks back to a particularly memorable ride at Walt Disney World.

“Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was strange, surreal, gritty and weird,” Snaith writes in his latest economic forecast. “It had also been described as dark — and not only because of the lighting.”

Disney World pulled the plug on Mr. Toad’s careening cars during the second Clinton administration, but Snaith (a registered Republican) sees some modern-day parallels:

“Given that Trump was a candidate unlike any in presidential history, I suppose that the start of the Trump administration should have been expected to be unlike any in presidential history, but it still feels in many ways every bit as surreal as Mr. Toad’s ride.”

“The ride began in an economic jalopy, with the economy experiencing a historically weak recovery. The latest GDP report for the fourth quarter of 2016 displayed growth of 1.9%, putting full-year growth at just 1.9% …”

“The final scene of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride … takes place in hell. It doesn’t take much digging to find people who will quickly characterize the Trump administration as hellish. And even those who are neutral or support the administration must feel somewhat bedeviled by how the initial weeks of the Trump presidency have been playing out. Those of us tasked with predicting how the future will look must somehow peer through the smoke, ignore the smell of sulfur, and try to see the world beyond this harrowing scene …

“I also recall from that ride, on my first trip to Disney World, the car emerged from hell, bursting through the gates and into the bright Florida sunshine. I still see a similar ending for Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride, with the U.S. economy emerging, after this hellish start to his administration, into a brighter future of faster economic growth — demons be damned.”

Phony landlord sentenced to 11 years in federal prison

A Wellington scammer who ripped off unsuspecting tenants for $380,000 in phony rent payments has been sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.

Federal prosecutors in 2016 said Kesner Joaseus, 47, and two other men posed as the owners of freshly renovated homes that were owned by HavenBrook Homes, a legitimate landlord.

“Joaseus and his co-defendants entered into bogus leases with a counterfeit HavenBrook Homes logo, and collected thousands of dollars in money orders or cash, purportedly for security deposit, first and last month’s rent for the houses,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

Joaseus, Wadno Dorneau, of West Palm Beach, and Miguel Tilus, of Lake Worth, faced charges of mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy, said Wifredo Ferrer. They posed as owners of dozens of houses in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

In one example, the trio took control of the 1,173-square-foot house at 907 Churchill Road in West Palm Beach. In November 2014, they found a tenant and collected $1,950 in security deposits, application fees and first and last month’s rent. The victim paid by money order, prosecutors said.

The victim continued to pay $900 a month, but in May 2015, she learned from HavenBrook Homes that she was in the house illegally.

In addition to pleading guilty to the real estate scam, Joaseus copped to a separate identity theft scheme. He was sentenced this week in both capers.

Trump, China and Twitter: 9 tweets that likely irked PRC leaders

President Donald Trump hosts his Chinese counterpart at Mar-a-Lago next week. It’s the second global — and Asian — leader the president brings to the Southern White House.

But this meeting may not be as amicable as the golf diplomacy with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe. In fact, People’s Republic President Xi Jinping will not stay at Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach club but instead will spend the night in Manalapan.

President Donald Trump arrives at Palm Beach International Airport on Air Force One Friday, February 10, 2016 accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Abe, and the Prime Minister’s wife Akie Abe. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

Why? Well, Twitter may have something to do with it.

RELATED: Will Palm Beach County benefit when Trump brings  a global leader?

On the campaign trail, Candidate Trump frequently blasted the trade deficit with China, saying the People’s Republic was “ripping off” Americans via unfair trade and monetary practices. Those complaints worked their way into Mr. Trump’s Twitter missives.

Since his election as president on Nov. 8, Mr. Trump has not taken China to task on Twitter very often. He’s just fired off nine times.

Full Donald Trump coverage: Galleries, news, video

But they’ve stung — in particular his defense of accepting a congratulatory call from the leader of China’s rival, Taiwan. Mr. Trump has also sharply criticized the PRC for inaction in dealing with provocative moves by North Korea.

In early January, China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, lambasted President Trump’s “Twitter diplomacy” likening it to a “child’s game.”

RELATED: Night at Mar-a-Lago: Inside charity event with Trump, Sessions nearby

Here are Mr. Trump’s China tweets since his Nov. 8 election.

Delray Beach legal impresario joins forces with Boca Raton law firm

Michael Weiner

Delray Beach legal eagle Michael Weiner is joining forces with a Boca Raton law firm renowned for its prowess in homeowners and condominium law.

Sachs, Sax & Caplan will be the new home for the longtime zoning, land use and administrative law attorney.

Weiner, 68, is a ubiquitous figure at municipal hearings on behalf of real estate developers. Even his website’s name is all about his business: zonelaw.com.

And although he’s best known for his work representing Delray Beach real estate developers, Weiner’s practice extends from Boca Raton to Lake Worth.

But starting April 1, Weiner will become of counsel to Sachs, Sax.

Weiner, who has had his own law firm for more than 30 years, said he decided to join Sachs, Sax because he could not figure out a way to clone himself.

“I can only be in so many places at once,” Weiner said. And cities love to hold meetings on Tuesday nights at the same time, he added.

On a more serious note, Weiner said that Sachs, Sax’s land-use department complimented his own practice.

In addition, he said the heft of a full-service law firm with a wide geographic reach will help him better serve clients, particularly on topics such as climate change and transportation.

For its part, Sachs, Sax said Weiner broadens its expertise.

“The firm’s practice will be further diversified with Weiner’s extensive background in land use and zoning litigation, private property rights, historic property redevelopment, property tax challenges, and code enforcement defense and appeals,” the firm said in a statement.

“We are confident this milestone will benefit our existing clients while opening the firm up to new growth opportunities,” said Peter S. Sachs, a founding partner of Sachs Sax Caplan. “Our firm will undoubtedly be stronger and better positioned for the future with him on board.”

Sachs, Sax handles matters from Fort Lauderdale to Jupiter. With Weiner on board, the firm now will be able to handle not only matters throughout Palm Beach and Broward counties, but also from suburbs in the west to cities along the coast, east of Interstate 95.

Helping make the move more palatable is the fact that Weiner’s Delray Beach offices, at10 S.E. 1st Ave., soon could be transformed into a Delray Beach location of Louie Bossi. That’s the sizzling new Italian concept by West Palm Beach’s Big Time Restaurant Group.

In addition to community association and real estate law, Sachs Sax Caplan handles commercial litigation and appeals, estate planning and marital and family law. The firm’s main office is in Boca Raton, with another office located in Tallahassee.

 

 

New record for home prices nationally, but not in South Florida

(Getty Images)

Nationally, home prices keep soaring. They reached another record high in January, according to the latest Case-Shiller home price index.

In South Florida, however, home prices remain well below their December 2006 apex.

Case-Shiller is an index, not a price. For Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the measure peaked at 280.87 in late 2006, then cratered to 136.99 in April 2011.

South Florida prices are still off 21 percent from their high point. Meanwhile, home values in Denver, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, have hit new records.

A new record for a Manalapan mansion: See how much it sold for

1370 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan as it once looked.

The mansion at 1370 S. Ocean Ave. in Manalapan just sold for $40 million, setting a new price record for houses in the tony town.

The 35,000-square-foot estate includes 300 feet of ocean frontage. A deed lists the seller as EB ESM31 LLC of Boca Raton and the buyer as Borgoves Ltd. of Manalapan.

The home was listed for $48.9 million.

The sale of 1370 S. Ocean eclipses Manalapan’s previous record of $33 million for the oceanfront estate at 800 S. Ocean Blvd. It sold in September 2015.

It’s not Manalapan’s priciest deal ever, though. Mansion builder Frank McKinney in 2005 paid $42.5 million for 8.8 acres of vacant land along the ocean.

And the Ziff estate in Manalapan has been on the market for $195 million since 2015.

Proposed Kelly Slater wave pool could feature televised contests

The World Surf League, which operates the pro surfing tour, divulged new details about its plans to build a wave pool in northwestern Palm Beach County.

In a zoning application with the county, the company said it aims to host contests at the park.

“It is anticipated that one to two events may be held on a yearly basis attracting up to 60,000 people,” the World Surf League said. “The events would be planned to be held in the summer, providing for an opportunity to aid in tourism and fill hotel rooms in a typically slower time of the year.”

The World Surf League also said the facility would be solar-powered and would include a surf school that teaches water safety. The tour has partnered with surf legend Kelly Slater, who built a wave machine in rural California that has been winning rave reviews:

 

High-quality H2O indeed. Here’s what it’s like to surf at a less-than-world-class man-made wave:

Surf’s up — in Orlando?

Surf legend Kelly Slater aims to build wave pool in northwestern Palm Beach County

Kelly Slater celebrates one of his 11 world titles. (Associated Press)

We’ve got Reef Road and Juno Pier, but someday Palm Beach County’s best surf spot might be way inland, off the Beeline Highway.

Surf legend Kelly Slater, winner of 11 world titles, aims to build a wave pool at Palm Beach Park of Commerce in northwestern Palm Beach County. Slater is asking Palm Beach County  for permission to build a wave park on 80 acres at the industrial park.

“The project, named Surf Ranch Florida, will be proposing to construct a world-class, man-made surfing lake which will provide consistent waves and a safe environment for public recreational and competition purposes,” Slater’s zoning application says.

» RELATED: Pro surf contests in northwestern Palm Beach County?

Florida Surfing Museum finds home in Lake Park

Surf’s up — in Orlando? Catching a wave at Typhoon Lagoon

Slater already has built one wave park, in rural California, and it has won wave reviews for the quality of its manmade surf. Florida surfers can visit Walt Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon for artificial waves, but Slater promises a much higher quality of H2O.

“It’s just an amazing, amazing wave,” prominent longboarder Robert “Wingnut” Weaver told National Public Radio last year about Slater’s wave park in California. “It’s mind-blowing.”

In a widely watched video posted by Slater in 2015, the champ calls his California wave “a freak of technology.” Slater catches a head-high right that features him pulling into a perfectly shaped barrel that seems to peel for nearly 100 yards. Then, on the same wave, he tucks into another long barrel.

“This is the best manmade wave ever made, for sure,” Slater said.

Aside from the zoning application, Slater has made no public pronouncements about his Palm Beach County project. So it’s hard to say how much Surf Ranch Florida will cost to build or precisely how it will be used.

The obvious question for surfers is whether they’ll get to ride Kelly’s wave, and how much it might cost. The answer so far is unclear. Surf Ranch Florida’s zoning application stresses the phrase “public recreational and competition purposes” but offers no other details.

That raises the possibility of pro surf events being hosted at an inland lake in Palm Beach County.

For the World Surf League, which owns Kelly Slater Wave Co., a predictable, high-quality wave would solve some obvious logistical problems: Organizers prefer to host contests in good surf, and if the wind is onshore or the swell fades, surfers and TV crews cool their heels until conditions improve. For its contests in Fiji, Tahiti, California, Australia, Hawaii, France, Portugal and Australia, the World Surf League typically schedules events to occur sometime during a 10- or 12-day window.

See which cell tower operator is laying off workers in Boca Raton

Landlord American Tower Corp. plans to lay off 58 workers at its Boca Raton office on May 1, the Boston-based company tells state officials.

In a letter to the state’s labor department, American Tower blames “changing business needs” and said it expects more layoffs in Boca later this year.

American Tower (NYSE: AMT), an owner of communications towers, operates a 22,000-square-foot office at Arvida Park of Commerce. Rival SBA Communications (Nasdaq: SBAC) runs a headquarters less than two miles north.

In land of HOAs, South Florida still king

South Florida is synonymous with condo commandos and gated golf-course communities, so it’s no surprise that our region tops Trulia’s list of metro areas with the largest share of homeowners who pay fees to homeowners associations.

Among the nation’s 50 largest metro areas, Broward County is No. 1, with 32.5 percent of households paying HOA fees. Palm Beach County is next at 29.8 percent, followed by Miami-Dade County at 27.6 percent.

By contrast, HOA fees are practically unheard of in Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Sacramento. In those metro areas, fewer than 5 percent of homeowners paid HOA fees in 2015, Trulia says in its report, released Wednesday.

South Florida’s market is skewed by the region’s large share of condos and townhouses. Meanwhile, South Florida’s percentage of homeowners paying HOA fees fell over the past decade. In Palm Beach County, nearly a third of homeowners were part of HOAs in 2005, Trulia says.

Running community pools, golf courses and guardhouses doesn’t come cheap. From 2005 to 2014, HOA fees rose 32 percent, outpacing the 15 percent jump in the median U.S. home price, Trulia said.

New York had the nation’s highest condo fees at an average at $571 a month, followed by Long Island’s $498, San Francisco’s $464, Philadelphia’s $449, Miami’s $415 and Palm Beach County’s $399 a month.