Sunday, August 28, 2016

All Politics Are Local

It continues to surprise me how little attention people pay to local elections.  It matters very much who we choose for President, Congress and Governor but the most immediate effects are from the local governments.   

Tuesday, there is a primary and an election for county mayor and I thought I might share some of my views on the races that affect us the most here in North Bay Village.   

First up, for State Senate, Michael Gongora is a former Miami Beach Commissioner who knows North Bay Village well.  On the Beach, our closest neighbor, he successfully championed porgrams for the elderly, for the community at large, and made demands on developers for community improvement.  He has been a constant presence in North Bay Village.  In my view, he should be our State Senator.  He gets the life of the fragile beach cities.  

Kevin Burns is also running and his record is nearly identical.  Burns has a long history of community involvement in North Miami, served as their mayor in fact.  He has led countywide campaigns for equal rights and has consistently put his constituents first.  I didn't vote for him, mostly because I feel that Michael Gongora is better acquainted with North Bay Village but it was really nice to have a choice between two well qualified, experienced candidates who know how to get stuff done.  

Jason Pizzo has not bothered to vote since 2008, has been a Democrat for all of 5 months, and has funded his campaign from his Dad's companies.  He needs to get some experience and show good judgment in why people should vote if they want me to vote for them.  

Daphne Campbell is a very bad choice.  I could write about it but my friend and fellow blogger Stephanie Kienzle has really nailed it.  You can read Stephanie's take here.

State Rep - in spite of the fact that he keeps making it difficult with his crazy endorsements of our mayor and for Jason Pizzo, David Richardson has represented us faithfully and well.  He may be my favorite person to disagree with.  David  should stay the hell out of our local election.  Supporting Kreps is a mistake for NBV'ers and for the local LGBT community but show me the candidate without flaws and I'd hate him more.  So David has my vote.  

Finally, on the Circuit Court Race, I voted for Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts.  The guy's been a public defender, a city attorney, and in spite of being a Republican (I'm not, you know) understands very well the rights of the community, the needs of the police, and has always been committed to fairness regardless of the cost.   I'm voting character here.

Finally, Amendment 4.  Just vote Yes.  It's crazy that we don't have extensive, cheap solar energy in the Sunshine State.  This would give homeowners some serious tax relief for generating electricity.  It's safe, clean and effective.  

I know there are other races, particularly for county mayor, but I don't have a strong opinion or even a well informed one, so I chose not to write about them.

Well, there are two races I have opinions on.   Both of them represent why the Democratic Party can't put its act together in Florida.  

For Senator, Pam Keith would be a natural in any Democratic party.  A bright woman, with vast international experience, a Navy veteran, an attorney with a long record of public service and a well reasoned progressive.  Her opponents are a couple of white boys with money and ego where they should have experience and judgment.  But it's Florida and it's the Florida Democratic Party, so the odds are stacked against her.  It's a terrible shame and I hate to sound defeatist, but I've watched our state party mess this up time and again and I expect this time will be no different.  

For Congress, did you even know there were Democrats running to take on Ileana Ros-Lehtinen?  Bet not.  Now I like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a lot.  I think she is a woman of integrity and political courage.  I disagree with her on many specific political policies and probably will not vote for her but I have no question about her commitment to her constituents.   We are far better off being represented by her than being ignored by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, our previous representative.  Anyone in North Bay Village remember what DWS has done for us?  Me neither.

So that's it.  My take on the primary.  Now go vote!

Kevin Vericker
August 28, 2016  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

North Bay Village Scratching Post

This is a post I've been avoiding for a long time.  Any discussion of the feral cat problem in North Bay Village quickly descends into bitter arguments flying right past each other with the anti-feral cat people expressing their frustration, sometimes crudely, and the cat carers violating Godwin's Law, which states that the first person to invoke Hitler loses the argument.   But since fools rush in where angels fear to tread, here I go.  

The situation is that the village stopped Animal Control a few years back.  The Board exists in name only and there has been no serious attempt on the part of the administration to control the feral cat population.   The population has been growing from a combination of breeding and new cats being abandoned.  The problem is worse on Treasure Island.  

There is a group, small and informal, who call themselves the Cat Action Network, who feed the cats, trap them for participation in the Trap Neuter Return program and who defend their right to do so.  

Residents are concerned because there are seemingly more cats everyday and the CAN people use the public sidewalks for feeding.  When questioned, their responses can be pretty nasty. There are concerns about public health and the quality of life problems the feral cat population bring.  

While the Trap Neuter and Return Programs have been shown to reduce feral cat populations, this is only true when there are a combination of factors involved.  These factors include vigorous enforcement of anti-abandonment laws, a large scale public awareness campaign about the program so that affected residents are included in the plan, legislation that designates and controls the feeding, trapping and return areas and times, and a strong adoption and placement program.  

We don't have that.  All we have are some self appointed guardians of the cats who believe they are being kind and perhaps are, but who have taken upon themselves with no authority whatsoever to simply declare that Treasure Island is a "cat sanctuary."  It is not.  It is a neighborhood that people live in.   

The CAN does care about the cats but that's not enough.   If cats are to live in a community and the population is to be managed through TNR, it's incumbent on this group to create community support and ensure their actions are legal and in accordance with the rest of the community.  Otherwise they are just maintaining a large outdoor accommodation for their pets.   

In the Facebook Group North Bay Village Residents Speak, this subject always causes controversy.  And legitimate concerns are brushed aside with mistaken assertions about the posters who are concerned, several of whom have domestic cats and on the other side, well, some pretty nasty language has been used.   

The problem of the growing feral cat population is shared between the Village administration which has dismantled all of the boards while not addressing this problem, and the Cat Action Network, who if they did not cause the problem, have certainly made it worse by their unilateral decision to make other people's property a cat habitat without legal sanction and without regard for the people affected.  
It's time to stop the craziness.   There is an election coming up.  Ask each candidate what they plan to do to balance the needs of the community with the desire to control and protect the feral cat population.  If the candidate is an incumbent, ask what actions they have already taken and why is the problem getting worse?   Demand that the city take charge of the problem.  

For the Cat Action Network, I get it.  You like the cats.   But these are feral cats and they live in a community.  You should be working with the village and the community to create a useful and comprehensive program.  I have heard the argument that you spend your own money and time to feed and TNR the cats.  I have hobbies too.  But I don't expect my neighbors and government to pay for them.  And that's what you're doing when you unilaterally turn someone else's neighborhood into a cat sanctuary without involving them.  You are pursuing a hobby.  And I might add that most of you don't even live here.  Stand up and do the right thing if you really give a damn.  

Kevin Vericker
August 4, 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016

He's Right

Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez
Mayor Kreps
Rey Trujillo was right.   The former North Bay Village Vice Mayor, former North Bay Village Commissioner, former North Bay Village Planning & Zoning Chair, former North Bay Village Candidate for Mayor, former North Bay Village Chair of the Connie Leon-Kreps Mayoral Campaign, and former North Bay Village resident returned on Tuesday night to address the commission.   He requested that Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez submit his resignation from the Commissioner At Large seat immediately.  

Jorge Gonzalez has declared his candidacy for mayor against his former best friend, Mayor Connie Kreps and under election law, will be required to resign sometime before Election Day.   

Trujillo's argument, long and poorly stated, was that there is legal precedent that a candidate should resign as soon as the candidacy is announced.  

Rey Trujillo was right.  There is legal precedent but it may not be the law.  

Trujillo then stated that by resigning now, the voters would have a say in filling the At Large seat in November.  By delaying his resignation until nearer Election Day, that will most likely cause the commission to select a new At Large member rather than the voters.   

Rey Trujillo was right.  

Finally, Trujillo stated that even without legal compulsion, not resigning and opening the seat for election would be "sneaky".  

Rey Trujillo was right again.   

My question is "Has Rey Trujillo met Jorge Gonzalez?"   I mean, does Trujillo seriously believe that this is a man motivated by his love of public service?  Of course he has!  In the world of North Bay Village Crazy™, Trujillo ardently supported Gonzalez in his last election bid.   They were besties, homies, compas, and entirely in agreement that they were destined to control our village.  

Jorge Gonzalez will probably lose his mayoral bid because like everyone else who has dealt with Mayor Crazy Eyes, he will underestimate her willingness to go nasty and does not understand that the interests that support her do not want to lose their useful idiot.  

But that's not the point.  The point is, Rey Trujillo was right.  

Kevin Vericker
July 15, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The New Normal

Dallas.  Orlando. Charleston. San Bernardino. Newtown.  All acts of domestic terrorism that have become such a part of our awareness that we know right away what happened in these places, and many others.  In each, military assault weapons were turned on other Americans, police officers, club kids, church goers, city workers and children, in mass shootings.   The cost to our psyche, our sense of safety and to our moral sense of who we are is beyond measure.  

But this new normal has another real cost.  Economic.   

In North Bay Village, our first costs are showing.  At the initial budget meeting, Chief Noriega laid out the cold facts of our own vulnerabilities.   While the chances of a North Bay Village suffering this kind of attack are infinitesimally low, just as they were everywhere they happened, the new normal is the reality that our police need to be prepared for random terrorism.   

And there is a cost.   Chief Noriega laid out an initial capital plan spending $240,000 for training and equipment for the PD to respond to mass shootings and other terrorist acts.   Nobody knows how much it will be to sustain the effort but Noriega made a compelling case for why North Bay Village can't afford to ignore the new normal.   We are vulnerable as an island city with a dense population and an easy tropical lifestyle.   

The budget is not final and there may be adjustments but there's little question that the commission will do the right thing and fund this preparedness effort.   

This is money that could be spent on things we need and want but because of the new normal, we have to spend our money on this.   

Kevin Vericker
July 10, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Great Election of 2016 - North Bay Village

I know.  I've been absent without leave for 2 months now.   It's not that nothing has been happening.  I've just been busy and the better discussions are going on over at North Bay Village Speaks on Facebook anyway.  

But today, it became official.  Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez formerly a BFF of Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps has announced that he is running against her this November.   

After all she's done for him, promoted his election the first time, supported his re-election the second time, cast aside the sitting vice mayor Eddie Lim to move Gonzalez to the Big Boy Chair, sponsored him to her friends at the Commission on Ethics so they could use the office to persecute other candidates, Gonzalez threw her to the curb like an old used shoe just because she's a little bit batty.  

Gonzalez is just like all the other men in Connie's life -

Her former bestie, Richard Chervony, turned on her after she had him appointed commissioner and then she refused to let him speak on matters about the village.  Connie got quite annoyed at him in fact and instead of shutting up, he decided to act like he was a commissioner. and you know do things.  That was intolerable to her so she dumped him or he dumped her or whatever.  But they are not friends.  

Her former 2nd bestie, Eddie Lim, didn't particularly enjoy being told to stop talking during his commissioner reports because Connie finds it boring when the subject is not her and Lim took umbrage when she accused all of her fellow commissioners of "collusion and corruption" with no specifics.   

Her former 3rd bestie, one Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Son Of A Gun Village Manager Frank Rollason who she lied about (said she had seen him in 10 years when she had publicly supported him in a failed run for office 5 years earlier) and brought in to get around the village hiring process as a "temporary" village manager and who she stood by through thick and thin, is now the object of her ire as she is trying to get him fired but he's more cunning than she is so she can't.  

Yes, Gonzalez  is just like all the nasty dudes in her life for whom she does so much and then they dump her just because she's batty and mean and manipulative,  Also, she's not very smart.  (Neither am I.  I play a game at each commission meeting to see how soon into the agenda she's been managing for 5 years before she gets lost.  Last week was a record at 28 minutes in.  A more intelligent person would not do that.)  

Gonzalez has his own baggage, an enormous ego inversely sized to his limited intellect, his penchant for bullying and his Trump like sensitivity to criticism over his bankruptcies, tax delinquencies and other matters.   Frankly, they seemed like a dream couple to me.   But sometimes, it just doesn't work and like the War of the Roses, this political marriage made in hell will play its way out on the North Bay Village stage.  

Should be fun!

Kevin Vericker
June 21, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Censure

Tuesday night, April 12, was a first in the long, conflictive history of North Bay Village.  The commission censured a sitting member, in this case the mayor, for her accusations of “Collusion and Conspiracy” against her fellow commissioners, both collectively and individually.  It was a sad moment, made necessary by the mayor’s refusal to retract or support her accusations.  

Let’s start with the facts.   

In March, there was an item brought up on the dais to discuss whether the commission should as a whole be advised and have the opportunity to discuss awards given to individuals and organizations on behalf of the Village before these are awarded.  North Bay Village has not had this as a requirement in the past, allowing each individual to decide who would be honored by the village on their own.  At least one member of the dais thought that since the awards were on behalf of the commission and village, the other commissioners should be made aware and their views taken into account.  

Mayor Kreps took this as an insult to her issuing awards on behalf of the village and instead of engaging in the discussion, which was about awards procedures in the future, she took the opportunity to emphatically and deliberately state that her fellow commissioners were engaging in “Conspiracy and Collusion” which is a criminal offense under Florida Law.  

Commissioner Lim, visibly shaken but maintaining a calm voice, asked the mayor twice to retract her accusation from the dais and the mayor ignored him.  

This month, Commissioner Chervony decided to introduce a Resolution of Censure to condemn the mayor’s use of false and baseless criminal accusations.  In the end, the commission voted 3-1 to sustain the censure.  Eddie Lim voted against.  

A censure is a statement of disapproval.  It carries no legal penalties nor does it involve and removal from office.  What it says is that a member’s behavior does not fit the standards of decorum.  

Why The Censure Matters

Regardless of the mayor’s feelings about the issue at hand, Kreps had no right to accuse her colleagues of criminal behavior.  And once she did, she had an absolute obligation to apologize and retract her statements.  And she refused.  

On April 12, she had the opportunity again to explain and resolve the matter but Kreps didn’t.  She doubled, actually tripled down, by packing the room with supporters to whom she lied.  Kreps claimed that the issue was about an award she gave to SAVE, which used to lead the fight for gay and lesbian rights in Miami and is now a corporately sponsored PAC publicity machine.  It’s on the people who showed up, that they didn’t take the time to read the resolution or to review the issue at hand.  

The mayor opened the meeting by reading a statement refusing to apologize, explaining that strong words were spoken in the  previous meeting and that she had been attacked.  Her defenders included two former commissioners, Rey Trujillo and Al Blake, neither of whom addressed the issue, several residents and Tony Lima of SAVE who tried to frame this as anti LGBT issue.  

If the mayor had apologized, or even simply retracted her statement, the issue would have died.  But this mayor sees danger and insult everywhere and is vicious in her response.  She brought this on herself and it’s painful to watch.  

It’s ironic that the proximate cause was an award, a key to the cty, that the mayor gave to SAVE.  SAVE, previously known as SAVE DADE, was formed to advocate for LGBT equality and in a hostile environment on the 1990’s, finally led Miami in joining the 21st century.  I was proud to be member, a Guardian (think dues over a $1000 per year) and to volunteer on their projects.  A few years ago, SAVE went in a different direction and much to my surprise, showed up in North Bay Village to endorse Connie Leon Kreps and give her money as a favor to David Richardson.  It was simple political manipulation without consulting anyone in the North Bay Village gay and lesbian community. .  

Kreps has not once brought a resolution to the North Bay Village commission on any issue of importance to the LGBT community in North Bay Village, never met with the local LGBT residents and in fact during her tenure, has done the following:

  • When a routine resolution was introduced by Commissioner Chervony to support an effort to stand against LGBT students being bullied in the school system, the mayor specifically demanded that the LGBT and school wording be removed and replaced with North Bay Village stands against all bullying.  October 10, 2013.
  • In August of 2014, a PAC supporting the mayoral campaign engaged in “pink smearing”.  They portrayed the mayor’s colleague on the dais as a puppet master and made a point of attacking the only out gay commissioner on the dais by bringing up an arrest record from his youth.  This is an old McCarthy like tactic from the 1950’s, called pinkwashing, to smear one’s opponents with accusations of homosexuality  or association with known homosexuals.  Sadly it still works today.
    The mayor refused when requested directly to disown the filthy pamphlet and I was pretty shocked when SAVE refused to condemn the mailer.  In fact, that’s when I withdrew my Guardian support.  
  • Last year, a year of great strides for the LGBT community as marriage equality became the law of the land, the mayor remained silent on the subject never acknowledging the legitimizing of North Bay Village’s LGBT communities marriages.  
  • Just two weeks ago, she was notable by her absence at the Pride Parade, where virtually every Miami-Dade official Republican and Democrat showed their support except our mayor.  

The award itself was a simple economic transaction.  The mayor gets a campaign donation, SAVE gets a patina of legitimacy, and the circle goes on.  It should never have been given.  

Nevertheless, not a single member of the dais objected to the award.  There were questions about what SAVE had done for North Bay Village (nothing).  The question being debated was whether the commission  as a whole should approve such awards or should a single member be authorized at her discretion to give awards out on behalf of the village.  

Pretending that this was either a personal attack on the mayor or an homophobic attack on SAVE is part of a large pattern of cynical politics as usual.  It was about commissioners refusing to accept a deliberately framed libel thrown against and were the mayor any sort of decent leader or person, she would have simply acknowledged that she was wrong and moved foward.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Missing In Action But Back Now

I've been super busy with entirely constructive and exciting new projects.  Life is going so well for me right now that explaining all this stuff would be bragging and you know I desperately want to hate to do that.  But I've been neglecting my self appointed duties to keep you informed so here's the roundup.  

Tuesday night was the commission meeting.  Let's talk about the stuff that got done.  

  1. The commission voted 3 - 2 to approve a contract to create 3 renderings of the proposed Village Hall, hold a workshop with the community to discuss and then move forward with revisions to the selected concept.  The cost is $58,000.

    This was a really fun process to watch.  4 of the commissioners were talking about how to best achieve the outcome of a new village hall.  One commissioner, Chervony, did not like the proposal because he wants the village to first decide the priorities of what should be in the renderings - e.g. office space, public space, parking, anything really - and then send it out to bid.  Chervony also expressed reservations about the cost, not that it was too high or too low, but that there was no justification presented.

    The other three commissioners, Jorge Gonzalez, Eddie Lim and Andreana Jackson thought that without a baseline of the proposals, the plan would remain stuck and their view prevailed.  

    Why was that fun?  Well, that's how discussions go.  You agree on the outcome and then decide how to get there.   It was good to watch.

    The mayor voted against the renderings but at this point, it's impossible to understand what she's doing.

  2. The Harbor Island Parking issues were brought up again.  The consensus seems to be that combination of the permit program and the lease of the lot by the 7904 West Drive building has resulted in a net positive for the residents but there are still deep concerns about the permit process and the sustainability of the parking lot lease.

    There is a special commission meeting planned for March 22 to work on the issues.

  3. Two developers have suggested that the village consider changing its name to the "Isles of North Bay" but it doesn't seem to be getting much traction.  I don't like it.  It sounds like a self described upscale condo development in my view.   But they did present and the subject will continue to come up.

    Beyond that, some administrative business and the meeting was over.  
Nah!   No it wasn't.   The really fun part, the part that causes me to type in all caps WTF happened near the end.   

You see the mayor has been handing out awards right and left.  She does this because she wants to act like people truly like her and in order to encourage them to keep liking her.   And on Tuesday, she create a new one that she gave to Tony Lima of SAVE, an organization that previously worked to advocate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender residents of Miami-Dade but has since decided to go statewide, and to Jose Pinto, the contractor who restored the JFK bust.   (If you're interested, stick around to the final paragraph for a discussion of SAVE in North Bay Village.)  

The newly created award is a "Key To The Village" to honor the recipient for services.   

Well, as part of the New Business, Commissioner Chervony brought up that such awards typically require the approval of the commission.  While any commissioner is free to acknowledge anyone or any cause as deserving of our note and gratitude, a formal award should not just be created and presented as though it were agreed by all when there was no discussion.   

Mayor Kreps lost it.  Totally lost it.  Want to see  it?  Go to this link and play the meeting.  Jump ahead to 3:27 and be sure to watch the whole thing.  At the 3:36 the mayor begins screaming accusations against her fellow dais members of "collusion and conspiracy."  Those are criminal charges by the  way and Commissioner Eddie Lim took umbrage at the charge and the insult.  He repeatedly asks the mayor to retract her accusation.  She ignored him and went after the other commissioners as well.

Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez spoke about the inherent conflict of unapproved awards during election season and wondered what, if anything, SAVE had done in North Bay Village.  Commissioner Chervony mentioned the Community Enhancement Board had voted against the award to the sculptor because he was a paid contractor rather than a volunteer and that several volunteers were being overlooked.   The mayor blamed staff for that oversight when Commissioner Jackson asked about the subject and Commissioner Jackson then reasonably asked why the mayor had not followed through there.  

Mayor Crazy Eyes responded by pointing to the back of the room at a staff member who was in another conversation and instructed the staff member to "stop laughing."   

This issue is not going away.   The Mayor levied some serious charges here and the commission has a right to have a say in the awards given in the name of the village.  She should publicly and fully apologize for her outbursts and work with her fellow commissioners to put an approval in place.  Keep it classy.  

Final note on SAVE.  As I mention above, it was a once proud promoter of equality for the LGBT community in Miami-Dade.  But in recent years, it has taken a different turn and SAVE endorsed Mayor Kreps in 2014 against the explicit concerns brought up about her failure to involve the gay community in North Bay Village.  Kreps then refused to disavow a PAC supporting her that used McCarthy era homophobic smear tactics against her fellow commissioner Chervony and her opponents.  SAVE also refused to condemn the tactic and since 2014, Kreps and SAVE have refused to meet the gay community here in North Bay Village.  Kreps never acknowledged the historic marriage equality decision and SAVE has never asked the Village to do anything to support the goal of equality.   Full disclosure, I am a former Guardian of SAVE (means gave more than a small amount of money) and when I tried to get answers from Tony Lima, the executive director, he accused me of personal attacks on him and refused to address any of the issues.  So no more checks for SAVE.  The empty fictitious award gleefully accepted on Tuesday from a cunning, paranoid mayor pretty well sums up the ugly side of local politics.  It's a shame really.  

Kevin Vericker
March 12, 2016