Saturday, September 13, 2014

Jorge Gonzalez Combines Business and Campaign Strategies

You have to hand it to Jorge Gonzalez.  As commissioner for 2 years, he has done nothing to plan or improve the business climate in North Bay Village.  Facing a unbroken row of shuttered businesses, vacant storefronts and empty lots on our Causeway, he finally took action.  He put up a really big sign on the corner of Hispanola Ave and the Causeway to block the view of the empty storefronts. 

Jorge Gonzalez Blocking The View of The Empty Storefronts at the Lexi. 

He also put up signs here and here:

So at last his business strategy for North Bay Village - do nothing and continue to obstruct - comes together with his campaign philosophy - hide your failures.  

Well done, Mr. Gonzalez.  Well done.  

Special note to the policeman's union who recently endorsed Gonzalez, have you noticed that the Gonzalez signs are not union printed?   Solidarity for never I guess is the slogan.   

Kevin Vericker
September 13, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sept 9 2014 Commission Meeting

The Good:  The Commission unanimously approved Chervony's resolution urging Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to stop wasting our money fighting marriage equality.  Twice divorced AG Pam Bondi who is currently shacking up with her boyfriend since really she doesn't get what marriage is has been pursuing the goal of ensuring that marriage is unlimited for some and prohibited for others.  

History:  North Bay Village was the second city in Miami-Dade county to pass a Human Rights Ordinance protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Tuesday was proud continuation of that.  

The Bad:  The Commission continues to shoot itself in the foot on the Transparency Issue.  As reported here before, they responded to a string of complaints about not reporting gifts in excess of $25 by raising the amount they do not have to report to $100.  They don't get that the problem is not the amount, but it's not reporting the gift.  

The Commission decided to override a 2002 law requiring that the village change auditors every three years so they can keep the current auditor (4 years already) for another 3 years.  The mayor, who previously had supported the 3 year limit, commented that "she was very sorry that she didn't remember her previous vote." but I think she was being sarcastic, and then voted to overturn it.  

The Absurd:  The Mayor continue to use the dais for re-election events by giving out awards.  After four years of ignoring the elderly in North Bay Village, the Mayor decided to give an award to the Treasure Island Care Facility.  The Mayor is not committing to elder services and has not put anything in the budget, but hey an award. 
The Ugly:  Gonzalez pushed his "twinning" of North Bay Village with Isparta Turkey, and even presented Isparta Mayor Yusuf Ziya Gunaydin via Skype  to speak through an interpreter.  Mayor Yusuf (as he prefers to be known) is a member of the ultranationalist, right wing pro-Islamic Turkish party called the MHP, So thanks for that, Mr. Gonzalez.  

 Gonzalez specified that the city did not pay for his trip to Isparta in May but still has not specified who did pay for it.  He did not have any further comment on his foray into Middle Eastern politics except to show us a really good picture of North Bay Village.

Next Month:  The Commission will hear plans to plan a new park under the metal grate bridge.   It promises to be fun.  

Tonight:  The Budget Meeting.  

Kevin Vericker
September 10, 2014.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Campaign Season

Labor Day is behind us and we move into the toughest season of all for North Bay Village, campaign season.   On the ballot this November are the races for Mayor and Commissioner-At-Large and the candidates are:

Jorge Brito running against incumbent Connie Kreps for Mayor.
Mario Garcia running against incumbent Jorge Gonzalez for Commissioner-At-Large.  

Eddie Lim will retain his seat as Commissioner from Harbor Island as no one declared to run against him.  

North Bay Village politics tends to get ugly very quickly with personal attacks, anonymous mailings, attempts to intimidate family members and employers, rather than a focused discussion of the issues.  I'm afraid this year will be more of the same. 

The smear tactics have already started.  Anonymous complaints have started about the professional life of the candidates and imprecations are being thrown around on posting boards.  

Given the history of how Kreps took over the mayoralty, I guess it's to be expected.  

Kreps was the founding mother of the now defunct Citizens for Full Disclosure who regularly sent unsigned emails in CAPITAL LETTERS attacking anyone who disagreed on any policy issue.  

The word around town now  is that Kreps has engaged her former enemy, Randy Hilliard, as her campaign consultant.  Hilliard has nicknamed himself the Prince of Darkness and has a long record of effective negative campaigns, mostly conducted through shadow PAC's and Electioneering Campaign Organizations.    Given her temperament and past performance, this style of campaign will probably suit the mayor fine.  It's her comfort zone.  

I hope I'm wrong.  I hope instead that this campaign is a discussion of issues and views on how to fix the city. 

As North Bay Villagers, we are accustomed to sewage running in our streets.  It's probably going to fill your inboxes too.  Let's learn to walk around it.  

Kevin Vericker
September 2, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

PACE Financing

So regular readers of this blog know that I had some reservations about PACE, the property assessed clean energy.  The way it works is that instead of being a loan to make environmentally beneficial improvements to your home or building, it is assessed as an additional property tax paid off over an agreed period of years.  In most cases, if you sell your house, you sell it with the assessment, although there are issues still FHA supported mortgages, this does not affect most homeowners.  

At the time, I spoke in favor of North Bay Village's participation in the PACE program as a "better than nothing" solution and it is not perfect but it's a damn sight better than it was presented to us.  In conversation with Mark Ogres who is promoting the PACE program, I have found out how well it can fit with the specific issues we face on our islands, particularly in the hardening of our homes' roofs, seawalls, hurricane protection and the host of issues associated with living in hurricane prone area.  

Mark wrote to me and said:
North Bay Village now has available a powerful and economical fund to address issues in the Village. The PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy Fund) is mostly noted for funding of energy related needs such as new air conditioners and solar energy. Unique to Florida the fund can pay for many things related to protection from hurricanes, most importantly to North Bay Village this means: re-roofing, hurricane windows and shutters, elevating (raising up) buildings, seawall replacement and shoring up of docks/piers.
The money is not credit based, it funds improvements 100% and it is tax deduct able.  The only requirements are: 10% equity n property, current on mortgage and taxes and no bankruptcy in three years.  The money is a self-imposed assessment that goes on your taxes and carries forward with the property.  This would mean for a seawall you could put it in, pay nothing for almost 1 1/2 years and then make an annual payment once a year for 5-25 years or until it is sold. For roofing and other hurricane protection measures many find that with the rebates from the power company and the savings from insurance - it works out great. State required savings on insurance premiums, including Citizens Insurance, can be as much as 70%.
You guys know me.  I challenged him each point and you know what, this stuff is good.  I'm looking forward to talking with him more.  I've invited him to post on the Face Book Group, North Bay Village Residents Speak,  and you're  going to hear a lot more about this program soon.  

Kevin Vericker
August 25, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No Can Do - The Downside of Positivity

Our village has fallen into the habit of "No Can Do".   No matter how badly the residents want something, no matter how often the commission instructs, no matter how obvious the need, our commission has come to accept "No can do" as a reasonable answer.   

Food Trucks - This wildly popular new trend came to North Bay Village last spring.  A local developer, Mr. Barbagallo, generously offered his property as a temporary place for the Food Trucks and the residents poured in.   In July, when Shuckers reopened, they reclaimed the space for their parking and according to the village manager, that was that.  No more food trucks for us.  Some suggestions were floated:  
  • Persuade Shuckers to forego the additional parking one Wednesday per month, perhaps calling it "Food Trucks Presented By Shuckers".   No can do. 
  • Open the village municipal lot for the Food Trucks one Wednesday per month.  No can do. 
  • Seek another spot on the Causeway, say the Lexi Parking lot.  No can do.  
Rather than find a solution for this very popular event, the answer was "No can do."  

PAL - Four years ago, in September 2010,  the police chief summarily "suspended" the Police Athletic League over the strenuous objections of the parents.   For three years, the commission has directed the reinstatement of the program and funded it.  This year, there was not even a token attempt in the budget.  No explanation.  No can do.  
The Parking Problem - After a disastrous public meeting when the police chief could not even provide the base line statistics for the parking usage and demand, the subject was dropped.  No can do.  
Bay Front Access - The so called "Bay Walk" plan has been in place for nearly 10 years.  It calls for a single, unified walkway for the northern bayfront on Treasure Island.   It also calls for the waterfront condos to provide public access to the bay.  The largest condo, the 360, closed the access and the village response to demand for reopening is "No can do."   
Dog Park - The final "No can do" hasn't come down yet.   But if you read the article in today's Miami Herald (click here) you can see the groundwork being laid.  
  • Putting any money at all in the budget to meet this demand?  Village manager Frank Rollason's response was "not one single thin dime."  No can do.  
  • Working to get the right permissions if there is indeed a problem with the temporary space being offered.  Village manager Frank Rollason's response "“If he can legally have that there, God bless him.”.  No can do.  
  • Using the municipal lot which is currently employed storing parked police cars and bounty seized during drug raids.  Per Village manager Frank Rollason, the lot can't be used for anything but a government building even though it is being used a parking lot right now.  No can do.     
A "Study" to Build A Troll Park Under The East Metal Grate Bridge - CAN DO.  Take $50,000 for our parks fund, and $50,000 from state money and throw it away on a bizarre walkway where North Bay Village Residents can relax in the evening by strolling and sitting in a dark, damp, stunningly noisy walkway under a metal gate bridge.  THAT WE CAN DO! THAT'S HOW POSITIVITY WORKS - IF YOU WANT IT, YOU GET IT.   

Kevin Vericker
August 20, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Let There Be Light (And Water)

Last night, the Village completed the three year long project to plug in a light on the corner of Hispanola Ave and JFK Causeway.  The event was marked by an inauguration called a "Monument Lighting Ceremony" and was attended by 11 residents and a slightly larger contingent of paid employees.   

The street was blocked off to manage the throng of 20 or so. 

The mayor, a leading thought leader in the power of positivity, made a short speech blaming the lack of light on the previous administration and describing three grueling years of planning, building and execution to put a light in.  Then at 8:30, the switch was thrown and there was light. 

The mayor proudly showed off the biggest accomplishment of the last four years. 

The Positive People know that this was the most important project in North Bay Village, unlike the Negative People who responded to the survey commissioned by the mayor and who show up regularly at the Village Commission meetings.   These Nattering Nabobs of Negativism inexplicably prefer to ask for improved public safety, the restoration of the PAL program, a plan for the Causeway, parks, clean streets and fixes to the sewers.  

Jorge Gonzalez's advice to the Negatives is "If you don't like it, move." and our Mayor, The Arch Beaconess of Light, prefers to dwell on the project that worked. 

In other news, the sewer main in front of Sukura on the Causeway broke yesterday morning and as of the Monument Lighting Ceremony time, was continuing to spill raw sewage on to the Causeway.   

Kevin Vericker
August 14, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Turn Off The Dark - North Bay Village Style

Mayor Kreps is proudly celebrating the sum total of her four years on the commission tomorrow night and we are all invited.   At 8:30 PM, the Treasure Island Sign on the corner of Hispanola &  JFK Causeway will be lit up.  That's right.  Electricity is coming to North Bay Village. 

At this taxpayer sponsored re-election event civic monument dedication (that's right - apparently the street sign is a Monument)- there will be fun for all ages as the village serves light snacks and refreshments.

The street is shut down from 7:30 PM to 9 PM which I'm sure you know from the absolutely no signs on the street nor communications to the neighborhood.  (That will change tomorrow as soon as the people "who never read my blog" read my blog.) 

I hope it works out for Mrs. Kreps better than her last "Lady of the Light"  escapade when the village spent $35,000 for emergency holiday lighting last year and none of the lights worked on Hispanola.  The lights were out from Dec 26 in Jan 2.  

Now you might not be a positive person like our mayor, and you might be saying, "But we were surveyed and we said we wanted the streets clean, access to the bay, recreational opportunities,  a plan for the causeway, and better police protection.  How is this helping those things?"  Well, shut up.  The mayor is throwing a reelection rally village party with your tax money.  So enjoy it.  What's wrong with you?  

I hope you'll be there.  I certainly will.  

Kevin Vericker
August 12, 2014