Tuesday, March 10, 2020

March 12 2020 Agenda

I really didn't have a cool cartoon so I went with this.
Owing to  Purim, the usual Tuesday evening commission meeting this week is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 PM.  

The agenda, available here, is jam packed and there's a lot to be decided.  

For purposes of this post, I am breaking it out into sections by topic.   

Topic #1:  Fixing The Past and the Hornsby Matter

The commission will vote on a settlement offer to Doug Hornsby, a former commissioner pushed off the dais in 2018 in what the Florida 11th Judicial Court found to be a violation of due process.   You can find dozens of articles and in my blog by simply searching "North Bay Village Hornsby" on Google.   

The key issue the court found was that the use of the unsubstantiated legal theory that Hornsby's appointment to the commission was never valid violated the clear and simple due process requirements of our charter.  

The settlement offer is for $100,000 to reimburse for legal fees.   

The commission needs to approve or reject this mediated settlement.  

If they approve, the Village will pay $25,000 from our budget while the rest will be covered by insurance.   If they reject the settlement offer, we're back in court.  

This miscarriage of justice, the illegal removal of Hornsby, is being "questioned" by several of the people who perpetrated it for their own benefit.  The usual nonsense.  

Two of the sitting commissioners, Andreana Jackson and Jose Alvarez, voted without comment to support Hornsby's removal and caused this mess.   In an ethical world, they would recuse themselves but neither seem particularly bothered about doing either the right thing or doing things the right way, so we'll see how they go.   

Opinion:  Hornsby has been more than generous in trying to be made whole in this degrading process and the commission would be well advised to accept the settlement.  It sucks that $25,000 of our money has to pay for the bad judgment of Jackson and Alvarez, and the crap legal advice they followed, but it will be much more expensive not to settle.  

Alvarez and Jackson are rumored to be up for re-election in November.  It would be stupid to re-elect them.  

Topic #2: Density

Next month, DPZ will present their full recommendations on the North Bay Village 100 plan.  I'm not going into detail in this post as there is a lot to cover, but the hot issue at the moment is density, specifically in the single family neighborhood on Treasure Island and for new multi unit construction on Harbor Island.   

To recap the issue, in a draft recommendation, DPZ suggested changing the zoning code to allow up to 100 units per acre on Harbor Island, up from 70 units currently, and to allow townhouses in the single family neighborhood on Treasure Island.  

Nobody has identified where that suggestion came from.  

A Treasure Island resident quickly gathered signatures from the single family houses on Treasure Island, 140 of them, nearly two thirds, requesting the commission to not change the zoning to allow multi-unit construction in the neighborhood and several Harbor Island community members strongly oppose increasing density due to concerns about the impact of increased density on traffic, environment and livability.  

On Thursday, there will be no final vote but the petitions will be presented about TI and the concerns noted about HI.   

Opinion:  This came out of left field.  The increased density suggestion was not brought up in the public workshops and has all the earmarks of a developer inspired suggestion.   The commission should end the discussion with a resolution instructing DPZ to deliver the final without the Harbor Island and Treasure Island density changes, or at least two versions.  There's too much history and concern to let this go forward and it could derail the whole plan.  It would be simple for the commission to do it and it's clear it's what the residents want.  

Topic #3: Hiring a Chief Financial Officer

One map of the neglected sewer impact in FTL
A candidate named Stanley Hawthorne has been recommended to be our Chief Financial Officer.  Several residents, including members of the Budget Oversight Board, have expressed concern that his experience is in public administration operations and not in public finance.   Hawthorne was also part of the group that allowed the misspending of Fort Lauderdale's funds for sewer modernization and we've seen how that worked out.  

The commission will be discussing the relative merits of hiring Hawthorne over the other candidates and will decide whether to endorse the hiring of Hawthorne or instruct the Village Manager to look further.   

Opinion:  This does not look right.  

Topic #4:  Our Charter

Commissioner Julianna Strout is leading a discussion item on the Charter.  

There is a serious need for review of the Charter and in particular the strange amendments that the Commission in 2018 put there while ignoring the well crafted recommendations of the Charter Review Board.   

The Charter is our foundational document and it matters that it reflect who we are and who we aspire to be as a community.   I hope this gets the serious attention of the three useful commissioners and I hope the outcome is a full Charter review to get it right.  

There's a Lot More

If you only attend one commission meeting this year, make it this one.  

Thursday, March 12, 6:30 PM Village Hall 1666 JFK Causeway.  

Kevin Vericker
March 10, 2020

Friday, February 21, 2020

Everywhere At Once - Communicating and Growing

The Old Way - Say Nothing

I Guess Passing Money Under The Table  To
Is a Form of Communication.  
The last administration took obfuscation and made it an art form. 

I was constantly amazed at their willingness to openly disdain the public requests for information, let alone for any semblance of discussion about important issues. 

Well, of course it turned out they were hiding some pretty nasty stuff so I get it now.

Fun fact though.  Connie Leon Kreps has joined the mayor's Facebook page at #OurNBV and I for one am waiting breathlessly until her first post.  You should join it too.  It's a great resource for North Bay Village.

Now it's not fair to simply compare our current mayor, Brent Latham, to the previous mayor.  That bar is way too low.  What I do want to talk about is how much Latham communicates.

The Mayor Latham Way - Communicate Everything

Typical Scene In  Latham's Office

I've compared Latham (favorably) to atoms that show up in two places at once, which is a real thing that happens and you can read it about it here in Popular Mechanics.

Latham saw very few community events and those that were in place were focused on a theme so he started a Village wide Restaurant of the Month, basically a Happy Hour where anyone in the Village could show up, meet neighbors, see a business and talk to the mayor.

Latham's first big project was the Charette, designed to get as many Villagers into one place to talk about what the Village is and what it realistically can be. #NBV100  is going to form the basis of a coherent strategic plan moving forward. 

Latham has attended as many of the board meetings as he can and made his mobile his constant companion.  He's been featured at meetings on resiliency throughout the region and nationally and even took time to pen an op-ed on the Village efforts in the Sun-Sentinel so when you Google North Bay Village, you see something other than the dire headlines of the past.

Now in the biggest move, he's opened a Facebook Group called #OurNBV so he can directly discuss the plans for the future with a group broader than the usual suspects, the ones who show out up at town meetings.  And by the way, he's taking some heat for it from people who believe government is too complicated for the governed but that's not a core principle with him.

Cool.  So Why Bring This Up?  

We have a Mayor who communicates constantly and acts on new information.  That's a good thing.

We have a new Public Information Officer, Malarie Dauginikas, who has an excellent background in publicity, reporting and social media use.   Her boss, Village Chief of Staff, Mario Diaz, is 100% supportive of getting the information out so we can expect good things there.  I will write about those efforts in a separate post.

Remember though that in our system of government, the mayor is only one among five and for anything to happen, it takes at least three votes from the commission. 

None of the other four, Vice Mayor Wilmoth, Commissioners Strout, Jackson, and the other guy, have made any effort at all to reach out to residents.  This is not great for the residents and it's bad for the commissioners.  They are spoon fed information about the Village and have little first hand knowledge of the issues affecting Villagers or access to the vast amount of institutional and community knowledge their constituents have.

But in the meantime, at long last we have a mayor who talks with us, to us and even sometimes at us and we are much better off for it.

Kevin Vericker
February 23, 2020

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Alright, If They Have To.

At tonight's streamlined commission meeting there was one item of substance.  A completely fake "discussion" about the role the Village might play or might not play in Social Media.

Actually, they were talking about the Facebook page, North Bay Village Residents Speak, and whether or not issues brought up on the Facebook page should be addressed by the Village.  
Our very well paid attorney, Dan Espino of Weiss Serota, who so far has not found the time to brief the commission on the financial risk presented by the Velken case nor to explain what it means to the Village that our public easements have been stolen from us by private property owners,  found time to research an opinion that "oh oh, talking to people can be dangerous so best not to engage."   

Our Deputy Village Manager, Mario Diaz, presented a compromise plan that I worked out with him and managed to speak for 20 minutes without once acknowledging that the only trusted source of information in North Bay Village is the Residents Facebook page or that the plan was worked out with the Facebook administrator - uh humm - ME.  

Our Village Manager, Ralph Rosado, who wouldn't have his freaking job if it wasn't for the combined community efforts of the Facebook page only heard ONE THING - DON'T POST ON NORTH BAY VILLAGE RESIDENTS SPEAK.  

Our commission members, three of whom don't bother to talk to residents in any forum and I am specifically referring to Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth, Commissioner Andreana Jackson and Commissioner Mary Kramer's husband, sat there just staring, while Commissioner Julianna Strout talked about reading the page and reaching out (not  borne out by any activity on her part but whatever...) and our Mayor at least had the grace to acknowledge that the page has been a civic good and that it was damn hard work to keep it going through one of the most corrupt administrations in North Bay Village history but then started complaining that sometimes people bring issues there that belong elsewhere.  Which is precisely the point.  It's the Village Administration's job to get the conversation to the right place.  No different than if someone told them about a problem while on line waiting for coffee.  

Instead of Doing Their Jobs, They Sit Around Worrying About Other People

The fundamental issue here is trust.  The Village has not yet earned the trust of the residents to get the right information at the right time.

They are working on it.  Hard.  And making strides.  

Latham has seemingly been everywhere at once and Rosado has finally started to communicate the successes he has led, but both of them rely on a volunteer force of Facebook moderators and community leaders to get their message out.   And then feel free to dismiss the efforts with no acknowledgment.  

A Little History

The North Bay Village Residents Speak group began 10 years ago when we were being lied to about the developer's plans to put a strip club behind Channel 7.   After that threat went away, I decided to keep it going because there was literally nowhere else to get any information about North Bay Village.  Without any publicity or marketing, it grew to over 2000 members and over the years was the place where it was brought to light that:
  • We didn't have Police Chief or Village Manager because Lewis Velken was working informally as a contractor without any written agreement.  
  • Commissioner Douglas Hornsby was removed illegally from his seat.  
  • Treasure Island Elementary crashed and without the pressure of the Facebook group would either be a D school or shut.  
  • During Hurricane Irma, it was the only source of information in the Village.  
And too many issues to enumerate here.  Just scroll through the posts from 2018.

No wonder that commission hated it.  

Andreana Jackson
Mary's Husband
Andreana Jackson walked away when she decided that it was more personally beneficial to try to please the former mayor than do the right things by the people who supported her.  
Mary Kramer arranged for her husband to be on the commission, where he has done virtually nothing.  NO, PEPE, YOU HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DOWNTOWN EXPRESS.  

Both of these were active collaborators in the mismanagement of North Bay Village.  Read the transcripts and the depositions.  It's no surprise they don't like the information out there.  

But What The Hell Is Wrong With This Administration?  

In a dizzying change from the lies and cover-ups of misdeeds in the last administration, I find myself  fighting for the last year to get out the information about the things that are going right in North Bay Village.  Not what I expected.  

In spite of management's best efforts to keep under wraps the success of our police department, the professionalization of our staff, the long overdue dog park, the free transit WHICH HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH PEPE, the streets finally being mostly done, the excellent work on the hurricane, the airily dismissed North Bay Village Residents Speak  has persisted in getting out the information that for some reason this successful management wants covered up.  

I think our Village Manager, Commission, and Attorney are so deeply ingrained in believing that the people who pay them, the people they serve, are nothing more than bothersome noise, to be managed, not spoken with.  

I'm pretty disgusted.  

Kevin Vericker
February 11, 2020

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Differing Claims in the Velken Matter Could Leave North Bay Village Broke

The Velken matter has been sent to a judge after the Department of Administrative Hearings heard an appeal from our former contractor, Lewis Velken, who worked as both NBV Police Chief then Village Manager, was told his status as a "contractor" rather than an employee was invalid and appeared to be an end run around the FRS rules that prohibits employment in an FRS agency within 6 months.

The Florida Retirement Systems demanded that Velken repay a total amount of $691,307.41 in retirement benefits he collected.  Velken says he doesn't owe it.

There are two "Proposed Judgments" on the website at the DOAH which the judge will have to decide.  To see them yourself, go to the DOAH website and enter Case # 19-002746.  Then select the Dockets Tab.  

Neither side is disputing the baseline facts.  Both proposed judgments agree that:

  • Velken was never an employee of North Bay Village.  He was paid through Stephanie Leon PA, a lifelong friend, who set up a business specifically to "lease" employees.   
  • Velken and the Village Human Resource Manager at the time were told by the FRS that there was no way around the 6 month requirement.  (Note:  Velken claims that the information provided by the FRS was inaccurate.)  
  • There was never a written contract with the staffing agency and the Village and there was never a commission resolution agreeing to this situation.   
And from the witness transcripts in the hearing, there were three different figures listed as compensation - Velken believed it was $132,000 per year, then Village Manager Marlen Martell thought it was $110,000 per year and Stephanie Leon thought it was $133,000 per year.   This is mentioned in the FRS Proposed judgment and refers to the transcripts.  

Velken's Proposed Judgment further states that Village Attorney Norman C. Powell was consulted on the arrangement and according to the transcript of the testimony, said he saw no problem with the arrangement.  

Powell denied any knowledge of the arrangement at all in the Miami Herald article  calling it a "complete fabrication". But Velken's attorneys seem pretty confident that Powell approved the arrangement.  

Both sides have presented their view and it's now up to a judge to decide.   

It's hard to know what the judge will decide but in my opinion, the absence of a written contract is a big red flag.  

And Florida law states that if an attempt to defraud the FRS is found then "The employee and the re-employing FRS agency will be jointly and severally liable for reimbursing any retirement benefits paid to the employee. §121.091(9)(c)3, Fla.Stat. (2019)."

This means that the Village could face penalties as well if the judge decides against Velken, and Velken has already sent a letter to the Village stating his intention to sue if he is forced to repay the money.  

But Before We Go:

The question must be asked.  

How did a 20 plus year police veteran, a village manager, an HR manager, and a former mayor all of whom have admitted they knew about the arrangement and who presumably knew that there was never a resolution brought to the commission or any written contract, decide to let this happen?   

And while he denies initial knowledge, why did our former Village Attorney Norman C. Powell, who definitely knew by September of 2018,  never bring it to the commission?  

My opinion is that that thought they would get away with it.  

And they almost did.   If it hadn't been for social media and this blog, the whole thing would have never seen the light of day.    

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I have been the object of hard attempts to shut me up (Powell is "suing" me and the former mayor threatened to) and soft attempts to stop information flowing (the Village refusal to engage with citizens.)

If it hadn't been for this blog, we'd never have known.  That's why I write it.  

I'll keep you informed as soon as there is definite ruling.  

In the Meantime, Here Are My Highlights From the Proposed Judgments

From the DOAH Proposed Judgment:

54. According to Mr. Velken, the salary negotiated was $132,000.00. Tr. 438. 55. According to Ms. Martell, the negotiated salary for Mr. Velken was $110,000.00. Tr. 190. 56. According to Ms. Leon, the negotiated salary for Mr. Velken was $130,000.00 annually. Tr. 139.

From the Velken Proposed Judgment:

32. Ms. Martell then took Mr. Velken upstairs to discuss the contracted employee arrangement with the Village Attorney, Norman Powell. (T-2-185, 186, 189; T-4-432, 469) It was Mr. Velken’s understanding that as the Village Attorney, Mr. Powell had the final say as to whether such an arrangement would be appropriate. (T-4-433, 469) Mr. Powell said that he did not see anything wrong with the arrangement and that he would research it and let them know if he found out anything to the contrary. (T-4-433) 33. Ms. Martell advised Mr. Velken that Mr. Powell told her that everything was okay to proceed. (T-4-434) NBV has contracted with other agencies for individuals to provide services in other high ranking Village positions such as the Director of the Planning Department, the Village Engineer and Public Works Director. (T-2-200; T-3-345) 

Mr. Wrains discussed the Agreement with Village Attorney Norman Powell, who had approved this arrangement, as well as had Ms. Martell. (T-3-355, 382)

Kevin Vericker
January 25, 2020

Thursday, January 9, 2020

It Could All Go Off Course

Last entry, I posted about the relative good shape the Village is in as the world enters the 2020's. 

But no one can afford to pretend it's all blue skies from here on in.

Yes.  The commission is no longer a dysfunctional circus acting out dramas of little interest to real people and the employees are actual employees rather than contractors, but the last administration has left a number of land mines that could derail the recovery.

The most visible ones are the two useless commissioners, who aided and abetted in every piece of the destructive insanity throughout 2018.   Neither one contributes to the commission or the village and 2020 should see a goodbye to them.
Commissioner Jose Alvarez

Commissioner Andreana Jackson
(No I don't know what she's doing)

But there are less obvious and far riskier issues yet to be resolved.  And of course a crazy one.  Let's start with that.

People Are Supposed To Give Back Government Property.  

It seems that one or two former electeds and a former charter officer failed to return taxpayer owned property when the taxpayers decided that their services were no longer needed.   
Reports are that these include village phones, at least one village computer, a whole server's worth of data, id cards and for some reason, badges.    The Village has been trying to recover these for some time (since November 2019 at least) and so far have been ignored.   So there's an item on the commission agenda next week to compel the Village to take action and explain that these were not lovely parting gifts.    

Hornsby Lawsuit Awaiting Settlement Following Finding.

The 11th Judicial Court of Florida found last July that Douglas Hornsby had been removed illegally from the dais.  Now the Village is entering into mediation with Hornsby as there are considerable legal bills, above and beyond what the Village spent in this ill begotten move, and other damages. The amount could be huge.    

It's my view that Jackson and Alvarez, both of whom voted for the removal of Hornsby, and who should have known that the process being used would never stand up in court, should recuse themselves.  After all, they weren't part of the problem, they were the problem.   

Who's To Blame For Lewis Velken?

On March 6, 2019, the Florida Retirement System notified former North Bay Village Police Chief Lewis Velken (and interim manager) that he had violated the FRS rules with his arrangement to be paid through a third party.   Velken was ordered to pay back $691,307 dollars and his ongoing benefits were reduced or eliminated.   Velken is currently appealing the ruling stating that his arrangement did not violate FRS rules.   It's Case No: 19-002746 and the details can be found here.  

Velken asserted that he was legitimately working for a contractor in his response and not in violation of the rules.   

There's no clear view of how this works out but Velken's attorneys have reportedly already put the Village on notice that Velken might sue in the event of an unfavorable decision.   

Given the uncertainty, the Village Manager at the time said under oath that the arrangement was made by then Village Attorney Norman Powell, who in turn was quoted in the Miami Herald saying "“That’s a complete fabrication,” Powell said.  Now both of these people are gone but if the Village is sued and loses, the taxpayers are on the hook for a large amount, which could include the $691,307 DROP, lost pension benefits and legal fees.   

It's pretty urgent that the Village form a strategy now if they are to defend against this.   

You Can't Just Ignore Things.

There's still a lot of cleanup left over from the reign of lunacy that preceded 2019.   

Two of the above are financial threats but there are other toxic spills that need to be addressed by the commission, and solely by the commission.  

  • There were a series of useless and in some cases destructive Charter amendments put on the 2018 ballot.  In particular, a Citizens Bill of Rights mirroring the County Charter, that does not contain any agreed up investigation or enforcement methods, a nepotism amendment that does not define "affinity" and makes no sense, a series of amendments to hobble the village administrator, and others. 
  • Through most of 2018, Zoning hearings were not held as "quasi-judicial" as required by Florida procedure and it is possible that the decisions made during these are not enforceable.
  • Regardless of how the Velken pension turns out, there remain legal questions raised by the FOP as to police actions taken while he was acting as police chief and if he was able to sign contracts as Village Manager.  These need to be made clear.  

2019 Was A Good Year

It started out contentiously with the old guard protecting their positions and that took a lot of energy.  Jackson and Alvarez are not productive.  The new administration got ahead of itself sometimes but overall, a good year, not just in contrast to the previous year but by any measure.  

The holidays are over.  The Commission will be back next week and it's time for a plan to finish the job they started.   

Kevin Vericker
January 9, 2020

Monday, January 6, 2020

New Year New Village

2019 was a year of great change for North Bay Village.  The new administration took the reins and after a bumpy start, were able to begin governing.

Once we were rid of the former village manager Lewis Velken and attorney Norman Powell, the mayor and the two useful members of the dais were able to work with the new village manager Ralph Rosado and bring some semblance of sanity back to Village, culminating in my view with the reinstatement of Carlos Noriega as our police chief.

It hasn't been easy and our commissioners, unlike Mayor Brent Latham, are way too disengaged.  (special opinion note:  Jackson and Alvarez should stay as disengaged as they can.  They ran this village unto the shoals and have been no help in fixing the course.)   Still, we seem to be having normal disagreements and normal process discussions.

On the plus side, the major accomplishments:

  • We have a transit system that makes sense.  The new FreeBee and the introduction of the Downtown Express are great boons for North Bay Village.  
  • Our kids, regardless of where they attend schools, are now part of the Miami Beach PAL.
  • We are getting a dog park.  
  • The Village is active on social media, although a little more towards publicity rather than news, still it's a great start.   
  • We  have a professional administration that actually responds and when they get it wrong, fixes it.  You know, like normal people.  
  • We have a strategic plan for development.  

Let's just take a look at some of the headlines for 2019!

The news is good.  The possibilities are good.  The course is getting there.

So here's to 2020!

Kevin Vericker
January 6, 2020

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

December 2019 Commission Meeting

Remember when our commission meetings routinely ran until midnight or later with nothing accomplished? 

Sure you do.  It was just last year in 2018. 

Well, those days seem to be over and while the commission meetings are less dramatically entertaining, they are more effective. 

Highlights From Last Night In No Particular Order

7904 West Drive The Problem Child of Harbor Island is growing up and settling down.   

"Breaking a jam - Moira River drive". Men with poles breaking up a log jam. (3656262577)
Breaking the Logjam
Going through the history of this benighted building is like unraveling a divorce, complicated and not that constructive, so I'll give you the short view.  

For over a decade, a dispute about parking has caused enormous repercussions.  Year after year, the owners lost value as the argument between the parking lot landlord and the building association dragged on.   Every Village effort to help seemed to make it worse.  

Last night was a breakthrough.  The solution for parking, a result of hard work and a willingness to compromise was brought forth and passed. 

It's far from perfect and will need a lot of ongoing work but the combination of a professional legal staff, a professional village management staff, a willing commission unswayed by nihilistic lobbyists and an owner's association willing to work with the village broke the logjam and now the building and the Village can move forward.

The Commission Fixes The Boards

Handyman photos Fix Barber Wilson diverter valve 22
Not These Boards
The Boards are still emerging.  In a nutshell, the purpose of the boards is to advise the commission on issues and policies throughout the Village.  They expand the ability of the commission to study issues in detail and take advantage of volunteer citizen expertise by appointing members of the community to the advisory boards. 

Under the previous administration, the Boards like everything else were just wastes of time masquerading as civic engagement.  Their recommendations were routinely ignored and under the ragged commission had no real purpose.   In fact, the previous mayor supported by the faux commissioners went so far as to defend appointing a now convicted fraudster to several boards for reasons. 

Last night, there was an Omnibus Ordinance to fix the boards.  It regularizes the terms and legal status of the boards and changes the way boards are formed.  It's a simple professional fix that a messy previous administration could not even conceive of. 

In fact, the changes were so obvious that the three useful commissioners on the dais, Latham, Strout and Wilmoth, seemed to have hard time understanding how the chaotic situation got there in the first place.  Fixing it was an easy decision.

But there were two points of disagreement with the proposed ordinance:

  1. The Ordinance would have changed the  way board members are selected from a consensus vote to a single appointment per commissioner.   The Commission wisely decided to not change the selection process as the current one seems to be working well and let's face it, there are 7 boards and it's hard to imagine that the two useless members even know 7 people.   The Ordinance was amended to maintain the current process. 
  2. The Ordinance would also have restricted a citizen from belonging to more than one board.  The commission had issues with this since there are two good sides to the argument. 

    On one side, you don't want to exclude eager citizen volunteers from contributing but on the other, it tends to narrow the view and availability of candidates.   
In the end, they voted to restrict the number of boards one person can be appointed to unless they are unable to fill a subsequent vacancy after 90 days.   It felt a little clumsy to me and might need to be changed but it's the right spirit.

Quick opinion:  I loved this process.  Many of the current board members disagreed with the proposal to change the appointment mechanism while the Village Manager strongly supported it, both for good reasons.   The commission clearly listened to each viewpoint, made a decision on what they believe is right for the Village and themselves and moved forward.   If in the future it turns out there was a better approach, it can be changed.  This is such a refreshing change from the insanity of the previous commission with their "Win the Battle, Lose the War" insanity.

The Commission Listens

In a move nobody remembers making, the commission changed the rules on the public speaking during the badly named "Open Forum", previously much more eloquently called "Good And Welfare".   For some reason it was changed to 2 minutes.  

For years, the public was allowed to speak on subjects not on the agenda as a way to call the commission's attention to issues that matter to the resident.   And they had 3 minutes. 

Now under the previous mayor, this was a time when she would pointedly and rudely ignore the constituent while scribbling imaginary notes.  In fact, it got so bad that she was cutting off residents who were bringing their concerns forward because she found it annoying. 

Now the Good And Welfare presentations range from concise and useful, through rambling and unfocused, and occasionally just weird, but they are an integral part of our North Bay Village process and a time that matters.  That other cities have stricter or shorter requirements reflects badly on them, not us. 

Last night the commission restored the 3 minute time frame.   This was a good move.

Financial Resilience

An emerging term in government finance is "Financial Resiliency" and the Vice Chair of the Budget Oversight Board, James Rosenberg, who is retired from a long and distinguished career in government finance and audit, discussed the concept with the commission, highlighting several concerns about the Village budgeting process and the need for outcome/performance measures, along with a misunderstanding about the need to borrow money to finance the street repavement.  

As usually happens with a complex professional opinion, there is a lot of time required and making observations as bullet points does not serve well.   This stuff is hard to understand.  

The commission listened carefully, sometimes not quite getting it, other times disagreeing, and other times calling for more information.  The upshot is that the commission has asked the board and the administration to study this more closely and bring back their recommendations.   

It matters.  We don't know what the future holds and we have to have an agile plan in place.  It seems like there is one but if the commission doesn't understand how, they cannot move as needed.   

Equal Rights Extended To Contractors

Related imageI should call this one "Promises Kept."  Many people find it surprising that Florida still allows an employer to fire or not hire someone simply because they are LGBT.   And there is no federal protection.  And it happens.  

Last year, Mayoral Candidate (now mayor) Brent Latham made a promise that he would bring legislation to require North Bay Village contractors to explicitly adhere to the North Bay Village Charter protections as laid out in Section 9.03 of our Charter.  

Last night, he delivered and the commission unanimously voted to approve this measure.   

So simple yet the previous mayor, while taking money and support from now discredited SAVE director, Tony Lima, would not consider any such legislation.  Further, our previous Village Attorney, Norman Powell, did not include this in his proposed contract in February of 2018.   It matters to North Bay Village and I'm glad it matters to our commission.   

Brian Scott Oppenheim - March 2, 1953 September 14, 2019

The commission, led by the police department, honored the late Brian Oppenheim for his consistent and generous philanthropy on behalf of North Bay Village kids.  His mother accepted the posthumous honor.  A woman of 97 who had suffered the most unnatural grief in the world of losing a child was there to graciously accept the honor.   It was a proud moment for all.  

And this seems like a good place to stop.  

Happy Holidays One and All!

Kevin Vericker
December 10, 2019