Sunday, February 21, 2021

Woman of the Year 2021 North Bay Village Style

 

Sissy Shute & Dr. Doug Hornsby (spouse)

Two years ago, in March of 2019, North Bay Village for the first time made a point of honoring the unique and often overlooked accomplishments of North Bay Village Women.  I wrote about it at the time here.  It was an exciting moment and in line with North Bay Village's history of progressive inclusion.  

At the time, I wrote of something that surprised me.  Excluded from the women honored was Sissy Shute.  

Sissy Shute has played an outsized role in our community.  

She has dedicated her efforts to community improvement in her neighborhood (North Bay Island), in the Village at large and here in Miami Dade County.   

Her personal efforts and willingness to help one on one alone would be worth recognizing.  One big one that stands out to me is her tireless promotions of food distribution efforts by David Richardson, the Miami Beach commissioner.  This has been a tough year for all and many people facing "food insecurity" meaning that buying food means other essentials like rent and transportation suffer are reluctant to come forward.  Sissy's enthusiastic involvement in this effort has put food on the table of North Bay Villagers who might otherwise not have had access to food for themselves and their family.     

Nevertheless, her contributions have gone well beyond this informal effort.  

  • Sissy founded and keeps the North Bay Island Crime Watch going and is now leading the expansioni the program throughout the Village.  She herself paid for the cameras at the NBI Gate House.  
  • Sissy has led the beautification efforts through the North Bay Island Garden Club.  
  • Sissy has been a tireless advocate for the Optimist Club programs to support North Bay Village youth programs.  
  • On a much larger scale, her involvement in getting clean government in North Bay Village has been critical.   Sissy's political activities have included epic parties at her house to invite the entire Village to meet and get to know our current mayor, Brent Latham, and Commissioner Julianna Strout during their campaigns, as well as bringing former Congresswoman Donna Shalala to North Bay Village among others.   Sissy took a lot of heat for her efforts to get a clean dais but persevered.  We all benefited.  

An Award Shows What We Value

This March, the Commission will be honoring those women who have made significant contributions to North Bay Village's civic life.  Each commissioner can put for the names of those who will be honored.  Mayor Brent Latham has nominated Sissy Shute for her consistent and valuable service to North Bay Village. Latham has also nominated several other notable women.  
Honoring Sissy Shute is not just a nice thing to do.  The honor would be well deserved for her of course.  For our community, it will make a strong statement that constructive resident involvement and the often unsung efforts to help those most in need are both our values and our aspiration.  
The Commission this year should correct the oversight made in 2019 and put front and center our most involved resident, Sissy Shute.

Kevin Vericker
February 21, 2021




Friday, February 12, 2021

The Revolution Is Dull

 

On Tuesday night, Feb 9, 2021, the radical change from the dysfunctional North Bay Village Crazy™ to a commission led by adults and focused on what's best for North Bay Village finally made it into code.  After ~2 years of hard work, the commission and the administration brought the design for the Island Walk, the update to the Causeway zoning, the Seawall design and the Green Code to a vote, with all of them passing.   

To see the excellent recap of the meeting, click here

The commission led by Mayor Brent Latham and supported fully by Commissioners Wilmoth, Streitfeld and Chervony, evaluated the painstaking work done by the community and moved the items ahead.   

They did this knowing the plan is not perfect, knowing that there will be changes needed in response to new situations, knowing that there will be unintended consequences that must be addressed.  But it turns out that when you do the hard work and you understand the process, you can manage the implications.  

What Was Revolutionary About That?  


It is after all what they are supposed to do.   But think about it.  In the last 10 years, our Causeway has become urban blight as the previous commission ignored the problem and continued to grant variances solely to make it more profitable to flip a property than to build on it.  
The remnants of the lunatic mob that ran our commission continue to whine and complain, anonymously of course because they have no courage.  that somehow North Bay Village loses when it's not a profit center for nonproductive uses.  
The Ordinances themselves were not the sole result of staff and commission.  We currently have almost 40 North Bay Villagers actively serving on boards and reviewing the many dimensions of the legislation that passed.   Nearly 100 residents participated in the #NBV100 planning sessions and continue to bring their viewpoints to the table.   
The wants of the community - more parks, better retail, access to the bay, resiliency - have all been incorporated and developers have a clear path to a profit without destroying our village.  
But that's not the revolution.  That's a reform.   

The Real Revolution Is Trust


I claim no special expertise in planning, zoning, resiliency or finance.  There are smarter people than me in these fields and the Village has sought them out.   
I do however have a pretty good handle on what residents are thinking and saying.  
For the first time in a decade, I am hearing from residents who actually trust our commission to do their best for the Village.  That includes residents who disagree with parts of or even the whole plan.  For the first time since 2010, residents are able to get a full picture of what's being discussed and why.   
This is radically different and most members of the dais deserve credit for their transparency, specifically Vice Mayor Wilmoth, Commissioner Chervony and Commissioner Streitfeld, but the leadership in transparency has been Mayor Brent Latham.   Even if it's green and ugly, Latham has put it out on the agenda so everybody knows what they need to know.   The public and his colleagues are better informed than at any time I remember in North Bay Village.  

It's Perfect Then?  We Can Stop Looking?


Nah, wish we could.   
Even at Tuesday's meeting, the nasty little people were poking.  In a professional misjudgment, our clerk read into the record an anonymous troll throwing feces at the mayor.   It was signed "North Bay Island Residents" but was sent from Romania so there's that.  
Anonymous postings have no place in any conversation, least of all in public meetings, but they do illustrate the dark side of what people are saying.  I hope going forward North Bay Village will comply with its previous meeting requirements and those of all our peer cities and only allow comments that have a name and a contact.  
There will be needed changes.  I want to see more emphasis on walkability than I am seeing while others feel that the look of the buildings is more important (I have no taste at all) while others are more concerned about traffic impact.   These conversation can and will happen.  
For right now, let's all appreciate that after all we've been through we can trust our government.  
That's the revolution.  

Kevin Vericker
February 12, 2021



Friday, November 20, 2020

Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth and The Quiet Power of Resiliency

 

The biggest permanent challenge to continuing life on two fragile islands in the middle of Biscayne Bay is resiliency in all its aspects.  

North Bay Village has to repair and replace its infrastructure.  New buildings and homes have to be built for the long haul and older ones hardened against an increasingly unstable climate.  North Bay Village has to stop our contributions of poisonous runoffs to the Bay and our residents need to learn to live with the changes that are happening now from King Tides to more and stronger storms.  

Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth has been quietly and methodically working with the North Bay Village Resiliency Task Force to do just that.  The Resliency Task force is headed by a local resident who is also an experienced UN treaty negotiator, and Wilmoth is the political face and advocate for the money and expertise that North Bay Village efforts will require.  

North Bay Village can't fix our local problems alone.   

We are actually very fortunate with our elected representatives.   

Mayor Brent Latham is seemingly everywhere with constituent services and ceaselessly promoting North Bay Village in the South Florida landscape, while Commissioner Julianna Strout has done a terrific job of bringing services and events to our often overlooked city.  Both of these are outsized, extroverted personalities who are able to use logic, benefit and personal charisma to show why North Bay Village is worth the investment and attention and they both get results.  

Vice Mayor Wilmoth is a different sort of influencer.  His many accomplishments don't lend themselves to press releases or short posts  Wilmoth is more of quiet servant mentality who lets his work speak for itself.  

The work Wilmoth has done with external organizations such as the Florida Inland Navigation District,  the Waterfront Access Project has brought benefit to North Bay Village. The Florida Friendly Fertilizer and the Single Plastic ordinances he promoted have been effective in both the short term and laying the foundations for the future.  This work has brought us grants for resiliency improvements and needed expertise from county and state government agencies, while balancing personal property decisions with needed development. 

I hope when the commission meets on Monday, they will keep Marvin Wilmoth as Vice Mayor.  The title matters.   It adds substance and prestige to the work Wilmoth is doing and brings the effective weight of the office to serious conversations.   

Having the Vice Mayor as the voice of resiliency shows that North Bay Village is serious about our biggest challenge of adapting to a new climate.  

We are so much better off than we were two years ago and now is the time to build on that especially with the addition of the experienced Commissioner Chervony and the bright young environmental lawyer Commission Streitfeld to an already powerhouse commission.   

It's an exciting time for North Bay Village.  The Commission has unprecedented opportunities to lead our city through the current crisis and into success.  I'm pretty confident they won't blow it by treating the office of Vice Mayor as an honorary trophy to be passed around and will retain the first Vice Mayor I remember who knows how to leverage the office for the good of the Village.   It does matter.  


Kevin Vericker

November 20, 2020

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Florida Man Amendments

 

UPDATED on October 19, 2020 - Usually, I keep this blog focused solely on North Bay Village but I am reliably informed by my license plate that we also live in a state called "Florida", a Spanish word meaning "Coño, why are there so many bugs?" Florida of course is still famous for holding elections a lot and then not figuring out how to count the votes.  

One of the many amusing aspects of "Florida" elections is that each time around, some of the voters get to decide constitutional changes in a section of the ballot called "What The Hell Does This Mean."  
Most voters simply check yes and move along.  
Well since this is 2020 and I have also heard there is an election maybe coming up in November, I thought I might weigh in on this year's crop because it's 2020.  

Here's the summary.   

Vote Yes on 2 & 3 Then Walk Away.  


Before you go any further, read them at this link.   BallotPedia.  

I'll cut and paste here:

Amendment 1 - States in the state Constitution that only U.S. citizens who are 18 years old or older can vote in federal, state, local, or school elections.
My Analysis:  This is some gaslighting bullshit.  The Constitution currently states that "every US citizen who is 18 years old or older can vote" and this changes Every to Only.   It's here as a racist propaganda piece tagline to create the impression that non-citizens are allowed to vote currently which is not true.  Dead citizens can vote and live citizens are prevented from voting but non-citizens cannot.  
Chance it will pass:  100%  It's racist, insulting and xenophobic or as we call it in "Florida", a crowd pleaser.  

Amendment 2 - Raises the minimum wage in Florida to $15 over 6 years. 
My Analysis:  Who the hell can live on less that $15 per hour?  Of course we should do what our state leggers have not had the courage to do.   
Chance it will pass:  51% and even it does, the legislature will find ways to derail it like they did High Speed Rail and restoring voting rights for people who completed their sentences.   

Amendment 3 - Establishes a top-two open primary system for state office primary elections. 
My Analysis:  I dislike government involvement in party primaries.  If you are a Democrat, Republican, Green Party, Libertarian or other, it should not be the government's responsibility to take charge of your nominating process.  
Still this reform would open the primaries to independents, who are paying for the primary, and put the top two vote getters, regardless of party, on the ballot.   It's the case in California and it's working pretty well  It's also nearly true in the "non-partisan" Miami Dade elections and we always seem to wind up with a good candidate and Esteban Bovo, so we should do it.  
Chances it will pass:  100%  Chances that the Governor will prevent its implementation:  100%

Amendment 4 - Requires voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second general election.
My Analysis:  Florida Power and Light, and several other large snowflake companies feel victimized by the amendment process, and want to take the current system which requires a 60% majority and force all amendments to be voted on again so if their interests are not protected, they can figure out new ways to subvert the process.  
Chances it will pass:  40%  But since it is confusing as hell, and voters are not that bright, maybe 90%

Amendment 5 - Increases the period during which a person may transfer "Save Our Homes" benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years
My Analysis - Our legislature has one damn job - pass the budget and fund the state.  They do this through taxes.  It's their job and they can easily do a little bit of work and come up with changes to the tax code.  If we have to do their job for them, we should all get $15 per hour.  
Chances it will pass:  100% because it's taxes.  

Amendment 6 - Allows a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran
My Analysis:  Please!  Do we have to do everything ourselves around here?  What do our state electeds even do?
Of course the additional disabled veterans surviving spouse should get the additional Homestead benefit.  I'm not a monster.  But our legislators are and have not taken action on this because they are a Republican led legislature so they hate veterans.  
Chances it will pass:  Depends entirely on the Republican turnout in this election.  It Republican turnout is high, it will fail like everything else they do.   

Next Up:  Rest of the Ballot


Ballot Question or Candidate

My Reasoning

Miami Dade Clerk of the Courts

Harvey Ruvin - He’s been there since 1992 and is a  former North Bay Village Mayor,  His experience and steadiness show very well and he keeps things nonpartisan and professional   The Adult in the Room.  

School Board

Russ Rywell and Lucia Baez-Geller.  I honestly don’t have a strong recommendation.  I find both of them competent, engaging and strong.   I do like  Rywell for his knowledge of the community relationship with TIES and I do like Baez-Geller for her knowledge of student needs.   

Supreme Court Retention Carlos Muñiz

NO - he’s a complete toady.  Appointed by Pam Bondi, he’s a reliable obstructionist who has tried to block medical marijuana, supported voting restrictions, voted to fund religious schools and he’s weird looking.

Court of Appeals Monica Gordo

NO DeSantis appointee who somehow manages to miss that the Everglades should not be drained.  

Court of Appeal Eric William Hendon

YES  Scott appointee who is a reliable vote on housing issues for mixed use economic developments

Court of Appeals FLEUR JEANNINE LOBREE

NO DeSantis appointee who consistently votes against holding police accountable.

Court of Appeals Thomas Logue

NO Scott appointee.  He is not bad but he is too process oriented for my taste.  

Court of Appeals Bronwyn Catherine Miller

NO Another Scott appointee who served as part of the State Attorney’s office and showed a remarkable hesitancy to prosecute corruprtion  (In fairness to her, Kathy Fernandez Rundle, the State Attorney, never actively prosecutes corruption, so she was just following orders, I guess.  And her name is cool)


All Three County Amendment

YES - they are simple clarifications of existing language in the Charter

  

Kevin Vericker
October 7, 2020 


Thursday, October 1, 2020

North Bay Village Community Policing

 

There's a lot in the news nationally about "Defunding The Police."  

Like so much in these contentious times, the slogan misses the mark.  The actual discussion to have is are the police focused on the right programs and actions in addition to enforcement.  Do the police improve the community relations?  Are they going beyond enforcement and actively engaging in prevention?  Does the community trust them?  

In North Bay Village, we've seen both sides of that coin and come out on the better side.  

History Time

In the last decade, the North Bay Village police were warned not to engage with the residents and had significant consequences for them if they did.  Crime went up, residents lost information they needed to keep themselves safe, and it was a major contribution to the decline of North Bay Village.  

In 2017, when our new chief Carlos Noriega came on, he moved the needle on that.  He got the officers back on the street, supported Crime Watch, got our kids in PAL at Miami Beach and consistently seeks out opportunities to improve the relations in the community.  Hell, I joined him in a Critical Mass ride through the Village!  


It Pays Off

Last week there was an issue with stolen bicycles, not a major crime in its own right but important to the owners of the bikes and to the atmosphere of our Village.   

The police decided to get active on the issue.   They contacted the building, met with the management of the building, were handing out fliers to the residents with the Be On The Lookout shown here on the right, and were assessing the vulnerabilities in the building with an eye towards making it safer.  

All great things.   

Then this happened.  The suspect in the thefts decided to return to the site.  And our cops were right there.  And he got arrested.  

Now all of this might seem like small potatoes and dumb luck and maybe the second part is true - it was dumb to return to where you were jacking bikes - but it's not.  

It shows a police force that is consistent and involved in the life of the Village.  This is not an occupying enforcement agency.   It is a true public safety force.   

It's no secret that the bulk of our budget goes to the police and that can and should be questioned and justified.   We ask a lot of our police, they deliver and that costs real money but our police force is one of the best reasons to live here.  They are part of us.  

Kevin Vericker
October 1, 2020

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Powell Is El Portal's Opportunity Now

A Unique Lawyer
Norman Powell, former North Bay Village municipal attorney, has brought his special brand of municipal lawyering to El Portal where he is up for permanent installation as their Village Attorney after a year or so of interim lawyering.  Powell is of course unequaled in his skills as a municipal attorney as a result of his many weeks of experience in the field of municipal lawyering and has shown many ethics.  
Blogger Stephanie Kienzle, who like me is being sued by former North Bay Village attorney Norman C. Powell, writes about the latest employment seeking situation at our sister village El Portal. 

Like in North Bay Village, how Powell came to be interim attorney is all very murky and lost in the annals of time.  Just a happenstance, perhaps a chance encounter at a club, perchance a glance across a crowded party bus, and jobs just fall into his lap because Powell, he's that good.  

In El Portal's case, their commission have talked about this many times.  Like former Commissioner Andreana Jackson of North Bay Village, the commissioners of El Portal have looked deep into Norman's extraordinary resume and have been tempted, deeply tempted, to just say "The hell with any RFP's.  Let's just hire the man before he gets away."  but because of the crippling fear of bloggers the Village of El Portal tonight may decide to go out to bid.   

Which might not be good for Norman Powell, whose unique legal theories benefited so many here in North Bay Village.  Lewis Velken, Andreana Jackson, Marlen Martell and others come to mind.  

You see, in the RFQ, the Village of El Portal requires the successful candidate to have 7 long years of experience in the field which is a really long time.  
The candidate must be licensed to practice law in the State of Florida, with a minimum of 7 years’ experience in the practice of municipal law, with increasing levels of responsibility. It is preferable for the candidate to also be a member of a U.S. District Court within the State of Florida. 
Yet less than 3 years ago, Norman C. Powell was explaining to recently installed commissioner Laura Cattabriga that he needed a big severance package built into his contract because municipal lawyering was a new business for him.  

So if they vote Yes for the RFQ, Norman might have a big problem.  But more importantly, El Portal would miss out on the excitement and fun that Norman Powell brought to North Bay Village.  

I hope they vote No and forego the requirement for 7 years experience.   

North Bay Village is dull since Mayor Brent Latham drove poor Norman away (physically attacked him according to Commissioner Andreana Jackson.)  Since Norman left, we haven't had 

  1. A Village Police Chief / Manager who really didn't work for us at all.  
  2. Employees collecting over a $127,000 in compensation when they leave within 4 months.  
  3. Lawsuits by legal departments against citizens.  
  4. Nasty headlines in the press (except for Andreana Jackson last week.)  
  5. Our attorney is very boring and probably never gets caught bringing a gun on to a plane.  

In fact, it's kind of Dullsville around North Bay Village.  Covid, bridge failures, employees employed, boring meetings, arguments over dog parks, hardly anyone arrested.  

I urge El Portal to take a look at how much interesting life is with Norman C. Powell as your attorney.  Exciting FEMA investigations, invigorating meetings, Harold Mathis!  Don't be chumps.  Go for the fun.   

Kevin Vericker
July 28, 2020







Monday, July 27, 2020

Rachel Streitfeld - This Is What Class Looks Like

Rachel Streitfeld
Today, the Commission held a short special meeting about how to deal with the vacancy created by former commissioner Andreana Jackson's removal following her guilty pleas to Extortion and Abuse of Influence. 

The Commission could have appointed an immediate replacement or called for a Special Election to replace the Commissioner from Treasure Island. 

They chose, rightly in my view, to postpone any action until August 20, which is the last day for candidates to qualify. 

Right now, today, there is only one candidate for the seat from Treasure Island.  Rachel Streitfeld, an experienced environmental lawyer and a strong presence in our community, filed last week to be on the ballot for November 3, 2020.  If there is no other candidate by August 20, her election is automatic. 

Streitfeld really wants to be a commissioner.  She's bright, involved, hard working, energetic and filled with ideas about how to move North Bay Village forward and deal with our unique environmental challenges. 

I want her to be commissioner.  We need her at the right time. 

If you need any proof of why she's a great choice, look no further than her comments to the commission this morning: 

 ...this election should represent a clean slate – a new day for North Bay Village – and I want it to be as fair and proper as it possibly can be without even the slightest hint of impropriety. I do not want to be tied to the story of the embarrassing and shameful headlines that we saw last week. Our village is so much better than last week’s headlines. I want to be part of our future, not our past. So, regarding the appointment on your agenda today, I encourage you not to pre-empt the election. 

Think about that. 

Streitfeld could have spent her time politicking and manipulating to be appointed today.  An appointment would have set her up with an incumbent's advantage if she does draw an opponent, making a win in November much easier, or might have scared off a potential challenger, leaving the commission itself with questions of legitimacy.   Like our previous commission. 

Streitfeld didn't do that.  She's ready to earn the position and I look forward to seeing her on the dais at the right time. 

Kevin Vericker
July 27, 2020