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

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Fixing The Boards

Special Note:  The Commission Meeting For December 2019 is Monday, Dec 9, not Tuesday.  

The Commission will be in Tallahassee next week and so have moved the meeting from its usual Tuesday spot to Monday night. 

The agenda is relatively light with one big bill on the agenda - an omnibus ordinance to reshape the boards.   It's a needed reform.  The Boards have over the years been created and changed numerous times and some of the simplest structural issues have gotten out of whack.   You can read the ordinance here.

Buried on Page 17 is this (bolded emphasis mine):

Sec. 32-15. Appointments, Vacancies, and Resignations. 
Each member of the Commission, inclusive of the Mayor, shall be authorized to appoint one member to each advisory board. The appointment shall be made by transmitting a written authorization to the Village Clerk. The appointment shall be announced at thenext available Commission meeting, either the by the appointing Member of the Commission or the Village Clerk. Where an advisory board has more than five members, each member of the Commission shall be authorized to appoint one member and the remaining members shall be appointed a majority of the City Council at a regular Commission meeting. 
This is a huge problem.

It is a profound change from the way it is done now where an interested member of the public submits an application and the application is considered by the full commission and the appointment made by majority vote.    This works and it works well.  There is no need to change it and the only justification being offered is that "other cities do it."   And it's true, they do and it does not work for the benefit of the public or the commission.

Citizen Example:  Under the new scenario, if two residents had particular expertise in say business development, one knowing well how to attract desired chain stores to the Village while the other specializes in startup and small business incubation, each would have to figure out which elected official they needed to approach, make their case, and hope  they got the right commissioner.

If a commissioner sees the need for diverse viewpoints and knows both candidates, she is constrained by Sunshine from proposing that another commissioner appoint the candidate. 

We are a small community and this will not work for us.   It should not be the duty of a citizen - contributor to engage in politicking in order to serve on a board.  Our current system allows for this.   The change will not.  

Commission Example:  Unless a commissioner is able to choose from a pool of qualified applicants, their appointment will be entirely informed by their personal experience.  They may never hear of the startup specialist or the particular finance disciplines out there.   And commissioners are a part time job.  Will they really have the breadth to find expertise they need in all the areas? 

Second Commission Example:  This opens the boards from their advisory role to being a proxy fight.   We've seen it.  In 2016, one of our two still functioning boards was the Community Enhancement Board.   In mid 2016, it became the battleground for then mayor Kreps' fight to fire Village Manager Frank Rollason and not only did the board stop functioning, the fights carried over to the commission dais.   It was a disaster and it was because it was packed with appointees whose only interest was loyalty.   As a commission, is that what you want?

So Why Was This Even Proposed?  

The Village Manager is making the proposal.  Dr. Ralph Rosado has been working very hard to professionalize the Village after the last 8 years of chaos and this move, to make North Bay Village more like other cities, is on paper a good idea.   

As an old academic joke has it "That works very well in practice, but how does it work out in theory?"  

Believe me, it's always a slide splitter of a joke at meetings of statistical analysts.   

In theory, this would bolster the professionalization of the village boards but in practice it removes what makes them effective and put an undue burden on both the public and the commission.   

The best course for the commission is to amend the ordinance to leave the current selection process in place while adopting the rest of the resolution.   

That's their job and I hope at least the three useful members will take this seriously.  

Kevin Vericker
December 5, 2019

Saturday, November 23, 2019

One Year Report Card

Don't make any mistake.  This time last year, North Bay Village was in grave danger of complete failure.  Eight years of scandals, incompetence and misrule had left us with a slender thread of a functioning government.  Hundreds of thousands had been paid out as hush money to fired employees and the village was adrift with a village manager not even employed by the village, no police chief and a scandal prone Village attorney.

When Brent Latham, Marvin Wilmoth and Julianna Strout took their places on the dais, they faced a staff actively working against them while the level of chaos was much higher than any reasonable person would even have predicted.   

In the past, I have written about the peculiar tendency of the new administration not to publicize the many changes they have accomplished since those dark days.  Well, finally, there's a list and it's a good one.  

The 2019 North Bay Village Report Card.  

  • Grants:  $11 million and counting in grants compared to the previous year of $0
  • Dog Park:  On track for completion in  January 2020.  
  • FreeBee:  The Island Hopper was replaced by On Demand Ride service to anywhere in the Village, Collins Avenue in Miami Beach and Biscayne/79th St.  
  • Downtown  Express:  Starting December 3, North Bay Village will be running two or three daily FREE nonstops to the Omni Transportation Center where you can transfer to the People Mover. 
  • Cost to The Village for Both Services:  Number to follow but less than the cost of the Island Hopper. 
  • Community Events:  Over 20 community events so far this year including the Mayor's Restaurant of the Month, Commissioner Strout's Women's Initiative Panel Discussions, planned Bike Rides, NBVPD Movie Nights, Halloween Spooktacular, Winter Wonderland and others.  
  • Community Policing:  Carlos Noriega was rehired and promptly reinvigorated Crime Watch, expanded PAL to include ALL North Bay Village kids, not just the ones in school at Miami Beach, put cops back on the street, reinstated the bike patrols and opened our police department back up.  
  • NBV100:  The Strategic Planning is ongoing and includes all aspects of Village development now and in the next 25 years.  Of special note is that North Bay Village is not only addressing resiliency but taking the lead.  
  • Unprecedented Cooperation with State and Federal Elected Officials:  State Rep Michael Griece, State Senator Jason Pizzo and Congresswoman Donna Shalala have been engaging actively with North Bay Village elected officials and they are bringing home the benefits to us.  Compare and contrast to 2018 when we received $0 in shared funding from the state and less from the feds.   
The three useful members of our commission, Latham, Wilmoth and Strout are working hard to direct the village to doing the right things, and with the staff of Village Manager Ralph Rosado, Chief Noriega, and others doing things the right way, the results have been dramatic.  

There's a lot more to come, and many more arguments to be had and they will be had,  

The hard work is paying off.  

I'd give them an "A" with room for improvement in communications, financial planning and responsiveness.   

What's your grade?

Kevin Vericker
November 23, 2019

Friday, November 15, 2019

Throwing NBV Transit Users Under the Bus


Did You See The Part About The L Bus No Longer Running to South Beach?

If you watched Tuesday night's express commission meeting, you probably missed the portion about the commission approving a plan to eliminate L bus service to South Beach.

Don't feel bad.

The commissioners missed it too. 

It was buried in the "Consent Agenda", the part of the agenda for items so obvious that they don't merit discussion.

Except this one did.  The discussion was held at the Resident Services Advisory Board meeting on November 3 for a half hour.   While the Board was drowned in numbers about how many more employment opportunities this would open to North Bay Village residents, it also came out that the plan called for the elimination of the bus route to South Beach, a route that is used by North Bay Villagers working in South Beach and by a surprising number  of Miami Beach High School students, who are often at school later or earlier than the usual transit options because of extracurricular activities.   You know, poor people and young people.  And the occasional eccentric blogger who'd rather not park. 

The L bus has long been major transit line for North Bay Village and we'd lose it.

The Resident Services Board voted clearly to only recommend the model proposed if it included an amendment to ensure the L bus continued to serve through South Beach. 

Yet the Village Staff not only did not include this recommendation in the resolution, they buried the whole mess in the Consent Agenda. 

This effort by the Better Bus Project is clearly a way to get around how the 1/2 cent tax Miami-Dade residents imposed on ourselves was squandered.  You might remember the train routes planned?  The high speed bus lanes?  We paid for them but the money never made it to the streets. 

Now the "Better Bus Project" is cheerily creating a false choice between increased coverage or increased ridership with virtually impenetrable numbers.

Among the groups that are not buying into it are the NAACP and the County Commission so they are selling their results in shows at the municipal level. 

That either option proposed by the Better Bus Project will make transit demonstrably less useful for North Bay Villagers should have been the commission's concern. 

Nevertheless the staff failed to include the requested condition made by resident volunteers who advise the commission on the matters in the resolution. 

So the Commission dutifully voted to eliminate the L bus without understanding the implications to North Bay Villagers, not to mention the residents of Little River and other Miami neighborhoods who depend on this route to get to work and recreation. 

For an explanation of the "Better Bus" project, see today's Miami Herald.  For my money, the best quote is County Commissioner Dennis Moss “You can’t grow ridership if you’ve got no rides.”

The fault is not just the village staff's.  Any one of the five commissioners could have pulled the item for discussion.  None did.   After a full year, a very full year, they should have enough experience to know that when an item is controversial, it is no longer suited for the consent agenda.   In fact, they should eliminate the consent agenda.  It's too often abused and if the item is that obvious, it won't kill them to take an extra 2 minutes to consider it. 

There Is Good Transit News For North Bay Village

IMG_6725FreeBee is replacing our Island Hopper for local trips.  A free to use, on demand app that will take you anwhere in the Village from 10 AM to 7 PM, Monday through Friday with a plan to expand to Saturdays and will take you to either Collins and 71st or Biscayne and 79th was introduced this month to ... no fanfare.  

But it's an awesome service and a major improvement over our seldom used Island Hopper.  Why the Village has not advertised the heck out of this is beyond me.   

And there's more.   

Commissioner Jose Alvarez
The Island Hopper starting December 3rd will now run express to the Omni Transit Center 3 times during the morning rush hour and 3 times back.  Watch carefully for the schedule since the Village is not good at communicating things but this will be a free service that will make direct public transit to downtown possible.  
This the result of months of hard work by the village staff and several of the commissioners.   
Now it gets weird.  Remember Commissioner Jose Alvarez?  Mary Kramer's Husband?  Who has been on the dais for three years and who to my knowledge has never offered a single piece of legislation or sponsored anything?   Well, he was as surprised as everyone else when it was announced that this initiative was somehow his idea and he got to announce the new service (well read it from a card.)  

I mean, seriously, what is up with that?    

The Meeting Itself

A few months ago, the village staff decided that the what the commissioners needed less of was hearing from the residents and so they took the historically inadequate 3 minutes granted to residents during Good & Welfare, now less elegantly called Open Forum to 2 minutes and the commission without questioning it, adopted the procedure.   

Public comment is only allowed for 2 minutes as well.   

It was clear from the 6 people who spoke that this was inadequate and the mayor at least seemed frustrated at the change, which nobody could remember when it was made.   But the other commissioners made no attempt to change it back by resolution.   So congratulations to the four!  After all, they were elected to do as little as possible and they are at least streamlining that.  

Image result for 4 moa statue
The Four Commissioners
In fact, it is remarkable how little engagement there is from the four commissioners.  While Marvin Wilmoth (who did actual work on the downtown express project) has taken the lead on several resiliency issues, and Julianna Strout has sponsored the legislation to bring CitiBike to the Village, for the most part, they just sit silently, often staring at their phones, questioning little but occasionally complaining that the mayor is doing too much actual work.   Maybe we're better off but it looks bad.  

So We Are Going Backwards?  

No.  We are miles ahead of last year at this time.  No meltdowns from the dais, no underhanded real estate agents paying our village manager off the books, lawyers who pay attention to legal matters, residents involved in the process.   

That bar was pretty low.   Still North Bay Village is making progress.   Now it has to pull together and make progress a shared value.  The management has to promote the village and involve all aspects of the community.  The commission needs to come out of their passive state and start doing what they are supposed to.  Commissioners should not steal the credit for what was not their work. 

The future is bright but it gets a little dimmer every time the petty positioning blocks the light.  

Image result for two steps forward one step back

Kevin Vericker
November 15, 2019