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


Friday, November 1, 2019

The North Bay Village Underground

Burying the Powerlines


Wednesday, October 30, the Village held a full scale meeting with representatives of FPL, ATT and Atlantic Broadband about the long discussed burying of the powerlines in North Bay Village.  
First a quick history:
  • in 2006, following the nearly 2 week blackout caused by Hurricane Wilma, the Village proposed a bond measure to pay for undergrounding the utility wires.   It passed with over 60% of the votes.  
  • in 2016, after a decade of no action, the Village again voted by 55% to bury the power lines. 

How Come It Didn't Happen?

In the first discussions in 2006, FPL refused to participate with the Village in forming cost estimates and actively took the stance that burying power lines would lead to more disruption of power not less.   By 2016, FPL had softened a bit but still refused to engage in cost discussions and the second initiative relied on the best estimates.   
Without the cooperation of the major players, FPL, ATT and Atlantic Broadband, the project was not seen as feasible.  

What's Different in 2019?

  • FPL has changed their position on buried powerlines and now favors them.
  • FEMA approved an $11 million grant to North Bay Village for burying the power lines.

A few things.  Following Irma when most of the damage was because of wind harming the overhead structure, a statewide push to underground utilities came to the forefront and FPL has now worked with the state to bury as many powerlines as feasible.   

For the first time, FPL worked with the Village to create cost estimates and FPL has actually now done this work in several communities around Florida.  The benefits seem clear.   

In addition, we have Mayor Brent Latham leading the city and along with Village Manager Ralph Rosado, they seem to actually be able to execute a plan.   

Then came the news that FEMA had approved an $11 million grant to assist in burying the power lines as part of our adaptability strategy to keep reliable power going during storm events.   

Wednesday's Meeting


In spite of being well advertised and a subject that everyone seems to have an opinion on, the meeting was sparsely attended.  Fewer than 10 residents were actually present to see the presentations and ask questions.   That leaves approximately 8,263 North Bay Villagers who will be surprised when the project starts and who will say "Nobody told me!" when the project starts. 

I'm just going to give the highlights here.  The detail can be seen at the village video link here.  

  • Approximate Total Cost to Underground the Village:  $33 million
  • Grant from FEMA: $11 million
  • Net Cost:  $22 million

Annual Tax Increases for a property:  Approximately $95 per $100,000 of property tax valuation.  

Projected Benefits:

  • A more reliable utility delivery for electricity, cable and phones
  • A more attractive landscape without the powerlines
  • A greater ability to diagnose and repair when there are power disruptions.

Possible Impacts:

  • Buildings needs to install new breakers and in some cases update their whole electrical systems.  This can run from $2,800 (based on Golden Beach's experience) to $100,000 if your entire electrical system needs to be redone.  There is a $5,000 credit built into the bond.  Any excess will be the homeowner's responsibility.
  • Transformer boxes will be placed in front of buildings on a public easement (every other house and building) 
  • The streets will be disrupted again and trenches need to be dug on private property.  
  • The project will last about 5 years.   

Possible Downsides:

  • At least 80% of the property owners have to agree to change their utilities to underground for the project to be feasible.  
  • The cost will vary from household to household and if a householder decides not to participate, they will continue to get their electricity from overhead lines which negates the aesthetic benefit.   (Note:  holdouts will be the last to be restored in the event of power failure)
  • With the advent of 5 G technology, ATT will have the right to build 38 foot tall towers at about every 500 feet.  This is state law and cannot be overriden by municipalities.  5G has started and will probably be ubiquitous in 10 years or so and if ATT (or others) do not use existing structures such as buildings or streetlights, then just like the rest of Florida, we could once again have poles everywhere.   

One More Consideration:  

FPL has announced plans to underground most of the state anyway.   By playing a waiting game, it's possible but not definite that North Bay Village will be undergrounded without additional local costs to our municipal government.   My view:  that seems a little thin but I mention it because it was brought up.

We Have To Vote Again:


Yep.  Since neither of the two ballot initiatives had reasonable costs on them, the commission needs to review the situation, draft a ballot measure and we have to vote again.   

The most likely outcome will be breaking up the project into three or four projects so that the finance streams can be executed as the project goes forward.   

It will be complicated however the commission decides to frame it and it will probably be on the ballot in the spring 2020 primary elections.   

Kevin Vericker
November 1, 2019

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Moving Forward on #NBV100

The Special Meeting at 6 PM Tuesday October 15 

This was the high level overview of the work done during the #NBV100 Planning Workshops,  was a summary of the concepts for the short term, medium term and long term to develop a plan with concrete actions.   

The plan roughly breaks down into three areas:
  1. Resiliency
  2. Quality of Life
  3. Economic Growth


For a detailed view of the presentation, go to the Village website at https://northbayvillage-fl.gov/nbv100  and click on the presentation entitled "Nbv100 Master Plan Design: Charrette Progress Summary"   It lays out a vision of the projects and this is part of a continuing and evolving study to get to a plan that North Bay Village can work.  


It's All Set Then, Right?

The plan is a series of stated goals and models that could achieve those goals.   In the plan, there are short term (starting now), medium term (3-5 years) and long term (more than 5 years) tactics.   They range from the very simple short term - fix the walk timers on the traffic lights, put proper signs in the right places and remove useless ones, build a dog park - to the grand scale of creating new construction on flood resistant raised landscapes and seeking energy independence.   

There will be further meetings with the residents, including one to be scheduled in November for the commission to review and start budgeting and planning for the goals.  First up is to fix the current coding.  

Residents can participate, if not in person, then through one on one conversations.  There is even an email set up by the Village.  Click here to send an email.   The team will discuss this one on one with residents who are not able to attend the meetings.   It will be early next year before full action starts.  

It Mostly Looks Good But Is It Realistic?

Each of the major impacts must be questioned but they have to be questioned at the right time.  

For example, there is an idea that the Causeway could become a two lane road as it passes into North Bay Village.   Doing that would allow room for the sidewalks, the bike paths and increase the parking.   

The big question is what the impact on traffic would be and that question needs to be asked.  But already there are people rejecting it out of hand before the math and the routing are done.  I've noted personally that the Causeway at rush hour seems to have a math problem of time and space rather than an inevitable bottleneck.  The lights are not timed optimally.  The left turn to Harbor Island line exceeds the lane allotted and the variable speed limits mean large open spaces in the traffic flow.  Getting this right while slowing the traffic could flow the traffic humanely through the Village.   It's a bad idea to dismiss this out of hand.  

I am also concerned about people demanding "How much?" and "How will it be funded?"   

These are important questions but like so much in life, timing is critical and the time to ask these questions is when you know what "it" is.   It's impossible to answer without the actual information.   

The phrase "Stop Stopping" was brought up by Jack Rattner and it is so good that I am coming to believe I said it.   (Note I did not say "Stop stopping".  Jack owns it.)   

In our last attempts to redevelop the village, each project died from a thousand cuts.   And it shows.  

Our then BayWalk requirements were ignored with impunity because it was not profitable.  A storage facility was seen as the best and highest purpose for our causeway.  Our sidewalks remain unsafe.   Traffic continues to flow as though on a highway.   All of this happened because any sacrifice was not weighed against the benefit and individual profit was put above community development.   

Then It Was On To The Regular Meeting.  

After some histrionics by the owner of a salvage company operating without a license, the people who actually live here spoke about their concerns.

The Hornsby Matter is nearing a conclusion.  The court found that the Hornsby removal was illegal.  Now the question is how the village will settle with Dr. Hornsby.  Several residents spoke about the need to find the solution quickly so the village can move on.   There will be a "shade" session for the commission to consider their options and it looks like they are on track to do it.  It's very important.  

I brought up a specific piece of legislation that I admire greatly.  Commissioner Julianna Strout proposed a deal with Citibike/Deco Bike to create stations in North Bay Village for Bike Rentals.  This is and always should have been the approach as it give us natural places to go in Miami and Miami Beach.   I'm glad it was passed and see this as exactly the small and transformative type of action needed to move the Village forward.   We are the sum of our small choices.   

On the agenda, there was really little of note but in the reports, the new North Bay Village is streaming along.   

One important discussion item was deliver the budget with more transparency, specifying that money spent be focused on what the outcome is.   It was uncontroversial and adopted unanimously.  

The Village is actively seeking the collaboration and money from outside sources including $11 million from FEMA to harden our utilities, there was a presentation of a grant for the dog park, money has come in for sidewalk improvements from grants, and the Green Space award from the Miami Foundation.   It's not raining money.  This is money carefully and fully sought and it is what will allow us to build the foundation we need.   

Special Note:  The Village Manager commented that the Green Space project received more votes in the Miami Foundation's contest than any other project and then thanked everyone but the people who actually publicized the need to vote at the Facebook Group North Bay Village Residents Speak.  It would be nice to thanked.  

Overall, North Bay Village seems to be on course but it will require open resident participation and strong leadership to achieve the vision.  

Kevin Vericker
October 16, 2019



Monday, October 7, 2019

Planning for #NBV100

For the last week, the Village staff, the mayor and several groups of residents have been at Village Hall participating in a strategic exercise to imagine and create a Strategic Plan that will balance the needs of the current residents, the plans for the future, incorporate resiliency in response to climate change and finally get us unstuck.

The hands on sessions, facilitated by the excellent Galina Tachieva of DPZ Design Consultants, ranged from the prosaic to the very ambitious, and actively sought the residents input while also proposing ways that we may not have thought of. 

The sessions were filled with many viewpoints from old timers and it was exciting to see the involvement by newer residents.

DPZ will be presenting the summaries to the commission at their regular meeting next month. 

And it's a good thing they are because none of the four commissioners could be bothered to show up at the sessions or the nightly summaries.

Wait.  We Already Had a Master Plan

That's true.  The Village, back when we were a City, went  through this exercise in the 2000's.   

The plan, as put into action, called for thinner, taller buildings on the north side of the causeway, wider safer sidewalks on the causeway, parking, even a pedestrian bridge to cross to the proposed BayWalk.   It lacked any mention of the resiliency issues but that was normal at that time.   

The costs for these improvements were to be based on impact fees from new buildings, increased balanced tax revenues from new businesses, federal and state moneys and the projects were to be designed to improve economic activity in North Bay Village and in turn generate more money.    

The plan was well thought out and very popular.   

In fact work started on the Causeway beautification project and the only decent sidewalk in North Bay Village was created in front of North Bay Island.   

The Plan Died Quickly

Remember the taller thinner buildings with open bay access?  That was the first casualty.  The Yellow Building, hulking over Treasure Island near Benihana's.   Instead of tall and thin, we got short and squat and although the plans called for bay access, the building was for some rea$on allowed its certificate of occupancy with bay access blocked off by concrete walls.  Similarly, the Bridgewater, a nice looking building did build a bay walk but has been allowed to block it off from public access, as has the Fortress 360.  

As far as commercial projects, the  Storage Unit place was deemed the highest and best use for rea$ons and dominates the south side.  

The contractor for the JFK Beautification project went bankrupt and whoop$, it turns out the Village never required a performance bond so the work stopped.   

In the meantime, the proposal for the waterfront quickly devolved into a proposed strip club and the restaurants one after the other were allowed to be torn down by people holding the land for later profits.   

What About This Time? 

Based on the workshops last week, I see that DPZ has a very clear  view of the potential for North Bay Village.  The preliminary ideas inculcate the same values as the previous master plan - walkable streets, businesses of value, residential development that addresses the environment and the city rather than walls it out, and has the additional benefit of understanding resiliency needs in the middle of the bay.   

My only concern about DPZ is that they do not seem to have a clear idea of who lives here now, why we live here and how we are using our environment today.   We have people walking on all islands.  You can see it around 7PM every day - walkers, bikers, strollers, dogs, joggers, even skaters, and they take over the street.  People do patronize local businesses such as the Presidente even if that is not the preferred business.   The parks are well utilized.   It's important to build on what you have, not just plan for what you hope to have.  And our population has increased by 16.1% in 9 years.  That means people want to live here.   

The preliminaries though are very encouraging.  I particularly liked the idea of using Pirate's Alley as a pedestrian walk.   They incorporated green space design and ambitious use of the causeway.   Every bit had a recognition of the climate dangers and how we can respond.   

So It's Going To Happen This Time...

Not so fast.  

  1. Our commissioners were pretty much no shows for the sessions as I mentioned at the opening.   I realize they were busy doing stage shows for captive senior audiences, moderating best practices for people they don't represent and other more interesting things but they missed the damn hard work and discussions that the Mayor and the  residents did to carve this out.   Here's a "Best Practice", show up and do your job. 
  2. Several of the same people who derailed the last Master Plan and their lobbyists were lurking around.   We need to watch our wallets because once again we are being told that we have to make sure the developers turn quick profits.   We saw how well that worked out. 
  3. A former faux commissioner showed up to wonder "How much will this cost?" and never asked "What is this?" 
  4. The Village has not published a clear well laid out piece on how the process will work, and what steps will be taken. 
  5. Even among the residents, there was grave danger of sub-optimization.  People, we're not getting a Trader Joe's.  Let it go.  Parking is always going to be a hassle in the most densely populated city in Florida.  Plan it and do the best you can.  The purpose of re-inventing is not just to raise property values for quick RE commissions.  It's to enhance value for people who actually live here.   
This is one of those times that I sincerely and totally hope I am wrong.  That the commissioners were secretly following the sessions and the developers want to be part of the community and the Village will publish and promote the planning in a form that residents can understand and people will look beyond their gated streets and locked condos and try to be part of a great community.  

Maybe this time?  

Kevin Vericker
October 7, 2019