Sunday, September 1, 2019

In The Middle Of The Not Here Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian is not yet behind us and even though it looks like we won't get hit directly, we are in for some stormy days.  

I wouldn't call us lucky.  If we were lucky, Dorian would have faded out a week ago but that doesn't mean I can't take some time to express gratitude for how apparently smoothly things have been running.  
Our new Village administration has been communicating clearly and consistently in the run up to the storm.  Our Village Manager, our mayor, our communications director Daniela Romero and Chief of staff Mario Diaz have been clearly and consistently communicating what the Village is doing, what they know and what they don't know, and opening lines of communication and response to the residents on Facebook, in texts, on Twitter and in person.   They have been backed by our police force.  

This is in sharp contrast to Irma two years ago.  

Let me give you the clearest example.  The Village announced that sandbags would be available for Irma at 11 AM in the morning.  Then gave them all away by 9 AM and told the residents who had followed instructions to pound sand.  

For Dorian, the Village set up the distribution sites, delivered these in an orderly manner, made adjustments to the policies about first floor only when that was needed and then offered to deliver to those who could not make it due to disability or other factors.   

Our always excellent public works people were on top of the debris and the clogged drains and were out working through the last two days of the week.  

In fairness, they did this before Irma because they are that good but this time it was part of a village wide response team.  

Our mayor and vice mayor did what our elected officials can and should do.  They communicated and were present.  I know they did more but they also know when to get out of the way.  

It matters that they be the face of the residents during this and they're doing it right.  Commissioners Jackson and Alvarez are completely missing in action but that's good for us.  

We can contrast this to Irma when our elected officials went silent throughout the hurricane except for a mayoral temper tantrum.  every piece of information from the staff had to be pried loose, and the informal Facebook page was the only source of information.  

Village Manager Rosado and his staff have made sure the streets are clear of obvious objects and potential hazards and have kept the communications going. 

We are in for a wet and windy week.  There are lessons to be learned of course.   Still we in much better shape for when the next one, the one that hits, comes through and that's because of the clear vision and hard work of this administration and I am grateful.   

PS:  Okay.  I just have to tell you that I heard a rumor that a former official of North Bay Village appeared at the sand bag distribution site demanding 30 sand bags to protect her moat from overflowing into her castle and had a bucket of water thrown on her was politely told to go pound sand.  Whether her troupe of flying monkeys were sent out to get more sandbags has not been confirmed.  

Kevin Vericker
September 1, 2019

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Let's Talk About The Good Stuff

You probably not going to believe me and you likely will think that this is a piece of satire since I am not known for my sunny, bright outlook but it must be said. 

There's a lot of good news going on. 

First up is that we are now 100% part of Miami Beach PAL.  Our kids, from 6 to 18, regardless of where they go to school can join in the PAL activities in Miami Beach at the resident rate. 

This Is Massive!

For years, North Bay Village families have seen the lack of youth services as a major impediment to family life here and getting full access to one of the best programs in the state.  Check it out here at the Miami Beach PAL site.  

But Wait, It's On The Beach Right?

Yes, it is.  And many of the activities are in North Beach.  So getting there's a problem, isn't it?  

Nope, the Village has expanded the Island Hopper service to connect to North Beach.  From 10 AM to 7 PM.  It's pretty straightforward, Call them at 786 390-3386 and arrange a ride over or back.  

Yep, our transit is growing, for free.   And soon will be augmented by additional service from Freebee on Demand, a free ride service that will pickup and drop you anywhere in the Village.  

More Good News?  Yep

Green space, parks for people and dogs, is hard to come by but the Village has a plan, the Village has partners, and the Village is getting some money.   Our seed money is $417,000 from the state that our State Rep Michael Grieco and State Senator Jason Pizzo got in the budget for us.  Mayor Brent Latham  is working with the school board to harmonize the TIES elementary field with the overall plan and through the fall the plans should emerge.   

The Dog Park is taking a long time to plan and in my view is being over complicated but the plans should be on the agenda and finalized in September according to Village Manager Ralph Rosado.  

Work is continuing on the Baywalk now renamed the Island Walk, although Kimley Horn is still involved so it might take longer, cost more and be less than promised as is their custom, but that's cool, right?  

The streets are planned to be repaved.  According to Village Manager Ralph Rosado, the bidders will be qualified in October, the contractor selected in December and we will at least know the by the end of the year when they will be done.  

Thing That's Happening But You Might Not Notice

Under Carlos Noriega, our police department is back.  The PD is on track to accreditation, which opens up for more grants and standardizes our professional standing in law enforcement.  This had been derailed by our previous police chief and it matters to be back on track.  Further, there is a return to the professionalism under the new Village Management and the reinstatement of the command staff under Carlos Noriega is already achieving results such as increased marine patrols, community outreach and the previously mentioned PAL.  

The Village Staff now includes a professional HR manager, a communications professional, a deputy village manager who acts as chief of staff and analytics specialist.

So It's All Good, Right?  

Nah.  There's a lot to be done.  Lawsuits need to be settled.  The Village staff has to start responding.  Our communications are poor.  There are no performance measures.  For some reason Kimley Horn continues to show up around the Village to collect more money.  (I have an idea why but this is my positive post so I'll cover it later), residents are still kept in the dark about the construction and the Village still has to deal with building the Village Hall and there's a lot be done on resiliency and other issues but for right now:


Kevin Vericker
August 28, 2019

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Blocking the Future

From Saturday's Miami Herald, here is a short summary of the latest news in North Bay Village. 
After a year in office as a North Bay Village city commissioner, Douglas Hornsby was told he was ineligible for his post and removed. Citing 30-year-old felony charges that brought his voting rights into question, commissioners voted him out in January 2018.Last week, a Miami-Dade circuit court found that his dismissal was illegal, saying he had been denied due process because he wasn’t given adequate notice of the meeting.
According to the same article,  "the former city attorney[Powell] who advised the commission to dismiss Hornsby, stands by his January 2018 recommendation, arguing that Hornsby, as an ineligible commissioner, was not entitled to due process."
That's pretty strong stuff.  An attorney willing to state publicly that anyone is not entitled to due process.  It's at best a novel legal theory but more likely a completely inaccurate understanding of how the law works. 

Anyway, we are well rid of him. 

Except We're Not


The Village still has to clean up the aftermath.  While the court simply said the removal was illegal and did not prescribe a remedy, the Village now has to work out a fair settlement with Hornsby.  Since Hornsby is a reasonable man and we (finally) have a reasonable majority on the commission, we can expect a reasonable discussion with a reasonable outcome.   At a minimum, in my opinion, it should include rescinding the removal from the public record, living up to our obligations to pay for Hornsby's legal defense and reimbursing on whatever level reasonable people can agree for the damage done to Hornsby's reputation.

Then we can forget about it, right?

Not really.

Why Are They Still Here?


Commissioner Andreana Jackson
 There are two commissioners still on the dais until November 2020. They are Andreana Jackson (Treasure Island) and Jose Alvarez (Mary Kramer's Law Office) who both voted to remove Hornsby and who should have known that the due process as laid out in the charter was not being followed. 

Both Jackson and Alvarez were busy enabling an increasingly confounded mayor's demands while doing nothing of value for the community.

Since Kreps left office and possibly the Village, Jackson sits sniping at the current mayor and vice mayor at meetings, blocking legislation when she can and attending Galas. 

Commissioner Jose Alvarez
Alvarez just sits there. 

Both were conveniently unavailable to attend when the Village had to settle with Carlos Noriega and again at the second meeting where Detectives Columbano and Bejar reached their settlement.  All three of these gentlemen had reasonably settled their cases and neither Alvarez nor Jackson were there to acknowledge and help the Village move forward.

Now when the Hornsby settlement comes to a vote, ethics will require that they recuse themselves.  They were the critical supporting cast in this fiasco and should have known better.  They have nothing more to add.

Ignorance is Regrettable. Arrogance is Foolish. The Combination is Deadly

Incredibly, in spite of her complete lack of a constructive record and her unwillingness to even talk to her constituents, Andreana Jackson has paired up with another of Norman C. Powell's close friends, one Mayor Claudia Cubillos of El Portal, to get herself nominated to the Board of Directors for the Miami-Dade League of Cities.   The League of Cities is the umbrella organization that provides insurance to its member cities, something North Bay Village has had to use extensively to resolve the legal issues Jackson helped bring on, and provides legal services to untangle the web of legal challenges cities have faced.    

Mayor Claudia Cubillos, perhaps Connie Leon-Kreps' only ally, took a page from the Powell Kreps book and tried to have, you guessed it, one Norman C. Powell appointed permanent legal counsel for her town, El Portal.   Stephanie Kienzle writes about that try and its failure in her blog.  

And guess what?  Cubillos is joining Jackson on an attempt for both of them to be elected to the Board of Directors, the group that has control over things like hiring attorneys.   

It seems like these two, Cubillos and Jackson, have similar views on and tight relationships with a municipal attorney.   This is something to worry about.   

Given their unhealthy past and present with a lawyer who does not believe some people are entitled to due process because reasons, who negotiated his own contract and severance directly, and who has left a legacy of problems, it would be amazing if the League of Cities members agreed to this.  

Alvarez and Jackson Should Resign

They are of no use to their constituents in the Village.  They both brought about mass disruption by their collaboration with the extra legal shenanigans of the previous administration.  There are even suggestions in the current Velken case that Alvarez was aware of the attempt to get around the FRS rules very early on.   

We can't afford another year of them.  They should leave.  

It's the decent thing to do.  

Kevin Vericker
August 8, 2019






Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Court Finds That Doug Hornsby Was Removed Illegally

As any competent municipal attorney could have seen, the courts have ruled that the removal of Doug Hornsby from the commission on January 29, 2018, was illegal. 

Following the advice of then Village Attorney, Norman C. Powell, the commission violated Sunshine, disregarded the actual legal process of forfeiture of an office and that Norman C. Powell's "theory" that Hornsby's appointment was not valid ab initio and therefore did not have to follow due process was wrong.   
Doug Hornsby served as Commissioner At Large, appointed by the commission to fill the seat in 2017 and was embroiled in a controversy over extortion attempts on him made by political opponents.   This set off a chain of events that led to 
  • The firing of the Village Attorney Robert Switkes to be replaced by a strip club lobbyist with no experience as a municipal attorney but whose singular devotion to the Mayor was beyond question.  
  • The resignation of the Village Manager, Deputy Manager and Executive Administrator the same night they became aware that they were to be terminated in a "special" commission meeting.  
  • The firing of Police Chief Carlos Noriega and two detectives investigating the extortion matter.  
  • The hiring and then forced resignation of Village Manager Martell.  
  • The hiring through a third party of Chief Police Lewis Velken who was then put in as Village Manager.  The use of a third party was presumed to be a way around Florida Retirement Systems rules and has resulted in an attempt to revoke Velken's pension for misrepresentation.  (Case is under appeal.)   
  • The appointment of Laura Cattabriga to a seat not legally vacant.  
This is the mess the Three Useful Commissioners walked into and have to deal with.  

So far, the police chief was reinstated, the two detectives rehired and now this.  

The court did not recommend a specific remedy, such as reinstating Hornsby, but the finding provides a strong basis for Hornsby to reclaim the substantial legal fees he incurred, sue for damages to his business and reputation and other avenues.   

The Two Useless Commissioners, Andreana Jackson and Mary Kramer's Husband, are still on the dais but will need to recuse themselves from any involvement in settlements or restructuring going forward.  They should just resign.  They barely show up anyway.  It would be best for all if they left. 

Andreana Jackson
Jose Alvarez

From the previous administration, we are blessed that Connie Leon-Kreps is reportedly no longer dwelling in North Bay Village and I sincerely wish us the best in her decision to move. 

But that still leaves the festering issue of the many bad decisions taken on the legal advice of Norman C. Powell.  Powell is still lurking around municipal governments looking for work.  Just yesterday, my blogging colleague Stephanie Kienzle published a piece on Powell and El Portal entitled El Portal: The shady alliance of Claudia Cubillos and Norman Powell 

Powell left here in a nasty meeting earlier this year at which he negotiated his own settlement, something the Commission on Ethics recommends against and the courts have found illegal, but just going away has not resolved the costs to the Village from his inexperienced legal advice.   

There will most likely be further repercussions from the shambolic mismanagement and it might be North Bay Village that has to take care of this.  

Kevin Vericker
July 31, 2019





Friday, July 12, 2019

I Got the Dog Park Wrong

Yesterday in the blog, I wrote about the dog park and 

got

it

wrong.  

Specifically, I wrote:
Dog Park:  The money for the dog park planning was approved.  It will cost about $35,000 to create the plans, then another $120,000 to $200,000 to build a dog park.  The commission voted to move ahead.  
My view:  Just put up a fence, call it an open space and let the damn dogs run.  Also, the dog park proponents mostly weren't there.   
What I Got Wrong:  Shortly afterwards it was brought to my attention that the proposed space for the dog park has flooding issues, is not accessible for handicapped or older people, and could actually hurt the dogs and their owners if not properly planned.   
The first step, getting the plan, is the key and that's what the commission was voting on.  Once we have that, the dog park can start and that should be very soon.   

I should have paid better attention and now I'm updating my view:

My view:  Plan it right and get it going.  Also, dog park proponents - start showing up.  

Kevin Vericker
July 12, 2019

Thursday, July 11, 2019

July 9 2019 Commission Meeting

I'm going to try make this brief.  

Tuesday night at the commission meeting.  

The main points:

Dog Park:  The money for the dog park planning was approved.  It will cost about $35,000 to create the plans, then another $120,000 to $200,000 to build a dog park.  The commission voted to move ahead. 
My view:  Just put up a fence, call it an open space and let the damn dogs run.  Also, the dog park proponents mostly weren't there.  

Treasure Island Community Park:   Mayor Brent Latham discussed the progress made so far in planning the green space use of the Treasure Island Elementary field in non-school hours.  The planning is well underway and should cost about $1,000,000 once it's ready.  

My view:  This is huge and opens up new space all around us.  

For Profit Prisons for Children in Homestead:  The commission voted 4-0 to express their concern about the inherent contradiction of for profit prisons in this government space.  One commissioner was in the ladies room for the vote.  

My view:  Prisons should never be for profit.  Ever.   

Discussion Item:  Advisory Board Interactions with the Commission.  The Mayor led a discussion about what the commission should expect from the boards and vice versa.  The boards are very active and bright, and were suppressed under the previous regime, and the commissioners spoke about what they would like to see.   

My view:  The commission should hold one joint session per year with each board to lay out the annual goals.   

Operational stuff - New Auditor, FPL Vault removal at the Sakura Lot, Parking Study for Harbor Island.    These were commission approval for doing what the village needs to do.  

Animal Control Advisory Board Feeding Registry:  The Animal Control Board has created a detailed and well crafted program to register and control the feeding of the feral cats, bearing in mind the needs of the cats, the sensibilities of the property owners, the control of the population.   

It was tabled.  

My view:  Seriously?  A group of intelligent concerned citizens under the government aegis does their job and the commission lets it slide again because a scuttle bug lobbyist now believes he's a cat expert.  Big failure.  

Scooter Rentals:  Never even made it to a vote.  Nobody wanted to own it.  

My view:  It's a stupid idea.  We are less than one square mile and we don't need people scooting aimlessly about.  

Unified Land Development Code:  Fixes the fencing rules so that 5 foot is the height limit for corner lots and temporary fences can be used in dog parks if we ever make one.  

My view:  How was this not part of our code already?  

Unified Land Development Code #2:  Allows administrative approval of dock variances within certain parameters rather than commission approval.  

My view:  Yeah, sure, why not?

Unified Land Development Code #3:  This is a change that as initially proposed would have changed the due dates on bonus height payments from approval time to building permit time, would have made the payments refundable if the developer did not develop, and approving mechanical parking lifts for fancy people with valets.  

It got whittled down and the refundability portion was removed but the two other parts stayed in.  

My view:  The refundable fees were always a flipper's delight so I'm glad they pulled it.  I'm sick of developers whining that they can't make money building in North Bay Village.  That's true but the people who sold them the lots made money.   They knew the rules.   The only developers with skin in the game are the Best Western.  The rest of them need to shut up and build.  And our Village Attorney and Planning Contractor should show up with some support for their claims that North Bay Village is somehow out of step with the cooler towns.  You got to qualify to signify and these guys are not giving the commission even the basic information.   Step up or step aside.  

Florida Friendly Fertilizer:  A carefully crafted proposal by Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth to stop people pouring polluting fertilizer into the bay while not harming the economic activity of landscapers was derailed by one lawn festishist and two commissioners who had clearly not read the ordinance.  The whole thing was cuckolded when the main provision, stop pouring pollutants on your lawn during the rainy season, was removed just because.  

My view:  Wilmoth did his homework, found the sweet spot, and for some reason having nothing to do with the ordinance, it was rendered useless.  A real low point.  

Ordinance Banning Single Use Plastics in the Village:  This was a straightforward ordinance banning the sale of single use plastic in North Bay Village.  After some discussion it was passed.  

My view:  Wilmoth again was reasonable, detailed and focused.  While there was a half hearted attempt to derail this one, the  other commissioners got bored and let it pass.  This was super unprofessional of them but lucky for us.  

7700 Miami View Drive:  The tenant, not the landlord, at 7700 Miami View Drive showed up to say his Short Term Vacation Rental License should be reinstated because he didn't know, he was putting in noise meters, and then used the Shaggy Defense on advertisements for the property  (Uh Uh, wasn't me.)  He was denied.  

My View:  Wow!

Kevin Vericker
July 11, 2019

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Right Way to Give

Who could possibly be against stopping AIDS?  Helping blind people navigate a world not designed for them?  Including people with intellectual challenges?  Ending world hunger?  and a myriad of causes.   
No decent person I'd dare to say.   

There is an entire industry to raise money for well intentioned philanthropic causes in the US and last year alone, Americans gave over $410 billion to support these efforts.   

But giving, especially with other people's money, has to be done judiciously. 

In the case of North Bay Village, we are a generous people and much of our $25,000 activities fund was directed at seemingly worthy causes.   

One donation was $7,500 for the AIDS Walk, an annual event to raise money to fight AIDS.  There were many organizations to whom we could have directed the donation, including Care Resources which actually provides services to NBV residents with HIV but instead the money was donated through SAVE, an organization which has never done anything for the North Bay Village Gay community although they have fund raised here and donated to elections.   
In addition, the money was supposed to be an activity for our residents to participate in the AIDS walk yet none were invited.  In exchange, all we got was an invitation to The Gala That Went Terribly Wrong and it seemed more of a personal branding exercise than a Village activity in support of a good cause.  

The Best Buddies walk, an amazing organization that has in fact helped place a valued new employee in the Village, was similarly not used for Village participation when it could have been.  

Other expenses have included Polo match tickets that I don't see how they build community or bring benefit to North Bay Village.  

We need to ask the question about what we want to accomplish.  Yes, supporting good causes financially matters and a sharp eye on how this builds up our community needs to be one facet of that equation.  

Before approving the moneys, the individual commissioners proposing the donation have an absolute obligation to ask and answer the questions.  
  • Does this organization actually effectively provide the services they are asking us to support?   In the case of SAVE, they do not provide any direct HIV services and the money should have been directed elsewhere. 

  • Does this donation enhance community life?  We have many residents with many needs.  It's not unreasonable to expect that organizations we support support us.   The Village recently paid airfare for a commissioner to attend the Daughters of the American Revolution conference in Washington DC.  It's hard to see how the DAR enhances our lives. 

  • Does community input matter?  Our commissioners have discretion on these funds but the community should matter.  Otherwise, it's just personal branding and advantage.
Finally, we need to follow the money.  If the major purpose of an organization is political and not services, the entire commission should cast an eye on the proposed donation.   There are many great advocacy organizations but those organizations need to work from grass root support, not government sponsorship.   

We really haven't seen much overreach on these donations until now.  As the Village approaches next year's budget, it is incumbent for the administration to create a framework based on effectiveness and benefit as they decide how our tax dollars are distributed.   


Now is time to ask those questions.  

Kevin Vericker
July 6, 2019