Friday, December 2, 2016

You're Not Invited - A Community Event



Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps and Commissioner Jose Alvarez are hosting a private, by invitation only, exclusive barbecue to show North Bay Island's appreciation for the Police Department.   The event is on Sunday December 11 from 2 to 5:30 PM and will include full catering, and expensive door prizes for the attendees. 



Although not an official village event, Police Chief Carlos Noriega and Village Manager Frank Rollason will be there to accept the plaudits of the gated community of North Bay Island.  

The rest of the community is not invited to attend. If you live on Treasure Island or Harbor Island, you are not invited.  Don't Go.

Attendance by the police force is "voluntary" in the sense that your bosses' boss expects you at a private function that excludes most of the community you serve and nobody's saying that will affect your career prospects if you don't go. 

I suggested to the Village Manager and to the Police Chief that while the gesture is nice, wouldn't it be a better idea to create a community wide appreciation event, open to all? The Village Manager replied " There is nothing prohibiting other islands from sponsoring a similar event"  and then apparently assumed I was an anti-police protester.  

North Bay Village has no policy on police accepting gratuities, free lunches, free happy hours, free anything, but are probably bound by the rules for the county and gift disclosures ordinance pushed by Mayor Kreps in North Bay Village to make accepting gifts valued under $100 perfectly legal.   

In the meantime, let's all reflect on how our Mayor spoke at her inauguration this week about North Bay Village coming together.  Apparently she meant separately, in private, in three distinct neighborhoods, to celebrate our unity.  One simply can't have the whole community.  I mean, have you seen them?

Kevin Vericker
December 2, 2016





   

Friday, November 4, 2016

NBV Election Season - It's Not The Heat - It's The Stupidity

No sooner than I finish writing about the ECO's and the half truths presented to be "facts" than another ridiculous piece comes around, this one about the mayor.   It purports to be from a group called "United For A Better North Bay Village" Seriously, look in the black print, hold it up to a white light, use a magnifying glass and you will see that printed in the lower left hand corner.

Or don't bother - there is no such group according to the Florida Secretary of State.

The flier informs us that the mayor was censured and that she tried to get Benedict Kuhne to defend her at a cost to the village of $650.   Both these facts are true and well documented but this piece gives you no useful information.  The censure was for stating without proof and then refusing to retract an accusation that the mayor made against her fellow commissioners.  She accused them of criminal acts of conspiracy and collusion and refused to retract the statements.  Then Mrs. Kreps attempted to engage an attorney and have the village pay for it at $650 per hour to do something.   Since there's no defense and no legal action, it's not clear what.   But if you going to write a piece, don't assume a nasty picture and words are enough.   We're smarter than that.
In order to balance this piece out, a new group called "Truth & Transparency" have been sending out odd emails.  They are Transparent in their support of the mayor, but Truth, eh, not so much.

Their main points seem to be:
  • The mayor is not a realtor and the vice mayor is so this makes the mayor an environmentalist, a conclusion unsupported by any facts.   Just to be clear, in the five and a half years, the mayor has never once introduced a piece of environmental legislation.  Not once. 
    The realtors she compares to are Jorge Gonzalez, who pushed for the PACE program allowing us to make our houses more resilient and if Florida does not pass Amendment 1, will allow us to install private solar energy while Jackson has led island wide cleanups and fought hard to bring the trash and environment to the forefront.
  • The mayor was apparently cleared by the Commission on Ethics on October 25 of making "false statements."  Well, maybe they did.  We have no way of knowing because the CoE, a corrupt organization designed to protect the powerful, does not clear people and no investigation is closed until the board votes on it, which will happen on Nov 9.  Must be leaky.

  • Then there is "Sign Gate" which definitely happened.  The Village code enforcement decided to enforce an obscure regulation and removed all political signs closer than 25 feet from the center of the roadway on North Bay Island.  All signs.

    I believe they did this to impress Jodi Foster and it was a stupid move.   Commissioner Chervony is furious and posting all about it.  I imagine the other candidates are too.   It was a disgrace and I wish our code enforcers showed half the initiative in removing obstacles from our sidewalks that they did in this matter.  
    It's the dark implication that "someone must have done this.  Another candidate perhaps?"  Yeah, well it was the Village Manager.  Take it up in the right place. 
So if you haven't voted yet, be selfish.  Think what's in it for me?  Will my town be better with this one or that one?   And ask why this weird distortion?   We're small enough if you need to ask a candidate what they are for or against, you can find several on Facebook or just call them.   It's that simple.

Kevin Vericker
November 4, 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sleazy Lying Scumbags. Hello North Bay Village.

Lurking around in the sewers of Florida politics is the peculiar group known as Electioneering Communication Organizations (ECO's).   These organizations exist for the sole purpose of disguising political agendas that are too dirty to own publicly.  

You've seen 2 of these pieces in the North Bay Village Election cycle.  They came from a group called "Common Sense".  Hey, with a name like that who could be against them?  It's just common sense, right?  

So who are these civic minded publishers who are so concerned with the political future of North Bay Village?  Well, that's a bit hard to say.  

"Common Sense" is an ECO headquartered in Tallahassee, City of Dreams.  Common Sense is registered to Mark Herron and is funded mainly by Floridians For A Strong Future (also registered to Mark Herron, as are dozens of other clandestine ECO's.)   Why two?  Well, it's to make it less obvious who is paying for this.

To understand who is looking out for their own best interest in North Bay Village, follow the money. Look at who contributes to Floridians For A Strong Future.   The contributors are property developers and the lobbyists who represent them. In other words, the same people who benefit from North Bay Village having a poorly run commission that allows them to do what they will.   Not a single resident of North Bay Village gave 10¢ to these ECO's because the ECO's are not citizen focused, they are focused on profits.  Here's the link to the contributors.

This year Common Senses spent money to link Jorge Gonzalez to Donald Trump, which is odd because I don't think Gonzalez and Trump chat regularly, although I haven't asked either of them.  But I'm pretty sure Trump is not interested in North Bay Village.

Another flier by Common Sense exposes that Richard Chervony can be crass.   Perhaps they should rename themselves "Common Knowledge" because that surprises no one.  In fact when I read the flier, I thought "Hmm Chervony seems unreasonably restrained."  The ECO then went on to make the bizarre claim that he voted against local school funding, a weird lie, but what they really wanted you to hear.   Chervony in fact vigorously supported the school funding but did insist on reports on how the money was spent which some found objectionable, especially the mayor.  TIES is now a D school.

If it's not true, then it must be against some sort of campaign law?  Nope.  Not in Florida.  There is zero accountability, which is why ECO's are beloved by skeezy politicians.  

And how the profiteers love our current mayor.  Her disorganization on the dais and her complete lack of interest in zoning issues, along with her predisposition to give rich people whatever they want, is perfect, if what you want is to use a small island city to play real estate shell games.

Just look at our causeway.  None of the developers were going to build there.  They are all hoping to sell and profit by holding their parcels and their magical thinking has made our causeway a sad, desolate ruin.   A better organized mayor with a competence in zoning would be a threat to that but we don't have one.  

And our mayor loves to use the ECO's.  Two years ago, she was supported by ECO's who helped our mayor take a strong stand supporting the right of profiteers to steal from the Kennedy House residents and attacked her opponent Jorge Brito for objecting to this.  That it turned out Brito was right  and multiple convictions followed, including one of the mayor's closest campaign workers, Alejandra Salcedo, is not something Common Sense or the mayor has published.  

Our mayor also used the same ECO to disparage her openly gay colleague for well, being gay at a time when that meant arrest.   So I'm only surprised that this year seems milder but no less dishonest as Connie Kreps continues to enjoy the fervent support of people who enjoy their special profits.  

Hiding behind these dark, clandestine committees is a bad thing.  We are not getting information but carefully crafted scare tactics.  I urge each of you to contact the Mayor at cleonkreps@nbvillage.com and ask her about the mailings.   Does she agree?  Does she approve?  And ask her about her trusted campaign worker's conviction.   

After all, it's only Common Sense.  

Kevin Vericker
November 1, 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Let's Talk About The Mayoral Race

Connie Leon-Kreps is a terrible mayor.  I cannot overstress this.  Since the day she pushed her way into the mayoral seat, she counts among her major accomplishments:

  • The worst police chief we have had in memory, Robert Daniels.  
  • Budget overruns every year until the commission finally said enough this year.
  • Actively blocked efforts to improve Treasure Island Elementary School which is now a 'D' ghetto grade school with no clear plans for improvement.  
  • Attacked political opponents for being gay.  
  • Loses control of the meetings sometime within minutes. 
  • Probably interfered with an ongoing police investigation at the Kennedy House that yesterday resulted in the conviction of the management team, including having Alejandra Salcedo, then under investigation and now convicted in the crimes as a key worker in her 2014 campaign.   
  • Accused her fellow commissioners of "collusion and conspiracy" without any proof and then attempted to get the village to pay her attorney $650 per hour when the commissioners censured her remarks.  (She failed but that's some caradura nerve.)   
  • Has consistently terrible relationships with the village managers, first Dennis Kelly and now Frank Rollason who she is trying to fire.  
  • Kreps pushed the food trucks out of North Bay Village and tried to get them banned from Pelican Island.  
So you have some of the bad things.  Let's balance those with the good things.  
  • After her initial opposition to village funding of the IB program for TIES, she later voted for it.  
  • ummm.   Kind of out of things.  
Kreps is not just a bad legislator, she is a bad person.  Her political skills have alienated each of her fellow commissioners, each of whom were allies of hers initially.  There's a story behind each one.  When Richard Chervony questioned expenses, she tried (and failed) to shut him down.  When Jorge Gonzalez worked long and hard to get the village in the Miami Shores Chamber of Commerce, Kreps went behind his and the commission's back to get herself appointed to the Board of Directors, probably extra legally.   With Eddie Lim, Kreps constantly disrespected him from the dais until it became intolerable.  

Kreps' relationships with residents are no better.  She is quick to perceive insult and understands disagreement as threats.  Every one of the boards has either been dissolved or reduced to impotence under her constant combination of ignoring the boards or actively insulting them.  

Finally, Kreps has broken relationships with the county and no relationships at all with our neighbor cities of Miami and Miami Beach.   

So even supports her?  There is a small coterie of North Bay Island neighbors who are only interested in their four square blocks, and those people who benefit from her lack of interest in fiscal stewardship such as some developers and village contractors.  Beyond that, very few.   

Jorge Gonzalez is running against her and I have problems with him as well.  I think he should work to restore the public access to the Bay, something he has not done, and he needs to take the lead on fixing the ugly north side of the causeway.  Sorry it didn't work out for the developers who wanted to flip but that's no reason to leave it looking like that.  Still Gonzalez is a far better bet as mayor.  

The village is finally back on a good financial track, the different commissioners have found their groove with education, environment, recreation and finance all finally having champions on the dais.  We have a real chance to move the village forward now but if we try to do it with same old craziness from the current mayor, we will fail.   

Kevin Vericker
October 26, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Burying the Powerlines in North Bay Village

There is a proposition on the North Bay Village power lines to affirm a 2006 proposition to bury the powerlines, an attractive idea but I am recommending a NO vote on the proposition.  

To understand how this happened, we need to go back to 2006 in North Bay Village when this was on the ballot.  The year before we were sucker punched by Hurricane Wilma and North Bay Village was without electricity for nearly two weeks.  It was a messy and inconvenient time and was without a doubt a result of the poor infrastructure in our power lines.  

We knew burying the lines would be expensive. The original debt bond was for $9 million, and that did not include the cost to the individual homeowners to switch to underground power.  But two things were driving the move to underground - the recent memory of Wilma and the implied but never overtly stated promise that the additional moneys would come from the then booming condo development market.  

The Village did not move forward quickly and by 2008, the promised condo boom had turned into the slow, nasty slog that drains our resources and 10 years on leaves our causeway looking like the 3rd world.   The massive overdevelopment was never going to bring us any benefits and certainly wasn't ever going to pay for the burying.   

The Commission decided to put this on the ballot to see if there was still public support for the idea.  There probably is not and for very good reasons.  
  1. It's expensive.  Apart from the increased tax costs, each home and building affected would be responsible for trenching and paying for the new power line hookups.  A back of the envelope guess is $3000 or so to dig the trench and attach the powerline.  In addition, each house or building would have to have a code inspection to see if the electrical system is up to code for 2016.  Most of the single family homes were built in the 1950's and while some have been modernized, not all have been.  Those who are not up to current code will need to rewire their homes to meet code, at a cost to the homeowner that could be well over $5,000 or more depending on what has to be done.  Plus the homeowner pays the building inspection fees.
  2. One out of Two Houses Loses.  Right now, the pole transformers in the back serve 4 houses.  Undergrounding means that there needs to be a tranformer every 2 houses, so either I or my neighbor has to have a box installed in our front yard.  That could leave to conflict with the neighbors and it's not particularly fair.
  3. The condos who have already built with underground wires will have to pay the increased tax burden.  While by and large, the condos have brought little benefit to North Bay Village what with stealing the Bayfront from the residents, building inadequate parking, and the shady deals reducing the impact fees, it seems like the additional cost for the changes to our infrastructure should be paid by those who benefit.
  4. It's not clear that it is a benefit.  While underground wires will reduce the vulnerability to wind damage, they also seriously increase the possibility of water damage, particularly salt water damage.   When we have floods, it's mostly bay water, salt water, and damage to the lines or the transmission boxes means a complicated process of drying and desalinating the boxes before they can be back in service.   
I just can't see how this would benefit us.  The powerlines are ugly and worn out (so am I!  Boom!) but FPL/Atlanticbb/ATT need to harden the aboveground infrastructure to make them less susceptible to wind damage and upgrade our grid to make us more resilient.  I believe the benefits from that effort will pay us back much more than undergrounding.  If North Bay Village were built today, we would have a whole different picture of our infrastructure but given the difficulties and expenses in this proposal, we are better off sticking with the status quo.  And if the Gang of 3 don't up their game, we can always force the issue later.

Kevin Vericker
October 20, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The North Bay Village Election and My Take


The country is in the grip of the strangest elections I can remember (and I'm old) and many people have deep concerns about the national outcome including me.   Still, let's talk about North Bay Village where strange comes to live.

We have four things to vote on:  
  • Commissioner from North Bay Island Island
  • Commissioner from Treasure Island
  • Mayor
  • Whether or not to bury the power lines.  
You know I have opinions but I'm going to save the powerlines and the mayoral race for another post.  

Commissioner from North Bay Island:   
Richard Chervony deserves to be re-elected.  He's worked diligently and hard to improve North Bay Village.  He kept our taxes low.  He is seemingly everywhere with constituent help and was the constant voice of information during the recent hurricane scare.

His key accomplishments include:

  • The Health Clinic at Treasure Island Elementary School and a new program to provide dental care. 
  • Consistently introducing and shepherding through environmental legislation including the styrofoam ban.  
  • Involved himself in the details of the budget to direct the first budget in years that maintains city services, rewards village employees, keeps the reserve healthy and lowered the taxes.  This is not the usual approach and I know how hard he worked to make this happen  

 Chervony's done a great job in his tenure and he has my unqualified endorsement.

His opponent, José Alvarez, is a nice guy who I hope will contribute over the next few years.  His major accomplishment, creating village rules around AirBnB and other short term rentals, was good but most of the work was done by his wife and I have not heard any compelling reasons why he would be a better choice than a successful sitting commissioner.  I was disappointed that he did not attend the budget meetings - the budget dictates what the village can actually do for the next year and being present would have mattered.  Great guy and with experience, he may be ready next time.

Full Disclosure Note Here:  Chervony and I have had massive, epic public battles.  NBV Thunderdome battles and we very well might again.  I fully expect some mysterious PAC will soon send you information on that.  I stand by every nasty thing I said and I'm certain Chervony will say the same about me.  (I dunno, I didn't ask).  But who would you rather have?  Someone who fights like hell and then does the right thing or some smiley backstabber?   My choice is obvious.
Commissioner for Treasure Island:  
Andreana Jackson has stood out in her rookie year.  On a steep learning curve, she has taken a firm stand on environmental issues affecting North Bay Village and is fighting hard to clean the place up.  Jackson has also worked hard to learn the commission processes, build bridges to the community and genuinely question what she does not understand.  She's very aware of knowing what she doesn't know and seeks advice from her best sources.

Her accomplishments in the last year include:

  • Sponsoring legislation to clean our streets.  
  • Leading cleanup efforts in the Village
  • Promoting Science Technology Engineering and Math at Treasure Island Elementary
  • Taking part in an uncomfortable and politically risky move to restore civility to the Commission.

Andreana is more than potential and is a proven contributor to the Village.  

Her opponent, Dr. Joshua Furman, is a long time resident and an exceptional person.  He is a doctor with a practice locally and a bright man.  Like Alvarez though, his grasp of the complexity of village issues is hampered by his not showing up.   He needs to know the issues, the nitty gritty stuff, before he should replace someone like Jackson who dives in 100%.  I hope to see more of him on the boards but he does not have the experience or the knowledge we need now.

So that's my view.  Yours?

By way, if Jose Alvarez or Joshua Furman would like to write about why they feel they are better qualified, I'll open the blog up to them publish unedited any replies they would like.  

Kevin Vericker
October 14, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

All Politics Are Local

It continues to surprise me how little attention people pay to local elections.  It matters very much who we choose for President, Congress and Governor but the most immediate effects are from the local governments.   

Tuesday, there is a primary and an election for county mayor and I thought I might share some of my views on the races that affect us the most here in North Bay Village.   

First up, for State Senate, Michael Gongora is a former Miami Beach Commissioner who knows North Bay Village well.  On the Beach, our closest neighbor, he successfully championed porgrams for the elderly, for the community at large, and made demands on developers for community improvement.  He has been a constant presence in North Bay Village.  In my view, he should be our State Senator.  He gets the life of the fragile beach cities.  

Kevin Burns is also running and his record is nearly identical.  Burns has a long history of community involvement in North Miami, served as their mayor in fact.  He has led countywide campaigns for equal rights and has consistently put his constituents first.  I didn't vote for him, mostly because I feel that Michael Gongora is better acquainted with North Bay Village but it was really nice to have a choice between two well qualified, experienced candidates who know how to get stuff done.  

Jason Pizzo has not bothered to vote since 2008, has been a Democrat for all of 5 months, and has funded his campaign from his Dad's companies.  He needs to get some experience and show good judgment in why people should vote if they want me to vote for them.  

Daphne Campbell is a very bad choice.  I could write about it but my friend and fellow blogger Stephanie Kienzle has really nailed it.  You can read Stephanie's take here.

State Rep - in spite of the fact that he keeps making it difficult with his crazy endorsements of our mayor and for Jason Pizzo, David Richardson has represented us faithfully and well.  He may be my favorite person to disagree with.  David  should stay the hell out of our local election.  Supporting Kreps is a mistake for NBV'ers and for the local LGBT community but show me the candidate without flaws and I'd hate him more.  So David has my vote.  

Finally, on the Circuit Court Race, I voted for Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts.  The guy's been a public defender, a city attorney, and in spite of being a Republican (I'm not, you know) understands very well the rights of the community, the needs of the police, and has always been committed to fairness regardless of the cost.   I'm voting character here.

Finally, Amendment 4.  Just vote Yes.  It's crazy that we don't have extensive, cheap solar energy in the Sunshine State.  This would give homeowners some serious tax relief for generating electricity.  It's safe, clean and effective.  

I know there are other races, particularly for county mayor, but I don't have a strong opinion or even a well informed one, so I chose not to write about them.

Well, there are two races I have opinions on.   Both of them represent why the Democratic Party can't put its act together in Florida.  

For Senator, Pam Keith would be a natural in any Democratic party.  A bright woman, with vast international experience, a Navy veteran, an attorney with a long record of public service and a well reasoned progressive.  Her opponents are a couple of white boys with money and ego where they should have experience and judgment.  But it's Florida and it's the Florida Democratic Party, so the odds are stacked against her.  It's a terrible shame and I hate to sound defeatist, but I've watched our state party mess this up time and again and I expect this time will be no different.  

For Congress, did you even know there were Democrats running to take on Ileana Ros-Lehtinen?  Bet not.  Now I like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a lot.  I think she is a woman of integrity and political courage.  I disagree with her on many specific political policies and probably will not vote for her but I have no question about her commitment to her constituents.   We are far better off being represented by her than being ignored by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, our previous representative.  Anyone in North Bay Village remember what DWS has done for us?  Me neither.

So that's it.  My take on the primary.  Now go vote!

Kevin Vericker
August 28, 2016