Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Commission on Ethics Dismisses Complaint Against Mario Garcia

For the second time, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics found that Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez's complaint against Mario Garcia for publishing a flier during the campaign that detailed Gonzalez's history of:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Failure to pay taxes
  • Rebuke by the Commission on Ethics
  • Free trip from Turkish Lobbyists 
  • Votes to cut funding for PAL and Youth Services
  • Votes that raised our taxes a cool 38% over two years
  • Vote to dissolve the Business Bureau

did not violate the Miami-Dade Fair Campaign Practices Ordinance because the statements are true.

This Flier That Made Gonzalez Sad - Click to Embiggen

The Commission on Ethics found that these points were true twice in fact. First when retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Kogan found that these things were true in November 2014 and that there was no probable cause to admonish Garcia because if you say it and it's true, it's legal and ethical.

Gonzalez did not like being called out on the truth and he objected so because he was crying, the Commission on Ethics agreed to a second detailed investigation which found the same.

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics, led by Joe Centorino, who does not care much for honest and open government in North Bay Village, violated its own rules which clearly state that the probable cause determination shall be considered final and the Complaint may be made public at the time the Hearing Examiner makes the determination unless it is appealed. And then explains that the complainant (Gonzalez) has no right to an appeal.

Centorino and staff ignored this legal requirement, allowed Gonzalez to argue that the CoE should not accept the finding of Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan and with the collusion of staff, continued the “investigation.”

The new investigation brought no new facts to light, dragged on for five months at great expense to the taxpayers and concluded that every one of the statements made was backed by reliable sources including the Circuit Court, Recordings of North Bay Village Commission Meetings, the Florida Department of Revenue, the self same commission on ethics and other known purveyors of reliable information.

So after the second finding of No Probable Cause, the Commission on Ethics today agreed to dismiss the complaint against Garcia for telling the truth about the Gonzalez. Gonzalez and his attorney did not attend the meeting this time, which is good since it really makes the CoE sad when Gonzalez cries.

I have attached both findings and I urge you to read them. The second one is great writing. 

Below is the first finding from the former Chief Justice of Florida Gerald Kogan who finds the statements in the flier "valid".in a brief, to the point dismissal of the complaint.  

Then after Gonzalez went crying that it just wasn't fair, the CoE agreed to have a second investigation.  

Below is the second finding of No Probable Cause.  This one is awesome, well written and explains clearly that there is simply no basis for the complaint in detail which apparently was what was needed.

My favorite quotes are:

  • [in reference to this blog] It is clear that Mr. Vericker consistently criticizes Gonzalez on a whole host of issues...In large part, the posts criticize Gonzalez for his own statements and explanations.
  • [in response to Gonzalez's supplying a handwritten note by his child] Gonzalez's reliance on this “evidence” is sadly misplaced.
  • [regarding Gonzalez's claims that the flyer was false] Gonzalez provided additional information that Gonzalez characterized as the “truth” behind Garcia's false statements. (Note the use of quotes around the word truth)

I am glad that the Commission on Ethics found what anyone paying attention in North Bay Village knows, that telling the truth about Jorge Gonzalez results in nasty, deceptive defenses and that this is finally behind Mario Garcia, who ran an honest and truthful campaign.

Hey Commissioner Gonzalez, here's a test. Since the CoE has found the truthfulness of the statements about your record, your bankruptcy, your tax delinquencies, why don't you just resign? Why put yourself through this? 

Oh that's right, how else will you get tickets to the Heat and free trips to exotic locales? You know you've earned them with your votes. 

Kevin Vericker
May 13, 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015

Bay Access At Stake Tuesday Night

As our waterfront was encroached by high rises and the commission continues to give any variance that any developer with a checkbook requests, it is not just our bay views that are being overlooked.  It's our access to the bay.  There are clear, built into the code and to every project approval, laws and conditions that North Bay Village be ceded easements to allow public access to the bay.   

There's no question.  The condos were granted millions of dollars in variances and the price was reasonable and transparent, open the walkways and allow the residents of North Bay Village access to the waterfront.   

Almost none have.  The worst offender is the 360, a large fortress like structure on Harbor Island that locked down the access last year and refuses to let anyone in who doesn't live there.  Not coincidentally, Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez is also President of the 360 and as such has a unique interest in blocking out residents who he does not feel are fit to enjoy what the 360 has stolen.  Gonzalez has stated publicly that he does not know why people would want to go there as there is nothing.  Here's a picture of the nothing he is referring to:

The area is designed beautifully and has benches, walkways, dog stations, shade trees and amazing views.   It belongs to us, not the 360.

The 360 is not the only property blocking access.  Here is a list of buildings that also do.  Let me stress again that this is not a takeover of private property.  It is an agreed swap for significant value  and it is being unpaid. 

Bayview 1625 JFK
Bridgewater 1881 JFK
Eloquence on the Bay 7928 East Drive
Cielo 7935 East Drive
Adagio 7939 East Drive
Space 01 7934 West Drive

In addition, the commission is also going to receive and evaluate the only bay access they have worked on, a $100,000 plan to make a plan to build a walkway under the Miami Beach Grate Bridge, a project that even the engineering firm has said has never been done.   Here's the view of that.  

 Lovely, isn't it?  The only place we can go to see our bay is under a noisy, damp, and always gloomy bridge.   

If people don't show on Tuesday night and stay, the real bay walk, the one we paid for, will stay shut out and the giveaway to friends of the mayor will be built.  We have to let them know.  If it's the usual 5 people at the meeting, we'll have nothing.  

Kevin Vericker
May 8, 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

We're Good Enough, We're Smart Enough But Dammit, People Don't Like Us

Businesses choose neighborhoods just like real estate buyers do.  They look for location, safety, a place where they can grow and a place they will enjoy to spend their time.   It's not really that different.  

When we talk in North Bay Village about the lack of "quality" businesses - chains like Starbucks, independent businesses, banks, professional offices - we consistently get the same reply from the commission.  They've asked around but the demographics don't work for the retailers.  

That's a cop out.  In fact, North Bay Village is uniquely situated to be a retail and business dream.  It's set among an upscale urban mix, is convenient to all the major roads and public transit and uniquely is the only one of the four causeways between Miami and Miami Beach that has a commercial strip.  Neither the Julia Tuttle, the Venetian nor the MacArthur have what we have.  We funnel a lot of cars through the Village.  

Again, we have the demographics.  A relatively affluent population in short distance to the retail locations.  Retail geographers go well beyond the simple demographics though.  They also study how many loyal customers there are, the mix of car traffic, public transit traffic, and walk-in traffic, the availability of other retail destinations and how well the municipal government supports business development and the truth is, the only thing we have are the demographics.  

North Bay Village is not a pedestrian friendly environment.  For all the millions spent and to spend on the Causeway, not once has making the sidewalks walkable been considered.  Stores don't like to see their customers killed by vehicular traffic and know that people won't go where they are not safe.

North Bay Village has never executed on the many marketing plans to attract business.  We've allowed prime real estate to sit vacant while we ask nothing of developers to help create the business environment we need.  It's more important to get the campaign contributions impact fees that are in turn spent on repaying other campaign contributors never realized projects.

North Bay Village makes parking impossible where it is not merely difficult.  

And finally, we have a long reputation as a "pay to play" municipality.  Our business code is confusing, contradictory and our inspection process is designed to thwart honest businesses.  Ask anyone who has opened a business here. 

So the big stores, the Starbucks, the Publix, go where they can open with less risk and nobody else really moves in here.  It's not the people who live here, it's the people who govern here.  

Kevin Vericker
April 23, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why Not Park The Cars On the Bay Walk?

It's been over a month since I last posted.  Most of the activity is happening on the Facebook page:  North Bay Village Residents Speak and this is seeming less useful, other than for complicated issues.  For tonight's commission meeting we have two such issues, Access to the Bay and Harbor Island Parking, so it seems like it's worth the trouble.  Let's start with Bay Access.  

The following buildings are required by the terms of their approvals to provide a bayfront walkway open to the public:  

Bayview at 1625 JFK Causeway
Bridgewater at 1881 JFK Causeway
360 at 7900 Harbor Island Drive
Eloquence at 7928 East Drive
Cielo at 7935 East Drive
The Adagio at 7939 East Drive
Blue Bay at 7927 West Drive
Space 01 at 7934 West Drive

And of course the new projects:

Moda at the end of West Drive.
The new projects on Treasure Island. 

Each of these buildings (with the exception of Blue Bay) had their certificates of occupancy approved by the village without recording the easements and none have opened the required baywalks.  

In fact, the 360 briefly opened and then closed the access, with Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez quoted in the Miami Herald:  

Read more here:
 Gonzalez was of course lying.  There was a clear path to a solution - establish the rules and regulations from the commission and actually do the assessment.  

This issue was first brought up to the village in 2012, many times.  In February 2013, a memo detailing the problem was prepared by the village clerk, distributed to the administration and it was brought to the commission's attention in March 2013, brought up again during the campaign, and our commission have ignored it until tonight.  

It's not that unusual in North Bay Village that Certificates of Occupancy are granted without anyone checking to see if they were right.  A large condo on Treasure Island was issued a CO without inspections of the units.   If you want to ignore the law in North Bay Village, you slip campaign donations and party favors around generously and the village will overlook anything that you find inconvenient.  Remember when it turned out that nobody had inspected the deck at Shuckers for 40 (Forty) years?  And there were no repercussions?  And the owner gave generously to the  mayoral and Gonzalez campaign?  Connections, anyone?

Anyway, tonight the issue is back on the agenda.  In spite of this being known by the commission and recorded in memos for over two years, I am certain that Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Son of A Gun Village Manager Frank Rollason will blame the previous managers and Mayor Dazed and Confused will act like it's the first time she's heard this.  And the issue will die unless we demand that it get fixed.  

Regarding parking, Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Son of A Gun Village Manager Frank Rollason will present the decal program.  It is simple.  If you have no parking, 2 decals.  If you have 1 space, 1 decal.  If you are supposed to have adequate parking in your building, no decals.  Guest parking by application at the PD.  It's the usual half assed approach and he's taken two years to even get that far.  It will pass and it will fail.   

Kevin Vericker
April 14, 2015


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March 10 2015 Commission Meeting

The good news from the commission meeting last night is that it ended in a record 1 hour and 51 minutes.  This accomplished a long held goal of discussing absolutely nothing.  But of course it was not nothing.  Let's break it down to the major themes:
  • Ongoing issues with the Kennedy House
  • The firing/not firing of Chief Robert Daniels
  • Harbor Island which deserves its own post but won't get one today. 

 The Kennedy House

If you have been living under a bridge, in a coma, or visiting your in-laws in Central Florida, you might not know what is going on at the Kennedy House.  The full breakdown is here but to make it short, the management company and condo board president are facing charges of burglary, grand theft and assorted misbehaviors. 

Village Attorney Robert Switkes took great pains to explain the process of the arrests, that the decision finally lies with the state attorney and that no one in the village administration is privy to the particulars. 

Village Manager Rollason took great pains to explain that the Kennedy House did not figure in his decision to fire/not fire the chief of police and that the Local 10 report that he said it was a factor was wrong.  Rollason further explained that he had a "heart to heart" talk about "truthful reporting" with Bob Norman.  

Rollason also said that he had no idea of the status of the Kennedy House investigation when he fired/not fired the chief. 

Bob Norman of Local 10 ABC clarified for me that he stands by his reporting. 

Oh, the voices in my head
say they love me.
 Sidenote:  I asked Mayor Kreps if she was now willing to disavow the flier that her campaign supporters sent out trashing her opponent in the last election for bringing the Kennedy House issues as a way to attack him.  She is not.
With this guy vouching for
your integrity, how can you
go wrong?

However, Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez rose gallantly to her defense by saying that he knows her to be a woman of unquestionable integrity and that I have a political agenda.   So there.  The Gonzalez has spoken.  

Then the former president of the Grandview, former treasure of the Kreps Kampaign and former former vice mayor got up and explained that her campaign had nothing to do with the hit pieces and that they got 47 signatures from the Kennedy House not from the manager and she's good.  

So that settled that.  

 Fired/Not Fired, Definitely Suspended

Rootin' tootin', straight shootin' son of a gun Village Manager Frank Rollason then gave his report, a fair amount of it about the police chief who was not fired.   He is still the police chief.  He is on six month administrative leave with no return.  Maybe he'll get a new job and we won't have to pay his severance.  But he's not fired.  And Bob Norman reported that he was but Frank Rollason never said that.  Everyone clear?  Good.  Now don't ask again. 

Harbor Island

There were two big issues discussed about Harbor Island.  

Parking:  In his report, rootin' tootin', straight shootin' son of a gun Village Manager Frank Rollason explained that he will be  presenting the parking program to the commission in April.  For Harbor Island, it will be a three tier system.  
  • Have Private Parking?  No sticker. 
  • Have No Private Parking?  You get a sticker.
  • Have Some Private Parking But Not Enough?  You can get a sticker for the extra cars if there are enough.  

The attorney explained that the 7904 Board are not showing up at meetings and apparently not answering the phones.   Since the Bayshore Yacht & Tennis Club Building is a major cause of the parking issues on Harbor Island, this does not bode well.  

Docking:  The commission authorized the administration to seek a $200,000 grant to build a dock at Vogel Park.  If we get it, the Village will have to match the grant for an amount between 25% ($50k) and 50% ($100k).   There is no demand for the dock from any residents and the commission acknowledged this and then voted to seek it anyway, taking an attitude of "some people won't like it."  

Other Stuff:  

Not much.  Wendy Duvall did not come for reasons.  They passed the  styrofoam ban.  They agreed that Ethics Training should be done online.  As the last item of the evening, they motioned to adjourn and voted "aye".  The mayor then shouted ROLL CALL but nobody knew why.  Then they went home. 

Kevin Vericker
March 10, 2015

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ask Not What You Can Do For The Kennedy House, Ask What The Kennedy House Can Do For You

By now, most people following North Bay Village are familiar with the ongoing scandal at the Kennedy House.  The allegations are that the management company conspired with board members to remove high end appliances from units being sold, replace them with cheaper appliances, and profit from the difference.  
1865 JFK Causeway - The Kennedy House
The crimes were first alleged by a group of homeowners in the building, where the selling unit owner had installed high end appliances but when the buyer came in, they found these had been swapped out.  Police reports were made and it was generally expected that the investigations would result in some kind of a resolution.

But it's North Bay Village.  Connie Kreps was running for election.  Mayor Kreps is a woman of high cunning, low intelligence and a well defined sense of grievance.  Kreps believes herself to be an independent agent but as mayor, she is little more than an easily manipulated tool of the self interested crowd who profit from our village.   Nowhere was this more apparent than in her campaign's decision to use the routine criminal investigation for property and economic crimes at the Kennedy House to trash her opponent and support her candidacy. 

Her campaign supporters, through their Electioneering Campaign Organization supporters, sent out a nasty flier charging that Jorge Brito, her opponent, was disliked by the very people he as a homeowner in the Kennedy House, was investigating.  He was.  A homeowner and his neighbors who were looking to the village law enforcement to help them find out what happened in their homes are often not popular with the accused. 

Former police chief Robert Daniels was in charge of the investigating detectives and according to one report, on Channel 10, click here for the link, the deliberately slow and obstructive pace of the investigation was a factor in the Village Manager's decision to fire the chief.  From the report:
"North Bay Village manager Frank Rollason told Local 10 that the poor way in which the Kennedy House cases were handled was one factor among others in his decision to fire Police Chief Robert Daniels last week"
So how does our Mayor tie in?  Well during the campaign, an Electioneering Campaign Organization, funded by among others the Condo Hotel developers on the JFK Causeway, the developers for the other buildings, the real estate interests on Harbor Island, the village engineering firm, a current lobbyist,  among others, put out this piece of trash to support Kreps' election.

Trash talking by Kreps Supporters To Discredit Jorge Brito
 Here is a link to the contributors to Floridians For a Strong Future, High Minded Civic Thinkers they are. 

It was not enough for Her Honor, simply accepting the support of people who felt that her election mattered to protect the "rights" of condo management.  No.  She actively recruited for her campaign volunteer staff one of the prime suspects, a woman named Alejandra Saucedo who works at the Kennedy House and who does not live in North Bay Village.  Here's a photo from her campaign via Facebook:

Connie's Campaign Supporter Including State Rep David Richardson

Mug Shot of Alejandra Saucedo Following the Arrests Last Friday.

Working Together To Protect The "Right"
It's no secret that Chief Robert Daniels owed his position to Kreps.  She led the group that ousted the Village Manager and the duly elected mayor of North Bay Village, has consistently supported even the sloppiest of police reporting, and actively coveted and won the union endorsement of the North Bay Village police, the same union that supported the installation of Robert Daniels. 

But by February, the negligence and inaction of the police department had become too much and the village manager fired Robert Daniels (after a six month fully paid notice period expires in July, then he gets three months severance and a year's health care).  Rumor has it that the mayor is furious about this.  She could not protect her supporters.  There will be more to this story. 

I don't know how it will all work out.  Arrests are not convictions.  Links are not causes.  But it paints an ugly picture of our North Bay Village leadership under Kreps.  

Kevin Vericker
March 9, 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015

Parking, Packing Up and Shutting Out

The Parking Workshop on February 21, 2015

The Annual Harbor Island Parking Workshop was held Saturday at 10 AM.  The time was chosen to ensure that observant Jews were precluded and the meeting, which affects some 1000 residents on Harbor Island was attended by about 25 people plus 4 commissioners.  (Wendy Duvall was not present again.)  

There was several key points covered
  • There are not enough parking spots on Harbor Island.
  • There are many reasons for this but the biggest one is that the Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club broke their parking lease sometime in 2010 and won't pay for parking.  This puts an additional 167 cars on the street.  
  • The newer condos have adequate parking but charge the residents and in the case of the Eloquence the paying short term guests to park there.  
  • The older condos don't have enough parking.   
At least this year, the village had some baseline statistics.   

So the following proposals were floated.  
  • Create a decal system for Harbor Island residents.  
  • Don't give decals to the Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club
  • Don't give decals to anyone who has an assigned parking space. 
  • Meter public parking for visitors or offer a "scratch off" type parking pass to be used.  
  • Parking by phone and by meter were discussed.   
 These ideas will be evaluated by the village administration and recommendations submitted to the commission for them to ignore.  

Our mayor has already declared herself horrified at the poverty in the 7904 Building and is not likely to vote for anything that does not help these poor people out of their self inflicted wound.   Commissioners Chervony, Lim and Jorge Gonzalez did not give any indications of how they will vote and Commissioner Duvall was absent.   

My guess is it will be North Bay Village Crazy™ half baked solution with some decals and no enforcement.  

The Police Chief Is On Administrative Leave With No Return (Fired) - 

Less than 6 months after giving Chief Robert Daniels a good performance review and a merit increase for his outstanding service, the village manager decided to let the police chief go.  Per the terms of the police chief's employment, he is entitled to six months' notice and three months' severance plus accumulated vacation and sick days, plus extended health benefits.   So we have to pay that out.  

There are rumors all over town about why he was fired but nothing you can really lend a lot of credence to.   The police department now has an acting chief, Brian Collins, through October.   Collins is a good man and he kept things on track last time he was faced with the same issue, so that's good.  

Shutting Down The Gates on North Bay Island

Apartheid Wall Jo'Burg 1988

Apartheid Wall North Bay Island 2015


The North Bay Island Gated Community is taking things a step further and prohibiting entrance to the neighborhood between 10 PM and 6 AM without clearance from a resident. 

This is being pushed through by one resident as there is no longer a homeowner's association on North Bay Island and the streets are not private so there are massive legal questions.   

Kevin Vericker
February 22, 2015