Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Commission Back in Town

Last night I ventured out into the Arctic 62 °F cold and went to the commission meeting.  It was the first since October where the old/new commission were addressing regular business. 

Four of the five commissioners were present.  Wendy Duvall was not but was excused by motion for reasons she never stated. 

As is now the custom, awards were given to those who have pleased the mayor and this was the first item.  

First up was an award to the Miami Beach ROTC for helping out at the Halloween Party.   Since they didn't show up, it was decided to mail it to them.  

Second was the Keepout Award to the 360 for the most attractive landscaping blocking legally required public access to the bay. 
Locked Access to the Bay

Then an award was given to a North Bay Island resident for some plants and finally everyone else on North Bay Island was given an award for some reason or another but no one was there to collect. 

From there the meeting proceeded to Good & Welfare.  There were three people who spoke during Good & Welfare, Al Coletta, Rey Trujillo and your local blogger.

Mr. Coletta spoke strongly about the need for the village to make progress.  He talked about the obstacles to business, his frustration with the high rents and vacant spaces and the village's obstacles put in front of local businesses.  Love Al Coletta or not, (and it's possible to do both) he is spot on about the problem.   

Mr. Trujillo agreed in general terms and pointed out that the Planning & Zoning Board is working with the revision of the Village Code.   

Your Local Blogger then got up and reminded the commission that moving forward is based on completing past and current tasks noting:
  1. The School Improvement Plan and progress made it on it need to be reported back to the commission and the community. 
  2. The Kimley Horne Proposal for the plan to make a plan for the park under the bridge is now two months overdue.
  3. The sidewalks are supposed to be cleaned twice per year but only have been cleaned once.  When can we expect the next cleaning? 
  4. In February 2014, the village promised to hold a second workshop on Harbor Island Parking with the correct statistics.  As of December 2014, there is none scheduled. 
  5. The Causeway is going to be torn up in mid 2015 for a repaving project that will last longer than a year.  It would be a good idea to plan for that now. 
The commission then moved on to Board Reports.  P&Z  Chair Rey Trujillo informed the commission of the two approvals they made this month and that they would be on the January agenda.  The Community Enhancement Board was not present.  There are currently no other boards.  More about that later.  

I stuck around through the Commissioner's reports.  Highlights included the Mayor, looking smart in her new Rick Perry frames, asked about the illegal dumping all over the place.  Frank Rollason explained that it was really hard to enforce the anti dumping laws so they don't.  

Then she asked about PAL and when told there was no real money appropriated to the program, decided that the program should be postponed until "residents" come up with the bucks.   

Finally Mayor Kreps noted that there is a Menorah Lighting scheduled for next Tuesday and that the voices in her head unspecified residents wondered why there was no Christmas Tree lighting.  It was suggested to her that perhaps she should have organized one.  Mrs. Kreps looked confused.  

Former Vice Mayor Lim explained that businesses don't come here because we are an unattractive demographic and some other stuff.  

Commission Vice Mayor  Gonzalez then jumped energetically into his new role and tackled the tough issues.  

On Harbor Island parking, he established that maybe sometime in the future there might be another workshop.  He also pointed out that MODA, the new rental project will increase traffic.   

The Gonzalez was concerned about the lack of a shelter for kids waiting for the school bus and the Village Manager explained that a shelter under a tree was dangerous in lightening storms and no one talked about moving the bus stop except to say that might be hard so why do it?  

Then he assured the assembled residents that he, The Gonzalez, had spoken with the developers of the new projects on the Causeway and they remain steadfast in their commitment to provide unicorn farms public access to the Bay. 

The Gonzalez made no mention of his own illegal blocking of bay front access at the 360. 
 So after that,  your local blogger decided to leave since I will only live so long and it's clear that if you combined the intelligence on the dais, you'd have a half wit. 

But I checked in online later and the Commission was discussing the boards.  Specifically should there be a board to evaluate services for residents with special needs?  The Gonzalez wants it and Chervony backs it and the Village Attorney says we accrue no special liability by studying the services required but the most public of our special needs residents, Mayor Kreps, would have none of it but eventually she was instructed to vote for it so it passed 3-1. 

The Commission was then SHOCKED to discover that the other boards which they have spent the last two years abusing, ignoring and running people off if they were not "positive" for some unknown reasons are not attracting residents willing to serve and be ignored and berated by them.  So they are going to combine their collective wisdom and study the problem.  We should see action in about two years.  

So that's the news. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

The New North Bay Village

North Bay Village is building again.  At the P&Z Meeting on Tuesday night, two projects were approved on the Causeway, one with 70 and the other with 45 new condos, making the total of new condos proposed since 2011 about 735 new units, plus 285 new rental apartments at Moda (formerly Blue on the Bay) and another 150 units coming back online at 7525 E. Treasure Drive.  That 1,150 new housing units in the next few years.   Assuming 2 people per, that's a 30% increase in our population.   

In the past, each time a behemoth new project was approved, we were promised that the increase in the tax base would fund needed improvement.  We were promised open access to the waterfront.  We were promised that impact fees levied on the buildings would fund the expanded infrastructure.  We were promised that North Bay Village would become a "destination."   

The promises were lies.  

As the Village careened towards broke under the mismanagement of the Commission, the only workable solution to financial stability was to raise our taxes 35% in 2 years. 

Only one of the eleven buildings ever provided the bay access.  The rest simply never opened it or as is the case at the 360, where Comrade Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez is President while sitting on the Village Commission, arbitrarily shut it down without consequence.   

The impact fees were wasted on overinvestment in the Vogel Park while Treasure Island's Park, an open air litter box next to the Public Works facility, continues to rot and our rec money went to pay for a plan to make a plan for a park under the bridge to Miami Beach which should not and will not ever be built.  

In the meantime, our water infrastructure is collapsing, operating at over 100x capacity on outflow and the state is about to tear up the Causeway for a year or so starting in mid 2015.  

As far as being a "destination", our once popular restaurants are mostly closed and the Lexi ground floor remains abandoned.  

But hey, maybe this time the commission will get it right.  After all, a promise is a promise.  Delivering on the promise, well that takes work.  

Kevin Vericker
December 5, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Commission on Ethics Overrules the Commission on Ethics In a North Bay Village Special

Last week, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics overruled the former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court Gerald Kogan, while tossing aside the carefully crafted Voluntary Fair Campaign Practices Procedure. This Fair Campaign Pledge is designed to allow candidates who feel their opponent has engaged in unfair campaign practices to lodge a complaint with the COE through an expedited process. Both parties have to choose to accept the complaint heard for probable cause within 24 hours.

It's a good process. It means that complaints can be dealt with quickly and not overshadow a campaign. It prevents frivolous or baseless complaints from being used as a campaign tactic and in the case that probable cause is found, puts that information in the public view.

That's what happened in North Bay Village in the November 4 election. Incumbent Jorge Gonzalez complained that a flier challenger Mario Garcia put out unfairly represented Gonzalez's involvement in a bankruptcy, debt judgments, a paid trip to Turkey, and Gonzalez's voting record.

Gonzalez made the complaint (C14-51) and Garcia agreed to the expedited process. Hearing officer retired Florida Supreme Court judge Gerald Kogan evaluated the complaint and the response and found “No Probable Cause.”

In the meantime, Gonzalez won the election against Garcia.

In every single one of the election complaints, the Commission on Ethics Board has followed the recommendation of the hearing officer, referring those where probable cause has been found for further action and dismissing those where no probable cause was found. In fact, neither Joe Centorino, the COE Executive Director, nor anyone else can find a single example of the Board overrruling a “No Probable Cause” finding in any complaint ever filed in the COE history. Until now.

This brings up a host of questions without answers.

Why was this complaint uniquely passed to an entirely separate process? What fault was found in the hearing that justified that? The hearing on November 17 offers no clarity on that question because they are held in secret, behind closed doors. No members of the public are allowed although Commissioner Gonzalez was invited to stay.

What value does agreeing to the Voluntary Campaign Practices Ordinance bring a candidate if the COE staff decides they don't like the result and will arbitrarily continue to pursue the complaint after the finding? It seems like none.

Finally, why this unique decision on this one complaint. Well, again, the COE does not hold public hearings on why they would overrule a hearing officer. But there is a long and cozy relationship between the Advocate Michael Murawski, a resident of North Bay Village, and one side of the politically active North Bay Village community, a group that strongly supported Gonzalez's bid for election.

In the past, the COE has already treated North Bay Village differently. When the COE established that a commissioner and his wife had both their mobile phones paid for by North Bay Village over the course of 7 years, they said it was “done with good intentions” and refused to pursue repayment.

In another complaint against Mr. Gonzalez for not reporting a gift of tickets to the Miami Heat, they redacted their own press release to remove references to business relationships in North Bay Village and imposed no fine, just a $100 penalty to cover the COE costs.  

The list goes on. So maybe this is peculiar to North Bay Village. Maybe North Bay Village is so unique that the Commission on Ethics needs to invalidate the Voluntary Fair Campaign Practices Ordinance and summarily overrule the finding of one of the most respected jurists in the state.

Or maybe it's simply a case that local North Bay Village resident who also happens to be the Commission on Ethics Advocate didn't like the outcome and so decided to toss aside the process to get the outcome he wants? I think it's that one. 

Kevin Vericker
November 25, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Delusions of Adequacy

Last Friday night, Mayor Kreps's coterie of enablers staged an event for her.  You see the poor thing is operating under the delusion that there are many active boards in North Bay Village.  There are only one and a half.  The planning and zoning run by former Vice Mayor Rey Trujillo and Connie's campaign manager, and occasional meetings by the Community Enhancement Board where they talk about flowers.   

Instead of telling her that there really were no active boards, the group got together and started giggling, "Dude, what if we like held an  awards dinner and told people to come and gave them awards like they actually did something.  And Connie would totally buy it."  And so they did. 

Because according to Eddie Lim's FB page, they gave out recognitions to the Youth Services Board (no meeting since October 2013), the Business Advisory Board (no meeting since November 2013) and no mention of the Citizens Budget Oversight Board (met but never came once to a commission meeting in 2014).  

In any event, I don't like Mayor Kreps but it's cruel of these people to play into her delusions like that.  They should be helping her get the care she so desperately needs, not mocking her.  I hope they stop.  

Kevin Vericker
November 24, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Did you attend last night's festivities?

Because there is nothing going on in  North Bay Village, nothing I says, it was time for Mayor Kreps and her new prince consort, Jorge Gonzalez, to hold their installation.  

Mayor Kreps Elected At Last. 

It was a momentous day in North Bay Village.  Both Mayor Kreps and Jorge Gonzalez won their first elections ever!  Usually, Kreps comes in when the village pays for a lawsuit (2010) or her co-conspirators vast network of supporters (six of them) let anyone who might run against her know that they will be the subject of abuse (2012). 

The campaign was grueling for her.  Kreps was forced by circumstances to hire two strip club promoters to run her campaign (girls like her think they can get away but no, the past catches up with them) and she had to lie directly to the voters faces, people she had  never mingled with before, negative people, and ask them for votes.  It was hard and unbecoming but finally, she prevailed.  And she won. 

Kreps is eager to maintain tradition.  In 2014, Kreps initiated a tradition of not showing up at Regular Commission Meetings.  In January, she took off because it conflicted with her birthday.  In May, she took off because two weeks later, she had a flight to San Diego, In August, she took her vacation.  So in November, she really didn't want to be bothered with the business of governance and after discovering in October that there would be a meeting in November, Kreps decided that it would not have any annoying city business and just be FABULOUS HER.   HER Installation.

After she took her oath of office and placed a new tinfoil hat on her carefully coiffured hair helmet, Madame Mayor attempted to smile for her assembled minions while waiting the only action that the commission is to take in November to be performed.

Eddie Lim Gets Stabbed In the Back.  

 Remember way back on October 15 when I told you that Vice Mayor Eddie Lim had been very active at the commission?  In fact, he was the only one who was.   Well I knew then that would not sit well with Madam Kreps!  She hates questions, discussions, opinions, learning things, math, people who disagree with her, eventually people who agree with her, and really everyone who might be a threat.  So Lim had to go. 

In a rare guest appearance and an exciting cameo, Commissioner Wendy Duvall not only showed up to the meeting but actually said something.  Commissioner Duvall curtsied deeply to Madam Mayor and nominated none other than Madam Mayor's new favorite Jorge Gonzalez to be Vice Mayor.  Huzzah! shouted the assembled multitude (about six of them), "Let us have the new consort."  Well, no, not really.  No, huzzahing, just a bit of buzzing because everyone but Eddie Lim knew this would happen.  And so Eddie Lim was deposed and Jorge Gonzalez was installed. 

And since there was nothing to do, no actions to be taken, no issues for the village to consider, Mayor Kreps declared the evening a great day for some of North Bay Village and bid her fond subjects (about six of them) goodnight.   Rumor has it that a flight of winged monkeys then carried her off to her home.  

I Forgot All About Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez.  

In my excitement, I nearly forgot to congratulate newly installed Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez   Must be a memory lapse, a misunderstanding due my lack of comprehension what history means.  JP Gonzalez first moved to our fair village some 7 years ago and promptly overlooked paying his RE taxes in 2009 and 2010, resulting in these being sent to auction for tax certificates (Certificates #21138 and #23931).  Like Gonzalez the certificates were later redeemed because when you are the Mayoral favorite, history dies!

In fact, Jorge Gonzalez is a strong disciple of the Mayor Kreps delusion philosophy that the past only makes you negative and so Mr. Vice has decided that he has a history of not having a history and anyone who says otherwise better be prepared for a fight.  A fight he will lose but then again, losing is his style.  It will be interesting to see how he conducts himself now that he accidentally won.   By interesting, I mean of course, insane and dull.  

Kevin Vericker
November 19, 2014

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blue Skies, Smiling At Me.

Connie Leon-Kreps won the office of the Mayor on her first try handily.  The margin was 60-40.  

Jorge Gonzalez won this time after his 2012 defeat by 54-44.   Let me parse that since Mr. Gonzalez might sue me!  In 2012, he lost the vote to Mario Garcia.  In 2014, he won against Mr. Garcia.  So while it is true that Gonzalez has a history of losing, he has a present of being a winner.   Please don't sue me. 

Contributions to Kreps and Gonzalez Campaigns.
But the real winners in all of this are the Developers, the Village Contractors, and the Lobbyists.  Without their political courage and willingness to finance their interests, North Bay Village might have gone into the future with a competent, stable  mayor and a commissioner who's connected to the community.  Without their tireless efforts, Mayor Kreps may not have had the  money to hire two strip club lobbyists to run her shadow campaign. 

Special thanks goes to the voters who didn't show up, those 2/3rds of you.  Your ability to not give a crap inspires all of us!  I mean you only had 14 days to vote.  What?

Now we can look forward to a future of high rises blocking our bay views, no enforcement of the required bay access, a sewer project that will take years, a substandard school, no parking solutions, and a commission led by an idiot.   Good job all. 

Kevin Vericker
November 5, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

It's Time to Get It Right

Today I want to talk about why I support Mario Garcia for Commissioner at Large and why you should too.  

Tomorrow's election is about whether or not North Bay Village becomes the kind of village that plans for future and takes care of today, or if we remain stuck in the old dysfunctional governance of yesterday.  

First of all, without running, he garnered the majority of the votes in that race in 2012.  Seriously;  723 votes to 681 for Gonzalez.  But Mario had withdrawn from that race because it wasn't the right time, Jorge Gonzalez had promised to be open to many points of view and seemed like a man of his word.  Lesson from this:  Trust the Voters.   Many had met both candidates and could not bring themselves to vote for Gonzalez and they turned out to be right.  

You might think this is just a weird fluke, perhaps because of the alphabet, and just another example of North Bay Village Crazy™ in the elections but consider a second race, Stuart Blumberg vs. Wendy Duvall, where Blumberg had dropped out following a series of personal attacks by the ruling clique.  Same ballot position (first alphabetically) and no race, but Duvall garnered the majority of the votes - 542 vs, 944.  

Gonzalez has been more than a disappointment.  His arrogance, his bullying, his lack of ethical judgment, have caused us real damage.  I won't write about all that here since Stephanie Kienzle did a great job of describing that in her blog today.  Click here for that "must read."

After two years of attending every commission meeting and most board meetings, after himself being targeted by Gonzalez and Kreps for his volunteer work on the Business Board, after watching Gonzalez freeze out anyone who was of no direct benefit to Gonzalez, Mario decided to run again this year, along with Jorge Brito.  Brito has been suffering his own blows at the hands of the strip club lobby that Mayor Cara Dura Kreps hired to do her dirty work since she has such a terrible record. 

This campaign has been tough and Mario Garcia has been up to the challenge.  He works a demanding full time job as a Nurse Practitioner in an inner city Miami clinic, has three grandchildren who are at his house all day, and still finds time to attend community meetings and to run a campaign.  

It's this tirelessness more than anything that recommends Mario Garcia for Commissioner At Large.  He's honest to a fault, willing to learn, willing to be wrong even, but he will not be shut down or shut up.  Garcia listens, learns and acts.  And talks.  He explains his reasoning.  He engages with people.  Garcia worries that long after someone has shown themselves to be of bad character and ill will, that they should still be heard.  

The Village is at a crossroads.  Regardless of the outcome of the election, we know we need water infrastructure, a huge undertaking.  We know we need to solve the Open Space issue with our rapidly diminishing possiblities.  We know we have to solve our over-saturated parking.  We've known all of this for years.  

In this election, you are being asked to vote for the incumbent who has dismissed and ignored all of these issues, while accepting gifts from foreign developers and bullying residents who want to talk about the issues, or vote for Mario Garcia who worked to earn your trust long before he asked for you vote.  

I'm Team Garcia all the way and I hope you are too.  

Kevin Vericker
November 3, 2014