Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reminder on Comments

Personal attacks with be deleted. Anonymous comments may be deleted.

You want to know why? I will tell you why. Look at this I got today.

"Funny that the posts about the $100,000 per year Chief’s secretary keep getting deleted but she should be out first. Then get rid of a few Detectives. Really? 7 getting and extra 5%" by Anonymous.

I rejected it.

I want readers to comment but remember:

1.) We are the reality based community so it matters that we have facts, you know things that other people can see too.

The first fact free sentence implies that I have been rejecting posts about someone.

This is not a fact as I have never received any posts or deleted any comments before this.

2.) Then Anonymous says "she should be out first." Snap. Fail. Personal attack. No facts, no reasoning, just a focused insult. Not happening.

3.) Finally, I freakin' love this "Really? 7 getting and extra 5%". Did you fall asleep at the keyboard? Were those alien signals penetrating the tin foil?

So this is the only time I will post about the comments rejected. Remember, to be accepted - no personal attacks, you can be anonymous if you choose to but I do not encourage it. And if you can't create a full sentence, I don't really think I should have to work that hard to figure you out.

Kevin Vericker

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm gone this week - behave yourselves.

I have to go to New Jersey for the rest of the week and help my father move. So I am going to miss this:

Crime Watch and Traffic Camera Enforcement Program

Thursday, January 28, 2010 6:30pm - 8:30pm

Treasure Island Elementary School
7540 East Treasure Drive
North Bay Village, FL

Email Lt. McVay

Now, as regards the cameras, rumor has it that there will be a group of North Bay Islanders complaining that they are being targeted unfairly.

If history predicts the future, it will be rude and bullying. I hope it won't but I'm betting it will.

Listen, people develop bad driving habits and Miami is particularly bad. It's clear that one of the reasons is lack of effective enforcement. As a pedestrian and a bicyclist in North Bay Village, I am constantly on the wrong end of people rolling through red lights to make a right.

Just the other night, crossing the Causeway at HispaƱola on foot, where I had the green light and the walk sign, a moron in a Suburban Assault Vehicle rolled right, missed me by a foot and then screamed a common expletive at me. Way to keep it classy, North Bay Village.

This is more than a joke. If we are going to have a vibrant, livable community, traffic has to be controlled. The lights are helping. It would help more if the police started stopping the speeders.

The other thing I wonder about is what is going through the minds of people who got the tickets and think it's unfair.

For a reality based person, if you get a ticket, you log on, you see the video of your car going through the red light, you pay the ticket, try to be more careful and get on with your life.

But for some North Bay Village people, getting a ticket is like a seventh grader in trouble at school. Remember those excuses?

"It wasn't my fault." "The teacher hates me." "Everyone does it. Why me?"

Anything but, "It was my fault. I won't do it again."

What do you suppose these people tell their kids? Never mind. We know their kids.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Police

There may be no topic more controversial than the North Bay Village PD. And there's probably not a more complicated topic. Rumors fly, accusations are routinely tossed around, budgets are cut, stories are told.

Here's the problem - it's not easy to separate fact from fiction. One Treasure Island resident compared the stories to the plot of "100 Years of Solitude"!

So I'm going to cover some easy facts, then add in some viewpoints. I'm interested in other views and information.

The North Bay Village is typical of the smaller independent towns in Miami-Dade. As the county grew, towns like Surfside, El Portal, North Bay Village, wanted to establish their own identities and to ensure public safety for the new municipalities. This has meant that almost all police resources, including administration, dispatch, detective bureaus, equipment, internal investigations, are locally funded and operated. And I'm willing to say this has been a popular position with the citizenry and is a big reason why North Bay Village remain an attractive, low crime area.

The police department has grown over the years in size and in budget consumption. It makes up almost 75% of our operating expenditures. Cuts are being made as we speak.

The commission directed the police to cut $450,000 from the budget and they have been working hard on that. Progress is slow and painful and we are going to get hit again in September when the property tax values fall again. Negotiations are going on right now with the affected unions and we'll see how that goes.

My viewpoints:

1.) I wrote to each of the commissioners asking that they set up a citizens advisory board to help in this transition. None wrote back or acknowledged the idea. Our mayor did talk to me about it informally but there's been no action.

We need as citizens to be involved in this process. Let's push the commission to get it right.

2.) Everyone has their favorite policing theory it seems. There are people insisting that the status quo be protected at all costs, others who would turn the police over to Metro Dade following the model of Miami Lakes, Doral and other cities who have local patrols but county control, and everything in between.

I don't know the right answer but there are too many sacred cows in the police budget. Let's put it all on the table. Does it make sense to have local dispatchers or can we safely go to 911 alone? We already pay for it. Would CCTV policing reduce the need for patrols? Some say it does, others no. Heck, should we go to Metro?

I don't have the answers and more of us need to be involved, those of us from the reality based community. Reality basers, fire away. I will turn the blog over to any well reasoned poster who wants to put it up.

3.) Speaking of reality, I don't know how many of you were at the Nov 13 meeting (Miami Herald Link Here ) but that was like a bad reality show. Citizens with no idea of what was going on showed up to shriek bizarre accusations about an internal police matter. The president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Armando Aguilar, threatened the city with unlimited resources dedicated to sue the city unless he got to call the shots on our internal affairs.

It was disgusting. It's time to lower the noise and stop posing. There's too much at stake.

4.) In the meantime, over in the blogosphere at LEO Affairs, the North Bay Village Police Forum police and people posing as police are engaging in anonymous insults and childish threats. Time to chill out, kids.

There are going to be a lot of posts about this and I hope a lot of discussion.

I am getting out of town for the rest of the week but will checking daily. And the offer to publish other viewpoints is open.

Kevin Vericker

Up Next: Yeah, Stopping at a red light is more than a good idea, it's the law. Did you really need to be told that?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Infrastructure Money

In my last post, I talked about the reasons we got so much money from outside sources. How much did we get?

Eleven Million Dollars. $11,000,000

Our total voter approved bond authorizations were $37.5 million and that has been reduced by 30% because the city aggressively pursued the money. And there's more to come.

Here's the breakdown of the $37.5 million originally proposed.

Force Main Replacement - $9.1m
Burying Utility Lines - $9.1m
Parks & Water Quality - $9.4m
Public Safety & City Hall- $7.9m
Causeway Redevelpment - $2m

If you want more detail, I will gladly post more.

Kevin Vericker

WTF The Police!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hedges Tonight

I am still waiting for the figures on the infrastructure projects. I had expected to have them by now.

In the meantime, tonight there is a meeting at 6PM, on the subject of hedges. The city currently has a 6 foot ordinance limit on hedge height and this has been a subject of controversy with some owners who want higher, privacy hedges.

Here's the meeting information: "HEDGE WORKSHOP

A workshop to discuss the hedge regulations has been scheduled for Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. in the City Administrative Offices at 1666 Kennedy Causeway, #700, North Bay Village, Florida."

I won't be there as I have a conflict tonight and I really don't have a strong opinion on the subject either way.

Kevin Vericker

Monday, January 18, 2010

Congress Knows Who We Are

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” Mark Twain

Making fun of Congress is a great old American tradition and North Bay Village seems to be joining in the fun. There was a comment from the dais at the last NBV Commission Meeting (made as a joke I think) to the effect that the reason that North Bay Village has gotten so much attention is that our representatives don't know that we are not a city of 150,000. Not exactly Mark Twain wit but fair enough.

It's important to remember though that it's not true. Our Congressional Representatives, Senate and House, our Tallahassee representatives and our county commissioner all know very well who we are.

I've done lobbying in the US Capitol and here's how it works:

1.) Our lobbyist contacts the senior aide to the specific representative or official to request a meeting with a copy of the agenda.

2.) The request is given to appropriate aide in charge of the policy or legislation to be discussed. The aide evaluates the agenda in light of what is available or possible. A junior aide, usually an intern, does the basic research including the geographic and demographic facts of those affected, a first level search on the participants (elected officials hate meetings with criminals or terrorists), and verifies the basic facts presented.

3.) The senior aide recommends the meeting with the representative or delegates it to a staff member. A summary is prepared for the meeting participants including all the facts of who, what, why, where and policy recommendations.

4.) The meeting happens. At that point, the official knows who we are, what we want, whether it's feasible and usually what the outcome will be. The meeting is to confirm.

Now, again, about the joke, elected officials are very busy with dozens of requests daily for their time. They set it up to maximize time and the representative herself only meets with people who meet the criteria. Yeah, I know the door should be open to all but time is scarce. And if the staff has not properly prepared the meeting, by for example not mentioning that North Bay Village is a city of ~7,000, that staff catches it. Hell hath no fury like a Congressional Representative embarrassed by her staff.

So they do know who North Bay Village is, why we are there, and what we have done to be considered. Let's review.

Our city has been the recipient of quite a large chunk of Federal, State and County funds last year and we hope for more this year. In fact, later this week, I will detail those grants and funds, all of which reduce our tax burden and improve our city. Getting these funds happened for a couple of reasons:

1.) We actually voted to tax ourselves for this money in 2006 and 2008 through bond issues for the Causeway, Sewer, Parks and Landscaping projects. The citizens – us – voted specifically for these projects without any expectation that anyone else was going to pick up the tab. Shows a lot of commitment on our part.

2.) The previous administration and the current administration invested a lot of time, money, effort and political capital in proposing these realistic, high value infrastructure projects and convincing a skeptical public (including me) that it was worth the additional tax burden.

3.) The current administration hired a grant writer to aggressively pursue federal, state and county funding wherever possible and our Commission has been showing up in person to meet with our congressional reps, our state reps and the county reps to make sure they hear the North Bay Village story.

So we did the right things, have aggressively pursued available and new funds for these projects. We're the poster child for the ARRA funds. Other towns and cities have not done this work and certainly hadn't agreed to tax themselves for the same and they are not seeing the stimulus money.

One more thing about elected officials and our NBV commissioners know this well. What with being human and all, once they have helped out, once they have spent some political capital to meet a nonessential request from constituents, they get a little testy when they are belittled sarcastically for their efforts. It's bad form to bite the hand that feeds you. It also doesn't bode well for future requests, of which we have many.

Commissioners, if you feel the need to practice your wit, restrain yourself. It's North Bay Village. The laughs will present themselves.

Kevin Vericker
7520 Hispanola Ave

Coming up Next: How Much Did We Get For The Projects?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Interesting Budget Post By the North Bay Village PD

WWW.LEOAFFAIRS.COM is a nationwide law enforcement bulletin board for police professionals. The North Bay Village Forum is particularly controversial.

Since LEOAFFAIRS allows anonymous postings, it gets a little off the hook but there is some good stuff.

Here is a posting about the police budget cuts Click Here.

The last poster, Guest, pretty well lays it out.

Kevin Vericker
7520 Hispanola Ave.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Disagreement, Dissent, Discourse, Disruption

Lately our city has been hijacked by a small, loud and disruptive group of citizens who like all bullies have learned that these tactics work against decent people, at least for a while.

In November, the commission meeting degenerated into screaming chaos over a police internal affairs issue.

In December, a special meeting of the commission on police matters was consistently interrupted by residents merely shouting out insults.

On January 12 at the City Commission meeting, one resident and former North Bay Village commissioner, Connie Leon-Kreps, kept interrupting the proceedings calling out “Now we're in Cuba” whenever she disagreed with the proceedings. (I won't even begin to address the inherent racism of that remark.)

Civic gadfly Fane Lozman took a break from fighting with the Riviera Beach Commission to gratuitously insult the NBV city manager, insinuating that a routine contract matter was tainted by corruption without offering any evidence. For what it's worth, the details of the city manager's recommendation and reasoning are publicly available.

Hubert Humphrey once said, “The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.” and we are facing serious issues in North Bay Village. Everyone needs to be heard, all of us have a need to understand, and tolerance for unlawful behavior has alienated citizens who otherwise want to be involved. As citizens we need to stand against this.

There are rules and decorum and these include prohibitions on personal attacks, disrupting other speakers, physical altercations and outbursts. The City Commission, the chair, usually the mayor, and the Sergeant at Arms (usually the police chief) have the authority to stop this mob behavior and they have to step up and put a stop to it.

My suggestion: The Sergeant At Arms as a public safety officer should use discretion at the first sign of an outburst – a warning to a particular individual or a general warning to the assembly could be the right course of action, but at the second instance, start removing the disrupters. Those of us who came to participate have a right to an orderly meeting and that right is violated when the proceedings are shouted down.

If the Sergeant At Arms does not act, citizens have the right to raise “A Point of Order” with the commission chair, asking that the proceedings be suspended until order and decorum are restored. This is done by the citizen rising and addressing the chair, requesting permission to raise the point of order.

And if the chair ignores this request, we have the right under Florida law to ask that all matters decided during the meeting be set aside and decisions made be annulled. It's a little known right, seldom enforced, but it exists.

I for one intend to start taking this approach if the city meetings are not brought under control.

Kevin Vericker
7520 Hispanola Avenue.

Coming up next: Yes, your congressional representative knows where North Bay Village is.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Things that are going right...

Let's start with this. In more prosperous times, from about 2005 through 2008, North Bay Village embarked on an ambitious plan to improve the city - add a park, beautify the causeway, landscape Treasure Island, fix the sewer infrastructure - and we voted to tax ourselves for the bonds to do this.

City meetings were held. Plans discussed, accepted, revised, rejected and political campaigns were based on the improvement projects.

At the ballot box, the residents agreed we needed the projects and the city stepped up.

Now, those years were the height of the bubble and we long time residents weren't entirely selfless. With our homestead exemptions, with the sky high prices being paid for resale homes (and the consequent higher taxes from the new residents) and with the seemingly endless high end condo developments, the new tax burden seemed slight.

And it all fell apart. The market crashed, tax revenue is declining for the second straight year, up to a fifth of the new assessments are being appealed and it doesn't look like it's going to get better soon.

Our commission, normally a pretty contentious bunch, unified. They understood that North Bay Village is the right model for the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, best known as the stimulus) funds. The projects were ready, shovel ready is the jargon, and the community had shown significant commitment by agreeing to the bonds.

As a result of their efforts, and support by the city manager and staff, close to $7,000,000 has been eliminated from the bond burden and there are good prospects for more. This was across the commission. No single member should claim all the credit, but all should get some.

The projects are paying off. Look around. You might not love the trees or you might disagree with the placement of the cutouts, but you have to admit, this looks like a city on rise rather than one beaten down. Compare that to what you see when you cross the causeway, in either direction. This isn't happening elsewhere.

So while we may or may not agree on the specifics of the renovations, this massive project alone shows what can happen what the citizens and the commissioners work together.

It's a good model.

Kevin Vericker

Why North Bay Village Reality Based Community?

The purpose of this blog is to reintroduce civil, civic discourse in North Bay Village. I look forward to multiple viewpoints, disagreements both small and large and factual discussions. As we evolve, there are some ground rules.

1.) Everyone is welcome to comment and contribute.
2.) Anonymous or identity disguised comments will be deleted. If it's too dangerous to use your name, you should be seeing an attorney or a shrink, not posting on a blog.
3.) Rumors may be discussed and challenged but personal attacks will be deleted.
4.) We welcome and will actively seek the contributions of our elected officials and our city personnel but this is not a political platform for any candidate or viewpoint.

Let's set a new standard here. I'll start.

I am Kevin Vericker at 7520 Hispanola Ave, Treasure Island, North Bay Village. For purposes of this blog, my email is (North Bay Village Reality Based Community - get it?). I have lived in North Bay Village, along with my partner, for 11 years and love this place.

Our unique location, separate from the rest of Miami-Dade County and in the middle of Biscayne Bay, gives this city a small town atmosphere usually found in the Florida Keys rather than in the middle of the eighth most populous county in the United States.

It's a pleasant place, with bay breezes, quiet streets, a good school, a local police force, a post office branch right out of Mayberry RFD, a couple of good restaurants and neighbors who know each other by more than sight. It's fair to say that most of the residents here chose this town for this quality.

But North Bay Village is not immune from the larger influences of being in the middle of a large urban area. Our population density (number of people per square mile) is the highest in Florida and we are on a major route between Miami and Miami Beach. We have ethnic tensions, declining tax base, public safety issues, environmental vulnerabilities and an aging infrastructure.

Right now, we are facing the prospect of a 20% decline in property tax revenue for fiscal 2011 owing to the nationwide property collapse. There are decisions to be made and in further posts these will be detailed.

But for now, the most important issue is getting the agenda right, that is to ensure that our city is focused on the problems in the forefront, those that pose the biggest risk to the community.

Getting that agenda right is proving to be an enormous challenge. Our commission meetings are increasingly dominated by a small group whose interests are unclear, except for one overriding desire to gainsay the mayor. In November, the City Commission meeting degenerated into a name calling, screaming session. Similarly, the same behavior disrupted a special meeting in late December.

Whether the opinions are right or wrong, this sort of behavior prevents the issues from being evaluated, shuts out the citizens and stakeholders who don't engage in bullying and can irreparably damage our city's civic process.

We can't let this go on and our citizens have to start participating in our town government. We can start by attending commission meetings, seeking information and not being bullied. Let's start here.