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

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