Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And The NBV Award For Over The Top Performance Goes To...



Last night's commission meeting, Feb 16 2010, covered a variety of issues facing North Bay Village, displaying a diversity of opinions and viewpoints, and was as always about THE POLICE, THE POLICE, THE POLICE.

In North Bay Village politics, the police are used to disguise every other motivation. Don't like Oscar Alfonso? Yell about the police. Don't like the City Manager? Scream about the police. Don't like getting a ticket when you run a red light? Cry about the police. Don't like the budget cuts and fear taxes? Shout about the police. No matter what your political position is in this city, always frame it as about the police.

And in this drama, oddly, we always manage to forget the police or at least the real issues facing the PD.

A few particulars then I will get to the entertainment:

Red Light Runners of North Bay Village Get a Reprieve - Yep, the city is refunding the paid tickets received by residents who were caught on camera rolling through red lights while making a right turn. The complaint from the citizens caught is, "I knew it was illegal but nobody told me I might get caught." Not only are we refunding that money by unanimous vote of the commission, but the city is contractually obligated to pay the provider of the cameras, ATS, for those tickets. See what happens when only the crazy people show up? Please, Reality Basers, start coming to the meetings!

The Police - The situation has become so politicized and polarized that there is no obvious solution. Give the Chief a medal! Fire the Chief! Fire all the cops! Leave the cops alone! Eliminate the Department! Build up the Department! and the shouting goes on.

I proposed and continue to propose that we see this as a chance to unify. There is an old Washington DC cliche, if you want to kill something, study it. It has truth to it but sometimes you just have to take a step back and toward that end, I have proposed that an tripartite commission comprising citizens, police and city administration be sponsored by the commission with the clear goal of reporting back within 90 days to the commission their findings and recommendations on the police situation. Not supervise the cops, but look at this coldly and rationally to balance the different pressures.

I am not so naive as to believe this approach will be above politics or separate from ideology, but it will give us a chance to take a deep breath and look at the reality we are facing.

Vice Mayor Rey Trujillo expressed his support in general terms last night. Mayor Alfonso has discussed this idea with me, but not committed and the three other commissioners have not responded. I'm still hoping for the right result.

Now on to the crazy stuff.

Last night, Fane Lozman, longtime civic gadfly in North Bay Village and Riviera Beach, crossed a line. For months, Lozman has been advocating that the city fire Matt Schwartz. Well last night he took it up a notch.

During his many turns at the public comment section, he accused the CM of "lining his pockets", a clear accusation of corruption during the public comment section of a resolution to restore contractually obligated longevity bonuses, a bonus by the way that the CM does not share. Schwartz responded, calmly and well. But this was way over the line.

Similarly, Lozman has also begun refusing to disclose his place of residence, asserting that the CM is "stalking" him. This led to the mayor calling a recess while it was decided whether or not to remove Lozman from the meeting. He was not removed although the city would have been well in its rights to do so since it is essential that name and address be stated as part of public comment.

So we don't know where he lives, we don't know what he wants really, but once again, as he has done in Riviera Beach he has disrupted our commission meeting.

He's not alone.

Good and Welfare, the section for open public comments, has turned into The Jerry Springer Show but without the intellectual rigor. The dominant theme last night was the popular sentiment that any restructuring of the PD should leave the local dispatchers in place. The feeling seems near universal, but instead of expressing it calmly, we went all North Bay Village on the subject.

Several citizens got up and expressed their view in the strongest possible terms, including one who demanded answers from the commission assuring her that the dispatchers would be kept. Then of course did not stay for the response time from the commission. This is part of a larger pattern.

Show up, scream, leave.

The dispatch question is part of a much larger issue with the police restructuring in response to budget cuts. I am inclined to agree that we should protect dispatch and several citizens who have closely studied the finance and budget have come to that conclusion. But for the others, who never show up when the real work is done, stop breathing my air.

Kevin Vericker

1 comment:

  1. Nancy Sonnett-SelwynFebruary 24, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    Thanks, Kevin.
    As usual, you posted a clear, concise and accurate article about the February 16th Commission meeting. As I am one that attends and stays until the very end, I can confirm everything that you posted is true. You even managed to do so without making the city's 'dissenter's' look as bad as they sometimes show themselves to be.
    As for Fane Lozman, he used to state that he lived in North Bay Village when he did live here on a Houseboat, and he declared himself a resident of Riviera Beach when speaking at our meetings when he was a resident on a Houseboat there. But now, he absolutely refuses to even state which city he is residing in...if it is indeed in either N.B.V. or Riviera Beach, and the excuse that the City Manager is "stalking" him is utterly ridiculous!! If every other citizen who gets up to speak is required to state their name and address, then why does he feel that he is privileged enough not to have to follow suit, wherever his resides! I wouldn't be surprised if he files ANOTHER lawsuit, since that seems to be his forte.
    Nancy Sonnett-Selwyn

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