Friday, March 12, 2010

Politics, Class and Reality

The Commission Meeting on Tuesday, March 9, was so different than I had expected it to be. I had heard and repeated the rumors that the city manager was to be fired, an outcome I believe would have disastrous for us, and it didn't happen. Two commissioners did express their strong viewpoints that the CM needed a different approach with the PD and this is what we expect from commissioners. I don't agree with them on this subject, but their criticism was clear and fairly stated. This is how it is supposed to work.

In the past, Good & Welfare, the opportunity for citizens to pose questions and state opinions, has turned into a scream fest, with the CM taking most of the heat. The shouters have managed to create the appearance that they stand for the citizenry when they don't. This meeting was different, strikingly so, and I want to cover the high and the low points.

High Points -

Luis Torrego, who is not shy about his opinions, discussed the uncomfortable reality that to maintain police services, taxes may have to rise. This is not a popular view but Luis stated his position well and forcefully. Luis also makes no secret that he believes the park was a waste of money and often says so, rationally and without getting nasty.

Bob Fleischman, former commissioner, took the commission to task for zoning issues and problems. No doubt about his concerns and he laid his reasoning out well.

A gentleman whose name I forget, but he is a well dressed, well presented, resident originally from Michigan I believe, criticized the lack of code enforcement in the city and provided specific examples. He is a strong advocate for code enforcement and a civil voice demanding to be heard.

Nancy Sonnett-Selwyn, a lifelong resident wins the Classy Lady Award by not responding to the scurrilous, gratuitous personal attack by Fane Lozman. (More about that below.)

A resident of South Treasure Drive, (Jeanette? I didn't note the name.) spoke about a coding nightmare next door, a huge house rising on So. Treasure Drive and an intrusive dock which it turned out never got the right commission approval. She was clearly wronged and passionate but never insulting.

And there were a group speaking in defense of the Matthew Schwartz. I was one, Jean Pankey, Ann Bakst and Nancy Sonnett-Selwyn each spoke about the value we believe Schwartz has brought to the city, trying hard to make it not about the city manager personally because a good guy is nice to know but we need a hard nosed pro to manage us through and I'm pretty proud of how that went.

This is how discussions are supposed to go, vigorous, differing viewpoints (I've grown to like the park, I hope Jeanette (?) gets satisfaction as the commission did her wrong and think the city is finally taking the right actions on code enforcement) combining facts, reasoning and even emotions.

Midpoint -

I know I said High and Low points, but this one kind of deserves its own category. Doris Hurst spoke passionately about her concerns regarding the negative publicity about Oscar Alfonso's personal situation. Now I believe firmly that Alfonso's personal business is just that, personal, and I have not seen how Oscar's alleged personal problems have caused any disruption to his official position.

Ms. Hurst does not agree and once something is in the press like this is, it's a fair subject. She could have even gotten a "high point" if she had not demanded a debate. There are governing rules to the commission meetings and one is that the commission can choose to listen and not respond immediately.

Low Points -

The FOP was a disgrace to union members and their own uniforms on Tuesday. Their spokesman and their members were way out of line.

They have no right to come to our city and tell us to fire the city manager. None. The threats were thuggish, crude and out of line.

How are the final arbiters, the citizens, supposed to react when confronted by our own police force with a demand to change our government? There is never a time or a place for a police junta in America.

Let's be real clear. The Florida Constitution, the State Laws and the city historically and correctly protect the right of police to form and be represented by unions. We may not like the particular choice but no government has the right to arbitrarily dissolve or interfere with the duly elected union, in this case the FOP. Neither does that union have right to overrule the political will of the citizens and demand that the city government follow its dictates.

And for the hysterical commenters to follow, I will answer you in advance. All the whining about how the city protects the PBA but attacks the FOP, and the fey concern that Matthew Schwartz may have used foul language in a discussion with a cop who has apparently never heard foul language before, save it.

I am not talking about issues here, nor were the FOP. I am talking about behavior. And the FOP's behavior was neither right nor righteous.

Fane Lozman - Fane disagreed with my defense of the CM and said that I would have a different opinion of the CM if what happened to Fane, happened to me. Then Fane launched into the usual recitation of his perceived persecution by Matthew Schwartz. NBV'ers are accustomed to these rants and even after several of them, I'm still not sure what his complaint is.

Then he took the low road. He attacked another resident, citing as his source a now deceased commissioner, over a 30 year old rumor about her private life, a subject that is not and never should be part of a commission meeting. She did not respond nor was she intimidated by this but that was low. Lozman is a former marine who seems to have forgotten the rules of conduct.

Fane increasingly bizarre refusal to state where he lives, his misspelled web rants (Schwartz is not a "slimster". That's not even a word.) and his apparent attempt to have a "Harper Valley PTA" moment in front of the city Tuesday, are sad when they are not malicious. But sad, bizarre or malicious, it is clear that his purpose is to disrupt and destroy. We can't let this happen.

What's next? -

There's a lot to face in this city.

The revenues are coming in at less than 24% of last year and we are in new territory regarding the financial freefall. It's going to be hard.

My opinion is that the FOP is not going to negotiate in good faith based on their performances at the meetings and some tough police decisions will have to be made.

Code enforcement is lax to nonexistent. I hope the permanent code officer will begin to fix this.

Two of the commissioners are moving closer to firing the CM. I hope these guys can work this out. We need unity, not a circular firing squad.

An election is coming up and I hope that the issues are laid out strongly, clearly and without the personal malice that has permeated the discussion.

The highest point of this week was the commission meeting, dominated for once by people concerned with the issues. I think even the commissioners noted the difference. Please, let's keep going and speaking and arguing. It's not our city or their city and certainly not the FOP's city, it's all of ours and it's time to own it.

Kevin Vericker


  1. Si los ciudadanos leemos sus mensajes debajo de las líneas; a mi punto de vista esta no es la realidad que usted quiere mostrar a los ciudadanos, parece que solo hay una verdad para usted, excusar a todo el tiempo al comisionado Oscar Alfonso..Trata a su modo de mostrar puntos verídicos pero siempre lo escusa; al igual que siempre que se refiere a la unión FOP...en des favoritismo. Si es una unión nueva en nuestra ciudad; mientras que el PBA oficiales de nuestra policía en elecciones pasadas envió atacar a ciudadanos enviando a los niños jóvenes a perseguir para inmovilizar los ciudadanos que estaban haciendo campaña al equipo contrario del que el PBA apoyaba....y esto usted le llama comportamiento...?

    Y referente al Administrador de la ciudad lo enaltece......que punto de vista tan equivocado, gracias a el ya la ciudad va tener como 3 o 4 costos de corte y está destruyendo nuestro equipo de la policía en conjunto con el abogado de la ciudad.

    Disculpe....Pero no se que cuales son sus intenciones o que quiere demostrar o apoyar?

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. As a public service, I will translate the above for the readers who are not Spanish speaking [my notes are in brackets, not in the original text but there to clarify]:

    If the citizens read your messages between the lines, in my view this is not the reality you intend to show the citizens, it seems that there is only one truth for you, always excuse Commissioner Oscar Alfonso. You try in your way to show truthful points but you always offer excuses for him; the same as you always refer to the FOP...unfavorably. If [the FOP] is the new union in our city; whilst the PBA officers of our police in past elections sent young children to attack the citizens and stop the citizens that were campaigning for the other side, those that the PBA did not support...and this you call [good] behavior?

    In reference to the manager the city hired....what a mistaken point of view, thanks to him the city is going to have some 3 or 4 court [cases and subsequent] costs and he is destroying our police in collaboration with our city attorney.

    Sorry..but I don't know what your intentions are or what you mean to show or support?

  4. Now in reference to the Spanish language comment above, first in Spanish:

    Anónimo,me cae gordo que Ud. ha respondido a mis comentarios en español. El punto entero de este blog es facilitar y clarificar las cuestiones y controversias que nos enfrentan en NBV. Es obvio que Ud lee inglés y me sorprende que escogío a responder en otra idioma. Sospecho que su intención fue a comunicar en código, presumiendo que yo no lea castellano. Está equivacado.

    English, Anonymous, it leaves a bad taste with me that you responded to my comments in Spanish. The entire purpose of the blog is to facilitate and clarify the issues NBV faces. It's obvious that you read English and it suprises me that you chose to respond in another language. I suspect your intention was to communicate in code, presuming that I don't read Spanish. You're mistaken.

    I choose to respond because this comment illustrates the real split in this town.

    It's not about the police, about the code, about the mayor, the commission or the CM, but it's about the bullying.

    Look at the comment: nowhere does Anónimo respond to a single thing I said but tries to hide behind language and present as fact things I (and you) never did or said.

    The North Bay Village Reality Basers are hip to this game and we're not playing.

    Anónimo, you are welcome to speak with the adults but we must insist that you do so on adult terms. No junior HS mean girls stuff.


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