Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Fishwrap

Earlier this week, I purchased a single mackerel to coax a kitten out of hiding. Like all cute cat stories, this one is dull as can be so I won't recount the full story, just the end. Within a few hours, the fish started to rot and the odor was foul. The kitten did not come out of hiding and it was necessary to take firm measures. I threw the fish out and spent an hour scrubbing the kitchen to get rid of the odor.

North Bay Village is stinking like this fish as we continue to let the corruption tainting the unnecessary move to the Lexi foul the place up. George Kane, the current vice mayor, organized, lobbied for and pushed the move to the Lexi and then at the last minute, recused himself from the final vote as he is the real estate agent on the move.

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics investigated and the Vice Mayor is now on the hook for $25,000 to be repaid to the city for the ill gotten commission. The full account can be found here at the post from June 14.

The move itself is unnecessary and costly, and as of today we have no firm move date, the Lexi still has signs advertising the space as available, and George Kane attempted to pull a cute move at the last full commission meeting to put himself in charge of negotiating another real estate deal for the city. That motion died in an embarrassed silence.

What we have here is not evidence of corruption. It is corruption. There is no indication that George Kane intends to do the honorable thing, which would be to apologize and resign.

Not one of our commission members, including the mayor, have introduced even a token motion of censure. Not Oscar Alfonso, our mayor, not Dr. Paul Vogel, our longest serving public official, nor Rey Trujillo or Frank Rodriguez. The silence is frightening.

Our usually quick to scream self appointed guardians of municipal disclosure have remained equally silent on the subject, including our best known nonresident activist. I watched at former commissioner Connie Kreps stormed the stage over a technical issue at the last commission meeting, and yet she has never spoken on this subject.

A motion of censure would not have any legal effect on Kane, but it would clearly state that North Bay Village does not approve of commissioners abusing their office for personal gain.

The deal stinks from top to bottom. It's costly, the new facility is not suitable for full police work and its only stated advantages are that City Hall would make the Lexi look better from the street and citizens would not have to take an elevator ride to the current facility. It should be withdrawn but failing that, at least the commission should censure the sitting Vice Mayor for a nasty, dishonest deal that stinks a lot worse than a mackerel on a hot August day.

Kevin Vericker
August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Housing Bubble and What's Next

The chart below from Yale economist Robert Shiller, published in Andrew Sullivan's blog at the Atlantic Monthly After The Bubble - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan lays out neatly what happened in the housing bubble.

It's difficult to read but the short version is that inflation adjusted since 1890, housing prices with a few short exceptions tend to rise about 10% over the years. Some of the exceptions were natural and easily understood - in the 1930's and through WW2, prices were depressed, then bounced back. During the 1970's and 1980's, they enjoyed a somewhat higher growth, but then in 2000/2008, there was a run-up based on nothing.

The circumstances of the first part of this decade were always understood to be an irrational exuberance. Looking at a home that might have sold in 2000 at $185,000, its probable natural worth in 2010 would be about $240,000 given that the inflation in these ten years averages out to 2.5% per the consumer price index.

Using the chart above though, with 10% post inflation raises happening every year, that same house in 2008 had a perceived value of $410,000 – a $170,000 discrepancy. Real estate values on the small scale are not predictable, some areas get more valuable as different things happen, some less so, but overall the numbers show that the current property valuation, even with a 26% drop, is too high and regardless of an economic recovery, the reality is that North Bay Village needs to plan on having less money coming for years to come. Our city commission needs to stop spending money like water and start planning for the long term.

Coming up: why North Bay Village lost more than most last year.

Kevin Vericker
August 30, 2010

Strange Legal Advice

I just can't get over something that happened at the commission meeting the other night. Our new city attorney, hired because Rey Trujillo found it hard to follow our previous city attorney, was asked a direct question about the following sentence in the new police chief's contract: "Employee shall have sole discretion in the management of the Police Department and should not be interfered with in the performance of his duties."

The attorney, Daniel Abbott, of Weiss Serota, answered that it did not mean "sole discretion" but never answered what it did mean. I don't have a law degree and most of you don't either, but imagine if you were on a jury and the counsel explained that "sole discretion" did not mean "sole discretion" and never explained why it means something else. I'd be hard pressed to figure out another meaning. And remember, a jury is the real test of whether a lawsuit prevails.

In the other opinion for which he was asked, Abbott agreed that the contract could not be terminated by the city without us being liable for nine months of pay for anything other than a criminal conviction.

Since Abbott reviewed the contract, it seems like it would have been incumbent on him to warn the city that these statements left us vulnerable.

Remember, we are paying I believe $250 an hour for this advice.

Kevin Vericker
August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One Cop At A Time

I posted yesterday that the amount the commission spent in 35 minutes was $167,500. Of that number, $86,000 is hard cash that we are now obligated to spend. The remainder will come due if our police chief is let go for anything other than criminal convictions.

North Bay Village could have economized by posting our legally required notices in the Miami Daily Business Review and instead spent $26,000 more to post them in the Miami Herald.

North Bay Village has a code enforcement officer who is currently restrained from doing his job. Rather than comply with a simple hiring freeze, the city is now hiring a new code enforcement officer at $59,000.

$86,000 could have kept one cop employed. Which is worth more to the citizens - a subsidy to the Herald and unrestricted hiring ability for the interim city manager or keeping a cop on the streets?

Three members of our commission voted in lock step with no serious public discussion of the consequences. None. When you see three people quietly agreeing on something controversial, you know the fix is in.

Do you really trust Rey Trujillo, author of the North Bay Village Trujillo Tax who loves to spend public money for his whims, George Kane who was found by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics to have negotiated his own compensation by sponsoring an unnecessary move to the Lexi, and Paul Vogel who is constantly surrounded by activist union members?

So one cop loses his job in 35 minutes because these three have some hidden agenda. They didn't even have the respect to share their reasoning with the city. We are heading down the track to bankruptcy and these three are driving the train.

Kevin Vericker
August 25, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

North Bay Village Trujillo Tax Tonight Raised by $167,500

Here's how it broke out tonight.

2a. The proposal to pay the Miami Herald three times the amount it should cost to publish the city notices was proposed by George Kane. It passed - Rey Trujillo, George Kane and the sad Dr. Paul Vogel voting yes.

North Bay Village Trujillo Tax: $27,000 in unnecessary excess advertisement.

2b. The illegal contract with Police Chief Daniels, which overrides the city charter, and ensure 9 months salary if he is fired for anything other than criminal convictions.

North Bay Village Trujillo Tax: $81,750 plus cost of resulting lawsuits.

2c. Revoking the hiring freeze so an already filled position can be filled again.

North Bay Village Trujillo Tax: $59,000 at a minumum.

Total cost of the actions tonight: $167,500

That's just tonight. More analysis tomorrow. For now, I will leave you with a statement from compañero Trujillo. His objection to the Miami Daily Business Review which would have saved the city $27,000 was that only business people like lawyers and finance people read it. You know, capitalists.

Kevin Vericker
August 24, 2010

Commission and Budget Meeting Tonight

There is a hybrid meeting tonight at 7 PM, Treasure Island School. The first part is a special commission meeting to deal with three leftover items from the last commission meeting. Following that is the second public hearing on the budget.

Special Commission Meeting Items: -

Item 2a: A resolution by the commission to enter into an agreement with Miami Herald to publish required city notices.

explanation - the city is required to publish special notices in a widely circulated local media. The holdup here is that the commission wants to see if there are less expensive media that could satisfy the need. The city manager will report.

Item 2b: A resolution to approve the police chief's employment contract.

explanation - the contract was delivered to the commission during the meeting on August 9. There was not time to review the contract and it was deferred until tonight for a vote.

The vote is likely to be controversial as the contract contains language giving the police chief sole charge of the police department. From the contract: "Employee shall have sole discretion in the management of the Police Department and should not be interfered with in the performance of his duties." This does not fit the City Charter which gives the City Manager the supervisory role above the police chief.

Additionally, the contract provides for six months notice and three months severance if the police chief is let go for anything other than criminal cause. It locks us into paying nine months salary if the police chief does not perform to expectations.

This will be controversial.

Item 2c: Reconsideration of the hiring freeze put in place in July.

explanation - in July, the Commission put in place a hiring freeze. The hiring freeze directed the city manager not to hire any new employees, except as approved by the commission, until the new budget is established. This is a very normal move and most large companies do this during times of low income or strategic change. The important thing to note is that it can be overridden by a commission vote, similar to a board vote in private organizations, but the hire itself requires a higher level of justification. There's no obvious reason to withdraw the resolution since it is presenting no problems.

Special Note: - since these are resolutions and not ordinances, there is no requirement to open the floor for public comment.

Budget - The rest of the evening is dedicated to presenting the budget projections for next year. These were reviewed at the Citizen's Budget and Oversight Commission last week and I am sure tonight's presentation will contain a presentation in the same range, although there have been some tweaks and changes this week. Essentially, it's a breakdown of what the budget would look like if the commission sets the millage rate up by .5 It's not pretty but it's not as bad as it could be.

Attached is the agenda:

8-23-2010 City Commission Meeting

Kevin Vericker
August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Candidates for November Election

For Mayor

1. Corina S. Esquijarosa
1900 South Treasure Drive, #8A

2. Marta Lorenzo
1471 South Treasure Drive

3. Reinaldo Trujillo
7601 East Treasure Drive, #1511

Harbor Island Commissioner

1. Eddie Lim
7921 East Drive, #6

2. Silvio Diaz
7941 West Drive, #101

At-Large Commissioner

1. Lazaro Rene Alonso
7512 Adventure Avenue

2. Connie Leon-Kreps
7530 Center Bay Drive

Kevin Vericker
August 22, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Election Odds and Ends

or as the British says, "bits and bobs", which I like better for its rhythmic sound but it's too affected for Americans to be using British slang. Anyway, "odd" certainly suits the North Bay Village electoral system. Let's talk first about our approach to districts.

Large American cities such as San Francisco where multiple and distinct neighborhoods comprise the city use district elections where the candidate must live in the district to be represented and the people of that district vote for their district representative. It has its pros and cons, a pro is that it does ensure that neighborhoods with various economic, social and ethnic mixes are not overlooked and a con is that it gives power to marginal areas at the cost of municipal unity. Both arguments have their merit.

North Bay Village has sort of a half baked district system. With three distinct neighborhoods on two islands, we have a system where three of the five commission seats must be occupied by a resident of a specific neighborhood, but is nominated and elected by the city at large. So the district only matters as a residence.

Two of the district restricted seats, Treasure Island and North Bay Island, are not up for election in this go around, but Harbor Island is along with the commissioner at large and of course the mayor for a total of three positions open.

On Monday, after the period required to gather 50 signatures and file with city expires on Friday, we will know for sure who is running for what seat.

Candidates who have expressed their intention publicly beyond pulling packets are:

For Mayor, Rey Trujillo, former vice mayor and author of the North Bay Village Trujillo Tax, Connie Leon-Kreps, former commissioner and frequent disrupter of the current commission meetings and Tim O'Regan of Treasure Island, a longtime resident and who's only brush with the commission was when Two Times Trujillo slandered his professional record from the dais in April, claiming that he had spoken with Tim's references and gotten bad reviews, a completely unsubstantiated statement.

What's intriguing about this is that Leon-Kreps and Trujillo have been allies in the dismantling of North Bay Village government. This should play out interestingly.

For Commissioner at Large, I understand that three packets have been pulled. The only one who has spoken to me about her plans to run though is Rachel Dugger, a member of Planning and Zoning and the wife a former NBV Commissioner. More about that below.

On Harbor Island, Silvio Diaz, a longtime resident, has pulled a packet and started gathering signatures and I understand Eddie Lim, a member of the Planning and Zoning and a longtime resident has done the same.

Now for the odd part. I spoke with Rachel about her decision to run. After all her husband was mired in controversy during his tenure and she has been the victim of the peculiar vigilantes of North Bay Island, so why run? Rachel replied by discussing how strongly she was influenced by Connie Leon-Kreps and her candidacy for mayor. Now to use another British slang expression, I was gobsmacked. (Great word - means astonished.)

Rachel's reasoning is that even though she and Connie differ on many issues, the North Bay Village Boy's Club has had its day and it's time for the women to take their place to clean up the mess and that one key point, that Trujillo should not be allowed to continue running roughshod over the city as we go broke, outweighs any other differences. Dugger and Kreps do have a an interesting perspective and I am looking forward to seeing what a Kreps-Dugger ticket, if it should happen, does in the general.

It's going to be a fun ride.

Kevin Vericker
August 18, 2010

Moral Obligations and Ethical Execution

That's a heavy title, isn't it? I played around with some other titles but this one seems to sum it up.

This post is a continuation of the topic from Tuesday, which dealt with the ongoing furloughs in the city staff and the consequent reduction in salaries. These sacrifices are real and necessary, and should not be done lightly.

We ask a lot of our civic employees. As easy as it is to find examples of bureaucrats obstructing citizen's desires, in general we demand a higher level of responsiveness and expect the employees to both serve the citizen individually while ensuring that the laws are upheld and fairly applied. Pay ranges for government employees are almost always somewhat lower than an equivalent private sector position and the deal the government enters into is to provide more security and better benefits in exchange for the lower pay and job restrictions. The military does the same.

This has been true in the United States since the mid-20th century. Before that, in many municipalities, government pay was shockingly low and the employee was expected to make up the difference through his own initiative. In many US cities, the difference between the police force and the mob was a uniform and this continues in many underdeveloped countries. The US made the decision across all levels of governments slowly throughout the 1930's through the 1950's that these practices were not just a moral wrong but a practical failure and the philosophy changed.

If we take for example the police, we expect a lot more from the police than most other positions demand. The major requirement is that the police respond quickly, wisely and well to emergencies and crises, using just the right amount of imposed authority to resolve the situation. In direct contradiction to this, the truth about police work is that most of the time, it's boring. It's staying in a state of readiness while managing routine work. This causes stress and the high rate of health issues among public safety workers are well documented.

The police need their health care. These people have planned their financial lives around an agreement to be paid and insured at certain rates and now we are changing the deal. This might be inevitable, scratch that, it is inevitable, but it shouldn't be done cavalierly.

The public wants a police force, and for that matter all municipal employees, concentrating on the job at hand, not on how they are going to pay the medical bills or avoid foreclosure. We need to ask carefully and respond gratefully for the give backs being proposed.

Public pension plans are a different matter. For years, politicians have staved off short term problems by over-promising on the long term and the Florida Retirement Systems reflects this. Combined with empty political promises, unions have negotiated highly favorable retirement packages. Now that bill is coming due.

Ethically, it's a bill we agreed to pay and there may not be much we can do about it, but the whole system needs change from top to bottom, so the problem doesn't get worse. If you think you might be around in the year 2050, have kids who will be, or young people you are fond of, now is a good time to start asking politicians at the state level, for this is a state problem, what they propose to do today so that it doesn't sink future generations. For ours, we may just have to suck it up. We agreed to the current promise and now the bill is coming due. We have the right to complain but not the right to renege.

This is a complicated matter and as citizens and stakeholders in North Bay Village, we need to be very aware that we are asking for substantial monetary contributions from our employees while simultaneously asking for their continued trust and commitment. Let's not act like this anything other than a failure on our part and add insult to injury by treating the cuts as insignificant by stating "You should be grateful to have a job." That's nasty.

Kevin Vericker
August 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cost Reduction and City Employees

Obnoxious workplace cliches of the 1980's include "Work Smarter, Not Harder", "Do More With Less", "Right Sizing" (a euphemism meaning innocent people will lose their jobs) and a variety of others that those of us who started their careers in that benighted era still cringe whenever we hear them. They all meant one thing - employees were going to lose.

In real terms, wages have remained flat for over 90% of workers since 1990. This is not some far out socialist claim, the Wall Street Journal for one has reported extensively on this phenomenon. The only real growth has been in the cost of nonsalaried benefits such as health insurance, where the cost has risen but the benefits themselves have not.

As North Bay Village comes to grips too slowly with the budget crisis, a key proposal is to reduce wages across the board using a furlough system. A 10% (more or less) reduction in all wages is scheduled again next year, and while employees will get 26 days off, one day per biweekly pay period, they are expected to produce at the current levels. Additionally, it looks as though there will also be an increase in the amount that employees pay for their benefits, as much as 15% for health care.

These cuts are an important emergency measure to balance the budget. We should not forget that these represent real sacrifice on the part of the employees. It's easy to think that anyone in this economy should be happy just to have a job, and there's some truth to that, but that's cold comfort when the bills are due.

North Bay Village has to be very careful with how we approach the benefit and wage cuts and Bob Pushkin is showing prudence and sensitivity as he formulates the budget. It's clear that many citizens will pay more in taxes and services than we are accustomed and that our services will be reduced. This is a sacrifice but on the scales, it weighs far less than the sacrifices our own employees are making and we need to be mindful and grateful of those sacrifices.

Kevin Vericker
August 17, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Looming Housing Crisis

North Bay Village is facing a housing crisis. It is not the sort of crisis that has been discussed in the past where there is an inadequate supply of housing. Most cities have learned to deal with that, but a new kind brought on by over-supply, bad mortgage decisions and declining demand.

The building pictured, 7525 East Treasure Drive, is one of several abandoned projects in the city. There are others, vacant lots, unsold units, abandoned houses, all throughout our community.

The Lexi filed Chapter 11 on June 23, 2010, with 50 unsold units out of 164., a website that consolidates real estate listings shows 553 homes for sale in North Bay Village, with 255 in distress or foreclosure, 46% of the total properties. It is not restricted to condos, 26% of the single family homes listed are in distress.

The existing condo buildings are in bad shape according to, a site that rates the health of the association on a scale of 100 with 100 being the healthiest. Their breakdown is frightening. Here are some samples:

  • 360 A 26th percentile
  • 360 B 18th percentile
  • Breeze 28th percentile
  • North Bay Villas 6th percentile
  • Grandview Palace 6th percentile
and there are more out there.

When buildings are so poorly rated, the property values decline, the risk of foreclosure increases and the risk of board bankruptcy is overwhelming.

North Bay Village has taken very few steps to address this issue. It's established that our property values fell 26% in the crash, that only Homestead saw a worse decline with a marginal difference, HUD (Federal Housing and Urban Development) ranked us the highest in Miami-Dade for neighborhoods at risk and we can see it. A simple walk around the islands confirm that.

The only real attempt so far was an effort, introduced by Rey Trujillo, for the city to condemn under eminent domain a vacant lot on Harbor Island, leased to Al Coletta, and turn it over to Scott Greenwald, to build new low income housing. It failed as it should have. It would have been just another North Bay Village Trujillo Tax spending money we don't have for things we don't need.

We don't need new buildings - we need to rehabilitate the old ones and create a city initiative to address this crisis. It's not going away and it's going to get worse.

There is federal, state and county help to address these issues but the commission needs to act now to be able to take advantage of the help, and we've seen nothing. These are questions we need to put to all the candidates for this November's election:

  • What is your plan to reduce foreclosures in North Bay Village?
  • How do you propose to address the abandoned buildings?
  • What's the next step to stabilize North Bay Village?
  • How will you ensure that the development money flying around North Bay Village is used transparently?

Kevin Vericker
August 16, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back to Basics

I started this blog to bring some clarity to the issues facing North Bay Village and continue to be amazed at the sheer bullying and nonsense that passes for discourse at our commission meetings.

In a post earlier this week, I discussed an incident at Tuesday night's meeting. To recap, the resolution was to free up the red light traffic violation funds to prevent the layoff of three sworn officers. The resolution passed with George Kane, Frank Rodriguez and Oscar Alfonso voting Yes.

In that post, I referenced the behavior, the over the top disruptive behavior, of people in attendance, specifying Connie Leon-Kreps, current candidate for the Commission or Mayor.

Shouting at commission members, storming the stage, accusing the Mayor of being Castro or Chavez, are perfectly ridiculous things to do. We've grown used to this here in North Bay Village, but that does not change the fact that such behavior is fundamentally demagogic and far from expressing citizen involvement, assumes that she who shouts loudest is right.

I stand by my criticism of Ms. Leon-Kreps and believe she owes an apology to her fellow citizens for her crude outbursts and weird antics.

Well in response to that criticism, I received the following email from Dr. Richard Chervony, President of the Citizens for Full Disclosure. I have removed only one line from the email as it was a random insult directed at two senior citizens of whom he disapproves. The rest is verbatim including the spelling.

The email is entitled "COJONES" (caps, misspellings, poor punctuation etc. are all his) and reads as follows,

"With your latest rant you have degraded to the dredges of dictatorship as our illustiorus mayor.

The self declared candidate, CONNIE LEON-KREPS, at least has the internal fortitude and the COJONES that you are lacking and is running for something she feels passionate about. She will be a credit to the City of North Bay Village, she is a tax paying member of the community, pays her Federal Taxes on a timely basis and her mortgage payment is never late, ensuring that she will remain as a resident of North Bay Village.

As far as her campaign, it is not for me to say what her stands are. Anyways you'd never agree with me.

Kevin, it is time to PUT UP OR SHUT UP!!!!!!! Run for office or keep running with your tail between your legs and hiding behind the skirt of our Mayor and Comm Rodriguez that doesn't know how to speak nor offers the City any more time than is required by attending Commission Meetings. He will also have arough time running for office in two years. Maybe then you will havegrown COJONES and run for that seat."

Look at that. Seriously. Nowhere does it address the issue of disrupting meetings, or the resolution at hand, or deny the criticism I made. It is simply a randomly strung together series of insults. I should note that I find it surprising that Dr. Chervony, a native Spanish speaker and a medical doctor, seems to be unaware that women as a rule do not have testicles and he is certainly unfamiliar with mine. (alright, I didn't have to note that but I thought it was funny.)

This is what passes for discourse.

I had a second incident last night at the Citizen's Budget and Oversight Board Meeting. The role of the CBOC is to review and recommend procedures to ensure fiscal transparency in the creation and execution of the budget. Last night, we reviewed in great detail the process for the 2011 budget.

Now the budget we were shown includes a .5 mil increase in city taxes. In the capacity of a board member, I suggested to the city manager that in presenting the budget proposal, he seek counsel's advice regarding Resolution 2008-01 passed in January 2008 which limits the ability of the commission to raise millage. I've attached the resolution below.

Now, I've already written that I think it was a bad resolution and my concern here is that without a clear withdrawal, the city may be subject to lawsuits disputing the new property tax rates if they are passed by the commission. I made this recommendation as a matter of prudence.

Before I could finish the sentence, commissioner Rey Trujillo, without being recognized, began to speak over me that it was not necessary to check, he already had. I asked him to let me finish and he talked louder. Chair Al Blake requested that attention be paid and the commissioner acquiesced.

Look, I'm not a lawyer. Neither is Commissioner Trujillo. We employ two city attorneys for exactly this sort of legal advice. The resolution is unclear as to an expiry date and seeking clarification as to whether this resolution should be withdrawn prior to millage changes is a simple issue. Bob Pushkin, the city manager, understood and agreed.

I have made no secret that I believe Commissioner Trujillo's actions on the commission have caused the city serious harm. Nor have I made a secret of mine and others' dislike of the disruptive and bullying tactics of some attendees at the meetings. They in turn have their right to their opinions about my positions and writings.

I have never shouted anyone down, and won't, and I demand the same respect from others.

Ms. Leon-Kreps, Dr. Chervony, Commissioner Trujillo, let your arguments stand on their own. Shouting and insulting just make you look bad.

Kevin Vericker
August 13, 2010


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Police Chief Contract and The Rest of the Meeting

Yesterday, I promised the rest of the news from the commission meeting last night. I am not going linearly since the key to understanding the rest of the meeting and yesterday's post is in the contract drafted but not yet approved for the new police chief. I'll start with that which was the first item on the agenda. (The contract in its entirety is at the end of the post.)

The contract is only the sort of agreement that could be drawn up in government. This agreement would never fly in any responsible private concern. The highlights:

  • The proposed base salary is $109,000.
  • Five weeks vacation upon signing the contract, credited immediately and an additional five floating holidays.
  • Car for unlimited personal use.
  • Fully paid personal and family medical.
  • Sick time on top of the vacation time but not specified.

Termination Clause - If the City terminates the police chief for reasons other than "cause", which seems to refer to criminal convictions and behavior unspecified in the contract, the chief gets Six Month's Notice and Three Month's Termination. Nine full months of pay.

This is a cut and paste of the same contracts that have hobbled our budget.

It was also the first item on the commission meeting agenda. The contract itself was delivered to the commissioners and the mayor at 7:50 PM while they were on the dais and as they were asked to vote on the contract. The commission agreed to postpone the item until they at least had a chance to read it.

Draw your own conclusions here about why this was not shared before the meeting.

Now I mentioned yesterday's post about the weird and unexplained controversy of using the funds from the red light cameras to save three sworn officers. I am no longer wondering why. The intention for this money was to pay this extravagant contract from the red light funds and then claim it was "budget neutral." That's why the tantrum on the dais.

Audit Report - Last year's audit, 2009, was finally delivered. The short version is that no significant problems were found, but that the city needs to reconcile the funds accounting monthly.

Funds accounting is unique to government and nonprofits. Simply put, it shows not just what we spent and what we received, but the source of the money spent. Example, if we have $400,000 in an account, from three sources, and write a check for $150,000, that check should note which source funded this check. This is to prevent moneys being used for purposes prohibited by law and policy. For example, the city can't use the grant funds for general operations. North Bay Village is subject to error and revocation of funds if we cannot clearly prove the source of the money dispersed.

The big surprise is that the city is not reconciling these accounts right now. A suggestion was made that several years of reconciliation be done by an outside firm. Now the funds have to be reconciled or we could face catastrophic penalties and have to refund large blocks of grant money. Whether we need to have an outside firm do it or our accounting department does it in house is another question.

The Hiring Freeze -
At the last commission meeting, the commission voted unanimously to put a freeze on hiring. It was brought up for reconsideration at this meeting because it is stopping the employment of a full time code enforcer. Or at least that's what was explained. The resolution was quite clear that the commission could override the hiring freeze on a case by case basis.

The truth is this was put in to stop the North Bay Village Trujillo Tax, whereby every time former vice mayor Rey Trujillo gets annoyed with someone, we hire a duplicate to do that employee's work. If the city manager proposes a new hire, he can bring the proposal to the commission and the commission can vote on the proposal. No great inconvenience and one that most responsible corporations implement from time to time. It simply requires a greater burden of proof that the position is urgent. The motion was postponed.

Public Safety Complex - We are still renting City Hall, about to move to the Lexi at a cost around $180,000. We have had bond issues available to us for at least two years but no progress on building the combined Fire Station, Police Station and City Hall. Well, Commissioner Kane found that the police station at the Lexi is inappropriate for its purpose. He blamed this on the previous city manager, failing to mention that the Lexi deal was his and he was found in violation of the Miami-Dade Ethics Charter when he contracted for compensation for the move. That was cute.

Anyway, this time Kane proposed that he lead negotiations to build a fire and police station only with the county and alluded to other possible properties available for the city hall construction. The other four commissioners just looked embarrassed about Kane involved in another real estate deal and quietly postponed the motion.

The next meeting, originally planned to be a budget hearing will also deal with these items above. It's scheduled for August 23.

Here's the Police Chief's Proposed Contract:

Police Chief

Kevin Vericker
August 12, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trujillo Stands Against North Bay Village Police

Let's jump right into the most exciting part of last night's meeting - the mayor introduced a resolution directing the city manager to use $260,000 of the moneys collected on the red light traffic cameras to prevent the layoff of sworn officers. The resolution passed 3 to 1 or 3 to 2 depending on whether former vice mayor Rey Trujillo, author of the North Bay Village Trujillo Tax, was counted or not.

The breakdown was Alfonso, Rodriguez and Kane voted Yes, while Vogel voted No and Trujillo

Rey Trujillo was so enraged by this audacity that he claimed a "No Vote" since he said he wasn't there. I'm not making this up. When it was pointed out to him that others could see him, he toddled off the stage. We could still see him so I don't know how that works when his vote is counted.

Connie Leon-Kreps, self declared candidate for commission, was also so outraged by this resolution that when Fane Lozman decided to storm the microphone, she joined him at the podium to protest. (This brings to mind the old Spanish proverb Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres roughly translating as "You are known by the company you keep.") When her Rosa Parks moment failed, she managed to regain her composure long enough to shriek at Dr. Paul Vogel to vote "No", which he obliged.

Has there been a time when it was clearer that the whole agenda of this group of citizens and Rey Trujillo is "If Oscar likes it, we don't."?

The money from the red light fund is there. The city in the past used anticipated revenues to balance the budget and failed, but this money is not anticipated. It's there. One concern voiced is that because of a lawsuit filed by citizens unhappy with having to stop at red lights, we may have to return the money. Well, it's hard to see how but assuming that this lawsuit does prevail, we still keep enough money in reserve to cover it. In addition to the over a quarter of a million dollars we already have, revenues are coming in at between $10,000 and $13,000 per week.

Just as we could see former vice mayor Rey Trujillo last night, we can see this money.

Now just in case this wasn't crazy enough, Trujillo at one point actually said, "if we fund the cops, they won't look at cuts." Okay. That was the point.

There's a lot more to cover about the commission meeting, and I will. Right now though, I am still shaking my head over the alternate universe last night. When we had a clear opportunity to prevent layoffs in public safety, Trujillo walked off the dais.

Kevin Vericker
August 11, 2010