Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kids and the Budget

Last night's commission meeting covered so much territory that I could spend the rest of the week writing about it. But I don't have the rest of the week so I want to concentrate on two aspects of the meeting, getting to the other subjects tomorrow and Friday as I can.

PAL (The Police Athletic League) is the only organization in North Bay Village that provides activities and structure for the kids here. We offer so little - the main park is in a remote location, the tot lot is inappropriate for older kids and there's no other publicly available open space.

The PAL has been a big success with the parents of North Bay Village. The primary director is Lisa Gittner of the NBV PD.

At 5 o'clock last night, word went out that the NBV PD participation in PAL and DARE has been suspended, leaving the organization in the lurch. Cheerleading practice is scheduled to start this week and now is off.

The Chief last night shared his reasoning, saying in essence that he could not justify assigning an officer to an unofficial organization during a budget crisis and he needed to review both programs before committing NBV police to the programs.

However realistic and well intentioned Chief Daniels is as regards the PAL suspension, he failed to take into account that NBV parents and kids depend on the PAL program and have come to rely on it for constructive after school activities. Shutting down the NBV PD participation without notice is poor community relations.

There are options, including a more aggressive effort to fund the program on the part of parents, but they have been unceremoniously cut off. The chief should at least have provided some reasonable notice period, say 60 days, to give the citizens a chance to transition this popular and needed program. He didn't.

The parents don't get off scott free either. I know there was very short notice and a few parents showed at the commission meeting last night, but where are the rest of the parents? Your kids are at stake and showing up at a commission meeting is key to ensuring that a consituency is represented.

I mentioned some parents were there and spoke about the role that PAL plays in their NBV life. They deserve recognition and their concerns should not be summarily dismissed.

For the most part, NBV Commission Meetings are a wrinkle fest. The attendance skews older (and I include myself in that crowd - I have a mirror.) I know parents with young families are busy but showing up once a month to ensure the quality of life you need in North Bay Village is not that onerous. I am certain that had there been a large bloc of parents at the meeting last night, the sudden decision would have been revisited.

Budget Cuts - They are big and they are controversial. Beside the PAL, the proposal is to go to a privatized sanitation with curbside pickup. It may be time to do that and I was pleased to hear that Bob Pushkin was able to consider the needs of less able residents who will have side yard pickup if they request it.

There's a lot to cover on the budget cuts, and as I said I will come back to it.

Let me finish up today by highlighting one of the more bizarre commissioner reports last night.

Commissioner Rey Trujillo chose to play a seemingly endless audio from a commission meeting in which he and Oscar Alfonso are discussing the millage rates. As one of the few audience members not lulled into a near coma by this stunt, I cannot understand the point. It seems that he and Alfonso had a discussion that the tax projections for the new projects scheduled to come online in 2008 carried some risk since they were not yet online.

Trujillo followed this by putting up handwritten charts representing three weeks of work on his part that showed that of five planned buildings in 2008, two were never built and the others have suffered precipitous value drops. I hate to tell him this, but we already knew that and he could have saved three weeks of his life by simply calling the Miami-Dade Property Appraisers Office and requesting the report in Excel format. They provided it to me and I spent all of an hour on it.

When the former vice mayor got to the end of this presentation, I hoped, I truly hoped, that he might tell us what the point is. And he did. Here it is.

"This proves that I am not in favor of taxes like some have said." No, it did not prove that. It proved, well, nothing. It was a campaign stunt from the dais.

Trujillo still has not comprehended the basic fact that the North Bay Village Trujillo Tax refers to his ongoing proposals to spend unnecessary money. The North Bay Village Trujillo Tax has so far resulted in us paying for two city managers, two city attorneys, two police chiefs, a premium for advertising in the Herald, a repeal of the hiring freeze, a contract for the Police Chief that provides six months of salary and three months severance should the commission decide to let him go. This doesn't include his proposal to buy everyone at 7904 West Drive a parking space, which failed.

The money doesn't grow on a magic tree. It comes out of the taxes and that unnecessary spending represents a real cost to the residents, a surcharge to meet the whims of Rey Trujillo. That's why it's called the North Bay Village Trujillo Tax.

More later this week.

Kevin Vericker
September 15, 2010

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