Sunday, October 31, 2010

Issue Recap

Below is the text of an email I sent out yesterday. There are some minor edits (note below*) but I think it is worth sharing.

In all the negatives flying around during this campaign, it’s easy to lose sight of the issues. As I’ve walked the streets during the campaign, a shocking number of residents were unaware that NBV tax rates are going up this year, while side yard garbage pickup is being eliminated and hardly anyone knew about the status of the projects nor the plans for a “high end gentleman’s club.”

The following is my list of the major issues facing North Bay Village this year. Please take a look.

The Facts:

Taxes - our millage went up .5 for 2011. For a $250,000 home, this is a raise of $150 per year. Other cities, North Miami, Miami Lakes, City of Miami all held the line and cut spending.

Spending – there are no pay cuts and in fact, a number of raises for city employees including the police. Their health insurance went up and there is a higher contribution but there are no furloughs, no cuts, and the hiring freeze was revoked.

Garbage Side Yard Pickup -
This service is being eliminated as the garbage is planned to be privatized. The city manager claimed this will save $500,000 per year but the real savings is $120,000 per year as reflected in the published budget.

Generous Employee Contracts –
Very few people seem to know that if the new police chief is let go for any reason other than criminal, even for cause, he collects six months notice and three month’s severance, or about $82,000 plus 9 months of benefits (another $15,000). He is entitled to five weeks vacation the day he signed the contract. The first clause, nine months of severance regardless of the reason for the dismissal, is unheard of.

Development –
the only new development in the city is a building at 1415 JFK Causeway (Channel 7). Its approval has been treated an emergency by the commission with four attempts to approve this before the November 2 election. The problem is that the lot is zoned for an “adult entertainment” complex and while the developer won’t say publicly what the plans are, on October 28 Robert Leider of WSVN testified under oath that the developer's attorneys met with his staff to tell them a “high end gentlemen’s club” was planned for the site. This will be the first building for our much needed baywalk and it's a bad choice to anchor it with an adult club.

Grants and Projects –
the grants process has slowed to a trickle. North Bay Village received $11 million dollars in grants to offset our $35 million bonds and there are more on the table but the city is not acting on these. Millions are on the table from the Federal and State stimulus money and North Bay Village is on the sidelines.

Rey Trujillo either authored or supported every piece of legislation that contributed to these problems. Trujillo supported raising the tax rate as our property values declined. Trujillo stood against the furloughs and using the red light money to save police jobs instead of raising taxes. Trujillo voted to end side yard pickup and never challenged the fictitious $500,000 savings. Trujillo negotiated the police chief’s contract and voted for it. Trujillo took the maximum campaign contribution from Scott Greenwald. Then Trujillo claimed he did not know what the building at 1415 JFK is for and voted for it, even after Leider clearly laid out the plans. Trujillo led the charge to fire the city manager who had brought the $11,000,000 in grants.

These aren’t opinions, these are the facts.

This next part is opinion:

Corina Esquijarosa, a newcomer to our politics, is committed to fixing what we can – stop the garbage giveaway, support proper development, rationalize spending and stop the generous contracts. She has experience in seeking grants.

For me, the choice is clear.

A Subject No One Is Addressing – Our Declining Values.

This entire commission has ignored that North Bay Village property values have had the second steepest decline in Miami Dade County at 26%. The whole country has declined but why are we worse than most? Why is a single family house in North Bay Village on the market an average of 10 weeks longer than comparables in nearby cities? Why are the resale prices for single family houses 15% lower than comparables in nearby communities? (source: Realtytrac) We have more homes in foreclosure or in the process of foreclosure than any other city in Miami Dade (source: US Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Stabilization Program.) We need to find the causes and fix them if we are going to recover. Our commission has ignored this problem but it’s our gravest by far.

Silvio Diaz, running for Harbor Island Commission, has made finding the answer to that question and putting the solutions in place the cornerstone of his campaign. Corina Esquijarosa has already discussed her plans to form a public private partnership to address the issue. The old guard just doesn’t see the problem – neither Trujillo, Lim nor Kreps have mentioned it. Not once. If we don’t fix, we sink.

The old guard have failed. We can't go on that way we are. It's too important to vote without the information. These are our homes at stake.

Kevin Vericker
October 30, 2010

*note: The email I sent out contained several grammatical errors and misspellings. I have corrected for those in this post. My usual writing process is to create a first draft for content, the next draft is for clarity and organization and the final is for grammar and spelling. Yesterday, instead of hitting "Save", I hit "Send". Careless on my part.

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