Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oscar Alfonso

To say that outgoing mayor Oscar Alfonso is controversial might seem like an understatement. It's not. It's about the right level. His term as mayor brought out much heat and passionate opposition, but at the end of the term, it's important to remember that North Bay Village saw improvements that had only been talked about for years. We saw great improvements in transparency of government, progress on the projects and a more open commission.

In fact, it's safe to say that for the most part, North Bay Village residents have been pleased with the administrative style brought in by Alfonso. In conversation I have found that most people like the visible changes to the city, those who are aware of what is going on like the openness that Alfonso brought to the office. And then there's the big "but".

The "but" is always followed by two things. His own house is a mess and Alfonso is wordy and overbearing. These are both part of him. Most people I have spoken to wish they weren't true, as do I, and at the same time do not see these personal issues as essential to what's been accomplished as mayor. A small group made these their principal issues but they never gained much public support. Let's look at two of the major accomplishments. This is not an exhaustive list but more than any, they changed our city.

Projects - We who live here know that this an exceptionally beautiful geography. The location in the middle of the bay is impressive. We also know that the community combines the best of the suburbs with the best features of urban living. But we're out of balance.

We have never properly used the bayfront location to bring the city to the next level. We are not a destination for other parts of Miami-Dade, which means our businesses are not prospering. Our less visible residential neighborhoods suffer from neglect.

The projects to improve the infrastructure, create a baywalk to bring new businesses and life to the city, improve our transportation and get us a real civic center, were conceived before Alfonso was elected. Alfonso and the commission brought the projects from conception to execution by bringing in one of the best city managers we have had, Matthew Schwartz.

The projects kicked off and we can see the repaving, the new sewer lines, the trees, and the park, all in motion. The grant money was flowing in and our long term tax indebtedness shrunk. It mattered.

Transparency - various citizens during the 2008 campaign proposed that the city form a budget oversight commission, a small step to bring transparency to the finances here in North Bay Village. And that's exactly what happened. With the full support of the city manager, the books were laid open, and criticized.

Regardless that we have gone several steps back, North Bay Villagers expectation of transparency have been set higher and clearer than before.

There's a lot that has gone right in the last two years, and when the voters spoke two weeks ago, they were speaking against what is going on this year, the random firings, the tax hikes, the lack of transparency on the new hires and on the waste management, the ethics concerns.

As the new commission moves forward, they need dedicate themselves to the principles of transparency, development and citizen involvement. That's their mandate and we expect nothing less.

Kevin Vericker
November 16, 2010

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