Friday, December 31, 2010

The Best Supervised Police Department Ever

With the restructuring of the police department, we now have the THE BEST SUPERVISED POLICE EVER. Seriously. Check it out.

We have:

1 Chief
2 Lieutenants
4 Sergeants
4 Corporals

11 Total Command Staff (Gold Badge)

8 Patrol Officers

Ratio of Supervisors to people being Supervised 1.25:1

And let's not forget that we have 5 detectives, who in North Bay Village investigate property crimes. Now we don't know how many property crimes there are since the PD does not publish crimes stats but I'm sure there must be a lot of them. Of course, if it's a violent crime, it goes outside North Bay Village.

Another important thing to remember is that each of the so called "command" and "detective" positions come with a financial benefit for the increased responsibility, typically 5% for sergeant, 5% for detective and 3% for corporal.

Where is the money coming from? The PD did not budget for raises in 2011 and did not save any money in 2010, in spite of being directed to make cuts.

Maybe if Chief Daniels feels well enough, he might explain this to us at the next commission meeting.

Kevin Vericker
December 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Cost of Privatization

Earlier this year, I wrote about the city of Maywood, California. Maywood has several important characteristics in common with North Bay Village. From June 23, "Maywood is a small, overlooked city (~28,000) in the middle of the Los Angeles urban sprawl. North Bay Village is the most densely populated municipality in Florida. Maywood is the most densely populated municipality in California. The demographics are similar in that both are younger, predominantly Latino cities. Both have a fairly high number of recently developed properties that remain unsold."

Maywood went broke. Years of poor administration, corruption, lack of open government resulted in the city shutting down all its services and outsourcing to private companies and other municipalities. The news was surprising to most, but there were some who thought that privatizing city services is an inherently good idea and the solution was obvious and beneficial.

But it turned out not to be. Maywood is now facing a situation where the town to which they had contracted their police services has dropped them without notice. The private companies have jacked up rates and the residents are facing even deeper cuts and more expensive services.

Privatizing is not a magic bullet. The belief that private enterprise can always provide better, more efficient and cheaper services is naive at best. There are times when it makes sense but at all times it needs to be carefully and most importantly professionally monitored.

Our garbage is a classic example of privatization done wrong. Our City Manager provide the commission with false information by saying that the savings of privatizing would be at least $500,000 per year, when he should have reported that the best case is around $80,000. The commission approved the contract without even knowing what the savings might be.

It continues. At the December 14, 2010 meeting, Connie Kreps introduced a resolution to waive the protest bond for companies who believe the contract was unfairly awarded. The Vice Mayor did not seem to understand the resolution and voted for it while explaining that she did not want to waive the protest bond.

We are in a delicate situation. Our City Manager lacks financial acumen during the worst financial crisis in our history. Our police department never made any cuts and is promoting and increasing salaries like there was no crisis. At least one commissioner, and more likely two, have no idea what they are proposing and voting on. It goes on.

Welcome to Maywood. For more information on how it's working out for them, check this article.

Kevin Vericker
December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Lexi Move

The Lexi, a large new high rise as 7901 Hispanola Avenue, is a monument to the decline of North Bay Village. Developed by Scott Greenwald during the height of the condocraze in Miami, the Lexi was designed as a luxury condominium taking advantage of some truly spectacular bay views. As price rises spiraled insanely and then the market collapsed, the Lexi lost some of its luster.

The apartments are beautiful inside and the bay views from them are amazing but the ground floor of the building is derelict, looking like an abandoned strip mall fronted by an ugly parking lot. This is the face of the city today. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

The proposed ground floor plans included a variety of local businesses deemed "upscale" and was supposed to have included a Starbucks, restaurants, a spa and a useful veterinary clinic. Instead, the only restaurant, Mario the Baker, has closed, and the only activity on the ground floor is the "temporary" city hall and police station. It is at least from a commercial point of view a failure.

The City of North Bay Village is moving there next month. We had a preview of the new commission chambers at the December 14 meeting. A small, windowless room with poor acoustics will serve as our civic meeting hall. The light and the views from our current city hall will be replaced by a warren of closed in cubicles. The police station set up cannot by law include facilities appropriate for investigations and holding suspects so there will be a second facility on Galleon St. The parking lot in front of the building will get even more crowded.

The whole move was arranged for the benefit of Scott Greenwald, who had to turn to the city for this subsidy, and the benefit of former vice mayor George Kane, who pleaded "No Contest" to the charge that he used his position to promote this deal while collecting $12,500 annually as his commission for doing so. See the full report by clicking here.

So the city is going ahead with this move, at a cost of some $85,000 annually above what we pay now, in January. All so a politically well connected developer can recoup some money on a poorly executed bankrupt project. The laws of supply and demand are repealed by government fiat.

And how does Scott Greenwald repay the city's generosity? By waging a battle against the city to build his next sure to be successful project, a strip club to anchor our non existent boardwalk. The commission voted down the application but we all know it's coming back up and I predict next time it will be approved. Money has a way of doing that.

Kevin Vericker
December 29, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Trust and Openness and Democracy

"It is the government with something to hide, or thinks itself justified in so doing, that we must fear most." Thomas Paine - The First American Blogger.

There are so many bad things that happen when information is suppressed. Corruption is easy, incompetence remains uncorrected, money goes missing, decisions are made without access to inforation, responsibility is diffused.

On December 14, the City Manager had no report to the commissioners and the assembled citizens at the Commission Meeting. The Chief of Police excused himself without a Public Safety briefing.

North Bay Village has returned to closed system of government. The City Manager and the Police Chief are by omission withholding information from the commissioners and more importantly from the citizens. And that information is costing us.

It seems the projects are dead. The critical infrastructure that we need to create a well balanced community with a diverse tax base has died.

The budget may or may not be in line. We have no way of knowing.

The garbage outsourcing migh be save us $80,000 or $500,000. We have no way of knowing.

Crime may be up or down in North Bay Village. We have no way of knowing.

The PD may have needed to change the command structure and give raises to several officers now promoted. Or maybe it didn't. We have no way of knowing.

None of these critical issues were brought up by the two people who are obligated by law to bring these to the commission. And the information was omitted without explanation or apology.

The current city administration is operating in the shadows, without communication to the public, and without the openness that is the basic framework democracy.

In this environment, speculation is all we have and that's bad. We have too much at risk and too much invested to tolerate this.

The City Manager and the Chief of Police need to step up now and provide a full accounting of the finances, the crime statistics, the response times, the full explanation of the current administrative status of the city and their recommendations to the commission in detail.

Accountability is not optional.

Kevin Vericker
December 27, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Post Before Christmas

This is a very short post. The North Bay Village Police Department is continuing to create new positions and raise salaries while the city is suffering the worst decline in its history.

The question remains why. Maybe it is needed to resolve short term problems or to improve long term effectiveness. Maybe. It would be nice to know but there is no public discussion of the police issues.

I understand Chief Daniels felt ill during our last commission meeting and left. That happens. But the responsible thing to do would have been to provide a written assessment to the commission about changes proposed in the police department. His contract specifies that he need answer to no one but we do after all pay his salary and a simple memo would have been appropriate.

I'll be back next week. In the meantime, for those who celebrate Christmas, have a very merry Christmas and for those who don't, have a great day off.

Kevin Vericker
December 23, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Projects

Last year at this time, the two most visible signs of progress in our city, operational restructuring to reduce costs and grant seeking to develop our tax base, were encouraging. The various city departments were working to reign in costs and perform more efficiently, citizens were active in looking at ways to reduce costs and the projects were constantly under review. In fact, it seemed that everybody in the city administration was looking for bragging rights on who brought in more money. (This was a good thing, a very healthy competition.)

So now in December 2010, where are we? All of our grant seeking has stopped dead in its tracks. Grant requests have been allowed to expire without any action. Our economic base is getting weaker not stronger. Businesses see nothing different happening in North Bay Village. Our PD has not even paid lip service to the commission mandated cuts.

We have an unqualified part time city manager whose contempt for his bosses, the commission, is so deep that he could not even be bothered to give a perfunctory report at the first full commission meeting on December 14.

North Bay Village is still in deep economic crisis. Our revenues are down. We are exceptionally vulnerable to the projected "double dip" recession. Mortgage rates are creeping up while we are still wrestling with the effects of real estate over-development.

We need and deserve full time, professional city management. The self inflicted wound of firing Matt Schwartz because he did sufficiently condescend to three of the commission members has not yet healed.

Our commission needs to get to work. We have to find a city manager with experience, knowledge and connections to get us at least on the right track. North Bay Village cannot continue to pretend that things are going well. They're not and the evidence would have been right there if the commission had insisted on a report.

Kevin Vericker
December 20, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Restructure The Commission Meetings

I have not commented much on the fact that Corina Esquijarosa in her first three meetings as mayor has put forth a series of items designed to make the commission meetings more resident friendly. In broad strokes, these proposals are:

  • Change the governing rules from an ordinance to a resolution. This would allow the commission to try different approaches to see what suits the citizenry best.

  • Move Good and Welfare to the end of the meeting, rather than the beginning. This would allow residents who attend the meetings to comment on various pieces of legislation or commission business, not to be delayed as people simply to get up to talk. Good and Welfare matters and is intended to be a forum for residents to bring issues up to the commission and city staff that are not covered in the agenda but it should not take priority over the other business before the commission.

  • Require speakers to sign in with a name and address. This practice, nearly universally followed in other cities, would allow the city to do proper follow up and make the speakers data public. It might also help cut down on slanderous speech and absurd behavior.

  • Change the meeting time to start at 7PM rather than 7:30PM to give more time to the subjects at hand and prevent these post midnight sessions.

  • Referred to but not discussed in detail is an idea to change the meeting to the first Tuesday of the month with a second meeting scheduled the third Tuesday if needed. We have suffered from a rash of unscheduled commission meetings for almost a year now and it's clear our current model of one meeting per month is not working. This would give the flexibility to the commission to table business at the first meeting and the expectation that the second meeting is not a full month away. During the financial crisis, the commission also needs to be tightly watching the finances and setting the direction closely. The board meetings could then happen throughout the second week and report back the third week.

Pretending that our commission meetings are working as structured is a denial of the obvious. Resident participation is low. It's the same core group that shows up month after month. (I'm in that group.) Most residents attending for the first time are shocked at the disorderliness of the meetings and the lack of clarity and few have the patience to sort it out.

My view is that there should be some data, something tangible, to guide the commission. I'd recommend that we start using direct mail to the residents, email those who have shared their emails, solicit residents' viewpoints, see what it would take to improve performance and outreach and be willing to respond. Two of the commissioners were elected to bring these changes - Eddie Lim and Corina Esquijarosa, and they should lead this charge. The sitting commissioners, Frank Rodriguez and Paul Vogel know that the structure doesn't work. Let's fix it.

Kevin Vericker
December 17, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 14, 2010 Commission Meeting

Long meeting last night. It ran from 7:30 to after midnight and did not complete the agenda. A lot was covered but I'll just hit the highlights.

New Commission Chambers at the Lexi - Last night was the first time a commission meeting was held in the ground floor of the Lexi where the new city hall will be. The room was small with poor acoustics and no heat, which granted won't matter most of the time.

The rest of the unnecessary move to the Lexi will take place in January, bringing citizens no demonstrable benefit while providing less office space than we currently have at a cost of about $80,000. The biggest outrage is that former Vice Mayor George Kane was supposed to receive private compensation of $25,000 when he arranged this real estate bailout but now he won't. The Commission on Ethics put the kibosh on that. It turns out it's illegal to collect commissions for being a commissioner. Who knew?

The City Manager's Report - There was none. Nothing. Nada. Bupkes. Apparently nothing happened in the city during November. Certainly nothing the citizens or the commission need to know about anyway, like the financial status of the city, the move to the Lexi, the ongoing investigations in the police department, the privatization efforts etc. None of our business. Just move along here, folks.

Various Agenda Items -

  • The strip club got voted down. 4-1. Eddie Lim voted for it but nobody else did.

  • The dock at 1520 S. Treasure Drive was postponed. It turns out that our code is out of date with the DERM requirements so now we have to update that.

  • The suggestions that the mayor has to change the order of the meeting and require people to sign in for Good & Welfare were dissed by Connie Leon-Kreps but will be coming up in a future ordinance.

  • Connie Leon-Kreps sponsored a resolution to waive the protest fee, allowing Choice Environmental Systems to protest the theft of the North Bay Village sanitation services but didn't seem to know what she was sponsoring. That passed so maybe there's hope of rescinding this giveaway. She voted to waive the fee, which was a good thing, but I suspect she meant to vote to keep it. It's hard to tell. Anyway, the waiver passed 4-1.

  • Planning and Zoning members were picked. Rey Trujillo, Richard Chervony and James Carter were rewarded with seats in votes by Eddie Lim, Connie Leon-Kreps, and Dr. Vogel.

    I'm sure that Rey Trujillo will make his first order of business to fix the situation at the Grandview, addressing the unpermitted restaurant kitchen and the 24 hour kennel. Chervony can provide unlicensed medical advice.

Not really an auspicious start but it was good to see that the meeting was well run, rules respected, and Mayor Esquijarosa continues to make the commission discuss the issues in public, rather than the old sunshine busting trio.

Now if we could just get the city manager to tell us what's happening in the city, we might have a chance.

Kevin Vericker
December 15, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Closing Out The Week

This week I've written about the worsening issues of the North Bay Village Police Department.

  • Publicly paid private investigations to intimidate police officers and citizens.
  • The complete lack of community outreach and involvement in public safety.
  • The extra legal contract crafted for the police chief.
  • The refusal to reign in costs.

There's a bit more to add. There is check sitting in city hall to pay the chief a three month bonus for his insurance transition, his COBRA. This was not part of his employment agreement, not part of his contract but a "verbal" promise made to him. It seems like the grab bag never empties when it comes to the police.

There needs to be a massive change in the police department and I have no faith that this chief will make that happen. So far, any questions from the community have been met with digging in, the chief claiming annoyance at the person trying to work with him, and intimidation. Maybe he might realize that success in North Bay Village is not just about pleasing a small group in the force but his history here, and in Buckeye, AZ, are such that if he has not learned it by now, he never will.

This week, people have been warning me that I face retaliation for criticizing the police, and I probably do. I'm neither stupid nor crazily heroic and I am well aware that the NBV PD has such a history of targeting residents who speak out. I will probably at some point find that I get a ticket for oh, I don't know, unregistered sneakers or making a legal turn. But the current situation is even less tolerable.

Don't take my word for it. Call the chief at 305 758 2626. Ask to see the crime statistics and response sheets for NBV. Ask him about the investigations. Ask him about the budget cuts. Or come to the commission meeting on Tuesday December 14 and ask him in person. Tell me if you get a real answer and I'll tell the rest of the world.

Kevin Vericker
December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Budget and The Police

In 2009, then Police Chief Pandolfi was instructed by the commission to cut $350,000 from the budget. He resigned a few months later and the cuts had not yet been made. Since then, no cuts have been made. No reductions in force, no change in the pay structure, and in fact the police department has continued running over budget.

There are big examples of the costs being too high. The current police chief's contract is far too generous for the quality of service we are getting. You can see fully paid cops every morning being crossing guards at the school, an expensive deployment. The new contract protected most of the benefits and we have not gone to any furloughs. The command structure has been slightly reduced but not significantly. A detective was demoted as a cost cutting procedure but another was promptly put in. An outside investigator was brought in for no serious reason.

Dispatch became a sacred cow in the North Bay Village mostly due to the alarm that changing local dispatch caused a few citizens who call frequently for no apparent reason. This one really sticks out since $250,000 goes to maintaining local dispatch. Ask your neighbors, how many even know that there is a local dispatch to call besides 911? My guess is that about half won't know there is such a number. The police department does not advertise the service and has never conducted a simple survey to find out if the public even knows about the service.

The last month we have statistics on dispatch is March 2009 where we averaged 8 calls per day, about 2.5 per shift. That's a pretty expensive dispatch especially since we are paying Miami-Dade County 911 as well. There are options besides eliminating - we could combine with other cities, we could staff only during peak hours and use 911 for other calls, we could sell out dispatch services to other cities or even condos. But none of those have been explored and we are sitting with a large white elephant of a service.

And so we pay, about $80 per call for just in case dispatch. That's a pretty high price.

The PD is not participating in the community as a whole, not being a partner in the budget crisis, not reaching out where it matters and isolating itself from the community. I have never liked the idea of going to county or another city for police services, but seriously if our return on the amount of money we spend is this poor, why are we even paying it?

We need a police chief who remembers that he works for us, not the other way around.

Kevin Vericker
December 9, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How The Police Got To This Point

There's a simple distillation of the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes that says “If you do things the right way, you do the right things.” Hobbesian choices are not about complying with arbitrary social mores but about making sure that the seemingly small choices we make are correct and ethically consistent. The old aphorism that “the end justifies the means” is just wordplay in the moral universe of Hobbes. The means themselves create the end.

So apart from not wanting to let that humanities degree go to waste, why the heck would I be writing about philosophy from the Scottish Enlightenment?

Simple, it's a continuation of what has gone wrong in the North Bay Village Police Department in the last year. Monday I wrote about the police chief using public money to hire a private investigator. The investigation is focused on officers whom the current dominant union does not particularly care for and has the appearance of being designed to intimidate officers and citizens rather than unearth facts.

Yesterday, I covered the isolation and lack of public accountability that characterize the NBV police department.

That we are worse off than before with the new chief does not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with how he was hired and the contract he holds. That process of recruiting and hiring Chief Daniels was filled with unethical and possibly illegal steps in which he willingly participated.

Let's review. Robert Daniels was brought in through the back door. After the commission voted lockstep, Vogel, Kane and Trujillo, to not hire an interim chief following Roland Pandolfi's resignation, announcing that they felt it was better to wait until a new commission was elected to recruit the chief, interim city manager Robert Pushkin began a recruitment campaign with few applicants. Daniels was already picked.

When George Kane and Rey Trujillo, joined by Dr. Vogel, forced the hire on the city without public comment and virtually no discussion from the dais, things were done wrong.

When the contract which gives the chief “sole discretion in management of the Police force” was written in spite of its clear illegality as it directly contradicts our charter and approved in collusion with Daniel Abbott of Weiss Serota, the chief, the city manager and the three commissioners knew and should have known that this was a dirty deal. Yet they all gladly went along.

When the severance package for dismissal for anything, anything, other than criminal conviction gives six months' notice and three months' severance, you know that the conspirators are aware of how illegal and unethical their behavior is and this severance package was designed to do two things – reassure the chief that even though his contract is illegal, he will be taken care of and put the cash strapped city in a bind where we continue to employ the chief regardless of his actions or inaction because we cannot afford to let him go.

So it's no surprise that Chief Daniels feels no obligation to the public, the commission or the mayor and spends his time protecting his position and supporting his patrons. It's sad for him and a bad deal for North Bay Village.

But given his willing participation in an unethical hiring process, his extraordinary contract, it's entirely predictable. Besides, ask yourself. If you were the Chief and you came in this way, would you want to be seen in public? Would you feel comfortable under scrutiny? Better to stay in the shadow, preemptively ferreting out enemies and not engaging with the public who were cheated.

Kevin Vericker
December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Isolation and Politics in the Police Department

Yesterday, I wrote about the outside investigator, Pat Franklin, who has been brought into North Bay Village to conduct investigations about "citizen complaints" that some police officers may have been involved in politics. I note the Mr. Franklin does not seem to be investigating the FOP Endorsements in our last election cycle, but spending his time questioning innocuous social media postings.

The net effect of such an investigation is to send an intimidating message to the officers and to the targeted civilians that not falling in behind the chief is dangerous. I'll write in more detail tomorrow as it has to do with the contract that was shoved down our throats.

But in the meantime, are the relationships any better with the citizens, the ones who pay the taxes and to whom the police department is here to serve? Not if you are not part of the political cabal that hired and continues to protect the chief.

Some small samplings - a "Meet The Chief" night with PAL became just a PAL meeting when the chief called in sick. He never rescheduled and never took the time to initiate any further interaction.

The police department does not publish metrics so we have no idea how many patrols are made, how many calls are responded to, what the police are doing. There are no published crime statistics for North Bay Village.

There have been no community meetings with the chief or the police since he started last July. North Bay Village has been concerned for some time that our police department was divided and not serving the community. Not a single thing has happened to change that perception. There is zero community outreach, something we had been very used to under Chief Pandolfi.

The suspension of the PAL/DARE programs was a community relations disaster. Daniels stonewalled the board and individual members, put himself in a bizarre argument with me when I wrote that "emails" had been ignored and let me know in no uncertain terms that he only ignored one email so the plural was an attack. Only when it was clear that this was a campaign issue and a liability for his political sponsor Rey Trujillo did he begin to respond.

Other residents have regularly reported that he is distant on the best of days.

We are a small town. There is a good argument that the only reason that we are a town at all is to have our own police force and we pay the bulk of our taxes to keep them.

It's time for the police chief to get out of the trailers, out of the secret meetings at city hall, and get out in the street meeting with the residents whether he likes us or not. Drop the faux investigations and stop intimidating the citizens.

Next Tuesday, December 14, the chief is expected for the first time to provide a public safety briefing to the commission and to the public. This was not his idea or proposal as it should have been, but at least maybe we will start to hear just what the heck the police department is doing with our money.

Tomorrow: Let's look at the contract.

Kevin Vericker
December 7, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Investigating the Investigators

In July, the city hired Robert Daniels as Chief of Police. His biggest challenge was to bring the police department back to a place where the department works as a cohesive unit to serve the city.

Chief Daniels has failed. The police are now working under a permanent state of investigation and favoritism. Political activities have further divided the police, community relations are bad and there is no longer even lip service to respecting the budget. In every way, our police department is in worse shape than it was before Chief Daniels was hired.

For this post, let's concentrate on one thing – the investigations. We'll talk about the other aspects through the week.

The North Bay Village PD has hired Patrick Franklin, a private investigator, to pursue politically unpopular members of the North Bay Village Police Department. Franklin has a long reputation doing internal affairs investigations for police departments around Miami-Dade and did several for the North Bay Village PD over the years. Franklin was hired in response to “citizen complaints” about social media postings that might have had political leanings and to look at publicly available records.

First problem: Why bring in an outside investigator when we have an internal affairs group in our own police department? If the PD's internal affairs is not capable of running of a preliminary investigation to see if there are grounds for a larger investigation, then that's what needs fixing. There's nothing about casual citizen complaints about dislikes of specific officers that warrant this extraordinary expense.

Second problem: Such investigations are presumed to be confidential. Yet within days, the news was all over town that Franklin was conducting inquiries about members of the PD. Now that may have been the plan, to do the investigation publicly to ferret out information, but it looks more like sloppiness than strategy.

A leader coming into the position of chief in a deeply conflicted department should be uniting the department but this looks more like retaliation than rehabilitation. Perception matters.

Kevin Vericker
December 6, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

And Now, The Down Side of the Commission Meeting

While the commission did a stand up job on Tuesday night, the old guard from North Bay Island did their best to drag it back into the mud.

Commissioner Frank Rodriguez told me about an extortion threat two of these old timers made to force him to do their bidding.

According to Rodriguez, before the meeting started, Al Blake and Richard Chervony approached Rodriguez and asked to speak to him. They proceeded to tell Rodriguez that they were aware of an effort to recall Dr. Vogel. They warned Rodriguez that they had embarrassing personal information about Rodriguez and his family that they would reveal if Rodriguez did not stand against this recall.

Rodriguez then asked the two, "Are you threatening me?"

The conversation ended there but not the incident. Later Tuesday night, Rodriguez called the chief of police and laid out the situation. There is a criminal investigation going on now, much larger than the North Bay Village Police Department as this extortion is illegal under Florida and Federal statutes.

This type of clumsy extortion is the usual operating mode for the CFD. I've written before about the libels I've received from Richard Chervony. We've all seen the emails from this group. I hope this is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

One truly twisted turn in this clumsy melodrama is that Frank Rodriguez admires Dr. Vogel, was surprised and annoyed by the rumor mongering and doesn't believe in recalls for anything less than an a criminal action. Way to go, CFD'ers.

A word about the Paul Vogel "recall". This is a rumor started by Rey Trujillo from the dais following Trujillo's defeat in the mayoral election and it struck me then as mean spirited. Dr. Vogel consistently stood with Trujillo on his votes, much to my dismay. I suspect, but don't know, that it was one last attempt by Trujillo to pressure Dr. Vogel by creating a false recall rumor in hopes that Dr. Vogel would believe it and align himself against the new mayor. Since Trujillo provided no information about his source for this rumor, your guess is as good as mine.

This election was about retaking the city by the sane citizens. It's more important than ever for us to engage rationally and without the baggage of the past. These ugly old ways need to die.

When we do the things the right way, we do the right things.

Kevin Vericker
December 2, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The November 30 Commission Meeting Gets an A

Transparency was the theme of the evening last night at the first meeting of the new commission, a special session to consider several resolutions and ordinances. The meeting's civil tone, with significant discussion on the dais of the merits of each item, combined with respectful comments expressing support or disagreement from the public and lack of grandstanding, made the meeting almost boring which is what a routine commission meeting should be.

The day to day work of a municipal government is not a whole lot different than any private enterprise and it usually happens without fireworks or impassioned stands being taken. Decisions are made by presenting the need for a change, discussing the various aspects and implications of the decision being considered, new information is taken into account and the decision is made or not depending on its merits. Holding tight to a position rather than a goal and grandstanding rather than discussing ideas is the hallmark of a failed organization.

Our last city commission failed as a result of grandstanding and positioning. Every item had been decided long before it got to the public. We were used to the sight of three commissioners sitting on the dais, having long before decided how they would vote and never sharing their reasoning. The alliance was based purely on personal animosity against Mayor Alfonso, ego and a disregard for the public.

Mayor Corina Esquijarosa knows there is no chance of returning the government to the citizens if the political process problem is not addressed. Her first steps as mayor have been to fix the process and the tone. Last night, she consistently directed the commission to the subject at hand to keep the public focus where it needs to be. That's not to say that all the commissioners agreed with her or even voted with her. They didn't but they laid out why they felt the way they do.

I will be covering each of these items later this week. There aren't that many but they matter to the ongoing transparency.

The five members of the commission get an A for their willingness to engage publicly in the process of governance.

Kevin Vericker
December 1, 2010