Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Continuing with Commission

In contrast to Connie Leon-Kreps, Commissioner Eddie Lim won his seat fair and square in the 2010 North Bay Village election and by a large margin. His inaugural comments gave reason for optimism that he would approach the trust with a strong sense of integrity. Lim quoted the Rotary Club test for speech.

1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

and although I would argue that the concepts of Friendship and Beneficial to all concerned are not legitimate in a political context, the questions of truth and fairness are a bedrock civic principle. It was refreshing to hear those words.

The words are ringing a bit hollow now. Lim ardently supported the move to reject Choice Environmental Systems protest at the January meeting without hearing it. This certainly was an attempt to not hear the truth about the most critical operational decision made in the city in the last year - the elimination of side yard pickup. And surely it would have been beneficial to the citizens and other commissioners for Lim to have disclosed his own financial support from Waste Management. It was disappointing.

Last week, Lim agreed enthusiastically by seconding a motion to hear a defamatory rant by a nonresident during the commission workshop and at the meeting before, sat giving quiet support to the same.

Lim voted against the city conducting a full scale search for a professional city manager and instead promoted locking us into a contract with the current part time city manager, without setting goals or guidelines for the same.

At that same meeting, a polite and simple request for his opinion based on his real estate expertise was rejected petulantly with a remark about how he no longer sells real estate was surprising for many. Especially since several houses in the city sport his real estate for sale signs.

You can see that Lim is squirming. When his political ally, the Vice Mayor, his twin in voting, chooses to waste time on the dais by fighting even the smallest of changes simply because the changes were proposed by someone the Vice Mayor does not care for, you can see his embarrassment.

Eddie Lim was elected by all of the citizens of North Bay Village and he needs to step up. He knows better and it's time to demonstrate that. Put North Bay Village first, Mr. Lim. It might make some of your allies angry but remember, not one of them have or ever had the mandate and trust that the voters of North Bay Village put on you. Live up to it.

Kevin Vericker
March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011


A weak commission form of governnment which is what North Bay Village has by design. This concept relies on some baseline assumptions.

  1. The commission will be composed of local citizens with the city's best interest at heart and not professional politicians.
  2. A professional city manager will be employed who will guide the execution of the strategy set by the commission.
  3. The community will be involved and their involvement will be welcomed.

So far this has eluded some of our commissioners and many of our citizens.

Today, let's talk about Connie Leon-Kreps. It's important to remember that she did not win an election to her post - she won a lawsuit. Not one voter in North Bay Village ever had the chance to vote for or against her.

Kreps served a previous term as a commissioner in North Bay Village and other than Dr. Vogel, has the most experience on the commission. Yet at last week's special meeting with one resolution, she was unaware that if she wanted to put conditions on a resolution to pass, she needed to propose an amendment rather than simply saying her vote is conditional, which does nothing. An experienced commissioner of normal intelligence would know that.

That same evening during the commissioners workshop, she felt that information from a non resident was so urgent that she pushed through a motion to hear it, knowing full well that there was nothing germane to be added.

Connie Leon-Kreps spent the first part of the workshop arguing pointlessly that the meeting time has to be set for 7:30 no matter what.

In January, she sponsored a measure to reject the protest of the Waste Management contract and then voted against herself. It was clear she had not put the resolution on and never read it. That was disgraceful.

Kreps has consistently made unquantifiable and impossible to verify statements that she is hearing from citizens around the city about what a great job the city management is doing. Perhaps she is hearing this but she does not share when or from whom and is dismissive to the point of rudeness to others who disagree.

North Bay Village is stuck with her, for a while anyway, and I admit I don't like her. I believe her to be shrewd rather than intelligent. Kreps seems to believe that a position of power is the power to bully. Her comments and actions seem contemptuous of our governing principles. I doubt that she has the ethical or intellectual capacity to step up to the role she grabbed and sincerely hope I am wrong.

Kevin Vericker
March 28, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Worst Possible Commission

I tried to write something funny about last night but it's just not there. Last night was a grotesque display of exactly how poisonous a bad commissioner can be.

It was a peculiar sort of commission meeting. If you already know how a workshop goes, skip the next paragraph, but if you haven't heard of the concept, you need to.

The mayor convened a workshop. What this is is a chance for the commissioners to talk among themselves and consider ideas and other viewpoints. In a normal work environment, it's equivalent to the kind of informal coffee room chats that often lead to formal action. You know the ones. Someone says, "we should look at this supplier. he's good." and someone else says, "no, we used to use him and his billing is a nightmare." or "give me his number, I'll call him." Not a strategy session but a chance to exchange ideas and views. The reason the workshop is formalized is to ensure compliance with Sunshine Laws. It is designed to give the commission a chance to explore each other's thinking and question the ideas without any resolutions. It's a good idea and people who have the organization or the city's interest at heart will learn and grow from it.

Connie Lim-Kreps was having none of it. From the very beginning, when the mayor asked if the others thought the commission meetings might go smoother if they started earlier, she was off and racing. She summarily rejected the idea until her twin, Eddie Leon-Kreps meekly suggested that maybe we could try it for two or three months. She shot him a furious glance and then reluctantly agreed that maybe the subject could be discussed. I'm sure their next private chats will not be pleasant.

The rest of the evening went like that. Vice Connie could not understand what agenda item the commission was on, kept blurting out irrelevancies like "This is America" which we were glad to hear that she was oriented but had nothing to do with the conversation. She is a woman of limited intellect, bad faith and a fundamentally anti democratic viewpoint. With Connie Leon-Kreps on the commission, nothing good will happen.

Eddie Lim is quieter and I suspect sort of embarrassed that he is twinned with Connie. Even the most basic and civil discussions are impossible with Connie but if he is to succeed as a commissioner, he has to stop being her twin.

This does not bode well. With Paul Vogel unable to perform the functions on the commission, Connie lost in the bitterness of whatever is going on in her head, and Eddie unwilling to look out for the city, the commission is doomed.

I don't see it changing anytime soon and I am starting to despair.

Kevin Vericker
March 23, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Different Drummer?

When this blog started, it was with the hope that the issues before North Bay Village could be laid out rationally, discussed openly and perhaps heatedly, and that varying viewpoints could be considered. I thought sincerely that the group who call themselves "Citizens for Full Disclosure" had a style problem. I thought that the histrionic, over the top, emails were the result of deep frustration.

I won't go into the long history of contentious relationship with this group. (You can read about it here.) To give credit where credit is due, the CFD has finally stopped sending emails anonymously and now sign them. This is a good thing.

But the quality of the emails remains the same. Witness the one below. It refers to the upcoming community workshop and expresses IN CAPITAL LETTERS the hope that the mayor and one commissioner "listen to the citizens and do what is right." This is of course good advice, but why just for two of the 4.5 commissioners? Why not for all?

Then of course the email does not express any viewpoint on "what is right." A well reasoned, intelligent critique would include the issues before the commission and some perspective. This includes neither. So it is just really a random insult.

The problem with the CFD is not that they are inarticulate or in their bizarre world continue to exist to fight the Alfonso administration, but that they are useful tools of the Lims-Krep and Vogel efforts to transfer large amounts of tax dollars to private hands.

Some quick examples.

City Hall moved to inferior headquarters at a cost around $80,000 for the sole purpose of supporting developer Scott Greenwald's bankrupt Lexi project.

The outsourcing of garbage pickup and the elimination of side yard pickup was so poorly done and the savings so obscured that it should be thrown out and done over to clarify the value, if any, to North Bay Village.

There is no clear version of the budget that shows what savings have been accomplished and how our reserve is doing.

There's a lot more and I will be covering these, but suffice it to say that there is reasonable doubt as to the motivations of these commissioners, especially given the large campaign contributions by Waste Management and Greenwald to one side.

Well, anyway, here's the CFD email. Judge for yourself if it adds anything to the conversation.

From: Citizens for Full Disclosure of North Bay Village Inc. cfd_nbv@hotmail.com
Sent: Sat, March 19, 2011 9:18:30 AM



This information was sent to you by Citizens for Full Disclosure of North Bay Village, Inc., whose purpose is to help the citizens of North Bay Village obtain full and complete disclosure in all matters of government of the city of North Bay Village.

President - Richard Chervony
V. President - Alvin Blake
Secretary - James Carter
Treasurer - Flo Clein
Director - Jane Blake
Director - Gloria Carter

Kevin Vericker
March 20, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Community Meeting Tuesday March 22, 2011

Next Tuesday night, the mayor is convening what will probably be the first in a series of community discussions about getting North Bay Village back on track, and we need to. There's a lot broken. The agenda is attached and the first item is the most interesting.

It talks about the commission procedures and is an attempt to restore sanity to our meetings. The meetings are broken. The meetings continue to be dominated by the loudest ranters, they do not allow citizens to discuss fluidly and calmly the issues facing the city. The simple procedures of speaking are out of whack, with people not respecting decorum and it seems we can't get through a month without a special commission meeting, so we might as well go back to the way it was when Dr. Vogel was mayor and have two per month.

I hope the RFP process comes up. We have to professionalize that. The Waste Management deal was done so badly and unprofessionally that it never should have passed. In a city, county and region fraught with mismanagement and corruption, the commission need to clearly lay out procedures that will guide the city manager in how open processes work.

My suggestion is that for each RFP to be evaluated, an ad hoc group comprising one elected official, city staff as deemed necessary and at least one citizen chosen by the commission do the evaluation.

So far, the commission has not been particularly amenable to any changes. The twins, Vice Commissioner Lim-Kreps, have made tentative statements of disapproval but I hope they will see their way to allowing the adults to make the necessary changes. I am truly hopeful that Dr. Vogel will support the effort to fix the broken processes. Commissioner Rodriguez seems to be pretty open to doing things right. So maybe we'll get it right this time.

Here's the agenda. 3-22-2011 City Commission Workshop

Kevin Vericker
March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Recall Fever?

88% of the people who voted in Miami-Dade's recall election voted to remove Carlos Alvarez from office. The polls had indicated that the recall was popular but I saw nothing that showed it would be this big a Yes vote. It's surprising and a bit worrisome about what happens next. The recall was expensive and if the county commissioners do not choose a replacement for mayor and commissioner, the special election will cost even more at a time when the county is broke.

I get the reasons for the recall. Alvarez raised salaries and certainly appeared to benefit personally from the mayoral perks. He's tone deaf politically and had alienated much of his potential base early on. The stadium is a boondoggle. The budget is a disaster.

As Fred Grimm in the Herald pointed out today, waiting until the next election might have been the responsible thing to do.

It's done, though, and that's that. What happens next is going to be a little scary. How does an inexperienced mayor, a new city manager, and a new commissioner step up and take the reins at a critical time like this? Will they actually do better?

Time for a confession. I spaced the election. My official excuse is that I was out of town until Tuesday night, which was true, but I could have voted early and I forgot. I am so ambivalent on the subject of recalls that maybe we don't have to get Dr. Freud out of his comfortable grave to explain why, but I am feeling bad about missing the election. And I'm still not sure how I would have voted.

Very close to home, in North Bay Village, yesterday an emailing went out from "Jose Viernes" clearly a pseudonym, with a form attached about recalling Dr. Vogel. Since there is no citizen-sponsor, as required by law, I think this is an opening shot and an attempt to get that conversation started. Anonymity diminishes seriousness of purpose.

I respect Dr. Vogel. He's served us for many years and while I disagree with probably most of his votes, his experience is valuable. He should vote his own mind more often and pay less attention to the twins, Vice Commissioner Lim-Kreps, and the CFD cabal. I don't see how a recall would do anyone any good. I think it would be much better to concentrate on fixing the many problems facing North Bay Village.

To repeat an offer that has been open since I started, I will gladly publish any opinions from whomever might want to comment. The rules are the same:

  • You need to provide a real name and real way to contact you.
  • What you write cannot contain libels, that is false damaging information that cannot be proven. It can be negative but you have to back it up.
  • I reserve the right to edit for clarity but won't publish without your agreement

Oh, and Beannachtai na Feile Padraig ("Happy St. Patrick's Day". It's the only Gaelic I know.)

Kevin Vericker
March 17, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Get Busy or Get Out

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an excellent book in the 1990's called "The Tipping Point" about how seemingly unrelated series of small events pile up to a point where the next thing that happens, good or bad, is big and life changing. Gladwell explained that in neighborhoods where small infractions and problems went unaddressed, larger problems followed. An abandoned house, a broken window unfixed, abandoned cars, led to an atmosphere where larger problems, squatters, drug dealing and other issues took over the neighborhood almost unnoticed. It was only when cities, and he uses New York as his main focus, began to concentrate on the quality of life issues did the neighborhoods become safe again.

North Bay Village could serve as a model for a tipping point buildup. While three of our commissioners spend their time obstructing progress, all the signs of a community on the skids are emerging.

We've known for years that our tax base is out of whack. With all the commercial space on the causeway, we should have a balance between business and residential revenue coming in, but our businesses are failing. We have lost the Jumbo Buffet, Mario's the Baker, Barchetta's and its successor The Bay, and others with no replacements lined up. Our causeway looks and feels desolate. The plans for a Baywalk are paralyzed.

Where the Lexi stands, there used to be a modest but prosperous strip mall with healthy businesses. Now the only business in the Lexi is our city hall and parking is a nightmare. The only bank in town is closing.

On the residential streets, there are abandoned houses on every block awaiting foreclosure. Code is heroically but unevenly enforced. Cars are on the lawns. The streets aren't swept. The condos are filled with vacant properties and back taxes remain uncollected.

That the city needs attention is obvious. We are soon going to find that it has become unlivable unless we can find a way to create a healthy business environment, help the houses sell, collect the taxes, and start the city over. It's a failed state.

The city government can't do it all but it can't do nothing. The city needs to take the lead in forming business and government alliances to find out and fix the problems that are causing our businesses to fail, the city needs to create a foreclosure registry and enact legislation to keep the owners on the hook for proper maintenance, the city needs to reach out to homeowners in trouble and where possible help them to keep their homes or sell them gracefully, the city needs to make transparency a casual habit not a fight.

The commission needs to stop fighting the battles of the last administration. Stop fiercely defending the garbage grab and refusing to look at the police department issues. Lim, Vogel and Kreps have stonewalled any suggestions or changes, fought to keep transparency out, encouraged outrageous behavior at the commission meetings and vigorously support the current do nothing status. They need to get focused, get busy or get out. We can't afford them if they can't figure out how to move forward.

Kevin Vericker
March 13, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jerry Springer Show at the Commission Meeting Last Night

Yeah, our housing prices continue to fall, and the businesses we have are dying from neglect, our taxes are up and three of our commissioners are determined to end side yard pickup to pay a political debt, but the important thing at last night's commission was that no matter how nasty, stupid and slanderous the resident and non resident speakers chose to be, they have the right.

It was that kind of night. In the first part, while Police Chief Daniels got up to talk about plans for summer camp, local CFD spokesmodel and Lincoln Road fundraiser Elaine Beutel interrupted him to say that she didn't want one penny of the tax dollars she works so hard to raise to go for kids outside the city. She had clearly been coached about what to say on the proposal since the chief never got to the part about other cities when she exploded.

Then Ms. Beutel followed it up with a belching rant about how she can talk about whatever she wants to talk about and what she wanted to talk about was how not one penny of our money should go to the PAL camp. Then as always, she stomped out into the dark night. Tourist season is her busy time and there were new friends to be met on Lincoln Road.

After this witless performance, the commission moved on to the docks. Fane Lozman, who either does not live at 7918 West Drive or is squatting there illegally as this is a vacant lot and a not very well kept one at that, got up. I don't know. Maybe Lozman just lurks around the docks and under the bridges. His residence remains shrouded in mystery.

Regardless of where he may or may not live, Lozman launched into a vicious attack on our mayor. Lozman does this. It's how he made $225,000 from the city and he's clearly looking for another lottery win since things have not gone well with his attempts at Riviera Beach.

Lozman loves the Big Reveal, you know the moment in a telenovela when the heroine speaks the unholy truth and everybody gasps. But usually the heroine is pretty and the news is interesting. Neither was true of this big reveal but he keeps trying. It's tragic in an annoying sort of way.

The mayor recessed the meeting until order could be restored.

Lozman kept ranting and here's the only reveal, the not so big twist. Remember Connie Leon-Kreps and Eddie Lim, both of whom professed profound shock at the last meeting that anybody (me) would disrespect the city manager by questioning the savings on the garbage service elimination? Well, they stayed and politely listened to Fane Lozman. Commissioner Lim-Kreps (why bother separating them by name? They vote like conjoined twins. Henceforth, they will be known as CLK) will do anything, anything, to make sure that people who don't want what they want, a large transfer of taxpayer wealth to private hands, are alienated. The twins are a sad duo, unloved and unlovable, the stuff of children's nightmares. Yet still they sat, breathing rhythmically together and taking in the sweet, putrid aroma of the bile being spilled on the assembled citizens. Afterwards, they shared a satisfied cackle at the antics and the meeting proceeded.

Then once again, the Waste Management Systems contract came up. This time, it was a resolution to ensure that the commission vote on the final contract. You know, stand up and admit that they don't know the savings, they don't know the cost, they do know that side yard pickup is ending, unless there's a last minute switcheroo which would not surprise me at all. It was agreed by all four and a half commissioners to review the final contract.

Here's a prediction. Don't be shocked if the final contract includes a substantially increased price rise and side yard pickup. It was never about saving money. It was about paying back for generous campaign contributions ($2,500 to the Lim Trujillo Campaign alone) and eliminating the sanitation workers. But after last night, the commission will reluctantly agree to add on side yard pickup at a significant cost to the taxpayers ensuring WMS profit and the continued well financed campaigns.

In one interesting comment, half of Commissioner Lim-Kreps noted that the previous commission had not raised taxes. Interesting since her taxes to North Bay Village were $829.30 for 2010, as opposed to $709.11 for 2009. That's a 17% rise. She should check with her other brain before talking. It would save time but maybe only one organ works at a time. I'm not familiar with the anatomy of conjoined twins. Perhaps a faux doctor would care to weigh in?

And so like a bad dream, the meeting ground to a close. Surprisingly, Dr. Paul Vogel did not vote to put Rey Trujillo on the Citizen's Budget Oversight Board, although Lim-Kreps did. Instead, he proposed another candidate and she was enthusiastically voted in by 3.5 of the commission. I guess the Trujillo Tax may finally have worn out its welcome.

Kevin Vericker
March 9, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Planning and Zoning for the Bay

North Bay Village is a waterfront city and we need to pay attention to how our waterfront is managed. It's important and there are many models around of cities that have got this right. But it's far from our most critical issue.

Yet the new members of the Planning & Zoning Board seem to have a near unhealthy interest in boats. While the interior of the city is littered with vacant structures, poorly maintained streets, blatant code violations, parked cars on lawns, and monster houses half finished, the P&Z is worrying about boat sizes and positions.

It seems political and punitive, not at all constructive. If you talk to people around the city, the subject of boats seldom comes up. You're much more likely to hear about a commercial business operating out of a residence and attracting large crowds several times per week. You will hear concern about the 10 story building on East Treasure Drive vacant for three years now and the lack of a city strategy to deal with the foreclosed and abandoned homes. But seldom about the boats.

Planning & Zoning instead spent its most recent meeting talking about adding a new layer of registrations to boats. Boats are already registered by the state and the county and the reasoning behind proposing municipal registration is unclear.

It's to be admired that people volunteer their time and energy for city boards. This should be a focused community effort though, not an attempt to distract from the very real issues the city is facing.

I hope Planning and Zoning steps up their game to discuss the real issues facing the citizens.

Kevin Vericker
March 8, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Commission Meeting Tuesday March 8

The agenda has been published. See the end of the post. There are two items that I find interesting:

Item 9E is part of the long saga of the sanitation outsourcing. This item will require that the final contract be approved by the commission as is usual for such a large expenditure. My guess is that this will not pass.

The Waste Management Systems deal is tainted and has been since the beginning. The RFP was poorly evaluated, the contract was passed in a phony meeting designed to disguise the effects, the savings were presented falsely and the commissioner have never acknowledged that sideyard pickup ends for the single family homes. The triad who voted for this elimination of service don't want it looked at publicly and will vote against the commission approval.

Item 9G is a perennial - discussions about whether or not North Bay Village needs a parking permit program. There is already one in place on Harbor Island. This comes uip about every two years, mostly from homeowners on Treasure Island who want the space in front of their house reserved for their exclusive use.

There is no parking problem on Treasure Island. None. I walk this island twice a day, park on the street often (depending if I get home first or not) and sometimes I have to park as far as three or four houses away.

Implementing a parking permit program will significantly reduce our quality of lives. Many of us have lives, social lives, and invite people for dinner and have guests who stay the night or a week. Without a parking permit, where are they supposed to go? There are no public garages as there are in the beach.

The whole idea is a waste of time and the commission should vote a resounding NO on this. Maybe the effort could be directed at the trash who park on their lawn.

Here's the agenda:


Kevin Vericker
March 3, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Outreach by the Police

Last week, a number of residents got the email posted below. It describes a burglary that happened when people posing as roofers tricked a resident into walking outside while an acoomplice went in and burglarized the house.

It's good. We need to know these things. It should be better. It should specifically discuss what to do when someone posing as a tradesman comes to your door. Door to door solicitation of business is illegal in North Bay Village and you should refuse to engage and call the police is probably the best advice.

But the intention's good. Maybe it should have gone out around the time the incident happened, January 19 rather than February 24, and that might have helped the apprehension of the suspects. A month is long time.

Kevin Vericker
March 1, 2011

From: donotreply
Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2011 10:48:39 -0500
Conversation: Distraction Burglary Notice-Please read and spread the word
Subject: Distraction Burglary Notice-Please read and spread the word

Please spread the word!!!

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