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

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