Friday, April 29, 2011

Herald Article Today

I've been rough on Pamela Duque and she's deserved it. But today I have to say that the article today was fair, complete and accurate. Naturally you won't be seeing it mass emailed from the usual judge, jury and executioner emails so look for it here.

Things are really bad when three of the commissioners keep trying to shut down resident's concerns. Props to the Herald, and Ms. Duque, for bringing the issues forward.

Kevin Vericker
April 29, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Forget You

Wow, what to say about last night?

Three of the commissioners firmly stood against all attempts to bring transparency to the city government. Connie and Eddie Lim-Kreps along with Dr. Vogel made sure that pockets public and private will continue to be lined with cash collected from us.

The requests were simple enough:

  • Assess the Police Department and find out why they are so wildly over-budget. Answer from the Trio: Forget you.

  • Require a supermajority of commissioners to approve the next tax hike. Answer: Forget You

  • Fix the contracts process so that the upcoming projects- the boardwalk, the landscaping, etc. dont wind up like the $4 million pocket park. Answer: Forget you.

I didn't expect much from the twins, Eddie and Connie Lim-Kreps. After all, the vice mayor has been illegally signing checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Eddie Lim-Kreps campaign was bought and paid for by the garbage contractor. They even toddled off for a lovely dinner during their romantic getaway two weeks ago in Tallahassee, a dinner entirely paid for by the garbage contractor.

But I expected better from Dr. Vogel last night. He knows better than all of us how much money has gone missing over the years and should have voted for transparency. Dr. Vogel's ill, he's tired, but he, like Lim-Kreps, made a decision to shut down bringing day light to the spending.

Some other notes: The City Manager finally acknowledged that he may have said $500,000 per year in saving on the garbage contract. Oops, slip of the tongue, he really meant over the life of the contract.

Yeah, right, misunderstandings happen. People lose jobs, residents lose services, our taxes go up. Forget us. At least Lim and Trujillo's campaign got funded. ($2500). The piper was paid.

Connie and Eddie Lim-Kreps broke from their clearly colluded speeches to complain that questioning the police department spending spree was "divisive". Hey, Lim-Kreps, Forget You. In America, we are allowed to question our government. Seriously, it was on the citizenship test.

All of this stuff was about money last night, our money being transferred to their pockets. Forget me? Uh, uh, baby, Forget You.

We'll get this stuff on the ballot. Referendums will happen and recalls.

special note If you are unfamiliar with the song "Forget You", check it out here. Forget You. Raunchier club version can be found by Googling "Cee Lo Green Adult". You're on your own for that one - this is a decent blog.

Kevin Vericker
April 28, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Reform Agenda - Commission Meeting April 27, 2011

APRIL 27, 2011 AT 9:10 AM.

The Miami Herald published a correction on their Saturday story that North Bay Village Voice is seeking a review board for non-union contracts.

Corrections & Clarifications

• In an article published about North Bay Village in the Local & State section on April 23, there was an incorrect reference to one of the city code changes sought by North Bay Village Voice, a citizens’ group. The group has asked the City Commission to change the code to require that any purchases over $10,000 or any nonunion employment contracts be approved by a review board.

Read more: here

The agenda for tomorrow's commission meeting is below. It contains five items fundamental to the reform of North Bay Village. Agenda Items for April 27, 2011:

2A. Discussion regarding an outside assessment of the police department personnel policies and placement of a moratorium on all non-criminal investigations of personnel, until such assessment is completed.

2B. Preparation of A Resolution to amend the city charter to require a super-majority vote of the commission to raise property millage rates and grant property tax concessions to developers.

2C. Preparation of A Resolution to amend the city charter to require purchases over $10,000 to be approved by a five-member Request for Proposal (RFP) or Contract Review, which shall consist of at least two residents who are not employed by the City of North Bay Village and not including the City Manager. The group shall be approved by a majority vote of the commission

2D. Preparation of A Resolution to amend the city charter to require non-union employment contracts to be approved by a five-member Request for Proposal (RFP) or Contract Review, which shall consist of at least two residents who are not employed by the City of North Bay Village and not including the City Manager. The group shall be approved by a majority vote of the commission

2E. Preparation of A Resolution to amend the city charter to prohibit post electoral employment or contracting with the city by all elected officials for three years following their service with the city.

Item 2A. Discussion regarding an outside assessment of the police department personnel policies and placement of a moratorium on all non-criminal investigations of personnel, until such assessment is completed.

The Issue:

The NBV PD was in open conflict last year, fighting an internal union battle. Police Chief Robert Daniels was hired to fix the PD and resolve the dissension. Instead, he is currently running at least four outside, expensive investigations for routine personnel issues, has restructured the department so as to make the command structure a staggering 1.25 managers for every 1 patrol officers, squandered much needed federal funds on a lavish dinner rather than using the money for police issues and personnel reform.

His investigations done through an expensive private contractor have uncovered that one policeman made a Facebook posting on a candidate's page offering not an endorsement but a personal message of good wishes made on his private time. It was done publicly and yet we needed to spend nearly $5,000 for this trivial matter?

Other investigations have uncovered nothing, yet the costs keep rising.

It is clear that the police chief lacks either the will or the capability to effectively turn around the police department, a police department who both works for and is part of our community. There are problems but if the police chief can think of no other way to resolve them than to target and use external investigations over trivial matters, then he and our city need help.

There is a law that states that there are only 180 days to investigate matters regarding police issues. It's a good law. It was not intended to be abused by the police chief. None of the concerns are more than routine personnel issues and if the police chief was unable to resolve issues that any low level manager at any successful organization would make. The unsuccessful effort and spending needs to stop and the chief's failure to resolve the issues need to be evaluated, even at the risk of losing the investigations.

Last year, the PD was instructed by the commission to find $350,000 in savings. In fact, the PD has exceeded the 2010 budget by nearly the same amount of $350,000 and is over budget again in 2011. Most of these overruns are due to unnecessary promotions, witch-hunts, extravagant personal spending, and poor management.

Passing this resolution will:

Establish that the commission runs the city and wants resolution not revenge.

Provide the help and guidance that the police chief needs to finally unite the PD

Keep the budget under control and stop the needless lawsuits as police personnel are forced to resort to the courts to stop persecution.

Let our police department know that as a community, we care and have expectations of them.

Not passing this resolution is a statement that the commission supports the current climate of disunity, wasteful spending and lack of accountability from our police department, over 70% of our budget.

2B. Preparation of A Resolution to amend the city charter to require a super-majority vote of the commission to raise property millage rates and grant property tax concessions to developers.

The Issue:

Last year in 2010 North Bay Village raised the millage rate during the worst economic crisis in 70 years. NBV property values fell 26% and many residents were and are struggling to make ends meet. The city could not say how many homes were in foreclosure or in danger of foreclosure, what the rate of tax delinquency was or what was expected for recovery.

The justification for this tax hike was that the city would no longer consider furloughs, a fully legal option, nor any other revenue enhancement, nor cuts in the police department. Bizarrely, some commissioners claimed it was not a tax increase. It was.

Large, generous tax breaks were given to specific developers under the guise of “economic development”. Look around you. The economic development never happened, this project is in bankruptcy and it is highly unlikely that NBV will ever see those taxes which are due.

We will be facing an even worse revenue picture for 2012. We do not trust the commission. It's that simple.

Since November, the commision have not held budget and finance review hearings, the monthly financial reports are not given clearly, the commission has continued to vote for expensive non union contracts and giveaways. There is no seriousness of purpose in reducing spending or controlling taxes on this commission, just like the last one.

This charter amendment will make a simple, powerful change:

It will make it necessary to have at least four of the commissioners vote yes before our taxes are raised.

It will make it necessary to have at least four of the commissioners vote yes before specific projects are exempted from paying their share of taxes.

Not passing the charter amendment will send a clear message that the commission does not comprehend the gravity of the situation and our tax burdens.

2C. Preparation of A Resolution to amend the city charter to require purchases over $10,000 to be approved by a five-member Request for Proposal (RFP) or Contract Review, which shall consist of at least two residents who are not employed by the City of North Bay Village and not including the City Manager. The group shall be approved by a majority vote of the commission

The Issue:

NBV has no established professional standards to review and accept contract proposals in place. None. Each contract is approached through a different process. This does not conform to Miami-Dade, State or Federal practice. In each of these governments, the contract is reviewed by people with subject expertise, financial expertise, administrative expertise and community expertise. The person writing, proposing or approving the issued RFP is specifically not on the review board to ensure objectivity.

By professionalizing the process, either through ad hoc (that is one contract at a time) or a permanent board with varying members depending on the expertise required, the city will have a clear, transparent process to spending by utilizing the carefully crafted best practices of other government entities.

If this had been followed during the considerations of the garbage outsourcing, the following would not have happened -

The city commission would not have been told that the savings are $500,000 per year when they are not. Check the DVD for 9/28/2011 Scene 3 at 16 minutes for verification.

The panel would have had residents whose side yard pickup is ending with this outsourcing on the commission and community impact would have been discussed.

The RFP evaluation would have eliminated the bizarrely low score for one competitor, bringing an entirely different result.

The generous campaign contributions of the awardee would have been public record in the discussion.

The protest would have been professionally handled.

More than likely, of course, the whole process would have been eliminated once the fact that the savings are minimal and the impact high was made public.

I doubt that a $4 million contract for Dr. Vogel Park would ever have passed a proper review committee.

North Bay Village has embarked on a massive redevelopment effort, including a proposed boardwalk, a park redevelopment and is dealing with issues around parking and attracting businesses.

Passing this charter amendment would ensure that:

The millions of dollars being spent have met the basic ethical standards of best practices purchasing.

The community is involved every step of the way.

The perception of favoritism is eliminated.

Not passing the charter amendment ensures that the murky politics as usual continue.

2D. Preparation of A Resolution to amend the city charter to require non-union employment contracts to be approved by a five-member Request for Proposal (RFP) or Contract Review, which shall consist of at least two residents who are not employed by the City of North Bay Village and not including the City Manager. The group shall be approved by a majority vote of the commission

The Issue:

This is critical and I want to be very specific – it has to do with the excessively generous and deeply political nature of non-union contracts with city management. Union contracts are a different issue, governing a different class of employee and have different principles.

The last commission approved a contract with chief of police that was stunning in its tone deafness. His contract removes him from the charter mandated chain of supervision, provides for six months notice and three months severance if he is terminated for any reason other than criminal conviction, provides a pay rate of higher than any other city of comparable size in Miami-Dade while including such benefits as a car, five weeks of paid vacation due immediately upon signing, fully paid benefits. And now the commission has attempted to do the same with the city manager.

We've seen the effect of this overly binding and excessive contract in the police department. No goals were set to earn the amount, no time-lines given, if the chief of police refuses an order from the city manager or does not comply with the legislation by the commission, there is no consequence. The only remedy is expensive and difficult if NBV needs to change leadership in the police department.

Even if that contract was created with the best of intentions, a rational, objective evaluation would have prevented these excesses from coming to the commission. It's our money, it's our city.

Passing this amendment to the charter will:

Impose best practices on the hiring and retention of key management personnel

Ensure that the commission and the city are not handcuffed by poison pill clauses

Eliminate the perception strongly held by many residents that city employment is a gold mine for managers.

2E. Preparation of A Resolution to amend the city charter to prohibit post electoral employment or contracting with the city by all elected officials for three years following their service with the city.

The Issue:

On the past commission, constant discussions were held as to whether a recently serving commissioner or mayor should be allowed to be employed by or enter into for profit contracts with the city. The issue was never resolved. Many governments wrestle with this issue and it's most real on the small town level, where people who live and work in the city are the most likely to be the elected officials.

This demand is a compromise. Some believe that service as a low paid elected official should not disqualify one from city employment. After all, even convicted felons who have served their far less honorable time can be eligible. Others believe that all post electoral employment should be prohibited. This too has its merits.

Nevertheless a compromise with a three year waiting period probably makes the most sense. Three years is long enough for the political climate to have changed, for legislation that may have benefited the post electoral employment to have been established and reviewed. We owe our elected officials our gratitude and respect for their poorly compensated service but we do not owe them the opportunity to create ongoing income streams.

Passing this charter amendment will

Establish the fundamental value in North Bay Village that political service does not carry economic benefit for the commissioner.

Allows for the city to take advantage of the expertise of potential employees and contractors in the future.

Not passing this will mean that the commission will continue to operate on a case by case basis and the commission itself will always be under the shadow of lack of transparency.

Kevin Vericker

4-27-2011 City Commission Meeting

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

This afternoon at 3 PM in front of City Hall, a fictitious resident will hold a theatre event proposing a fictitious recall. I predict that the Miami New Times will print a fawning article, the Herald may be more objective, and others will ignore the faux event.

Why the "recall" is a fiction - We are governed by the Miami-Dade Home Rule Charter. It's an odd document and supersedes state law. In Section 8.02, paragraph 7, it states clearly

No recall petition against such an officer shall be
certified within one year after he takes office nor within one year after a recall petition against him is defeated.”

Esquijarosa is just not eligible. And Al Blake knows it. It's just noise.

The substantial issues - the tax hikes accompanied by reduced services, increased management benefits and salaries and private give aways of public funds will not be discussed.

It's ironic that this phony event will be held on the grounds of the Lexi. Let's do a breakdown of the Lexi.

It was developed by Scott Greenwald who brought the building into bankruptcy.

City Hall was moved there this year at a cost of $80,000 to subsidize the building. In the process, Greenwald agreed to pay a sitting commissioner a fee of $25,000 for brokering the deal. This was ruled illegal by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics who ordered the repayment of the fee.

City Hall now takes up all the parking in the Lexi front lot. There is no chance that the vacant retail will be rented out if there is no parking.

Scott Greenwald has over 30 units he "finished" without permits or code inspection and owes nearly $350,000 to the Lexi homeowner's association.

The fictitious resident claims he lives on Scott Greenwald's vacant lot at 7918 West Drive, a lot with no certificate of occupancy and is $84,089 in tax arrears for the last two years.

In fact, Greenwald who is the largest tax debtor in North Bay Village, sits on the Budget Oversight Board which reviews the city expenditures and shortfalls. He owes over $2 million in unpaid taxes, about $500,000 of which would go to North Bay Village if he paid them

Oh, and he wants the city to develop the baywalk so he can open a strip club next to Channel 7.

So when you hear about this fictitious recall by a fictitious resident, follow the money. Ask yourself, could this be related?

It's a distraction technique worthy of old school municipal corruption.

Sad if it wasn't so destructive.

Kevin Vericker
April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Spin Cycle

By now, those few who still subscribe to the Miami Herald have probably read the article by Pamela Duque yesterday. You read about the mayor's tax problems and the call for her resignation. You may also have walked away with the impression that North Bay Village Voice has joined forces with the Citizens for Full Disclosure. That impression is false.

The article has many problems and inaccuracies. I want to address the key error here:

I had provided Pamela Duque in writing that one of the key demands is a properly constituted review board for all purchases over $10,000 and all non union employment agreements. Instead, she wrote all union contracts and $100,000. It's not the working stiff that worries us, it's the absurdly self serving employment contracts for the police chief and the one proposed for the city manager.

As regards the ommissions. Ms. Duque never mentions that there is an actual recall petition filed in City Hall, and instead concentrates on the empty threats to recall Esquijarosa. She told me that she could not confirm the petition by deadline. Fair enough, but perhaps mentioning that there is at least a statement out there would have been full reporting.

Finally, as regards recalls, Fane Lozman and Al Blake know that a recall for Esquijarosa, Kreps and Lim are not possible right now. We are governed by the Miami-Dade Home Rule Charter, which says the following: "No recall petition against such an officer shall be certified within one year after he takes office nor within one year after a recall petition against himis defeated.” I pointed this out to her but she did not include that information.

The story was about everything but the story.

What are you seeing now is a concentrated effort to distract from the issues by using personal attacks and fake outrage ("faux"rage) at the mayor's tax problems, problems she noted and is addressing.

So let's review those issues:

1.) Side yard pickup is going away. The contract was so badly written and there are no real savings explained that it reeks. We need to fix the contracts process and stop the massive giveaway.

2.) The police chief currently enjoys a contract with nine months severance pay if he leaves for any reason other than criminal conviction. He started with five weeks of paid vacation and a higher salary than any of his peers in nearby towns. Now there is a call to write a similar contract for the city manager. In the meantime, we're going broke and the city employees are losing benefits nearly daily. We need to fix this.

3.) In the last commission, we watched as commission members jockeyed for post service employment. Miami-Dade, the state, the federal government all impose waiting periods before employment. We need to do that too.

4.) The NBV PD finished last year almost $350,000 over budget and is continuing to drain our coffers. One of the biggest unbudgeted expenses is the outsourcing of internal affairs for routine issues. We can't affod it.

5.) Finally, the commission raised our taxes and cut our services. Really?

Look, here's the problem. When people have a great deal invested in shutting up the legitimate discussions, they will go personal. And the let's be clear - the investment is personal financial gain.

Why the Herald joined in is anyone's guess.

Let's keep the focus on the issues.

Kevin Vericker
April 24, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Getting Personal

By now you've seen the articles on Corina Esquijarosa and her tax problems. The Miami Herald and the New Times simply reprinted an old story from October, and a bad story at that. And you have heard the outrage. You may even have gotten an anonymous email from NobVoice attacking the mayor and others. I don't consider what was written about me an attack. I thought I was explaining but griping is a fair word.

Some things to consider. The email was anonymous. So that's bull. Real men sign their emails. And why the personal vitriol?

You don't have to have an advanced degree to understand what's going on.

A group, North Bay Village Voice, has said, "Enough." We're tired of the petty mean girls clique of the city government and rather than continue being dragged into the deep, dark psyches of the cabal, we are looking for fundamental changes in the governance of North Bay Village.

  • Make tax increases and abatements subject to a super majority of the commission.
  • Put professional standards in place to ensure that nonunion employee contracts and city contracts over $10,000 meet the minimal ethical standards of Miami-Dade County, the state and the federal governments.
  • Prohibit the post electoral employment of elected officials by the city for the same period of time that the state and federal governments have.
  • Get the police department expenditures and political investigations under control.

North Bay Village Voice is modeled after the serious demands that Miami Voice has put forth on the county level. If you have followed how that worked, they first brought the solid ideas to the county commission and when the commission refused to act on them, they began recalls. Turns out that the tactic works.

In North Bay Village, we have the same issues as the county at large. Our taxes were raised, our services are being cut - side yard pickup is next when the garbage outsourcing is complete, employment contracts laden with expensive benefits and golden parachutes are in place in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930's.

The commission agreed to hear these concerns last night on April 21 and abruptly cancelled the meeting. Supposedly they are on the agenda for April 27.

North Bay Village Voice wants to fix the government, not destroy the commission, but will use recalls as the way to get the commission to cut the bickering and focus.

So when you read that Esquijarosa has tax problems, or random people are selected for attack by cowards who don't sign their emails, ask yourself, what is the investment that these people have in maintaining the status quo? Why are they attacking people but ignoring issues? Then decide based on the answer.

It's time to take the city back.

Kevin Vericker
April 22, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bury the Lead

So yesterday the New Times put up a story about Corina Esquijarosa's foreclosure problems. Essentially a rehash of the Miami Herald story from October 28 of last year. Click here for the article. The foreclosure crisis has hit a lot of people hard and I have to wonder why now is this a story?

One reason that comes to mind immediately is that it diverts attention from the real scandals going on in North Bay Village.

  • The vice-mayor, Connie Kreps, and part time city manager Bob Pushkin have been signing checks illegally.

  • The Waste Management Systems contract is set to be approved and side yard pickup about to be eliminated based on false information about a fictitious $500,000 annual savings.

  • The city's largest tax debtor (over $2 million and counting) is still being rewarded with tax breaks and rental income from the city.

  • The legal services bills for police department investigations have already exceeded the annual budget.

But let's spend our time and effort rehashing an ancient non scandal. Good move. By the way, the CFD helpfully forwarded the article and then put a bunch of comments under other people's names. Well, I would be ashamed if I were them too.

Kevin Vericker
April 19, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lim-Kreps Get Religion

Eddie Lim and Connie Leon-Kreps respectively wrote the city manager to claim that they are each hearing from concerned residents who feel that having a special meeting on Thursday April 21 would interfere with their religious observances of Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. The twins then said they could not attend.

First of all, Holy Thursday is not a day of obligation in any Catholic or Christian tradition. Among the employers working normally are the Archdiocese of Miami, the Episcopal Diocese of South Florida, the federal, state, county and local government. It's a ploy.

The twins know that North Bay Village Voice is serious. Address the problems of the city or recalls start May 1. Dr. Vogel is one of the eligible commissioners and they have been trying for some time to figure a way out to unseat him. His support for the city manager has become a problem for them.

North Bay Village Voice doesn't want to do recalls but will, on any commissioner who does not actively pursue the platform of stopping tax hikes, keeping services and stopping generous contracts.

Vice Commissioner Lim-Kreps figure that they can ride this out. If they delay, they know the recalls start May 1 and it solves their problem. But they would do well to remember that we won't stop with just one recall. Any commissioner who does not support the fundamental change in governance will be the subject of a recall.

It's a sneaky thing they are doing, using a pretext of religious observance as a way to throw their colleague under the bus, but that's how they play.

Kevin Vericker
April 15, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Recap of the April 12 Commission Meeting

Last night was the breath of fresh air we needed. I will talk about the new political action committee (PAC) at the end of the post but let me get to the meat of the meeting first.

The mayor spoke in no uncertain terms about the deceptions by the city manager, the gossiping by the police chief and the dithering by code enforcement. Let's break it down.

* Vice Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps has at the request of the city manager been signing wire transfers and checks. This is illegal and sneaky. The charter states explicitly that signing power is reserved to the mayor and vice-mayor respectively. Respectively means in sequence, first one, and then the next, not whoever. Here's the definition from the Oxford English dictionary: adverb: separately or individually and in the order already mentioned (used when enumerating two or more items or facts that refer back to a previous statement):they received sentences of one year and eight months respectively.

This action is criminal and deceptive. Even Leon-Kreps close ally Lim was shocked and voted Yes on a motion requiring a forensic accounting investigation of all the transactions.

* Frank Rodriguez did the right thing and introduced a motion asking for the City Manager's resignation. The mayor seconded the motion but it did not pass. It should have. And Bob Pushkin should resign.

* The mayor then spoke about two incidents regarding the police chief. The first was when the police chief claimed to citizens that an investigation against an officer was "requested by the mayor." It was not. The mayor did not request any investigations and further, does not have the power to do so.

The second was an incident when the police chief stated that the mayor and the commission had voted to reject a proposal for a cooperative camp with the Miami-Dade school systems this summer. There was never such a vote and prior to her comments, the issue was clarified and the commission unanimously supported the approach.

This public chiding was an expression of the deeply political nature of our police chief. He was hired by Trujillo and Pushkin and continues to show his contempt for the duly elected mayor of North Bay Village. He's on notice by the mayor that she won't be pulled into his games.

* Finally, the mayor spoke of her frustration over a commercial business, one with a marketing website, admission policies, scheduled hours and all the other appearances of a commercial business that residents have been complaining about since late 2010. She asked the police chief why it was still running and he replied clearly and unequivocally that is was not a police matter but a code enforcement matter.

The Chief's right. The city manager, not the police chief, has chosen not to address the issue. It will be interesting to see if the CM does.

There's no point in being polite with sneaky people who sign checks in the dark, gossip and don't do what they are obliged to do and many, many residents have told me today how happy they are with the new attitude on the part of the mayor.

People are fed up. We're tired of our taxes going up, our services being reduced, runaway spending on pet projects and employees and no reduction in our budget.

Which brings me to the earlier part of the meeting. Over twenty people met last Saturday to form the North Bay Village Voice, a PAC inspired by the county recall effort. The issues are the same: our police are out of control, our taxes are higher, our services are less and our money is being frivolously spent on lavish salaries and perks ($5,000 so the police chief can attend a dinner? What did they serve, extinct animals on diamond crusted plates?)

Like Miami Voice, the issue is not recall but that will be the tactic until and unless the city fundamentally reforms the way it does business. Ten people spoke in favor last night and there is a special commission meeting to discuss the issues next Thursday, April 21.

Kevin Vericker
April 13, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

North Bay Village Citizens Form a New PAC

In the wake of the Miami-Dade recall of former mayor Carlos Alvarez, North Bay Village residents unhappy with the city commission’s response to the declining values. higher taxes,.dissension in the police department, and service cuts in North Bay Village have formed a PAC inspired by Miami Voice, the PAC that led the successful county mayoral recall last month. The demands are much the same as the ones prominently featured in the recall campaign against Alvarez.

“We are looking for fundamental changes in the governance of North Bay Village. This commission is continuing the disastrous politics of the last commission and we can't afford it.” said Kevin Vericker, president of the newly formed PAC.

“The goal here is not recalls, but just like in the county, we are prepared to use that tactic until the commission gets it right.”, said Jean Pankey, Vice President of North Bay Village Voice.

The platform includes four points, although members agree there may be more. The four points are:

1. The commission seek outside assessment of the NBV Police Department personnel policies and put a moratorium on all non criminal investigations of personnel until that assessment is done and reported back to the city.

The North Bay Village Police Department consumes seventy percent of the city budget. The department had a bitter union battle in the past and there are at least five investigations about technical violations of personnel policies currently. These investigations appear political and targeted only at specific individuals rather than reforming the whole process.

2. North Bay Village Voice wants the commission to pass a resolution to change the City Charter to require a super-majority of commissioners (four out of five) to raise property millage rates and grant property tax concessions to developers.

North Bay Village suffered a 26% drop in property valuation last year, the second worst in the county, and the commission raised the millage rate, a move that affected homesteaded properties disproportionately, while attempting to privatize sanitation services ending side yard pickup, a longtime North Bay Village service. The city also offered large tax breaks to developers during the boom that left the city without the ability to collect taxes on the new units.

This amendment would require that the commission need at least four votes to alter the taxing policies of North Bay Village rather than the current three.

3. North Bay Village Voice wants the commission to pass a resolution to change the City Charter to require that any purchases over $10,000 or any nonunion employment contracts be approved by a five member RFP or Contract Review Board. These ad hoc groups must include at least two residents not working for the city and cannot include the city manager. The groups must be approved by majority vote of the commission.

Currently, the city manager decides the composition of the RFP review boards and there is no consistency or code covering this. A recent controversial RFP to outsource garbage pickup and end side yard service was reviewed by the city manager (who wrote the RFP), and two other city employees with no expertise in the subject. Residents are still upset with the contract for the police chief which includes nine months severance and higher benefits. This amendment would bring the RFP and contract processes in line with the county and other municipalities.

4. North Bay Village Voice wants the commission to pass a resolution to change the City Charter to prohibit post electoral employment or contracting with the city by all elected officials for three years following their service.
North Bay Village Voice believes that the commissioners have failed to understand the urgency of the current economic crisis. “We had high hopes for the new commission.” said long time resident Nancy Sonnett-Selwyn, “but the commission is still playing by the old rules and not addressing the fundamental problems of the city. This has to change.”

Kevin Vericker, president of the PAC and a long time blogger about North Bay Village politics at said, “It's really simple. The commission have been behaving like unruly children and it's time for adult supervision. Just like your Dad said, 'I don't care who started it. It stops now.' We are not interested in specific recalls and we will give the commissioners until April 30 to get the charter changes on the ballot and bring the police department under control. After that we will actively pursue the recall of any commissioner who does not actively support the platform. Carlos Alvarez carried North Bay Village in 2008 by 67% of the vote and was recalled in NBV by 91% of the vote. There is a deep reservoir of anger over the tax increases, reduced services and generous contracts in North Bay Village and that same tide will take this commission out if they don't act.”

The North Bay Village Voice will be presenting their demands at the commission meeting Tuesday April 12, 2011.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


88% of the voters cast a YES to recall the Miami-Dade mayor and a commissioner last month. And this was a mayor who won just two years ago with 66% of the vote and who had reshaped the office of the mayor based on his personal credibility a year before that. No real scandal, no "smoking gun", was attached to the recall. The fall from grace was sudden and a mass reaction to bad governance of the county in a bad time.

People were angry over three things - increased property taxes, reduced services and the extravagance of the mayor on official expenses. Nor were they too happy over perceived raises given to public employees while the taxpayers watch their own livelihoods fall apart.

I've written about my own ambivalence on the subject of recalls in general and this one in particular, but the more I have read and listened, I have come to understand that this recall was not about the candidates but a way to get the attention of the county government to fix the most egregious abuses.

The message seems to be falling on deaf ears in the county commission as they dither on whether the core issues, deep charter reform, will even be considered. Fred Grimm said it best in his article in the Miami Herald on April 8:

The county commissioners heard the wrathful voice of the voter. The message was plenty clear. “Give yourself an $86,097 raise, dammit!

Talk about clueless!

Miami Voice is keeping the pressure up. Until the county commission openly and fairly puts the reform agenda at the top of the priority list, they will continue the recalls. Check their website here.

This might as well be the case in North Bay Village. Last year, taxes went up, services are cut, expensive personnel contracts were approved and city workers did not participate in the cuts. Overall it was a bad response to a bad situation.

It's time for us to do for North Bay Village what Miami Voice, the PAC that has been pushing the charter changes, is doing for the county.

We need to pull together and demand charter changes that at a minimum comprise the following:

    1. A Charter Amendment requiring a supermajority (4 out of 5) of the commission to raise millage rates.

    2. A Charter Amendment requiring a supermajority of the commission to grant tax concessions.

    3. A Charter Amendment allowing for a citizen vote on tax rates in the event that the majority of the commission wants a millage rate increase but cannot achieve a supermajority.

    4. A Charter Amendment prohibiting post electoral employment or contracts with the city for two years after last service.

    5. A Charter Amendment establishing open, transparent contracting procedures for any purchase over $10,000 including generally accepted standards for RFP's and employee contracts with evaluation groups to include citizens. All such evaluation groups must be approved by the commission.

If they don't listen, let's start the recalls.

Keep checking back as this evolves. In the meantime, here's the agenda for next Tuesday's Commission Meeting:

4-12-2011 City Commission Meeting

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Social Notes From Tallahassee - City of Dreams

I will continue my notes on the commission later this week, but this week Vice Mayor Leon-Kreps and Commissioner Eddie Lim will be in Tallahassee. During their much needed break, they've been invited to dine with Alex Gonzales, CEO of Waste Management and major campaign contributor to the Lim and Trujillo campaigns.

I'm sure the twins won't be discussing the upcoming vote on the Waste Management contract. No news yet on what they are wearing but watch this space for more.

Kevin Vericker
April 5, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

And The Third New Member - Corina Esquijarosa

Esquijarosa has had a bumpy start. As a newcomer who won the election against Rey Trujillo a sitting commissioner with high name recognition and more than the double the financing, Esquijarosa has faced powerful entrenched interests in the city. Her election over Rey Trujillo was more a protest vote about the casual misuse of power in the city than a real pro change effort and her mayoralty has not yet coalesced.

Some the entrenched interests, represent by two of the commissioners, Eddie Lim and Connie Leon-Kreps, have opposed even discussing the poor decisions of the previous commission and Dr. Paul Vogel appears less and less able to vote his own mind (more about that over the weekend.) The City Manager has passively refused to respond to her basic requests while the Police Chief simply ignores direct orders from her in the position as the chair of the Commission meeting.

Esquijarosa has spent the first four months trying to reason and persuade with deep opposition and it hasn't worked. The Mayor in our form of government does not have a strong position - her vote is equal in all matters - but does have the bully pulpit of the position. Esquijarosa needs to take advantage of that.

It's time to put out publicly what is happening privately.

Esquijarosa needs to highlight the ongoing deceptions around the Waste Management Systems contract, which would eliminate side yard pickup, save the city at best 3% of the budget, and has only been pushed through to repay favors. Rey Trujillo received $2000 from Waste Management, Eddie Lim got $500.

Esquijarosa has to start pointing out that the largest tax debtor in North Bay Village is now a financial advisor to the city.

Esquijarosa needs to bring out the politically motivated investigations going on in the police department, costing the city tens of thousands of dollars, establishing that the police department is poorly run with deep morale problems and is not achieving any savings.

There are a host of other issues and I hope that the mayor has come to realize that the people who put her there are not being heard. There's no chance of convincing Lim Kreps to do the people's business and if Dr. Vogel won't step up, there's no chance of doing things right.

Her only option is to publicly lay out all the shenanigans and self serving actions that pass for governance in North Bay Village. Esquijarosa has been reluctant to do so and by continuing the pretext that the situation is one where people of goodwill honestly disagree, she allows these same people to run roughshod over the city.

By being polite, she gains nothing. It's not like they will be more cooperative or less avaricious.

You will probably see an old story, that her house was foreclosed, recycled by the Herald soon. The story is here from October 28. There's nothing new in the story but it is part of larger attempt to shut up everyone and anyone who could expose the waste and mismanagement. I hope Esquijarosa will prove herself and do the job for which she was elected by clearly and strongly laying out the abuses in City Hall.

Kevin Vericker
April 1, 2011