Thursday, May 26, 2011

The 2010 Census For North Bay Village

The 2010 Census figures were released this week. So what does our city look like now?

Well, in 10 years, we've seen a 66% increase in population.

7,137 is the current population, 2,837 more people than 2000 when we had ~4300.

We are a younger city. 1,226 of our residents are under 19 and only 660 are over 65.

We are a city of renters - 63% of the population live in rented units.

2/3's of the population live on Treasure Island.

We are a majority Hispanic city - 58%

Our racial breakdown is White (Hispanic and non Hispanic) - 82%, African American - 5%, Asian 4%, Note: Other categories include mixed race or biracial. The census categories for race are as complex as our families.

The Elephant in the Room - The vacancy rates

26% of our housing units are vacant, compared to a statewide average of 17% and a countywide average of 12%.

Kevin Vericker
May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

City Manager Robert Daniels

To the surprise of no one, the twins, Commissioner Eddie Lim-Kreps and Vice Mayor Connie Lim-Kreps, along with Dr. and Mrs. Vogel, installed Police Chief Robert Daniels as the "interim" city manager.

There is a fake search on for a replacement city manager to be done by August, but we all know that come August Lim-Kreps will be so pleased with the interim that they will instruct Mrs. Vogel to make sure her husband votes for Daniels' permanent installation.

As I say, no surprise. This was planned in a place where the sun doesn't shine and executed carefully last night.

The chief did speak briefly about his past experience with budget cuts - they made him so unhappy that he quit his last job after only nine months, read about it here - and made clear that he was not going to look at salary concessions as an option. The new interim city manager then spoke about the need to evaluate what services might be cut from the greedy North Bay Village residents instead.

No surprises. The deal was worked out before the meeting and executed according to plan.

There were however several notable points.

  • When it came time to vote to install Daniels to the position, Dr. Vogel initially voted no and it was necessary for Mrs. Dr. Vogel to yell "Vote Yes" which he quickly did.

  • One of the Lim-Kreps twins (who can tell them apart? Not me.) pronounced the mayor's idea to take a week to evaluate what services will be needed to get us through the budget crunch as "idiotic."

  • Connie Lim-Kreps wandered outside during the discussion of the permanent city manager search and then came back to complain that she didn't know what anyone was talking about.

  • As the items regarding the out of budget police expenses were discussed, one of the twins let the commission know that asking questions about these wasted everyone's time. It was pointed out that part of the commission's job is to clearly state the issues at hand for the audience and ensure that things are done transparently, a concept foreign to the twins. The twins merely grunted to acknowledge the remark but clearly do not believe the commission should transparently do anything.

And one final note on last night. During the discussion of the Charter committee, Connie Lim-Kreps wanted to restrict the committee to people who are single subject matter experts rather than having it open to citizens with a strong interest in constitutional government, you know, the way Americans do it. But why should she know that? As far as she knows, being a vice mayor means winning a lawsuit, not an election.

Kevin Vericker
May 24, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Fix Is In

The agenda for next week's commission meeting is not yet up, but the subject is the resignation of Bob Pushkin.

Well, it seems the twins Lim-Kreps have spoken and guess what? They choose Chief Daniels to be the interim city manager Here's the email from Eddie to the city clerk.

Appoint Chief Daniels as the Interim City Manager for a period of 6 months with appropriate compensation while the City advertise for a new City Manager and a Search / Selection Committee is formed to interview the short listed candidates and to select the most qualified applicant. ?

There will be no discussion, no what needs to be done, no what options are out there. The city's ongoing budget crisis will be turned over to someone who has not cut the police budget. The same one who has provided raises for his favorite staff and who overspent the current budget about 10% so far.

Here's what happens now. Since the twins, Vice Commissioner Lim-Kreps, have agreed between them that Daniels is the man, Mrs. Vogel will be instructed as to how her husband is to vote next Tuesday and he will obligingly do so.

Anyone taking bets on how the police will come out in our next budget? We are on track for another 15% reduction in property values, so I guess they will just have to raise the millage again.

Kevin Vericker
May 17, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The big news from Tuesday's commission meeting is that Bob Pushkin is retiring, planning on leaving his position as North Bay Village city manager on June 14. This presents the city with an opportunity to bring in a fresh approach to the many problems facing our city.

The city manager is our main executive officer, reporting to the commission, and as such is responsible for every aspect of the city government. She or he has far more power than the commission in a strong city manager-weak government form. Our charter specifically spells out the qualifications as someone who is

"a graduate of either an accredited school of public administration or its related equivalent in engineering, fiscal management or business administration with no less than three (3) years' experience in the administration of local government or in lieu of the foregoing, he must have not less than five (5) years' experience in the administration of local government."

and this matters a great deal. For more information on the city manager and the charter, Article IV (4 for those of us who prefer Arabic numerals) of the Charter is available at Enter the search term Article IV.

I have written before that if we do things the right way, we do the right things and we are at such a decision point now. The job of city manager is complex and demands skill in financial, administrative, management and political arenas. Selecting the manager is going to be an arduous and difficult process.

Regular readers will remember that one of the demands of North Bay Village Voice is to put together a properly constituted employment committee for non union hires. That this demand has gone unaddressed is symptomatic of the problems facing the city.

This is too important. There needs to be a properly constituted committee comprising citizens and North Bay Village government employees, preferably none who report directly to the city manager although that will be difficult to get, who will evaluate the applicants, understand the position and insofar as possible make a recommendation for the top three candidates. Their meetings should be public, subject to Sunshine, and follow established procedures.

For this to pass, it will need the support of Commissioners Lim-Kreps and Vogel. All three have publicly stated that they see anyone questioning the current city manager as divisive and disrespectful. Kreps herself tried to ram through a contract for the current city manager without a review, a search or even simple performance measures.

It's too important to let this be done in the dark. Let's let our commissioners loudly and clearly know that we, the citizens, expect to be involved in the process. It's our city.

Kevin Vericker
April 12, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

City Manager Bob Pushkin to Retire

Last night at the commission meeting, Bob Pushkin announced his plan to retire in June. Lots more to follow.

Kevin Vericker
May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

City Commission Waste

The City Commission meeting is tonight at 7:30.

This is apparently the last reading of the ordinance on the docks, which I know concerns several people.

The rest of the agenda is fairly straightforward. The police chief continues to use forfeiture funds to disguise over budget spending. The Lim-Kreps twins want to pretend they are interested in reform by creating a charter review committee. The city manager will continue to obstruct justice by announcing that gosh, he just couldn't find anyone to investigate Connie and him for signing checks illegally at an affordable price.

Kevin Vericker
May 10, 2011

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Limits of Trust

The City Manager has been unable to find a firm to do a forensic accounting of the checks he and the vice mayor signed illegally for less than $30,000. What the heck is he even doing being in charge of finding a firm to investigate him? Why has he not turned this over to the city attorneys or the city clerk to get the proper audit done?

This brings up so many questions but first let's review what happened.

According to the city manager, the charter specifies that the mayor or vice mayor can sign checks and wire transfers. So sometimes he'd ask one and sometimes the other.

But that's not true. A simple word "respectively" follows and "respectively" means "first one, then the other." So if the mayor can't or won't sign, then the vice mayor is able to. Not "whoever", first one then the other.

Now this is a big deal. If the mistake was an honest one, it shows a level of incompetency that leads one to wonder what else is going wrong. If it was deliberate then it was a legal and ethical violation of major proportions.

We have to be able to trust our city manager. And trust is earned. It is not about "gotcha" mistakes, but about what the person does when a mistake is made.

It's wrong that the city manager is the one charged with finding an auditor to analyze his own mistakes. It's wrong that the vice mayor has not recused herself from the vote. It's wrong what they did.

The illegal signings happened and the only issue is whether it's forgivable or grounds for dismissal. The only way to know that is to have a truly independent audit and explanation of the illegally signed checks and a plan to go forward.

That the city manager has not yet provided one is a huge warning not to trust him. Let's not be fooled.

Kevin Vericker
May 7, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Losing Our Garbage Pickup

After the May 10 commission meeting, the single family houses in North Bay Village will lose our side yard pickup unless we act now.

The Waste Management contract is a bad situation. The deal was proposed by the city manager, the RFP was approved by the city manager, the responses graded by the city manager and two of his direct reports, the commission approved the RFP when the city manager stated that the savings were “approximately $500,000 per year.”, which was recorded on the DVD from the 9/28/2010 meeting.

We lose our side yard pickup. We will have to take the garbage to the curb twice per week.

The savings are not nearly that. The best we could hope for would be $120,000 per year but don't forget, that ends sideyard pickup in North Bay Village for the single family houses. That's a very bad thing. Every other Wednesday morning, we can see the recycling cans out in front of the houses all day. This will be what our streets look like twice a week when this comes into play.

How did this happen? How did such a major change get to this point to save a mere 3% of our municipal budget?

Politically our commission has been and remains intractably divided. In the last commission, three commissioners consistently voted together without allowing public discussion. At the same time, Waste Management Systems started providing generous campaign support to Rey Trujillo and Eddie Lim. The direction was clear – our well regarded sanitation services had to go to meet a popular political position.

Maybe there was no other way of saving 3% of our operating budget. I don't think so.

One way could have been to not have moved to the Lexi. That cost $80,000 and maybe we didn't need all the police promotions, that cost another $50,000. That could have worked.

If we had in place a proper contract review process, this still might have passed but it would have been transparent. The savings would have been clearly laid out. The impact on our streets and our daily lives would have been noted. I doubt it would have passed.

A proper contract review process is not hard. Miami-Dade after many scandals has established one. Most private companies have one. The state has one. The basics look like this – a committee of five review the RFP. This committee does not include the people who proposed or wrote the RFP. After the RFP passes muster, responses are evaluated by the same committee. That committee should include at least two people with subject matter expertise, one with financial expertise and two who understand the impact on the community. The scores and comments are collected and provided to the city manager and the approving legislative body for their approval. Both the manager and the commission have the right to reject the conclusion, so that's not lost, but it surely brings things out in the open.

Actually, even most private companies spending a large amount of money have similar standards. It's pretty well in every purchasing and contract management college text.

Next week, on Tuesday, May 10, at the commission meeting might very well be the last chance to fix this. I don't believe that the outsourcing is needed but I don't expect the commission to agree with that. But at a minimum, an absolute minimum, the commission should vote to scrap the RFP as it currently stands and reconsider the whole process.

If you care about getting it right, let your commission know.

The way things stand now, the deal has the appearance of mismanagement and political favoritism. We deserve better. We deserve transparency.

Kevin Vericker
May 3, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I'm not dangerous, Commissioner Lim

In reference to me, Eddie Lim is quoted in the Miami Herald saying “[Vericker]’s a very dangerous man and he’s making false accusations. We are all aware of the Sunshine Law and we don’t talk about the issues outside.” to which I say "Crap."

Eddie, dangerous in America is when elected officials do things in the dark, like sign checks against the law as the vice mayor has been doing.

Dangerous is when when a resident expressing concern about any part of the city administration is scolded for being "divisive."

Dangerous is when Commissioner Lim continues to attend lavish entertainments funded by the people who will benefit from our tax dollars, as he did a mere two weeks ago in Tallahassee.

Dangerous is when Commissioner Lim refuses to meet with constituents as he consistently has.

Dangerous is when Lim and Kreps use exactly the same words for their convoluted falsehoods as to why they could not meet earlier and the exact same words to deprive the voters a voice in how our money is managed. (Seriously, the only other way two people could have arrived at such outrageous prevarications independently is if my satiric description of he and Kreps as Siamese twins is right.)

Dangerous is when Dr. Paul Vogel shows up with his agenda marked on how to vote on each item and he follows it rigorously.

You are what is dangerous, Commissioner Lim, not someone pointing out that our city is being stolen.

Kevin Vericker
May 1, 2011