Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Commission Meeting June 30, 2011

The Waste Management contract is up tomorrow night. It is a completely different contract than was proposed earlier and significantly different than the RFP.

The latest version as seen on the detailed agenda at apparently changes the Waste Management outsourcing to only be for commercial and apartment buildings and leaves the city collecting the garbage at the single family homes, while maintaining side yard pickup.

Even discussing this on the dais tomorrow is a bad move. The city rejected a protest by Choice Environmental Systems saying that Choice had not scored well in the RFP. But the RFP is no longer the governing document. There has been substantial revision to the contract as proposed and the RFP response as accepted. This puts us in a bad legal position and as someone who has sold services to governments for many years, I would not hold back in challenging the awarding of this contract and I doubt that the losing bidders will either. It's just too transparently wrong.

What should happen is that the commission should vacate the contract, and start the evaluation process from the beginning with a properly evaluated study of the savings and the impact. If an RFP is pursued, it should match standard procedures as this one did not and the evaluation should be done publicly and transparently.

Let's talk about the "savings." on September 28, 2010, city manager Bob Pushkin stated clearly that the savings were at least $500,000 per year. This savings was not reflected in the budget, which had been delivered an hour before the commission meeting, and was not on the worksheet that he himself had used to prepare for the meeting that same afternoon. The most optimistic forecast for savings, achieved by eliminating side yard pickup from the single family homes was $80,000, or less than 2% of our operating budget.

Today the savings stands at around $50,000. 1% of our operating budget and we lose 5 employees and the flexibility to control our own garbage services.

The whole deal was so badly done that it really appears corrupt. Note that I said "appears". Maybe the city is that incompetent. I won't rule that out.

We are in serious financial trouble and a 1% reduction in our operating budget when our other costs remain soaring out of contral won't matter at all. That's a rounding error, not a savings.

The commission should vacate the RFP and instruct the administration to come back with something clean and transparent.

Further, I can't believe Waste Management wants our business so badly that they would be willing to accept the reduced contract terms and the taint of incompetence or corruption in order to win it. Businesses have to choose their customers well or they get dragged down.

Two other items of note on the agenda are the selection committees for the city manager search and the charter review board.

These are citizen advisory groups. The city manager group will evaluate the responses to the resumes submitted and make their recommendations to the commission for who should be interviewed. The commission can override the decision as they have final say. Since there is little hope that the commission will be transparent on the selection, it's more theatre than reality. The twins, Eddie and Connie Lim Kreps and Mrs. Vogel will vote as instructed regardless of any recommendations.

The charter review board matters - a great deal. Every decade or so, the charter is revised and this is where the governing document is formed. It was during such a revision that term limits were introduced, the city manager authority was established and other fundamentals of our government were formed.

The revised charter needs to contain a transparent bid process to prevent bad contracts, tax reform so that we are not arbitrarily taxed each time the commission fails to balance the budget and should contain significant process reforms.

A quick example - why exactly do we have the requirement that one commissioner must come from each neighborhood? It might make sense but it surely needs to be discussed.

Now Vice Mayor Connie Lim Kreps has requested two things respectively. (Since the Vice Mayor doesn't understand the word respectively, I will define it for her. First one, then the other. You know like, first the mayor signs checks, then if the mayor is not able, the vice mayor. It does not mean whatever.)

Vice Mayor Connie Lim Kreps wants the search committee to only look at candidates from South Florida. Her reasoning is that we had a city manager in the past who briefly worked in Washington state (and had twenty some odd years in Miami) and she was told she didn't like him. That's good enough for Connie Lim Kreps.

Vice Mayor Connie Lim Kreps also wants the members of the charter review board to be residents for at least five years. Considering that a full 1/4 of our population lives here less than five years, that's a bad idea for a democracy. So no matter what the qualifications and interest level are, these arrivistes are to be shunned. After all, they paid the highest prices for their houses or condos but they are NOCD (a trite expression meaning "Not our class, darling" used to describe vacuous snobs.)

Imagine if former presidents Carter, Bush, Clinton and Bush Redux all washed up in North Bay Village. We would have to tell them, sorry, no new people.

It's typical of a small mind to make sweeping decisions and not understand consequences, kind of like a five year old saying "I want it to never, ever rain again.", an unrestrained ego in search of adult supervision. I hope the nearly 2,000 new citiznes will not be summarily excluded from the selection committees.

Finally, going back to the money issues, I hope that acting city manager Robert Daniels, the former police chief, will look into exactly why the city has been providing both Dr. and Mrs. Vogel with cell phones for four years. The two numbers are 786 999 5454 and 786 877 1680 and it appears to be a violation of Florida State
Statute 838.016- Unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior. This
crime is a felony of the second degree.

For your convenience, here's the link to the statute.

Kevin Vericker
June 29, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Mayor's Blog

Corina Esquijarosa has posted a very interesting blog entry today at her blog I am cross posting the entry today since it deserves reading and thought.

Being Mayor of North Bay Village

In the last few months, residents of North Bay Village have asked me if I regret being elected Mayor of the City. This is always part of a conversation about the personal attacks on me and the dysfunction of the commission. I tell people that being an elected official is everything I expected to encounter times 100. It has provided me with a wealth of knowledge and a chance to use my experience and education in bettering the city we live in. Some of you may not know that I have a Bachelor of Architecture, a Masters of Public Administration and am currently studying for a second Masters in Criminal Justice, or that I have worked my whole career in public service. I believe in good government and I know that in these dangerous economic times, it's more important than ever.

Sadly, the experience of the last six months has also provided me with a firsthand view of the malice that comes with being an elected official. I don't regret being elected Mayor of the City of North Bay Village but I do lament that the history of North Bay Village politics continues to cloud our City’s future. The bitterness of the past follows us even as we try to keep the city from being wrecked in the current financial storm.

Being mayor in this South Florida city is different than most of you know. The mayor is one commissioner among five for the most part with the specific duties to chair the commission meeting, sign and monitor the financial transactions and act as ceremonial head of the city. The office of mayor has few specific powers, no budget authority, no veto authority, no hiring authority and no policy authority. Under our system of municipal government, the Commission hires a city manager who sets the agenda and manages the execution of the city business under the direction of the Commission, according to the charter. Like a corporate board, our commission depends on the City Manager to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, this type of government of our City makes it vulnerable and susceptible to mismanagement and corruption.

Since becoming your Mayor, I have experienced that firsthand. Requests for information go unanswered, both by former City Manager Robert Pushkin and Interim City Manager Robert Daniels. Even in those instances where there is clear direction from the Commission and duties spelled out in the charter, the former City Manager routinely chose the less transparent and sometimes illegal course. The police chief, now acting as City Manager, has followed that same course.

I will point out some examples.

1. On February 18, 2011, I requested from former City Manager Pushkin and Interim City Manager Daniels for City IDs and badges for all elected officials to be prepared far ahead of hurricane season. Should the unthinkable occur and we must all evacuate, your elected officials need to be able to come back to the City to assess the damage and take appropriate action with regards to access to resources. It is now June 21, 2011, hurricane season is under way and there is still no response to four months and three requests later.

2. At the April 12, 2011 Commission meeting I questioned Vice Mayor Kreps and City Manager Pushkin why they were signing checks and wire transfers without my knowledge, a power prohibited to the Vice Mayor by our Charter, unless the Mayor is unavailable. Their responses were those of two kids caught doing wrong, but defending themselves poorly. So much so that the Vice Mayor’s colleague Commissioner Lim voted to conduct a forensic accounting of the City’s finances. This is still pending.

3. On May 29, 2011, I uncovered that Commissioner Vogel has an extra unauthorized cellular phone, since at least 2007, and thus I requested former City Manager Pushkin and current Interim City Manager Daniels to stop this practice and provide information with respect to how long had the City been paying for this and if the City has been reimbursed throughout the years. Two requests and three weeks later, no answer.

4. As far back as April 13, 2011 and two additional requests later, the following is still pending:

· The list of all vendors with whom the City does business.

· Why are the improvements to the causeway stalled?

· Why is the website not live? Instead of 4 to 6 weeks, it has now been close to 12

weeks from when we were told by the former City Manager that it would be live.

· Why is there no work being done to Dr. Paul Vogel park?

· What is the status of the grants in the City?

5. What is the financial status of the City? On June 14, 2011, I informed and requested a meeting with the Interim City Manager and have not received a call to meet.

There are far more, but there is only so much room on this posting and I don’t want to have this blog take on a negative tone. I truly believe that the only way to steer this city through the current economic crisis is to face the problems openly and honestly. Yet that seems to be making me permanent enemies.

Recently former City Manager Robert Pushkin resigned without giving a reason, but under his short one-year stint he authorized payments without my knowledge and without reporting them to the commission, worked ceaselessly to move the garbage contract through until I requested (and the Commission approved) to bring back the contract and provide proof of the $500,000 savings per year he presented to the Commission, and in a last attempt tried to give himself severance pay to which he was not entitled.

This is the same City Manager that the Vice Mayor and Commissioner Lim claim as being the most professional City Manager the City has ever had. Let’s see if the Vice Mayor and Commissioner Lim request that Pushkin be given the severance, with Commissioner Vogel voting for his “protégé”. And now, the Interim City Manager Daniels is following in Pushkin’s footsteps and ignoring requests for information. Vice Mayor Kreps and Commissioner Lim have expressed their praise and know for a fact that he is the right person to lead us until we find the professional City Manager that this City needs.

Of course, for writing the above, the usual beneficiaries of the City's murky finances will attack me personally yet again to deflect from the important issues which North Bay Village faces.

These attacks have concentrated on a foreclosure I had last year. I'm frustrated that I cannot disclose all the details of a pending legal action brought on by a CFD member, but I have done nothing to compromise the integrity of North Bay Village and that will all come out. Nevertheless, I have been tried and convicted in unsourced email and unsupported rants at our Commission meetings. I'm surprised that I haven’t' been accused of the Heat’s NBA loss! I also predict a non-resident will also escalate the attacks on me for speaking about former City Manager Pushkin and the shady dealings of private developers.

These attacks come with the territory but at this critical time, is it the right time to ask if a personal financial problem, one the voters knew about when they elected me matters more than the issues facing the city?

In my view, no. The questions that need answering are:

· What is the financial status of the City?

· Are we going to end in the red or the black this year?

· What is the status of our reserves?

· How can North Bay Village avoid a millage rate increase?

· What are the real savings, if any, for the elimination of side yard pickup?

· It is June 24, 2011 and the budget for Fiscal Year 2011-2012 must be approved by September 30, 2011. How long must we all wait for these answers?

I will end with this. If you believe that as your Mayor, I am not doing enough or if you think that I shouldn’t be asking these questions, sign the petition to recall me.

If you agree with Al Blake that I am the cause of the 2008-2011 recession and property value decline, sign the petition.

If you think that your best interests are managed in the dark and that city personnel have the right to help themselves to public funds, sign the petition.

But if you don't think that, know that you and your family may be personally attacked by the same residents and outsiders who are recalling me.

You may like other residents be slandered and defamed for speaking your mind on the city's business.

Al Blake and the CFD have done it before and they will do it again. If you believe that you need answers to move our City forward, attend a Commission meeting, call me, write me or email me. I certainly cannot do it alone. I will fight this recall because I believe in the people of this City.

As your Mayor, I am as strong as you are and I call on all of you to focus on the right issues, the clean issues, and not turn over our homes and our city to the few who seek to profit any which way they can.

Kevin Vericker
June 24, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Trio on the Bay Is Amazing

In a departure from my normal discussion about politics, I want to take today to tell you about Trio on The Bay. We had dinner there Saturday and even with high expectations, this place still blew me away.

If you haven't seen it since it was redone to open as The Bay last year, you should check it out. The bayfront patio with a bar and dining seating is spectacular, as those of us who live in North Bay Village already know. Inside, the restaurant is divided into three main areas, a nice looking bar with booths, an intimate dining area and a larger open floor and dining area. It's nicely decorated and well appointed.

So, the place can be good looking but what really counts is the food and the service. We found both of those right up at the top.

We took advantage of a three course special menu, which included appetizers, entree and dessert plus a bottle of wine for two at $79. Not the cheapest meal in the village but for the standard of the restaurant and as it turned out, the food, a very good value.

For the entrees, I had steak, cooked flawlessly, tender as could be. My partner had a trout with pecans that turned out perfectly. For appetizers we both had a goat cheese encrusted with pistachios and for dessert, an apple crumble and fresh berries. It was matched by a bottle of fine Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

After the meal, which was huge, and the bottle of wine, it was great to be able to walk home.

I should note that the service was professional and attentive. I also want to mention that the music playlist was so good. I'm not a huge fan of recorded background music in restaurants (or TV's), mostly because I like music and usually the music is pretty bad, but this was noteworthy.

The DJ was spinning music for grownups. Solid jazz classics (Chet Baker: My Funny Valentine, some Gershwin, a little bit of Miles Davis) and samba. I make no promises but I may go back to see what the DJ does late at night.

Overall, Trio on the Bay is a great addition to the Miami dining scene and a star in North Bay Village. You should check it out.

Kevin Vericker
June 20, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Be On the Lookout - North Bay Village Distraction Larceny

BOLO (Be On the Lookout) A group posing as outraged citizens have been distracting North Bay Village residents from ongoing larceny at City Hall. In the latest larceny attempt, the group who go by several aliases, the CFD, Citizens for Full Disclosure, Committee to Recall The Mayor and other names, have been sending out gossip and slanders about private citizens and their personal financial issues. In their boldest attempt, they created a false recall effort to distract the public from the looting of city coffers.

Last Friday, one of their cohorts attempted to have the city write him a check for $5,000 in unearned pay and even signed the authorization himself before he was stopped by a quick thinking North Bay Village employee. The suspect then became verbally aggressive and slipped out of city hall two days before his employment was officially over, leaving a hastily scrawled note authorizing the former North Bay Village police chief Robert Daniels to assume the duties of temporary city manager for the next four days. He has not been heard from since.

To distract from the larceny attempt, the "CFD" sent out a personal attack on a private citizen who stood against the faux recall effort, repeating rumors and gossip and publishing out of date personal financial information about her.

This week, it came to light that Commissioner Paul Vogel has been scamming the city for at least four years by having the city pay for two cellphones, one for him and one for his wife. When this scam was brought to light, the same group began issuing missives about a private citizen's foreclosure problems in the hope of drawing attention away from the theft of city moneys.

Reliable information shows that the two of the conspirators intend to introduce a resolution to the commission at the end of June to rob the city treasury of several thousand dollars more to reward their illegally installed former interim city manager. You may expect to see more distraction attempts during the meeting.

Citizens are advised if approached by these grifters to not engage, check their wallets and steel themselves for personal attacks.

Federal, state and county anticorruption units are working to stop these distractions and citizens are urged to contact the appropriate authorities if you have information on the scams currently being played out.

Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics (305) 579-2594
Miami-Dade Public Corruption Unit (305) 599-3121
FBI Florida Public Corruption Tipline (888)722-1225

Kevin Vericker
June 16, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bullying: Part 2 The Serious Part

The worst advice your parents and your teachers gave you in the schoolyard was "Ignore the bullies. They just want attention." It is finally dawning on us in the 21st century that what the bullies really want is power. It's the superego asserting itself. Like thievery and lying, it is a lazy and often effective way to take what was not rightfully earned.

On Saturday, I showcased a classic example of how bullying is used in the politics of North Bay Village. Read it here if you don't remember.

Well, today I want to speak about the more grotesque bullying happening on the dais and in plain sight. I refer to the way Dr. Paul Vogel, a man who served the city long and honorably, is being exploited.

Dr. Vogel had two strokes and is often confused. He talks openly about this. If you watch him on the dais, he never comments, never offers his views and his only questions are which item is being voted on. He then consults an already marked up agenda which notes how he is to vote on the item in question. When there is a variance in the order of the votes, he becomes confused.

Simple example, at the last meeting, there was an item by Corina Esquijarosa to open a search for a temporary city manager, followed by an item by Eddie Lim-Kreps to bypass a transparent search and install the former police chief as interim city manager. These were then combined to a single item as they were much the same subject.

This threw the rhythm off. Dr. Vogel's marked up agenda said vote No then Yes. But with the change, a No vote would have blocked Commissioner Lim-Kreps decision. Dr. Vogel followed the script and voted NO. His wife, Marietta, then shouted out from the audience, "Vote Yes" and he quickly changed his vote, clearly not knowing what he was voting on or why.

This happens all the time. When Dr. Vogel votes, he first looks to see how the twins have voted. If he is called on to vote first, he consults his agenda. His wife sits directly in the line of sight and indicates Yes or No.

It's sad. It's sad that age and sickness have struck this fine public servant and a hell of a guy, and it's made even worse to see how those who claim to respect and even to love him, don't hesitate to exploit him, in public, in front of cameras and in front of the city he served so well.

What's happening to Dr. Vogel fits the definition of elder abuse. Those surrounding him are isolating him, keeping him uninformed, directing his behavior for their own personal gain and punishing him with withdrawal if he does not comply. We are all complicit when we allow this to happen. We are all bullies if we do not protect our elderly.

When we are called to account, I firmly believe that the question we will have to answer is "How did I treat people who were weaker than me?" The longer we let this go on, how will any of us be able to answer that question?

Kevin Vericker
June 14, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Someone Threw Down A Challenge at Me

One of things that surprises me while writing this blog is that various people have asked me why I am not more positive. And the weird part is that I think I am positive, but if enough intelligent people are seing something else, I need to look at that.

In the recent back and forth on bullying, and I will have more about that this week, one reader sent an email to me and to the CFD where he asks "[what are your] positions on

  • Proposed strip clubs or gentlemen’s clubs in NBV.
  • Ways to increase the commercial businesses in our islands
  • Ways to improve the property values
  • Ways to wisely spend the City’s money. For example, the recreation park in Harbor Island is under-used.
  • Ways to motivate our citizens to get involved in our community
  • Ways to fix the ineffective NBV City government

  • Now I don't really know that I am obligated to have the solutions for everything I point out but since I have written in detail about each of these in the past, I did reply. Here's an edited version of what I replied. (Since I know the person and did not seek permission to quote him, I have edited the responses. My original reply was rougher and named more names. If he wants to share that, fine by me. I wrote it, signed it and I own it.)

    • Strip Club - This refers to the property at 1415 JFK Causeway, adjacent to Channel 7. It is the only legal property to have such an establishment. The commission rejected plans for the building citing nonconformance with zoning rules and concern about the use.

      I'm against it. The fact that it's legal does not mean it's obligatory. I do not believe that we need to anchor our baywalk with a strip club and do not believe it will enhance the city.

      I also noted that Eddie Lim has consistently voted for it, as did former Commissioner Trujillo, both of whom received generous campaign contributions from the developer.

      I am sympathetic to the need to develop this property and note that the developer owes $885,056 in unpaid taxes on the lot which is money we need. Developing the site is good, but how is a big question.

      Corina Esquijarosa has reached out to the developer to work with the city to find another use, jointly promoted by both and beneficial to both, only to be ignored.

      Our commission, our city manager, the developer should be working together to come up with a profitable and enhancing use for this property. There is no city, no neighborhood, that has ever been improved by a strip club.

    • Ways to Improve the Causeway Businesses - Most are dying, some are dead. Parking and permitting are huge issues. Corina Esquijarosa has proposed a Business Improvement District, an item the commission has not taken up.

      This falls squarely on the City Manager in our "weak commission, strong city manager" government. There is a marketing plan, there was money in the budget for public relations and promotion, there are and have been proposals to form a city sponsored business council but nothing has happened.

      The effect of this is that our tax base is out of balance with the burden falling primarily on the homeowners. This has to change.

      And I am going to note that Matthew Schwartz was executing the marketing plan, had been working with business owners and potential business owners, and had the plan well underway when he was fired for displeasing the police union. The firing was orchestrated by Connie Kreps and the CFD. Well, have you seen what has happened since?

    • Ways to Improve the Property Values - This is our core issue. The drop here is higher than almost everywhere else in the county and staggering compared to other beach adjacent cities. Over-development is one cause. We’re stuck with that for the time being but the single largest thing we could do to help the property values recover is to start a foreclosure registry. Now that seems like a small policy fix, but it actually has big implications. By having a foreclosure registry, we would produce money to maintain the abandoned properties – you know cut the lawn, clean the garbage, etc. Then we would be able to have an accurate census of foreclosed properties. If we had that in place in 2010, we would have been eligible for over $2m in Neighborhood stabilization grants from the feds. This money can be used for housing rehabilitation, for finance, for citywide marketing plans, very liberal uses, but we could not produce the numbers.

      The mayor proposed and the commission passed an instruction to start the foreclosure registry. But it has been stonewalled even though it is a self financing program. I can’t prove this but I believe that the real estate developers stand against it because it could affect the value of the properties if the extent of the problem were known. But it’s huge. Unscientific sample – on as of June 11, 2011, there are 322 properties for sale in NBV. Trulia then lists 104 in foreclosure. 33%. This is horrifying.

      I have for some time been talking to real estate agents, developers and finance people about a public private partnership to promote the properties here. Something like a North Bay Village Days with a citywide open house, finance people on site, special menus at the restaurants, presentations by the police and the school on the island. I brought the idea to Eddie Lim, who told me he would not talk about it. The professionals I’ve talked to love the idea but there is no action.

      Still if we got he inventory down from 322 to around 150, our deficit would disappear. And nobody, not the commission, not the city manager, not the real estate professionals, not the developers are doing anything about it.

    • Ways to wisely spend the City’s money. For example, the recreation park in Harbor Island is under-used - The park is a boondoggle and a goat rope. It is badly located, we paid $4 million for it in a shady deal. NBV still has not submitted the grant request for the county to buy it and probably won’t.

      The larger issue of how the money is spent is a story of mismanagement. The police have busted the budget.

      There have been no personnel cuts, Many of the police have gotten raises by a transparently false promotion scheme. The chief is using scarce trust funds to investigate unpopular cops for routine personnel matters. The legal bills are through the roof. The $80,000 spent on the move of the city hall was never challenged. The projects have no serious oversight and you've seen how the wall has dragged on at Harbor Island.

      (Side note: could anything be uglier than the way Jumbo Buffet was wrecked? It looks like it was vandalized.)

      Corina Esquijarosa has tried to get a handle on the routine overspending by questioning any extraordinary items brought for her signature and the CM’s response was to have the Vice Mayor sign the checks so the mayor would not see them. That's illegal by the way.

      The best example is the outsourcing of the garbage. It may save as much as $120,000 per year, or 2% of our operating budget, while eliminating jobs and side yard pickup. The savings were misrepresented as $500,000 per year by the city manager and that's been allowed to stand.

      If the city had instead been honest, restricted salaries, collected moneys owed on properties developed without permits and inspections, we would have already realized these savings.

      Until there is transparency, there's no hope. We can realize savings. We can improve our revenues. We don't need to cut the core services - the police, the sanitation, the recreation programs. But we have to be able to see and understand the money.

      The commission, every member, all five, are abdicating their responsibilities when they do not review the full financial situation in public each month.

    • Ways to motivate our citizens to get involved in our community
      and Ways to fix the ineffective NBV City government
      - I'm putting these two together. Let me quote my response to the original writer:

      I am throwing these two back at you. Why are people ... not at every commission meeting? Why have the apartments finished without code permits not been brought up at every Good and Welfare discussion? Why has the city hall move which has ruined any chances of filling the retail space at the Lexi not been a constant refrain?

      I’m one guy. I bring these issues up. There are other people and we don’t think in lockstep. But for bringing them up, we get attacked viciously and purposefully. You saw that yesterday. A resident brings up her issues with the recall and how it’s being done. Five minutes later, she is the target of anonymous personal attacks having nothing to do with the recall and an hour later, the target of the same attacks this time signed by the CFD.

      I think people are afraid. And maybe they should be. We've seen time and again what happens to residents who brings these issues up. But that’s not reason enough to be silent in my view.

      This government can’t be fixed until people get involved. Our city is run by the commission and it's time to hold them accountable to fix these problems.

    I throw that same challenge down to the CFD who were also on the email address. I've long offered to open the blog to anyone with a different point of view and in the past nearly got there with the CFD. The sticking point has been the rules of the blog. No libels (that is anything you cannot prove about a person) and no obscenities. If the CFD wants a broader platform as I am currently getting 400 discrete readers in Miami-Dade weekly, I will publish their responses to the same questions but I stress again, if the response to these questions contain libels or obscenities, I won't publish it.

    In summary, there are major problems, far bigger than Corina Esquijarosa have a foreclosure and a tax problem, but these remain unaddressed. I will continue to bring them up and will continue to offer space to anyone who wants to address the issues, not the people.

    Note: I tried a new blog formatting tool today. It didn't work very well, I think, so if the text looks choppy, I apologize. And I ask my regular eagle eyed copy editor reader to point out any misspellings, typos etc. Seriously, I really appreciate it.

    Kevin Vericker
    June 12, 2011

    Saturday, June 11, 2011


    Well the bullying happened again. Yesterday, Jean Pankey wrote an open letter about why she believes that the Mayor Esquijarosa should not be recalled. I reprinted it in the blog.

    Within 20 minutes, an anonymous email was sent out attacking her personally, not her ideas nor her concerns or opinions. The anonymous writer went after her personally and llke most cyber bullies, anonymously.

    Later in the day, the CFD resent the same information, again personal and unrelated to the subject at hand. All six of them did sign the email Richard Chervony, Alvin Blake, James Carter, Flo Clein, Jane Blake and Gloria Carter, so they get credit for that, but the email was just gainsaying until it got personal again so that wipes the credit out.

    And that's the problem.

    I started this blog to bring a calmer discussion to the many issues facing North Bay Village and in doing so, have exposed people I care about to attacks on their families, their reputations, and their employment by thugs without a scintilla of shame or proof.

    In the last year, I have been the victim of mail fraud, slanders, libels and most recently, two weeks ago, my car was vandalized. My family members have been attacked at work and I have to tell you, it's creepy.

    Other people have had their livelihoods threatened and their families defamed. Libels have been hurled at them at commission meetings with the explicit agreement of Vogel, and the commissioners Lim-Kreps.

    He said, she said, do not make political arguments. They do not improve the civic discourse. These arguments are never resolved.

    I have long ago given up on the members of the CFD and seldom engage. I've chronicled that in this blog. Frankly, how can you fight fair on only one side? How do you say "that idea is a problem" when the answer is "you're a (fill in your favorite obscenity)"? You can't.

    But the better question is "Why?" Why fight? I need to ask that here.

    I have over 400 readers in the area per week. Most of them are people interested in the city. It's time to show up at the meetings. I know they are unpleasant. I know you are exposing yourself to the bullying of a small group. But it's our city.

    You don't have to agree with me. Heck, I don't always agree with me, but just come. Ask the questions and demand the answers. If you don't, then the bullies win and the city loses.

    More about bullying tomorrow.

    Kevin Vericker
    June 11, 2011

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    I am turning the blog over today to North Bay Island resident Jean Pankey. She sent out the following email to a group of residents and I think it's worth reading.

    Update: Within minutes of this posting, an "anonymous" email was distributed containing irrelevant but embarrassing personal information about Jean Pankey. It does not discuss any of the issues pointed out below but merely descends to slander. Sad but that who wants our city.

    Dear NBV Residents,

    You have been lied to, plain and simple by Al Blake, the Vice-President of the secretive Citizens for Full Disclosure, a group formed and led by Vice-Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps.

    Blake has started a recall campaign against our Mayor Esquijarosa. The accusations are that she had a foreclosure and tax complications from it. It's true. Like so many others, she lost her property in the worst crash in over 70 years and she is paying all the required taxes.

    The Vice-Mayor and Blake blame our Mayor as being the reason why North Bay Village is the way it is today: riddled with empty housing units and business store fronts, empty rental units, and anything having gone bad with North Bay Village. In short, she’s being made out to be the root of all of our problems, even before she lived here. Obviously, Al Blake is not telling the truth. Our Mayor was elected in November 2010, way past the time when the troubles of North Bay Village started through the mismanagement of the CFD controlled commission.

    But I will point out what our Mayor has done in the first 8 months as our Mayor.

    1. Our Mayor was able to change the way City Commissions are put together for our benefit. We now have the entire City Commission Agenda package with backup documentation available through the internet. The citizens now see what the commission sees.

    Before we only had the agenda. All City business must now be included in the agenda and the shady Commissioners that we have can no longer come up with motions without them being properly published. If you ask me, transparency and truthfulness is what we need.

    2. The City, in partnership with the School District, is providing a summer camp at Treasure Island Elementary. It is open to all kids who want to attend. Our Mayor was able to secure partial tuition refunds for kids who are residents of North Bay Village without adding to the budget. This means that our money is being put back into our City and our residents. I also hear that she was able to get additional dollars to provide much bigger scholarships for those that are really in financial need. Folks, we have never had a summer camp in our City. This is a great accomplishment!! Our Mayor is looking out for our kids.

    3. Mayor Esquijarosa insisted that the City apply for a Children’s Trust grant to provide after school programs beginning August 2011 and run through summer camp 2012, practically at no cost to the City, and a minimal tuition for the residents. Mayor Esquijarosa promised to bring services to our youth, and she is doing just that.

    4. Mayor Esquijarosa championed for grant monies to begin a walkway along the north side of Kennedy causeway to connect the City and create an attraction for tourist and surrounding area residents to come visit North Bay Village, and equally important, give our residents a place to enjoy our beautiful location. This will attract and keep businesses in our City. From what I hear, the initial grant for the design and permitting along the southeast is almost done!! This is very exciting for our City.

    5. Mayor Esquijarosa worked with the NBV PAL and we had four months of continuous movie nights at Treasure Island Elementary. Our Mayor says she will continue this every year so that it becomes a tradition during the fresher months.

    6. Mayor Esquijarosa revived the Youth Services Board to get residents more involved in all things for the youth of our City. We all need to get involved as our kids are our future!

    7. Mayor Esquijarosa is trying to revive the Charrette and recommendations made by us back in 2006. We spent a lot of time, money and effort into that project and we should see it come to life.

    Now let’s look at the other issues she is working towards.

    1. Mayor Esquijarosa is working hard towards getting Kennedy Causeway’s business area to come alive again. She has mentioned to me about forming a Business Improvement District that would attract businesses by providing incentives. I certainly want to listen more about this.

    2. Mayor Esquijarosa is looking for money to update the tot lot that we can all agree is in need of fixing.

    3. Mayor Esquijarosa tells me that there are too many dogs in our City without a place to actually run and play. Our Mayor is thinking of how this can become a reality. I certainly would like to see our four legged friends have a place to themselves and not poop all over our yards!

    There’s lots more, but you need to see her in action to find out what she’s all about. Mayor Esquijarosa is one of the most dedicated Mayors we’ve had in a long while. In fact, she has been finding several shady happenings at our City Hall. Maybe that's why our supposed friend and neighbor that wants to shut her up for what she is uncovering.

    Let’s look at that:

    1. City Manager Pushkin and Vice-Mayor Kreps (the one who was VP of the Citizens for Full Disclosure) were signing checks in violation of our Charter. It seems that the Mayor was given certain checks to sign and the Vice-Mayor other ones. When confronted, they both said it was not wrong because the charter allows for the Vice Mayor to sign. This is true, but only if the mayor is unavailable and has been notified. She never was.

    In fact, the Vice-Mayor blamed the City Manager and said that “when the City Manager asks me to sign something, I sign it”. It's her job to ask what it is and how. To this day, we don't know what she signed or why.

    2. Commissioner Paul Vogel has been receiving an extra cellular phone for his wife Marietta, AND THE CITY HAS BEEN PAYING FOR IT FOR YEARS! Talk about abuse of power! These are our tax dollars! Will the City be reimbursed? This is theft in my book.

    3. Mayor Esquijarosa requested that the garbage contract that was awarded to Waste Management be brought back for the Commission’s approval, where it would be published in the agenda and we would all see what it is all about. Pushkin had no intention of bringing it to the Commission for approval. Our Mayor also requested that the proof of $500,000 that Pushkin has repeatedly said is a yearly savings be brought back for all to see. What do you think will be submitted? This is the contract that ends our side yard pickup.

    There’s more our Mayor’s uncovered, too many to list. So again, I say Al Blake is no friend or neighbor of mine. All he is doing is spreading lies and innuendo.

    If Al Blake were my true friend and neighbor, he would not have attacked me in the past. In fact who hasn’t been attacked by the Cabal for Full Disclosure? And he’s supposed to be our friend and neighbor?

    Jean Pankey

    North Bay Island

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Recall the Mayor?.

    Let's look at the real issues facing the city.

    We have a shockingly high vacancy rate. It's not just the new condos. According to the 2010 Census, 26% of our housing units are vacant, 10% higher than the rest of the county, and that is pretty evenly distributed among condos and single family houses. It's not getting better.

    Mayor Corina Esquijarosa's attempt to get a foreclosure registry on the books was stonewalled by Connie and Eddie Lim-Kreps.

    The budget is shot. The city manager's refusal to consider personnel adjustments and the police chief's ongoing legal investigations into routine personnel matters have meant that even with the millage increase, we're out of money. It's going to get worse next year. Yet the commission has been unable to get a clear financial picture from the city.

    Connie Lim-Kreps and Bob Pushkin were signing checks in clear violation of the charter. The Vice's defense was "Yeah. Well, Bob Pushkin told me to do it." What were these checks? We don't know and the city manager won't tell us. But our money got spent.

    Benefits continue to flow to the politically connected. The city is paying for both Dr. and Mrs. Vogel's cell phones. Former Police Chief Robert Daniels took $5000 from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund to attend a swanky dinner at the Seven Island Chief's dinner. His benefits alone would fund two police officers. The city's largest tax debtor at nearly $500,000 in arrears sits on the Budget Oversight Commission deciding what tax rates we should pay. The list goes on.

    The commission meetings are like the Jerry Springer show, without the intellectual content. Not only do the Lim-Kreps twins allow speakers to defame and intimidate any citizens who are not in the CFD power clique, they actively encourage it.

    The Waste Management contract was passed when the city manager stated that the savings would be $500,000 per year, not the real figure of around $80,000 (It's on the 9/28/2010 DVD, Scene 3 at about 16 minutes in) and if it finally makes it through, will eliminate side yard pickup, while our taxes go up.

    These and other issues are ones that Corina Esquijarosa has tried rationally and strongly to address. Esquijarosa's not a shrill woman, given to hyperbole or personal attacks, so maybe you haven't seen it. For her efforts, she is being smeared, attacked at work, dismissed as idiotic by Eddie Lim-Kreps at the last meeting, and now the subject of a recall by the vice president of a group that regularly engages in slander, intimidation and obscene communications. (I have the emails.)

    Now, the unelected Vice Mayor and the group who put her in there on your tax dollars (she won a lawsuit, not an election) demand to recall the mayor we elected six months ago. They want to put the city in the hands of the same unelected Connie Lim-Kreps, a woman proud of her ignorance, her twin Eddie Lim-Kreps, and let them continue their campaign of transferring your money to private hands. How is that a good idea?

    Kevin Vericker
    June 9, 2011

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    The Recall and The Lies

    By now some of you will have seen the email sent by the Citizens for Full Disclosure. Signed by Al Blake, who replaced Connie Kreps as Vice President of this secretive group, the email calls for the recall of Mayor Esquijarosa.

    Here's what happened. The mayor had a foreclosure. And like many foreclosures, the paperwork got screwed up. The property appraiser looked at it, said she owed money, she set up a plan to pay it. It has happened hundred of times during the crash and it should not have. The real test of character is what you do when you find out you've screwed up and the mayor acted quickly and transparently to fix a personal problem.

    Now this recall is in the works. Originally led by a nonresident, Al Blake has taken the helm to call for the removal of a sitting mayor.

    In his email, he accuses the mayor of being the cause of last year's 26% drop in property taxes, of this year's additional 7% decline, the poor rental market in North Bay Village, the loss of businesses in North Bay Village and all the evils in the city.

    This is a calculated lie. One designed to put blame for the very problems that the CFD and their sock puppets on the dais have caused.

    But then Blake comes to the most vicious accusation, and a true one - SHE'S A RENTER - just like the 63% of the city. Whoa.

    Look, anyone with even a basic knowledge of our city knows that the 26% decline happened under the previous commission, also controlled by the CFD. Just watch a commission meeting. Everything the mayor tries to do to stop our decline, such as a Foreclosure Registry which would generate income, bring in the county to help residents avoid foreclosure, ideas to attract new residents to the city and support our businesses, reigning in the generous salaries and benefits of top management are summarily dismissed by Lim-Kreps CFD sponsored members and the increasingly befuddled Paul Vogel.

    Which is what this is really about. Dr. Vogel has long and honorably served North Bay Village. His health decline following his two strokes has been a sad sight, and the obvious deterioration of his mental faculties is a cruel tragedy. But this decline has been ruthlessly exploited by the CFD cabal. And they know it can't go on forever so they have to plan now to make sure that they have the seat to vote down transparency, to allow the dirty deals, the historic pay to play of North Bay Village to continue in the dark, the only place for it.

    Now you may not agree with me. Maybe you think a simple foreclosure followed by tax complications is a good enough reason alone to recall a mayor. Maybe you haven't seen the mayor's efforts to bring transparency to the city government and stop the real estate decline.

    But before you sign a recall petition, ask first. What's the plan? How has the mayor caused this record property decline? What is the plan to fix it?

    And for good measure, ask some other questions. What are the real savings from the Waste Management contract? Why do we have to give up side yard pickup? Why have our legal expenses gone through the roof? And most importantly, how much will this cost us?

    More tomorrow.

    Kevin Vericker
    June 8, 2011