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

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