Saturday, July 9, 2011

How the City Commission Operates

Like many other cities in Florida, North Bay Village has what is called a "weak commission - strong city manager" form of government. It's a peculiar idea and the result is that our elected officials do not have much involvement in the day to day operations of the city, nor does our mayor have any particular powers.

The basic idea is that the commission operates as a board whose primary function is to hire a city manager (think CEO) who in turn executes policy and administers the functioning of the city government.

The commission itself comprises five elected citizens and each has a single vote. The office of mayor does not include any executive privileges beyond signing checks and chairing the meetings. It holds no powers like a veto or policy creation.

Again, the real power lies in the commission by majority vote hiring the city manager and passing legislation.

This has real meaning. While our mayor is visible, she cannot set the legislative agenda. That's a joint effort.

Our commission has been dominated this year by three commissioners - Connie Lim Kreps, Eddie Lim Kreps and Dr. Paul Vogel. They are the ones who kept Bob Pushkin on as city manager long after it had become clear that he did not run the city well or openly, they are the ones who have pushed through harmful legislation, who will be raising your taxes again this year and without evidence insist that matters at the police department have improved.

These three have held tightly to the fiction that outsourcing our sanitation will save the city $500,000 per year, 10 times the actual savings. That raising police salaries through a shell game of promotions has saved money when it has put the police nearly $150,000 over budget so far. And they do it quietly, in the dark.

This mayor has tried against the odds to bring the out of control spending to light, to examine performance by the city manager, to put the housing decline to the front of the priority list, to stop the over influence by developers on city spending and to create a business plan so that our businesses have a hope of surviving.

At every turn, the silent threesome have thwarted the plans. Some quick examples:'

1.) The city's biggest tax debtor was appointed to the Budget Oversight Board by Vice Mayor Lim Kreps. The biggest deadbeat in town, nearly $2 million, gets to decide how your money is spent. Their campaigns were generously funded by the same developer.

2.) The police chief does not publish safety statistics or budget information as required by law at each commission meeting. He does not reach out to the community and in this time of crisis, is overspending the budget without explanation. He is heartily endorsed by Connie and Eddie Lim Kreps and Dr. Vogel.

3.) Efforts to create a business improvement district so that our causeway does not look like a pass through slum have been stonewalled by the troika as it would not suit the immediate economic benefit of their patrons.

4.) The wall around North Bay Island has been left looking destroyed and ugly. The mayor tried to persuade the city manager to put temporary landscaping at minimum cost, perhaps even donated, so that it does not look like it had been vandalized during the rest of the construction. She was blown off and the commission, including the two members who live on North Bay Island will not take up the subject.

There's a lot more. But unless the citizens get involved, start demanding equal action from the equal commissioners, it's just going to get worse.

Kevin Vericker
July 9, 2011

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