Sunday, July 24, 2011

Opposition

In last week's post, Back to the Subject, I laid out how in the strong manager-weak commission form of government, the mayor is one fifth of the power structure. And given the current configuration of the commission and the previous and current city manager, has very little direct influence on the city business or legislation.

I've thought a great deal about the "recall" effort mounted by the ruling clique, Lim-Kreps, Trujillo, the CFD and what their gain is in this. It's surely not outrage over a small tax mistake. In fact, looking at some of the circulators of the petition, I am pretty sure that they are not reporting their taxable incomes from commercial sex parties or panhandling on Lincoln Road. And we know that the major contributor to the group has unpaid property tax bills in the millions. The outrage that the mayor made a mistake on her taxes rings false.

Why is the mayor even a threat to these people? She holds no radical policy agenda. She does not demand dramatic cuts or a fundamental restructuring of the government or the community. She sees children and family services as a top priority and wants to improve the tax base. Nothing unreasonable in that.

The threat comes from her demand for transparency. How are we spending the money?

Look at what happened last year. The previous city manager provided a budget at the last minute with a 20% millage rate increase. He told the commission that there were no alternatives and that a proposed private contract for garbage collection would save $500,000 per year. None of this was true.

But what did happen was the police union did not have to make any concessions. The benefits for the executive staff (five week vacations, take home cars, full funding of insurance) were untouched and it was only through incompetence that the waste management contract did not outsource our tax dollars for reduced services. Now this was under the previous administration. It's important to remember that the Lim Kreps twins were part of the Trujillo ticket, a ticket financed by tax dodgers, private companies wanting public dollars and people who have a vested interest in the city not enforcing zoning laws.

And a shocking thing happened on that ticket. Trujillo lost. An unknown person, Corina Esquijarosa, beat a well known opponent with much better financing and organization. Kreps was only installed when the city (under the direction of Trujillo and Bob Pushkin) paid for a lawsuit to make sure she had no opposition. And Lim won, fair and square, against an opponent with too much baggage to be effective. The shock of Trujillo's defeat, with its message that North Bay Village does not want higher taxes and less transparency still reverberates. But the message was clear.

That leaves the commission with a tentative majority. Kreps, Lim and Vogel control the commission but Dr. Vogel's failing health jeopardizes that and the governing parties will stop at nothing to ensure that the city employees are not accountable, that the political debts are paid, and the money is hidden. If Dr. Vogel cannot return to the commission due to his failing health or if he needs to resign over the stolen cell phone money, the structure teeters dangerously. The critical move is to shut up the voices asking for transparency and so this recall was manufactured.

On Tuesday, the commission will hold a meeting. There are several topics but the real hot one is the proposed millage rate for next year. Right now, it's 4.77. The resolution will allow the city to draft budgets up to a 5.9 millage rate. Historically, this is done to give the budget drafters flexibility and comes in lower. Want to see how they vote about your money? Come on over on Tuesday and watch how the real issues are not discussed. It should be fun.

Kevin Vericker
July 24, 2011

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