Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Radical Questions

Maybe it's time to ask the radical questions. What does it mean to have North Bay Village? Why is it even a city? What benefits does having our own government bring and at what cost? Are we simply here because it's always been that way?

These are questions that we need to consider.

First let's talk about the benefits.

  • We have a beautiful location. Seriously. Except maybe for the Venetian Islands, there's no other spot like this north of the Keys. The potential is amazing.
  • We have our own police force. The cops generally know who belongs here and what's going on.
  • We have local sanitation and a somewhat accessible city staff. They are often our neighbors and some have been here for many years.

I'm having a hard time coming up with more. Seriously.

I keep coming back to the negative place.

  • Our politics are brutal. All politics can but this city destroys people who aren't out to make a buck at the city trough.
  • We've had 65 years to develop the waterfront and we never have.
  • Our city staff can't prepare a proper budget and we can't keep a professional city manager.
  • Small donations to political candidates exempt some residents from having to comply with the laws and zoning. .
  • Our millage rates are now on par with other cities around us that have recreational and community programs, proper planning, community police programs, and professional management but we have none of these things.
  • Our property values fell harder and stayed lower than anywhere around us.
  • We have one city park that is virtually unusable.
  • We have no programs for our older residents.

It seems like the only people who benefit are the developers, the union employees and more than a few of our commissioners past and present. The residents don't see much benefit at all.

Maybe it's time to become the North Bay Village neighborhood, dissolve the whole shebang, and either go to county or ask Miami Beach to adopt us. It's hard to see how it could get worse. Our commissioners, Eddie and Connie Lim Kreps and their electioneering organization, the Citizens for Full Disclosure, a group of radical malcontents and dishonest pseudo-activists, are throttling this city with their refusal to address the budget issues, their pure hatred of transparency, and their truly astonishing stupidity. Should we cut our losses and walk?

I realize this sounds over the top and I would be really interested in hearing other's views on this (except for those of the CFD president, whose filthy and obscene emails are just tiresome.)

In your view, why should North Bay Village even remain a separate city? How is your life better for having this government?

Kevin Vericker
August 30, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thievery and City Budgets

Politics is “the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” This is a line from “The Devil's Dictionary” by Ambrose Bierce, a famous political satirist. It's cynical and contains a serious truth about what North Bay Village is seeing now.

When you review the preliminary budget, the one that was used to justify the 23% millage raises, the biggest thing that jumps out is that the cuts are minimal, less than 2% in total.

The bottom line is that the city administration has a seriously vested interest in maintaining the status quo. These are not people who are extravagantly overpaid and with the exception of the city manager, are not people who can make policy. So they work with what they have, and what they have stinks.

It's the commission's job to make sure that the right steps are taken for the stewardship of our money. It is really their only job, and they are failing.

Let's look at some of the things in this budget:

Every manager has a generous car allowance, including those who don't even have a car. $19,500 total, up by $7,700 since last year.

The city manager/police chief gets five weeks vacation per year after less than a full year on the job, combined with generous sick time and benefits far exceeding the normal.

The legal budget is going from $200,000 to $390,000 and every penny of that rise is due to police labor issues.

The Paul Vogel park is the most expensive small lot in Miami-Dade and the remaining piece, a seawall, is still undone while the money from the grant is left ignored.

The city accounting has been mixing the utility fund and the reserve fund for years now, in spite of the objections from citizens and staff, and in spite of the fact that this very scandal is what is rocking the city of Miami right now.

The police chief promoted a series of police officers with consequent raises, claiming it to be a cost cutting measure as part of a move to 12 hour shifts. The police department has rejected 12 hour shifts but the raises are still in place.

The lists goes on and comes to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This is the time the commission should step in, but the lock held on the commission by Eddie and Connie Lim Kreps and their severe manipulation of Dr. Paul Vogel means that the commission is joining in the money grab.

The Vice Mayor, Connie Lim Kreps, signed nearly $150,000 in checks illegally. The commission demanded by a full majority an audit of these these checks. It was never done and here we are, still not knowing what these checks are.

Commissioner Eddie Lim Kreps joined the vice mayor on a city paid junket to Orlando last month, taking a two full days of non work time.

Large amounts of money flowed into the campaigns on Rey Trujillo, and Eddie Lim Kreps and these donors continue to be rewarded with city subsidies and immunity from taxes.

As we speak, the city largest tax debtor and sole beneficiary from the unnecessary city hall move sits on the budget committee.

The city manager search is being conducted by Rey Trujillo, who lost the election, and Al Blake of the CFD who did not win one.

The planning commission has studiously ignored the massive code violations of the campaign contributors to the Trujillo and Lim Kreps campaigns. (I'm not talking a car parked wrong – I'm talking about a nightclub run from a private home on S. Treasure Drive, condos finished without permits or inspections, and a host of serious issues. If you gave them money, you're golden and we suffer.)

Yesterday, the electioneering organization founded by the vice mayor and led by her up until January of this year, Citizens for Full Disclosure, sent out a broad based email accusing the mayor of criminal actions, questioning hysterically “what else is she hiding?, and trying to distract you from the real issues. And the issues are real.

They are stealing our money so they are trying to distract by taking a routine, completely separate from any city business, tax issue that the mayor had, and screaming that it is criminal (it's not – there are no charges), that somehow the mayor is costing the city $25,000 (she's not – the CFD are.) and acting as though if only Esquijarosa were not in office, everything would be fine.

Well, it would be, for the CFD and for Connie and Eddie and for Dr. Paul. Nobody would be questioning this budget. Nobody would be asking where the money is and where it went. Nobody would note that our quality of life is diminished everyday by the flagrant misuse of property. But the mayor is questioning all of that, and the long corrupt history of North Bay Village means she must be destroyed.

Tomorrow night there is a first hearing of the budget presented to the public. I can't be there owing to some previous commitments (I had scheduled to be there last Thursday but that meeting was summarily cancelled because we didn't get a hurricane.) But I will be at the next ones.

Watch these closely, very closely. Ask questions and ask real ones – why do non police managers need a car allowance? Has the city considered fiscal urgency as an option? How much is the reserve? How many houses pay more under the increased millage and how many pay less? How much did Connie and Eddie Lim Kreps spend on their Orlando getaway? Why has the city paid for mobile phones for both Dr. Vogel and his wife since 2007? Why did the police chief not ensure that the 12 hour shifts would be accepted before promoting all those people?

We are very close to bankruptcy and three of our commissioners are helping drag us there. Stop them.

Kevin Vericker
August 29, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

The 2% Solution

So you got your TRIM notice. Did you see that for the city to continuing operating exactly as it is today, your millage rate went up a lot? Now there's a lot of math and tricks involved but the bottom line is:

If your Market Value is higher than your Assessed Value, and you live in your house, your city taxes are going up 23.4%. Your total millage goes from 5.27 in 2011 to 6.25 in 2012. Anyone get a raise like that this year?

Now, if you bought in the last 3 or 4 years and your Market and Assessed Value match, you may be paying lower taxes, but for the bulk of us, our city taxes are going up, dramatically.

How did this happen? Well, let's use a simple example,

If you bought a house say in 1993 on North Bay Island and paid $155,000, you're protected by Save Our Homes.

In 2011, the market value is $214,294 but your assessed value is $187,467, you are paying taxes on the second number, the assessed value minus your homestead.

In 2012, the same house has a market value of $199,293. Your assessed value is still going to go up by 3% so you have $193,031 minus your homestead.

In 2011, you paid $726 to the city.

In 2012, for exactly the same services, you are paying $895. That's 23.4% more.

Well, you say, the city is surely trying everything to bring the budget down. Nope.

The working budget has 2% in savings. 2% is all the city could find. Because the budget needs to include another $190,000 to cover the various lawsuits for labor disputes, bonus payments for doing their routine jobs to executive staff, funding for 5 week vacations, and well, you get the picture.

Remember the police promotions with consequent salary raises so the NBV PD could go to 12 hour shifts? Well, the promotions still stand but the 12 hour shifts are gone. No savings there.

On top of all of that, our reserves, that pittance we save to keep the city running is a mystery. Well, not really.

Remember how the city of Miami lost its credit? They mixed the Reserve and the Utility Fund, which is not just a bad practice, it's illegal. People went to jail. It's what we seem to be doing now. How can the finance director not know our reserve? But he couldn't at the last meeting. That's weird.

The whole finance situation is so cynical, so badly executed that you can't trust a single thing you see on this budget. Two of the commissioners, Eddie and Connie Lim Kreps will continue their lie that this is not a tax hike since some (about 22%)properties will see a tax decrease, but for those of us who have lived here, been through the bad times, we pay 23.4% more and don't let them kid you.

The meeting for this week was postponed because we didn't have a hurricane and is tentatively set for August 30 at 7PM.

Go ahead, watch them pee on your leg and then tell you it's raining.

Kevin Vericker
August 26, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011


UPDATE: Public Budget Hearing Has Been Postponed From Thursday August 25 Until Tuesday August 30.

Tuesday, August 30, the city will hold a rescheduled public hearing on the proposed budget for 2012. The meeting will be at City Hall at 7 PM. Link to Budget Workshop.

The current proposal is to maintain the millage rate at 4.772, last year's tax rate which was up from 4.227 in 2010. We are going to see our debt millage double from .5 to 1.2 for 2012. So our total millage will go from 5.27 to 5.97, a 13% increase.

That's hefty. There's been little attempt to cut back. out of a total of $3,595,451 in 2011, the police department has only been able to find $159,887 dollars in savings.

The legal department, largely as a result of the number of lawsuits filed by the police, rises from $200,000 to $390,000

So the net change in these, our two most controllable expenses is an additional $30,000.

Those few cuts realized seem to come mostly from services we actually find useful, like street maintenance, which will be cut. The budget looks something like this:

Operating Budget



























































You can see that the total savings are only 2% overall. Special note: In the original, the After School Program was included as a city expenditure. It's not. NBV is administering the grant but the money is not coming from general revenue and so should not categorized as an operating expense.

What I hope we will see Thursday night is Revenue Forecasts. Seeing just the cost side and making decisions based on that is as foolish as just looking at expenses in your personal life. let's see what Thursday night looks like.

Kevin Vericker

August 23, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Creepy Little Trolls Are At It Again

Remember last summer with the "anonymous" e-mailings and the USPS mail fraud? It's back.

Inboxes throughout North Bay Village are being filled with dyslexic missives from "Pepe Jueves". Today's was about a "civics lesson" for the students at Treasure Isle(sic)School. Seriously, "Treasure Isle"? Why Pepe, do you even live in North Bay Village? Really, you do?

And in an old favorite federal crime, mail fraud, commissioners are receiving unsigned letters with fraudulent return addresses. You see, the US Federal code prohibits false return addresses. But the law doesn't matter to these people. Money does.

So if you see something from Pepe Jueves, either trash it, or if you feel like it, how about writing back asking Miss Jueves to reveal her fine self and show some respect for the recipients of this drivel.

But actually, just trash it. It's where it belongs.

Kevin Vericker
August 20, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Rains of August

The August rainstorms are on on us. The dark clouds roll in every day about this time and make the "Sunshine State" seem like an ironic comment rather than a description.

In keeping with Mother Nature's suspension of sunshine in August, our own twin commission members, Connie and Eddie Lim Kreps, fresh from their city paid vacation in Orlando, have found time in their August diaries to meet, only not with the public.

While the city is struggling with the budget, looking for a new city manager, unable to rein in the growing costs of the police department, the two were unwilling to attend any public commission meetings.

Tomorrow however, they were able to find time in their busy social diaries to attend a closed door executive session, presumably about the various lawsuits facing the city. The thing about an executive session is that you and I are not allowed to be there and their records are released much later.

Dr. Vogel remains off the commission due to illness and I am certain the twins are trying to avoid any public meetings where they might have to vote.

In the meantime, watch for the 2012 budget to come out with a token cut in police budget (actually a transfer to legal services.) No word on when or if there will be public budget hearings in August.

It's time to turn off the dark, twins. Come out into the light. Show yourselves.

Kevin Vericker
August 17, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Weather Report From Orlando - Predictable Lack of Sunshine

Yesterday, our twin commissioners Connie and Eddie Lim Kreps flew up to Orlando a full 26 hours before the start of the Florida League of Cities lobbyist extravaganza. Since it's not their money sponsoring their vacation, they chose to fly rather than drive, which would have been difficult since Connie Lim Kreps had her license suspended in June.

Eddie was probably disappointed that they went in a big commercial jet instead of Connie's Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 he got her for Christmas. But they had to since the broomstick has very limited luggage capacity and they both required Tuesday night off from the commission meeting to pack. That's why it was cancelled.

The twins need to relax after a hard year of missing three meetings out of twelve each. It's a shame the weather isn't a little better in the happiest place on earth. Florida in August is hot and muggy to begin with and add in the lack of sunshine as the twins chat about their plans, you've got a really gloomy place in Orlando.

Bonus question - where is Bob Daniels, former North Bay Village chief this week? He's not on vacation. His out of office reply states that he is out of town from yesterday through next week. Anyone in Orlando spotted him?

Kevin Vericker
August 11, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Social Notes: The Vogels and the Lim Kreps Vacation Together

After an exhausting eight months in office, twin commissioners Connie and Eddie Lim Kreps are off to a little romantic getaway this week in Orlando. I believe I speak for all of us when I say that the North Bay Village taxpayers are happy to pay for their jaunt. After all, they have been putting in as much as four hours per month and only missed three meetings each. A nice rest will do them good.

The happy young couple fly off Wednesday at 10:45 AM. It's a working vacation though since Florida's largest gathering of lobbyists least influential professional group, The League of Cities, meets starting on Thursday at 1 PM. So getting there a full 24 hours before will have the twins nice and relaxed to attend the numerous events put on by private companies hoping to get their fair share of our tax dollars.

When asked if they were concerned about the public perception that taking a junket at this point when the city is broke and there is no movement on the budget, Connie Lim Kreps hissed and turned into a cat while Eddie talked about how the other commissioners are not that cool, really.

I hate to be the one to spoil the surprise but guess what? Dr. and Mrs. Vogel are also planning to go! Last week, the city cut checks for their registration and hotels, so I imagine they are feeling better. Just remember, Eddie and Connie, act surprised when you see them, okay? But not too surprised. You don't want to startle them.

Unfortunately, this means that the regular commission meeting is canceled tomorrow so the group can pack. But as Eddie Lim Kreps said, "It's not like we do anything anyway. That's why we gave the city to Bob Daniels." Local civic watchdog group, the CFD, put out a statement saying, "LOOK OVER THERE!!!! LOOK OVER THERE!!!!" and giggled in high pitched tones.

Bon voyage, commishes, and have fun in the happiest place on earth.

Kevin Vericker
August 8, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It Just Got Worse

Yesterday we found out that Lim Kreps are not available for Tuesday night, so the budget goes unaddressed, the city manager recruitment is postponed, etc.

But they have plenty of time to go off to Orlando on our money to spend four days at a 2 day conference. That's right. They are flying up on Wednesday for a Florida League of Cities gathering of the lobbyists. But the meeting doesn't start until Thursday at noon. I guess they need the "just us" time.

The cost is $355 to register, $396 for four nights in the hotel, I don't have the airfare and let's assume a per diem of $224 ($56 daily is the Fed rate)

But here's the oddest part. Dr. Vogel's registration and hotel have been paid, so I guess he's feeling better.

Esquijarosa and Rodriguez are not going - they prefer to pay for their own vacations.

Neither Lim Kreps nor Dr. Vogel could find time to have a commission meeting as we enter our second year of fiscal crisis.

Nice move. I hope one or another of the sessions you are attending will include the importance of actually being on the commission.

Kevin Vericker
August 4, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eddie Lim and Connie Kreps Walk Away From the Commission

The regular commission meeting, scheduled for August 9, has been canceled. Dr. Vogel's health will not allow him to attend, and the twin commissioners Lim Kreps found themselves suddenly unavailable.

This has to stop. This is the third time this year that Lim Kreps have been unavailable for meetings without explanation. But we know the explanation. Dr. Vogel is not there to vote reliably on whatever issue the twins have decided.

In a democracy, governance is not about power. It is about the difficult and noisy process of finding the best outcome for the people represented, using the best judgment of the legislators and often making some very unattractive compromises.

I'm in Washington DC as I write this and possibly the worst deal since the Missouri Compromise has just passed Congress. Nobody likes the debt ceiling deal, including the reps who voted for it. But they stuck to it and fought it out and are trying to make the best of it. That's what governance is.

The North Bay Village issues, which are never discussed, are pretty straightforward:

Is a tax hike feasible? Two commissioners say No, two may be saying Yes.

Is the city well run under the current management? We know that two say Yes and that two have indicated No.

Are the commission meetings and the constant disruptions productive? Two yes, two no.

Your answer to the above may be mixed or firmly on one side or the other, but if the commission won't even meet to try to work these things out, we're in deep trouble.

And that's exactly what's happened. The going got tough for Lim Kreps and instead of honoring their promises to us and working to a resolution, they are bunking off.

Anyone else notice that the "Citizens for Full Disclosure" have not helpfully forwarded a message announcing the cancellation? They will now that I've mentioned it, but like the twin commissioners Lim Kreps, they'd rather not.

But the twins are conducting city business this week. We are paying for them to attend a lobbyist extravaganza in Orlando. A full two days of the League of Cities and the many social events organized by lobbyists. For this boondoggle they are taking their time and our money.

Why not use the new website to contact them? Click here. Ask them all why they will not be there August 9?

Kevin Vericker
August 3, 2011