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

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