Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Budget Meeting Was Missing A Certain Something

The Final Budget 2012 meeting was held on Tuesday night. The commission by 3-2 approved the same operating millage (4.8) and the new debt millage (1.2). So the city tax rate is now 6%, up from 2011 where it was 5.3%. At the same meeting, the 2012 budget was adopted. It was a remarkable meeting, actually two remarkable meetings.

The first part was a special meeting of the commission to decide five items. Originally it was to be a consent agenda but two items were separated for discussion. One of those items was the decision to continue advertising with the Miami Herald. That item was discussed by the commission, with Frank Rodriguez asking if a more economical approach might be found. Eddie Lim stated his objection to considering the New Times as it is filled with ads for sexual and quasi-legal activities. For what it's worth, I actually share Commissioner Lim's view of the New Times but do think that the Biscayne Times which has universal circulation in the city should have been an option. Things got a little heated with Lim saying that this was an old issue and Oscar Alfonso did not want the Herald because of unfavorable personal coverage. Not much of an argument since the New Times coverage of Alfonso was much worse. Notwithstanding that disagreement, our commissioners were able to pass all five items and move along to the budget.

But something was missing. There was a strange calmness over the whole thing.

The commission took a short break and then reassembled to do the main and most important job they do each year - the budget. It all began well enough. There was a presentation by the interim city manager, then by the finance director. The floor was opened to public comments.

Former former vice mayor Rey Trujillo spoke about how there is a misunderstanding among city residents who for some reason believe that the commission actually has something to do with the budget and the commission doesn't and it's the city staff who do it and the commission sees it and the commission has to approve it and that's why he wasn't the author of the Trujillo Tax last year and that was totally unfair so there and ave Maria, that sentence was long but believe me it was short compared to the actual sentence. Hint: the commission decides the budget.

Some out of town guy got up and made some noise and then left but nobody really understood him. He was quite confused and believes he lives in a house that no one else can see on a vacant lot. Anyway he left.

Then the mayor had many questions she put forward to staff. The other commissioners not nearly as many but still that was good. Several residents talked about some line items that bothered them. (My issue is that I don't see the support for achieving a $2.4 million dollar reserve as required by law. I still don't.) Some were bothered by the car allowances and wanted to know why not go to the more standard reimbursement for mileage. Similar questions were asked.

Then the fires of hell rose up and consumed the chambers dragging all the charred, damned souls to the eternal pit where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

No, wait, the fire alarm went off. The chambers were evacuated in an orderly manner, the source was identified and the meeting resumed.

But still something was missing. The atmosphere was stiflingly civil and nobody speaking was shouted down or insulted. What was missing, we all wondered?

Around 8:50 PM, the vice major began to wonder aloud why the major had so many many questions. Why didn't she ask them in private instead of being all public about her questions? The major - oh, did I say "major", I meant "mayor" but my notes say "major" for some reason - the mayor calmly explained that she had studied the budget in detail and felt it was best to ask questions in public. The vice major mayor didn't like this answer as she dislikes public displays of curiosity but decided to let it go.

And the vote was called. The commissioners were polled one by one and when the clerk got to Dr. Vogel, his wife Mrs. Dr. Vogel told him loudly how he was to vote and he obliged.

Then it started.

The mayor brought up the issue of whether there was an inherent conflict with the charter in Dr. Vogel's vote. Referring to the charter which states that a commissioner missing four consecutive regular meetings has forfeited his seat and the mayor asked the city staff if there was a conflict.

The something that was missing became clear. Vice Major began shrieking "How dare you ask a question about the charter and the process? Dr. Vogel was sick." The Vice Major kept increasing the volume and called upon the demons of hell to come to her aid. And they did.

You see, that's what was missing from the meeting. The CFD, the loud, ignorant, bullying cabal of demonic haters had chosen to sit out the budget meeting. But hearing their mistress's call above in the night, several flew to her side. Well, not really flew since they are a pretty portly bunch but gathered in a portly but infuriated way. There was even a miracle. One member who had explained to me that she spoke no English less than a year ago now speaks perfectly fluent English, or perfectly fluent enough to blame me.

Of course by then it was too late. The question had been asked and still remains out there as there was no answer offered. In the meantime, the budget passed and as I left I heard the Vice Major wailing to the heavens she rejected so many eons ago, "that major has balls. Do you believe her balls?" (The CFD is obsessed with testicles and confused about the biology of them. If only they had a doctor who could educate them?)

So after a well run, interesting meeting about the fundamental issues facing the city, the pressure was too much.

For those of us who have not sold our souls to darkness and hate, the question remains. How best should the commission deal with Dr. Vogel's absences and his wife's ongoing abuse of her husband and her manipulation of our city politics? Must we allow the bloodless demons of the night to fully destroy us?

Let's see what happens next.

Kevin Vericker
September 22, 2011

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