Thursday, September 1, 2011

History of Radical Questions

I got quite a few responses to my previous post and will be publishing those in upcoming posts. But the biggest single question I got was a variation of "how did this happen?" and today I want to address one part of it - the city manager.

The city manager is a difficult position. It's a full charge, CEO position that oversees every aspect of the city government. With our weak commission form of government, the city manager gets general policy direction from the commission and he makes the decisions.

Our last full time, professional city manager was Matthew Schwartz. Schwartz came in and had one major goal - to get the city to a stable tax base. That meant developing the businesses on the causeway, enforcing code, and fixing the accounting systems. And in about a year, we were well on our way.

Schwartz brought in millions in grants, negotiated better construction prices, pulled the planning into the 21st century and attempted to solve the problems of our police force. And that was his downfall.

When the police force degenerated into a schoolyard brawl over union issues, the Fraternal Order of Police turned against Schwartz.

At the same time, the county began investigating the move to the new city hall and the role of the late George Kane. You see, the move to the Lexi was for his benefit - he was set to receive a $25,000 fee from Scott Greenwald on this. The move cost the city $80,000. The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics put a stop to the payments to George Kane.

So Schwartz was up against the police union and refused to play ball with George Kane. The FOP now lined up against him, and promised Rey Trujillo that the FOP would support him for mayor if he agreed to fire Schwartz. George Kane was furious that his illegal commission was taken away when Schwartz refused to lie for him so he joined in.

It all came together when the electioneering organization, the shadowy Citizens for Full Disclosure, run at that time and long after her appointment to the commission, by Connie Kreps and dedicated to electing Rey Trujillo joined in. At the fateful meeting, Dr. Vogel told me that he had never "been under such pressure" when the FOP and CFD decided Schwartz must go.

It was a perfect example of private interests profiting at the public good. Schwartz was fired. We lost millions in grants. The FOP proposed and pushed through the illegal contract by which Bob Daniels was hired. (His contracts violates the charter by exempting him from supervision by the city manager.) The CFD used the opportunity to further their own interests.

Now, two years on, we still have no full time professional manager. Our accounting is a mess. Our projects are dead. We've lost millions in grants and the commission policy is maintained only through the abuse of Dr. Vogel.

Some however have profited. A lot. You see, making sure that grant money is not used means looser supervision and looser accounting standards. Developers continue to run rampant without code supervision, the FOP turned on the city to eliminate the one modest cost reduction the police had realized, city disbursements are still signed in the dark by the Vice Mayor against the charter, and now they want to raise our taxes.

Next post will be about who benefits and how. Not surprisingly, it's not the residents.

Keep the emails coming. I want your views.

Kevin Vericker
September 1, 2011

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