Monday, September 12, 2011

Finally, The Commission

This week we've talked about the primary influencers in the city – the police union, private developers and a disingenuous secretive citizen's group. I think I've shown that the problems with each of these come not from their participation in the process but from the type of influence over our commission.

The police union has taken an internal union battle and used it to change our city's management by promoting political agendas unrelated to union issues.

The developers and one in particular have used generous contributions to sidestep zoning and tax compliance, while bearing an outsize influence on our budget processes.

The tightly organized self described Citizens for Full Disclosure have used the anonymity of the internet for murky purposes.

None of this is strange. None of it is a peculiar “North Bay Village” crazy concept. Every city, every county, every state and at the national level, we see all these types of groups trying to push the boundaries of influence. Heck, you even see it in condo and homeowner associations, churches and other places where people of different needs gather.

What does seem to be peculiar to North Bay Village is the lack of balancing influence. Usually, there are counterbalancing civic and business organizations that bring discussion and balance to the political agenda.

Ensuring this balance is one of the main jobs of the legislature, in our case the city commission. The commissioners need to be aware of the influences, transparent in their decisions and most importantly, strike the balance between free expression and suppression. Ours is failing miserably at that.

The commission continues to allow, under the guise of free speech, residents and non-residents to engage in outlandish attacks on those citizens who have different points of view. In fact, Vice Mayor Connie Kreps founded the very organization that leads the assaults. They sit making legislative decisions without explaining their reasoning or asking questions about what they are intending to vote on. A three vote majority has effectively blocked any discussion of the critical budget reductions needed and a clique of secrecy surrounds the increasingly frightening lawsuits the city is facing.

Now a new and disturbing pattern in emerging, commissioners simply refusing to meet when they are not assured of a majority. It started with the twins, Connie and Eddie Lim Kreps, being unavailable during Dr. Vogel's health crisis, and now seems to be spreading to Frank Rodriguez and Corina Esquijarosa. The Lim Kreps twins missed three meetings since June, without providing any reasons to the commission. On Tuesday, Esquijarosa and Rodriguez were absent at the commission meeting approving the tentative budget. After an attempt to have Dr. Vogel present by phone, which is not allowed under state law, Dr. Vogel was brought and clearly instructed how to vote.

This is bad. When our own commission doesn't show because they lack the means for the brute exercise of power, which is what was motivating the Lim Kreps absences (their ruthless exploitation of the increasingly frail Dr. Vogel has been discussed here before), or because they are so frustrated with the arrogant lack of transparency on the part of the ruling troika, we are in deep trouble.

Small digression: you probably saw an email from one of the morally deficient members of the CFD about my lack of comment regarding Tuesday's night absence by the two members. It's not clear which one wrote since they all sign it and certainly that tripe doesn't require five minds.

Well, for the record, I'm pretty discouraged at this point but I do think Esquijarosa and Rodriguez should have been there. But then again, why bother? If the whole purpose of the commission meeting is bullying and deception, they get pretty worn out.

Add that to the noise generated by the “recall”? Let's be clear, malfeasance is abuse of office for personal gain, not private tax issues. And where exactly does the CFD get their email addresses? I noticed that I never signed up for their list but still get the emails.

On the commission are two members who won fair and square in the last election, Eddie Lim and Corina Esquijarosa. Eddie has shown that he can be a reasonable guy when not overly emotional, Corina has tried hard to find a middle ground on issues. That leaves three others.

Dr. Vogel's health is bad. He has served long but in the last two years, it is obvious that he is being manipulated. His agenda is marked up with how to vote. If he loses his place, he becomes confused and audience members remind him of how to vote. Dr. Vogel no longer engages in discussion.

Frank Rodriguez has served well for three years now. He ran unopposed for the position and has been diligent in fulfilling it. His frustration with the commission antics shows, more and more at each meeting.

Connie Kreps, founding mother of the CFD, fundamentally misunderstands democracy. She was installed rather than elected when the city supported her bid to remove a previously qualified opponent from the ballot.

Okay, to the point at the beginning of this series. Let's get radical.

Why don't the three members who did not win an election in 2010 resign? That would be Dr. Vogel, Frank Rodriguez and Connie Kreps. On October 1, after the budget battle is over, all three submit their resignations with a 60 day notice, and let's hold a special election for all three seats.

Lim and Esquijarosa, having recently won, should serve out their terms. Besides, I think they could learn to work together, not always agreeing but respecting one another.

Now I don't think they'll do it. Rodriguez is too diligent, Kreps is too venal. Allowing the citizens to replace a dysfunctional commission would frighten the strong vested interests in North Bay Village. But still, it would be a graceful way out of an increasingly ugly deadlock.

We need a way out. North Bay Village cannot survive this.

Kevin Vericker

September 12, 2011

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