Sunday, October 30, 2011

Taxes Are For Little People

In 2008, Eddie Lim did not pay his property taxes on his home or two investment properties. They went to tax auction in 2009.

TAX CERTIFICATE : YEAR 2008 NUMBER 27368 for $4088.40 bought on Aug. 13, 2009.
TAX CERTIFICATE : YEAR 2008 NUMBER 27366 for $7127.48 bought on July 24, 2009
TAX CERTIFICATE : YEAR 2008 NUMBER 27367 for $2119.49 bought on October 26, 2009
The total is $13 255.37

source Miami-Dade Property Appraiser

No word on how these have been satisfied but there are people looking into that.

Speaking of unpaid taxes, the city's biggest tax debtor, appointed by Eddie Lim to the Budget Oversight Commission, is bringing back his proposal to build a strip club at 1415 JFK Causeway. Yes, the strip club, enthusiastically supported by Eddie Lim in his tenure on the Planning and Zoning and on the commission but rejected by the city repeatedly, is back.

It will be on the agenda for the P&Z meeting November 15 at 7:30 PM. Rey Trujillo is on that board, and of course his campaign received the bulk of its financing from the gentlemen's club impressario. Eddie Lim has unwaveringly supported the development of the strip club, which I am certain has nothing to do with the $2000 he got from the same developer.
Bring popcorn and lots of single dollar bills as it promises to be a triple DDD show that night.

Kevin Vericker
October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Strip Club Hearing Planned on November 15

Once again, the Planning and Zoning will be taking up the subject of the proposed five story Adult Entertainment Complex that the city's largest tax debtor, Scott Greenwald, is proposing to anchor our Baywalk. There is some confusion over the actual time - the meeting notice says 7:30 PM but the sign on Treasure Island says 7 PM.

What there is not is confusion regarding the intent. After going bankrupt, after abandoning his properties at 7914, 7916 and 7918 West Drive thereby leaving a squatter encampment, after paying a former sitting vice mayor $25,000 for the unnecessary and expensive city move to the Lexi, after financing the campaigns of the P&Z chairman and two commissioners, Scott Greenwald's latest "get rich" scheme is to put up a tawdry club that doesn't even come close to conforming with our zoning.

And the Planning and Zoning board is likely to vote to do it.

Unless you show up - Tuesday, November 15 at 7 PM (just to be sure) at City Hall - to let them know what you want for the city.

And tonight, on Channel 7's "Help Me Howard" at 6 PM and 10 PM, there is a special report on the ugly politics of North Bay Village.

Ad-Isle of Dreams-1415 Kennedy Causeway

Kevin Vericker
November 14, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Vogel Friends and Family Plan

Commissioner Dr. Paul Vogel and his wife, Marietta Vogel, ran up $1,225 in cell phone bills between March 2007 and August 2010 paid for illegally by the city.

In 2007, without the knowledge or permission of the city manager, and without the knowledge or permission of the Commission, the Vogels decided that the then recent city policy of providing either a cell phone or reimbursement for the same meant that they, Dr. and Mrs. Vogel, were entitled to cell phones (note the plural) on the city's dime.

The cell phones they took, without the city manager's knowledge, and not recorded in the logs carried the phone numbers 786 877 1680 and 786 999 5454. These phones were turned back in shortly after I made the public records request in the spring of this year.

This has been documented, the records subpoenaed and is right now in the hands of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics.

So the Vogels, without permission, decided to take money monthly from the city for over three years.

It's a shame really. I used to think Paul Vogel was a decent guy, a little too in bed with some of the entrenched interests, but I really didn't think he was doing grand theft and abuse of public office. I guess, once again, I was wrong. I fell for the "I'm just a nice old guy" act.

Between stealing our money for at least $1,225.91 in phone services (and more), four unexcused consecutive absences which means he's off the commission, and the marked up agendas instructing him how to vote, Dr. Vogel needs to resign.

Next up: Who paid Eddie Lim's delinquent property taxes of $13,255 from 2008? Not Eddie Lim. They were sold at auction. Details to follow.

Kevin Vericker
October 28, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011


I didn't post last week because I was out of town. I was at an infrastructure conference in Washington DC, the equivalent of a spring training trip for fans of public policy. The national picture is dismal for the infrastructure in North America. While there is general agreement that investing in water systems, transportation, new power generation and fixing the aging systems in place is critical for economic recovery, that sense of critical has not translated into a sense of urgency. In two sessions with members of Congress, I realized that the only consistent message is that Congress is deeply divided and not much is likely to get done. That's pretty depressing.

On Saturday night, when I got back, I went to the New World Symphony Soundscape in Miami Beach. It was the season premier and the park outside the concert is a marvel. The projection on the wall and the excellent acoustics outside make for an amazing experience, unique to Miami Beach. In this economic climate, the Soundscape is a concrete example of how public private partnerships can work and make a city a better place.

And that got me thinking about North Bay Village and what's going on.

Put aside for one moment the filthy tactics of personal destruction that pass for politics in this town and look at what is not happening. The city is stuck. We voted for and agreed to pay new taxes to improve the quality of life here and for a little while, a short while, it looked like we were on track to finally become the waterfront city so often discussed.

The Causeway, our main window to the world, was going to be upgraded and lined by businesses and housing that we could be proud of. There was to be a Baywalk, a strip along the northern section of Treasure Island to connect the restaurants, shops and housing along the beautiful bay. Harbor Island would have a waterfront park and sidewalks, with a new city civic center anchoring the development.

But what do we have? One good thing is that the sewers did get done so we don't flood at every rainstorm. That's been particularly good this week.

Overall, lots of money was spent to build a wall of marginal attractiveness on North Bay Island, nice enough but they already had one. The park was a total disaster and is not even functional. Harbor Island has no sidewalks and no plans. A large functioning taxpaying business, Jumbo Buffet, was forced out of business when its access was cut off and it's not going to be open again soon. Treasure Island continues to be blighted by the empty retail spaces of the Lexi, the flooded parking lots, auto repair junkyards and the derelict strip malls.

Our taxes went up again to pay for such improvements as - the wall around Harbor Island, which kills the chances of retail taxes, further improvements to an inaccessible park surrounded by garbage scows and overgrown abandoned lots, the further entrenchment of city facilities in the barely functional Lexi building.

None of these are the type of infrastructure improvements that will bring stability to North Bay Village, fix our broken tax base or improve our property values (except maybe the sewers.)

Unless and until there is significant progress in fixing that causeway and attracting high volume businesses to North Bay Village, we are going to become a waterfront ghetto, a place to speed by and not even wonder what's there.

It could be different. Instead of paying back political debts with public money, protecting entrenched interests without regard to the damage it does to the city, the commission could and should be focused on getting us out of this mess.

But like Washington, the greed is too immediate to concentrate on the long term fixes and the future looks bleak.

Kevin Vericker
October 17, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mayor Trujillo

The fundamental motivation of the Citizens For Full Disclosure is laid out in this plaintive sentence from their latest email "It is less than a year ago that the voters of North Bay Village elected an unknown resident by a mere 6 votes"

It's true. An unknown resident defeated a sitting commissioner who briefly served as vice mayor (until his allies turned against him), a commissioner with a well funded campaign and high name recognition. The only fair analysis of the 2010 election is that Rey Trujillo lost, not that Corina Esquijarosa won. The people of North Bay Village chose the unknown candidate over the known quantity on offer.

This was a rational decision. The voters had seen the out of control spending, the arbitrary firings, the famous "Trujillo Tax" where the city spent nearly $500,000 in unnecessary expenditures to suit the would be mayor's whims.

To see what those six votes meant, consider the following. If Trujillo had won, NBV would:
  • Have outsourced the garbage services at no discernible cost savings to the taxpayers and eliminated side yard pickup. The Trujillo campaign was heavily financed by the Waste Management companies and the debt would have been paid by us.
  • The operating millage rate would have been 5.1 for this year. It was only the dogged insistence by the mayor that the budget be taken seriously and savings found that stopped that. Don't believe me? In 2010, Rey Trujillo had no problem raising your tax rate by 11% to fund the firings and generous contracts he put in place to secure the FOP support.
  • Trujillo fought for and continues to be in favor of a strip club on the causeway. And the strip club proposer, Scott Greenwald, was both a major donor to his campaign and a major force behind the recall effort.
Now let's look at the positive side of things:

  • For the first time in our history, we are getting back money from the Children's Trust Fund and have after school youth programs. This was a major platform item for Esquijarosa.
  • Instead of responding to the personal insults at the commission meetings, Esquijarosa has brought some level of discourse and transparency to the commission, a situation that infuriates Vice Mayor Lim-Kreps.
  • Her intense reviews of the city's payments stopped one retiring city employee from granting himself a large bonus parting gift and she has forced the signing of checks to be done in public.
There's a lot more to do. Since the first day she stepped in, she has been the object of relentless attacks by the people who believe they are entitled to the city, or more importantly to the city funds, and that's taken its toll. Her family, her livelihood, people who supported her have been the ongoing victims of abuse sanctioned by Connie Lim Kreps and her supporters.

The CFD believe that they, Richard Chervony, Alvin Blake, James Carter, Gloria Carter and Jane Blake, have the sole right to the city and their offense at not winning the election has morphed into a dangerous hatred.

Rather than look at why their preferred candidate lost, Richard Chervony, Alvin Blake, James Carter, Gloria Carter and Jane Blake, supported by out of town investors and beneficiaries of lawsuits against North Bay Village, have taken to the streets to tell the voters of North Bay Village that a routine tax matter, a matter that the mayor herself brought to the county appraiser's office, was criminal in nature.

In their twisted rage at being deprived of what they believed they were entitled to, this group has presented this as though there were a criminal conviction, instead of a tax settlement, and a massive fraud instead of a routine, dull story of a property investment gone bad.

Let's do a little bit more about that last email, shall we?

Here's one quote:
"We want a Mayor who listens to what the citizens need and desire and not concentrate on one specific group that benefits them and their family directly." Is there any example, any proof to substantiate this claim? No, of course not. So to whom do the CFD refer with this unsupported allegation?

Certainly not me. Since I got involved, I have been the victim of USPS mail fraud, the target of anonymous emailers who happen to share the CFD mailing list, my car has been vandalized, my family attacked at work. Don't believe me? Do a public records request at the North Bay Village police.

Another citizen who disagreed with the recall found that she too was the victim of first an anonymous email and then one sent by the CFD, accusing her falsely and with no substance of mortgage fraud.

In a similar vein, a citizen who volunteered to be on one of the boards found the CFD sending around his businesses tax records, perfectly legitimate records, but to let him know that they are "watching."

One petition gatherer on my street, a neighbor who I banned from my house two years before because I don't tolerate her constant racial slurs and filthy language, has taken to screaming obscenities at me when she is panhandling on Lincoln Road, income I imagine she does not report to the IRS.

It's hard to see how the people standing up to the CFD have benefited. Quite the opposite.

Here's the final quote from the CFD email: "
Let's take our City back and silence the naysayers and bloggers that twist, distort and mislead the misfits with their twisted perspectives."

Read it again.
"Let's take our City back and silence the naysayers and bloggers that twist, distort and mislead the misfits with their twisted perspectives."

Did you catch the bit about
silencing people? Did it send a chill down your spine? It should. Healthy democracies don't silence. Healthy democracies are noisy places of disagreement and agreement. Healthy people don't "silence" others for disagreement. Good people certainly don't.

I don't know. Maybe it read better in the original German.

So when you get emails like this, consider what it means. Are these really the people with whom you wish to align yourself? Do you really think they want an open city government? What is their platform?

Kevin Vericker
October 7, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Turns Out The Budget Wasn't Balanced After All

On September 20, after much complaining from the Vice Mayor about how the mayor had so "many, many questions" about the budget, and when the mayor asked that the inconsistencies be explained, she was brushed aside. The budget passed with Lim, Kreps and Mrs. Dr. Vogel voting yes.

Imagine how embarrassed the Lim Kreps twins and their elderly servants Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Vogel must be now that less than three weeks later, it comes out that the budget wasn't balanced at all. September 30th came and two cops were laid off. Now on October 11, there is a resolution seeking $937,530 to fund the police department. (Fun fact: the grant money to fund the cops did not come through because Connie Lim Kreps led the effort to fire the last legitimately hired city manager and the replacements never hired a grant writer.)

Actually I was just kidding about Lim Kreps being embarrassed. They knew all along that the budget wasn't balanced and knew what the strategy was. They just didn't want us to know.

In another step towards destroying democracy in North Bay Village, the interim city manager is introducing a resolution to restrict commissioners from introducing legislation unless there is a prior vote by the commission to allow it. Since the Lim Kreps and Mrs. Dr. Vogel have introduced virtually no legislation, this would effectively eliminate the commission from doing anything unless the Lim Kreps approved prior to approval.

Anyone else feel like we're living in a bad joke?

Kevin Vericker
October 5, 2011