Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Wee Small Hours

The latest thing in North Bay Village Commission Meetings - all nighters.   The commission meeting started Tuesday July 10 at 7:30 PM and adjourned Wednesday July 11 at 4:05 AM.  And they still didn't get through the whole agenda.  Obviously, a lot was covered so let's dive in.  I am going to lay it out is in themes, rather than linearly, in my order of importance.  

Strip Club -   There were two ordinances affecting how an adult entertainment business might be licesned in North Bay Village.  Both were good.  One specified the measurements and the requirements more clearly than the existing ordinance and the other the conditions under which such a club might operate, including a prohibition on alcohol sales.  

Both passed without much discussion.  This is a good thing and what we wanted.  

Zoning Issues -  There were several and the commission passed the final on approval for a Jet Ski business at 7904 West Drive, approval of the plans for new day care center at the now defunct synagogue on Hispanola, and the construction with some variances for an apartment complex at 8000 West Drive. 

These items took a long time to discuss and each was deemed useful to the city.  

There was some controversy about the complex at 8000 West Drive regarding the parking.  The developer wanted fewer parking spaces than code calls for but dropped that request.  That was the principle objection and once they agreed on parking, the rest fell into place.  

Forgiving Fines - The controversy around the city manager at the last meeting erupted when the commission felt they have been inadequately prepared for the request of the property owner at 1755 79th St. to reduce or eliminate the coding fines for their property.   The item was postponed to last night's meeting so as to ensure the commission had adequate time to study the issue.   

Essentially, the owner wanted the city to forgive $163,000 in fines on the grounds that the owner was not notified of the violations or fines.   This time the commission was prepared, with the detail and the dates.  

The commission found that the money for the violations was owed and did not waive them.  They were well prepared with the facts.  At one point, Commussioner Blumberg wondered if the attorney for the property owner had the city's response.  Their lawyer said he did not, but the response had been published on the city website last Friday so that didn't hold water.  

The utilities were discussed separately and the amount changed, mostly because of the odd way we do utility billing.  

The Charter - The commission had to vote to accept or reject the recommendations made by the Charter Review Board.   There were several suggestions for change including:

1.)  A change of the city's name from "The City of North Bay Village" to "North Bay Village"
2.)  A new oath to uphold the laws of North Bay Village for elected officials.  
3.)  A clearly defined policy on nepotism.  
4.)  A prohibition on city employment for two years following elected service. 
5.)  Restricting board service to one term.   

Now I find these puny and innefective changes, a waste of time really.  The nepotism one is okay and there are arguments why a city commissioner should not be hired in any capacity by the city after serving (although I don't think they are good ones).   

But 3 of the 4 commissioners really disliked the term limits for citizens volunteering for boards.  At least, it being in the charter.  It is two separate issues.  If term limits are desired, the commission should do it by statute, not build it into the charter and handcuff future commissions.  I was pleased that it was removed and will not be on the ballot.  

Now I mentioned I find these changes trivial and I do.  It is a sad statement about our charter that violating carries no penalties for its violation and that has hurt the city.  Mayor Kreps opposed adding standard violations and tried to make it about the city manager.  

But there are many examples.  Our police chief's employment contract is in direct contradiction to the charter.  The contract removes the police chief from supervision by any one - the city manager or commission.  We have had instances of checks being improperly signed without the mayor's knowledge.  

The commission did not pass this and they should have.  Why have a charter if it can be ignored with impunity?  

Finally on the charter, the mayor wanted to clarify when someone should be off the commission.  This had to do with the extended, over a year, absence of Dr. Paul Vogel.  The clarification did not pass.  It probably should not have.  

At some point, cold hearted as it may seem, the commission needs to decide when a member is not coming back.  It would have been best for the city if the commission had gracefully retired Dr. Vogel when it was clear last year that he could not return.  I have long held that Dr. Vogel was abused by the people around him and was kept on the commission cynically and with no real regard for the  man.  The commission can handle these cirucumstances under current law and that it did not is not a reason to change the charter.  

The Finances - It gets complicated.  I will post on that tomorrow.  

In the meantime, a second July meeting is scheduled for July 25, following an FPL workshop on undergrouding the utilities and perhaps another on July 26.   I will let you know.  

Kevin Vericker
July 11, 2012   

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