Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Party in North Bay Villagw

It all got switched around because of Hurricane Sandy and a bad weather forecast.  The City made the sensible decision to move the party from Vogel Park to that House of Horrors known as our commission chambers.  The staff decorated tirelessly and it was great.   Here are some pictures.  More at Mario's blog 

The Commission Chambers

Jenice Rosado Led the Effort

Kevin Balbao of the Cutting Room donated his services.

City Clerk Yvonne Hamilton

This was a great party, supported by the community and it makes a difference to the kids and the old folks of North Bay Village.  

Kevin Vericker
October 29, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Vote Up the Ballot

You can see the sample ballot for North BayVillage here.

You can read my take on the North Bay Village Charter Amendments here.  

And for other views, check out Mario for North Bay Village

And Robot Bhandari here.  

It turns out there are more that just North Bay Village issues on the ballot November 6.  Who knew?  What I have below is my take on the county amendments and the school board questions.  All of these affect our lives in North Bay Village pretty directly so this might be useful for you.  At the very bottom, I put my views on the judges and statewide consitutional amendments. 

School Board

My View
School Board Question
Funding Modernization and Construction of
Public School Facilities Through Issuance of
General Obligation Bonds
Shall the School District of Miami-Dade County
fund a plan for modernization and construction
of public school facilities throughout the district,
including educational technology upgrades, by
issuing general obligation bonds in an aggregate
amount not exceeding $1,200,000,000, in one or
more series, bearing interest at market rates,
maturing within thirty years, and secured by the
full faith and credit and ad-valorem taxing power
of the district
Yes. Miami-Dade schools are improving rapidly. We are the fourth largest school district in the US and our school board needs to modernize the facilities and manage the educational improvement.
County Charter Amendments

My View
Home Rule Charter Amendment Relating to
Term Limits of County Commissioners
Shall the Charter be amended to provide that
County Commissioners shall serve no more
than two consecutive four-year terms in office
excluding terms of service prior to 2012?
No. I realize I stand nearly alone on this but I firmly believe that we already have term limits – they are called elections – and if a commissioner is not performing, he or she should be voted out.

For North Bay Village, Sally Heyman has been a strong and useful advocate. If she runs again, I want her in the position.
Technical Amendments to Home Rule
Shall the Charter be amended to clarify the titles
of subsections, correct and update
cross-references between provisions, and delete
references to offices and agencies which have
been abolished?
Yes. This simply cleans up the charter language. It's actually a cost saving measure as there is less work trying to figure out what archaic and obscure references must be included or ignored.
Charter Amendment Requiring Extraordinary
Vote to Include Additional Land within the
Urban Development Boundary
Shall the Charter be amended to require a
two-thirds vote of County Commissioners then in
office to include additional land within the Urban
Development Boundary established by the
County's Comprehensive Development Master
Yes. This is half a loaf but better than nothing. The Urban Development Boundary in a delicate environment matters. We have to control sprawl and requiring that this be at least be made more difficult to change is a step forward.
Charter Amendment Pertaining to Changes
in Municipal Boundaries and Creation of
New Municipalities
Shall the Charter be amended to:
Require the County Commission to consider
the benefits of any proposed annexation of
commercial areas, when approving or
authorizing an annexation
No. This seems like a good idea at first glance, allow unincorporated areas to create new cities for more local services and representation, but it ignores the reality that adjoining unincorporated areas will be impacted. It does not fix the issues of annexation and could cost taxpayers more not less to serve the county as a whole. The whole idea needs to be revised and part of a larger package.
Charter Amendment Regarding Penalties
and Enforcement of Citizens' Bill of Rights
Shall the Charter be amended to eliminate the
provision providing for forfeiture of office if a
public official or employee willfully violates the
Citizens' Bill of Rights and allow, in addition to
suit in circuit court, the Commission on Ethics
and Public Trust to enforce the Citizens' Bill of
Rights with penalties authorized by the Code?
No. This is a great idea that will be ruined by bad company. The Commission on Ethics is a deeply political office, favoring the powers that be, and has been proved worthless in addressing municipal corruption. There is no indication that they will be any more effective at protecting our rights than they are at addressing abuse. The Commission on Ethics needs to be removed and replaced by people who actually practice the ethics they pretend to enforce.
Charter Amendment Related to Option for
Filling Mayoral or County Commissioner
Shall the Charter be amended to:
Extend the time to conduct an election to fill
a mayoral or commissioner vacancy from 45 to
90 days from the decision to call such election
and provide a timeframe for qualification and
any necessary runoff;
Temporarily transfer, during a mayoral
vacancy or incapacity, certain mayoral powers
to the Commission Chairperson, Vice
Chairperson or Commissioner chosen by the Board?
Meh. 45 days is enough to run an election. That it is not convenient for the candidates or administration is not a particular concern of mine. I'll probably vote no.
Charter Amendment Regarding Mayoral
Conflicts in County Procurement
Shall the Charter be amended to provide that
when the County Mayor declares a conflict of
interest in a particular procurement of a County
contract, the chairperson of the Board of County
Commissioners shall exercise all authority
provided by the Charter or the County
Commission to the Mayor with regard to such
procurement including the authority to
recommend a bid waiver?
No. It just transfers singular power. It's a bad solution to a real problem. The problem should be addressed by the commission and administration as a whole.
Referendum Regarding Structures and
Modification of Existing Agreements for the
Tennis Center at Crandon Park
In accordance with Article 7 of the Home Rule
Charter, do you approve as set forth in
Resolution R-660-12:
Erection of permanent structures and
expansion of existing structures at Crandon
Park Tennis Center for public park and tennis
tournament use, which shall be funded solely by
tennis center and tournament revenues and
private funds; and
Modification and extension of agreements
with operator of Sony Open Tennis Tournament
or its successors?
Yes. Okay. It's funded by user fees and corporate sponsors to update the park.
Non-Binding Straw Ballot on Funding
Improved Animal Services Programs
Would you be in favor of the County
Commission increasing the countywide general
fund millage by 0.1079 mills and applying the
additional ad valorem tax revenues generated
thereby to fund improved animal services,
Decreasing the killing of adoptable dogs and
cats (historically approximately 20,000
Reducing stray cat populations (currently
approximately 400,000 cats); and
Funding free and low-cost spay/neuter
programs, low-cost veterinary care programs,
and responsible pet ownership educational programs?
Yes. It's non-Binding and maybe it will call attention to the near out of control animal problems in the county. It does not replace personal responsibility of pet owners and I hope the county does address this issue.
Non-Binding Straw Ballot on Contracting
with Companies Doing Business with State
Sponsors of Terrorism
Would you support, to the extent permitted by
law, prohibiting further the use of taxpayers'
dollars to procure services or capital
improvement projects from companies actively
doing business in countries that are on the U.S.
Department of State's list of state sponsors of
Yes. This is a national Federal issue that is not being addressed. It would stop the country from doing business with companies like Mitt Romney's Bain Capital who invest heavily in companies doing business in China, Iran and Cuba, while pretending not to.

State Ballots Amendments - No to All

These include amendments to enforce theology on women, fund churches in proselytizing,  give homestead exemptions to investors rather than residents, and are generally an abuse of the ideas and goals of the electoral process.   These are designed to deceive not improve our lives.  

Supreme Court Justices Florida - Yes to Retain

A number of radical organizations have attempted to turn this into a referendum to intimidate justices who do not agree with their views by removing them from office.  The Florida Supreme Court has done a good job ensuring that the basic laws of this state are fairly applied and while I disagree with many of their principles as regards individual rights, removing them would be a mistake.    

Andrea Wolfson - No.  Send Her Packing

Oh, she appears reasonable.  But she deliberately sought and accepted the endorsement of the "Christian Family Coalition of Miami" who stand against the County Human Rights Ordinance, frame a Woman's Right to Choose as the State's Right to Enforce Prohibitions and actively seek public funding of churches (not services provided, the actual church.)   

That Andrea Wolfson lacks the integrity to stand for non-partisan justice and sought their endorsement makes her unfit for the judiciary.   

Other Races - 

President - I'm voting for Obama.  I just can't get to the magical place where cutting revenue improves revenue, where the first priority is to eliminate $700bn in Medicare savings and claiming that somehow reduces Medicare costs and I can't vote for someone who made millions investing in China, Russia and Iran, then hides the money off shore.   Seems like we need a president who is  invested in America, not Iran and Russia.  

Senator -  Bill Nelson.  We need realists.  

Congress - this one may be a surprise.  I think Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is a poor rep for us.  She spends too much time seeking the limelight and not enough on her constituents.  Unfortunately her opponent seems to be a whack job so I may not vote on this one.  

Okay, so there's my opinion for the election.  Early voting starts tomorrow.  

Kevin Vericker  
October 26, 2012  


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

North Bay Village Charter Amendments

UPDATE 10/24:  I've uploaded a sample ballot for North Bay Village at Scribd.Com.  Click here to retrieve

Mario Garcia did such a good job at his new blog with the Charter Amendments that I'm embarrassed by my own sloth in not putting anything up.  

First check out Mario's take at his blog Mario for North Bay Village

Then check out another blog, written by screen name Robot Bhandari (coolest screen name in the bay) on the elections in general and North Bay Village in particular.  

Here's Robot Bhandari  Scroll down for NBV.   

Go ahead.  I'll wait.   These are worth reading.  

Okay, so my take is not surprisingly different.  We have  twenty one (21) amendments to vote and it's not clear why many of them are there.  We are required to do a periodic  review of the our charter and each time, people try to sneak in their pet peeves.  But it's important to remember that the Charter is our statement of what we consider to be our guiding principles of governance, not the place to put something that annoyed you last week.  That why we have a commission and elections.  

So having said that, here's what I think.  To make it simpler, I added sequence numbers which the Department of Elections and the City should totally do.   These are in the order they appear on the ballot

Technical Note:  I can't figure out how to resize the text but if you need to see the table larger, hold down the CTRL - Key and tap the plus (+) key to increase font size.  You can do this several times until you get the size you like.  Apple has a similar function with the "Apple" key and the plus (+) key. 

Sequence Text My Take
1- No
Changing official name of the city to North
Bay Village
The City Charter currently provides that the
official name of the city is the "City of North Bay
Village." Shall the Charter be amended to delete
the references to the "City of" and officially
name the city "North Bay Village" and to further
change all references in the Charter and the
Code from "City" to "Village?"
This is an aspirational amendment. The idea of a “village” is of a bucolic, self contained gathering. We are not a village. We are a city, the most densely populated one in Florida and the 13th most dense city in the United States. Our issues and environment are urban and require a realistic sensibility. It's a trivial change but I don't like it.
2 – Yes
Corporate Limits of the CityThe City Charter currently provides that the jurisdiction shall now and “from time to time hereafter” fall within the city's specified boundaries. Shall the Charter be amended to replace “time to time hereafter” to “in the future.?”
This is a simple clarification of language to remove confusion but keep ambiguity in the charter.
3 – Yes
Appointment and removal of City Clerk
The City Charter currently provides for the
position of a City Clerk and further provides that
the City Clerk shall be appointed and removed
by the City Commission. Shall the Charter be
corrected for consistency to specify that under
the City Commission's powers that appointment,
retention or removal of the City Clerk falls within
the purview of the City Commission?
This is already the case and it fixes an oversight in previous charter amendments.
4 - Yes
Limitations on acquisition of real property
and capital improvement projects
The City Charter currently limits the acquisition
of real property or expenditures for capital
improvement projects to 20 percent of the
"annual fiscal budget" or "annual budget" of the
City without a referendum. Shall the Charter be
amended to specify that the 20 percent
spending limitation for acquisition of real
property or capital improvement projects be
based upon the City's current annual "total
operating budget?"
This matters. Now the city can include other capital budgets and outside revenues in deciding the 20%. A guideline of 20% of the operating budget is much more realistic.
5 – No
Reduction of Mayor and City Commissioners
The City Charter currently authorizes an annual
adjustment to the Mayor and City
Commissioners compensation based upon the
Consumer Price Index. Shall the Charter be
amended to delete the annual Consumer Price
Index adjustment and freeze the Mayor's
compensation at $7,800.00 and the
Commissioners compensation at $6,300.00
starting with the officials elected in the
November 2012 election?
The idea is noble, that service should be voluntary and an honor. It's hard to disagree with that. But we ask a lot of our commissioners and the current system in the past has encouraged people who are looking to capitalize on influence rather than dedication. I would much prefer a system that would review the salaries every two years and put them before the voters. But it will probably pass.

6 – Yes (and No)
Two year prohibition on paid employment of
City Commissioners post term
The City Charter currently prohibits sitting City
Commissioners from serving in a paid City
position during their term of office. Shall the
Charter be amended to prohibit a Mayor or
Commissioner from serving in a paid City
position for 2 years after the date of expiration of their term?
This should be called the “Joe Geller” amendment. In that case, former mayor Joe Geller was hired as city attorney immediately following his tenure as mayor. I do not believe that service to the city should be an employment disqualifier. The commission should decide if the candidate is the best for the job as they did with Joe Geller. Some didn't like that but it was addressed politically, as it should be.

But the danger of outsize influence during service toward post-service employment is high and current best practice in the federal government is to have this policy. I will probably vote yes.
7 – Yes
Outside employment by the City Manager
Shall the Charter be amended to include a
requirement that outside employment by the City
Manager shall be approved by the City
Commission prior to commencement?
Yes. We could call this the “Charity Good” amendment. She was the city manager, full time, who was also full time in another city. It didn't work.

This allows the commission to decide if the employment is reasonable and not in conflict with the main job, which means that some employment could be allowed and even useful.
8 – Yes
Expanding existing anti nepotism policy
The City Charter currently prohibits employment
of relatives of elected or appointed city officials
(department heads and up) related up to the
second degree of consanguinity (related by
blood). Shall the Charter be amended to
expand the existing anti nepotism policy to
include a prohibition of the employment of
relatives of elected or appointed city officials
(department heads and up) up to the second
degree of affinity (related by marriage)?
Yes. This is a simple language cleanup to clarify neopotism.

9 – Yes
Filling of Vacancies on the Commission
pertaining to Interim Vice Mayor
The City Charter currently provides that an
interim Mayor and Vice Mayor shall serve until
the newly elected or appointed Mayor or Vice
Mayor is sworn into office. Shall the Charter be
amended to clarify that the word "interim" also
applies to the position of the Vice Mayor as well
as the Mayor?
Yes. This means that the Vice Mayor only serves until a commission is reconstituted when there are vacancies. The newly formed commission then votes on the position. It's appropriate.
10 – Yes
Clarification of procedures for filling of
Commission vacancy and extraordinary
The City Charter currently provides that the
filling of a vacancy for City Commission shall be
pursuant to the procedures "set forth above."
Shall the Charter be amended to provide that
the procedures for filling of a vacancy are those
specified in the Charter, and that for the filling of
an extraordinary vacancy, the Commission shall
call a special election in the same manner as set
forth for filling a Commission vacancy?
Yes. A simple clarification of the election procedures to make them easier to understand.
11 – No
Procedure for adoption of emergency
The City Charter currently provides for an
emergency ordinance to be adopted by at least
three affirmative votes. Shall the Charter be
amended to provide that an emergency
ordinance shall be adopted by at least four
affirmative votes consistent with state law?
Emergcency Ordinances were widely abused two commissions ago. This procedure exists for when there is a clear danger that delayed action will harm the city and should only be used that way. By requiring 4 rather than a majority of commissioners, this means that if at least 4 commissioners cannot be present, which is entirely imaginable in the case of a natural or security disaster, the commission is handcuffed. It's too risky.
12 – Yes
Procedures for adoption of ordinances and
The City Charter currently provides for the
submission of all written information for
proposed ordinances or resolutions within 48
hours of a City Commission meeting. Shall the
Charter be amended to require the submission
of all written information on proposed
ordinances or resolutions 3 business days prior
to the City Commission meeting?
Yes. This is an imperfect solution. I would have preferred additional language allowing the commission to make an exception by majority vote. But legislation is complex and the commission and citizens need time to study the legislation prior to adoption.

13 – No
Increase Residency Requirements for Mayor
and Commissioners from six months to one
The City Charter currently requires a six month
City residency for a candidate for the office of
Mayor and Commissioner-at-large and a six
month residency on their particular island for a
candidate for the Harbor Island, North Bay
Island and Treasure Island Commissioner seats.
Shall the Charter be amended to increase the
residency requirement from six months to one
year for candidates for the office of the Mayor
and all Commission seats?
In fact, HELL NO. This is the antithesis of democracy. Six months has adequately served for many years. If shorter residency is a problem, let the voters decide if that's an issue. This amendment takes clear aim at the “new people”, the condo buyers, the “others” who have moved into the city. It's offensive and it should be sent packing.
14 – Yes
Nomination for office of Commissioners and
Mayor by petition
The City Charter currently provides that a
candidate for office of Commissioner or Mayor
may qualify for candidacy by petition. Shall the
Charter be amended to specify that the petition
shall be in a form provided by the City Clerk?
Yes. In stark contrast to the nonsense above, this actually smooths the election process and makes it clearer and easier for candidates to file with a certified and understood petition.
15 – No
Increase of filing fee for candidates for office
of Commissioner and Mayor
The City Charter currently provides for a filing
fee of $100.00 for a candidate for the office of
Commissioner or Mayor. Shall the Charter be
amended to increase the filing fee to $250.00 for
the office of the Mayor and all Commissioners?
No. This should be called the “WTF – Are you kidding me?” amendment. The cost to process a candidate filing is probably more than $100 and less than $250. Raising the cost to file is a snide, trivial barrier to entry, not what the city should be encouraging.
16 – No
City employees soliciting votes or engaging
in political activity while off duty
The City Charter currently prohibits City
employees from soliciting votes or engaging in
political activity while on duty. Shall the Charter
be amended to prohibit a City employee while
off duty from soliciting votes or engaging in
political activity while wearing a City uniform or
identification or using his or her official authority
or influence for the purpose of interfering with an
election or a nomination of office or coercing or influencing another person's vote?
No. Many of our city employees live in NBV. They are constitutionally protected in their free speech rights, while we are protected from coercion by them. With this change, a neighbor employed by the city could be fired or disciplined (the penalties are unclear) for simply supporting a candidate. This is badly written, constitutionally ambiguous and opens the city for further lawsuits.
17 – Yes
Notice of final budget meeting
The City Charter currently provides that if the
budget includes a tax increase, the City shall
endeavor to send a notice of the date of the final
budget meeting to each property owner and to
those who submit a request for the notice. Shall
the Charter be amended to delete this
requirement as state law requires the County to
provide the same information to each property
owner in the TRIM (Truth in Millage) notice?
Aviso de la última reunión de presupuesto
Yes. The County already provides this service and there is no need for NBV to duplicate that effort. The current system is wasted money and time.
18 – Yes
Bonds of officers and employees
The City Charter currently requires the posting
of a surety bond for officers or employees of the
City, but does not specify which positions are
subject to this requirement. Shall the Charter be
amended to specify that any officers or
employees who have check signing authority or
access to City accounts shall post a bond?
Yes. This clears up an oversight in the original Charter and reduces the city's exposure to liability while not changing any current policty.
19 – Yes
Oath of office/employment
The City Charter currently requires every officer
and employee to take an oath of office. Shall
the Charter be amended to include in the oath of
office that the officer or employee is a legal
resident of the State of Florida and will obey the
laws of the United States, the State of Florida
and observe the provisions of the Charter and
Ordinances of the City?
Yes. We should include the Charter in the oath of office.
20 – No
Review of zoning regulations, zoning district maps, and comprehensive master plan
Shall the Charter be amended to include a
requirement that the Planning and Zoning Board
continuously review the City's zoning
regulations, comprehensive master plan and
zoning district maps and offer recommendations
to the City Commission at maximum intervals of
five years commencing in 2013?
No. The review is needed and should be ongoing. But the Planning & Zoning Board should not be the exclusive owner of the process. The commission should appoint a board every five years comprising members with a wide variety of expertise. P&Z would be a natural recruiting spot for this but it does not follow that P&Z should be exclusive.
21 - No
Charter Violations
Shall the Charter be amended to include a
provision that City officials and employees shall
follow the provisions of the Charter?
This is feel good nonsense. It does not create or set penalties for Charter violations, it does not empower the commission to do so and violating our charter carries no state or county legal penalties. This needs to be fixed, urgently, and  this amendment is a cynical pretense to appear to fix the problem while maintaining the status quo.