Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Good, The Bad and The Silly - The Commission Acts

Last night's Commission Meeting was a roller coaster.   Like all good roller coasters, it finally came to an end with all the  riders intact after a number of scary twists, turns and drops.  This is a good thing for a roller coaster but may not be the best way to run a governing body.   

Let's plunge in.   

The Good:   

Our State Rep, David Richardson and Mayor Kreps lobbied hard and strong to get the chain link fence removed from the flat bridge between North Bay Island and Treasure Island.  Richardson wound up bringing it to the governor.  For reasons unclear to anyone FDOT put up that fence, which offers no protection, even took it down and then replaced it.  After we spent millions on improving the Causeway, this dog pound fence added a ghetto ambience to our bay views.   It will finally be gone.   

Our State Rep was also able to get us a $125,000 grant for economic development on the Causeway which should help to get us on track.   

Commissioner Jerry Libbin and Dr. Leslie Rosenthal from Miami Beach were at the meeting to support adding a Health Care Program for Treasure Island Elementary.  TIES was one of three Miami Beach schools that had no onsite nurse and Comm. Libbin found a grant from the Health Foundation and AETNA insurance to cover half the costs, then got Miami Beach to pick up the bulk, added in Surfside, Bal Harbor and Bay Harbor Islands to provide their proportional share.  North Bay Village was the last to be approached and last night the commission approved the expenditure of $3000 this fiscal year and $10,000 next year, which means for the first time TIES will have a school nurse.   

The Commission supported both unanimously.   

The Mayor as Chair reorganized the agenda to move the Permit Applications to the front, which allowed the petitioners to clearly state their non-controversial requests and moved the agenda along. 

The Bad: 

Items requiring new expenditures do not include a timeline.  In usual practice, every item requiring an expenditure includes the reason for the expenditure, the source of the funds, the amount to be accrued (held in reserve for the spend) and a disbursement schedule showing when the money is likely to be spent.   This seems like an obscure rule but what it does is bring transparency to the finances and it hit several times last night.  

Once was when the PD put in a request for additional funding for the motorcycle.  They are entering in a 2 year lease which is normal but they did not put a budget and disbursement schedule with the package.  It made voting on it difficult.   

In another item, the health program, the lack of a disbursement schedule made it difficult to see how much we needed to take from the reserve this year ($2166) and how much next year ($10,844)  This would have helped.  

A big one was voting for a comprehensive code review.  We are required by our charter to do this and we have needed it for years.  The commission was asked last night to allocate $50,000 for the review and update.   It passed, as it needed to, but it would have been less confusing if there had been a clear payment (disbursement) schedule and impact statement.   

 For the big one, the 600 lb. elephant, the village administration is moving.  

Here's why this is in the BAD column.  It's not the current commission's setup but the lease at the Lexi was always a sweetheart deal and it includes an $82,000 penalty for breaking the lease early.   The village is not leaving on a whim.  The village is leaving because employees were getting sick from a yet undiagnosed environmental problem.   People were getting sick in the office.  

The Lexi was always a bad choice.  The move happened so former George Kane could collect a $25,000 payout.  The other commissioners supported the move as a corporate welfare for a favored donor.  In fact, George Kane joined the ill advised move to fire the city manager when the CM reported the deal to Ethics.  We wound up paying more and getting less.   We are well rid of the place and ironically will be saving money by moving to the 1666 building and have better access.     

There were a lot of bad deals with poison pills in the 2008-2010 commission.  The Lexi deal, Vogel Park, the Police Chief's contract and we will continue paying the price for them.    

The Silly

There were two, one just weird and the other a little creepy.  

The mayor proposed a start time for the meetings of 6:30 PM rather than 7:30 PM.   The idea was to cover the agenda fully and still be out before midnight.  Certainly worthy  

One of the commissioners asked if the change was intended to be permanent and noted that he had a problem with being there at 6:30.  Instead of discussing it, the mayor replied, "Well, you're home by 4:30."  which was not the point.  Then the vice mayor expressed essentially the same concern and the item died for lack of a motion.  

Why it was silly:   If when the item was proposed, the mayor had made a motion to approve and had a second, then the discussion would have followed and maybe a compromise would have been found.  No great harm but good process works. That needs to be fixed.

The other "silly" thing was maybe not so silly.   The police chief has been under questioning for his creation of a special position for his wife with the NBV PD, under criticism for his complete lack of community policing efforts and under scrutiny for his budget busting pursuit of two routine personnel cases that have cost the city nearly a million dollars and that we lost.   

Instead of addressing these issues, he made a big PR move by awarding "Officer of the Year" to a policeman who is currently suing the city in a personnel matter, leading a solemn remembrance for  officers killed in the line of duty (just to be clear, we should remember and honor them but this felt like exploitation) and did not provide even the basic information to the commission.  It was the PR move of politics over substance.   It felt sleazy. 

There's more but if you read this far, you're probably tired.  I know I was when I left the meeting at midnight.  

Kevin Vericker
May 15, 2013   


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