Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bully for the commission!

There was a commission meeting on Tuesday, October 8, and for the details, Mario Garcia has done a great job recounting those in his blog "Mario for North Bay Village" at nbvmario.blogspot.com.  You should be reading that blog anyway.  

The two highlights from the meeting in my view are that the commission approved Frank Rollason as permanent Village Manager and  that the commission finally appointed the boards 11 months late.

Again, I won't go through the details of what the commission did in this post but I want to go through how they did it.  First, what happened and then in a later post, how we got here.

What Happened on Tuesday Night At Our Commission Meeting:  On the consent agenda, which is designed for items so obvious they don't need discussion, Richard Chervony had placed an item to state that North Bay Village Supports The  Anti-Bullying School Agenda and recognizes that October is Anti Bullying Month In Schools Throughout the Country.  This is usually the sort of anodyne proposal that sails right through.  But not Tuesday.   

It was pulled from the Consent Agenda by Jorge Gonzalez for discussion.  And twenty minutes followed of what appeared to be a coordinated, inane and unnecessary discussion of this item until three commissioners, looking meaningfully at those residents who actually show up at the meetings to question and offer their views and knowledge, declared that North Bay Village disdains All Bullying.  If you were there, you could not help but infer that this was both a complaint about residents disagreeing and a warning to stop it.  

The only reason this simple item was pulled was because it was introduced by Chervony and the distorted power dynamics of our commission cannot allow someone who is not in the right group to accomplish anything.   In other words, Chervony was systematically bullied for introducing an anti-bullying resolution.   

This would just be part of the weird dynamic, this bullying over bullying (meta-bullying?), by our sad commission if it didn't have actual effects on our lives, but this cliquish bullying does.  It shuts down discussions, frustrates residents and delays good legislation and ideas if the target of the group proposes them.   

This obstruction was clearly illustrated later in the evening when the commission, after an 11 month delay, finally got around to putting together two boards - the Budget and the Community Enhancement.   Now my view is that they had ignored this because boards question, offer opinions and advise on issues and if your modus operandi is to see all questions as challenges and all disagreements as insult, this would not be a high priority.   

There were two resolutions, one introduced by Chervony, the other by Kreps, on the guiding principles for the Citizens Budget Oversight Board.   They were substantially the same - reduce the number of members from 7 to 5.  They differed slightly in how the members should be chosen and if in the event that the commission once again fails to appoint a board on time, the existing board will stay in place.   In such a situation, on a collaborative commission, the resolutions would be melded into one and amendments offered and discussed,  But because the first resolution was offered by Chervony, it was critical to the others that it be rejected.   The suggestion that these be considered with amendments was floated but the resolution died for lack of a second.  Nobody would even discuss it.  

Then Kreps' resolution, really the same one, came up.  By this time (11:15), the mayor had abandoned chairing the meeting, not even performing the basics of the chair's duties, simply talking and the Village Manager stepped in and took over as de facto chair, guiding the commission through the discussion and the amendment process (never offering his opinion by the way) and the resulting resolution was an amalgam of Commissioner Chervony and Mayor Kreps' ideas.   I doubt that the mayor could tell you if the amended resolution keeps the boards in place until new ones are appointed.  She was that detached.   

It was clear that the sole purpose of duplicating the effort was to ensure Chervony had no voice since he is no longer one of them.  

Finally, the commission chose the members of the boards.  They specifically and deliberately excluded residents who had questioned or disagreed in the past.  They gave no guidance on how these are to be run and never spoke on why they chose who they chose.  

The Bullying word gets thrown around a lot.   With kids, it's often clear who is bullying whom - gay kids, kids with physical or intellectual challenges, redheaded kids, members of ethnic minorities, fat kids, girls by boys and sometimes boys by girls, are usually targets but really any kid can be.  Sometimes it's difficult to figure out who is doing what but for the most part it's transparent.  

Adult bullying is different.   Disagreement, even heated disagreement, does not constitute bullying.  I would argue that even insult, while rude, is not bullying.  For it to be bullying, there has to be intimidation involved, physical, financial or legal.   (I won't go down the rathole of "emotional" bullying because if you can't quantify it, you can't  claim it.)  Our commission is using legal means to silence and frustrate one targeted member, one who by the way, has his own checkered history in this area.   And with little concern, they use the same legal tricks to disenfranchise residents.   

When you talk to a stranger who pointedly looks away and engages in another activity, you get a message that you will not be heard.   It may be rude but it's not bullying.  When you talk to the mayor during Good and Welfare, and she pointedly looks away and engages in scribbling, it looks like bullying.  It is a clear consistent message from an authority figure to a supplicant that you will be ignored.  Questions are only answered from approved residents, others are left unacknowledged.   There's a fair argument that the imbalance of power, the social cues and the political cues, constitute a form of bullying.  It is incumbent on those in authority to deal respectfully with those they claim to represent and our commission doesn't.  

I'd like this dynamic changed but given the  history, I don't see it happening.  

Kevin Vericker
October 10, 2013






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