Monday, April 28, 2014

Baynanza Clean Up

Saturday was the Baynanza, a countywide effort to clean the bay islands of the trash left behind by park users.   It's a large event with people of all ages who care about the bay and the quality of life here in our increasingly fragile ecosystem.   I signed up along with some buddies and a number of other North Bay Village residents.    

The day started out (and ended) beautifully.  Mario Garcia, Jorge Brito and I met up at NBV's preferred breakfast bistro, the Hess Station, and from there walked to Pelican Island on the Causeway.  The first thing that jumped out at us was that there's trash everywhere on the Causeway.  Bottles, wrappers, plastic bags, and other junk discarded on the side of the road.  Garcia a little obsessive and he started picking up as we walked and shamed Jorge and I into doing the same.  By the time we got to the sign in station, we were already carrying several bags of trash. 

At the sign in station, we met up with Village Manager Frank Rollason, and Commissioners Richard Chervony and Eddie Lim. 
Rollason manned the North Bay Village Welcome Table while the five of us piled into a boat to go to the island of Quayside, North Miami, along with about 6 others, a mix of HS students and community volunteers.  It was a hot day, getting sunnier and more humid as the day went on.

We got put to work right away.  We broke up into groups and scoured the island and it was amazing the trash we found.  My best discovery was a pair of high heeled sandals that looked expensive (must have been a fun picnic if you leave your Manolos behind) while the kids found parts of what may have been a house - carpets, other things.  
It's amazing the carelessness of people who come out in small boats and trash the place.  It's the simplest thing to carry a trash bag and spend ten minutes cleaning up after yourself.  
Commissioners Lim and Chervony got in and picked and sorted with the best of us.   All in all about 20 people in three hours got most of the trash.  And it was fun.   Dirty, hot and fun.   

Seeing the Bay in its glory, being with like minded people, getting out and moving these old bodies for a cause, good for the soul.   After three hours, hot and tired and having turned the island over to a crew led by County Commissioner Audrey Edmondson, my favorite part happened.  We came back on an open boat through the bay.   
Jorge Brito
 After we landed, I thought it was over but now Brito, Garcia and Chervony were men on a mission.  As we walked back on the Causeway, they were each grabbed bags and kept cleaning the trash.   I was sort of peer pressured into it and resentfully joined.   

It's time for another cleanup.  We have to clean the Causeway.  Not just the vacant parts.  There's trash all over the lots on Treasure Island, even occupied ones and we need to tidy our own house next.  I hope we can have this event sooner rather than later.  
Richard Chervony, Mario Garcia, Jorge Brito and Fernando from ATT&T

In another community note, for the first time I joined the Critical Mass Bike Ride Friday.   I loved it.  I know how many people were inconvenienced by it but as a bicyclist and pedestrian, my daily life is harassed by cars and buses dominating the road pushing me around and it was fun to have a street to just the 3,000 or more bicyclists.   When 3,000 people take to the streets saying we want bicycle transit, the county needs to listen.   

I'm going to throw one thing out here.  What if the county and cities actually engaged.  Let's say that on certain days, Sunday for example, they closed down the left lanes of the Causeway in both directions, redid the traffic lights or stationed officers and the intersections and opened the streets to both cyclists and cars?  And maybe on Friday nights as well?

Bogota Colombia does it and it works beautifully.  Paris does it.  It's low cost, it's good for the community and it works.  That's what the cyclists are saying - give us room.  

Kevin Vericker
April 28, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

What We Wanted In the Survey

May will be an exciting month for North Bay Village.  First the Barry Survey is going to be presented to definitively show that the people of North Bay Village want things like police protection, access to our open spaces and clean streets.  Since our commission and administration have failed to deliver these and instead used our money to move village hall back and forth, pay off people they didn't fire, attend galas, and give raises all around, there's no money for these things but the survey questions took this into account and asked us if we would pay more to have these things that we used to have.  

Then the first budget hearing will follow on its heels where how much to raise our taxes will be the question of the night and any, any discussion of fiscal discipline and results will be squashed by the commission.   Of course, whatever is presented there is entirely fictitious.  

Speaking of fictions, last year our straight shootin' village manager, Frank Rollason, sternly told the commission last budget season that he would not be bringing any new business that was unbudgeted before the commission, except and only if it were an emergency.

When he proposed that the village stop using the Treasure Island Elementary School auditorium (free) and instead proposed a move to 1666 JFK Causeway because the chairs are more comfortable and nobody could figure out how to get an internet feed to broadcast the meetings, it must have been an emergency.  He told the commissioners that it would only cost a net $9,000 so as instructed, they voted yes.   

Later Rollason discovered that, oops, the real cost is $49,000, he decided not to bring it back for discussion because it went from Emergency to Crisis.   His other massive screw ups - getting the budget wrong three times and needing three meetings to make it all legal, not being prepared for parking workshops, laying out unbudgeted thousands so one commissioner can claim he got palm trees donated, spreading the news about the widespread phone tapping the village was engaged in, - have all passed unremarked by the commission but one more embarrassment?  He hastily polled the commissioners to let them know that he had once again cost the village tens of thousands of unbudgeted but none of them saw fit to, like, discuss it.   So it's all good there.  

Here's what are not on the boards so far for May:
  • Harbor Island Parking
  • Crime Watch
  • Recreation Programs
  • Sidewalk Cleaning

You know, stuff we only get once we're  through paying for what the village manager and the voices in Mayor Kreps's head say matters.  

Kevin Vericker
April 25, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Trolls Have Started

I started this blog in the naive hope that having open, opinionated discussions about the politics in North Bay Village is useful.  I still believe that.   One aspect of our politics that I hated then and hate even more now is the anonymous troll, comments that add nothing, slanders, and shocking revelations without sources.   

Mayor Kreps as one of the founding mothers of the Citizens For Full Disclosure was responsible for much of this nasty business.  The CFD consistently sent out unsigned emails alleging crimes great and small without any backup or any signatures, a classic bullying tactic.   More sinister than that, these cyber messages were often accompanied by old fashioned hate mail, sent from an untraceable return address (usually) to targeted individuals containing threats or insults.  In one case, my address was used as the return address in a childish attempt to annoy me.   (BTW, that's also federal mail fraud but the USPS won't investigate without a police complaint and North Bay Village Police would not file one.)  

As we gear up for an election in 2014, the first election in which Mayor Kreps is likely to face actual opposition, someone is sending anonymous snail mails revealing an old and settled question about another commissioner deemed to be in opposition to the mayor and who is rumored to have his eye on the mayor's seat.   

At the same time, at LEOAFFAIRS, someone else is anonymously posting information about another potential mayoral candidate and announcing plans to investigate him.   

Anonymous letter writers and other trolls are the lowest form of intellectual life.  I've taken a few hits for my highly opinionated writings, but let me assure you fearful little trolls, life is better in the sunshine.  

When you see unsigned attacks coming in the email or mail, pay them as much respect as the writer has for you.  Toss them.  Neither the attack nor the writer are worthy of decent people's time.   

Kevin Vericker
April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April Commission Meeting

Tuesday night's commission meeting was nothing if not streamlined.   Mayor Kreps has been searching for a formula that would make the meetings go faster and not involve any real discussions as she prefers that the city manager simply decide.   

In the last few months, the meeting order was changed so that Good & Welfare, the opportunity for Mayor Kreps to receive compliments and ignore citizens, was moved to be the first item on the agenda.  Her hope is that the community will go home then and not bother her.   Also she changed the order of public comment so as soon as an item is read, it is open for public comment, reducing the opportunity of the public to ask questions about the item discussion itself.   

While these admirable attempts have met with some success, if you define success as blocking out other opinions, it was deemed for this meeting to put a different order in place without a resolution, something required by our charter.   

This meeting was special because the mayor and city manager had lined up a group of people to make special presentations, including the police union and others, to compliment the mayor.  Kreps needs her warm and fuzzies and got them, so good for her.   

But... there was one presentation, made by the President of Optimists Club, to ask the city to help finance an annual directory that organization creates and distributes.  It was a well reasoned, intelligent presentation and the request was small.  Take $3,500 from the budgeted line item for communications and sponsor this well regarded directory.    Since $9,000 had been allocated for exactly such purposes, and since the city manager has done precisely nothing with the money, passing this should be simple and obvious.   

It passed unanimously but not before the mayor melted down.  You see, as part of her campaigning for re-election, her internal advisers, the voices the rest of us cannot hear, told her to recuse herself lest she be accused of favoring a club, the Optimists, to whom she has long belonged and she tried to do exactly that.  After the presentation, she gave the gavel to Vice Mayor Lim and started to leave the dais.   But the city attorney called her back and told her to sit down, she was just being dramatic.   

Mayor Kreps obeys orders and dutifully returned but clearly had not counted on having to participate, so instead of usual meltdown by around 10 PM, she lapsed into tongues around 8 PM and wasted everyone's time while pretending to think this through.   

Mayor Kreps opened public comment, and the public supports this.  Certainly I do.   But since she was off balance, she did not actually chair the discussion.  In fact, the whole discussion was held without a resolution being proposed.  That's new.   When they finally got to the point of putting in a resolution, she was unaware that there wasn't one.   In the meantime, Vice Mayor Lim thought it would be a good idea to take the money out of the school budget but Kreps quickly slapped him and he got quiet.   

By 9PM, still being nowhere on the agenda, the mayor was so tuckered she declared a break and I left.   I knew what was to follow:

  • After being told clearly by the community that the residents want CCTV cameras on Treasure Island, and the re-establishment of Crime Watch, the police chief understood this as a demand to buy magic water to baptize our appliances and hold them safe against harm, and to put GPS devices in the police cars as the cops often claim to be in North Bay Village when they are in fact not.    This passed.  
  • There would be nothing on Harbor Island Parking.  
  • There would be nothing on the $40,000 mistake the manager made in negotiating the new lease. 
  • There would be nothing on the phone tapping.   
Couple of other things too.  The meeting went on to 12:45 AM but when Mayor Kreps has lost it by 8 PM, it's not going to be productive.    Sad.  

Kevin Vericker
April 10, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thinking Outside The Lines

I'll cop to it.  I was suspicious when I came home and found the curb in front of my house haphazardly painted, that maybe it was personal.  But after a walk today, it seems like all the sidewalks were similarly vandalized.  In fact, mine's better than most.  

North Bay Village.  Never color in the lines. 

Kevin Vericker
April 8, 2014