Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Buck Stops Here But The Sidewalk Goes On

You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.  

At the Budget Workshop last week, the residents and Commissioner Duvall's request were clear.  We need to see performance on the part of the village.  

The subject was sidewalks - specifically on Treasure Island how the sidewalks are obstructed by overgrown foliage and how the cleaning of the sidewalks has simply stopped with no explanation.  The state sidewalks on the Causeway were also brought up.   

Instead of addressing the complete lack of enforcement to require that the property owner keep the sidewalk free of obstructions, and instead of contacting FDOT with a demand for them to fix their sidewalks, Village manager Frank Rollason once again dodged the issue.  He was quoted in today's Herald saying,

“I barely have enough to pay for our stuff. I’m not going to start paying for things that are under FDOT,”  Miami Herald May 29, 2014

This is a request that nobody made of him.  Nobody.  Instead we requested that existing laws be enforced. 

There is no budget impact to citing homeowners who block the sidewalks and none to requesting that the state address their problems.  None.  So instead of addressing the problem, Rollason rolled to the side and just straight up ignored the request.  This is typical of his management style.  Be aggressive, refuse to act, and mislead, instead of holding the code inspector and his own self responsible for lack of action.   

Kevin Vericker
May 29, 2014

Read more here:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Just Another North Bay Village Monday

Memorial Day is the most solemn of American holidays. It started in 1865 by recently freed slaves to honor those who had fallen in the fight for freedom. It was moved to its current last Monday in May only in 1971 but had been celebrated in every state prior to that, often as Decoration Day. For much of the nation, it's the unofficial start to summer and is often celebrated with barbecues, picnics, pool and beach events. And in much of the nation, with parades and remembrances of those who died too young for a free, prosperous, safe America.

In North Bay Village, the day goes by without a single acknowledgment from our village. Some houses, not many, fly the flag and some of us attend ceremonies in other cities to honor those who died, but here, nothing. No flag in front of the police building on Galleon nor the public works building next door. No flag in front of our village hall building, nor at the $6 million park. Certainly no decoration in front of Fortress 360, a condo association ruled by Commissioner Gonzalez. No proclamation from the mayor. Just a Monday off.

Kevin Vericker
May 26, 2014 – Memorial Day

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Complete Survey Results and Marketing Plan.

The Barry University BICED (Barry Institute for Community and Economic Development completed a survey which the Village Commission authorized.   There have been a number of posts about this but for those who like to see the source, I have shared and embedded it below.  For the complete survey and the marketing plan recommendations, click here to download or click on the Marketing Plan to access.  

Kevin Vericker
May 21, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Now that we know... More on the Survey

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson,  Journals

The Miami Herald writes today about the Barry University Survey presented at last week's Special Commission Meeting.   There is a lot of conversation about the survey and what it means.  The article does a reasonable job of describing the contents but its description of the commission reaction is a little puzzling.  Commissioner Gonzalez has this to say “We can’t right past wrongs in the blink of an eye,”  which is totally true but he has had two years to at least bring the major issues forward for discussion - cleanliness, speeding, Harbor Island parking, flood control, and crime watch - and each time these have been brought up by other commissioners or residents, Gonzalez has done precisely nothing.  Never held a workshop, stayed silent at  the Harbor Island Parking Workshop, nary a peep about flood control and he has done nothing to promote crime watch.  

Mayor Kreps expressed relief that the survey was finally done and now she knows what the residents want.  Good for her.  She's been there four years now and every time a resident has said anything about dirty streets, speed violations, the Harbor Island parking situation, our rotted out sewers and public safety, she has dismissed the residents as "negative."  But now there's a survey so, hey, a survey.  

Don't get me wrong.  I think the Barry students did a good job on the survey and there was nothing that surprised me in the results.  There was nothing that surprised the commission in the results either.  They heard it all before and did nothing.  

Two days before the survey was published, the commission sat in regular session.  I challenged them then to think about the upcoming survey and what it might say.  I focused on two points, questions that were not on the survey.  

  1. The commission spent an unbudgeted $49,000 to hold their meeting in the smaller, supposedly more comfortable site at 1666 JFK Causeway.  I asked if they thought that North Bay Village residents preferred to spend the money on this move, rather than funding the PAL, supporting Crime Watch and even doing the much needed Parking Study on Harbor Island, none of which has happened.  The silence was deafening. 
  2. The commission approved a $52,500 expenditure from the Parks Fund for Kimberley Horne to do a design to link the Bay Walk across and under the East Bridge.   I questioned why a design for a Bay Walk that does not exist and is not planned was being funded for a design that will not be executed.  That same money could have been used to fund the urgently needed renovation of the feces laden, flea ridden Tot Lot on Treasure Island.  I didn't know it was possible to add to the silence but they did as they voted to fund the study. 
 The survey was good but don't forget, Mayor Kreps has four years when she could have been talking about these things and pushing them through, Vice Mayor Lim the same, while Commissioners Gonzalez and Duvall have two years.  How did these subjects never come up?  The only one who has raised these subjects is Commissioner Chervony and he is pointedly ignored.  

The commission should not need a survey to know that a clean playground matters.  Commissioner Gonzalez is right.  The problems won't be solved in the blink of an eye or apparently a full election cycle.  They'll only be solved when the commission stops talking to itself and starts doing.  

Kevin Vericker
May 20, 2014

Read more here:

Friday, May 16, 2014

Survey Says...

Thursday night, students and faculty from the Barry Institute of Community Economic Development (BICED) presented their findings from the recent citizen survey.  I don't have the hard copy of that survey but have requested it so the following are from my notes.  

First, who replied?  336  NBV residents survey in total replied.  The demographics of the people replying were different than the village demographics in that 34% of the people replying were over 60, 50% described themselves as non-hispanic white, 81% had a bachelor's degree or higher, and most reported higher incomes than the census average.  This tends to be the sort of person who fills out surveys and is involved in civic affairs so that's not a bad demographic reply.   

Second, what do the survey responders see as the major issues facing the village?  In broad terms, 

  • 31% are concerned about Cleanliness
  • 30% are concerned about Traffic Control
  • 30% are concerned about Flooding
  • 21% are concerned about Parking
  • 30% are concerned about Public Safety
Note:  this does not add up to 100 because it is a report of the severity of the issue, not a top ranking.  

The students then presented what's known in business speak as a SWOT analysis, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  This is essentially a categorized analysis of the findings and I have to admit, I was busier listening than writing so any inaccuracies are mine.   

  • Location.  Both the convenience of access to other parts of Miami-Dade and living on islands surrounded by Biscayne Bay are huge strengths.  
  • Stability - Most of the respondents are long time residents.
  • Crime - or rather lack of.  We are a very safe town.  
  • Absence of business growth.
  • Community Involvement.
  • Parking.
  • Lack of parks and recreation.
  • Poor communication with the village administration and commission.

  • Our location is ideal to attract new, high profile businesses.
  • NBV could develop tourism.
  • NBV could develop deep partnerships with local civic organizations.
  • Flooding and Climate Change Issues.
  • Downturns in the regional economy.
  • Rules and Regulations make Infrastructure Development difficult. *  
  • The Village's reputation is bad.  
* On this one, I asked for more detail but there was not much behind it.  I would love to know more.  

Finally, they compared us to North Miami Beach and Bay Harbor Islands.  What they found was that we do not have the same level of business and cultural events as North Miami Beach, and both have better parks and recreation access.  

There was more detail and I hope to get the whole report soon.  

Some interesting specific recommendations.  The group noted that there is no communication strategy from the village to the residents beyond the web page and occassional emails.   

The students recommended that the village redo the web page, create a social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google Plus.   These methods should be used to both communicate out (the village informs residents) and communicate in (the residents inform/question the village.)  

This has been a long complaint of the village residents and it's ironic that the numbers backing this up were presented in a meeting attended by 4 residents.  The village needs to be everywhere.  On Facebook for the old people, Instagram for the young, Twitter for the obsessive and while everyone is on Google Plus, I don't know anyone who uses it but I guess there too.   The web page needs to be usable, text messaging matters and e-mail for the oldz is a good idea.   These are cheap, easy to use channels.  

There's a lot more and I hope the other 3 residents who were there chime in.  I will post the report when I get it.  

Kevin Vericker
May 16, 2014


Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's Raining Dollars From Heaven

Tuesday night's commission meeting happened in the snazzy new chambers which has everything but bottle service in the VIP area.  Located in the old Sabadell Bank branch at 1666 JFK Causeway, the village laid out a cool unbudgeted $49,000 to hold the four hour long meeting there.  And what a great investment!  New, hard chairs, no TV service yet, and a cozy compact space because why would you want to have enough room for residents to come when the space can be better used for people who get money from the village?   There was room for the money hounds to praise Mrs. Kreps and that's what matters in this regime.

Total for move to cramped new quarters:  $49,000                 *budgeted $0
Total to fund the Police Athletic League:  $0                          *budgeted $35,000
Total to fund the Crime Watch Program:   $0                          *budgeted $10,000

First the principal of Treasure Island Elementary School got up to thank the commission for the $130,000 we have spent on the school IB program, a program vehemently rejected by Mrs. Kreps in the past, and talked about the conferences, travel and shopping the teachers were able to do with the bucks.   What she didn't include was how well or poorly the students are performing and I would have been much more pleased to hear that. 

Total Village Funding for the IB Program:   $130,000             *budgeted $130,000
Number of Performance Indicators:                0                        *Mrs. Kreps opposes measurements.

Moving along, the village passed a resolution authorizing $52,000 from the Parks and Rec Reserve to fund a design by their good friends at Kimley-Horn.  The design is for two pedestrian plazas on either side of the bridge to Miami Beach and a walkway under the bridge to connect the Bay Walk which we don't have.   There is nowhere to connect.  The Bridgewater, like the rest of the waterfront condos, has refused to comply with their zoning abatements that require them to open the waterfront to the public.   But Mrs. Kreps said "We have to think of the future." and it rained over a $100,000 (half us, half state) on Kimley-Horn who are dear friends of hers.  

In the meantime, the Tot Lot on Treasure Island is filled with cat feces, fleas, snakes and vermin.   Seriously, I brought the grandniece there and she came back covered in flea bites.   There are no plans to fix it.   The Rec Plan, in place for two years, has not moved forward at all.  

Total Village Funding for the Thought Experiment:  $52,500    *budgeted from the Parks fund.
Total Village Funding to repair the Tot Lot:                $0            *budgeted but not even planned.
Total Village Funding to develop Rec Plan:                $0             *budgeted but not planned.  

The police have access to something called the Law Enforcement Trust Fund.  This is money for capital expenditures to improve public safety.  The public on Treasure Island has been demanding Closed Circuit Television and Crime Watch.   The public on Harbor Island has been desperate for a parking  solution.   Both of these are prime candidates for LETF moneys.   Instead, the PD is spending $12,500 on Magic Water to baptize our appliances so if they are stolen, and if they are pawned at a shop that has a magic decoder reader, and if the water works, we might could get them back.  And they are planning to distribute it through the Crime Watch which does not yet exist in most of the village because they don't have funds.   Also, they are putting GPS in the police cars in a village that is .84 of a square mile.  

Total Village Funding for GPS and Baptismal Water:   $43,500   *not budgeted and not asked for. 
Total Village Funding for CCTV Cameras:                    $0            *universally requested

Remember, our taxes went up 15%, our water 16% .  

Finally, Richard Chervony spoke about the urgent need for new wastewater, hardened infrastructure and undergrounding the electrical grid.  There's a good breakdown here:  Miami Herald May 15. As is their custom, Mrs. Kreps did not look at Chervony while he made his proposal and did not comment on it.  She simply pretended to be reading the agenda instead.   The only commissioner who acknowledged hearing it was the Vice Mayor Eddie Lim who must be getting tired of the mean girl antics on the dais.  There's a problem and he knows it. 

Total Village Funding to Fix the Sewers:                    $0            *State is giving $600,000

So not a good night for North Bay Village but a very good night for the friends of Mrs. Kreps. 

Kevin Vericker
May 15, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

What do May flowers bring?

The Commission Meeting is up tomorrow at 7:30 PM in our brand new commission chambers at 1666 JFK Causeway (same building as Oggi).   Used to be the Sabadell Bank but they closed.  Since there were no businss broker fees to be made banks interested in North Bay Village (seriously, they asked around), the commissioners decided to spend an unbudgeted $49,000 to rent the space and trick it out for their use because the chairs were uncomfortable at the Treasure Island Elementary School location. 

 Of course, you remember how on the survey, which will be presented on Thursday night, the residents of North Bay Village were asked the question "Would you rather the commission spend $49,000 for softer chairs or they fund the Police Athletic League for $35,000, the Crime Watch for $10,000 and spend some money at Bed Bath & Beyond on cushions?" I don't remember it either but it must have been on there because instead of funding the PAL and the Crime Watch, they spent it on snazzier digs.   Maybe it will help them better focus. 

 Also, I don't remember a question on the survey that said "Do you want a bank in town or would you rather that the village claim the only building set up for that?" Still, it must have been on there. 

What else? Last month, the police chief went to the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, federal money we get for policing activities, and having listened carefully to what the residents want, decided to spend the money on magic water to baptize our goods in case they are stolen and in case somebody notices and in case somebody has the secret decoder ring to read the device and then it might get returned. They did not spend the money of Closed Circuit TV cameras at the entrances of Treasure Island. 

Nope, they didn't. Must have been a hidden survey question. 

 Tomorrow night the PACE program, Property Assessed Clean Energy Program is up. I didn't attend the workshop due to a schedule conflict. It should be an interesting discussion. 

 The commission is being asked to approve Kimberley-Horne to design two Baywalk Plazas that will never be built. Since the waterfront condos refuse to open access as they are required to by code, what's the point? Money will be spent. I guess that's the point. 

 Speaking of money, congratulations to the North Bay Village Scholarship Fund. This year there's an additional $1,871.53 scholarship. You see, three of the commission members decided to take vacation in January and two of them, Eddie Lim and Wendy Duvall donated their salary to the fund. Another commissioner, Richard Chervony  decided to do the same even though he did not call in off, and it was topped off by a resident, a local loudmouth whom the mayor finds negative. 

Our Mayor, Connie Kreps, who also called in for vacation in January, declined as it was her birthday, a previously unnoted NBV holiday apparently, plus she personally supports two small businesses that she didn't name in North Bay Village.  So Mrs. Kreps pocketed the paycheck for not showing up, but on the positive side, a kid on the way to college is getting some coin to help out. Thanks to Commissioners Chervony, Lim and Duvall. 

There's more.  There's always more.  But that's the main stuff.  Spending sprees.

Kevin Vericker
May 12, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

PACE - It Seems Like More of a Shelbyville Idea

North Bay Village is considering joining the PACE program which stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy Program.  It is designed to make the long term financing of energy efficient improvements on buildings simpler to get for the consumer and easier to collect for the contractor.  It does this by the somewhat unconventional means of adding the debt to the buildings property taxes as a special assessment, which ensures that the contractor will have primary repayment status in the event of default and allows owners who may not have credit access to finance expensive improvements with a 3 - 4 year break even point.   

The program in Miami-Dade already includes Cutler Bay, Miami, South Miami, Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, and Miami Shores.  The question now is should North Bay Village join these other cities?  My belief is Yes.  The program is far from perfect and has some strong downsides but overall, we have to start improving our energy infrastructure in this country and urgently in Florida.  We can't wait for FPL.  

There are downsides:
  • The program is not good for individual mortgage holders.  This is because the Federal Housing Finance Administration which buys 70% of the residential mortgages in the United States won't finance a house with a PACE lien, so the advantage of passing the cost along goes away.  
  • There is risk to the village.  If the property owner stops paying taxes, the village still has the obligation to pay the contractor while tax bond sales are made.  The village assumes part of the risk.
  • The rates are good but not great, somewhere between 4 and 7 % interest, which is high. 
 If we go ahead, I don't think it will be a popular or even important program.  Our federal, state, county and municipal governments need to do much more, the average homeowner would be better off using private loans and energy credits, the village needs to concentrate on hardening our infrastructure, but having said all that, we are not getting the perfect solutions by waiting so we should take what we can now.  PACE is not a bad first step.

Kevin Vericker
May 1, 2014

Extra points if you get the Simpsons reference in the title.