Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We Don't Sell Our Votes

Quote from Commissioner Gonzalez, discussing why it was of the utmost importance to allow the commissioners accept private gifts up to $100 without reporting them.   "We don't sell our votes."  Okay.  Nobody asked him but, okay.  

The whole meeting was like that.  

During Good & Welfare, an investor got up to decry the "new people" who have pulled packets for election by saying that he heard really bad things about them and the investor thought this was terrible.  He also said everything was swell with the village and the current commission.  This was a sharp about face from his previous criticisms of the dais.  Plus it's not true.  

Sudden conversions are rare and I was curious where he got this information since just a week before, the same investor had told me how deeply he loathed the current administration and wanted to support the new ticket.  Then I found out the next day.  

In gratitude for this support, Completely unrelated to this, Harbor Island Commissioner Eddie Lim has proposed that the village allow the long dormant nightclub to be approved at 7904 West Drive, which would greatly benefit the investor while subjecting the ten floors of residential units below to a nightclub on their roof.   Seriously, it came out today that Eddie Lim is pushing for a second reading of the four year old ordinance making a night club legal at 7904 West Drive (The Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club).  Pure coincidence, I'm sure. 

But "We Don't Sell Our Votes". 

Then the commission amiably agreed to allow the village manager to spend the remaining Parks and Recreation Impact Fund to redo Paul Vogel Park for the third time.  No discussion.  It was put on the consent agenda.   

But "We Don't Sell Our Votes"  

Following that piece of "Let's spend the money in the dark park", the commission did pull the consent agenda item regarding renewing the auditor's contract, despite the issue of this being poor fiscal practice to retain the same auditors for more than three years.  They said it was because it would totally be a hassle to get new auditors, which is sort of the point.  Better to stick with what you have so you know what the auditors overlook in case you have to squirrel some aside. 

But "We Don't Sell Our Votes"  

Moving along, they had the actual discussion of raising the gift limits.  The commissioners are required to report gifts they receive from people wanting to do business with the village, people wanting favors or influence the village agenda, if the gift exceeds $25.   They don't have to turn them down, just report them.  

You see, four of the commissioners are very annoyed that a fifth commissioner has lodged ethics complaints about unreported gifts, meals, paid attendance and other issues.   Since  the fifth commissioner was out of town last night (Commissioner Chervony) it seemed like just the right time to close the curtain on what they get for free. 

Now they might have invoked the Katy Sorenson rule - "report it all" - but Jorge Gonzalez said they shouldn't have to report trivial stuff like a cup of coffee and a danish.  He didn't mention where that costs $24.99 but I'm sure he's enjoyed several very expensive snacks at the Heat Game last year or on the trip to Isparta, Turkey which was paid for by someone.   

Mayor Kreps then launched into a bitter tirade about how much money it costs the village when these complaints are filed and how absurd it is.  She then promised to keep detailed records on all the gifts she receives so there won't be any grounds for complaint.  Ha, Ha.  Just kidding.  She then voted to close the curtain on gifts less than $100.   

All four voted to accept up to $99.99 without any public accountability.  

But "We Don't Sell Our Votes"  

After 10 PM, there was only unprofitable business to conduct so they rushed through the rest of the agenda which was a pro forma approval of a project next to Channel 7.  The mayor got totally lost on her own agenda and heard all three items together while proposing an amendment not relevant to the item being discussed.   

In a final flourish, after taking off in January, and missing the meeting on June 10 in order to attend the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) conference in San Diego, which was held on June 26 through June 28, where she was definitely not selling her votes, the mayor and Eddie Lim decided to cancel the August meeting too because, hey, August is a slow market month for votes.  Note to the Mayor:  many people find airplanes a good way to cross the country.  I assume you hitchhiked because 16 days is a long time to travel to San Diego.  Even Amtrak and Greyhound is 4 days or so. And you were never actually elected, so should you really have gone?

Jorge Gonzalez voted no on the August break and was distraught when his colleagues stood against him.  

With that, the evening came to close and I walked home in the dark rainy night, secure in the knowledge that in North Bay Village "We Don't Sell Our Votes". It just looks that way.  

Kevin Vericker
July 9, 2014

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