Monday, August 25, 2014

PACE Financing

So regular readers of this blog know that I had some reservations about PACE, the property assessed clean energy.  The way it works is that instead of being a loan to make environmentally beneficial improvements to your home or building, it is assessed as an additional property tax paid off over an agreed period of years.  In most cases, if you sell your house, you sell it with the assessment, although there are issues still FHA supported mortgages, this does not affect most homeowners.  

At the time, I spoke in favor of North Bay Village's participation in the PACE program as a "better than nothing" solution and it is not perfect but it's a damn sight better than it was presented to us.  In conversation with Mark Ogres who is promoting the PACE program, I have found out how well it can fit with the specific issues we face on our islands, particularly in the hardening of our homes' roofs, seawalls, hurricane protection and the host of issues associated with living in hurricane prone area.  

Mark wrote to me and said:
North Bay Village now has available a powerful and economical fund to address issues in the Village. The PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy Fund) is mostly noted for funding of energy related needs such as new air conditioners and solar energy. Unique to Florida the fund can pay for many things related to protection from hurricanes, most importantly to North Bay Village this means: re-roofing, hurricane windows and shutters, elevating (raising up) buildings, seawall replacement and shoring up of docks/piers.
The money is not credit based, it funds improvements 100% and it is tax deduct able.  The only requirements are: 10% equity n property, current on mortgage and taxes and no bankruptcy in three years.  The money is a self-imposed assessment that goes on your taxes and carries forward with the property.  This would mean for a seawall you could put it in, pay nothing for almost 1 1/2 years and then make an annual payment once a year for 5-25 years or until it is sold. For roofing and other hurricane protection measures many find that with the rebates from the power company and the savings from insurance - it works out great. State required savings on insurance premiums, including Citizens Insurance, can be as much as 70%.
You guys know me.  I challenged him each point and you know what, this stuff is good.  I'm looking forward to talking with him more.  I've invited him to post on the Face Book Group, North Bay Village Residents Speak,  and you're  going to hear a lot more about this program soon.  

Kevin Vericker
August 25, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No Can Do - The Downside of Positivity

Our village has fallen into the habit of "No Can Do".   No matter how badly the residents want something, no matter how often the commission instructs, no matter how obvious the need, our commission has come to accept "No can do" as a reasonable answer.   

Food Trucks - This wildly popular new trend came to North Bay Village last spring.  A local developer, Mr. Barbagallo, generously offered his property as a temporary place for the Food Trucks and the residents poured in.   In July, when Shuckers reopened, they reclaimed the space for their parking and according to the village manager, that was that.  No more food trucks for us.  Some suggestions were floated:  
  • Persuade Shuckers to forego the additional parking one Wednesday per month, perhaps calling it "Food Trucks Presented By Shuckers".   No can do. 
  • Open the village municipal lot for the Food Trucks one Wednesday per month.  No can do. 
  • Seek another spot on the Causeway, say the Lexi Parking lot.  No can do.  
Rather than find a solution for this very popular event, the answer was "No can do."  

PAL - Four years ago, in September 2010,  the police chief summarily "suspended" the Police Athletic League over the strenuous objections of the parents.   For three years, the commission has directed the reinstatement of the program and funded it.  This year, there was not even a token attempt in the budget.  No explanation.  No can do.  
The Parking Problem - After a disastrous public meeting when the police chief could not even provide the base line statistics for the parking usage and demand, the subject was dropped.  No can do.  
Bay Front Access - The so called "Bay Walk" plan has been in place for nearly 10 years.  It calls for a single, unified walkway for the northern bayfront on Treasure Island.   It also calls for the waterfront condos to provide public access to the bay.  The largest condo, the 360, closed the access and the village response to demand for reopening is "No can do."   
Dog Park - The final "No can do" hasn't come down yet.   But if you read the article in today's Miami Herald (click here) you can see the groundwork being laid.  
  • Putting any money at all in the budget to meet this demand?  Village manager Frank Rollason's response was "not one single thin dime."  No can do.  
  • Working to get the right permissions if there is indeed a problem with the temporary space being offered.  Village manager Frank Rollason's response "“If he can legally have that there, God bless him.”.  No can do.  
  • Using the municipal lot which is currently employed storing parked police cars and bounty seized during drug raids.  Per Village manager Frank Rollason, the lot can't be used for anything but a government building even though it is being used a parking lot right now.  No can do.     
A "Study" to Build A Troll Park Under The East Metal Grate Bridge - CAN DO.  Take $50,000 for our parks fund, and $50,000 from state money and throw it away on a bizarre walkway where North Bay Village Residents can relax in the evening by strolling and sitting in a dark, damp, stunningly noisy walkway under a metal gate bridge.  THAT WE CAN DO! THAT'S HOW POSITIVITY WORKS - IF YOU WANT IT, YOU GET IT.   

Kevin Vericker
August 20, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Let There Be Light (And Water)

Last night, the Village completed the three year long project to plug in a light on the corner of Hispanola Ave and JFK Causeway.  The event was marked by an inauguration called a "Monument Lighting Ceremony" and was attended by 11 residents and a slightly larger contingent of paid employees.   

The street was blocked off to manage the throng of 20 or so. 

The mayor, a leading thought leader in the power of positivity, made a short speech blaming the lack of light on the previous administration and describing three grueling years of planning, building and execution to put a light in.  Then at 8:30, the switch was thrown and there was light. 

The mayor proudly showed off the biggest accomplishment of the last four years. 

The Positive People know that this was the most important project in North Bay Village, unlike the Negative People who responded to the survey commissioned by the mayor and who show up regularly at the Village Commission meetings.   These Nattering Nabobs of Negativism inexplicably prefer to ask for improved public safety, the restoration of the PAL program, a plan for the Causeway, parks, clean streets and fixes to the sewers.  

Jorge Gonzalez's advice to the Negatives is "If you don't like it, move." and our Mayor, The Arch Beaconess of Light, prefers to dwell on the project that worked. 

In other news, the sewer main in front of Sukura on the Causeway broke yesterday morning and as of the Monument Lighting Ceremony time, was continuing to spill raw sewage on to the Causeway.   

Kevin Vericker
August 14, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Turn Off The Dark - North Bay Village Style

Mayor Kreps is proudly celebrating the sum total of her four years on the commission tomorrow night and we are all invited.   At 8:30 PM, the Treasure Island Sign on the corner of Hispanola &  JFK Causeway will be lit up.  That's right.  Electricity is coming to North Bay Village. 

At this taxpayer sponsored re-election event civic monument dedication (that's right - apparently the street sign is a Monument)- there will be fun for all ages as the village serves light snacks and refreshments.

The street is shut down from 7:30 PM to 9 PM which I'm sure you know from the absolutely no signs on the street nor communications to the neighborhood.  (That will change tomorrow as soon as the people "who never read my blog" read my blog.) 

I hope it works out for Mrs. Kreps better than her last "Lady of the Light"  escapade when the village spent $35,000 for emergency holiday lighting last year and none of the lights worked on Hispanola.  The lights were out from Dec 26 in Jan 2.  

Now you might not be a positive person like our mayor, and you might be saying, "But we were surveyed and we said we wanted the streets clean, access to the bay, recreational opportunities,  a plan for the causeway, and better police protection.  How is this helping those things?"  Well, shut up.  The mayor is throwing a reelection rally village party with your tax money.  So enjoy it.  What's wrong with you?  

I hope you'll be there.  I certainly will.  

Kevin Vericker
August 12, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

Your August Calendar

 Youth Services and Education Board August 5 - 

Well this has been cancelled since last November when the Village Manager gutted it.  After all, there's nothing to do since there are no Youth Programs in the 2015 Budget, and Treasure Island Elementary School fell to a 'D' this year.  Just move along.  It's all in good hands.

Food Trucks August 6 - 

Cancelled - No More Food Trucks because the Village can't figure where to put them.  

Well, they do have this huge unused lot owned by the village.  But they don't want to deal with the mess and people using it and stuff.  So no food trucks for us! 

City Lot on Harbor Island - Just a Few Cars Parked There.  Not for our use.

Commission Meeting August 12 - 

Cancelled - the Commission cancelled for vacation - first January, now August.

Sweet gig!  That translates to two full months off per year for vacation.  Nice Job.

Still On - The National Night Out August 5 at 6 PM.

Looking forward
The National Night Out, an event featuring a caravan of police cars riding around the Village with their lights on, bouncy houses and other critical public safety measures will take place tomorrow at Paul Vogel Park, 6 PM.  

Events That May Still Be On - 

The Business Development Advisory Board on August 20 at 6:30 PM
The Community Enhancement Board Meeting on August 21 at 6:30 PM
The Citizens Budget & Oversight Board Meeting on August 27 at 6 PM.  

And a To-Be-Announced Event -

I hate to ruin the surprise but the Village is planning a Monument Lighting Ceremony to plug in the light at the corner of Hispanola Ave and the Causeway.  It will be a festive occassion marking the introduction of electricity to that corner.  Nobody can agree on the dates yet but if they do, I know I'll be marking my calendar in ink. 

Kevin Vericker
August 4, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

School Days and the Budget

On Tuesday night, the Miami-Dade School District presented their improvement plan for Treasure Island Elementary School.  Like all good plans, it is pretty simple to understand and built on a solid foundation of experience and knowledge.  "Simple to understand" does not mean that the plan is simple.  It's not.  It is a lot of work and work that needs doing.  The School District is taking the deterioration of Treasure Island Elementary seriously and it was refreshing to see that the mayor did not again use the meeting about this serious issue for political grandstanding and politics of personal destruction.  

Martin Karp, our school board rep who has taken a strong interest in fixing the problem at TIES and Iraida Mendez Cartaya, Associate Superintendent for the M-D School district were there. while none of the four parents, including Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco,  who were shocked and appalled that NBV residents were worried about the decline of the school, bothered to show up to hear the remedial plan.  But then they only show when summoned and the mayor may not have wanted these antics during the adult time.  

Anyway the plan is here and you should review it.  Action Plan-Treasure Island Elementary School

I have one concern about the plan.  It does not formalize communication channels to the parents and the community.  I wrote to Dr. Karp, our school board member, about this concern and hope that the school administration takes this seriously.  Last year there was no communication at all to the residents funding the IB program and this is a real problem. Even at this meeting, Dr. Krubitch said nothing. 

We need to watch this closely.  

The millage rate stays the same on our budget.  But the tax revenues are set to rise by a cool 13.63% because the properties are appraising higher.  There will be a net reduction for homesteaded properties, which only account for about 15% of total tax revenue, but the other properties, rentals, businesses etc. will find their costs rising by 13.63%.  This follows last years tax rise of 22.6% and means that life for many of us who might be renters, users of North Bay Village businesses and others, the basic cost of being here gets more expensive once again. 

Somehow the commission believes that since the millage rate didn't change, they have cut taxes.  Magical thinking unsupported by math.   In the meantime, the budget does not restore the PAL program, add any rec services at all, nor does it include any money for a dog park or other programs the residents want.  But everyone gets a raise.  

The Village Manager explained that it has gotten more expensive to run the city.  The inflation rate is 3.6%  for the last 2 years so naturally we need to raise taxes ten times that amount (36.2% in 2 years) and cut services just to make ends meet.  I'm sure all of you have experienced a 36.2% increase in your personal income over the last two years so it's no trouble at all.  

As Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez said at the last budget meeting, "if people don't like paying taxes here, they should move."   Words of wisdom, are they not?  

Kevin Vericker
August 1, 2014