Monday, December 21, 2015

Carlos Noriega As The Next North Bay Village Police Chief

The Village Manager has made his recommendation for Police Chief, Carlos Noriega, the  former police chief for Miami Beach.

For those who don't know the history, the North Bay Village Police Department are recovering from one of the worst police chiefs the village has had, Robert Daniels.  During his tenure, Daniels deepened rifts in the police department, alienated the cops, systematically disengaged the cops from community involvement including eliminating the PAL, refused to engage with the criminal and security issues at the condos, and never met with the community.  An all around poor chief who the village finally bit the bullet on and fired him last year, costing us nearly $200,000 in severance due to his most likely illegal contract.

Now that this sad chapter is closed, residents have noted that the cops are talking to the public again and that there is better enforcement of our traffic laws on the Causeway.  Internally, the personnel problems are not gone away but have calmed down noticeably without the ongoing drama of constant arbitrary disciplinary actions and we're not getting new lawsuits.

The interim chief Brian Collins is in large part responsible for this and he has diligently and intelligently guided the police department through the transition.  Collins shows up prepared at every commission meeting with facts, figures and answers.  Collins does not promise things he can't do and does the things he promises.  

If you're wondering why Brian Collins is not the natural choice for police chief, me too.  I've asked him and his answer is pretty straightforward.  He doesn't want to.  He did not apply and he's not going to.  Which is a shame for us.

In the meantime, after a search with the committee headed by the village manager and two long serving police officials from other cities, the recommendation came down for Carlos Noriega.

In Miami Beach, Noriega was known as a strong administrator who made sure the police were treated correctly.  His work was cut out for him there as the Miami Beach PD had historically operated like a small town police force and the Beach had changed so much that it needed professionalization and to get the cops out of the politics.  People who worked for him and with him have nothing but the best things to say about his skills as an organizational leader - bright, realistic, flexible and hard as nails when faced with unprofessional behaviors.

So it should be good, right?  But there's another side to being a police chief and that's serving the community, all of it.  Noriega's public record in this area is worrying.

Noriega left at the end of 2011 after some very bad years for the Miami Beach Police Department.

These issues included:
  • Two policemen, later fired, who beat up a tourist near Flamingo Park.  The cops were in plainclothes, making an arrest in the park of someone who was identifiably gay.  The suspect was handcuffed and the two men were beating him.  The tourist, not knowing they were cops, called 911 and in turn the two cops arrested the tourist and reportedly beat him.  

  • During Urban Beach Weekend, the police were criticized for aggressive and hostile behavior with the implication being that it was racially motivated.  It culminated in a civilian killed by a cop.  Now the guy killed was behaving dangerously but the strangest thing about the case is it was 3 full days before the police found the gun he allegedly had, in the dead guy's car.  

  • Three beachgoers were run over by an officer who was joyriding an ATV with a woman he just met while on duty.  The subsequent internal affairs investigation found 5 other officers had falsified time cards and other records during the night in question.  
The Miami New Times is one of my least favorite news sources but you can see these and other incidents at this link:  Miami New Time Articles on Noriega

Reading through the incidents, what stands out was the amount of time and apparent resistance to engaging the community when these incidents happened.  

The LGBT community was forming an important part of the Miami Beach but had long complained about overly aggressive police tactics targeting the community and when the incident at Flamingo Park came down, it was a lawsuit and six months before Noriega met with the community to discuss these issues.   

Urban Beach Weekend markets directly to African American tourists, a group long made to feel unwelcome on the beach and regardless of the lawlessness that might be associated with any gathering of hip hop and parties, there was little attempt to engage the community, including the organizers, and the aftermath seemed like closing the gates.  

North Bay Village is not Miami Beach.  I doubt that there would be much reason to be concerned about large scale segments of the community being targeted by our police.  They know us too well.  

But we have suffered much from the antipathy former Chief Daniels showed towards the community at large and with a new police chief, these questions have to be addressed.   The new chief needs to discuss his plans to re-engage the community and how he will deal with community needs.  I would love to hear him talk about:
  • The PAL
  • Create a condo investigative unit.
  • Promote outreach to the elderly and disabled. 
  • Really support the Crime Watch initiative.  
  • Develop relationships with the residents on the street and with the businesses.
  • Work with the community on the troublesome parking and short term rental problems  
If the search committee, or even the administration overall, had involved the community in talking about what we want from our police, these questions would have been raised, but that's not how this village manager works. There should have been workshops on the subject, and certainly there are talented residents who could have could have been part of the group.  

The commission will be discussing the proposed hire at the January 12 meeting and the community needs to turn out.  These questions have to be asked.

Kevin Vericker
December 21, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14 - P Day

December 14, 2015 Today begins the next chapter in the ongoing saga of Harbor Island Parking.  According to sources, at 6 PM tonight the police will start issuing actual citations to cars parked on Harbor Island not displaying a parking permit.  

The fine is rumored to be $28 and after 4 violations the car may be impounded.  

In order to qualify for a parking permit, you must live in a building that does not provide off street parking, or does not provide enough off street parking to meet your needs, and live on Harbor Island, or maybe work there or possibly another reason.  

The whole procedure is helpfully explained by the many signs that have been put up on Harbor Island (two? I've only seen one) and if you dig through the web page and download the PDF with the program and read it through.  Here's a link if you can't get all the way through it.  

Question 1:   What about Visitor Parking?  I sometimes have visitors.  

Answer:  Once you know you are having a visitor, first dust the place and put on a clean t-shirt.  I cannot overstress that.  Then you should contact the police at 305 758-2626 and give them the license plate number of  the visitor's car and how long you expect the visit to last.  They will note this and try not to ticket your visitor. You can also email them but the address is not yet decided.  

Page 7 of the document:
(3) Visitor Parking Permits;Visitor Parking Permits will be free of charge and will authorize parking for a maximum of three days. Visitor Parking Permits shall be available 24 hours per day/7 days per week at the Police Department Dispatch Center located at 1841 Galleon Street/second floor. Residents may either apply in person with proof of residency or they may apply electronically by providing required residency documents to: (e-mail address & procedure to be determined).
Question 2:   I live here part time or my kids have a car or my health care overnight assistant needs to park here or my it's so complicated boy/girlfriend sometimes stay with me ...

Answer:  Call Village Hall at (305) 756-7171 and ask to speak with the Village Manager and explain your situation and hope you get a permit.  

Question 3:  I live in 7904 West Drive, the Bayshore Yacht Tennis and Club.  We are being evicted from the rented parking lot across the street in 4 days which doesn't matter since I could not get a permit anyway as there are 179 units and only 120 or so spaces.  Do I get parking?  

Answer:  No parking for you.  

Question 4: Seriously!  No parking for me just because I live at 7904 West Drive?  

Answer:  Yes,  you see, this whole program was designed to force the Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club to find or create off street parking.  The BYTC used to have off street parking but during the bankruptcy period stopped paying the owner of the lot and so they were evicted.  Now it's not clear if the Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club was ever actually legally obligated to provide off street parking, and nobody can find the original documents that the BYTC needs to provide that parking.   But the program is going ahead anyway, with the village hoping that the punishment will effect a change and force the private owner of the lot to rent against his will to the building.  

Question 5:  Is Al Coletta, the owner of the parking lot, legally obligated to rent it to the 7904 West Drive building for parking?  

Answer:  No.  He is not.  And it's not necessarily in his best interest to do so.  There is a long conflict between Al Coletta and the building over a variety of subjects - an illegal zoning of the penthouse, his rights to the marina, and the fact that the building stopped paying rent on the parking lot last time and many landlords prefer not to rent to people who stiffed them in the past.  
He still might do it.  In spite of the fact that he is being painted as the worst human being in North Bay Village, Coletta actually gives a damn about the place.  He has helped many times with municipal issues, been a voice for beautifying the village and supported causes that brought him no direct benefit.  Coletta just doesn't like getting knocked down, kicked in the ribs and then being told that he should give up his assets for free because it would be a nice thing.   Strangely, I suspect he might cooperate in an arrangement to fix the parking at least temporarily because basically, for all his gruffness, he's a pretty good guy and our mayor asked him to please, please consider the spirit of the holidays and not throw the cars out on the street.  So there's that.  

Question 6:  Well, I'm just glad I live on Treasure Island where parking can be a little funky but we still manage.  That's cool right?  

Answer:  No.  7525 East Treasure Drive is coming online shortly with 160 renovated apartments and 98 parking spaces.  Conservatively the demand will be for 240 spaces (1½ cars per unit) so that means 142 cars will need a place to park.  There is a rumor that the Grandview may not continue its lease with the flooded parking lot on the JFK Causeway so that will have an impact.  I'm sure the program will be equally well thought out several years after the crisis.  

Question 7:  I've noticed that in other places, like South Beach and Midtown Miami, where permit parking has been implemented that there is an established procedure for getting a parking permit online, that they provide residents with visitor decals and have a mix of street parking and municipal parking and commercial parking lots in walking distance from the destinations.  Also many of the large buildings were required to add a public parking component as a condition of their variances.  Did North Bay Village give any thought to making this a full scale parking plan to balance out the conflicting needs?  

Answer:  No. 

Kevin Vericker
December 14, 2015 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Politics and Parking

Commissioner Andreana Jackson
Andreana Jackson was appointed by the North Bay Village Commission to serve as Treasure Island Commissioner to replace Wendy Duvall, who resigned last week.  

Andreana will serve until November 2016 when the Treasure Island Commission is back in the election cycle.  As a practical matter, appointing her saves the Village the cost of a special election.  

As a political matter, Andreana is a natural for the position, able to understand complex issues, willing to work with disparate interests and has been deeply involved as chair of the Community Enhancement Board in North Bay Village.  

Full disclosure.  I like Andreana and we are friends, even though she has this irritating habit of not agreeing with me all the time.   I've noticed a lot of people have that habit.  

Welcome, Commissioner Jackson.  

Harbor Island Parking - It's still a mess.  Last night, Michael Hyman, attorney for the Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club, Steve Reeves, VP of the owner's association, and Al Coletta, landlord for the rented parking lot spoke about a current impasse and the village attorney Robert Switkes spoke about the village's position.  

It's all very unclear but seems to come down to several points:

  • The Village is implementing a Park by Permit program that excludes 7904 West Drive's 179 units from getting street parking permits.  Ticketing is due to start any day now.  
  • The current temporary arrangement of the 7904 Building renting the Al Coletta owned lot ends December 18 and those cars will not be allowed to park there after that.  
  • The building is trying to create  more parking on the tennis courts but needs more time.  
Mr. Hyman asked the commission to postpone the ticketing portion of the permit program for a month.  The commission said no, after a lengthy explanation from the Village Attorney that said both parties are being unreasonable.  

Our Village Attorney offered to mediate, which Al Coletta accepted but it was not clear to me if the building accepted the offer.   

There was some discussion from the dais about postponing the implementation if there is no progress on the parking situation but that was left undecided.   

Where it stands is that they will continue to work on resolving the problem, and we will probably wind up with a special commission meeting next week if they don't come to a resolution  

Kevin Vericker
December 9, 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

Two Meetings This Week

On Thursday night, 7:30 PM Dec 3, there is a meeting at Village Hall.  It is billed as a workshop to discuss the pros and cons of outsourcing our sanitation services.  For some years, there has been a movement to turn it over to a private collection service and in fact, the commission just recently voted to void a contract written in 2010 and go back to the drawing board.

The savings are not clear.  During the 2010 attempt to privatize the pickup, the then city manager told the commission that the savings would be $500,000 per year and that the vendor would most likely hire our workers.  The savings were nowhere close to that and once sideyard pickup was factored in, they disappeared entirely.  

The only advantage to outsourcing our sanitation for single family home pickup is that it would avoid some capital investments later on.   These can be heavy.  

My own opinion, (well you knew I have one) is that outsourcing is a bad deal for us.  
  • Eliminating side yard pickup is major.  It means our streets will be littered with garbage cans twice a week.  Just look at recycling days.  
  • We are small potatoes.  In the event of a natural disaster, we would not be at the top of the list to restore services nor should we be but if we have our own sanitation, we can make our own priorities.  
  • We have a loyal and hardworking sanitation team.  They serve us well and a village is about more than cost cutting.  

On Saturday at 9 AM, there is a meeting in Village Hall where the Community Enhancement Board and the Youth Services Board will meet jointly to discuss possible sites for a pilot dog run.

This victory was hard fought and dog owners need to show.   If there are no dog owners there, no dog run.  It's that simple.  

Kevin Vericker
Nov 30, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Short Term Rentals and North Bay Village

 AirBnb and other short term rental companies are in North Bay Village now.   In case you're not familiar with them, these companies broker short term rentals of rooms in private homes or entire homes as an alternative to traditional hotels. In fact, AirBnb has taken its place as the largest providers of lodging in the world, bigger than Marriott and the others.  This is not without controversy.  

In Florida, the legislature passed a pre-emption law in June 0f 2011 that removed the right of municipalities to regulate this activity.   Our neighbors, Miami Beach, Surfside, Bal Harbour and North Miami had seen this coming and passed regulations to contain this issue so they are grandfathered in.  Here in North Bay Village, Mayor Kreps had taken her seat as commissioner with the single purpose of running the elected mayor off the dais and in the January 2011 Commission meeting, when the then mayor broached the subject, she was shut down by Kreps and crew.  So we lost our last chance to regulate this.  

State Rep David Richardson was there and talked about his efforts in the legislature to repeal or revise the law to give increased local control.  

The mayor was there as was commissioner Chervony.  Village Attorney Bob Switkes was there to explain the legal bind North Bay Village finds itself in due to the lack of commission foresight in 2011.  Village Manager Frank Rollason was there to preemptively explain that his hands are tied for some reason.  

Let's talk about the state legislation.  The difficulty is that it will probably not be repealed.  AirBnb is a politically savvy company.   Many AirBnb hosts have saved their homes from foreclosure or themselves from financial difficulties and are easily and well mobilized and there are good arguments to keep the short term rentals legal.   Maybe there will be changes but we can't depend on that.  

On the local level, in North Bay Village, Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Son Of A Gun Your Village Manager Frank Rollason explained that there was nothing he could do because he works for the Commission and the Commission needs to tell him what to do so there's nothing he can do.  Also, the mayor is leading a campaign to fire him so he's not going to help her.  

But there are things that can be done, today, with no risk and with immediate returns.
  • The Village can compile a list of all the properties in North Bay Village on short term rental sites.  Google works.  
  • Notify the owners that the Village is aware of the short term rentals and send them a letter reminding them of Village rules regarding noise, commercial transactions, parking (if we ever get any) and other applicable requirements.  
  • Each Friday, have the Village leave a "Welcome to North Bay Village" packet at the door of the rentals.  It might include restaurant recommendations, services, transportation and the same information about rules and regs that the owner has received.  
  • Enforce the ordinances.  Put each house on a watch list and between 11:30 PM and 12:30 AM, have the code officer or a police officer measure the noise beyond 150 feet from the house and note any other violations.  Ticket the owner.  Repeat.  
If the village would do these simple things, the internet would do what the internet does best - share information.  People wanting to rent short term would see reviews that noted that after 11 PM, they got in trouble for parties, or for parking on the  lawn, or for charging admission fees.   Two things would happen.
  • Thing 1:  The houses would become less attractive to prospective party renters and more attractive to families and old people like me who usually shut down well before 11.  
  • Thing 2:  Repeated violators (the owners) of village regulations could be shut down.  
That would take a village manager who sees the job as more than snarling folksy reason why he can't do anything so my guess it won't happen.  (I should note that Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Son of a Gun Your Village Manager Frank Rollason is proud of his ignorance of social media and all things online.  Seen our website recently?)  

Right now, everybody's talking through their hats on the subject.  I hope that the residents attending last night are willing to step up and force the issue because the manager surely won't.  We'll see.  

Kevin Vericker
November 10, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Same Stuff, Different Year

It's been a year since the heavily contested election of November 2014 in North Bay Village.  Mayor Kreps and Commission Gonzalez ran a de facto ticket to maintain their rule over North Bay Village.  Since they ran virtually substance free and used every dirty trick in the book to maintain their positions, there's no real measure of how well or poorly they've done so let's look at where we were last year and what's going on now.  

The Kennedy House:  This venerable condo on Treasure Island was deeply embroiled in a legal and criminal matter.  The residents accused the management company and the board president of stealing owners appliances and other assets and misusing funds.  

The North Bay Village Police investigated and the investigation was so badly done that the village manager cited it in his decision to fire the police chief.  When the county and the media got involved, it resulted in a series of arrests.  

Here's the mayor and her best supporter last year.
A group of strip club lobbyists supporting Kreps and Gonzalez used this opportunity to attack mayoral candidate and Kennedy House resident Jorge Brito for helping to investigate the situation.  In fact, our mayor counted among her proud supporters one Alejandra Salcedo who was arrested in connection with the investigation and just this week copped a plea deal to testify against the others arrested, according to what I've been told.

At least there's finally progress for the residents of the Kennedy House.

The Baywalk:  Commissioner Gonzalez told the Miami Herald that he saw no solution to the Baywalk problem.  Like most everything he says, this was a self serving lie.  The solution is for his condo 360 to comply with the law, work with the village, and deliver the easements they are required to.  Instead, he and the mayor led a workshop and only invited residents of Fortress 360 who complained that since nobody told them about the easements it was unfair and also that they would be attacked in their homes since North Bay Village is just like Syria.  The dynamic duo Kreps and Gonzalez have blocked any further attempt to allow residents our legally required access.  So good job.

Harbor Island Parking:  This one is such a perennial that it should be on every blog post and agenda.  The mayor's former good friend, one rootin' tootin' straight shootin' son of a gun Frank Rollason and our village manager, has been screwing the program up for years.  After several tearful recountings of how bad the situation for parking is on Harbor Island, he created, implemented and then suspended and then implemented a sticker program that would force the residents of the Bayshore Yacht & Tennis Club to pave over their tennis courts, making them the Bayshore Yacht & Parking Club.  Only he never pulled the documents to see if the Bayshore Yacht & Parking Club is required to provide off street parking and guess what, it's not.  So it's not getting better but it must be because nobody bothered to show up at the last meeting to ask about it.  The mayor had her finger right on the pulse of Harbor Island sentiment, I should say the undetectable pulse of Harbor Island apathy, and has left this issue alone.  

The Boards:  When the Kreps and Gonzalez first crept into office, we have vibrant boards to advise and work on:

  • Animal Control (stray cats and missing dogs mostly plus the occassional possums)  
  • Budget Oversight.
  • Business Development
They combined forces and disbanded these boards because the boards were recommending stuff we don't have a problem with any of these issues.  This left:
  • The Community Enhancement Board which the mayor has used as her personal platform in her campaign to fire Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Son of a Gun Frank Rollason, our village manager, and has resulted in an active investigation by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics for Sunshine Violation.  Not to worry, the mayor's good friend and neighbor, Michael Murawski, CoE Advocate, will make sure the complaint is squashed but whew, close one.  
  • The Youth Services and Education Board which gets together from time to time to discuss new ways to raise off the books cash or something and has never made a report or published any minutes.   In the meantime, nobody knows how the school is doing.  
  • The Planning & Zoning Board which lost its chair a few months ago.   Kreps and Gonzalez decided not to appoint a long time resident and former friend because another candidate looked super interesting.  Then the other candidate dropped out.  In the meantime, someone who had served the village well was cut off.  
  • A Brand New Board For Special Needs Residents.  This was Gonzalez's idea, poorly conceived, to create a board to provide direct services to residents with special needs.  This is a spectacularly bad idea since the very definition of such services requires highly specialized skills and experience and it's not surprising that there have been no members applying.  A more sensible approach would be to have a study group to evaluate current services offered and make recommendations but that would mean actual work and vision, something Gonzalez  doesn't approve of.  
Commission Relationships:  It's bad.  When not babbling nonsense about the many many people who talk to her that only the Mayor can hear, the Mayor loses her place on the agenda, insults her colleagues, misses no opportunity for self aggrandizement, shamelessly promotes herself and brown noses anybody she perceives as useful by giving them awards.  Her shambolic chairing has meant no end of trouble. 

She started out her only elected term as close allies with:
  • Commissioner Gonzalez  who she made Vice Mayor
  • Commissioner Lim who she pushed out of the Vice Mayor chair. 
  • One Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Frank Rollason, our Village Manager. 
  • The chairs of two boards now gone.  
At the end of the year, her relations with all of them were broken.  Lim is quiet and says little but when he does speak, she shuts him down and you can only do that so long to a guy. Gonzalez   who just last year vouched for her integrity is so outraged by her stealing an appointment to the Chamber of Commerce that many people are telling me Gonzalez plans to run against her in next year's mayoral race.  She is openly plotting to fire Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Frank Rollason, who she brought to the village in a sleazy deal.  (It would be no great loss if she succeeds in getting him out.) So there she sits, all alone, predictably a failure surrounded by incompetence and anger.   

But in fairness, that's exactly what she promised last  year.  Finally, a politician who told the truth. 

Happy Anniversary! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Garbage, Pollution and Drama - The Commission Last Night

As my faithful readers know, this is a high minded blog focused on the civic issues facing North Bay Village and is not a place for gossiping and snide remarks.  Therefore I will discuss with you today the main outcomes from last night's marathon commission meeting and will only touch lightly on the topic of "HOLY NORTH BAY VILLAGE CRAZY, DID YOU SEE THAT?  DID YOU SEE THAT?  GONZALEZ JUST VERBALLY BITCH SLAPPED THE MAYOR IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY IN HIS REPORT!!!" because that's not after all what we are about here.  Let's move on to the subject at hand.  

Sanitation:  Five years ago, the commission voted to outsource the garbage pickup in North Bay Village based on false savings figures and a truly odd contract that would have either eliminated side yard pickup in the single family homes or saved us nothing.  For the details, read here.   Anyway, it seems the contract was lingering out there like a fart at a dinner party, unsigned and unrecognized, until early this morning.  

The village manager brought the contract up for the commission's disposition.   The question being, should the commission move ahead with the contract or was it perhaps no longer the commission's will to deprive the residents of an important service?  It came up after midnight, which was wrong, and Commissioner Chervony was off to the races, pointing out that the contract was obsolete in its premises, obtuse in its benefits and recommended that the commission vacate the entire thing.  Two residents spoke against privatizing our garbage pickup and when the mayor finally voted, she reversed her previous support for outsourcing and voted to vacate the contract.  Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez agreed with the mayor EVEN THOUGH GONZALEZ WAS STILL SOME NEW KIND OF PISSED OFF OVER THE WAY THE MAYOR SNUCK AROUND THE COMMISSION AND STOLE THE POSITION ON THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE MIAMI SHORES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. because fundamentally this was the right thing to do and for now, the issue is settled.  We retain our much valued service.  

Styrofoam™ Containers:  Modeled after similar legislation in Miami Beach and other neighboring communities, Commissioner Chervony shepherded in a piece of legislation that would over the next 15 months lead to a ban on food and other goods being sold in North Bay Village using polystyrene containers (most commonly referred to by the brand name Styrofoam)  The ban would apply to business selling over $25,000 per month, will be implemented with a program of education first, warnings and finally after January 1, 2017, fines.  There are exceptions in case of hardship and stores will still be allowed to sell products that have arrived in such packaging, they simply can't use it for their own.  

There was some discussion of the issue and it was clear that it was well thought out and the commission voted unanimously to support the ban.  The fact that two of the commissioners, Richard Chervony and Eddie Lim participated in the Baynanza cleanup last year and saw the extent of the garbage pileups caused by this material in the bay helped greatly.  Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez would have participated in the Baynanza but he was too busy BUSTING HIS FREAKING HUMP TRYING TO GET NORTH BAY VILLAGE INTO AN APPROPRIATE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TO IMPROVE THE BUSINESS CLIMATE IN NORTH BAY VILLAGE.  GONZALEZ WAS NOT DOING THIS FOR HIS OWN HEALTH AND CERTAINLY NOT SO SOME CRAZY EYED MAYOR COULD GO BEHIND THE COMMISSION'S BACK AND WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A BY YOUR LEAVE GET HERSELF APPOINTED THE SOLE DIRECTOR FOR NORTH BAY VILLAGE LIKE SOME KIND OF GODDAMN KNOCK OFF OF QUEEN ELIZABETH OR SOMETHING.  

 Harbor Island Parking:  The 90 day extension of the sticker program expires today.  The attorney for the Bay Shore Yacht and Tennis Club explained to the commission that the lot  lease for parking is only for 90 days and only has 114 spaces available while there are 170 or so units needed spots.  Things do not look good between the building and Al Coletta although no one specified exactly how they look but not good.

Then he dropped a bombshell.  The Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club requested the documents from the Village that specify their parking requirements and lo and behold, there don't seem to be any!  The implication here is that 7904 West Drive may have no legal obligation to provide off street parking.  

The village attorney was visibly irritated with this and cautioned the commission not to speak on the matter out of concern regarding litigation.  

This whole parking program is a disaster waiting to happen.  It was poorly planned by an inexperienced village manager, remains riddled with holes and inconsistencies.  Seriously, did the program get planned without the Village Manager checking to see what requirements are in place?

When the issue was brought to the front of the agenda at around midnight, the commission voted 4-0 to support reinstating the program starting today. Good luck with that.  

Plastic Bags and Short Term Vacation Rentals:  Both of these issues are state issues.  The legislature has prohibited localities from taking action to restrict them in the towns and cities.  This is coming under fire from places that want to address the quality of life issues associated with the garbage and the rentals.  Our state lobbyist has these on his agenda to push to allow the municipalities to engage in regulation.  
Fun side note:  our Mayor explained that she loves a good party just as much as every other single 60 year old gal but not when they're so noisy.  
Cats:  Three representatives of the Cat Action Network, two of whom live on the Beach, were there to discuss the need for the village to step up its efforts to Trap, Neuter and Release, including building a cathouse to allow the animals to recover following their spaying.   They have been working with the village manager.  

For the record, I spoke about this and the dog run as being clear examples of why the village needs an Animal Control Board staffed and working on the issues.  The mayor inquired about this to the manager since she is unable to process that the boards work for the commission not the manager and he just dismissed the idea by saying, "Boards get ideas and ideas cost money.  Let's not" and the subject died.  Nobody showed up to discuss the dog run or animal issues so apparently it's just something being done without input.  I'm sure it will work out fine

 Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez's Report:   A visibly annoyed Gonzalez read a statement into the record, meaning that its detail is supposed to be captured in the written and published minutes.   It seems that the Gonzalez wanted to sponsor an independent business group for the businesses in North Bay Village and thought a Chamber of Commerce would be a good idea.  After evaluating the idea, it became clear that maybe a better course would be to see if North Bay Village could join an existing Chamber.  Gonzalez researched the idea, considered Miami and Miami Beach but thought they were too large and North Bay Village would get lost.  Finally, he hit on Miami Shores, worked with the administration to get the village ready, got the right resolutions passed in the commission and then nothing until an unwelcome surprise this week.   

It seems the Mayor Kreps, who had nothing to do with any part of the research or the process, somehow wound up being appointed to the Miami Shores Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for 3 years even though her term ends next year.  This selection of who would represent the Village is something that the commission would expect to be consulted on, and while they might have agreed that the woman who can't even run a simple agenda at the commission meetings, who is out of office next year, who is currently under investigation by the county for massive Sunshine violations, is the best choice, it still would have been better if the Commission had been asked.  
The Gonzalez was pissed and let it be known that this was off base.  For her part, the mayor immediately apologized, offer to resign the post and bring it to a commission vote acted like she had heard nothing, did not respond and spent the rest of the meeting talking in a little girl voice.  Oh Connie, why are they so mean?  
So that's what happened while you were at home watching the Grandpa Bernie and Grandma Hillary bicker on TV.  (Seriously, didn't they look like everybody's parents in Boca?) 
Kevin Vericker
October 14, 2015

Friday, October 9, 2015

Garbage In Garbage Out Garbage Back

September 28, 2010: It all started with a lie.  A deliberate calculated lie at the September 2010 commission meeting.  Our then city manager told  the commission that privatizing our garbage services would save the city $500,000 per year in operating costs and our commission voted to direct the city manager to create the contract and bring it back for approval.  The $500,000 was a lie.  The savings was never estimated at $500k and the commission voted based on what they heard. 

What also was buried in that contract negotiation was the fact that the single  family homes would lose sideyard pickup, meaning that the single family homes would twice a week have to drag a single 94 gallon can to the curb for pickup.  

When the commission changed in November 2010, the contract was ready to be heard but the commissioners who had pushed it were now off the dais, the lie about the $500,000 had been exposed, and the true impact of eliminating side yard pickup was being understood.  In December 2010, the commission directed the city manager to renegotiate to include the sideyard pickup.  

Interesting side note, on December 14, 2010, Vice Mayor Kreps introduced a resolution to not waive the protest fee from a competitor who felt the process was rigged then voted against her own resolution, effectively opening the process up for renegotiation.  She did this because she's stupid.   

Anyway, since with all the chicanery, the stink of dishonesty and a general sense that someone would wind up in jail if the deal were finalized, nobody wanted to touch the contract.  Waste Management and the city quietly let the whole thing die. 

Flash forward to October 2015, 5 years later, and one Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Son of A Gun Frank Rollason has decided that the time has come to finalize this contract.  In the detailed agenda, on page 179, he states that there would be a savings of $145,234 per year if the village privatizes and [key point] ELIMINATES SIDE YARD PICKUP.  Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Son of A Gun Frank Rollason does say there will be a lower savings if side yard pickup is continued but does not specify what the savings will be.  By my calculations, it would be around $97k but that's not clear at all.   That also assumes savings from not having to replace village sanitation but again, it's unclear if these need to be replaced so without knowing that, the savings could very well be zero.  

So here we have it.  A dirty five year old deal just sitting and festering like the water on our streets waiting to be brought back to life through the back door.  

An open administration with a professional village manager would hold a real workshop on this, get the residents' input, study the impact on our daily lives of garbage cans in the street twice per week, evaluate the real financial impact and then rather than resurrect an obsolete bid at midnight, discuss this openly and plainly.  We need to insist that our commission demand exactly that. 

Kevin Vericker
October  9, 2015


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Delusional Optimism

The Biscayne Times is usually a great source of focused information about life in Northeast Dade and they often write about North Bay Village which is frequently overlooked in other media.  I'm looking  to you "Hometown News" at WSVN.   

This month's article on North Bay Village seems utterly delusional.  "It's Only Up From Here" says the headline while the sub-headline says "Failing infrastructure in North Bay Village means the red carpet for high-rise developer".   The article accurately reflects some of the current situation in North Bay Village:
  • Our sewers have failed. 
  • There's no open space.
  • The condos on Harbor Island have illegally blocked access to the bay front. 
 There is no discussion of the failed parking policies on Harbor Island nor the impending parking problems on Treasure Island.  Neither do they mention the failing school at Treasure Island Elementary and what, if any, efforts have been put in place to raise the quality.  And of course nothing about optimizing the little open space we do have. 

What is stunning is the conclusion.  The article actually posits that this is good news for North Bay Village or rather for developers since the failed infrastructure means lower prices or something.  This in spite of the fact that the same article shows that the market is not responding to the supposed opportunities.  

Look, I actually believe we need to be positive and realistic in facing our municipal problems.  It's a balance and the complete lack of realism in our village administration has resulted in the current morass.  The mayor, vice mayor and the village manager repeatedly refuse to acknowledge cause and effect and instead just hope for the best with no effort on their part.  

Developers won't save us.  We've heard that bull for years as building after building was pushed through.  Our tax base increased but so did our reckless spending. 

And again oddly, the article casually mentions the "well regarded village manager", one Frank Rollasaon.  I'm going out on a limb here and assuming Rollason was their only source for this "well regarded" descriptor.  The mayor is currently trying to fire him, morale at Village Hall is at an all time low, he's in open battles with the Community Enhancement Board, he screwed up the parking program for Harbor Island and has alienated almost all the involved citizens of North Bay Village.
 Taking a sunny view of objective failure is not optimism, it's delusion.  
Kevin Vericker
October  6, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

Wendy Duvall Plans To Resign This Week

The customary empty seat.
Treasure Island Commissioner Wendy Duvall sent notice to the village administration on Friday that she intends to resign her post..   Duvall has been on the commission for 3 years and really has no record of note, seldom speaking and generally voting with the consensus of the other commissioners, notably the Mayor and the Vice.  Overall it was an undistinguished tenure and I doubt that most Treasure Island residents were even aware of her presence.   

The last year has been hard on Duvall, a new mother with a professional career and who lost her father a few weeks ago.  Her absence from the commission meetings were understandable and now she's made the decision to leave.  It is time.  

That leaves an open seat.  There are two paths to filling that.  

1.)  The remaining 4 commissioners appoint a resident of Treasure Island to take on the position.   

2.)  If the commission chooses not to or is not able to within 30 days, the charter calls for a special election to be held.  

This is not a crisis, yet, but the commission is showing signs of the deep divisions created by our mayor.  Kreps is currently conducting an effort to fire the village manager.  The Mayor's stress level and increasingly frantic antics have hobbled the commission and she has mostly alienated even her staunchest supporters.   Commission meetings are so poorly chaired that time after time resolutions are left unvoted on and the agenda is lost in the non sequitur of her odd questions,   

Kreps is the heart of the problem. 
  • Kreps pushed through the appointment of her then good friend and ally Richard Chervony to the commission, then Kreps turned against him when he showed signs of thinking differently from her.  She now does everything she can to undermine him.
  • Kreps pushed through the appointment of Stuart Blumberg to the commission, hoping for a staunch ally and instead got someone who took his position seriously.  When Blumberg questioned some of the ways village money was being spent, she refused to engage with him and was rumored to be behind an effort to personally intimidate him from running for the elected seat.  
  • In addition to her commission appointments, Kreps's closest ally at the onset of her tenure was Eddie Lim.  So close in fact that she and Lim were nicknamed "The Twins" and now she will barely allow him to speak because he has ideas he would like to promote.
  •  Kreps vigorously supported Robert Daniels as police chief, praised him effusively as interim village manager, and then orchestrated his firing earlier this year, at a cost to the village of over $150,000
  • Kreps led the commission in hiring Dennis Kelly as Village Manager and then led the commission in firing him a year later at a cost of around $100,000
  • Kreps claimed that after more than a decade of not being in touch, current village manager Rollason contacted her with an offer to help as "interim" manager after Kelly was fired.   She pushed this through and now after Rollason failed to provide her with note cards on time, is orchestrating an effort to fire him.
 We can expect the commission led by Kreps to dither while trying to find a candidate to fill the position.  If Kreps pushes through someone she believes will be suited, she will turn against him/her in a matter of time.  But I think the commission will try to fill the position rather than hold a special election.  If they fail to fill the position in 30 days, the village must hold an election, although they did not do so when Paul Vogel died and the seat sat illegally vacant through the rest of his term. 

If they do hold a special election, that will get interesting.  Almost all the involved people in the village have been forced out of the municipal processes and elections here are vicious.  I don't know how this will work out.  

Kevin Vericker
September 27, 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015

Dog Fight At The Budget Meeting

The budget passed last night with a tax increase of about 7%.  The millage rate is down slightly but values are up so the village will bring in about 7% more.  Most of that money is going to increased salaries, 3 new police positions and some new equipment for police activities.  The increased spending is modest and there was nothing radically new in the budget.  

However, the commission, all four of them, finally agreed to put money in the budget for a dog fence.  $10,000.   It's not a dog park and it's not even clear where the fence will be deployed.  But for the first time, North Bay Village is allocating money for the estimated 1300 households that have dogs and that's not nothing.  

Doris O'Hare and Maxine Tayar organized a rally out front, attended by about 30 people to create visibility.  Two of the commissioners, Eddie Lim and Richard Chervony took the time to discuss the issue with the residents.  The mayor saw the group and ducked in the back door while Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez, who last year told the Herald that he owns a dog but now says he doesn't since he got elected did speak with the residents but only to berate them until he saw the real press was there.  

The items above are the cuts proposed between Sept 14 and the final meeting.  While the marketing video continues at $50,000, most other items were cut.  Note Item E, the dog fence, was cut.  It was after residents demanded that it was restored and then only after the Mayor and Vice Mayor spent a good half hour talking about how they really want a dog park but there's no money and there's no space and maybe the county won't like it and maybe it should just come from reserves that they became congnizant of the fact that the real media were present, The Herald and WSVN, and so decided that they could yeah support it.  

So score.  

The rest of the budget hearing was a mess.   Mayor Kreps' sharp deterioration continued unabated as she decided to read aloud the various village employees' salaries (most quite modest) and wondered how they were set.  The HR Director reminded her that pay grades were set by Mayor Kreps and the other commissioners in 2012. This did not deter or even slow down the mayor. 

Mrs. Kreps has become so unhinged that she no longer even chairs the meetings.  She just introduces the agenda, gets it wrong and last night again,  Jorge Gonzalez just grabbed the gavel and took over because someone had to now that Rootin' Tootin' Frank Rollason has fallen out with the mayor .  

Last night, Gonzalez was particularly fierce with the Mayor.  At about 7:20, he interrupted her tirade on employee salaries to state "Madam Mayor, we are here to practice good governance, not good politics." and gaveled the meeting to move along.  Still Mayor Kreps continued her rant, at 7:39 PM pointing at the manager and shrieking "THE PROBLEM IS HIM."  

There was one cut that never should have been made.  Eddie Lim asked for a modest amount of money to promote a "3 Island Paddleboard" festival.   And the commission said no, just no.   While we spend $50,000 to hire a consultant to make a video promoting the city, we are too short sighted to see that we have to have things to promote.  This Paddle Board idea is a perfect confluence of showcasing our location on the bay, unusual enough to attract attention and cool enough to  attract new people.  But it was squashed.  Lim is not ready to give up.  

Lim sees the media possibilities and the social buzz around this event as worth 5 times what the village might contribute, and he's right.  

And for whatever record there may be, I am not likely to take up paddleboarding.  I'm Irish.  We burst into flames under that kind of sun and I am very bad at most sports.  But I'd be out there cheering them on.  

Kevin Vericker
September 25, 2015


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Where Did The Money Go?

A Picture of A Picture
In May 2014, the Commission voted to spend $105,000 of taxpayer money to award a contract to Kimley-Horn to create a plan to create a plan to create a Bay Walk under the Miami Beach Bridge to link the south side of the causeway with the north side of the causeway by walking under the bridge.  

The vote was 3 to 1 - Mayor Kreps, Vice Mayor Gonzalez, and Commissioner Eddie Lim voting for it, while Commissioner Chervony voted against it.  

The money came from two sources:

  1. The Village Recreation Impact fund paid half. 
  2. The State matched the amount.  
The contract was drawn up and Kimley-Horn agreed to the following:

  • A Survey of the Area
  • Geotechnical Engineering (basically a look see to make sure it's not radioactive land)
  • Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (look at the sea grass)
  • Conceptual Design
  • Contract Documents
  • Electrical Engineering (can you plug stuff in?)
  • Sail Structure Conceptual Design (A status of a sail)
  • Permitting
  • Opinion of Probable Costs.  
In October of 2014, they presented the conceptual design, the drawing above.   

They were supposed to take the information back and come back with a more specific design, then execute on the rest of the contract once the commission had reviewed the plans.  

They never did.  They never came back.  But they did bill us for $95,851 for all the work.  

Kimley-Horn made this proposal in spite of the fact there is no other city that has done this, that the space under the bridge does not belong to North Bay Village.  The commission, 3-1, knew this and also knew that nobody in their right mind would build a dank, dark park under a metal grate bridge.   

They spent our rec money and we have nothing to show for it.  

Now, they are telling us that sadly, the new budget for 2016 cannot contain money to renovate the basketball courts or for dog runs  ($50,000).  This is the exact amount of money they gave to friends at Kimley-Horn to produce nothing.   

In other news, the mayor wants to include $50,000 for a "marketing video" for North Bay Village.  No one is questioning it but it seems like a good idea to ask what exactly are we marketing and since the going rate for for such videos is typically $1,000 per minute, how long will this video be?   One assumes 50 minutes but since there is little to market about North Bay Village other than, "Pay to Play" we could just skip the whole thing.  

Kevin Vericker
September 23, 2015