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 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Budget Blasting

Mayor Kreps on the hunt
Tuesday night was one for the books.  The two meetings of the Commission back to front to back as they considered the budget for 2016.  It was as usual attended by 4 of the 5 commissioners. 

First up - the Budget.  

From 5:30 to 7:20, Mayor Crazy Eyes took every opportunity to rant at Frank Rollason, who she wants to get gone soon, about his plans to hire an office generalist to provide backup to the other employees when they are on vacation or sick or otherwise engaged.   

For his part, Rootin' Tootin' Straight Shootin' Son of A Gun Frank Rollason explained that he needed to spend the moneys on village stuff and we can't afford resident stuff like dog parks, basketball court fixin' up and senior programs.   

Mayor Crazy Eyes then went back to her rant about how Key Biscayne and all the cool cities use menu based automated phone systems and how she herself has stopped by the Village Hall and enquired of the workers "Are you busy?" and they said 'No" so no more people.  

By 7:20, they had gotten nowhere so they suspended the Budget meeting until later so they could hold the regular meeting.

The Special Presentation.  

As regular readers of this space know, Vice Mayor Jorge P. Gonzalez filed a complaint last year that his opponent's mentioning the completely substantiated and absolutely factual information about Gonzalez's record of:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Failure to pay Taxes
  • Rebuke by the Commission on Ethics
  • Lobbyist Paid Trip To Turkey  
  • Cutting PAL and Youth Services
  • Raising our taxes 30%
was totally unfair because even though he did all of these things, they made him look like a sketchy political hack with a bad record.   You can read the details here.  

Joe Centorino Lets Us Know
Well, anyway even though the Commission on Ethics after breaking its own rules and lying in its final judgment has tried everything they can do without going to jail themselves to protect the Gonzalez but the Truth is the best defense against accusations of slander and they were sadly unable to punish people who tell the  truth.  So the commission invited Joe Centorino to ramble incoherently about how hard it is to prove actual malice in a campaign complaint about falsehoods.  Mr. Centorino did not address Gonzalez's false claim that he had been slandered but sent the message clearly and loudly to North Bay Village residents that if you see an ethical violation against Mr. Centorino's friend, STFU!  They won't do squat about it.  

Having established that we are not governed by either ethics or law, the commission moved along to consider various items including approving the elevator parking for the new building on Harbor Island, advising the State Department on International Affairs, and approving the use of a vacant lot for Shuckers parking.  

Mayor Crazy Eyes had long since lost control of the agenda, losing her place, calling the wrong votes, and shouting non sequiturs at various points so the vice mayor took over the chairing as best he could.   

Around 10:30, they needed to vote on the appointment of a P&Z member and they deadlocked two to two.   No one would budge on the issue and so a long time resident with an unblighted history of civic involvement was deliberately insulted by Mayor Crazy Eyes and Jorge Gonzalez because they know she can't be counted on to pay back their political debts to developers. 

They of course would not have deadlocked on the issue if we had five commissioners but Wendy Duvall is currently vying for the Paul Vogel Award in Commission Absences and seldom appears at the meetings.   

I did notice that this time, for the first time, the commission did not vote to excuse her.  Most people believe she'll be resigning soon.   

Back to the Budget.  

That started about 10:40 and went to 12:30.  There was some compromise and by compromise, I mean the things residents want like a dog run ($10,000) and other rec opportunities were eliminated while the things the manager wants were mostly kept.   

The commission did tell the manager that 11% tax hike was probably enough and go back and find some more cuts which he might do if he feels like it.  

In the end, nothing got done right and the final budget set for September 24 at 6:30 will pass with increased taxes and diminished services.   

Kevin Vericker
September 10, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

September Opens With A Mushroom Cloud

Next Tuesday, the Commission has two meetings.  Agendas are here:

1.)  5:30 PM - The Commission discusses the whether to raise our taxes !5% or 22%.   They really can't decide.  

What they do know is that the only things negotiable in the budget are the things the residents want like Open Space, a Dog Park, Youth Programs, Clean Streets.   Those will get cut because the village needs to pay the commission's political debts and we can't expect those to be postponed.  

2.)  7:30 PM or later.  After the Commission takes the time to not consider how to better spend our money, they will launch into their regular meeting.  What a meeting it will be.  

Up first under special presentations, the Commission will hear from Joe Centorino, spokesmodel for the Miami Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.  He was invited by Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez who has been censured by the Commission on Ethics and whose most recent false complaint was dismissed not once but twice by the COE.   Gonzalez invited Centorino to show that no matter what he does, the COE will do everything in its power to keep Gonzalez from facing the consequences of his actions. 

Then State Rep David Richardson will get up and talk about his upcoming campaigns.  

This will be followed by the the Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club about why they sadly are not able to move forward on getting all their cars parked and asking for more time.   

Then the commission will get to its regular business of deciding international policy and handing out favors to developers.  

That's right.  In the same month that they are raising your taxes, North Bay Village Commissioners Chervony and Vice Mayor Jorge Gonzalez have decided that the most important thing they could do was weigh in on the Iran Nuclear Treaty.  

If you remember, our last foray into international politics left us twinned with the Pro-Islamic, right wing mayor of Isparta Turkey, who Jorge Gonzalez met during his lobbyist paid important international mission to Isparta.   That was a proud moment.  

More next week.  

Kevin Vericker
September 4, 2015