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