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!