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