Friday, April 15, 2016

The Censure

Tuesday night, April 12, was a first in the long, conflictive history of North Bay Village.  The commission censured a sitting member, in this case the mayor, for her accusations of “Collusion and Conspiracy” against her fellow commissioners, both collectively and individually.  It was a sad moment, made necessary by the mayor’s refusal to retract or support her accusations.  

Let’s start with the facts.   

In March, there was an item brought up on the dais to discuss whether the commission should as a whole be advised and have the opportunity to discuss awards given to individuals and organizations on behalf of the Village before these are awarded.  North Bay Village has not had this as a requirement in the past, allowing each individual to decide who would be honored by the village on their own.  At least one member of the dais thought that since the awards were on behalf of the commission and village, the other commissioners should be made aware and their views taken into account.  

Mayor Kreps took this as an insult to her issuing awards on behalf of the village and instead of engaging in the discussion, which was about awards procedures in the future, she took the opportunity to emphatically and deliberately state that her fellow commissioners were engaging in “Conspiracy and Collusion” which is a criminal offense under Florida Law.  

Commissioner Lim, visibly shaken but maintaining a calm voice, asked the mayor twice to retract her accusation from the dais and the mayor ignored him.  

This month, Commissioner Chervony decided to introduce a Resolution of Censure to condemn the mayor’s use of false and baseless criminal accusations.  In the end, the commission voted 3-1 to sustain the censure.  Eddie Lim voted against.  

A censure is a statement of disapproval.  It carries no legal penalties nor does it involve and removal from office.  What it says is that a member’s behavior does not fit the standards of decorum.  

Why The Censure Matters

Regardless of the mayor’s feelings about the issue at hand, Kreps had no right to accuse her colleagues of criminal behavior.  And once she did, she had an absolute obligation to apologize and retract her statements.  And she refused.  

On April 12, she had the opportunity again to explain and resolve the matter but Kreps didn’t.  She doubled, actually tripled down, by packing the room with supporters to whom she lied.  Kreps claimed that the issue was about an award she gave to SAVE, which used to lead the fight for gay and lesbian rights in Miami and is now a corporately sponsored PAC publicity machine.  It’s on the people who showed up, that they didn’t take the time to read the resolution or to review the issue at hand.  

The mayor opened the meeting by reading a statement refusing to apologize, explaining that strong words were spoken in the  previous meeting and that she had been attacked.  Her defenders included two former commissioners, Rey Trujillo and Al Blake, neither of whom addressed the issue, several residents and Tony Lima of SAVE who tried to frame this as anti LGBT issue.  

If the mayor had apologized, or even simply retracted her statement, the issue would have died.  But this mayor sees danger and insult everywhere and is vicious in her response.  She brought this on herself and it’s painful to watch.  

It’s ironic that the proximate cause was an award, a key to the cty, that the mayor gave to SAVE.  SAVE, previously known as SAVE DADE, was formed to advocate for LGBT equality and in a hostile environment on the 1990’s, finally led Miami in joining the 21st century.  I was proud to be member, a Guardian (think dues over a $1000 per year) and to volunteer on their projects.  A few years ago, SAVE went in a different direction and much to my surprise, showed up in North Bay Village to endorse Connie Leon Kreps and give her money as a favor to David Richardson.  It was simple political manipulation without consulting anyone in the North Bay Village gay and lesbian community. .  

Kreps has not once brought a resolution to the North Bay Village commission on any issue of importance to the LGBT community in North Bay Village, never met with the local LGBT residents and in fact during her tenure, has done the following:

  • When a routine resolution was introduced by Commissioner Chervony to support an effort to stand against LGBT students being bullied in the school system, the mayor specifically demanded that the LGBT and school wording be removed and replaced with North Bay Village stands against all bullying.  October 10, 2013.
  • In August of 2014, a PAC supporting the mayoral campaign engaged in “pink smearing”.  They portrayed the mayor’s colleague on the dais as a puppet master and made a point of attacking the only out gay commissioner on the dais by bringing up an arrest record from his youth.  This is an old McCarthy like tactic from the 1950’s, called pinkwashing, to smear one’s opponents with accusations of homosexuality  or association with known homosexuals.  Sadly it still works today.
    The mayor refused when requested directly to disown the filthy pamphlet and I was pretty shocked when SAVE refused to condemn the mailer.  In fact, that’s when I withdrew my Guardian support.  
  • Last year, a year of great strides for the LGBT community as marriage equality became the law of the land, the mayor remained silent on the subject never acknowledging the legitimizing of North Bay Village’s LGBT communities marriages.  
  • Just two weeks ago, she was notable by her absence at the Pride Parade, where virtually every Miami-Dade official Republican and Democrat showed their support except our mayor.  

The award itself was a simple economic transaction.  The mayor gets a campaign donation, SAVE gets a patina of legitimacy, and the circle goes on.  It should never have been given.  

Nevertheless, not a single member of the dais objected to the award.  There were questions about what SAVE had done for North Bay Village (nothing).  The question being debated was whether the commission  as a whole should approve such awards or should a single member be authorized at her discretion to give awards out on behalf of the village.  

Pretending that this was either a personal attack on the mayor or an homophobic attack on SAVE is part of a large pattern of cynical politics as usual.  It was about commissioners refusing to accept a deliberately framed libel thrown against and were the mayor any sort of decent leader or person, she would have simply acknowledged that she was wrong and moved foward.