Sunday, August 28, 2016

All Politics Are Local

It continues to surprise me how little attention people pay to local elections.  It matters very much who we choose for President, Congress and Governor but the most immediate effects are from the local governments.   

Tuesday, there is a primary and an election for county mayor and I thought I might share some of my views on the races that affect us the most here in North Bay Village.   

First up, for State Senate, Michael Gongora is a former Miami Beach Commissioner who knows North Bay Village well.  On the Beach, our closest neighbor, he successfully championed porgrams for the elderly, for the community at large, and made demands on developers for community improvement.  He has been a constant presence in North Bay Village.  In my view, he should be our State Senator.  He gets the life of the fragile beach cities.  

Kevin Burns is also running and his record is nearly identical.  Burns has a long history of community involvement in North Miami, served as their mayor in fact.  He has led countywide campaigns for equal rights and has consistently put his constituents first.  I didn't vote for him, mostly because I feel that Michael Gongora is better acquainted with North Bay Village but it was really nice to have a choice between two well qualified, experienced candidates who know how to get stuff done.  

Jason Pizzo has not bothered to vote since 2008, has been a Democrat for all of 5 months, and has funded his campaign from his Dad's companies.  He needs to get some experience and show good judgment in why people should vote if they want me to vote for them.  

Daphne Campbell is a very bad choice.  I could write about it but my friend and fellow blogger Stephanie Kienzle has really nailed it.  You can read Stephanie's take here.

State Rep - in spite of the fact that he keeps making it difficult with his crazy endorsements of our mayor and for Jason Pizzo, David Richardson has represented us faithfully and well.  He may be my favorite person to disagree with.  David  should stay the hell out of our local election.  Supporting Kreps is a mistake for NBV'ers and for the local LGBT community but show me the candidate without flaws and I'd hate him more.  So David has my vote.  

Finally, on the Circuit Court Race, I voted for Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts.  The guy's been a public defender, a city attorney, and in spite of being a Republican (I'm not, you know) understands very well the rights of the community, the needs of the police, and has always been committed to fairness regardless of the cost.   I'm voting character here.

Finally, Amendment 4.  Just vote Yes.  It's crazy that we don't have extensive, cheap solar energy in the Sunshine State.  This would give homeowners some serious tax relief for generating electricity.  It's safe, clean and effective.  

I know there are other races, particularly for county mayor, but I don't have a strong opinion or even a well informed one, so I chose not to write about them.

Well, there are two races I have opinions on.   Both of them represent why the Democratic Party can't put its act together in Florida.  

For Senator, Pam Keith would be a natural in any Democratic party.  A bright woman, with vast international experience, a Navy veteran, an attorney with a long record of public service and a well reasoned progressive.  Her opponents are a couple of white boys with money and ego where they should have experience and judgment.  But it's Florida and it's the Florida Democratic Party, so the odds are stacked against her.  It's a terrible shame and I hate to sound defeatist, but I've watched our state party mess this up time and again and I expect this time will be no different.  

For Congress, did you even know there were Democrats running to take on Ileana Ros-Lehtinen?  Bet not.  Now I like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a lot.  I think she is a woman of integrity and political courage.  I disagree with her on many specific political policies and probably will not vote for her but I have no question about her commitment to her constituents.   We are far better off being represented by her than being ignored by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, our previous representative.  Anyone in North Bay Village remember what DWS has done for us?  Me neither.

So that's it.  My take on the primary.  Now go vote!

Kevin Vericker
August 28, 2016  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

North Bay Village Scratching Post

This is a post I've been avoiding for a long time.  Any discussion of the feral cat problem in North Bay Village quickly descends into bitter arguments flying right past each other with the anti-feral cat people expressing their frustration, sometimes crudely, and the cat carers violating Godwin's Law, which states that the first person to invoke Hitler loses the argument.   But since fools rush in where angels fear to tread, here I go.  

The situation is that the village stopped Animal Control a few years back.  The Board exists in name only and there has been no serious attempt on the part of the administration to control the feral cat population.   The population has been growing from a combination of breeding and new cats being abandoned.  The problem is worse on Treasure Island.  

There is a group, small and informal, who call themselves the Cat Action Network, who feed the cats, trap them for participation in the Trap Neuter Return program and who defend their right to do so.  

Residents are concerned because there are seemingly more cats everyday and the CAN people use the public sidewalks for feeding.  When questioned, their responses can be pretty nasty. There are concerns about public health and the quality of life problems the feral cat population bring.  

While the Trap Neuter and Return Programs have been shown to reduce feral cat populations, this is only true when there are a combination of factors involved.  These factors include vigorous enforcement of anti-abandonment laws, a large scale public awareness campaign about the program so that affected residents are included in the plan, legislation that designates and controls the feeding, trapping and return areas and times, and a strong adoption and placement program.  

We don't have that.  All we have are some self appointed guardians of the cats who believe they are being kind and perhaps are, but who have taken upon themselves with no authority whatsoever to simply declare that Treasure Island is a "cat sanctuary."  It is not.  It is a neighborhood that people live in.   

The CAN does care about the cats but that's not enough.   If cats are to live in a community and the population is to be managed through TNR, it's incumbent on this group to create community support and ensure their actions are legal and in accordance with the rest of the community.  Otherwise they are just maintaining a large outdoor accommodation for their pets.   

In the Facebook Group North Bay Village Residents Speak, this subject always causes controversy.  And legitimate concerns are brushed aside with mistaken assertions about the posters who are concerned, several of whom have domestic cats and on the other side, well, some pretty nasty language has been used.   

The problem of the growing feral cat population is shared between the Village administration which has dismantled all of the boards while not addressing this problem, and the Cat Action Network, who if they did not cause the problem, have certainly made it worse by their unilateral decision to make other people's property a cat habitat without legal sanction and without regard for the people affected.  
It's time to stop the craziness.   There is an election coming up.  Ask each candidate what they plan to do to balance the needs of the community with the desire to control and protect the feral cat population.  If the candidate is an incumbent, ask what actions they have already taken and why is the problem getting worse?   Demand that the city take charge of the problem.  

For the Cat Action Network, I get it.  You like the cats.   But these are feral cats and they live in a community.  You should be working with the village and the community to create a useful and comprehensive program.  I have heard the argument that you spend your own money and time to feed and TNR the cats.  I have hobbies too.  But I don't expect my neighbors and government to pay for them.  And that's what you're doing when you unilaterally turn someone else's neighborhood into a cat sanctuary without involving them.  You are pursuing a hobby.  And I might add that most of you don't even live here.  Stand up and do the right thing if you really give a damn.  

Kevin Vericker
August 4, 2016