Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Let's Talk About The Mayoral Race

Connie Leon-Kreps is a terrible mayor.  I cannot overstress this.  Since the day she pushed her way into the mayoral seat, she counts among her major accomplishments:

  • The worst police chief we have had in memory, Robert Daniels.  
  • Budget overruns every year until the commission finally said enough this year.
  • Actively blocked efforts to improve Treasure Island Elementary School which is now a 'D' ghetto grade school with no clear plans for improvement.  
  • Attacked political opponents for being gay.  
  • Loses control of the meetings sometime within minutes. 
  • Probably interfered with an ongoing police investigation at the Kennedy House that yesterday resulted in the conviction of the management team, including having Alejandra Salcedo, then under investigation and now convicted in the crimes as a key worker in her 2014 campaign.   
  • Accused her fellow commissioners of "collusion and conspiracy" without any proof and then attempted to get the village to pay her attorney $650 per hour when the commissioners censured her remarks.  (She failed but that's some caradura nerve.)   
  • Has consistently terrible relationships with the village managers, first Dennis Kelly and now Frank Rollason who she is trying to fire.  
  • Kreps pushed the food trucks out of North Bay Village and tried to get them banned from Pelican Island.  
So you have some of the bad things.  Let's balance those with the good things.  
  • After her initial opposition to village funding of the IB program for TIES, she later voted for it.  
  • ummm.   Kind of out of things.  
Kreps is not just a bad legislator, she is a bad person.  Her political skills have alienated each of her fellow commissioners, each of whom were allies of hers initially.  There's a story behind each one.  When Richard Chervony questioned expenses, she tried (and failed) to shut him down.  When Jorge Gonzalez worked long and hard to get the village in the Miami Shores Chamber of Commerce, Kreps went behind his and the commission's back to get herself appointed to the Board of Directors, probably extra legally.   With Eddie Lim, Kreps constantly disrespected him from the dais until it became intolerable.  

Kreps' relationships with residents are no better.  She is quick to perceive insult and understands disagreement as threats.  Every one of the boards has either been dissolved or reduced to impotence under her constant combination of ignoring the boards or actively insulting them.  

Finally, Kreps has broken relationships with the county and no relationships at all with our neighbor cities of Miami and Miami Beach.   

So even supports her?  There is a small coterie of North Bay Island neighbors who are only interested in their four square blocks, and those people who benefit from her lack of interest in fiscal stewardship such as some developers and village contractors.  Beyond that, very few.   

Jorge Gonzalez is running against her and I have problems with him as well.  I think he should work to restore the public access to the Bay, something he has not done, and he needs to take the lead on fixing the ugly north side of the causeway.  Sorry it didn't work out for the developers who wanted to flip but that's no reason to leave it looking like that.  Still Gonzalez is a far better bet as mayor.  

The village is finally back on a good financial track, the different commissioners have found their groove with education, environment, recreation and finance all finally having champions on the dais.  We have a real chance to move the village forward now but if we try to do it with same old craziness from the current mayor, we will fail.   

Kevin Vericker
October 26, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Burying the Powerlines in North Bay Village

There is a proposition on the North Bay Village power lines to affirm a 2006 proposition to bury the powerlines, an attractive idea but I am recommending a NO vote on the proposition.  

To understand how this happened, we need to go back to 2006 in North Bay Village when this was on the ballot.  The year before we were sucker punched by Hurricane Wilma and North Bay Village was without electricity for nearly two weeks.  It was a messy and inconvenient time and was without a doubt a result of the poor infrastructure in our power lines.  

We knew burying the lines would be expensive. The original debt bond was for $9 million, and that did not include the cost to the individual homeowners to switch to underground power.  But two things were driving the move to underground - the recent memory of Wilma and the implied but never overtly stated promise that the additional moneys would come from the then booming condo development market.  

The Village did not move forward quickly and by 2008, the promised condo boom had turned into the slow, nasty slog that drains our resources and 10 years on leaves our causeway looking like the 3rd world.   The massive overdevelopment was never going to bring us any benefits and certainly wasn't ever going to pay for the burying.   

The Commission decided to put this on the ballot to see if there was still public support for the idea.  There probably is not and for very good reasons.  
  1. It's expensive.  Apart from the increased tax costs, each home and building affected would be responsible for trenching and paying for the new power line hookups.  A back of the envelope guess is $3000 or so to dig the trench and attach the powerline.  In addition, each house or building would have to have a code inspection to see if the electrical system is up to code for 2016.  Most of the single family homes were built in the 1950's and while some have been modernized, not all have been.  Those who are not up to current code will need to rewire their homes to meet code, at a cost to the homeowner that could be well over $5,000 or more depending on what has to be done.  Plus the homeowner pays the building inspection fees.
  2. One out of Two Houses Loses.  Right now, the pole transformers in the back serve 4 houses.  Undergrounding means that there needs to be a tranformer every 2 houses, so either I or my neighbor has to have a box installed in our front yard.  That could leave to conflict with the neighbors and it's not particularly fair.
  3. The condos who have already built with underground wires will have to pay the increased tax burden.  While by and large, the condos have brought little benefit to North Bay Village what with stealing the Bayfront from the residents, building inadequate parking, and the shady deals reducing the impact fees, it seems like the additional cost for the changes to our infrastructure should be paid by those who benefit.
  4. It's not clear that it is a benefit.  While underground wires will reduce the vulnerability to wind damage, they also seriously increase the possibility of water damage, particularly salt water damage.   When we have floods, it's mostly bay water, salt water, and damage to the lines or the transmission boxes means a complicated process of drying and desalinating the boxes before they can be back in service.   
I just can't see how this would benefit us.  The powerlines are ugly and worn out (so am I!  Boom!) but FPL/Atlanticbb/ATT need to harden the aboveground infrastructure to make them less susceptible to wind damage and upgrade our grid to make us more resilient.  I believe the benefits from that effort will pay us back much more than undergrounding.  If North Bay Village were built today, we would have a whole different picture of our infrastructure but given the difficulties and expenses in this proposal, we are better off sticking with the status quo.  And if the Gang of 3 don't up their game, we can always force the issue later.

Kevin Vericker
October 20, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The North Bay Village Election and My Take

The country is in the grip of the strangest elections I can remember (and I'm old) and many people have deep concerns about the national outcome including me.   Still, let's talk about North Bay Village where strange comes to live.

We have four things to vote on:  
  • Commissioner from North Bay Island Island
  • Commissioner from Treasure Island
  • Mayor
  • Whether or not to bury the power lines.  
You know I have opinions but I'm going to save the powerlines and the mayoral race for another post.  

Commissioner from North Bay Island:   
Richard Chervony deserves to be re-elected.  He's worked diligently and hard to improve North Bay Village.  He kept our taxes low.  He is seemingly everywhere with constituent help and was the constant voice of information during the recent hurricane scare.

His key accomplishments include:

  • The Health Clinic at Treasure Island Elementary School and a new program to provide dental care. 
  • Consistently introducing and shepherding through environmental legislation including the styrofoam ban.  
  • Involved himself in the details of the budget to direct the first budget in years that maintains city services, rewards village employees, keeps the reserve healthy and lowered the taxes.  This is not the usual approach and I know how hard he worked to make this happen  

 Chervony's done a great job in his tenure and he has my unqualified endorsement.

His opponent, José Alvarez, is a nice guy who I hope will contribute over the next few years.  His major accomplishment, creating village rules around AirBnB and other short term rentals, was good but most of the work was done by his wife and I have not heard any compelling reasons why he would be a better choice than a successful sitting commissioner.  I was disappointed that he did not attend the budget meetings - the budget dictates what the village can actually do for the next year and being present would have mattered.  Great guy and with experience, he may be ready next time.

Full Disclosure Note Here:  Chervony and I have had massive, epic public battles.  NBV Thunderdome battles and we very well might again.  I fully expect some mysterious PAC will soon send you information on that.  I stand by every nasty thing I said and I'm certain Chervony will say the same about me.  (I dunno, I didn't ask).  But who would you rather have?  Someone who fights like hell and then does the right thing or some smiley backstabber?   My choice is obvious.
Commissioner for Treasure Island:  
Andreana Jackson has stood out in her rookie year.  On a steep learning curve, she has taken a firm stand on environmental issues affecting North Bay Village and is fighting hard to clean the place up.  Jackson has also worked hard to learn the commission processes, build bridges to the community and genuinely question what she does not understand.  She's very aware of knowing what she doesn't know and seeks advice from her best sources.

Her accomplishments in the last year include:

  • Sponsoring legislation to clean our streets.  
  • Leading cleanup efforts in the Village
  • Promoting Science Technology Engineering and Math at Treasure Island Elementary
  • Taking part in an uncomfortable and politically risky move to restore civility to the Commission.

Andreana is more than potential and is a proven contributor to the Village.  

Her opponent, Dr. Joshua Furman, is a long time resident and an exceptional person.  He is a doctor with a practice locally and a bright man.  Like Alvarez though, his grasp of the complexity of village issues is hampered by his not showing up.   He needs to know the issues, the nitty gritty stuff, before he should replace someone like Jackson who dives in 100%.  I hope to see more of him on the boards but he does not have the experience or the knowledge we need now.

So that's my view.  Yours?

By way, if Jose Alvarez or Joshua Furman would like to write about why they feel they are better qualified, I'll open the blog up to them publish unedited any replies they would like.  

Kevin Vericker
October 14, 2016