Friday, August 24, 2018

The Manager's Budget Workshop

I’ve heard that developers like to come into a community or a city where the commission is stable."  Mayor Connie Leon Kreps in the Miami Herald article 'How a dispute over stationery turned this mayor's tenure into 'a Greek tragedy'

Mayor Crazy Eyes does not make clear where she heard that but it seems like common sense so I assume it was externally.  

Last night's Budget Workshop with Village Manager Velken drove this home.  

After a short introduction of the overall concept of the budget and stating that a major goal is to up the operating reserve to 50% of the operating budget, Velken invited the 15 or so residents present to ask questions about the budget priorities and the proposals. 

The first question out of the gate was "Where's the plan?  Is the budget related to the priorities set by the commission?"  

The image on the side (I know it's hard to read) is a picture the Commission's top priorities:  

  • Village Beautification and Landscaping
  • Proative (sic) Strategic Communications
  • Sea Level Rise
  • Village Complex
  • Short Term Vacation Rentals
  • Public Works Land Management
  • Five Years (sic) Improvement Plan

So the question was about how these priorities are supported by the budget. 

The answer was that money is going to each of these but there is not a drafted strategic plan for the Village.  

And that led to another discussion about the instability of the village government.  

The turnover since November 2017:

2 Village Attorneys following the abrupt firing of Robert Switkes. 
4 Village Managers - Frank Rollason, Bert Wrains (interim), Marlen Martell, Lewis Velken (interim?)
2 Deputy Managers - Jenice Rosado, Yolanda Menegazzo, currently vacant. 
3 Police Chiefs - Carlos Noriega, Brian Collins (interim), Lewis Velken, Brian Collins (interim)


1 Commissioner removed thru a dubious legal process.

1 Commissioner appointed to a seat that may not have been vacant.

2 Vice Mayors. 

and the inherent difficulty of creating a budget even for the short term in this environment.   

It is difficult to do that.   Until we fix that problem, we are not moving forward and the best we can hope for is to hold the line.  And that was the point raised by longtime resident Luis Torrego.  Start nothing new and keep things on course until a new more stable government is in place.

Richard Chervony questioned the wisdom of a $20,000 raise for one employee and expressed his concern that the Sakura purchase has a balloon payment coming for $2.1 million in 2021 that will need to either be paid out of the operating budget or financed at higher rates.  

For me, two of the clearest mistakes this budget proposal is making are caused by inexperience.

1.)  There is a proposal to eliminate police dispatch in the name of cost savings.  Instead we will be routed through the county 911 system.  This is a huge error and one that a manager with experience of the North Bay Village PD would immediately recognize.  There is a valid argument that North Bay Village's best asset is our local police and the Village dispatchers play an important role in that.  

They know who lives where, they know things like the West Bridge is up or that there is a flood on Adventure and who is who.   They serve as a lifeline for our residents and an information central point about our village.   It's the sort of cut that only looks good on paper.  

2.)  And then there is a discussion, which seems to have since changed direction, about replacing the PAL camp with the Miami Dade camp.  These have different purposes with PAL providing a full range of experiences for our kids while Miami Dade's is focused on academics.   Both good, but different.  

The PAL program has frequently been in the cross hairs of the budget hawks but it provides North Bay Village kids with an in depth experience of our police and in turn gives our police insight into the community.  It's a low cost, high value program and needs to be kept.  

As this finished, the hope is that the concerns brought up will be included in the commission decisions on the budget which will be made in two workshops - September 13 and 25th.

The commission needs to recognize the chaos of the personnel situation and before any other considerations, should only agree to those items that stabilize the village.  They won't.  They will grandstand and push things to ensure the election of Laura Cattabriga regardless of cost.  But they should consider the damage being done.

Kevin Vericker
August 24, 2018

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