Sunday, October 14, 2018

Brent Latham and The Debate

If you're looking for a report piece by piece on last Thursday's debate, you're not going to find it here.   

The entire debate is online at the Village Website and you can watch from the comfort of your own streaming device.  

Yesterday, I posted about Laura Cattabriga and the Debate.  Today I post about Brent Latham.  I'm supporting him which should come as a surprise to nobody.   
My primary reason is that I fundamentally believe that in order for North Bay Village to recover from the damage of the last 8 years under this administration, we need candidates who are not part of the North Bay Village Crazy™ politics of mismanagement.   That includes me.  
But a warm body is not enough.   It's not a rescue type of thing.  
Latham actually has a strong background in international organizations such as the United Nations, a nonprofit he ran in Peru and most impressively was brought in as part of the FIFA team to manage things post-scandal.   He's also a quick study who understands what went wrong here.  
So on to the debate.  
Temperament - When Cattabriga attacked Latham's family and children, Latham kept his cool.   When the Vice Mayor began disrupting from the audience, Latham kept his cool.   When he was accused falsely of Homestead Fraud, Latham kept his cool.  
But in this purposeful barrage of attacks and untruths, what he was saying could easily get lost.  
Strategic Planning - both candidates seem to be on board that without an overall plan for the Village the commission is directionless.  Latham however is clear that the Strategic Plan does not belong as a subset unassigned function of the Finance Department because it has to include every aspect of the Village - Planning, Public Safety, Resident Services, Accountable Government.  Simply having the occasional get together to put up aspirations is not enough and that's what we've done.  
Involving Residents - Communications is a clear issue.  The best example is that there was a building moratorium in place throughout September and there is currently a "conditional moratorium" in place.  The residents didn't know about this and we still don't know what this means.  This matters a lot.  If you are selling your house, you have to disclose this.  If you are submitting plans for any new construction, the permit will be held back.   Latham was clear that his experience in communications is that the more the better.   
The next example is when will the sewer project be finished and when the streets be repaved.  The opponent said it's all on the Village webpage.  Somewhere.  I can't find it.  
Latham was clear that this schedule needs to be front and center with residents. 
Boards that are actually tasked with studying issues, being heard by the commission and involved in the process are critical and Latham stressed his experience in this area and that the expertise lies in the room of gathered citizens.   The boards have been mostly vacant and are not included anymore for the most part in the commission meetings.  Latham thinks that has to change.  
Resiliency and Sea Level Rise - Latham was very clear that the Village can't go this alone.  Miami Beach has a forward thinking program on Sea Level Rise and Resiliency, as does the City of Miami.  We have $0 in the budget for this effort.  Latham wants to take the budget apart and find the money to start now, before it's too late.  
Development - in the last month, the Commission has approved two deals that are at best questionable for the Village.  The parking lot next to Happy's had a deed restriction that only allows it to be used for parking, a major problem in that area, and the commission lifted that.   For no good reason except the seller of the property wanted it lifted.   No negotiation, no understanding of the complex issues around the original restriction (hint: it was a court case settlement), no telling the developer that he would still need to replace the places.  
In another move, in a poorly advertised "special" meeting, the Commission approved height variances up to 400 feet (40 stories) on the northside of the causeway, smaller units, shallow setbacks, no requirements for types of business and for some reason dock sizes into a single piece of legislation that gives away most of our control over the causeway because the current holders paid too much.  Again, no negotiation and no clear understanding of the mix of businesses or residences being proposed.  
Latham was clear that these kind of wholesale changes would not simply be for the benefit of the developers but all the stakeholders.   
Village Services - We hired an attorney without an RFP because the mayor liked him.  He's making an unprecedented $204,000 per year and there was never a competitive process to see if we could get better value.  
Employees have totaled payouts ranging from $21,000 for a 40 day employee to $127,000 for a 4 month employee, presented as "waivers not to sue."   Latham was clear that handing out 6 figure severances would not happen without fully understanding why and in this case, it's clear that the fear of lawsuits is based on the demonstrably hostile work environment in Village Hall.   That has to be fixed.  
The Police - The Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed Latham and Julianna Strout.  Of all the village services, they may have suffered the most under the political pressure over this administration.  In the last year alone, they've had 2 police chiefs and 2 interim police chiefs.  The police need stable command and Latham committed to that.   
The Firings and Resignations - We have an interim Village Manager, an interim Village Police Chief, an Interim Village Clerk, a Village attorney with less than a year's experience.  While Cattabriga found this constructive and exciting, and bizarrely stated that the previous police chief was let go because the police should not investigate commissioners for crimes.   
Latham was clear that a professional government requires professional officials and that the process of hiring for these positions should not be on political expediency or personal likes.   We need a stable government.  
Working With Our Neighbors - We're small.  We can't go it alone.  Neither candidate is for annexation with Miami Beach but Latham was clear that he intends to work with our neighbors to discuss recreation, transportation, resiliency from climate change, and any issues of mutual benefit.  We need to examine these closely and carefully with the resident's participation.  
Political Contributions - Cattabriga brought up that one of Latham's supporers has a lawsuit against the Village, Latham owned it and promised that when the issue comes before the Village, he will recuse himself.  Cattabriga then falsely and smugly stated that a commissioner could not recuse themselves when there is an apparent conflict of interest.  They not only can, but should.  
Cattabriga has solicited contributions from every vendor to the village and has no intention of recusing herself when payback comes.  
My Conclusion - There's no savior, no one person who can undo the politics of chaos and self interest that have held North Bay Village back.  But Latham has the stuff to unite the Village and get us back on track.  
Cattabriga doesn't.  She sued her way on to the commission, and now is using whack a mole negative accusations against her opponent while excusing her own failure to perform because she's "new".  She's not.  She's the same old story without the crazy eyes.   
It's time for a reboot and Latham can do it.  
Kevin Vericker
October 14, 2018

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