Thursday, November 29, 2018

What If We Just Say No?

In October in a poorly advertised special meeting, the commission passed the first step of an all encompassing ordinance that would make significant changes to the Unified Land Development on the northern side of the JFK Causeway, along with changing the way the commission can spend the impact fees and for some reason, changing the dock lifts.   

The ordinance has a lot in it and it's probably a good idea to review our whole building code but it's important to remember that the ordinance as structured takes only into account the needs of the people who own the property and want to build there.  There is much left out.  

  • While the standards in building meet state and county requirements, there is nothing further about the unique resiliency requirements of our man made islands.  
  • The traffic impact is not quantified.   
  • The change to the setbacks - distance from the roadway - from 60' to 30' might improve parking but it does nothing to enhance the pedestrian experience or the use of transportation.
  • The parking proposals are reasonable for new construction but nowhere is the need for shared public parking explicitly addressed.   
  • The amount set aside for commercial use is too small for a vibrant commercial community.  
There was a workshop, poorly presented but well attended, to discuss the need for these changes.  

There is a need for most of the changes, but not all of them, and the workshop did not address the civic benefit of allowing higher buildings with a lessened setbacks nor the concerns about the impact on the village.  

Instead it seemed to be the accepted wisdom that we "need to develop the land and it needs to be profitable for the current owners."   

But what if we don't?  What if we don't change the ordinance?   What will we, the residents here in North Bay Village lose?   

Tax Base:  I've been hearing that tired argument for 20 years.  Each new project, the Lexi, the Fortress 360, the Bridgewater, the Yellow Building, all the way the back to the Grandview were going to expand the tax base and keep our taxes low.  

But they didn't.  Our taxes have gone up year over year and we rank right in the middle of Miami-Dade tax zones, with very low service - small parks, no big community activities, no real livability plan.   We are a high tax, low service village and the addition of the new condos didn't help that.  Maybe it made it worse?

Home Value:  Does the introduction of a new strip of high rises along the causeway bring up our home values?   That's questionable.  Probably it will overall but we have not seen the growth in value that Miami Shores (no high rises to speak of) or Surfside (controlled midrise buildings) have seen.  We've barely moved on the needle and our inventory does not turn over quickly.   

Enhanced Open Spaces for Community Access:  Really?  Of all the bullshit we've been fed, this is the worst.  Each of these new buildings, with the sole exception of Moda, flat out stole our bayfront access and have refused, with the collaboration of the village, to open their legally required easements to the public.  This land grab has happened in plain sight and with the soft corruption of the administration.   The public land is for private purpose only.  

The Developers Can't Make a Profit:  Oh.  The people who sold the land did and it's not our civic issue that knowing the rules, the developers bet on a certain willingness to change them.   

Back to the Question:

What if the commission simply rejects the new ordinance?  They should regardless because it is deeply flawed and at a minimum needs to be broken out into its constituent parts for consideration.   
Well, the developers still have zoning to build, just not as high as they want, and not as close to the curb as they want, and not as small as they want, and without the parking reductions they want.  

That's probably not optimal but it could give the Village some breathing room to focus on fixing the infrastructure, on opening the existing walkways, on updating the code to match the hyperlocal challenges of sea level rise, and I don't see where it would have any negative effect on the current community.   

Back to our neighboring cities - Miami Shores has increased notably more than North Bay Village.  Controlled development has been a net good for them and Surfside, which has seen a midrise construction boom, is thriving.   It seems what really brings value to the existing community is open spaces, access to places we want to go and proper planning.   So maybe we should consider it.  

Kevin Vericker
November 28, 2018

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Now The Hard Work Begins

The biggest issue for our new commission is how to move the Village forward.   

To do that, we need a shared vision 

It was deeply evident in the workshop last night on the Causeway redevelopment project that the shared vision is no longer in place.  

Equally evident is that it is very possible to get it right with some effort.   

The developers (understandably) want a simplified, unified code that will facilitate the construction on their properties.  

The village administration want a new tax base and increased revenue.  

The residents want the access to Bay that we were promised and a plan to fix the broken infrastructure.   

At points these are in conflict.  It was unclear what the traffic impact and visual impact of new building will be.   There is no laid out plan for parking and traffic improvement and in my view, too little attention paid to pedestrian access and the types of businesses we want to attract.  

The developers did themselves no favors last month by participating in the sneaky "special" meeting with the previous commission which passed everything they wanted with remarkably little discussion and our planning team need to seriously step up their communication skills.   

The new commission will have a chance to address this.  

The first thing they should do is reject the ordinance as written and instruct the planners to create several separate ordinances.  

There needs to be an ordinance governing mixed use residential and commercial projects, an ordinance addressing the requirements of hotel construction, another ordinance dealing with how impact fees can be spent, and a unifying ordinance requiring and enforcing bayfront access.  

The several other points brought up the ordinance regarding fence sizes on corner, boat lifts, sign sizes and other issues need to be separate, amendable pieces of legislation.   

The commission needs to focus on the issue of shared parking.  The developers and planners envision a parking process that is solely focused on each individual project - the retail store, the restaurant, the office, the hotel, the condos - will all have required parking but if we are to make this a destination competing with the likes of Miami Beach or Wynwood, we also need shared parking, a place to put the car for people who want to wander around.  

The intention of the village in 2007 was to develop public parking on the lot shared by the Grandview next to Happy's.  Build a structure that will fit the court mandated requirements for the Grandview parking and create a space for paid, casual parking to alleviate the pressure on the proposed projects.   In an ill considered move last month, the commission removed the covenant that required only parking for this lot and laid the groundwork for yet another ugly storage facility.  

The new commission should seek competent legal counsel and repeal the illegal resolution as a top priority.  The previous commission never had the right to set aside a court settlement and this has to get fixed.  

Then the administration needs to have a focused, truly informational workshop with the residents.  It needs to include visual samples, traffic studies, and clearly laid out development recommendations.  

Further, the administration needs to present the projected financial impact on the Village and the projected use of the funds generated by the impact fees.  

It would be a good idea to bring in some actual urban planning so that issues not of concern to the the developers are on the table as well to ensure issues like recreation, parking, and what kind of businesses we look for are included in the plans.  

The residents for their part need to take the developers' promises with a grain of salt.  We've been lied to before and it's important to remember that the previous commission was entirely funded by the developers.  Their needs matter but do not overrule ours.  It's our bayfront, not a private profit center.  

There will be a lot more on this so watch this space.  

Kevin Vericker
November 21, 2018

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New Administration, New Boards

No.  Not these.
Tuesday November 13, there was a workshop on the North Bay Village Boards.  

The discussion was led by Graciela Mariot, the interim Village Clerk, and attended by about 30 interested local residents.   

While the presentation from the administration was mostly a summary of what's on the website, with some glaring errors, the very cool thing, what makes me optimistic, is that the residents there were clearly bright and engaged and eager to help reconstruct the village.  This is exactly the kind of involvement the boards need.  

For a complete list of the boards and applications click here.  

Purpose of the Boards:

The Boards exist as advisors to the Commission and with the exception of Planning & Zoning, have no policy or legislative powers.  Each board is appointed for a 2 year term running concurrently with the commission term and the members are appointed by a commission majority vote.  

Boards are expected to review issues related to their charge, investigate current status, evaluate best practices and provide recommendations back to the commission through resolutions and reports.   The Village staff is available to the boards to assist the boards but neither takes direction from the boards nor decides what the boards will recommend or execute.  

In some instances, at the request of the commission, a board may directly become involved in the execution of village events such as Animal Control sponsoring adoption or TNR programs, but the board has neither budget nor authority to create events or execute policy.  The commission decides.  

How to Apply:  

Go to the village website and download the application.  Our website is bad so ignore the Submit button, it doesn't work with Firefox or Chrome, and needs to printed out or copied so that it can attached to an email to Graciela Mariot.  You should attach a copy of your voter registration card if you have it, otherwise be prepared to show your eligibility in person.  

The commission will vote on the application and decide the appointments then.  

How it Works After That:  

All board members are required to take a 4 hour Ethics training course offered in North Bay Village.  The course must be completed every 2 years and is mandatory.  It covers issues such as Sunshine Law, engaging with interested parties outside the board's scope, the roles of the board members.  It's not onerous and is quite interesting.   

Then the boards meet, select a chair, vice chair and secretary.   The meetings are usually monthly and about an hour or two in length.   They follow Roberts Rules of Order and each agenda item is expected to be noticed publicly, considered and voted on.  

The board presents their recommendations to the Commission at the monthly regular commission meeting.  

It's all pretty simple really.  

Why The Boards Went Silent - A Short History

Collateral damage from the toxic administration of Connie Leon Kreps and her quisling collaborators on the dais have included the boards.  The few boards that remained active were ignored and sometimes used as an alternative government.  This was done deliberately  as good ideas made the mayor feel bad.  Month after month, the mayor dolefully read the list of board reports and noted no meeting or no report.   

Even where the boards were active, they were ignored.  The Animal Control Board did an excellent job of laying out their recommendations for dealing with the feral cat problem and were completely ignored.  

The idiotic charter amendments that were on the ballot were the result of the commission nearly completely ignoring the hard, detailed work of the Charter Advisory Board and substituting the notions of our mayor for policy.  

Just last week, there was an "emergency" meeting of the Community Enhancement Board, not to recommend anything to the commission but to approve a decision on the mural already made and in progress.  Four members of our village staff were there for this community improv theater which meant nothing.  

What Has To Happen Now 

The Commission should in a workshop consider what boards are necessary and then follow up with legislation.   

My recommendations are:  

Keep Planning and Zoning.  It's required by law.  

Keep Animal Control because they are ready with a full legislative agenda on the cat problem.  They just need to be heard.  

Abolish all the other boards in December and replace them with boards focused around the key strategies of the village.  The following are examples but will need to change as Village strategies are developed.  

Resilience - Matters having to do with sea level rise, hurricanes, public safety responses to natural disasters and social disasters e.g. infrastructure failure, mass shootings. 

Economic development - fold the business board into this and add the enhancement functions to create a vision to attract the right mix of businesses and the right development for a livable community.

Resident Services - fold the Youth Services and functions from the Arts and Events and Enhancement to a board that focuses on developing a vision and practical actions for quality of life services.  

Accountable Government - expand the scope of the Budget Oversight to ensure that we are conforming with best practices of budgeting, communication, permitting and practices.  

Create ad hoc committees as needed.  They can be subcommittees for specific projects like undergrounding utilities, the village hall project, transportation changes etc.   

The qualifications should not insist on being a registered voter since we have a large non-citizen population.  Being an interested resident could be enough.  The commission should have the discretion to decide if they want to waive the requirements.  

This will mean repealing and replacing the ordinances that govern the boards.  Again, the commission  can't touch P&Z but they could do a large scale board ordinance and include language allowing the commission by resolution to appoint advisory committees for limited scope projects. 

I have faith that the new commission will approach the boards reasonably and intelligently .  The days of fearing different ideas may be over.  

"Bad Administration Can Destroy Good Public Policy" *Adlai Stevenson

This was pretty clear last night.  

The Interim Village Clerk mistakenly stated that Planning & Zoning, and the Youth Services and Education Board, were both indefinite appointments.  This is not so.  The establishing ordinances are both clear that these are 2 year appointments and the mistake was noted not by the Village Attorney who was present but by public participants.  

Further, the Village Clerk explained that the Village Manager decided which of the board recommendations would go to the commission.  Again, going back to original ordinances, it is clear that the board makes that decision and the role of the Village Manager is to provide requested support.  

Finally, in the best example of what is going wrong in the village, the Village Clerk said that she was unable to find the appointment dates of the Planning & Zoning members so there was no defined end to their terms.  Per Section 6.01 of the Charter "Advisory Board members shall serve a two (2) year term concurrent with the regular scheduled election of the Commission." so it was irrelevant but the members of the public suggested that she might ask the P&Z members when they were appointed, which she agreed might be a good idea, and that since the commission voted on the appointments, reviewing their minutes might yield a clue or two. 

UPDATE:  The missing appointments to P&Z have been found.  

Petra to Build, a member of the Facebook Page, North Bay Village Residents Speak, found the minutes from January 2017 with the confirmation of the P&Z members.  Here it is:

So That's Solved.  
All the seats will be open next year.  Petra usually charges $75 per hour for research but donated her services in this case because our clerk was befuddled.  

This is the inevitable outcome of the commission's decision to drive away all the experienced people in the administration and replace them with an inexperienced village manager, attorney and clerk.  They don't know what they are doing.  They may be fine people (at least one of them is not) but that's not good enough.  If you can't find the minutes, call your predecessor.  If you see what you think is an anomaly in the terms, read the ordinance.   But don't just present it as fact.   

The new commission has to deal with the competence issue first and I hope they know that.  The new commission was elected in a landslide to change the toxic culture of our government and they have their starting point - involve the residents, get competent administrators.  That has to be their priority.   The message was clear last night.  Residents want to be involved and now the commission must move to make that possible.  

Kevin Vericker
November 14, 2018

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Last Commission Meeting


Following the well deserved defeat of Laura Cattabriga and the repudiation of the insanity of the tenure of Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps, you would think the commission would gracefully accept the will of the people and move along.  In the past, the commission has cancelled the regular November meeting in favor of allowing the new commission to be sworn around the middle of November and then holds their first meeting a day or two later.  

But nothing has been normal about this commission and there is a regular meeting scheduled for next Tuesday night at 6:30 PM where they will run a full, routine looking agenda.  For the detail on the agenda, click here.  

But nothing is normal about this commission.   Mayor Crazy Eyes, "Vice Mayor" Andreana Jackson, and self appointed commissioner Laura Cattabriga, are the masters of the last minute new business items.   Among them they have included:  

  • The surprise firing of previous Village Attorney Robert Switkes unnoticed and late at night.  
  • The illegal removal of Doug Hornsby, advertised as a "discussion" but with a fully prepared agenda item. 
  • The massive change to the height limits on the Causeway passed in a special meeting with little public notice. 
  • The vicious attacks on Yvonne Hamilton coming out of left field, laden with false accusations.  

The list goes on and we just can't trust them.   It is entirely conceivable that at this meeting they will introduce new items, such as:

  • Making permanent the appointment of Graciela Marriott as Village Clerk without a proper search. 
  • Making permanent the appointment of Lewis Velken as Village Manager without a proper search.  
  • Deepening the poison pill contract with the Village Attorney to prevent his dismissal.
  • Even attempt to mess with the election results (the idea has been discussed).  
Cattabriga and Kreps are out but the fallout from their shambolic actions on the commission could still have consequences and Andreana Jackson is simply not trustworthy.   

They need to cancel this meeting.  It's time to go away with at least a little dignity.  

Kevin Vericker
November 8, 2018

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Real New Day In North Bay Village

The results are in. 

Mayor - Brent Latham 1,299 votes versus Laura Cattabriga 872  (60% to 40%)
Commissioner At Large - Julianna Strout 1,396 versus Robert Alvarez 735 (66% to 34%)

The message is as clear as the results are decisive.  
  • Stop the petty corruption.  
  • Stop the self serving grandiosity.  
  • Run the city for the residents. 
  • Clean the streets.
  • Fix the infrastructure.  

This was always very clear but it took Strout and Latham a huge amount of work to get the message out there and right up until last night it was not clear that enough people were listening.  Laura Cattabriga tried to carry her lie about Latham's residency all the way to the end and yesterday at the polls was still talking to voters about her false claims.  

The new few months will take a lot of hard work.  The damage wrought by Connie Leon Kreps and her sycophants was not just simple legislation.  Over the last year, they have wrecked the structure of the Village and that will not be easy to fix. 
The administration is saddled with an interim village manager, acting police chief and interim village clerk.  We have a village attorney who has interfered in every function of government and demoralized city staff.  The voters passed a number of Charter Amendments that make no sense and we are facing several lawsuits.  Untangling this will not be easy.  

But fortunately, we have three people on the dais who are clear eyed, transparent and ready to work.  They are going to need a lot of help but I have little doubt about their ability to get it right.  

Kevin Vericker
November 7, 2018

Friday, November 2, 2018

On One Hand... Class in the North Bay Village Mayoral Campaign

Cattabriga Makes An Untruthful Claim About Latham's Residency and Family And The Commission on Ethics Stepped In to Stop Her.  Cattabriga Defies Them.  

On one hand we have the Cattabriga campaign. Cattabriga has created a false narrative, dragging Latham and his family through the mud with malicious untruths about where he lives and implying that he does not meet the residency requirements.  

Following the finding of the Commission on Ethics that Cattabriga needed to publicly state that she disavows this malicious untruth both from her campaign and third parties.   

Cattabriga does not.  In fact, she doubles down.  

From the Miami Herald, we get this headline:  A mayoral candidate found guilty of spreading malicious untruths says she won’t stop and the article cites her attorney "Cattabriga’s attorney says his client plans to continue making the allegations, despite Tuesday’s ruling."

In fact she doubles down on the lie by taking 8 months of Latham's water bills, carefully editing out the large credit from the 9th month to claim it shows no water usage so how could he live there?  And she gets the mayor to write the same shade in an endorsement email.  

But Cattabriga screamed like a stuck pig when the entirely truthful ad sponsored by an PAC came around the Village.

Latham Responds To Cattabriga's Protest About The Ad

Latham condemned it.  Even though the ad is true, he disavowed it and is asking that it be stopped.  

Here's his statement in its entirety from his Facebook and linked groups:   

I have a lot to say about this but let me be brief:

I don't condone this. I didn't pay for it or order it and while I can’t control the third parties who did, I am sorry this happened.

While I strongly disavow the practice, sadly I can’t say the contents are untrue. I have been witness to and victim of this sort of behavior and more, nonstop, from the outset of this campaign.

While I am an outsider to NBV politics, as my opponent constantly points out, I do understand the hurt the political divisions of our village have caused. Sadly, Laura Cattabriga has been square in the middle of creating those divisions. This is the reaction some have chosen. I don’t think it’s the right course, but so many times in life we reap what we sow.

Nevertheless, to the extent I can, I apologize to Laura for this, because I think this is over the top in our neighborhood.

Laura is right that this is what is wrong with North Bay Village. We need to find higher ground. Not just when it’s politically expedient to do so, but on a daily basis.

Please come by today if you want to chat. - Brent
So I don't know if the truck will stop circulating.  My opinion, if it's true and relevant, it needs to be said and the finding of the Commission on Ethics is both true and relevant and it is Cattabriga who made this an issue.  

But let's look at the two candidates:  

Latham shows class and judgment.  Cattabriga can't even fake that.  I know who I trust.  

Kevin Vericker
November 2, 2018

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Who Owns Laura Cattabriga?

SourceCattabriga Latham
Out of Town152
Village Contractors80
North Bay Village Residents619
Murder Suspects10
Scorecard as of October 19 finance reports shows that Cattabriga is leading in donations from Village Contractors, Land Developers and Murder Suspects, while Latham is attracting most of his donations from North Bay Village residents, not suspected of murder. 

Two Random Lobbyists Contribute to Cattabriga, One a Murder Suspect

For some reason, both Michael McDeirmaid of North Miami and North Miami Beach and Seth Gordon have taken an interest in North Bay Village Government and have donated $250 each to Cattabriga.  

Seth GordonMiami$250Lobbyist
McDearmid & AssocNorth Miami$250Lobbyist

I guess that's okay.  It's just donations.  I mean it's not like they're suspected of murder or anything. 

Oh wait, one of them is according to the Biscayne Times 

In 2000 Gordon himself was yanked from the campaign staff of State Attorney Kathy Rundle after Miami-Dade homicide detectives informed her that Gordon remained a suspect in the 1975 murder of his first wife. (Gordon was never charged and has denied any involvement in the crime.)
Well, still, Seth Gordon did stand by former North Bay Village Jorge Forte who went to jail for municipal corruption so at least...hmmm.

Village Contractors:

In Miami Beach, it is against the law for the vendors and contractors to contribute to their boss's campaigns.   

In North Bay Village, NAH.  Contractors and Vendors are expected to open their wallets and Cattabriga has gone all out to get donations.  

Here is the list of people who make money off the Village who have been moved to contribute to Cattabriga for some reason ($) along with their interest and other items of note.

Sorted by Amount (Decreasing)

Ron BookMiami FL$1,000No RFPLobbyist
Ron BookMiami FL$1,000No RFPLobbyist
Carlos PeninCoral Gables$500Village ContractorCap Gemini
Okeechobee LandfillPompano Beach$500Village Contractor
Waste Management
Jose InfanteCoral Gables$300Village ContractorSFM
Neil KodsiNorth Bay Village$250No RFPLegal Services
Dave RabenNorth Bay Village$250No RFPLegal Services
A & A CommunicationsHollywood FL$250Listed agent Norman Powell Village AttyLegal Services

Special note:  Ron Book donated through two businesses he owns - isn't that cute?  And he got a $40,000 contract with no RFP and no bid.  

Contractors and Vendors who Cattabriga owes:  $4,050 plus the extra help like water bills and overlooked business taxes.  

Now the Developers

First of all, let's be super clear.  Cattabriga's political consultant, Strategic Campaign Consultants, is owned by Mitch Edelstein, who ran all of Mayor Kreps' campaigns and who represents virtually every land developer in North Bay Village, not to mention from 2013 - 2017 lobbied for North Miami Beach strip clubs alongside Village Attorney Norman C. Powell.  He is listed as a vendor on Cattabriga's campaigns and much of the nastiness is typical of his campaign style.  

Here are the Developers and their reps who are donating generously to Laura Cattabriga:  

National Construction ServiceFort Lauderdale$1,000
Land Development
RG FiferMiami Beach$1,000
Land Development
Superior DrywallHialeah$1,000
Land Development
Brick Village 79 LLCMiami FL$1,000
Land Development
Isle of DreamsExempt$1,000
Land Development
Gabriela GholinaMiami, FL$1,000
Land Development
Marlina ApfelbaumMiami, FL$1,000
Land Development
P & O Global TechMiami$1,000
Land Development
Truth is the Daughter of TimeMiami$1,000
Land Development
UBS Financial ServicesHartford CT$1,000Land Development
Bradley BelcherJupiter FL$500
Land Development
Ashmandy KitchenHialeah$500
Land Development
Miguel BarbagalloCoconut Grove$500
Land Development
Deborah WrightBrooklyn NY$500
Land Development
Deborah CitrinMiami Beach$250
Land Development
Citrin and Walker ATTYMiami Beach$250
Land Development

Developers who Cattabriga owes:  $12,500 

Biggest and Be$te$t Contributor:

Laura Cattabriga herself.  

Cattabriga has "loaned" herself a cool $15,775 for a job that pays like $12,000 per year.  Now she might be expecting to pay herself back from leftover campaign funds but that's going to be a stretch.  The odd thing about loans is that it's hard to see the source of the money so I'll just leave this here.  

Local Residents:

A few, 6 to be exact if we don't count Cattabriga.  The biggest one is Mary Kramer, wife of Commissioner Jose Alvarez for $1,300.   

But Wait - What About Latham?

Well, here's the breakdown by category:

Developers - $0
Village Vendors and Contractors - $0
Murder Suspects - $0
Self - $5,000
North Bay Village Residents - $10,150 (should be more next report) 19 total reporting. 

But Won't Cattabriga Recuse Herself When The Issues Come Up?

No.  She has stated that she believes that she has to vote on everything in spite of the usual ethics requirement to recuse yourself when you're being profitable.   In fact, Cattabriga made it a point to "explain" that to her opponent when he said he would recuse himself.  It's not true of course.  But she's clear she's a votin'.  

Surely there must be something good?

Well, yes.  Cattabriga is an honest politician, not like those that take money and then scupper away from their sugar daddies.  So far she has rewarded the village attorney, the village lobbyist (Ron Book) with no bid, no RFP contracts in spite of the Charter provision that says anything over $15,000 needs to be bid with an RFP.   No law holds her back.  

And already she's voted to grant up to 400 foot height limits to the developers.  

And remove the parking covenant to clear the way for a storage facility (another one) on the Causeway.  

Cattabriga - she stays loyal to the people who show her the money.  

Kevin Vericker
October 31, 2018