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

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