Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Commission Thinks Out Loud

Last night, newly elected Commissioner Marvin Wilmoth tried an innovative approach to bring better and more effective communication to the residents of North Bay Village by doing a Facebook Live event with the other commission members - Mayor Brent Latham, Commissioner Julianna Strout, Commissioner Jose Alvarez, and Commissioner Andreana Jackson.  

Wilmoth's approach was to use the forum, properly noticed and in compliance with Florida Sunshine Law, to have informal conversations regarding what they see as the priorities for the new commission and their approach to governance.  Apart from some technical issues, there was a lot of dead air, it seems like a good idea and I hope it evolves into a regular channel of discussion among our legislators.  The public needs to know not just what they are thinking but how they are thinking and with all four of the commission members, you could see their styles.  

Julianna Strout was up first and she talked some about her priorities of infrastructure and education.   The most important thing I heard from her about her process was that there will be disagreements.  She's not afraid of them and unlike the previous commission, doesn't see them as attacks but a piece of the discussion to get to the right outcomes.  

Andreana Jackson followed and expounded on her view that residents speaking about their concerns during commission meetings were simply distractions to be dismissed, that she has taken an interest in the cat problem after 3 years of ignoring it because the builders of the McMansions on South Treasure Drive might be allergic to cats and then discussed the never ending construction on Treasure Island, cheerfully noting that the project will not be complete in December as promised but will be another three months.  Since there is an administration embargo on news about the project, this was welcome information.   

Commissioner Jose Alvarez was next.  Alvarez spoke at great length about his experience on the dais over the last two years.  His concern that small minded contention has overwhelmed the ability to govern was apparent and Alvarez laid out step by step his vision of how North Bay Village can rise from the rut it is in and turn things around by laser like focus on the goals.  

Nah, just yanking your chain.  Alvarez didn't show.

Brent Latham, Mayor was last up and he actively engaged Wilmoth in discussion about their mutual goals, most specifically the need to create a Strategic Plan, focus the Budget so that it supports the planned outcomes, measure success and fix failures quickly.  They discussed the need for zoning to include resiliency for climate change and I think I heard that Wilmoth is very eager to go forward with the Unified Land Development Ordinance, a subject I have some disagreements on but would like to hear more about it. 

Overall, it was a refreshing and open view of the thought processess of the commissioners.  I hope the technical issues and the structure don't discourage them from figuring out how to do this regularly.  I'm really pleased to see Marvin Wilmoth taking the lead on this.  

Of Course, None Of It Will Work If We Don't Fix The Government Infrastructure

It doesn't how well thought out the plans of three commissioner members are, and make no mistake they are well thought out, if the administration is unwilling or incapable of carrying them out.  Worse, if the administration is actively fighting the commission.   

North Bay Village has three key Charter officers - the Village Manager, the Village Clerk and the Village Attorney.   The Village relies on this trio to create policy, administer the government and run the daily operations of the Village.  If the commission cannot rely on them, and if the residents can't trust them, it all falls apart.  

The Village Manager and the Village Clerk offices are both filled with interim appointments.  Interim Village Manager Lewis Velken is experienced in police work and that was what he was hired for.  The manager gig is a fill in position and Velken is the first to note that he has little experience in this area and that he has to rely on others who are more experienced in the arena, which is a humble and good thing to do, but we can't afford to be a training ground.  There's too much to do overall and the police department, where Velken was hired to be chief, is drifting again.  Velken needs to get back to the PD before it goes completely inert. The commission needs to address the position and start a full search for an experienced and innovative Village Manager.  

The Village Clerk which in spite of its title is a powerful executive position, is currently run by an interim who seems to be unfamiliar with some of the basics of procedure and research.  The clerk matters as she is typically the village historian, the archivist and the keeper of form.  We need an experienced Clerk who can prevent us from doing stupid things.  

And of course, Village Attorney Norman C. Powell.  Powell was brought in without an RFP by previous mayor Kreps and while he fiercely advocated for her, his tenure has been controversial and the Village continues to be hampered by his decision making.   I will also note that his law partners, Neil Kodsi and David Raben, contributed directly to the Laura  Cattabriga campaign while a company for which Powell is the listed agent contributed as well.  It's might seem his loyalties lie more with individuals and less with North Bay Village.  

The commission has to get the right team in place as their first priority or nothing will get done.  

I know it's a cliche but it has never been more true in North Bay Village.  

By the way, Einstein never said this.  It was Rita Mae Brown.

Kevin Vericker
December 4, 2018

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