Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Employee Health Is Not A Cost Savings Opportunity

Our budget is a struggle every year.

Should it go up to meet the revenue available from inflation?

What should be prioritized and what should be eliminated?

How do we approach cuts in spending?

These are just some of the questions.  The budget is about what we value and I'm going out on a limb here, but I believe that without our police force, North Bay Village makes no sense.  We might as well request to be annexed to Miami Beach or Miami or unincorporate into the county.

If the residents of North Bay Village are faced with a tax hike or service cuts, the one thing you will always hear is "We will pay for the police."   Our police are local, responding within minutes, they know the community and under Carlos Noriega are reaching fully accredited national and state standards.   This is big.

Yet every new village management staff looks at the police and tries to redo the contract to squeeze some savings out of the police and this year is no different.  The Village and the FOP have not even begun to negotiate their 2020 contract and yet the Village is taking the preemptive step of discontinuing the popular health care option of a PPO.

Because it would save $64,000.  or 0.71% of our budget  Less than 1%. 

Imagine if you decided to tighten your budget at home by less than 1%, easy to do right? 

Would your first idea be to change to a less comprehensive and useful medical program?  Probably not. 

But that is what we are asking our officers to do. 

The change is from a PPO to an HMO and does not acknowledge that some of our staff have kids in college outside the area who will now be effectively uncovered, and in one case a dependent is seeking treatment out of state based on medical advice for a life threatening condition and will no longer be covered,

Our police went through a lot under the previous commission, including unjust firings, a phony police chief who was never what he said he was, and a bruising union fight which is now resolved.

It is entirely possible that there are more effective cost options for our employee coverage but our government doesn't know that.  NBV have not put it out for bid.

There may be ways that police themselves can make sure we are spending the money right.  We don't know that because this change has not been negotiated. 

If it's forced through, it's pretty clear that there will be an expensive legal fight between the union and the village as there is reason to believe that the current is a de facto part of their employment contract.

While the Village reconstructs, this is not the time to worsen the morale of the very people who have been kicked around the second most for the last 6 years (the residents get 1st place in that contest)

At an absolute minimum, the Village should continue the current coverage status, even at an increased cost, and look for savings elsewhere.  Real savings, sustainable, that move our Village forward.

The final budget hearing is September 27 and there is a meeting tonight at Village Hall of the Budget Oversight Committee.  The police have stood up for us and we need to speak up for them. 

Kevin Vericker
September 16, 2019




Sunday, September 1, 2019

In The Middle Of The Not Here Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian is not yet behind us and even though it looks like we won't get hit directly, we are in for some stormy days.  

I wouldn't call us lucky.  If we were lucky, Dorian would have faded out a week ago but that doesn't mean I can't take some time to express gratitude for how apparently smoothly things have been running.  
Our new Village administration has been communicating clearly and consistently in the run up to the storm.  Our Village Manager, our mayor, our communications director Daniela Romero and Chief of staff Mario Diaz have been clearly and consistently communicating what the Village is doing, what they know and what they don't know, and opening lines of communication and response to the residents on Facebook, in texts, on Twitter and in person.   They have been backed by our police force.  

This is in sharp contrast to Irma two years ago.  

Let me give you the clearest example.  The Village announced that sandbags would be available for Irma at 11 AM in the morning.  Then gave them all away by 9 AM and told the residents who had followed instructions to pound sand.  

For Dorian, the Village set up the distribution sites, delivered these in an orderly manner, made adjustments to the policies about first floor only when that was needed and then offered to deliver to those who could not make it due to disability or other factors.   

Our always excellent public works people were on top of the debris and the clogged drains and were out working through the last two days of the week.  

In fairness, they did this before Irma because they are that good but this time it was part of a village wide response team.  

Our mayor and vice mayor did what our elected officials can and should do.  They communicated and were present.  I know they did more but they also know when to get out of the way.  

It matters that they be the face of the residents during this and they're doing it right.  Commissioners Jackson and Alvarez are completely missing in action but that's good for us.  

We can contrast this to Irma when our elected officials went silent throughout the hurricane except for a mayoral temper tantrum.  every piece of information from the staff had to be pried loose, and the informal Facebook page was the only source of information.  

Village Manager Rosado and his staff have made sure the streets are clear of obvious objects and potential hazards and have kept the communications going. 

We are in for a wet and windy week.  There are lessons to be learned of course.   Still we in much better shape for when the next one, the one that hits, comes through and that's because of the clear vision and hard work of this administration and I am grateful.   

PS:  Okay.  I just have to tell you that I heard a rumor that a former official of North Bay Village appeared at the sand bag distribution site demanding 30 sand bags to protect her moat from overflowing into her castle and had a bucket of water thrown on her was politely told to go pound sand.  Whether her troupe of flying monkeys were sent out to get more sandbags has not been confirmed.  

Kevin Vericker
September 1, 2019

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Let's Talk About The Good Stuff

You probably not going to believe me and you likely will think that this is a piece of satire since I am not known for my sunny, bright outlook but it must be said. 

There's a lot of good news going on. 

First up is that we are now 100% part of Miami Beach PAL.  Our kids, from 6 to 18, regardless of where they go to school can join in the PAL activities in Miami Beach at the resident rate. 

This Is Massive!

For years, North Bay Village families have seen the lack of youth services as a major impediment to family life here and getting full access to one of the best programs in the state.  Check it out here at the Miami Beach PAL site.  

But Wait, It's On The Beach Right?

Yes, it is.  And many of the activities are in North Beach.  So getting there's a problem, isn't it?  

Nope, the Village has expanded the Island Hopper service to connect to North Beach.  From 10 AM to 7 PM.  It's pretty straightforward, Call them at 786 390-3386 and arrange a ride over or back.  

Yep, our transit is growing, for free.   And soon will be augmented by additional service from Freebee on Demand, a free ride service that will pickup and drop you anywhere in the Village.  

More Good News?  Yep

Green space, parks for people and dogs, is hard to come by but the Village has a plan, the Village has partners, and the Village is getting some money.   Our seed money is $417,000 from the state that our State Rep Michael Grieco and State Senator Jason Pizzo got in the budget for us.  Mayor Brent Latham  is working with the school board to harmonize the TIES elementary field with the overall plan and through the fall the plans should emerge.   

The Dog Park is taking a long time to plan and in my view is being over complicated but the plans should be on the agenda and finalized in September according to Village Manager Ralph Rosado.  

Work is continuing on the Baywalk now renamed the Island Walk, although Kimley Horn is still involved so it might take longer, cost more and be less than promised as is their custom, but that's cool, right?  

The streets are planned to be repaved.  According to Village Manager Ralph Rosado, the bidders will be qualified in October, the contractor selected in December and we will at least know the by the end of the year when they will be done.  

Thing That's Happening But You Might Not Notice

Under Carlos Noriega, our police department is back.  The PD is on track to accreditation, which opens up for more grants and standardizes our professional standing in law enforcement.  This had been derailed by our previous police chief and it matters to be back on track.  Further, there is a return to the professionalism under the new Village Management and the reinstatement of the command staff under Carlos Noriega is already achieving results such as increased marine patrols, community outreach and the previously mentioned PAL.  

The Village Staff now includes a professional HR manager, a communications professional, a deputy village manager who acts as chief of staff and analytics specialist.

So It's All Good, Right?  

Nah.  There's a lot to be done.  Lawsuits need to be settled.  The Village staff has to start responding.  Our communications are poor.  There are no performance measures.  For some reason Kimley Horn continues to show up around the Village to collect more money.  (I have an idea why but this is my positive post so I'll cover it later), residents are still kept in the dark about the construction and the Village still has to deal with building the Village Hall and there's a lot be done on resiliency and other issues but for right now:


Kevin Vericker
August 28, 2019

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Blocking the Future

From Saturday's Miami Herald, here is a short summary of the latest news in North Bay Village. 
After a year in office as a North Bay Village city commissioner, Douglas Hornsby was told he was ineligible for his post and removed. Citing 30-year-old felony charges that brought his voting rights into question, commissioners voted him out in January 2018.Last week, a Miami-Dade circuit court found that his dismissal was illegal, saying he had been denied due process because he wasn’t given adequate notice of the meeting.
According to the same article,  "the former city attorney[Powell] who advised the commission to dismiss Hornsby, stands by his January 2018 recommendation, arguing that Hornsby, as an ineligible commissioner, was not entitled to due process."
That's pretty strong stuff.  An attorney willing to state publicly that anyone is not entitled to due process.  It's at best a novel legal theory but more likely a completely inaccurate understanding of how the law works. 

Anyway, we are well rid of him. 

Except We're Not


The Village still has to clean up the aftermath.  While the court simply said the removal was illegal and did not prescribe a remedy, the Village now has to work out a fair settlement with Hornsby.  Since Hornsby is a reasonable man and we (finally) have a reasonable majority on the commission, we can expect a reasonable discussion with a reasonable outcome.   At a minimum, in my opinion, it should include rescinding the removal from the public record, living up to our obligations to pay for Hornsby's legal defense and reimbursing on whatever level reasonable people can agree for the damage done to Hornsby's reputation.

Then we can forget about it, right?

Not really.

Why Are They Still Here?


Commissioner Andreana Jackson
 There are two commissioners still on the dais until November 2020. They are Andreana Jackson (Treasure Island) and Jose Alvarez (Mary Kramer's Law Office) who both voted to remove Hornsby and who should have known that the due process as laid out in the charter was not being followed. 

Both Jackson and Alvarez were busy enabling an increasingly confounded mayor's demands while doing nothing of value for the community.

Since Kreps left office and possibly the Village, Jackson sits sniping at the current mayor and vice mayor at meetings, blocking legislation when she can and attending Galas. 

Commissioner Jose Alvarez
Alvarez just sits there. 

Both were conveniently unavailable to attend when the Village had to settle with Carlos Noriega and again at the second meeting where Detectives Columbano and Bejar reached their settlement.  All three of these gentlemen had reasonably settled their cases and neither Alvarez nor Jackson were there to acknowledge and help the Village move forward.

Now when the Hornsby settlement comes to a vote, ethics will require that they recuse themselves.  They were the critical supporting cast in this fiasco and should have known better.  They have nothing more to add.

Ignorance is Regrettable. Arrogance is Foolish. The Combination is Deadly

Incredibly, in spite of her complete lack of a constructive record and her unwillingness to even talk to her constituents, Andreana Jackson has paired up with another of Norman C. Powell's close friends, one Mayor Claudia Cubillos of El Portal, to get herself nominated to the Board of Directors for the Miami-Dade League of Cities.   The League of Cities is the umbrella organization that provides insurance to its member cities, something North Bay Village has had to use extensively to resolve the legal issues Jackson helped bring on, and provides legal services to untangle the web of legal challenges cities have faced.    

Mayor Claudia Cubillos, perhaps Connie Leon-Kreps' only ally, took a page from the Powell Kreps book and tried to have, you guessed it, one Norman C. Powell appointed permanent legal counsel for her town, El Portal.   Stephanie Kienzle writes about that try and its failure in her blog.  

And guess what?  Cubillos is joining Jackson on an attempt for both of them to be elected to the Board of Directors, the group that has control over things like hiring attorneys.   

It seems like these two, Cubillos and Jackson, have similar views on and tight relationships with a municipal attorney.   This is something to worry about.   

Given their unhealthy past and present with a lawyer who does not believe some people are entitled to due process because reasons, who negotiated his own contract and severance directly, and who has left a legacy of problems, it would be amazing if the League of Cities members agreed to this.  

Alvarez and Jackson Should Resign

They are of no use to their constituents in the Village.  They both brought about mass disruption by their collaboration with the extra legal shenanigans of the previous administration.  There are even suggestions in the current Velken case that Alvarez was aware of the attempt to get around the FRS rules very early on.   

We can't afford another year of them.  They should leave.  

It's the decent thing to do.  

Kevin Vericker
August 8, 2019






Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Court Finds That Doug Hornsby Was Removed Illegally

As any competent municipal attorney could have seen, the courts have ruled that the removal of Doug Hornsby from the commission on January 29, 2018, was illegal. 

Following the advice of then Village Attorney, Norman C. Powell, the commission violated Sunshine, disregarded the actual legal process of forfeiture of an office and that Norman C. Powell's "theory" that Hornsby's appointment was not valid ab initio and therefore did not have to follow due process was wrong.   
Doug Hornsby served as Commissioner At Large, appointed by the commission to fill the seat in 2017 and was embroiled in a controversy over extortion attempts on him made by political opponents.   This set off a chain of events that led to 
  • The firing of the Village Attorney Robert Switkes to be replaced by a strip club lobbyist with no experience as a municipal attorney but whose singular devotion to the Mayor was beyond question.  
  • The resignation of the Village Manager, Deputy Manager and Executive Administrator the same night they became aware that they were to be terminated in a "special" commission meeting.  
  • The firing of Police Chief Carlos Noriega and two detectives investigating the extortion matter.  
  • The hiring and then forced resignation of Village Manager Martell.  
  • The hiring through a third party of Chief Police Lewis Velken who was then put in as Village Manager.  The use of a third party was presumed to be a way around Florida Retirement Systems rules and has resulted in an attempt to revoke Velken's pension for misrepresentation.  (Case is under appeal.)   
  • The appointment of Laura Cattabriga to a seat not legally vacant.  
This is the mess the Three Useful Commissioners walked into and have to deal with.  

So far, the police chief was reinstated, the two detectives rehired and now this.  

The court did not recommend a specific remedy, such as reinstating Hornsby, but the finding provides a strong basis for Hornsby to reclaim the substantial legal fees he incurred, sue for damages to his business and reputation and other avenues.   

The Two Useless Commissioners, Andreana Jackson and Mary Kramer's Husband, are still on the dais but will need to recuse themselves from any involvement in settlements or restructuring going forward.  They should just resign.  They barely show up anyway.  It would be best for all if they left. 

Andreana Jackson
Jose Alvarez

From the previous administration, we are blessed that Connie Leon-Kreps is reportedly no longer dwelling in North Bay Village and I sincerely wish us the best in her decision to move. 

But that still leaves the festering issue of the many bad decisions taken on the legal advice of Norman C. Powell.  Powell is still lurking around municipal governments looking for work.  Just yesterday, my blogging colleague Stephanie Kienzle published a piece on Powell and El Portal entitled El Portal: The shady alliance of Claudia Cubillos and Norman Powell 

Powell left here in a nasty meeting earlier this year at which he negotiated his own settlement, something the Commission on Ethics recommends against and the courts have found illegal, but just going away has not resolved the costs to the Village from his inexperienced legal advice.   

There will most likely be further repercussions from the shambolic mismanagement and it might be North Bay Village that has to take care of this.  

Kevin Vericker
July 31, 2019





Friday, July 12, 2019

I Got the Dog Park Wrong

Yesterday in the blog, I wrote about the dog park and 

got

it

wrong.  

Specifically, I wrote:
Dog Park:  The money for the dog park planning was approved.  It will cost about $35,000 to create the plans, then another $120,000 to $200,000 to build a dog park.  The commission voted to move ahead.  
My view:  Just put up a fence, call it an open space and let the damn dogs run.  Also, the dog park proponents mostly weren't there.   
What I Got Wrong:  Shortly afterwards it was brought to my attention that the proposed space for the dog park has flooding issues, is not accessible for handicapped or older people, and could actually hurt the dogs and their owners if not properly planned.   
The first step, getting the plan, is the key and that's what the commission was voting on.  Once we have that, the dog park can start and that should be very soon.   

I should have paid better attention and now I'm updating my view:

My view:  Plan it right and get it going.  Also, dog park proponents - start showing up.  

Kevin Vericker
July 12, 2019

Thursday, July 11, 2019

July 9 2019 Commission Meeting

I'm going to try make this brief.  

Tuesday night at the commission meeting.  

The main points:

Dog Park:  The money for the dog park planning was approved.  It will cost about $35,000 to create the plans, then another $120,000 to $200,000 to build a dog park.  The commission voted to move ahead. 
My view:  Just put up a fence, call it an open space and let the damn dogs run.  Also, the dog park proponents mostly weren't there.  

Treasure Island Community Park:   Mayor Brent Latham discussed the progress made so far in planning the green space use of the Treasure Island Elementary field in non-school hours.  The planning is well underway and should cost about $1,000,000 once it's ready.  

My view:  This is huge and opens up new space all around us.  

For Profit Prisons for Children in Homestead:  The commission voted 4-0 to express their concern about the inherent contradiction of for profit prisons in this government space.  One commissioner was in the ladies room for the vote.  

My view:  Prisons should never be for profit.  Ever.   

Discussion Item:  Advisory Board Interactions with the Commission.  The Mayor led a discussion about what the commission should expect from the boards and vice versa.  The boards are very active and bright, and were suppressed under the previous regime, and the commissioners spoke about what they would like to see.   

My view:  The commission should hold one joint session per year with each board to lay out the annual goals.   

Operational stuff - New Auditor, FPL Vault removal at the Sakura Lot, Parking Study for Harbor Island.    These were commission approval for doing what the village needs to do.  

Animal Control Advisory Board Feeding Registry:  The Animal Control Board has created a detailed and well crafted program to register and control the feeding of the feral cats, bearing in mind the needs of the cats, the sensibilities of the property owners, the control of the population.   

It was tabled.  

My view:  Seriously?  A group of intelligent concerned citizens under the government aegis does their job and the commission lets it slide again because a scuttle bug lobbyist now believes he's a cat expert.  Big failure.  

Scooter Rentals:  Never even made it to a vote.  Nobody wanted to own it.  

My view:  It's a stupid idea.  We are less than one square mile and we don't need people scooting aimlessly about.  

Unified Land Development Code:  Fixes the fencing rules so that 5 foot is the height limit for corner lots and temporary fences can be used in dog parks if we ever make one.  

My view:  How was this not part of our code already?  

Unified Land Development Code #2:  Allows administrative approval of dock variances within certain parameters rather than commission approval.  

My view:  Yeah, sure, why not?

Unified Land Development Code #3:  This is a change that as initially proposed would have changed the due dates on bonus height payments from approval time to building permit time, would have made the payments refundable if the developer did not develop, and approving mechanical parking lifts for fancy people with valets.  

It got whittled down and the refundability portion was removed but the two other parts stayed in.  

My view:  The refundable fees were always a flipper's delight so I'm glad they pulled it.  I'm sick of developers whining that they can't make money building in North Bay Village.  That's true but the people who sold them the lots made money.   They knew the rules.   The only developers with skin in the game are the Best Western.  The rest of them need to shut up and build.  And our Village Attorney and Planning Contractor should show up with some support for their claims that North Bay Village is somehow out of step with the cooler towns.  You got to qualify to signify and these guys are not giving the commission even the basic information.   Step up or step aside.  

Florida Friendly Fertilizer:  A carefully crafted proposal by Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth to stop people pouring polluting fertilizer into the bay while not harming the economic activity of landscapers was derailed by one lawn festishist and two commissioners who had clearly not read the ordinance.  The whole thing was cuckolded when the main provision, stop pouring pollutants on your lawn during the rainy season, was removed just because.  

My view:  Wilmoth did his homework, found the sweet spot, and for some reason having nothing to do with the ordinance, it was rendered useless.  A real low point.  

Ordinance Banning Single Use Plastics in the Village:  This was a straightforward ordinance banning the sale of single use plastic in North Bay Village.  After some discussion it was passed.  

My view:  Wilmoth again was reasonable, detailed and focused.  While there was a half hearted attempt to derail this one, the  other commissioners got bored and let it pass.  This was super unprofessional of them but lucky for us.  

7700 Miami View Drive:  The tenant, not the landlord, at 7700 Miami View Drive showed up to say his Short Term Vacation Rental License should be reinstated because he didn't know, he was putting in noise meters, and then used the Shaggy Defense on advertisements for the property  (Uh Uh, wasn't me.)  He was denied.  

My View:  Wow!

Kevin Vericker
July 11, 2019

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Right Way to Give

Who could possibly be against stopping AIDS?  Helping blind people navigate a world not designed for them?  Including people with intellectual challenges?  Ending world hunger?  and a myriad of causes.   
No decent person I'd dare to say.   

There is an entire industry to raise money for well intentioned philanthropic causes in the US and last year alone, Americans gave over $410 billion to support these efforts.   

But giving, especially with other people's money, has to be done judiciously. 

In the case of North Bay Village, we are a generous people and much of our $25,000 activities fund was directed at seemingly worthy causes.   

One donation was $7,500 for the AIDS Walk, an annual event to raise money to fight AIDS.  There were many organizations to whom we could have directed the donation, including Care Resources which actually provides services to NBV residents with HIV but instead the money was donated through SAVE, an organization which has never done anything for the North Bay Village Gay community although they have fund raised here and donated to elections.   
In addition, the money was supposed to be an activity for our residents to participate in the AIDS walk yet none were invited.  In exchange, all we got was an invitation to The Gala That Went Terribly Wrong and it seemed more of a personal branding exercise than a Village activity in support of a good cause.  

The Best Buddies walk, an amazing organization that has in fact helped place a valued new employee in the Village, was similarly not used for Village participation when it could have been.  

Other expenses have included Polo match tickets that I don't see how they build community or bring benefit to North Bay Village.  

We need to ask the question about what we want to accomplish.  Yes, supporting good causes financially matters and a sharp eye on how this builds up our community needs to be one facet of that equation.  

Before approving the moneys, the individual commissioners proposing the donation have an absolute obligation to ask and answer the questions.  
  • Does this organization actually effectively provide the services they are asking us to support?   In the case of SAVE, they do not provide any direct HIV services and the money should have been directed elsewhere. 

  • Does this donation enhance community life?  We have many residents with many needs.  It's not unreasonable to expect that organizations we support support us.   The Village recently paid airfare for a commissioner to attend the Daughters of the American Revolution conference in Washington DC.  It's hard to see how the DAR enhances our lives. 

  • Does community input matter?  Our commissioners have discretion on these funds but the community should matter.  Otherwise, it's just personal branding and advantage.
Finally, we need to follow the money.  If the major purpose of an organization is political and not services, the entire commission should cast an eye on the proposed donation.   There are many great advocacy organizations but those organizations need to work from grass root support, not government sponsorship.   

We really haven't seen much overreach on these donations until now.  As the Village approaches next year's budget, it is incumbent for the administration to create a framework based on effectiveness and benefit as they decide how our tax dollars are distributed.   


Now is time to ask those questions.  

Kevin Vericker
July 6, 2019

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

SAVE and The Collateral Damage

SAVE, one of the longest established organizations advocating for LGBT equality, has flamed out in a spectacular fashion.  The now former director, Tony Lima, chose to showcase four men accused of bashing a same sex couple at last year's Miami Beach Pride.  This was after honoring the victims at last year's SAVE Gala and using the incident as a fundraising tool for SAVE.  

Whatever motivated Lima is unclear and he made something of a half apology on his Facebook page but the board took the step to fire him on Monday night.  In my view, this was the right decision.  

The whole sad story is well covered here in the Miami Herald.  

In short, the victims were three gay men, a couple and a Good Samaritan who tried to intervene.  According to the allegations against them by the state attorney, the three victims were set upon by these four SAVE honorees in a four to two "fight", really an attack, that put them all in the hospital and left one unemployed.  The alleged attackers are said to have used the common Spanish anti-gay slur "maricones" during the beatdown.  

It's on video here.  Note, the video is disturbing and the state attorney has added hate crimes to the charges.  

The victims have been clear that they feel betrayed by Lima's strange actions.  

This is also a North Bay Village story


North Bay Village and SAVE have a long and controversial relationship.  SAVE first endorsed in our local elections in 2014, choosing a candidate for mayor who did nothing for the local LGBT community over a candidate who actively sought the input and participation of the gay community. 

In a foreshadowing of the Gala incident, Tony Lima and SAVE refused to condemn a PAC mailer that attacked their endorsed candidate's opponents by associating them as puppets of an evil gay man.  Lima doubled down and cut me off when I asked him for help in getting such things as a contractor compliance ordinance in place, Pride acknowledgment, support for the LGBT youth in North Bay Village.   

These things are going forward here in spite of SAVE's resistance.  

But in the meantime, SAVE raised a lot of money in North Bay Village, provided small campaign contributions and endorsements to candidates, and acted as a channel for the Village's donations to the AIDS Walk, getting the credit while ignoring the North Bay Village community.  

So this sad chapter is drawn to a close and we'll see what's next.  

I have enough faith in North Bay Village and our current administration, in particular our mayor, our village manager and our police chief, that I know that they will continue to fight for all members of the North Bay Village community.  

I know that there are many straight allies who were taken in by the SAVE hustle, including Commissioner Strout.  Maybe it's my fault because I was unable to explain to the well meaning allies how toxic SAVE had become in our village.  Or maybe it's their fault for not wanting to listen.  

Even now, there are several self proclaimed straight allies loudly "straight splainin'" how Lima is a victim and spending no energy on the real victims, the couple and the good Samaritan who tried to intervene.  

This is wrong.  You cannot call yourself an ally while adopting the position of explaining away the real concerns of the community members affected as trivial in comparison to concerns about someone facing the consequences of poor judgment.  

It's a good time to listen and learn.  It's not about you.  

This incident also calls into question how we as a Village decide what community organizations and charities to support.   No matter how well meaning the intentions are, it matters to use discretion and judgment in making that decision and to be very careful that the support is not about personal branding or virtue signaling, but is about moving North Bay Village forward.  I'll be writing more about this later in the week.  

For now, I hope the Village understands the need to move forward.  Progress is not about one person or one organization and there is still much to be done.  I hope we can learn from this and move on. 

Kevin Vericker
July 2, 2019 


Friday, June 21, 2019

We Got The Green!

Conceptual View
Want to know what we need in North Bay Village?  

Green space and green money.  

Want to know what we're getting?

Green space and green money.  

Let's Start With The Green Space

You look at any aerial view of North Bay Village and you see that the largest green space is the yard behind Treasure Island Elementary School.  Now hanging around school yards is creepy and you shouldn't do it but this land is used about 180 days per year for school purposes.   
The mayor, Brent Latham, approached our school board member, Dr. Marvin Karp, and they have agreed a deal in principle (not principal but that would be funny) to open the school yard for use by the residents when not in use for the school.   This means we can have access to the fields, the track, a place to walk out of traffic.  
I want to tell you that it was very complicated, and executing this will be work, but the fact is that the school board has done this throughout the county and the previous mayor refused to just ask.  Not only that, but she joined forces with one of the least competent bureaucrats I have come across in a long career to shut down the informal access that had been in place for decades.   
Watch this space and the village group on Facebook for details as this comes together.   


The Other Green - Dollars


Last year in March, State Senator Daphne Campbell came to our commission meeting to joyously announce that she had gotten $0 for North Bay Village in the state projects and remind us that "there is always next year."  and "God is good."  
Our then mayor, she who will not be named here, was effusive in her thanks for this information and then both insisted on applause.   
I'm not making that up.  
Well God may be good but She is pretty insistent that you have to get off your ass and make your own money.   
Our new commission, all of them, went to Tallahassee and along with our newly elected State Rep, Michael Grieco, and our newly elected State Senator, Jason Pizzo, they got some serious money for serious projects in the state budget and today it was announced that the governor signed them into the budget.  
The two projects are:
  • ADA Compliance on our sidewalks.  
  • Water and Flood Management.
It's not a lot by project standards, about $427,000, but it addresses the sad lack of accessibility on our streets and is great first step.  You will hear me talking about "beyond ADA" in the future but we have to get to the baseline before we can truly be an inclusive community.  This is a good day.  

The Takeaway

We have to elect people who are, you know, not bat guano crazy.   Daphne Campbell and our previous mayor were both punchlines to jokes not yet written.  Neither had the vision or the skills to bring simple projects to fruition.   
Our new team does.   It's hard but it's not complicated.   It takes focus and sometimes taking "Yes" for an answer as in the case of the school yard where all we had to do was ask and have a concept.  
This bodes well.  

Kevin Vericker
June 21, 2019





Thursday, June 13, 2019

Memory Matters

There were two commission meetings on Tuesday June 11 and all I can say is what a difference from last year.  

The first meeting was to discuss the framework of the budget.  It was mostly technical in nature but gives general guidance to the village staff on the priorities of the commission to consider while drafting the 2020 budget.   

Parts of the meeting were pretty bumpy, particularly the inept handling of concerns about the role of the Budget and Oversight Board.  The interim Village Attorney, Dan Espino of Weiss Serota, wrote that the Board was exceeding its statutory focus and their agenda was cut less than a half hour before they were scheduled to meet, which was pretty unprofessional.  This was compounded by the  failure of the administration to actually attend the meeting and explain their actions.  

While the concerns may be valid, the Budget and Oversight Board is a volunteer group and deserves the respect of the staff.  They should have at least brought the issue live and in person rather than a summary dismissal.  Board Chair Jack Rattner brought this up and it was dismaying that there was not any acknowledgment from the administration that it had been handled wrong.   The staff need to fix this and work on the boards in general.  And it wouldn't kill them to apologize.  They were wrong.  

There were a lot of questions about the budget and a lot of work to be done, but when I contrast it to the commission meeting of a year ago, it is amazing how far we progressed.  

At least year's June commission meeting, there was zero discussion of the budget and the 2019 budget was passed with almost no questions or suggestions.  Highlights from that meeting included the first attempt to fire the Village Clerk for doing her job, the mayor berating the Village Manager for not producing a fireworks display so she could go out with a bang (actual quote)  and a shady deal to bring in private contractors to take over the police accreditation.  We've improved.  

The Main Meeting

Compared to June 2018 and really the last decade, the meeting was a great success.   

First and foremost for me, at long last the Mayor and the Commission joined together to issue a proclamation celebrating Pride Month.  This is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall protests in New York City which is generally acknowledged as the key starting point for the modern equality movement.  

The proclamation was locally initiated and the mayor made it a point to invite North Bay Village residents, LGBT... and allies to receive the proclamation.  

This was the first time that North Bay Village has recognized any LGBT milestone in spite of the residents' asking for it.   Earlier this year, the same kind of recognition was proclaimed for Black History Month in February  and Women's  History Month in March.  We will see more of these expressions of value for the diversity and strength of North Bay Village.  

Fun trivia fact:  North Bay Village was the first Miami-Dade municipality to encode equal protection  into our charter by popular vote, back in 2002 when the rest of the county was still debating the issue.  We became the second municipality to recognize domestic partnerships for employees two years later.  There's a lot to be proud of.  

The commission also acknowledged the loss of Roy Martayan, a longtime resident and community supporter and philanthropist and there was a special presentation by the talented young man who was the recipient of the Bruce Patterson Music and Art Scholarship, established this year in honor of the late Bruce Patterson, an active member of the Optimist Club of North Bay Village.   

This matters.  It shows a commission engaged with all the community and its many groups and individuals.   

On the business side, the commission agreed to raise the fines on Short Term Vacation Rental owners who violate our clear rules.  This was also considered as part of the enhanced coding and policing of the Short Term Vacation Rentals.   

There were discussions and plans made for Scooter Rentals, a special election to finally get the bonds right for the infrastructure projects, Miami Beach cooperation to get resident discounts for the recreation services in Miami Beach, a North Bay Village Foundation to create a local group dedicated to the betterment of the Village.

There was controversy.  

  • The Village Administration needs to work out the board communications and expectations.  
  • The electric scooter thing didn't generate much enthusiasm as it doesn't go to the beach or Miami and the idea of people scooting aimlessly around the Village and on the Causeway was a little hard to grasp. 
  • The Short Term Vacation Rentals do not really solve the problem but that's at the state level and the Village is doing what they can.  
  • The damn streets.   

These are the normal disagreements and concerns of a normal city.  They will be more and they may get heated but when we think back to 12 months ago, we're in a new place.  

Kevin Vericker
June 13, 2019



Monday, June 10, 2019

Does The Future Float?

ArkUp Floating Home
Here's something you never heard me say before.  "Maybe I'm too optimistic?"   

I kind of can't help myself as solutions big and small seem to be the currency of the day in North Bay Village.  

This time, this weekend, I saw something cool and our Mayor and Vice Mayor saw an opportunity to learn.   The Ark Up House is a floating, self contained, self propelled home currently anchored in Biscayne Bay off the coast of Miami Beach.   

The house itself is right off the set of Ballers, top end everything and the sense of isolation and privilege a $6 million dollar home should provide but it's more than that.  It's a vision of what the future could be here in Miami.  

Brent Latham, Julianna Strout and Marvin Wilmoth had the opportunity to tour the house this weekend because our Village Manager asked the owner if they could.  And I got the chance to tag along.   

Looking beyond the high end finishes and the furniture that would require a better wardrobe before I could spend the day there, the owners were particularly proud of the engineering.  The house is designed to stand a direct hit by a Cat 4 hurricane, can anchor itself through four corner poles, only draws 5 feet and has an 8,000 gallon fresh water tank filled by filtered rainwater.  On top of that, it's completely solar powered and can move to safer harbor on its own power.  Finally, it can raise itself up to 20 feet above the water to avoid storm surges.  

The developers intend to take this prototype home and scale it down to affordable level "townhomes" and offices.  The concept is that they would be anchored or docked together to share the main needs but able to take off singly as need be.   It's some time away but it seems like a better idea than fighting the water.   

Vice Mayor Wilmoth with his extensive background in affordable housing was quick to question and understand the model proposed.  Not join it, but ask the right questions.  

Mayor Latham for his part wanted to know how this idea would work in North Bay Village.  I just asked questions about the technology because that's what I do.   

Apart from letting you know I saw a cool house, I want to share that I also saw cool leadership.   It's been a long time since we've had a discussion about innovation in North Bay Village that was not "no can do" and much more about "should we do it and if so, how."  

The Ark Up affordable version is not coming to us anytime soon but the idea is so good that it will come.  And we have leaders who are asking the right questions and looking at the right things.  North Bay Village is ready.  

Kevin Vericker
June 10, 2019

Friday, May 31, 2019

Police Work Is Boring Until It's Not









Major announcement from the North Bay Village Police Department.  

Following a report of a stolen BMW from a local resident, the North Bay Village Police Department detective bureau began what looked like a routine investigation.  Det. Brent worked with the victim to establish information channels and by tracking down the previous owner of the car, was able to activate the car's tracking device.  Det. Cassais took that geo data and coordinated with the other police departments to track and arrest the suspects.

The three arrests made as a result of this detective work are allegedly connected with over 60 open cases.

Good news from a police department that knows how to do its job.  

Wait! It Was Nowhere Near That Boring...

The rest of the story is amazingly cool and belongs on a cop reality show.

The BMW owner reported it stolen on May 16 and had some video.  Detective Brent asked if there was a tracking device on the car and there was but it was not turned on by the current owner.  Rather than wait two days or so to reestablish the tracker, Brent did some shoe leather work and found the previous owner, in Michigan.  After first convincing the previous owner that Brent was not a scamster, they activated the tracker and the car showed up around LeJeune and 40th.

Det. Cassais then got on to the other police agencies in the area and in the early morning (like 0'Dark Thirty early) North Bay Village police along with the City of Miami and the M-D County police followed the pings and watched the driver as he moved around the neighborhood.

What happened next was described to me as "like a goshdarn* movie".   The Miami police helicopter was tracking the car through the neighborhood and several units were on the BMW.

Figuring out where the driver was going next, Brent changed direction and came on to him from the west.  The driver decided to make a run and took off toward LeJeune where instead of turning, he plowed across traffic and smashed into an oncoming car, really messing up the car* but fortunately not the occupants, then because the suspect's a genius* tried to climb out the sunroof and run away.  That plan didn't work and he was quickly apprehended.

Turns out that this was not one isolated incident.  This arrest closed 60 separate stolen car incidents.  Allegedly, confessions were flying yesterday morning and all because after 59 successful heists, it looks like they made a mistake.  They came to North Bay Village.

*footnotes:  the cop describing the scene did not say "goshdarn" or "messing up the car."  He used an older Anglo Saxon intensifier but I don't want to drop F bombs in the blog.  Also, the driver is not a genius.  

Nice, But What The Heck Was Ceasar Costa Doing?

You know Ceasar Costa.  He's got hands the size of baseball mitts and talks really slow?  Seriously, I finish my taxes faster than he finishes a sentence.

Turns out he's the Columbo* of North Bay Village.

Costa was recognized by the US Attorney's office for his 2018 help in convicting a businessman for his extra legal activities.

He was at the US Attorney's office to receive the certificate pictured on the right while the above incident played out.

You might wonder about the crimes?  I did.   Well, it turns out that Costa worked with the DEA agent while on loan from North Bay Village and was a major player in bringing down MI SANGRE, one Henry de Jesus Lopez Londoño, a 47 year old Colombian who was convicted last year in Miami.  According to the prosecution "Lopez Londoño was involved in moving tens of thousands of kilos of cocaine into the United States between 2006 and 2012 and ordered assassinations, kidnappings and extortion."  MI SANGRE ratted out his coworkers and wrongly thought that this gave him immunity from all future crimes as well.  It didn't.  

Anyway, our small town Columbo* Costa was doing some pretty big league stuff.   You can read more about the case here.  


In most cities, this would be a big deal.  A major car theft ring busted, a cop puts away a Colombian drug lord.  I'm really glad our police are back because for the North Bay Village police, it's Thursday.   



*For my younger readers, Columbo was a fictional detective made famous by actor Peter Falk.   

He was known for talking really slow (like Costa) and getting it right to the point when it mattered (like Costa)


Hope this clears things up.  



Kevin Vericker
May 31, 2019


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Vote Thrice - Execute Once

If you know me in real life, you probably know that I am obsessed with the madness of Brexit. Apart from the sheer wrongheadedness of the Brexit referendum, it fascinates me to watch the utter failure of an established government to do even their basic job of implementing the decision.   
Theresa May was much more interested in winning the top spot than she was in being Prime Minister and when your only allies are Northern Irish fanatics and you have to talk to Jeremy Corbyn, you know you been outclassed. 
I can hear you now wondering if I've suddenly decided to go international in scale with this blog.  Nah.   I only bring this up because we are facing the same issue here in North Bay Village.  
North Bay Village has voted twice on referendums to fund the burying of the power lines and to fund a new civic center.   First in 2008 and then again in 2016.   
There's been no concrete progress on either one of those issues, to no one's surprise.  
The problem is not that it is clear what the residents want but the votes to tax ourselves were just guesswork since there was never a clear plan in place for either of these issues.  
Burying the power limes is the best example.  Both votes show that the residents want this outcome but neither one laid out a true estimate of the costs involved, including the fixed costs to all buildings and the special costs to older buildings who would need to update their electricity.   
The only thing agreed is that whatever the cost. the current amount will not cover it. And that assumes that FPL will go along with the plan which they say they are not obligated to do and don't plan to.  
The civic center is also still a big question.  Although the more ridiculous and excessive desires have been pared out, it is not clear how much the new construction will cost and what its principal focus will be or even where to put it.  
Before either of these projects move forward, it is critically important for the North Bay Village government to create a detailed plan of how these projects will be executed, what the results will be, the impact on the village and in the case of the buried power lines, the impact on the homes and businesses including the additional costs of hooking up to the new power grid.  
Once the detail is in hand, the commission should vote to hold a special election this November for a final vote on the issues, a vote where we know the real costs and the real impact.   It matters to get it done and get it done right.   
There's some concern that the new election would cost about $35,000.  Actually it would cost more because we would expect our government to plan and accurately lay out the costs and implications so the voters are fully informed, and then to proceed with the realistic implementation.  But that's a small amount in order to ensure we spend the $35 million or so correctly.   

As part of the Looney Tunes parody that passed for government under the previous commission, there were a serious of truly terrible charter amendments passed in November.
These included a prohibition on allowing the Village Manager to delegate functions, so the Village Manager is technically responsible for doing all the Village work.  Code Enforcement was moved from the Police Department to directly report to the Village Manager.  "Nepotism" which was always prohibited now extends to a third degree of consanguinity or relationship.  This means nothing and should be restored to its previous second degree.  The election can be used to fix this.

I hope this is a topic at the June meeting and we get back on track.

Kevin Vericker
May 30, 2019

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Flood Waters Recede - North Bay Village Today


North Bay Village After Irma
Trigger Warning:  This is a really long post about Tuesday's Commission Meeting.  For a good short post, go to Richard Chervony's summary here.  It's less dull.  

In 2017, North Bay Village got hit by Irma and the immediate picture after the landfall was pretty bleak.  We still see some damage and changes but looking at us today, we don't look like South Treasure Drive did that day as pictured above.  
Almost simultaneously, a human caused storm engulfed our islands as our commission began a nearly year long rampage to destroy the infrastructure of North Bay Village and cover up the failed legacy of a an 8 year rule during which the only accomplishments were detrimental to the village.
Previous NBV Commission
The village attorney was fired without explanation and replaced with an inexperienced municipal attorney whose missteps are well documented, the police chief was fired and replaced with a contractor who is now being investigated for violating the laws around retirement, a sitting commissioner was removed without the due process set out in our charter and replaced via a process that is not in our charter with an ambitious friend of the mayor.   In the meantime, the village manager, deputy manager and executive administrator left hours before they were to be put on the chopping block.  A new village manager was brought in and then fired when she failed to provide the fireworks the mayor wanted.    Well, you know the story.   

Righting the Course

The newly elected members of the dais, Mayor Brent Latham, Commissioner Julianna Strout and Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth, along with the holdovers from the crew of the Exxon Valdez, North Bay Village edition, voted to bring in the consulting firm of Marsal & Alvarez to create a definitive assessment of where we are now and deliver recommended course corrections to get us back to rights.  
On Tuesday, they presented their results.  You can review them at this link, starting page 10, or watch the presentation on the North Bay Village web streaming site.  
Spoiler Alert:  A&M found that the Village was badly managed under the previous administration and the interim status of key positions is not helping.   
And that was the point.     
When you're in the middle of the storm and busy building the rudder, you can't stop to assess where you are.  
Alvarez & Marsal came into to act as a navigator, establishing where we are and plotting the course to go forward.  Their report is a success.  

But First What They Didn't Find

The previous commission was famous for their use of casually placed slanders to discredit people who might point out the real problems their actions were causing.  There were two major ones.  
A completely unfounded slander that there are large amounts of money unaccounted for or misappropriated.  A second slander that Village employees were not reporting for work or doing their jobs.  
The assessment found no evidence of either one of these things.  Nor by the way did the previous commission members but that hasn't stopped them from spreading these lies.  

What A&M Did Find - InterimVille

I'm not going to go all through the report.  Again, here's the link and it starts on page 10.  Most of the recommendations are technical or procedural in nature.   
What jumps out at me and jumped out at the commission was how dysfunctional our departments have been while we are run by a team of "interims" replacing a team of inexperienced political hires. An interim Village Manager, an interim Attorney, an interim Police Chief, a vacancy at the head of the building department, outsourced planning, an unfilled procurement position and a recently hired Village Clerk replacing an interim clerk.   
This overview was exactly what the commission needed to truly assess their next steps and they took action quickly.  
The same night, the three useful members of the commission voted to fill the interim manager position with Dr. Ralph Rosado and made him permanent, they filled the interim attorney position with Weiss Serota, they approved the contract with Patrick Slevin to run communications, and approved the hire of a new public works director, Jose Olivo.  
The next step is to create a strategic and tactical work plan to get us back on track and Rosado is already on it.   
The public was largely supportive of the assessment and several added their own view on how to proceed.  
Except for one.  Someone from the previous commission wondered why we spent money on this when anybody could see how badly the Village was deliberately broken by the previous commission.  It was a good question.  Let's ponder it.  
Oh, yeah.  Even the vandals on the dais last year didn't know how bad the damage they were inflicting was so the current dais needed to know. 

The Rest of the Meeting

After the A&M presentation, the three useful commission members swung right into their regular session...invocation, kids singing, awards, plaques, Good & Welfare, something about invasive species, a long rambling presentation by our village lobbyist, the above mentioned permanent positions, an update from Kimley Horn on the CLK Walkway to Nowhere, there's progress on the Dog Park but there's not a Dog Park yet, very little on STVR's but a plan to move more aggressively on the subject will be presented and so on.  It went late and ran smoothly.  

WAIT.  DON'T GO YET.  I FORGET TO TELL YOU.  CARLOS NORIEGA IS BACK.

That's right.  In the Game of Thrones knockoff edition that passed for governance in the last year, one of the victims was Carlos Noriega, our well respected chief of police.  In a turn of events that any competent, experienced municipal lawyer would have seen, Noriega took his case to court to show that he was fired for investigating criminal complaints and reporting a potentially illegal data breach to the state authorities.   
The Useful 3 voted unanimously to reinstate him.   The place went wild.  You see the public has long known that not only was the firing unjust, but the police department needs to move forward and Noriega has the skills and experience to do just that.  
Noriega graciously accepted a settlement for far less than he could have gotten had the trial gone to jury, an outcome any competent, experience municipal attorney would have seen,  and is back probably next week.  I'll keep you posted.   

Good days in North Bay Village!

Attendance Report:  Both meetings were attended by Mayor Brent Latham, Commissioner Julianna Strout and Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth.   Commissioners Jackson and Alvarez were otherwise engaged and sent their regrets.  

Kevin Vericker
May 16, 2019