Tuesday, April 30, 2019

North Bay Village Leaning Forward

Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward in life.   And that's what the commission is being asked to do.   

I refer of course to the Carlos Noriega matter, our police chief who was fired as part of the final throes of the last administration.  Noriega has been suing to get his job back.   

There's a new administration now and much of the community discussion has supported reinstating for very good reasons which you can read here.   

Yesterday, April 29, the commission met in an executive session to consider the route to getting the police department back on track from which they were derailed by the firing and in act of radical transparency, they preceded the meeting with a short session for public comment.  

I want to stop for a second and point out how radical and correct this simple step of encouraging and allowing public comment about a contentious issue was.    

We grew used to a fearful commission afraid of questions who used the legal pretext of not being able to discuss the matter due to fear of lawsuits.  This shut down virtually every question.   

The new commissioners, Julianna Strout, Marvin Wilmoth and Brent Latham, instead are carefully navigating the process to include the primary stakeholders, the residents, in the discussion.  

It's not easy.  It might even feel like there is an attempt to restore the status quo before the collective meltdown of the dais last year, a restoration that would not serve us well, and it must get tiring to hear the same people with the same points one more time.   

They do it because they have to get it right and they have to rebuild trust that they did not destroy.   

I don't know what the settlement strategy with Noriega will be.  I hope it's to bring him back.  But I do know that the commission has heard us and that matters.  

Kevin Vericker
April 30th, 2019

Friday, April 26, 2019

Bring Him Back

On Monday, April 29, at 3 PM, the North Bay Village Commission will hold a unique kind of meeting, as specified under Florida Statute 286.011(8).  The meeting is an Executive Privilege meeting which means that it is conducted outside of public view, although full transcripts are taken and made public when litigation is concluded.  

These meetings are done under a narrow exception to the Sunshine Law to allow aspect of legal settlements to be discussed with the commission without disclosing the legal strategies used in court to the opposing counsel.   It's a place where commissioners can ask the tough questions like "How likely is the suit to prevail?" "In your legal opinion, is there clear evidence of wrongdoing?" and other considerations and expect frank answers.   

Given that our court system is based on American Gladiator model rather than one seeking justice, it's probably the only effective way to get the information.  

But it does not mean that the public should be frozen out of the process.  It does not constrain the commission from hearing and acknowledging that they have heard the public concerns about the matter and ensuring that the commission has all the information it needs to move forward, not just spoon fed information from a legal team or other paid stakeholders.   

This is especially important in North Bay Village where Connie Leon-Kreps and her fellow travellers deliberately dismantled the institutional memory by systematically firing and driving out every senior employee who could provide context and history in the process, and where our commission is now dominated by relative newcomers to the complex history of North Bay Village. 

The role of institutional memory has fallen on the public and lower level employees and their input should be carefully considered and questioned. 

Based on the Good & Welfare discussions at the last commission meeting, it is very clear that a broad coalition of the public, local police and external police departments see that bringing Noriega back is in the best interest of the Village.   What our commissioners have not done is acknowledged that public sentiment and pledged to give that support their full consideration.   They should.

From a community perspective, the reasons include:

  • Noriega restored and improved the community programs such as PAL, Crime Watch, Home Checks, School Safety and others.
  • Noriega is community focused throughout his career, maintaining as close to an open door policy as a police chief can.   
  • Noriega is not afraid to discipline police misconduct as witnessed by his swift and clear reaction to the "hurricane party" where disciplines were quickly meted out.   

But there are more reasons to bring him back.   The police support him.  I will not speak for the police but I will below quote from a recent email from the North Bay Village Fraternal Order of Police.  You can see yourself.

Under Chief Noriega’s tenure, the North Bay Village Police Department became an Agency of positive change, tremendous achievements and all around respect. For example, Chief Noriega re-instituted units such as Marine Patrol, Canine,Traffic, Motor, School Resource Officer and Community Policing. His leadership and management philosophy promoted countless initiatives, which embraced professionalism, accountability and community engagement including but not limited to a multi-agency training at Treasure Island Elementary School in order to properly prepare our Police Department to protect our students and to meet any potential threats.
During his tenure, North Bay Village enjoyed a consistent reduction in our crime rate, increased enforcement activities, and the optimization of internal and external partnerships. Our Police Department was advancing in every area unlike any other time in our history.  After Chief Noriega’s termination, the Police Department returned to a status of low morale, with limited efficiency, effectiveness and productivity during the subsequent chief’s tenure.
Chief Noriega also engaged in a Memorandum of Understanding with Miami Dade Police Department specific to Operation Stonegarden.  Operation Stonegarden supports enhanced cooperation and coordination among Customs and Border Protection (CBP), United States Border Patrol. Local, Tribal, Territorial, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies.  

This is pretty powerful and I want to point out one specific not  covered here.  Under Noriega, the police department was on track to professional accreditation, which opens us up to grants from new sources and improves the professionalism and career options for our police.   The program was dismantled under Stephanie Leon PA, our most recent police chief, and handed over to a third party who is currently billing the Village at $7,500 per month and showing no progress at all.  

And I want to reiterate  that Noriega emphasized that our police need to be ready in the event that the next Parkland or Sandy Hook happens here and instituted specific, measurable training programs to prepare our police.    

Now there are people against bringing Noriega back.  As is their custom, they operate in the dark corners of the political landscape, whispering and casting doubt on Noriega.   They include cops who do not want to face the consequences of their actions, which include stealing promotion tests and intimidating the public for political reasons.   They include former and current members of the commision who are angry that our code and laws apply to them and their friends.  There are out of towners and lobbyists who are afraid they will lose control of the PD and have to be governed like the rest of us.  

The semi-public face of this crowd is the "loser by a landslide" in the last mayoral election who is spreading her "questions" designed not to bring out the truth of the matter but to obscure the truth by sowing doubt about Noriega's reputation.   In a brilliant performance, The Loser simultaneously encouraged the few readers of her social media to engage in LEOAFFAIRS, the dark web for idiots, while simultaneously decrying that her public correspondence is referenced there.   

When the commissioners go into this meeting on Monday, they need to have two principles in mind.  
  1. How is the Village best served?   Does reinstatement of Noriega bring more benefit than drawbacks to the Village? 
  2. Has the public really been heard and has the commission genuinely listened to and acknowledged those concerns?
We are in this situation because the League of Cities was instructed wrongly to settle with Noriega for money in January, a decision that was carelessly made by the new commission, and the League of Cities have not received the clear instruction that reinstatement is the will of the community.   

In the end, the commission may choose to not reinstate Noriega.  But if they are to have our trust, the commission better be prepared to explain and defend their decisions.  Because finally it is the public who has to live with the consequences of their decision and we deserve a commission who operates solely with our best interests at heart.  

Kevin Vericker
April 26, 2019

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Let's Talk About Short Term Rentals - Again

 We've been here before discussing the impact of Short Term Rentals on North Bay Village.   

The current situation that the Village regulates short term rentals only to the extent that is allowed under state law.   

In 2011, Miami Beach, Surfside, and several other communities saw the handwriting on the wall and passed regulations before the state could preempt them.   

In North Bay Village, all the political air was taken up by a fight to install one Connie Leon-Kreps as mayor and the commission then sat on its hands until 2016.  For nearly 8 years, the commission accomplished nothing.  So when it caught the commission by surprise that they could no longer regulate short term rentals, they cobbled together a program and put in our code.   Here it is.  

Now we know that AirBnb et al are everywhere in the Village but to the shock and dismay of those North Bay Island residents cowering behind their apartheid wall it seems that the law also applies there.  And the same group are now screaming bloody murder.  

They probably should but it's a self inflicted wound.   

You see it's one thing to put a law on the books and another to enforce it.  As the regime of Crazy Eyes spiraled down further to its very evitable crash last year, the people who had been in charge of maintaining order in the program were all fired or pushed out.   At the same time, the shower of idiots known as the North Bay Village electorate stupidly and predictably passed an amendment to our charter to remove code enforcement from the police department thereby guaranteeing that no coordinated approach to the short term rental problem would be enforced.

The code enforcement change was because several members of the dais and their friends had been cited by the best code enforcement officer we've had since I've been here and that crowd did not like being told they had to follow the law one bit.   

So we're stuck.   We can't prohibit short term rentals.   We can and do require licensing.   

But it has to be enforced.   

And that needs to be done systematically.   It needs to be a full program that enforces the STVR , existing noise, parking, and nuisance ordinances.  It requires research in the Village administration to identify who is advertising, a program to report unlicensed efforts, a forward looking community engagement program to control the program.  

And none of that is going to happen here in Interim City.   

We need a permanent village manager, we need a permanent police chief, we need a permanent attorney, and we need permanent programs.   

North Bay Village wasn't destroyed in a day, it took Kreps a full 8 years and her acolytes are still trying to pull us down the drain.

 Rebuilding it won't happen overnight.   

In the meantime, if you need to rage somewhere, try calling your local North Bay Island Commissioner Jose Alvarez and ask him why he hasn't proposed a program of enforcement.   Telephone: (786) 999-3732.  I'm sure he'd be happy to speak to you.  

The rest of us just want the damn streets fixed.  

Kevin Vericker
April 25, 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Doing The Right Thing

Photo Joost J. Bakker
Last night, there were several highlights of the commission meeting.  I'm listing them in order of importance here.  

Colleen Moriarty has joined the administrative staff of North Bay Village.  Ms. Moriarty came to us through the Best Buddies Program which as one of its many functions matches people living with disabilities with job opportunities.   

Commissioner Julianna Strout sponsored the participation and the commission welcomed her at the meeting.   

North Bay Village's own WSVN Channel 7 covered the event in their newscast.  Click here to see the broadcast.  It has been ages since we've had any positive coverage and this is something to celebrate.  

The Storage Facility Was Not Approved.  This may be the most unpopular project in North Bay Village since the strip club proposal.  The Planning & Zoning Board rejected the project and the commission rejected the project.   There are a lot of reasons against it, most importantly, it's not the sort of business we want in North Bay Village.  These storage units are ugly and do little or nothing to stimulate the economy.   

The issue may not be dead.  There could be legal challenges.  

It seems like a good time for North Bay Village to build up the positive by creating a vision of what types of business North Bay Village wants to attract and how to attract them.   The parking problem presented by the GrandView and the amount of cars on Treasure Island, which should incorporate shared public parking for the Baywalk needs to be addressed.   Defeating something is not the same as progress but it is a good first step.  

The Community Support for Carlos Noriega.  I'm just going to link to this about the Noriega matter.   Bring Back Carlos Noriega.

The community has not been heard on the settlement offer for Police Chief Noriega and judging by last night's turnout, the overwhelming majority want to be heard and want him back for very good reasons.   Mostly because we had a police force that worked with and for the community while Noriega ran it.  

Among the speakers last night were several colleagues of Noriega from Miami Beach and Surfside and they reminded the commission that Noriega brought us into close cooperation with our neighbors and discussed their experience of his leadership and ethics.   The Assistant Chiefs of Miami Beach and Surfside spoke, along with the State Rep for the FOP also a Miami Beach cop, and Officer Art Martineau head of the Miami Beach PAL.   

Residents one after the other spoke about the professionalism and close contact with the community that Noriega brought to our village and gave examples of how they and our families have been made safer in our homes and lives.   

And I spoke.  Although I was glad to see the turnout and agreed with all of the sentiments expressed, I think this commission needs to differentiate itself from their secrecy prone predecessors and while I fully understand why legal sessions must be done privately, the commission is now going to hold at least one executive privilege session, not open to the public, and I think they should have a portion where this is specifically a topic of conversation with the public.   I hope they will.   

North Bay Village and the Dramatic Arts:  Finally, there was a piece of Performance Art dedicated to the new commission's policy of openness.  

North Bay Village Performance Artist
Like most good comedy and all good tragedy, it loses much in the retelling.  You kind of had to be there to get the joke but I will try.  

A local resident who had previously run for mayor and lost by a huge margin decided to workshop her one woman show at Good & Welfare.  The piece with the working title of "I'm Really The Victim Here" is equal parts satire of public process and an exploration of self delusion.   

Authoritatively taking the microphone, the artist first posed a question, "How would you feel?" and then led the audience through a well structured monologue in which she spoke without self consciousness about how she sent a public email filled with half truths and falsehoods about the fired police chief and then was shocked, appalled and shocked again when the public email was publicly read and she received an email disagreeing with her.  

The only spot where the performance went a bit flat and got lost in bathos was when the artist added a bit about how her email was even published on the Dark Web For Idiots.  For those familiar with her body of work, they will know that on her satiric social media site, the artist enthusiastically links to the same Dark Web For Idiots and that made the performance feel a bit manufactured.  

Still, the audience was left to ponder about how we would feel if our concerns were discussed and even disagreed openly and held up to critical thinking.  The piece was a poignant commentary on lost power, futile redemption and an apologia of the artist's own suppression of disagreement.   With some rework this could be the surprise hit of the season.   

Summary:  Tuesday night was another step forward on the bumpy road to reconstruction and the difficulties of transparency.  The public was heard loudly and clearly on the two major issues - the police chief and the storage units - and the commission did the right thing on the storage units.  

The next test will be the commission decision on the reinstatement of Noriega.  My view is they should do it but the critical issue is that regardless of the decision they make, it must be transparent, with full consideration of the community, and with the best interests of North Bay Village.  Any decision will have its detractors but does the commission want to cater to the Dark Web for Idiots anonymous trolls or the public open discussion of the best course?    

Kevin Vericker
April 11, 2019

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Gaslighting the Police Discussion

Tonight, the North Bay Village commission does not have a discussion item on the agenda regarding the proposed settlement with Police Chief Carlos Noriega.  They should.  The public deserves to be heard.   

Instead, they will be scheduling an Executive Session (alarmingly called a "Shade Session") to consider the best course for North Bay Village in the matter.   

The two real options on the table are reinstatement of Noriega, whose firing last year resulted in the lawsuit, or a financial and legal settlement with Noriega that will cost the village a great deal of money and will leave us once again in the position of finding a police chief willing to take on the highly politicized North Bay Village Police Department.  

Many residents want to see Noriega rehired.  

Their arguments are plainly laid out.  
  • Noriega had the PD on track to professional certification, an effort derailed by his successor, Stephanie Leon PA and her third party employee, Lewis Velken.  
  • Noriega restored the community programs that had been eliminated including PAL, the marine patrol, bicycle patrols, Crime Watch, 
  • Noriega developed and implemented a plan to keep our Village safe in the event of a Parkland or Pittsburgh like terrorist attack.  
  • Noriega reached out to all dimensions of the community.  
And I will add, that in politically charged criminal investigations, Noriega and his staff went where the evidence led.    

There are very good reasons to reinstate Noriega.  Legal reasons, financial reasons, organizational reasons, even political reasons as in the community worked well with him.   These may not be enough to convince the commission and I am very annoyed that there is no formal consideration of the community in this discussion.   It reeks of old school, closed door political shenanigans.  

Still, we have the opportunity to be heard during Good & Welfare, because unlike the last mayor who shut down Good & Welfare when residents attempted to express their concern about the investigations cut short by the Noriega firing.  

On the other hand, there is the old school rumor mongering and half truths being hysterically presented in two sparsely read sites, one a group on Facebook disingenuously called North Bay Village Rising and another on an anonymous troll site called LEOAFFAIRS*.  

Both of these echo chambers relitigate Noriega's tenure on the Beach with sensationalist claims that were well debunked during Noriega's hiring in North Bay Village and further making dark allegations that support for his rehiring is backed by shady group of residents who are motivated by, well, something.  It's not clear what.   

These self same pundits of positivity are also using a lawsuit filed by suspects in a criminal case, the same people who were squatting at the Moda, to discredit Noriega.     

This is typical of the old dirty politics of North Bay Village and it needs to be noted that the few public faces of this efforts are closely tied to the very people who faced investigation and the cops who fear that their disciplinary findings will be acted on.   

The commission has a straightforward, difficult decision to make this week.   I hope they will not allow themselves to be led astray by the people interested only in exempting themselves from the consequences of their actions.  

We all need to be at the commission meeting tonight.  We should not be left out of the process.  

Kevin Vericker
April 9, 2019

*I'm not liking to these sites.   Google them if you want.  

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Police and The Lawsuit and The Community

The commission should be looking to the community for our input on the resolution of the Carlos Noriega lawsuit.  Noriega from a community perspective was a forward thinking, community involved leader who restored our police after years of bad leadership.  

But that does not seem to be the plan.  There is no discussion scheduled on Tuesday.     

Marvin Wilmoth has not answered mails and concerns expressed to him by community members.  

Andreana Jackson and Jose Alvarez have reportedly refused to consider settling and reinstatement out of concern that Alvarez's spouse, Mary Kramer, might be investigated if the evidence leads to her.   

This is bad.   

There will be a executive meeting, from which the public is barred, for the commission to consider the settlement offer of reinstatement and unless we change the narrative, the decision will be made free of public comment.  

While the commission will hear from the lawyers, the cops, the village management, they will not hear from the public.  Again, there is no public hearing on this matter.   

There should be.  

On Tuesday, April 9, at 6:30 PM, the regular commission meeting is in place and during Good & Welfare, we will have a three minute opportunity to express to the commission why the benefit of the community should be in front and center.   

For background, among the most obvious side effects of the last year is that our police department is once again a political football, with no clear path forward and no real relationship with the community.   

After Marlen Martell fired Carlos Noriega to bring the police in a "different direction" and then proceeded to replace him with Lewis Velken, who was never even a village employee and who was paid through a third party, allegedly to avoid complying with FRS rules, ad the police have been in a holding pattern ever since  (Side note, after dispatching Noriega, Marlen Martell was fired for failing to provide an ordinance and explosives show to usher Connie Leon-Kreps out with a bang.  You can't make it up.  It's on video.)

The accreditation process was ripped out by Lewis Velken and outsourced to a profit making third party and is pretty completely derailed right now, which means that we can't qualify for grants and make our police budget that much more expensive.  

The police department is facing three lawsuits for wrongful dismissal, and a fourth claiming age discrimination from an officer who was facing discipline for allegedly stealing the sergeant's exam, then in spite of that clear advantage, failing the exam, and now claiming that it's because he's old.   

Now that the dust is settling, the commission has to face the best way to settle these lawsuits, whose totals could run well into the millions.   Of our money.   

In January, during an executive privilege session, not open to the public, it has emerged that the reason that two of the commissioners, Andreana Jackson and Jose Alvarez, would refuse to do the simple and the right thing, that is reinstate Carlos Noriega, a move that would have the side effect of resolving at least two of the other lawsuits.   

According to the now public record from the Commission on Ethics, published here.  It seems Jackson gave as her reason to not consider reinstatement of Noriega is her concern that he might pursue the investigation into Alvarez's spouse, Mary Kramer, and according to the document, Alvarez agreed.   

This is what is known as "particular benefit."   If an elected official will directly and uniquely benefit from a vote, she or he must recuse themselves and exempting your spouse from legal investigations sure seems to fit that bill.   

The commission has been dealing with complex legal, financial, HR and management issues one shattered piece at a time.   And have chosen deliberation over speed, to my frustration but probably to our benefit.  

Now it's time for the commission to assume its rightful role.  It's clear that Jackson and Alvarez cannot vote on this in good conscience.  The motivation is too strong.   

Marvin Wilmoth has to stop playing coyly with the constituents and engage fully in the conversation about how to right the system.  

And Latham and Strout need support in their efforts to do the right things the right way.   

The shadowy, morally bankrupt players who got us in this mess are making their voices heard and it's up to the decent people of North Bay Village, those of us who don't make money from the village or fear investigation of things we've done, to make sure we are present and let the commission now that it's our future they need to be concerned about.   

Tuesday, April 9, at 6:30 PM.  Village Hall.  

Kevin Vericker
April 7, 2019

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

North Bay Village - Who We Are

Photo By Marc Averette 
Sometimes it's good to stop and take a look at what the data tell us about where we are and who we are.  Maybe because it's tax season and I have to review last year but I thought I would put out some interesting (to me) information about North Bay Village and to do that, I went to the US Census Figures for some information.  

First of all, their last population estimate for North Bay Village was 8,317 people crowded into an area less than half a square mile total.  (.37 of a mile square) making us the most densely populated city in Florida and the 13th most densely populated city in the US. 

Let's Talk About Numbers!

Foreign Born - 50% of us were born outside the United States and 67% of us speak a language other English at home.  

Above the Median Income - North Bay Village is better off than the county in general with Median Household Income of $55,308 compared to the county median of $46,338.

Our Poverty Rate Is Lower - 12.9% as opposed to 16.1% countywide.  

Low Homeownership - 67% of us are renters, as opposed to 52% countywide.   

The median home price is $271,600 and the median rent is $1,733. 

Rent Is Too Damn High - Median rent is $1713 as opposed to $1,195 countywide

We Are Young -  Only 9.8% are over 65, as opposed to 16% countywide.   

But 20% of us are under 18, as opposed to 16% countywide.   

We Work - 62% of us are in the workforce as opposed to the county at 70% (not surprising given how many kids live here)

We Are Well Educated - We are very well educated with 50% of the adults having a bachelor's degree or higher.  

We Drive - Of those in the workforce, only about 400 commute by public transit.  

We Don't Walk So Well - Among people under 65, we have a disability rate of 4.1%.   

We Move A Lot - 21% of us were living at another address the year before.

We Have a Low Crime Rate - According to Best Places, our violent crime rate is less than half the metro average and property crimes are a full third less.

We Have Veterans - 208 according to the census.

We Have A Visible LGBT Presence -About 1.6% of the households are headed by same sex couples.   According to the Pew Statistics, we hover around 6% of the adult population.  


I don't have any strong ones.   It reinforces for me what I have always thought about the people who live and rent here.  They are people on their way up in the United States and in the community.  It's a good place to live.

I do worry about housing. 

The mean price for a condo or house means for the median earner in North Bay Village to buy a home, assuming they were saving at 10% per year for the down payment, it would take them nearly 10 years to save up the down payment.  (20% of $271,600 is $54,200, 10% savings rate on $55,308 is $5,530 per year)

So we have a housing gap. 

We hate our traffic but not enough to take the bus.   The Village should probably work on that.

We need to focus more on our young people.  We have a lot of them and even casual observers see this as a good place for kids.

Kevin Vericker
April 3, 2019