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