Tuesday, December 10, 2019

December 2019 Commission Meeting

Remember when our commission meetings routinely ran until midnight or later with nothing accomplished? 

Sure you do.  It was just last year in 2018. 

Well, those days seem to be over and while the commission meetings are less dramatically entertaining, they are more effective. 

Highlights From Last Night In No Particular Order

7904 West Drive The Problem Child of Harbor Island is growing up and settling down.   

"Breaking a jam - Moira River drive". Men with poles breaking up a log jam. (3656262577)
Breaking the Logjam
Going through the history of this benighted building is like unraveling a divorce, complicated and not that constructive, so I'll give you the short view.  

For over a decade, a dispute about parking has caused enormous repercussions.  Year after year, the owners lost value as the argument between the parking lot landlord and the building association dragged on.   Every Village effort to help seemed to make it worse.  

Last night was a breakthrough.  The solution for parking, a result of hard work and a willingness to compromise was brought forth and passed. 

It's far from perfect and will need a lot of ongoing work but the combination of a professional legal staff, a professional village management staff, a willing commission unswayed by nihilistic lobbyists and an owner's association willing to work with the village broke the logjam and now the building and the Village can move forward.

The Commission Fixes The Boards

Handyman photos Fix Barber Wilson diverter valve 22
Not These Boards
The Boards are still emerging.  In a nutshell, the purpose of the boards is to advise the commission on issues and policies throughout the Village.  They expand the ability of the commission to study issues in detail and take advantage of volunteer citizen expertise by appointing members of the community to the advisory boards. 

Under the previous administration, the Boards like everything else were just wastes of time masquerading as civic engagement.  Their recommendations were routinely ignored and under the ragged commission had no real purpose.   In fact, the previous mayor supported by the faux commissioners went so far as to defend appointing a now convicted fraudster to several boards for reasons. 

Last night, there was an Omnibus Ordinance to fix the boards.  It regularizes the terms and legal status of the boards and changes the way boards are formed.  It's a simple professional fix that a messy previous administration could not even conceive of. 

In fact, the changes were so obvious that the three useful commissioners on the dais, Latham, Strout and Wilmoth, seemed to have hard time understanding how the chaotic situation got there in the first place.  Fixing it was an easy decision.

But there were two points of disagreement with the proposed ordinance:

  1. The Ordinance would have changed the  way board members are selected from a consensus vote to a single appointment per commissioner.   The Commission wisely decided to not change the selection process as the current one seems to be working well and let's face it, there are 7 boards and it's hard to imagine that the two useless members even know 7 people.   The Ordinance was amended to maintain the current process. 
  2. The Ordinance would also have restricted a citizen from belonging to more than one board.  The commission had issues with this since there are two good sides to the argument. 

    On one side, you don't want to exclude eager citizen volunteers from contributing but on the other, it tends to narrow the view and availability of candidates.   
In the end, they voted to restrict the number of boards one person can be appointed to unless they are unable to fill a subsequent vacancy after 90 days.   It felt a little clumsy to me and might need to be changed but it's the right spirit.

Quick opinion:  I loved this process.  Many of the current board members disagreed with the proposal to change the appointment mechanism while the Village Manager strongly supported it, both for good reasons.   The commission clearly listened to each viewpoint, made a decision on what they believe is right for the Village and themselves and moved forward.   If in the future it turns out there was a better approach, it can be changed.  This is such a refreshing change from the insanity of the previous commission with their "Win the Battle, Lose the War" insanity.

The Commission Listens

In a move nobody remembers making, the commission changed the rules on the public speaking during the badly named "Open Forum", previously much more eloquently called "Good And Welfare".   For some reason it was changed to 2 minutes.  

For years, the public was allowed to speak on subjects not on the agenda as a way to call the commission's attention to issues that matter to the resident.   And they had 3 minutes. 

Now under the previous mayor, this was a time when she would pointedly and rudely ignore the constituent while scribbling imaginary notes.  In fact, it got so bad that she was cutting off residents who were bringing their concerns forward because she found it annoying. 

Now the Good And Welfare presentations range from concise and useful, through rambling and unfocused, and occasionally just weird, but they are an integral part of our North Bay Village process and a time that matters.  That other cities have stricter or shorter requirements reflects badly on them, not us. 

Last night the commission restored the 3 minute time frame.   This was a good move.

Financial Resilience

An emerging term in government finance is "Financial Resiliency" and the Vice Chair of the Budget Oversight Board, James Rosenberg, who is retired from a long and distinguished career in government finance and audit, discussed the concept with the commission, highlighting several concerns about the Village budgeting process and the need for outcome/performance measures, along with a misunderstanding about the need to borrow money to finance the street repavement.  

As usually happens with a complex professional opinion, there is a lot of time required and making observations as bullet points does not serve well.   This stuff is hard to understand.  

The commission listened carefully, sometimes not quite getting it, other times disagreeing, and other times calling for more information.  The upshot is that the commission has asked the board and the administration to study this more closely and bring back their recommendations.   

It matters.  We don't know what the future holds and we have to have an agile plan in place.  It seems like there is one but if the commission doesn't understand how, they cannot move as needed.   

Equal Rights Extended To Contractors

Related imageI should call this one "Promises Kept."  Many people find it surprising that Florida still allows an employer to fire or not hire someone simply because they are LGBT.   And there is no federal protection.  And it happens.  

Last year, Mayoral Candidate (now mayor) Brent Latham made a promise that he would bring legislation to require North Bay Village contractors to explicitly adhere to the North Bay Village Charter protections as laid out in Section 9.03 of our Charter.  

Last night, he delivered and the commission unanimously voted to approve this measure.   

So simple yet the previous mayor, while taking money and support from now discredited SAVE director, Tony Lima, would not consider any such legislation.  Further, our previous Village Attorney, Norman Powell, did not include this in his proposed contract in February of 2018.   It matters to North Bay Village and I'm glad it matters to our commission.   

Brian Scott Oppenheim - March 2, 1953 September 14, 2019

The commission, led by the police department, honored the late Brian Oppenheim for his consistent and generous philanthropy on behalf of North Bay Village kids.  His mother accepted the posthumous honor.  A woman of 97 who had suffered the most unnatural grief in the world of losing a child was there to graciously accept the honor.   It was a proud moment for all.  

And this seems like a good place to stop.  

Happy Holidays One and All!

Kevin Vericker
December 10, 2019

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Fixing The Boards

Special Note:  The Commission Meeting For December 2019 is Monday, Dec 9, not Tuesday.  

The Commission will be in Tallahassee next week and so have moved the meeting from its usual Tuesday spot to Monday night. 

The agenda is relatively light with one big bill on the agenda - an omnibus ordinance to reshape the boards.   It's a needed reform.  The Boards have over the years been created and changed numerous times and some of the simplest structural issues have gotten out of whack.   You can read the ordinance here.

Buried on Page 17 is this (bolded emphasis mine):

Sec. 32-15. Appointments, Vacancies, and Resignations. 
Each member of the Commission, inclusive of the Mayor, shall be authorized to appoint one member to each advisory board. The appointment shall be made by transmitting a written authorization to the Village Clerk. The appointment shall be announced at thenext available Commission meeting, either the by the appointing Member of the Commission or the Village Clerk. Where an advisory board has more than five members, each member of the Commission shall be authorized to appoint one member and the remaining members shall be appointed a majority of the City Council at a regular Commission meeting. 
This is a huge problem.

It is a profound change from the way it is done now where an interested member of the public submits an application and the application is considered by the full commission and the appointment made by majority vote.    This works and it works well.  There is no need to change it and the only justification being offered is that "other cities do it."   And it's true, they do and it does not work for the benefit of the public or the commission.

Citizen Example:  Under the new scenario, if two residents had particular expertise in say business development, one knowing well how to attract desired chain stores to the Village while the other specializes in startup and small business incubation, each would have to figure out which elected official they needed to approach, make their case, and hope  they got the right commissioner.

If a commissioner sees the need for diverse viewpoints and knows both candidates, she is constrained by Sunshine from proposing that another commissioner appoint the candidate. 

We are a small community and this will not work for us.   It should not be the duty of a citizen - contributor to engage in politicking in order to serve on a board.  Our current system allows for this.   The change will not.  

Commission Example:  Unless a commissioner is able to choose from a pool of qualified applicants, their appointment will be entirely informed by their personal experience.  They may never hear of the startup specialist or the particular finance disciplines out there.   And commissioners are a part time job.  Will they really have the breadth to find expertise they need in all the areas? 

Second Commission Example:  This opens the boards from their advisory role to being a proxy fight.   We've seen it.  In 2016, one of our two still functioning boards was the Community Enhancement Board.   In mid 2016, it became the battleground for then mayor Kreps' fight to fire Village Manager Frank Rollason and not only did the board stop functioning, the fights carried over to the commission dais.   It was a disaster and it was because it was packed with appointees whose only interest was loyalty.   As a commission, is that what you want?

So Why Was This Even Proposed?  

The Village Manager is making the proposal.  Dr. Ralph Rosado has been working very hard to professionalize the Village after the last 8 years of chaos and this move, to make North Bay Village more like other cities, is on paper a good idea.   

As an old academic joke has it "That works very well in practice, but how does it work out in theory?"  

Believe me, it's always a slide splitter of a joke at meetings of statistical analysts.   

In theory, this would bolster the professionalization of the village boards but in practice it removes what makes them effective and put an undue burden on both the public and the commission.   

The best course for the commission is to amend the ordinance to leave the current selection process in place while adopting the rest of the resolution.   

That's their job and I hope at least the three useful members will take this seriously.  

Kevin Vericker
December 5, 2019