Friday, February 21, 2020

Everywhere At Once - Communicating and Growing

The Old Way - Say Nothing

I Guess Passing Money Under The Table  To
Is a Form of Communication.  
The last administration took obfuscation and made it an art form. 

I was constantly amazed at their willingness to openly disdain the public requests for information, let alone for any semblance of discussion about important issues. 

Well, of course it turned out they were hiding some pretty nasty stuff so I get it now.

Fun fact though.  Connie Leon Kreps has joined the mayor's Facebook page at #OurNBV and I for one am waiting breathlessly until her first post.  You should join it too.  It's a great resource for North Bay Village.

Now it's not fair to simply compare our current mayor, Brent Latham, to the previous mayor.  That bar is way too low.  What I do want to talk about is how much Latham communicates.

The Mayor Latham Way - Communicate Everything

Typical Scene In  Latham's Office

I've compared Latham (favorably) to atoms that show up in two places at once, which is a real thing that happens and you can read it about it here in Popular Mechanics.

Latham saw very few community events and those that were in place were focused on a theme so he started a Village wide Restaurant of the Month, basically a Happy Hour where anyone in the Village could show up, meet neighbors, see a business and talk to the mayor.

Latham's first big project was the Charette, designed to get as many Villagers into one place to talk about what the Village is and what it realistically can be. #NBV100  is going to form the basis of a coherent strategic plan moving forward. 

Latham has attended as many of the board meetings as he can and made his mobile his constant companion.  He's been featured at meetings on resiliency throughout the region and nationally and even took time to pen an op-ed on the Village efforts in the Sun-Sentinel so when you Google North Bay Village, you see something other than the dire headlines of the past.

Now in the biggest move, he's opened a Facebook Group called #OurNBV so he can directly discuss the plans for the future with a group broader than the usual suspects, the ones who show out up at town meetings.  And by the way, he's taking some heat for it from people who believe government is too complicated for the governed but that's not a core principle with him.

Cool.  So Why Bring This Up?  

We have a Mayor who communicates constantly and acts on new information.  That's a good thing.

We have a new Public Information Officer, Malarie Dauginikas, who has an excellent background in publicity, reporting and social media use.   Her boss, Village Chief of Staff, Mario Diaz, is 100% supportive of getting the information out so we can expect good things there.  I will write about those efforts in a separate post.

Remember though that in our system of government, the mayor is only one among five and for anything to happen, it takes at least three votes from the commission. 

None of the other four, Vice Mayor Wilmoth, Commissioners Strout, Jackson, and the other guy, have made any effort at all to reach out to residents.  This is not great for the residents and it's bad for the commissioners.  They are spoon fed information about the Village and have little first hand knowledge of the issues affecting Villagers or access to the vast amount of institutional and community knowledge their constituents have.

But in the meantime, at long last we have a mayor who talks with us, to us and even sometimes at us and we are much better off for it.

Kevin Vericker
February 23, 2020

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Alright, If They Have To.

At tonight's streamlined commission meeting there was one item of substance.  A completely fake "discussion" about the role the Village might play or might not play in Social Media.

Actually, they were talking about the Facebook page, North Bay Village Residents Speak, and whether or not issues brought up on the Facebook page should be addressed by the Village.  
Our very well paid attorney, Dan Espino of Weiss Serota, who so far has not found the time to brief the commission on the financial risk presented by the Velken case nor to explain what it means to the Village that our public easements have been stolen from us by private property owners,  found time to research an opinion that "oh oh, talking to people can be dangerous so best not to engage."   

Our Deputy Village Manager, Mario Diaz, presented a compromise plan that I worked out with him and managed to speak for 20 minutes without once acknowledging that the only trusted source of information in North Bay Village is the Residents Facebook page or that the plan was worked out with the Facebook administrator - uh humm - ME.  

Our Village Manager, Ralph Rosado, who wouldn't have his freaking job if it wasn't for the combined community efforts of the Facebook page only heard ONE THING - DON'T POST ON NORTH BAY VILLAGE RESIDENTS SPEAK.  

Our commission members, three of whom don't bother to talk to residents in any forum and I am specifically referring to Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth, Commissioner Andreana Jackson and Commissioner Mary Kramer's husband, sat there just staring, while Commissioner Julianna Strout talked about reading the page and reaching out (not  borne out by any activity on her part but whatever...) and our Mayor at least had the grace to acknowledge that the page has been a civic good and that it was damn hard work to keep it going through one of the most corrupt administrations in North Bay Village history but then started complaining that sometimes people bring issues there that belong elsewhere.  Which is precisely the point.  It's the Village Administration's job to get the conversation to the right place.  No different than if someone told them about a problem while on line waiting for coffee.  

Instead of Doing Their Jobs, They Sit Around Worrying About Other People

The fundamental issue here is trust.  The Village has not yet earned the trust of the residents to get the right information at the right time.

They are working on it.  Hard.  And making strides.  

Latham has seemingly been everywhere at once and Rosado has finally started to communicate the successes he has led, but both of them rely on a volunteer force of Facebook moderators and community leaders to get their message out.   And then feel free to dismiss the efforts with no acknowledgment.  

A Little History

The North Bay Village Residents Speak group began 10 years ago when we were being lied to about the developer's plans to put a strip club behind Channel 7.   After that threat went away, I decided to keep it going because there was literally nowhere else to get any information about North Bay Village.  Without any publicity or marketing, it grew to over 2000 members and over the years was the place where it was brought to light that:
  • We didn't have Police Chief or Village Manager because Lewis Velken was working informally as a contractor without any written agreement.  
  • Commissioner Douglas Hornsby was removed illegally from his seat.  
  • Treasure Island Elementary crashed and without the pressure of the Facebook group would either be a D school or shut.  
  • During Hurricane Irma, it was the only source of information in the Village.  
And too many issues to enumerate here.  Just scroll through the posts from 2018.

No wonder that commission hated it.  

Andreana Jackson
Mary's Husband
Andreana Jackson walked away when she decided that it was more personally beneficial to try to please the former mayor than do the right things by the people who supported her.  
Mary Kramer arranged for her husband to be on the commission, where he has done virtually nothing.  NO, PEPE, YOU HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DOWNTOWN EXPRESS.  

Both of these were active collaborators in the mismanagement of North Bay Village.  Read the transcripts and the depositions.  It's no surprise they don't like the information out there.  

But What The Hell Is Wrong With This Administration?  

In a dizzying change from the lies and cover-ups of misdeeds in the last administration, I find myself  fighting for the last year to get out the information about the things that are going right in North Bay Village.  Not what I expected.  

In spite of management's best efforts to keep under wraps the success of our police department, the professionalization of our staff, the long overdue dog park, the free transit WHICH HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH PEPE, the streets finally being mostly done, the excellent work on the hurricane, the airily dismissed North Bay Village Residents Speak  has persisted in getting out the information that for some reason this successful management wants covered up.  

I think our Village Manager, Commission, and Attorney are so deeply ingrained in believing that the people who pay them, the people they serve, are nothing more than bothersome noise, to be managed, not spoken with.  

I'm pretty disgusted.  

Kevin Vericker
February 11, 2020