Saturday, April 25, 2020

Zooming In On The Commission

Doing It Remotely

The North Bay Village Special Commission Meeting for April was held on Zoom, the video conferencing software with a viral spread outpacing Covid 19.   

Zoom is everywhere hosting cocktail parties, weddings, classrooms and government meetings.  

It actually went okay with no major incidents.  

I am amused that the commission which comprises a much younger demographic than most of the involved residents did not seem to be familiar with some of the basic tips and tricks about tele-meetings.  Camera angles matter, people!  Lighting is important!  Backgrounds should match the theme and tone!  Digital natives, indeed.  

Seriously, when several of them were not in the dark, the cameras were jumping and the background kept shifting.   Here's a helpful article on "How Not To Look Like A Hostage" during a remote meeting.  

The Future of Meetings in North Bay Village

For the foreseeable future, the Village will be meeting on e-platforms and that was the first order of business.  Village Attorney Dan Espino reviewed the legal technicalities of complying with Sunshine, the procedures for quasi-judicial hearings, and how the Village meetings can be conducted.  

Mostly legal stuff but it is part of the "new different" as new ways of conducting government business moves forward.  

All board meetings are scheduled in May and will be done remotely and most likely the commission meetings will be online as well.  

On To The Work At Hand (In Order of Interest To Me)

My Favorite Part:  No snark.  No sarcasm.  There was an example of how well a staff and a commission can work together.   When Commissioner Strout brought up her concern that the Village Emergency Order is open ended and stated her desire to put a time limit on the order so that the commission would be in charge, it was immediately brought out that having an Emergency Order that might not be in place could interfere with FEMA funding, the ability of the Village Manager to respond quickly to new circumstances and could impede operations.   

Here's the thing.  Both concerns, Strout's that the Village Commission needs to be in charge of extraordinary measures and Rosado's that extraordinary measures need to be, well, extraordinary, could have resulted in both sides digging into position and forcing a useless shutdown.  

The Village Attorney, in his role as counselor, stepped in and helped the commission and staff get to a place that satisfied the needs.  Essentially the Commission will at each meeting review the existing Emergency Order and decide with the Village Manager if it needs to be amended, eliminated or continued.   

This was a great example of what being useful looks like and I think it should happen more.  

Not everything has as clear path to effective compromise as this issue but the first step should always be how to get the mutually agreed upon goals in a mutual process.   

Well Done!

Fiscal Uncertainty

An area that didn't go so well was the discussion about what happens now to our finances.  

The well thought out concerns of our Financial Advisory Board were brought forward and they paint an alarming picture of potential shortfalls in the money available in the next year.  

The Village has been running its own projections with identified cost savings that show substantial mitigation of the problems and potential cost cutting.   

But for the discussion on this, it felt like everyone was talking past each other.  The Village staff were focused on how the year will end up and starting to project cash inflow based on near normal projections for next year while the FAB is focused on the potential for massive economic downturns.  

In my view, the bottom line is we have no way of knowing and at this point, the Village needs to working hard with as much possible expertise as it can find to chart this out.  The Financial Advisory Board needs to understand and challenge these assumptions.   Combined they have to figure out:

  • What the Village needs to do - Keep the Streets Clean, Keep the Public Safe, Balance the Books, Issue the Permits, and so on while figuring out what it takes to do that.  
  • What the Village can afford - this scenario planning.  Once we agree what's important to do, figure out what it costs and what revenues will cover that.  
  • What the Village should do - most organizations cut the obvious first - layoff employees, cut salaries, cancel customer facing services, etc.  These cuts are like sugar rushes.  They quickly dissipate and leave everyone poorer.  Instead it's time for an honest look at where we can improve our processes and get the most for every dollar spent.   It's complex, tedious work but we need to know the value of every outcome and the effect of cuts before any decisions are made.  
  • For its part, the Financial Advisory Board needs to be less focused on specific tactics and sharper on desired outcomes.  How we get to the goal matters.  
Nothing definitive came out of the meeting regarding finances and we should worry.  

And "Jesus, God Almighty, Why Are You Wasting Everyone's Time" Moment - The Hornsby Matter

Actual Screenshot of Commissioner Jackson as she
explains her reasoning for reconsideration of the Hornsby
matter (lower left hand corner)
Last month, following the court decision that the removal of Douglas Hornsby was a straight up violation of due process rights and that the absurd justification used by  Commissioners Alvarez and Jackson that Hornsby's appointment was invalid ab initio (Latin for "sez me") was utter nonsense, the Commission voted 3-2 to approve a settlement for Douglas Hornsby that partially repays some of his legal fees in fighting this removal.   

In a weird twist, Commissioner Jackson voted Yes to settle while Mayor Brent Latham voted No.  Latham cited his concern about the ongoing cost to the Village from cleaning up the messes that these two scurrilous commissioners made.   

Anyway, Commissioner Jackson went searching for her soul following the March 12 meeting and announced on March 13 that she wanted to change her vote.  Of course she thinks she found her soul on Facebook and used that medium to announce her discovery.  Specifically she reached out to Laura Cattabriga, admin of an odd little Facebook Group and failed candidate,  and had it posted by her.  

 So the commission had to take time to deal with this shameless nonsense in the middle of important work about like lives, health and safety.  They did take the time and voted 3 to 2 to let the settlement stand.   

Naturally, the two commissioners, Jackson and Alvarez voted No because they broke it.  

The past should be past but you can't move forward without dealing with it.  

At the next commission meeting, someone should introduce a Resolution of Censure for these two.  Their feckless behavior as they presided through the chaos of the last administration needs to be noted and acknowledged.  Our government and community are still suffering the fallout and it's time for the three useful commissioners to draw a line in the sand.   

Well, that's what I got.  See you online!

Kevin Vericker
April 27 2020

Friday, April 17, 2020

It's been what... a month?

The Figures

April 15 2020 Source Florida Covid Dashboard

April 15 2020 Source

The Florida Dashboard paints a grim picture.  On March 17, 2020, there were 70 positive cases in the state.  By April 15, 2020, there were 22,897 and testing has barely begun.   The tests are not widespread, there is much debate as to how prevalent the virus is and how deadly the virus is.   But even with this sample size, and make no mistake, it's a sample, the news is pretty devastating.

The Response

North Bay Village was among the first communities in Florida to take direct action.  By March 12, 2020, the Village Manager Ralph Rosado had enacted the Emergency Powers provision of the Charter and took charge of the Village response.  Any South Florida municipal manager is used to the Emergency Powers since they are always used in hurricanes, but this was a new circumstance.  

North Bay Village, led by Mayor Brent Latham and Dr. Rosado, was one of the first to issue a "Safer At Home" directive that laid out the framework for social distancing and self isolation.   Closing the parks, the baywalk, and setting up time and space for residents to move outside quickly followed.   

In the meantime, the schools stopped meeting in person on March 16 and recognizing that the main source of food for many students was the school breakfast/lunch programs, the school system set up a meal distribution at TIES and Police Chief Noriega staffed it with school resource officer Amy Suarez.  During "Spring Break", the Village provided meals to children and instituted a food program for seniors through the county resources.  

There have been multiple food distributions for people in need, spearheaded by Commissioner Strout and Mayor Latham and executed by the village, staff and volunteers.  Even today, April 16, there is one in place at Village Hall.  

As neighboring towns and cities implemented curfews controlling traffic overnight, Police Chief Noriega decided to do the same here in North Bay Village to prevent the Village from becoming a gathering spot for people kicked out of the Beach and Miami, giving the officers discretion to not harass legitimate people outside but stopping gatherings.   

Throughout it all, the Village communications have been clear, timely and useful.  As we are buried under a torrent of orders and information that we could never have imagined would happen, the manager, the police, the staff, and the mayor have consistently been out there talking, listening, explaining and adjusting.   

And then it happened.  While the case load in North Bay Village is very low, less than 10 known cases, a worker at the Presidente tested positive, another on the administrative staff in North Bay Village did as well.  In both cases the Village put out a response that was serious and realistic.  

In response to the direct question "Are we safe?", the mayor pulled no punches and said "No.  No one is. That's why we keep reminding you to stay home."  This type of clear communication, unwelcome as it might seem, is exactly what a concerned, intelligent community needs.

In the meantime, the Police Department and our first responders were tested and according to an internal email sent out yesterday by the Police Chief, there has been one inconclusive positive and the rest were negative, which seems to be the result of instituting and strictly adhering to safety protocols early on.  

The Uncertain

According to the University of Washington models, Florida has not yet peaked.  We can expect peak hospitalizations around May 3.  That date has changed in the past and to a great extent it shows the success of social distancing and other measures, of which North Bay Village was an early adapter, and the date may move again.  

The key takeaway is "This isn't over."  

In the meantime, it's likely the schools will not reopen this year.  There are plans to plan for businesses reopening and how and nothing is normal.  

In fact, we need to rethink everything.   I am not going to use the cliche "The New Normal".  Instead I prefer to call it "The New Different"  

There is no question that business and markets will stay depressed for some time.  There are no miracles on the horizon.  

The commission meets next week, tentatively, remotely and need to have the conversation about what North Bay Village will look like in the near future (May, June...) and what it might be like if the planned projects and financial commitments the Village is counting on don't come through.   I expect we will see a vigorous plan for the next phase but it's too soon to know what that phase is, so for right now, the Village is functional, our garbage is being collected, our needs are being met, and that's not a bad foundation.  

That's It?! No Complaints, No Snark?

Who Wrote This and What Did You Do With Vericker?

Hell, yeah.  It's North Bay Village and North Bay Village Crazy™ stays strong.  

Over on the Facebook groups, you can see people are throwing their latex gloves in the street and even more stupidly are flushing them down toilets.

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez took time out of their busy schedules to snipe at each over whether the exact same order should be called "Safer at Home" or "Shelter in Place", thereby wasting space, newsprint and precious brain cells on a stupid beef.

In the meantime, it turns out that former North Bay Village Manager Frank Rollason, decried as the Devil Incarnate by the previous North Bay Village ruling junta, is running the Miami-Dade Emergency Response Center and by all accounts locally and nationally doing a good job.  The former mayor, the defeated mayoral candidate, and the two useless members of the commission all expressed their admiration and apologized for how they treated him.

And Speaking of the Useless Ones 

Neither Commissioner Andreanna Jackson nor Commissioner Jose Alvarez have been seen or heard from in the last month.  Nowhere.  I mean, Safer At Home is a good idea but the other commissioners have used the time to communicate and make themselves available to help.  Not these two.

Except Jackson claims she found her soul and her soul is telling her to pay a stupid political game on the Hornsby settlement and she wants to reconsider her vote to clean up the unholy mess that she caused because apparently her soul is leading her to Chaos , the original state.  So according to a sparsely viewed Facebook post, Jackson wants to reconsider her vote for sanity in the Hornsby matter.  
Commissioner Alvarez
Andreanna Jackson

And of course, The Alternate View

There are a number of people sloping around town spreading rumors about massive, hidden infections in the Village work staff and asking "interested questions" with no intention of getting answers.   I won't name them, because I can't afford to buy a vowel, and I have some pity on how awful it must be to have so many, many personalities in one person, but I will note that if your news sources are a disgraced Village employee and two crows living in a tree on Center Bay Drive, it's probably best to retire from public discourse.  

Kevin Vericker
April 17, 2020