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

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