Saturday, May 9, 2020

Shut It Down

The text that started it all

The Issue

As has been reported here previously, all the Board and Village meetings have moved to the Zoom platform.   

On Tuesday night, a resident expressed concern that the meetings were not subtitled to the Village management.   This is a legit concern and has been true for years.   

What happened next was a whole new level.  

Shut It Down.  Shut It All Down!

Oh no, a complaint.

Rather than simply saying, "We get it."  and noting that every single meeting has the exact same notice on its agenda that if someone requires assistance under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Village will provide that assistance, and going forward with the plan to include auto-captioning in the redeployed web site. the Village Manager, the Village Attorney and the Village Clerk got together and decided that the best solution was the cancel all the board meetings, except for Planning & Zoning because that might inconvenience the developers.  

And then just to add to the fun, the two boys got the Village Clerk to put the email under her name because ...

Now Follow This Closely Because It Matters

The Boards don't report to the Village Attorney, the Village Manager or the Village Clerk.  It's right there in our Charter, Article 6.  Just like the Village Attorney, the Village Manager and the Village Clerk report to the commission, the Boards report to the Commission.   The Boards can't fire the Village Clerk, the Village Attorney, or the Village Manager and they can't fire the Boards.  

That right belongs only to the Commission.  

But There Is An Emergency, Right?  

No.  While the staff's neglect of ADA compliance is near legendary, remember this is the group that installed trash cans to block the sidewalk and then argued that 36 3/4 inches were more than enough for a wheelchair until they could no longer keep a straight face and set them up properly, there is no imminent threat.   In fact, there is a Commission Meeting for this Tuesday and the same staff could easily have put that issue before  the commission, their bosses, and brought the viewpoint up.  

There is a general belief that they did not do this because there was grave danger that the commission might not have shut down the boards.  That would be a terrible result for the staff which prefers not be questioned or work in the sunshine.   

So shutting the down the boards, legal or not, and ignoring the commission struck them as the best option.  

But Corona Virus!  Won't Somebody Think of Corona Virus?!

This cheap trick of pretending that a simple question and concern was so overpowering didn't go over well with many of the board members.  
After all, they didn't volunteer to work for the paid staff and being believers in open and transparent government, they complained.  
  • The staff do not have the power to shut down the board meetings without commission approval. 
  • Why did it have to be done immediately when there were no scheduled meetings before the next commission meeting?
The Village Attorney decided to weigh in.  He sent an email to the Village Clerk who forwarded it to the board members.  The email contained many words. Some of them interesting.  

For example, Daniel Espino wrote "Please know that the Village Clerk did not unilaterally cancel your meetings.  She cancelled the meetings in consultation with the Manager and me."  

Well okay then.  The email the village clerk sent was signed by her but seriously, shouldn't everybody know that the discussion was done in the back rooms?  Note that this does not include anything about consulting their boss, the Village Commission.  

Then follows a bunch of words "Working Hard!"  "Corona Virus!", "Not Enough Money!"  

A Gaslight
Then, my favorite sentence from the email "As of right now, no boards (sic) meetings have been disrupted,"  

Let's all take a moment to think about that.  "No Boards have been disrupted."

You can almost hear the unspoken "you idiot" at the end of that. 

Our highly paid attorney is saying "Yes.  We cancelled all the board meetings.  But we didn't "disrupt" them.   How could we "disrupt" what isn't happening?  Stop hitting yourself."  

Okay, But Why Is This Important?

 It's important for two big reasons.  

The Village Clerk, the Village Manager, and the Village Attorney pushed aside the commission on a flimsy pretext and put the Village in danger in an ill-advised attempt to shut out the boards.  

The Commission needs to assert its authority and clearly restrict the overreach of their direct report employees.  This action is a direct attack on the commission and should not be tolerated.  

Far more importantly, the Village is in crisis.  The world is in crisis.  The slow roll virus and the fast crashing economy have turned everything upside down and at a time when North Bay Village is facing record unemployment, residents plunged into poverty, education disrupted and even food hard to get, every voice matters.  That well paid employees take advantage to shut out voices they find unpleasant is a serious warning sign that we may not have the right people employed to work us through the crisis.  

After all, they'll go on to other jobs in other cities but we live here.  And the boards need to be a full partner in getting the Village through what lies ahead.   

I have already been contacted by several of the more active board members (not from mine) who are considering resigning unless this is fixed now.  I think we should hold off and see if the commission shows the courage to take charge and then decide.   

As far as the non-existent threat of a lawsuit, let's be really clear.  Disability rights are civil rights.  They are basic and ADA is remarkably flexible in finding ways to include people.   We currently comply and in particular one board has been fighting a losing battle with the charter officers to improve our inclusivity, one of the boards they want to shut down.  The Village Manager, the Village Attorney and the Village Clerk are using this deceitful pretext to shut down the boards. This is an exploitation of handicapped residents and I hope they at least have the decency to feel bad about that.  

Kevin Vericker
May 9, 2020

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are available to all but you must have a name and a contact. If your comment contains either foul language or slanders against individuals, it will be deleted.