Sunday, February 21, 2021

Woman of the Year 2021 North Bay Village Style


Sissy Shute & Dr. Doug Hornsby (spouse)

Two years ago, in March of 2019, North Bay Village for the first time made a point of honoring the unique and often overlooked accomplishments of North Bay Village Women.  I wrote about it at the time here.  It was an exciting moment and in line with North Bay Village's history of progressive inclusion.  

At the time, I wrote of something that surprised me.  Excluded from the women honored was Sissy Shute.  

Sissy Shute has played an outsized role in our community.  

She has dedicated her efforts to community improvement in her neighborhood (North Bay Island), in the Village at large and here in Miami Dade County.   

Her personal efforts and willingness to help one on one alone would be worth recognizing.  One big one that stands out to me is her tireless promotions of food distribution efforts by David Richardson, the Miami Beach commissioner.  This has been a tough year for all and many people facing "food insecurity" meaning that buying food means other essentials like rent and transportation suffer are reluctant to come forward.  Sissy's enthusiastic involvement in this effort has put food on the table of North Bay Villagers who might otherwise not have had access to food for themselves and their family.     

Nevertheless, her contributions have gone well beyond this informal effort.  

  • Sissy founded and keeps the North Bay Island Crime Watch going and is now leading the expansioni the program throughout the Village.  She herself paid for the cameras at the NBI Gate House.  
  • Sissy has led the beautification efforts through the North Bay Island Garden Club.  
  • Sissy has been a tireless advocate for the Optimist Club programs to support North Bay Village youth programs.  
  • On a much larger scale, her involvement in getting clean government in North Bay Village has been critical.   Sissy's political activities have included epic parties at her house to invite the entire Village to meet and get to know our current mayor, Brent Latham, and Commissioner Julianna Strout during their campaigns, as well as bringing former Congresswoman Donna Shalala to North Bay Village among others.   Sissy took a lot of heat for her efforts to get a clean dais but persevered.  We all benefited.  

An Award Shows What We Value

This March, the Commission will be honoring those women who have made significant contributions to North Bay Village's civic life.  Each commissioner can put for the names of those who will be honored.  Mayor Brent Latham has nominated Sissy Shute for her consistent and valuable service to North Bay Village. Latham has also nominated several other notable women.  
Honoring Sissy Shute is not just a nice thing to do.  The honor would be well deserved for her of course.  For our community, it will make a strong statement that constructive resident involvement and the often unsung efforts to help those most in need are both our values and our aspiration.  
The Commission this year should correct the oversight made in 2019 and put front and center our most involved resident, Sissy Shute.

Kevin Vericker
February 21, 2021

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Revolution Is Dull


On Tuesday night, Feb 9, 2021, the radical change from the dysfunctional North Bay Village Crazy™ to a commission led by adults and focused on what's best for North Bay Village finally made it into code.  After ~2 years of hard work, the commission and the administration brought the design for the Island Walk, the update to the Causeway zoning, the Seawall design and the Green Code to a vote, with all of them passing.   

To see the excellent recap of the meeting, click here

The commission led by Mayor Brent Latham and supported fully by Commissioners Wilmoth, Streitfeld and Chervony, evaluated the painstaking work done by the community and moved the items ahead.   

They did this knowing the plan is not perfect, knowing that there will be changes needed in response to new situations, knowing that there will be unintended consequences that must be addressed.  But it turns out that when you do the hard work and you understand the process, you can manage the implications.  

What Was Revolutionary About That?  

It is after all what they are supposed to do.   But think about it.  In the last 10 years, our Causeway has become urban blight as the previous commission ignored the problem and continued to grant variances solely to make it more profitable to flip a property than to build on it.  
The remnants of the lunatic mob that ran our commission continue to whine and complain, anonymously of course because they have no courage.  that somehow North Bay Village loses when it's not a profit center for nonproductive uses.  
The Ordinances themselves were not the sole result of staff and commission.  We currently have almost 40 North Bay Villagers actively serving on boards and reviewing the many dimensions of the legislation that passed.   Nearly 100 residents participated in the #NBV100 planning sessions and continue to bring their viewpoints to the table.   
The wants of the community - more parks, better retail, access to the bay, resiliency - have all been incorporated and developers have a clear path to a profit without destroying our village.  
But that's not the revolution.  That's a reform.   

The Real Revolution Is Trust

I claim no special expertise in planning, zoning, resiliency or finance.  There are smarter people than me in these fields and the Village has sought them out.   
I do however have a pretty good handle on what residents are thinking and saying.  
For the first time in a decade, I am hearing from residents who actually trust our commission to do their best for the Village.  That includes residents who disagree with parts of or even the whole plan.  For the first time since 2010, residents are able to get a full picture of what's being discussed and why.   
This is radically different and most members of the dais deserve credit for their transparency, specifically Vice Mayor Wilmoth, Commissioner Chervony and Commissioner Streitfeld, but the leadership in transparency has been Mayor Brent Latham.   Even if it's green and ugly, Latham has put it out on the agenda so everybody knows what they need to know.   The public and his colleagues are better informed than at any time I remember in North Bay Village.  

It's Perfect Then?  We Can Stop Looking?

Nah, wish we could.   
Even at Tuesday's meeting, the nasty little people were poking.  In a professional misjudgment, our clerk read into the record an anonymous troll throwing feces at the mayor.   It was signed "North Bay Island Residents" but was sent from Romania so there's that.  
Anonymous postings have no place in any conversation, least of all in public meetings, but they do illustrate the dark side of what people are saying.  I hope going forward North Bay Village will comply with its previous meeting requirements and those of all our peer cities and only allow comments that have a name and a contact.  
There will be needed changes.  I want to see more emphasis on walkability than I am seeing while others feel that the look of the buildings is more important (I have no taste at all) while others are more concerned about traffic impact.   These conversation can and will happen.  
For right now, let's all appreciate that after all we've been through we can trust our government.  
That's the revolution.  

Kevin Vericker
February 12, 2021