Ever since North Miami Beach Commissioners contemplated outsourcing the “operation, maintenance and program management” of its water utility to a private company, the city has been under siege by the usual suspects. Along with the same residents whose job it is to complain about anything and everything, a gaggle of paid agitators posing as a grassroots organization has been disrupting public meetings and forming drum circles in front of City Hall for the benefit of the media.
The real organization behind a vicious attack campaign sent out last March is For Our Future Action Fund, Inc., a “deep-pocketed political action committee” based in Washington, DC.
This political committee was formed last year by “billionaire environmentalist [and former hedge-fund manager] Tom Steyer and four labor groups to elect Democrats to the White House and Congress” in 2016, according to a May 12, 2016 article in USA Today. The original intent of this super PAC was to “take down Trump,” according to a Politico article published a day earlier.
Yeah, that worked out well.
In a March 30, 2017 article, Why private firms and the FBI are interested in North Miami Beach’s water utility, Miami Herald reporter David Smiley revealed that ASFCME Local 3293, the NMB employees’ union, has teamed up with the local Democratic party and the DC PAC to “rail against the city’s plan.”
Even though local elected officials run on a non-partisan ticket, local ASFCME union members were quick to attack Mayor George Vallejo for being a “Republican” because he has consistently legislated for the best interests of the city’s residents over the self-interests of the employees’ union. After they unsuccessfully rallied against outsourcing the North Miami Beach sanitation department, ASFCME officials simply cannot afford to lose any more members. Hence the swooping in of a national Democratic super PAC to manufacture “community” outrage against the proposed water utility’s public/private partnership, even if doing so would reduce government waste, save millions of taxpayer dollars and greatly increase the efficiency of the entire department.
But, but … union dues!
As is usually the case, in order to preserve membership, local and national unions typically resort to hiring paid “professional” agitators to hold protests and disrupt government meetings in order to stir up irrational fear in an unsuspecting public. In this particular instance, they evoked the ghosts of Flynt, Michigan and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, both of which had hired Veolia Water North America-South, LLC, the third-ranked company on the list in North Miami Beach. It should be noted that Veolia representatives have denied wrongdoing and are fighting the allegations. It should also be noted that Veolia was ranked third behind CH2M Hill Engineers, Inc. and U.S. Water/Wade Trim. LLC.
And, as expected, these hired actors showed up to protest at an April 3, 2017 special commission meeting called for the purpose of voting to have the City Manager negotiate an agreement to privatize the management of the water utility.
It didn’t work.
As reported by the Miami Herald, the resolution passed 4 to 2, with Commissioner Beth Spiegel and Sporkweasel (and Commission Demagogue) Frantz Pierre voting no. Faux Commissioner Phyllis Smith, who has suddenly taken to skipping controversial votes, was not present at that meeting.
In addition to the irrational fear mongering by “union members, Democratic party leaders and environmental justice activists,” the Herald also reported that the FBI had investigated a complaint into allegations of wrongdoing, and found nothing amiss.
Not that the truth matters.
Continuously repeating the lie that the city is under investigation by the FBI is a great talking point for the media … despite the fact that a February 21, 2017 email from FBI Agent George Nau emphatically stated that “the FBI’s investigation is now closed.”
Interestingly, the FBI “tipster” who filed the bogus complaint remains anonymous.
We at VotersOpinion, however, find it curious that in 2013 an 2014, CH2M Hill was represented in North Miami Beach (as well as in North Miami in 2013) by Shady Boy-Lobbyist Evan Ross, whose sleazy attempt to circumvent the bidding process resulted in his being unofficially blacklisted in the City of North Miami Beach.
Which is beyond ironic since Ross, who desperately tried to push for an NMB/CH2M Hill public/private partnership three years ago, is the former president of the Miami-Dade Young Democrats, who are ostensibly opposed to outsourcing.
Yeah, talk about hypocrisy!
After the epic fail of his water plant privatization scheme, Evan Ross was fired by the top ranked international engineering firm as its lobbyist in NMB, and replaced by three attorneys from the law firm of Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod, LLP.
As such, if anyone has a personal grudge against both the City of North Miami Beach (and Mayor George Vallejo in particular) and CH2M Hill, it would be Ross.
Just saying, of course.
In fact, sources have speculated (and I have a sneaking suspicion) that Evan Ross was behind the suspiciously timed FBI investigation into the water plant deal. This “rumor,” however, has yet to be confirmed.
Again, just saying.
By outsourcing the management of the utility, the city’s sole intention is to hire an outside firm to “operate and maintain, under the city’s ownership and direction, the NMB water system more efficiently and more effectively, to the benefit of the city and its residents,” as stated by North Miami Beach resident Chuck Asarnow, who has been a member of the NMB Public Utilities Commission since 2012, as well as its chairman for the last two years. Mr. Asarnow also noted that the Norwood Water Plant “was in terrible shape due to long term neglect and failure to reinvest in the facility and equipment, as well as establish a long term maintenance plan.”
In other words, previous North Miami Beach administrations completely dropped the ball.
It must be noted that until 2009, the NMB water utility was run by none other than (NMB’s then-future-and-fired city manager) Kelvin Baker, whose incompetence at running the city should have been foreshadowed by his inept mismanagement of the public works department.
In addition to their Kelvin Baker problem, former self-serving mayors and council members had allowed the city to devolve into disrepair and neglect for decades. It’s hardly a surprise that its water plant is now one hot mess.
A second resolution authorizing the City Manager to negotiate a contract with CH2M Hill, the top-ranked bidder, was on the agenda for the May 16, 2017 commission meeting. In a Memorandum to the Mayor and Commission, City Manager Ana Garcia stated:
“I want to reiterate that the City of North Miami Beach remains in full ownership and control of our Water Utility! Our Public Utilities Committee (PUC) will continue to recommend the Water Rates that will be set by our Mayor and Commissioners. The City’s Utilities Director Jeffrey Thompson PE will maintain oversight over CH2M. North Miami Beach will save an average 3.5 million dollars per year on the operations and maintenance of our Utility. Additionally, the proposed agreement with CH2M addresses and requires key focus on the areas of conservation and resiliency. The agreement also requires that all Union employees currently employed with the City of North Miami Beach who are successful in passing pre-employment physicals and drug test and possess the skill set needed to perform their duties will be employed by CH2M with zero reduction to their current rate of pay.”
But facts always take a back seat to the absentee ballot fraudulently “re-elected” Phyllis Smith, who can consistently be counted on to provide much needed comic relief with her nonsensical, histrionic, long-winded rants.
As expected, at Tuesday night’s commission meeting, she did not disappoint.
In fact, even by Phyllis standards, her performance was over the top.
While considering the resolution at hand, a motion to table the vote was made, seconded and opened for discussion.
Beginning at hour 3:37of the meeting, Phyllis Smith whined, kvetched and shrieked that she didn’t have time to do the same due diligence that everyone else on the dais had already done.
In her screeching tirade, she made the entire meeting all about Phyllis, using the word “I” sixty eight, count ’em sixty eight, times.
And that’s not including the word “me.”
Here is the Full Frontal Phyllis, transcribed word for word!
“I am going to suggest that we table it because the contract I have is from my agenda book which now I just heard just this second that there’s an updated contract. I don’t have that. I read this contract I made notes about may get bond instead of must get bond. I read what I have but it’s not the contract. I also sitting on this desk [slams book on table for effect] listen! Third grade, I don’t wanna tell ’em myself, I had to go to summer school third, fourth and fifth grade because I‘m a slow reader. Retention a hundred and ten percent do you really think I could read this [holds book up for effect] before I vote tonight? And, if this is what we’re voting on, if this is what we’re voting on, how are we voting on if we don’t read it? How are we voting on it if we don’t have the discussion what it says in here? So, I‘m saying to you notwithstanding the importance of how … listen … you have one public utility water department. Some cities have gas, some people cities have fire stations, some people cities have a utility lines, we have one water department. It’s been in our city since it was built [ya think?] and tonight on a resolution without reading all the documents that we have to vote on, we’re gonna vote on it? So I believe we should table it and then some of the people that were here tonight may get educated a different way. I‘ve been sitting up here all night, voting no, voting yes, voting no, voting yes. I have listened to everybody. So there’s clarification that I would like as well. If I have I don’t have that clarification right now. If I have to vote tonight I don’t have that clarification right now. So, I can only say that I know [holds up book again for effect] nobody up here unless they got this book before me no one up here has read this book during this meeting. So I and this is one of the things you’re voting on. I, I, I … “
At this point, City Attorney Jose Smith attempted to give her the “clarification” she was clamoring for, but the Mayor stopped him in order to give Phyllis all the time she needed to make an even bigger ass hat of herself.
“And so I in as well as the contract we’re voting on the contract with a private company and I don’t have I didn’t know there was another contract. Apparently there is and I don’t have it. So that’s why I‘m gonna say I vote to table it.”
Mayor George Vallejo then asked the City Attorney to speak, who stated that he and City Manager Ana Garcia had offered to meet with Phyllis for over a week, at which point she screamed hysterically:
“PLEASE DON’T START! IF YOU START THAT I AM GONNA START! YOU DON’T MESS WITH ME!
Undaunted, the City Attorney carefully explained that the only changes made to the contract since it was posted last week were “a couple of typos which we discussed yesterday during the meeting,” and language that was moved from “one part of the contract to a different part of the contract.” He also stated that “some of the exhibits were incorporated into the contract” and that “nothing of substance that changed between Friday and today. It’s exactly the same deal.”
The Mayor then stated that everyone else has had time to do their due diligence and that it’s time to make a decision. He insisted that he will not put up with the “same stalling tactics and games” that went on during the sanitation issue. The Mayor also stressed that “failure to act” puts everyone in the city at risk and is costing residents and taxpayers nearly $10,000.00 a day. As such, he was not going to vote to table the issue.
After Phyllis interrupted the Mayor incessantly, he handed her the floor where she continued to bloviate and careen off topic by 180 degrees. At that point, the Screaming Yellow Parrot of North Miami Beach became completely incoherent, unhinged and hysterical.
“Let me just put this on record because I had the conversation with Mr. Smith, the first time somebody lies to me shame on them. The second time they lie to me, shame on me. I am not spending at my age and three jobs [*See UPDATE below] and the responsibility I have time that when I picked up the phone this afternoon I get the same kind of, of, animosity. I don’t need animosity in my life. I told that to Mr. Smith at the beginning of the week. This wasn’t unknown to him. I did do my research and I do make notes and I was at the water plant this afternoon at four o’clock! Until five o’clock! Or three o’clock to five o’clock! Yes, I do do my work because I was there six months ago! So! I wanna just tell you quite frankly that when I wanna question something to the manager that is a commissioner to ask the manager which the question was why haven’t we hired people. When I got outta the water plant and I saw it looked like a ghost town I said why haven’t we hired people. Because Mister Mayor I have to tell you quite frankly we were told and had the right and gave the direction to a manager which I agree that she should hire the best that money could get to run our city and she has told us repeatedly thank you mister commission, thank you commission…”
The Mayor attempted to put a stop to her mumbo jumbo by interjecting, “Commissioner, we’re talking about tabling, yes or no.”
She completely ignored him as she continued her maniacal raving.
“We’re talking about you’re telling me that I didn’t meet with the manager. That was the time you gave me. And when I go there and I said if we have the best human resource person I was this ang … upset, the best I had a beautiful … and I have to thank Mr. Thompson I have to thank our assistant manager I have to thank Chris I had and my husband was there we had a beautiful half hour calm quite discussion. When I came back in the car and said where were the people the best human resource person money can hire steal her from Coral Gables and she’s an attorney and the water plant’s like a ghost town. We saw two employees…”
Again, the Mayor tried to stop her by saying, “Commissioner, you’re off topic.”
As always, Phyllis just had to have the last word.
“Okay, well my topic is when I get yelled at for asking that question I am not sitting with somebody that’s gonna yell at me. If I wanna get yelled at I…”
Thankfully, the Mayor cut her off yet again to call a vote on the motion to table, which failed by a 2-4 vote.
Commissionweasel Frantz Pierre was absent because he recently had heart surgery. (Contrary to popular belief, he apparently does have one.)
At the end of the five hour meeting, Resolution R2017-47 passed 4-2.
After the meeting, the Miami Herald reported, “The city will still own the utility and maintain control over rates. Administrators, asserting that they’re no longer capable of managing a billion-dollar asset, want CH2M Hill to rehire and train its staff, and take on a long-term operation and maintenance plan while saving the city more than $56 million over the life of the contract.”
And as it did within days – literally – of the privatization of the city’s sanitation department, the hoopla will soon die down.
The “protesters” will collect their checks and move on to their next gig.
All will be calm in North Miami Beach until the next manufactured crisis looms on the horizon.
In the meantime, residents and taxpayers can look forward to significant savings and, more importantly, they will finally have a professionally run water plant.
— CityNMB (@CityNMB) May 17, 2017
UPDATE: On the last five Statement of Financial Interests forms that Phyllis Smith filed with Miami-Dade County, and which I just received, she only reported having TWO jobs, not THREE. She is a compulsive liar!