It’s all about the money, Part II

MoneyAs promised, here are my observations on the North Miami City Council candidates’ Campaign Treasurer’s Reports.

Waste Pro and its lobbyist are betting on councilman Michael Blynn to keep his seat and keep them happy.  He voted to privatize the city’s sanitation department and give Waste Pro the lucrative contract.  In turn, Blynn scooped up two thousand five hundred clams for his loyalty.*  As he and other principles of Waste Pro did for Andre Pierre and Marie Steril in their 2011 re-election bids, Russell Mackie, the regional vice president of Waste Pro of Florida, Inc., and his company Waste Pro, each gave Blynn $500.00 in October of last year.  In December, lobbyist/lawyer Ronald L. Book gave him $500.00 personally and $500.00 from his law firm, Ronald L. Book, P.A.  For good measure, Book’s wife Patricia, kicked in another $500.00 through her company, Confection Connection, Inc.  Nothing like keeping it all in the family.

*I was just advised that Blynn did not vote to privatize, but neither had Pierre or Steril before Waste Pro donated to their campaigns.  I guess they wanted to secure Blynn’s support for a future vote.  Just saying.

So what did Book, Mackie, and various other donors get for their total contributions of $4,325.00?  $741.00 worth of “professional design services campaign materials” and $300 worth of campaign ads from Placemats R Us.  At least Blynn’s not a big spender.  Not as of December 31, 2012 anyway.  When the most recent CTRs are published, we’ll see if that changes.

At year end, Joseph Haber collected $7,255.00 (including a $5.00 loan), and spent $7,165.65, leaving $89.35 left in his campaign coffer to start the New Year.  Almost all of his money has been spent getting his face out there and making sure his name is known.  His very first purchase was for $1,174.24 in T-shirts.  By year end, Haber also spent $571.32 in Facebook advertising, $450.00 to Placemats R Us (WTF?), and the rest of the money on printing, volunteers and, obviously, websites.  Just google “Joseph Haber North Miami” and you’ll see a sh*tload of websites dedicated to Joseph Haber’s campaign, including Facebook, his blog, twitter and, of course, the now infamous Joseph Haber Election Countdown.  The dude’s creative, I’ll give him that much.  He also has way too much time on his hands.

Philippe Ben-Aime loaned his campaign the entire $2,800.00 and proceeded to spend the bulk of his $2,119.83 expenditures on a turkey giveaway ($650.00), holiday cards and stamps ($256.77), radio advertising ($500.00), and a cell phone ($427.63).  He also filled up his tank ($70.01), bought more cards ($125.00), opened a bank account ($70.42), purchased a CD of the voter rolls from the County ($20.00), and he’s good to go.  Door to door giving out turkeys?  We got us a campaign, folks!

Hans Mardy loaned himself $5,000.00 and received a $500.00 “in kind” donation from a printer for “holiday cards.”  He spent $5,221.00.  Of that money, $2,000.00 went to Sinal Consulting Group, LLC.  The rest went for ads, printing and postage.  As an interesting side note, one of the principals of Sinal Consulting, Maxo Sinal, used to be in business with Manny Cherubin (of Petite Cayemite) in the now defunct corporations Taptap Transportation Group, Inc. and Digo Enterprises, Inc.  Also interesting is the fact that Michael A. Etienne’s law partner Phillip J. Brutus was the Registered Agent for both companies.  Maxo Sinal was also partners with Jean and Kettia Monestime in the defunct company RODEXP, Corp., and another dissolved company, MOVEMENT DES JEUNES DE MIAMI, INC., of which Jean Monestime was the Registered Agent.  We can see that Hans Mardy has “friends in high places.”

As I mentioned in yesterday’s column, It’s all about the money, candidate Katiusquie Pierre spent $115.00 on her hair and makeup to take $65.00 worth of campaign pictures.  She spent the rest of the money on web design, advertising, volunteers, voter list and $349.84 on “Gas, Campaign Refreshment, and Office Supplies.”  (Hat tip, Kat:  I’m pretty sure you need to break down that last expense separately.  Just saying.)  As of December 31, 2012 she took in $1,953.00 ($1,040.00 of which is in loans), and spent $2,033.00.  I’m pretty sure this is illegal since North Miami Beach EX-mayor Myron Rosner got arrested for, among other things, writing campaign checks against money he didn’t have.  However, unlike Myron, Ms. Pierre is a novice at this campaign thing and this $80.00 shortage could be a mere bookkeeping error or oversight by her Treasurer, Gabriel Demosthene.  Still, this needs to be corrected by an Amended Campaign Treasurer’s Report.  As I also mentioned yesterday, it’s against campaign finance laws to accept CASH donations in excess of $50.00.  Ms. Pierre should also figure out a way to fix that mess.  Oy vey!  As yet another aside, I wish to point out that running for office is complicated.  I suggest people read the rules book before they decide to run.

Stephanie Kienzle

“Spreading the Wealth”

Note:  I inadvertently left out my critique of candidate Jacques Despinosse’s CTR.  I’ll write something up in another column.  Keep an eye out.

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It’s all about the money

Follow the moneyLike I said, you can tell a lot about a candidate by looking at their Campaign Treasurer’s Reports (CTRs).  Unlike NMB, over in North Miami, Reports listed on the Clerk’s election webpage are only posted through December 31, 2012.  Residents have no way of knowing who has donated to the various campaigns or how the candidates have spent their funds since the first of this year.  I guess the Clerk has been too busy running interference in the North Miami Beach election to pay much attention to his own.  Our city’s CTRs are posted through March 31, 2012, thank you very much.

As a result of the delay, you can view only four of North Miami’s eight mayoral candidates’ Reports.  Prior to January 1, 2013, Kevin Burns, Modira Escarment, Michael McDearmaid, and Lucie Tondreau did not report any contributions or expenditures.  With a scant five weeks until election day, voters have no way of knowing who these candidates are in bed with (financially speaking, of course) or how prudently they are spending their donors’ dollars.

As for the council races, there are no reports posted for Mary C. Irvin, Carol Keys, or James Herard.  Ms. Keys only threw her hat in the ring on February 5, 2013, so it’s understandable she has no report yet.  However Ms. Irvin filed on on September 14, 2012 and Mr. Herard on November 21, 2012.  They had plenty of time to start raising money and campaigning if they were serious about winning.

As everyone who has ever run for office knows by now, in order to get elected, candidates rely on getting their names and pictures out into the public eye and in your face as nauseatingly often as possible.  Just ask North Miami Beach EX-mayor Myron Rosner and North Miami current mayor Andre Pierre about their strategy of renting bus benches to post their pre-campaign (but really campaign) signs under the guise of wishing voters a faux happy holiday season.  Myron’s attempt at name recognition was an epic fail, but Andre’s tomfoolery got him re-elected, which only proves that there are more low information voters in North Miami.  As well as more tolerance for public corruption.  Hopefully, this time around voters will wake up.  I aim to help them do just that.

Here’s my take so far on the campaign finance activitity of the North Miami mayoral candidates:

The Campaign Treasurer’s Reports that are posted are quite interesting, to say the least.  For starters, Gwendolyn V. Boyd has raised a total of $38,577.00, of which $32,540.00 were loans from herself.  Luckily, she’s only spent $5,797.97, so if she’s careful with the money and is able to collect more contributions, she’ll be able to pay herself back most, if not all of the loans.  I’d hate to see her lose all that money, even if she wins the election.  That’s a lot of scratch.  As for her expenses, aside from feeding her volunteers somewhat frequently, but not expensively, and $576.31 on a photo shoot for her campaign literature, both of which are typical campaign expenses, Ms. Boyd has been extremely frugal and responsible in her spending.  Very telling of how fiscally prudent she’ll be as mayor.

Smith Joseph has raised $34,700.00, of which $30,000.00 are loans, and has spent $20,907.08.  Most of his money was spent on radio advertising and a much smaller amount on print advertising, but he also spent $3,000.00 to lease a “campaign headquarters.”  WTF?  Is he running for President?  Dr. Joseph also spent $2,000.00 on a “concert book” for a church and called it advertising.  I hope the Lord appreciates it.  One thing that glaringly stood out, however, is his payment of $3,000.00 to the ubiquitous Volney Nerette for “media/ad.”  Regular readers of my blog know that Nerette is a highly questionable “campaign worker” (read: ballot broker) who is well known for telling candidates ‘he has control of over “eighty to eighty five percent of the Haitian vote.”  He also tells candidates that “no one gets elected in this city unless they hire him.”’  In the last North Miami election, Nerette claimed to have “4,500 absentee ballots” at his disposal.  We are still waiting for the authorities to nail his ass.  Mr. Smith would do well to disavow Volney Nerette and perhaps try to get his money back.  Just saying.

Jean R. Marcellus has raised $4,000.00 in the form of $3,700.00 in loans and $300.00 in actual contributions.  He has spent $2,983.11, most of it on radio advertising.  What?  No Volney?

First time candidate Anna L. Pierre has raised $3,005.00 to date, only $650.00 in loans, and has spent $2,533.90.  As expected, most of her spending has been for advertising in the form of signage, mailers and far too much on a website.  Curiously, she spent $333.00 on the purchasing and service for two “campaign phones” to Metro PCS.  Didn’t she have her own cell phone already?  Just asking.  I’m surprised Volney Nerette hasn’t badgered her yet.

My critique on the collection and spending habits of the other four candidates will have to wait until the current Campaign Treasurer’s Reports are posted.  Get a move on, Clerk!

I will also review and report on the CTRs for the council races later on.  However, I couldn’t help but notice and share (make that blurt out while ROFLMAO) that council candidate Katiusquie Perre had the chutzpah to charge her campaign $135.00 for “hair preparation” and $80.00 for “beauty supplies” for her “campaign pictures.”  Jeez, maybe I’ll run for office so I can get a makeover, too!

A final caveat to all candidates who have not yet figured out that there are campaign finance laws in the State of Florida with which you must comply:  It’s illegal to collect cash donations in excess of $50.00 from any one source.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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Meanwhile, in the REAL North Miami…

North Miami City Hall…they’re having their biennial election, too.  Since I don’t live or vote in North Miami (even though this seems to be only a minor technicality for some voters and even candidates), I’ll try to refrain from endorsing anyone and just report the stories.  I expect there will be blood.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

I know very little about most of the candidates, so I simply googled their names and linked a story to each of them.  Some are boring, some are entertaining, some are scandalous, and some are just plain funny.  As more stories pop up, I’ll fill you in.

There’s quite the crowd running in the mayoral horse race.  I’d say Eight is Enough.  The candidates are:

The Council Candidates for District 2 are:

The Council Candidates for District 3 are:

What a slate!  The more interesting candidates are worth noting right off the bat.  Starting with the run to be Top Dawg, most folks know that Kevin Burns was already the mayor once and that Jean Marcellus is a sitting councilman.  As for the council races, Michael Blynn is defending his seat against three candidates, and former councilman Jacques Despinosse is vying for a comeback in the seat vacated by Marcellus.

Also clamoring for the mayoral seat are: Gwendolyn V. Boyd, former Chief of Police of the City of North Miami, and Dr. Smith Joseph, recipient of 2008’s I Care Award.  Also running are:  Modira Escarment, whose non-profit corporation showed a revenue of about $150,000 in 2011 with no accountability that I could find, and whose other non-profit went belly up within a year; Michael McDearmaid, who seems to sit on a ton of committees in the City of North Miami, including its CRA; and former singer/former nurse Anna L. Pierre, who also runs yet another non-profit, about which I could find no information other than that it exists.

Moving right along.

North Miami city clerk Michael A. Etienne, Esquire, is hoping to beat out the competition for Marcellus’ empty chair, in addition to campaigning for and endorsing two candidates running for seats on the North Miami Beach City Council.  All while juggling his busy schedule as full time lawyer and part time clerk.  He’s a busy man, no?

[NEWS FLASH:  One of my more informed readers just called to advise that Michael A. Etienne, Esquire, withdrew from the race “months ago.”  The North Miami IT Department has some ‘splainin’ to do.  Guess Michael’s plate isn’t that full, after all!]

Former candidates for office are trying again for a chance to serve the public.  Carol Keys, who lost her bid against soon to be termed out mayor Andre Pierre, who pulled out all the dirty trick stops to keep his seat on the dais.  Don’t count Andre’s shenanigans out in this race, either.  Word is that he’s backing the mysterious Lucie Tondreau, whose domicile has been under scrutiny.  Rumor has it that she hangs her hat outside the city limits, but that could just be nasty gossip.  Hopefully, the truth will be uncovered before the votes are cast.

No race would be complete without the omnipresent Hans Mardy, who conveniently moved to North Miami Beach in 2009 to run for office here, was defeated, and now resides back in North Miami, where he’s going to give it his best shot.  Again.  Have Election?  Will Travel!

New to the political arena are Mary C. Irvin, a/k/a Mary Estime-Irvin, who owns an employment recruitment agency; Joseph Haber, who is probably hoping to follow in the footsteps of his dad, former Miami Beach mayor Leonard Haber; used car dealer Philippe Bien-Aime; and Katiusquie Pierre, whose business is advertised as a “multi-service agency” dedicated to providing “outstanding services for the betterment of our society while enhancing the quality of life for the next generation.”

Alrighty then.

Googling James Herard was a bit more fun because the poor dude has the same name as the infamous Dunkin’ Donuts Robber, who is serving nine life sentences plus 125 years for going on a “human hunting” spree, shooting five and urging “another man to fatally shoot a Broward County man” on that same night.

Everyone settle down.  This is NOT the same James Herard who is running in North Miami’s District 3.  It’s just an unfortunate coincidence they have the same name.  Note to candidate Herard:  Get (and use) a middle initial!

There you have it, folks, in a nutshell.  Just like North Miami Beach, the North Miami City Council races should provide us with plenty of entertainment.  As always, I’ll be calling it as I see it until election day.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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Who’s election is this anyway?

City of NMB Welcomes YouWe are truly off to the races!

A perusal of all the candidates for North Miami Beach City Council’s Campaign Treasurer’s Reports can yield a wealth of information.  For starters, according to candidate Jean D. Berrouet’s very first Campaign Treasurer’s Report, he has received $2,600.00, including one $500.00 in-kind donation, so far through March 15, 2013.  Almost all of the money he received came from various entities owned by North Miami City Clerk, Michael A. Etienne, Esquire.

For starters, Micheal A. Etienne of North Miami personally gave Mr. Berrouet the maximum contribution of $500.00.

Then the law firm of Michael A. Etienne, P.A. of North Miami also gave him $500.00.  This contribution is actually questionable since Michael A. Etienne, P.A. changed its name to Philip I. Michael, P.A. on March 27, 2012, over a year ago.  (I hope our North Miami Beach City Clerk is verifying all contributions.  Just saying.)  Philip J. Brutus of North Miami is the Vice President of this company.

Another entity by the name of Mike Law Firm, P.A. of North Miami also gave Berrouet the sum of $500.00.  Michael A. Etienne of North Miami is the President of this company.

Radio host Nelson Voltaire also gave Jean D. Berrouet the maximum contribution of $500.00 “in-kind.”  I’m guessing this is for advertising on Voltaire’s Haitian radio show.  Of the many companies that Mr. Voltare is associated with, one is called Little Haiti Garage, Inc., of which Mr. Voltaire of North Miami is the President.

The only $500.00 maximum contribution to Jean D. Berrouet’s campaign that did not directly come out of North Miami is from a company by the name of Compas Investment Group, LLC.  Another problem with this contribution is that it does not specify whether it came from Compas Investment Group I, LLC or Compas Investment Group II, LLC.  (The North Miami Beach City Clerk should ask him to amend that entry.  Just saying.)  Either way, both Compas Investment Group companies are located in the City of Miramar.*

HOWEVER, Herby and Julina Dorval, who own the Compas Investment Group companies among others, are also connected to one Elmitide Tillus of North Miami in a company they all three own by the name of Herby & Veroneeka’s Wheels, Inc.  Therefore, there is yet another North Miami connection!

Usually, if a candidate is running for a seat on the North Miami Beach City Council, one expects that the voters and residents of North Miami Beach are supporting and endorsing that candidate.  Other than our very own L’il Frantzie P, who appointed Mr. Berrouet to the NMB Library Board in 2009, there doesn’t seem to be any support from North Miami Beach for Jean D. Berrouet.  Just saying.

*As for folks from other cities outside NMB, keep the name Miramar in mind.  More will be revealed.

Just saying.

Stephanie Kienzle

“Spreading the Wealth”
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And the race is on!

As of noon today, the 2013 Election Season for the City of North Miami Beach officially started.

Let the insanity begin!

Race

Vying for Group 2, a/k/a The Open Seat, are the following candidates:

  • Jean D. Berrouet
  • Anthony “Tony” DeFillipo
  • Hillel Hellinger
  • Margaret “Margie” Love
  • Jaime Miller

Challenging Councilwoman Beth Spiegel for Group 4 are the following candidates:

  • Rene Alfonso
  • Yvenoline Dargenson
  • Muriel D. Kemp

Challenging Councilwman Barbara Kramer for Group 6 are:

No one

 

That’s right.  Absolutely NO ONE is running against Barbara Kramer!  All hail the Queen of NMB!

Queen

‘Nuff said about that.

Meanwhile, the Gadfly has been gearing up for campaign season and, boy, is my dirt digging posse busy!  Stay tuned, folks, ‘cuz you’re all in for an entertaining time.

Stephanie Kienzle

“Spreading the Wealth”

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Follow up to the NMB Police Officer’s Q&A

In response to my previous column, the officer wrote:

Stephanie,

Firstly, thank you for posting my comments on your site. I think sunlight is the best disinfectant. Many citizens I think will be surprised to learn they’ve lost so many services they once had, and now that they are aware I think they will be better able to see the consequences of these ill-advised decisions.

Let me also say that I do stand corrected. It was unfair of me to focus all of my attention on Mayor Vallejo. He is, as you said, just one of seven decision-makers and so to hold him singularly to blame was wrongheaded of me. Thanks, I appreciate hearing your input.

Mayor Vallejo, I apologize.

That said, these cuts could have been avoided and as a long-time employee of the police department I am saddened to see what has happened to this once great agency. I hope my concerns are shared by those at city hall, and I hope that BOTH SIDES work together to repair the enormous damage that has been done to the agency….for everyone’s sake, but mostly, for the citizens who pay my salary and deserve the best.

I am also pleasantly surprised to hear you speak up for our wonderful gang unit. And as I said, the most experienced member of that unit has already been forced out. Make no mistake, Stephanie, she did not want to leave. She would have gladly stayed here until the end of her career, but she got tired of the awful working conditions and so she left for a better opportunity elsewhere. I hate to say it, Stephanie, but that actually seems to be the city’s plan…to drive officers out. There seems to be an unreasonable dislike for senior officers, as Bob White so capably showed on your site, and so they seem to want to make working conditions so unacceptable that older, more experienced officers seek better jobs elsewhere. I hope that I am wrong, but that is indeed how it seems.

The gang unit was but one of the proactive tools your police department once had to try and PREVENT crime from happening in the first place, not just report on it after the fact.

The street crimes (tac unit) was another. Plain clothes officers in unmarked cars were sent to areas of high crime in an effort to catch the robbers or car thieves in the act of commiting a crime. Now, a marked patrol car goes there to report upon it after the fact.

As one of your readers said, speeding along NE 19 Avenue is getting worse. It is actually getting worse everywhere and traffic fatalities are on the rise. We’ve now had three innocent souls die in car crashes in just the last few months. And if a lack of money is our problem, then why elimimate a unit that brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year?

Anyway….thanks again, Stephanie. I hope together we can put some pressure on those in charge and convince them to change the course and direction of this city…so that we can all have a better place to work and live. Happy Easter!

 

When I asked him if I could publish his remarks, he responded:

 

Stephanie,

You may publish any of my remarks on your site. In fact, please do. Let’s talk about this. It is the best if not only way to resolve this.

Jodi was an exceptional officer. Professional. Experienced. Well trained and all of those wonderful attributes came at the expense of the taxpayers of North Miami Beach…and now Miami-Dade County is getting all of those benefits at absolutely no cost to them. As I said, it makes no sense for IBM to recruit intelligent well-qualified employees, invest 26 years and countless dollars training them to be the best at what they do, then let them leave and go to work for a competitor. That is a poor business model. The police department is a business and we need to run it like a business. We need to make cuts, but we need to make cuts in a smart way, make cuts in a way that allows for the citizens to continue to receive the best service at the least cost. And I submit to you and to your readers, that is not what is happening right now.

Go back in time to when the city government and the police union were trying to avoid layoffs by negotiating concessions. I can tell you for a fact that concessions were offered to the city. Maybe not as much as they wanted, but they were indeed offered. That said, does it or does it not make sense to you to take whatever concessions you can get in order to reduce the need to layoff police officers? For instance, and these numbers are a ballpark and not precise, but the city wanted something like a 15% reduction from the union and the union was only willing to offer around 9-10%. Without a 15% reduction, the city said they’d be forced to layoff 15% of the police force…and so they ultimately did, but wouldn’t it have been smarter and better for the city to have accepted the 9% cut the union offered and then only layoff 6% of the police force? I mean, even if I give the city every benefit of the doubt and accept all of their facts and figures as the gospel truth, it still would make more sense to me for the city to have accepted whatever cuts were being offered in order to avoid having to layoff fewer people which in turn would require cutting services?

If the city had accepted the concessions offered by the union, then they could have saved some of these positions, Jodi would still be fighting gang crime here in NMB and your tax dollars would have been better spent and your neighborhoods would be better protected. That is my point.

And I think it is absolutely worth remembering that no other police department anywhere in Dade County resorted to laying off police officers. Doesn’t that, to you, smack of what is going on in Washington these days? If you cut a measly 1% out of the federal budget then the first thing that has to go are the most essential services, and the fat and the waste and the fraud remains? Here is where I am perhaps a bit more skeptical than you of the city, but are you telling me there were not other places, less essential places the city could have cut that wouldn’t have required eliminating 15% of your police department? 15% is not a small figure. NMBPD went from 113 cops down to just 96. NMBPD lost all of its special services, units that it had for decades and the only units that had the freedom to proactively combat crime in NMB.

The mayor and council could have clipped coupons to reduce its grocery bill, or they could make their family of residents eat 15% less food. They chose to put you and the other residents on a diet by reducing the amount of groceries they provide for your money. In my opinion, that is penny wise and pound foolish.

And sorry for burying the lead, but I think if you look into the dispatch statistics you’ll be personally SHOCKED at the dramatic impact these layoffs have had on police response time. And that is actually the most objective and statistically accurate way to judge the effect the layoffs have had on the service you and others receive. If you check into it, you will find that calls are being held for a lot longer before they are being dispatched and it is taking police officers a lot longer to arrive on these calls. The police department works almost every day at what is called “minimum staffing”, meaning we’ve the minimum number of police officers required to properly staff a shift. That is entirely due to the layoffs. So because we’ve just the minimum number of officers, calls have to be held by dispatchers who are waiting for an officer to clear his or her last call and become available to receive another. Officers are assigned zones, areas of the city for which they are responsible. Another casualty of the layoffs is the disintegration of what is referred to as “zone integrity”. Now, because we are short-handed and calls hold for a long time before anyone becomes available, dispatchers more frequently are forced to dispatch a call to officers without regard for their zone assignment, meaning officers assigned to Eastern Shores are routinely sent to the Jackson North area to handle a call, because the unit assigned to that area is in Eastern Shores finishing up with another call. NMB officers are now more than ever criss-cossing the city responding to calls as quickly as they can….like a police version of whack-a-mole, only not fun or funny. If you request from the police department a printout of the dispatch records and compare pre-layoff to post-layoff you are going to be amazed by how badly the layoffs have negatively impacted the services you and other taxpayers are receiving right now. Ask the city to provide you with the statistics on the number of traffic citations issued by your police depaertment, pre-layoff versus post-layoff, and again you will be amazed by how far the numbers have fallen. These are iron-clad statistics, not subjective, not my spin, but hard and fast evidence of the impact of laying off 15% of your police department.

To my brothers and sisters in blue, we too need to be ready and willing to work with city hall and get this resolved….and I think to a large extent we have. As I said, the union did offer concessions before the layoffs and 9% is nothing to sneeze at. That is quite a large hit for anyone, even Bob White the notorious cop hater on Stehanie’s site, to take overnight. But, as with the police cars, the union has and continues to try and work out a solution with the city. We are still having to play musical cars at the beginning and end of every shift, Stephanie, and despite the fact the union has offered time and again to pay a reasonable fee to pay for the cost of driving the cars to and from work, the city won’t even make an offer on that topic. The city refuses to even make an offer to try and settle what should be an easy solution. Why is that, Stephanie? That makes no sense to me at all. All around us, all around the nation, police officers pay a fee to cover the cost of take-home cars so the citizens don’t pay it….yet here in NMB, the city won’t even talk about what seems an obvious and simple solution. How come? And at what cost? So because the city won’t even talk about a fee for the take-home cars, officers have to come back to the station to park their cars each day, and parking the police car means having to remove your personal car from the parking space so there is room to park the police car, then after swapping parking spaces, officers have to remove some of their personal items from the car since the car is to be left at the station overnight. All of this takes times, all of this removes officers from service and makes them unavailable to respond to calls for service from the taxpayers. There are periods of time every day when no one, no police officers are available to respond. Does that make sense to any reasonable person….when the solution is so simple and so easy? The union is begging to pay, but the city won’t take our money? Imagine you are the victim of a home invasion or a violent robbery, and there is not a single cop able to come to your aid because they are all in the parking lot moving around cars? How stupid is that? How unfair is that? And how avoidable is that?

We, the police officers of North Miami Beach, appreciate the citizens and we know the citizens have treated us very well. These are tough economic times and we would love to show them the same appreciation in return, but the decisions that are being made by the decision-makers in our city are making that almost impossible. Almost every single day I have to apologize to a citizen for how long it took me to get there, but once I am there I try as best I can to solve their problem. Maybe that’s we need here, fewer decision-makers and more problem-solvers. I call on the mayor and council to become problem-solvers, not just budget-cutters or decision-makers. Anyone can eat 15% less food, but a smart shopper figures out how to eat the same amount of food for less money.

I will be sure and pass along your kind words to Jodi the next time we chat. :D

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An NMB police officer wants your comments

Got QuestionsIt’s no secret that many members of the North Miami Beach Police Department have been less than thrilled with certain changes that have been implemented because of the budget cuts last year.  One police officer made the following request to me:

Stephanie,

Perhaps you could create a blog addressing some of these issues and raising some of these questions on your website? It would be interesting to hear the thoughts of residents on the cuts to the budget as well as police services. Agree with the mayor or not, it is certainly a controversial topic and it would surely increase the traffic on your site. Yes?

Never one to back down from a challenge, I said, “Sure.  Why not?”

I decided to post his unedited comments and questions, and throw them out there for discussion among my readers.  As a courtesy, I am giving this police officer a chance to voice his opinion in a public forum.  I think it’s only fair to give him the opportunity to air his concerns and address the residents he serves.

Although this officer specifically charging the Mayor with the sole responsibility of implementing these policies, I would just like to point out that, unlike Miami-Dade County, we do not have a “strong mayor,” but a “council-manager” form of government.  As directed by our City Charter, there are seven elected officials on the dais, each of whom have only one vote in any decision.  In addition, the city manager is responsible for implementing policy and negotiating contracts.  Regardless of whether anyone agrees or disagrees with these policies, the credit and/or blame should be shared equally by all those who run North Miami Beach.  In my opinion, whatever the outcome, it’s a team effort.

That’s my opinion, for what it’s worth.  Without further ado, below are the comments and questions posed by this police officer.  Please feel free to post your comments, as they would be greatly appreciated.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

Mayor V can do whatever he wants with the budget. The consequences of his decisions will impact the quality of police service received by the public, then the voters can express their approval or disapproval of his performance at the ballot box. Democracy in action.

Citizens….has Mayor V’s layoff of 17 cops made police response time better, or worse?

To fill the holes created by Mayor V’s layoffs the police department eliminated the gang, motorcycle and community patrol units.

Citizens…has the absence of a gang unit made the city seem more safe, or less safe? Does there seem to be more shootings, less shootings or about the same?

Citizens…has the absence of a motors unit made traffic seem better or worse in your neighborhood? Do cars seem to be driving faster on your street, slower or about the same? Do you see more cops on traffic stops, less cops on traffic stops or about the same?

Citizens…has the absence of a community patrol unit made your neighborhood better or worse? Are there more problem homeowners on your block, less or about the same?

Detectives routinely have to temporarily suspend work on their criminal cases and are forced to work uniformed patrol to fill in the holes created by Mayor V’s layoffs. Every day there is a detective assigned to cover shortages on the road.

Citizens…are you happy with the level of service and communication you get from detectives assigned to your case? Has the need to take detectives away from their cases resulted in better service, worse service or about the same?

Citizens…is your tax bill 15% smaller or is just your police department 15% smaller?

Citizens…does Mayor V’s decision to layoff 15% of the police department make your home more valuable, or less valuable? Easier to sell, or harder to sell?

Citizens….what impact do you think Mayor V’s layoffs and budget cuts will have on the quality of recruits that choose to come to your city in the future? Do you think it possible to pay less than everyone else and still have quality recruits?

Citizens….what impact would poor caliber recruits have on lawsuits and civil liability, and how does that ultimately impact you, the taxpayer? Do you think Opa-locka pays out more or less than North Miami Beach in civil settlements as a result of police corruption and brutality?

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Baker’s Double Dirty Dozen

Double Dirty DozenAs I first reported to you in Rumors?, two North Miami cops claimed they were hired by Opa-locka city manager Kelvin Baker to fill the positions of chief and deputy chief, only to be told “You lie!” by Baker after they publicly announced they got the jobs.  When Commander Jeffrey Key was invited to speak at a press conference announcing his new job as chief of police, it was the media’s chance to tell Baker, “You lie!”

Only, they didn’t.

As Random Pixels noted, they were too busy reporting that the new chief “wasted no time in announcing that his top priority was to “reduce crime” in the 4.1 square-mile municipality,” at the same time their cars were being broken into and vandalized.

Gotta love Opa-locka!

Until now, no one knew the fate of the other cop that Baker also denied hiring.  As reported by the Miami Herald’s Nadage Green, the Candidate for Opa-locka deputy chief has a long disciplinary file.  That shouldn’t be a problem, though.  The way Baker runs Opa-locka, Peter Cruz will fit right in.

According to the article, since 1985 Officer Cruz had “24 disciplinary cases against him,” thereby breaking the outgoing chief’s record by two.  She had 22 charges filed against her even before she got the job of Top Dawg.  That accomplishment alone should automatically qualify Cruz for the position of Deputy Top Dawg.

Yup.  Gotta love Opa-locka!

When I published the first column about this fiasco, I had understandably, but naively, assumed that the cops were the good guys and that Baker really screwed them over.  As it turns out, several North Miami cops called and wrote me to set the record straight.  Apparently the NMPD had been trying to figure out a way to get rid of those two cops for a long time and were only too happy that Opa-locka wanted them.  I had no way of knowing at the time about Cruz’ “lengthy internal affairs file.”  (As we speak, L’il Frantzie P is trying to beat his record.)

One cop was so horrified at my suggestion that Chief Elias consider rehiring them that he called me immediately and yelled, “Nooooooooo!  Steph, we don’t want them back!  We’ll take Phyllis instead!”

Okay, I made that last part up.  He really doesn’t want Phyllis.  That was just wishful thinking on my part.

Word on the North Miami street is that Commander Key is as dumb as a box of rocks and Peter Cruz, well, his Baker’s Double Dirty Dozen record speaks for itself.

Kelvin Baker runs the City of Opa-locka.  Hiring these two cops to run his police department will be a match made in heaven.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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Phyllis Weighs In

ScaleAnd in…

And in…

And in.

I just spent way too much of my Sunday morning watching parts of Tuesday night’s marathon North Miami Beach council meeting.  Yeah, I know.  Crazy, huh?  But I heard that North Miami Beach councilwoman Phyllis Smith, our favorite Screaming Yellow Parrot, was in rare form.  I just had to see for myself.

screamingparrot
I’m not going to insert my opinion (which no one cares about anyway) on whether or not the city should have allowed Jackson Medical Center to build a heliport at the old Parkway Hospital site, I simply wanted to see if Phyllis’ comments were as outrageous and insane as I’d heard.  I was not disappointed.

After about two hours of presentations by Team Jackson, which I did not watch, at hour 2:25:38, Phyllis weighed in.  I didn’t want to watch that, either, but as painful as it was, I couldn’t look away.

Phyllis Untethered

Phyllis Untethered

She started out by stating that she “wanted to address two issues, one is a firewall.”  She then said, “It would behoove us to have lights on the top.”  Seeing as how I missed the presentation, I have no idea what the connection is between a “firewall” and “lights on the top.”  She never brought it up again, so that’s a big whatever.

What was WTMI (Way Too Much Information) was when Phyllis stated that she spoke to Mr. Heid when she went to use the restroom.  I’d much rather have the thousand words than a picture of that in my mind.

In any event, Phyllis started her speech by reminding us all, yet again, that she’s been in the real estate business for 34 years, and that she’ll “make it quick” because she knows that “the mayor is anxious to move on.”

Yeah, right.

At hour 2:29:00, Phyllis told us all about an accident she had “about ten years ago” when she had to be airlifted to a trauma center in Reno, Nevada.  The others in the accident “went by ambulance and were an hour away.”  She was “airlifted on one of the most windy, windy, windy days” and she kept “apologizing to the nurses” and that her husband could not go with her because there wasn’t room in the helicopter.  Phyllis explained, “I don’t have to tell you, my husband is very strong and very close to his wife, and he had to drive an hour until he could get to me to see if I was okay.  I think it was one of his worst hours.”  She bloviated some more, and then added, “But the point was, without that helicopter I would have been in that trauma center in Reno for six to eh, maybe, maybe two months.  Instead, because of the helicopter I was out in five days, six days.  Because of the helicopter I could go back to work in two months instead of five to six months.  So it’s not always life and death, it’s a big economic difference.”

Okay, let’s see if we can make sense out of this.  Phyllis claims she spent only six days in the hospital instead of six weeks BECAUSE she was airlifted and not taken by ambulance.  REALLY?  That is such an intangible that I don’t even know where on earth she came up with this “fact.”  If anyone out there cares to verify this, please be my guest.

Moving right along, Phyllis emphatically stated that only seven homes abut against the wall where the helipad is supposed to be built, but that this is for the Greater Good.  She pronounced, “More people will come to live in North Miami Beach.  More people will come to eat in North Miami Beach, their lunches, do their, buy their gas and go to the grocery store, the gain so far to have this opportunity for all of us, I just can’t see how we as a body could ever do anything but, especially with your standing on record that if there is a physical disturbance to their property that you as a body will stand behind it and do what you have to do to make sure it’s whole.”

At hour 2:31:46, she finally shut up.  As a body.

Well into the third hour of the meeting (yes, you could just plotz, right?), the issue of restoring the 19th Avenue gun mount was discussed.  You’d think that by then Phyllis would have run out of gas.  Turns out, she was just getting started.

At hour 3:34:15, Phyllis asked the Procurement Director, “Mr. O’Conner, does this particular gun have a lot of significance to our city or is it the fact that the gun, the milit…, the cannon will, uh, give credence to the military that served?  Because I spoke to the Secretary of Defense, uh, they’re gonna call me back in reference to surplus guns that they haaaave that they donate to cities.  It’s expensive to, to, um, ship them, but it’s nowhere near as expensive as this, probably under ten thousand dollars.”

Mr. O’Conner said that he had extensively researched the history of the gun, but discovered that a fire in 1955 destroyed all the records.

Phyllis wanted to know if the foundation was CBS block.  He said they wouldn’t know exactly until the base was cracked open and refurbished.

Phyllis then commenced on a rant that absolutely, positively HAD to be transcribed verbatim for your reading pleasure.  I present to you Full Frontal Phyllis.

“Well I spoke to the gentleman that does military surplus sales for when you want to restore, or he actually has a company that he was in Virginia today, and I spoke to him and he said do not put water on it, whatever you do don’t put a fountain near it, don’t put water on it ‘cuz it’ll only deteriate [sic] the gun itself.  I also had, spoke to Surfside today the recreation department from Surfside has a gun, and the Boy Scouts came to them with a project and they, of course ours is too teriated [sic] to have, not have a professional come and do it, but they said that, um, in order to paaaaaint the gun to be very careful that definitely go to the mitila…, the military befoooore you select a paint because you could paaaaaint it and you would insult a lot of people that actually were in the service if you don’t do it correctly.  So my questions are I’m very much in favor of restoring this gun even though I’ve had terrible phone calls that are thinking I’m in opposition, but I’m not in favor of spending this kind of money without the true knowledge I set, I definitely wouldn’t start out with sixty three thousand dollars, um, one of the former councilmen that was here tonight he said it was crazy thirty eight thousand dollars.  I told him thirty eiiiiight.  He thought it was absolutely crazy that there is plenty of people out there and plenty companies the thing is if when they move that gun it’s very heavy and that’s where your big money comes moving it out moving it back.”

Phyllis then came up for air before starting the World’s Longest Run On Sentence:

“If we’re gonna keep thaaaat gun, which again I have asked the manager several times to go and find out about these surplus, um, guns that the government will ship and so today I explored it myself and I found out with the Department of Defense they’re gonna get back to me what’s available or if there’s a slight cost and what the cost would be and what it would take but before we say that we’re gonna take when we have residents that need so much that gun does mean something to our city it needs to be restored or replaced but I think that at the maximum that I would ever vote for would be and I do believe that we should do something with flowers around it absolutely I think we should highlight it if we’re gonna have it I don’t know about three flaaags and that whole, um, you know, that whole big show first phase one should be just to renovate it and make sure that it’s not gonna deteriate [sic] further if that’s the gun that we’re gonna have I actually was at a wedding and I sat at the table with a man whose brother was here for the dedication of that gun.”

Did y’all get that?

Undaunted, Phyllis wrapped it up with:

“So there, there’s a lot of avenues we could take before we start spending sixty three thousand dollars.  Um, I, I definitely think we need to replace it or refurbish it but I think that that phase is much too far in advance without finding out what else we could do.”

At 3:39:15, that’s five full minutes none of us will ever get back.

When Councilwoman Kramer gently admonished Phyllis by letting her know that the staff had fully researched the gun issue, as did resident Bruce Lamberto, Phyllis shot back, “Didn’t change the faaaaact that I was on the phone all afternoon with, I spent three and a half hours on this.”

I’m sure that’s three and a half hours that the Secretary of Defense wishes he had back, too.

Ah, Phyllis.  When will you ever learn to STFU?

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth Manure”

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