Some of you might have noticed that I haven’t written a column in a while. At first I thought it was a case of writer’s block, but the truth is it’s been difficult mustering up the energy to give a crap about local politics. Yeah, sure, I’m bummed about the election, but life will go on. Today, however, I think I’m back on track. We’ll start with the serious news, then move on to the entertainment.
If you want a healthy dose of fraud and corruption, look no further than our neighboring city of North Miami. In Tab J of Item #8 of the Agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting is a proposed resolution to approve the payment of a $154,802.02 fine which was assessed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for one of several screw ups made by the City of North Miami. The HUD oversees the city’s Home Investment Partnership (HOME) Program and its related Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP1). Turn to page 7 of Tab J for a detailed description of North Miami’s FAILURES during HUD’s review of the city’s compliance with the program’s laws and regulations, which resulted in “three (3) findings” (two in HOME and one in NSP1), and “three (3) concerns” (all in HOME). A “finding” is a Federal violation, which usually results in a penalty, and a “concern” is something that needs to be addressed before becoming an actual “finding.” The “Cause” listed for all of the “findings” and “concerns” was either (a) that the city’s staff did not follow the city’s own policies, (b) the staff knew the policies but couldn’t do it right, or (c) they tried to comply – they really did – but they “had not been aware of what is required by the regulations.”
In other words, the “staff” is basically incompetent. At best.
On page 13 of Tab J, please note “Finding No. 3,” which states that “the City provided a Commissioner’s mother NSP1 funds for the purchase and rehabilitation of a single family home without first seeking HUD’s exception to the Conflict of Interest provision. The City is in violation of the CDBG conflict of interest regulations that govern the NSP Program.”
In this case, the city claimed ignorance of federal rules and regulations. Because of that “ignorance,” the result of this FAILURE is that the City now owes a fine of over $154,000.00. If I had to guess, I doubt it had anything to do with ignorance, but everything to do with a deliberate attempt to hide the relationship between the “Commissioner” and the beneficiary of the federal funds. Of course, I could be wrong about that.
The interesting thing is that nowhere in Tab J that I could see, is the name Marie Steril, who is the “Commissioner” directly responsible for this fine. Even more interesting is that the taxpayers are now on the hook for her duplicity. But, most interesting of all is the fact that mayor Andre Pierre’s crony/city manager, Stephen Johnson, placed this item on the Consent Agenda, which means that there will be no public discussion on the matter. By doing so, Mr. Johnson is declaring that the entire council “consents” to this Resolution in advance. I’m told that no council member may move to include public comment if he or she wishes to do so. HOWEVER, if any council member objects to this Resolution, he or she may request to have the item removed from the Consent Agenda. Ahem. I’m just saying.
If public corruption is not your cup of tea, or you were just hoping for something a bit more trifling today, come on over to North Miami Beach, where nothing could be more trifling than our own Queen Bloviator, North Miami Beach councilwoman Phyllis Smith. In terms of pure silliness, she is definitely the standard bearer.
Phyllis managed to yet again make a complete ass of herself at the last Council Conference Meeting on November 7, 2012.
For starters, she seems to have replaced her stuck-on-stupid phrase of “in my chair” with a new Phyllisism – “fall into place.” While she did mention her “seat” only once (old habits really are hard to break), she said “fall into place” four times in the approximate nine of the minutes she grandstanded during the forty nine minutes of the meeting. That averages out to one “fall into place” for every 2.25 minutes, so I guess this definitely qualifies as Phyllis’ phrase du jour. This could be the start of a new Phyllis Smith Drinking Game!
At hour 18:54 on the video time clock, when asked what is her “vision” for the future of North Miami Beach, she responded simply with, “I want to focus on economic development and pension reform. Thank you.” She paused for literally three seconds, long enough for everyone to think about taking a deep breath and thanking the gods that she might have actually uttered the shortest statement in her entire political career. Maybe even her entire life.
Councilman Philippe Derose held his breath and gave a sideways glance to his left, and I could almost hear him thinking, “OMIGOD IS SHE REALLY GOING TO STOP TALKING?” Alas, before he could turn his head, she opened her pie hole and let loose as only Phyllis can do. She spoke:
“And economic development. I think the rest will fall in play [sic] once we have economic development and see our city start to grow there will be money for many of these issues that my other council people feel that are important. I also know that if we don’t have pension reform we don’t have to worry about anything, hah, ’cause we won’t have any money to afford anything so those two issues have to be a priority as far as I’m concerned. Economic development and pension reform absolutely and those should be a top priority and ten all of the others could fall into place some of the things that were previously mentioned when we discussed them, uh, you might also want to put annexation because I think that annexation without us having the control that’s the most important thing when it comes to making a better city is that we have on some of our, our, actually our main corridor we only have partial control and that is a, you know, that’s a very big issue so those are mine and then some of these other minor things I’ll be more than happy to elaborate on if we have time.”
NO, PHYLLIS! You’ve already elaborated enough!
The clock struck 20:10. Everyone had another five second moment of silence, apparently afraid to utter a sound just in case Phyllis wasn’t finished spewing.
She stopped talking. Hallelujah!
All the other council members made comments except for Beth Spiegel and the Peanut Gallery, a/k/a Frantz Pierre, a/k/a L’il Frantzie P, a/k/a Pee-Air, a/k/a The P Man. But, just when you thought the council conference was about to wrap up, Phyllis piped in again.
At hour 35:41, she bloviated:
“With all respect, I think these timelines are dedicated with work that needs to be involved from staff. But I think, I mean there’s no question that they need to give us information so that we can, but I think a lot of this needs to be dictated by us as a council, and you know what made me think about this is Councilwoman Martel when she said about this pension if we have an actuary that doesn’t give us the work in a responsible time limit let’s get another actuary. But let, I mean, she’s here how long it’ll be two years in May and we’re sitting here still begging for information to make a commitment to a change that hangs over everybody’s head. It hangs over the taxpayers’ head, it hangs over the running of the government head, and it certainly hangs over our employees’ head. So with all respect I really think that we need to make commitments ourself and maybe in the next executive session that’s where things need to start to happen. I, I, you know, I’m just sitting here and I’m saying when we’re, when you’re talking about having a park in Sky Lake, which, you know, some of it sounds like, you know, we’re asking Santa for this and this and this and, oh by the way, Santa, can you bring us a bigger house for mommy and can you bring us a, uh, daddy a new truck and can you … the truth of the matter is we have to get down to reality what we as a city can possibly get accomplished to show something on the plus side that the, of the journal. And I think that, you know, start with something, not thirty things, not ten things, not fifty things, start with something and let’s have a plus on the, on the right side of the journal to say that the City of North Miami Beach is moving forward.”
Phyllis finally shut up at hour 37:50 on the video time clock, not coming up for air for all two minutes and nine seconds, and not having a freaking clue that she constantly mixes her metaphors and screws up her syntax.
And, she was not done yet. After the city manager gave a very brief outline of what she intends to accomplish in the next six months, at hour 38:42, Phyllis interrupted the mayor with:
“Just to finish up I just want to say that some of this when you look at it, like, uh, they’ll fall into place with each other in the fact that if we can bring economic development and there needs to be a rezoning in order to bring that in we’re here, we’re gonna, I mean it’ll fall into place if we look for the goal of what the goal is. And the, in MY seat anyway I said what my goal is and I hope my council will work with me on that because economic development will make some, there be money for sewage and, you know, for breaks water breaks and what have you we’ll have money rolling in we’ll have money to clear up a lot of the issues that are on the wish list.”
Now the clock was at 39:25, and it looked like the mayor would finally have the chance to try to wrap up the meeting.
Undaunted, Phyllis was STILL not done! At 42:18, she expounded:
“In that regard, which, I, uh, the visioning session really didn’t require that kind of a update from my standpoint but I wanna as long as you’re mentioning it I wanna thank Roslyn and I wanna, uh, and thank Mrs. Kamali we went downtown and hopefully one day coming before you will be a request to purchase some, um, computer software that now we can tie in to Dade County and expedite so much of the process for them to get their fire, for them to get their, it’s already in, it’s already used but it doesn’t, they haven’t, really, Dade County really has not, um, given a go ahead for their software that they want each one of the municipalities to have, that they would all be the same instead of ten different ways coming in or thirty two different ways coming in, but that is really on the horizon and that it will make such a difference in the communities they do not have staff to give us a half a day every two weeks. They don’t have STAAAAAFF to give it to us to give it to, uh, twenty other municipalities, but they do have the software and the minute that that comes before us I think that will be a priority in our visioning issue as well.”
The video clock was now at 43:44. That’s another one minute and twenty six seconds we’ll never get back.
I’m still scratching my head, wondering two things: Does Phyllis even know what software is? Why does the County have software “to get their fire?” Maybe some things should remain a mystery.
I’m also not sure, but it sure looks like Councilman Derose was either bored or asleep during her diatribes. He has the misfortune of being caught on camera every time she speaks because he sits right next to her. Poor guy. You gotta feel for him.
One thing that’s painfully clear is how insanely jealous Phyllis is of the Mayor. It’s as if she tries to upstage him every chance she gets. She might be infinitely more entertaining than Mayor Vallejo, but she’s certainly nowhere near as intelligent. That fact becomes excruciatingly obvious every time she opens her mouth. Phyllis would do well to remember Abraham Lincoln’s famous statement, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Yeah, that doubt was removed long ago.
The Mayor again tried to adjourn the meeting when the Peanut Gallery decided to weigh in at the eleventh hour. I will not even attempt to transcribe the garbled words of Señor Pee-Air, but I’ll give you a brief overview if I can. At 43:59 he started by saying, “I suddenly have a chance to look at the different issues.”
It took him nearly three quarters of an hour, not to mention the days leading up to the meeting when the Agenda was given to him to review, to “suddenly have a chance” to come up with a coherent thought. And what a thought it was! He suggested “collaboration.” At least that’s what I thought he said. “If it’s important to one, it should be important to all.” Wow! Deep! He wants everyone to hold hands, sing Kumbaya, and work together.
HAH! Has this man attended ANY council meetings? Does he really think he can accomplish “collaboration?” Just saying.
He has three top issues he wants dealt with. In L’il Frantzie P’s own words, the most pressing one is “Crime, Crime, Crime, Crime!”
I guess he wants more of it, since he’s the city’s number one perpetrator of “Crime, Crime, Crime, Crime!” L’il Frantzie P has already been the subject of FIVE Internal Affairs Investigations. So, yeah, he sure knows all about “Crime, Crime, Crime, Crime!”
His second priority is (put down that cup of coffee before you spit all over your computer) “fiscal responsibility.”
This coming from the council person who thinks attending an out of town Soccer Coach Convention on our dime is the epitome of fiscal responsibility. All of a sudden, Frantzie came to the realization that “I cannot spend money that I do not have.” No kidding! He’d much rather spend the taxpayers’ money instead.
Pee-Air’s third priority would be what he would call “housing initiative.” He claims he’s concerned about all the foreclosures and vacant properties around North Miami Beach, and he thinks it’s the council’s responsibility to do something proactive. He asked, “Should we bring in buyers?”
Um, yeah. Considering that Frantz Pierre seems to have solved the “housing initiative” all by himself by bringing additional “voters” into North Miami Beach and letting them use his address as a “homestead,” we should all be very wary of the “buyers” he wants to bring in. I’m just saying.
Obviously unaware of President Lincoln’s wisdom, The P Man spoke for the remaining almost six minutes, after which the Mayor was FINALLY able to adjourn the meeting.
I was going to watch the council meeting for what I heard was more entertainment by Phyllis, but I had enough fun for one day.
Okay, yeah. I’m back!
“Spreading the Wealth”