Tuesday, April 4, 2017

North Miami Beach Water Utility Operations Question 04/03/2017 Overview and thoughts

To Privatize or Not to Privatize

Last year the City of North Miami Beach opened a Request for Qualification for "Water Operations, Maintenance, and Program Management Services." On the evening of Monday, April 4, 2017, the city commission took the city manager's recommendation, permitting the manager by 4-2 vote to negotiate for a contract proposal to privatize the program management, operations, and maintenance services for the city's water and waste water utility. I attended the meeting to find out why some in my community felt concern about the future of the area's tap water.

North Miami Beach and the condescension of chairpersons

I arrived at the end of the formal presentations by paid representatives on the value promised to North Miami Beach in exchange for privatizing the operation of the city water utility, which serves an area beyond the bounds of the municipality.

Like many in the audience I learned of this local privatization question recently, found it important enough to come out and witness the fuss.
What fuss!
"I've already told folks," Mayor Vallejo starts in after a comment shouted from the audience, "that during a meeting you have to learn how to, you have to know how to conduct yourself in a meeting. If you cannot follow the rules you're not going to be able to be here."
The Mayor's equanimity seemed fleeting at some points during the night. The Commission seemed genuinely flustered by, as I imagine, and untypically packed crowd. Standing room only when I arrived around 7. At previous meetings in other jurisdictions I witnessed similar condescension from chair-persons. To preface the public comment portion of the meeting he continued in that tone.
"I would ask everyone to make sure that your comments, please do not recycle your comments or be repetitive with previous speakers. Please also make sure that when you speak, when you add something to the conversation that it's something based on facts...this is not a question and answer forum."
I couldn't hold back quiet chuckles, but I didn't come for the entertainment! I wanted to learn about the question at hand, specifically approval for management of the City of North Miami Beach to negotiate a management contract for their water utilities.

Early on in the public comment and exchange between Mayor Vallejo and resident Ed Navarro got out of hand.
When Navarro brought up the subject of Flint, Michigan, leading to some stirring in the audience, the Mayor chimed in like Kanye West.

"I'm going go to let you finish. I'm going to give you your time. Folks, I've said it three times. This is not a political rally. This is not a political rally."
Ed Navarro visibly upset for the interruption says, "you're here to serve us, this is my time."
After a little more exchange the Mayor kicks Ed Navarro off the podium with 35 seconds left on the clock leading to a louder exchange and various uproar from the audience.
"How can we have respect for you if you don't have respect for us?"
The Mayor states, "we're not here to be insulted."

Later, clearly disturbed by the ruckus audience, the Mayor makes a comment about members of the audience never having run for office.

Eventually the mayor and police ask more people to leave. 

Toward the end of the meeting the more exuberant members of the audience erupted in quite a loud spectacle which stopped the meeting in its tracks for a few minutes.
It ended rather peacefully once all the protesters left.

North Miami Beach Water Utility Operations Question Public Comment 04/03/2017

The following concerns a public meeting of the North Miami Beach city commission concerning potential negotiations over private operation of their water utility.

I decided to type up notes on public comment in a different place than my general meeting write-up. I do not write a transcript here, only what I found worthy of follow-up for the topic of discussion.

Open Letter on Incorporation Facts

Neighbors, We will vote in November on whether to become a city. If Yes wins, our county commissioner will select a committee of resid...