Update: Commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday night to place Village attorney Norman Powell on a three-month probation.
North Bay Village is made up of three tiny islands in the middle of Biscayne Bay. But it has the best politics.
Not long ago, the police chief, city attorney, and several other key officials were fired. Then old pro Manager Frank Rollason, his deputy manager, and a secretary quit. In October a mayoral candidate, Laura Cattabriga, was found guilty by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics of lying about her opponent, Brent Latham, but said she wouldn't stop. So in November voters chose Latham for mayor over Cattabriga. They also swept in a 32-year-old newbie, Julianna Strout, as commissioner. Marvin Wilmoth, who has been on the planning and zoning board, joins the commission tonight. And, oh yeah, there were those claims of drugs, extortion, and blackmail, but we don't have time for that right now.
Latham, who has a master's degree from Georgetown, struck an optimistic tone after winning. “I look forward to working with the new commission, residents and other stakeholders in a transparent and accountable government to build the city that the residents deserve,” he told the Miami Herald's talented Sarah Blaskey, who has had the insane and unenviable assignment of covering this mess.,
Tonight, Latham gets his first big test. He will oversee a bat-shit crazy face-off between some residents, including an over-the-top blogger named Kevin Vericker, and village attorney Norman Powell.
This past August 20, Powell sued Vericker for libel in a legal maneuver he pretty much can't win but was clearly meant to silence an annoying critic. He cited racist language in a conversation and questionable statements from Vericker's blog. It was something I have never heard of in four decades of covering politics, which — full disclosure — included two brief stretches of living in North Bay Village long before this imbroglio.
Despite the libel suit, Vericker posted yesterday, urging the commission to dump the village attorney. "Powell's lack of experience as a municipal attorney and his questionable actions could be the grounds that the commission needs to fire him for cause," he wrote. "Regardless of their approach, whether it be another painful payoff to go away or a stand to dismiss for cause, Powell has to go. Now."
Right or wrong, the guy has cojones.
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Tonight's fun starts at 6:30 with the swearing in of Wilmoth. If you like weird politics, you will want to attend.
"I think the past administration made a lot of poor decisions," says 56-year-old Jeri Goodkin Dausey, who has lived there for four years. "We need to clean house to bring North Bay Village back to where it needs to be."
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized Marvin Wilmoth's background. His father is army and navy veteran.
Reader Kenneth Penn sent this response: I lived in Miami Beach for 20+ years moving there in the early 90’s when it was “weird” - aka interesting . Having lived in North Bay Village for a mere 18 months, it rather reminds me of the South Beach I moved to - because I saw potential and it had a strong sense of community. I moved away, because it has become ridiculously expensive, traffic is a constant nightmare and it’s lack of planning has turned it into Generica. NBV has a strong new group of Commissioners and a promising Mayor who is dedicated, talented and offers this Village of 8000 people, situated on some of South Florida’s most desirable undeveloped waterfront property, the chance to learn from our neighboring communites’ mistakes and to grow in a more intelligent way. I’m betting they’ll get it right. Check back. We are unique for reasons you fail to mention. We’re our own small village in the middle of Biscayne Bay with arguably the best views in the county. We’re located near everything Miami and the Beaches has to offer, without the traffic congestion, permitting problems, crazy expensive parking, crime and overdevelopment that plagues our apparently not so weird neighboring communities. If community involvement by a passionate blogger makes us weird, great! We need more people like Kevin, who cares and keeps showing up to make a difference. I say, let’s keep NBV weird. Sure, improving government, mitigating sea-level rise, promoting smart development, correcting mistakes made by past commissions and putting residents’ needs ahead of unbridled growth are challenges our village faces. I’m optimistic that we are better positioned to deal with all of these matters under the stewardship of our new Mayor and commission.