You may have heard of the Hatfields and the McCoys, the Jets and the Sharks, the Capulets and the Montagues, or the Crips and the Bloods. These are all famous rivalries, some real, some fiction.
I haven't give them names yet, but if North Miami Beach commissioners keep up their warring ways, I just may have to.
It's bad enough recent meetings have had to be canceled due to lack of quorum, but in the most recent city council meeting, Mayor Tony DeFillipo spent a good portion of it screaming over everybody until he bullied his colleagues into submission so he could control the agenda.
Tensions have been at a low boil for some time. The “resignation” of the city manager and the upcoming showdown over his replacement is exposing deep-seeded resentment.
Anyone with eyes can see the divide. Is it ideological or is it racial? It just so happens that white members – DeFillipo, Fortuna Smukler and Barbara Kramer –are now in the minority, and they are frequently not seeing eye to eye with most of the Black majority, which includes Paule Villard, Daniela Jean, McKenzie Fleurimond and Michael Joseph.
One of the few things members agreed on recently was the passage of an official Juneteenth holiday. But before the meeting ended, Miami-Dade NAACP President Daniella Pierre spoke up to say, “I would also like to offer our [services] as a proactive resource to promote racial justice in the City of North Miami Beach … lessen any racial tensions that may exist.”
One thing is clear, elections have consequences. When a new group of people come into power, those who have grown accustomed to the power they enjoyed and no longer have are rarely gracious. We see it every time we switch political parties in the White House. We're seeing it now in the U.S. Congress. It's downright ugly. We don't like to see it in the halls of Washington, not only because it's distasteful but because it prevents the people's business from getting done.
In North Miami Beach all the squabbling is most certainly getting in the way of business. While commissioners managed to raise sanitation fees to try to beat back at $7 million shortfall in the city’s enterprise fund, a $2.5 million drain on the budget remains and further action is still needed. Then there is the matter of managing a major water plant the city voted to take back from an outside company that wants to charge $600,000 for terminating its contract. The plant provides water to more than 170,000 people in NMB, most of Aventura, Miami Gardens (which is still suing NMB over its rates), Sunny Isles Beach, Golden Beach and several unincorporated neighborhoods.
A good deal of time was spent at the last meeting fighting over distributing $100 Publix gift cards to the needy proposed by Villard. The discussion item yielded much overheated discussion, and the nastiness was unwarranted.
Tone and tenor is important. You can disagree without being disagreeable. You can be firm without losing your cool in a public meeting. Commissioners need to show up, behave like adults and get down to business. There's enough toxicity at the City of Miami. We don't need more of the same in NMB.