The Biscayne Times

Aug 15th
Turbulence Ahead PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Sell, BT Contributor   
July 2020

A budget reckoning, police pushback, low jet paths

Tbigstock-Passenger-Airplane-Mith-Motion-234063490his month brings a trifecta: North Miami scarlet ink, police accountability, and jets about to fly low over Biscayne Boulevard. Right over your head, with the deadline for FAA comments on July 10.

On the Brink: North Miami’s budget has bled $14.7 million in the four years ended September 30, 2019, and another $10 million by the end of April. This was avoidable. Back in September 2018, former assistant budget director Terry Henley blew the whistle over numbers fudging. Seven cops escorted him from his desk. Two years later? Hello, crisis.

In North Miami, the buck stops there. Council blames management or turns a blind eye, and management says it’s following council orders.

Call up the city’s June 23 virtual meeting on the website. Ten minutes in, you’ll get the picture. The city borrowed more than $14.3 million from the water and sewer fund to pay for the general fund, and still owes $7.8 million. The document is the 2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Your money shot is Appendix A, page 256, with the warning of a state takeover if the city can’t turn this around with a three- to five-year plan for a surplus. The city’s selling $20 million in land to make up, but institutional termites remain.

New city manager Theresa Thelius may have greatness thrust upon her.

What to do? Get involved, organize, vote. Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime and Councilwoman Mary Estimé-Irvin in District 3 are up for re-election in May 2021. They deserve sharp questions and ethical, smart challengers. Carol Keys -- the most fiscally alert council member, but a party of one -- is term-limited out of her wide-open District 2 seat. Join a board, work, contribute, don’t get a fat head, put service above self-service.

Again, dear council: Give up those 20 percent raises you awarded yourselves last year, wipe out those slush funds, kill coronations.

Police: North Miami is weighing a police civilian oversight board based on the county’s, sponsored by Councilman Alix Desulme, this year’s rotating vice mayor. On June 23, the council passed it on first reading 3-2 (Scott Galvin and Keys dissented). Get ready for the second reading at 2:00 p.m. on July 14.

We want to keep police close as guardians and collaborators rather than warriors. North Miami’s department has made progress, recently under popular police chief Larry Juriga, since the near-tragic shooting of behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey four years ago. Opponents say the $430,000 price tag for such a board is way too rich for an irresponsible city on the financial ropes -- a fair claim. One can also argue that taking that 1.5 percent out of a police budget is cheaper than the post-Kinsey consequences.

The Floyd murder in Minneapolis, one of too many in America, has plunged many of us into deep and necessary soul searching as to what kind of society and people we are.

Open questions and thoughts: Which knee is worse? Colin Kaepernick’s on the turf or Derek Chauvin’s on George Floyd’s neck? Even some police are taking a knee at protests, either out of conviction or smart de-escalation tactics. How does that hurt? Half a century ago, peace signs from officers disarmed potential crazies at antiwar rallies.

Or go deeper. Think Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu and Truth and Reconciliation. We all have biases. Mine: police officers are like people in most organizations -- 15 percent always do the right thing, 15 percent shouldn’t wear a badge, and 70 percent ride with the tide. Cops and Black Lives Matter people are sometimes friends, sometimes even the same people. But I’m also a senior, Ivy-educated white male and radicalizing moderate, with no arrests. Were I Black (and especially younger), my view would be different. A cop never pulled a gun on me, slammed my skull against a car, spread-eagled me on the pavement, pressed my face into the asphalt, or kicked me while I lay shackled. When a person of color says something, I perk up now.

Why not welcome the conversation?

Must police officers have monthly quotas for tickets and arrests? Why is this a condition for promotion? Do these help or hurt community relations? Does your town really need a SWAT team? North Miami had one on July 18, 2016, when one SWAT team round hit Kinsey and two other rounds just missed two officers scrambling for cover. Why not have a central or zoned county SWAT team?

Would red-light cameras free police to do more productive work?

Does your town need a crime suppression team or unit? They used to call them the “jump-out boys,” often in plainclothes, charged with kicking ass and taking names. Can you say quotas or “productivity”? What are they getting? Expired licenses, weed, low-level drug possessions?

Should police be summoned for epileptic seizures, drug overdoses, or Baker Act calls for people freaked out by that uniform and gun? Do we ask them to do things better left for social workers and mental health experts?

What about Internal Affairs investigations? Do they sometimes try to twist the facts to support a prejudice or justify decisions post hoc? (See Hollant, Emile.) Do they pick on people the boss finds annoying, or whitewash bad choices? Don’t taxpaying civilians have a right to know what we’re are getting?

Does your town need that tank? Or up-armored Humvee?

What about chokeholds and knee moves? (Banned in North Miami but fair subjects.)

What about your local police union? Collective bargaining, check. Why do half of fired cops tend to get reinstated? Is the balance between unions and police chiefs out of whack?

Look, we’ve all got to talk. Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. Cops have too much PTSD, divorce, suicide. Until proven otherwise, people in law enforcement deserve mutual respect -- not worship, not derision. We’re way overdue for Civil Rights 2.0 and an unsparing look into our hearts and souls and what kind of society we want to nurture.

Last call! Ready for 300-400 jets from Miami International Airport turning north 2000 feet above I-195 and flying just offshore over the bay, over North Bay Village, Sans Souci, and Keystone Point?

That’s the new route the FAA is planning to put into effect September 30. Deadline for comment is July 10, and from the looks of things on the past few FAA Zoom meetings, it appears the fix is in.

Maybe it won’t be that bad. Still, go on Facebook and check out Sky Justice Miami and Sky Justice National Network. Try the Keystone Property Owners Association at To comment, Google FAA Miami community involvement.


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