Transparency, Truth and Trust - Part Two.
The liberties of a people were, not ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
Is government transparency slowly dying in Village of Palmetto Bay politics? There are two ways to deny public participation in government. The first, and most obvious, is to not give notice. The second, and much more subtle, is to purposely schedule Council meetings at times very inconvenient to those who would want to participate.
In an unprecedented move Vice Mayor John Dubois has called a Special Council meeting for Monday morning, December 17th at 11:30 am. An inconvenient time when the majority of Village residents will be unable to participate because they will either be working, on vacation or preparing for Christmas. Did the Vice Mayor purposely call the meeting when no one can attend? Not even yours truly.
This will be the first Council meeting since Incorporation (over 16 years) that has been held, during the morning and as with any Council meeting three Councilmember’s must be present for the meeting to be held. The members that have confirmed their presence are the Vice Mayor, and Councilmembers Marsha Matson and Patrick Fiore.
Prior to being on the Council, Marsha Matson appeared to be a very strong advocate and preached endlessly for the need of government transparency. It seems as if things have changed now that she is the Council representative of district three. This is the second time in so many weeks that she has worked to thwart transparency in the Village. In my opinion, she is certainly off to a precipitous start of her term.
As far as Councilmember Patrick Fiore, you would think he would know better after serving four years on a prior Village Council.
As always, one of my major concerns for the Village has always been government transparency and as one resident stated this is an issue “due to the fact that elected council members typically have daytime jobs because their salary is minimal, and those of us residents also have daytime jobs that prohibit us from attending daytime meetings, special council meetings are historically held in the evening when there is a better opportunity for residences to attend. That’s all different now. The new council do not need jobs because they are being subsidized. So, transparency and public access is just not that important anymore.”
Mayor Cunningham and I don’t always see eye to eye on politics, but Village transparency is one that we agree on. As I write this newsletter, and much to her credit, she has not yet agreed to attend this special Council meeting. I have not talked to her about this meeting because it would be inappropriate but I’m sure she is not too happy this issue in coming forward in her first month of her term as the newly elected Mayor.
Vice Mayor John Dubois has shown absolutely no respect for Mayor Cunningham by calling a Special Council meeting without her apparent willingness to attend. He has also shown no respect for her by calling an unprecedented Council meeting that will occur on a Monday morning, just a week prior to Christmas. In addition, he has shown no courtesy for the Village residents who usually attend Council meetings but will not be able to attend due to the suspicious timing of this particular meeting.
The reason for Vice Mayor John DuBois calling this Special Council Meeting is sketchy at best. There is no legitimate agenda, and the sole reason for calling This Special Council Meeting is “for the purposes of discussing compliance with state law, regulatory requirements, process, policy, and contractual obligations for acquisition of real property by the Village, including past and future acquisitions of real property.” His explanation sounds as clear as mud.
Once must ask the Vice Mayor Dubois what is the rush, why is the meeting being scheduled in the morning, when Village residents are working and can’t attend? Why so vague in the purpose scheduled to be discussed during the Special Council meeting? Why not a meeting where all Councilmembers can attend? Vice-Mayor Dubois what are you trying to hide?
My vision of Palmetto Bay is a government by the people, for the people and, just as important, conducted in front of the people. This means not just a council in a fishbowl but one that actually meets in a manner that facilitates meaningful participation. Whether it is good or bad news the residents, who pay taxes and fund the government, have the right to know and participate in what is occurring within the Village.
Unfortunately, due to this unprecedented Monday morning meeting, Palmetto Bay is poised to take a big step backward in both transparency and participation. Unless this gamesmanship is stopped, this current Palmetto Bay council will actually give a rational reason for the paranoia that has plagued our Village's politics over the past eight years.
We as a Village, and thanks to Vice Mayor DuBois, Councilmembers Matson and Fiore, are apparently heading to a dark place where this Village has never been. Let’s hope as a community that transparency wins out over darkness.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This statement has been posted on several social media sites. It is republished here verbatim. Please see my blog post of December 10, 2018, Where's the fire? It appears there is smoke. Vice Mayor John DuBois has called a Special Council Meeting for Monday, December 17, 2018 at 11:30 AM for my opinion on this issue.