Thursday, April 25, 2019

Palmetto Bay - Transparency - on sale to those who can afford it

Tax, Tax, Tax. This current Village Council has recently conspired to raise park user fees and now the Village Council is churning its way to enacting a 30 year tax on our electric bills - just in time to take over for the expiration of the 30 year County agreement (can we never let a tax expire??). This tax is a misnamed "Franchise Fee" - misnamed because FPL pays nothing for their rights granted under this agreement - instead, they collect the franchise fee from you, the electric service account holder and remit a percentage of that back to the Village coffers as general unrestricted revenue. (CLICK HERE to read an earlier related post - part 1 - what is the FPL Franchise fee)

Does Transparency Matter? It should to you.

So let us compare - I have requested information through a public records request from the Village of Palmetto Bay seeking information that I believe each and every member of the village council should have before voting to enact a very long term commitment that we, the people, are bound to for 30 years - up to the year 2050.

I spoke at the April 23, 2019, Special Council Meeting, making a plea for the release of this information, making the argument that this is the very same information that they, as public officials, should have and should carefully read and consider before voting on a 30 year mortgage placed upon the residents.  My argument fell upon deaf ears. Crickets.  

Why should the Village be charging me $$$ to gather the materials necessary to educate the Mayor and Council on an issue that they should be educating themselves on prior to such an important vote? 

Palmetto Bay did not tell me that they do not have the information, instead the Village of Palmetto Bay is demanding payment of approximately $72.00.  That's right, $72.00 for information that relates to an ongoing issue, not anything that has been sealed, stored or archived. Or at least it should not be stored or archived as this is an active issue. And they want a deposit up front. This their response, verbatim:

If you agree to this cost estimate, please remit a 50% deposit in the amount of $36.00 for your request. All public records requests involving extensive assistance require a deposit in advance for the reproduction of public records requests. You will receive a final invoice after the reproduction of your request is finalized.

So really, we are to believe that this mayor and council have absolutely no information readily available? It would be incompetence if they a really basing their vote on the limited information they have provided in the agenda items. It would be contrary to the Public Records Law, Chapter 119, Florida Statutes, if Palmetto Bay officials are hording the information, placing a 'research charge tax' on residents that want to see their information.

Transparency is limited to those who can afford it in Palmetto Bay.

So let’s look at the documents attached to the FPL Item (item 4A) planned to be discussed at the April 23, 2019 Committee of the Whole (COW) Meeting (CLICK HERE for the COW agenda):

      [                                                                                                                                        ]

(THIS AREA INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK to represent the lack of available documentation)

That’s right, nada, zilch, not a single document or item of staff report. The current Mayor and Village Council is really simply going to pass this 30 year tax without a referendum and, apparently, without any tangible research.

Yes, that is right. It appears that according to our current mayor:

This Franchise Fee must be passed to find out what's in it!

The Village essentially wants me to pay for them to gather the documents that their own staff and elected officials should have and review before acting on legislation. Good luck for all who like to research consequences in advance as Transparency appears dead in Palmetto Bay

There is also no urgency to discussing this matter in public as well. Hurry up and wait.  It is unfortunate that the current Mayor and Village Council once again failed to reach an item of public importance when the 6 PM Special Council Meeting of April 23, 2019, went very late, causing the rescheduling of the 7 PM Committee of the Whole meeting. Perhaps the allegation of actually discussing the FPL Franchise Fee was in fact just a cruel April Fools Joke.  See my prior post of Monday, April 1, 2019, Not an April Fools prank. The FPL Franchise Agreement will finally receive public scrutiny as it will be NOW discussed on the April 23 COW. A win for grass roots.

No win, the "win", just more delay.  The current Mayor and Village Council pulled delay and denial from the mouth of transparency. As of this date, the only information placed in public regarding the Franchise Fee so far only is what I have put out (which has been recycled by our current elected officials in some of their sparse info provided - and they are welcome to continue to distribute the information I have gathered and posted - proving the point that I provide more information to the public than our Village Administration).

There is very little information to date, as proven by my public records request as well as the lack of documentation provided as part of the agendas. This is especially troubling as This is an ordinance what has already been heard and passed (4-1) as item 13C on first reading at the January Regular Village Council Meeting. (CLICK HERE to review the original agenda item that passed 4-1). 

For now, you have to CLICK HERE if you want information and the links to actual independent sources. This is your online Tool Box for reference materials on the FPL Franchise issue.

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