Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tactical Transparency in Palmetto Bay - who is managing information, the elected officials or campaign consultants?

The Special Council meeting held on Tuesday, March 23, 2019 was the 8th Special Council Meeting of 2019, the 10th overall since this current Mayor and Council took office 5 months ago, on December 5th, 2018.  This meeting marked the twenty-fourth (24th) meeting of any type (determined by whether a separate agenda was created for it) during this same time period. That averages to more than one meeting per week! No wonder they are asking for more staff to be hired (that's another issue for another time).

I joined my fellow residents in the public seating and listened to the comments and complaints of last minute additions, no documents to review in advance,next day roll overs, meetings that are difficult to get to one time (early 6 PM start times) as well as frequency of the meetings. (And note - the lack of documentation will be covered in another post - "Transparency - on sale to those who can afford it" - coming soon).

It is clear that this council is exhausting residents and eroding confidence and, worse, suppressing participation in the public process due to agenda uncertainty. Residents cannot or will not participate live if they don't know when, or even if an item will be reached. Many also have to shift schedules to make a meeting on a specific night. They cannot devote hours and then consecutive days of the weeks.  The agendas should have some certainly, not merely list what MAY BE COVERED in any particular meeting. Who has the time and flexibility to attend multiple meetings waiting to see if the item is reached that the individual is interested in?

Transparency should be an absolute - but it has become Tactical in Palmetto Bay. The story is long and time is short,so I am going to break up the concerns into several posts. This is the intro and I will provide some examples of transparency:
  • Information provided and available without having to file detailed public records requests
  • Public record requests should be filled when information is available, rather than waiting for 'deadlines'
  • Staff reports are filled with information, both fiscal impact is listed as well as the staff report providing some simple, but important information that includes:
    • Who - who or what does this item impact - either beneficially or to their potential detriment.
    • What - what is the item about, ordinance, resolution, etc
    • When - when will this take effect
    • Why - why is it needed
Unfortunately Palmetto Bay officials have shifted to a tactical transparency. I can point to several examples that played out on a single issue at the Special Council Meeting held on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

Issue - the notice to the general public - as posted on the Village Website:
Posted on: April 23, 2019

6 pm: Special Council Meeting, Drafting Session for Downtown Urban Village Code 
7 pm: Committee of the Whole Workshop
Don't take my word: Here is a screen shot of that web post:
INCOMPLETE NOTICE, dependent upon lazy readers.  First read indicates that this special council meeting is about "Drafting Session for Downtown Urban Village Code." 

Your big mistake - you stopped reading there, assuming that was the only action scheduled.  Far from true - there was a robust agenda planned for 6:00 PM. And many of these items were added to this special council meeting less than 24 hours earlier! Note you can download either the original version or the "amended version"
The original Special Council Meetings was called to work on the Downtown Code with 2 (what could be quick) resolutions, items 4 A & 4B [CLICK HERE to view this original agenda (11 pages including attachments)].

But this is what the Village Council mistakenly believed they could get through in a meeting scheduled for a single hour [CLICK HERE for the amended agenda - (27 pages with exhibits)]

This meeting did not end until 9 PM, pushing back anyone (and there were a few) who were there for the COW agenda items.  The lack of transparency on the COW - that agenda will be covered in another blog post - but the intro here is that what should have been an agenda devoted to the FPL Tax became a footnote, one item out of a 16 item Committee of the Whole Agenda (CLICK HERE for the agenda) - now how much time can anyone reasonable expect to spend on a tax that will be assessed by this council for a 30 year period?

Note that the COW, not reached as scheduled on April 24, 2019, and the 16 listed items (plus what ever new items need to be added) will be held in May, 2019.

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