Charter Committee working for council not taxpayers

By Grant Miller….
Once again I find myself writing about the lack of transparency in Palmetto Bay.

The village has its second Charter Revision Committee working to propose changes to the charter, the source of the structure of government and important rules including powers, term limits, and pay for council members. Despite this importance, apparently only village insiders knew this process was ongoing. The village’s website lists an advertisement seeking applicants for the Building and Permitting Advisory Board. Complete an application and submit it to the village clerk.

This begs the question as to why there was no Charter Committee opportunity for the general population. No applications were sought. Instead, each council member filled this committee with political appointees during a council meeting. Only village insiders who had donated or been otherwise involved in the 2010 Palmetto Bay campaigns were considered to serve.

The fact that this Charter Review Committee was appointed without an application process, without inviting the general public to apply, makes the entire process smell like there is an internal agenda among the five council members to feather their own political nests in upcoming changes to the charter.

Many of the committee members have served previously or currently are serving on other boards. It pays to be loyal to Mayor Shelley Stanczyk or a council member for those who like to serve on committees.

Rumors are floating around that current discussion between the committee members and the council members present at these meetings has included a dramatic increase in term limits from the current eight consecutive years regardless of office, to allowing each council member to serve eight years per office. This could lead to an absurd possibility of a current council member being able to serve three different offices consecutively for a total of 24 years. Didn’t the voters speak loudly enough in 2006 when they soundly rejected a term limit increase to 12 years?

One item rumored not to be a discussion of topic of the Charter Review Committee is a reduction in council pay and perks. Why not in this economy when everyone else is taking a pay cut? The members should be soliciting the public and determining what residents want, not what the council members who appointed them want.

We really don’t know what is being discussed as you cannot find minutes of these meetings online. The meetings are neither televised nor recorded. Residents should not have to personally attend the proceedings to be informed, and that is if they can understand any of the telltale winks and nods going on between the participants at each meeting. Attendees were admonished by the committee chair that no public input would be accepted at the June 23 meeting.

Perhaps this Charter Review Committee intends to complete most of the work in relative quiet, without pesky resident input, and then hold a public workshop to show everyone what they think should be changed. That means that the process is driven by the five members of the committee, village staff and the council members who appointed the committee members rather than the people.

Doesn’t this government belong to the people? Shouldn’t this committee first solicit public opinion before nearly finishing the work and then presenting it as done?

Do you have a suggestion? While the committee won’t listen to you at one of its meetings, send an email with your ideas to the village clerk at <malexander@palmettobay- fl.gov>. Clerk Meighan Alexander will distribute your ideas to the Charter Committee members.

The mayor and council promised increased transparency during their campaigns, but have not made good on their promises. The residents need to stand up and demand transparency guarantees in the charter.

Fortunately all charter changes must be presented to the voters. It is up to you, the voter, to reject proposals that are political patronage, not in the best interest of Palmetto Bay. Every business owner, every resident, should be able to participate throughout the process, not at the end, and be the driving force of any charter changes rather than merely saying “yes” or “no” to the proposals of five committee members who may be taking direction from the specific council member who appointed them.

Palmetto Bay is your local government.

Demand better transparency.

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Grant can be reached at grant@communitynewspapers.com


1 Comment for “Charter Committee working for council not taxpayers”

  1. Grant, good reporting here. When council's pull this scam, they like to do it under the radar until they are prepared for the full campaign to undermine the popular 8-year term limit.

    I posted your article to the U.S. Term Limits Facebook page to alert other citizens.

    You might also find interesting this blog ( http://www.wpbtermlimits.blogspot.com ) from West Palm Beach, where citizens shut down an anti-term limits effort by the mayor. She too started with the "independent" charter review commission (stacked with cronies) as her starting point. They often do.

    The people won. They almost always do on this issue if they put up a fight.

    Thanks,

    Philip Blumel
    Atlantis, Florida

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