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Tail Wagging the Dog
It is revealing to watch our Officials wiggle and squirm when an unexpected agenda item is introduced by Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari. A number of officials stated their position that it was hard to vote on something where the TCRPC Staff had not stated the Staff Recommendation to the Board. Is the Tail Wagging the Dog? Watch for yourself.
Commissioner Bob Solari of Indian River County brings a request from the Board of County Commissioners asking that an item be added to the agenda to discuss focusing the efforts of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to acquire additional information to address rapidly growing concerns being raised in Indian River County as well as throughout the Treasure Coast region about the proposed All About Florida passenger rail service.
Mayor Samuel Ferreri of the City of Greenacres in Palm Beach County objects that this AAF item is not a crisis and thus should not take up the time of this Board without notice and research by the Staff. He contends this sets a precedent that the Board will be at the whim of any local jurisdiction on any local issue. Really, Mr. Mayor?
- How can Mayor Ferreri claim surprise about an issue being raised as a “whim”, when over one third of his 179 Agenda Packet pages for this meeting are devoted to the AAF subject?
- Why does Mayor Ferreri discount six “local” sister jurisdictions in the Treasure Coast, plus three Members of the US Congress by asserting that the AAF issue might be limited to a single jurisdiction? Could it be that Mayor Ferreri did not read his own Agenda Packet, which contained correspondence from six individual Treasure Coast jurisdictions, as well as from three Members of Congress representing the Treasure Coast – all expressing concern about the AAF project and its impacts on their communities?
- How can anyone call an issue “local”, which literally physically bisects the entire 4-county Treasure Coast region? Isn’t the sole purpose of the TCRPC to address regional issues? The previous TCRPC meeting in March was almost entirely devoted to the AAF project.
WARNING: Watching this video clip could trigger flashbacks to Alice in Wonderland:
Next, Mayor James DuBois of the Town of Lake Park in Palm Beach County piles on, expressing trepidation at discussing an item that has not been previously announced in the meeting Agenda.
Mayor Priscilla Taylor of Palm Beach County attempts to close discussion by claiming the Board is “not ready to vote”. What does she mean? Not ready to vote in unison? Not ready to vote because there is no Staff Recommendation?
Roger Saberson, Council Attorney explains to the Council that they have to allow Public Comment on anything the Board is going to vote on.
Council Member Joni Brinkman of the Village of Palm Springs in Palm Beach County objected to the proceedings because some members of the public who might have wanted to speak on this subject can not speak because this item was not noticed in the regular Agenda for the meeting.
It is of note, that all objections to Commissioner Solari’s motion came from Palm Beach County.
At this point, Commissioner John Haddox of Martin County withdrew his second for Commissioner Solari’s motion and stated: All Aboard Florida should be on the Agenda of every meeting. This thing is coming at us very fast. . . Almost every week I get new questions and new problems with All Aboard [Florida]. It needs to be discussed at every meeting and it needs to be on the Agenda . . . and it has to be open for motions at every meeting.
Commissioner Doug Smith of Martin County then lectured the Council on the reason why the Board has Agenda Items and the reason why the Board has Staff is to prepare the Board and prepare Staff to respond to what’s on the Agenda. The problem with throwing something up on the Agenda is there are lots of issues going on in this conversation and we have no backup. We have no discussion technically. It may be good information, it may be bad information. But we don’t have the benefit of Staff standing in front of us and giving us the background detail because it doesn’t exist.
And so if there is an emergency, a reason to put something on the Agenda then there is a process to do that. It should be submitted to Staff. Staff should evaluate that emergency, whether the Staff and the Chair think it’s a legitimate enough emergency to go on the Agenda. So Staff has at least some time to do some initial background work, so the Board can have an articulate conversation, so that you understand what you’re voting on. Because all the actions that we take will have consequences. You at least ought to know what you’re voting on.
It sounds very simple coming from Bob [Solari]. I’ve heard it six times. The point is: what really is the meat of the conversation we are looking at. For the future, this is why I don’t think you take Agenda Items and throw them up on the table and say vote on them without the appropriate backup. I don’t think we should let it happen. We should have backup. I would appreciate reading it. If the public wants to comment on them that’s fine. If Commissioner Haddox wants this on the Agenda every month, that’s fine. But what’s on the Agenda needs to have backup and analysis so that we can talk about it, so that everybody understands. vs. one of us coming to the table and saying I’ve got a position here and no one else at the table has any idea where that’s coming from.
Council Member Michael Davis of Palm Beach County said: I share your perspective.
Commissioner Solari asked to respond to those comments if he could. He said: I had sent this to Mr. Busha a few days prior, basically as soon as it was available. From Mr. Busha’s response, I certainly understood it to have Staff support, at least on Item Number 2. That Mr. Busha seemed to welcome the information, and my understanding, based on emails, is that he would be supportive of it.
So I have to say that I am incredibly surprised that this is even controversial. And given the coming EIS, and given that so many people are saying this rail project is a done deal, I certainly do consider it an emergency item. It is clearly considered an emergency item in Indian River County, so I’m actually very, very surprised that it is even controversial. But I also want to say that I certainly came here with the idea that at least the Number 2 portion certainly did basically have the Staff Support. Again because as I see it as no more that a very polite request to get the type of information that we would need.
At this point the motion died for lack of a second. Another member asked if the Board adopted the first part of the motion, couldn’t that capture items 2 and 3?.
Commissioner Solari responded: If we can’t make a motion, we can’t make a motion. This is just farce . . . If you can’t vote on it, you can’t vote on it. . . Well, the rest of you do what you do at this point in time.
Again, Commissioner Smith lectured: For the future, as I think you have done this in the past, Staff could easily have said, we recommend the following, I Executive Director recommend you do the following. Our Staff reviewed the information, and think it is appropriate. Even though it is not on the Agenda, I am recommending the following. So, if you are putting yourself forward as the Director, and saying Staff recommends you do the following because of the timely items to deal with, that’s fine. But we’ve now spent the entire meeting on this one issue, which has consumed a lot of discussion, which is fine, it wasn’t by the Board, it wasn’t meant to be. And there are a whole bunch of people in this room today that this all got bound up on one item. And so just for the future, if something like this, if any Council Member, or anyone from the public comes to you and says this is an emergency item, then Staff needs to put themselves out in front, then from my perspective, do so. And tell us that’s what you need us to do, because we’ve done that before.
Another process item that was discussed and adopted now prevents Public Comment speakers to cede their allotted speaking time to any other speaker. This measure was brought forth and passed as a time-saving measure for the Board, but it has the de facto effect of forcing Public Comment to be disjointed and lacking unification.
So, . . . What do you think?
Staff / Board
Who is the real Dog here?
Who is the real Tail here?
Can you identify the puppet and the puppeteer in this show?