Packed Agendas

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The Florida Legislature recently convened its 60-day 2020 session. The only mandatory bill they must pass is the 2020-2021 budget. Yet most years, that’s not passed until time is running out at the end of their 60 days.

Maybe it’s human nature to procrastinate. Most of us do so on one thing or another. How else to explain the mad rush to the Post Office on April 15?

Or to put it in Island terms, most of us have visitors at some time during the winter months. Do we plan ahead? Probably not much. We usually save the mad dash cleaning, shopping and sprucing up for the week before they arrive. Human nature.

We wonder if our Town government is being run the same way

The current Town Council has less than a handful of meetings left before the March 17 election for three of the five council seats. If this week is any guide, those meeting agendas are going to be jam-packed full – the proverbial 10 lbs. of potatoes in a 5 lb. sack. The January 21 Council meeting agenda held nine Public Hearings (legally mandated for certain requests), plus an assortment of other items that created a five page agenda. That’s a whole lot of activity for one meeting.

Did all those items just coincidentally reach the point of council readiness at the same time? Or is there a push to move items through this council before the election?

In LPA meetings a phrase heard frequently from Town staff runs along the lines of, “We’ll work on this and bring it back to you/get it to council when it’s ready.” That can be weeks or months down the road, depending on demands on staff time.

So, on the morning of the January 14 LPA meeting, we thought it curious to see a public notice in the daily paper that on January 21, Council would be considering some LDC changes related to the Environmentally Critical zone, the same changes that were on the LPA agenda that day. Oh boy, we thought, we sure hope the LPA doesn’t decide to make any changes that need to go back to Town staff or those LDC changes will never make it to the January 21 Council hearing.

Turns out those LDC changes were ushered, some might say frog-marched, through the LPA meeting with multiple staff comments of, “We’ll let council know” in response to suggested LPA changes. We hope the LPA had a rep at the Council meeting and checked that their changes were included because the council packet did not include minutes for that LPA meeting.

Not that long ago, the LPA Chair shared some concern that LPA deliberations were not being provided to council. That is a valid concern. Staff response is often to state that “most” of council watches LPA meetings. What exactly is the role of the LPA if their concerns are not even properly conveyed to Town Council?

Another issue with overly long agendas – people stay away after one look at a meeting with nine Public Hearings. Especially those who can’t spend all day at Town Hall. Local government should be encouraging citizen participation, not making it more difficult.

This is why we have someone at all Town Council meetings. No matter how packed the agenda or how long the meeting goes, we’re there.