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“It’s Only……”

Last week the Palm Bay City Council voted 3-2 to increase the storm water fees that residents pay. The average increase seems to be roughly three times the amount property owners are paying now.

Prior to the vote, the Council sent out letters to property owners advising them of the proposed change.

One of the points raised in the letter was this one:

Why use special assessments to fund stormwater management services?

The use of special assessments requires the City to meet the Florida case law requirements for a valid special assessment including fair and reasonable apportionment. This means that unlike taxes, which can be used for any general purpose, the revenues collected through the stormwater special assessment can only be used to fund stormwater management services like ongoing maintenance of City-owned storm drainage infrastructure, as well as water quality monitoring, evaluation and improvements.

If it weren’t so sad, we’d be laughing. This is essentially saying “because we can’t stick to a budget where funds are allocated to certain line items, we want to have you pay more for our lack of fiscal responsibility and discipline.

However, there is a much more damning reason for the assessment fees as opposed to a tax.

Palm Bay has an ordinance that requires taxes to get approval by the voters. By in effect admitting the City cannot spend responsibly, they certainly don’t want voters to have a say in the City taking more money from the voters’ pockets.

(Let’s be clear about this too – while there is a legal technical difference in a fee and a tax, that difference is not known to peoples’ wallets, pocketbooks and bank accounts. To the citizen, the money is coming out of the same place. It is the government who determines where it will go.)
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Palm Bay: “Mommy! That Man Is Being Mean To Me!”

Tres Holton

The headline caught our eye:

Tres Holton walks out of Palm Bay City Council meeting

“What could possibly cause a Councilman to walk out of a City Council meeting?” we wondered.

City Councilman Tres Holton walked out midway through Thursday night’s meeting after Councilman Jeff Bailey accused him of using his SunPass account and personal email at the dais.

However, Holton said he was conducting official business during the meeting, not personal business.

Holton and Bailey sit side-by-side during city council meetings. The

dispute occurred during discussion of a zoning variance for a $35 million commercial development next to Bass Pro Shops.

“Maybe we need to stop for a minute because I see that Councilman Holton seems to be interested in his SunPass stuff, as well as his personal email. So maybe we need to stop a minute so we can all pay attention?” Bailey asked Mayor William Capote.

Discussion briefly halted, and Holton looked at Bailey.

“Go ahead. Pay your bill,” Bailey said to Holton, gesturing at Holton’s laptop.

Holton did not comment. He left the dais before the zoning vote occurred, and he did not return to the meeting. The remaining four council members unanimously approved the variance.

The Cliff Notes version of this is that during the City Council meeting, Holton says he got a notice about his SunPass account needing more money and so he opened a tab during the meeting. He says that as the reload of the SunPass was for a trip related to the City, he was doing “official, not personnel, business.”

We’ve heard a lot of lame excuses in our lives, but that one ranks right up there.

What Holton doesn’t seem to realize (or maybe he does realize and doesn’t care) is that while he is fiddling with his SunPass account (even if it is only to look at the balance or the notification,) he is doing so while a presentation and a discussion of another issue is going on.

One would think that Holton would have the decency and the courtesy to listen to what is being said and focus on that and not allow his attention to wonder.
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Palm Bay: LGBT Ordinance Revisited.

Palm-Bay-Pothole-ROH-smallRoughly two weeks ago, we posted on the upcoming Palm Bay City Council meeting on the proposed “LGBT Equal Rights” ordinance and then followed that post up with a post summarizing the meeting and the eventual vote striking down the proposed ordinance.

Since those posts and the meeting, we have had some time to digest and examine some of the things that were said and not said and decided to discuss them here. The topics don’t flow, so we are going to just put them in “block” form.

THE EEOC

The attorney for the LGBT group “Equality Florida” made the claim that the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) will never sue a business. She claimed that the EEOC will only “hand you a sheet of paper” and “send you on your way.”

This was a huge part of the “Equality Florida” presentation as they were saying the ordinance was needed because there is no protection under Florida law and the Federal government won’t ever sue to protect the rights of LGBT people.

That seemed odd to us as we had previously read of cases where the EEOC had gone to court.

It also must seem strange to the EEOC which says on their own website they will take cases to court:

EEOC and Filing a Lawsuit

EEOC files employment discrimination lawsuits in select cases. When deciding whether to file a lawsuit, we consider several factors, including the seriousness of the violation, the type of legal issues in the case, and the wider impact the lawsuit could have on our efforts to combat workplace discrimination. Because of limited resources, EEOC cannot file a lawsuit in every case where discrimination has been found.

However, the EEOC office where your charge is filed may be able to give you a list of attorneys in your area who handle cases involving employment discrimination.

The EEOC does have an administrative process where claims of discrimination are investigated. If the EEOC finds credible information that a person was discriminated against, they will seek to mediate a settlement between the two parties. If no settlement can be found, the EEOC will take on the case or issue a “right to sue” notice to the complaining party. It is a somewhat complicated and long process, but the end result is that the EEOC can, will and does sue in court over discrimination issues.

One must then wonder why the attorney for Equality Florida would stand in front of citizens and the City Council and make a statement that was false.

Why would she lie?
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Palm Bay: Update.

Palm-Bay-Pothole-ROH-smallThe Palm Bay City Council got what we think they expected last night – a lot of people commenting on the so called “Human Rights Ordinance.”

The issue started around 8:05 PM and it started with a bang. Councilwoman Michele Paccione was the person putting the ordinance forth. She decided to change the ordinance and allow an exemption for churches and all schools. Because of the change, Mayor Capote said that the ordinance should have been workshopped before coming to the Council. It is a good point and a point that would be heard later. Paccione had arranged, with Mayor William Capote’s blessing, to have a the first speakers give a presentation on why the ordinance was needed and the legal issues behind it that was going to last 15 minutes, well over the 3 or 5 minutes other speakers were going to have. Deputy Mayor Jeff Bailey raised the point that by allowing some speakers more allotted time than others, the Council was effectively limiting the speech of some. Because Paccione had packed the front of the speakers with supporters while the people against the ordinance were not accorded the same opportunity, Bailey called for a vote on the time limits.

His motion to limit all people to 3 minutes was passed by the Council and immediately decried by Paccione who kept yelling “you don’t want to hear the truth!”

Interestingly, she kept yelling that while other Council members were trying to speak, thus depriving the of the same right to be heard that she was demanding.

With that, the public speakers took off.
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Palm Bay: Council Meeting Tonight.

Palm-Bay-Pothole-ROHThe City of Palm Bay will host a regular City Council meeting tonight starting at 7:00 PM.

The elephant in the room is going to be Ordinance 2016-08, which ends “discrimination based on age, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, familial status, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression.”

For your convenience, we have uploaded the pages of the agenda / support packet that cover this resolution. You can get those pages here.

While the ordinance has high and lofty goals of “equality,” it cannot and will not achieve equality in any sense of the word. If anything, it creates more inequality.

There is always trouble when the rights of people clash. It is one of the things that we have written about here on this site before. Theoretically, when resolving disputes between the rights of two people, the government should take the path of least resistance or the path that causes the least amount of harm to either party.

Here, the City of Palm Bay is saying “your rights as an individual or company are not equal to the rights of now ‘protected class’ of citizens. You must acquiesce to their desires even at the expense of your rights.”

For example, assume for a moment that you are a worker in a company and a transgendered individual comes into the bathroom. You are female, and the transgendered person is male. While in any other situation if a male came into the women’s bathroom, women would have a legitimate claim of sexual harassment under the theory of a “hostile work environment.”

However, under the Palm Bay ordinance such a claim cannot be made when a male transgendered person comes into the woman’s bathroom:
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