Palm Bay: City Council Meeting Tonight. No Torches And Pitchforks, Please.

Tonight is the first meeting of the Palm Bay City Council since the news of the arrest of former Deputy City Manager Dave Isnardi and businessman Jose Aquiar last Friday. (You can find agenda here.)

The allegations in the affidavit as to what was going on in the City are damning and troubling to say the least.

We know that people, including us, are upset and rightfully so,

We also know that there are going to be people who are going to speak on the issue during one of the two (or both) “public comments on non-agenda items” portion of the agenda.

We have some advice.

1) Be civil.

Be forceful if you wish, but be civil. Don’t call people names they might consider vile. Don’t say things that will have the people on the dais and other audience members not listen to you because of way you are saying something. We know that you have the right to call the City Council and others names such as someone who may fornicate with the women we celebrated this past Sunday, but resist the urge to do so. If you were up on the dais and someone called you what your grandmother considered vile and inappropriate, you would stop listening. The Council will too. (As will some in the audience.) The goal is to have your points and opinions heard not bounce off closed ears.

2) Don’t continually repeat something that has been said before.

The Council has a rule (supported by Florida statute) that if people say essentially the same thing over and over, the Council can ask that one person speak for the entire group. It is much easier for the Council to dismiss the comments of one person rather than more than one. (A lot more than one.) Listen to what is said by speakers before you and if you are going the same thing, change your comments or at least the focus. Do not allow the City to invoke the “group comment rule.” Remember, they are going to be looking to shut the comments down.

3) “Don’t Taze Me Bro!”

This could be have been included in point one, but it deserves its own point. The media is going to be there. Whether it is just reporters taking notes, media filming the meeting or even cameras, they will be there. You don’t want to be the person who is dragged out of the meeting. You don’t want to be the person who is approached by the police and escorted out. You don’t want to be on the news for being removed from the meeting. This also applies to before and after you comment (assuming that you are going to comment.) A staff member here always says “they can’t hear you from the parking lot.” If you become a disruption to the “good order” in the meeting, the Mayor can have you removed. If people become a mob (and we have seen this in other cities,) the Mayor can clear the room. We expect there will be an increased police presence. Don’t do anything that would allow Palm Bay’s finest to become your escort out of the meeting.

In short, don’t become this guy:

4) Don’t expect answers.

This is a “comment” part of the agenda and not a “question and answer” period. As much as we wish it were, the Council doesn’t have to respond to anything that is said by citizens. Don’t be frustrated by that silence from the dais. Keep on point and keep talking.

5) Speaking of the Mayor….

It is important to remember that the Mayor has the “big hammer.” That means he has the gavel and will probably try to use it if pushed. Also remember to address your comments to him, and not to other members of the Council. If you want to make a point or ask a question of fictional Councilman Joe Frombitz, phrase your question or point as “Mayor, we are owed a response from Councilman Frombitz as to whether he did….” Don’t say “Councilman Frombitz, did you do ……” If you do the second, the Mayor will interrupt you or gavel you and remind you to speak to the Chair – the Mayor. That interruption and or gavel-ing will take time from your three minutes. Anyone who has spoken at meetings knows that the three minutes goes by fast. Don’t let them cut into it.

6) It’s your time.

When you are making your comments, you have the floor. It is against the Council rules and other rules to interrupt the speaker when they have the floor. We have seen other cities where Council members or the Chair will interrupt and the portion of the 3 minutes that the interruption takes never was returned. If you are interrupted, the proper thing to do is to say “point of order, I have the floor and you don’t have the right or ability to interrupt me.” Then demand the time they wasted back. We suggest taking a stop watch, tablet, phone, etc. with you to the podium so you can tell how much time you have remaining while you speak, and how much time they take away from you. (Or have friends timing you.) Also in that vein, the clock starts when you start speaking, not when they call you to the mic. (We got caught on that once. We had backup in the audience who was timing our remarks and they called out what had happened.)

7) The Statement.

We suspect someone on the dais will make a statement on the events of the last week. We also suspect that the legal department will have told Councilmembers to not say anything at this time. The Council cannot force a rule change that involves you not speaking which is why are there in the first place.

8) Other Opinions.

There may be people there with points of view that are different than yours. The right thing to do is respect their right to say things with which you disagree. Don’t make overt displays of disapproval. (Some bodies have a rule that doesn’t allow the audience to respond to comments as it may intimidate other speakers. We haven’t seen Palm Bay invoke such a rule but we should all respect people’s right to speak.)

This is a passionate issue and circumstance.

We implore you to be above it all and let Brevard County, the state, the nation and even the world see that citizens of Palm Bay care and demonstrate that care in a manner that will be an example for everyone else.

Don’t be like this from St. Petersberg, FL.

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