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Palm Bay Heads To The Lectern.

On Thursday night, hundreds of Palm Bay citizens are expected to attend the regular City Council meeting which starts at 7:00 PM.

So many people are expected that the City is opening up other spaces within the City Hall itself and on the grounds of City Hall. The City plans to have the equipment for people to watch and listen to the proceedings in those areas while at the same time making provisions for people to address the Council.

The big item on the agenda as far as comments are concerned is Item #2 under Public Hearings which is:

Ordinance 2021-50, amending the Code of Ordinances, Chapter 50, Elections, by updating provisions contained therein, final reading.

This is the second reading and vote on a change in the City Ordinance that would allow the City Council to appoint a person to fill a vacancy on the City Council should a vacancy on the Council arise. Such a vacancy is about to occur due to Councilman Bailey resigning and leaving the area.

Bailey had announced his intention to resign several meetings ago and on July 15th, a proposed new ordinance was suddenly on the agenda that would change the language of the City Ordinances to allow the City Council to appoint someone to fill the vacancy. Previously, if the remaining length of the term was less than a year, the Council could appoint a person to fill the vacancy. If the remaining length of the term was longer than a year, the people got to vote on the replacement.

People were incensed at the Council taking their vote away from electing a Council member to fill Bailey’s seat.

We have written extensively on the subject:

Palm Bay Can’t Vote?
PALM BAY: The Meeting.
BREAKING: Palm Bay Votes To Appoint A New Councilperson Until A Special Election Can Be Held.
Dear Palm Bay: Please Stop.

At the July 15th meeting a so called “compromise” was approved by the City Council (Johnson, Foster, Felix voted for the new proposal, Medina and Bailey voted against it) which in the case of a vacancy that is longer than a year, the Council would appoint a person to fill the vacancy until an election could be held in a time frame of not less than 75 days and not more than 180 days. (The ability of the City to stretch out the time frame to nearly half a year is troublesome. That is six months, 12 regular meetings and untold workshops.)

August 5th is the second reading of the new ordinance that will codify the ability of the Council to fill Bailey’s seat now and then hold an election in the future.

Make no mistake, because of 2012 change in the Charter to allow the City Council to determine the way a vacancy is filled, this version need not be the end. In 75 days, the Council could say “you know, we really don’t want to spend the money on an election, so we will keep the appointment that we made.”

To say the meeting of the July 15th was a disaster is an understatement. Mayor Medina violated so many rules and Council policies that we lost count. People waited out in the heat to speak, but because the City failed to have enough comment cards printed, people were not allowed to speak. (We guess every photocopy machine in City Hall was broken and none could be made. (/sarcasm off) ) Even without cards, the Chair is supposed to ask if there are other speakers wishing to speak on the item and that didn’t happen.

It was almost as if the City and Council members did not want to hear from the people.

This Thursday the City has promised things will be different.

Because of that, and because there will be people who normally do not speak in front of the City Council, we want to offer a couple of pointers to those who will be speaking:

Before you get to the podium:

1) Practice what you are going to say. There is some confusion as to whether the City will limit speakers to 3 minutes. We suspect for the sake of expediency they will. (You can also call to the Clerk’s Office by 2 PM today and say you want a five minute slot.) The important thing is don’t let your message run into the hard wall of the timer. If you have to type it out and read it, go right ahead.

2) The clock starts when you start speaking. Many people get up to the lectern and thank the Council for the ability to speak on the issue. The ability to comment is codified in the Florida Statutes. “Thanking” the City Council for following the law seems strange to us. You wouldn’t expect the police to pull you over on Malabar and thank you for not speeding. It may be “polite” on some level to thank them, but it is not required and it cuts into your time to thank the Council for following the law.

3) If you don’t want to give the City your address, don’t. This is controversial, but the fact of the matter is that the City can control a meeting (which is a limited public forum) by restricting comments to the agenda item being discussed. The City can also restrict people of certain “classes” to speak while excluding others. The classic example is that if a Board is discussing something that affects teachers, the Board can limit comments to only teachers and not anyone else. In Cohen v. Cocoa, the 11th Circuit ruled that a person who lived outside of the City need not be allowed to speak at meetings if the Council desired. We have severe reservations with requiring people to step up to the mic, announce their address and essentially tell the world they are not at home. Secondly, your singular address is not a “class” for the determination of a “class” of people to speak. The “class” is residents or not. We have never spoken before any Board or Council and given our address. The City cannot compel you to do so in this circumstance. If that is a battle you want to fight, go for it. If you are comfortable with giving your address, feel free.

4) Do not sit in a group with the same tee-shirts or same signs. The Council by statute and their policies, can see a whole group of people and ask for one spokesperson from that group to speak on behalf of the group. That means if you have organized 100 people to speak, the Council can demand only one person speak at the lectern for those 100 people. We suggest that you keep group affiliations to yourself if you want to be heard. Once you have spoken, then hold up a sign similar to other speakers who have gone before you and don a t-shirt at that moment – not before. If you want to be heard, don’t give the Council the means to stop you from being heard.

At The Podium:

1) We are huge free speech advocates here so what we are about to say may seem to be against that idea. We highly recommend that you do not use curse words or four letter words in your comments. There is no doubt that you have the right to do so, but it has been our experience that when a Board is being cussed at by a speaker, the Board closes their ears and the comment – however good and worthy the points within may be – is dismissed. The Council just will not hear it.

2) The Council cannot demand that you be “nice.” However, if you attack a person, they will stop listening as well. Think of it this way, when you get into a fight with your spouse or significant other other, when they attack you, you get angry and don’t listen. When they attack your actions, you are more receptive to that. “You’re stupid” will stop people from listening. “What you did was stupid,” will be heard.

Remember that all of your comments are to be addressed to the Chair (in this case the Mayor.)

3) If your comments get stopped by the Chair or someone else, immediately glance at the countdown clock on the wall. Once whatever objection they had against your comment is resolved, you have the time remaining from when you were stopped – not when the issue was resolved. It is important to remember that when you are speaking, you have the “floor.” If you get interrupted, they better have a darn good reason. Don’t be passive on this. Simply say that you had the floor and want all of your time to be granted to you.

4) If you can, be forceful and passionate. People respond to that.

5) Be different if you can be. By that we mean that lots of people will rightfully decry the Council snatching the ability of the citizens to vote, but that may not carry the day. (It hasn’t so far.) If you can, come up with another reason or reasons why this is wrong because the Council has shown nothing but lip service to the idea that people should vote for the person to fill Bailey’s seat.

Questions We Think Need To Be Answered:

1) Bailey announced he was resigning and a scant two weeks after that, there was a new ordinance proposing to give the City Council the ability to appoint a person rather than the people voting as it was before Bailey announced his upcoming resignation.

Who wrote that new ordinance?

A spokesperson for the City told the Florida Today that the ordinance was being brought forth by the three Charter Officers of the City Clerk, the City Attorney, and the City Manager. None of the Charter officers can move on something like this without explicit direction from the Council and yet none was ever given at any public meeting. City Attorney Smith seems to see the issue as she said that she had only written the parts to bring the section into compliance with the new voting laws from the State of Florida, and not the section on taking the vote away from the people. (We acknowledge that Smith may not be telling the truth as she has a history of that.) Assuming Smith is telling the truth, that leaves City Clerk Jones and or City Manager Sherman. Which one or both stepped out of their duties to write the new ordinance, and were they directed to do so by any Council member or members? If so, who? Who violated the Charter and ordinances to get this new proposal out there on July 15th?

We believe the people have the right to know that answer and Medina should demand it from the Charter officers.

2) Where are the procedures for appointing a new person to the Council? Will there be an open meeting? Will candidates be asked questions in public? Or is a person that some Council members want on the Council a fait accompli? Are the people of Palm Bay being led down a path with a predetermined outcome?

3) It took less than two weeks to get the new proposal on the agenda for the July 15th meeting. What has the City done so far in starting to move toward an election that is closer to the proposed 75 days rather than the allowed 180 days? Is this a case where the City will move fast when directed to behind scenes and slow to a crawl when directed by some Council member or members?

After Public Comments:

1) After an individual’s comment, people have a tendency to clap, whistle, hoot ‘n hollar. While we understand and appreciate the enthusiasm, such outbursts may intimidate other speakers who are for the proposal. We have seen Councils say to the assembled audience that no such outbursts will be allowed and under the idea of preserving decorum, they can do it. They can have people physically removed if it continues.

2) When all of the peons people have spoken, the Council will debate. Please, we implore you not to react or shout out to different Council member’s comments. We understand the urge, but don’t become a rabble.

A Couple Of Thoughts:

This whole issue has a feeling of a cabal by Johnson, Foster and Felix – all of whom have previous ethical issues.

We have a tendency to believe that with the budget vote coming up, these three members want to City to “bust the cap” on millage rates and spending. A fourth member who is as fiscally irresponsible as Johnson, Foster and Felix have shown will give them that ability.

In other words, this is more than just about the ability to vote for a Council member.

This is about the Council wanting to reach into your pocket and steal more money from you. Instead of being frugal, they are interested in spending to buy votes in the future. To do so, they are either all going behind the public’s back or complicit in doing so.

This is about the soul of a City.

This is about whether Palm Bay wants to continue to be the mudpit of corruption, or be the light of reform.

See you Thursday.



2 Responses to “Palm Bay Heads To The Lectern.”

  1. MommaDukes says:

    What a good read. Pretty spot on with the series of current events in place. Also, most probably answers the question of “what do these council (morons) members have as an agenda?? Yes, busting the CAP!!
    I’m sure they will find a way to also bust a move right around the will of the people and do whatever it is they want to do (as this is in FACT a pattern, their modus operandi.
    These people supposedly put into position to represent us appear to be nothing more than blood sucking leeches, sucking the blood sweat and life right out of the hard working constituents they claim (fallacious claim) to represent.
    Tomorrow’s generation of youth is the FUTURE of our city, but these mere mortals (believing egregiously they are above all others) are going to suffocate the life, breath and tax the future straight out of this town. Where will it be then?? (I just hope these guys are still around, and that tomorrow’s youth is less forgiving and makes THEIR own rules as they go, to come back and hold EACH and EVERY past scum bag accountable!!!

    • AAfterwit says:

      MommaDukes,

      Thank you for your comment.

      The everlasting debate will be whether elected officials are there to do the will of the people or to have a vision that will benefit the people.

      This idea is best stated by MP Edmond Burke when he said to the electors of Bristol:

      Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

      We expect and want elected officials to work in our best interests, even if that is sometimes not what we want. (The best example being that prior to 1776, only 1/3 of the people wanted independence. (Another third didn’t care, and the final third were loyalists.) The people sent to the Continental Congress saw the benefits of independence and voted that way.

      That being said, we see no benefit in what the three Councilmen are trying to push through. They have shown a proclivity to purchase votes within the Palm Bay government, so they need to spend more and more money. Instead of being frugal, they want to spend which benefits only themselves.

      Then again, what should the people have expected from the three that are ethically challenged?

      As for the future being the children, while we understand the sentiment, the fact of the matter is that after Thursday’s vote, the future for this issue begins right then. Not when kids can vote. Not when they can purchase homes and property. The “future” begins on Friday.

      That’s why we are encouraging people to come out and make their voices heard. We have no illusions that it will make a difference on this vote, but people’s anger for votes like this last a long time.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      A. Afterwit.

  2. […] we have previously written, tonight is a regular Palm Bay City Council meeting where the Council will vote on the […]

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