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Palm Bay: “Remember that Rule We Passed On Digital Presentations? Never Mind. (Unless You Are A Resident)” – Santiago and Holton.

This past Thursday, the Palm Bay City Council held a Special Meeting concerning basically two items of interest. The first was a review of the City’s financial audit. There were lots of questions in the summary of the audit that were noted by some citizens, but the Council chose to ignore those concerns in a case of “nothing to see here, move along.”

Oddly, that is not what we are going to talk about.

The second item was to amend the “City’s Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map to change the designated use of property located at the southeast corner of Babcock Street and Plantation Circle, from Single Family Residential Use to Commercial Use.”

This was the big ticket item of the night and oddly, we aren’t going to talk about that either.

Prior to the item on amending the City’s Comp plan, Councilman Calvin Holton raised the issue that he felt that the people discussing this item should not have to comply with the rule that the Council passed on March 15, 2018 requiring all digital presentations be given to the City 48 hours before a meeting for “review.”

Specifically, the rule reads:

7.8.6 VISUAL PRESENTATIONS BY THE PUBLIC

A. Members of the public wishing to use electronic media when addressing city council must provide the electronic file to staff for screening no later than noon two (2) business days prior to the meeting. Screening ensures that the material is in a format capable of broadcast or presentation over the audiovisual system, and assures that the material is legally appropriate for broadcast over the audiovisual system and cable. No visual materials may be displayed through the audiovisual system that City staff has not screened. No visual presentations containing offensive material will be displayed or utilized in any fashion.

1. Visual materials include any visual or textual items that are to be displayed through the audiovisual system irrespective of their specific format or media. This includes, without limitation, photographs, audio and video presentations, charts, computer presentations, computer screen images, posters and flyers, whether in physical or electronic format.

2. Visual presentations during public comments are limited to times outlined above in this Section.

B. Visual materials do not include items held or worn by a speaker at the podium or worn by a member of the audience, even though such items may be televised through the cameras that view the audience and the dais.

Holton wanted to suspend that rule for the evening even though residents had been dealing with the rule for the last two months. Holton said that the rule wasn’t on the City’s website and it wasn’t right to make people abide by it. Of course, the rule was on the City’s website as it was part of the official record for that meeting as well as being posted part of the Council’s Policies and Procedures so Holton, as is often the case, was wrong on the facts.

Councilman Santiago chimed in saying that he didn’t think it was fair that the City imposed a restriction so soon after passing the rule. He likened it to an ordinance that was passed but not yet implemented. This too was a bad analogy as ordinances have “effective dates” written into the ordinance itself.

Both Holton and Santiago said they felt that a fair compromise was that both sides could make digital presentations.

There was nothing “fair” about such a proposal.

People who were against the project and the ordinance had come knowing that they could not make a digital presentation without prior screening by the City. They knew the rules and were following them. The people in favor of the proposal had come with their non approved digital presentation contrary to the rules the Council had passed.

Both Holton and Santiago were essentially saying that people who followed the rules should be penalized and the people who did not follow the rules should be rewarded. The fact that both men were arguing against the citizens of Palm Bay and in favor of an outside entity should be alarming.

Holton then made a motion to suspend Rule 7.8.6 and called for a vote. Councilman Jeff Bailey spoke up and asked “aren’t we going to allow public comments on this?”

Holton looked like a deer in the headlights as we suspect that last thing he wanted was for the public to get another shot at the ridiculous rule as well as pointing out the hypocrisy he and Santiago were proposing.

Holton then said that he couldn’t imagine that the City Council needed to have public comments on the suspension of Council rules. He asked City Attorney Smith if they had to go to listen to the public on this issue. He managed to cut Ms. Smith off several times, (and looked bad doing it in our opinion) but eventually Smith said she recommended the Council allow public comments before taking a vote.

We believe Smith was being far too polite in “recommending” the Council listen to public comments. Smith’s “recommendation” was not just a “suggestion,” it’s the law:

From the Florida Statutes:

286.0114 Public meetings; reasonable opportunity to be heard; attorney fees.—
(1) For purposes of this section, “board or commission” means a board or commission of any state agency or authority or of any agency or authority of a county, municipal corporation, or political subdivision.
(2) Members of the public shall be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on a proposition before a board or commission.

In short, Holton was arguing that the City should ignore the Florida Statutes.

We don’t expect members of the City Council to know every inch of the Florida Statutes, but we do expect and even demand that they know the Sunshine Laws as well as laws governing public meetings. It’s just not that difficult and hard to do. Holton touts his experience on Councils and Boards but doesn’t know the most basic of rules and laws governing those meetings?

Eventually both parties to the action / discussion / ordinance stepped up and said “that’s okay….we won’t make a digital presentation” and for the most part that ended the ridiculous discussion of whether people had to obey the City Council’s own rules and whether the Council could go against the Florida Statutes.

You can watch the entire incident here or below.

In addition to highlighting the sheer ignorance of some of the elected officials sitting on the dais, this also highlighted the stupidity and lack of the need for the rule itself. Both Mayor Capote and Councilman Bailey expressed a desire to revisit the rule and to change the time limit to two hours before any meeting. Capote brought up the idea that two hours would give the IT department sufficient time to scan the files for security issues.

That. of course, is complete heifer hockey.

First there should be no issue for the security as any flash drive, CD, DVD or any other media handed to the IT Department head who attends the meetings and brings the presentations to life on the screens would not be “sandboxed” to begin with. “Sandbox” is a computer security procedure that doesn’t allow a file to interact with the computer system. In short, the file can be scanned and run inside the sandbox (which is where the name comes from – you can still play with the file) and there is no risk of an infected file harming the City’s network of computers. We’re not going to insult the competency or intelligence of the head of the IT department by even implying that she is not isolating the file (sandbox) from the rest of the computer network. Because of that, there is no need to even raise the “security” issue that a file may infect the city’s servers.

Secondly, Capote seemed to intimate that the 2 hour time limit would give the IT Department time to scan the presentation files themselves. Obviously different computers with different specification are going to scan files at different rates and complete a scan in different times. We took an folder containing 2 gigabytes of information in over 500 files and scanned it for viruses on a really old Windows XP system with other programs running. Total time of the scan: 1 minute, 57 seconds. The presentations that we have made to this Council and others were scanned and those scans took less than 20 seconds (most less than 10.) And this was done on an old beat up system running Windows XP. We chose that computer deliberately as it is not exactly top of the line stuff. The thought that this is a time critical issue is laughable.

Not only that, we want to go back to the so called “reasons” the rule was passed in the first place.

The rule was put into place so the City could scan the presentations for “objectionable content.” Such a contention was a farce to begin with, as the City has no right to determine what is “objectionable” and prevent a speaker from displaying the presentation. Doing so is a violation of the Florida and US Constitution, as well as what is called “prior restraint.”

At the time the rule was passed, no mention was ever made of any security issue. No mention was ever made that the City needed more time to scan presentations. In fact, the head of the IT Department was scanning presentations prior to the passing of the rule and no one ever had to wait, no one ever had their presentation put on hold and no one, as far as we know, ever was caught trying to upload a virus.

This rule was passed so the City could see what resident were going to say prior to the meetings. That’s all this was about. Certain members of the City Council didn’t like the idea that people were exercising their rights and criticizing the Council and in some cases, the action of individual Council members. Instead of doing the right and honorable thing of addressing the concerns and changing behaviors, the Council decided to take the rights of people away.

It amazes us that the City Council – at least certain members – are willing to break their own rules and the laws of the State of Florida to accommodate non residents, while holding residents responsible for abiding by the rules the Council passed.

We think that leads to the question: “who is the Council looking out for, willing to listen to, and wanting to work with? Residents or non-residents?”




3 Responses to “Palm Bay: “Remember that Rule We Passed On Digital Presentations? Never Mind. (Unless You Are A Resident)” – Santiago and Holton.”

  1. Momma Dukes says:

    The outlandish behavior of this council is alarming. They make up rules, add to, change things, and then revert back to previous rules and regulations, just to suite THEM in the moment (knowing they need their pockets lined): pay attention people, because they become more narcissistic with each and every item they “ back.” Pray for their families, as they have to lay their head down at night knowing how many residents these 2 hang out to dry for their own personal gain. (neither of them do anything unless it’s for the good of themselves)

  2. Third Dimension says:

    Since this article clearly shows the incompetence of the two Council members that seem to always come into question when looking at the lack of common sense. The people of Palm Bay are becoming aware of these two, self-serve councilmen.
    As Palm Bay citizens become more and more disgusted with these two, they are getting involved, and ready to vote one of them out this year. Citizens have been lied to repeatedly and made to pay outrageous taxes and fees, while the appearance of them taking large campaign donations and making dirty deals for themselves.
    We can sure hope the good men and women of the FDLE & FBI will bring forth justice to Palm Bay.
    Let’s all pull together and rid Palm Bay council of Holton this August and November.

  3. seaoats says:

    Thank you ROH for video of this very important meeting. PB needs to get to work on their comp plan prior to making decisions. The citizens of Plantation spoke and if they didn’t this could have been a slam dunk. Its unfortunate that property owners have to retain legal representation while the city has their own legal representation at tax payer expense. I was stunned when it was stated PB hasn’t touched their Comp Plan in 12 years!! Where I live they are consistently trying to change Comp Plan not always to the benefit of property owners.

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