search
top

Palm Bay: Santiago And Anderson Deflect City’s Responsibilities, Blame Informed Voters For Voting. Part 1 Of 2.

After last week’s election on Tuesday, the Palm Bay City Council had a regular meeting on Thursday during which time Councilmen Santiago and Anderson addressed the election results on the three referendums.

As we often do, we transcribed the comments and are going to fisk their and see how they stack up.

The comments start out with those of Councilman Santiago at 2:47:00 of the meeting.

I wanted to …and again I also congratulate the Petition Committee. They worked very hard, they went out there, they gathered signatures, and I know there was a alot, there was some skepticism, as far as whether they received all the signatures. It wasn’t counted, that is a fact, and it was something that because the way our Charter is written, because of the way the petition packet that they received from us, which they then went out, because it wasn’t counted by the Supervisor of Elections,…. unfortunately things went the way that they did, we as Council decided, well, because of the way things went, because basically it could become a litigious situation, we went ahead and brought it forth on the special election here.

If it is a “fact” that the signatures were not counted, that is another in a long list of failures by the City.

Once the petitions were received by the City from the petition committee, one would think that in order to save everyone time, effort and money, the first thing the City would have done is to make sure that the number of signatures on the petitions crossed the threshold to be considered and then forwarded to the Supervisor of Elections for signature verification which would have certified the petitions signatures themselves. If the petition committee had to get 10% of the electors of the City to sign the petitions (roughly 7500 signatures,) and hypothetically there were only 1000 signatures that the petition committee turned in, what would be the point of going forward to the Supervisor of Elections for signature verification? It’s not like the City didn’t have the time to count the number of signatures. After all, the petitions sat at City Hall for over two months while the City was telling the petition committee that the Supervisor of Elections had the petitions. It wasn’t until one of the members of the petition committee stated they would ask the Supervisor of Elections at a social gathering as to the status of the petitions and signature verification that the truth came out.

(What is odd is that the petition committee has said that the box that they gave the petitions to the City in was not the same box in which the petitions were seen at City Hall. Someone from the City moved them out one container and into another for unknown reasons. Given that the employees of the City had been threatened by fellow employees and supervisors if their names appeared on the petitions, it seems reasonable to conclude that someone went through the petitions. If that is the case, why not count the number of signatures at that moment? But that may be a little tin-foil-hatty for even us.)

The Supervisor of Elections never had the petitions in her possession. Not once. Not ever.

While Santiago wants to cite “facts,” how about he deal with those facts first. How about he deal with the fact that the City lied to members of the petition committee and to other citizens?

Santiago also brings up the ol’ false statement that the issue and problem was the way the City Charter was written. Factually, that is a lie as well.

The Charter specifically states:

Section 3.09 PETITIONS TO AMEND THE CITY CHARTER OR TO ADOPT OR REPEAL ORDINANCES.
[….[
(4) The procedures to have an issue placed on the ballot shall be as set forth in this section, and shall be subject to other governmental agencies’ requirements that may affect this section.

That simple statement means that as the City would need the assistance of the Supervisor of Elections, they should have contacted the SOE to determine the requirements for the petition forms themselves.

The City did not.

(In fact, the City did not inform the Supervisor of Elections that there even was a petition drive happening until well into the petition gathering process.)

It was sitting there in black and white and there is no way for the City to get around that simple provision that they ignored.

The interesting thing to us that at the same time that Palm Bay was having a petition being circulated, the City of Cocoa Beach was also having a citizen led petition drive. Cocoa Beach’s charter on petitions is remarkably similar to that of Palm Bay.

Somehow the City Manager and City Clerk of Cocoa Beach managed to do what they were required to do: they called the Supervisor of Elections to get what was needed on the petitions. Their petition forms were approved by the SOE and printed.

Palm Bay, with a City Clerk, a City Manager, and a City legal staff making thousands more (if not hundreds of thousands more as Cocoa Beach does not have a dedicated legal department, only a City Attorney on retainer) managed to get the whole petition form and requirements wrong.

Little ol’ Cocoa Beach with 11,000 people managed to have staff that got it right while Palm Bay with 120,000 people got it wrong.

And what was the consequence of the massive screw up by the City of Palm Bay staff?

Not a darn thing. Nothing. Not one thing. Not a resolution saying “we screwed up,” not a notice in an employee file, nothing. Instead, the City circled the wagons as Santiago is doing and blamed the Charter.

In a City that is dealing with corruption, policies and laws not being followed, a JLAC report that is damning in and of itself, the City Council – Santiago among them – couldn’t bring itself to admit they had screwed up.

Santiago obviously has issues with accountability and facts when it comes to the City Council and employees.

So I congratulate them at least for all of the hard work they put into it.

That would the hard work that came out of the City Council lying to residents on the amount of the special assessments, as well as ignoring those same people in City Council meetings?

Really?

Santiago couldn’t just sit back and say “I disagree with them, but they should be congratulated on winning this issue?”

He couldn’t be that gracious?

With that being said, I also want to address something that Mr. Weinberg brought up, and that is the fact that out of approximately 78,572 total voters in the City of Palm Bay,…..say that again, 78, 572 voters only about seventy three hundred voters came out for a special election.

Less than 10 percent of the total electorate for the City of Palm Bay – less than 10% – decided on the fate of a very important part of our Charter in regards to assessments, in regards to how our roads how our roads are going to be fixed, how our storm water is going to be fixed and how utilities are going to be fixed… in general how our infrastructure is going to be maintained, to revert it back to what it used to be. That for the past 30 years, got nothing done in our City.

This doesn’t take away from what the petitioners did. That’s apart from that. They did their part.

But had I known that during a special election, that all 78,572 voters would not get a sample ballot, which is usually sort of a trigger,….’cause once you get that sample ballot it’s like “oh, okay, I have something I need to vote for here,” and one of the complaints I got several times over from several constituents was, “I never got a sample ballot.”

There were people out there saying “I didn’t even know that we had an election here in Palm Bay.

I mean, you can say whatever you want about that, but I mean there were a lot of people that just didn’t know.

Let’s address the sample ballot for a second.

The Florida statutes only require that the Supervisor of Elections mail out sample ballots for regular elections. There is no requirement that the SOE mail out sample ballots for special elections.

In a Florida Today article, Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott addressed not only the sample ballot issue, but the low voter turnout:

One reason turnout may have been so low was that, in Palm Bay, Brevard’s most populous city, there were three referendums on the ballot, but no candidate elections.

Scott said she has found that not having candidate elections can hold down voter turnout.

A total of 7,288 voters cast ballots on the Palm Bay referendum that had the most votes cast, representing 9.31% of the 78,274 voters eligible to vote in the Palm Bay election.

Scott said she has a suggestion to improve voter turnout in the off-year municipal elections like in 2019, when no federal, state or county offices were on the ballot.

“It is my hope the municipalities that ask me to conduct their elections in odd-numbered years will see the benefit of incurring the cost to have my office send out sample ballots to their residents,” Scott said.

It appears to us that Santiago is saying once again that it was someone else’s fault for the low turnout. Of course that means that the City Council and the people in City Hall were all asleep at the wheel when a month or so before the election, no sample ballots were received in the City of Palm Bay. We noticed it and called the SOE to ask why and were told the Supervisor of Elections was not required to mail out sample ballots and that cities needed to request and pay for them.

What does it say that bloggers like us are more on top of what was happening than the people that are being paid to know these things?

It wasn’t as if the election was a secret either. In a October 4, 2019 article on the new voter cards that were mailed out, the Florida Today reported:

There also are municipal and special district elections in 2019 in some Brevard County communities.

To accommodate voters who requested them, the Supervisor of Elections Office has mailed out 28,568 domestic mail ballots for the Nov. 5 election. This is in addition to the 562 mail ballots previously sent to absent military and overseas voters.

This election is open to registered voters in the municipal boundaries of Cape Canaveral, Indialantic, Indian Harbour Beach, Melbourne Beach, Palm Bay, Rockledge, and in the special district of Barefoot Bay. The Palm Bay ballot has three referendums, but no candidates. (emphasis ours.)

The day before the election, the Florida Today ran an article called “Here’s what you need to know about Tuesday’s municipal elections in Brevard County.”

Palm Bay: There are no candidate elections on the ballot, but there are three proposed charter amendments.

Referendum 1 deals with whether to limit the city’s ability to levy special fees on projects that involve more than 50 property owners or that carry over $25,000 in expected expenditures.

Referendum 2 deals with setting up guidelines for petition-gathering and signature verification regarding citizen initiatives on ordinances and charter amendments.

Referendum 3 would allow petitions to repeal city ordinances to be signed by at least 5% of registered voters. That would reduce the number of signatures required for ordinances proposed by petition to get on the ballot from 10% of voters to 5%.

The City had notices on their website about the election. There were FaceBook and tweets about it as well.

To say that the election had a low turnout because people didn’t get a sample ballot shows a lack of engagement by the voters and a lack of care by the City of Palm Bay.

Instead of blaming voter apathy or the City’s failures, Santiago blamed something or someone else because when you are up on the dais, apparently Santiago believes that you should never hold anyone getting a City paycheck accountable for anything.

(We also found this statement curious: “……I got several times over from several constituents was….” Several? Two or three people? Do we really want to go down that rabbit hole?)

I will say that I don’t believe that 7,300 voters out of 78,000 plus voters is not a good sample representative of the City in terms of what they believe what is right in regards to assessments.

Okay, we’ll bite. What is a “good sample representation of the City?” 10%? 20%? 30%? 40%? 50%? 60%

As is typical, Santiago complains, but offers no solutions. In essence, he believes that voter apathy should outweigh voter engagement.

The City can only count the number of people who voted – not those who did not vote.

Furthermore, we’d bet our bottom dollar if the vote had turned out that citizens had rejected Referendum #1, Santiago would have been up on the dais saying the election results only proved that the petition committee was wrong and that the special election was a waste of time and money.

[To be] honest with you, that bothers me, because I have to ask what about the other seventy thousand plus voters that didn’t get a chance to vote.

The other seventy thousand plus voters didn’t have a chance to vote?

Were they locked up in prison? Were the Palm Bay Police at peoples’ homes keeping them inside and preventing them from voting? Was the election in the middle of a raging Cat 5 hurricane? Were people turned away at the polling places?

Unless Santiago can come up with a reason – a real reason that voters “didn’t get a chance to vote,” then he is simply lying through his teeth.

In a City that has issues with truthfulness from City employees and elected officials, we don’t need officials who continue to lie from the dais.

I mean, we can chalk that up to a lot of things; they didn’t care, they didn’t know, I mean, several things. But I do know this, that the numbers in 2016 and 2018 and that will come out in 2020, I bet you it will be very close to 78,572 voters. I bet you it will be a lot closer to that.

You’d lose your bet Councilman.

In 2016, Palm Bay had three elections for local candidates. Those elections and the number of votes cast were:

  • Mayor: 48,528 votes cast. (61% of registered voters)
  • Council Seat 2: (Santiago’s seat): 44,702 votes cast (56.9% of registered voters)
  • Council Seat 3: (Anderson’s seat): 44,744 votes cast (56.9% of registered voters)

In 2018, there were two elections for local candidates:

  • Council Seat 4: (Johnson’s seat): 41,914 votes cast (53.3% of registered voters)
  • Council Seat 5: (Bailey’s seat): 40,623 votes cast (51.7% of registered voters)

No matter how you try to spin those numbers, they contradict Santiago’s assertion that voter turnout was “very close to 78,572 voters.”

Whether his statement was political hyperbole or an outright lie, the fact of the matter is that he is wrong.

So, you know, I mean, say what you want about that, is it a good representative of the City? I don’t think so.

We agree. Santiago does not think.

His comments attack the petition committee who were engaged in the process despite the City doing it’s best to derail them by deceit and lies.

His comments continue to show a lack of any sort of accountability for the City and elected officials.

His comments attack and denigrate voters who are informed and who showed up to vote.

What does it say when a Council member gets so many facts wrong and hates informed voters?

We’ll deal with that and other parts of Santiago’s comments, as well as Anderson’s comments, tomorrow.



4 Responses to “Palm Bay: Santiago And Anderson Deflect City’s Responsibilities, Blame Informed Voters For Voting. Part 1 Of 2.”

  1. Thomas Gaume says:

    Wow, a two part series. I’m glad someone else picked up on these comments because as I watched this garbage pour out of Mr. Santiago’s mouth I became more and more angry. You don’t congratulate a group of Citizens then turn around in the next sentence and attempt to invalidate the result of their work.

    I’ll wait for the 2nd part of this article before I comment, as I’m still pissed off about this diatribe. Some member’s of our council have obviously managed to pull their head out of the sandy soil of Palm Bay, and insert it somewhere else on their own anatomy.

  2. Renee Felty says:

    Excellent article, and I will state the obvious, the residents of Palm Bay deserve (much) better from their elected officials.

  3. Percy says:

    Hopefully Mr. Santiago’s prediction that more voters will turn out in the regular election is correct and the PB residents will get rid of this clown circus and get some representatives to actually represent the residents.

  4. Third Dimension says:

    Typical Santiago.
    Obviously not speaking for the people as a representative. Yet as Johnson said a few weeks ago about Randy Fine, a misrepresentative.
    No one should re-elect Anderson or Bailey. Santiago is a joke.

  5. […] Yesterday we started to fisk the comments made by City Councilman Santiago on the results of the referendum vote. We are going to continue that today. […]

top