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

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.

Councilman Santiago continued:

I think this is something that something in the future the Charter Review Commission might have to really look at it again and say, “you know, what is this really going to do?”

This is a really interesting statement.

In 2016 when the citizens voted to change the special assessments procedures under the charter, they were told two things.

First, they were given estimated numbers for assessments. Secondly, they were told that before passing the assessments, there would be a hearing on the assessments themselves.

When the citizens bought into that, they voted to change the procedure hoping that the change would expedite road and infrastructure construction and maintenance.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

But the City wasn’t truthful with the numbers. When actual special assessments were mailed out, the residents said “whoa….this is not what we were told.”

When they went to Council meetings on the assessment, the people on the dais smugly sat there, ignoring the people’s complaints and figuratively giving the giving the citizens the middle finger while saying “we know how to govern you peasants.”

Santiago kept repeating that the special assessments were the only way the City can get the work done.

It turns out that isn’t quite true as the citizens of Palm Bay voted for $150 million bond to get the work done. Santiago’s statement on being the only way turned out to be incorrect which leads to the question “was his statement a willful lie? A case of ignorance? Or a case of not listening to people trying to offer different and other solutions?”

We would offer that the Charter Review Commission doesn’t have to guess or examine what those changes either in 2016 or in 2019 are going to do. We know what it does. We saw the effects of the 2016 changes in play and the people said “nope. Not going there. No more.”

Another thing that was brought up was that yes, because of the way it reverted back to the way it was, it will in fact, benefit moreso vacant lot owners, investors, renters, – not renters, I’m sorry – investors, those who are buying homes for the purpose of renting. Most of them don’t live in the City. And, you know, one particular land owner owns over 3000 properties. So if you think about it, that one particular land owner is going to have over 3000 votes.

This statement is simply an illogical canard.

By statute, special assessments can be levied when the project has a direct, tangible increase in value to the abutting properties. The theory, like it or not, is that the people who are getting the benefit from a construction project should pay for it in part if not in total.

The projects increase the value of the property which means that everyone – including the vacant lot owners – would see their property value increase. With that increase, the property owner could sell the property at a higher price point, arguably one that is above the cost billed for the special assessments and construction.

Santiago’s point fails on many levels.

First, it assumes that property owners don’t want to see their property values increase making the land and property more valuable. There is no historical data that we know of that support that contention.

Secondly, it falls against the principle of “no taxation without representation.” While some of the property owners do indeed live outside of the City of Palm Bay, the owners themselves can’t vote for the City Council. This means that they have no say – direct or indirect – in the policies that affect them. Allowing the property owners to vote on projects that increase the value of their lands gives owners a basic, fundamental right.

Third, Santiago’s statement, like many people who make this claim, seeks to do divide the City. The fact of the matter is that whether the owners of a property live within the City or outside of the City, they are still paying taxes. The out of town property owners are still contributing to the coffers of the City and frankly, not getting much in return. After all, the properties that are vacant lots aren’t calling for the police. They aren’t calling for the fire department to come and put out a fire on the property. (If they do, it is very rare.) It is more likely than not that the taxes paid by the out of town property owners enter the City coffers without much practical benefit to the property owners themselves.

Somehow to us, the idea of vilifying the people who pay taxes without much benefit (if any at all) is wrong.

While Santiago may be right on the number of parcels out of town owners have in total, how many of those parcels (an individual votes) are in any one area of a proposed area of improvement? The special assessment votes approved by the voters last Tuesday apply to individual areas. They do not apply city wide. To put in another way, assume there are proposals for approval road / storm water / infrastructure improvements. We’ll call them area “A” and area “B.” Those projects and special assessments are voted upon by the property owners in each individual area. That means if someone has a total of 3000 plots in the both areas, they don’t get 3000 votes in special assessment votes in Area “A” and another 3000 votes in Area “B.” They get the corresponding number of votes of the properties in the area. Nothing more.

Each and every time someone says “so and so has 3000 votes and they don’t live here,” the question they should be “how many votes in a specific area that is voting on special assessments do they have?”

If they keep throwing out the “3000 votes” in Palm Bay, that is simply a distortion of the issue.

Instead of drawing the taxpayers together for support of a project that will increase the value of everyone’s property, Santiago thinks it is best to denigrate some property owners. He can do that because they can’t vote for him or someone else, but Santiago’s statement shows a disdain for taxpayers in general. He sees them as a piggy bank rather than people.

So I don’t think that this is the best thing for our City. It is the process. It is what it is. I don’t think that less than 10% coming out to vote to decide for the over 90% is best for our City. But it is what it is. I respect it and we have to move forward.

The City will move forward. We’re going to continue to fix our roads. We’re going to continue to fix our storm water.

We’ve covered the fallacy of some of the points stated here. Unlike Santiago, we won’t continue to beat a dead horse in his hope that the more lies he tells, the more people will believe him.

I will also say that also, because it is my understanding ….is the assessments … [City Manager] Lisa [Morrell] for the storm water going to continue or will it eventually go onto the utility bill….

CITY MANAGER LISA MORRELL: Yes sir, those will cease this year so next year we will have to go back to the billing.

SANTIAGO: And so we will go back to the billing. That will go onto the utility billing, right?…

CITY MANAGER LISA MORRELL: We are looking at all the options.

SANTIAGO: As I remember that is the way it was before. It was on the utility bill. And now those who don’t have water and sewer, they now get it on a separate bill. I gotta ask the question, with over 70,000 people not voting, probably don’t know that this happened, I wonder when they get that utility bill, and they see that extra cost, and they are going to say “what is this?”
And we are going to have to say, “this is exactly what happened. This is why it happened.”

And then you are going to have those who get that separate bill, and I remember when the storm water assessment was happening, and I had talked to several people, especially some of them who live out out in the southwest / southeast area who don’t have city water / city sewer and I have been told by a good handful of them, “yeah, I used to get that bill all of the time. I just chuck it away. “

This is really an interesting argument Santiago is putting forth and it shows the weakness of his position.

First, he makes it seem that a procedure that residents were used to and were familiar with can’t be understood by those same residents.

Secondly, why are people throwing away bills from the City? Is there no repercussions for not paying a bill / tax that is owed? We wonder if when the massive, whopping “handful of people” told him they threw the bill away, did he explain the bill and explain the consequences of not paying the bill?

(As an aside, we find it interesting that Santiago’s reliance on an anecdotal “handful of people” somehow invalidates the election. For a person who complained about “less than 10% of the voters,” why does he believe that 0.000636% of the voters (5 voters out of 78,572) should somehow carry the day with his argument?)

Thirdly, Santiago seems to be making the argument that residents are so stupid that they cannot understand what is happening if the City explains it. Even if the procedure is familiar to them, the peasants can’t and won’t understand.

To us, the issue is that the City doesn’t want to explain what happened. To do so honestly would mean that the City would have to explain and expound on the lies they told residents, their lies and interference in the petition process, denigrating informed voters and the idea that they hold citizens in relative contempt.

As I said, I don’t think this is the best thing for the City, nevertheless, I am confident the City will move forward, and I’m confident that ultimately we’re going to do what we have to do.
That’s all I have to say about that.

Yes, the City will move forward. Despite the corruption that has taken place on Santiago’s and others’ watch, the City will move forward.

Despite no accountability from the dais or City Hall, the City will move forward.

Despite Santiago’s divisive rhetoric, the City will move forward.

Despite the efforts of those who seek to dismiss the results of an election, the City will move forward.

The City will move forward because the “City” is not the people sitting on the dais. It is the 110,000 plus people who go about their lives. It is those 110,000 people who want honesty and lawfulness from the City government.

Councilman Brian Anderson chimed in on this subject as well:

Congratulations to the Petition Committee. They set out to do something and they did it. At the end of the day, the Charter wasn’t there for us to follow the process so it stops here and we made sure the vote happened. People voted. Whether you like it or not it’s over. One and two passed. Three didn’t. (bold emphasis ours.)

Same lie.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Once again, the City failed to follow it’s own Charter:

(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.

When the City failed to seek out or apply other governmental agency’s standards such as the Supervisor of Elections’ requirements for the petition forms, it wasn’t a failure of the Charter. It was a failure of the City.

If Anderson or any other Councilmember has a way around that requirement other than to say, “we screwed up,” we’d like to hear it.

In addition, Councilman Anderson seems to be saying on Facebook that he congratulated the petition committee for winning referendum. We would disagree. The petition committee sought to do something that had never been done in the history of Palm Bay – get an issue on the ballot through a petition drive. The odds were against them. The City put up road blocks – arguably illegal road blocks – against them and yet they persevered.

(Let’s not forget that one Councilman conspired with another person to have that person sign the petition with a fake name and address in order to “catch” the petition gatherers in some “lie.” Such a conspiracy is illegal in the State of Florida. When that incident became public, the Council was silent. Not a word was said about it. When the Councilman said there was a recording of the interaction with the petition members in a public meeting, that recording became a public record and when the Councilman initially refused to turn over the recording saying that it did not exist (which of course was a lie,) no one from the dais said anything. Not a peep. To the other members, their silence on the conspiracy and the violation of the Sunshine Laws was tacit approval of the actions of that Councilman. If the Council won’t hold their own members and City employees to any legal, moral and ethical standards, what does that say about the corruption within the City?)

We have talked to people from the Committee who have said that after the disastrous, inflated special assessments as a result of the 2016, their goal was to get the issue in front of the people with real historical data. If Anderson is saying that was the goal and they should be congratulated for that, that’s fine. It still means he didn’t have the graciousness to acknowledge they won.

However, the passage of Referendum 2 is problematic on its own level given what happened in this case.

Referendum 2

The proposed amendment would require the City Clerk to consult with the County Supervisor of Elections regarding the petition form in advance of the signature gathering. The Charter amendment would also provide authority for the following parties to verify petitions: the Supervisor of Elections, the City Clerk, or another official designated by Council.

Assume for a moment that the City did not contact the Supervisor of Elections (as they did with this petition drive.)

That would mean that if the requirements for signature verification by the SOE were not met because of the City’s ineptness, it would be a City employee – the same people that messed up the process and did not follow the charter to begin with – to “verify” the signatures. In fact, as written, if another petition committee did the work and got the signatures, the Council could vote to not even have the Supervisor of Elections – a neutral third party – verify the signatures. This provision opens the door for more corruption and more incompetence.

We aren’t upset that the voters approved this provision, but we are angry that the City Council voted to put the item on the referendum in a way that would mean the signature verification process was not open, not done by a neutral third party, and in fact could be done by someone who has animus toward the petition or is being told to have animus toward the petition.

In short, the City Council put a measure on the ballot codifying the very corruption that occurred under them.

As we remember, both Anderson and Santiago voted for this to be on the ballot.

In a City where people are angry at corruption and lies from the government, think for a moment what it says that the Council put on the ballot and supported a Charter provision that opens the door for more corruption.

Certainly one of the glaring omissions from both men’s statements is not only the fact that the petition committee’s idea was approved by the people, but neither man had the decency to thank the voters who were informed, who were aware of the election and took the time to vote.

Santiago’s and Anderson’s comments come off as distortions of the truth, topped with sour grapes.

Palm Bay will move forward as Santiago says.

The question is that in 2020, with both Santiago and Anderson up for re-election, will the residents of Palm Bay vote to move forward without them on the dais?

Editor’s Note: A small update to the election results. Last night the City Council met in a special meeting to certify the election results.

Councilman Santiago was not in attendance.

We are not going to ascribe any motives to his absence as we don’t know the reasons for it.

But it sure is ironic.

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

  1. Thomas Gaume says:

    Ironic? After a 9 minute diatribe insulting the petition committee and the voters of Palm Bay? It’s not ironic. It’s an insult that he wouldn’t show up to cast a vote to certify the election results. Not even an attempt to call into the meeting to cast a vote in support of the Citizens initiative that he has obvious opposition to. Sour grapes, Indeed.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Thomas Gaume,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We are noting the action. We don’t know the reasons behind it. We don’t know if he had a business meeting he could not get out of, or was out of town, had a family emergency or whatever. At this point we are simply saying him not being there to vote is ironic.

      After all, this was a well published meeting and vote. The agenda (akin to a sample ballot) was published and he had it and yet he didn’t vote.

      The fact that he wasn’t there can be seen – and perhaps should be seen – as many things.

      We reason behind his absence would push the issue to merely ironic to just the petulant actions of a politician who can’t stand it when the people say “the emperors have no clothes.”

      The optics are bad, but the reason behind the absence should be heard, in our opinion.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

  2. Ron Lockwood says:

    “The problem with incompetence is its inability to recognize itself.”
    ― Orrin Woodward, LIFE
    Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.
    –Abraham Lincoln

    A great many labor to improve the democratic workings of our city. Much too often, those who sit upon the dais forget who put them there and why they are there.

    A democracy is a compromise by its nature.It’s not a dictatorship.
    –Jamie Damon

  3. Randy Foster says:

    A change is needed on Palm Bay City council, seat 2 and 3 in 2020,