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Commissioner Smith’s Proposed “Civility Ordinance.”

Commissioner Curt Smith (left) and Brevard County Attorney Scott Knox (right.)

Yesterday we wrote that Brevard County Commissioner Curt Smith was looking to introduce a “Civility Ordinance” that would mandate the behavior of Commissioners, the staff, people in the audience and those who speak in front of the Commission during Commission meetings. Smith said that he had been working with County Attorney Scott Knox on the preparation of this ordinance since June.

During the November 21st meeting, Smith said that he would present the ordinance for a vote on December 5th, and handed each Commissioner a draft copy of the ordinance.

We decided that it might be a good idea to get a copy of that draft and so we made a request for the draft. That request was handled quickly and efficiently by Commissioner Smith’s staff and the County Staff. Our request was filled in less than a day, and that is more than we could hope for. We want to publicly thank those involved in the response to the request.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We were sent the ordinance draft in a .docx (Microsoft Word) format. The software we use for this blog requires a third party plugin to embed .docx files. We don’t want to add another plugin to the site, so we converted the Word document to an Adobe .pdf file which is seen below. In converting the file, Adobe removed a watermark from the original .docx file. That watermark reads “DRAFT 6/20/17.” We don’t want it said that we are hiding anything or making changes to the wording of the ordinance draft. If you wish to download and see the original .docx file we were sent, you can get it here. Otherwise, feel free to read the document below.)

That being said, the ordinance itself is a nightmare and an assault on the rights of citizens.
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Smith VS. Tobia. Round Three. Ding!

This is starting to be a recurring theme. Once again Brevard County Commissioners Smith and Tobia went at it over what essentially can be called “speech” and a “disagreement on statements” that were made. In our opinion, this is one of those cases where neither man is right. Even though the positions taken by Smith and Tobia are 180 degrees apart from each other, their actions are very similar and wrong on many levels.

Oddly, this round goes back to Representative Randy Fine’s proposal and introduction of a bill that would allow money from the Tourism Tax to be used to help clean up the lagoon.

Smith attacked Fine with Smith saying Fine “is shortsighted and long-winded. He doesn’t know what he is talking about.”

Jim Ridenour, chairman of the advisory Brevard County Tourist Development Council, labeled Fine’s bill as being “criminal.” We aren’t sure how a proposed bill can be “criminal,” but we suspect that Ridenour was upset for any number of reasons, including the idea that Fine’s Bill would take money away from a Committee that Ridenour chairs.

We think Ridenour’s comments were over the top, but he has the right to make them.

Ridenour later apologized for the comments, and that’s a decent thing to do. There’s a difference between disagreeing with the proposal and labeling it as “criminal.” Ridenour later came to that conclusion and did the morally correct thing in saying he still disagreed with Fine’s proposed bill, but the characterization that the bill was “criminal” was not right nor accurate.

However, Commissioner Tobia wasn’t pleased with Ridenour’s comments and even after Ridenour’s apology, sought to “censure” Ridenour through a resolution.
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And They Wonder Why There Is Dissent….

One of our ninjas sent us this story of a local couple who own some apartment properties in Brevard County.

The couple is well respected and have taken beaten down apartment buildings and turned them into places where people want to live. According to our ninja, the couple is untra-fast to respond to issues that may happen in rental units. They have put up security cameras, outside lighting, repaired parking lots, etc. The buildings are always painted and the grounds in great shape.

In short, they are the ideal landlords the type of landlords that people want to deal with.

In fact, when the economic downturn hit and people were hurting for income, they lowered their rental rates for existing renters.

In addition, as local owners, they are people the Brevard County government should respect and support.

This year the couple got hit with an increase in fees as well as an increase in property taxes because, well, because governmental bodies can raise taxes and fees and say “we need the money.” (As if you don’t need the money as well.)

The increase in taxes and fees was over 10% – the same amount that it jumped last year.

When the couple took their check to the County Tax Office, they commented on the rate increase and how they were going to have to raise their rental rates which would force out good tenants who don’t have the luxury of telling their employer to pay them more under the threat of law.

“Well,” the government person sitting there said, “you can always sell the properties to a corporation and not have to worry about it.”

Wow.

Just wow.
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Smith VS. Tobia. Round Two. Ding!

As if the fight between Commissioner Curt Smith and Commissioner John Tobia couldn’t get more interesting and in a sense, more foolish, the two went at it again over expenditures of CRA funding which Tobia feels are at the most illegal, and at the least inappropriate.

Tobia questioned the use of CRA money by the Downtown Melbourne CRA and Olde Eau Gallie CRA, alleging the CRAs “improperly used” about $684,500 of city and county money for festival expenses.

Tobia said he had opinions from the Florida Attorney General’s Office and Brevard County Attorney Scott Knox to back him up. And he wanted the County Commission to authorize “performance audits” of the two CRAs, partly to see if any other money was spent improperly.

“If this is what my office was able to find, I would like to see if anything else is out there,” Tobia said. “I’m sure Downtown Melbourne, as well as Olde Eau Gallie, has nothing to hide.”

Smith responded with:

But Smith said he was “kind of torn with this. I don’t know enough facts to feel comfortable voting for it. I reserve the right to investigate it further. And, if I change my mind, and say that there is something here that needs to be investigated, I’d be happy to bring it up again. But, right now, I’m not in favor of it.”

Tobia’s response was two fold – one of which was dead on and the second a bit of hyperbole. The first response was that the item was on the agenda for two weeks. In essences, Tobia was asking “what is the delay? How much time do you and your office need to investigate. Isn’t two weeks enough?”

We think that is a fair question.
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Paging Commissioner Isnardi. Paging Commissioner Isnardi…..

After we finished our post last week on Brevard County Commissioner Kristine Isnardi and her attack on the content of speech, we decided to write her personally.

We sent her an email expressing our concerns. As always, we not only expressed concerns but offered that if she and other Commissioners wanted to stop all comments that were made at inappropriate times during a meeting, we would be supportive of her actions. What we would not support is her desire to hold people “accountable” for things that were said of which she disapproves.

We got an automated response from her office:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me by email. Each day I review my emails and I use this automated response to verify and acknowledge receipt of your correspondence.

My staff and/or I will respond to each and every email as it pertains to my District or specific questions directed towards me. In order to better serve you and your concerns, it is important to include your name, complete address and phone number.

Should you require additional information or assistance, feel free to call my office and a staff member will promptly discuss your concerns with you.

My office address is
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Blind Squirrel Commissioner John Tobia Finds Nuts – Lots Of ‘Em.

A FloridaToday column written by “Governmental Editor Dave Berman” describes a part of the October 10, 2017 Brevard Board of Commissioners meeting this way:

Political Spin column: Questioning by County Commissioner Tobia like ‘Perry Mason’ show

Brevard County Commissioner John Tobia isn’t an attorney.

He just plays one on the County Commission.

At least that was the impression of some people who attended at the commission’s meeting Tuesday night, when the discussion came to

designating $14.4 million from the county’s 5 percent Tourist Development Tax for five tourism-focused capital projects within the county. The tax is charged to those who rent hotel rooms or other short-term rentals.

Within a span of 20 minutes, Tobia let loose with 34 questions directed at three county department heads about the projects, the application process, the tourism economic impacts of the projects and other potential funding sources. In many cases, Tobia launched into a new question before the county officials finished answering the previous question.

At issue was agenda item VI (B)(1) described as “Approval, Re: Tourism Community Development Plan Capital Projects.” The supporting agenda packet for this meeting can be found here, and the information on this particular agenda item begins on page 1123.

In short, the County is looking to spend almost $14.4 million dollars on five areas around the county using Tourism Development Tax Dollars. Those projects are:

Oars & Paddles Park & Pier ($199,495)
Palm Bay Nature Center & Campground ($1,700,000)
Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage Museum ($500,000)
Viera Regiona l Sports Complex ($5,000,000)
Titusville Multi-Use Sports Arena ($7,000,000)

With the background set, we now want to turn to what exactly happened that October 10th night.

You can watch this part of the meeting yourself starting at roughly 3:10:00 of the video available on the Brevard County site.

Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Eric Garvey starts off the item reading the agenda packet description. That is followed by members of the public speaking in favor of the tax dollars being spent.

At approximately 3:55:00 Commissioner Pritchett makes a glowing comment on the spending (after all, $7,000,000 is going back into her district) and then makes a motion to approve the plan. That motion is seconded by Commissioner Barfield.

The fun and games with Commissioner Tobia 3:55:40.
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Brevard County Commissioner Kristine Isnardi And That Pesky First Amendment.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We tried not to use terms that most people consider curse words in this post. We just couldn’t figure out a way to get that done without losing the flavor of the story. We apologize for the language.)

Brevard County Commissioner Kristine Isnardi became upset during a Commission meeting because she heard what she felt was “highly offensive” speech in the form of curse words from the audience. To set the stage, according to the Florida Today:

Much of the audience was [at the October 5 County Commission Meeting] to express opposition to a proposed zoning change to allow development of a new 40-home subdivision on a 26.11-acre parcel north of Smith Road and east of North Courtenay Parkway on north Merritt Island.

Nineteen people spoke in opposition to the project during the nearly two-hour hearing on the proposal. They were worried about the project’s potential for adding to the flooding, drainage and traffic issues in the area, among other concerns.

Only developer Noel Droor spoke in favor of the plan.

The county also received 48 letters objecting to the zoning change, as well as a petition containing 490 signatures in opposition. It received three letters of support for the project.

After hearing from the speakers, commissioners started their debate. From the commissioners’ comments, members of the crowd began to realize that a majority of commissioners would be voting in favor of the zoning change — overriding the recommendations of two county advisory boards to deny the request.

The assembled crowd then started to mutter and make comments about the Commission and Commissioners. Isnardi claims that she heard the term “bitches” being used.
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Get Outta Here New Tax! Just SCAT!

scat-brevard-commission-roh

Sara Ann Conkling is a passionate person concerning public transportation, specifically expanding the Space Coast Area Transit System (SCAT.)

This past Tuesday, Conkling appeared before the Brevard County Commission to ask that they vote to move forward with a proposal to increase the gas tax by 1 cent which would go to expanding SCAT.

Commissioner Andy Anderson reminded the Commission and made sure the assembled people in the audience knew that no matter what the Commission did that day – discuss the issue or whatever – the Commission was not going to vote on a tax increase as legal requirements such as legal notices, resolutions and a referendum could not be met that day. No matter what, there was not going to be a new sales tax within Brevard as a result of that meeting.

Conkling’s idea is this:

The penny-a-gallon tax would generate about $2.5 million a year for SCAT. Conkling said that would allow for the transit service to:

• Offer weekday service every half-hour on most of its routes.

• Offer more Sunday service on eight routes.

• Add a new route in the Port St. John/south Titusville area, which Conkling calls a ”transit desert” because of its lack of bus service.

• Significantly increase paratransit services for people who are elderly or disabled, and cannot use SCAT’s fixed-route service.

As for the numbers:

Conkling said the plan would cost $3.42 million a year, with about $2.5 million coming from the gas tax, $500,000 from new grants and $250,000 from increased fare revenue.

Conkling told the commissioners that she waited to bring the proposal forward until after the election as she felt an additional tax referendum on the ballot would be rejected as voters were already voting on the Indian River Lagoon tax this past election.

She may very well be right. There are always going to be people with knee-jerk reactions to any tax increase. At the same time, there is something disingenuous about bringing a tax proposal and implying that the voters will reject supporting a worthwhile idea.

Conkling also invoked Jesus Christ, saying:
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