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Perspective.

Last night was a busy night at the world headquarters of Raised on Hoecakes. Our post yesterday entitled “Compelled Speech Is Not Free Speech,” caught the eyes of many people in Satellite Beach, FL. One person was kind enough to post a response. Others sent us emails for which we are always thankful.

At the same time the emails and hits on the site started to go up, we were watching online a memorial service for Donna Linnea Hale that was held at Calvary Chapel of Merritt Island in Florida. The name “Donna Hale” will not mean much to those who read this blog around the world, but she meant a great deal to her friends, her family and the literally thousands of people she touched with her musical talent and voice all around the world. Calvary Chapel Merritt Island is not a small church and to say the joint was packed to the gills is an understatement. We, along with people around the world, were able to watch the service being streamed live across the internet.

Our connection with Donna and her husband was through a friend who introduced us to the Hales. We were blessed to attend a weekly Bible study at their home as well as play praise and worship music for the study until we moved and the distance was too great to travel. We also worked with Donna several times with a band as she provided great vocals.

Donna passed away suddenly a week ago and last night at Calvary Chapel was a both a celebration and a vain attempt to fill the void her passing has left in the hearts of many.

We have often thought that one of the most difficult things to do is to be a pastor presiding over a funeral or a memorial ceremony. It is difficult to offer anything that uplifts and comfort is often fleeting. Last night as we listened to multiple pastors (“multiple” because Donna had touched so many churches and congregations) the recurring theme was “what about your life?”

Donna was a person who was a peacekeeper and a mender of relationships. Whether it was her personality or her singing voice, she was a person that brought others together.

She was, in fact, almost the opposite of us.

We can’t imagine Donna Hale ever writing a blog like Raised on Hoecakes. The very nature of the subjects we cover scream “conflict” and “confrontation.” Yet sometimes we believe that extended confrontation and conflict are the wrong way to go and in fact exacerbate bad situations making them worse.

Which brings us back to the City Council of Satellite Beach, FL. One of the comments to our post yesterday made reference to emails between Vice Mayor Scott Rhodes and a citizen of Satellite Beach by the name of John Baker.

A little back story is needed. As we reported on May 31, 2012, during a City Council meeting, Vice Mayor Scott Rhodes raised a question about a picture that had been forwarded to him which showed a person not in uniform using the city’s Citizen on Patrol (COP) car to go to WalMart. As we said at the time, Rhodes had to ask the question as a citizen had forwarded the picture to him and other members of the City Council. For Rhodes not to question the policy on the use of the car would have been a dereliction of duty.

The Chief of Police answered the inquiry and said he would re-emphasize the rules of use for the car to those authorized to use it.

That should have been the end of the story, but it was not. At least one citizen got their dander up and sent emails to people – including us here at Raised on Hoecakes – attacking Rhodes for bringing the issue up.

We said at the time that the actions of Rhodes in bringing up the incident was correct and the actions of the citizen were off base.

Which brings us to the emails referenced by the commenter in the post “Compelled Speech Not Free Speech.” Several people were kind enough to send us the emails as apparently they have been “making the rounds” to various citizens.

The first email is from John Baker to Vice Mayor Rhodes:

Dear Councilman Rhodes:

At 4:34 this evening (7 June 2012) I observed a Satellite Beach police vehicle parked at the 7-Eleven on South Patrick Drive in Indian Harbor Beach. Obviously, this vehicle was beyond the boundaries of Satellite Beach.

Unfortunately I did not have a camera to document the incident and cannot provide photographic proof, however Mrs. Baker was verbally advised of the infraction in the event you should desire further verification.

Since the you and the majority of the Council are vitally concerned with the city budget, I am sure you will want to investigate this obvious waste of taxpayer money and add it to your repitore [sic] of infractions by city employees.

Perhaps you can even determine the identity of the officer who drove the car. I am sure he will be glad to offer a public apology.

The term “snarky” best describes this email.

For example, the writer attempts to say that a police car has no business outside of the boundaries of the city. There are but two conclusions here. Either the writer is woefully ignorant of laws that allow police in one jurisdiction to enter another if the incident originated or passed through the officer’s jurisdiction or the person is trying to make the comparison that an officer doing their job is the same thing as the appearance of a person using a city vehicle in a manner that may be contrary to the rules which govern the use of the vehicle. It doesn’t matter which choice is true – and perhaps they both are true – but what is true is the writer’s complaint is groundless and appears to be “I can find vehicles outside of the city too.” There is a “he did it too!” childishness to this.

The comment about the camera is a direct shot at the picture Rhodes and other Council members were sent. After all, second hand information is better than a picture, right? (In case you missed it, that was sarcasm.)

The writer appears to believe that City Council members do not have the responsibility to answer to citizen’s complaints about what appears to be a misuse of city vehicles. Apparently the writer believes that good faith questions are the same as baseless accusations he is putting forth here.

The entire email is childish and petty.

The correct response from Rhodes should have been something along the lines of “thank you for your email.”

That should have been the end of it but alas, it was not.

Vice Mayor Rhodes fired back an email that is, well, “interesting,” to say the least.

Mr. Baker,

Your sarcasm is not appreciated.

Your venom toward me and follow elected Council members is duly noted.

You need to get a life, you jack-ass.

I am in no mood to deal with your crap. I know that this is your attempt to get a dig on me about the statement I made at a recent Council meeting about the C.O.P. car pictured at Walmart, and I stand behind my statement. C.O.P. cars have no business going outside of the Satellite Beach City limits to run “errands” for the Poilce [sic] Department, period!

I blame the City Manager and the Police Chief for not setting and enforcing the proper policy on this item.

It is crystal clear that Satellite Beach Police officers and Indian Harbour Beach officers share reciprocating calls and often cross City boundaries on a regular basis to do their job.

And, we are all aware that your son is a Police Officer for the Indiatlantic Police Department.

It is sad to me that you and your wife chose to spend your time spreading your hate toward me and the other Council members who are trying fulfill the oath that
we took when we were elected.

Holy crap.

This letter epitomizes “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Rhodes’ response is over the top, unprofessional and flat out wrong. It is inappropriate for a member of the City Council to call a citizen a “jack ass” in writing regardless of whether the adjective is correct or not.

At the City Council meeting, Rhodes was informed by the Chief of Police and the City Manager that the COP vehicle was sometimes used for picking up items needed by various city departments. When city departments need something locally, the options for obtaining those miscellaneous items are limited. In fact, there are but three choices. The first is to demand a city employee on the clock use their private vehicle to get the item. In that the city would have to reimburse the employee for mileage, the added costs of the mileage, paperwork and the accounting needed to complete that transaction are not cost efficient. The second is to let a city employee take a city vehicle out of the city to get the items. The final option is to allow volunteers to drive the COP car. The costs for the usage of the city vehicles is going to be equal no matter who is driving it. The issue is therefore whether it is cheaper to pay an employee to make the trip, or allow a volunteer who, by definition, is not being paid, to make the trip.

Allowing the volunteers to make the trip saves money. The only issue is whether the trips and the volunteers are within the guidelines set by the city.

Frankly, we think Rhodes’ insistence the COP car stay within the city limits is short sighted and adds costs – minimal as they may be – to the already strained city budget.

There is something else that should be noted as well. The “tone” of the letter is one that is angry and full of frustration. It is the tone of a person that has reached a breaking point.

Months ago we were asked to call Councilman Rhodes to discuss a matter. His wife answered the phone and asked for our name and the reason we were calling. We were somewhat surprised as we had been asked by Rhodes to make the call and thought he would have told his wife.

She explained the Rhodes’ household had been the subject of prank phone calls, harassing phone calls and other assorted “tricks” via the phone.

Frankly, we are somewhat ashamed and embarrassed for the people who caused that level of stress in someone’s life. No disagreement should escalate to the point where people in a small town cannot answer their phone.

What people on both sides of this issue either don’t understand or don’t care is that there are more people in the city that simply want to live in peace. They are tired of the fighting. They are tired of the attacks. They are tired of the barrages being fired by people in the city against fellow citizens.

Why?

Because innocent people are getting caught in the crossfire. It is as if people are deliberately trying to make the politics of the city so vile and contaminated that no one within the city can walk away unstained. It has gotten to the point where people cannot comment on the city, city politics or the City Council without being asked “who are you backing?” That is despicable as it assumes that people have to “back” or support one faction of this mess or the other.

Which brings us back to Donna Hale. As we said, last night thousands of people around the world got together to honor and remember this remarkable woman. They came to a church – a church similar to churches citizens of Satellite Beach attend each and every Sunday. The same citizens that sing hymns, shake the hands of pastors and fellow church goers, and then listen to stories of God’s love will walk away from the service thinking of their next plot to cause others in the city harm. They will walk to their cars planning their next act of retribution.

And for what?

Donna Hale stood up for what was right and tried to make the lives of people around her better. Her approach was different than ours as we are more likely to draw a line in the sand than she was. Maybe she was right and we are wrong. Maybe she was wrong and our lines in the sand are a better method. Maybe both outlooks on life are correct.

No matter what, we believe some people of the City of Satellite Beach need to have a little perspective. Donna Hale affected thousands through her kindness. There are people in the city who are hurting financially. There are people that are struggling with physical ailments.

And yet there are citizens who are upset and willing to go to the mat over the use of a car – a stupid, stinking car.

Where are the priorities of those people? Are we so consumed by hatred we cannot see how it is destroying a city in which most people love to live?

Satellite Beach and its citizens need to gain some perspective on what is truly important in life, and what is fleeting and not worthy of causing others harm.

Until the citizens figure that out, they are no different than second graders on a school yard.

And maybe even worse.



5 Responses to “Perspective.”

  1. Ryan Walters says:

    Well said, sir. Though we disagree on religious and political ideology, I am encouraged and thankful for your pleas appealing to compromise and sanity. It has become quite clear, that the devisivness has gotten out of control on both ends of this fray. This is not what my wife and I moved to this sleepy little town for. And while it seems naive and rediculous for the recently elected council members to enter the political sphere and not expect vitriole, hate and mud-slinging to take place, it does not mean that we should condone it. As we cannot control what each person says or feels (nor should we). Perhaps Councilman Billman would be wise in his understanding of this issue- as any city politician’s effort to control divisiveness through this act would serve only to exacerbate the problem.

    This leads me to one of the more alarming and dominate opinions ( on both sides of the fight) and what you have brought up many times in past pieces. That of the suppression of free speech. This issue is most disconcerting as the council members ( regardless of political ideology) seem to be in agreement on this. They forget themselves, in light of the overriding fact that, they serve at our pleasure- not the other way around!

    • AAfterwit says:

      Ryan Walters,

      Thank you for your comment.

      While I agree with your statement the members of the City Council serve at the pleasure of the citizens, we as citizens have a certain responsibility to treat the office in which the elected people serve with a certain level of decorum and respect.

      I am of the opinion that what is happening is somewhat cyclical. The attacks on Council members have gone from legitimate criticisms on the decisions and beliefs of the Council members, to trying to make the lives of the Council members miserable. There is no excuse for prank phone calls, harassing phone calls, and other pranks that affect the family of the Council members. In response, the Council members push back, confusing legitimate criticism with unacceptable actions against them. They look to restrict people and their freedoms, so people get more angry and start more pranks, which leads to more push back from the Council and it goes round and round – never stopping.

      It is time we stop this nonsense. It is time those who are causing the families of Council members heartaches to stop. At the same time, the Council members need to recognize that not all criticism is intended to hurt families.

      The Council has a duty and obligation to respect the rights of the citizens. At the same time, we have the duty to use those rights in a responsible manner.

      Thanks again.

      Hope you enjoy the blog, even though you disagree with us. 🙂

  2. Ryan Walters says:

    I very much enjoy your blog (though we ideologically disagree on some things) and will continue to check in with it.

    I completely agree with everything you said regarding the cyclical nature of small town politics. The pranks and childishness needs to stop- there is no argument there. It is quite sad that adults can and are willing to sink to such depths.

    Additionally, let me say, that it is quite refreshing to read a conservative- minded individual who looks to justify stances based on law and constitutionality, instead of the “because I don’t like it” argument.

    Regards,
    Ryan Walters

  3. Guy Fawkes says:

    To all of those whom it may concern…

    Although I choose to use a “nom de plume” out of fear of retribution against family and friends, I feel the need to weigh in on this matter. I agree that the actions of both sides have degraded to the point of immaturity, however, the reaction of Vice Mayor Rhodes has crossed a new line. His actions reek of disgust and disdain for any dissent, the freedom of opposing or unpopular speech, as well as the citizens of Satellite Beach.

    For an elected official to call a constituent a “Jack Ass”, and tell them they are in “no mood to deal with your crap” and top it off with “get a life” is inexcusable, for that same elected official to have the lapse in judgement to put in in print and forward it to all of the other council members, is cause for his resignation or a re-call. It is obvious that the pressures of the job are overwhelming and affecting his ability to perform his duties without resorting to personal attacks. Our elected officials have always been held to a higher standard of decorum in public. At the very least the vice mayor owes all of the citizens of Satellite Beach a public apology.

    I grew up in Satellite Beach, moving there at age 8 in 1969. I was schooled at Holland Elementary, DeLaura Junior High, and graduated from Satellite High School. I dare say that few, if any of the members of the council can claim that deep an emotional attachment to the city. Knowing the history of our little town and having met and known a number of the founding families, I believe deeply that if the founder and longtime mayor, Mr. Percy Hedgecock, was aware of what was going on in his city, he’d be spinning in his grave.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Guy Fawkes,

      Welcome to the blog.

      We wrote and believe that Rhodes was out of line when he called Baker a “jack-ass” in the email exchange.

      He does owe an apology for his outburst.

      With that being said, this seems to be a case to which we here at Raised on Hoecakes can relate. It reminds of so much of officiating sporting contests. Often we would listen to coaches and managers snipe, whine and complain over stupid things. Far too often the complaints were based on their ignorance of the rules. Sports officials try to give coaches as much of a voice as they can as they do not want to penalize the team for having whiny, immature, ignorant people as coaches.

      Sooner or later, even the best official reaches a breaking point and after what may be an innocent comment taken separately by itself, the official will snap. The official will throw the coach out or assess a penalty while the coach will say “what? What did I do?” Even worse, the official will do so in a less than professional manner. While the coach plays the innocent, the official is criticized for acting in an unprofessional manner. Far too many times in our career we would have to talk to such an official after a “bad ejection.” It is not pretty and not fun. Heck, we are even guilty of such an ejection.

      You simply reach a breaking point.

      Given the email and the response, it seems to us Rhodes and Baker have a history. We aren’t condoning Rhodes’ response and continue to believe it is wrong – both professionally and on his proposal for use of the COP car. He does owe someone an apology or at least a mea culpea.

      But we also believe this may be a case of “the whiney coach” and would like to see or hear more about the previous exchanges between Rhodes and Baker. Baker’s email is childish, condescending and snarky.

      While Rhodes should be held accountable for his actions, to some extent Baker should be held accountable as well. While neither man broke any laws, they both appear to have acted like children.

      Lastly, your comment that used a nom de plume “out of fear of retribution against family and friends,” is troubling on so many levels. You are not alone in your concerns and to think such fear could happen in small town of good people like Satellite Beach is something every citizen should be concerned about, as well as address.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. […] our first post on this issue to our latest screed, we have been consistent and unwavering in stating you had a duty as a City Councilman to raise the […]

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