Buckle up, Folks!

…it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

That’s a given. The thrill of soaring off into the unknown will likely be marred by a few high’s and lows, dips, jarring left turns and the desire to throw your hands into the air and/or scream at the top of your lungs. Well…town politics, if not like a roller coaster ride, is definitely like being in a moving vehicle of some kind traveling down the road with our vision impaired. Maybe a bit like both. For our own safety we need to consider who’s behind the wheel or manning the controls. It will have a definite impact on whether we enjoy the journey and arrive safely to our destination or end up in a “crash and burn” right on the very street where we live.

The overwhelming positive of the last night’s meetings, in my opinion, was that a dreary and foreboding fog had begun to lift from town proceedings. It cleared just enough that those in the room were able to actually get a glimpse of the beautiful Lake Park landscape ahead. Visibility is paramount to making it safely to our destination. As the sun comes out further and burns off the fog, we may be amazed at the sights that will unfold before us. I’m looking forward to what’s out there, but let’s proceed slowly and with caution until we can clearly make out the hazards that might be lying in the still murky path ahead.

Residents are Engaged

The residents who stepped up to the mic and spoke last night have really “done our town proud”. Talk about clearing the fog. They spoke with clarity, common sense and with insight that those in town leadership can look to for direction. They got to the point quickly and spoke succinctly. Since the residents are meant to direct the commission, I hope the commissioners will truly take to heart these individuals’ comments. They represent not only their personal views, but also those of many in our community. Special mention goes to the young lady who decided to get informed and get involved and came and presented her concerns about the votes needed for electing an interim town manager. Bravo! We hope to see and hear from you again!

I had hoped to say very little about last night’s meeting today, but as usual, that isn’t gonna happen. Understatement. Some points of note or surprise or which should make us sit bolt upright, grab our pens and write to or call our commissioners are as follows: (And as always, please feel free to point out your own thoughts about those decisions in the comments.)

  • It looks like a new alliance has formed between a Park Avenue property owner, a foreign investor and self-appointed grant writer. Not sure what to think about all of that. We’ll have to keep our eye on the proceedings.
  • The bathroom remodel was discussed again and despite commissioner Hockman’s attempt to get the commission to reconsider this plan (especially in light of the cost and how rarely the building is used) the grant money dangling there in front of them proved to be a lure to great to resist for 3 of the commissioners. Mr. Hockman presented thoughtful consideration of this matter, along with research, but the gang of 3 wanted to “move forward”. This occurred despite the fact that, as Mr Hockman pointed out, on top of the “free money”, another $12,000.00 (or $9,000.00 depending on how you spin it), would be needed to complete this project. They voted to proceed. Common sense was dealt yet another blow in Lake Park.
  • Meanwhile, the library requested funds to update its patron database. (It wanted the commission to accept an interest free loan from Delray to do so, I believe. Commissioner Longtin spoke to this point and decried the embarrassment to our town of accepting a loan for the database update.) They also requested and received another chunk of change in the $3K range to fund e-readers. I don’t know. I do not see the dire need for e-readers at a time when every other sentence spoken on the commission is in reference to austerity or not having funds for anything and yet they constantly ask whether or not there is sufficient cash for things in the contingency fund. Is everything a contingency? Call me old fashioned, but of all things, in a time of financial distress such as our town seems to be facing, and with the money we now need to pay off Maria Davis, and the money we are tossing over to the bathroom remodeling, and the money we will spend hiring a new interim Town Manager, and eventually a permanent Town Manager, and believe me, the list goes on and on… why in the world would we even consider $3,000 for e-readers right now? The E-reader system will go into effect for Palm Beach County Libraries as well, won’t it? If so, you can just as easily upload from home off of that system for free, can’t you? Even if that’s not an option yet, there will be numerous future opportunities to jump on the e-reader bandwagon, I’m sure. This expenditure appeared entirely unnecessary and just made no sense to me. Did I miss something?
  • Mr. Stevens once again advocated having the town meetings put on the web. This is one of his decisions which I agree with. This is proposed to cost around $1,800 a year for one of the scenarios suggested. Mr. Stevens has agreed to look into other options/costs and bring those back to the commission. This would be much appreciated because discussions during commission meetings go nowhere without research into the particulars of the options available. Someone has to do the work. It was refreshing to see Mr. Stevens offer to step up and lead on this. Good work! This service (having meetings available on the web) will be extremely valuable as we will be able to watch them on demand later to check what was said or done, or to catch up in the event we cannot attend a meeting.
  • Ms. Longtin, however, was right about the meeting minutes. Having videos of the meetings online, while a great idea, does not preclude having detailed and accurate meeting minutes. The written word is the archive of choice for lasting records of town proceedings. We must preserve the details of our town history and leave nothing to chance. I have gone back to previous minutes on many, many occasions to refer to something that was said, only to find the necessary detail was missing. This strips us of backup for the truth when an issue comes up in the future. The truth of the matter is housed in detailed minutes. The only ones who benefit from vague minutes are those who would rather not be held to account. The likelihood of losing data or having it in some way altered online is a real concern. The written word has been known to survive thousands of years. Always keep a hard copy. Please tell me the town keeps actual hard copies.
  • The discussion of the Interim Town Manager was the perhaps the most telling part of last night’s commission meeting. The overwhelming sense of the state of our town, I’m sorry to say, was made evident during that discussion. This isn’t mere criticism, it is an alarm being sounded. We must do something about this! The fact that our town charter or code has no contingency plan in place for such an event as has occurred with the resignation of the Town Manager, is truly disturbing despite the many positives of the evening. This needs to be addressed and corrected asap! The floundering manner in which the commission tried to figure out what to do next in order to get an interim person to handle day-to-day operations while they search for a true Interim Town Manager was disconcerting. There will be another meeting Monday night at 7:30 to address criteria for selecting an interim manager and for writing that contract, etc. Residents could perhaps come with some comments or suggestions of their own. The foundation of our town appeared very weak during this exchange, and anyone watching this play out would see that our town is ripe for picking clean during times of crisis. This must be corrected immediately!
  • The thought-provoking idea was broached during public comments by a concerned resident named Diane, who asked the commission to consider changing our form of town government to a strong mayor form. The Town Manager form of government we have had for years has proven to be problematic. I hope the commission will consider this and discuss the possibility of this change, as well as the process that would be required if we wanted to do so. This should be brought up at the next town meeting. These ideas that are brought forth by the residents need to begin to show up on meeting agendas for discussion instead of being relegated to the dark musty corners where they are ignored and often forgotten. That has been a huge waste. The residents are the ones for whom these meetings are held. The commission and the town staff need to remember this. You serve at our pleasure and for our benefit, not your own.

Finally, I would like to address Commissioner. Steven’s comments about the blog. I am happy to hear he has been reading, but to disparage the content, which comes from resident concerns and at a great expense of time and energy, merely because there are those who may take liberties with their frustrations in the comments or because he and others may be rightly called out on their votes or the direction they are taking our town from time to time is disappointing. He is a publicly elected official with the power of his office behind him. As a blogger, I have no power to make town decisions. The commissioner does. It is actually our responsibility as citizens to stand guard and speak out when we believe there is reason to do so about the direction those elected officials are taking the people of our town.

The commission is, as Mr. Lloyd so eloquently put it, also afforded the luxury of droning on and on for hours at a time twice a month and at CRA meetings and P&Z meetings, etc. with no opportunity for residents to join the conversation after it has begun. Commissioners’s views are heard regularly, their votes are recorded, and residents must sit on their hands and zip their lips as they do so, despite what is said or done and despite the residents’ feelings about those statements or votes.

This blog was begun in an attempt to engage residents, to get information out there, to bring people together who might never do so otherwise in order to make a better Lake Park in which to live. People are tired of biting their nails wondering how to make a difference. The blog is an opportunity to invite Lake Park residents’ involvement and insight. I strive to question when I am uncertain, present views as opinions when they are such, and ask for readers to look into things themselves. I am no authority. I am merely providing a way for residents to have their voices heard so that the commission knows what those who live in the town are thinking and envisioning, because frankly, I don’t believe most people were all that inspired by the goals, of say, our previous town manager and her overriding vision for our town.

Backseat Drivers

As was mentioned by someone on the CRA Board last night…I believe it was Mr. Rumsey… it is time for the citizens to be given an opportunity to come to the table with ideas about what THEY want their town to become. Here, here! I couldn’t agree more. So here we are, and we the people of Lake Park look forward to the opportunity to actually have a say as to where we are headed prior to the commission or CRA Board taking off to parts unknown. It is maddening to sit quietly in the backseat without further recourse or involvement, despite the hazards we may see on the road ahead. One can only hope that this is what commissioners and board members are looking for…input and direction from their bosses, the residents and business owners. Call us a nuisance if you will, but many a crash has been prevented by the attentive watch of a passenger, and many of us are fully licensed backseat drivers (Yeah, it says it expired in ’68, but we all know it never really does.). We can’t all be at the wheel at once, but we are all on this drive together. Please commissioners, consider those who are in the vehicle with you.

After last night’s “interim to the interim” town manager discussion, it is clear that the commission needs some direction. We will not stand silently and watch our employees take our hometown at best in the wrong direction and at the worst, into oncoming traffic. We will continue to get together, voice our concerns and try to make changes where changes appear to be needed. We will call out those in our town leadership (who were elected to serve us and our desires) when we see the need arise.

Your comments are welcome here

As always, if you feel when reading the blog that I have stated facts in error, please let me know in the comment section or by email at commonsenselp@yahoo.com. There is no desire here to mislead, merely to present my view and offer others in our community the opportunity to do the same. When commenting, it should be reiterated that your first comment will need to await moderation. After one has been accepted all comments go through automatically after that. I do, however, reserve the right to remove those that I deem vulgar, profane or whatnot. Name calling is in no way appreciated or desired. We’d certainly rather have, and we encourage, thoughtful comments. Some people, unfortunately, let their emotion or frustration get the best of them, and they may choose to voice their opinions in a manner which others deem to be offensive. I cannot prevent people from being offended. I am willing to be corrected or challenged. Like I said, this blog is, as is much of life, an opinion piece. I invite you to share yours with us as well. We certainly won’t agree on everything, but we can at least have our individual voices heard.

We hope you’ll join us for the journey. Yes, the fog is clearing. If nothing else, it will certainly be an interesting ride.

PS: If you made it this far, you deserve an award. Tomorrow’s post will be shorter. I promise.