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Are we still classy?

PETER O’CONNOR
Staff Columnist
oconnor@lbknews.com

What do you think?

A month ago I presented a piece in these pages in which I wrote, not in a complimentary way on the performance of our Town Commission over one issue.  In addition to that rather short critique, I opined that I still thought that this was a class place.  I guess I suggested that I thought of myself as a class guy.  Maybe you agreed.  At this juncture it may not matter, even though I hope you do.  What I’m starting today I’m doing without references, without notes, and most importantly without reliance on the thoughts of others.  OK?

Our Town is engaged in a somewhat rambling debate, cum discussion on the placing of all electric distribution underground.  Some, if not most of this utility is buried now, much is aerial (in the air) on reinforced concrete poles, shared with telephone and cable TV cables.

The Town is sponsoring this effort which it calls by a new participle –

Undergrounding.  I don’t care for the new term, but no matter.  To pay for this improvement the Town, as all Municipalities do, proposes to borrow money, issue bonds, and pay for the expenditure through taxation.  The specific method of assessment and taxation seems in doubt, but again no matter.

Like all debt service (the technicrats term for the taxation to pay off the debt) some residents (property owners) win and some loose. The creation of winners and losers is what  governments do!  That’s my opinion.  To impose the taxation to pay, issue and pay off the bonds requires permission of the people.  Ah, a novel concept?  This takes the form of a referendum.  The Town Commission decided to hold two referenda, one to “underground” Gulf of Mexico Drive, the other to do the same to the “neighborhoods”, areas with current above ground electric utilities.  OK, so far?  The first vote was held Townwide and passed.  The second is pending (maybe).  We are talking here about a sum over $20M, collected and spent over the next two or three years and paid for over he next thirty.  The Commission is doing the work, so far, with the help of consultants, staff, counsel, bond counsel…

There is in this Town a group of active citizens who take a significant interest in this and other projects.  The interest of these folks is generally useful and helpful – if for no other reason than to keep the staff and Commission focused. It did in this instance.  As these persons/groups are like to do they sometimes conflict with the “Government”.  They appeal to the populace using many means.  They are often at odds with the established government-in this case the Town Commission.  Our President Obama was in his younger days a Community Activist.  We have Activists here, one in particular.

This one Activist tried, in my opinion to keep the Commission’s feet to the fire – in order to produce a more equitable AND better project.  The

Commission did not see it this way, and obviously did not follow his every suggestion.  Because there is an election, the referenda, involved the Activist appealed what he thought to be certain irregularities to the Florida Elections Commission.  That body rejected one complaint; the jury is still out on another. The Town Commission did not like this.

The Commission engaged Special Council to respond to this citizen complaint.  I suppose that so far we are looking at the details of the way local business is done.  The State of Florida, in my opinion in its wisdom has created legal protection for citizen complainants – citing both the Florida and United States Constitutional protections.  This Florida protection makes one exception – when and if the complaint is submitted with malicious intent. A high bar, eh?

Our Town Commission has engaged Special Counsel, in Tallahassee to do that – seek to recover the Town’s costs from our activist in this case. We are talking about no small amount here.  This action was taken by the Commission weeks ago and is, to my knowledge, ongoing.

SO, here we have a Municipal Government seeking to punish one of its citizen activists for seeking to produce a better, more equitable project for all its citizens.  How do you like that?  Do you like that?

Might this action, rather draconian, not “chill” citizen participation before this Body?  Might it just tarnish our class reputation?  Your call, eh?

 

 

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1 Response for “Are we still classy?”

  1. ghostrider says:

    Lord of the Flies.

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