PB: Zoning Meeting Observations & Comments on Transparency

by SDM

SDM finally got around to viewing the Feb. 25 zoning hearing and it was a yawner, which at this point is a good thing.

The village council approved a request by Westminster Christian to move some buildings around on their site and to change the way cars stack while waiting to drop off or pick up. This discussion took an absurd turn thanks to Mayor Stanczyk.

The attorney for Westminster was attempting to explain that the current problem of cars lining up to get into the school is a temporary problem caused by construction that is underway at the site. She went on to say that because the construction was causing the backups, it was a temporary problem.

This concept seemed to be something alien to the Mayor, however. She said that the temporary problem was really permanent, implying that new traffic was causing the bottleneck. Therefore, according to her tortured logic, the village should take steps to protect the folks she met with at Paradise Point who were complaining about Westminster.

SDM cannot figure out the Mayor’s hostility to private schools. We also cannot figure out why the Mayor cannot understand that traffic sometimes gets screwy while construction is underway – even the vaunted Village of Palmetto Bay causes temporary backups when it re-paves village roads.

SDM sympathizes with anyone who gets stuck in a traffic jam, especially those caused by schools because sometimes the off-duty police hired at the behest of the municipality make things even worse. (How many times have you driven south of the Grove only to have traffic stopped while 50 mothers are let out onto the road?) But at some point we all have to live with the fact that schools exist and they mess up traffic twice a day.

SDM Wonders: Will Mayor Stanczyk ever live up to her self-deluded reputation as being kid- and school-friendly? Will the Village People ever catch on to her bull sugar?

Palmetto Bay Doublespeak: Transparency is really Opacity

For regular readers of SDM, you will know that this blog has been begging for more transparency from Palmetto Bay’s government. Sometimes, as when SDM asked for village meetings to be broadcast over the web, SDM got what we asked for.

But this blog has been asking for more – and for a long time. The Westminster hearing just reminded SDM once again that the village website is a joke when it comes to providing important records to the public.

For example, SDM wanted to look back at the documents related to Westminster’s prior hearing. Guess what? None are up there. No zoning minutes. No resolutions. No ordinances.  Even the village Municode site is 8 months out of date! Just think about all the junk legislation the village heaped on its poor residents over the past eight months.

SDM’s Solution: Post all the documents that are presented to the village council onto the website into a permanent, publicly available, searchable archive along with searchable copies of all village resolutions and ordinances. Homestead has every document since its founding 100 years ago! Palmetto Bay doesn’t even have the stuff from last month.

The best our lazy little village offers is a non-searchable list of some of the village’s minutes, which can only be read by clicking on each, one at at time. Therefore, if you want to know what staff recommended to the council at the last Westminster hearing, you are SOL - as we gutter-talkers say. The agenda packages go up on the site and then are taken down after a couple weeks.

SDM Wonders: Now, why would Mayor Stanczyk continue to permit this state of affairs to continue? One obvious reason is that she – like her predecessor Mayor Flinn - likes to operate outside the glare of public inquiry. (Flinn resisted televising village meetings for his entire tenure.) You see, it’s harder to criticize an elected official when they control and manage access to information.

Frankly, SDM cannot understand why members of the Village Council permit this opaque behavior to continue. Don’t they ever want to go back and research past council actions so that they can inform their current decisions? Isn’t it a pain in the backside to always have to be calling the staff to get records?

SDM Says: Until Palmetto Bay starts acting like a modern municipality by deploying a  cutting-edge website, it will merely continue to be an insular, backwards enterprise.

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