SDM listened to the entire Palmetto Bay Village Voice candidate’s forum that was held last night. You can tune in if you wish by going to the Miami Hal (Feldman) website. (Thanks Hal. You’re a mensch.) Scroll down to the Local Listings and Stories section and click on the Palmetto Bay Candidates Forum icon. And, nice job PBVV and David Singer!
Aside: Who says we don’t have a place to hold meetings in Palmetto Bay? Christ Fellowship Church opened its doors to the village for the forum, as it always seems to do when asked, and we taxpayers didn’t have to pay for it!
Ok, enough of that blather, on to SDM’s observations:
David Zisman – Mr. Zisman careens from comprehensibility to inconsistency whenever he speaks and last night was no exception. For example, he identified a critical problem with Palmetto Bay, which is its negative attitude toward business development. He said he wanted to see the Palmetto Bay downtown area have a restaurant row and believes he can best lead the village in that direction. He also said the village budget is unsustainable and needs to be pruned (we’re paraphrasing). SDM couldn’t agree more.
But then, in response to a question on whether the village should be doing special events, he said the village should hold a Fourth of July celebration every year without saying whether taxpayers should be forced to foot the bill. How can a village budget be sustainable when it throws away $60,000 on a taxpayer-subsidized party for village insiders?
Karen Cunningham – Mrs. Cunningham is the yin to the Zisman yang. Where Zisman is all emotion, Cunningham is pragmatic and under control. Where Mr. Zisman wants to make the free keg party an annual, subsidized event, Cunningham wants to plan the event better so that taxpayers won’t have to pay for it. (Imagine that!)
Another example: Zisman, in his closing remarks, implied that since he’s walked the village and listened to voters and presumably knows it all now, a new council just needs to get seated and start making decisions. Cunningham says we need to calmly, professionally adopt a strategic plan so that we can methodically determine what the community wants and measure our progress toward the goals the Village People set.
SDM Says: We understand that some people find Mrs. Cunningham to be overly cautious and that sometimes her positions lack specificity, but her demeanor fits our bill better than does Mr. Zisman’s. We think Zisman will be needlessly disruptive and unpredictable. Even though he’d be manna from heaven for SDM, he will ultimately be bad for Palmetto Bay.
Jim Shedd – Mr. Shedd certainly seems to be enjoying himself as he discovers all of Palmetto Bay’s lingering controversies. We note that he is “discovering them” because he seems truly amazed by topics we’ve been harping on since the inception of this blog.
Example: Shedd probably got the biggest applause of the night when he wondered aloud why the Thalatta Estate was so often closed to visitors and residents. Of course, SDM readers know why but it’s always interesting to watch as a newbie learns the truth about our little burgh.
Mr. Shedd rarely offers much insight into his past, which can be forgiven since he spent virtually his entire career as a federal agent. What did he do for the DEA? Well, he caught bad guys, of course. The only problem with this line is that when you Google him, you find that he was – at least for part of his career – a spokesman that handled the media. How much time did he spend in the field? SDM can virtually guarantee we will never know.
When he was asked to cite an act of leadership from the past year, he finally shed some light on his current means of earning a living. Mr. Shedd advised the audience that he consults for defense attorneys and recently helped to exonerate an innocent man. Bravo! Of course, the old saw is that the penitentiary is full of innocent men, but who are we to judge?
Henry Clifford – While Mr. Clifford’s personality is the precise opposite of Mr. Zisman’s, Clifford shares Zisman’s penchant for internally inconsistent positions.
Example: Clifford told the audience that Palmetto Bay may face a serious budget crunch in the near future. He reiterated the position more than once that the village would have to pare its budget. We infer he wants to avoid tax increases since he never mentioned them as a solution.
The inconsistency comes from a later statement where he said he would push for the lowest density possible, presumably in every future development in the village.
SDM Wonders: How does Mr. Clifford’s position on density square with the stated goal of the downtown redevelopment task force of improving the village’s tax base? Answer: It doesn’t.
Where Mr. Clifford is most inconsistent is in a statement he made regarding village parks. He said he wanted to see more lighting at the village’s tennis courts. Now isn’t that an interesting position to take when Mr. Clifford was such a vocal opponent to other lighting proposals, including for Coral Reef Park and Palmer Trinity School?
Mr. Clifford comes to this race as a puppet of Mayor Stanczyk and her crew so not unsurprisingly he has adopted their inconsistent position on who gets to play into the evening and who doesn’t: In Palmetto Bay, people with red signs get to make this decision, not the property owner.
Larissa Siegel Lara – Mrs. Siegel Lara, like Mrs. Cunningham, is a person of structure. She kept emphasizing the need for methodical decision making, planning and holding people accountable to measurable outcomes. Be still SDM’s heart!
Mrs. Siegel Lara’s biggest downside is that she has virtually no experience with government, which means she could fall prey to the disease currently affecting the Marathon Man (Tim Schaffer): staff-infatuation-itis. On the plus side, she comes off as a decision maker who does her own research and makes decisions based on her own process.
SDM Says: While green as hell, Mrs. Siegel Lara is the best choice for Seat 3. We can’t predict exactly how she will vote on property rights or how she will balance the demands of neighbors vs. the rights of individuals, but we like her approach and see a big upside to having her on the council.
Soon to be eliminated from consideration:
Mayor Shelley Stanczyk – SDM is long on record on why Mrs. Stanczyk must be retired. As usual when she opens her mouth, she just gave us more ammunition last night.
Forget her re-writing of the history of the fire stations and Thalatta Estate. Forget her inane statement that the problem with the village manager is his contract (huh?).
The newest and best reason for voting against Mme. Mayor is what she said last night about the village’s reserve fund. No, it’s not that she uses the figure of $13.6 million as the amount of the reserve…she may be right that today we have that much in reserve. The fact that it’s not a figure reflected in the budget is just a case of manipulating of statistics.
No, the latest best reason to voter her out of office came during her closing statement. Mayor Stanczyk clued us all into the real danger she poses when she said the reserve is a fund that can be used for future village projects. Yes, you are reading that right. In Mme. Mayor’s view, a reserve is a pot of money one can use to pay for, oh we don’t know, a $10 million unfunded building at Coral Reef Park?!?!
SDM’s Educate-the-Mayor Moment: A reserve fund’s purpose is to protect the village from an emergency (unbudgeted) downturn in revenues or uptick in expenses. Think: A hurricane hits and the village’s revenue is severely depleted for several years while expenses for police and municipal services skyrocket. Also think: Rating agencies demand reserves so that if a bond or other debt obligation cannot be satisfied from its intended revenue source then the agencies can be satisfied that the village has sufficient revenues to cover the debt service. A reserve is not a capital fund to be used for future projects and our budgets don’t reflect that those funds will be used this way.
The fact that Mme. Mayor has attended 12 years of budget meetings and doesn’t understand the purpose of the reserve immediately and on its own disqualifies her from further service to this village.
Patrick Fiore – SDM likes Mr. Fiore but we don’t get why he’s running for Mayor. Sure, we understand he wants to be the public works mayor who fixes the potholes, but that just isn’t enough for us. We also understand that Mr. Fiore takes credit for spending approved by the councils upon which he sat. What he doesn’t say is that he regularly voted against at least some of those budgets.
Taking credit while not deserving it is nothing new to politics, but that’s not why Mr. Fiore falls short. Palmetto Bay needs a Mayor who will lead us to better functioning traffic, not just to smoother roads, a difference that seems to escape Mr. Fiore.
Peter England – There’s something soothing about Peter England’s approach. He’s perpetually upbeat even when he’s leveling criticism. His obsession – locating two fire stations – is admirable and necessary. That he can offer his time in abundance to village matters is also a big plus.
But there’s also something missing from Mr. England’s latest quest for Palmetto Bay public office. SDM went back over our notes and couldn’t find one comment he made last night that stood out. No major plan. No critical issue – other than the fire station. No real controversial comments and – sadly – no real vision, except for his commitment to comity. (Not to be confused with comedy – that is Mme. Mayor’s area of expertise.)
Eugene Flinn – Where England is bland, Flinn is busting at the seams with enthusiasm mixed generously with barbs against his opponents. Flinn said he is fit and ready to come back to restore Palmetto Bay’s dignity. He wants to work with neighboring municipalities – which is a not-so-subtle knock on Mme. Mayor’s inability to gain the respect of her fellow mayors in Pinecrest and Cutler Bay.
Sure, Flinn toots his horn like most politicians, but it feels like there is a purpose behind the self-aggrandizement. Think: “Look at my record. Palmetto Bay worked when I was Mayor.” The purpose is to remind us that back in the day we didn’t always worry about whether we’d have to count how many times our dog barks.
Here’s an example from last night of vintage Mayor Flinn: When asked about whether he would keep the current village manager (a Flinn hire), Flinn noted that when Village Manager Ron Williams reported to his council, things got done. He cited traffic calming and funding for drainage as examples. Then, to sink the nail deeper into the current mayor’s electoral coffin, he said the village manager should be graded on the assignments he’s given by the council.
The not-at-all-subtle subtext: The last several councils under the current mayor weren’t properly managing the manager, so what do you expect from the guy? Ouch!
SDM’s Bottom Line: We think England and Flinn will face each other in a run-off. We’ll take Flinn this round and then watch the fireworks. :)