Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two for One Special - City Hall Tonight

In addition to the CRA meeting that I mentioned in a previous post, the City Commission is having a work session at the same time

(Note to readers:  I have a new program "Snag-it" that I'm breaking in that will allow for arrows, highlighting etc on images like above)

First of all, let's talk about the scheduling of these two meetings. In the not so recent history, work sessions of the City Commission were scheduled during the day - usually around 1 p.m.  The 6 p.m. time for this meeting tonight represents an improvement in terms of potential for working people to either listen or attend the meeting.  However, it is pitted against the regular CRA meeting scheduled for the same time.  The CRA agenda indicates the location of its meeting being in the Commission Chambers.  One is left to assume that the City Commission meeting will take place in the City Hall "Pioneer" Conference Room - although not indicated on the agenda itself.

These meetings taking place at the same time create some situations which could be prevented if they took place at different evening times.  While the City has the ability to stream audio from each room, I don't think it has the capability to stream two meetings at the same time.  This means that hearing a live stream of either meeting will come down to who flicks the switch first?  Besides the public having to choose between the two meetings and what they want to hear, members of the City Commission or the CRA cannot attend each other's meetings.  One would think that would be a concern as the City Commission's attempted takeovers of the CRA usually come down to a discussion of coordination and knowing what the other body is doing.  These are two bodies, one appointed and one elected, that have the power to spend money and more access is better than a conflicted access.  Can we take more care that this sort of scheduling conflict not happen again?

Now let's get on with the subject matter of the meeting.  The first item in the work session (no voting) concerns the possible separation of the Planning and Zoning Board from the Historic Preservation Board.  This issue dates back to April of this year, but has roots which stretch back a few years.  In fact, click here to be taken to a thorough discussion of the separation idea from the earlier days of this blog.  The referenced post comes from a time when I was Chairman of the PZHRPB and many of the same points apply today.  Surprisingly, staff is not recommending the separation of the boards.  They have sound reasons including the limited amount of people available to staff a separate board, budgetary considerations, etc.  It should be noted to that the City Commission recently followed the staff recommendation to NOT update our existing historic districts east of Dixie Hwy and NOT re-survey the area west of Dixie Hwy. for future historic districts - even though the City received a matching grant to do the work from the state of Florida. (A flawed decision, by the way.  We should have gone ahead with the update of our existing districts.  This has been needed since the time I was on the board)

The impetus for the separation comes primarily from Annabeth Karson - the political operative with common ties to Commissioners Jennings, Golden and Mulvehill and now in charge of the Census Complete Count Committee. Ms. Karson has always wrongly thought that there is an inherent conflict of purpose between the two boards. Click here for the staff back-up on the item and kudos to Mr. Bergman for using so many multi-syllabic words!

The next item for discussion is about the formation of a Finance Advisory Board. Click here for the staff back-up.  This would create a seven person board with six residents appointed by the City Commission and one by the City Manager.  The ability of the City Manager to appoint a resident to a board is more than a bit odd.  The overall concept for this type of board here is good as it involves residents in the budget preparation process and provides another venue for the public to participate in meetings.  Who is appointed to the board and the types of skills/backgrounds would be key.  One would hope that previous or current government experience or an accounting background, as well as lay people, would be included.