Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's not about the money; it's about control...

Between the Lake Worth Area Cop Watch and City Manager Susan Stanton's desire for her own police chief, we have the perfect storm behind the Willdan report which recommended the formation of a new Lake Worth Police Department.  This is true despite the desperate back-peddling we witnessed before Wednesday night's City Commission work session - suddenly everyone on the dais was in love with the sheriff and, supposedly, it was all about the money.

Well, it is all about revenge, power and control - not money.  The facts show that the last year budget of the Lake Worth Police Department was higher than any year for police services under PBSO.  Forgotten too is that the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment agency was also contributing $250,000 a year for police overtime - something that turned out to be money down the rat hole at the time, but turned out to be a real savings to the agency since there was no need for such a contribution under PBSO.  Also, the sheriff has never exercised the 7% annual budget increases in the cost of the contract.  So one has to wonder how genuine these negotiations between the sheriff and city manager are actually going to be.  I recall Vice Mayor Mulvehill making the statement that when the city manager approached the sheriff soon after she was hired about re-negotiating the LESA with PBSO, Stanton was told by the sheriff to go ahead and start your own police department.  What she didn't say was how and what was said by Stanton that elicited that response.  I was told that she basically said that if we didn't have a police force, the sheriff is constitutionally obligated to provide law enforcement services in the city.  This is the same argument that appears in the Willdan report.  At Wednesday's meeting, in response to Commissioner Maxwell's questions, we find out the the city manager called the sheriff maybe four or five times about the contract since January and never had a face-to-face meeting.  If Stanton felt so strongly about keeping the sheriff, like she she represented at the press conference, wouldn't you think there would be  more discussions than had actually taken place?  The reason is that this is not seen as the preferred option - from the get-go.

Now we find out that the City Commission will likely NOT meet again on the topic until after the negotiations are over.  That means we will likely have an emergency, must-act-now City Commission meeting with minutes to spare giving the sheriff notice of our intentions.  Even ignoring Stanton's preference for her own police department and the grudge held by those that are the power behind the throne, what has the city negotiated under this city manager that resulted in a positive outcome for the city?

This is why Commissioner Maxwell is asking for "real time" updates of when the negotiations are taking place:
No surprise then either that Karri Casper, Bob Lepa and I are facing reluctance about allowing us to present the community input gathered the "Voice in the Choice" meeting.
And Ms. Stanton didn't understand the reason for the public meeting before the presentation of the report.  It was done in place of the community meeting that should have been a part of the report.  Also we, who organized the public meeting, were very clear that a decision would not be made at last Wednesday's City Commission meeting.  Representations otherwise are part of the myths created by those that want to make the premise of this meeting to be seen as unreasonable.

By pushing the need for a formal presentation at the Commission meeting on June 7th, we are attempting to elevate the importance the City Commission and Administration give to public comment.  They think they know what the public thinks without hearing from the public.  It's like some advanced intelligence is conferred on a person by winning an election here.  We know that is not the case.  And there were many suggestions for raising revenue and reducing costs made at the "Voice in the Choice" meeting that need a public airing - it may even help in the city's negotiations with PBSO.

But only if we really aren't going to seriously negotiate...let's say there is ample reason for skepticism.

It would help if you e-mail all the City Commissioners and the City Manager and tell them that you want a presentation by the "Voice in the Choice" meeting moderators to be placed on the June 7th City Commission meeting.