Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Last night’s City Commission meeting: Uplifting and informative. And then came the Crash and Burn.

The first half of the Lake Worth Commission meeting last night (5/16) was filled with good information going forward. The second half of the meeting was cringe-worthy. The first half was about conducting the business of the City and one can only hope not too many people watch the second half — especially anyone considering doing future business with the City — it was that bad. But more on that later.

The highlight of the night: the Invocation “Offered by 8-year old Sophia Lynne Teutsch from Sacred Heart School on behalf of Commissioner Andy Amoroso”.

To see the City’s YouTube video of last night’s meeting use this link; to download the agenda use this link. This will be helpful when the headline with the words “revenue-maker” appears in the 100th story about Code Enforcement by the Post’s beat reporter here in the City of Lake Worth.

Once again. During breaks the mic is left on. Everyone can hear every single word being said on the dais during breaks. It’s only a matter of time. . .

Here’s some very good news from the meeting:
  • The “first appearance” initiative is a huge success: the public attending court hearings for street crimes, prostitution arrests, etc. Chip Guthrie will give an update on that tomorrow night at the Mango Groves Neighborhood meeting.
  • According to Commissioner Omari Hardy during his comments there is a lot of interest among other elected officials and communities in Central Palm Beach County about the Blueway Trail. And this is despite the news blackout at The Palm Beach Post (and would also help to explain all the traffic to this blog).
  • According to the City Attorney, Glen Torcivia, there will be a settlement with the construction company and architect soon vis-à-vis the vexing, long-time problems with the Casino structure. Maybe even by next Tuesday’s Work Session about the Beach and municipal pool.
  • JoAnn Golden talked about the migrant community in Lake Worth at public comment and didn’t use the words “sanctuary” or “sanctuary city one single time. Progress! However, what she never explained is why, after all these years of involvement, so many migrants are not learning essential language skills.
  • The Neighborhood Road Program presentation by WGI was excellent! Use this link to see the page on the City’s website. How they’ve incorporated the Neighborhood Assoc. Presidents’ Council (NAPC) into this work was an excellent idea. Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell called it “proactive”. Projects will begin in June. The City’s staff, NAPC, and WGI will coordinate with neighborhoods to get feedback and information out to neighborhoods on upcoming projects and construction.
Now for the not-so-good news, the Legislative Update from State Senator Jeff Clemens and State Rep. Lori Berman (beginning at the 13:00 minute mark in the video): They’re “cautiously optimistic” about the $3M in the State Budget for the Park of Commerce. Another Homestead Exemption (on the ballot in 2018) will be a “tax shift” the City can ill-afford (Clemens saw this first-hand when he was the mayor of Lake Worth and saw a 25% drop in tax revenue).

And the kicker is this news developing: how local cities could lose even more control of Charter Schools opening up in churches and other facilities. There will be virtually no local zoning control.

Now for the “Crash and Burn” at last night’s Commission, two items on the agenda:

On Item 12A, the “booting of vehicles” after three (3) citations left unpaid for 15 days, Mayor Pam Triolo and Commissioner Hardy got into a testy exchange. The vote on First Reading was 4-1 with Hardy dissenting. Triolo said, “We’re making up for 15–20 years” getting derelict and abandoned vehicles off the streets. Hardy thought this program was harsh towards the poor. Although unintended, the suggestion by Hardy was others on the City Commission were uncaring and Triolo took great offense to that.

Then the debate about this issue kept going back and forth. And back and forth. And back and forth.

Hardy came up with an idea for “community service” to pay off fines for those who had difficulty paying. PBSO Cpt. Baer was brought into the debate. Then there was public comment. Then the vote. One was left wondering if elected officials in this City are sitting down with City staff and PBSO prior to meetings.

And then things really took a turn for the worse, Item 12D: “Seeking Commission direction to change Commission Meetings Rules and Procedures”.

Over one hour. The debate about raising the limit for public comment from two minutes to three minutes. The Commission, the entire City Commission, looked weak and indecisive. At one point Vice Mayor Maxwell said, “We’re here to conduct business.” After an hour the agenda item got pulled without a vote. Per the rules, after one-half hour of debate the item should have been sent to Workshop. It wasn’t.

The debate continued. And continued. And continued.

No public comment would be taken because there would be no vote. Then it was decided to allow public comment. Then the Chair, Mayor Triolo said next week the City Commission and the public will get the lesson plan “101” on Robert’s Rules of Order.

It might be too late for that. Too many have gotten used to the old rules.