Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Commission "Retreat" Visioning Meeting

Today, Wednesday, was the day the commissioners were to work with David Long, a strategic planner and facilitator who was hired to help the commission create a vision for Deerfield Beach.

The session started at 9:00 this morning and ended at 4:00 this afternoon. What started with high minded idealistic planning soon devolved into a gripe session and finger pointing fest, and a refusal to set any positive plan for helping improve anything.

In answer to the posed question: “What should be done to address the most important needs and opportunities facing the City of Deerfield Beach?” The commissioners, except Joe Miller for a little, couldn’t get away from themselves to attend to the task.

After some introduction and rule setting, the instruction was to brainstorm and write down as many answers to the above question as possible in, I think, 20 minutes. Then they were to rank them in importance and choose the key items.

Keep in mind the answers are what the commissioners think are the MOST IMPORTANT NEEDS and OPPORTUNITIES facing the city. See below this comment for the chart of answers.

Joe Miller, was the only one who even partially answered the question as stated. He touched on things he thought the city had problems with, such as the sewer main and the Dixie Flyover.
The rest of the commissioners let the session devolve into a gripe session. It was all about them and their tough time being a commissioner.

Mayor Noland constantly made note of how hard it is as a moderator to keep order. She said it is hard to conduct a meeting when others jump in when others are talking. She said we need to respect others, but some take over, and “This belittles the rest of my commission”.

Commissioner Popelsky noted that arguing with each other is a problem, communication is a problem, he said he criticizes and he shouldn’t, he should respect others’ positions. “I hold back because some things are so bad I don’t say them”.

Commissioner Ganz seems so frustrated by the process of being a commissioner he can’t get to seeing that it is about the city and residents. It seems he feels out of control of things.

David Long noted that the fact they said these things make them the most important. Then he asked for them to come up with “the big idea”. He was greeted with silence, so he suggested how about the need to get on the same page, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

Noland jumped in and said that, I usually call Charlie (Debrusco) if, say, we have a pot hole, I am so impatient so I just do it, or I might have to wait for Monday and as a mayor I just have to do it, I won’t wait for Monday, so I get it done, I am not a threat, not to step on anyone’s toes, why should I take three hours trying to get the right person when I can just call the person who can do it, the right person. We as a group see a problem we all want taken care of, and a week later it is not done.

Long asked what is a creative way to get that done, be pro-active, and create a culture of change which is results oriented?

The group didn’t seem interested, kept whining about how tough it is to get anything they want. All gave lip service to wanting to work as a team, but the strong message I got was fine, but as long as “it is my way”.

I believe the entire commission is forgetting their mission, SET POLICY and let the staff carry it out, one of the comments in the list said department heads should be more responsive to the commissioners. DEPARTMENT HEADS SHOULD NOT BE INTERACTING WITH THE COMMISSIONERS, telling department heads what to do is not their job, in fact it is against the charter.

Very possibly there are charter violations admitted to by the commissioners during this meeting, Marty flat out said he was micro-managing, a big no-no, and Mayor Noland is directing employees to help out residents which is seriously against the charter, which makes it, I believe, illegal, and subject to sanction.

THEN: After ranking the topics and going through a process to identify the THREE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS FACING THE CITY, the group came up with:

1. Communication
2. Commissioners respect of one another and the conduct of meetings
3. Accountability and transparency.

Not the budget, not the economy, and saving money, not how to pay for infrastructure repairs, not taxes, not firefighters pensions, not Century Village backflow meters and water rates, nope, none of those things.

Like little kids in a school yard, they think the way they behave is the most important thing in the city.


This group also finally got to talking about Vice Mayor Poitier, who was out ill, and all day was treated like the “elephant in the living room”.

(a saying based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there might be concerning themselves with relatively small and even irrelevant matters, compared to the looming big one.)

They tip toed around the problem of how to tell her what was said today and who should tell her. She is the one frequently mentioned as the one who interrupts others and goes on and on, “filibustering” as Noland put it. Finally it was agreed to leave it up to David Long, after all he is getting the big bucks ($15,000 of them). Noland acknowledged that Poitier was not likely to change her ways anyway.

When asked to come up with a group of people who could sit at a round table and have a discussion on problems of communication they said there should be the department heads, the City Manager, the Asst. Manager, the Attorney and perhaps the commissioners.

When Long asked who else might be there they couldn’t think of anyone else, he asked twice, and got no answer, then he said we will get back to it and he would leave 2 blank spots.



Again they didn’t even acknowledge the existence of anyone outside of city hall as being important, or contributing. There are such problems with their interpersonal relationships they have no energy left.


I saw a lot of finger pointing and blame and frustration, but no taking of responsibility themselves. If they need information they should ask for it, again and again if need be. If you see a problem, ask for it to be corrected, in proper channels. This is a runaway commission and they have to rein themselves in.



  1. I didn't think the "retreat" was a bad idea, actually I thought it was a great idea until I read the price tag for it and what was gained from it. I, now, believe all the Commissioners whether present or not owe the citizens of DB, $3,000 each. This could have, should have been done in Executive Session. I believe a college student earning a degree in Mr. Long's profession could have gotten as little done. Certainly someone in DB or preferably in Broward County, retired perhaps...could have led this group to the same if not better conclusion than what came of this meeting. At some point, I didn't want to waste my time any longer and left.
    More from me at the next Commission meeting regarding this matter.


  2. From what I have read of the observations of the commission retreat, it seems the City could have saved $14,900 of the $15,000 expenditure in these hard fiscal times. What about the other $100? Well, that $100 could have been spent on: (1) marshmallows for the Mayor and City Commissioners to throw at the City Manager and Department Heads, (2) pillows for the Mayor and commissioners for a pillow fight, and (3) Prozac to ease the frustration and outrage of the audience. Upon reflection, better add another $100 for more Prozac.