Why am I having a hard time deciding between Peggy Noland and Jean Robb for Mayor?
Over the last four years with a resident-responsive commission and almost no development projects Peggy Noland has done a good job as Mayor. She is a hard worker, showing up at city events and ribbon cuttings and representing the city in state and county venues. She is personable and friendly, and generally a nice person. So, what’s the problem?
Some background, bear with me:
I joined the Original Save Our Beach OSOB group shortly after I moved to Deerfield Beach in 1999 while they were working on saving the main beach parking lot from commercial development and I joined the effort. The Commission, of which Peggy Noland was a part, was going to give the go-ahead to a development ON THE BEACH PARKING LOT!
I was disturbed that a city commission would agree to such a thing, and luckily so were an overwhelmingly large majority of the city’s voters.
As a result of this, I thought that the commission should have residents checking up on what they were doing so I started attending commission meetings. During the years of attending these meetings I became exceedingly disenchanted with local government. The impression I got was that all decisions had been pre-determined. There was almost no discussion or dissention among the commissioners, just a quick vote on each item. This was not healthy.
In defense against the developer friendly commission, residents voted for protective referenda which reinstated our building codes, and saved our parking lot.
We have a new city manager, one who does not shape policy but rightly/legally leaves it to the commissioners. We have new faces on the dais some of whom feel that first and foremost they represent their city and district residents. All this is good. BUT, all of this happened during a recession, a time when over-development was mostly a non-issue.
What will happen when the economy rebounds? When developers again come knocking and want to build higher and wider than code. What will happen when they want land use changes to build on golf courses, or change the density of a property, and nearby residents complain. If history is a guide, Peggy Noland will vote for the changes. A mitigating factor is that it takes a majority or, for land-use a super majority, to pass changes.
Jean Robb was a member of the Save Our Beach group before I moved to Deerfield Beach. Perhaps Jean believes, as I do, that a city should be run for the residents, that zoning codes and land use laws should not be changed unless it benefits the residents, and not just to line the pockets of the campaign-donating developers, but viewpoint is not enough, an elected official has to play nice with others.
I believe discussion, even dispute among our commissioners is a good thing, points of view need airing, differences need to be voiced and compromises reached if possible. But this can be done, and is now mostly being done, with respect. I believe that residents should be heard out with respect, and if the view expressed is redundant, longwinded, or simply inane, the person still deserves and should receive respect from his or her commissioners.
I am told that when Jean was mayor a resolution was passed prohibiting the mayor and commissioners from interrupting other members on the dais; this was clearly directed at Mayor Robb, who had gained a reputation for her talkative, disruptive conduct at commission meetings. Robb publicly apologized for her behavior. Do we really need this kind of behavior again?
Choosing not to vote has some credibility, aside from people who are just apathetic (people should become informed and make a choice; if the choice is not to vote it should be an informed choice). The number of votes received gives the person elected some bragging rights, choosing not to vote when neither candidate, in the eyes of the voter, has the qualifications for the office can be valid, can send a message. Also voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. However this is extreme and I don’t think applies in our March election.
So, that’s how I arrived at my current dilemma. With the pros and cons totaled up, and neither side with a preponderance of pros, and both with some seriously concerning cons, who to choose?
Before March 12 I will decide.