Monday, September 2, 2013

Popcorn Anyone?

Those who attend Deerfield Beach’s Commission meetings, the few, the committed (perhaps should be), the strong of stomach, should be warned that as of October 1, they might want to pack drinks and snacks, perhaps popcorn as befits viewing a comedy/drama/tragedy, and tuck in for a looooooooong session.

 I have always thought that preventing residents from speaking on agenda items was bizarre; after all, the items on the agenda are what people are at the meeting to hear, so I was glad that the State passed a law requiring public input be allowed on items up for consideration. Especially since the agenda is not published until the Friday before a Tuesday meeting which hardly allows time to call the commissioners or city department about an item.  Folks should be able to give an opinion or ask a question about an item up for consideration that affects their neighborhood or the city, and perhaps their taxes, commissioners should welcome hearing what their constituents think.

However, this opens the door even wider to the grandstanders and the time wasters. The dwindling few who watch Commission meetings on TV or in person, have become inured to the parade of residents who have issues with the way the city is run, or its actions or lack of actions on some topic.  But lately, with good reason, some regulars have quit coming entirely and some are leaving early; those at home watch the meeting the next day so they can fast forward through the worst of it. 

Some residents who speak make good points and are to be applauded for bringing a serious concern to the commission’s attention.  But, some repeat offenders must have self-esteem problems, perhaps their mommies didn’t praise them enough and they hope to get the attention they crave by appearing in public opining on their every inane thought, over and over meeting after meeting. 

They know perfectly well that much of what they rant on about are questions that could easily be answered by a phone call to the appropriate city department, but no, they feel they have to subject the audience to their mostly misinformed outbursts to bolster their sagging egos.  

Worst are the mean spirited jerks who use their minutes to denigrate a commissioner or staff member.  These folks lately have not been cut off and thus are encouraged to continue and come back and do it again and again.  Unbelievably our Mayor has also stooped to this type of remark on the dais. This then engenders a cat fight among commissioners about who should be keeping order.  More time goes by.

Regrettably the mayor’s memory seems to be shaky, or perhaps she doesn’t talk to staff or read the backup pages in her meeting package and so goes on and on about things that were perfectly clear if researched a little beforehand.  Madam Mayor also speaks so fast and rushes through parts of the agenda so quickly that time is wasted going back to redo errors.  I often want to tell her to take a breath and slow down and listen.  Nothing anyone else says seems to sink in, and points have to be gone over time and time again, and the meeting goes on and on. Perhaps she has also forgotten that it is the Mayor’s function to run the meeting in an orderly and respectful manner which is obviously not being done at the moment. 
If topics warrant, a meeting should take as long as it takes when dealing with city business correctly, not nonsense.  I support the public speaking, I support the new law, I hope that those running the meeting will keep the public on topic and nip any extraneous and malicious comments in the bud, and keep comments about each other and staff to private moments. 

If not I predict meetings where the vote to continue after 11:00 p.m. becomes habitual, and any respect left for our commission dries up and blows away.