Kudos to our City Council for its inaugural venture into a live Town Hall Forum at its regular meeting of Jan. 23 (re: Marco Eagle, “Fairness and Communication”, Cheryl Ferrara, Jan. 27).
For We the People of Marco Island, is there, finally, a hint of genuine democratic representation and broad constituency considerations slowly permeating our elected representatives’ official behaviors and public decision-making processes? I doubt it as found in this Town Hall Forum. Neither surprise nor deviation appeared in attendance as our Councilors confronted citizen inquiries and comments with their less-than-impressive and time-worn locutions and declamations. Such public persona scripts seemingly comprise the solemn “modus operandi” we have witnessed by the majority of our City Council members since 1997’s cityhood.
To many of us citizens, that unwavering public deportment reveals a veneer of murky non-transparency bordering on apathy, affectation conceit and even disdain. Such opaqueness should be continually confronted at regular and special City Council meetings, workshops and, hopefully, an abundance of future Town Hall Forums. Our City Council, therefore, should consider all pubic meetings “teachable moments” providing opportunities for them to learn and reinforce constant demands for them to be transparent, decisive, forthright and honest in all things government.
Here is a brief collection of notable teachable moments recorded last week that provide our City Council real incentives to change its ways and means in doing the peoples’ business:
1. Councilors’ public personas need immediate attention. Why do our Councilors seem always slouching in their costly lounge chairs? Why do they all speak as if they were suffering from gastric reflux? Where are their distinctly public voices exuding confidence, clarity and leadership? Why, as paid employees of We the People, do our Councilors always deride their $6000 annual stipend and tax-deductible expenses as if those were the only motivations and rewards to be elected as our Council members?
2. Stop the conversation style dialogues with each other and the staff while ignoring the attending audience as issues, policies and positions are discussed. Why are all oral communications seemingly restricted to left-right chatting rather than elevated exchanges straight at the audience? Why do attendees feel as if they are interlopers to private matters and inner sanctum conversations of the elite?
3. There is a constant disconnect between the City Council and its several Citizen Advisories whenever Councilors half-heartedly report personal recollections and recall private conversations with Advisory Chairs and/or members. We seem constantly in the dark about what the Advisories are all about until its too late for redirection and/or final Council votes. Shouldn’t every Citizen Advisory make an official oral report of its recent proceedings to the City Council at least once a month?
4. It seems axiomatic that cityhood is irrelevant when Collier County goals and objectives are known and even lauded.
Who says, besides our City Council, that we are a tourist-shopper convention destination as is the rest of Collier County? Why should our property tax revenues support Collier County subsidies for employment-business-realtor-tourist opportunities beyond Marco Island? Are we Marco Islanders committed to attract more cheap day tourists and mainland freebie wannabes because that’s what Collier County chooses to do thanks to extensive lobbying by its Tourist Board, Chamber of Commerce and Realtors Association?
5. Cutting public spending, capping deficits, balancing budgets and reducing public debt are the apparent goals of the majority of Marco Island residents. How come these goals are never the subject of City Council deliberations?
6. It has been more than a decade since we held a public referendum and our “un-referendumed” debt now approaches $400 million. When might We the People participate with the City Council to limit and retire such a devastating economic trauma on our residents today and for years to come? Why don’t the costly $4-$8 million expansion of Mackle Park facilities and the estimated $50 million redevelopment of Town Center ever appear as items of discussion at the City Council?
7. Our city is gravely polarized thanks to uncontrolled sewer-water-irrigation-public works costs and rates passed on to single home owners and not fairly and equitably applied to all property owners. Why are We the People actually excluded from resolving these costly disparities and injustices? Why must citizens who are denied due process protections support pricey consultants and their anti-taxpayer perversions supported by our City Council?
There are surely many more postulates comprising valuable teachable moments for our City Council that can be offered by concerned members of our 12,000 electorate. Before the next
Town Hall Forum, our City Council members deserve to hear from each and every one of us as we lead to overcome the apparent confusion, inertia, dullness and collective “ennui” that has so plagued our City Council for more than a decade. Its time to take Marco Island back from elite nihilists masquerading as City Councilors and their cronies serving only vested interests and their lobbyists.