Last Monday, the City Council held a workshop meeting. It had been advertised as a public hearing to discuss modifying the water and sewer rate structure for all customers of Marco Island Utilities.
Like many other Islanders, I attended in hopes of discussing ideas I hold on the subject. Instead, I met only unsettling disappointment. The disappointment extended from the statement that this meeting was to be the “decision point” for choosing between the city consultant’s rate models, (M-54 versus M-1), right up to Chairman Jerry Gibson’s attempt to restrict public comment only to those two opinions of the consultant.
To be clear, I don’t believe Chairman Jerry Gibson was acting out of arrogance, but out of ignorance. Apparently he, or his advisors, are unaware of the following basic protocol: Council meetings and public hearings may seem similar, but council meetings are conducted primarily to make decisions, while public hearings are held to gather the data and opinions from the citizenry that facilitate the decision-makers at the council meeting, [Municipal Research and Service Center].
Moreover, when government announces the unrestricted subject of a public hearing, (utility rates), but then limits whose opinion is to be heard and discussed, (city consultant’s), the First Amendment regarding freedom of speech, comes to mind. I recall the wry comment some years ago by one respected Marco Islander saying that the Constitution of the United States stops at the Jolley Bridge. Does it?