Thursday, November 4, 2010

What Next Wilton Manors

Now that we're set, and the votes have been counted, what is next?

I have sat in the Commission Chambers for the vast majority of the City Commission meetings for the last four years.   I have seen Mayor Scott Newton become Commissioner.  I watched Commissioner Gary Resnick become Mayor and now reelected. 

I could sit here and say I was wrong because it was a two to one majority to put Resnick back. 

I won't.

I've noticed a polarization of people's opinions in this city.  In my opinion, the problems of questionable journalistic practices of the Island City News as well as the alienation of just about every person in the city are somethings that a cohesive city Commission would be able to counteract with ease. 

I moved here at the beginning of the Republican Induced Great Recession.  People were asking each other what is going to happen and there was the beginning of a climate of concern making people grumble more.  Grumbling turned into annoyance.  When you have people questioning what is going on and nothing is getting better in their eyes, annoyance can quickly become outright hostility.

That causes Polarization and Evangelism within the groups.  Basic Sociology is all I've stated here.  Sociology can be boiled down to one major concept and how it works within groups - cohesion.   Cohesion is how closely people bond with each other.  Sure, there are more scientific ways of describing it, but this fits for now.

Sitting in the Commission Chambers, listening to how the two mayors worked with the people I noticed some very strong differences  in style.  Scott Newton was a coalition builder.  He worked with the people on the City, on the Commission, and the volunteer community.  He was able to listen to all, build a consensus and work through some of the problems of the day.  He had some help with then Commissioner Joe Angelo, Current Commissioner Ted Galatis, City Manager Joe Gallegos and many others to name a few.

Now that Scott is a Commissioner, he is able to effect policy more directly.  The reason is that we have a "weak Mayoral" system.  This means that the Mayor has the power to define agenda and has a vote on the decisions at hand, but can't actively suggest that resolutions are placed before the commission for the vote.  It means that Commissioner is a stronger position than that of Mayor.

The Mayor is expected to be a Manager.  The Mayor has his own opinion but must seek the approval of the rest of the Commission.  The Mayor isn't silenced and can voice his opinion in session while hoping that someone else will make a motion to enter some new business.

Now we have entered Resnick's second term.   I have noticed that through the first term, once he got past the honeymoon period, Gary was becoming less democratic and more autocratic.  There used to be two opportunities for public comment in each Commission Meeting, Mr Resnick immediately did away with the last comment session.   With meetings running over two hours normally, points made early would be forgotten.   People would speak their peace then leave and not see what happens because it was either not interesting to them or having said their word, they were happy.   It all serves to minimize the impact of the people of the city of Wilton Manors and insulate the people from their elected officials.  

Autocracy feeds into itself.  Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The way I understand that phrase, the more power one gets,  the less responsive to the needs of those who gave it to the one in power one will be.

I have noticed a disturbing autocratic turn of events in the run up to the elections.  There has been outright hostility on the part of the Mayor toward the volunteer community.  Sometimes it would be echoed in the other commissioners depending on the individual, but for the most part it came from the Mayor.

This is a small city, population around 12,800 in 2000 census.  Roughly.  To get done "half" of the things we do here in Wilton Manors, we rely on a strong volunteer community.  Many hours of work in planning and zoning, budget, recreation and other boards as well as affiliated boards such as historic and civic associations are donated free of charge.  Hostility toward a volunteer group is a foolish undertaking.  It only serves to evangelize them, to make them more vocal.  If the volunteer group is not funded by the city, I wonder how much input the city has a right to put into the volunteer's efforts. 

Basically, you get what you pay for, and this is a gift.   Sitting on high and pre-judging someone's effort in gift giving is frankly questionable morally.  Guidance may be necessary, but pre-judgement is uncalled for.

I'm quite afraid that we're going to have another two years of that.  Little progress happened in the City over the last two years.   We've had a down economy and that will slow things down some.  On the other hand, policies put into effect now will effect where the city will go in the future.   Slowing down the economy should not stop policies.  The last two years were marked by a lack of leadership, a spirit of divisiveness, and an imperial attitude.   I fear that the next two will be worse.

Again, all of this is just my opinion.  If you don't like it, my suggestion is simple, get involved.  Sit through the entire meeting.  Sometimes the most important part of what is said is said in the last 15 minutes of the meeting.  I realize it will be hard to sit through more of what now current, then interim Commissioner Julie Carson says with her apparent circular logic but for the most part if you want to be involved, that is how you do it.  You actually have to participate.  Someone else will pick up the slack but you will just have to deal with what they decide to do with it.

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