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City Commission Meetings: Best Seat in Town!

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Coral Springs , May 11, 2000 
(updated May 12,2000: Employees don’t get overtime pay at city meetings)
(updated May 17,2000 added City Commissioners Email Addresses)
(Updated June 7,2000: Changed from topic of meeting to Theme of meeting)

I find it strange that for a city the size of Coral Springs, commission meetings are not well attended. After all, one would think that with a population of 110,000 people, at least 50 would show up and why not 150? Decisions that are made by the commissioners may directly impact the environment both qualitatively and monetarily that we live in. So why do people stay away from the Best Seat in Town?

The “Chamber” the meetings are held in has a lot of room for the commissioners and very little room for the citizens. Only approximately 50 seats are available for people and 18 were taken by city employees. The room has a column in the middle of the seating area obstructing people’s visions. It seems that the commissioners do not want more than 50 people, and certainly do not want to make it comfortable for anyone that does want to show up. If that weren’t the case, the meetings would be held in the much-publicized City Centre (Centre not Center, probably to add a little class), where they can accommodate 1% of the population in some very comfortable chairs. After all for the best show in town, you need the best seats in town.

The city commissioners sit divided by gender. Is it just a coincidence that the women commissioners sit on the left side of the Mayor, and the men on the right? Does it have any religious significance? Perhaps a more mixed seating arrangement would have a better impact on getting people out to the meetings. But then again, if everyone does come out where would they sit?

In order to have more of us stay at home where it’s so much more comfortable, sitting and watching them on channel 11, the commissioners have decided to spend another $40,000 for more cameras. This as they put it, will give the viewers better angles to see the commissioners and the discussion that takes place. The sound system will be revamped and the will actually be able to switch from camera to camera. No doubt this switching will require the hiring of additional personnel. These people will occupy more seats and yes…fewer seats for the citizens. Instead of more cameras, maybe they should take the money and offer coffee and donuts. It would cost us a lot less and get more people out to the meetings so that there would be no need to televise it. Then again, where would they sit?

In any meeting its important to know what’s on the agenda, just in case there is an issue that maybe you would like to speak either for or against. Let’s say for instance you were unaware, like most of us that they have passed a Pooper Scooper law, and you were the proud owner of one of those big dogs, that can provide for some trouble regarding the size of the scoop. Absurd as it may seem the agenda comes out the Monday before the meeting, therefore you would be unaware of the ‘goings on’ unless you happen to be passing by the city clerk’s office on that day. They don’t even post the agenda on the internet until the Tuesday of the meeting. They do this to insure that more people don’t show up at the meetings. That’s because more people require more seats and well…

It would seem that all the commissioners are pals and buddies, or at least that’s the impression one gets watching them in action. At every opportunity, they pat each other on the back, and they praise each other for a job well done. They even present each other with awards. One commissioner that receives such praise is obliged to offer the same to the other commissioner. Last year they were so impressed with each other that voted themselves an increase in salary and a pension plan. At the last meeting, there was so much love in the air that I was certain that the Mayor was going to break up the love fest and ask for a “Group Hug”. A meeting of the commissioners should not be civilized , because I have seen the Miami Commission meetings. There must be something wrong with these commissioners. What happened to the arguments, insults, screaming, yelling, and personal attacks that would make these meetings even more entertaining? Maybe there are not enough of them. Maybe we should have 10 commissioners or 15? Well then again…if we have more commissioners, they need will need more seats and……

Commission meetings turn especially exciting when a large developer drops in to ask for something, like an approval, or a variance. The last meeting WCI (alias Coral Ridge Properties…named after the street) asked the commissioners for a special exception to the zoning laws and allowing them to build nicer houses in one of their nicer developments. It seems that they are a little too close to the road with a window and the city wants to see a door, or is it the other way around? It was like seeing sharks feast on a wounded fish. Believe me, there is nothing like having a large developer at one of these meetings! The commissioners insulted the developers, told them in not so many words that they were liars, thieves and pillagers of the very holy land that they sold us, ……and that they were also not nice people. They said it was nothing personal. The commissioners to the left of the Mayor appeared to be more forgiving, and saying stuff like “why can’t we all be friends”, and those to the right were more brutal with calls for lynching, boiling them in oil, and sitting them where there are a lot of seats…a Marlin’s game. The Mayor then jumped in and really showed them who’s boss by delaying the decision until next time so that the city’s planning department can work on other ways of making the houses nicer…. maybe change the color as one of the commissioners would have it. (Please note that I was personally offended by the bringing in of color to the argument as I am color blind. Why can’t they just stick to the theme of the meeting which was “Running the Developer Out of Town”).

Perhaps the best part of the show is when citizens are given the opportunity to voice their opinions, complaints and suggestions to the City Commissioners. This is provided you submitted your name to the clerk no later than 12:00 p.m. the same day of the commission meeting and that you speak no more than 3 minutes, and that your name doesn’t begin with a vowel.…unless of course they like what you are talking about and that you are praising them in which case you can speak as long as you want. To be fair, the Mayor does ask if anyone else has anything to say. No one wants to get up for fear of losing their seat….

Commissioners use strange Latin words. The most popular word is Quasi-Judicial. Whenever they say this word, they feel compelled to force some poor sole to raise their right hand and swear. Even the city attorney gets into it, waking everyone up by speaking 3 millimeters away from the microphone informing the commissioners of the change to a Quasi-Judicial hearing of some sort and that now they better start telling the truth…. I think its another way of making everyone look more important. Quasi -Judicial, translates to ” sort of legal like” which to me means “might be legal like” which can only mean “illegal”. When they invoke the name “Quasi Judicial”, they are probably hiding something from us which is probably why they don’t have enough seats for people to come to the commission meetings…Perhaps we can have a Quasi Judicial meeting asking Quasi questions, getting Quasi answers sitting in Quasi-seats.

It’s not that I don’t like spending time with the city commissioners at the meetings but the last one went on past 10:30 p.m. I have been told that some of them last even longer than that.  At the last meeting almost every commissioner had something to say about everything, and a lot to say about nothing. Most of what they had to say no one could understand anyway. Speech, you see involves the use of verbs and nouns placed together with adverbs and adjectives and prepositions. I had trouble following most of the discussions because some of the above seemed to be missing. Unless it is absolutely necessary and that they didn’t collude prior to the meeting like in most of the cases, commissioners should move on and not say anything. It spoils the show. Bring on the Big Developer!   The other people unhappy with the long slow meetings  are the employees in the room who have other things better to do than sitting there and not collecting any overtime pay over this nonsense.  Let them go home to their families after a hard days work like everyone else in the world because we need their seats!!

With this much fun at commission meetings and with the bringing on of new cameras (I hear CNN is even willing to carry a segment or two) I look forward to seeing you there. With more people showing up, who knows, they will either sell tickets or be forced to move it to a better venue, with more seats…….See you at the Meetings!

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