Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wednesday Workshop Meeting Agenda, Or Lack Thereof

This Wednesday, June 26 at 8:30 a.m., it will once again be time for our monthly City Council workshop meeting. I'd like to tell you about the issues that will be addressed at this meeting so you can arrive informed and contact your Commissioner in advance of the meeting with your thoughts about the issues up for discussion. Unfortunately, with just two days between now and the upcoming workshop meeting, the meeting agenda still has not been posted.

In case you are not aware, workshop meetings are where the Mayor and City Council draft our City's laws, plans and budgets to be voted on at the upcoming regular Council meetings. But despite the importance of these workshop meetings, City Hall has repeated failed to post the workshop meeting agendas in a reasonable time beforehand. Without access to the meeting agendas, neither the Council members nor the city's residents have time to research or review the agenda topics in advance, resulting in meetings where residents and Council members arrive unprepared and unable to critically evaluate the Mayor's plans.

The Florida Sunshine Manual clearly describes the amount of notice that should be provided under normal circumstances:



While the Attorney General’s Office cannot specify the type of notice which must be given in all cases, the following notice guidelines are suggested:

1. The notice should contain the time and place of the meeting and, if available, an agenda, or if no agenda is available, a statement of the general subject matter to be considered.

2. The notice should be prominently displayed in the area in the agency’s offices set aside for that purpose, e.g., for cities, in city hall, and on the agency’s website, if there is one.

3. Except in the case of emergency or special meetings, notice should be provided at least 7 days prior to the meeting. Emergency sessions should be afforded the most appropriate and effective notice under the circumstances.

4. Special meetings should have no less than 24 and preferably at least 72 hours reasonable notice to the public. See Yarbrough v. Young, 462 So. 2d 515 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985) (three days notice of special meeting deemed adequate) and Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, No. 502008CA027882 (Fla. 15th Cir. Ct. December 8, 2010), per curiam affirmed, 79 So. 3d 36 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012) (no violation of Sunshine Law where notice of special meeting held on Monday September 15 was posted at city hall and faxed to the media on Friday September 12, and members of the public [including the media] attended the meeting).

5. The use of press releases, faxes, emails, and/or phone calls to the news media is highly effective. Additionally, while not required by the Sunshine Law, paid advertising in the local newspaper of general circulation would be appropriate for matters of critical public concern such as rezoning, budget.



Guidelines 1 and 3 state that, under normal circumstances, agencies should provide seven days notice of agenda items to be discussed. Although the Sunshine Manual allows for rare situations where last-minute items are not included on the agenda, it does not allow a city government to regularly thwart its citizens' involvement by denying them access to the agenda in advance.

I described these Sunshine Law requirements to the Council at the last workshop meeting, after City Hall had repeatedly failed to provide access to the meeting agendas more than a day or two in advance.  However, it appears that City Hall does not plan to change its ways if we do not make this an issue.

Combined with the illegal cancellation of our City's last Council meeting - the one meeting per month where residents are guaranteed the right to address their City officials - this repeated failure to post agendas has prohibited residents and Council members from effectively participating in their own government.

Do you have something to say about the prior meeting cancellation or the last minute agendas? Contact your commissioner and come to the upcoming workshop meeting on Wednesday, June 26 at 8:30 a.m.!

4 comments:

  1. Maybe we can get the local media involved to shine an additional light on what a "joke" our local city government is, and their total disregard for the citizens of Belle Isle.

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  2. I'd like to see us band together as citizens just as we did for the fire department fiasco. I'll show up on Wed; will you?

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  3. Doesn't look like the masses were very successful today.

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  4. Comment was made at the meeting Wednesday by one of the City Commissioners referring to the anonymous comments being made on social media. I am assuming it referred to our comments in the Sun. When I commented previously I didn't realize how to add my name. There are options you can pick for your comment but I chose anonymous because it was easy and I'm not sure what the choices mean. This time I picked name (didn't add URL??) and this is what it looks like.
    I am assuming the above kind of "snarky" comment about "the masses" by anonymous refers to those of us who attended or maybe those who didn't. Not sure. Would imagine that a majority of Belle Isle residents have jobs that make it hard to attend an 8:30am or a 5:30pm meeting during the week. I think I remember Council meetings used to be at 7pm and there was always a sign posted on the grounds outside of city hall. Hmmmm...food for thought.

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