Wednesday, February 5, 2014

MY OPINION: The politics of fear and fight raised its ugly head at Apalachicola meeting

The politics of conspiracy, confusion, fear and fight observed on the national level in Washington, D.C., raised its rare, but ugly head at last night’s Apalachicola city commission meeting.

Under the pretext of process, the Apalachicola city commission was blasted with both barrels by Ann Seaton, a member of the City's Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and a host of other like-minded folks for action taken by the commission at a prior public meeting to appoint a member from the Historic Apalachicola Main Street Committee (MSC) to the CRA.

At the January 2014 regular public meeting, Jim Bachrach, a member of both the MSC and the CRA came under city administrator Betty Webb’s monthly report in his capacity as a MSC member to request the appointment.

Seaton alleged the action taken by the city commission to start the process of changing the ordinance to allow for the appointment was unethical and in violation of the Florida Sunshine law because the subject wasn't a specific item on the January meeting agenda.

After several members from the audience had addressed the commission, including Jaime Doyle Liang an attorney who had accompanied the group, it became abundantly clear that the matter was nothing more than an attempt to regurgitate the fight started almost five years ago against the implementation of a Main Street program.

The notion that the MSC is trying to usurp control and power from other local agencies including the City's Planning & Zoning Board (P&Z) is nothing more than a twisted conspiracy devised to cause fear and fight, and to enrage people to speak out against the proposed appointment, especially influential people that doesn't normally attend city meetings.

All three boards, the CRA, MSC and P&Z have distinct and different functions and they all work extremely well together in other communities.  

The irony of it all is that those who spoke the loudest last night were all in attendance at the January public meeting where they sat back and remained absolutely silent.  If they felt that their city government were violating the Florida Sunshine law or engaging in some sort of unethical practice, where was their responsibility at that time as citizens to call the city commission on it? Why wait a whole month to organize a coup, to bring in an attorney and to lash out at city government with innuendos and claims of improprieties?

At any rate, when the chairperson of the CRA, Anita Grove was asked by city commissioner Brenda Ash why she didn't speak up then.  Grove replied that it was at the end of the meeting and that she didn't realize what was going on.  There lies the confusion and the problem!