This is one of my speeches from last nights City Commission meetings.
I had to put this on here because I believe that people think that we have access to the political process because other cities allow the public to speak on agenda items. Deerfield Beach does not! This combined with the removal of our Commissioner lead to our Constitutional rights being violated. We need some form of redress for this blatant violation of our 14th Amendment rights. The City Commissioners obviously think that its okay to just trample on the rights of minorities. The newspapers don't seem to care because they haven't not accurately reported on this subject (in the two articles that they printed in the last 2 months), the television media has refused to cover this, and our elected officials have decided to leave us high and dry. We are the victims and we have no redress, who is looking out for our best interest?
The public’s right to speak, according to Deerfield Beach City Commissioners for over 2 decades, has been limited and restricted to items that aren’t actually being discussed by the City Commission. Making the public spectators, forcing them to sit and listen in on tirades, monologues, and planned/rehearsed speeches from elected officials who may or may not have the public’s best interest in mind.
This has left many activist, many concerned citizens, and many others frustrated, angry, and upset at the lack of public input in discussions on issues that directly affect the public interest. This has also led Deerfield Beach to be the breeding ground for corruption and wasteful spending. If you don’t believe me look at the news headlines for the last 4 years or so that even mention Deerfield Beach. They are not talking about our lovely beach, our street festivals, our amenities, or our businesses. They have consistently highlighted the blight, the corruption, the scandal, the wasteful spending and fiscal irresponsibility that has been allowed to occur here in Deerfield Beach.
We have year after year acquiesced to being forced into silence by our elected officials and those who our tax dollars fund their positions. They have effectively muzzled the people with one line “Persons addressing the Commission during this segment may not discuss items that are on the agenda.” This only benefits the Commission and those with ties to seeing their wills prevailed on the Dais because of closed room sessions and back room deals.
Well here in Deerfield Beach we have recently been made witness to the result of said prohibitions and back room dealings. When these decisions are being made and the public is disallowed to provide what should be considered valued information pertaining to these issues being discussed by those who were elected to represent the people, the people are disserved by the will of a select few, which may not be the representative will of the people. The Commissioners are allowed to make decisions that affect us without actually hearing from us at the public meetings to determine what our will is. Many people do not email or call their repvesentative before the public hearing and the public has only 4 days to view the actual agenda, which conveniently comes out on the Friday preceding the meeting. So if they wanted to discuss something that may be on said agenda, the deadline to submit a written request to have said item pulled has already passed. So it is set up to avoid actually avoid open dialogue with the public on these very important issues. This may be legal, but is it right!
So, on May 17, 2011 when I got up during the public hearing where the Commissioners obviously rushed to vote on issues that were deemed presentations on the agenda it was appalling to me. This type of action actually discourages public participation, in a city that should be welcoming public participation especially given the recent events where elected officials have been accused of corruption and even more so with the conviction of one of those officials. So, that night when I heard the Mayor express that the public cannot speak about this issues and actually people in the audience exclaim, he doesn’t know the rules. It prompted me to research the rules. As I know the rules of order do encourage open discussion of agenda items and only discourages or prohibits discussion of topics not on the agenda. Well, after a thorough review of the City’s Charter and the rules and procedures of the Deerfield Beach City Commission meeting as set forth in CODB resolution 2007/052, I found no language prohibiting the public from discussing items on the Consent Agenda. The language limits the time frame to 3 minutes, it also gives instruction on how to address the Commission and explains the procedure advising that you can not address individual members and they must be addressed as a body. All questions must be directed to the presiding officer (Mayor or Vice Mayor) and then they have have ability to introduce members of staff (City Manager, Attorney, etc..) into the discussion. But at no point does it state that the public cannot speak on agenda items. I brought this up to City Attorney Andy Maurodis and he advised that he interprets this as not given us the specific right to speak on the agenda items and therefore since it does not grant it then they don’t have to abide by it. Well, the language in the resolution also gives instruction on how to amend the rules or create a new rule. And this must be done in the same manner as a resolution or amendment..2 readings and then a vote and then a new rule or amendment can be adopted. Well, Since the rules do not prohibit, as the City’s agenda states, then when was said rule adopted prohibiting the public from discussing agenda items. This rule was never adopted or approved as set forth by the Charter or the resolution 2007/052 as it is not included in the language. Andy stated that I should bring this up at this meeting because he is working on clarifying the language, but to what end. I ask the audience to give their opinion on this matter and since it is not on the agenda at the end of this meeting you have your opportunity to notify the Commissioners as to your will on the subject. Do the citizens want to continue to be muzzled by this statement and non-rule or do we want it imposed on us as set forth by the new rule and amendment clause of resolution 2007/052?
The choice is ours and if we want our City Commission to continue in the manner which has led to all this corruption and scandal bankrupting our City morally and financially then the public should remain muzzled on this issue. Or we speak up tonight and let them know that since there is no rule prohibiting our topics of discussion that this language be removed from the agendas and the floor be opened up for full participation of the public. Like in other cities such as , Pompano Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Weston, Boca raton, Delray, Tallahassee, McAllen Texas