The city staff came up with a variety of proposed ordinances and other items for council review. All of them address some perceived issue that needs to be addressed. Some of the ideas are better than others. Public input helps us sort out the good ideas from the rest.
When an ordinance is proposed, there are two public hearings. It is not unusual for people that aren’t newspaper subscribers to miss the public notice regarding the first reading. Often times, the results of the first public reading are reported in the paper, but sometimes they are not. In my opinion, the public notice requirement that meetings be announced in the newspaper is a vestige of the 19th century. I could write a whole article on the loss of daily newspapers and local newspaper reporting since the turn of the 21st century. It would be a very good idea if the legislature would change the notice requirement to allow notices to be posted on social media and the city’s website in addition to the printed newspapers. A public list serve would also make sense.
Certain items, such as tax proposals, come with notices mailed to property owners.
The city actually does notice meetings online, including a notice about the next meeting coming up. The work session and the regular meeting scheduled for February 21st are both referenced on the city’s home page, but the agendas have not been posted quite yet. Staff attempts to get those agendas posted two Friday’s before a meeting. The agenda for the regular meeting is online. I don’t see an agenda for the work session yet.
Most of the proposals are pretty innocuous, but sometimes they need work. Here are three examples:
Staff recommended a far reaching residential pavement program last summer. The concept was good, but the execution was fatally flawed. The plan anticipated that all residential streets would be paved every 20 years, but then the proposed plan was set to sunset in five years. This left three quarters of the property owners paying in with no assurance that their road would ever be paved. Additionally, the plan didn’t account for folks who had roads paved years ago and were still paying for that paving. After public comment, the proposal went down in flames on a five to nothing vote and we have convened a special citizen committee to try to formulate a plan that would both cover paving all the residential streets AND be fair to everyone. Stay tuned.
A proposal this past Tuesday would have set standards for exterior residential maintenance. After quite a bit of discussion and citizen input, the proposal was defeated. As a homeowner, I can’t say as I’m disappointed. While it is important for all homeowners to maintain their homes, sometimes homeowners need to prioritize major expenses. Homeowners are best suited to make those decisions. Code enforcement has plenty on its plate dealing with derelict rental units.
Another first reading of a proposed ordinance this past Tuesday involved establishing a one year moratorium on permitting of cannabis dispensaries inside the city limits. Our public notice actually attracted the attention of a number of medical cannabis supporters and they showed up to let us know that they didn’t want to see the issue kicked down the road for another year. After quite a bit of healthy discussion, a decision was made to set the moratorium for six months, giving the Florida Legislature a chance to weigh in on implementation of Amendment 2 before we address the zoning issue. I would expect that this plan will be approved on second reading at the February 21st meeting.
We will hold as many public workshops as necessary to work through the implications of Amendment 2 for the city. The current zoning for dispensaries is quite restrictive and may not be the best plan going forward. What is the best way forward? I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know, but I intend to educate myself between now and this summer. I hope that the folks who come to the workshops will help me and my fellow council members in that process. I’ll post a note to my NPR Notes mailing list when the first workshop is scheduled. If you aren’t on the mailing list, you can sign up here.
Public input is so much more than just listening to public comment on items that come before the council for a vote. There is a VOX POP section on every regular meeting agenda where citizens are welcome to come forward and speak on any topic that is NOT on that evening’s agenda. Issues raised during VOX POP frequently result in referral to staff for further investigation and may ultimately result in a formal proposal coming before the council at a future meeting.
You can email each of us at our city email address. In my case, that is firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in mind that email is considered a public record in Florida, so anything you write to us may find itself on the front page of the newspaper.
Perhaps the best method for offering input to the city council is to simply pick up the phone and call us individually. Each of us welcomes such calls. In my case, the fastest way to get through is to call me at my “day job” number of 847-2424 and mention that you want to talk to me about city business. If I’m in the office and not tied up with something, I’ll pick up the call. If I’m out or tied up, I’ll return the call at my first opportunity.
You can also catch us at various events. One long time resident of New Port Richey and I spent the better part of an hour outside the Banned Books concert last month chatting about a particularly thorny issue facing the city: What to do about the crime sliding into the city from the Leisure Lane area of the county. Short of the county bull dozing everything in that neighborhood, I’m not sure that there are any good solutions, but kicking around ideas on how to tackle intractable problems is the first step to finding solutions. Our conversation got me thinking of ways the city might work with the county to address the problem.
I’ve also been known to pickup the phone and call individuals whose opinions I greatly respect. Craig Carmichael was one such individual before his passing. He was my muse when it came to dreams for the Hacienda and Sims Park. I miss his counsel.
There are others that I reach out to when I need to kick new ideas around. I won’t put anyone on the spot by identifying them, but I’ve done this as recently as this past week on some topics that likely aren’t on anyone’s radar yet, but may become topics for public discussion down the road. If you have called me or dropped by to discuss an issue, you may well get a phone call from me when a related topic pops up.
The key thing you should take away from this article is that all of us want and value your input on issues confronting our city. We are five mere mortals and we don’t pretend to have all the answers. Please help us by letting us know your thoughts.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor