(The following is a letter read at the February 16th Economic Task Force Town Hall Meeting)
Thank you for holding this town hall meeting and I thank the Economic Task Force for their hard work and efforts. But unfortunately, until we deal with the sins of the past we can have no confidence going forward. Our city management failed to protect the interests of the residents when they kowtowed to the developers of 1 Curtiss Parkway by giving them a free ride on appropriate parking fees. Fees that could have very reasonably reached a million dollars or more. City Manager/Finance Director William Alonso was a major part of that disgraceful violation of fiduciary responsibility and is finally doing the right thing by leaving city employment. But don’t just take my word for it. Here is a statement made by Mayor Maria Mitchell at an April council meeting during a discussion of the issue:
“As the negotiations continued with this project I had concerns with it and didn’t think we were negotiating in the best interests of our city. What we could have gotten.”
Exactly! Like the million dollars we should have gotten! And we still cannot trust the process and management going forward when we have the same City Planner and law firm that betrayed the residents still in place. Nor can we trust management after they gave completely conflicting and disingenuous information on why they failed to apply a fee and are now engaged in what can only be termed a cover-up. City management has failed to give a clear and concise explanation for their failure to apply a parking fee even when written city policy states that a fee SHALL be applied.
Because of so many disingenuous excuses, I decided to cut to the core of the issue by asking if there were any legal reasons why the city couldn’t have applied a parking fee. My goal was to put aside all the conflicting mealy-mouthed excuses as to why the fee wasn’t applied and establish once and for all if a fee could have been applied.
Over the course of several months, I emailed this question 5 times to the elected council and city attorney for the record; “If the City had gone through the necessary timely legal process of establishing a fee and followed any other appropriate measures necessary would there have been any legal reason preventing a parking fee from being applied to 1 Curtiss Parkway?” I implored the council to acquire an answer from our city attorney. It’s a simple question that would provide a much-needed baseline on the issue. They have refused to answer the question. City management often chastises residents for not going directly to the source for facts to prevent rumors and misinformation. And yet, they refuse to answer a simple question that could establish once and for all if city management failed the residents while favoring the developers. Our city officials do not want the residents to know the truth. That’s a cover-up. And we can’t respect or trust management and the process going forward when we still have the same taxpayer-funded City Planner, and law firm that betrayed us before and now refuse accountability by covering up the truth.
I have stated publicly multiple times that I believe our mayor and council can do a good job and I thank them for their service. But with responsibility comes accountability. Our city management has failed us and refuses to be accountable and forthright. Sadly, our elected officials are enabling the cover-up because of a lack of courage to acknowledge an inconvenient and embarrassing truth that exposes incompetence or worse. Mayor Mitchell and Council, why are you refusing an answer? Do the right thing and answer the question now being asked for the 6th time. Thank you. (End letter read at Task Force meeting)
Update: The February Gazette article about the meeting states that Mayor Mitchell told the reporter she had answered my question but she refused to “elaborate”. She did not answer it. My question above has never been answered by her, the City Attorney or anyone else. Before the meeting I asked Mayor Mitchell to answer and she said it had been answered.
Again, not true.
It’s a very simple yes or no question and it’s pretty easy to deduce why they won’t answer it. Instead of playing coy, all Mayor Mitchell would have had to do was repeat the yes or no answer she said she had already given. But they know and fear that once they confirm that there were no legal reasons preventing them from applying a fee, all of their illogical and duplicitous excuses for not charging a fee will be shown as exactly what they are. A cover up of the city not negotiating in our best interest. Just like Mayor Mitchell has previously stated. Anyone reading this that doubts my account should email my above specific question to Mayor Mitchell for an answer. firstname.lastname@example.org In fact, this is where all concerned residents should get involved and email the question to Mayor Mitchell. It’s easy for them to ignore one person. Not so easy to ignore multiple requests. But that can only happen if residents get involved and help protect our community by holding our officials accountable.
I have expressed many times my thanks to our elected officials for their hard work and willingness to serve. I like Mayor Mitchell and think she and most of the council are very capable. But everyone needs to be accountable. If this council is permitted to sweep under the rug a disastrous failure to collect a potential million dollar fee meant to help with our parking problems, what could future councils attempt to get away with? Are you willing to take a couple of minutes to help obtain the truth and accountability? Please let me know if an answer is forthcoming. Always remember, apathy and uninvolved residents will lead to further destruction of our beloved community. To protect our quality of life residents must be aware, active, and willing to act accordingly.
Final Thoughts (Finally!)
Outspoken people like me who attempt to keep popular public figures accountable are often insulted and called names. Case in point, in his editorial in the February Gazette, Tom Curtis quoted former mayor Billy Bain as idiotically calling Nestor Suarez of MiamiSprings.com and me “squealers” and complainers. In Mr. Bain’s twisted view, those of us willing to expose ourselves to backlash by documenting truth and facts are “squealers”. Usually when people insult or call the messenger a name it’s because they can’t honestly dispute the message. Consider the source in this case. Mr. Bain was the mayor and a major cheerleader for the downtown development debacle and was a leading part of the power structure that betrayed the residents by favoring the developers. He voted for increased density and failed miserably in his fiduciary responsibility as mayor to secure the parking fees being discussed here. Getting bashed as the messenger comes with the territory when exposing government incompetence and corruption.
You may not know me. You may not like me. That’s ok. What I ask everyone to do is put personalities, popularity, and preconceived notions aside. Disregard the noise and nonsense of stupid insults and farcical excuses and look at all the facts as they are documented. Then objectively consider who is telling the truth and making the honest and convincing case.
*A special thanks to Nestor Suarez for making the MiamiSprings.com media outlet an invaluable source for residents to be aware of news and events. Mr Suarez works continually to provide updated information and has posted many articles on this subject. I encourage all residents to visit the site and evaluate the evidence for themselves.*