ISLAMORADA ELECTION: COUNCIL CANDIDATES DIFFER ON ADDRESSING LONG MEETINGS

Fourteen candidates enter for five hotly-contested Islamorada Village Council seats this November. With the most candidates seen in the village’s history, the hopefuls consist of incumbents and newcomers, Conchs and longtime residents and men and women of all backgrounds. Now through Election Day, the Upper Keys Weekly will ask the candidates a question on key issues facing the village.

The Keys Weekly asked the candidates: Village Council meetings this year are going anywhere from 4-5 hours a majority of the time. Do you feel these meetings are running too long? If so, what would you do to ensure meetings aren’t running too late?

Answers are printed exactly as submitted by candidates, with responses limited to 75 words.

SEAT 1

Buddy Pinder

I do not feel that the meetings are running too long because of the high number of items that staff places on the agenda. Presentation of items for council consideration and approval demonstrates the village’s commitment to transparency and adherence to its purchasing guidelines. The village could start meetings earlier or the village manager’s purchasing authority could be increased to alleviate late meeting end times. 

Sue Miller

  • Council meetings every two weeks. 
  • Community roundtable workshops to publicly discuss details before public hearings on the budget, land use issues, complex ordinances.
  • Use quasi-judicial hearings to provide factual testimony, not personal endorsements.
  • Only emergency additions to agendas.
  • Include tabs with details for council/manager/attorney agenda items for transparency.
  • Be prepared – too many discussions end up continued into future meetings to discuss again.
  • Use citizen committees for assembling facts, recommendations.

SEAT 2

Mark Gregg

I believe that meetings should be concluded by 9 p.m. (3 1/2 hours). Adding a few additional Council meetings to the existing meeting schedule, especially in the busy winter and spring seasons, would allow the Council and staff more time to handle the increasing workload. Meetings that are likely to draw large crowds, especially controversial land use and zoning hearings, should be conducted as Special Call meetings in order to avoid a conflict with regularly occurring meeting agendas

Mary Barley

Important items should take priority on the agenda to accommodate the residents. The mayor’s position must keep meetings on track, cognizant of the residents, businesses, and fellow councilmembers. This Council spends too much time talking over one another and chatting about unrelated issues. A productive organization focuses on being efficient, effective, and respectful of everyone’s time, including staff. If a shorter agenda is not possible, meetings could start at 4 p.m. and end by 8 p.m.

SEAT 3

Pete Bacheler

The meetings are running too long. Some council members are loquacious and during the Public Comment periods some residents feel they must respond to every item that is on the agenda or being discussed by the council. 

Elizabeth Jolin

A five-hour meeting is excruciating for everyone. Noticed appropriately, a lengthy agenda could easily be split into two meetings. At the very least, let’s swap the mayoral communications to the head of the meeting and move the consent agenda at the end.

SEAT 4

Casey Watkins

Length of meetings are disrespectful of the community’s time. Agenda items must be addressed with diligence prior to meetings. Digital attachments needed for presentation must be available online 30 days prior to public address. Lengthy videos and picture descriptions at the meeting are unnecessary. Anyone going over the limit in their comment should be immediately cut off after their allowed time. This will end the repeat offenders who have no respect for the community or council.

Henry Rosenthal 

“If shortening meetings means limiting public input, I’d be opposed to that. A possible solution could be to consider meeting twice a month. I also think it would be best if compelling issues be scheduled early on the agenda. It would avoid the waiting time for members of the public who are there for something that is close to their heart. Finally, it is logical that smaller issues are relegated to later on the agenda. They can then easily be deferred to the next meeting, of course, saving time.”

Deb Gillis

Deb Gillis

Spending 4-5 hours every three weeks in front of the public on Village business (it’s the only time to talk with other councilmembers) is not too much to ask. The problem arises with the meeting going past 5-6-7 hours and items tabled to hear again. I would recommend limiting length and number of presentations per meeting, do more special calls for controversial items, request thorough review between staff and council for issues prior to meetings.

John Timura 

John Timura
  1. If a petitioner is requesting a variance to the village’s comp plan, then bill them for the legal and staff resources that get used in this process. Time, money and other resources that belong to the community should not be burned up with impunity because somebody wants to rewrite the Village’s Comp Plan for personal gain.
  2. Strengthen the subcommittees. Pay closer attention to their recommendations.
  3. Enforce the sunshine law.
  4. Create special call meetings for hotly contested or specialized topics and bill the petitioner for the community resources they are using.
  5. Follow the Village’s Comp Plan as if it were Islamorada’s Constitution… because it actually IS.

Angel Borden

Meetings are too long due to contentious issues needing input. They’re further complicated by council members going off tangent with diarrhea of the mouth versus confining their comments to the topic. Hot issues automatically deserve a special meeting versus ripping them from the agenda and gagging people from speaking. Once pulled a date must be set. Members should reach out to applicable employees ahead of time so no one has to wait

SEAT 5

David Webb

The primary purpose of the council meetings is to allow staff and council to address community issues. The ability for our neighbors to participate is appropriate and guaranteed by law. There are steps that can be taken that allows for both the efficient accomplishment of business and still provide public access. Attendees will play a big part in streamlining the meetings and council would benefit from a more structured meeting protocol.

Tom Rafanello

No meeting should exceed 3 hours. Meetings should be scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Residents need to get home from work so that they may attend and participate. Increase meetings to twice a month. Hearing requests for $1 million dollar equipment at 11 p.m. is irresponsible. More public input equals a better process. In over four decades in law enforcement, I never attended a meeting over 4 hours. Common sense.

Sharon Mahoney 

We all know the meetings are running way too long. If needed, have meetings twice a month and getting issues caught up might help. The community needs to have a part and a say in the meetings. Stopping public comment is not an option we need and I value our community. I would like to see each council person working on a different project with results or progress at each meeting being addressed instead of all hearing about it for the first time at the meeting.

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