I was disappointed in our city council when they gave a permanent contract to George Garrett to be our city manager. Do not misunderstand. George Garrett is a competent, experienced, honest, and conscientious member of our city staff. He will be a good city manager.
That is not the point.
Our city council chose not to learn whether there were other candidates out there, maybe some with a fresh perspective, or with ideas to renew, revitalize and reinvigorate our city and its government. They missed the opportunity to see what other options there were that might serve our city.
Case in point: It is no secret that the present council has been wrestling with trying to improve the building department. For a year now the building department has been the subject of discussions, hirings, firings, transfers and promises of improvement while apparently earning the distrust of the people having to deal with that department. There has been little or no improvement while complaints from customers and contractors fester.
If the city needs improvement, is it smart to try to solve problems with the same cast that either created them, or perpetuates them?
It is important to remember that the building and planning department is the only agency of the city that is continually dealing with the future, what Marathon will be in 3 or 5 or 10 years from now. It is the crucial interface between the city government and development, where regulations, incentives and disincentives, and negotiations can and do shape what the future will be for our city. But this city council has shown little interest in planning for our future. It is another missed opportunity.
When you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.
Another example of missed opportunities is our highway, the only unifying architectural element in our city. The landscaping of U.S. 1 is bland, unimaginative and interspersed with dead areas. A metaphor perhaps. Why can’t we have bright colorful tropical landscaping that pleases our citizens and impresses our visitors? If the city will not undertake this simple improvement, why don’t they ask the help of our numerous master gardeners, the garden club, and local landscapers for ideas to improve the visual signature of our roads and bike paths? Why does it feel that we should be grateful if they cut the grass?
And there is so much more that could be done.
We have continuing problems with vacation rentals in residential areas. Our wonderful parks are underutilized. They add to our attractiveness but aren’t used in our marketing. There are inadequate services for our teenagers and young adults. Code compliance needs improvement. Who sets the goals for this department — neighbor’s complaints or objectives based on needed improvements to the city? Is anyone setting goals and objectives to lead our city into the next decade? What kind of city do we wish to be?
Our present council is not serving us. Their indifference is exemplified by reducing their meetings to once a month and having meetings that consist of rote reports and paying bills, usually by consent without discussion. That does not require management; it requires purpose, vision, and energy.
I do know we can do better, and while I hope George Garrett will improve things, and I wish him the best, if this decision results in more of the same old, same old, we have missed another opportunity and we are the poorer for it.
This city needs help. It needs to renew its commitment to serving its citizens, it needs to be transparent about what it is doing, and what needs to be done. It must do better. It is not using the resources available, in funding, or expertise. It isn’t even asking the question of where we are heading, and what will we be when we get there. It is, in fact, in a rut, and has been there since the aftermath of Irma. We need new leadership, and leadership with initiative; and we may not have found it.
Franklin D. Greenman,