Dear Editor and Historic City News readers:
Monday night, I was watching the St. Augustine City Commission meeting and looking forward to hearing about the selection process and criteria for the Mobility Task Force.
Much to my dismay, the commissioners stopped discussing it once the audience (and The Record reporter) left the Alcazar Room, making it seem that the people watching on CoSATV.com streaming video didn’t count.
Conversation by the commissioners at the end of the meeting, once again showed a lack of understanding and comprehension of the issues expressed.
Three commissioners circled their wagons to give the city manager kudos and pat him on the back for a job well done. They minimalized the legitimate concerns expressed as people rushing to “judgment and placing bets” on the success or failure of the task force and claiming that we all need to give them a chance.
This is not an elementary school playground. It is not about getting along in peace and harmony. It’s about making sound decisions and taking action with input from people that they represent.
St. Augustine has evolved, and people want to be informed and included. We want to know what the goals and objectives for the task force are. We want to know what the process and criteria is in selecting members.
We want to know this before the deed is done so we can have input. For too long we have allowed the city elected officials and a few influential citizens to make decisions for us, and we currently endure the results of this with endless studies, no real plan and repeated failure to take action.
The city commissioners sat back on their haunches on the most important issue facing our city today, and allowed the city manager to select task force members without seeking nominations or applications from the stakeholders.
There was no published process or criteria. No input was sought from the organized neighborhood associations, which each have very distinct and unique issues. Our recommendations and proposals appear to have been ignored yet again, while a select few city favorites and influential citizens keep calling the shots.
Some areas have been left completely unrepresented on the new task force. During Monday’s meeting, it was suggested that expanding the current members to include omitted areas could solve this. However, the response was that if we include one omitted area, we might have to include another area … and heavens, maybe all omitted areas. Can’t have that.
They missed the point entirely. Sure, we can pat the city manager on the back and support him for a job well done.
Yes, the individuals may all be fabulous folks and may be knowledgeable and instrumental in meeting the task force objectives (although whatever those objectives may be remains a mystery).
The point is, had the process and criteria for selecting task force members been properly shared and input from the community sought, maybe, just maybe, all of St. Augustine’s citizens could have been adequately represented, and more appropriate choices for task force members may have been made.
It’s time for the city and commissioners to stop making selections based on who they know and their own political ambitions, and start soliciting input from the community (neighborhoods and businesses alike, instead of showing deference and preferential treatment to a few connected individuals with personal agendas.