First ‘COW’ meeting in new chambers draws crowd

By Gary Alan Ruse….
Palmetto Bay’s first Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting in the new Village Hall Council Chambers on Monday, Jan. 24, had a better turnout than usual.

“The turnout was significantly larger than we’re used to for a Committee of the Whole meeting,” said Bill Kress, village public information officer. “At mid-point of the meeting I counted 52 or more people there. That’s very good, and it was the right place to hold the meeting.”

Initially, village staffers had anticipated holding the workshop meeting in the conference room of the new Village Hall facility, but it was changed to the council chambers, which is larger. In years past, COW meetings were conducted either at the Chamber South offices, located at 900 Perrine Ave., or at the Deering Estate Visitors Center where regular council meetings were held previously.

Kress anticipates the council chambers will be the location for future COW meetings as well because of its many benefits.

“I don’t know what other room would be as fitting,” Kress said. “It’s comfortable. Minutes are taken and what is said there is on the record. It is an advertised meeting and the public is invited to speak, so for all those reasons the room has all the accommodations to allow for a public meeting.”

Kress said that having everything under one roof is a lot more efficient and convenient, because they don’t have to transport the sound system, water bottles, documents they might need or anything else.

“It’s a help having access to your office if you need to run up to get additional information,” Kress said. “And now we can all work right up to the beginning of a meeting. It’s a new day.”

The purpose of the Committee of the Whole meetings is to give the council members an opportunity to bring forth and discuss, at an advertised public meeting that fulfills the requirements of Florida’s Sunshine Law, any new possible issues that may require their attention, to pass along concerns from their district’s constituents or to openly discuss any other business about which they may wish to compare notes.

No voting on resolutions or ordinances or other formal business takes place at these somewhat informal workshop meetings, but residents who attend are allowed to voice their opinions or concerns as well during a public comment portion of the meeting.

“This time, because it was so well attended, we had about a dozen members of the public who waited until the end to speak,” Kress said.

Kress said he believes that the large turnout may have been due in part to curiosity about the new building and the new members of the council, and that the recent campaigns stirred up interest and brought out some “new faces” who haven’t attended meetings previously.

The meeting had a record 31 items on its agenda and ran about three hours, covering topics as wide-ranging as the appointment of members to the Historic Preservation Board, participating in Miami-Dade County Days, interlocal agreements with schools, Florida legislative requests, town hall meetings, the Jane Forman Tennis lease, traffic studies, the FPL alternative route, Skate Park user fees, political signage regulations and others.

“Mayor Stanczyk moderated the meeting and kept things moving forward,” Kress said. “She made sure all the council members and others present had a chance to speak their minds.”

For information on upcoming COW meetings, check the village website at www.palmettobay-fl.gov/ or call Village Hall at 305-259-1234.

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1 Comment for “First ‘COW’ meeting in new chambers draws crowd”

  1. SW Palmetto Bay Res

    The council was shocked to see 52 people in attendance at the COW. Take notice council members and staff, those in attendance are called watchdogs. We are all waiting for the work to begin. There have been three council meetings since the November election with no substance, but then over 30 items on a late February committee agenda. It makes no sense. The items appeared to evaporate quickly without much discussion. Could this be due to the number of watchdog eyes on the meeting? Why hold separate committee meetings rather than use time at the monthly meetings to hold discussions? Could it be that the council is not comfortable holding business in front of the public and with microphones recording the actual meeting? Why don't they record the committee meetings?

    Mayor Flinn promised webcasts of council meetings once the council moved into its permanent home. No word on any such effort to broadcast meetings. I guess the council wants to limit transparency and open government.

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