Mark the day, Monday, May 21, 2012, the day in Palmetto Bay Council history when Mayor Shelley Stanczyk called the police to remove a concerned resident from a council meeting.
The village’s founding mayor, Eugene Flinn, was able to complete his full eight years without once needing to ask any speaker to leave, let alone directing uniformed police removal. Stanczyk did not make it through a year and a half.
J. B. Harris was the first casualty.
What has happened to civility and respect for opposing viewpoints in Palmetto Bay? Is this current council so convinced that its members’ opinions are the only valid opinions, that mocking opposing viewpoints is the norm? Or is stress leading to an unraveling of those serving on the council?
During a discussion of the proposed moratorium, a speaker was passionately discussing the dreaded “P” word — Palmer. Mr. Harris opposed the moratorium. This led to a nasty exchange between Mr. Harris and Vice Mayor Brian Pariser, who apparently was offended by comments from the citizens that were not in keeping with the party line and started remarks regarding Mr. Harris as he sat down.
Mr. Harris made the mistake of responding from his seat. Many missed this event on streaming video, which, unfortunately, was down for the meeting. Too bad, everyone should view the meeting.
Those few Comcast subscribers who were able to watch the meeting were probably confused. Was this a council meeting, or a rebroadcast of the movie Braveheart? Was that Mel Gibson, or was Vice Mayor Pariser’s face actually blue? Next, it seemed as if Vice Mayor Pariser might state with indignation to Mr. Harris, as Braveheart character King Edward Longshanks said to an unworthy: “Who is this person that speaks to me as though I needed his advice?”
Some say that it was Mr. Pariser who should have been removed by the police for being out of order. A public hearing is the time for the public to speak — and without heckling or immediate rebuttal. Or allow the speaker to respond without threat of ejection by police.
Council members must wait until council deliberation and then comment professionally and respectfully, without getting personal, even to speakers they don’t like. The council members apparently cannot wait their turn to confront speakers who dare question their authority. What speaker would not get upset and want to respond, when being admonished for their comments as they sit down? Following the procedures would have avoided the conflict. Mayor Stanczyk validated Mr. Pariser’s illadvised behavior by bringing in the police.
Mr. Harris’ real mistake was not accepting the authority of the crown. Fortunately for all involved, Councilmember Patrick Fiore was able to calm the situation, stepping down from the chamber dais to intercede in the matter. Through use of common sense and conversation, he disarmed the situation and with that Mr. Harris peacefully departed.
Kudos to Mr. Fiore, who understands that passion of the speakers should be met with compassion, not force. The council chambers belong to the people, and all opinions should be respected, not heckled as unpopular speakers seem to be by the families of the council members or their cronies in the back of the chambers.
You don’t see Nancy Pelosi’s or Michele Bachmann’s husbands interjecting themselves into the fray.
Who is running these meetings, Mayor Stanczyk or a mob mentality? The council members should remember that democracy is filled with unpopular opinions. It is the job of government, large or small, to respect all opinions. The council meetings will continue to be viewed more like a circus than dignified government until order and respect to all speakers returns.
Is this the vision you had for Palmetto Bay when it incorporated? Demand better from your Palmetto Bay government.