One caller from Kings Point shares her thoughts during public comments
By Sharon Aron Baron
I’ve been watching city commission meetings in Tamarac for ten years, and I’ve never seen them so out of hand.
Years ago, former Mayor Harry Dressler would spend upwards of 30 minutes of grandstanding on the dais on just one item. No interruptions, just him talking.
I thought it couldn’t get any worse.
Last night’s meeting was a staggering 6 hours and 29 minutes. The agenda could have been easily covered in one-third of the time.
During the first part of each meeting are the commission reports. This is where the mayor or commission shares updates about what’s going on in their districts or what meetings they have attended. Once slated at the end of the agenda, the commission voted to move them to the beginning because everyone had already gone home by the time they spoke.
Since being elected in 2018, Commissioner Mike Gelin has used more than a reasonable amount of time at each meeting talking about everything — PowerPoint included.
On Wednesday, he spent 11 minutes during his commission report, complete with yet another PowerPoint discussing racial injustice in the country.
Racism is, no doubt, significant and is a serious issue. However, many commission meetings it’s on Gelin’s report.
Let’s put this another way before I’m attacked. Commissioner Elvin Villalobos is Hispanic. If he were discussing the injustices of Hispanic migrants in our country each week, I’d be writing the same thing. Or even the mayor, who doesn’t discuss Jewish-Americans’ issues — or use the dais for her activism.
Listeners tune in to learn about city business, and city commission meetings aren’t their news source. Social media is full of it. We get it on the TV, in our cars, and if you’re traditional, in the paper.
For Gelin, who once publicly berated a BSO deputy at a city commission meeting four years after his arrest, I understand injustice is important. Once an unknown, Gelin now attracts a large social media following.
The ironic thing is just moments later, Gelin is concerned with the perception of his city after a piece in the Sun-Sentinel. He forgets that in 2019, he made national news due to his confrontation in a public meeting that made his city and police force look unfavorably.
Now I’m not making any judgments on whether Gelin’s arrest was wrong or right. However, he had four years to work things out with the deputy, and two years of that time, he was working next door to the Broward Sheriff’s Office where, as a commissioner, he could have walked over and had a sit-down.
Let’s move forward.
The commission meeting finally begins, and Commissioner Marlon Bolton asks to bring an agenda item from the bottom to the top. He wants it discussed right away.
What was so pressing that they made residents who wanted to speak on another agenda item wait?
A Sun-Sentinel editorial.
Both Commissioner Bolton and Gelin wanted to discuss the unfair coverage they all received in an editorial called Politicians in Tamarac need to stop ripping off city taxpayers based on an article by writer Lisa Huriash.
Instead of letting it roll off their backs or even writing a rebuttal, Gelin and Bolton spent 45 minutes of residents and staff time — not to mention my own.
Gelin said he viewed the Sun-Sentinel editorial as extremely irresponsible and an attack not just on the city commission but the City of Tamarac as a whole, to the staff, to their auditors.
“One of the first statements they write [Sun-Sentinel] is ‘Welcome to the land of fiscal irresponsibility.’ So I’d like to ask the city manager if he thinks it’s the land of fiscal irresponsibility?”
“No, of course not Commissioner Gelin, this is an opinion piece — they are entitled to their opinion,” said City Manager Mike Cernech.
Gelin brought up that the Sun-Sentinel editorial referred to their jobs as “part-time” positions. Gelin asked Lerenzo Calhoun, Director of Human Resources, if city commission positions were part-time.
Calhoun confirmed the Sun-Sentinel was correct. “At this time, the position is classified as a part-time position.”
This wasn’t good enough for Gelin, who referred to a past League of Cities meeting where the State of Florida did not document that it was a part-time position.
“We’ll put you in touch with the League of cities to clarify that,” said Gelin to Calhoun.
Gelin later texted me that the Calhoun was incorrect and the classification was changed.
“I know the facts better than the staff. So much for your mic drop. Check with me for the facts before you write your shit,” he wrote.
Why is whether the position classified as part-time or full-time so important to Gelin who has another full-time job?
Then it was Bolton’s turn to speak
For 13 minutes, Bolton referred to the Sun-Sentinel pieces reminding the commission that he was the only one who asked others to forgo their car allowances, but everyone voted no. He spoke about the things he does for the residents with his own money in his district, including purchasing food.
Speaking of food. During his monologue, I not only prepared a quick dinner but sat down and ate — still having time to clean up. And when I finished, Bolton was still talking.
Then he turned his attention to the city manager’s salary and benefits.
“Our city manager makes more than the President of the United States,” he said, and for reasons unknown, he compares how little he makes to the city manager’s— two very different jobs.
Fast forward five hours later, Commissioner Debra Placko had an ingenious idea.
“We need to find a way we don’t have 12-hour meetings.”
Brilliant. (this is sarcasm here.)
In a voice strained and tired, Gomez added, “I was going to ask our commission that if they have presentations, to limit them to five minutes. This is not proper for us to be doing every two weeks. Our city staff works hard, and they’re exhausted.”
Bolton suggesting not giving out proclamations and just reading them for the record. However, he had a better idea.
“…and next meeting maybe we can take away the [commission] reports, that takes forever,” he suggested.
So the commission voted on removing commission reports and proclamations. And it passed.
Let’s hope the next meeting will end before bedtime.
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- Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and Tamarac Talk, Coral Springs Talk, and Parkland Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2011 to provide News for the residents of Tamarac and is the #1 News Source for Residents.