This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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Let me be clear…over the last decade and under the current Council/Manager form of government, residents are offered little, if any, accountability from elected officials when the City Administration fails to achieve assigned goals and objectives or when the administration misleads the residents on issues of public import.
Examples of this type of non-accountability are: 7 years of non-action regards the Wildflower Site; 8 years of lingering argument regards the Interim Design Guidelines and the Pattern Book; recent antagonism with the Boca Raton Airport Authority; and, finally, the ongoing spat between the Beach and Parks district and our City Council/Administration.
So what’s the cause…In a nutshell?
Leadership or lack thereof…
The Council/Manager form of government is parochial in nature and allows no one to be held accountable for missed objectives and missed deadlines. The Council/Manager form of government does not offer leadership from any one person or source.
As reported with the Beach and Parks’ District situation last week, the Deputy Mayor’s comments to the District were highly inappropriate. See the attached video for his comments to explain and justify the posture taken on the public record. He argues in one breadth that his remarks were that of a private citizen, a dubious argument refuted by his own words in the attached video. One wonders how the Deputy Mayor, in a public forum, talking about relationships between the City and the District cannot be held to the words as the Deputy Mayor.
So what about ‘Leadership’
In our Council/Manager form of government neither the Mayor nor the Deputy Mayor are authorized to arrive at any kind of solution on any issue without the consent of a majority of the Council, a consent that neither have at this time regards the Beach and Parks District.
Councilmembers derive their power from the collective body not as individuals forming the body. Furthermore, no official action can be taken without the interaction of the City Manager, the only person with the authority to get things done administratively.
The main problem then is, if, as here, it takes months and sometimes years to get things done, the City Manager is the responsible person….but the City Manager is not accountable to anyone, especially the resident. Our City Manager is only accountable to a majority vote of the City Counci,l but is never accountable to the resident.
Residents cannot fire or unelect the City Manager
In a recent comment by Council members to James Hendrey’s request for additional time at the Council podium, Mr. Hendrey was told that Boca Raton was ‘generous’ to allow 5 minutes for public comment and that additional dialogue was not the way our governing body operates. Mr. Hendrey was then dismissed and the Council went back to business as usual in appeasing the voice of disenchanted residents.
In fact, these remarks by the council members are entirely accurate. They, however, but make the case of accountability even more vivid. The resident voice matters only around election time when an incumbent is seeking the residents’ vote.
A Pause for Thought
The alternative form of government to Council/Manager is that of a Strong Mayor. In a Strong Mayor government, there still is an active city administrator but the Mayor is the position with power; with accountability to the resident and with the recognized leadership deserved by the residents. The Council would remain responsible for policy and budget. The Mayor becomes responsible for instituting policy and overseeing the expenditure of budgets.
Residents elect the Mayor; the Mayor becomes the public official accountable to the residents. The residents can fire the Mayor via an elective process as defined within the City Charter; the enabling document of any municipality.
It is not my intention to argue the full merits of a Strong Mayor form of government vs the Council/Manager form but it is my intent to point out that the city of Boca Raton’s current government has no leader; no one individual that the residents can hold accountable for missed timelines, missed contract negotiations, missed deadlines, etc…
As mentioned we have seen this lack of leadership in a number of different ways recently. There is little defense to the truth of this assertion….
My only objective here is to begin a public debate and discourse on the notion of ‘accountability’, a concept that is truly missing in Boca Raton’s form of government today.
One Last Point
Perhaps as an aside, please review the entire Deputy Mayor’s video excerpt. In it, he offers what now seems to be the party line with regards to the 2500 N. Ocean Blvd vote granting the variance necessary for the construction on the beach side of A1A. The logic offered by the Deputy Mayor and also being offered around town to residents by the Mayor is that ‘they’ “did not approve anything”.
Well, I’ll be darned…since when is approving a variance to the city’s code not approving anything.
Let me offer you what I think is the rationale. They are arguing that other third party agencies are now going to make decisions before the project would be back in City Hall for the building permit process.
Well that is true…but if they had not approved the variance, than there would be no other agency making any kind of decision in this matter.
The argument is a ‘red herring’…
It is simply cover for them to not to have to justify a cowardly decision by the Council as a whole. The argument for approving the variance was that the City would be sued….Please go back and re-read the article “A Fight Worth Fighting” . At the time of the approval the City Attorney stated that the variance approval was the Council’s decision to make and that no previous actions of the Council was of import…
The Deputy Mayor addresses this in the comments attached here but what he does not address is the decision to grant (approve) a variance that if not granted, the 2500 North Ocean project would be dead…
No…instead by their granting the variance the building of a structure on our pristine beaches still looms large….
Shame on them…
Al Zucaro, Publisher
An interesting piece…You might want to follow up with a piece on what it takes in Florida to move from on form of local government to another, in this case from council manager to strong mayor. In theory, all the latter means is electing a mayor separate from the council. Like wise, there needs to be a discussion of on how the council is elected, at large or by districts, and how each affects accountability. State law governs as we know…
All the best, Nand