Whiffs of autocracy and intimidation a new trend for this council?

I have been attending Palm Beach Gardens City Council meetings for over 5 years – missing only a few and catching up by viewing those online. Over the last few months – which aligns with the new council and new mayor, the atmosphere within the chambers has become frosty – not just in temperature. The council is beginning to appear fearful of the residents, and have disdain for those not in alignment with their views.


  • Over the last several meetings the City Hall has had an increasingly visible police presence. There have always been a few police around the perimeter of the chambers. Now there are sometimes more police than there are non-staff members of the public. In fact, when I recently brought a friend to one of the meetings, she remarked at how intimidating the police presence was.
  • Public comment practice (whether process or not) has always seemed to allow the submission of cards prior to the start of an agenda item not prior to the start of the meeting. Previous mayors would ask, especially on controversial topics, if there was anyone else who wished to speak – whether or not a card had been submitted. At the most recent meeting, comment cards were physically removed from the table near the entry to the Chambers, and an individual who tried to bring a comment card to the Clerk was physically barred from doing so. Yet the process described by the City Clerk to a reporter says “We want to ensure that every member of the public that wishes to speak has the opportunity to do so.”

Council should consider:  Do you think this is the proper process? To force people who wish to address a topic at the end of a meeting to arrive prior to the meeting and sit through  boring (to them) and un-related items just for the privilege of addressing the council for 3 minutes ? Is this a process which should be discussed and reconsidered?

  • Council members have received emails that they view as negative or threatening – because the email seem to imply the pubic is watching them – in the most recent case, pertaining to term limits. Yet one on the Council, Mr. Woods, has a process serving business and it appears he plans to use the same approach on the residents.  He states (at minute 8:19 at this video archive link “Now I’m in protective mode. On every single email I get that’s a negative email I will be knocking on your door”.  No matter what citizens tell him in response to his un-requested visit (which he implies are all positive) this is nothing less than intimidation and an action which will only further result in suppression of  citizen participation and voters.
  • On several occasions in the last few months – staff has offered, on first reading of an item, to give a presentation. The mayor has responded with something like “Oh it’s not necessary. I already saw your presentation and it was fine”.  Perhaps those who took the time to come to the meeting may have been interested in seeing it?
  •  Not unique to our Council, but more and more often, it is clear that while purportedly listening to public comment – especially when it’s something they’ve heard from the speaker before or something with which council doesn’t agree – those on the dais are doing other things – looking at a terminal or reading something. (At least council hasn’t gotten to the point of talking to each other, which we’d observed many years ago in County Commission meetings. Not a high bar to jump.)

Perception is reality. And this new reality is not a positive one . Council – you may want to watch video archives of your meetings, watch your tone to the public and reconsider your public comment process.

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