Martino: IG - Take a Closer Look at Palm Beach Gardens!

October 16, 2016

On September 20th the local section of the Palm Beach Post ballyhooed the following headline…

Palm Beach Gardens

Inspector General Report


City didn’t record some meetings concerning $4.5 million project.

Well, Mr. Inspector General you might want to take a more in depth look at the Gardens. In my opinion, this is business as usual in Palm Beach Gardens. Transparency is not a virtue or a basis upon which this City Council and its administration practices its authority. As one who regularly attends the once per month Palm Beach Gardens City Council meetings I marvel at the lack of respect and concern exhibited for open government. My sense is that our Council-Manager governance has become subservient to a form of “shadow government” that is exercising power beyond the scrutiny of the public.

Underscoring the above, one only has to study the 2013-14 “baseball stadium fiasco” where the City promoted a $100,000,000 stadium in the middle of prime single-family neighborhoods and the City Council claimed to know nothing. How about the surprise disappearance of 300 units from the Avenir development which was never adequately discussed in public and then its approval? The Shady Lakes Drive extension debacle and its contract cost confusion raise perceptions of silent maneuverings. There is the little matter of the City’s Palm Beach Gardens Municipal Golf course name change to the Sandhill Crane Golf Course without a public meeting or supposed City Council knowledge. The City’s website was renamed without benefit of a public discussion. More recently, both a park and pavilion, City property owned by the taxpayers, were named for sitting City Council members without public notice or meeting. Not for public consumption agenda reviews, development reviews, budget reviews, and who knows what other reviews, are held presumably with individual Council members, where and when is a mystery, choreographed by an unidentified whom, with what questions asked and answered, and with what records kept, is all unknown.

Is there “ill Intent” involved, I hope not. But is there “intent”, I think so. Over the last ten years or so the incumbent heavy City Council has meticulously constructed a crafty façade, a false front government, to give the appearance of transparency, but it is an opaque front. Charter changes have been deceptively presented as good for the City but have put distance between the public and its right to information and participation. Regularly scheduled workshops concerning important developments and City problems have been eliminated. Policy making seems to have matriculated into the realm of the City Administration and away from the dominion of the City Council.

From my perspective, transparency is a fundamental necessity for good government but the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens does not practice it. A City Council that meets together only once per month with its residents in a public meeting is not fostering communication. A City Council that regularly affirms important decisions with little discussion with its constituency and then casts 5 to 0 confirmatory votes is not promoting accountability. A City Council that regularly alludes that all their questions are asked and answered in some clandestine manner is not demonstrating openness. In my opinion, this protocol is not the definition of transparency but it best describes the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens attempt at it.