The controversy stemmed from the minutes of the March 6, 2013 meeting of the Architectural Review Board (ARB) to which I serve as liaison -- and perceptions of impropriety by Councilwoman Bain, and later by the Mayor, who (it turned out had not actually read the meeting minutes in advance, by his own admission from the dais) but instead had all present in Council Chambers sit quietly while he hastily skimmed them. As an attorney, I read quickly, but four full pages of text in 45 seconds is insufficient preparation for meaningful comment, much less the comments that followed.
The Mayor attempted to characterize my remarks to the ARB as "out of line" even though the City Attorney, Jan Seiden, clarified that as Liaisons to the Citizen Boards, our role is to listen, answer specific questions, and address issues between the Board and the Council. The attorney further clarified that any of the Council who took issue with my comments had the ability to respond in writing or in person to the ARB, but he declined to join the Mayor and Councilwoman in suggesting that there was anything inappropriate in my comments.
Listening, and responding to questions from the ARB members is precisely what I did. Because he was not present, and did not take the time to read the minutes in advance, he found it politically convenient to instead suggest the discussion relating to the questions and issues posed was "taking control of the meeting."
I've posted the full video below, as well as the minutes from the meeting that drew this response.
Frankly, the minutes of the ARB meeting are not even complete. There is a representation that "discussion ensued regarding why previous Board members left the Board," which was in large part led by Ana Paula Ibarra, who is the only member of the ARB who did not resign nearly 15 months ago. In a nutshell, the ARB worked hard to approve wayfinding signage and to place that signage throughout the City, while taking into account the "sign pollution" that makes finding things in our community so difficult and the cost of design and implementation of the signs.
The plan was approved by the City Council when Billy Bain was Mayor and the City's consultant was asked to build on the ARB plan while tying it into the new zoning code on 36th Street that the consultant was preparing to present to Council. The consultant returned almost a year later, completely disregarded the work done by the ARB, and curried a vote from the Council that approved of their custom (and expensive) plan. I don't think the Council should have dismissed the recommendations of the ARB the way it did and it amazes me that the change of a single person on the Council created a completely different attitude about how we should do business.
As I said in my comments at the close of the meeting, I stand by my remarks. I take my responsibility as Board Liaison very seriously, and I actually attend those meetings -- in that respect, sadly, I am the exception, not the rule. I believe we have smart, talented residents and we must make greater use of our local citizen expertise instead of turning to expensive outside consultants.
I sincerely hope to have the opportunity to continue to support and enhance the role that our Citizens Boards play in moving Miami Springs forward in the coming two years.