Why more people aren’t engaged

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My job with the Concerned Citizens of Franklin County is to point out deficiencies in county government, not what’s right. Commissioners pat themselves on the back too often.

Recently I spoke at a Wakulla County board meeting. Let me compare and contrast public engagement differences between Wakulla and Franklin counties.
The meeting was held at 5 p.m. so citizens that work could attend. The chairman spent at least two minutes describing ways citizens could participate, at either the beginning or end of the meeting, or on any agenda item as the meeting developed.
Commissioners smiled at constituents and did not make snide comments as they frequently do at Franklin County meetings. They made sure to engage with speakers to the extent necessary to understand the concern expressed. (Franklin has a written policy against engagement).
More than 50 citizens were in the audience, and many spoke. In Franklin County, fewer than three people typically speak since the new public engagement policy commenced.
Next, the issue of how the commission handled the recent St. George Island incorporation issue bothers me immensely. The CCFC takes no position. However, the manner that all five commissioners discarded the option to allow a non-binding counting of the noses, at zero cost to taxpayers, was heavy-handed and wrong. The chairman was clear on the issue, that this is his district and he knew what people needed. That was the end of the issue as far as he was concerned.
Stifling debate is what the commission seems to do best. This is not something to be proud of and demonstrates the commission needs serious coaching on being public servants.
Weems Memorial Hospital has seemingly dropped out of public view. The recipient of about $3 million in special COVID assistance has masked continuing major monthly losses. Commissioners used to get monthly reports, then reports every other month and now I can’t remember the last time finances were presented or discussed. Recently, Weems stated its desire to seek $7 million in state funds to combine with capital improvement funds on hand to build a new hospital. Their strategy this time is to keep it quiet until they are successful. Weems struggles to average one overnight patient a night.
My last subject is code enforcement, which protects lives and property values, and it’s likely the commission will move forward with it. Commissioners engaged a third-party organization to conduct workshops all over the county to collect information and ideas. Here’s the problem. Commissioners have put the cart before the horse. How ordinances would be enforced is the most critical issue facing us. Commissioners don’t want to lose their power. That’s why we don’t have a county manager unlike virtually every other Florida county.
You don’t want a code enforcement officer beholden to the commissioners for their job; it’s a natural conflict. When a commissioner leans on this officer over this or that issue, we’ll have the same problem that’s existed for years at the county department level and Weems. Start with a professional county manager and then create a set of interlocking ordinances to enforce them, and only then hire an independent code enforcement officer to enforce them. Doesn’t that make sense?
Not all commissioners are predatory. It’s just difficult not to “go with the flow” at times as one commissioner explained to me. It is important to note, that while leadership may be lacking, county staff and most constitutional offices do great work serving the interests of Franklin County.
Allan Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.

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  • sharonglaze

    Truthful article, though I wish you had attended the City of Carrabelle meetings on code enforcement and new positions up for debate. Before researching, back in May, I offered to pay for my own code enforcement education to get certified and offered to do the job for no pay. Basically, what I got from a commissioner, was that hell would freeze first because they just let people do whatever they want. Yes, there’s a recording. I then got a recital of a bad meme, “you came from there to make here like there…blah blah.”

    I have since researched and discovered that the position of code enforcement is best left to a member of law enforcement, which only makes perfect sense and in the city, could perhaps be just an extra shift per week for an officer. Not a big expense since 401k and insurance would already be covered by their regular position. If you watch the December meeting, I suggested it. You’ll see an obvious display of nepotism in the December meeting.

    For the commissioners to bully the citizens is a crying shame, but the citizens need to stand and demand change. We have an excellent Mayor in the City. She’s objective, intelligent and has the heart of a servant in her desire to help us have a great home, but she is not the one who holds the power.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2021 Report this