The wheels of government must not roll over its citizens


A good formula for oil but not for operating the machinery of government.

When the City Commission decided on Monday (May 7th) to move the Confederate monument from Munn Park to Veterans Memorial Park they also voted against public funding for the project and in favor of keeping the very tall cenotaph in its original configuration.

Seven voters, three issues, one vote, unanimous approval. Hardly a sample of representative governing. How is it possible to conclude that all - or even any - dissenting views were aired or considered? What we got was a monolithic response to one of the most multi-faceted issues in recent memory.

Unanimous votes should be considered a failure of consideration. It is simply not realistic to suggest that the views of 100,000 citizens can be condensed to single vision and so, when all seven commissioners agree, it is clear that many of their constituents were ignored.

They will declare otherwise.

And there actually is evidence to support that claim. But it is almost never on display on the alternating Mondays in the commission chambers. For your consideration, we offer the video record of the Friday agenda study sessions at which the conversation and casual give-and-take shed light on the process that eventually yields the position the commission adopts. It would serve us all better if that process were part of the public meetings.

A secondary benefit of moving the discussions to Mondays is that it would provide a meaningful period of time for all of us to consider important issues. The space between any given Friday and the following Monday is simply too small to allow for comprehensive review.

Much of the more mundane business the commissioners must manage is just that, mundane, and doesn’t often rise to the level of interest or impact of such things as the monument. These items can be more readily agreed upon and dispatched on Friday, leaving room for thoughtful discussion and plain speaking on Mondays.

If all of us can be persuaded that we have been taken into account - by seeing and hearing it happen in public - we will be more likely to find some acceptance of what will always be a compromise. And we will be most persuaded by some of the seven votes being cast in our direction. Only four commissioners are needed to determine whether or not something will be done, which means the other three commissioners can clearly and purposefully represent other options.

You can review the complete video of Friday’s agenda study segment regarding the monument here.

It is worth 40 minutes of your time and stands as model of how governing gets done. It also suggests that we all benefit from having the commissioners bring a finished product to the table on Monday, in spite of the fact that it deprives us of participation, the most essential ingredient in representative democracy.

This can be fixed. Insist on it.

E-mail the commissioners

But one at a time, please!


For the most part, when recipients open an email that includes others they are less inclined to take it personally. Make sure your message resonates by sending it to each commissioner separately.

Scott Franklin - Stephanie Madden -  Sara McCarley - Chad Mcleod

Bill Mutz - Bill Read - Phillip Walker

Each of these noble citizens represents all the rest of us. The four geographic designations - Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast, etc. - apply only to the residency requirements for commissioners, not to their constituents. Bill Read, for instance, lives in the city's northeast quadrant and is likely to be more in tune with the businesses and neighborhoods in that area, but serves us all as our representative to the city management and staff.

It will always help to send your message to City Manager Shawn Sherouse  because it's his job to implement whatever projects, resolutions, and ordinances the Commission proposes in response to our communication.


State legislators representing Lakeland

Representative Colleen Burton

Senator Kelli Stargell