Editor: This is a comment post on our website by local resident and activist Phyllis Frey in response to yesterday’s commentary.
WHEN CITY COUNCILS GO ROGUE
During the recent controversy regarding the inclusion of a commercial enterprise—Orchid Island Brewery to operate in MacWilliam Park, important issues that would affect our community, violate our city charter and negatively impact our quality of life were brought to light.
1,200 people who were interviewed signed a petition in opposition to commercal operations in our public parks, a policy that would bypass our city charter. Concerns about a radical departure from our traditional norms were grounded in fact, yet council member Zudans characterized them on public radio as “hyperbole.” Safety was chief among those concerns, yet Zudan’s children are safety tucked away at St. Edwards, so he need not worry about the negative safety factor for Beachland Elementary School. Mayor Howle stated on public radio that if residents who lived on “shady, flower-lined streets were concerned about additonal traffic, they should move to dead-end roads.”
On July 17th the city council chamber was packed with over 100 concerned citizens. There was standing room only. The overflow of members from the public filled the chamber lobby. Citizens formed long lines to speak at the podium. The First Lady of Vero Beach, Alma Lee Loy delivered a passionate plea for a moratorium to halt any further policies that would violate our city charter and put our public park lands at risk. The Parks & Recreation Department spoke out in support of preserving River House community center, the proposed site for the brewery.
Public input fell on deaf ears, save for council members Laura Moss and Tony Young who both voted against the brewery proposal. Appallingly, council members Sykes, Howle were conspicuously absent, unable or unwilling to face the public. Zudans though present remained tone deaf to the public.
When publicly elected officals become so acutely de-sensitized and distanced from their constituents, it sets a dangerous precedent. Not only do we risk losing our city charter, but we stand to lose representative government. On a grander scale, when elected officials work hand-in-glove with mega corporations who form monopolies, and developers who consider traditional city charters obsolete, we stand to lose the fabric of our community and our voice to decide our future.