LARGO -- The Charter Review Committee meeting June 22 demonstrated that this gathering has brought together a group of amateurs who can talk a subject to death, ignoring lawyerly advice, and making painful progress in the limited time given for a reconstruction of the city charter.
After a 23 minute exposition by Chairman Arnold Johnson on a guideline book, the 14 members present then discussed to the point of utter boredom how members can communicate with one another.
Alan Zimmet, the city attorney who advises the group, set forth how to communicate, but everybody and his brother had a variant on how to do it -- from the sublime to the ridiculous.
The guide book from which Johnson read defined in the generic sense that members of such committees are usually drawn from community leaders familiar with government.
This group is the exception to the rule. It is doubtful that many of them could pass an eighth grade civics test.
After 15 minutes of what should have taken, at most, three minutes, Zimmet tried to straighten out the horse-cart business. One member wanted to know if the present charter was going to be modified or if a totally new document was to be written.
Of course, the predicate of the whole business is ill founded. A charter, like a constitution, should be created by the citizenry. With the plan here overloaded with hearing from city officials, the charter will be a creature of the present city government.
The reason the Articles of Confederation in the 1780s was such a failure is because it was a creature of the states. The U.S. Constitution is the creation of the people -- not the states -- that is why it has endured for almost 218 years. So it should be with the city charter, humble though it may be.
At it is, the meeting could ignite smiles, guffaws, snickers and shrugs and murmurs of almost disbelief from the public at times.
Jim Janowski, who missed the first meeting and apparently did not take Zimmet's advice to review the televised re-run or read the minutes had to have most everything that had already happened explained to him.
Steve Ross, the assistant city manager who is assisting in a staff role, patiently recited the TV schedule and this even drew requests for repeating from a member who attention had apparently wandered.
Members George Feaster and Bruce McManus struggled mightily to get the discussion on track with the aim of getting something accomplised.
Zimmet advised going through the existing charter and making changes, but Janowski, very argumentative, persisted in his theory it should be defined at the outset whether the group was fixing an already existing charter or writing a new one.
Very little control was being exercised by the chair as the meeting drifted and careened from pillar to post.
There was a lot of attempts to fine tune the schedule of meeting dates and the subjects to be discussed. After an hour, the committee had not made any mention whatsoever of the subjects on the agenda.
When they did get to them, the Preamble and Article I -- Powers of the City, were quickly dealt with.
One member, notable for his predilection for being talkative, apparently bolted awake near the two-hour mark of the meeting and went into his act, but came up with nothing of any significance.
As with the first meeting of the committee, again there was an incident when there was a detailed explanation given -- in this case by Zimmet -- immediately followed by a question on the very same subject.
What infimity causes these glaring, time wasting incidents is hard to pin down.
With time as the essence, the committee meets again on July 13, a three-week gap between sessions.
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