LARGO -- "All at Sea," starring Arnold Johnson, J.B. Butler, Jim Janowski, et al., and directed by Alan Zimmet, continued its confusing run July 27 with its audience totally confused and the starring cast even more so.
Even basic stuff, like making motions and the subsequent procedure, escapes the members of the Charter Review Committee which makes up the cast of "All at Sea."
For example, one member last Wednesday wanted to entertain the idea of juggling the group's schedule. Can't do that, it was explained. It was voted on previously and only someone voting on the losing side can make a motion for reconsideration? Really? Yeah. Oh.
For example, a motion is made for adopting a provision. Oh, oh. The document contains alternative ideas. Can't approve something like that. No? Explanation then given by director. Motion withdrawn. Moments later, a member pursues subject. Director explains the motion has been withdrawn. You didn't notice?
Then came the struggle over a word. Motion made to include it. Struggle ensues over the merits of using the word. On the vote, a hand count -- painful and lengthy -- then takes place. The idea to use the word ("ensuing") wins, 7-6. (Again, no full lineup of the 15-member committee is present, although alternates sit in the audience.)
Then another motion. Brief discussion. From out of the gloom a voice -- "What was the motion?" Seems like there is more focus and attention in a group of first graders.
All this took place in the first 20 minutes as the audience squirmed and weighed the idea that another two hours or so of this failed Groucho Marx act would continue.
From time to time (a phrase whose meaning escaped Janowski at one point) staff members Henry Schubert, an assistant city manager, and Kim Adams, the finance director, explained in clear terms the process of certain procedures. It was hard going, but they eventually got the meaning through.
At one point, Director Zimmet very pointedly made language disjunctive, a legal maneuver that escaped the notice of the committee members who no doubt thought the city attorney was merely engaging in some minor editorial tweaking.
What escapes the Charter Review Committee members is that they are supposed to be working on a basic document for the conduct of government. The exercise appears to more along the lines of a group writing statutes and ordinances.
A charter by definition defines and grants authority and does not go into the specific details and procedures. The specifics are taken care of by detailed law, i.e., statutes or ordinances. This group is concentrating on the details of process.
Had the Founding Fathers taken this approach in Philadelphia 217 years ago, James Madison and that gang would be still at it.
Here we have some personalities that want to put their mark and stamp on what should be a routine exercise in language. Instead, there are types like J.B. Butler who, for example, slipped on his faux lawyer hat and presented make-work language that was gobbledeegook, was set aside for re-working and just further delayed the whole project.
In short, the undertaking is a dismal display of half-baked ideas and no real understanding of what reviewing and perhaps re-writing in places a charter is all about.
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