It all would be funny if it were not so achingly sad.
If someone came forth with the revelation that the script written for the conception, genesis and birth of Largo’s Charter Review Committee was produced by a long lost writer of Marx Brothers movies it would cause little surprise.
This was one of those mistakes of nature that should have been strangled before it got up enough steam to start doing any damage.
To begin with, the selections for the Charter Review Committee were made on a political basis; i.e., the rule of favoritism prevailed. In other words, mayor and commissioners promoted those people for positions on the committee who would perhaps serve or protect their individual interests.
Instead of the City Commission being a creature of the Charter, the Charter is now a creature of the commission. That’s backwards.
How much better it would have been if the committee members had been chosen by a blind draw after a submission of names from the general public (after screening, of course, for some qualifications).
A second blunder was installing the city lawyer, Alan Zimmet, as the magisterial presence at the committee’s meeting.
Zimmet is a fine lawyer and principled man. But the committee would have been better off with no authoritative ties to the city administration.
Certainly the staff help given by Henry Schubert, Steve Ross and Diane Bruner is invaluable. But the CRC would have been better off with an independent lawyer. If nothing else, such a move would have been protective of the administration in that no question could be raised about its role in the committee deliberations or decisions.
Another mistake perhaps occurred when the committee first sat and selected one of its own as chairman. Somehow or other it has grown up in human lore that the rev. clergy have mysterious power and wisdom.
The record would not bear this out even though that hallowed view toward those with holy orders may still prevail in those bucolic precincts where the sidewalks are rolled up at night and folks are up at dawn with the roosters.
Not to say that His Worship, the Rev. Arnold Johnson is not a decent, well-meaning gentleman. All evidence indicates that he certainly is. But his performance in meeting after meeting demonstrated that he had no basic knowledge of parliamentary procedure or even the language of chairmanship; viz., constantly saying “so moved” after a vote of approval had been made.
There are some superior minds on the committee. They are seldom heard from. It seems that those dominating the discussions are those who know least or have the wildest ideas.
It must be agony for the very intelligent among them to stay silent while ignorant shenanigans go on around them.
One notable member, who occasionally got the floor, was Shirley Craig, who usually had a sensible view of things and very often good suggestions.
Perhaps those who otherwise might have spoken up were fearful of a clash with the verbose, prolix and bloviationous J.B. Butler who made one recall the William Jennings Bryant of our history reading, always spouting words and steam and waving arms about.
Butler and Jim Janowski, always on board with some silly question or ludicrous idea, dominated the proceedings far too much. These are guys who obviously love the sound of their own voices – many have said that.
The committee has stumbled, at this point, through ten meetings, too often legislating rather than adjusting a basic document that was not that bad to begin with, but was in need of some fixes.
Ahead are three more scheduled meetings, including another “town hall” meeting which is about as popular with the citizens as a public reading from an economics textbook (last time, four people, all “insiders,” were heard from).
During the course of this painful procedure, it has become obvious that many committee members had an overblown estimation of themselves and their roles.
Given all that, and the work – good or bad - involved, the product will go to the City Commission in what seems to be an absurd dance and drama. In short, an insult to the committee itself.
And this the crowning mistake in the whole scheme.
The commission can make any adjustments it likes, totally making pointless and redundant any work already done.
By the time the charter gets to the people for final ratification (if it gets there) the charter probably will be the written document equivalent of the house that jack built.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition