Viewpoints: Letter from Resident

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There are two sides to every story!

A flyer was distributed to Madeira Beach resident’s door steps on 11/9/16. It was titled “Madeira Beach in Turmoil” and was blaming City Commissioner Elaine Poe, for the turmoil in our city. Whoever composed the flyer didn’t even have the courage to take responsibility and put their name on the flyer.

Our City is in turmoil… but Elaine Poe is NOT the cause of turmoil in our City.

Any turmoil that exists is mostly due to differing opinions on height and density of the 2 new proposed developments.

However, as thing progressed, other issues have cropped up.

  • Some people began to distrust the City when they tried to introduce the first development at a commission meeting during the week before Christmas. This was during a time when a lot of citizens were out of town and busy with holiday preparations. In the months afterward, City officials said that they weren’t trying to sneak in a meeting; but that it was during a regularly scheduled BOC meeting time. But the facts are that the meeting was not scheduled on the regular meeting time on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, but on the 4nd Tuesday in December.

Then more distrust followed…

  • This past March, the Madeira Beach Ballot had a Referendum Question titled “Super Majority Vote Required for Sale of Real Property”. This title implies that a vote YES would be a safeguard for the citizens as opposed to a simple majority vote, when in reality, the YES vote gives away the citizens’ right to vote on sale of all City property. Once the word got out what the Referendum Question really meant, and how the City tried to sneak it in, it was defeated by 70% of the voters!
Mat that says Mind the Gap

Watch out for the gap between the truth and the ‘story’ being told! It’s a huge and could trip you up if you don’t know the truth!

The flyer says…

  • that Commissioner Poe was the lone vote in opposition when the Board of Commissioners approved the two (2) development projects. This fact is true. However, that implies that it is a bad thing for a Commissioner to vote differently from the other Commissioners. All votes are not always unanimous. Commissioner Poe was 1 out of 5 who voted against the projects and is entitled to her opinion and voted accordingly. She believed that she was listening to the voice of the people and the way her district would have wanted her to vote.
  • that there were some who objected to the decisions by the BOC regarding the developments. It isn’t just “some” who object, it is a LOT who object.

The City Hall was packed by those who approved the development and also by those that wanted the developments scaled back. It should have been obvious to our City Officials that, by the crowd response, there were many, many, folks opposed the developments (as proposed) and increased density and traffic. No one has ever said they do not want development. They want reasonable development as described in the 2009 Special Area Plan.

Early on, meetings were well attended by those that wanted the developments scaled back. At the same time, the meetings were also attended by supporters. However, it was obvious that most of the supports at the meetings were not Madeira Beach residents. They were business owners and members of various outside groups that were personally asked by the City Manager to attend the meetings. So, after having their voices ignored in so many ways, citizens have decided to just stay home and watch the meetings on TV and follow up on other, more useful, actions to help unite our city.

The flyer says that Commissioner Poe’s 1st choice of defense was to file a legal action. This is not true. While Commissioner Poe did file an ethics complaint, she did not file a legal action. The 1st choice of those who disagreed with the Commission vote to approve the developments was to seek redress through a petition to the City voters.

Image of person holding a pen

Electors signed the petition because of what they do NOT want in the city- NOT because of Ms. Elaine Poe.

A group of concerned citizens filed a petition

and Commissioner Poe had nothing to do with this decision; and she is not affiliated with the group who did.

The petition was asking the City to invalidate the 2014 Ordinances that allowed for more density and to return to the 2009 Comprehensive Plan and Special Area Plan. In June, in approximately two (2) weeks, over 1,000 registered voters’ signatures were submitted to the City asking that the 2014 Ordinances be repealed.

Unfortunately, the City chose to ignore the petition; and based on some small errors, said it was invalid. Like Treasure Island, most City Managers, after seeing that 1,000+ voters, might have decided to put it to a City vote.

But our City leaders decided to ignore the people’s voice.

The flyer refers to dissenters. This is incorrect negative language. A dissenter, by definition, is one who dissents from majority opinion.

Based on the number of voters who signed the petition, it would appear that the City Manager and Board of Commissioners are the dissenters.

  • The flyer also said that Commissioner Poe is involved in lawsuits and other ethical complaints filed by residents. This is NOT true…Commissioner Poe was not responsible for the law suits OR other complaints and is not associated with the responsible group of concerned citizens.
  • The flyer also said that Commissioner Poe reacted aggressively and that she was motivated by vindictiveness. It also said that she “launched her attack by publicly criticizing the projected developments and besmirching the reputation of the City Manager”.

Commissioner Poe may have told City Manager Shane Crawford that his relationship with his Assistant was OK. But, it is likely that, based on things she heard and saw at City Hall, that she changed her mind.

It was not vindictiveness. She did not launch an attack. Commissioner Poe did file a private ethics complaint with the IMCA (International City Manager/County Association). Against the rules, City Manager Crawford was the one who made the complaint public in spite of the fact that, legally, he was not supposed to name his complainant.

In the event that the insurance runs out, the Board of Commissioners voted recently to pay all legal expenses for City employees.

Unfortunately, they agreed to pay for all expenses regardless of whether or not they are found guilty.

As it turns out, the ethics complaint against City Manager Crawford was found valid by the ICMA. He was censured and permanently removed from the ICMA. He then decided to appeal the ICMA’s decision and in October, he flew to Kansas City, along with his attorney and Executive Assistant, to appeal the decision. He did not win his appeal; and this action cost the City thousands of dollars.

Photo of Kansas City, KS

For his 1 day of “City Business” at the ICMA meeting in lovely Kansas City (pictured), City Manager Crawford billed the city for 3.

The City’s attorney returned after spending 1 night in Kansas City; however, our City Manager and his Assistant chose to spend a total of 3 nights in Kansas City… at city expense.

The flyer said that if Commissioner Poe succeeds in her rampage against growth in Madeira Beach, the wheels of progress will grind to a halt and that we are a dated 1950’s beach community with problems of crime, drugs and prostitution.

Commissioner Poe was responsible for the City’s Chronic Nuisance Ordinance, Short Term Rental Ordinance, additional Pinellas County deputies to help at City Hall, and many other things that have dramatically improved the level of crime in our City. This isn’t about crime; and tall building are certainly not going to help stop crime. So let’s not muddy the water with talk of crime etc.

Commissioner Poe is not responsible for the divide on how we want our city to grow.

She is not on a rampage against growth. Everyone wants growth and development. It’s about how big we want to grow. PERIOD!

Although some may have some criticism for Commissioner Poe, most folks would agree that Commissioner Poe has done a lot of good for our City. Without regard for the personal issues she has been facing, Commissioner Poe has been criticized for missing the past few BOC meetings.

The real story here is…

why the Mayor and the Commission would vote on this and just ignore more than 1,000  of their constituents concerns about the new developments. That is (2/3) of the people who voted in the last city election oppose the projects as presented.

  • As it is now, all of the disagreements, ethics complaints and law suits could go on for years.
  • But if the City would agree to put the decision about density to a public vote, then one way or the other, our City will move forward peacefully.

We can agree to disagree; but let’s not call names or skew the facts. We need to come together in town meetings and UNITE MADEIRA BEACH.