One thing noted about White Springs is that the citizens choose to not be involved, unless the issue affects their pocketbook or safety. While a disinterested or apathetic group of citizens are a problem, going the other extreme can be just as bad, but we don’t have to worry about that in our town because it is rare, except for our writings in the White Springs Journal being considered a problem by most because they obviously cannot handle someone having opinions outside of their own opinions..
What we see mainly is that Power goes to their heads and they can be a liability on many levels but in particular, there should be concern about an official that oversteps his or her bounds and changes a Municipal Charter without the votes of the Citizens. In other words, is this what the majority of Citizens want? Understanding the boundaries and limitations of your power is something that every official needs to realize or else trouble—including legal problems—can result.
Balancing what is right and what is expected can be tricky so much so that sometimes, officials and citizens alike wonder why people bother to serve in the first place. And many are afraid of how others will view them.
For most Municipalities, If you are going to be on the council, you basically are a sacrificial lamb. In White Springs the officials see the Citizens as the sacrificial lamb and the citizens should just follow them even down the cliff. As a Councilman, you don’t get paid a lot but you are providing a service to the Town or should be. The only way Citizens can protect their investments in property and land and their quality of life is to get involved and run for office…but unlike what is happening today, you cannot overstep your bounds.
It’s essential that anyone who is elected to the Town Council read and understand what they can and cannot do in accordance with the Charter and the Florida Sunshine Laws.You need to do it with all the knowledge necessary but that has not happened in White Springs and only after almost 20 years, officials like Walter McKenzie now know there is a public records law but this year he violated the Sunshine law but so did our Mayor but she did finally realize how valuable public records are. The problem is that when someone new comes on the Council they tend to get their information and instruction from other councilors so in a practical setting, they don’t always read the documents they should. And that can be detrimental to all concerned.
While most officials take their position in stride and are solely interested in doing what’s best for their community like Councilman Moore, some board members like McKenzie and Miller do let authority go their head. Most managers and municipal attorneys have experienced officials imposing ridiculous rules and fees on their residents—regardless of whether they actually have the authority to do so. One of the ways in which our officials have overstepped their bounds and abused their positions is how they include only friends and those who agree with them as officials, employees or volunteers and now it appears tourism is more important than not going bankrupt. It really doesn’t matter if these employees or volunteers have the experience or whether they have multi criminal charges or are known for their drug use. In White Springs the officials love to soil their hands and remain in conflict and are known for it in Northern Florida..
Since Council members are elected, White Springs’ residents really have the final say if they think a Council member is abusing his or her power. In most cases outside of White Springs, a Town manager or legal council will usually alert the other council members if one council member’s’ behavior is heading into dangerous territory and the manager or attorney feels they’re abusing their power but that will not happen in White Springs where the majority of officials feel they can do what they wish.
The best run Municipalities are those that are the most transparent with nothing to hide. We’re still taking information off of our recordings and our minutes are ridiculously void of information. I think every resident has the responsibility to police their officials and if they don’t like what they are doing, vote them out. Don’t just look at outside sources or the blog; attend the meetings and keep track of how the officials are spending your money.
Karin for the blog