McIntosh Mirror: Reflecting news in the Tosh

Want to impact your community? Many of McIntosh's citizen boards have open seats and a council at a loss as to how to fill them.

Light-up McIntosh December 15

Light-up McIntosh will begin at the Civic Center at 6:30 p.m. The event will host Santa Clause and an area choir from six local churches will sing.

07.24.06 -- ARTICLE: McIntosh faces budget shortfall

McIntosh faces budget shortfall
Town council juggles options between raising water or increasing taxes to balance budget

By CHER PHILLIPS

McINTOSH -- The McIntosh Town Council met Monday night to discuss how to manage a draining budget.

For the fiscal year to date, the town is running $42,737.17 in the red. Council members are in a quandary as to how to put a stop to this year’s shortfall and begin to build reserves back up.

Several ideas were on the table for discussion. The basic trimming of expenses has been a council priority for the last six months. But council members questioned if this would be enough and asked Town Clerk Julie Musselman to produce projections of the town’s budget showing what would be needed to balance the remaining budget by raising either the water or increasing the millage rate of the Ad Valorem tax.

Council Member Jim Strange also asked the public of about five people, "How can we raise the revenue, people?"

The water rates in McIntosh have not been raised in about 10 years. The last time rates were raised, they were lowered again by a succeeding council because the rate hike caused a hardship for the elderly.

But McIntosh currently has the lowest water rates in Marion County at $6 for the first 5,000 gallons and 50 cents per 1,000 gallons over 5,000. The Marion County rates are $10.37 for the first 6,000 and $1.39 per 1,000 gallons. McIntosh has the lowest water rates in Marion County. See County schedule.


The council members have discussed raising the base rate in McIntosh to $9 and then possibly raising the rates per 1,000 gallons as one way of decreasing the shortfall.

McIntosh brings in $19,887.87 in water revenue. But the town's current budget shows an expenditure of $27,878.69 including a percentage of salary for town employees, repairs, upkeep for the tower and water testing. Since the portion of the town employee salary falls under the budget line of the water, council members are unsure of how much of the water operating deficit is purely a shortfall.

"So instead of $8,000 in the hole, we might be $4,000 in the hole," Strange said.

Another method could be raising the Ad Valorem millage rate. Either way, the council will be ceasing McIntosh's traditional property tax rollback. In the past, McIntosh has decreased the percentage of tax taken so the tax amount stays the same. Currently the rate is 1.2611.

Monday's budget hearing was the first of this kind that McIntosh has ever had, according to Council Member Eunice Smith. She said in the past the previous councils approached the budget differently. As this is Council member Frank Ciotti's first year on council, he sked Smith to explain some of the finer details to the budget. Strange asked Smith’s opinion on how the town handled deficits in the past.

Smith said she’d like to see what the rest of the year worked out since they were only looking at eight months of the budget.

“It might not be quite as bad as it looks,” Smith said.

Phillips countered her and said that it could be worse. “You never know until you project,” Phillips said.


Council members have several options for dealing with the shortfall. One is cutting expenses. The council would like to cut from is law enforcement. This fiscal year shows a $46,188.75 charge and the town expects this charge from the county sheriff to increase to $51 thousand. Council President Joe Phillips said they have three options with this expense. They can pay it, let it go to MSTU and individuals will pay it or simply not pay it.

Another issue council addressed is the allocation of state and county funds earmarked for road maintenance. A chunk of the town's income comes from a state gas tax, $60,009.13, and a county one-cent gas tax, $10,317.58. Portions of this money are by law meant to be spent only on McIntosh roads and road upkeep. This money is included in the town’s income to date and the town is $42,737.17 behind for the year.

Strange suggested two projects that could be taken on so that this money is properly used. One was filling the shoulders of the roads and another was fixing Avenue E on the West side between 11th Street and 12th Street. He said with cutting the sheriff’s fees and other budget cuts, the town should be able to accomplish road repair and perhaps balance the budget.

Another concern council members had were Attorney Scott Walker's fees. The town attorney’s rates have nearly tripled after he gave his resignation and then began a new agreement with the town.

“What we’ve got to watch is the attorney’s fees,” Phillips said. “We’ve got to get a handle on that.”

Another challenge looming for the council is how to rebuild the reserves when the town doesn’t have many options for building revenue. The town's reserves had been in the $600,000 range several years ago. But after the hurricanes, when money was taken to pay for clean-up and then reimbursed by FEMA, the reserves have fallen to $422,766.59. Musselman reported other towns in the area like Reddick have a million dollar reserve.

“All I’m saying is that if you’re gonna run a business, it needs to be run and in this case not to profit but so that we have a reserve,” Phillips said. “You just don’t know what’s gonna happen.”

Strange said he’d like to see the town not try to tackle rebuilding the town’s reserves all in one year.


The town council plans another budget hearing Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center to revisit these issues when they have better projections.

Other news:

* Joe Phillips said that though he had not brought it up at a council meeting yet, he intended to ask a resident to pay for the July election of the charter amendment. "I think we had a citizen volunteer to pay for this last election in two council meetings and I think we should send her the bill," Phillips said. At previous council meetings, the town council discussed with Charlsie Stott, petition committee chair, the idea of forcing her to pay for the election. But this arrangement was never agreed on and the town footed the bill. The town has paid $2,874.85 for elections for this year, last November's election and the petition amendment election. Stott was not present at the Monday night workshop.



Check out this story about Engelwood raising the water rates: Water rates could go up.

posted by Cher @ 10:49 PM, , links to this post

07.24.06 -- OPINION POLL: How should McIntosh get out of the red?

Town council members asked the public how the town should raise revenue tonight. Given that the public was me and Howard Walkup on one end of the room and Susan Phillips, Art Davis and another woman on the other, the suggestions weren't terribly overwhelming.

During the meeting, Art said the cops should give more tickets. Susan complained because they only give warnings and later told Frank he should yell at his neighbor. Howard answered some questions about how it used to be. And I took notes. Same ole, same ole.

Sorry I didn't get to the water rate opinion poll before now. I kinda wanted to see what the council's plans were and ask a timely question. Jim Strange asked us how we thought the town should make money. I told him in so many words after the meeting that, really, Howard and I are not much of a sample of the Tosh.

Y'all might be, though.

Enjoy!



posted by Cher @ 10:20 PM, , links to this post

07.24.06 -- PUBLIC RECORDS: Budget hearing files






Download and listen to the audio file of the July 24 budget hearing workshop. (Windows media file, 21.1 Mb)

Click the images to view the current budget. They're whacked out of order. Sorry about that. I am finding that blogger has limitations.

posted by Cher @ 9:56 PM, , links to this post

07.21,06 -- EDITORIAL/POLL: CRA

Editorial/Opinion Poll: Should McIntosh have a CRA?

By Cher Phillips

A question was posed in the comments, should McIntosh have a CRA?

When council member Danaya Wright resigned I figured she would be packing up all her UF student planners and law students and would, for better or worse, take the idea of a McIntosh CRA with her. In light of Wright's resignation, why address the CRA at all? Wright said she couldn't do anything about U.S. 441 in her resignation letter. And let's face it, some of the spirit drained from her gavelwork since the CRA became subject non-grata in council meetings. But then I thought - that's just why people still ask about it, because they were told they couldn't ask about it...

Since the three little letters CRA - standing for a community redevelopment agency - became the Tosh equivelent of a dirty word, people have wanted to express their opinions about it. Depending on the month, the council wanted to hear from some residents but not others. (That has a frightening habit of happening quite often in meetings - has anyone else noticed that particular double standard of late?)

In council meetings, it got to the point this spring where Wright would preface giving a resident the floor to speak or ask questions with, "Does this have to do with the CRA?" Shoot, she even did it to me once. Until I spoke in reply to Joe Phillips' attack on this blog a week or so ago, I never raised my hand to speak in council meetings unless I had an idea or a damned good reason to speak.

Does anyone remember a March meeting when Wright said only people who had property within the proposed CRA could speak? I think Gary Greenburg made an appearance that night and outted himself as having a professional planning graduate degree. He scolded Wright and told her in so many words, we all have a say in what is planned for our community because it impacts everyone.

He was right that night. I've lived in this town nearly seven years and I have a right to my say. We all do; no matter where we live in McIntosh.

So even though my instincts tell me the CRA is a dead issue, I will put up an opinion poll because I did hear from a couple people asking when I would put the CRA question up. If you don't know what the CRA was, I wrote a story about the it earlier this spring, McIntosh divided by CRA, U.S. 441







Keep an eye out in the next day or so. I'm hoping to post a water question in celebration of the upcoming budget hearing on Monday!

posted by Cher @ 1:16 PM, , links to this post

07.21.06 -- MEETING: Budget Hearing Workshop, Monday, July 24

The McIntosh Town Council has a meeting notice for a Budget Hearing Workshop** scheduled for Monday, July 24 at 6 p.m.

Notices are posted outside the town hall office in a shadow box. It's been my experience agendas are subject to change so those who are interested should make a habit of checking by often.

**This meeting is listed as a workshop which means the council should be discussing the future budget and not voting on issues.

Some unresolved issues are still up for discussion and decision: an interim board member, a new council vice president and an election date named for Danaya Wright's replacement. As of last night, none of these items were on the agenda.


In other meeting news, a code enforcement board meeting was noticed for August listing a number of residents whose code who will have code issues discussed.

posted by Cher @ 11:14 AM, , links to this post

07.21.06 -- ADMIN: Confirmation added to comments

The comment sections were spammed last night -- which means I got like 50 little generic notes with a tiny link like this ">" at the end to a casino site or who knows what. It was a risk to taking anonymous comments and not forcing everyone to log in. So, I enabled the garbled word check on the comment section so don't be surprised when you go to post something if you have to type in something. It doesn't change your level of anonymity but it will keep me from having to delete spam.

posted by Cher @ 7:32 AM, , links to this post

07.18.06 -- POLL: Reactive vs. Proactive Code enforcement

One reader commented today that "Code enforcement was a good idea in theory. Anytime anyone needed approval, it was handled locally. Previously a permit required a trip or two or three or more to Ocala and the subsequent waiting. The problem began when the council allowed the c.e.officer to 'look' for work."

Another reader asked about reactive versus proactive code enforcement. What do you think?




*****************



21 votes submitted
20 votes - reactive
1 vote - proactive

View results.

posted by Cher @ 8:19 PM, , links to this post

07.17.06 -- EDITOR'S NOTE: Poll-erama Folks

A note on the polls ... clearly, the polls are for entertainment, to toss out ideas and encourage everyone to voice their thoughts. These aren't meant to be like a Gallop poll. (They are sourced from webtoys.com, after all.) So, no dissertations written using the poll numbers, please!

I know that sometimes it's not always possible in the meetings to be heard, for whatever reason. Not everyone can get to the meetings to make their opinions known by clapping or cheering on ideas they support.

Besides all that, when I wax editorial, the powers that think they be just say I'm "stirring the pot." So, speak up with your mice and click away. Take the ladle from me and stir away, McIntosh.

I'd like to reiterate that I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE for y'all to submit questions for future polls. Tell me what you are curious about finding out from the people of McIntosh.

posted by Cher @ 10:43 PM, , links to this post

07.17.06 -- NEW!!! POLL: County Code enforcement, what do you think?

At the last council meeting, Council Member Jim Strange suggested sending code enforcement up to the county level. This month he asked Mayor Marsha Strange to look into this with him. What do you think?






Poll results for the question: Do you think McIntosh code enforcement should be sent up to the county level?

26 votes

80% (21 votes) for Yes
11% (3 votes) for Maybe
7% (2 votes) for No



Send question ideas to Cher Phillips at philicher@aol.com or include in the comment section below!

posted by Cher @ 7:19 PM, , links to this post

07.15.06 -- BRIEFS: 'Crusty' code enforcement officer, Regretful board member resignation

Town Council refuses open letter asking for removal of code enforcement officer

Mayor Marsha Strange attempted to submit a letter given to her containing signatures of McIntosh residents asking the council to remove Art Davis as code enforcement officer. Council members refused to accept the letter because Davis was not present to defend himself.

Council member Jim Strange asked Mayor Marsha Strange if she would go with him to Marion County to see about passing the duties of code enforcement officer up the chain to the county level.

“If we’ve drawn first blood on this,” Jim Strange said. “Then dog-done it, let’s get a Band-aid.”

Code enforcement *Board Chairman Harris Fellman defended both Davis and the idea of proactive code enforcement. He said Davis assisted in the Pedro Molinas case. Molinas was mired in a legal battle with code enforcement board that was recently settled involving the placement of his carport-outbuilding. (*Edited to correct title - Fellman is the chairman not the officer.)

Frank Ciotti said the council was looking into the public’s concerns about Davis and would look into them for another 30 days. Residents addressed the council calling Davis “crusty” and saying he was capable of invoking animosity.

Joe Phillips asked Attorney Scott Walker if Davis had done anything illegal and Walker said no. Mayor Marsha Strange pointed out that his actions could have been unethical.

The open letter to the council is available at Sportsman’s Cove for further signatures.

Historic Preservation Board member resigns under great protest from council, residents

Beverly Dodder resigned from the Historic Preservation Board stating in a letter read by town clerk Julie Musselman that her ethical integrity was being questioned. Both council members and residents discussed concern over Dodder’s resignation.

Jim Strange called her a true southern lady.

"I sought her out to be part of the citizen board, she didn’t want to,” Strange said. “She has done a very, very credible job.”

Council member Frank Ciotti said during the special election Tuesday residents were rude to Dodder. He also expressed concern over seeing her name in the blog that evening.

“If I’m dying of cancer, I want that lady next to me,” he said. “She is the kindest, sweetest person and I refuse to accept her resignation.”

Tuesday, this reporter wrote an editorial about the special election because an historic preservation board member was manning the polls. At the council meeting, I addressed the issue of the blog coming up in this instance.

"Since you brought the blog, I did speak with her at the end of the day,” I said. “Someone had told me that she was crying. I asked her if that had anything to do with me. I thanked her for her 16 years of service with the voting. She and I had an amiable conversation. I told her I put something on the blog because I felt I should question an historic board member – no matter what historic board member – being the person manning the booth at a vote concerning the historic district. That seemed questionable. I went down to the office and spoke with Julie and I tried to be very fair to Beverly.”

At the polls Tuesday evening, while I was apologizing for upsetting her if I had in fact been the person to make her cry, Dodder offered me an apology because she couldn’t answer the question I asked at the polls that morning. I told her that frankly I respected her because she didn’t answer my question when she was there to check in voters.

The council did accept Dodder’s resignation with regret.

- CHER PHILLIPS

posted by Cher @ 7:42 PM, , links to this post

07.15.06 -- Article: Ban on historic district ratified, council president's response: 'you didn't do anything.'

Council responds to voter initiated charter amendment

By CHER PHILLIPS

McINTOSH -- The Town Council ratified an amendment Thursday to the McIntosh Town charter residents elected by a landslide vote.

Town Council President Joe Phillips said at the town council meeting that he only had one statement about the petition amendment special election the town held Tuesday.

He began by quoting the entry from this blog titled, “Why July 11 is a very, very important day.”

“I will take just a statement that I guess was written in the blog that says, ‘If you do nothing this week, make sure you take time to get out and make your voice heard’ and that’s what you accomplished by passing the amendment to the charter two nights ago here to ban expansion of the historic district,” Phillips said. “You didn’t do anything.”

Phillips added he thought the election was so unimportant that he did not even vote. His comment met a stunned and silent group of town residents and council members.

But 166 of the town’s 361 (numbers as of January) registered voters did show up. The amendment passed by a landslide of 148 votes for yes and 18 voted for no, approving a ban on expansion.

The charter amendment offered the residents a method for banning expansion of the historic district. While council members in the past have said they did not plan to expand the district, they did pass a new historic ordinance in June that offered methods of increasing the historic designated areas, under protest of many residents who were present at that meeting.

Council member Jim Strange asked if there was anyone in the crowd who questioned the election totals. No one did. But Bill Glass asked the council to reconsider before they passed the voted referendum. He said the amendment was illegal.

Strange motioned to ratify the amendment and the council ratified it unanimously. Attorney Scott Walker said the charter would next be sent to Marion County and the state.

posted by Cher @ 4:28 PM, , links to this post

07.15.06 -- ARTICLE: Citizen board members' freedom of expression preserved

McIntosh citizen board members' freedom of expression preserved

By CHER PHILLIPS

McINTOSH -- Citizen board members' freedom of expression was preserved at a council meeting Thursday when the town council president asked for the removal of three board members.

The new McIntosh Town Council President Joe Phillips asked the council to remove three citizen board members for signing a recall petitions of Danaya Wright and Jim Strange.

Phillips added to the agenda the removal of board members because he said he did not believe they should sign a petition against a council member and serve on a citizen board.

The three members he asked to remove were Sean Dowie from the tree committee, Joe Shea and Jim Walkup from the LPA.

All three had signed at least one petition for recall of either former council member Danaya Wright or council member Jim Strange.

Mayor Marsha Strange asked attorney Scott Walker if the citizen board members signatures on the petition weren’t an expression of their freedom of speech.

Walker said from searching Attorney General opinions, he did not think that being on a political action committee and on a board was dual office holding. Secondly, he said that signing the petition for recall or a citizen initiative did not create a conflict necessitating removal from the board positions.

“I nominated Sean Dowie,” Phillips said. “They serve at the pleasure of the council and previous councils have done this before so I see no reason why this one shouldn’t but it’s up to the council to decide.”

Phillips request met silence from council members Jim Strange, Frank Ciotti and Eunice Smith.

“I personally think it’s an insult to these boards, that’s my personal opinion and I’m entitled to it,” Joe Phillips said. “You can either make the motion or not make the motion.”

Other council members declined to make a motion on this matter or even comment.

But Jim Walkup resigned from the LPA committee. Later in the meeting, Barbara Fellman, LPA committee member, spoke to Walkup’s excellent record of attendance and said many times he allowed the LPA to make quorum and do business.

posted by Cher @ 2:41 PM, , links to this post

07.15.06 -- PUBLIC RECORD: Danaya Wright's Resignation read into record

Public Record: This is the text of Danaya Wright's resignation letter as read into public record.

Danaya Wright’s resignation:

I have an announcement to make. I’m going to read a statement into the record.

I moved to this town eight years ago because I fell in the love with the town and the atmosphere. I was told by colleages that I shouldn’t move here, that McIntosh had a bad reputation. My answer -- it looks like a good place to live. Unfortunately, McIntosh is not a good place to live.

In my eight years, I have seen so many unethical, immoral and illegal actions that I can’t even remember them all. I don’t want to go through them in this forum. You all know them as well as I do. That’s why a new council was elected.

In 2003 and then again in 2005, I thought we had seen the worst of self-serving behavior when this town voted to make a change in the council but I hadn’t. In the last six months, I have seen people threaten and intimidate council members, town employees and citizen board members. I’ve seen people spit on good citizens in this town who have spent countless hours spending time making this town a quiet retreat from the rest of hectic Florida. I have seen people file ethics complaints that they know are unfounded for the sole purpose of harassing the town’s elected representatives. And I have seen them threaten other residents with eviction if they do not vote or sign petitions as they are told. I’ve seen people deliberately lie to their neighbors about what they know to be untrue in order to make a financial gain. Most important, I have seen people in this town listen to rumors and attack the integrity of their neighbors without lifting a finger to seek out information that would disprove the rumors.

In the last six months, only two people have called me and asked me for clarification about matters that were before the council. Yet I have been personally attacked for saying things that I never said and accused of trying to do things on the council that are illegal and contrary to the fundamental principles of the rule of law. Not one person has bothered to seek out the facts or disprove the rumors.

When I ran for council in 2003 I did so because I felt that democracy and transparency were the only ways for this community to prepare to meet the challenges of impending development pressures. I knew that this community would rally together against an outside threat that would jeopardize everything that has been built with so much hard work. I ran because I thought I could make a difference.

I thought that getting citizen input would allow us to move forward toward a mutual vision of the future. I thought that if a variety of residents came together to tackle a challenge we could overcome it. Apparently, I was wrong. I was wrong because I believed that people wanted change. I was wrong because I believed that people wanted to participate in the directions their community was taking not just sit by and criticize others. I was wrong because I believed the people of McIntosh wanted to preserve its character for future generations. Most important, I was wrong because I thought I could make a difference by bringing my values and skills to the table. [Garbled]

I realize that this is a small town and that we don’t have the resources to hire fulltime lawyers, planners and managers. We work on a shoestring budget. The council members are volunteers who have jobs, families and other commitments that make it impossible to do this job on a full time basis. Volunteers staff our citizen boards. They make recommendations and judge on the appropriateness of requests all without pay or thanks. Running a town and keeping it in compliance with state and federal laws, property insured, the streets clean, the water safe and the residents protected is a lot more time consuming than it was 20 years ago or even ten.

This town has never had a council that was more honest, transparent and dedicated to fixing the problems that exist than the one we have today. But apparently, that’s not enough. We have to fight every day to do what is right because a small minority of the residents believe that we might do something that disadvantages them and they set up obstacles and barriers to every effort to fix the problem that the prior council left us.

The current recall petition is just another method to intimidate council and citizen board members.

The current recall petition is simply another effort to intimidate council and citizen board members. But it’s not always the people who are the problem. It’s often the situation. People in this community are upset because life isn’t simple any more. Lawyers, planners, clerks and managers cost more and they are expected to do more but few seem willing to pay more for the sacrifices so that our children can grow up in the same beautiful community that we did.

I’ve decided to resign tonight. Not because of the recall petition. But because I cannot do the job I was elected to do. It was a very difficult decision because I don’t like to quit when I have made a commitment but I have simply don’t have the time or the energy to devote to the problems that exist in this town.

I can’t solve the problems on Highway 441, with FEMA, with the budget, with the insurance or with the new state [unknown] labor statutes without the cooperation of this town. Since I can’t do the job that I was elected to do, I believe it is only right to step down and let someone else do it who has the time.

But before I go I want to state on the record that I have not done the things I’ve been accused of doing. The only thing I can be accused of doing is try my hardest to bring this community together, to seek compromised solutions and to keep us out of legal trouble while we work out a collective vision for the town.

But I can’t be effective even at that anymore when I don’t have the resources or the support of the people who want to preserve this town. So while I still have the floor, I am going to answer the four charges that are leveled against me.

The first is that I instructed the clerk not to take a 6 hour workshop. That is correct. Because the meeting was a workshop at which no action could be taken. It seemed absurd to take six or seven hours which would require Julie to spend 20-25 hours transcribing the tapes when written minutes are all that is required by law. I had no desire to hide anything from the public. I merely saw little point in taping six or seven hours of people brainstorming, rehashing ideas raised at the Florida League of Cities conference, catching up on some of the history of the issues that were in front of us. As you all know, minutes were prepared and voted upon by the council with no indication from anyone present that the minutes did not accurately reflect conversations that were had that day.

Second, I’ve been accused of scheduling an emergency meeting when there wasn’t an emergency. The emergency meeting referred to was a meeting which I had the audacity to call a few days after a regularly scheduled council meeting, at which the council agreed we would purchase a new mower because both of the mowers were broken. We were not able to purchase a new one because not all of the bids were entered at the time of the reading. We decided to get the bids and then hold a subsequent meeting to decide which bid to accept. Three members of the council attended that later meeting. All three were contacted by Paul Kelly, our maintenance worker, that without a single functioning mower the grass would be out of control before the next month’s meeting. With the grass unmowed the mosquitoes would be intolerable. Let me add that the council president Charlsie Stott was asked to call a meeting. She refused, that when informed that I had called the meeting, she refused to attend. Neither at that time or any time afterwards has she or councilman Walkup objected that the meeting was improper nor offered any reason why they did not attend. If they have any objection to the business that was conducted at that meeting, they could have attended and voted it down, they chose not to.

Third, I’ve been accused of engaging in communications with other council members in violation of the Sunshine law. No specifics have been given of when this supposedly occurred or on what issues we supposedly have spoken so I really can’t say anything other than the truth which is that every single person on this council in direct contrast to previous councils have never spoken, phoned or e-mailed on any matter that would be before this body. Furthermore, not one person in this community has requested of myself, or any other council member, copies of our McIntosh e-mails which are public records. Nor has any person asked for documentation which would prove or disprove these allegations. Of course, it is difficult to disprove a charge that has no details but I will gladly turn over all my e-mails that I made regarding the town. It’s too bad that no one bothered to ask for the relevant materials before making up untrue allegations.

Finally, I’ve been accused of violating our land development codes by voting for a resolution giving the board of adjustment the function of approving site plans prior to issuing building permits. The relevant language of the town’s LDC states that: “An administrative official designated by the town council shall administer and enforce this ordinance and may be provided with the assistance of such other persons as the town council may direct.” I have a difficult time seeing how a designation of the board to do this function violates the provision when the prior town council administered and enforced the ordinance itself. We do not now have, or have we ever had an administrative official designated by the town council. The prior council, rather than hire an administrative official, simply delegated to itself this function. The current council voted, believing that it was inappropriate for the legislative body in this town to also be the judge, jury and executioner felt that it should delegate to the board of adjustment those duties in compliance with the spirit and the letter of our code. The town council’s always had the power to designate who shall administer the code. Unfortunately, prior councils felt that they should do it all. This council felt that it’s not a good idea to have a tyranny of [cough].

I hereby resign, turn over my gavel to the Vice President Joe Phillips. I hope this town will open its eyes and learn the truth about the baseless allegations leveled against the council and board members. I hope it will regret some of the mean-spiritedness that has characterized the last six months. Threats, insults and intimidation are not the proper basis of democracy. They are the ways of tyranny. I want to sincerely thank those people who have supported me and helped me to bring consensus to this town and I’m not angry with the people who have insulted, slandered and threatened me.

It has allowed me to rethink my own priorities. We’re about to have a new baby. My job has become more challenging since I took on the chairmanship of the faculty senate in May and my own work has suffered from all the time I’ve already devoted to this town. I can not do anything more. I truly hope that we do not lose the momentum and fall back into the old ways. Unfortunately, from where I sit today, our future is very bleak. Since I cannot be effective in brightening its future, I resign.

posted by Cher @ 11:23 AM, , links to this post

07.15.06 -- ARTICLE: Wright resigns town council due to personal, political reasons

McINTOSH – Town Council President Danaya Wright resigned Thursday night to a stunned council and passed her gavel to Vice President Joe Phillips.

“I’ve decided to resign tonight,” Wright said. “Not because of the recall petition. It was a very difficult decision because I don’t like to quit when I have made a commitment but I have simply don’t have the time or the energy to devote to the problems that exist in this town.”

Wright’s left office for several reasons. She described the political atmosphere in McIntosh over the last eight years and sa the current council is more transparent and honest than past councils. But she said some unnamed residents have made it impossible to accomplish the goals set out for the council and she was not able to fix problems with U.S. 411, FEMA, the town’s dwindling budget, insurance and new state labor statutes.

“Since I can’t do the job that I was elected to do, I believe it is only right to step down and let someone else do it who has the time,” she said.

Another reason for leaving she said was personal, stating that she and her partner are expecting another child and that her job at the University of Florida has suffered due to the time she’s put into being on McIntosh’s Town Council, as the Chair of the UF Faculty Senate and as a UF trustee.

Wright said that the political situation in McIntosh simply would not allow her to accomplish the job she said voters elected her to do. She said that in the eight years since she’s lived in McIntosh she’s seen a number of actions that were “immoral, unethical and illegal” and that was why the current council was elected.

While she did not lay out who was "immoral, unethical and illegal" in the meeting – stating that everyone knows them already – she did describe a bevy of them she's witnessed. She also spoke to rumors and allegations made against her in recent months.

A petition to recall for Wright and another council member Jim Strange was circulated around McIntosh this last month garnering nearly a hundred signatures of residents. Wright said that the recall was just a method of intimidating council and board members.

Wright said that while she still had the floor, she defended herself against allegations brought against her in the petition.

The first allegation she spoke to was not taping a 6 hour workshop meeting. She said that minutes were prepared and voted on and no one had objected to them.

Later in the meeting, when Joe Phillips brought up articles written in this blog saying that minutes were voted on for that meeting, former council member Charlsie Stott said they were not available in the office the following week. In fact, the first set of minutes made available were one page resembling an agenda did not reflect of the meeting. This reporter did protest the minutes to Wright and asked her to provide another set of minutes of the workshop in the pressence of town clerk Julie Mussleman.

The second allegation was that she called an emergency meeting to purchase a lawn mower for the town at least a year ago. She stated that broken lawn mowers in town required this and that two previous council members Charslie Stott and Howard Walkup did not attend the emergency meeting.

Stott does not agree with Wright on this point and said in a comment in this blog that there was one working lawn mower in town.

The third allegation was that Wright violated the Sunshine law in e-mail communication. She said no one had made a public request for her e-mail or any other council member’s email that she knew of and she could not speak to allegation since she did not know what she was being accused of doing and when she supposedly wrote such e-mails.

Late last fall, reports of e-mail conversations among conversations came to light. [removed because**] Eunice Smith said in a phone interview in March that issues would could up and she would not know what other council members were talking about because Smith does not use e-mail.

[Clarification--editor's note added July 16: E-mail conversations came to light late last fall. This was confirmed by this reporter in a conversation with Eunice Smith in a phone interview and an interview with Mayor Marsha Strange. I am sorry if this was unclear.]

The fourth allegation was that she violated the town’s Land Development Code by appointing the Board of Adjustment to approve site plans. She said she did not see how the council appointing other members to do work that previous councils took on themselves was a violation when the language of the town ordinance said they could appointment an administrator and others to this task.

In February, the town council did meet once as the Board of Adjustment but decided at that meeting it could feasibly not be legal for them to meet as a review board and called the meeting off. They later appointed the Land Planning Agency to act at the Board of Adjustment.

Wright has more than a year left in her term so the current council will have to appoint a new council member. Then between 60 days and 90 days the town will have a special election for a new council member to replace Wright.

The council chose not to replace Wright during the last meeting but to do it at a later date. The council will meet for a budget workshop in about two weeks to begin setting the budget for the next fiscal year.

posted by Cher @ 11:03 AM, , links to this post

07.14.06 -- EDITOR'S NOTE: Corrections, clarifications and perspective

Last night LPA board member Barbara Fellman said I misquoted Commissioner Charlie Stone saying I wrote that he spoke to me about the LPA board. He did not. I said in council meeting that this was not the case.

I did make a mistake last night.
I thought the article she was referencing was article McIntosh divided by CRA, U.S. 441 because I had only had one conversation with Stone and that was about the CRA. I spoke to this point in council last night. She was, instead, speaking of an editorial I wrote Why July 11 is a very, very important day. Sorry Barbara. When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong. But even so, I did not write that Stone said anything about the LPA nor did I mean to imply he said that.

The editorial referenced the conversation I had with Commissioner Stone and information I learned from him about CRA boards. I should have made the segue more clear for when his information ended and my edtiorial opinion began. I have made this correction in the story after Commissioner Stone and I spoke this afternoon when we read over every word I wrote relating to him.

I also spoke with Stone about the concerns that Bill Glass voiced that Stone's attorney would have something to say about the blog. Stone did speak with his attorney about the page of the editorial Fellman faxed to him but was not going to take action.

Further comments Bill Glass voiced to council and the town residents were that he had been speaking with the dean of the School of Journalism and Communication. I spoke with the chair of my department this afternoon and sent him the blog URL so he would be in the loop. He replied saying, "Nice work."

****

My correction policy is that I make them. If you think I've made a mistake, let me know. Enlighten everyone. That's the whole point of this. I am using this format for the sole purpose of READER RESPONSE.

****

Now that I've covered MY bases, I can move onto in my reporting to the coverage of McIntosh's bases.

Thanks for the comments everyone!

posted by Cher @ 3:11 PM, , links to this post

07.14.06 -- EDITOR'S NOTE: Audio file available for download

The audio file of last night's meeting is available for download. Again, these are windows media files and unless you have DSL, it's a hefty download - I checked the times on the file and it's two and a half hours long.

If you can't download the file and need a copy , let me know at Philicher@aol.com. I will do what I can to help you.

McIntosh Town Council meeting, July 13, 2006 (download Windows Media File, 34.5 MB)

posted by Cher @ 11:15 AM, , links to this post

07.13.06 -- EDITOR'S NOTE: Council president resigns at council meeting

By CHER PHILLIPS

Council President Danaya Wright resigned tonight from the McIntosh Town Council.

That's the big news that shouldn't go unsaid overnight. For what it's worth, I believe it is a loss to the town. She read a very long letter into the record and a good part of it was read through tears. More information on that tomorrow.

I will post the audio file tomorrow and a report. This is an important meeting and if you care about McIntosh and missed it, it's an important download so you understand by hearing for yourself exactly what's come to pass. As always, if you need help with getting a copy because of the size of the download, e-mail me and I will try to help

I'll go into this in greater detail tomorrow. But suffice to say, I bore the brunt tonight for standing up and reflecting in words what I've seen played out in this town. Clearly, not everyone thinks that's what I do here. But to those who do, I thank you (as well as my friend from Gainesville) for your support.

posted by Cher @ 11:25 PM, , links to this post

07.13.06 -- ADMIN: Down for Maintenance

Just wanted to let y'all know the site was down this morning due to a techinical issue. I'm working on making the site show up in search engines. I've had some questions about that. Someone couldn't find it and told me she thought they made me take it down. Not so, folks.

You'll also notice things look different -- the colors aren't the same. I reloaded a new template because the old one was no longer pulling up the CSS source -- which means in normal person's lingo -- all the little pictures and instructions that tell your computer what color, font sizes and layout to use were all messed up.

-C

Also - The June 8 Town Council meeting has been linked under audio links. The download is still a whopper. If you need a copy and don't have DSL, e-mail me.

posted by Cher @ 6:10 AM, , links to this post

07.12.06 -- MEETINGS: More meeting dates this week: July 11-14; upcoming agenda

HEADS UP:

Tree Committee meets tonight 7 p.m.
Civic Center

Previously, I posted July 11 since that is what I have in my notes. Either this changed or I made a mistake. If it was the latter, I'm sorry for an inconvenience that may have caused. When I went to pick up the vote totals, I wondered where the Tree Comittee was ... maybe there was a conflict with the center.


*****

Town Council Meeting
Thursday, July 13
NOTICE ------> 7 p.m. (I posted 6 p.m. last night. 7 p.m. is the correct time per the posted agenda today.)
Civic Center

Agenda items:

The highlight of this meeting will be under the messages from the council members.

Posted to date are three items. The first deals with removal of members of the citizen boards, the second concerns the petition amendment to the McIntosh charter. The third was added by Joe Phillips about this blog site, to my understanding. Unless maybe someone else in the council started his or her own blog ... if so, send me the link and I'll post it under links. I'm equal opportunity. Realistically, the editorial board (me) is thinking maybe Joe isn't a fan of the blog. Though, I have to tell you, listing the blog as an agenda item is racking up the hits.
Thanks Joe!

Other items deal with a message from Scott Walker on legal representation and a letter from Mr. Holloway. A guest speaker will be Barbara Fellman. They'll hit some business with a resolution on Statewide Mutual Aid agreement and the continuation of the June 22 meeting that ended when it became so heated.

******

REMINDER: The FEMA meeting is still on for Thursday morning and if you live in areas that could be in danger of flooding this could be relevant to you. There could be some impact to flood insurance.
Oh -- anyone who does go and feels like writing up a couple grafs on what happened, please feel free to e-mail me and I will post it for others to benefit from.

******

Code Enforcement Board Meeting
Tuesday, July 18, 7 p.m.
McIntosh Civic Center

posted by Cher @ 5:50 PM, , links to this post

07.11.06 -- REPORT: Of historic district, McIntosh says, 'Enough already'

Of historic district, McIntosh says, 'Enough already'
Voters approve a referendum by a landslide to ban expansion of the historic district

By Cher Phillips

McINTOSH -- Voters approved a charter amendment that would keep the town of McIntosh from expanding the historic district in the future.

A total of 166 voters turned out Tuesday, with 148 voting "yes" and 18 voting "no" to the proposed amendment that would ban expansion of the historic district in McIntosh by any means, expect if residents bording the district requested they be included.

In late June, the McIntosh Town Council passed a wide historic ordinance increasing the powers of the Historic Preservation Board, a citizen board, to control homes, property and businesses within the historic district, including detailed methods for increasing the historically designated areas in McIntosh. One method allowed the Historic Preservation Board to recommend an owner's property for historic designation even if that owner objected.

McIntosh has a population of about 430 people. During the general election last November, about 290 McIntosh voters showed up electing Frank Ciotti and Joe Phillips.

The next town council meeting will be Thursday at 6 p.m.

posted by Cher @ 8:26 PM, , links to this post

07.11.06 -- EDITORIAL: Special Election

By 8 a.m. this morning 23 people had voted in the special election to add an amendment to the McIntosh town charter that would ban expansion of the historic district.

Things looked good this morning. I asked the poll worker outside how we found out the results. She said to ask the clerk inside. "Oh, is Julie inside?"

"No, it's not Julie," she said.

I was voter 23, I think. But when I crossed the threshold of the Civic Center I stopped dead in my tracks.

One of the women working at the polls asked me if there was something wrong.

"Yes," I said.

My mind was racing trying to figure out what I should do. See, Historic Board member Beverly Dodder was the clerk working the polls. Nothing against Dodder. I honestly have no idea of her politics. But there is a ethical perception to having a member of an historic board working an election concerning banning expansion of the historic district.

After I voted, I asked Dodder if she was still a member of the historic board. She was very ethical and proper in her response, telling me that she could not speak about that under the circumstances. In all fairness, her response is a credit to her.

At the town office, Julie Musselman said Dodder has been working elections for 16 years. She called the town attorney Scott Walker to ask if Dodder could legally work the poll. Legally, it was OK, they said.

But what's legal and ethical are different matters. I think most residents don't know who Dodder is and what her role on the historic preservation board is but some do. Some might see her pressence there the same way I did this morning: as something to make them stop in their tracks and question, how did this happen?

This is one of McIntosh's biggest challenges: when the old and the new collide. Many of us work in Gainesville or Ocala. This is 2006 and have an expectation that government be run at a higher standard. Folks like Dodder who have been manning polls for 16 years, doing things the old ways. I think it was an honest mistake. But I think it was a mistake to have her working the polls for this election.

The results will post at the Civic Center after they process them at the end of the election at 7 p.m.

posted by Cher @ 9:37 AM, , links to this post

07.10.06 -- ARTICLE: McIntosh residents want official fired

McIntosh residents want official fired
Open letter asks for removal of code enforcement officer

By Cher Phillips

McINTOSH -- McIntosh town residents will see another petition circulate town this week asking for the removal of a town official from office. This time petition organizers have their sites set on the code enforcement officer.

Casey Girardin, owner of Sportman's Cove, who in the last few weeks circulated recall petitions for two town council members, said the residents east of the historic district asked her to put together a petition or letter to address concerns with Code Enforcement Officer Art Davis. Instead of residents engaging in a calling campaign to Mayor Marsha Strange, the petition is part of an open letter asking for the mayor and the town council to consider removing the code enforcement officer from office.

The letter asks for his removal from office.
"We feel that he has violated the code of business conduct and ethics during his employment as code enforcement officer," the letter says. "On multiple occasions he had acted aggressively and inappropriately, both in action and in speech. Please understand that we below find this behavior unacceptable and hope that you do also."

Girardin is passing out forms for any interested residents to circulate and return to her. The open letter will be submitted to the town clerk for the mayor to present to council.

Davis was named code enforcement officer earlier this Summer and has not been a popular choice for the office. Part of the reason is that the town council gave Davis the freedom to act proactively. He was allowed to roam the town looking for code infractions, to write his own complaints and then enforce the code.

In the past, McIntosh code enforcement officers were required to write code infractions only after recieving a written complaint. But recently, the town council reinterpretted the wording, giving the code enforcement officer the authority to write the initial complaint.

Other concerns about Davis have centered around his approach. Resident Fred DelRusso brought one concern that Davis threatened to remove his Sago palms with the town's backhoe to a town council meeting June 8. Davis denied he said this at that meeting. At the same meeting, resident Charlsie Stott voiced concerns that no complaints were filed in the town office while Davis had clocked a 40 hour work week.

Davis' bills actually work against council member's plans. In January, town council members attended a workshop with the Florida League of Cities where they learned that code enforcement was one method of raising revenues. Due to low water rates and property taxes, the town of McIntosh had been spending more than it's taken in. Council members discussed at length in a February workshop methods in which code enforcement could be used to raise money to accomodate the losses and perhaps to even hire a town manager.

In other news, Girardin and several other McIntosh residents recently circulated a recall petitions for Town Council President Danaya Wright and Council Member Jim Strange. Both petitions garnered nearly twice the number of signatures needed, 50, for the first step in toward a recall election for a town the size of McIntosh. About 24 percent of the McIntosh residents and a third of the town's registered voters signed the petitions within a four-day period.

Florida statutes require signatures be collected within 30 days. McIntosh has never had a town council member recalled.

posted by Cher @ 9:21 PM, , links to this post

07.10.06 -- EDITOR'S NOTE: McIntosh town business meetings July 10-14

Meetings this week in the McIntosh:
In case you don't already know, public meetings in McIntosh are posting in a shadow box outside the town hall office.


Land Planning Agency
Workshop
July 10, Monday 7 p.m.
McIntosh Civic Center

The Land Planning Agency is known as the LPA around town. This is Barbara Fellman's board -- as well as the board that sent up the ordinance with the forced entry clause the council defeated June 22. The purpose of this board is to rezone McIntosh, for all practical purposes.

This board also serves as the Board of Adjustment, which is a board of review for McIntosh.

*****************

Special Election
Charter Amendment Vote
July 11, Tuesday 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.
McIntosh Civic Center

If you do nothing this week, make sure you make the time to get out and make your voice heard.

This election is for the charter amendment that will add an amendment to the town charter prohibiting expansion of the historic district. Don't forget a picture ID.


*****************


McIntosh Tree Committee
July 11, Tuesday, 7 p.m.
McIntosh Civic Center


I've never been to a tree meeting, believe it or not. But the tree police are the ones who protect the town's canopy. I've heard they are reasonable folk. No agenda posted.

*******

SPECIAL MEETING OF THE TOWN COUNCIL
McIntosh Town Council Meeting with FEMA
July 13, 10 a.m.
Thursday
McIntosh Civic Center

This meeting isn't what you think it is. The town council is not trying to meet at an off time and fool us all. Believe it or not. : )

This meeting is a state initiated workshop. Tracy Straub, stormwater engineer for Marion County, will hold a public outreach meeting discussing a flood map and a floor insurance study. This could effect future insurance for the area, especially in the lake area. This is actually an important meeting to hit and not for the normal reasons. Find out what FEMA has in mind for McIntosh.

Similar meetings in Marion County will be held July 11 - 13 at the Marion County Library, Room C.

**********

McIntosh Town Council Meeting
July 13
Thursday
McIntosh Civic Center

No agenda yet. When I see one, I'll post the highlights.
And the time, for some reason, I can never remember when they start.

posted by Cher @ 10:39 AM, , links to this post

07.06.06 -- EDITOR'S NOTE: Talking Back: Comments

I want to thank the folks who have taken the time to leave comments after entries. Thanks to Renaud for the encouragement. And to the others whose names are left unsaid for their thoughts.

Part of my reasoning for posting in a blog format was that this venue allows people the opportunity to talk back. What if I got something wrong? I'm human. What if someone else had something they wanted to add? My blog material concentrates on public meetings and not what my neighbors tell me. The last thing people here need is a spy. We have Art Davis for that! What if someone just wanted to have his or her say? God knows, the town council are becoming less and less receptive to public comment lately in public meetings -- well, depending on who you are.

If you sent a letter to an editor of a newspaper, if you wanted it printed, you'd have to have your name attached to it. One of the decisions you make when you create a blog is what kind of comments you want left in your blog, anonymous or not.

So the subject of anonymous comments gave me pause for that reason. Without a name attached, information loses its credibility. That's why you see my picture at the top of this page. It's not because I am vain. Really, I'm so not vain. It's because I study how to collect information and how to present it. I take that seriously. I'm still a student. And I want you to know where this info is coming from.

Another reason I almost didn't accept anonymous comments was because of the tendency McIntosh has toward rumor. Rumors thrive when no one can determine the truth of a matter.

But the reason I went against all of those reasons had everything to do with emotion over reason. This blog has been cathartic for me. It bothered me collecting info for my class and not being able to publish it. What was the point?

But putting it all out there, getting it off your chest? Maybe not losing sleep at night? (Let's face it, I've heard lots of people talking about their sleep loss.) Having your say is a powerful feeling, even if you feel you can't put your name on it for fear of repercussions from your neighbors.

That kind of fear works as intimidation and I really have no tolerance for it. That's one reason I take anonymous comments here.

I heard that the council members told folks at the meeting they would get calls if they signed a petition to recall either Danaya Wright or Jim Strange. Since I was late to that meeting and didn't hear them say that, I have to hope it was said in a spirit to understand what people think is so wrong that they want to recall their leaders. That's another reason I take anonymous comments here.

I'd like to hear what people have to say.

Eventually, if enough people have their say, we'll all feel secure enough to leave our names.

posted by Cher @ 1:49 PM, , links to this post

Editor

Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

About This Blog

The primary purpose of this blog is to accurately reflect what happens in town public meetings and dispel rumors. I record the meetings and make them available for download. One of the goals of this blog is to offer residents a place to voice opinions. The comments, views and opinions expressed there are not necessarily those of the editor.

 
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"A Popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, 1822

"Personal journalism is also not a new invention. People have been stirring the pot since before the nation’s founding; one of the most prominent in America’s early history was Ben Franklin, whose Pennsylvania Gazette was civic-minded and occasionally controversial." - Dan Gillmor, 2004, We the Media

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The news blog covers McIntosh, Fla. We strive to be accurate in our reporting. If you believe you something is inaccurate, please e-mail Cher Phillips at philicher@aol.com.

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