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.

03.27.07 -- BRIEF: LPA to recommend Historic 151 repeal, tree ordinance

By CHER PHILLIPS

The McIntosh Land Planning Agency will recommend to the town council that Historic Ordinance 151 be repealed and the old historic ordinance in place before 2006 be reinstated.

The citizen board also approved an ordinance that would give the council the power to remove citizen boards with the vote of four council members.

The tree ordinance went through yet another set of revisions before the LPA approved an amended recommendation of an ordinance, which will go next to the council.

Details including public records of the reports and audio files will be available Wednesday.

***

(Updated March 28, 2007)

MEETING REPLAY

Listen to the March 27, 2007 LPA public hearings:
(If you are using Internet Explorer, you may have to click the play arrow twice.)













Read the reports approved by that LPA that should be sent to the council at the April 12 meeting.

Citizen board member removal

Click here for the report on codes that would change the cause for removal of citizen board members.


(Curious about who the current citizen board members are, when their terms are up and how to contact them? Click here to check out a list of members with term dates recently approved by the town council.)

Switching out historic ordinances

Click here for the report that recommends Historic Ordinance 151 be removed and replaced by the old historic ordinance that predates 2006.


Amended new tree ordinance

Click here for the report that recommends approval of a Tree ordinance, with LPA suggestions.

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posted by Cher @ 9:17 PM, , links to this post

03.27.07 -- REPORT: Public hearing to proceed as planned

By CHER PHILLIPS

Council President Frank Ciotti sent the Mirror and e-mail this morning saying the April 12 Public Hearing to consider rezoning land belonging to two town officials will go on as planned.

"Scott has no concerns with the process we are following and feels that we are proceeding as per the Town Charter," Ciotti wrote.

At the urging of the town clerk, Ciotti scheduled a public hearing for rezoning without including the official consent of the council.

Given that several matters involving the rezone have never been established by council vote, residents expressed concerns about this public hearing moving forward before the council, as a whole, could meet on it.

One of these issues concerns who is paying for what fees in the rezoning process. The McIntosh Land Development Code says that fees, which may be determined by the council, have to paid in full before a rezoning process can be heard by the LPA.

The council never met to make decisions about what fee two elected officials, Council Vice President Howard Walkup and Mayor Marsha Strange, should pay for rezoning their land, or if the town should foot the bill. Instead, the council voted to table the issue until a special meeting. While the matter was tabled, the two officials seeking the rezone advanced their petition.

The rezone issue will reach two public hearings before the council meets to consider the details the town's codes say should have determined before the first public hearing.

During the first public hearing, when the owners of the bordering property asked if they could be included in the rezoning process, they were told by LPA Chairwoman Charlsie Stott they would have to start at the beginning.

***

The LPA will hold a public hearing tonight at 7 p.m. to consider repealing Historic Ordinance 151, approving recommendation of a new tree ordinance and an ordinance regarding the removal of citizen board members.

posted by Cher @ 8:56 AM, , links to this post

03.23.07 -- REPORT: Rezoning public hearing raising concerns of fast-tracked rezoning

By CHER PHILLIPS

(This is the first of two stories on the upcoming rezoning public hearing. The first explores the basis for resident concerns, and the second is a Q & A Style e-mail interview with Council President Frank Ciotti addressing the issues.)

A rezoning public hearing planned for April 12 will be reconsidered after it came under scrutiny by the Mirror when concerns were raised by residents who feared the hearing was premature because it cut into the council's decision-making power and put a rezoning process on the fast track.

In February, the Land Planning Agency approved two planning reports belonging to the James and Marsha Strange, the town's mayor, and Howard Walkup, the town's council vice president. The proposed changes would rezone agricultural land to residential which would go next to the town council as ordinances proposing changes to the land development code.

Rezoning agricultural land to residential land was already a contentious issue before the public hearing was called into question. Two years ago, Walkup's request to rezone his land to a zoning classification that would allow him to put one house per acre on his nearly 10 acres was denied by the town council in 2005. The Strange's withdrew an application that same year. Both town officials are now seeking a zoning classification change for their agriculture property to two homes per acre, which would open up zoning for potentially 36 new homes on the two parcels of land.

After the LPA approved the planning reports on March 13, the committee's next step would have been to present their findings at the next council meeting in April. Then, the council would decide whether to have a workshop or hold a public hearing.

In an e-mail in late February, the town's hired planner Bruce Day explained the zoning process step-by-step to town officials at Council President Frank Ciotti's request. Day, who works for the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council, wrote that after the LPA approved the planning reports, "at the next town council meeting, the Council should decide if they want to set up a workshop or if they want to go ahead and go ahead and set a date for a public hearing at the first reading of the ordinance." (Day's e-mail)

But one day after the LPA meeting on March 14, the town clerk, Debbie Miller wrote to three council members EvaJo Callahan, Lee Deaderick and Ciotti, the mayor, LPA Chairwoman Charlsie Stott and Day. "The date of Tuesday, April 3 (7:00 pm) has been suggested as a possible date to schedule the first of two required Town Council public hearings on the AG - R1 rezoning," Miller wrote.

Miller said in an e-mail to the Mirror today that she chose April 3 because it was a good date for the planner, the Civic Center and town officials.

On March 15, Miller wrote another e-mail to the same town officials telling them she'd received the LPA reports and the council would need to schedule two hearings within 45 days.

"We need to schedule the first of two Town Council Public Hearings on the AG-R1 rezoning. I've been doing some research on this issue. Per Code Section 8.04.02 (g), 'If the Town Council does not act upon the LPA recommendation regarding a proposed change or amendment within forty-five (45) days of the date of its receipt by the Town Council, the application upon which the report and recommendation is based shall be deemed to have been denied.' I have received the signed recommendation from the LPA. Again, I will schedule Tuesday, April 3 (7:00 pm) as the first of two public hearings, unless I hear from you by this coming Monday, March 19, as the ad will need to be submitted to the Ocala Star Banner at the beginning of next week," Miller wrote.

In fact, Miller was correct that the Land Development Code out procedure for dealing with rezoning land in McIntosh.

The full text of section G of 08.04.02 says that upon receipt of the LPA's report, the Town Council shall hold a public hearing, with notices sent out to owners with property within 300 feet of the proposed amendment.

Ciotti pointed this out to Miller on March 16, saying that he did not think that the process began until the council received the report.

"I am not rushing this for any reason but I also see no reason to delay," Ciotti wrote. "I do believe that a hearing and a hearing, between Town Council meetings, appears hasty and will not schedule a public hearing before the next Council meeting. I think we need to have Scott present at the public hearing, and I don't want to expend additional attorney hours and money by having it on the 3rd, as we have done in the past we can have the meeting prior to the regular time on April 8th meeting, at 6 PM if Lee can make it, if not then start at 7 PM and have a short agenda."

Miller has not yet replied to a follow-up e-mail from the Mirror asking what the impetus was and who initially directed her to schedule the hearing before the LPA reported to the council at the April monthly meeting.

Council President Frank Ciotti answered questions from the Mirror in a Q & A style interview about how and why he made his decision to follow the town clerk's lead and schedule the public hearing before the town council meets. (Read interview here.)

In the Q & A interview, Ciotti said that he thought it was the council president or the mayor's duty to call a public hearing. Since the mayor's property is in question, he said he went ahead and planned for the hearing.

But the McIntosh Town Charter does not mention calling public hearings as a duty of any individual council member. The land development code contains the rules guiding public hearings, specifically for rezoning.

In a phone interview this evening, Ciotti said he did not realize his scheduling the public hearing may not have been correct. He said he's contacted the town's attorney and if it is necessary, the town can cancel the public hearing and reschedule it after the council can meet together.

Ciotti said he was not sure if the town had already arranged to run an advertisement in the Ocala Star-Banner for the meeting. If so, a cancellation and reschedule might cost the town more money.

But Ciotti's financial concern were similar to concerns brought to the Mirror by residents who asked to have their names withheld.

The council has never voted on who is paying for this rezoning process. The Mirror has reported and documented that the council actually voted to table this process in February, and the town officials seeking rezone have done it against the will of the council's recorded vote.

Further, the LDC very clearly says that "no application for zoning amendment shall be heard by the LPA until such fees and charges shall have been paid." (LDC 8.04.02, section A) If the council never determined what the fees should be for Walkup and Strange -- another duty the code gives the council -- then how can those fees have been properly paid?

Other concerns expressed were that the rezoning process has been taking place in a way that's contrary to the code, skipping steps and speeding up the wait time and perhaps shutting out time residents who oppose the rezone might have to garner support. In some cases, shutting out the council from making decisions in the process.

For instance, the LDC says that the town council has the role of sending zoning applications to the LPA when they receive them. (LDC 8.04.02, section A) That combined with the hearing being scheduled before the council meeting stands to shorten the wait time by one or two months.

However the council president said he does not feel the process is being fast-tracked since this is not the first time rezoning has been on the town's agenda. Read what Ciotti has to say about residents getting a chance to be heard in the rezoning process next.

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posted by Cher @ 1:09 PM, , links to this post

03.23.07 -- REPORT: Council president re-examines public hearing decision, says rezone not a fast track agenda item

Editor's note: This is the second of two stories delving into resident concerns that rezoning agriculture land in McIntosh is being fast-tracked. Council President Frank Ciotti addressed issues in a Q & A e-mail interview with the Mirror.

The interview is posted verbatim with a brief added after the first question reflecting a phone interview this evening with Ciotti.

By CHER PHILLIPS

Council President Frank Ciotti answered questions about how a Town Council Public Hearing was scheduled for April 12 to discuss rezoning applications.

Mirror: From these emails, it looks like you made the decision to schedule the public hearing before the council, as a whole, receives receipt of the LPA's report at its next meeting. Is that accurate? Was this decision part of your role as council president? Why was this not a
full council decision?

Ciotti: It is the duty of the Council President or the Mayor to schedule any Public Hearings. In this case, due to her personal involvement, the Mayor cannot schedule the Pubic Hearing. I scheduled the hearing prior to a regular Council meeting so everyone may be involved. Town Attorney (Scott) will be there for questions and any needed legal opinions. I e-mailed the other council members and the attorney and asked for any questions or concerns. There were no replies, which indicates to me that we should move forward.

[Ciotti later said in a phone interview this evening that he has contacted Attorney Scott Walker about this issue. The McIntosh Town Charter gives the power to call special meetings to the council president and mayor. However, the charter makes no mention of public hearings, while the LDC mentions the town council making decisions regarding workshops and public hearings in the section dealing with rezoning. Ciotti said if he made a mistake in calling the meeting, it can be canceled, if necessary. He also said he would make a statement to the other council members before the meeting, but he pointed out that no one objected when the town clerk sent the e-mail out to the council members collectively. Ciotti wasn't sure when the public hearing posting was going to run in the Ocala Star-Banner. A concern he had was that it would cost the town more to advertise it, if it were canceled.]

Mirror: Why did you decide to drop the workshop step from the zoning process?

Ciotti: The workshop process is usually needed for large scale projects. Please don't think that the flow chart from WCPC is mandatory. It is just a guideline. If we were a larger city or a county, we would always hold workshops (Ex: the projects on 39th and 75 called Springhills). I don't think we have a need for a workshop on this item. Once the Council gets public input, the council can discuss and vote.

Mirror: Can you speak to the concern residents have that by cutting out a council workshop on this rezoning, residents lose a shot at voicing opinions and concerns about it?

Ciotti: I can tell you that everyone will be heard and have a chance to comment. Your printing this Q&A will help everyone get involved. The Council is always willing to listen to citizens who want to give input. The more input, the better for our town. Often we only hear from a few, but there are many folks who do not speak at meetings and are very aware of this re-zoning process.

Mirror: By scheduling the public hearing before the meeting, one month has been cut out of the time table for rezoning the AC land. In your opinion, has this process been fast-tracked?

Ciotti: Please be assured there is no "fast track." Yes, we are moving forward. You missed being involved in this process that started in 2005. We have been through this before and the process will be fair to all including the property owners who have filed and others who will file in the future. There is plenty of time for reflection and discussion of our town's future.

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posted by Cher @ 11:00 AM, , links to this post

03.22.07 -- PUBLIC NOTICE: McIntosh is seeking a part-time maintenance employee

Editor's note: In the March town council meeting, the council decided to seek part-time help in the summer months. Councilman Lee Deaderick asked in the meeting if I would post the notice in the Mirror to help get the word out.


Town of McIntosh Employment Notice:

The Town of McIntosh is seeking a part-time summer employee to assist half days in the maintenance department.

The main function of this job will be to assist with lawn maintenance.

Hours: 8:00 – 12:00 noon
Days: Monday – Thursday
Hourly Rate: $8 - $12/hour
(Salary commensurate with experience)

Interested persons may obtain and submit an application to the McIntosh Town Clerk at 5975 Avenue G during normal business hours. Or, applications may be mailed to
Town of McIntosh, P. O. Box 165, McIntosh, FL 32664.

posted by Cher @ 2:00 PM, , links to this post

03.16.07 -- EDITORIAL: Be angry with me, but don't be thrown asunder

By CHER PHILLIPS

If you didn't notice, I touched a nerve this week, unleashing a literal firestorm in the forums denouncing me and the blog. Since a couple people I talked to were unsure about what one or two of the points in Tuesday's story meant, I'd like to recap and clarify.

See, I think this is pretty important stuff. Other people must too, or they wouldn't be so mad at me for pointing it out. And frankly, it's crossed my mind that all the hollering at me is meant to distract readers from the questions the reporting uncovered.

Florida's ethics laws and the January meetings:

Background: Florida statutes (112.3143) prohibit a municipal official from voting on an issue which might benefit him, or his family, with a special private gain or loss. When something like this comes before a board, a procedure has to be followed in which a statement is read into the record before voting and forms should be filed within 15 days.

In January, Council Vice President Howard Walkup put the issue of rezoning his land, as well as the Stranges and the Glasses on the agenda, and then he voted with the council to send rezoning these three parcels of land to the LPA, on which his brother Jim Walkup is a member. The procedure spelled out in Florida statutes was not followed during the January council and the LPA meetings.

Discussion: For all practical purposes, the January meetings regarding zoning were used to "feel out" the mood of the council and the LPA to see if this rezone would fly. If either Walkup had followed the procedure in statutes, the final decisions on those first votes would have gone the same way. Further, the current council has been open to land owners exercising their property rights.

By not following procedure, this process is into a questionable light. Walkup's rezoning had been voted down by a previous council in 2005. There was personal gain involved in the January votes, even if the meeting just served to test the waters.

The key question in this part of the rezoning issue isn't "Should Howard get his land rezoned?" -- but "Should a councilman use his elected seat to accomplish this?"

Need I mention that the penalties by Florida statute range from removal from office to a $10,000 penalty? Not to mention, the waters are further muddied by the fact that the rezoning process left other land owners, the Wrights, out in the beginning stages.

Going against the will of the council:

Background: In February, the council heard the LPA recommendation and voted to table the issue of rezoning to either a later meeting or a special meeting. The reasons given were that this is an important issue, and people will want to know about it. After the vote, Councilman Lee Deaderick told the land owners to see him if they wanted a special meeting called. The council tossed around the idea of paying for the rezoning of these parcels of McIntosh's agriculture land to residential. To her credit, Mayor Marsha Strange suggested that land owners pay for their own rezoning. Although, she suggested that Walkup not have to pay for his since he's pursued the process already. Nothing in February was decided by the council other than this was an issue that needed to come up with time enough to discuss it.

But by the March council meeting, applications had been filed and planning reports had already been finished by a regional planner, on the town's payroll.

Discussion: As someone pointed out in the forum, land owners can file for zoning changes if they want. I agree. They sure can. But don't expect the town and the taxpayers to pay for something if you aren't going to honor the wishes of a council that was both willing to hear the issue but wanted to do it when residents could be more informed about it.

By pushing this issue through, the residents were put at a disadvantage. Rezoning 20 acres of land in McIntosh is a HUGE issue. It's the tip of the iceberg. Rezoning was contentious for a long time, and rushing it isn't going to change the issues that were at hand in 2005 when Walkup's request was previously turned down.

My other concern is that ignoring the will of the council could become a trend. I look back to the repeal of the historic ordinance and see this is the second time inside a two-month period that this has happened. I've never been a fan of Historic Ordinance 151. But the fact is the council wanted the LPA and the Historic Preservation Board to work on 151 together, not for the LPA to repeal it the first time they met -- without even going through it as a board and addressing the concerns spelled out by council member. Especially since that was specifically stated in a February vote, making it the will of the council.

(I didn't mention this in my report (there is only so much space and story people will read), but Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan did an excellent job of mediating by asking committees to at least try to work together before the public hearing March 27 to repeal the ordinance altogether.)

Public need versus private need, and future development:

Background: The McIntosh codes say that a public need should be justified to change agricultural zoning.

The other night, the LPA decided that the land owners stated need was sufficient for rezoning the Strange's and Walkup's agriculture land to residential. One board member said need was fulfilled because it was Walkup's need to have his family living close to him.

Discussion: One or two land owners' desires, or even needs, are not necessarily the same thing as the public need-- even if we really like those land owners. And let's face it, we do. They're good people who've given a great deal of service to this town.

But together, this is a whopping chunk of land we're talking about opening up for development.

And that brings me to the final question that I have not seen adequately addressed yet: What EXACTLY is going to go on this land after it's rezoned? A rezoning process should make this clear to a community, or public need can, in no way, be properly determined.

The planning reports show a potential for 36 homes. The 2000 Census reports show there are only 279 housing units in town. It doesn't take very many new homes to significantly increase this community. Does anyone else think that adding even the potential for 36 is something that McIntosh should seriously consider?

While building 36 homes may or may not be the land owners' actual intentions, if the land is zoned for that many homes, that kind of development would be possible.

However, if Walkup and the Stranges just want some land zoned for the purpose of building a few homes for their families, then why not create a zoning classification for that? Or, as Danaya Wright suggested the other night, why not rezone just enough land to allow them to do what they want and need to do?

Another thing that hasn't been considered is that these are only two of six large parcels of land on the southeast end of McIntosh. What happens if these two parcels are zoned at R1, allowing two houses per acre, and then the Burry's, the Glasses and the Wrights decide they'd also like to rezone their land to the same classification? Can the town's facilities really accommodate all six parcels? Or, what if they decide they oppose it? What will the other homeowners on Avenue H think of the kind of traffic that intensive development would bring to that end of town? Nobody polled those folks when they "tested the waters" in January.

It comes down to this: What does McIntosh want future development in the southeastern part of town to be like? I'm just not seeing that question seriously considered in this process.

And, folks, that's the key question residents in this town need to consider. Be angry at me for asking it, if you want. But don't let yourselves be thrown asunder.

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posted by Cher @ 7:08 PM, , links to this post

03.15.07 -- EDITORIAL: Nothing like a good example...

I was reading an AP Wire story about Gov. Charlie Crist in the Gainesville Sun today, and I thought of McIntosh.

Some of you who attended the Sunshine Seminar in McIntosh last December will remember Adria Harper, who is quoted in the story.

It's about that time of year for Sunshine Law week. The Sunshine Law concerns the state laws that govern open records and open meetings in Florida. Every year around this time, newspapers across Florida print stories about the Sunshine Law and it's role and importance to raise awareness with Florida's residents.

According to this story, Crist created an Office for Open Government to train state officials and employees about the Sunshine Law. The idea behind creating is office is that this law tends to be broken out of ignorance.

I've heard a number of politicians argue against the restrictions created by the Sunshine Law, both here in McIntosh and covering other beats. This quote struck me as an exceptional stance for a politician to take when explaining the importance of the Sunshine Law to Florida residents.
"I feel very strongly about it because it is their government. They paid for it, they elected it, they supported it and they have a right to know how it's working for them," Crist said. "Florida's the national leader with this stuff. It's great. We are the Sunshine State and we let the sunshine in to our government like no other state in our country." (From AP story, Gainesville Sun)

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posted by Cher @ 1:43 PM, , links to this post

03.13.07 -- REPORT: LPA passes planning reports, questions surround rezoning process

By CHER PHILLIPS

Listen to the March 13 LPA Public hearing:
(Internet Explorer users may need to click the start arrow twice)

Planner Bruce Day 0:05:18
Danaya Wright addresses Walkup's request 0:09:40
Frank Ciotti questions applications 0:13:46
Marsha Strange: we're paying R1 taxes already 0:16:23
Randy Brown: comments on no paperwork showing need 0:17:55
Vote to approve Howard Walkup's application 0:31:22
No urban sprawl
0:42:50
Danaya Wright: comp plan requires buffer 0:43:40
Stranges' application approved 4-0 0:51:30












The Land Planning Agency approved two applications for zoning plans tonight, passing them next to the council for approval and future public hearings.

The rezoning applications involved two parcels of land along the southern border of McIntosh. The first, belonging to Town Council Vice President Howard Walkup, is 9.2 acres of agricultural land that he would like to see changed to residential, R1. The second parcel, belonging to James and Marsha Strange, is for 10.29 acres that they are asking to be rezoned to residential, as well.



Agriculture land is zoned for one house per 10 acres of land. As residential, R1, these parcels would be zoned for two houses per acre of land. According to planning reports presented at tonight's meeting by a Planning Director Bruce Day, with the Withlachoochee Regional Planning Council, as many as 36 homes could be built on the two parcels if the zoning for both parcels is approved.

About 13 residents attended the public hearing, including three council members, Councilwoman Eunice Smith, Council Vice President Walkup and Council President Frank Ciotti. Among neighboring land owners, Danaya Wright, and her father John Wright, were present. The Wrights own a large parcel of agricultural land that borders Walkup and Strange's land.

Read the planning reports as originally drafted. Stranges' Planning report
Walkup's Planning report

Day presented the planning reports he'd prepared, and the LPA passed them with two minor amendments. The first was that the final recommendation for the zoning stand from the LPA upon approval. The second change dealt with the question of need.

Defining the public need:

Danaya Wright first addressed a concern during public comments about the need for rezoning.

Wright is a former council member and former council president. She resigned last summer after a recall petition was circulated in McIntosh against her. Walkup was among the residents on the recall committee who circulated petitions. In the past, these parcels of land have come before two councils that Wright served on as a council member. She was opposed to rezoning these land parcels, wanting a different zoning classification in place other than R1. Wright works for the University of Florida as a law professor specializing in property law.

She cited the McIntosh Land Development code, stating that there was not a clear need established for the rezoning.

The McIntosh LDC spells out the purposes and reasons land zoning serves and conditions under which that zoning can be changed. (Land Development Code, page 2-5)
The first purpose for agricultural land is to protect that land for agricultural use from other incompatible uses. The second purpose is to serve as a holding classification when proper future development of the land is uncertain.

The LDC goes on to explain the conditions that should be met when land is in a holding class. One of the reasons, which Wright referenced was: "it is the intention of this Code that such lands not be rezoned for more intensive uses without assurances that a clear public need exists for such rezoning."

While neither applicant said tonight what they intended to use their land for after it was rezoned, LPA members discussed the need for the applicants to be able to move their families close to them.

Wright said she would like to see the LPA approve two or three acres as opposed to a such a large amount of land.

Board member John Sapp interpreted the need for rezoning to be that Walkup's family live within walking distance of his home.

Yet, none of the board members hashed out what "a clear public need" was or was not.

Day had not interpreted need in his findings before the meeting. So, after discussion, the planning reports were amended to state that rezoning was "necessary based on the land owner's stated need."

Board member Randy Brown said when he looked over the paperwork, he did not see a need statement.

Following the money:

Another concern voiced by Wright was that the two residents seeking approval were elected officials and the town is footing the bill for the rezoning process.

In fact, nailing down who exactly is footing the bill for this rezoning is more convoluted that it seems.

During the Feb. 8 council meeting, the council discussed paying for the rezoning process with the Stranges, Walkups and the Glasses together. Then, at the continuation meeting on Feb. 12, (Feb. 12 audio file, 1:51 - 1:55) Mayor Strange told the council members she did not think it was right for the town to pay for the rezoning of any individual's parcel of land.

"Bill and I talked it over and we don't think it's fair for the town to pay for an individual's rezoning, and that includes Howard," June Glass said. She added that she didn't see a problem with everyone going together and paying their share.

At the time of this discussion during the Feb. 12 council meeting, council members decided they didn't need to take action on who would pay for rezoning.

But by the March town council meeting, Day had already been commissioned by the town to research and write planning reports for Strange's and Walkup's rezoning applications. When asked before tonight's meeting who was paying him for his work on these reports, Day said the town of McIntosh was and that he was working at the town's direction.

Ciotti confirmed this after the meeting.

In fact, on Feb. 9, the town council voted 4-0 specifically to table the whole zoning issue and to take it up at a special meeting or at another meeting. (Feb. 9, audio file, 00:01:25)

Councilman Lee Deaderick said that this was a big issue and that people needed to know about. He even invited land owners to speak with him following the meeting, saying he would call a special meeting if needed.

But by the March 8 council meeting, applications from two elected officials who were both present during the tabling vote on Feb. 9 had been submitted and Day had already completed planning reports.

Several questions remain.

If the town has hired Day and is paying him, who made that decision? If was not determined by council vote during the February meeting, when did that vote take place if it didn't take place at the February council meeting?

The next question is just as unsettling. Even if the individuals are paying for their own newspaper announcements of public hearings and for notifying neighboring land owners of public hearings, who is paying for Day's time?

To convolute the manner even further, John Wright asked the LPA tonight if the Wrights could join in the petition for rezoning. Their land sits directly between Walkup's and Stranges'. LPA Chairwoman Charlsie Stott said they could not. If they wanted to rezone their land, they would have to start on their own. Stott said that when the council decided that each individual pay for his own rezoning cases, the Glasses dropped out.

Yet, the question still remains unanswered, why were the Glasses included to begin with and the Wrights were not?

Conflicts of interest:

Before the public hearing tonight, board member Jim Walkup read a statement into the record, citing Florida statutes. He would not be voting on his brother Howard's rezoning petition, because this would be a conflict of interest under Florida law, (Florida Statutes chapter 112.3134.)

Yet, when the process began in January, both Walkup brothers voted on the boards they serve as either elected or appointed town officials to begin the process of rezoning three parcels of land, including Howard Walkup's.

In January, this issue appeared on the town council agenda under old business. During discussion, Debbie Miller, the town clerk, told council members the agenda item was added by Walkup.

The town council, in turn, voted to send the three parcels -- the Glasses, the Stranges and Howard Walkups' -- to the LPA. The vote was 4-0. (Jan. 11, audio file 2:11:38 to 2:16:00) Callahan was not present. Howard Walkup voted.

Then, on Jan. 29, the LPA voted unanimously to recommend that the council begin the process of rezoning those three specific parcels of land. (Jan. 29 LPA meeting, 26:00 - 44:00) There were no dissenting or abstaining votes. Jim Walkup voted.

The LPA will hold another public hearing March 27 regarding the repeal of the Historic Ordinance, passing the new Tree Ordinance and an ordinance regarding removal for citizen board members.

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posted by Cher @ 11:07 PM, , links to this post

03.11.07 -- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Former councilman puts recall behind him, provides final judgement paperwork

Editor's note: I received an e-mail from former Councilman Jim Strange last week.

Last summer, I offered Strange space for rebuttal in the blog. He didn't take me up on it then. However, last week he sent me a copy of the final judgement in his case, and I asked him if I could post his comments. I edited the comments from two e-mails he sent me into one letter to the editor and with his approval, am posting it below.

Click here to read the Final Judgement.


Cher:

Thank you for your kind reporting of the reimbursement matter. I have attached a copy of the final judges order for your records. Please note that the judge did not make [in the final judgement] any recommendation to Casey that her committee re-submit the petition. I have no idea how that thought got started. There were no ifs or buts, he granted a FINAL judgment in my favor.

I know that you require facts to back up what is stated - so here it is.

Once again, thank you for your unbiased reporting of this case. It is over now. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any additional information or documentation.

Please don't try to make a big deal of this - as I said, it is over now. It took a real toll on my family and I when these false charges were leveled against me. I won, but there are those in town that don't believe or appreciate the significance of that fact. As I told you in the beginning, it was a defensive move - to clear my name.

Please extend my sincere appreciation to the many people that stood by me during the ordeal. Many of the people that signed the original petition have now contacted me with apologies, which I have accepted. There are people in town that recognize when they are wrong, and have strength of character to admit it. That makes me believe that there is hope for the town.

The answer is NO! I will not be running for public office again. but, I will continue to live and invest in the future of McIntosh.


Jim Strange

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posted by Cher @ 10:12 PM, , links to this post

03.10.07 -- EDITOR'S NOTE: Site Meter statistics down

Some of you actually look at the site's statistics. If you do, you've noticed that we've been stuck on 7,960 visitors since earlier this week. I've contacted Site Meter to no avail. But they've listed some updates and apparently they had a server fail completely. I've been using their services on different Web sites since 2002, and I've never had the counter go down this long before.

I have another site stats service that I use that doesn't have the same public function as Site Meter called Google analytics. It gives me different information and graphs, for instance on how many new visitors I get, as opposed to old ones. Plus, it's just fun to look at a map and see that someone in Kafar Shemaryahu was reading about McIntosh. Of course, he or she is probably saying the same thing we are -- wherever that is.


For the record, a site report:

#--------------------------------------------------------
# Profile Name: mcintoshnews.blogspot.com/
# Report Name: Executive Overview
# Date Range: 3/3/2007 - 3/9/2007
#--------------------------------------------------------

#--------------------------------------------------------
# Visits and Pageviews
#--------------------------------------------------------
Date Range Visits Pageviews
Sat 3/3 14 30
Sun 3/4 18 27
Mon 3/5 23 44
Tue 3/6 13 15
Wed 3/7 26 45
Thu 3/8 28 69
Fri 3/9 56 136

#--------------------------------------------------------
# Visits by New and Returning
#--------------------------------------------------------
Visitor Types Visits
Returning Visitor 130
New Visitor 48

#--------------------------------------------------------
# Geo Map Overlay
#--------------------------------------------------------
Country/Region/City Visits
Gainesville|296433|-823496 19
Worthington Springs|299313|-824246 16
Lulu|300668|-825593 12
Gainesville|296694|-823573 9
Brooker|298957|-823148 7
Charlotte|352060|-808290 5
Wellborn|301955|-828278 5
Ocala|291569|-821558 4
Lake Butler|300317|-823904 4
Jacksonville|302939|-816552 4
Sanderson|303546|-823299 3
Seoul|375664|1269997 2
O Brien|300388|-829267 2
Newberry|342767|-816365 2
Goldenrod|286236|-812641 2
Indianapolis|398062|-861407 2
Wales|430020|-883770 1
Fishers|399610|-859837 1
Palm Coast|295273|-812045 1
Brandon|323275|-899274 1
Cary|358059|-787997 1
Pickering|438667|-790333 1
Hackensack|408859|-740468 1
Montverde|285875|-816805 1
Olustee|302028|-824308 1
Darien|417401|-879880 1
High Springs|298323|-825855 1
Raleigh|358278|-786421 1
Lyons|416862|-840823 1
Gainesville|296851|-824324 1
Philadelphia|399968|-751485 1
Grasse|436667|69167 1
Airmen Village|145278|1210144 1
Kefar Shemaryahu|321856|348219 1
Ames|420478|-936416 1
Zengcun|382472|1147375 1
Jimo|363897|1204622 1
New Delhi|286000|772000 1
Salt Lake City|407242|-1118787 1
Riceboro|316807|-814307 1
Richmond|375409|-774801 1
La Crosse|298443|-824055 1
`Abdin|300347|312453 1
Los Angeles|340416|-1182988 1
Santa Clara|373649|-1219660 1
Little Rock|347888|-924127 1
Marianna|307658|-852062 1
Sanford|287912|-813046 1

#--------------------------------------------------------
# Visits by Source
#--------------------------------------------------------
Sources Visits
(direct) 83
google 35
www2.blogger.com 19
aol 15
mcintoshnews.blogspot.com 8

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posted by Cher @ 3:20 PM, , links to this post

03.10.07 -- REPORT: Stop signs not pretty enough for McIntosh

By CHER PHILLIPS

Councilman Lee Deaderick brought guidelines from the Florida Department of Transportation regarding their standards for sight-lines around corners.

Over the past year, this issue has come before the council twice.

Last May, Fred Del Russo complained to the council because he said that the town's former code enforcement officer wanted his Crepe Mertles removed because they interfered with the 50-foot sight-line rule.

The later, another case involving the sight-line finally came before the code enforcement board in January dealing with a stone wall the Smith-Henderson's built around their home on U.S. Highway 441.

The case brought to light that McIntosh's 50-foot sight-line rule in the land development code was hard, if not impossible to apply in a town where the speed limit is 20 mph and roads were built with hundred-year-old live oaks in the center of them.

The 50-foot rule says that one should be able to see 50 feet in one direction or the other at an intersection, but the contention fell when no one was really sure where those 50 feet should start or end.

The code enforcement board asked the council to look into it. The council sent the issue to the LPA. The LPA shot the issue back to the council.

Last month, Deaderick said he'd research this and brought a report from the DOT for the LPA to use in clearing up the confusion over how the 50-foot sight-line rule in the code should be applied.

His findings: the DOT doesn't even have sight-line rules for roads with speed limits under 20 mph.

Check out the report from the DOT


Deaderick said that since residents have voiced complaints to him about speeding in town, especially around the park, Deaderick suggested the town purchase stop signs and install four-way stops around the four corners of Van Ness Park, where children play.

This suggestion was shot down by residents Thursday night, primarily for one reason: Stop signs are ugly, resident June Glass said.

The report was filed with the clerk for the LPA and the issue was tabled.

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posted by Cher @ 2:49 PM, , links to this post

03.10.07 -- REPORT: Public hearing to consider large-scale land rezone in McIntosh set for Tuesday

By CHER PHILLIPS

Check out public records supporting this story:

The LPA will meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. to discuss rezoning that could open up agricultural land in McIntosh for the potential development of 36 new homes, according to planning reports.

The posting at the town office has been corrected to reflect that the March 13 meeting will be a public hearing, as opposed to the previous posting of an LPA meeting, to discuss rezoning of agricultural land.

Two applications to rezone agricultural land to residential use have been filed, and two planning reports have been completed by Bruce Day, Planning director with the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council and provided to the LPA Chairwoman Charlsie Stott and town council members.

The applications from Council Vice President Howard Walkup and McIntosh Mayor Marsha Strange and her husband, James are for almost 20 acres of land along the southern town border of McIntosh.

The Stranges own 10.20 acres of land and the WRPC report says there is potential for 19 new homes, located on the south end of McIntosh.

The Walkups own 9.2 acres of land belonging to Howard Walkup with the potential for 17 additional homes, behind his home on the south end of McIntosh.

Day has prepared a list of considerations the LPA should be assessing at next week's public hearing in an e-mail to McIntosh town officials.

Those considerations include the impacts potential growth will have on the town's comprehensive plan, living conditions and traffic in the neighborhood, and ask if granting this change would extend "special priviledge to an individual owner as constrasted with the public welfare."

In January, Walkup initiated this process by asking the town clerk to place this zoning issue on town's agenda. He also took part in the council's vote to send this matter to the Land Planning Agency.

During the February monthly council meetings, the council discussed the town footing the bill for this process. The mayor suggested the individual land owners pay for their own land. However, this has not been voted on by the council.

After the LPA hears the zoning requests, if passed, the amendments to the comprehensive land use map will go to the council in which they can set a date for a public workshop or set a date for a public hearing for the first reading of an ordinance.

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posted by Cher @ 1:09 PM, , links to this post

03.09.07 -- REPORT: McIntosh to drop occupational license ordinance

By CHER PHILLIPS

New legislation opened to the door for the McIntosh Town Council to drop their occupational license ordinance, voting to let it expire. The Florida League of Cities sent McIntosh a notice that if they wanted to keep an occupational license, they would need to write and adopt a new ordinance.

The council voted 3-2 against keeping the town's ordinance. Marion County dropped their business licenses last year. Council President Frank Ciotti and Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan voted against letting the ordinance expire.

Occupational license is now going to fall under a new code, called a local business tax. To continue with an occupational license, McIntosh would have to write a new ordinance and the costs for advertising it would be more than $800.

Currently, a McIntosh occupational license costs $5.25.

In the past, Councilwoman Eunice Smith said former councils have wanted to raise this license fee to $25 but ran into problems, because past laws only allowed incrimental hikes. Smith voted for letting the ordinance expire.

Attorney Scott Walker explained that the new occupational license would allow municipalities to charge at the most $25 a year.

"They've opened the door, you can still only establish a $25 license and then only increase it a small amount every year thereafter," Walker said.

"I think it'd be a very viable way to earn money in the town. why not take advantage of an income opportunity?" Ciotti said. He thought it that since the Florida League of Cities had already written most of an ordinance, it would be cost effective for the town to create a new ordinance now rather than later.

But several other council members disagreed.

Council Vice President Howard Walkup said he would rather let it expire now and take it up in two years if they needed it.

Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan was in favor of creating a new ordinance now, rather than later, noting that it could cost more to advertise and create the ordinance later. Callahan suggested that the expense of creating the license now could be made up in time.




Listen to the discussion about letting the occupational ordinance expire:
(Internet Explorer users may need to click the start arrow twice)












Town Clerk Debbie Miller said that she looked it up and the town only made $297.50. Yet, she said in the meeting that the town only issued 25 business licenses.

In the McIntosh yearly budget reports, the budget line for business licenses has been combined with permits. If there are only 25 permits in McIntosh, at $5.25 a license, the town's current occupational license yield would be closer to $131.25.

However, if the town does make $297.50, as Miller said, strictly in license fees, then the number of licenses in town would be higher -- as many as 56 -- making a new $25 more lucrative for the town. Fees for 56 licenses at $25 would be $1,400 and easily recouping the fees for passing a new ordinance.

"The question is in my mind, coming from a business background and not a governmental background, is why are we doing this?" Miller said. She said it takes her two days to write the business licenses out and that made her want to ask if keeping it was worth it.

Walkup and Walker agreed that historically, previous councils wanted to raise the fees to $25 but it was too much of a hike, and that they'd kept the occupational license in town as a way of controlling who had businesses in town.

Walkup suggested it might be a way of controlling who did businesses during the 1890's Festival.

"In this day of sexual predators, I'd like to know who's in town," said Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan.

Deaderick argued against keeping an ordinance, because the town couldn't deny anybody a license and he said did not see a reason for it and motioned that the council take no action and let the current occupational license expire.

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posted by Cher @ 12:17 PM, , links to this post

03.09.07 -- REPORT: Town to reimburse former councilman for legal fees

By CHER PHILLIPS


The McIntosh Town Council voted to reimburse former Councilman Jim Strange for his remaining legal fees from last summer when he sued a committee of residents seeking his removal from office, as well as town and county officials for accepting the paperwork.

The council voted 3-2 for reimbursing Strange, based primarily on the advice of the town's attorney, Scott Walker. Council Vice President Howard Walkup and Councilwoman Eunice Smith issued the dissenting votes.

Walker researched and wrote an opinion he provided to the council at last night's meeting. (Read Walker's opinion here)

The attorney said he thought that though Florida has a statute prohibiting municipalities from paying to defend a council member against a recall petition, he said that Strange's case was in the interest of the town and could make them liable if he sued. Walker said he thought if Strange sued the town in small claims court for the $1,977.99 remaining from his legal fees, he could win.

In August, Strange sued the committee recalling him, the McIntosh town clerk and the Marion County supervisor of elections asking a judge to determine if the recall petition circulated against him was legally sufficient.

During the discussion last night,Walkup disagreed with paying Strange the fees, because he said he did not agree with how the case was closed.

The judge ruling over the case in August deemed the petition was insufficient as it was written because four reasons were listed and one was not sufficient. The petition committee was directed to recirculate the petition with rewritten, clear reasons and bring that petition back to the court. Strange then resigned before another petition could be submitted.




Listen to the council discuss reimbursing Jim Strange:
(Internet Explorer users may need to click the start arrow twice)












Strange's total legal fees were $5,705.12. He filed with the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust and received a check for $3,787.13.

Walker said that he thought if Jim Strange were to sue the town, "he's in a legal position that I think he can recover the $2,000."

Councilman Lee Deaderick made the initial motion to pay Strange's legal fees, noting that he agreed with Walkup but he wanted to follow the attorney's advice.

"I also think that any councilman, whether you agree with Jim Strange's recall or not, you're kind of voting against yourself," Deaderick said. He said that if they voted against reimbursing Strange they could set a precedent for the town, that future councils might not be willing to help them if they faced similar circumstances.

Another factor in the decision was expense.

Walkup would have liked to have Walker research further into the issue. But to continue paying the town's attorney, in addition to other court fees should the town face a lawsuit would outweigh paying Strange's fees.

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posted by Cher @ 10:38 AM, , links to this post

03.09.07 -- AUDIO FILE: March Town Council meeting

Listen to the March 8, 2007 McIntosh Town Council meeting. (Internet Explorer users may need to click the start arrow twice.)









Citizen Board discussion
0:11:20
Attorney Scott Walker explains repeal process
0:19:45
Eva Jo Callahan negotiates joint workshop date
0:26:41
Tree Preservation Ordinance
0:33:29
Expiring McIntosh occupational licenses
0:38:00
Agreement to reiumburse Jim Strange
1:32:00
Citizen Board Appointments
1:54:00
Auditor Selection Process
2:02:00
50 foot sight-trangle and traffic issues
2:26:00
Adopting consent agenda
2:37:00

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posted by Cher @ 8:21 AM, , links to this post

03.08.07 -- EDITORIAL: The fine print will get you every time

By CHER PHILLIPS

I owe our town clerk Debbie Miller an apology.

And I offer it to her here, publicly and willingly, but I have to caution you that I do it with great reticence. Not because the apology isn't genuine. When I am wrong, (and I know of it) I say that I am wrong. My reticence is due to the fact that McIntosh has been sliding in a scary direction lately.

Miller contended during tonight's town council meeting that the LPA notices posted had agendas on them. I said they didn't. She said they did. She was right.

The notices do contain some info. And this is why I give her this apology with a caveat. The info is just really hard to read. So hard to read that I missed the details after repeatedly looking at them. So hard to read that I missed the fine print even after I took a picture of the bulletin board.



See, I have this habit. I drive past the office on my way home from work every day. Every day. I pull in and flash my brights at the sign so I can see if there's a meeting agenda posted.

I'll be honest. I was pretty bothered after the LPA meeting last week when the Historic Board was left out. I'd gone to the meeting and written down every word as Lee Deaderick motioned for a workshop meeting between the two boards to hash out the Historic Ordinance 151. Shoot, I'm not even a fan of historic ordinance 151.

But I get annoyed when people are left out.

That's my pet peeve, and I've never made a secret of it here. The purpose of open government is to allow everyone a part in it. It's so one groups doesn't get to just leave people out because they don't like them, or because they don't agree with them, or because someone new is holding the powerstick this time around the meeting circle.

So after the LPA meeting, I drove by the office and took a picture of the LPA meeting notice. And you know, I *still* missed the fine print underneath the posting.

The day following the meeting, I asked around to the usual suspects -- proponents of the historic ordinance -- where were you? Those folks had no idea the February 27 LPA meeting was *the* joint meeting, either. I take some solace in the fact that I am not the only person in town who can't read small type. But, like them, I was expecting to see words like "WORKSHOP" and "the LPA and the Historic Board."

During citizen comments at tonight's meeting, I asked the council if we could have agendas posted with our public notices. I stand by this request. But I'd like to amend it so I don't have to make a fool of myself again. (Because, folks, I did a fine job of it.)

My amendment is simple: I ask that we not only have agendas, but that we legible agendas. I know, I know. I am asking for the moon.

But I feel like an agenda for a public meeting should not be the fine print. It's the meat and potatoes of the business of a town. Just look at this picture here. If you can read the fine print (I had to use Photoshop to enlarge this posting to see the agenda line), the next LPA meeting deals with rezoning requests being considered in town. Did you know that was happening? No, me either. Rezoning, like the historic ordinance, is the kind of thing you PUT IN BLOCK LETTERS so people can check in on those issues.

These are the things that we should be putting up front, in bold, readable typeface.

As a footnote, I went to the Historic Preservation Board meeting this week and asked them why they didn't come to the meeting. Two of the board members didn't read their e-mail in time to attend. One board member forgot. But Tammy Flagg had a lot to say about it. She said that she went to joint meetings over this ordinance with the LPA when she was drafting it last spring, and no one showed up. She said people only came out in force when the council was passing it. She said they missed all the of the smaller meetings when they could have offered input.

See, it saves the town money for people to have detailed agendas for every meeting. If people can be made aware and get involved in the planning meetings, then they aren't going to protest ordinances in the last stages, after the town has invested money in publicly advertising ordinances and sending it through the town attorney or a planner for an opinion.

I'll leave you with this question: If those joint meetings the first time around for Historic Ordinance 151 had been posted in a manner with detailed agendas, or talked about here on the blog so people can get information and dig into the issue if they want to, do you think McIntosh would be repealing this ordinance now?

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posted by Cher @ 10:29 PM, , links to this post

03.03.07 -- AGENDA POSTING: Town Council to meet March 8

AGENDA
Town Council Meeting
March 8, 2007
Civic Center 7:00 P.M.

Anyone wishing to place a subject on the agenda may do so up to 72 hours before the meeting by notifying the Town Office.
I) Call to Order, Lord’s Prayer, and Pledge to the American Flag

II) Roll Call

III) Minutes of the Town Council Meeting of February 8, 2007 and February 12, 2007.

IV) Financial Report for February 2007

V) Guests:
A) Principal Shirley Lane - McIntosh Area School lease

VI) Citizen Board Committee Updates:
A) Code Enforcement Board
B) Historic Preservation Committee
C) Land Planning Agency/Board of Adjustment
D) Tree Preservation Committee Ordinance

VII) Message from the Clerk:
A) Local Business Tax Act (Occupational License Tax) Ordinance
B) Paul Kelly Vacation 3/19-3/23
C) Part Time Maintenance Help for Summer

VIII) Message from the Mayor:

IX) Message from the Attorney:
A) Jim Strange Legal Fee Reimbursement
B) Committee Board Appointment Resolutions
C) Auditor Selection Process

X) Old Business:
A) Ordinance No.: 2006-155 Proportionate Share Mitigation – Final Reading
B) Payment request – Marion County Interlocal Agreement
C) Town office/School Building/Government Complex
D) Water drainage issues
E) LDC – 50’ Traffic Triangle Issue

XI) New Business:
A) Consent Agenda Format

XII) Message from the Council:

XIII) Citizen’s Comments:
Meeting Adjourned


***Notice to Board Meeting Attendees: As a courtesy to others, please ensure pager and cell phones are turned off during meeting***

Welcome to the Town of McIntosh Town Council meeting. All persons wishing to address the Town Council will be asked to limit their comments to the specific subject being addressed. However, in order to foster mutual respect between the Town Council and the public, it is requested that comments are directed at specific issues rather than personal comments directed toward Board members or staff.

Please note that if a person desires to appeal any decision made to any matter considered at the above meeting, that person may need to ensure that a verbatim record of the proceeding be made, which record includes the testimony and evidence which the appeal is to be based.

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posted by Cher @ 8:15 AM, , 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.

 
Web This Blog


"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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Listen for yourself to McIntosh Public meetings. Digital recordings are available in the audio archive page of the blog. Audio Archives



Message from the Editor:

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.

I would like to know more about how the blog serves you and the community, what I can do better and generally what you think. I've created an anonymous survey. Please CLICK HERE to take a survey about the blog and give me your input.

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