I didn’t have high expectations going into City Hall last evening that things were going to go smoothly. The mayor, a gruff ol’ curmudgeon who’s seen his better days, has to his credit, served the city for many years. He’s a decent guy, but he’s tired and old-school, and tilts strongly toward dictatorship and bullying. He’s probably a great teddy bear of a grandpa, but he’s past his sell date when it comes to serving our community. To say many of us in our two-square-mile patch of paradise called Cape Canaveral have had enough with his manner is stating it mildly.
Here’s the “lay of the land” about our mayor and city council –> this:
Seated at the dais is first-termer Mickie K, a sweet, soft-spoken woman who loves our community and wants to do what she can to tackle its challenges and make it better for all of us. A novice on Council, she’s still finding her way, but is dedicated and determined to listen to our citizenry and keep their considerations in the forefront when plowing through sometimes thorny and complex issues that come before her. She’s been accused of violating the Council’s Code of Conduct for responding on the Cape Canaveral By The Sea Facebook Page to citizens concerns.
Seated beside her is Mike B, a retired State Trooper who is fond of saying, “You voted for me to make the tough decisions, and I’m making them.” The only man of color on the Council (and to the best of my recollection, the only man of color ever to serve on Council), he’s also fond of saying, “We’re going to do this whether you like it or not.” He says it often. His deep voice and stern countenance likely had speeding motorists and suspected criminals quaking. He’s the ‘expert‘ on everything, especially boys sports, but not so much about the 1st Amendment. He wears an authoritarian attitude in our Council Chamber where, as mayor Pro tem (vice mayor) he also carries a curious chip on his shoulder that says “Black Lives Matter.” Which, by the way, he supports, having participated in a BLM rally in nearby Cocoa, along with another of our council members, the NooYawk magpie Angela R.
Angela R., an academician who is absolutely and confidently convinced she knows better — and more — than you do, and she’s not hesitant to say so. A stream of conscious non-stop talker, she transmits instead of receiving. She’s very good at giving lectures. And she hectors. And can be counted on to vote every single time in a block with Mr. Mayor and Mr. Mayor ProTem. She’s supremely sure of herself in sharing her feelings about the citizenry. She thinks they’re stupid. She says so. Just ask her. Among folks I know, she’s not very loved. But then, that’s our Angela, riding her bicycle through the neighborhoods, flag flying, on her way to spend the day suntanning at the beach. And talking the ears off every hapless resident she can corral if they don’t first spot her and spin on their heels in another direction. Think Gladys Kravitz. On steroids. With something to say all the time, everytime. Make bet on it.
And then there’s Wes M. An earnest, energetic positive can-do thinker whose sleeves are already rolled up, first to volunteer to do whatever the community needs doing. Well liked, trusted, and respected, this handsome fellow with JFK hair and a bright smile is everyone’s favorite because he respects everyone. He’s politically Libertarian. He cares, he listens, he takes his elected position seriously and with humility. He believes in and defends Constitutional principles and understands the importance of listening, communicating with folks, keeping us informed so we can decide what we want and need for our community. He loves what he does and is a servant to the people. And straight up as honest and dependable as the incoming and outgoing tide on our beach.
So those are the characters. Now here’s the story.
Many years ago, the then-City Council deservedly celebrated — our City was debt-free. Subsequently, Council members in 2009 surveyed our citizens, asking what they considered to be their priorities and vision for our community. This Vision was developed as a result:
A bikeable and walkable Cape Canaveral that retains and enhances its welcoming residential feel and celebrates its unique sense of place. A residential and business-friendly atmosphere that is livable, attractive, safe and inclusive. A sustainable coastal community that embraces the oceanside and riverside as key amenities, and supports and promotes local tourism, culture, recreation, resiliency, commerce, municipal civic interests and education.
“Areas in which respondents desire improvement includes bikeability and walkability on State Road A1A, the environmental health of the Indian River Lagoon, sustainability and resiliency initiatives and redevelopment of blighted areas.”
Note: Nowhere was there a desire for a community center of sorts, a gathering place for residents of all ages where a variety of activities could take place. In fact, 41% surveyed said they were satisfied with the city’s existing fitness and recreational facilities – parks, beach, tennis courts, shuffleboard, etc.
Nevertheless, the idea for a top-class multi-generational facility grew within Council Chambers like Topsy and before we knew it, an $8.2 million facility was on the drawing board. The 20-year-old dream was now becoming a reality. People began waking up and asking “Whatziz dis?
The residents and city council who pushed for a facility were no longer with us. Some had died, others had moved on, and more had other life priorities. The City had recently spent $11 million on a brand new – and admittedly needed — City Hall, with all the bells, polished tiles, and whistles. It’s a beautiful building, nestled on the very VERY edge of the busiest and only thoroughfare running through our little slice of heaven, (thanks to a variance voted on by recent and current city council members.) Nevertheless, we’re proud of the edifice and happy that it’s pretty much paid for.
Yet somehow, the City is now some $21 million in debt, with the expectation that the splendorous and melodiously-named “Multi-Generational-Facility” and Cultural Arts Preservation & Enrichment (CAPE) Center – the renovated former city hall — will add another $8.2 million to that debt.
Last evening’s City Council meeting took an ugly turn, with many masked (muzzled, as you’ll learn) citizens seated six feet apart, attempting to express their concern and displeasure at the planned expenditure. To learn more about their reactions in their own words, visit the Cape Canaveral By The Sea Facebook page.
Hizzoner the Mayor belligerently bullied, huffed and puffed, and worst of all, threatened Wes M. and Mickie K. of violating the “City Code of Conduct” for consulting with and listening to ‘we the people’ on our private Facebook page. Gladys Kravitz craned her neck to get a look at the Mayor and the Trooper, and then stood up to read a preamble to God in Hizzoner’s honor, just to prove what a dear sweet man he is. Mickie K shrank in her chair, and Wes M. valiantly challenged the legality of Hizzoner’s attempt to slap him down, eliciting an ominous threat from the grandpa. Our city attorney danced on the head of a pin in an effort to skate away from the boiling controversy, while the BLM State Trooper stared at his shoes. Did I detect a smile behind his mask?
The Public Comments session was eliminated. Citizen masks became their muzzles. We never got a chance to speak, we the people who pay their (admittedly pittance small) salaries and the remaining note on that big beautiful City Hall.
There are several posts on the Cape Canaveral By The Sea Facebook page from folks expressing outrage and discontent over the way our elected reps behaved and the treatment Wes M. and Mickie K. received for doing what Hizzoner the Mayor, the “My way or the highway” State Trooper and Gladys Kravitz consistently fail to do: Listen to WE, the taxpaying People.
And stay tuned.