In the last issue of the Pinecrest Tribune we met Palmetto Bay resident Julia Cespedes who, over the past year, has emerged as a force in uncovering information about Palmetto Bay’s past and present and then exhibiting it on her Facebook group Palmetto Bay Leadership thru Transparency (facebook.com/groups/1104399592987644).
With all the issues Palmetto Bay is tackling these days, her investigative skills, coupled with her volunteer work to report from Village Hall and various committee, workshop and Council meetings, has made her into Palmetto Bay’s information broker.
Cespedes explains, “What I have learned, in my opinion, is we have a dichotomy of council members. We have doers who take action and voice their opinions and vote from true research and their interactions with residents. Then we have others who tend to only ‘come alive’ when the matters at hand pertain to them. There are still others who are in learning mode, but they’re not truly ready and may get pressures from others.”
Some might think this frank statement about the council might create some adversarial thoughts towards Julia’s work, but surprisingly this does not seem to be the case. Through several off-the-record conversations with council members, I have learned that every one of them respects Cespedes work and hope it continues. Still, Cespedes isn’t reserve about her opinion that she believes personal agendas and biases are affecting the Village negatively.
“Although most people are not able to devote time to really being a watchdog,” explains Julia, “they should try to read the minutes or watch the online videos on topics they care about. They may learn something and want to make sure their voice is heard as well.”
Cespedes just started posting notes to her Facebook page showing how council members vote on each issue. She hopes to compile this into a spreadsheet to allow people to see voting trends which could lead to better, more informed voting.
Palmetto Bay has two major issues that they are wrestling with: traffic and future commercial growth. Both come down to various resident reaction to change. While change is inevitable, the Village can help steer themselves in a certain direction.
For example, many fear the Village is heading to a fiscal crisis with a significant decline in the commercial tax revenues. The question is whether Palmetto Bay stays a bedroom community and starts reducing services or if new commercial interests come in and allow the tax base to grow.
On traffic, congestion is choking primary, secondary and tertiary roads. There are many possible solutions, but a comprehensive plan seems distant as council members disagree on approach.
No matter to Julia, she’ll be there shining a light on the facts and helping Palmetto Bay grow into its future with facts.