In a newly revived forum, the Village of Palmetto Bay has had two Town Hall meetings within the past two months. For a while, residents did not have the opportunity to participate in this manner; however, the newly elected Council is reversing that.
Tonight's meeting, held at the Edward & Arlene Feller Community Room at Ludovici Park above the Palmetto Bay Public Library building and overlooking Biscayne Bay, started out a bit raw and confrontational.
As per the Village's attorney, it was announced that the meeting could not contain any comments or questions pertaining to the Palmer Trinity expansion. That set a few people off in a verbal rage about not being allowed their right to free speech. About 20 of the attendees seemed to be sympathetic to this potential "illegal meeting that stifled 1st Amendment rights." After a few of them verbally confronted the Village Council, about 6-8 protested by walking out of the meeting.
Mixed emotions ensued through the rest of the meeting, but cooler heads prevailed. Even so, many of the comments from residents were thinly veiled references to the "forbidden topic."
Much of the meeting debate and comments were about traffic. The comments all seemed to center around the fact that there were too many cars on the road and that side streets had people driving with excess speed and reckless behavior. The referenced streets are those surrounding the Palmer Trinity school.
It was discussed and learned that traffic on Old Cutler Road would likely go from bad to worse because of it's protected County status and that more than one traffic circle was budgeted for and scheduled to be constructed on that road in Cutler Bay.
Many of the residents told their stories about not feeling safe while walking dogs or when their kids played outside. There was also questions regarding the depth of study the Village was doing in regards to traffic prior to placing road calming devices in Palmetto Bay. Some were argumentative that affected residents were not being allowed to participate and provide feedback prior to budgeting for these road changes.
It was also stated by Police Commander Truitt that police were stationed around critical areas during morning, afternoon and evening drive times to maximize safety for school children and that revenues regarding all traffic citations brought Palmetto Bay between $11,000-13,000 a month. One resident asked an intriguing follow-up question about how many of those citations were handed out to Palmetto Bay residents, obviously trying to discern if local residents were the biggest offenders. The police commander said they did not keep those types of statistics.
Another interesting topic was around the Japan Tsunami and how their nuclear plants were failing. It was stated by residents that the Turkey Point Nuclear facility that provides Palmetto Bay with it's power was just over 10 miles away and that it was a mid-1970s plan with a unique design. Apparently, it is cooled using water from canals and no other plant does that. It was suggested that Council set up an FPL Town Hall meeting to allow residents to learn more about this risk and how they might prepare for problems, much like we do for hurricanes.
All in all, another successful meeting. I think that civility was a bit bruised at the beginning of the meeting, but eventually intelligence and respect returned. I love the fact that we have so many concerned residents who make these meetings worthwhile and interesting.