Dialogue with Commissioner Furr
May 29, 2009, 6:45 PM
Filed under: City Commission, Development

May 29, 2009

Development Projects:  Cone of Silence

Two Viewpoints: You Decide

Sent by E-Mail 5/27/09
Dear Balance Sheet,

I find it interesting that the editors of the Balance Sheet, who have been lobbying the Commission over the last few weeks on their own ideas of how the Johnson Street property should be used, now want to shut the door behind them so that no one else has that same opportunity. You have advocated for public use and [in] particular for water features to benefit the small mom and pop motels that don’t have pools themselves.  I think there is merit in this idea and would think that you would want me to communicate that to interested parties. The same would go for others of whose ideas I considered worthwhile.

In the free market place of ideas, it is ultimately beneficial for concepts to build upon each other. There are also many competing agendas and interests in this project. I would rather know what they are and have the opportunity to understand the benefits before shutting down communication. As a commissioner, I would like to convey to interested developers  my constituents’ suggestions. That is where we are at this stage of the process. I’m sorry, but I don’t see the ethical dilemma of passing on worthwhile ideas to those who are trying to create projects. Once the RLI is written and available, and proposals are being received, I understand and agree that there needs to be a cone of silence. But right now, there are people that would like me to pass on their ideas to those capable of incorporating them into projects.

Beam Furr

Sent by E-Mail 5/28/09
Dear Beam,

Thank you for your letter which raises several important points.  At the outset, we want to make it clear that we are not questioning your integrity or your motives.

When rules are made, like a cone of silence, they are not intended to restrain the good but to prevent the bad.  Remember the Madison aphorism: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

The power of lobbyists in Hollywood is legendary throughout Broward County.  We need to recognize this and address it head on.

First, your concern regarding the role of a commissioner in the process of gathering ideas for Johnson Street before “communication shuts down”  —  that you want to know all the “competing agendas and interests,” so you can “understand the benefits.”   We completely agree.  The cone of silence would augment this, not prevent your learning of interests and agendas.  It requires that such learning be a matter of public record.  This way we could all learn these things so that everyone has the opportunity to understand the benefits and comes to the table with the same understanding.

You say there are people who want you to “pass on their ideas to those capable of incorporating them into projects.”   This is our point too.  A public process, out in the open, where your constituents and others can express directly their hopes and concerns about the Johnson Street development is truly the “free marketplace of ideas” you mention.  Doing this in private with those developers and lobbyists who are accustomed to gaining the inside track through such meetings is the opposite.

You infer that because we advocate for the cone of silence now, we must want to shut the door so that no one else can put forward ideas for the property.  Our purpose is the opposite.  We have advocated strongly for public outreach from the beginning and continue to do so.  The views of Hollywood residents are an essential key to the success of any project built on the site.  We have emphasized the need for a public process on Johnson Street with the city manager, with each commissioner, and in public meetings.

Lastly, we spoke with each commissioner about the property before there was any discussion of a competitive bid process.  Since our meetings (which were to encourage the Commission to be thinking positively about public use and public input), there has been both a presentation by the assistant city manager and a decision by the commission to follow a competitive bid process.  We believe, as did three of your colleagues, that once the commission signals its intention to initiate a bid process, everything changes and it is time to institute a cone of silence.

Our goal has always been to advocate for the public, and for transparency.  This, we believe, is where you will find your best ideas.  The final decision is up to you, and to get the most input from the greatest variety of sources, public communication is the most respected, and safest, way to go.

We look forward to the best result possible and appreciate your thoughtful consideration.

Sara Case and Laurie Schecter

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