It's been a while since I wrote in this space. There's been a lot going on and this blog has been part of the action. The purpose of this blog is to give you my take on what is going on in Southport government. After a rocky start I feel that I've managed to avoid saying anything that damages the character of anybody in Southport--and beyond. I may disagree with the actions and words of specific individuals, but I've not made a derogatory comment about who they are as a person. I'll continue to do that while realizing it is impossible to please everybody with my account of what goes on during our meetings, and my take on various issues affecting our city.
A review of the actions taken at the August 12, 2010 meeting are on my website at www.ken4alderman.com . Below are my comments. We also had a special meeting on August 23rd to discuss the formation of a Tourist Development Authority (TDA) and to review and act on proposed changes to the rules and procedures for the Planning Board. That will be discussed in my next post.
It was another 3+ hour meeting. Alderman Frink and I vowed to get the
meetings under 3 hours by next month (on our way to 90 minute meetings
eventually). This is despite the fact that several items were
postponed for either the next regular meeting on September 9, or the
Special Meeting on Monday, August 23 at 6:30 PM. The Special Meeting
is to discuss proposed changes to the Southport Unified Development
Ordinance (UDO) regarding Planning Board operating procedures.
Citizens should be annoyed that certain items (like the Planning Board
procedures and a resolution to form the Tourism Development Authority)
are being postponed simply because some of the aldermen and the Mayor
have not had the chance to study the items enough--even though we all
get the agenda and information packet a week before the meetings. We
also have a week to ask the City Manager any questions we might have.
Please insist that your aldermen and the Mayor do his/her homework!
The Planning Board procedure changes have been active for the past 5
months. The Mayor appointed a committee to study the UDO in order to
clarify the Planning Board procedures. The committee recommendations
were discussed by the Planning Board and the Planning Board liaisons
(Alderman Poole and your humble narrator) spent a great deal of time
preparing a concise and easy-to-follow report for the Board to
consider. The Mayor claimed he and the rest of the Aldermen were blind
sided by this item (something we've heard many times before) despite
all of the advanced information. We had to schedule a special meeting
to discuss the ordinance changes, which is a colossal waste of time for
both citizens and the Aldermen who do prepare for the meetings.
The good news: we approved (as per our budget and the capital
improvement plan) the purchase of 2 new police vehicles. Chief Dove
and the the City Manager got a terrific deal on them, and our law
enforcement officers certainly deserve to perform their duties in
reliable vehicles with up-to-date equipment.
The bad news: the Board refused to give the Rescue Squad permission to
apply for 2 grants that would help them pay for a badly needed new
ambulance. The grants, if received, would have paid 90% of the cost
for a new ambulance (the city would pay the other 10%). The cost is
about $150,000 and without the grant it will be extremely difficult for
the Rescue Squad to get their ambulance. The consultants would cost
$1,800 to apply for both grants, and only $1,000 would be needed right
away from the city. This was denied because the Mayor has been trying
to see if the county will take over our Rescue Squad. This has been
going on since January with no progress. I'm sure you're aware of the
fact that the county has no money to spare, so it is beyond impossible
that they would ever agree to take over our Rescue Squad. This was
attempted about 3-4 years ago and the county refused because they could
not meet an adequate response time. Do you think anything has
changed--except the fact that the county is as broke as most
governments? The Board approved $3,000 for a new drinking fountain, up
to $6,000 for a microphone/speaker system, AND a previous board
approved $3,700,000 ($5,400,000 with interest) for a new fire station.
But we can't even give $1,000 to the Rescue Squad. That, my friends,
displays a distorted sense of priorities--especially in these difficult
This is why you need to follow how the aldermen vote (and in case of a
tie, the Mayor--who voted to reject the Rescue Squad grant request).
Words can only tell you what your elected officials want you to hear. Actions (such as
voting) reveal character, priorities and other traits every citizen
needs to know before they vote every other
The ordinance changes regarding sidewalk obstructions proposed by city
staff were also discussed. The change would permit any items on the sidewalk
PROVIDED they are placed up against the building wall,
do not extend more than 36 inches onto the sidewalk, allow free passage
of pedestrians, and are in compliance with the Americans With
Disabilities Act (ADA). A separate ordinance prohibits putting items for sale on the sidewalk. This has been on the books for many years and is not part of the proposed changes.
The minimum clearance required by the ADA is
48 inches. However, there are a lot of things to consider other than just mobility impairment. ADA laws also deal with hearing and sight impaired individuals, and a number of other conditions. A copy of the ordinance recommendation is available at my
website. We will take any public and merchant input until and
including at the September 9th meeting when the Board will likely take
action on the changes.
IMPORTANT FACT TO NOTE: No member of the Southport Board of Aldermen
ever proposed that the sidewalk benches (or anything else) be removed.
The current ordinance states there can be no items on the sidewalk. It
was included in the letter to merchants so that all sidewalk issues
could be addressed and that's what was on the books. It is nobody's
fault that the merchants were given this scare. As the famous line
goes from the movie
Cool Hand Luke,"What we have here is
failure to communicate." The Code Enforcement Officer and the City
Manager should have been informed that we wanted to deal with the
A-frame ordinance first, then work on changing the many laws that have
not been enforced over the years (like sidewalk obstructions). In the
words of my fellow Alderman, Ed Boguskie: enforce it, change it, or
take it off the books. Failure to enforce the law is not an option.
I hope I didn't ramble on too much. You'll see some of the same info
and concerns in my blog within a day or so. As is my usual custom, I
welcome any questions, comments, concerns, ideas, or anything else you
have to say. Remember, I now have open office hours from 3:30 - 5:30
PM in the upstairs conference room at City Hall on the day of the
regular board meetings (2nd Thursday of the month). Make an
appointment or just drop by.
NEXT POSTING: The special Planning Board and Board of Aldermen meetings. Stay tuned!