In an article on NorthEscambia.com, State Rep. Clay Ford says the Escambia County Consolidation Study Commission chairman Ken Bell disbanded the commission, which was actually formed by the Florida Legislature, early when he announced that it was dissolved on Jan. 14. According to Rep. Ford, the Commission could have stayed intact six more months. (Read more)
This means that the ECCSC could have held public hearings on its final draft to allow the citizens to comment on the document. The commission could have made modifications to the plan based on the comments, and submitted a much better plan to the legislative delegation by the Feb. 22. Yes, the delegation could have said we won’t accept the changes, but I doubt that would have happened.
And as much as the daily newspaper wants to argue that the public had the opportunity to voice its concerns over the 50 or so meetings of the commission, its subcommittees and advisory boards—the actual document wasn’t drafted and approved until the final three meetings in January.
The drafting committee met two times in January. It had three members, Ken Bell, Janet Lander and Ed Fleming. Ed Fleming wasn’t present for one of those meetings. The drafting committee didn’t meet between the Jan. 12 and Jan. 14—even though changes were made to the final document without a public hearing before the drafting committee.
Let’s compare this to the Pensacola Charter Commission. It had a final draft in May 2010 for the next three months, it met three times to listen to public comment and make changes based on the recommendations of the public, city staff and city council. The Pensacola City Council held workshops and meetings on the charter document.
The ECCSC should have had its final document completed by Thanksgiving and before the public, county commission and city council in December. Then January should have been spent on making modifications based on true public input.
All the advisory committees had concluded their meetings by October. The only subcommittee that met in December was the Drafting – which on met once on Dec.4. In fact, the ECCSC only met once in December.
If I was a skeptic, I might think that Ken Bell didn’t want true input from the city council or county commission…or the public… and that the forced, rushed completion of the final plan was done intentionally to block such input…..that is if I was a skeptic.