With the 2017 elections now behind us, the time has come to alter course and implement some of the lessons learned. As the founder of BocaWatch, I, with the help of many others, have navigated its influences through an evolution process for now over five (5) years.
This evolution has seen mood and tone changes to the BocaWatch content in its weekly blog and its social media presence. Over the years, BocaWatch has encouraged active participation by residents in an attempt to change the course of how those governed are governed.
Active interaction at City Council meeting; challenging City Council actions in 3rd party venues like the State’s Ethics Commission and in Circuit and Federal courtrooms; successful citizen referendums …..And…finally by encouraging ‘resident friendly’ candidates to step forward and seek elected office so that the resident again has a voice in city hall, a voice that will not go unheard.
Well, much has changed! City council members are much more receptive to the resident; City administration seems reactive as well and this is just the beginning….’Resident Unfriendly’ incumbents must sit up and take notice….the residents must be listened too and elevated to a prominent place in the equation of how their elected officials actually govern…but this is not a guarantee. Continued diligence is required. Without constant feedback to the council; without keeping the elected official’s feet to the fire; things will simply revert back to the ‘old’ way of doing business.
To this end, BocaWatch has begun to expand its community outreach.
To date the BocaWatch message was driven from a resident point of view only. That will not change, now or ever….but BocaWatch has begun to reach out to the developer/business community and the professionals that represent those interests. The ask being made is for these interests groups to present their case directly to the resident through the publication of articles where the resident can be informed directly as to how and why any particular project should be received as ‘resident friendly.’ The initial reactions have been slow but positive….
Over the upcoming months, residents will have the opportunity to be informed by individual project proposers directly. Residents will be able to opine on what is being presented and, perhaps, help shape outcomes in official forums like the Planning and Zoning Board, the Community Appearance Board, the CRA and even the City Council. All this is derived from the lessons learned during the election process.
The perception that there is a great divide between the residents and the developer/business community may be a false narrative. My experience as a candidate is that the divide is not that big. Polarization of opinion is more a myth than a reality as both interests groups are seeking similar goals; the betterment of our city. Communication and community are necessary ingredients, with both these elements seriously lacking at this time.
Lobbyists are counterproductive and need to go. They simply shut down communication. In the lobbyist’s world there is no middle ground; there is only a win – lose outcome. Win – Lose outcomes are only in the interest of the lobbyist and the lawyers who make fortunes when disagreement is present. Communications directly between the parties eliminates disagreement and dissention. Hence the lobbyist era should be ushered out and replaced with a more communicative process.
BocaWatch encourage this process….Perhaps others like the Downtown Business Alliance or the Rotary Clubs of Boca Raton can also encourage this type of civil process. Organizations that are hell-bent on the “my way or the highway” attitude should be discouraged. Their voice is non-productive and often times only represents their own self-importance with disregard and distain for what is clearly in the common good.
It is time to bridge the gap…I, for one, am confident that our community can do this; and that our community is ready, willing, and able to do just that!