The Orlando Sentinel recently ran a local news story, "6 of 11 members of Mount Plymouth-Sorrento area task force resign in protest". I happen to work with one of those 6 who resigned, so I have a little background information.
This was an advisory committee. It had no authority; it was supposed to report the community opinion to the County Commission of Lake County. Unfortunately, the county forced it to meet at times inconvenient to the community. Some citizens noticed this, and blamed the committee members, but in fact the county restricted meeting times so "county representatives would not be inconvenienced".
At this point I always wonder when government got so uppity. Aren't they there for the community's convenience?
The big issue this committee dealt with was development. One developer in particular had been visiting them for three years running, which shows remarkable restraint considering that committee approval was unnecessary. (Remember, they're advisory only!) The committee was having a hard time saying "yes" -- a problem which often leads to urban sprawl.
My coworker tried to educate them on the sprawl topic. It wasn't long after this that the county informed them that the committee would soon be dissolved and reinstated with members approved by the county. To me, this smacks of stacking the deck, as if the county was expecting particular answers and felt that a bunch of troublemakers wouldn't provide them. The paper puts it this way:
But County Commissioner Linda Stewart, the commission's liaison to the advisory committee, dismissed the resigning members' criticism, saying some of them had been "sidetracked by outside influences," which she would not specify.
I love the way that an elected official just dismisses criticism. And it's so easy to cast doubts when you don't have to specify, isn't it?
The best part is that the 6 who resigned are going to put together a community committee. They intend to hold meetings when residents can attend and even host a website where citizens can set the meeting agendas! My only concern is the possibility that they'll be ignored. Or, as the Sentinel says:
It was unclear how commissioners would view recommendations and suggestions proposed by rival task forces.
I recommend they take attendance and record every meeting. The more they can demonstrate that they have the backing of the community, the more likely they are to make a difference.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
-- Margaret Mead