Several present commissioners in Highland Beach have used transparency and openness as a mantra when dealing with the public. However, this new commission has acted in ways to suppress residents’ having access to information and expressing their views.
This commission has decreased the number of Highlanders newsletter sent to residents, supposedly as a budget concern.
Commissioners voted to fire the town manager without any public discussion, even though they had praised her work, increased her salary and given her a bonus weeks before her termination.
This commission suddenly became concerned about the lack of a hearing-impaired arrangement on our town television channel. It discontinued televised commission meetings for half a year, instead of implementing a fix while continuing to televise meetings.
This was at a time the commission was ignoring the town charter, which mandated a strong town manager process, was micromanaging all aspects of the town operations and implementing many new controversial policies and ordinances.
The most glaring example was the commission vote to end the public comment item at the start of each official meeting, which was a five-minute period where any resident could voice an opinion about town matters.
Unfortunately, the excuse used was that my statements to the commission as a private resident were “uncivil” and “not related to town issues.” These are false. In my public statements, I was critical of the firing of the prior town manager, the drastic increase in monthly legal fees (from $6,000 to $25,000), micromanagement by the commission, violation of the town charter, and threats to the contract with the Delray Beach Fire Department.
These are very much town issues, but the commission does not like any criticism or controversy coming from residents.
Recently commissioners restored the opening public comment, now limited to three minutes and only on agenda items. This is Big Brother controlling communication and restricting dissent. Apparently the Highland Beach Commission believes it best to keep residents in the dark and discourage their input.
Commissioners should be held accountable for their actions to curtail free speech. Ultimately we can all make our voices heard through the ballot box.
— William A. Weitz