I’ve lived on the barrier island for more than 30 years. I’m a big fan of home rule and local government. I enjoy being able to pick up the phone and talk with someone I know when I call Town Hall. I like it when police officers wave while I’m out for my morning walk. I enjoy living in a small town.
    It’s one of the primary reasons my husband and I started this newspaper; we believe we live in a very special place and want it to stay that way. We want to be good neighbors.
    Unfortunately, there is a decidedly un-neighborly mood developing in our coastal towns. You see it each time a commission or a manager makes decisions in a bubble. As each town heads into its annual budget planning sessions, it should be asking difficult questions about how neighboring towns can work together, not circling the wagons to protect their jobs or a place on the dais.
    Rising pension costs, outside contract expenses and aging infrastructure face all of our towns and cities. It’s time to start talking to each other in more formal ways to find solutions guaranteeing long-term independence.
    Sadly, I don’t see this happening.
    It’s difficult to have faith in towns that feel it’s just fine to have a charter requiring only a piece of paper posted on a bulletin board outside town hall to notify residents, neighbors and the media of special meetings to replace a town manager.
    Really? In 2015?  
    And it’s hard to trust towns that can’t seem to post an active link to an agenda on their website (at least they all finally have websites). Or how about a town that finds it acceptable to send out email blasts to residents informing them of lost dogs and cats, but doesn’t use the same technology to notify of town meetings? Why is that?
    And don’t get me started on those towns that skirt public records laws by contracting with telecommunications carriers for phone systems that can’t log incoming or outgoing calls without a subpoena. Or towns that won’t allow local media to be included on their residential email lists.
    There is one city in our area where staff has told us they aren’t allowed to talk with reporters without permission from the city manager’s office. Talk about circling the wagons.
    And yet this city wonders why it has communications problems with other agencies and its residents. Go figure.
    Don’t get me wrong; some of our coastal communities are doing what they can to communicate with their residents and neighbors. Live video streaming and online archiving of meetings is a huge first step. Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Highland Beach and even little Gulf Stream are to be commended for making this investment in communications.
    I wonder how many of their neighboring towns even know that these resources are available?
    It’s time to talk. If we can help facilitate, let us know. We are willing. It’s our business.

— Mary Kate Leming,
editor

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