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A funny thing happened in an extended meeting with the City of Sarasota Commissioners. In typical fashion, the meeting had progressed to the Citizen’s Input portion and there was a handful of attendees that felt the need to share their concerns with their commissioners. Apparently, if other factors prevail, a motion can be made to either limit the amount of time given to each speaker or to simply reduce the number of speakers that are given the opportunity for their voices to be heard. The latter option was presented to the commissioning board and was met with a rousing round of approval.
Possibly the most disappointing, and definitely the LOUDEST supporter of the motion, was recently appointed Vice Mayor Willie Charles Shaw of District 1.
It was late…we were ALL well-worn and eager to reach the end of this seemingly endless session. But how can you basically deny your constituents the freedom to openly express their feelings, concerns and opinions in the very setting for which it’s most appropriate?
I sincerely believe that the sitting board of commissioners consists of individuals who are concerned with the needs of the people within their respective districts. After all, these are the same people who voted, elected and chose them for their positions. If there were any input that would have the most weight, it should come from those who chose you to hear and address their concerns in the first place, right? Yet, on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself in the midst of a “hush session” with Shaw. Someone would voice their opinion, he would hush them on and move past the point, if he even acknowledged it at all.
His most offensive use of this tactic happened at an Amaryllis Neighborhood Association meeting at which Shaw had no problem yelling “time-out” and making the “T” shape with his hands as this attendee attempted to deliver her point…this escalated further to a level that would never have been accepted within the chambers of City Hall. This, from the man elected to represent the voters of District 1 on matters of policy within the city of Sarasota? I was furious for her and embarrassed by him.
I had to wonder where his convictions were rooted when I questioned him about attending a community forum and his response was “No, I’m not going…all they want to do is beat up on me…”. Pardon me sir, but if you thought that everyone would love everything that you did, allow me to correct you. No one on the board is infallible, Terry Turner is proof of that, and mistakes have been made from every seat there. But, what better way to address those mistakes, hear the direct impact of them and offer sincere apologies to correct them. Face to face with your constituents. I have no doubts in my military mind that had this meeting been called to offer accolades, Shaw would’ve been among the first arrivals.
If Shaw’s focus is more on reaping the praise of a job well done, maybe he should be more attuned to the jobs that need to be done. That can only happen by hearing the people out. A servant is worthy of his due and your pay should suffice long hours and deep research to alleviate the issues within your district. Granted none of these challenges sprung up overnight and neither will their solutions but, turning a deaf-ear to them is no solution.
A conversation with Reverend Neil McArthur of Eternal Bread of Life Ministries, regarding the recent challenge with utilizing the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park for their annual 4th of July BBQ revealed that he had spoken to Shaw about a resolution. Shaw seemed to not even know of this annual BBQ, which has been taking place in the park since 1993. Rev. McArthur waited patiently for Shaw to express these issues to the board of commissioners for resolution and then advise him of a course of action. After the waiting Shaw’s response was “they shot it down.” and then he simply walked away. No explanation, no opportunity to respond, no dialogue. ???
How did it come to this? How did we allow someone to hold a position who then forgets how he got there? How long will we turn to Shaw just because, well, he’s who we should turn to? Here’s a man who doesn’t realize the scope of his responsibility any further than to sit back as an investigation is opened in an apparent power struggle between Pamela Nadalini and Terry Turner and not say a word (more on the relic known as Terry Turner to come!). How long will we allow Shaw to be City Hall’s Newtown puppet?
A former member of the City of Sarasota, John Hawthorne, in his attempts to bring about positive change within the black community, recognized that this was a game that he did not want to participate in and made a formal exit explaining just that. This is not to say that involvement in city government with the desire to the quality of life in the Newtown community is easy or well-received but that it will be an uphill struggle. No one is interested in hearing the plea that “I’m just one person on a board of…” any longer. Apparently, the other members on that same board are capable of enacting change…tear a page from their books and make a difference that counts.
For anyone holding a position of authority, be it a commissioner’s seat, a leader within the church or any leadership position, there is a moral obligation to help whomever you can and if nothing less offer a willing ear to hear their issues. Apparently Shaw has chosen another route. Maybe we should choose another representative. I will not be silenced and neither should you!