I must admit – I didn’t think much of New Smyrna City Manager Pam Brangaccio.
Her exchange with a local homeless advocate in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma put me off. In a pique, I took Ms. Brangaccio to the woodshed on this forum – even after she publicly apologized for a transgression born of mental and physical exhaustion.
I was wrong – I often am.
And I apologize.
There is no denying the fact that Ms. Brangaccio has a true talent for civic management, and she is actively helping transform New Smyrna into one of the most desirable communities in Central Florida.
The contributions and stewardship of Mayor Jim Hathaway and the City Commission have added to the sense of political stability and cohesiveness evident in everything the city does.
And now, the citizens of this beautiful beachside community can also take credit for fostering real progress.
Last week, New Smyrna officials hosted the first of many community meetings specifically designed to bring the input and creativity of area residents into the decision-making process. Over 250 citizens gathered at the Brannon Center to discuss ways to ensure New Smyrna remains a strong and resilient community.
I am pretty sure that’s the way things are supposed to work in a representative democracy – but it’s been so long I’m beginning to doubt my instincts.
Can you imagine – in your wildest wet dreams – a scenario in which Volusia County government would solicit feedback from We, The People on anything – let alone our actual needs and priorities?
Public input and transparency is anathema to the uber-reticent administration of County Manager Jim Dinneen. In fact, the efforts taken to hide the county’s true agenda has left Mr. Dinneen and County Chair Ed Kelley looking like Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole.
After all, if you include citizens in the planning process, value outside participation and solicit “buy-in” – then you lose the all-important “surprise factor” that well-executed ambushes require.
In Jim Dinneen’s world, it just muddies the water when you discuss options and possibilities with your constituents. For Little Jimmy, it’s so much easier to buy an opinion from a consultant, knowing you have the complete acquiescence of the elected representatives.
He would rather spring a massive $260-million construction debt on an unsuspecting public, surprise us with off-the-agenda legislation, or file a lawsuit against grassroots organizations to prohibit their participation in shaping public policy.
When you compare this tragic, ham-fisted bungling that passes for governance in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center with the innovative and civically inclusive processes in successful communities – the glaring differences are shocking – and perfectly exemplify why no one trusts county government anymore.
Unfortunately, the insular sense of political superiority that shuns outside ideas in favor of focusing exclusively on the needs of a few well-connected insiders, isn’t limited to the Volusia County Council.
Municipalities throughout Volusia County – especially the mosaic of communities on the east-side – should parrot the management and leadership traits so evident in places like New Smyrna Beach and DeLand.
These communities are doing it right – in partnership with all stakeholders.
By including those who ultimately pay the bills in the planning process – and truly valuing their contributions – everyone involved can experience the pride of success as they work cooperatively to build a strong, sustainable city together.
Good work, Ms. Brangaccio – and the citizens of New Smyrna. Thank you.