BRADENTON - By all accounts, Peter Keenan is highly qualified to be appointed to the city's Planning Commission. But there's a problem: he doesn't live in the city.
After a motion to appoint him to the commission died for lack of a second, his appointment was tabled to a future meeting.
It's becoming a problem in this economy, councilmembers said Wednesday as they debated three appointments that had been pulled from the consent agenda.
"I just wanted to have some discussion among the City Council regarding our appointments to the Planning Commission," councilmember Marianne Barnebey said. "When you look at the list of individuals who serve on the Planning Commission, my concern is that the gentleman that we are reappointing does not live in the city, the business that he worked for no longer has a city of Bradenton office and I thought that the council in the past had talked about wanting to make sure, when we appointed people to boards, particularly the Planning Commission board, that we make sure that we offered it to any and all city residents that might be interested."
She said she realizes it's difficult to find people, and it is a big responsibility. But she noted that the chairman of the commission also doesn't have a business in the city, and also doesn't live in the city.
"The majority of the individuals that are on the Planning Commission are not city residents at this point," she said. "I just have some serious concerns about a Planning Commission that is supposed to be making recommendations to this elected body, and perhaps the majority of them are not city residents and may not pay city taxes."
Mayor Wayne Poston said that the current economy is causing people to move around, and he said that in his discussions about Keenen, the latter got good reviews. "They are quite satisfied with him," Poston said.
Other governments are having a similar problem, he said. "We need some help on this. We're not the only ones," Poston said. "The county is having the same problem."
Councilman Gene Gallo said he agreed with Barnebey.
"I agree with Ms. Barnebey that we need to have people on the boards that have something at stake in the city," he said. "I agree that it's hard to find people."
Maybe they should do what the county used to do, Gallo said, and take out a big ad in the Bradenton Herald to advertise the vacancies, and put in that residents are preferred. And if then there are no good applicants, he said he'd feel comfortable putting on people from outside the city.
Councilman Patrick Roff said, "I've worked with Peter Keenan on the Tree Board and he's a very dedicated, honest, hardworking individual." Having him in this economic climate is good, he added.
But the problem is the economy, Roff noted.
"What I'm getting from people that I know who'd like to serve is what they're telling me is that because of the economy they're pretty much holding back and they're trying to do as much to make a living as they can," he said.
Councilman Harold Byrd said that people who live in the city should be on the boards.
"I refuse to accept the fact that there are not people within the city limits that don't want to serve," he said.
Councilman Bemis Smith said he agreed, and that the city could benefit, however, from people with specific knowledge of construction or architecture.
"We do have to understand that we are paring our pool down in some cases," he said. "If we can find a city resident that meets the requirements of business ownership or working in the city or living in the city, that is the ideal situation, but at some point in time there may be some specific position that we benefit from having somebody that may not be within the city."
Peter Keenan has worked on several projects, Smith said.
"He has had a significant impact," he said. "I think we all want somebody on here that is committed to the city of Bradenton and first and foremost, that's what I'm looking for."
Similar debates were held about the appointment of William Webster to the Central Community Redevelopment Agency and J.B. Taylor to the Architectural Review Board. Webster's appointment was tabled on a 5-0 vote, and Taylor's appointment was approved on a 5-0 vote.
Also Wednesday, the City Council approved a grant award of $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services Division. The money will got to fund installation of in-car video systems in the city's police cruisers.
Proclamations were read for the following events:
Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 24-30
Farm-City Week, Nov. 9-21
Community Planning Month, October 2009
In the consent agenda, the following items were approved:
Minutes of Sept. 23, 2009.
Budget minutes of Sept. 23, 2009.
Resolution 09-70 - Appointing James Farr to the Tree & Land Preservation Board.
Resolution 09-71 - Reappointing Ron Santarlas to the Personnel Merit Board.
Resolution 09-72 - Reappointing Andy Gregory and Lucille Hymes to the Police Pension Board.
Resolution 09-75 - Appointing Richard Coury to the Enterprise Zone.
Public Event - First Baptist Church "Fall Festival," Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009.
2010 City of Bradenton Holiday Calendar.
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