+ The demise of PIC
The Longboat Observer repeatedly sheds crocodile tears over the demise of the Longboat Key Public Interest Committee, after decades of first being a resident-oriented foil to developers, to ending up in its final years as an organ for various commercial interests on the island, and at the end a straight-out political committee in disguise, which failed to register as a political committee and published a political advertisement that did not comply with statutory disclaimer requirements.
Sadly, the board of PIC had to sign a consent decree admitting to operating illegally as a political committee and placing illegal ads supporting certain local candidates for the Town Commission.
The Observer lauded the PIC board for donating the remaining money in the organization’s bank account to the local library, amid much breast-beating and bows for their altruism. However, there are a couple of questions that need to be addressed before we all kiss PIC a sad adieu.
I have a letter in writing from a dues-paying PIC member stating that he was not informed, at the time he paid his dues to PIC, that his money would be used for purposes of buying expensive political ads supporting certain candidates this member did not support. Both the state and the PIC board members who signed the above consent decree stated that the political ads were in violation of state laws and that PIC had operated as an unauthorized political committee. This raises questions of what monies were used to purchase the ads.
If member dues were involved, and the members (at least one) thought their money would be used for other purposes, how can the PIC board respond to this question; and they do need to respond. Their reputations rest on their answers. If on the other hand, the political ads were purchased with private funds, and the ads published under the supposed auspices of PIC, then other questions are raised concerning misrepresentation in an election, where one candidate lost by fewer than 27 votes. So, we are faced with the possible question: Since culpability has been established by the state, were the funds raised under false pretenses or spent for unintended purposes, as far as the dues-paying members were concerned, or is there some other explanation? At least one dues-paying PIC member would like to know.
The consent decree sites a $600 fine for election ad violations and activities. The decree is signed by counsel for the defendants. What monies were used to cover legal expenses?
There is no doubt that certain members of the PIC organization played a role in the town election process, possibly causing one candidate to lose by using what had been the trusted PIC name to make negative statements about that candidate. I wonder how those unaware residents, who read the PIC political ads and cast their votes accordingly, must feel after discovering that what they thought was trusted advice from PIC was nothing more than the political agenda of a few residents. The PIC dues-paying members were never polled about their political views.
The Observer would serve the community well by publishing complete and factual information instead of shameless propaganda and revisionist history. PIC met an ignominious end at the hands of a few residents who did not mind deceiving their fellow islanders and voters about their true political agenda and hiding behind the PIC name. Shame has been brought on what had once been a venerable community organization.
Editor’s note: Former Public Interest Committee co-presidents Ann Roth and Gaele Barthold declined to respond to this letter.
+ There should be rules when creating committees
I hope that the Urban Land Institute Implementation Advisory Committee as currently comprised comes forward with positive recommendations for the future of Longboat Key.
I have not worked with any of the current members during my 15-year ownership on the island, but I am sure they will do their best. I do have some recommendations for establishing working committees in the future:
1. The working committee should have specific objectives, a timetable for deliverables and a budget to work with.
2. The committee should be gender diversified. Women have a very different perspective than men do, possibly based upon societal reasons that will decrease over time, especially regarding quality-of-life issues.
3. The committee should include full-time, mostly full-time (commuter-type) and part-time residents. These three groups will likely have a diverse view on how Longboat Key should handle tourism, traffic, commercial activity and home marketability.
4. At least one member of the committee should be an active real estate agent who can provide some insight into the impact of recommendations upon market values.
5. At least one member of the committee should be a member of the Planning and Zoning Board, who can provide insight into the practical impact of recommendations upon political reality.
6. No commissioner should be a member of the committee.