The election of Anna Maria Commissioner SueLynn to commission chairperson by her fellow commissioners, and thus mayor, went smoothly at a Nov. 15 organizational meeting.
The city charter says the commission chair is mayor in the absence of the mayor, which is the result of no one running for the office in the Nov. 6 city election.
But when time came to nominate and vote for a commission replacement for SueLynn, the division between Commissioners John Quam and Dale Woodland on one side and Commissioners Chuck Webb and Nancy Yetter on the other was so strong, tempers occasionally flared and Pine Avenue parking appeard to divide the city electorate and commission.
Woodland and Quam sought Carl Pearman to fill the vacant commission seat on the dais, while Webb and Yetter were in favor of former Commissioner Gene Aubry.
After the first vote on a replacement commissioner ended in a 2-2 tie, all four commissioners announced they did not plan to change their vote, regardless of discussion.
Woodland said he thought Pearman would bring “balance” to the commission.
“I worked with Dr. Pearman on the CIAC board and I support him because 95 percent of our city is residential and I think he would give more balance to the board. He’s not against development, just over-development,” Woodland said.
That prompted a response from Webb that Woodland was implying that some commissioners favor development.
“None of us are for over-development,” Webb said.
“You’re implying that some on this board would support over-development and that’s just not true.”
Quam said Pearman would “work for the common good of the people and not for any private interest.”
Woodland said he’s always been concerned about the intensity of parking on Pine Avenue and the approval of site plans that allow back-out parking.
Webb responded that discussing that issue was irrelevant to the task.
“That’s a dead issue. That was passed last year. We don’t need to bring that up again. Gene Aubry drew the plan voluntarily and it passed,” Webb replied.
Aubry, an architect, said he drew three parking plans, including one that Quam favored.
Webb said he wanted Aubry because he’s already been elected once and his many years experience as an architect ensures he knows and understands what codes and ordinances are all about. He demonstrated the knowledge of the Anna Maria codes when he served as commissioner.
“I don’t always agree with Aubry,” Webb said. “Probably 50 percent of the time I disagree with his view, but I respect his views and I know he understands building codes and ordinances.”
After more discussion and another 2-2 vote,
Woodland said he didn’t mind if the commission remained deadlocked.
“If the commission has to go 2-2 all year. I win,” he said.
That drew a response from Yetter that she thought commissioners were elected to serve the people, not themselves.
“You win?” she asked. “It’s not about you, it’s about the community. You are acting like this is all about you.”
Webb said he was shocked to hear Woodland’s philosophy. “I’ve been in government 35 years and there are always problems at some level.”
If the commission is going to be 2-2 all year, there’s no point in holding any meetings, he suggested.
With no vote compromise in sight and commissioners becoming testy in their discussion, Webb asked city attorney Jim Dye to research city options, including a special election for the vacant commission seat.
“I don’t see any movement on the board, and I don’t know how to solve this,” said Webb. “At least if we have a special election, we’ll get it resolved,” he said.
In the last Anna Maria special election, Aubry was elected commissioner in a September 2010 election against Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus, who had been recalled on the same ballot. Aubry served the remainder of Stoltzfus’ term.
Dye said he would have answers at the commission’s Nov. 29 meeting.
Former Commissioner Tom Aposporos, who had indicated he was a candidate for SueLynn’s commission seat, did not attend the meeting and was not nominated as a candidate.
Commissioners then elected Quam as commission chair and Webb as vice chair, and adopted the basic rules of order for commission meetings. They also signed the code of ethics for commissioners.
Dye suggested Dec. 11 as the date for the city’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law seminar. City clerk Alice Baird said the city traditionally invites other island elected officials and committee members to the meeting and she would check if that date was OK with them.
A decision on the date of the Sunshine meeting will be made at the Nov. 29 commission meeting.
That meeting is at 6 p.m. at the Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.