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HB committee member calls out political motives

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Meeting twice a month, the Holmes Beach Island Congestion committee appeared to be making some headway toward its goal of providing suggestions and recommendations on traffic and parking issues.

However, one member doesn’t believe the committee is doing enough.

Committee member Bob Johnson sent an email dated Oct. 30 questioning the committee’s validity and challenging its leadership. The committee is chaired by Holmes Beach commissioner candidate Carol Soustek.

The email was sent after an Oct. 28 committee meeting that was largely devoted to public comment, in particular, Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce executive director Mary Ann Brockman, who was invited to speak on the state of tourism by Soustek.

“The conduct of this committee’s last meeting of Oct. 28 should cause all of us, as members, to question where we are going and how can we get there from here,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson said Brockman “came totally unprepared to provide any meaningful input to the committee.”

He went on to cite what the committee did get accomplished, which was discussing a proposed parking agreement with local churches and businesses that might participate in the committee’s vision of opening offsite parking lots to handle beach over-flow parking.

Johnson then wrote that the remainder of the meeting was re-dedicated to public comment, at which time, “The meeting was then declared adjourned by the chair without any input from the committee.”

Johnson said the meeting ended without a proper review of the “limited actions that came out of the meeting.”

He said the committee ignored his pre-meeting communications about key points that needed discussion, implying too much time was spent on listening to public comment and a guest speaker.

“The function of a committee is not to serve only as a venue for public comment unless its sole purpose is to provide political cover,” wrote Johnson.

He said his understanding of why Mayor Carmel Monti formed the committee was to “come up with ideas that will have a positive effect on the citizens of Holmes Beach, the residents of our county and the national and global visitors to this, our little piece of paradise.”

Johnson wrote that public comment is one piece of the pie, “but to be effective, the committee needs to do much more.”

He called for more action from the committee and, a change in leadership.

“The current chair is well-intentioned, but does not demonstrate the knowledge, experience or leadership capabilities required of the position,” Johnson wrote. “A new chair should be found.”

Soustek said if it was the will of the committee, she would step aside.

“But it’s not going to make anything go any quicker,” she said. “Bob is an asset to this committee and works very hard. He’s the kind of person that wants things done now but, unfortunately, this is a process that takes time. Mostly because we have to wait on other people to give us the information we need.”

Soustek said the committee agreed from day one that it would approach the traffic and congestion issues with “baby steps” to ensure the process receives due diligence.

She is proud of the progress the committee is making and believes that good ideas have been moved forward thanks “to a number of greatly talented people.”

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