Last-minute invite sparks city-PAR kerfuffle

A few feathers were ruffled last week by a last-minute invitation to a private gathering in Anna Maria.

Pine Avenue Restoration’s Mike Coleman emailed Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn late Aug. 15, asking her to join representatives of PAR, which was hosting University of South Florida students and some dignitaries Aug. 16 for a tour of what Coleman says is becoming known as “The Greenest Little Main Street in America.”

Students from the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida, Tampa, were joined by Joe Dorsey, adjunct professor at PCGS; Judy Siguaw, a candidate for USF Sarasota-Manatee regional chancellor, Kristian Blessington of the Sarasota County Health Department and Richard Jordan.

Jordan serves the International Council for Caring Communities, a nonprofit that has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Among other accolades, Jordan has served within the UN non-governmental world for the past 30 years. He was one of the five co-founding editors of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, the journal of record at environment and development negotiations worldwide.

The tour was conducted by Coleman, Mike Miller, native plant and habitat expert, and Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar, BeacHhouse and Mar Vista restaurants and a partner in the PAR project, among others.

One notably absent face — Mayor SueLynn, who was not informed of the event until just before midnight on the eve of the tour.

She returned that day from the Florida League of Cities Conference in Hollywood, Florida.

Coleman, who is a member of the Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board, was prompted to send the mayor an email about the tour after learning earlier that evening that a former UN representative would attend.

He told The Islander that the mayor has been unreceptive in the past to “events surrounding the sustainability project.”

SueLynn responded with an email of her own, expressing resentment.

“I am quite upset that you thought only at the last minute to inform me of this event,” she wrote. “I cannot believe that you and whoever else planned this would do so without at least informing the city about what you were doing. How could you do this and not have the city represented? Someone here from the United Nations … and it just occurs to you that, maybe, the city ought to be represented?”

That email — copied to the city commissioners — was followed by one from Commissioner Carol Carter, who called for Coleman’s removal from the planning and zoning board.

Carter wrote, “I am horrified that Mike Coleman would inform the mayor of this event at almost midnight just hours before the 9 a.m. event. Perhaps Micheal (sic) has deluded himself and believes that he is the mayor of AM. I think this action should justify Mr. Coleman’s removal from the P&Z. I trust the mayor has the ability to remove him since she appointed him.”

Coleman responded to the mayor and commissioners and the PAR event organizers with another email in which he emphasized the last-minute nature of Jordan’s attendance and noted, “Frankly, since a number of these events, some smaller and some larger, have gone unattended by our city leaderships over the years, I had not much hope for interest this time.

“We give tours all the time to interested parties who would like to know more about the ‘sustainable’ Pine Avenue project and the many things that have flowed from it. As it happens, the level of parties who have taken note now includes the past chair of the UN Sustainability Conference. My role was not as a representative of the city, but as the operating partner of what has, fortunately, become a model that others would like to know about.”

Coleman defended his intentions, stating, “Unfortunately, the proactive, creative, optimistic impulses which brought this group together are anything but representative of the city of Anna Maria at this time. More sadly, the tone of the letters from the mayor and of Commissioner Carter is actually ‘representative’ of the dark spirit I referred to in a recent letter.”

Coleman said he stands ready to make a presentation to the commission “about what, how, why and who has taken it upon themselves to present the city of Anna Maria to the world as a sustainable community.”

For her part, SueLynn told The Islander she would welcome Coleman to make such a presentation.

“It would be nice if there was some communication and exchange of information,” she said. “I would like to be kept informed.”

As for Carter’s suggestion regarding Coleman’s dismissal, the mayor plans no action. “It’s in the past,” she said.

SueLynn added that she was dismayed that the matter was being reported and abruptly ended the phone call.

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