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Friday, September 18, 2015

I'm not running, but I'm still moving forward

September 2, 2015

TO:  Patty Beliveau, City Clerk,  City of Seminole, Florida
FROM:  Patricia Plantamura, Candidate for 2015 Seminole election
RE:  Plans for a better, more inclusive Seminole;  November 2015 Seminole election

To the Seminole community:

With both Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Political Science, most recently a graduate degree in Comparative Government and Politics from USF-Tampa, it is natural that I would run for elected office.  Even so, during the past 6 1/2 years of my being a Seminole Councilor, I have learned much.  I have come to know how a city runs and to appreciate that it is the employees who make this happen.  I am very proud of the talented and hard-working city employees who keep Seminole a safe and enjoyable place to live.

At the same time, it's been a real eye-opener to experience the effects of an old-boy network, the small, insular group which has been in control of Seminole for many years.  There has been very little inclusion of others, and of me, a Councilor who asks serious questions.  And yet, it is the elitist attitude of this clique that concerns me almost as much as the words of a Seminole employee in City Hall offices, regarding a death threat made against me,  several months ago. 

Considering that several long-term administrative employees have resigned since that event, and have been replaced with a new city manager, a new city attorney, a new city clerk, a new human resources officer, an upcoming new city administrator (and other key administrative employees) it is obvious that Seminole is moving on to a new stage.  It has become apparent to many--as indicated by seven candidates running in the upcoming election, that the time has also come to replace the old guard of elected officials. 

The need for Seminole to move into a new era was never more clearly seen than Manager Edmunds' email response to a community member on his last day in office.  A young realtor had actively shared her views in public hearings and in writing, regarding the new mall plans. Edmunds responded to her by writing that he had actually researched her residence address, and reminded her that she lived outside of Seminole City limits.  He then condescendingly wrote that she must understand that the "Seminole City Council represents our city's residents and tax payers."  I remain astonished by this.  Edmunds then circulated  his response to her, as if his approach represented all of us in leadership in Seminole.  It does not.

In contrast,  I see Seminole as a community.  Each year many people from outside Seminole city limits volunteer at our Pow Wow and other significant events.  When volunteers in our Seminole Community Library donate a hefty check to our City, we do not ask whether those volunteers actually live in our City.  Former Manager Edmunds himself chooses not to live in Seminole.   I must be clear again:  this is an attitude of exclusion--one which I do not share. 

I can't help but believe that the woman from the previously mentioned emails felt rejected, ignored and insulted, as she responded to Edmunds stating that her business address actually pays taxes in Seminole.  She explained that, as a realtor she touts the benefits of our city as she sells homes in the $300,000--$750,000 range in Seminole. In short, although her home is not in Seminole, she has been a great cheerleader for our City, and hence, in my opinion, her ideas should have been enthusiastically welcomed and considered in all discussions. 

This same disregard was shown in paying little attention to the more than 100 emails and overflowing attendance at two "public hearings" of community members who had issues with the current development agreement.  Contrary to my approach to their ideas, and my vote, it is clear that fellow Councilors chose not to represent the people.  For city administration and Councilors to so disregard the input of members of our community like that, is both rude and short-sighted. 

Other incidents indicate to me a system in need of serious improvement:  giving a city vehicle as a gift to a former Seminole Council member's organization without announcing the offer to other community organizations; and the unprecedented use of city funds to demolish an empty house next to homes of both a present and a former Seminole Council member. This era needs to come to a close, both administratively and through the elected officials which support it.

For simply asking questions and speaking publicly about such things, institutionalized bullying which has been directed at me, again came to light at a recent Council meeting.  It seems that Council members are hearing from community members and the public about their negative acts and  behavior.  They are being called out for their questionable actions, actions which reflect very poorly on our City. 

Rather than viewing elected office as public service, their attitudes are ego-laden and demonstrate an overinflated sense of purpose.  The Seminole Charter is clear in stating that the Mayor is a member of Council just like the other six, with one exception:  "There shall be a Mayor who shall be a member of the City Council and preside at meetings of Council, shall have a vote, but shall have no administrative or executive duties except as may be provided elsewhere herein." No other duties are provided in the Charter.  The Florida Municipal Officials' Manual describes the city manager/council form of government by stating:  "The mayor in a council-manager form is the ceremonial head of the municipality, presides over council meetings, and makes appointments to boards.  The mayor may be an important political figure, but has little, if any, role in day-to-day municipal administration." These words provide the legal reasons by which Seminole can even exist as a city.  

Since our Charter specifies that the Mayor is an equal member with all Council members, it is noteworthy that Waters' public hubris has people humorously calling Seminole Council meetings "The Leslie Waters' Show."  A competent meeting presider would not, several times now, openly break a Seminole City Ordinance which requires the use of Robert's Rules of Order,  using official meetings to orchestrate personal attacks on another elected official.  While Mayor Waters demands respect for her office, community members still talk of their shock and disappointment of the time when Waters placed herself in the protest zone during the visit to our City by the President of the United States.  

More recently Waters gave written instructions to the city manager asking that I be disallowed to pray during Invocations at the opening of Council meetings, as all other Councilors are allowed.  These acts from someone holding an official position in Seminole, embarrass our City. 

I love our City.  Seminole can do better than this.  Seminole must do better than this.  Seminole deserves better than this.

I am being encouraged by many people to continue my good work on Council.  I recognize that I have an incumbent advantage after 6 1/2 years in office.  I have heard much appreciation from community members--most recently for my representation of their views during the discussions of the redevelopment agreement of Seminole Mall.  I am very grateful that I have more community support now than ever. 

It is precisely because of this community support and approval, that I feel that I am able make a strong example of myself, in highlighting the necessity of electing new people on Seminole Council. For this reason specifically, I am withdrawing from the November 2015 election.  My withdrawal does not mean that I am leaving leadership in Seminole, but rather that I am providing an open door for new interest to come in.

Having learned how local government works, I will use my time to help motivate and guide others in our community to nurture new leadership for this new era.  People are still bringing me questions which they want answered, and they have asked that I, as a demonstrated leader in their community, represent their concerns. 

We are seeing that city hall doesn't have to be a small, insular group in an exclusive club.  Elected office is not meant to be a back-slapping, self-congratulating group of people in a popularity contest, but rather a humble, respectful and inclusive service to our citizens. 

Let the lack of democratic representation by present Councilors, as clearly seen in recent public hearings on the mall, be a call to all citizens to be involved in local governance in some way. If you are blessed to have the time to do it, consider serving on Council for a few years.  It is important that we represent the ideas of, and motivate younger, family-oriented citizens to run for public office. 

Each year two Council positions come up for election.  I am taking this year off as I consider a run again next year.  Due to lack of community interest, our present Mayor holds that office by default, and what should be an elected position is not, because no other person stepped up to run in that election.  I repeat again from previously,  Seminole can do better than this.  Seminole must do better than this.  Seminole deserves better than this.  I will consider the encouragement I'm receiving from the public to run for that office next year.

In light of what I have shared, I now respectfully withdraw from candidacy for the November 2015 Seminole election.  While I am choosing not to run this year, I will continue my forward movement in ongoing service to the Seminole community. 

Respectfully submitted,

Patricia Plantamura

For anyone interested in learning about the history which led up to my decision, see my blog at: