by: Max Royle ~ City of St. Augustine Beach

It’s an enduring question: Why don’t you, Mr. and Ms. Citizen, pay more attention to what we, your humble public servants, are doing on your behalf in City Government World?

It seems that we hear from you or see you at city hall offices, or a Planning Board or City Commission meeting only when you’re disturbed by the bellowing of a favorite ox as it’s being gored.

The “ox” might be a proposal to levy parking fees, or when your City Commission debated in 2001 whether to abolish the City’s Fire Department and contract with the County for fire/medical response services (now that was one heck of a hot debate); or when a proposal was twice made years ago to ban the parking of boats on residential property (another very hot topic).

For the Fire Department and boat issues, the Commission meeting room at the former city hall was stuffed to the rafters with citizens.

Despite overwhelming and strident citizen clamor for the City to keep the Fire Department, three of the five Commissioners voted in favor of a contract with the County, which turned out to be one of the smartest financial decisions made in the City’s history.

The proposed boat ban, solidly opposed by the citizens, was never approved by the Commission.

Except for such issues, meetings at city hall are often sparsely attended. Surely, it couldn’t be because the public isn’t aware of them. In this Internet era, the meetings’ dates and times, agendas and topics, can be seen in advance with a few keyboard strokes and mouse clicks.

I have a theory about the sparse attendance: That it’s understandable. First, though it grieves me to write this, much of what happens in City Government World isn’t exciting or even of much interest except to those of us who daily are involved with it. Much of what we do may seem to citizens to be boring and snooze-inducing.

Second part of the theory: You, Mr. and Ms. Citizen, have your own life to lead, your occupation with its demands, your family and interests that daily consume your attention/energy to the point that you don’t have much left for what’s going on in City Government World. You certainly have other priorities.

Third part of the theory: You elect City Commissioners to do the “grind work.” You trust them to make the right decisions on your behalf, however “right” may be defined, and that’s why trust in government is so essential and why it’s so distressing when public officials betray that trust.

One final thought: What’s not understandable is apathy about voting in elections, especially local ones.

These days, citizens can so easily exercise their preference about who they want to represent them on the City Commission. They don’t even need to come to the polling site at city hall on election day.

There are now mail-in ballots and early voting that make the process super easy. So, please, in 2020, take the pledge: NO APATHY ABOUT VOTING!!