Monday, March 16, 2009

O'Brien on Fire

Someone must be putting something in Mark O'Brien's coffee. And it's pretty good stuff, actually.

First, O'Brien fixes a justifiably yellow eye on Portofino's demands for a carnivalistic water slide on Pensacola Beach. Today, he rips semi-retired federal judge Lacey Collier a new one:
Collier was a poor choice for the job as head of the Community Maritime Park Associates, another instance where Pensacola picks the usual suspects to run the show.
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... Collier palled around with guys like Mike Murphy, the glad-handing, name-dropping car dealer who eventually got nailed for grand theft. And one of Collier's best supporters is Quint Studer, who donated $200,000 to the Lacey Collier Sensory Complex at Escambia Westgate Center — and who wants the maritime park to be home to his baseball team and his business. The sensory complex is for a good cause and this is no knock on Studer, who is generous to all. Still, a resident might justifiably feel queasy to see a federal judge dropping hints about his favorite charity.

The only surprise is that Collier's crankiness didn't burst into full view until Friday, when His Honor had a hissy fit because City Manager Al Coby wants time to review a proposal Collier was all set to endorse.
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Anyone else would have said, "Thanks, Al, I appreciate it" when Coby said his team will review the developer's latest, just-off-the-printer proposal, which weighed in at 106 pages and has yet to be double-checked by city advisers. Not Collier, whose people skills are such that for months he sat with his back to the audience at CMPA meetings.
Earlier this month, Progressive Pensacola offered a similar take on the judge's disdain for public input on a major project the public will be financing: "It is shameful and disgusting to be treated in such a fashion," Collier is quoted as saying of suggestions that the Maritime Park Commission board has to abide by Florida's Sunshine Law.

Whether you favor or oppose the Maritime Park -- and we favor it -- there can be no reasonable argument for shutting down public input on every aspect of this project, from contracts to design, construction costs to leasing policies, environmental impact to amenities, day-to-day management, and more. Whether we're speaking of a volunteer board or flush city government employees ["Your Money, Their Perks"], misjudgments, favoritism, and worse can occur.

In law, that's why appellate courts are given the power to reverse a trial court decisions -- as Judge Collier certainly knows from his own extensive record of reversals. In civic projects, that's why the Sunshine Law gives the public the right to know what's going on and to agitate for a change of course.

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