DUNEDIN — A majority of city commissioners voted for a public art and beautification ordinance at their meeting Thursday that will not require anyone to do anything.
It still managed to evoke a lot of emotion.
Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, who ultimately voted for the measure, brought the fireworks.
The ordinance was approved on the first reading 3-2, with Mayor Bob Hackworth and Commissioner Deborah Kynes opposed.
It is the product of five years' work. The city established an arts and culture advisory committee in 2003 and the group started the ball rolling toward a city cultural plan. Then, a consultant developed the Dunedin Cultural Plan in 2005 and the commission adopted it the next year.
The plan called for more art in public places and for an art ordinance, so the arts and culture advisory committee set to work.
An earlier version of the ordinance required that both city and private building projects set aside 1 percent of the budget for arts projects. With the economic downturn, private participation went to voluntary, to be encouraged with unspecified incentives.
When a version was presented to commissioners individually before a meeting last month, they suggested more changes. The requirement for city participation was dropped, too.
Now the ordinance says the city will commit up to 1 percent of the total construction budget for projects of at least $1 million for public art. So if the ordinance passes on the second reading at the commission meeting Feb. 19, contributing nothing for public art will be fine, too.
"What's the meaning of the ordinance?" Hackworth asked city staff members at the meeting Thursday.
"It makes public art part of the conversation," Assistant City Manager Harry Gross said.
Although city officials say all but one of the arts and culture committee members agreed to the most recent changes, the three who spoke at the commission meeting opposed the ordinance in its latest form.
"This is not the ordinance that I wanted," said Gregory Brady, owner of Gregory's Salon on Main Street. "… As a committee member, I think it needs to be redone."
Two other committee members were not happy that the city would be off the hook now, too. They wanted the "up to" removed that now precedes "1 percent."
Kynes agreed and said the incentives to encourage private participation should be spelled out in the ordinance. She made a motion to that effect, which was not seconded.
Commissioners Dave Eggers and Julie Scales supported the ordinance as a good first step that shows the city values public art.
Hackworth questioned the legal sufficiency of an ordinance that doesn't require anyone to do anything. The ordinance should have some obligation that's enforceable, he said.
"An ordinance is supposed to move us to a new place," he said later.
Bujalski sharply, repeatedly and loudly questioned City Attorney John Hubbard about why an ordinance was coming to them "at the dais" when it was questionable whether it should be an ordinance at all.
Hackworth tried to stop her questioning by ruling that Hubbard had given his legal opinion and it was up to the commission to vote on whether to make it an ordinance. But she persisted and he resorted to repeatedly gaveling before she was subdued.
"We're all human, even commissioners," she said Friday. "My frustration certainly got the better of me."
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170.