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Port Richey City Council votes on a return to civility, again

PORT RICHEY — They have argued with residents, developers and each other. They have finger-pointed. Shouted. Snickered.

The Port Richey City Council has debated until the wee hours of the morning, once until 4:30 a.m. Over the years, the council earned a reputation as a political hotbed for contention and controversy.

At times, they have been anything but civil.

So to turn over a new leaf, the council Tuesday readopted a 2004 resolution for civility in government that never seemed to stick.

City Manager Richard Reade brought up the resolution after the council discussed ways last month to have more courteous meetings.

It applies to all elected officials, board and committee members, city employees and the public.

Displays of anger or personal attacks, which "detract from the open exchange of ideas," will not be allowed.

What will be: Adhering to the 10 keys to civility, which include "Keep Your Cool," "Rediscover Silence" and "Pay Attention."

For a city whose reputation has long been a belligerent one, the council discussed the resolution with lots of, well, civility.

City Attorney James Mathieu read the resolution aloud. A motion was made for council approval. The mayor asked for public comment. A handful of residents sat still.

"I think it's an excellent idea," council member Mark Hashim said. "But what's the recourse for a violation?"

"It's not a public stoning, let's put it that way," joked Mayor Richard Rober.

"I'm being serious," Hashim said. "If there's a problem with an individual, what steps are we going to take?"

"I think since I've been here, the meetings have been pretty good," Rober said. "A few times, they've been a bit aggressive. ... If anyone is aggressive, I will ask them to leave."

The resolution passed 5-0.

An hour later, the new pledge of civility faced its first test.

With a tight budget season ahead, Hashim suggested council members return their $360 monthly salaries to save the city money. Since they were elected last year, Hashim and Rober have returned their salaries every month.

"That $360 is not a lot of money," Hashim said. "It's not going to break our backs. ... There are other cities in this county with low or no salary."

Since eliminating salaries requires a referendum to change the city's charter, Hashim made a motion to have a referendum.

Council member Steven O'Neill supported the move. Council member Dale Massad did not.

"I find this rather disturbing, quite frankly," he said. "Dr. Hashim, in all due respect, you ran (for council) on (a platform for) dissolution, and now you're showing passion for the city?"

Massad said eliminating council pay sends the wrong message.

"Some of the less privileged people might need that money," he said. "While it's not much, it came in very handy for them. I can't vote for that. We're saying only the privileged can run for government in our city. I believe it's wrong."

Council member Nancy Britton said returning the checks should be an individual choice. Two residents said the council should keep them.

At the end of the discussion, the council agreed to disagree. The motion failed 3-2.

Reach Camille C. Spencer at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.

Port Richey City Council votes on a return to civility, again 03/12/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:37am]
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