Coppen Loses Fight to Curtail IRB's Champagne Taste on Beer Money
by Leo Coughlin
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Commissioners approved a budget for Indian Rocks Beach last week that the city cannot afford, turning down an attempt by one commissioner to discuss possible cuts in expenditures.
That commissioner, Jose Coppen, had the support of many of those in attendance, including those who formerly were not regarded as supporter of his, lending credence to the idea that fairness and justice do exist in some rare areas.
Coppen at a commission meeting on September 19 attempted to introduce proposed cuts but was cut off by the presiding officer, Mayor-Commissioner Bill Ockunzzi.
He claimed that the procedure was done improperly. That is, instead of entertaining what Coppen had to offer, a motion was made and seconded and immediately voted on.
The usual and normal procedure after a motion is made and seconded is to have discussion before a vote is taken.
Coppen's plea on this, though rejected in a 3-2 vote September 26 by the commission, was backed by Ed Piniero, a former mayor and commissioner, Victor Wood, Nancy Obarski, and Scott Shapiro, all residents who follow city business carefully.
Ockunzzi voted with Coppen and opposing Coppen's request for discussion in which he would outline possible cuts were Commissioners R.B. Johnson, Terry Hamilton-Wollin and Bert Valery. They voted for immediate adoption of the budget, the details of which are unknown.
What happened as best that can be discerned is that City Manager Steve Cottrell, on the basis of "let's get this budget voted on and move on," mustered support in advance and made the budget adoption a fait accompli before Coppen even showed up for the September 26 meeting.
In a piece of cleverness typical of the byzantine and serpentine politics that have taken root in Indian Rocks Beach, Ockunzzi, seeing that the three votes would carry matters, voted with Coppen to ameliorate any idea that the two are political rivals.
Coppen got strong support from citizens in attendance although proceedings during citizen comments took a ludicrous and comical turn when a resident, Phil Rubble, started talking about off the wall subjects that had nothing to do with city business.
As is typical in villages like Indian Rocks Beach, presiding officers at government meetings allow citizens, some of whom are obviously addled, to use citizen comments like a call-in talk show in which they vent whatever dissatisfactions apparently occur to them. Rubble's outburst was one such classical example.
Another bit of foolishness came from one of IRB's anciens, Jim Driscoll, who stressed that commissioners should be "congenial" and display an ambience of "collegiality."
Apparently Driscoll does not understand now government works. Ends are achieved through debate and discussion. "Collegiality" is what Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez rely on.
It was pointed out to Driscoll that the role of an elected official is to safeguard taxpayers' money. But Driscoll has a hobby horse in the race - pushing the idea of a full-scale library that informed observers contend will turn into a massive white elephant and drain funds from taxpayers.
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