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Written by Fred Jonas, Special to the BT   
May 2020

Local governance goes virtual, so tune in

WPix_FredJonas_5-20hat a mess! Few people can function these days, and certainly not properly, because of the coronavirus. Most opportunities for function have been suspended, now even by fiat from the governor of Florida. And this is very right and proper.

The best thing all of us can do is stay home. Even going to the grocery store, which many or most of us need to do in order to have provisions to stay alive, is fraught. Many of us have come to rely on a service like Instacart to do the shopping and delivering so we don’t have to leave the house.

Activities that are less urgent, but still life sustaining? Forget about it! Many of us can’t work. If we can’t work and if our earnings weren’t so great or we don’t have a financial cushion, we’re potentially in real trouble.

Every day that we wake up without symptoms, however, counts as a good day. Or as good as it’s going to get for many of us.

And no one, not anyone at all, knows when this will end. All kinds of people -- some with reason to have relevant knowledge and perspective, and some without -- make guesses and predictions, but no one really knows. The most reliable experts don’t know. We all wait, and we’ll all figure it out as time passes and circumstances develop.

The main circumstance that has to develop, in other words, a milestone, is that we see no new cases of COVID-19. Not a slower acceleration of new cases, and not a deceleration of new cases. No new cases, period. And that has to happen for at least a few days in a row. (That, of course, presumes we can identify new cases, which we can’t because we test very few people.)

We also have to gain control of the old new cases, i.e., the people who will either take more time to get better or those who will die. A cure for infected people? Or a vaccine? That’s not on any horizon, although just today I read about an antiviral that may prove to be beneficial. But, no, it has not been tested according to proper protocols.

Medical experts have warned that a vaccine may be a year away. And even then, a vaccine against what? This coronavirus? What if it mutates? Then the vaccine against this coronavirus may not even work.

The skies are obliterated by pies.

In the meantime, someone makes attempts to understand and to have a basis for prediction. And someone(s) else makes attempts to manage. I’m thinking here about those supposed managers. The main information and information sources ought to be doctors and public health and epidemiological specialists, but the pandemic is being treated as if it’s an economic or political issue. So the politicians are the people who imagine they have something to say about what should be done.

The president of the Unites States thinks he has relevant insights. So does the governor of Florida. And their insights, as might be predicted, have little or nothing to do with science, biology, microbiology, or epidemiology. They mostly have to do either with trying not to upset people or with trying to preserve the “economy,” and preserving citizens’ prerogatives to gather, as in places like churches. (The governor of Florida named as an “essential” business “professional” [fake] wrestling. That’s the level of care and intelligence being applied to control this pandemic.)

The daily drones by the president of the United States, the governor of Florida, and others are hard to escape, even though the words and ideas are patently meaningless. Yet these are the people who make the rules, even when they don’t make sense.

But what about our local representatives? Most of us in the Biscayne Corridor live in separate municipalities, and we elect local representatives. What are they doing? And what are they communicating to us?

Well, whatever they’re doing or communicating is not in the usual setting of open meetings, attended by constituents, or anyone else. Those gatherings are all canceled. No one in any setting meets now, unless those meetings are virtual, relying on some audio/video sharing arrangement like Zoom. Is that happening?

Everyone needs information, and contact, and some idea what the plan is. If nothing else, we need some tiny kernel of normalcy. Are we getting any of that from our elected officials?

Yes, some of us are. In our area, the City of Miami has virtual meetings. So do El Portal and Miami Shores. And North Miami, North Miami Beach, and Aventura. These are virtual meetings of their whole governing bodies, and other people can observe and even ask questions or make comments.

I tried to contact North Bay Village, but they don’t return calls.

Nor was Biscayne Park in that group. Biscayne Park could not schedule a meeting, in part because of a state of emergency called by the mayor, and in part because a special meeting can’t be called unless either the mayor calls it, or all four of the other commissioners override her.

For reasons that were not disclosed, the mayor chose not to call a meeting, and one of the other commissioners also did not agree to demand one. And this was despite agitation from not only three of the other commissioners (a majority of them) but also continuing requests from a collection of non-commissioner residents.

Also for reasons that have not been explained, the mayor agreed to call a meeting only on condition that nothing other than the coronavirus is discussed. The mayor gave no clues as to what other possible topics of discussion she was trying to avoid, or what other topics anyone said they might want to discuss.

Much of that mysteriously changed on Tuesday, April 21, when the village announced that a special/emergency meeting would be called for Wednesday, April 22. The only items on the agenda were two resolutions accepting Governor DeSantis’s permission for municipal meetings without a quorum physically present. Once that door opened, other commissioners voted to have frequent meetings, so that village business could get done.

Our world, literally the whole of it, is upside-down. Most people have little but trouble. No one knows what to expect, and everyone wants information. Or reassurance. Or some guidance as to how to worry. We can’t expect much from elected officials. They’re not qualified. But they can field questions and concerns, and get information they don’t themselves already have. All they have to do is care and be fit representatives. The Biscayne Park Village Commission finally rose to that standard.

 

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