Brooksville Main Street City Council

The Voice of Brooksville Main Street: An Introduction

You’re probably a bit surprised receiving this email from Brooksville Main Street so let me say up front, defenders of Brooksville Main Street have decided it needs to speak up. Yes, we want you to know what we’re all about. That’s important. But we also think you deserve to be informed of other matters that may be difficult or complicated but central to your interest in revitalizing your city.

And, by creating a voice for Brooksville Main Street, we hope we are also giving you a voice because we want that voice to reflect what we’re hearing from you and for you to engage some of the challenges we face with us. The only reason we do this is for you, the residents, the businesses, and the property owners of the City. We know these are challenging times. We’re not going to sugar coat it.

Okay, so, this is the first post of a new Blog we’re calling The Voice of Brooksville Main Street, and I’m betting you’re going to want follow what we’ll be talking about over the coming months because, if kudos are deserved we’ll give them, but if not, we won’t, and we’re going to be saying why as honestly as we can and as frankly as necessary.

Let me ask you this. If you entered a contract with someone to provide a service and a month later there were unintended scheduling problems, wouldn’t you think there’s a good chance both parties would be interested in fixing the problem? Yes, I do too. If the agreement was entered into in good faith, it would be a piece of cake.

Well, let me share a situation that’s unfolding right now that doesn’t seem to be working out that way.

Brooksville Main Street is a new organization with a number of very important revitalization goals for the City that were worked out with our City Council and County Commissioners in 2016 which then agreed to help fund some of its start-up costs. The agreement was made between each government and the Brooksville Vision Foundation, a non-profit organization consisting primarily of downtown business and property owners. In exchange for the funding, the Vision Foundation agreed to work toward getting the City designated a Main Street Community per guidelines of the nationally recognized, Main Street America model, which describes itself as:

A Grassroots Network
Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique. Working together, the Main Street America Network helps to breathe new life into the places people call home.

It also claims:

Dollar for dollar, Main Street has proven itself to be one of the most impactful cost-effective community revitalization models in the country.

Last fall, the City and Brooksville Vision Foundation created an agreement to more fully detail City  expectations.  After several months, both realized adjustments needed to be made to the agreement, so in March 2020, the City and the Brooksville Vision Foundation worked out the problems and amendments to the offending language of the agreement was officially approved by both parties.

At a meeting the following month (April), however, a member of the Council decided the negotiated fix was not satisfactory, so the City Council unilaterally decided to amend the agreement and – again unilaterally – has scheduled approval of those amendments Monday night. Yes, this Monday night. 

The Brooksville Vision Foundation found out about these latest changes only yesterday, Thursday, May 14, when the city published its agenda for the meeting. This has left the Brooksville Vision Foundation Board no opportunity to meet and assess the changes to determine if they are acceptable or to be able to propose alternate language, and the apparent expectation is that the Brooksville Vision Foundation representative will have to negotiate “on the fly” without any input from its staff, lawyer or the Board of Directors.

I’ll let you decide what kind of signal this sends to any party to any agreement where this is the treatment one gives to the other, but I’ll wager it doesn’t involve good faith cooperation and positive vibes, the bedrock of any successful partnership.

The very purpose of any agreement is to set forth mutually agreed upon terms under which the parties agree to work to achieve mutually agreed upon goals through a specified period. It is simply not acceptable for a partner to unilaterally change the dance in the middle of a song.  

The city’s rationale for all this is that it wants to assure the public’s funds it has agreed to provide are being spent properly, so more transparency is required, i.e., more than what was originally asked for and agreed to, which was substantial. Therefore, it is now demanding copies of all canceled checks for every dollar spent of public money. 

Someone please help me here. How is this more transparent than the multiple reports and continuous updates we have already agreed to provide the city every quarter? We have already agreed to provide at the first available meeting after submittal of request for payment a presentation which “shall inform the public and the City Council of the activities where the funds will or have been used.” As well as a monthly Profit and Loss Statement, a Year to Date Summary and an updated balance sheet for each previous month. 

Why is there now a demand for copies of all canceled checks? If there had been an opportunity to discuss a specific concern, maybe it could have been addressed in a forthright manner. What is the issue that a simple audit might address at the appropriate time if there is such concern about the honesty of the program’s leaders and staff? There simply is no basis or justification for any such innuendo. If there is, let there be factual data brought forward to support it. Until then, let there be a renewed spirit of cooperation and strength that will surely be needed in the days ahead as the city faces the impacts of a global pandemic.

Another new amendment I’ve learned they’re looking at is this sentence they want to add:

“…the City Council and the Foundation may discuss and agree to identify specific expectations for achievement during the following quarter.”

Wait a minute. Doesn’t this seem obvious? An agreement doesn’t have to include this language for it to happen if both parties wish it to happen. The old saying, “It goes without saying,” certainly applies here. So, what’s the REAL purpose?

Is it beginning to feel like there’s another agenda here? Is the city really behind the Main Street Program as it says, or not? It’s said the proof is in the pudding. Hopefully, we’ll soon see it is. Completely and in good faith. But the question is being asked.

… Stay tuned

The Voice of Brooksville Main Street