Joe Rasco returned to the center of the dais Tuesday, starting a new term as mayor after a previous stint 20 years ago. He began presiding after the most expensive and vitriolic election campaign in the history of the village, raising one big question for the audience in the council chamber and those viewing at home:
Would anything be different?
And for the first meeting, at least, there was a different tone and a sense of speed that sometimes eluded previous councils. Rasco, joined by new council members Oscar Sardiñas and Fernando Vazquez, worked to keep the meeting moving — but with a bit more formality.
An early test came about 30 minutes into the session, when questions were raised about a cost overrun for Paradise Park. Council Member Ed London had the floor, asking questions of village staff.
Council Member Brett Moss interrupted — and Rasco quickly interjected, cutting the crosstalk off.
“Hey guys,” Rasco said. “There’s a different style that I have. You know, the way that I’ve always run meetings is, go through the chair. So let’s try to remember that.”
And with that, council members made a point of obtaining the floor before speaking, a key provision of Robert’s Rules of Order. The standard guide to parliamentary procedure hasn’t always been followed, even though the Council has its own set of procedural rules that specifically requires civility.
Was it effective? The first meeting ended at about 9:40, hardly a speedy session but shorter than some gatherings that have gone well past 11:00 p.m.
In another nod to efficiency, Rasco circulated a list of boards and committees for council members to signal interest in serving in, with responses due in a week. He even suggested he’d be open to forming specific committees that would report back to the full council.
Committees are standard features in many deliberative bodies, but former Mayor Mike Davey backed off of a plan to form committees early in his first term after some council members objected.
Perhaps the biggest evidence for a sense of optimism for shorter meetings came during a discussion on the meeting calendar. The council voted to shift the meeting start time a half-hour later, with sessions to start at 6:30 p.m, even though some worried there might not be enough time to get everything done.
“Let’s try it,” Rasco said. The measure passed unanimously.
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Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.