Monday, January 19, 2015

Citizens' Academy -- Getting to Know the Administration

My buddy Bruce and I met early last Tuesday morning for our first session of the Punta Gorda Citizens' Academy. We rolled into a classroom filled with other residents eager to learn about the inner workings of the City.  Over the course of the next four months, we will visit different departments in the City--from public works to urban design to police--and hear from those in the know what's involved in making Punta Gorda run.  Our first session dealt with Administration and included presentations from the City Council, the City Manager, the Legal Department and IT.  Here are a few fun facts I learned that morning.

--Punta Gorda operates under a council-manager form of government.  This means that our elected representatives (the council members) perform the legislative function while the city manager functions much as a CEO.
--Punta Gorda's mission statement (adopted by the City Council) is "To enhance Punta Gorda's identity as a vibrant waterfront community, unique in character and history, and one of the most desirable places to live, work and visit."
--CSPAN junkies will be glad to know that City Council meetings are available on YouTube no later than the day following the meeting.  (Click here to check it out.)
Yes, the green sign also says "McKenzie."
--As a general rule, blue street signs indicate that you are in the city proper while green street signs indicate that you are in an unincorporated part of the county.  As Council member Rachel Keesling pointed out, though, there are some ambiguities.
--According to a recent report, Punta Gorda is the seventh safest Florida city to live in.  (My sister's home of Parkland was second, so we are in good shape!)
--City Manager Howard Kunik and his team had to obtain approval from Homeland Security to make modifications to the portion of Harbor Walk that runs under the northbound 41 bridge.  Post 9-11, all bridge related construction is required to comply with these regulations.  Modifications to Harbor Walk under the southbound bridge are on the horizon. 
--Punta Gorda's website contains 8 terabytes of data. (I have no concept of what this actually means, but I know that's a lot.)  Punta Gorda's IT manager Brad Schuette is in the process of updating the website. Suggestions are welcome at (Click here to visit the website.) 
The Fitness Zone
--The "Fitness Zone" at Linear Park across from Fishermen's Village is so popular that a second location is under consideration.  Thanks to the Punta Gorda Rotary Club for donating the equipment!

I was struck by the number of times throughout the morning I heard the term "customer service."  I left feeling that every council member and department head is actually eager to hear from Punta Gorda's citizens, whether it's a complaint, a suggestion or kudos for a job well done. It was yet another reminder of why Punta Gorda is, in fact, an incredibly desirable place to live. 

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