PBC schools want to limit public comment, Black Coconut Grove history, and adopting pets this season
Palm Beach County school officials are considering limiting public comment. The influence of Black Bahamians on Coconut Grove. Plus, before you go and adopt that pet for the holidays, there are some questions you should be asking yourself.
On this Tuesday, Dec. 14, edition of Sundial:
Palm Beach County schools want to limit public comment
School board meetings — generally perceived as dull and bureaucratic — have become volatile and even the site of violence.
It’s gotten so bad across the country, and in some parts of South Florida, that the National School Board Association called on the federal government for help.
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It started with the pandemic, mixed with the vitriol of the 2020 election. There have been fights over mask mandates, vaccines and critical race theory.
“We've had people removed forcefully from the chamber by police. We had someone arrested because they refused to sit down and start making a scene and resisted arrest,” said Andrew Marra, an education reporter for the Palm Beach Post. “It’s been colorful, to say the least, and it's been really grueling for a lot of folks sitting through them and dealing with them.”
School boards are now trying to fight back. In Palm Beach County, school board members are considering changes to the rules for public speaking at meetings.
The proposed policy, which has received support from the majority of school board members, would limit the number of people who could participate in public comment and the time they have allotted to them. It would also prevent the criticism of individual board members and bar some comments from being broadcast.
“Certainly there are some people who are not going to be happy about this. And from a speech perspective, there are, I think, other principled arguments about what the limits of this are and how and how far this ought to go,” Marra said.
Black Coconut Grove’s history
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is known for its opulence. It’s a palace built in the '20s — with Italian renaissance gardens and overlooking the water.
It was once the estate of the wealthy industrialist, James Deering.
A new podcast titled "The Rich and Forgotten History of Black Coconut Grove" tells a different story, with a focus on the Black Bahamians who helped make the villa and the surrounding Coconut Grove community what it is today.
The stories in the podcast are told by matriarchs in the community, they retell the stories of their families coming to South Florida and making it their home.
"We were a family, a village and any adult had the right to say something to a child if they were misbehaving. I’ve had the lady from across the street to come over in her bathrobe to send me in the house while I was standing out there talking with my boyfriend,” said longtime Coconut Grove resident Iral Porter on the podcast. “And of course I went in the house because I knew that’s what I better do.”
That tight-knit community has been threatened by racism throughout history and, more recently, by skyrocketing gentrification.
“Legacy residents are being pushed out. Their concern is that the heritage of this place was going to be lost," said Rebecca Peterson the community programs manager at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens and host of the podcast.
Adopting pets this season
If you've got kids at home this is the time of year they might be asking you for a puppy or kitten. From Santa Claus, of course.
If you are considering it, just make sure to ask yourself if you're ready for the long haul.
Animal shelters saw lots of adoptions during the start of COVID-19 when more people were working from home, and generally staying home more. Now, adoptions are down and the shelters in South Florida are full again. Miami-Dade County has seen that impact in the shelters.
In Broward County, Emily Wood took over as director of the Animal Care and Adoption Division at the beginning of 2021. She said, unfortunately, it's true in her shelter, too. She mentioned that pets do make great gifts but there's ways you can prepare.
"We also don't have a stigma around returns here," said Wood. "If a gift doesn't work out, or an adoption doesn't work out, we treat it as a vacation for that animal from the shelter. And hopefully, you can let us know a little bit about what that was like in your home so we can find them the right home next."
She said people considering giving pets as gifts this holiday season need to remember a few things. One suggestion: have a conversation with the person who would be receiving the pet as a gift, first.
"If you're not sure, there's other things you can give," she said. "You can give a basket full of supplies for a pet and a voucher for a pet. Adoption fees are waived here at the shelter, so you can always adopt for free. But if you want to give them the pet supplies under the tree and then a promise to come and pick out a pet together later, that would be good."
For more information about adopting pets in Broward County, you can view the resources, here.