On Nov. 1, Sarasota voters will head to the polls to vote on 23 amendments to the charter that could impact everything from commissioner pay to bond issues to the citizens’ initiative process. The commission voted at Tuesday’s regular meeting to hold a special November election on the proposed changes to the city’s charter. In addition to 15 minor changes to the charter lumped together in a single ballot question, voters will decide on the following issues:
• Allow Sarasota City Commission salaries to increase from the current amount of 66.7% of the amount earned by elected officials in Florida counties similar in size to the city to up to 100% of the amount allowed by state law.
• Require a super-majority vote by the commission to approve an ordinance before granting a franchise a term, lease or contract of more than 10 years.
• Prohibit the city from entering into derivatives in connection with a bond issuance. Mayor Suzanne Atwell said she opposed the proposed ordinance, saying that she didn’t think the commission should put complex financial issues into the charter. Vice Mayor Terry Turner disagreed, saying, “Just ask me what the Greeks think of credit swaps.”
• Lengthen the timeframe allowed to obtain voter signatures on citizens’ initiative petitions from 90 to 180 days. City attorney Robert Fournier told the commission that the ordinance would put the process “in control of the voters” by clarifying the 180-day timeframe to run from the time signatures are obtained to the time the petition is turned in to the Clerk of the Court’s Office, rather than the date that the commission discusses the issue.
• Delete a provision that requires employers that receive a subsidy from the city worth $100,000 or more with 50 or more employees to pay employees an alternate minimum wage of approximately $3 per hour more above the federal minimum wage. Fournier told the commission the provisions were the result of a citizens’ initiative four or five years ago aimed at a proposed Newtown Walmart.
• Require at-large commission candidates to choose one of the two at-large seats to run for office. Fournier said that the amendment could reduce so-called “bullet voting” in which voters choose just one, instead of two, candidates for the at-large seats to weight vote totals in favor of their candidate.
• Approve two amendments that would bring the Sarasota Supervisor of Elections into compliance with state laws regarding the mailing of absentee ballots to voters serving in the military. The first amendment would move the run-off election date to the second Tuesday in May from the current date of the second Tuesday in April. The second amendment would change the qualifying period allowed for city elections.
• To prohibit the issuance of certificates of participation bonds without voter approval.
• To adopt 15 various minor recommendations made by the appointed charter.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].