Supporters of a proposed new city charter that would create a "strong mayor" face a challenge, but they're continuing to push for a ballot referendum this fall.
It’s Time Sarasota, the group behind the proposal, began its campaign for the new city charter earlier this year. The charter would establish a directly elected mayor position as the chief executive of the city, replacing the current council-manager form of government. To get the charter on the fall general election ballot for voters’ consideration, the group had to first collect about 3,500 signatures in support from Sarasota residents.
Today, the group is submitting its 2,000th signature to the city for consideration. Less than 60% of the way to its goal, It’s Time Sarasota is running out of time by any measure. By City Attorney Robert Fournier’s, it may have already done so.
In February, Fournier suggested the latest the group could reasonably present its petition for City Commission consideration was June 16. Diana Hamilton, one of the leaders of It’s Time Sarasota, said she believed the true deadline for gathering signatures wasn’t until July 9, with the commission potentially considering the proposal and ordinance at meetings in late July and early August. In the meantime, she said, she intends to continue to rally support for the cause.
For the charter proposal to make the November election, the City Commission must ratify an ordinance placing the item on the ballot more than 90 days before the date of the election. The City Commission has 30 days after the presentation and certification of the petition to ratify that ordinance.
Fournier said that, in theory, the petitions could be presented and the ordinance could be noticed, written, considered and approved in fewer than 30 days. That would only happen if the City Commission were interested in expediting the process, he said, and he believed that commissioners would want to carefully examine the proposal and ballot language before approving it.
“I would need some time to prepare the ordinance, and I think they would need some discussion about it, and public interest would probably be high,” Fournier said. “I would think we would need the full 30 days.”
For more information on the progress of It’s Time Sarasota, pick up a copy of this week’s Sarasota Observer.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].