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Sarasota Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 1 year ago

Final draft of proposed city charter released

by: David Conway News Editor

The full text of a proposed new Sarasota city charter is now available online, as the website for the political group behind the proposal went live this morning.

The charter, proposed by a political committee called It’s Time Sarasota, would create an elected mayor position as the executive of the municipal government. A City Council, with five members elected from five individual city districts, would serve as the legislative body. The group hopes to place a referendum regarding the proposed charter on the November ballot.

The mayor would draft the city budget, have the ability to hire and fire certain officers and employees, have the power to veto measures approved by the council, and generally organize and oversee city staff. The mayor would be paid four times the salary of a council member, a total to equal no less than $100,000.

The mayor would have to receive council approval to appoint or remove a deputy mayor, auditor and clerk, attorney, chief of staff or a member of a city board or commission. The mayor would be able to fire the head of a city department without council approval.

Mollie Cardamone is a former Sarasota mayor and a longstanding opponent of the elected mayor position. She criticized the proposal for the amount of power given to the mayor, arguing that it could lead to cronyism and corruption.

Linda Holland, the chairwoman of It’s Time Sarasota, said the entire point of the proposal was to elect a mayor whose vision would more decisively guide the city. Making decision on staff members would inevitably be part of implementing that vision, she said.

“We’re seeking an elected mayor to run the city,” Holland said. “That’s what we’re looking for, a leader — that’s what a leader does.”

The City Council would be tasked with adopting ordinances and resolutions, granting approval to the budget and certain personnel, and hiring a third party to evaluate administrators and conduct an audit of city finances. The council would have the ability to override a mayoral veto with at least four votes in favor of an ordinance or resolution.

City elections would be held at the same time as statewide primary and general elections. This year, the state primary election is scheduled for Aug. 26, and the general election is scheduled for Nov. 4. Elections would remain nonpartisan.

It’s Time Sarasota will now concentrate on gathering the roughly 3,500 signatures needed to get the proposed charter on the November ballot. If approved by voters, the new charter would take effect in January 2015.

To transition to the new charter, mayoral and council elections would be held in March 2015, with a runoff in May 2015, if necessary. The mayor’s term would last until November 2018, at which point the first citywide general election would be held.

For more information on the newest push for an elected mayor, pick up a copy of Thursday’s edition of the Sarasota Observer.

Contact David Conway at [email protected].

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