APRIL FOOLS — In a unanimous vote Monday, city commissioners approved a new form of city governance that will be the first of its kind in Florida.
Starting next month, City Hall will be run by a five-commissioner, mayor-less form of government, with each commissioner wielding alternating veto powers.
Under the approved proposal, outlined in a 22-page amendment to the City Charter, each commissioner has unlimited authority to veto any item of slated business or any topic added to the agenda — so long as he or she is seated in the “veto seat.” According to the charter amendment, whichever commissioner can obtain the dais veto seat at the City Commission meeting would have “veto powers for the duration of the meeting.”
Altough the measure stunned some in attendance at Monday’s City Commission meeting, it was backed by an unlikely, but vocal, coalition of both control-growth groups and developers.
“I really think this might work. We’ll just balance each other out,” said one control-growth advocate.
A downtown and pro-development advocate who had been pushing for a strong-mayor form of government over the past few years said he would settle for the compromise.
“If we can’t get a tough mayor, the next-best thing is five elected officials who can act tough when sitting in the veto seat,” the advocate said after the meeting.
The measure left those who closely watch City Hall politics speculating who would be able to race to the veto seat first at the upcoming April 1 City Commission meeting.
The Sarasota Observer talked with commissioners after the meeting about their strategies for obtaining the veto seat. Although they wouldn’t speak on the record, due to revealing their plans to other commissioners, tactics include: Bringing a sleeping bag to sleep in front of City Hall to make sure they are the first one in the commission chambers on meeting days; bringing a cooler with a days’ worth of food so snack and dinner breaks are unnecessary; and not drinking water for three days prior to a meeting.
In a brief interview with the Sarasota Observer, one commissioner alluded to a 1917 filibuster speech by Wisconsin Sen. Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette.
“I’ll hold that seat until somebody forces me down — or until I really, really have to use the restroom,” the commissioner said.