Coalition solicits feedback for charter

 

Coalition solicits feedback for charter

 

Date: July 21, 2010
by: Pam Eubanks | News Editor

 
 

Download the proposed charter here.

LAKEWOOD RANCH — The group advocating for incorporation of Lakewood Ranch brought its proposed city charter to the public spotlight for the first time during a meeting July 14 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.

Members of the Community Coalition presented some of the key aspects of the document, including the charter’s proposal for voting districts, how city council members would be elected, how the mayor would be chosen and whether council members should have term limits, before taking feedback from residents.

“None of this is carved in stone,” event moderator Michael Griffin reminded the 40 residents in attendance. “We have to start somewhere.”

The proposed city charter assumes five city council seats, with each council-member serving a four-year staggered term. There would be three voting districts, with three council members each representing one district and two holding at-large seats. Council members would choose the mayor from within the council, and he or she would serve a two-year term.

Coalition members first discussed the concept of voting districts. As proposed, all five city council seats would be elected by a citywide vote, although three of those seats would be held by someone from a particular geographical district. Coalition members said the concept is intended to ensure city council members hold a citywide view of Lakewood Ranch.

Some residents at the meeting said there should be more than three districts representing the community, particularly once it is built out, and that it is essential to guarantee representative government for residents.

“My suggestion would be that you start with five districts,” Riverwalk Hammock resident Bob Goldin said. “I know that most people, if they have a problem, want to go to one of their neighbors. It makes good public-service sense.”

Greenbrook resident Nancy Johnson, a CDD supervisor, said she was concerned about the cost for running for public office, noting the fee is nearly $1,600 more than the $25 fee for a CDD candidacy. She said residents are worried the charter, as written, would allow residents of wealthier Lakewood Ranch communities to pick representatives for the neighborhoods with less disposable income.

“There’s a real concern we won’t have true representation,” she said.

Several members of the Friends of Lakewood Ranch, a group opposing incorporation, attended the meeting. Friends members said they see several flaws in the proposal, including that there are no provisions to keep the city council from raising taxes on residents or even to make the task difficult. Friends members recommended changes in the charter’s language to address that issue as well as other concerns, such as how the city would assume ownership of Town Hall.

“(There were) a lot of good ideas,” Coalition member Tom Thomaides said after the meeting. “That’s why we’re trying to get as much input as we can (to) make sure this charter is reflective of what this community wants it to be.”

For more information about the proposed city charter or to offer input to the Community Coalition, visit www.lwrdv.com/incorp.

Contact Pam Eubanks at peubanks@yourobserver.com.

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