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Longboat Key Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 3 years ago

Longboat commissioners approve new charter for ballot

Island policy makers decided it would be less complicated to replace the existing town charter rather than ask voters about each individual amendment.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

Longboat Key voters may have the chance to replace the two-decade-old town charter at the election booth next year in one fell swoop.

The intention of this approach, which town commissioners discussed and approved at their Nov. 13 workshop and special meeting, is to avoid confusing voters with multiple referendum questions that would be necessary if the town amended the existing town charter, as policy makers had planned in past months. 

The former approach proposed four referendum questions: three to address “policy” issues, and a fourth bundling 26 “administrative” changes.

This new charter includes just one of the three policy changes commissioners approved at their workshop meeting in October — allowing the town to issue revenue bonds of $5 million or less without a referendum.

Policy makers rejected changing commissioner term limits from three two-year terms to two three-year terms over uncertainty about how the new rules would be implemented. They also dismissed eliminating preliminary elections for fear that if a runoff were necessary after a March election, the Commission would not have a quorum necessary to choose a mayor and vice mayor. 

Commissioners also voted to keep reference to the planning and zoning board and the investment advisory committee in the proposed charter, both of which were removed from the document by the charter review committee as part of its 26 “administrative” changes. 

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale punctured the formerly approved referendum methodology at the Nov. 6 regular commission meeting, pointing out that ballot questions must “contain a clear and concise statement describing the substance of the proposed amendment,” according to the town charter. 

Bundling 26 amendments into one question and meeting the “clear and concise” requirements outlined by the charter in a 15 word title and 75 word explanatory statement, as required by Florida law, is difficult to do, Mooney-Portale said. 

So that left policy makers with two options. They could either ask voters if they wanted to adopt a new charter including all of the proposed changes or direct Mooney-Portale to write a referendum for each amendment in as few questions as possible. Commissioners chose the latter. 

A week later, at the Nov. 13 workshop meeting, Mooney-Portale presented Commissioners with 17 questions that, in the interim, she had consolidated from 28 proposed charter changes. 

But policy makers decided, after debating the questions, that with a referendum to reconstruct Longboat firehouses and at least two commission elections, that it would be best to keep the ballot short and avoid confusing voters with too many questions. Commissioners reached a 4 to 3 consensus for this approach. 

Outreach about the proposed charter change will be key to informing voters about the town’s intentions, commissioners agreed. The ordinance containing the proposed referendum question will be heard again at the Dec. 4 regular commission meeting. 

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