Meet the candidate.
Name: Mary Ellen Palermo
Family: Grown son, daughter and three grandchildren; nieces and nephews grew up in Sarasota. My mother moved to Longboat Key in 1985. I have lived in condo in Osprey and now single house in Venice Gardens.
Bio: M.Ed. from Boston University. Worked for government programs training adults, immigrants and developing special programs. Federal grant program for low income residents. Solar and Energy efficiency program. Served on boards taking minutes and writing proposals. Florida County Program researching views of tourists to our area.
Why do you want to serve on the Charter Review Board?
Developers have a strong voice in our county government, I want to give residents a strong voice. I will take a different approach than the incumbent; I believe development decisions need to be made that are far-sighted instead of short-sighted. I believe quality of life for current residents need to be factored in, and I don’t believe current residents should be subsidizing developments by having taxpayers pay to fix the infrastructure challenges created (among other expenses). Consideration of our environment needs priority.
If elected, what will be your top three priorities during your term?
- Charter Review Board should be easily accessible to all citizens of Sarasota County;
- Keep special interests out of our boards; and
- Protect our waters and natural resources including septic tank regulations to prevent further leaks and spills.
Where do you stand: Should the Charter Review Board be proactive initiating changes to charter, or should the board make recommendations based on voter desires and ideas brought to the board?
Members of the Charter Review Board should consider a combination. I believe our county government needs more oversight. The Charter Review Board is a great opportunity to be resident advocates with recommended reforms. I would like to see county government realizing it should be putting in more reforms. I would like to see it easy for residents to bring improvements too, but I absolutely believe the Charter Review Board should serve this function in support of residents.
What is your position on turning the Charter Review Board into an appointed position rather than an elected office?
I believe citizens need a stronger voice, not a weaker voice. I do not support any initiative that reduces the opportunity for voters to provide direct influence. Residents voting are the best way we have to ensure accountability. We can’t keep appointing people that are influenced mostly by developers or special interests.
What, if anything, in your view needs to be updated/changed in the county charter?
- Charter Review needs to have environmental referendum that addresses our waters, wetlands, conservation and open space – and abide by it;
- Charter Review needs long range plan that is stuck to, not like the 2050 plan that has been overridden too many times; and
- Charter Review needs to address needs of those of us living here year-round and our need for tourist to enhance our economy.
The CRB has been discussing changes to the charter amendment process. What’s your position on that?
Voters should be able to weigh in more, not less. It should be easier to get an amendment on the ballot, not more difficult.
What are your comments about reforming the CRB, so it mirrors the State Constitutional Revision Commission — appointed members every 10 or 20 years to review the charter, rather than the existing system of elected members who serve four-year terms?
I am a year-round resident of Sarasota County living here for six years, and my family here goes back to the 1980s, so I have seen many changes over the years in Sarasota County. The citizens should have a strong voice, and I fully oppose anything that limits the impact citizens can make. I fully oppose anything that limits the opportunity for voters to decide. Appointing members not chosen by the voters would not be in the best interest of those of us who live and work here.