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OUR VIEW | Amendments: No

Sarasota city voters may not realize it, but there are two charter amendments on the May 12 ballot. Oh, and don’t forget the District 2 and 3 City Commission runoff elections.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. May 7, 2015
  • Sarasota
  • Opinion
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It’s not likely many registered voters in the city of Sarasota know there are two charter amendments on the May 12 ballot. For that matter, knowing how most city voter turnout goes, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say there aren’t that many voters in City Commission Districts 2 and 3 who realize there are City Commission runoff elections next week.

Timing is everything. And the ill-timed timing of city elections is … well, let’s not go down that tired road.

Instead, if you do plan to vote before or on May 12, you may want to give some thought to the charter amendments. (On this page last week, we offered our recommendations for the commission races: Eileen Normile and Shelli Freeland Eddie.)

Here are the amendments:


1) TITLE: One-year residency and qualified elector requirement for persons filling vacancy on the City Commission

SUMMARY: Requires persons elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in an at-large City Commission seat to have been a resident and qualified elector of the city for one year prior to taking oath of office. Requires persons elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in a district City Commission seat to have been a resident and qualified elector of the district to be represented for one year prior to taking oath of office.

OUR VIEW: Readers of this page in past elections may recall one of the primary litmus tests we pose on all charter and constitutional amendments: Will the amendment increase or decrease your individual liberty?

If it will, we recommend “yes”; if not, “no.” This amendment will not increase liberty.

Intuitively, you think it makes sense to have a residency requirement. Voters don’t like “carpetbaggers,” strangers or political opportunists swooping into their district or legislative district just out of political expediency. The thinking goes: Every candidate should be familiar with his district and its needs.

But why do we need a law for this? Are voters too stupid to recognize political expedients and carpetbaggers and make their own decisions on who is qualified to represent them?

No one wants an illegal alien running for office. But what difference does it make whether a candidate has lived one day, one week or 50 years in a district? 

Let the free market (i.e. intelligent voters) decide. 

Recommendation: No.


2) TITLE: Citizens’ Initiative Petition to Amend Charter, Time to obtain signatures and adopt ordinance scheduling referendum 

SUMMARY: Requires a copy of a citizens’ initiative petition to amend the city charter to be filed with city clerk before signatures are collected; that a 180-day period to obtain signatures shall commence on the date a copy is filed with clerk and certified; extends time to adopt an ordinance scheduling charter amendment proposed by citizens’ initiative for referendum from 30 to 60 days after petition is presented to the City Commission.

OUR VIEW: What does it matter when a petition is filed — 180 days before or after? 

Currently, the charter says when a petitioner turns in his signed petitions requesting an amendment be placed on the city ballot, the signatures must have been collected within a 180-day period prior to the date the petitions are turned in to the city clerk.

Each petition signer is expected to place next to his name the date on which he signed the petition. 

So here’s the catch: Who really knows  whether those dates are real? Maybe it takes a petitioner more than six months to collect the required signatures, but he forges incorrect dates.

With the proposed amendment, the petitioner would have 180 days from the time he submits his petition to the city to collect the required signatures, and the city would know for sure the the names were collected in 180 days.

But once again, what difference does it make if it takes 90 days or 270 days to collect signatures? Sure, in the latter instance, some of the petition signers could have moved out of the city, invalidating their signatures. But so what? Obtaining valid signatures is always the responsibility of the petitioner.

Based on our litmus test — more or less freedom, this part of the amendment fails the freedom test. 

The second part of the amendment would extend the time from 30 days to 60 days that the City Commission must adopt a valid petition to schedule a vote and determine amendment wording and its effective date.

This is a delay and stall tactic. Governments are infamous for that.

Recommendation: No.




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