The TCPalm Editorial Board recently published an editorispanl spanbout proposed spanmendments to the Floridspan Constitution, in which we suggested it was best to limit the constitution’s language to broad principles and leave a lot of the details to be addressed in state statutes.
A similar line of thinking applies to city and county charters, which are intended to provide broad frameworks for how local governments operate, without being weighed down by too many specific provisions that may need to be amended over time.
The Port St. Lucie City Council has submitted five amendments to the city charter for voters to decide on the Nov. 8 ballot.
City officials have described these amendments as mainly “housekeeping” items, but some of the proposed language would make significant changes to the way the city conducts its business.
Charter amendment 1
Shall the Charter of the City of Port St. Lucie be amended to provide that a vacancy on the City Council resulting in an unexpired term of twelve (12) months or longer shall be filled by a single special election, administered by the Supervisor of Elections as required by state elections law, eliminating the run-off election only in cases of filling a midterm vacancy?
On the surface, this one seems harmless enough. City officials say the amendment would eliminate some restrictive language that makes it difficult to schedule special elections to fill council vacancies in a timely manner.
However, it also would change the circumstances under which the council would be able to call a special election to fill a vacancy.
The charter now requires a special election to fill any unexpired term of six months or more. The amendment would change that to 12 months or more.
So, theoretically, if the amendment is approved and a council member were to resign with 11 months and 30 days remaining in his or her term, the council member’s colleagues would be able to select an interim appointee to serve until the next regularly scheduled election.
That’s too long to have someone in office never approved by voters.
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Charter amendment 2
Shall the Charter of the City of Port St. Lucie be amended to require majority consensus voting on every item of business considered by the City Council, eliminating roll-call voting?
Whoa! If this amendment is approved, all council actions would be voice votes only, unless a member specifically requests a roll call.
City officials say it would save some time at meetings not to call roll on every vote, but the tradeoff would be a total lack of accountability about who voted for what.
Want to check a council member’s voting record? Too bad. Want to know who the dissenters were on controversial issues? Not gonna happen.
This is a terrible idea.
Charter amendment 3
Shall the Charter of the City of Port St. Lucie be amended to require the City Council to establish by resolution the bylaws, rules, procedures and reporting requirements of boards and committees of the City?
This one makes sense. There should be a set of uniform rules guiding how advisory boards and committees operate. Citizens who wish to appear before those boards and committees shouldn’t have to memorize different rules set at the whims of the people serving on those boards and committees.
If exceptions are needed to those rules, it should be the council, not members of those boards and committees, who approve them.
Charter amendment 4
Shall the Charter of the City of Port St. Lucie be amended to require the publication of the date and time of the public hearing on every ordinance, in print or online as allowed by state law, at least ten (10) days prior to the public hearing on the ordinance.
As the charter currently reads, the city is required to publish notices about public hearings in a printed publication of general circulation. This change would allow publication in print or online.
It’s true this organization derives income from the print advertising of such hearings, as it would for online notices published on our website.
However, the Editorial Board’s concern is ensuring the notices reach the broadest possible audience. The amendment doesn’t specify where online publication would occur, so theoretically, the city could post its notices on some obscure website with low readership, or buried on a hidden page of a popular website.
Citizens interested in keeping up with what’s happening in local governments along the Treasure Coast could theoretically have to scour dozens of websites every day, in search for notices that are easy to find now.
Charter amendment 5
Shall the Charter of the City of Port St. Lucie be amended to designate the City’s Planning & Zoning Board as the Local Planning Agency of the City, as required by Florida Statute, and establishing operating procedures by ordinance?
This one does appear to largely be a housekeeping measure. There’s no apparent harm in approving this one.