With all the talk of naming a charter review committee in Largo, one premier question might emerge: Why bother?
And that comes up, in the minds of many observers, because, as they point out, the commission does not bother upholding provisions of the charter or, if they do get upheld sooner or later, it will have been done with great reluctance.
Heaven knows, the charter is in great need of repair.
First on the list of must do, is that the powers of the city manager must be reined in. On the current course, the manager is headed for disaster.
And this is not an attack on Steve Stanton, the city manager. The plea here is one of necessity, one made to put back on course a city gone wrong.
First off, how the charter revision group should be constituted needs to be addressed.
There should not be the fingerprints of any presently elected officials on it.
A cross section of the community is needed and to achieve this, there needs to be a categorization of the various elements in the community.
The committee should have representation from the professional community (medicine, law, accounting, etc.), from the business community, from the overlooked ordinary working folk, from educators.
Those who want to be on the committee should apply in these categories. Once a deadline is established, names should be drawn from each of the categories.
Charter revision committee members should not, repeat not, be appointed by elected officials.
There no doubt is much that should be done with revising the charter. But two elements of maximum importance suggest themselves to this agent.
Number one, Largo needs to hire a full-time city attorney and this position needs to be put under the jurisdiction of the commission. It is now under the command of the manager and this is fraught with danger -- mostly for the manager, though he is blind to that fact and would disagree.
Secondly, the city clerk also should be under the jurisdiction of the commission. The position is now under the manager. This is one of the reasons underlying the current problems in the city.
Presently, the city pays a part-time city attorney more than $103,000 a year and the price goes up by at least 5 percent a year.
One of the great fringe benefits for Alan Zimmet, the guy now collecting $2,000 a week from the city for part time work, is that just about all extra legal work, litigation, etc. goes to his law firm. Talk about self enrichment.
These basic changes need to be made to give the city government checks and balances. It has none now. It is either buy what the manager puts on the table or fire him. And he politics with enough commission members to keep his position secure.
It is important to keep Stanton as manager. He is an excellent performer. He has made mistakes with his micromanaging and freakish need for total control. Control freaks are that way because they are afraid and Stanton has nothing to fear.
He is competent, hires very good people, runs a very disciplined city, has great vision, has many great skills. To get rid of him or even suggest anything in that direction would be a colossal mistake.
Largo is at a crucial juncture. The fix can be made now. If not, disaster impends.
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