LARGO -- The Charter Review Committee's August 10 meeting went on for 3 hours and 50 minutes, a session that was scheduled for 2 hours.
Why the delay?
Mostly because predominantly the 15 members of the commission are sadly lacking in knowledge of basic government structure (which requires concomitant teaching as subjects unfold), a compulsion for unnecessary pontificating, and the pursuit of a legislative process when the work should be in broad outlines.
For example, the Constitution of the United States says (Article I, Section 6) in pertinent part, "The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law . . ."
Instead of such simple broad, establishing language, the Largo CRC went into detail specifying the amounts to be paid to the mayor and commissioners.
That is an exercise in legislation. And it goes on all the time, indicative of the stunning ignorance of the members of this committee.
Alan Zimmett, the city attorney who inappropriately is in the role of adviser in the first place, totally dominates the proceedings of the committee (members constantly ask him, "What should we say here, Alan?" etc.) but many times in procedure, such as noted here, he lets the members stumble and bumble on.
Zimmett controls proceedings despite the presence of a chosen chairman. For example, he stopped the August 10 meeting when it was verging on four hours long.
Some of the situations are totally ludicrous.
On the question of whether the City Commission should be called a city council, no member was able to come up with the proper definition, although J.B. Butler (the most talkative of the group) gravely intoned at length his version of the difference which would have been hilarious had it not been so pathetic.
All kinds of extraneous and wrong notions were thrown in as distinguishing a commission from a council.
Of course, the standard definition is that commission is the terminology in those cases where individual commissioners are in charge of specific departments (police, fire, public works, etc.).
In Largo, only one man, City Manager Steve Stanton, is in charge of all city operations, so Largo's elected body would more properly be called a city council (Clearwater correctly made the change last year).
Another hilarious incident had Butler trying to ascertain from colleague Shirley Craig whether she was satisfied with the answer she received from a query she had put. He pressed the point, insisting that she be satisfied.
Then there is the chairman, Arnold Johnson, pronouncing "so moved" when a vote on an issue is approved. "Moved" has to do with the making of a motion; a voting result is usually declared as "passed" or "approved."
Then the item of annotations appearing in an official version of the existing charter threw several members for total loss.
Annotations are the explantory lines under a section that give the history of that portion.
And, of course, no one knew what the term "rolled back rate" meant and Zimmett had to give a course in that.
All were in dark as to the differing meaning of "shall" and "may" in the legal sense and one member was willing to throw in the terminology "as necessary" relating to one aspect of the charter. Of course, such an _expression has no legal meaning, is ambiguous and is just a land mine for future trouble.
There is a lack of focus and the whole mess sounds like an exercise in re-inventing the wheel. Of course, the formation of the committee was wrong from the git-go, and the further work by the commission could negate this whole exercise.
But for now, Largo's possible future is in these hands.
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