LARGO – Largo’s Charter Review Committee lurched across the finish line October 26 in what was virtually its last meeting.
The group met again last night for a final review after 13 meetings and its work will go before the City Commission next Tuesday beginning at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Last week’s meeting was billed as a “town hall meeting,” the original idea of which was that such sessions (this was the second) would attract a horde of citizens to give their input.
Last time, September 7, four showed up. This time there were three people, two of them closely connected to the city – Mary Black a commission member and a Jim Hannon, alternate charter committee member.
The third testifier, Fred Thomas, emphasized that having the city’s lawyer under the direction of the city manager was not structurally sound.
Thomas cited his experience as a member of what was then the Clearwater City Commission where the lawyer worked directly for the commission and not for the manager.
A few silly, time wasting questions were thrown at Thomas on his proposition but he deftly turned them aside and reiterated the importance of having a lawyer work directly for his or her main client.
As usual, there was a lot of discussion of what passes with this group as legal niceties in the ironic context of what is a fundamentally flawed exercise.
That is, the whole procedure is a Potemkin Village show with the City Commission as chief architects of everything that has happened and will happen. In other words, in turning government formation on its head, the charter will be a creature of the commission rather than the proper other way around.
Black, who is known for her punctiliousness, suggested detailed modifications of language in the work the committee has already done.
Included in her suggestions was an attempt to straighten out some of the muddled procedures of the election process. Another irony in the context of the charter, not attributable to this group that has struggled to update the document, is that the city’s fundamental law was virtually flouted in the election last March.
It is because of those things that Largo has gained the reputation as the city that does not follow the rule of law.
She also urged that the City Clerk and the city’s lawyer, a part time job currently paying more than $2,000 a week, be under the commission.
Black is the only member of the commission who has attended every charter committee meeting. Others who have perfect attendance are Hannon and John Atanasio.
Black also said that she believes that the Charter Review Commitee’s work should go directly, as is, to referendum without the City Commission monkeying with it.
She also said that the exact changes in the charter should be presented to the citizen voters.
Hannon urged that the city have an environmental board to have oversight of those issues that might affect the environment. Again, the committee attempted to engage in legislation rather than fundamental rules, particularly on the issue of compensation for elected officials.
Also, there was a long discussion on barring the city from the taking of property by eminent domain, stemming from a recent U.S. Supreme Court case that extended the taking of private property for a private purpose, where the taxing authority was a contingent beneficiary.
That case is so narrow as to be not of wide application.
Of course, the committee, made up of those who have little or no knowledge of law, talked on and on which only resulted in a total waste of time.
It was the equivalent of a barroom discussion.
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