LARGO – Largo’s Charter Review Committee met with the City Commission beginning at 3 p.m. Tuesday in what became a pandemonium of confusion at the outset of the almost six-hour session.
The CRC held a brief meeting before the main event to straighten out language in some of its minutes. Why they bothered is a puzzlement because the committee has finished its work and it is unlikely that anybody (barring the mentally unbalanced) would paw through the minutes searching for heaven knows what.
The meeting was held in the training building a short distance from the city hall.
First off, there were complaints on how the room was arranged.
The commission was arrayed (with Gay Gentry absent) in more or less a semi-circle with the 14 members of the charter panel ensconced in rows at three tables in front of them.
Mayor Bob Jackson groused that with that kind of arrangement the work session meeting could have been held as usual in the community room in city hall.
With that out of the way, massive confusion followed on what the procedure would or should be in reviewing the committee’s work.
If anything, too much paperwork was supplied to aid in the proceedings.
There was a list of changes that had been made divided into three categories – “cleanup, clarifications,” “consistent changes with language or existing law” and “substantive changes.”
In addition, a lined through (removing language) and underlined (added language) version of the charter was available to the commission.
On top of that, there was a clean copy of the amended charter as rendered by the committee that showed no changes.
But even so, massive confusion set in as to the procedure.
Under questioning at the charter panel’s last meeting, Alan Zimmet, the city lawyer, advised that the committee should show up a this review meeting and with that its work was done.
Instead, commission members had the notion that they would give input, the whole business would go back to the charter committee and then be returned to the commission. Back and forth, like a tennis match, as it were.
Arnold Johnson, the committee chairman demurred on this, outlining what was the panel’s understanding.
One would have thought the involvement in the exercise of some two dozen people would have come up with a simple and expedient procedure.
Once the commission gives its input and rewrites – perhaps – the work of the charter committee, City Manager Steve Stanton has indicated that he plans to weigh in with his considerations and will do so, he said, “in the coming weeks.”
The Charter Review Committee will undoubtedly learn that it has been just another advisory committee all along, and like all other advisory committees in Largo, it will most likely be largely ignored by the City Commission.
Some of the major changes made by the committee are to change the city election time from March to November, and to make the number of votes necessary for removal of the city manager a simple majority.
Added in to the charter was a virtually meaningless provision relating to eminent domain which was in the same class with the overblown, wordy and puffed up preamble to the charter.
Two of the commissioners - Andy Guyette and Mary Black - were on record weeks ago of favoring sending the charter panel’s work directly to the people. Black has reiterated that. Guyette appeared Tuesday to be interested in getting involved in changes.
The changes to the charter entertained by the voters in a referendum in March will be a series of questions pertinent to the specific changes.
This is necessary because referendum questions, by state law, are limited to 75 words.
One committee member expressed concern about educating the public about the revised commission and suggested an educational program.
Given the fact that Largo is probably the most apathetic city in the western world this could be a great waste of money and time if it were carried out.
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