The fight is on and the battle lines are drawn.
Most of the cities in Pinellas County do not want a referendum in November that would, the cities say, rob them and their citizens of autonomy.
They have filed suit to stop the referendum and contend that while the county government would be greatly empowered and strengthened their cities would be weakened and their citizens would have less of a say in government.
All municipalities with the exception of Indian Rocks Beach, Redington Beach and Dunedin are participating. Redington Beach and Dunedin are involved in the publicity campaign against the proposed changes in the charter but have eschewed participation in the legal battle. IRB is not participating at any level.
While the cities have zeroed in on certain proposed changes in the charter, their lawsuit seeks to have all the amendments removed from the November 7 ballot.
The suit, being managed for the most part by a group of lawyers who otherwise serve the indiviual cities as their city lawyers, alleges that the county's charter review commission that came up with the changes violated the Sunshine Law and produced language in the referendum that is "unclear, ambiguous and confusing."
The lawsuit, filed last Thursday, is the culmination of talk and concern from the cities that has gone on for months. In some cases the changes, if brought about, would usurp cities' powers.
One big issue - even though it has never come into play - is the elimination of the dual referendum. A law that came into being in 1999 but has never been actually used, a dual referendum requires approval both on a countywide basis and from an individual city when that city is affected by any change in function, power or regulatory authority of that city.
The suit asserts that the language in the referendum pertaining to the dual vote does not clearly state that voters and municipalities would lose control with the elimination of the dual referendum.
Another key provision that the review commission wants to implement and that the cities are against is that on the annexation of a commercial property a city would have to get consent from 67 percent of the property owners rather than the current 51 percent requirement.
Because two members of the review commission were not present and voted by telephone the suit says this is a Sunshine Law violation.
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