Council Agrees With Most Charter Review Recommendations
By Anne McKay Garris
The Clearwater City Council, last week, approved of most of the recommendations of the Charter Review Committee without adding any additional recommendations. Now the city's Legal Staff will prepare the wording to be used on the ballot in the city's January 2008 election. This will be approved after public hearings at the first and second readings at the November 1, and November 16 meetings of the Council.
Although no additional changes are expected on the first and second readings, the rule allows for them.
Major charter changes approved include removing a requirement for voter approval for any bond issues over $1 million unless the project is for health, safety and welfare. The city would still be required to identify a revenue source for paying off the bonds other than the city's general fund. This charter requirement was tested in court several years ago when a citizen sued over the well over $1 million cost of the amenities of the Beach roundabout. The judge ruled that it was a health, safety and welfare issue and denied the suit.
Four year terms for the mayor and council members is another proposed change which will be on the ballot. Currently all officials serve three year terms with two-term limits unless they move from council member to mayor or vice versa.
It is proposed that the charter allow the city to sell, or lease, up to a half acre of land without referendum. But only if the land is going to be used for public housing.
There are also proposals that would make it easier for the city to grant easements for underground utilities; that would make it possible for newly elected officials to take office the day after the election; and provide that candidates for office not be on the committee that verifies the election.
The Council decided not to include the recommendation that they review and set their own salaries. Had they done this, they would have eliminated the current restriction that any hikes in Council pay would not take effect until the next election.
They also rejected a citizen requested change which would have required the City Manager to report each year on the progress of historical preservation in the city.
Several controversial issues on the use, or disposal, of public lands were removed from the Committee's list of recommendations before the report was presented to City Council. This was in response to a large number of citizens who attended a public hearing and gave reasons why this was not a good idea.
The Charter Review Committee members are volunteer citizens appointed by the Council. They have been meeting regularly for a year.
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