Our Charter is the highest law of the City of Clearwater. just as our Constitution is the highest law of the Country.
To change our City Charter: Under normal circumstances our city will appoint a group of citizens every five years to review the charter. They will discuss any suggestions from the Clearwater Council or the Clearwater public that might require the charter to be amended, changed, or altered by exception; such as the one being asked by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
The suggestions are then forwarded to the City Council for public review and discussion. An ordinance is then prepared by staff, reviewed at public hearings and voted upon to go to referendum if necessary.
I served on the last two Clearwater Charter Review Committees, which were made up of a large diverse group of Clearwater citizens chosen by the Council. The process works very well. Additionally, although rarely, the City Council may circumvent the committee process and bring changes forward directly by ordinance, which is reviewed by the public and then goes to referendum.
In 1982, the Clearwater City Charter was dramatically changed. Voters decided that the downtown waterfront public properties from Drew Street to Chestnut Street were so special that they should be protected by specific restrictions placed in the Charter. This would ensure that the public had ample opportunity to review any developments or plans for these properties. The voters of Clearwater voted overwhelmingly to add section 2.01 D5, D6 and D7, to the Charter dealing directly with these properties.
Normally when we change, amend, or alter laws in the City of Clearwater, it is accepted practice to review the changes, get staff comments, and then proceed to public hearings. At the hearings, the changes, plans, and other pertinent documents are dissected by the Council, experts, and the public. The Charter, which is the highest law of the City, should also be treated with the same respect.
So now we find ourselves in a peculiar position. We are being asked to put exceptions to the very strict requirements placed in the Charter in 1982 by the public.
We understand that the Council is asking us to change the Charter to allow the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to lease for 60 years certain public properties on the downtown waterfront.
We understand generally what they want to do, but all the specifics for staff, council and public review will come after we change the Charter.
There is no need to RUSH TO REFERENDUM for this to happen.
Shouldn't we change the Charter after all the plans, documents, and details are reviewed by staff, Council, Charter Review Committee, and at public hearings?