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Say 'yes' to charter amendments

By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published October 28, 2007


Largo voters, you face a few tasks other than picking two city commissioners when you go to your polling place. The ballot also contains five proposed amendments to the city charter, a collection of laws that sets forth how the city government will operate.

The questions concern changes that are rather minor but technical, so voters may find the ballot wording confusing despite the city's best efforts to make it clear and still remain within a state-mandated word limit.

The St. Petersburg Times has studied the questions and makes its editorial recommendations here. The newspaper's recommendations in the Seat 5 and Seat 6 City Commission races were printed Oct. 21.

The election is Nov. 6.

Question 1: Yes

When the City Commission was considering firing then-City Manager Steve Stanton, there was brief confusion about how many votes were needed.

The charter states that a preliminary vote and a final vote must be taken days apart. The charter says that at least five of the seven commissioners must vote to fire at the preliminary vote, but it doesn't say how many must vote "yes" at the final vote.

The logical assumption is that those who originally wrote this section of the charter meant for five votes to be necessary at the final vote, too.

The Times recommends a "yes" vote on Question 1.

Question 2: Yes

This question seems trifling, but during discussion of Stanton's severance pay, this issue was a sticking point for Commissioner Mary Gray Black.

Black contended that the city charter requires the City Commission to approve an ordinance every time the city enters into a contract that requires the city to make payments beyond the end of a fiscal year. Black felt this created a problem, as Stanton would be paid severance beyond the end of the fiscal year.

The city attorney disagreed with Black's assessment. This amendment would make it clear that the commission does not have to pass an ordinance to enter into contracts that extend beyond the fiscal year, as long as the contract states that the city can terminate the contract if it doesn't have money to make the payments in the new budget year.

The Times recommends a "yes" on Question 2.

Question 3: Yes

The current city charter states that the city canvassing board must meet one day after a city election to certify the results of the vote. But official results of an election often have not been available from the county supervisor of elections that quickly, and changes in state law virtually guarantee they will not be available then.

If this question is approved, the city canvassing board would have up to five days after the official results are available to meet and certify the election results.

The Times recommends a "yes" on Question 3.

Question 4: Yes

This question, about when commissioners are sworn in, is related to Question 3.

The city charter requires that newly elected commissioners be sworn in seven days after an election. That is too soon now that there is a delay in certifying election results.

This charter amendment says that new commissioners are to be sworn in five days after the election results are certified.

The Times recommends a "yes" on Question 4.

Question 5: Yes

What is a day? This charter amendment seeks to answer the question.

The city charter contains frequent deadlines requiring that some action be taken in a certain number of days.

This amendment, if approved, would specify that when an action must be taken in 10 days or less, that would mean business days - no weekends or holidays.

But when the action is required in more than 10 days, that will be interpreted as calendar days. That is how the courts have defined "days" in other laws, so the city wants its charter to be consistent. This issue also arose after the commission voted to fire Stanton and it was unclear how many days he had to request a hearing or how long the commission had to schedule the hearing.

The Times recommends a "yes" on Question 5.