How should Longboat change its Charter?

The Longboat Key Town Commission was due last week to consider ballot language asking voters if they agree with some fundamental changes to the town charter. But the consideration of any specific language or ordinance was put on hold by the town attorney because she said she needed clarification on, “what the town commission is trying to accomplish in the charter amendments.”

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale said that while drafting the ballot language, she was faced with two options that demanded clarification. Essentially, she asked if the town commission wished to send to voters a single changed charter that would receive either an up or down vote, and if successful, would replace the town’s existing fundamental guiding document.

The other option, said Mooney-Portale, is to amend the existing charter and ask voters a long series of Charter Amendment questions.

“Are we trying to amend the 2008 Charter or replace the 2008 Charter?” asked Mooney-Portale.

Mooney-Portale said that if the commission opts for a wholesale replacement, “We cannot be misleading; we have to have a summary of what the town commission is trying to accomplish.”

Mooney-Portale then said that if the town goes down the second path there could be over 20 questions the public would face on the ballot.

Commissioner George Spoll attempted to focus the discussion.

“This is our constitution. There is no rush, and we must do it correctly. I’m very nervous about going back to Genesis. I think people would be more comfortable with simply amending the Charter,” said Spoll.

Commissioner Jim Brown agreed in saying that although a simple vote may be preferable, if it is voted down, the town would not know why. Whereas if it is broken into separate questions, the voters could approve exactly what they wish to approve.

Mayor Terry Gans said he was more comfortable with a wholesale revision and was uncomfortable with the idea of several dozen ballot items.

Spoll then honed in on what he said is the fact that there are only about three or four major changes being contemplated and those include asking voters if they wish to extend commission term limits from three two-year terms to two three-year terms. Another major question is whether voters want to allow the commission to issue bonds in the amount of up to $5 million without a referendum, if funded by non-ad valorem assessments.

On that note, Spoll said he didn’t know why it had to be so difficult.

“Let us fix what needs fixing and we can address other issues in another election,” said Spoll.

The town attorney was instructed to return to the commission with ballot language that would ask voters the three or so priority items that would appear in a March referendum.

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