Tuesday, October 23, 2012

North Bay Village Charter Amendments

UPDATE 10/24:  I've uploaded a sample ballot for North Bay Village at Scribd.Com.  Click here to retrieve

Mario Garcia did such a good job at his new blog with the Charter Amendments that I'm embarrassed by my own sloth in not putting anything up.  

First check out Mario's take at his blog Mario for North Bay Village

Then check out another blog, written by screen name Robot Bhandari (coolest screen name in the bay) on the elections in general and North Bay Village in particular.  

Here's Robot Bhandari  Scroll down for NBV.   

Go ahead.  I'll wait.   These are worth reading.  

Okay, so my take is not surprisingly different.  We have  twenty one (21) amendments to vote and it's not clear why many of them are there.  We are required to do a periodic  review of the our charter and each time, people try to sneak in their pet peeves.  But it's important to remember that the Charter is our statement of what we consider to be our guiding principles of governance, not the place to put something that annoyed you last week.  That why we have a commission and elections.  

So having said that, here's what I think.  To make it simpler, I added sequence numbers which the Department of Elections and the City should totally do.   These are in the order they appear on the ballot

Technical Note:  I can't figure out how to resize the text but if you need to see the table larger, hold down the CTRL - Key and tap the plus (+) key to increase font size.  You can do this several times until you get the size you like.  Apple has a similar function with the "Apple" key and the plus (+) key. 



Sequence Text My Take
1- No
Changing official name of the city to North
Bay Village
The City Charter currently provides that the
official name of the city is the "City of North Bay
Village." Shall the Charter be amended to delete
the references to the "City of" and officially
name the city "North Bay Village" and to further
change all references in the Charter and the
Code from "City" to "Village?"
This is an aspirational amendment. The idea of a “village” is of a bucolic, self contained gathering. We are not a village. We are a city, the most densely populated one in Florida and the 13th most dense city in the United States. Our issues and environment are urban and require a realistic sensibility. It's a trivial change but I don't like it.
2 – Yes
Corporate Limits of the CityThe City Charter currently provides that the jurisdiction shall now and “from time to time hereafter” fall within the city's specified boundaries. Shall the Charter be amended to replace “time to time hereafter” to “in the future.?”
This is a simple clarification of language to remove confusion but keep ambiguity in the charter.
3 – Yes
Appointment and removal of City Clerk
The City Charter currently provides for the
position of a City Clerk and further provides that
the City Clerk shall be appointed and removed
by the City Commission. Shall the Charter be
corrected for consistency to specify that under
the City Commission's powers that appointment,
retention or removal of the City Clerk falls within
the purview of the City Commission?
This is already the case and it fixes an oversight in previous charter amendments.
4 - Yes
Limitations on acquisition of real property
and capital improvement projects
The City Charter currently limits the acquisition
of real property or expenditures for capital
improvement projects to 20 percent of the
"annual fiscal budget" or "annual budget" of the
City without a referendum. Shall the Charter be
amended to specify that the 20 percent
spending limitation for acquisition of real
property or capital improvement projects be
based upon the City's current annual "total
operating budget?"
This matters. Now the city can include other capital budgets and outside revenues in deciding the 20%. A guideline of 20% of the operating budget is much more realistic.
5 – No
Reduction of Mayor and City Commissioners
compensation
The City Charter currently authorizes an annual
adjustment to the Mayor and City
Commissioners compensation based upon the
Consumer Price Index. Shall the Charter be
amended to delete the annual Consumer Price
Index adjustment and freeze the Mayor's
compensation at $7,800.00 and the
Commissioners compensation at $6,300.00
starting with the officials elected in the
November 2012 election?
The idea is noble, that service should be voluntary and an honor. It's hard to disagree with that. But we ask a lot of our commissioners and the current system in the past has encouraged people who are looking to capitalize on influence rather than dedication. I would much prefer a system that would review the salaries every two years and put them before the voters. But it will probably pass.





6 – Yes (and No)
Two year prohibition on paid employment of
City Commissioners post term
The City Charter currently prohibits sitting City
Commissioners from serving in a paid City
position during their term of office. Shall the
Charter be amended to prohibit a Mayor or
Commissioner from serving in a paid City
position for 2 years after the date of expiration of their term?
This should be called the “Joe Geller” amendment. In that case, former mayor Joe Geller was hired as city attorney immediately following his tenure as mayor. I do not believe that service to the city should be an employment disqualifier. The commission should decide if the candidate is the best for the job as they did with Joe Geller. Some didn't like that but it was addressed politically, as it should be.


But the danger of outsize influence during service toward post-service employment is high and current best practice in the federal government is to have this policy. I will probably vote yes.
7 – Yes
Outside employment by the City Manager
Shall the Charter be amended to include a
requirement that outside employment by the City
Manager shall be approved by the City
Commission prior to commencement?
Yes. We could call this the “Charity Good” amendment. She was the city manager, full time, who was also full time in another city. It didn't work.


This allows the commission to decide if the employment is reasonable and not in conflict with the main job, which means that some employment could be allowed and even useful.
8 – Yes
Expanding existing anti nepotism policy
The City Charter currently prohibits employment
of relatives of elected or appointed city officials
(department heads and up) related up to the
second degree of consanguinity (related by
blood). Shall the Charter be amended to
expand the existing anti nepotism policy to
include a prohibition of the employment of
relatives of elected or appointed city officials
(department heads and up) up to the second
degree of affinity (related by marriage)?
Yes. This is a simple language cleanup to clarify neopotism.





9 – Yes
Filling of Vacancies on the Commission
pertaining to Interim Vice Mayor
The City Charter currently provides that an
interim Mayor and Vice Mayor shall serve until
the newly elected or appointed Mayor or Vice
Mayor is sworn into office. Shall the Charter be
amended to clarify that the word "interim" also
applies to the position of the Vice Mayor as well
as the Mayor?
Yes. This means that the Vice Mayor only serves until a commission is reconstituted when there are vacancies. The newly formed commission then votes on the position. It's appropriate.
10 – Yes
Clarification of procedures for filling of
Commission vacancy and extraordinary
vacancy
The City Charter currently provides that the
filling of a vacancy for City Commission shall be
pursuant to the procedures "set forth above."
Shall the Charter be amended to provide that
the procedures for filling of a vacancy are those
specified in the Charter, and that for the filling of
an extraordinary vacancy, the Commission shall
call a special election in the same manner as set
forth for filling a Commission vacancy?
Yes. A simple clarification of the election procedures to make them easier to understand.
11 – No
Procedure for adoption of emergency
ordinances
The City Charter currently provides for an
emergency ordinance to be adopted by at least
three affirmative votes. Shall the Charter be
amended to provide that an emergency
ordinance shall be adopted by at least four
affirmative votes consistent with state law?
Emergcency Ordinances were widely abused two commissions ago. This procedure exists for when there is a clear danger that delayed action will harm the city and should only be used that way. By requiring 4 rather than a majority of commissioners, this means that if at least 4 commissioners cannot be present, which is entirely imaginable in the case of a natural or security disaster, the commission is handcuffed. It's too risky.
12 – Yes
Procedures for adoption of ordinances and
resolutions
The City Charter currently provides for the
submission of all written information for
proposed ordinances or resolutions within 48
hours of a City Commission meeting. Shall the
Charter be amended to require the submission
of all written information on proposed
ordinances or resolutions 3 business days prior
to the City Commission meeting?
Yes. This is an imperfect solution. I would have preferred additional language allowing the commission to make an exception by majority vote. But legislation is complex and the commission and citizens need time to study the legislation prior to adoption.





13 – No
Increase Residency Requirements for Mayor
and Commissioners from six months to one
year
The City Charter currently requires a six month
City residency for a candidate for the office of
Mayor and Commissioner-at-large and a six
month residency on their particular island for a
candidate for the Harbor Island, North Bay
Island and Treasure Island Commissioner seats.
Shall the Charter be amended to increase the
residency requirement from six months to one
year for candidates for the office of the Mayor
and all Commission seats?
In fact, HELL NO. This is the antithesis of democracy. Six months has adequately served for many years. If shorter residency is a problem, let the voters decide if that's an issue. This amendment takes clear aim at the “new people”, the condo buyers, the “others” who have moved into the city. It's offensive and it should be sent packing.
14 – Yes
Nomination for office of Commissioners and
Mayor by petition
The City Charter currently provides that a
candidate for office of Commissioner or Mayor
may qualify for candidacy by petition. Shall the
Charter be amended to specify that the petition
shall be in a form provided by the City Clerk?
Yes. In stark contrast to the nonsense above, this actually smooths the election process and makes it clearer and easier for candidates to file with a certified and understood petition.
15 – No
Increase of filing fee for candidates for office
of Commissioner and Mayor
The City Charter currently provides for a filing
fee of $100.00 for a candidate for the office of
Commissioner or Mayor. Shall the Charter be
amended to increase the filing fee to $250.00 for
the office of the Mayor and all Commissioners?
No. This should be called the “WTF – Are you kidding me?” amendment. The cost to process a candidate filing is probably more than $100 and less than $250. Raising the cost to file is a snide, trivial barrier to entry, not what the city should be encouraging.
16 – No
City employees soliciting votes or engaging
in political activity while off duty
The City Charter currently prohibits City
employees from soliciting votes or engaging in
political activity while on duty. Shall the Charter
be amended to prohibit a City employee while
off duty from soliciting votes or engaging in
political activity while wearing a City uniform or
identification or using his or her official authority
or influence for the purpose of interfering with an
election or a nomination of office or coercing or influencing another person's vote?
No. Many of our city employees live in NBV. They are constitutionally protected in their free speech rights, while we are protected from coercion by them. With this change, a neighbor employed by the city could be fired or disciplined (the penalties are unclear) for simply supporting a candidate. This is badly written, constitutionally ambiguous and opens the city for further lawsuits.
17 – Yes
Notice of final budget meeting
The City Charter currently provides that if the
budget includes a tax increase, the City shall
endeavor to send a notice of the date of the final
budget meeting to each property owner and to
those who submit a request for the notice. Shall
the Charter be amended to delete this
requirement as state law requires the County to
provide the same information to each property
owner in the TRIM (Truth in Millage) notice?
Aviso de la última reunión de presupuesto
Yes. The County already provides this service and there is no need for NBV to duplicate that effort. The current system is wasted money and time.
18 – Yes
Bonds of officers and employees
The City Charter currently requires the posting
of a surety bond for officers or employees of the
City, but does not specify which positions are
subject to this requirement. Shall the Charter be
amended to specify that any officers or
employees who have check signing authority or
access to City accounts shall post a bond?
Yes. This clears up an oversight in the original Charter and reduces the city's exposure to liability while not changing any current policty.
19 – Yes
Oath of office/employment
The City Charter currently requires every officer
and employee to take an oath of office. Shall
the Charter be amended to include in the oath of
office that the officer or employee is a legal
resident of the State of Florida and will obey the
laws of the United States, the State of Florida
and observe the provisions of the Charter and
Ordinances of the City?
Yes. We should include the Charter in the oath of office.
20 – No
Review of zoning regulations, zoning district maps, and comprehensive master plan
Shall the Charter be amended to include a
requirement that the Planning and Zoning Board
continuously review the City's zoning
regulations, comprehensive master plan and
zoning district maps and offer recommendations
to the City Commission at maximum intervals of
five years commencing in 2013?
No. The review is needed and should be ongoing. But the Planning & Zoning Board should not be the exclusive owner of the process. The commission should appoint a board every five years comprising members with a wide variety of expertise. P&Z would be a natural recruiting spot for this but it does not follow that P&Z should be exclusive.
21 - No
Charter Violations
Shall the Charter be amended to include a
provision that City officials and employees shall
follow the provisions of the Charter?
This is feel good nonsense. It does not create or set penalties for Charter violations, it does not empower the commission to do so and violating our charter carries no state or county legal penalties. This needs to be fixed, urgently, and  this amendment is a cynical pretense to appear to fix the problem while maintaining the status quo.  
 

  

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