I’ve requested information about Crestview's 2012 charter review commission; who was on it, how were they chosen, what was their charge and responsibility, what did they consider, who did they consult, what did they find, what did they conclude, and what did they officially recommend.
We do know that, after a long and thorough research and debate, the 2012 commission recommended the following, which is the text of the official 2012 Okaloosa County ballot.
“Shall the city of Crestview replace its current charter with a new charter providing for:
•A council-city administrator form of government with an appointed city administrator, replacing a mayor-council form of government;
•A five-member council and mayor elected by the electorate of the city;
•An appointed city clerk, replacing a city clerk elected by the electorate of the city; and other administrative changes as described in Ordinance No. 1474.”
The ballot measure was declared invalid because someone in city hall failed the voters and put an incorrect date on the official filing. (Didn’t we have a city lawyer to review critical official city filings to protect the interest of the city, voters and taxpayers?)
Many, myself included, were happy to see the council begin to act to make our city government more efficient and accountable.
However, many are now concerned that some in city hall are prejudicing the process and outcomes by limiting the commission size, diversity of opinion and excluding consideration of core issues, like the responsibilities and appointment of a city clerk instead of an elected clerk, as we have now.
I’m a member of Crestview Citizens for Change. Most our 1,000-plus members are younger families, many new to the area, and make up a large portion of the city’s population. Will we be represented on the seven-member commission handpicked by the current elected city politicians?
Few of our members are new to Crestview politics and government. Will new voices and opinions be represented on the commission, or just the same crowd protecting the status quo?
Voters need to understand why the 2012 commission thought it was important to adopt the best practices outlined in the ‘model city charter’ employed by the overwhelming majority of municipalities in Florida and around the country.
That information will help inform voter consideration and increase voter confidence in the current effort.
Professionally, I manage technology and systems support and am all about ‘best practices.’ Here’s what the expert competent authorities at the National Civic League says about the appointment of charter review commissions:
“The appointment of this group of individuals, typically between 15 (and) 20 registered voters… (a)ll segments of the community should be represented…” the league’s “Guide for Charter Commissions, Sixth Edition,” states. “While in many cases the mayor and/or council plays a role in the appointment of commission members, the involvement of elected officials should end at that point. The charter process functions best when it is rooted in citizen involvement rather than one influenced (intentionally or unintentionally) by political officials directly serving as members.
“The most effective charter commissions are not dominated by lawyers, scholars and accountants, but made up of civic-minded, intelligent lay people with a common-sense approach to things. The members should a) be in touch with the perspectives present in the community; b) command respect from local residents; and c) bolster the confidence of citizens in the process and the work of the commission.”
Please, don’t stack the deck. Give us a voice.
Matt Gates is not to be confused with Matt Gaetz, the U.S. congressman. He lives in Crestview.
What are your thoughts? Write a letter to the editor.
Editor's note: The first version of this column stated a public records request to the city of Crestview had yet to be filled. That's no longer the case.