CRESTVIEW — When the proposed city charter comes back before voters in the March 2013 elections, they may get to pick and choose which parts of it they wish to have implemented. Concerned that voters may reject the entire document because they disagree with only one or two of its provisions, the Crestview City Council agreed to consider breaking the charter into several ballot measures.
The idea of offering a “menu” of charter provisions was broached by Councilman Tom Gordon at the council’s Monday night meeting. Gordon said he has spoken with several residents after the Nov. 6 elections and assessed their feelings about the proposed charter.
“If they had something they didn’t like, people voted against the whole thing,” Gordon said.
Though the vote was non-binding because of a clerical error, nearly 72 percent of the city’s registered voters voted on the measure anyway, defeating the proposed charter 4,319 to 3,795.
Several council members said they recognize the most contentious components of the proposed charter are the provision for a fulltime, council-appointed city administrator and a council-appointed city clerk. Currently the city’s voters elect the clerk. After consulting with Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux, Council President Ben Iannucci III suggested offering the charter on the ballot in three parts: the city administrator, the city clerk, “and all the rest.”
“My only concern would be, if you take out one piece, it has a domino effect of affecting other parts of the charter,” Councilwoman Robyn Helt said. “It would be very difficult to do that.”
“If it is a big piece like this, I don’t think it’ll pass,” Gordon said.
“Then the citizens might be content with having a city physician and other things we haven’t needed since the plague,” Helt replied, referring to a provision in the current 1960s city charter that, among others she described as “archaic,” calls for a city physician.
Prior to her election to the council, Helt had served on the citizen Charter Review Committee that evaluated the current document and made recommendations to the council for the composition of the proposed charter. She and Councilman Charles Baugh Jr. have been two of the proposed charter’s strongest proponents on the council.
“I would not like to give three choices,” Baugh said. “We either present one animal or we don’t present it at all.”
“It’s not giving them (the voters) three choices, but giving them a yes or no on three different categories,” Iannucci replied.
After consideration during the discussion, Helt said offering the charter in three components would allow the council more opportunity to more thoroughly describe the charter’s provisions. Because ballot measure descriptions are limited by law to 75 words, offering the charter in three components would triple the descriptive text the council could place on the ballot in March.
Iannucci also welcomed the opportunity to more thoroughly explain the role of the city administrator, a position he described as “vital to the success of the city.”
“We need that kind of control in the city,” Iannucci said of the administrator’s day-to-day oversight of city operations. “That one piece alone is vital. If I could pull that one piece out and put it before the people, I would be happy with the rest. It is vital in this city moving forward.”
The council defeated a motion by Baugh 2-3 — with Baugh and Councilman Tim Grandberry voting yay — to approve on the first reading placing the charter on the March ballot. The council then unanimously agreed to hold a public workshop on Dec. 4 to discuss offering the charter as several ballot measures.
“This is too important for the city, no matter how you slice the pie,” Baugh said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.