A check of my calendar has shown there will be an election soon. This will not be a routine, boring election, for it will be one in which a president, one-third of all senators, and all 435 members of the United States House of Representatives are elected.
On the state level, the state’s electors will decide some changes to the state’s constitution; locally, Crestview residents will determine whether a new city charter will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
Aside from the state issues, each voter within the state can cast his or her ballot for the presidential candidate of his or her choice: one candidate for senator, and one candidate for representative. Locally, those of us within the city of Crestview can decide the form of government that will rule the municipality, along with some other less significant but noteworthy changes.
I trust that each concerned resident has secured a draft copy of the proposed charter and has taken the time to read it and digest its contents. I have read it several times, and each time I have had different thoughts about the wording.
Let’s look at some of the major, standout provisions. In Section 4.01(a), it is stated that the mayor shall have the following powers and duties: “to be recognized as the official head of the city for all ceremonial purposes…,” and “to preside at all meetings of the city council with authority to participate in discussions, but without power to vote.”
In other words, the city’s elected chief would be relegated to greeting visitors at the front door of City Hall, riding in parades and kissing babies.
To make the incumbent feel important, the council will let the mayor rap the gavel to bring a meeting to order or adjourn it, and possibly enter into a conversation without the power to determine a considered item’s outcome. The current day responsibility to oversee public safety, like police and fire departments, would be removed. That should make the mayor feel important!
So that the city is kept in good order and with discipline, the City Council’s five elected members would select a city administrator (presumably from the outside) to run all the city’s day-to-day operations. Based on what I have read in several publications’ Help Wanted columns, the going annual salary for such an individual is around $100,000 plus benefits, a city automobile and a private office, with an assistant and benefits. Added together, the cost of having such an individual employed could very easily amount to an annual outlay of $200,000, though that’s not to say Crestview’s expenditures would be the same.
Here’s how it would work: the City Council would hire the administrator, who would run the city with the council’s direction. However, the council members could do nothing unilaterally. All the council’s actions must be taken during open sessions, so a majority of council members present at a regularly scheduled meeting must first approve any direction they give. An appointed administrator has virtually no direct supervision.
To streamline City Hall’s operations, the proposed charter eliminates the elected city clerk position and provides an appointee who answers to the city administrator.
It is reasonable for one to ask “why.”
Some three years ago, it was suggested that a charter review committee analyze the existing document and recommend changes. Numerous paragraphs are no longer applicable, namely positions for a city physician and a city tax collector.
Some paragraphs are needed, namely the procedure to take if an elected official decides to resign from office. Several members in the past few years have “resigned,” but there is no “paper trail” to that effect. One can say that he or she resigns, but there is no document to prove it. Further, to whom is a letter of resignation given?
When asked why these changes to the charter were recommended, one member of the charter review committee replied, “Every town has a manager.” When the subject of an elected city clerk versus an appointed city clerk arose, it was stated that “almost all cities in Florida have one.”
Thus, the upcoming election is more that Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, or Bill Nelson versus Bonnie Mack. It is about every citizen in Crestview and the form of government that will be in existence.
Bob Allen is a former Crestview city council member.
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