As a follow-up to the email below, please email the Charter Review Board to tell them not to take away our right to elect the Charter Review Board by making it appointed by the County Commission:
Email The Charter Review Board
Protect Our Right to Elect the
Charter Review Board
Unlike other communities, Sarasota County has an independent, elected Charter Review Board with the power to put Charter amendments directly on the ballot for a public vote. That avoids the need to get over 14,000 signatures or a vote of the County Commission.
Developers and their supporters are scared by that. They know that given the opportunity the people will vote for measures to rein in their control over local politicians and policies, as they have over the years.
On Wednesday, January 20, the developer cabal will make another effort to take away the citizens’ right to elect the Charter Review Board. The CRB will hear a proposal to do that, as requested by Bob Waechter, the long-time henchman of the developers, who works each election year to recruit candidates to the developers’ liking.
You may remember Bob Waechter, who stole the identity of a candidate for County Commission and sought to discredit her by making false campaign contributions in her name, and was charged with a felony as a result (to add to a prior felony conviction).
The Wednesday meeting will be at 6 pm at the Anderson Center, County Commission chambers, at 4000 South Tamiami Trail in Venice.
Citizens will have a chance to speak against this proposal during Open to the Public at the beginning of the meeting, for up to 5 minutes each.
If the CRB votes to approve the proposal for consideration, it will go to a CRB committee for consideration and then back to the CRB for final approval of a motion (which requires a 2/3 affirmative vote) to place the change on the ballot.
On May 6, 2009, the developers lost a previous effort in the Charter Review Board, by a tie vote, to have a committee consider taking away the citizens right to elect the body. They lost a previous effort to do the same thing in 2006, by a 6 to 3 vote of CRB members against it.
In the 1980’s and early 90’s, the Charter Review Board sponsored good measures, which were approved by the voters, to create $200 campaign contribution limits for local politicians, to require voter approval for the County to raise property taxes or deepen taxpayer debt beyond certain limits, to require full disclosure of property owners seeking rezonings and to require testimony under oath at rezone hearings so that developers tell the truth.
The problem is that it takes a two-thirds vote of the Charter Review Board to put a measure on the ballot and about half its members currently tend to go along with the opponents of citizen power.
This got that way when those forces recruited and supported candidates to take over the Charter Review Board in 1994, in reaction to a Charter Review Board proposal to amend the County Charter to provide a right of citizen initiative and referendum over County ordinances.
Since 1994, the Charter Review Board has done little but attempt to repeal or weaken the reforms added to the Charter by a pro-reform Charter Review Board in the 1980's and early 1990's. They tried to repeal the tax cap but the voters turned them down. They tried to tie the borrowing cap to annual increases in real estate values but the voters turned them down (later approving a much more modest indexing of the limit to the consumer price index). They tried to repeal the campaign contribution limits (because as we know the developers are the ones who like to pour the big bucks into campaigns) but again the voters turned them down
Ultimately, the anti-reformers want to take away the citizens’ right to elect their Charter Review Board and just make it a committee of the County Commission.
The CRB was right in 2009 and 2006 to preserve the citizens’ right to elect an independent, elected Charter Review Board as a source to put measures on the ballot to protect and enhance citizen rights and interests.
Five of the ten Charter Review Board members are up for election every two years, to a four-year term. Candidates run from five districts (the same as the County Commission districts) but all votes are county-wide. It is a partisan election, so there is a primary as well as the November general election.
Three factors favor running for Charter Review Board rather than other political offices:
1) There is no filing fee.
2) The position is a fairly minimal commitment, as the Charter Review Board meets infrequently, in evening meetings.
3) The financial disclosure requirement is minimal, requiring the listing only of significant property, debts, business interests and sources of income, with no amounts.
Citizens who favor citizens’ rights and interests belong on the Charter Review Board. Anyone who would act contrary to those rights and interests do not.
The vote Wednesday on whether to take away the citizens’ right to elect our Charter Review Board is an important one.
-- Dan Lobeck