Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Letter opposing the Waechter CRB initiative

A citizen's letter to the Charter Review Board regarding an initiative to transform it from an elected board to an appointed body:

To Chairman Dorfman and Charter Review Board Members:

I am writing to express my concern about and opposition to the proposal to amend the Sarasota County Charter to provide that CRB Members be appointed by the County Commission rather than elected by the voters the CRB is intended to represent.  I do not believe that how other Florida local governments manage and structure their Charter review or revisions boards or commissions is anything more than reflective of the many different ways Florida citizens have approached their charter process and is irrelevant to the issues to consider when evaluating this proposal for Sarasota County.  

On the other hand, I believe that it is very important to review the language of the Sarasota County Charter to identify the wishes of the residents and voters of Sarasota County regarding this important avenue for voter participation in our local government process.  Absent some compelling reasons why our Charter Review Board should not be elected, this is simply a proposal to reduce and restrict the level of input by voters in our County government.  I have reviewed the entire packet of documents provided to the CRB for their discussions at the Sept. 28, 2016 meeting and have seen no evidence of any compelling reasons.  Again, I do not consider "no one else elects them" to be a valid reason, much less a compelling reason, for the proposed change.

Let's look at some of the relevant language that reflects what I and other voters in Sarasota County have approved as their intent for and purpose of the CRB:

1971 - 1979:   The Review Board shall review the operation of the County government, on behalf of the citizens, and recommend changes, if they wish, for improvement of this Charter. 
1980 - 1987:   The Review Board shall review the operation of this County Government, on behalf of the citizens, and may recommend changes for improvement of this Charter .... 
1988 - 2003:    The Charter Review Board shall review the operation of County Government on behalf of the citizens of Sarasota County, and recommend changes, for improvement of the County Charter. 
2004 to date:   On behalf of the citizens of Sarasota County, the Charter Review Board shall review and recommend changes, to the County Charter for improvement of County government.

Two important phrases were included in the initial Charter and have been retained through numerous changes to this sentence as well as to many other portions of the Charter.  The CBR is to represent the citizens of Sarasota County and to review (or improve) the operation of County Government.  I and many other citizens have always viewed and valued the CRB as an independently elected body that represents me -- not the County Commission.  It is impossible for the CRB to act directly on behalf of the citizens of Sarasota County if the Members are appointed by the County Commission instead of being elected directly by the voters.  It is also extremely unlikely that CRB members, if appointed, would fulfill the mission of reviewing the operation of County government if such review is of those with the power to give or take away their positions on the CRB.  These factors are, more likely than not, the reasons pushing this proposed amendment forward.  

I hope that you will consider this proposal in light of the voters of Sarasota County and reject moving forward with the proposed amendment.

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