Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Sarasota Charter Review Board, Waechter, and Public Process

From today's Herald Tribune:
Bob Waechter, Sarasota County's former GOP chief, gave the board a proposed written charter amendment calling for the board members to be appointed, rather than the current system which elects the members. He said he would discuss the details during the next meeting. 
Waechter's proposal calls for a 15-member appointed board chosen by county commissioners and other officials. The move, the proposal states, would not disenfranchise voters. 
“It is time, after 24 years, to again ask the voters what they think,” he wrote.
At the Charter Review Board's meeting last night, Waechter handed copies of his proposal to members of the Charter Review Board, but did not say what it contained. The Board then agreed to consider Waechter's proposed amendment at its next meeting, in May.

Bob Waechter handing his proposed charter amendment to
Sarasota County's Charter Review Board
A board whose purpose is to publicly consider amendments to Sarasota County government thus accepted and voted to formally review a proposal whose contents were undisclosed -- until one citizen in attendance stood up, asked for a copy of the proposal, and stated that in fact it does call for an appointed, rather than publicly elected, panel.

Currently amendment proposals submitted to the Board are not published. To find out what they contain, one needs to go to the Clerk of the Court's office and seek them out.

Should proposals for Charter amendments be submitted for review without public awareness? Would it not be more consistent with the Board's purpose for it to adopt a procedure something like this:

1. Require all proposed amendments to be submitted as a digital file - preferably a pdf. 
2. Publish all amendments accepted for consideration to the Internet with reasonable promptness - within 24 hours of submission, for example. 
3. Make the CRB site known to the public so that the actions and process of the Board become more widely known.

The amount of computational power and storage to handle this chore is minimal. If the Board needs help, it can write to us at We'll be happy to help.

The spectacle of Mr. Waechter handing his papers to the officials while refusing to even state what his amendment contained smacked of disdain for public awareness -- even as his apparent desire to do away with the public's involvement in choosing Board members suggests a peculiar disregard for democratic process.

Election of officers

The Board concluded its session with an election of officers for the coming year:
  • Richard Dorfman - Chairman.
  • Anthony Sawyer - Vice Chair
  • Jim Gabbert - Chair Pro Tem

Cathy Antunes urges anyone interested in how Sarasota County operates to be at the May meeting of the CRB:

  • Go to the May CRB meeting!  Mr. Waechter is proposing that our Charter Review Board be an appointed rather than an elected body.  It will be critical for citizens to show up and speak out against this proposal. Her commentary in full is here.

Tell the Board what you think: Email The Charter Review Board

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