Tampa’s charter, getting its first review, will seek public comment Wednesday

SCOTT KEELER   |   TimesLeft to Right: Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, answer questions at the Suncoast Tiger Bay luncheon at the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Marriot Hotel, 1/12/18.
SCOTT KEELER | TimesLeft to Right: Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, answer questions at the Suncoast Tiger Bay luncheon at the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Marriot Hotel, 1/12/18.
Published January 23

For the first time since the city adopted a home-rule charter in 1975, a nine-member appointed commission has been meeting to consider possible changes to Tampa's city charter.

The Charter Review Commission's inaugural work might be new to Tampa, but St. Petersburg, Clearwater and the county governments in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have had similar bodies review their charters at five or ten year intervals for years.

On Wednesday, the commission will hold its first public workshop to see the ideas residents have for changing the way the city works.

Not everyone thinks much needs to change, including Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who would have veto power over any changes.

Buckhorn said, aside from eliminating outdated language or legislative inconsistencies, "my sense is that the community is not interested in wholesale change on any level," Buckhorn said in a statement Monday. "It is a charter that has stood the test of time….There is no need to fix what is not broken."

Tampa, the mayor said, is efficient, transparent and high functioning in its current structure. Its strong-mayor system gives "voters confidence that someone is in charge," he said.

So far, commissioners have discussed whether city workers should be required to live within city limits and what kind of subpoena or investigative powers should belong to City Council among other subjects.  The only formal motion—to limit city council members to a maximum of 16 consecutive years—failed by a 5-4 vote at the December meeting, although it will be held open for public comment, according to the commission's minutes.

Since August, the commission has met five times. Starting this month, it will meet twice a month until May, when the commission will forward its suggestions to council members.

The council can adopt some, all or none of those suggestions. Whatever the council approves would proceed to the ballot for voters to decide. If Buckhorn decides to veto anything, it would take five council members to override the veto—the same number required to vote to put any charter measure on the ballots, said City Council attorney Martin Shelby.

The meeting will take place between  5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.in the City Council chambers on the third floor of Old City Hall, 315 E. Kennedy Blvd.

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