TREASURE ISLAND — Voters here may get a chance next March to change, once again, how their government operates.
At its meeting Tuesday, the City Commission is expected to authorize the formation of a special charter review committee that could recommend one or more ballot questions to change the city charter.
"It is very prudent and necessary to have a charter review every five years," Commissioner Ed Gayton Jr. said during a workshop discussion last week.
Gayton pointed to the more than a dozen charter changes that were approved by voters during the past 10 years.
In 2000, voters passed several "housekeeping" charter changes that governed how ordinances and future referendum questions would be passed, as well as rules governing residents serving on temporary boards and committees.
Citizen control over City Commission decisions became a major issue among city voters, angry over the commission's attempt to change the city's land use regulations to allow taller buildings and increase development density along the beach front.
The controversial LDRs were fought in court by residents and eventually blocked by a court ruling. Several commissioners who voted for the land use changes were tossed out of office and a voter-initiated referendum in 2002 blocked the commission's ability to increase either building heights or densities without first asking voter approval.
In 2005, voters passed a series of charter changes giving voters even greater control over future government actions.
Among the commission actions that would require voter approval were leasing public parks or public lands, and abolishing the police or fire departments.
Voters also passed charter amendments making it easier to place issues on the ballot and stopped commissioners from passing any laws that would "defeat or frustrate" any issue that is already certified to go on the ballot.
Specifically, the commission was barred from changing any citizen-initiated ordinance without first going back to the voters for permission.
That provision halted an effort by the commission earlier this year to ban or partially ban alcohol on Sunset Beach, even though residents there were demanding action to curtail what they see as obnoxious behavior among beach visitors concentrated near Caddy's restaurant.
Now a group is circulating a petition to take the alcohol issue to the voters next March.
As for any charter amendments that may be proposed for the March 2010 ballot by the city or its charter review committee, City Manager Reid Silverboard suggested two — that the required review of commission district boundaries be extended from the present two-year interval to a 10-year interval to coincide with the national census; and to allow appointments to fill future vacancies on the commission to serve until the next regularly scheduled election.
Silverboard said the change to filling commission vacancies would eliminate the need and cost of holding a special election, as is now required by the charter.
Commissioner Alan Bildz also suggested the charter review committee could consider increasing commission salaries, which currently are $5,400 a year.
"Commission pay hasn't been increased since the charter was made," Bildz said.