CLEARWATER — Residents can hear varying perspectives on the Nov. 6 referendum on whether to change Clearwater’s form of government into a strong mayor system at two upcoming forums.
The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce will host a forum Monday at 5 p.m. at St. Petersburg College Clearwater’s arts auditorium, 2465 Drew St. The panel of former mayors Brian Aungst Sr. and Frank Hibbard, and former city council member John Doran, will discuss how the change would affect the city’s business community.
Clearwater Neighborhood Coalition and League of Women Voters of North Pinellas County will host a forum Oct. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Clearwater Main Library, 100 N Osceola Ave. Zach Thorn, who chairs the political action committee advocating for the referendum, will speak in favor of a strong mayor; Beth Rawlins, political consultant and founder of the No Boss Mayor PAC will speak against; and Karl Nurse, a former St. Petersburg City Commissioner, will speak neutrally, according to Coalition President Karen Cunningham.
Dr. J. Edwin Benton, professor of political science and public administration at the University of South Florida, will moderate the event.
The City Council voted last month to place a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot asking voters whether the council-manager form of government should be changed to a strong mayor system. The initiative began in April when a group of downtown business advocates proposed the change to city officials.
A 13-member task force spent seven once-weekly meetings with the council to write the 16-page ordinance detailing the powers and authority of a strong mayor, which would take effect in 2020 if voters pass the 75-word referendum.