Monday, May 21, 2018
Politics

Dunedin voters will decide changes to the city charter

DUNEDIN — Voters heading to the polls Nov. 6: Brace yourselves.

After sifting through the national, state and county races then selecting candidates vying for two City Commission seats and even after deciding on constitutional amendments, you won't be done.

Dunedin residents will also vote on six proposed city charter changes, including commissioner term limits.

Under the proposal, commissioners who currently can serve an unlimited number of years would be restricted to two consecutive four-year terms.

A term-limited commissioner, however, could run immediately for mayor under the proposal. But a term-limited mayor would be required to sit out two years before running again for either a commission seat or mayor. The reasoning is that a mayor is likely to have had prior experience as a commissioner.

The result is that a single commissioner could spend no more than 16 years in office at a stretch.

"Nationally, incumbents win … between 85 to 90 percent of the time. And in many cases, if you didn't have term limits, the only reason someone leaves office is when they die," Bill Francisco, chairman of the volunteer Charter Review Committee that proposed the changes, said last year.

"We think there are plenty of people in Dunedin who are capable of serving as commissioner and mayor," he said, "and we'd like to provide the mechanism to encourage that."

The proposal wouldn't affect current commissioners because charter amendments can't be applied retroactively.

If Mayor Dave Eggers and Commissioner David Carson win their bids for re-election this fall and the term-limit provision is also approved, their terms would count as their first under the new charter.

Dunedin's other referendum questions aim to:

• Spell out that commissioners must rotate the ceremonial "vice mayor" title each year — as they always have. The vice mayor runs meetings when the mayor is absent.

• Clearly define "conviction" — one of the measures that would force a commissioner to vacate office — as a determination of guilt, even if the commissioner pleads no contest or a court withholds the conviction from his or her record.

A charter committee member who practices criminal defense law suggested the change to bring Dunedin's charter in line with other cities.

• Require a four-fifths super-majority vote, rather than a simple majority, to hire or fire or determine salary for the city clerk.

• Require city leaders to act more quickly — within 60 days instead of 150 days — on citizen petitions.

• Allow commissioners to cancel one of the two City Hall meetings they hold each month.

The change was suggested by Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski, who wants a more flexible schedule to allow for vacations for staffers and commissioners.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected]

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