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Charter Review Board seeks more time for deliberations

For months, the county's Charter Review Board has been trying to generate more public interest in the important job that rests in its hands. But the board spent most of Thursday frustrated by its own powerlessness.

First, an attempt to change the provisions in the county charter for recalling elected officials _ an important goal of some board members _ ended quickly when the board learned that state law prevents counties from adopting different recall rules.

Then the 14-member group was hampered by conflicting legal opinions on whether a charter amendment could affect the workings of the various appointed authorities that oversee areas such as sports, aviation and expressways.

Finally, the group found an area over which it had influence _ itself. It wound up voting to include in a proposed charter amendment a provision to give the next charter review board 15 months to deliberate instead of a year.

And it called for future boards to convene in the year before a presidential election so that any charter amendments they devise can be put on the ballot when voter turnout is likely to be the highest.

Board members were clearly frustrated by what the board couldn't accomplish.

"The people that believe those counties in Florida that voted to be charter counties really have true home rule are kidding themselves," said board Chairman Jim Shimberg after the session.

Shimberg said that if Hillsborough residents want to make it easier to recall their county officials, he doesn't understand why the state would want to prevent it. But that is what the law does, said Assistant County Attorney Lynn Cash.

In the end, all but one of the board members decided there was nothing they could do about the recall issue and voted to forget about it.

But civic activist Art Merish wanted the board chairman to speak before the county's legislative delegation to urge them to change the law.

Despite the frustrations on a number of issues Thursday, the board has made strides in the major area of its focus, the executive and legislative structure of county government.

A subcommittee is drafting a possible amendment that would create an elected county commission chairman with executive powers and the authority to hire and fire a county administrator.