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Tarpon Springs starts charter brainstorming

It is a once-in-five-years opportunity: Anybody in the city can suggest just about any change in the way the city is governed.

The newly appointed Charter Review Commission has the power to put suggested changes to the city's main governing document directly on the ballot for voters to accept or reject.

Ideas that have become law in the past through that avenue include a limit on how much the City Commission can increase taxes each year and a change in the length of city commissioners' terms.

The charter, which functions for city government like a constitution, requires that such a committee be formed at least every five years to keep the document up to date.

The latest incarnation of the committee met for the first time Thursday night and selected former City Attorney Herb Elliott as its chairman and resident Linda Herring as vice chairwoman. Its members were chosen last month by the City Commission.

"I have some things I'd like to bring up, of course," Elliott said, declining to elaborate. "Most importantly, we need to listen to the public. We want to encourage the public to send us their comments by phone, fax, e-mail or snail mail."

The committee will meet every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the upstairs conference room at City Hall, 324 E Pine St., Elliott said. The meetings will be open to anyone who wants to address the committee or just observe.

The group will first invite City Attorney John Hubbard and City Manager Ellen Posivach to share ideas Wednesday, Elliott said.

At the meeting Aug. 18, the body would like to hear suggestions from members of former charter review commissions and from City Clerk Kathy Alesafis, Elliott said.

The review committee will send its suggestions to the City Commission by the end of the year for its comments, then make a final decision about which ideas to put on a city ballot early next year.

Elliott has served on the Charter Review Commission before. Others on the committee will approach the potentially daunting task with fresh eyes instead of experience.

"I'm going to give a lot of credence to the testimony of the (city) commissioners, the staff and the citizens," said Pat Garrigan, a local businessman new to the board. "I went through the charter and read it over twice, and there's nothing glaring."

Garrigan said he will do a lot of listening, especially when city commissioners make suggestions.

"There might be some areas that need some attention," he said. "I'm not sure yet. We'll see."

To comment

Residents with suggestions for the Charter Review Commission can contact members individually or send a message to the City Clerk's Office, attention Charter Review, through these methods:

Phone: (727) 942-5614

E-mail: tscclerkgte.net

Fax: (727) 942-5619

Drop off letter: 410 N Ring Ave.

Mail letter: P.O. Box 5004, Tarpon Springs, FL 34688-5004

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