A citizens panel made the right decision this week by rejecting the push for a charter government in Pasco County. This idea looked like a bad fit from the start, and local officials were right to take control of this discussion away from Tallahassee and focus on what is best for the growing county.
Monday's vote followed months of debate since Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, proposed a move to a charter county government. Pasco is governed by commissioners elected countywide who appoint an administrator to run the day-to-day operations. Corcoran called for an elected countywide mayor to head the government instead of an administrator. He also pushed for single-member districts, term limits and provisions for a recall election.
The concept looked more like a power grab from the next speaker of the Florida House than a response to any local concern that Pasco's form of government was behind the times. The panel that voted 8-7 Monday not to pursue the change was a compromise board that resulted after the public furor when Corcoran publicly proposed the idea. The five panel members appointed by Pasco's legislative delegation predictably endorsed the proposal, while most of the local appointees raised serious concerns about the prospect of further politicizing local office.
Large, urban counties such as Hillsborough and Pinellas have used charter government to protect home-rule powers and to ensure that diverse populations are represented in the political process. But every county has its needs and character. Pasco was smart to vet this concept — and to question the motivations of state legislators who thought they knew what was best for local government.
There are plenty of ways to make county government more responsive and efficient than moving toward a charter. And the sharp disagreement over which elements the charter should contain exposed a lack of consensus that could have made the charter an empty document. Pasco is stronger for having had this discussion, and for setting a course for the immediate future. Its legislative delegation should respect this expression of local control — and seek it out earlier the next time Tallahassee has a plan for the folks back home.