Bradenton Beach approves citizen ballot initiatives

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Attorney Bob Hendrickson, left, Reed Mapes and Bill Vincent discuss options Aug. 29 before a special commission meeting called to finalize the citizens initiative for the Nov. 7 ballot. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

The petitions have been signed, sealed and delivered, with just enough time to get three Bradenton Beach citizen’s initiatives on the November ballot.

The grassroots group Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach prepared three ballot initiatives and collected petition signatures from more than 100 Bradenton Beach voters — fulfilling the requirement for signatures from at least 10 percent of voters in the previous election — to have the initiatives added to the Nov. 7 municipal ballot.

At an Aug. 28 meeting, city commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the petitions, allowing the initiatives to be placed on the ballot.

Mayor Bill Shearon voted “nay,” citing a last-minute exhibit from city attorney Ricinda Perry. Shearon, who has low vision, could not read the submission, which detailed insufficiencies with the petitions.

CNOBB members were seeking three charter amendments — removal of the city four-ward representative system so all commissioners represent the city at-large, amending residency requirements for elected officials from 24 months to the state-approved 12-month minimum, and a measure to prohibit changes to the city charter by resolution. If approved by electors, this action would require a citizen vote to amend the charter.

CNOBB member Reed Mapes delivered the petitions to city clerk Terri Sanclemente Aug. 9, who submitted them Aug. 14 for verification of voter signatures to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections.

However, along with the petitions, Sanclemente submitted a memo drafted by herself and Perry, citing “insufficiencies” in the petitions.

At an Aug. 17 commission meeting, Perry said it takes the city about a month to draft an ordinance, which would be required to amend the charter, and there is not enough time to get it on the November ballot. She suggested appointing a charter review committee to give people the opportunity to change the charter.

City commissioners directed Perry to draft a resolution to initiate a new charter review committee.

Additionally, the commission directed Sanclemente to continue to processing the initiative to amend the city charter by referendum, with an understanding that the questions likely would not be on the ballot.

In an Aug. 22 email to Sanclemente, attorney Bob Hendrickson with Harrison & Kirkland, P.A. of Bradenton, representing CNOBB, wrote that the initiatives can be placed on the ballot by ordinance or petition, according to state statutes.

“Frankly, a little common sense would make the distinction between an ordinance and a petition very clear,” Hendrickson wrote. “Why would the Legislature allow electors of a municipality to petition for changes to the city charter and allow the city council to veto the petition by refusing to adopt an ordinance?”

He closed the letter saying the city is obligated to place the initiatives on the ballot. And, if it does not, he has been directed to pursue the matter with the circuit court.

At an Aug. 28 meeting, city commissioners voted to direct Sanclemente to deliver the petitions to the SOE with a cover sheet from Perry stating her legal objections to the initiatives.

In response to the commission decision, Mapes said, “I think it’s wonderful. We won. We’ve shown we can come in here with citizen’s signatures and make a change.”

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