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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Maloney to bring back city manager issue

Holmes Beach City Commissioner Don Maloney wants city voters to decide once and for all if they want a city manager form of government.

The city's charter review committee recommended to the city commission in early 2002 that the issue be placed on a citywide ballot, but the commission declined by a 3-2 vote. A majority of commissioners said then they didn't see the need for a city manager

Now, two years later, Maloney wants the city commission to again consider such a proposal for the November ballot. This time around, however, he's educating the public on the value of a city manager.

He's been holding regular public seminars at the Island Branch Library with city government experts speaking on the value to the city of a manager.

Maloney is also making himself available to speak to homeowners associations, condominium associations, civic groups and other organizations on what a city manager could do for Holmes Beach.

"I remember when I first brought up the issue seven years ago," said Maloney. "The mayor at that time said this little city can't afford one," said Maloney. The reply was, "That's why we need one."

Florida municipal government has "become a heck-of-a-lot more complicated" the past few years, "as you can see from our lawsuits," noted Maloney.

It's almost inconceivable that a city with the size and budget of Holmes Beach - 5,000 people and a $7.39 million budget - doesn't have a city manager, observed Maloney.

According to the Florida City and County Managers Association, 95 percent of all cities with a population between 5,000 and 150,000 have a city manager.

"With all the costs that we have now in the city, we need someone with business and professional experience" to run the city, said Maloney. "We can't afford not to have a city manager. There is just too much at stake.

"I intend to bring it back to the city commission for discussion and a vote fairly soon," he concluded.

If the commission again decides not to place the issue on the ballot, Maloney said he'll try and collect enough voter signatures on a petition to take to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office calling for a referendum.

Maloney may not want to wait too long before he brings the issue back to the commission.

An elections office spokesperson said the deadline for any municipal ballot question for the November general election will probably be around Aug. 1, 2004, although the exact date has not yet been determined.

But there could be a snag to Maloney's plan for a referendum petition if commissioners again decline to place the city manager question before voters.

The spokesperson noted that if the local city commission doesn't approve the ballot question to the elections office, voters have to take their petition to the county commission for approval to have a particular issue placed on the ballot.

Government choices
The Florida League of Cities lists four types of municipal government: strong mayor-council; weak mayor-council; council-city manager; and council. The words strong and weak refer to which entity (mayor or commission) has the power to hire and fire city staff. The terms council and commission are interchangeable in these definitions, the FLC has said.

A city manager serves under the city commission, the FLC said. An executive assistant to the mayor might have many of the duties of a city manager, but would be hired and fired by the mayor, according to the FLC.

The council-city manager form is the most popular in Florida, the FLC has said, with 305 of the state's 450 municipal governments (66 percent) using this form. For cities with population between 5,000 and 150,000, the figure is 95 percent.

Since 1990, according to the FLC, every Florida city that has incorporated has done so with a council-manager form of government. Those cities include Islamorada (pop. 7,000) in the Florida Keys, and Ft. Myers Beach (pop. 6,000).

Cities that have recently voted to change to a council-manager form of government include Reddington Shores (pop. 2,500), Belleair Beach (pop. 2,080), Belle Island (pop. 6,015), and Feldsmere (pop. 4,400).