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Date of Issue: July 07, 2005

Island consolidation: Let the people speak first

Holmes Beach city commissioners gave consensus at their June 28 meeting to have the three Island mayors draft language for a non-binding referendum on the November elections ballot on Island consolidation.

Commissioner Roger Lutz said now is not the time to talk about specifics. Let the people have their say first.

"If people from all three cities approve, then that's the point to spend some money to find out if it's a good deal. But consolidation needs grass roots support first. Let's not be specific at this point, just find out if the basic intent is out there."

He suggested that the general language for the referendum be simply whether or not the city should investigate consolidating all three Island cities into one municipality.

Chairperson Sandy Haas-Martens and Commissioner Pat Morton agreed. "Remember," said Haas-Martens, "this is a non-binding referendum."

Morton said the people have to be allowed to speak on the issue before the cities proceed further.

Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger dissented. "Show me it's a good idea to give away your city," he said.

"But everyone's just guessing now," responded Lutz. "Let's find out what the citizens think."

If there is a majority vote in each city for consolidation, then the three cities can get together and discuss specifics, he reiterated.

Mayor Carol Whitmore, who was absent from the meeting, has said previously she and her counterparts in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach will work together to get a sample ballot to each commission for approval as soon as possible. The deadline for submission of the referendum to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office to be on the November ballot is Sept. 6 for Holmes Beach and Anna Maria and Sept. 19 for Bradenton Beach.