Return to ward representatives challenged in Bradenton Beach

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Former Bradenton Beach Commissioner Bob Connors questions the mayor and city commissioners Aug. 2 on a possible charter amendment to revert to the four-ward system during a meeting at city hall. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Some people can’t quite wrap their heads around it.

“I have been bewildered the last several weeks when I see the ward system is on the verge of going back on the ballot in November,” Bob Connors, a Bradenton Beach resident and former Ward 2 commissioner, said Aug. 2 during a city commission meeting.

An ad hoc committee was appointed by the commission in May to review the charter for consistency with amendments approved by voters in 2017 and amendments proposed for the Nov. 6 ballot.

The committee’s recommendations include a return to the four-ward system, with four commissioners who each reside in a designated ward, but elected by a citywide vote.

Until a charter amendment in 2017 removed the ward system, the city was divided into four geographic wards with about 200 voters per ward.

The 2017 vote was 207 “yes” and 171 “no” to the charter question on removing wards.

Connors — who served 2007-10 — said he was “under the impression the charter review board was supposed to incorporate the no-ward system into the charter and somehow they started discussing, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t go along with what the voters had decided by a 10 percent majority.’”

He said voters chose to eliminate wards because in 10 years, 70 percent of commissioners on the Bradenton Beach dais ran unopposed or were appointed, and people want “fair and democratic elections.”

He said Holmes Beach and Anna Maria have at-large elections with no wards.

He said the only reason he had heard for the reversion to wards is that people want to live near their commissioners.

“The city is 3 or 4 miles long,” Connors said. “We live near all our commissioners.”

He added that the Nov. 6 ballot will include 12 state amendments, so adding more questions to an already packed ballot could further confuse the issues.

“I’m asking you to vote to approve the will of the people,” Connors said. “I thought the will of the people is what mattered in this community.”

The charter review committee recommendations must be incorporated into an ordinance and approved by the city commission in two public hearings.

If approved, the questions would need to be submitted by Aug. 28 to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office to be placed on the ballot.

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