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Date of Issue: March 05, 2008

Commissioners vocal on potential Anna Maria charter changes

Just 10 people attended the Feb. 25 town hall public meeting of Anna Maria’s charter review committee, including Robin Wall of Palmetto Avenue, pictured speaking to the committee. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Ten members of the public showed up at the Anna Maria Charter Review Committee’s town hall forum Feb. 25 to provide the committee with public input for possible changes to the city’s charter. And of those 10, half were city elected officials.

Mayor Fran Barford along with City Commissioners Dale Woodland, Jo Ann Mattick, Duke Miller and John Quam provided input to the committee; primarily focusing on any potential change to the city’s election cycle and that all comp-plan amendments must be approved by a super majority (4/5) vote of the commission.

At present, the city has an election every November, with three elected positions up for grabs each time. But unless there is a “national” or “county” election in an odd-numbered year, the city is charged about $5,000 by the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office to hold a “special election” at those times.

 Barford suggested that with the current economic crunch befalling cities, particularly small ones such as Anna Maria, the committee might want to “take a look” at a charter amendment that would have all six offices elected at the same time. The $5,000 is a “significant amount” for Anna Maria, she noted.

 Committee chairman Tom Aposoros, who held the same position on the 2003 charter review committee, said the previous committee deliberately recommended the current “staggered” election cycle in the charter to ensure some experience remained on the commission following an election, and guarantee no single group could “take over” the commission in a single election.

Woodland’s opinion was to favor having elections every two years, but not to extend a commissioner’s term to four years to retain the staggered election system.

Likewise for Quam, who rejected a suggestion by Aposporos that the staggered system could be retained if commissioners were elected to office for a four-year term.

Mattick also did not want to have an election structure whereby the entire commission could be “wiped out” on a single day.

Miller chimed in that, if money is the issue, he would be willing to bet that commissioners would vote to reduce their salary by enough to pay for the off-year election.

Quam and his colleagues favored inclusion of a charter change that comp-plan amendments would require a super-majority vote of the commission, and suggested such language could also be included in the comp-plan itself, in addition to the charter.

Members of the public who spoke, including Tom Turner and Robin Wall, were also opposed to four-year terms for commissioners and wanted to keep the current election cycle.

Wall went even further, stating that any proposed change to the future land-use map and element of the plan should require a super-majority commission vote.

Aposporos said the committee will take the suggestions made that evening under consideration when it begins its charter review at its next meeting.

But he cautioned that the committee is only a recommending body. “It’s the city commission’s decision to put a charter amendment before the public. We only recommend,” he said.