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Date of Issue: September 15, 2005

Anna Maria defeats consolidation referendum

If the Civil War were fought again, would the South still lose the war?

In Anna Maria, the city commission refought the consolidation referendum battle at its Sept. 6 meeting, this time with all five commissioners present. A previous commission vote on sending the non-binding referendum on consolidation to the voters on the November election ballot had ended in a 2-2 draw, amounting to a defeat.

Commissioner Linda Cramer called for a reconsideration of the motion before the full commission, and this time she got a definitive answer: No.

The commission voted 4-1 against placing the non-binding referendum language on the November ballot, ending at least for now any talk of consolidation. Commissioner Duke Miller, who was absent from the 2-2 vote, sided with Commissioners Carol Ann Magill and Dale Woodland in voting against the measure.

But Commission Chairperson John Quam, who had originally agreed to allow the vote, changed his tune after his own "informal" poll of 107 city voters found just 39 agreed with placing the motion on the ballot, while 68 were opposed. In addition, said Quam, when he asked voters if they were in favor of consolidation, four said "yes," five were undecided and 98 said "no."

"I believe in my poll," said Quam. "If 98 percent are not in favor of consolidation, that's why I will not vote for this," said Quam. "Why move it along" with those numbers against consolidation?

Miller said he was opposed to consolidation, but didn't have any problem with putting the issue before the voters. He was confident the measure would fail in Anna Maria and "that's it."

He did, however, disagree with the resolution language that said if the referendum passed, the city could spend up to $40,000 in consolidation feasibility studies. In his opinion, even a non-binding resolution practically obligates the city to spend money.

Commissioner Carol Ann Magill suggested further town hall meetings and information on consolidating services, but Miller pointed out that when he went to Holmes Beach in 2004 to discuss consolidating police services, that city commission said they were "not interested in working with your people."

A 2003 effort to consolidate all three Island building departments into a single unit also failed, after nearly nine months of discussions among the three Island mayors.

Commissioner Dale Woodland maintained his stance against the resolution. "Anna Maria has everything to lose and nothing to gain," he said.

Members of the audience were divided on sending the referendum to the voters.

Herb Ditzel said that he didn't know if he was in favor of consolidation or not, but "We should have the right to vote."

Others such as Tom Turner said there was no point in putting something on the ballot without more information.

While some commissioners and residents might believe the city should talk about consolidating services, Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore said "don't bother."

The present city commissioners made it clear they do not want to even discuss consolidating any services with Anna Maria, she said. "We're not interested," she said. "Holmes Beach will not consolidate any services with Anna Maria."

Holmes Beach City Commissioner Don Maloney, long a proponent of exploring the consolidation issue, was disappointed and perplexed. "Why does the commission dodge the opportunity to give the public a chance to express themselves?" he asked.

So, in the rematch, the South lost again.