Council Rejects Proposition Two, Sends Remainder to November Ballot

Last night (July 12, 2012) the Palm Beach Gardens City Council voted 4: 1 on Ordinance 20, 2012 which will place on the November ballot a Proposition to amend the City’s Charter. The opposing vote was by Council member Joe Russo.

The Council kindly moved the discussion earlier in the agenda to accomodate the 11 people who had come to speak out on the Ordinance. After considerable debate, the Council unanimously agreed to remove Proposition Two – which would have changed city elections to ‘plurality’ wins from the current ‘majority’ wins, however they were unwilling to delay putting the remaining charter modifications to a later election. The removal of Proposition Two is significant and was a direct result of your efforts.

The wording for Proposition One remains unchanged. The text of Proposition One as well as the proposed charter (Exhibit A) can be found in the Agenda Item.

While what remains of Ordinance 20 is still troubling for the lack of public input to the substantive changes it contains, it at least can be discussed objectively in the context of the governance process. We will use our various websites, voters guides, and other resources to explain what it does and inform our readers of the choice they have to make.

Bill DiPaulo’s article in the Palm Beach Post summarizes the meeting and lists the substantive changes that are in the Ordinance.

Thanks to all who took the time to email the Council, and to express their positions on the proposals: Mark Marciano, Kevin Easton, Tracie White, Larry Casey, Lauren Miller, Mel Grossman, Terry Brady, Sally Schmiedl, Francisco Rodriguez, Fred Scheibl and Iris Scheibl. Sorry if I missed anyone.

It made a difference and demonstrated to our elected officials that we are watching them.

Reasons for Opposing Ordinance 20, 2012 – Changes to the PBG Charter

  • The ballot language is ambiguous and misleading. Neither of the two Propositions have an accompanying summary paragraph of 75 words or less. Referencing sections of Ordinance 20, 2012 does not seem to provide an explanation of the numerous changes in Proposition One nor does it explain the impacts of changing from majority to plurality for Proposition Two.
  • There is no list of the substantive changes incorporated in Proposition One. The new wording in Proposition One is better than the “repeal and replace” language of the first draft – however all the charter changes persist. Some are just cleanup, but substantive changes remain, among them: modifying how vacancies are filled, removing the requirement for Charter reviews, non-interference clauses with the City Manager, and removing both the residency and performance review requirements for the City Manager. In the interest of transparency – both the Council and the Public should be able to articulate all of the major changes.
  • Voter fatigue. The Council expressed worry about voter fatigue. We will have a multi-page ballot in November. Many people will stop at the President or Congressional races. We will all be inundated with calls and mailings about all of the races and state and county questions. We will have little bandwidth for either of the City propositions. The voters will be uninformed.
  • Proposition Two is a “Incumbent Councilman Protection Act”. Separating Proposition Two as a separate question is a positive step. However Proposition Two is still changing the Elections process from majority to plurality – which could otherwise be known as the Council Incumbency Protection Act. In the guise of concern for saving the taxpayer perhaps a dollar per person for a run-off election that might occur every few years – this greatly increases the difficulty in defeating an incumbent. Proposition Two allows an incumbent to win with much less than a majority of votes if they can successfully split the opposition.
  • Public input was not sought at all in this process that began at the end of 2010! Several on the Council have said that the Charter is the peoples’ document but the only people that have had input to this are the City Attorney, the City Manager the Council itself. Prior work from Charter Review committees was not taken into account.