Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 1

Vote NO on Question 1

Vote NO on Question 1

Why vote NO?  If you don’t know, understand, or agree with what is in the details of the Referendum Question 1 you should vote NO!  And there’s a lot to understand!  This post cannot possibly cover all the changes – but the following are NOT internal consistencies, conflicts with state law, or have anything to do with formatting.  This is a very lengthy post because the simple YES/NO ballot question encompasses so many topics.

Definition of Terms used in the Ballot Question

  • The Charter is the City’s Constitution.  It is the City’s framework.
  • The Charter Review Committee was an unelected group of 5 individuals appointed by the City Council for a short period to review the current Charter and recommend changes.  They were an unelected body – and 5 other people most likely could have come up with different recommendations.  Two of the members of that committee are lobbyists who represent very large interests that come before the Council.  One of those lobbyists, while a property owner in the city, does not reside nor vote in the Gardens.   They presented a set of recommendations to the Council, most of which were similar to, if not identical, to those recommended by City Attorney Lohman in 2012 and rejected by 11360 voters in November 2012.
  • The Charter Review Committees report is just a set of recommendations – it is the Council that decides which if any are to be placed on the ballot and those on the Council are the only ones accountable for what is on the ballot. (Note:  4:1 with Council Member Lane voting NO).
  • Exhibit A, referenced in the ballot question, is the proposed replacement Charter.  It does not show what was removed from the current charterit is a REPEAL AND REPLACE.  And a lot has been repealed!
  • As a voter – try and find Ordinance 26, 2017 Exhibit A and the Charter Review Committee Report and any explanation of what was changed although all are referenced in Referendum Question 1*

Need for Charter Reviews

  • Currently the Charter is required to be reviewed every 5 years.  THE PROPOSAL REMOVES THE REQUIREMENT TO EVER HAVE A CHARTER REVIEW!  This matters because the only way there would be a charter review in the future is if a sitting  Council votes to initiate one.  Residents’ only  other recourse would be to gather petitions of over 10% of the registered voters in the city to get a charter change on the ballot – a difficult task.  The City is growing rapidly both through annexation plans plus future growth in Avenir, and one could anticipate the need for changes to the government structure such as districts or a strong-mayor and without a Charter Review this will not happen.  The Charter Review Committee recommended that the need for Charter Reviews be maintained in order to maintain trust with the voter, however the City Attorney removed the requirement in developing the proposed replacement Charter.

City Manager Residence and Annual Performance Review

  • Controversial in the 2012 ballot question was the proposed removal of the requirement for the City Manager to reside within the City.  Difficulty in finding a qualified resident to fill the position, lack of affordable housing for a prospective City Manager to move here (who in 2017 according to the FL League of cities, earned $225,834.51 with 50.5 sick days, 100% health insurance costs paid and also provided: car, laptop, cell phone, frs retirement, additional retirement package, severance package), or requiring a candidate who lives closeby to move, were discussed as the rationale for removing the requirement. The Council discussed making it a requirement in any prospective City Manager’s contract – but did not pass an ordinance stating that.  They are expecting the residents to ‘trust’ them to do so when negotiating with a future City Manager.  IT WILL NO LONGER BE POLICY.
  • Additionally, the proposed Charter no longer references an annual review of the City Manager.  Yes – the City Manager serves at the will and vote of the Council, but a public review, no matter how spurious, forces the Council to at least state their positions on the City Manager’s performance.

Redefining the Definition of a Term

  • In the current Charter, a term is what a Council Member is elected to.  There is no parsing parts of a term.  Changed in the proposed charter – is the sentence “Service of one-half or less than one-half of a full three (3) year term shall not count toward the subject term limit.”  The rationale given by the Charter Review Committee was that it is consistent with the 22nd Amendement to the US Constitution for President.  But discussion rationale by the CRC was that someone may leave office for illness or some other reason and should not be term-limited by having been elected to two consecutive terms and not serving at least 1 1/2 years of the final term.  At the same time, they felt it was reasonable, if one has served over 1 1/2 terms, that a council member should be considered to have served two consecutive terms to avoid situations like arose when one on the council resigned to run after having served almost his complete term.

Redefining ‘A Majority of Votes Cast’

  • The current charter states that “the candidate receiving a majority of the votes cast at such a election to fill such office will be declared to be duly elected.”  Majority means getting 50% plus 1 of the votes cast.
  • A real-life example of a situation where a candidate was named the ‘winner’ by the City Clerk (and then removed by the courts for a different reason) was the March 2016 election between David Levy and Carl Woods.  Kevin Easton withdrew after ballots had already been printed and absentee ballots sent out.  Almost 8% of the voters legitimately cast their votes for Mr. Easton – because they either supported him, or were voting ‘None of the above’.  In this result, Mr. Levy only received 47% of the majority of votes cast and thus it could be argued that he did NOT receive the majority of votes cast and should not have been seated.  The voters cast legitimate votes and these would be discarded, and those voters disenfranchised by the proposed wording in Exhibit A.  
  • Note the very lengthy new wording in the proposed charter in order to avoid future court challenges:

If death, withdrawal or removal from the ballot of a qualified candidate occurs after the ballots have been submitted for printing, have been printed, and/or after the deadline for mailing vote by mail ballots, any such previously qualified candidate shall no longer be considered and Commented [RML4]: This single sentence, along with Section 4-1 imbues the city council with all of the legal authority that it may currently possess pursuant to the Florida Constitution and general law. Commented [RML5]: Amended to allow the timing of the election to be changed by ordinance. Amended to provide for the method of qualification to be established by ordinance in accordance with Section 100.3605, F.S. shall no longer be a candidate, qualified or otherwise, for the office for which their name appeared on the subject ballot. Such deceased, withdrawn, disqualified, or removed candidate shall be defined as and referred to as a “former candidate.” Accordingly, votes cast for or ballots submitted in favor of any former candidate shall not be counted in the total number of votes and/or ballots. No vote for a former candidate shall count or contribute toward the total number of votes, number of under votes, or number of overvotes. A ballot marked, annotated, or which in any way could be interpreted to constitute a vote in favor of a former candidate shall be treated as a nullity, as it relates to that specific contest for election. It is the express intent of the City of Palm Beach Gardens that votes cast and ballots submitted for a former candidate shall have no effect on the outcome or results of any city election. This provision shall be strictly construed by all courts having jurisdiction in the State of Florida.

Changing How  a Vacancy is Filled

  • Currently, if there is a vacancy on the council, it may be filled by appointment of a temporary new council person until an election can be held to fill the vacancy.  It shall be held within 60 days after the vacancy unless there is an upcoming election within 180 days.  The proposed change would have the temporary council person serve until the next scheduled general municipal election as follows

The city council or so much of it as shall remain, shall have the power by a majority vote of the remaining members to fill a vacancy on the council by the appointment of a qualified elector to hold such office until the next available general municipal election when a successor shall be elected and take office. Should the council decline to fill a vacancy, the vacant seat shall be filled by a successor at the next available general municipal election. The successor so elected shall then serve the remaining portion of the three- (3) year term for the council seat in which the vacancy occurred.

The public information campaign will claim that the city’s Charter is simply being modernized – hiding the fact that a yes vote also gets rid of required Charter Reviews, city manager residence, city manager reviews, changing how council vacancies are filled, disenfranchising voters in determining ‘total votes cast’ and more.

This was tried previously in November 2012 and rejected by over 11000 of the voters.



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