Next City Council Meeting on Thursday January 4th at 7pm

The next City Council Meeting will be on Thursday, January 4th at 7pm.  The agenda includes 2nd reading and final adoption of the 4 ballot questions regarding the City Charter.
Announcements/Presentations:
  • Recognition of the Gardens Gators for winning the Pop Warner Super Bowl
Consent Agenda: 
  • Resolution 1 2018 and 2 2018 concern agreements with the Supervisor of Elections (SOE) to appoint her (Susan Bucher) to be a member of the canvassing board and to conduct the March 13, 2018 Uniform Municipal Election for the City
  • Purchase Award for Janitorial Supplies and Chemicals – 3 year piggyback/access contract for $210K
  • Purchase Award for Fire/Rescue – Public Education Trailer (a training aid) – $85K

City Manager Report  – no details listed

Public Hearings and Resolutions: 
  • Ordinance 24, 2017 – 2nd Reading and Adoption of the Annexation of Bay Hill Estates, The Preserve at Bay Hill Estates and Rustic Lakes – the voters in the affected communities will have this on their ballot in the March 13, 2018 election.  See the Palm Beach Post article here
  • Ordinance 26, 2017 – 2nd Reading and Adoption – lists all of the March 13, 2018 ballot questions (1-4) related to the proposed replacement for the City Charter;  it includes a subset of the Charter Review Committee report, a list of the 4 questions with modifications shown, and Exhibit A which is the replacement ‘base’ charter.    Ordinances 27A, 2017 and 27B, 2017 is a choice which the Council must make in order to place their choice of language on the ballot for Question 2 regarding Term Limits.  Ordinance 28, 2017 relates to the sit-out provision, and Ordinance 29, 2017 changes elections from Majority Wins (50%+1) to Plurality Wins.  See our summaries of the last two council meetings with respect to the proposed Charter changes: Council Forges Ahead to Change Term Limits and Elections 4:1  and A Workshop at Last!  
  • Ordinances 30, 2017 and 31, 2017 – 2nd Reading and Adoption – are regarding the small scale comprehensive map amendment and rezoning from Public to Industrial for city property located on SW corners of Burns and Ironwood – in preparation for the sale of the property when the new Public Works Building is completed.  Resolution 5, 2018 is a related resolution.
  • Ordinance 1, 2018 – First Reading: An amendment to the Fiscal Year 2017/18 budget to adjust fund balance carryovers to actual amounts; re-appropriate amounts committed from the FY 2016/2017 budget for outstanding purchase orders and open projects.  This also includes transferring $1.8 Million from the Budget Stablization Account for 1. Tennis Center Clubhouse ($1.3 Million) 2. Police Department and City Hall Generators ($425K) 3. Golf Clubhouse Generator ($124K) – After the above transfers are made, the Budget Stabilization Reserve Account will total $1,801,124 in FY 2018, which is a net decrease of $718,658 from the originally adopted budget. Unassigned General Fund Reserves are unaffected and will remain at $23,066,106. 
  • Ordinance 3, 2018 – First Reading:  update the 5-Year Schedule of Capital Improvements (Table 9A) and Summary of Capital Improvements Program for Palm Beach County School Board (Table 98) of the Capital Improvements Element (CIE) of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  The proposed amendments are primarily housekeeping in nature and will provide for consistency with the current 2017 adopted budgets of the City and School District.
  • Resolution 3, 2018 – Alton Artistry Neighborhood – amendments related to perimiter wall and landscape plans
  • Resolution 6, 2018 –  Exclusive Franchise Agreement for Solid Waste Collection and Recycling Services – with Waste Management as the selected provider, (and otherwise known to the public as the Waste Management Contract) – which is one of the largest contracts the Council decides.  This is valued at $27 Million over 10 years!  The new agreement is for 10 years with no option to renew.  The summary cites the selection committee ranking and the City’s Resident Opinion Survey for rationale.   Here is also a link to the actual Recommendation to Award with background.  

Check the agenda to see if any additional items have been added before the meeting here.

A Workshop at Last!

CITY COUNCIL SPECIAL WORKSHOP

The Gardens’ City Council finally had an almost 1.5 hour workshop on December 21st – although poorly attended by the public on the Thursday right before the holidays. There was significant discussion. So all in all having workshops is a practice which the Council should consider more frequently.

December 21 Special Workshop

Unfortunately, the Council spent less than 10 minutes on Ordinance 26, 2017 which is (like question 1, in 2012), a repeal and replace of the entire Charter.

  • The only discussion was on residency of city manager and why it’s important not to limit choice in hiring a city manager, or the future manager’s ability to find a residence in this expensive city. The proposed new charter eliminates all mention of  City Manager residence – and Vice Mayor Marciano  brought up the topic because this was a matter of some resident concern in 2012.  It could be done as part of the hiring contract.  Council Member Woods agreed – and both referenced North Palm Beach and Jupiter as examples. Mayor Marino exclaimed it should be a contract issue not a charter issue.
  • Not debated at all were other changes to the Charter such as: definition of what constitutes a term, how vacancies are filled, the elimination of requirements for charter reviews, the elimination of requirements for city audits, the elimination of city manager evaluations, throwing out actual votes in definition of ‘total votes cast’...apparently nothing to see here as far as the Council is concerned – and the voter won’t be seeing it in the ballot summary language either.

Ordinance 27, 2017 (Term Limits) has two versions of ballot question 2 – A and B and the Council will have to decide on which one to select at the January 4th, 2018 city council meeting. Council Member Lane asked if A and B wording could be combined into one question. City Attorney Lohman didn’t respond to that question but thought Lane meant combining all the charter change language into 1 question and thus it was not considered. (The retroactivity language could have been included in version A to make the wording more comparable.) Lohman recommends B.

Ordinance 29, 2017 (Plurality instead of Majority) – The issue of plurality vs majority took all of about 3 minutes – with City Attorney Lohman lamenting the even poorer turnout for our City’s municipal run-off elections than for regular Uniform Municipal Elections.

The remainder of the workshop debated primarily life-time ban on running again (Ordinance 32, 2017) versus the provision to sit out and run again (Ordinance 28, 2017). The council discussed the pros and cons which would then be considered once again in the Special Meeting which followed after adjournment.

CITY COUNCIL SPECIAL MEETING

The purpose of the special city council meeting was to discuss specifically the selection of either Ordinance 28, 2017 or Ordinance 32, 2017 for inclusion on the ballot. Public Comment was made by 3 individuals:  Lois Kleinberg, Meg Shannon and Jane Feinstein all recommended that the Council choose Ordinance 28. Ms. Shannon, a member of the Charter Review Committee directed her ire at those residents who disagree with placing the proposed changes before the voter in March. She asked ‘what were they so afraid of? (We would answer – having the votes of 16,000+ voters  from the November 2014 election overturned by possibly 500 or so votes in a woefully attended Uniform Municipal election in March).

December 21 Special Council

The Council then discussed again the merits of each proposal – with the final vote 3:2 (Lane/Marciano against) for Ordinance 28, 2017.

In more detail, Mayor Marino led off and proclaimed that the recommendations of the Charter Review Committee cannot be ignored, spoke out against term limits in concept (citing stability), said it’s for the voters to decide, that the election had to be in March because SOE Bucher says so, and that the Council was being courageous by placing the questions on the ballot. Council Member Litt summarized that a lifetime ban was never intended. Council Member Woods (he of ‘3 terms and you’re out’ verbiage over the last several months) reconsidered and was now for the ability to run again after a sit-out. Council Member Lane disagreed with the City Attorney’s interpretation of the base Charter language on term limits and the retro-activity provision, feeling the current charter language was clear. As explained in the Palm Beach Post article summarizing the meeting results and  the contentious ending to the meeting here, Vice-Mayor Marciano explained his concern with possible voter confusion on the wording in Ordinance 28, 2017 and described Ordinance 32, 2017 (life-time ban) more clearly worded.

Expect the January 4th meeting to have a heavy agenda – however other than choosing the ballot language for Ordinance 27, 2017 (term limits choices A or B) the discussion by Council on the ballot questions will most likely be pro-forma.

Alert: December 21st City Council Special Mtg and Workshop at 7 PM on Charter

There will be a City Council Special Workshop, concurrent with a City Council Special Meeting on Thursday, December 21 at 7pm in City Hall.  The special meeting was called at the December 7th City Council meeting when City Attorney Max Lohman pointed out that there were issues with the implications of the ballot language wording for Ordinance 28, 2017.  Council was to discuss revised language for either an outright ban of term limited council members running again or to allow for a 3-year sit-out. 

There is now an additional agenda for a City Council Special Workshop to discuss all of the proposed ballot ordinances:

Public Comment will only be permitted for agenda items Ordinance 28, 2017 and Ordinance 32, 2017.

The Ballot summaries and ballot language have changed from the December 7th City Council Meeting.  There is a lot being modified in quite a chaotic rush in order to meet the need for 2nd reading and adoption on January 4th and the January 19th noon deadline for getting on the ballot March 13, 2018.  (This will get scant attention from even involved citizens as all head into the holiday period.  Thus our Council will attempt to meet the ‘letter of the law’ while not meeting the ‘intent’ of transparency and full disclosure.)

Please read our summary of the December 7th  meeting entitled Council Forges Ahead to Change Term Limits and Elections 4:1 and the latest Martino Minute entitled Charter Changes – No need, No reason, No urgency.

Martino: Charter Changes – No need, No reason, No urgency

At the tail-end of the December 7th Palm Beach Gardens City Council agenda scheduled for 1st reading considerations and Council votes were Ordinances 26, 27, 28, and 29. Each of these ordinances concerned ballot language for the City Charter changes that were recommended by the Council appointed Charter Review Committee. It is the City Council’s intent to offer these major Charter revisions as ballot questions to the registered voters of Palm Beach Gardens in a March 13, 2018 election in total.

Ordinance 26 basically decimates the existing Charter as it is currently written except for City boundaries. Ordinances 27, 28, and 29 foment radical changes to the 2014 Term Limit Law that was voted into the Charter by 16,000 yes votes. These ordinances drastically alter the City’s election process. The City Council agenda spent 173 minutes on these ordinances as delineated below, 135 under public comment, and 38 minutes to approve the ordinances. The Council members contributed little discernible justification for their decisions…

  • The City Attorney occupied 53 minutes of the Public Comment time giving an excellent presentation but one that should have been given at an earlier Council workshop that was never held.
  • The Public commented for 51 minutes both pro and con on the 4 ordinances.
  • The Charter Review Committee Chairman spoke for 9 minutes and the City Attorney for 3 minutes defending points of contention.
  • Finally, the City Council members entered the Public Comment discussion for a whole 19 minutes. One Council member voiced his objections to the whole mess for 7 minutes while another Council member berated his fellow member’s comments of objection with anger and annoyance for another 7 minutes. That left about 5 minutes for the other 3 members to show their stuff and approve Ordinance 26.
  • Ordinance 27 which changes the Council term limits from two-three year terms to three-three year terms took all of 12 minutes to discuss and approve.
  • Ordinance 29 changes the mandate that a majority of votes are necessary to win City Council election to a simple plurality wins was discussed and approved in a 4-minute blink of the eye.
  • Ordinance 28 which establishes a sit-out provision before an incumbent Councilperson can run again for a new set of three-three year terms was so perplexing that no one understood whose ox was being cored. So after 22 minutes of confused discussion the City Attorney was directed to bring back new language to be discussed at a Special Meeting called for December 21st.

Okay, so where are we? The Charter Committee has met as required and submitted its recommendations. The City Attorney has provided his best efforts to legally support the City Council’s directions. The City Council approved on 1st reading the ballot language to ask the City electors to consider these drastic Charter changes. All that remains is the final Council approvals scheduled for the January 4, 2018, Council meeting.

Okay, so what is missing, wrong, or inappropriate? Quite a bit I would say! Missing is the demonstrable need, reasoning, and urgency for these City Charter changes. Wrong is the less than transparent approval process that the City Council has foisted on the Public for these Charter changes. Inappropriate is the self-serving perception of current City Council members who understood the Term Limit Law existed and applied to them when they very recently stood for election to the City Council and have yet to complete a single term but now recommend changing the Term Limit Law to their benefit using their appointed Charter Review Committee recommendations as a shield and an excuse for these Charter changes.

Okay, so what are my observations? Recommendations from appointed committees are not mandates to the City Council or its constituents; translation:  it is not a requirement, legal or otherwise, to present a ballot question on any or all of the Charter Committee recommendations. A requirement of transparency is communication of thought and reasoning among Council members themselves with the Public in attendance; translation:   workshop meetings should be held to explain positions of each Council member within the body and to the public so clear and concise policy direction can be developed. Perceptions can be altered by changing direction before finality prevents the opportunity for course corrections; translation:  stop now and start over to correct a flawed process and course of action.

My message to the City Council is a simple one…

Don’t touch our elections! Don’t touch our term limits! Leave them alone!

Council Forges Ahead to Change Term Limits and Elections 4:1

In their zeal to put proposed Charter changes on an expected very low-turnout, no-candidate electon in March, the Council spent more time debating whether or not an issue City Attorney Lohman found with ballot wording and the existing Charter for allowing term-limited council members to run again than they did the significant changes that reside not just in term limits, but in the base charter. Only Council Member Lane, voting against all four proposed ballot questions, raised significant issues with ballot language, the failure of the Council to conduct workshops or actively debate the changes, and need for such a rush to make these changes with so little debate and so early in the new council’s incumbency. His comments were met with derision and offense taken by the remainder of the Council and the City Attorney. Shame on them!

December 7th

We make no attempt to be objective on this issue – Matthew Lane was taking the correct position and raising precisely the issues that should have been raised at this meeting. He should be commended for taking a stand. While Mayor Marino proclaimed that the Council was to there to make policy and not legal arguments, the Council once again hid behind their appointed Charter Review Committee and avoided discussing the issues inherent in the ‘cleaned-up’ charter. It’s the often quoted “Let the People decide” which the weak use when unwilling to debate the issues and make difficult decisions. It is possible that some on the Council don’t even recognize that there ARE issues.

PBGWatch – as a blog, was formed in 2012 directly as a result of the actions that the (different) Council then attempted to take in introducing significant policy modifications in the guise of modernization. Sadly, history is repeating itself – although with a little more transparency but not much more deliberation by the current Council.

As in 2012, the proposed charter is a total replacement. As such, it is totally reorganized and renumbered. Whether originating in the work of the Charter Review Committee and/or the City Attorney, the voter will not know about the details within. Nor will those details have been discussed at any length or at all by the Council. There are changes that affect how elections are handled and how votes are tallied – but the voter will NOT know that.

While there were many members of the public speaking for and against extending term limits, allowing term-limited to run again and for/against majority vs plurality wins – not much new ground was broken on either side. Nor did it matter as the Council was already firm in their positions.

NOTE – THERE WILL BE A SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING TO DISCUSS AND CONDUCT FIRST READING ON ORDINANCE 28, 2017 REGARDING TERM-LIMITED COUNCIL MEMBERS RUNNING AGAIN ON DECEMBER 21 AT 7PM. COMMENTS WILL ONLY BE ACCEPTED SPECIFIC TO THIS ISSUE AND NOT ANY OTHER TOPIC OR NON-AGENDA ITEMS.

Expect Council votes to be pro-forma on these ordinances in the January 4th, 2017 City Council meeting since this council feels it has adequately addressed the issues.

The December 7th Council meeting was a long one – starting at 6pm. The first two hours were spent on the presentations, items of resident interest and board/committee reports, and other agenda items, all passing 5:0.

A more detailed list of items within the proposed replacement charter – Exhibit A in Ordinance 26, 2017, will appear as a separate future blog post.

Here is a link to the Charter discussions during the meeting. And here is the Palm Beach Post article on the topic.

“You don’t have to game the system to win”

Quoting Eric Jablin  in the Nov 2, 2017 PBG council chambers.

Sorry Eric, the evidence suggests that you do!

I respectfully suggest that all of the Charter Review Committee’s recommendations be opposed. It now seems obvious that the current council is doing the bidding of a very small group of people who are seeking to extract their revenge on those that dared challenge their power with Term Limits.   That said I will attempt to explain that all these proposals represent a move to consolidating power even more within the western gated communities, making it almost impossible if approved, to recover influence for those in the unrepresented older communities. How many residents really understand that?

  • 100% of the current council lives west of Military Trail.
  • 80% live within the walking yardage of the PGA Champion course
  • 60% live in the PGA National

In no particular order this is what we may be asked to vote on.

Plurality Wins – I call this the; the voter can’t buy a lottery ticket with the savings proposal. If you take 3 of the sitting council member + plus Levy they collectively raised at least a $150K in campaign contributions in the last election; but they want us to fret about saving the taxpayers 70K. I ask what else do you got. Investors are always warned that past performance doesn’t equal future outcomes; voters should heed the same advice before surrendering their current rights against future unknowns and reject this tactical move outright.  Be warned going forward; as you hear Charter Proponents using terms like common or uncommon because in this case 70% of Florida cities with Term Limits in their charters that are equal or greater in population to PBG use majority wins. Why are we changing?

Before we get into my thoughts on the two term limit proposals I want to pause and alert you to another trick. For those that had an opportunity to hear Eric Jablins’ rant on the evening of November 2nd, you would know he supports using the Charter process to reopen the subject of Term Limits because as currently constituted it is “ambiguous, poorly crafted and open to misinterpretation.” I would argue that may be true if you don’t like what it says but as the 4th District ruled “it’s two terms and you’re done.”

Now read that paragraph again and then consider, before I get back to term limits, that the council proposal ordering the Charter be rewritten to conform to Florida State Statute and that is being marketed under the banner of house cleaning will close the Jablin Loophole to future citizens because current Charter provision Article XXII Sec. 22-1 (that requires the Charter to be reviewed every Five years) will be eliminated in its entirety.  That’s a big deal folks! : If the only people that can call for a Charter Review in the future is the sitting council and you’re not in the club any challenge to their power will have to go through the petition process every time. Only privileged citizens get the taxpayer funded short cut.

Returning to the Term Limit questions that are:

Extra 3 year Term  and Sit out a term and rerun – My first reaction is if the current council feels deeply about the need for these two provisions while at the same time they will be telling you don’t worry about eliminating the Charter review provision because we can call for a review any time; then why shouldn’t we make them demonstrate their support for these changes by rejecting these proposals now and force them to make it part of their future re-election platforms?

As far as letting a sitting council person run again after sitting out a term; I’ve now seen enough to know that a couple more term limit flushes are in order before we revisit the topic.  But in case you’re not convinced follow this link from the Clerks web page and examine who is funding the current council’s campaigns and ask yourself what has changed?  My observation is that we already have a process that all but guarantees that those pushing this Charter agenda already have their proxies in place why do we want to certify it?

The hypocrisy of this current charter exercise needs to be highlighted.  Many of the issues could and should have been resolved by recommending that we elect Council members that live in their Districts with a mayor elected at large. 64% of Florida Cites equal in population to PBG or larger who have Term Limits elect their representatives this way.  Look at the opportunity missed to take a lot of the political issues off the table; by having considered this very popular governance model.  We wouldn’t need any of the Term Limit languages because in these cities Term Limited Council members can run for Mayor and vice versa. Would we want or need Plurality when the race is confined to people in your immediate neighborhood who would be accountable by name?

Disappointedly this whole process has been rigged from day one. Creative thinking was contained by Charter  Review Committee  member selection that was manipulated to include those already predisposed to execute the will of privileged insiders; as evidenced by the clever Resolution 49 2017 language that ignores the conflicts of the two lobbyists selected for the committee.

Having listened to all the Charter sessions I can report that the discussion never ventured from City Attorney R. Max Lohmans “Proposed Charter Changes for 2017” Play book. Yes including that Oldie ‘City Manager Residency’ requirement that vanishes with the Charter review language. If anyone tries to tell you that it is not common; I respectfully suggest they might fib to you about something else. My data sample says residency is a requirement in 50% of cities by charter.

Let me close with the observation made several times during the Charter Review meetings by Robert Lee, the paid moderator of our Charter review process, whom by all estimations was eminently qualified. He said that in his 40 years of working with hundreds of cities on charters; he has “never seen a charter process that was scheduled to move as fast as this one.” We should all ask ourselves why before we surrender to these proposals.

Neighbors we can do better. Ask yourself if you can’t name your council person today; just who are you going to work with when the topic someday is about eminent domain?

David L. Parks

Some…Are More Equal Than Others!

And our Mayor and Council apparently agree!

The November 2nd City Council meeting didn’t start with a bang, nor end with one – but the 8 minute ‘rant’ by former Mayor and Council member Eric Jablin (as covered by the Palm Beach Post here) provided for fireworks. It also demonstrated that our Council has one set of rules for some, and another set for others. It would have been interesting to see if Mayor Marino would have allowed some other former Mayors/Council members with whom she didn’t just happen to agree, the same courtesy of speaking longer than the allowed 3 minutes. Perhaps, but more likely, not.

November 2nd

Last month, several opponents of changes to the City’s term limits or allowing those term-limited, to run again spoke at the meeting. So this month, proponents of the proposed Charter changes came out in force to support 3 3-year consecutive terms (all but acknowledging that incumbents are always re-elected) – which is their right – including Steve Mathison (a member of the Charter Review Committee), Meg Shannon (also a member of the Charter Review Committee), David Markarian, Patrick Connors, Anita Carbone, Stan Klett, Bill Champlin (President of Ballenisles Community Association) – speaking for the Community on hurricane relief and personally on term limits, Jane Feinstein and finally Eric Jablin who was conveniently speaking last.  Iris Scheibl asked the Council to make City Manager Residence a separate ballot item, that the Council need not put anything on the ballot, and that they ponder who of the public are clamoring for longer terms in office.  Apparently, to hear the proponents of 3 3 year terms speak – no other City has ever had 2 consecutive Term Limits  (see:  Two Consecutive Terms is Good Enough for PBC Cities)

It was hoped that the Council would use the relatively light agenda to explore the proposed Charter Changes in more depth – however it was not to be. At the end of the council meeting, Council Member Marciano lamented the tone of some of the emails he has been receiving with implied threats of ‘we’re watching you’ – that the Charter Committee consisted of well-respected members of the community and that he welcomed input from anyone who wanted to discuss things whether or not in agreement with him. He insisted that no one is trying to eliminate term limits. Mayor Marino echoed Marciano’s comments and also said the Committee consisted of an ‘independent’ group of volunteers….. But other than that, none of the Council spoke to the Charter. Council Member Lane nominated former Mayor/Council Member Levy to a council position usually filled by one of the Council Members.  City Attorney Lohman saw no issue nor business conflict and Mr. Levy’s membership was voted 5:0.

Speaking on unrelated topics during Public Comment were Katie Gettinger on a Solar Cooperative in Palm Beach County , Andrew Heim on PBG Soccer and the Predators, and Kevin Easton on traffic issues and Sunset Drive.

Also on the agenda –

  • The CEO of Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center Dianne Goldenberg on the economic impact of the center
  • students at the Weiss School speaking on their Cube Sat project ( for background see Here’s Why NASA is Sending a Gardens’ School Satellite into Space)
  • presentation on the City’s participation in the FPL Solarnow Program – brought to the City’s attention by Council Member Litt.

City Manager Ferris also thanked two Police Dispatch Supervisors – Kirsten Tucker and Sharlotte Theriault for the grueling 6 days they spent in Marathon working night shifts after Hurricane Irma providing huricane relief.

Passing 5:0 on First reading were Ordinance 20, 2017 to provide for the collocation of small wireless facilities or micro wireless facilities on existing utility poles or the installation of new utility poles to support the collocation of small wireless facilities or micro wireless facilities in City-owned rights-of-way and amending the definitions to be consistent with Florida Statutes, and Ordinance 21, 2017 allowing land development section 78-159 to permit Electric Automobile Showrooms. Tesla will be bringing their proposed showroom before the Council in December.

Next month is already planned to have a heavy agenda – so be assured – the proposed Charter Review ballot items will probably get short shrift on discussion – because it appears that the Council has already made up their minds and not scheduled any kind of workshop on the topic. We hope they prove us wrong.

 

Martino: Bush League City

Attention, Palm Beach Gardens’ residents, did you know that you live in a “Bush League” city? That’s right; according to our City Attorney’s comment at the October 5, 2017 City Council meeting we have a “Bush League” city charter. The charter is the bible for our City.

By extrapolation then, is the City Attorney with his “Bush League” utterance inferring that Palm Beach Gardens is a second tier, minor league, City? Probably not is my hope, but his other comments also smacked of insolence for the City Charter. Our City Charter has evolved and guided our City over time since 1959, long before our current City Attorney was around to completely understand its history to present day.

Does the City Attorney’s hostility for the City Charter stem from his advice to change it in 2012 which was defeated at the ballot box by Gardens’ voters? Does his antagonism mushroom from his ill-advised advice that a City Councilperson term limited by the Charter still be allowed to stand for election? Does his aggression toward the Charter result from his advice for the City to file lawsuits against its own City Charter to overturn election, vote casting, and term limit charter language, and then, losing the lawsuits in both the Circuit Court and the District Court of Appeals? How about legal advice to not advise the public of a $100,000,000 baseball stadium in the middle of prime residential homes? Does any of this legalese qualify as “Bush League”?

What is further troubling is the City Council did not take umbrage with the City Attorney’s “Bush League” comment. Perhaps that is because their attentions and intentions were fixated on the Council appointed Charter Committee recommendations to change the City Charter by increasing term limits from two three-year terms to three three-year terms, by adding a sit-out/comeback provision of three-years to term limits, by curtailing majority rules in elections, and by eliminating charter provisions to count every vote that is cast. Why the changes, who do they benefit, and what’s the hurry? The Council seemed enamored with their fast-forwarding inspirations to place these charter changes for voter balloting in March of 2018 yet no legal Ordinance has been written specific to ballot language.

There is nothing “Bush League” about the City of Palm Beach Gardens. Not its residents, not its employees, not its services, not its programs, not its elections, not its present term-limit provisions, and certainly not its City Charter.

If anything is “Bush League” it’s the City Attorneys ill conceived metaphor and the City Council’s self-serving push to change the present Term Limit Law.

Two Consecutive Terms are Good Enough for PBC Cities

Not all of the municipalities in Palm Beach County have Term Limits – but most of the larger ones do.  See the chart below.  Note that none of these allow for more than TWO consecutive terms, except for WPB where the Mayor is limited to 2 consecutive 4 year terms, and the Council to 4 consecutive 2 year terms.  All have more meetings and workshops per month than does our Council – and their council and/or commissions have comparable or more complex  jobs (due to the population of their cities)  than does our council, and are all part-time positions.  Most are silent but some specify whether a term-limited member can run again.

Click on the image for link to PDF version with links to city charters, and League of Cities pages.

Click on the image for link to PDF version with links to city charters, and League of Cities pages.

Other cities that are similar or larger without term limits, but have term  and election descriptions:

  • Jupiter – 3 year terms, Majority Wins, Run-off required
  • Riviera Beach – 3 year terms, Majority Wins Run-off required

Martino: Don’t touch our elections! Don’t touch our term limits! Leave them alone!

On Election Day, November 4, 2014 the registered voters of the City of Palm Beach Gardens were asked to vote YES or NO on the following ballot question…

SHALL THE PALM BEACH GARDENS CHARTER BE AMENDED TO ESTABLISH TERM LIMITS PROVIDING THAT CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS SERVE NO MORE THAN TWO CONSECUTIVE THREE YEAR TERMS

An overwhelming majority of approximately 80%, or 16,000 registered voters, answered YES. With that kind of majority vote there is no question or ambiguity about the registered voters’ intent. The resounding message to the City Council then and now is that CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS SERVE NO MORE THAN TWO CONSECUTIVE THREE YEAR TERMS.

At the October 8th City Council meeting the duly appointed but less than representative of all of Palm Beach Gardens residents, City Charter Committee, submitted its report with its recommendations to the City Council. Three of their most controversial recommendations are…

  1. Change the Term Limit Law to allow City Council members to serve three consecutive three year terms instead of two consecutive three year terms.  Comment: Ballot language must exclude present City Council members.
  2. Allow City Council members to run again for three consecutive three year terms after they have sat out one three year term.  Comment: Ballot language must exclude present City Council members. When does this end?
  3. Allow for plurality of votes cast to elect City Council members rather than a majority vote as presently required.  Comment: Majority must rule. It’s American and the democratic way.
  4. Change current election language from “a majority of votes cast” to language that would eliminate the intent that every vote cast must count in every contested race or issue without question, as the charter now states and Courts affirmed.  Comment: Every vote that is cast must count per current charter language and as the Courts ruled in the Woods – Levy Council race, in 2016. No circumstance can undo a legally cast vote from being counted. A cast ballot is a sacred vote that is untouchable.

The City Council authorized the City Attorney to take the above along with other committee recommendations and legalize them for ballot consideration in March of 2018. I urge the City Council to reconsider their affinities toward these recommendations. I urge the City Council to vote NO to moving forward with a ballot question whose perception is that of self-serving political machinations.

In my opinion, the three recommendations above undermine and thwart the will of the 16,000 registered voters who voted for the Term Limits Law. In essence these recommendations disenfranchise the ballots of 16,000 registered voters. It also conflicts with the results of several candidate lawsuits and the City’s own lawsuit in which two levels of County courts validated the Term Limits Law as is.

Still further, as history suggests, a March 2018 election with no contested Council races in Palm Beach Gardens would generate a voter turnout of approximately 10% of the registered voters, considerably less than a November election. Thus, a small minority vote of, perhaps, 1,500 votes could obviate the votes of 16,000 registered voters.

The ink is hardly dry on the codification of the Term Limits Law. None of the current City Council members have served a single term yet. Their seats are barely warm! Yet they are changing a Law that they clearly understood existed and applied to them when they very recently, March 8, 2017, stood for election to the City Council. In fact, if not for the Term Limits Law, perhaps, none of them would be serving as City Council members. Their opportunity to serve is in many respects because of the Term Limits Law.

My message to the City Council is a simple one…

Don’t touch our elections! Don’t touch our term limits! Leave them alone!

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