VOTE BUT VOTE NO ON QUESTIONS 1 THROUGH 4

Palm Beach Gardens has 4 referendum questions on the Tuesday March 13 Municipal Election related to our city’s Charter – which is its constitution. It is vital that you DO VOTE however since so few residents vote in our city’s elections. The Council is taking advantage of the expected extremely low-turnout election with no candidates on the ballot, to get rid of the 2 3-year term limits that more than 16000 of us voted for in November 2014 by adding an additional term and allowing term-limited council members to run again.

They are trying to get rid of “majority wins” (which means 50%+1) by arguing it saves the cost of run-offs which rarely happen; but “majority wins” ensures that the person who is elected is the choice of most of the voters.  The Council does not seem to see the irony in spending the $70,000 or so for the no-candidate election plus the additional $60,000 plus for the related marketing materials – the cost of two run-off elections, in the guise of saving the taxpayer money on future run-offs.

The Council vote was NOT unanimous with Council Member Lane voting NO on all four referendum questions.

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.

Who benefits from all of these changes? The ‘insiders’ and the Council – none of whom have even completed a single term yet.

See details on each ballot question here:

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 1

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 2

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 3

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 4

 

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.

*References:

 

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 2

 

q2

 

In reading the above Referendum Question No 2 is it obvious to you that the City already has Term Limits of 2 consecutive 3-year terms?

  • Sure doesn’t read like that.  So if you aren’t already aware that Term Limits was just on the ballot as recently as in November 2014, and passed by 16,186 voters, over 79% of those voting in a General Election, you would never know it.  
  • None of those currently on the Palm Beach Gardens City Council have even completed their first 3-year term
  • We expect a very low turnout election on March 13, where there is nothing on the ballot but proposed changes to the City’s Charter.  Thus, the will of over 16,000 voters who voted for 2 3-year terms may be over-ridden by as few as half of the turnout – which we estimate may be as low as 1000 voters.  So it’s possible for 501 voters to over-turn 2 3-year terms and change it to 3 3-year terms.  IS THIS RIGHT OR FAIR?
  • More people signed the petitions to get Term Limits on the November 2014 ballot than will probably vote to alter it in March.  IS THIS RIGHT OR FAIR?
  • Rationale given by four on the Council (Matthew Lane voting NO) by placing it on the ballot was:
    • The Charter Review Committee, appointed by the Council, recommended it.  While this was discussed in depth by the Committee, there were no true opponents in voting for a longer serving time by any on the committee who voted unanimously.  There was no strong opposition to changing what was just passed recently and a different mix of members on the CRC may have voted differently.
    • The Charter Review Committee acknowledged that incumbents almost always get re-elected.  Thus they knew that they were granting the current council, not a disinterested group, an additional term.  And some on the CRC were lobbyists doing business before the City.
    • Some on the Council suggested that voters weren’t given a list of options in 2014 so perhaps they didn’t really understand that they were voting for 2 3-year terms and might have wanted longer terms or more terms.
    • Voters were only voting for term limits because they really want them in Congress so they were taking out their wrath on local officials.
    • Council members NEED more time to see the results of their actions and to overcome the steep learning curve in their positions.  Learning curve?  So should we cast out all of their votes in their first terms since they were ignorant and unqualified?
  • Passage of this question 2, along with Referendum Question No 3, would allow Council to serve indefinitely, with a 3-year sit-out between  limited-terms.  So serve 9 years, take a break, serve another 9 ad infinitum.  Sound like Term Limits to you?
  • Most of the text of the ballot question references retroactivity and most of the discussion by Council centered around that point because they didn’t want past council members, themselves or future council members to have an unfair advantage in a perceived flaw in the existing Charter wording.

Who benefits from this change?  Clearly the incumbents and clearly the various interested parties with business before the Council who want stability.

 

 

 

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 3

q3

VOTE NO ON QUESTION NO 3

The ballot question says that the current charter does not specify the minimum time that a term limited council member must be out of office before running again.  Is this true?  We think not and that the Ballot question is misleading.

  • The current charter states “No individual shall be elected to the office of council member for more than two (2) consecutive full terms.”
  • It has been interpreted that the 4th District Court of Appeals in deciding Levy v. Woods determined that 2 consecutive terms IS the limit and that term-limited Council Members may not run again.

Rationale for proposing this ballot item rests on the supposed lack of candidates wanting to run for the office and the need to retain qualified and experienced (meaning term-limited former Mayors and Council Members) involvement in the community, by allowing them to run again after a sit-out period of a term.  The interruption in their consecutive term of office would lessen their overwhelming electoral advantage as an incumbent, and sever perceived ties with those with interests with the City.  (Note:  Council passed this 4:1 with Council Member Lane voting NO)

However passage of this question 3, along with Referendum Question No 2 (expanding term-limits to 3 consecutive terms), would allow Council to serve indefinitely, with a 3-year sit-out between  limited-terms.  So serve 9 years, take a break, serve another 9 ad infinitum.

Sound like Term Limits to you?

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 4

q4Vote NO on Question 4

First some definition of terms:

  • Majority Wins – in an election, the candidate receiving at least 50% of the votes plus 1 is the winner.  In a multiple candidate race this clearly demonstrates that the winning candidate represents the majority of the voters.  Rarely (in our City’s history), no one candidate receives the majority, and thus a run-off election is required.
  • Plurality Wins – in an election, the candidate winning the most votes is the winner.  In a two-person race, the winner will have received the majority of the votes.  In a multiple candidate race, the candidate with the most votes will be the winner, even if that candidate actually has a minority of the total votes cast.  There would be no run-off election.

Rationale used by the Charter Review Committee and the Council:

  • The cost of having a run-off election was cited by both the City Clerk Snider and the City Attorney Lohman
  • Clerk Snider stated that in the last 15 years, never has the winner of the plurality vote not also won the run-off
  • The City already has a very low turn-out for Municipal (March) elections and the run-off two weeks later has yet a smaller percentage of voters.

Why  Maintain Majority?

  • The City’s most recent election gives an example of the case where the winner of the run-off would have won in either Majority Wins or Plurality Wins.  Mrs. Litt had 38% of the vote, Mr. Russo had 34%, Mr. Wicker had 20% and Mr. Easton had 9% of the 6331 voters.  Thus 62%, the majority, voted for someone other than Mrs. Litt.  In the run-off, Litt won over Russo with 58% of the vote – a clear majority of the 5235 voters.  With a different set of candidates or had the Mr. Russo been able to gather the votes of the other candidates, the outcome could have been different.  With plurality wins, one could question that Mrs. Litt had not earned the confidence of the majority of the voters who cared enough to vote.  With the run-off, Litt can totally claim to have earned her seat.
  • Run-offs happen rarely (2 in 2004 and 1 in 2017), and while the statistics that Clerk Snider states are true for the last 15 years, in the almost 60 year history of the City there has been at least one case where the winner of the plurality lost the run-off.
  • At all levels of government, it is a not uncommon technique to fill a candidate slate with ‘faux’ candidates (friends of an incumbent as an example), who divide the vote and make it easier for the incumbent or candidate with more name recognition to eek out a win by popular vote.  The run-off eliminates those candidates and lets the ‘legitimate’ candidates ‘duke it out’ in the run-off.
  • Some municipalities that have Plurality Wins require the winner to have at least 35% of the vote.  Referendum Question 4 does not have such a limit – thus a candidate with 4 or 5 opponents could clearly have a very small percentage of the total vote.
  • In the 2012 Charter Review, the then sitting council was presented with the same recommendation by the City Attorney, and wisely removed it from the proposed referendum.  (Note:  Council vote was 4:1 with Council Member Lane voting NO)
  • Cost of elections should not be the primary reason for eliminating elections – why have elections at all?  The March 13, 2018 election will only have the four referendum questions on it with no other candidates.  The City will be spending the cost of at least two run-offs on having this election.  

There is no compelling reason to change from Majority Wins to Plurality Wins

Tallahassee Impacts on Home Rule a Significant Concern to City

The February 2nd meeting was fairly brief, ending before 8:30.  All ordinances/resolutions passed 5:0 or 4:0 when one of the Council Members wasn’t in the chambers.  The most significant items were those not specific to Council votes.

Presentations:

  • The recognition and honoring of Evan Travers, Palm Beach Gardens Fire Explorer Post #705, who last April, assisted in the rescue of a driver and passenger in car accident, with the assistance of other passers-by – getting the crash victims to safety before the crashed car burst into flames.
  • Joe Corrao of Public Works explained the new Fleet Leasing Program (covered on Consent), which will allow for turn-over of all vehicles on a 5-year schedule instead of the current 10+ year schedule, reduce fuel and maintenance costs, reduce mechanic hours on vehicle maintenance and also save money.  The vehicles will also be turn-key – ready to use, instead of the normal 90 days it takes to configure a new vehicle for use after purchase.
February 2nd

City Manager Report:

  • City Manager Ferris, in explaining the Home Rule resolution (on Consent Agenda), outlined the bills currently being considered in Tallahassee which will severely impact municipalities’ Home Rule by taking away rights of those municipalites to control their own policies at the same time causing significant fiscal impacts. It is worth watching Mr. Ferris’ presentation for the list of bills and their impacts!  Or read the Palm Beach Post article entitled “Palm Beach County cities take fight to Legislature on home rule bills“.

Items of Resident Interest

  • Most on the Council mentioned that they attended the Palm Beach County Commission meeting where the County passed the final agreement approving the District Park.
  • Announcements made by Mayor Marino:
    • Jack Doughney, Assistant City Manager recently retired. Chief Stepp is assuming the position of Interim Assistant City Manager and Clint Shannon is assuming the Interim Chief of Police Chief.
    • Sandhill Crane Club House Grand Opening will be held on February 18 from 2-6pm – all are welcome.
  • Council Member Litt on the profound affect on  attending the screening “I am Jane Doe” – at the County Chambers, on Human Trafficking which occurs in all 50 states. She also mentioned that teachers and first-responders in the County are being trained to know what to look for.

Comments from the Public:

commentpolicy2

  • Mayor Marino started this portion of the Agenda reading the newly changed Comment Card procedure – which states that cards must be submitted before the start of the specific agenda item.
  • Paula Magnuson – expressed dissatisfaction with a council member saying that he would visit people’s homes if they sent him negative emails and praising another for his votes. This was met with an admonition by the Mayor stating that the speaker must address the Council as a body. Ms. Magnuson also handed the Clerk an envelope outlining other issues.
  • Adam Gee, Damien Murray – both of the Palm Beach Gardens Soccer Program, and Tony Badala of PBGYAA, all made comments congratulating the Council and the City for completing the agreement with the County for the District Park.
  • Carol Easton – wanted the Council to understand the history of Kevin Easton’s conflicts with the City as he tried to make improvements to the Sunset neighborhood, with her perceived heavy handed Code Enforcement as the repercussion.
  • Former Mayor/Council Member David Levy gave an update report as the City’s representative to the Loxahatchee River Management Coordinating Council; he was just appointed/elected to be Secretary of the Council. He talked about a wet district called Palomar, spanning Martin and Palm Beach County. The Council ask that he also give them a written report.

Items for Council Action/Discussion:

Mayor Marino and others on the Council were concerned about an email that Council Member Lane wrote to FDOT on behalf of the Steeplechase HOA. Proper procedure was discussed:  that such issues should be brought before the entire council or to staff, and then the Council would issue such an email or corresondence in the name of the Mayor or the City Manager.  (As an observer, what was also interesting was the attendance of most if not the entire Council at a private HOA meeting.  While they did not make policy or vote on anything there, they attended to hear the subdivision’s concerns. While this doesn’t seem to be a violation of Sunshine, it certainly wasn’t a meeting open to the public.)

City Manager Ferris will give the Council, for the next meeting,  details on the code enforcement activities regarding the Easton properties over the last few years, plus a brief explanation of Ms. Magnuson’s issues.

Now It’s Up to the Voters

The chambers were packed at the start of the first 2018 City Council meeting. The majority were there to honor the Gardens Gators for winning the Pop Warner Super Bowl. At the conclusion of that portion of the meeting, about half of the chamber emptied out.

Items of Resident Interest and Board Committee Reports was dominated by Council Member Woods decrying emails generated by an action alert regarding charter changes and term limits, and then seconded by Council Member Litt  who added that there was also a facebook ad with their faces on it. She cautioned residents to  be careful of what one forwards or hits send on. Council Member Lane recounted the incredible Hanukkah celebration which included Ms. Litt and former Mayor Jablin, bringing all the temples together for the celebration. He also mentioned a Senior luncheon where the Council were the wait-staff. Mayor Marino covered a PBGYAA fund-raiser, toy drive and plugged the City resident survey results with 94% approval citing police, fire and recreation as the top issues of importance.

January 4th

City Manager  Report:  Police Major Paul Rogers was recognized for graduating from the FBI National Academy – see the article in the Palm Beach Post , the City’s Holiday Joy Drive benefited over 1600 local children, including displaced victims of Hurricane Maria from Puerto Rico, and discussed the new brush trucks that the City bought, and the item on consent of the purchase of a public education trailer on fire safety – covered by Purchasing and Contracts Director  Km! Ra and Fire Marshall Dave DaRita.

Comments from the Public included heartfelt pleas by Carol and Kevin Easton referencing their long time battle with Code Enforcement and the unfairness of the entire situation. Anthony Badala, President of PBGYAA, thanked the Council for their votes regarding the new County Park and added his support for extending term limits to 3 consecutive terms citing continuity for his organizations successes. Joan Elias, long term resident and a presence at city council meetings for over 23 years, announced that she and her husband will be moving to be closer to their daughter. She also exclaimed her disagreement for term limits and said term limits is wrong for this City.

Public Hearings and Resolutions

Ordinance 24, 2017 pertained to the Annexation of Bay Hill Estates, The Preserve at Bay Hill Estates and Rustic Lakes – second reading and adoption rusticlakeswould result in this being placed on the March 13, 2018 ballot for residents of those communities. The majority of those remaining in the chambers were there to speak for or against placing the involuntary annexation on the ballot. Several in Rustic Lakes, while not opposed to annexation, want the vote to be delayed in order to answer their concerns about this ex-urban community being annexed into the city. Others from the community felt that there was adequate time remaining to get educated and get questions answered by election day. More than 10 people spoke, and one individual brought a list of names of Rustic Lakes residents who wanted annexation. There was some discussion between City Attorney Lohman and Mayor Marino explaining the differences between property tax homestead exemptions versus the definition of homestead used by the state for debt or lien protection, as that was one of the concern cited by some of the residents with large properties. Council voted 5:0 to proceed with placing the annexation question on the ballot.

Ordinance 26, 2017 –  Comments pertained to the referendum questions on the charter and the proposed charter replacement.  Speaking against placing the charter questions on the ballot were Kevin Easton and David Parks. Mr. Parks pointed out that Question 1 posits itself as a housecleaning exercise when it does so much more than that – including removing City Manager Residence, and the requirement for Charter Reviews.  Council Member Litt stated that the contract should be place for residence discussion.  Vice-Mayor Marciano – upset by some believing the theory that ‘the fix is in’, and that the Charter Review Committee (CRC) was a result of a conspiracy, explained that the review process has been discussed in the open for 7 months or more, that emotions have been raw and and council members have disagreed. The easy thing would be to buckle under the negative emails and wait. They’re doing the hard thing by placing it on the ballot. He hoped that the election turn-out would be good. Council Member Woods agreed with Council Member Litt – city manager requirements don’t need to be in the charter. Final vote: 4:1.  Lane No.

Ordinance 27, 2017 -The Council had to choose between two versions of the ballot question on changing term limits.  City Attorney Lohman spoke about retroactivity wording in 27B, which he suggested was the best choice as he had during the December workshop. Comments were made by : Nadine Smith – for 27b – she apologized for the email generated by completing a form which sent a letter where she said that she had NOT entered her email address or seen the letter, Linda Monroe, first Gardens’ female mayor – saying she was for term limits, but not for 2 terms and thus was for 27b, Sid Dinerstein was against 27b and suggested the city consider a district structure since some areas of the cities have no representatives, and Jane Feinstein voiced her support for 3 3-yr terms. The council rejected version 27A.  Council Member Litt stated that throughout campaign she had always said that she supported term limits but had voiced her concern about lame duck council and frequent turnover. Palm Beach Gardens is so much better than other cities and county so comparisons with those are invalid.  It takes time to learn and council members need that time. Council Member Lane said why he was for 2 4-year terms. Council Member Woods – attacked Attorney Dodger Arp (not present at the meeting) as the author of wording on the original term-limits referendum petition. He also spoke about  the retroactivity issue, and the council was taking on the hard topic of fixing the charter and not having a lifetime ban. Vice Mayor Marciano explained that having 2 4-year terms was discussed by the CRC and was logistically difficult.  Mayor Marino said that more people have spoken to her supporting 3 3-year terms. She also supported  27b since it  clears up the language  on retroactivity. As to districts, she said that ungated communities have been represented by former mayors Premuroso and Levy, and the candidates we get are those who want to do the work. The public will be deciding the fate of the council and the charter. She’s sure there will be campaigns and if the voters come out their voices will be heard. Council Member Lane said that the electorate had already voted on term limits.   Final vote: 4:1. Lane No.

Ordinance 28, 2017 –  the run again with 3-year sit-out – had been rephrased  in the workshop. There was no public comment.  Council Member Lane had trouble with the ballot language – because it was unclear to voters what they would be voting for versus what is currently stated in the charter and the results of  4th District Court of Appeals which stated that term limited council members could not run again. Council Member Litt reiterated retroactivity. Council Member Woods remarks were addressed to Lane, saying that the time to discuss this was at workshop.  He once again brought up Dodger Arp.  Lane replied that the proposed ballot language on all the questions are legally deficient and will be struck down by the first court that has an opportunity to review them and that the residents will once again pay for a losing case on term limits. Mayor  Marino finished the discussion by saying that the Counicl was NOT getting rid of term limits and that those who voted for term limits were never given a choice as to how many terms, and whenever term limits is on the ballot, it passes.  So the Council was just giving voters an opportunity to decide 2 vs 3 3-year terms and requirement to sit out before running again.  Final vote: 4:1 Lane No.

Ordinance 29, 2017 – plurality vs majority – Public comment by David Parks stating that  70% of Florida cities equal or greater in population to Palm Beach Gardens use majority (50% +1) wins vs plurality. Why is this changing? Where was the outcry to change this? He used PBGWatch’s phrase from 2012 – “Incumbent Protection Act”. Council Member Litt asked City Clerk Snider to list costs for recent elections – however Ms. Snider combined the costs for the entire March 2017 election plus run-off coming up with cost of $191K including advertising.  The discussion most often surrounding plurality vs majority revolves around voters’ rights and turn-out versus costs of run-off elections.  Vice Mayor Marciano  reiterated how great the CRC was, and yes, while the committee included  two people who do business with the city, that it was well run and he was happy with what they did.  Final vote: 4:1 Lane No.

2nd reading and adoption of Ordinance 30, 2017, Ordinance 31 2017 and Resolution 5, 2018 – all pertained to the fleet operations parcel rezoning and future sale and was passed 5:0 with no public comment.

Ordinance 1, 2018 – first reading, amended the budget for FY 2017/2018 with presentation by  Finance Administrator Allen Owens – budget amendments and adjustments relating to the budget stabilization account.  Passed 5:0.  Ordinance 3, 2018 – first reading of annual update to comprehensive plan – capital improvements budget.   None on council wanted a presentation.  Passed 5:0.  Resolution 3, 2018 – Artistry neighborhood in Alton timing of construction of perimeter wall.  Passed 5:0

Resolution 6, 2018 – exclusive franchise agreement for Solid Waste Collection and Recycling with Waste Management – $27 million contract over 10 years, non renewable. Km! Ra – Director of Purchasing and Contracts, reviewed the process, and described that the reason they chose to go with a 10 year contract when going for the proposal was that it made it more appealing to bidding companies. It also takes into consideration the growth of the city over that period. This will require a new contract after 10 years. Passed 5:0.

CITY RESIDENTS WILL SEE 4 BALLOT QUESTIONS ON MARCH 13, 2018;  RESIDENTS OF COMMUNITIES FACING ANNEXATION WILL HAVE A QUESTION REGARDING THE PROPOSED ANNEXATION ON THEIR BALLOTS.  ALL NEED TO GET INFORMED AND VOTE!

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.

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.

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.

 

Next Page »