Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Drive Seeks Charter Government | Organizers Need to Get 15 Percent of Voters to Sign Petition

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Drive Seeks Charter Government | Organizers Need to Get 15 Percent of Voters to Sign Petition

Article excerpt

MANATEE COUNTY

MANATEE COUNTY -- A petition drive to get a voter-endorsed charter for Manatee County government is underway.

After a League of Women Voters of Manatee County forum about the topic Monday, several of the roughly 40 attendees put their signatures on a document calling for the County Commission to appoint a committee to write a charter.

Charters, which are required

to create municipalities, must be approved by voters and define how local governments are structured. Of Florida's 67 counties, 20 have charters. Those without charters are structured according to state law.

Organizers of the charter campaign will need 15 percent of Manatee's electorate, 35,095 voters, to sign the petition for the County Commission to be compelled by state law to create an 11- to 15-member committee to draft a charter.

The proposed charter will then be subject to a countywide referendum.

Rosalie Shaffer, president of the Manatee League, spoke in favor of a charter as a means of having "a more advanced and flexible form of government."

She noted that the electorates of other charter counties have adopted charter amendments to make certain positions, such as the supervisor of elections or tax collector, non-partisan; impose term limits on county commissioners; and allow local elected officials to be recalled for "malfeasance" or an inability to perform their duties.

"The choices are endless," Shaffer said. She said the League sees "a real need in this county for charter government."

None of the county commissioners, who are in Tallahassee this week to meet with state legislators, attended the forum.

Former Bradenton Beach mayor Katie Pierola said she and other voters are frustrated with some of the current county commissioners because of their approvals of phosphate mining and frequent changes to the county's comprehensive land use plan to benefit developers.

"There are a lot of imbalances of power that ought to be corrected," said Longboat Key resident Larry Grossman, who was among those who signed the petition. "I think there are a lot of good things you could put in this charter."

Community activist Barbara Elliott said she will collect signatures and rally pro-charter forces from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Central Library in downtown Bradenton. "We're looking to organize, get a couple of committees together," she said.

The signature-gathering process could take months. Yet Pierola said she is hopeful that supporters will use social media to give the petition wide circulation. …

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