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Cape voters approve 5 of 7 charter amendments

By Staff | Nov 3, 2015

Cape Coral voters decided on several suggested amendments to the city’s charter on Tuesday.

On the general election ballot, residents were asked to approve or oppose seven charter amendments. They ranged from reducing the members on the Charter Review Commission and providing a salary to the mayor and council, to what is needed to override a mayoral veto and limiting severance amounts.

Voters rejected two of the seven recommended changes.

“For the most part, I’m not surprised,” Councilmember Rana Erbrick, who serves as the liaison to the commission, said Tuesday. “I assumed most of them would go in the direction of being passed.”

She explained that the commissioners review the charter for possible changes.

“It’s part of the process,” Erbrick said. “Then let the voters decide what needs to happen.”

The following charter amendments passed:

* Referendum No. 1: City Charter Amendment Amending the Composition of the Charter Review Commission

The proposal amends the Cape Coral City Charter to decrease the number of members of the Charter Review Commission appointed by city council from nine members to seven members, and creating two alternate member positions. Alternate members would be able to participate in all discussions, but may vote only when substituting for an absent regular member.

The referendum was approved by nearly 68 percent, with 11,419 votes.

Erbrick pointed out that the commission has to seat so many for it to convene for business.

“I was pleased that voters recognized the difficulty of seating that board,” she said.

* Referendum No. 2: City Charter Amendment Relating to the Annual Salaries for the Mayor and City Council

The proposal amends the Cape Coral City Charter to provide that council members shall receive an annual salary of $32,600 and the mayor shall receive an annual salary of $36,600, rather than an amount based upon the number of registered voters each year. The salaries of the city council and mayor shall be adjusted annually beginning in January 2017 by the percentage amount of the Social Security cost of living adjustment.

The referendum was approved by over 53 percent, with 8,995 votes.

Erbrick noted that this was one of the amendments that she was keeping an eye on.

“In all honestly, I’m pleased that our citizens recognize what we do, the amount of hours we put in and the work involved,” she said. “This will really attract the people that we want to come and serve.”

* Referendum No. 3: City Charter Amendment Clarifying Discriminatory Classes for Prohibited Activities for City Positions or Appointive Offices

The proposal amends the Cape Coral City Charter to amend the classes of individuals that cannot be discriminated against with respect to any city position or appointive city administrative office, to add classes not previously prohibited such as color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, handicap, marital status, and/or any other class protected under federal, state or local law.

The referendum was approved by more than 65 percent, with 10,976 votes.

* Referendum No. 4: City Charter Amendment to Allow the Adoption of Emergency Ordinances in Accordance with Florida law

The proposal amends the Cape Coral City Charter by replacing the city of Cape Coral’s existing regulations and prohibitions for enacting emergency ordinances with the provision that the city may enact emergency ordinances in accordance with state law.

The referendum was approved by almost 71 percent, with 11,955 votes.

* Referendum No. 7: City Charter Amendment Limiting the Amount of Severance Payable to At-Will Employees of the City Manager

The proposal amends the Cape Coral City Charter to limit the amount of severance pay upon at-will termination of employment of assistant city managers and city department heads, from up to four month’s salary as is currently provided, to up to four month’s salary or an amount otherwise provided by state law, whichever is less.

The referendum was approved by about 80 percent, with 13,426 votes.

The following charter amendments failed:

* Referendum No. 5: City Charter Amendment Concerning Council’s Power to Override Budget Line Item Veto by the Mayor

The proposal amends the Cape Coral City Charter to decrease the affirmative vote of council needed to override a veto by the mayor of a line item in the city budget from two-thirds of the council to a majority of the council present, but in no event less than four members of council.

The referendum was opposed by over 50 percent, with 8,510 votes.

Erbrick noted that this was another amendment that she had her eye on.

“You really need that super-majority vote,” she said. “We entrust an awful lot of faith in the mayor – moving that number down concerned me.”

* Referendum No. 6: City Charter Amendment Decreasing Number of Signatures Required for Initiative and Referendum Petitions

The proposal amends the Cape Coral City Charter by decreasing the number of signatures required for an initiative or referendum petition from 15 percent to 10 percent of the total number of qualified electors registered to vote at the last regular city election.

The referendum was opposed by more than 55 percent, with 9,338 votes.