homepage logo

Sanibel Charter Review Committee suggests keeping charter as is

By Staff | Feb 7, 2018

Concluding its review of the four remaining articles today, the Sanibel Charter Review Committee voted to not make any recommendations to the city council for changes to the existing charter.

During its third meeting, the seven-member group examined the last sections of the document: administrative; nominations and elections; initiative, referendum and recall; and general provisions.

The articles of powers, corporate limits and legislative were considered at the January meeting.

Over both meetings, the committee voted unanimously to retain the existing language.

“I think our findings of not changing the charter are an indication of how durable this document is,” Committeewoman Kristie Anders said.

While the committee discussed and debated at length during the January meeting, specifically regarding whether to recommend terms limits and compensation for both city council members and planning commissioners, today’s meeting progressed with much less back and forth on the dais.

There was some questioning as to the difference between the words “elector” and “qualified voter” within the charter. Committeewoman Larry Schopp first brought it up, asking for clarification.

At issue was the differing powers and abilities of a qualified voter versus an elector.

City attorney Ken Cuyler explained that he believed the words had come from the Lee County Elections Office and the Supervisor of Elections had decided on their definition and usage.

When the issue was brought up again later in the meeting, City Clerk Pamela Smith explained that electors are registered voters, while qualified voters are electors who voted in the most recent election.

She added that those who did not vote recently are not qualified voters per the charter.

“You are not qualified because you did not vote in the last election,” Smith said.

Schopp also questioned the lack of a timeline for how often the legislation should be reviewed.

“Every 10 years beginning in? Or every 20 years beginning in?” he asked.

After a brief discussion, the committee voted 7-0 to recommend no changes to the language.

During public comment for the subsection about petitions, under initiative, referendum and recall, Sanibel resident Mike Miller questioned what the deadline is once an initiative is submitted.

“Can I file petitions that I started in 2005?” he asked of collecting the needed signatures.

Miller explained that a deadline is listed for referendums, but not for initiatives.

Cuyler responded that a person cannot file a several-year-old initiative with the city. He explained that the language and requirements outlined in the related subsections will prevent that from occurring.

“Together they set up a prompt time frame for the city to react to proper submissions and initiatives,” Cuyler said.

Again, the committee voted 7-0 to recommend no changes to the language.

At the end of the meeting, Anders voiced concern about legislation being proposed in the Florida House and Senate – bills aimed at home rule, vacation rentals and more – to “amplify” the issue.

“All of which strip this city, our charter, of the things we just worked so hard to protect,” she said.

Mayor Kevin Ruane acknowledged the ongoing situation at the state level.

“This is something that this council is very well aware of,” he said.

Ruane explained that council members continue to do their best, like going to Tallahassee, in an effort to push back against bills that would limit or remove the power and authority of local governments.

“Inside the charter itself, I don’t know how we would accomplish that,” he said.

Because the committee had no changes to the charter, the group will meet once more on March 7 to approve the minutes of today’s meeting and close its review. The final recommendation will be placed on the agenda for an upcoming city council meeting, so the public has a chance to provide feedback.

The final committee meeting will take place at 1 p.m. at City Hall.

Officials anticipate that the final recommendation will be placed on the April agenda for the city council. The council will then vote on the recommendation presented to them for no changes.