The eight approved ballot questions will have Ocoee voters consider several charter changes, including ones related to term lengths and limits.
OCOEE – City leaders have approved the eight ballot questions proposed by the Charter Review Commission that would result in several changes to the city’s charter if passed by voters.
The questions received unanimous approval in the Oct. 3 commission meeting and will be posed to Ocoee residents for a vote in the upcoming 2018 city election.
The questions seek to amend certain rules outlined in the city’s charter, including city managers’ residency requirements, term limits and lengths and an extension in the allotted time a mayor pro tem may serve as mayor in the event of a vacancy.
The first of the questions proposes to remove the 30-day requirement to find an independent financial auditor to analyze the city’s budget, as locating audit services sometimes takes more than 30 days. The second question proposes to limit elected officials to two terms of service. The third question focuses on the procedure in the case of a vacancy in the mayor’s seat. The question proposes to extend the allotted time a mayor pro tem is allowed to serve as mayor to 12 months. And the fourth question proposes to eliminate the commission’s ability to waive the requirement that city managers reside within Ocoee.
“What the new charter would do is basically require that any future city manager reside in the city,” said Paul Rosenthal, facilitator and adviser to the CRC. “And it gives a reasonable period of time after someone is hired to find a residence. I think the rationale presented by the (CRC) is that they felt it was important for the city manager to live in the community to understand the issues and problems in the community.”
The fifth ballot question, which relates to term lengths, proposes to extend terms from the current three years to four years.
“The (CRC) is trying to address the issue regarding the cost of holding the election,” Rosenthal said. “When you go from three years to four years, you’re saving money because you don’t have to hold elections as frequently. … And four years was more consistent with typical term lengths and matches up with what other jurisdictions are doing.”
The sixth ballot question involves the CRC itself and the process required to craft and pass ballot questions. According to a charter amendment passed in 2010, the CRC is technically allowed to bypass the commission and place questions on the ballot. However, this conflicts with a state statute that requires proposed amendments be adopted via an ordinance by city governments.
“As the process started again, a city attorney stated his opinion and told us you can do it that way for counties, but you can’t do it in a city and that proposed charter amendments have to go through the city commission and be adopted as an ordinance. … So the (CRC) tried to find a middle ground that complied with the law,” Rosenthal said.
That middle ground became the idea that when the CRC proposes ballot questions to city commissioners, the commission would offer its comments for the CRC’s consideration. However, once proposed in the form of an ordinance, city leaders would avoid revising the ordinance substantially or rejecting it altogether. This method, Rosenthal said, crafts a balance that complies with state law but offers the CRC flexibility.
The seventh and eighth questions voters will see on the ballot pertain to member and meeting requirements of the Districting Commission and CRC. If passed by voters, the amendment would require the Districting Commission to meet every 10 years (as opposed to the current five-year time frame) and appoint two alternate members to both the CRC and Districting Commission.