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Windermere Observer Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 1 week ago

Residents invited to propose changes to charter

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The Charter Review Commission is an independent commission that serves Orange County and analyzes possible changes for the Orange County Charter.
by: Hannah Swayze News Editor

Evaluations are underway to review the document that governs Orange County. 

The Orange County Charter Review Commission held its first and only public hearing for District 1 Wednesday, Aug. 7, in the cafeteria of Dr. Phillips High School. All 15 members were present to listen to the public’s concerns and conduct regular business. 

The Charter Review Commission convenes every four years to evaluate the county charter, speak with the public and decide if any changes should be made. 

“The charter is to our county what the constitution is to the United States or what the State Constitution is to the state of Florida,” CRC member Camille Evans said. “It (is) a document that contains some foundational elements. It is not a document that (should actually) govern the day-to-day execution of regulations and administrative roles.”

The commission meets monthly and conducts public hearings in each district to hand the floor over for public comment and accept proposals for evaluation topics. In an 11-month process, the commission will assess proposals from the public or from fellow committee members. 

On its own, the commission cannot change the charter. It will decide which topics, if any, should be considered by the public and put on the November 2020 election ballot for voters.

On Wednesday, three residents addressed the commission on various topics, but none of the topics were viewed as appropriate for the commission to establish as an evaluation topic. 

“(A topic) may be a critical topic to the general welfare of our Orange County residents, but that doesn’t necessarily make that a topic that is germane to the charter or appropriate (for) the charter to address,” Evans said. 

Typically, when an evaluation topic is established, the commission also established a committee to dive deeper into the subject. So far in the process, three committees have been established — one on the number and composition of county commission districts, one on a citizen-led initiative regarding the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee rivers, and one determining the ethics of appointing lobbyists to advisory boards and positions in the county. 

The commission discussed the topic of prohibiting lobbyists from being appointed to county boards or committees during the meeting. Commissioner Lee Steinhauer disagreed with the proposal. 

“I think that unintended consequences are going to be significant,” Steinhauer said. “I think there’s a lot of people that are going to be categorized as lobbyists who you might not think of as lobbyists.”

Orange County residents who missed the public hearings still can submit ideas to the CRC via the commission’s website. 

The CRC will continue to meet monthly and will hold a public hearing in every district. A schedule, along with more information about the commission, can be found at occompt.com/clerk-of-the-bcc/charter-2020.

“I would encourage (that) every member of the public should not undervalue the opportunity … afforded by the CRC process to use their voice in addressing how Orange County government operates,” Evans said.

Hannah Swayze is the News Editor at the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer. She is former staff writer of the Johnson City Press in Johnson City, Tennessee. She is a graduate of East Tennessee State University where she earned a bachelor's degree in media...

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