Summary of Broward Charter Amendments on 2008 Ballot

Voting for Broward County InitativesIn keeping with my promise, I am including the ten amendments that are being discussed to modify the Broward County Charter. I have been very careful about my publishing of these summaries since I am not trying to suggest one way or another on how to vote.

I know my family and friends who have been reading these posts have appreciated the content and the access to the information that makes voting easier and more effective. I will comment that my biggest frustration lied in voting for the position of Broward Soil and Water Conservation District role (between Oliver Parker and Fred Segal), and since I could not find any information on them, I chose not to vote for either of them.

[UPDATE: Oliver and Fred – would you mind putting some information up somewhere? Even in my comments would be great.]

For the ten initiatives to modify the Broward County Charter, I am listing what I have found published at CBS4.com’s site (with a corresponding link) and the opinion of the Miami Herald and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

Broward Initiative – Create Metro Transit Authority

Summary: This would be an advisory board that makes recommendations to the County Commission about public transit operations. (see text)

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Question 1 would create a metropolitan transit authority with advisory power only. While the county already has other advisory and staff agencies concerned with transportation, this would elevate the profile and — it is to be hoped — the impetus for expansion of public transit. Estimated annual cost is $72,000.

Sun-Sentinel: AGAINST

This would duplicate existing efforts. If anything, Broward County transit efforts should be expending time, energy and resources on regional projects. This proposal is also premature. The first step in this process should be to produce a plan with a broad support, and then establish an agency to carry it out.

Broward Initiative – Commission Non-Interference

Summary: This prohibition exists in county ordinances, but the amendment would put it in the charter. (see text)

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Question 2 would strengthen the ban on interference by county commissioners with county staff who report to the county administrator. Employees need one boss, not one plus nine politicians.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

This language is in the Charter already, for the most part. This proposal clarifies some duties, that much is good. What this measure lacks, unfortunately, are penalties to dter interference.

Broward Initiative – Commission Voting Conflicts

Summary: Currently commissioners with a conflict must abstain only from voting, but they may participate in debate. (see text)

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Question 3 would ban commissioners with conflicts of interest from discussing those issues. Now they are prohibited only from voting on the issue.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

This proposal would require county commissioners with a conflict of interest in a particular issue to recuse themselves, leave the commission chamber and refrain from communicating on or participating in that issue. That’s fair and appropriate.

Broward Initiative – Create Broward Housing Council

Summary: This would be an advisory board to coordinate work on affordable housing between the county, cities, businesses and not-for-profit agencies. (see text)

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Question 4 would create a housing council to coordinate the efforts of local government housing authorities, businesses and nonprofit groups. It’s worth a try to coordinate these efforts. Estimated cost: $185,000 per year.

Sun-Sentinel: AGAINST

Broward County already has agencies to address housing needs. The county does not need another agency to feed at a time of austere budgeting.

Broward Initiative – Regional/County Focus Policy

Summary: Advocates hope the wording ensures that commissioners look regionwide when crafting policies on such issues as transit and housing. (see text)

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Question 5 makes clear that county government’s role is countywide and regional, a reinforcement of its present role.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

The county has plenty of areas with a regional stretch, from transit to public safety. The measure would simply insert language into the charter to detail the county’s role as a regional and countywide authority. Vote YES, but understand that it is pretty much a vote to state the obvious.

Broward Initiative – Park Preservation Policy

Summary: Any sale or transfer of park land would need the support of 60 percent of voters. The charter contains no such protection for park space. (see text)

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Question 6 would prohibit the sale of county-owned parks except with the concurrence of 60 percent of voters, a protection for voters’ $400 million land investment.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

This is a good idea, even if the 60 percent threshold may be too high. This measure would ban the county from selling, transferring or changing the use of such parks without a 60 percent vote of approval from the electorate. This measure, in part because of the high threshold, may dissuade future efforts to designate park or green space land because of the inflexibility that comes with it.

Broward Initiative – Environmental Ordinances

Summary: This seeks to have the commission fight global warming on the local level. (see text)

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Question 7 is another policy statement directing the commission to protect the environment, a good reminder.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

Who’s against a sustainable environment? This measure inserts needed language into the Charter, but doesn’t go further than that.

Broward Initiative – Create Ethics Commission

Summary: Voters six years ago required county commissioners to adopt an ethics ordinance regulating their behavior. This would create a board to draw up ethics rules and set a public vote if the commission does not approve them. (see text)

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Question 8 would create an ethics commission to draft an ethics code. Six years ago, a charter change directed the commission to adopt an ethics ordinance, which was greeted with a yawn. This change should have included a permanent board with enforcement powers. Estimated one-time cost is $73,000 to $100,000.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

It’s necessary to do so. But it’s critically important that the members appointed to this group produce a strong county ethics policy with teeth. Otherwise, it will be a waste of time and money.

Broward Initiative – Hire Redistricting Consultant?

Summary: The nine districts must be reconfigured based on the 2010 Census. Currently, the commissioners redraw the districts themselves. (see text)

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Question 9 would put the reapportionment of commission districts in the hands of an independent consultant. This might alleviate the politicking that has led to oddly shaped districts. Estimated cost is $53,000 to $184,000. It should be noted that the commission would include similar costs anyway for staff and consultants it would control.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

This measure is worth taking a shot at, because an independent analysis is the best way to have fairly apportioned districts. But understand this: A consultant’s report is only as good as the consultant. The choosing of the consultant must be accomplished through as dispassionate a process as possible.

Broward Initiative – Management and Efficiency Meetings

Summary: The charter calls for the Management and Efficiency Committee to meet again in 2010, but the change would advance the date to 2009. (see text)

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Question 10 moves up the appointment of the Management and Efficiency Committee to next year from 2010. Not a pressing change, but harmless.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

Moving the organization of the Management and Efficiency Study Committee isn’t a bad idea. But its results have to be taken seriously, especially at a time when budgets are extraordinarily tight.

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