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Palm Coast Monday, Jun. 5, 2017 2 years ago

Why to have a charter review

Most people don't believe their local government is responsive. This is a chance to help that perception.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

There are many reasons not to have a formal review of the city of Palm Coast’s charter by a group of citizens.

City Manager Jim Landon pointed out at the May 30 City Council workshop that it would take a great deal of staff time to conduct a charter review, and the staff is currently in the throes of budget season.

City Councilman Bob Cuff pointed out that the residents generally don’t understand what is the charter is. The charter gives the rules for governing; it’s not a document for giving feedback on things like streetlights or dog parks.

But there is one very good reason to let the residents review the charter: It would show the residents that their local government is responsive.

At a survey conducted May 18 at the Flagler Auditorium, Florida Chamber Foundation economist Dr. Jerry Parrish asked those in attendance whether they believed local government is “responsive.”

Seventy percent of those in attendance — and I recognized many attendees as people who follow local events closely — said that responsiveness in government was a weakness in our community. Half of those people, or 35% total, said the situation was only getting worse.

Parrish said the results were “far less positive” than he has seen in a lot of other counties in Florida.

The charter review is one issue that illustrates the lack of responsiveness. Yes, it will cost money — potentially $50,000 — but cost is not the main reason the members of City Council are leaning against forming a citizen-led charter review committee. The City Council doesn't believe the residents really know enough about the charter to change it. Moreover, Cuff said at the May 30 workshop that he has not seen a “groundswell of opinion” demanding a charter review. So why do it?

Citizens should review the charter because this is their city, and they should be given a chance to change things if changes are desired. Let’s let things get a little messy. Let’s get some residents together and have them carve up the charter and make some recommendations. If their ideas are not legal or workable, the City Council doesn’t have to do anything with those recommendations; the committee would not change any laws.

But if the citizens have good ideas, the City Council can add the changes to the ballot next year, and the whole city will have a say in how their government is run.

That’s responsive.

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