by Anne Mooney / February 10, 2020
Everyone should have received their Vote by Mail ballots by now, and if you’ve read yours, you may still be scratching your head. In addition to the four candidates for City Commission, 11 Charter Amendments appear on the ballot — in the form of questions.
You Still Have Time to Register to Vote
Before we get into that, if you haven’t registered to vote, there is still time to do so. You have until February 18 to register. Call the Orange County Supervisor of Elections at (407) 836-2070. The folks down there are courteous, knowledgeable and anxious to help.
Charter Must Be Updated Every 10 Years
Every 10 years, the City Charter is updated by a group of citizen volunteers, with professional guidance from an outside consultant – this year, Marilyn Crotty led the effort. A group of your neighbors spent an entire summer going through the City Charter, (in effect, our Constitution) going page-by-page, line-by-line, to make changes and clean up archaic and obsolete language. The result of their efforts is what you see on your ballot – only in question form.
Help Available at the City Website
The Communications Department at the City of Winter Park has put up a very informative page that shows you exactly what has changed. You will see about half the questions are simply housekeeping – such as making the Charter language gender-neutral. The other half, if passed, would make a change in the way the City operates. Click here to view the Charter changes.
Referring to the questions as they appear on your ballot, below is a brief explanation of each one. Between this and the page on the City website, you should easily be able to decide how you want to vote.
This is a rather comprehensive housekeeping question. Among the things it does is to make the Charter language gender-neutral and to delete obsolete language. There is no change to the way City business is conducted.
This changes the base salaries of the Mayor and Commissioners, which have not been changed for more than a decade. If this question passes, the Mayor will receive $15,000 a year and each Commissioner will receive $12,600 a year.
This simply acknowledges that the City has a “Commission-Manager” form of government. Nothing changes, we’ve had that all along, it just adds the language.
Language in this question will make our Charter language consistent with County and State law regarding the conduct of elections. No real change here.
Less complicated than it looks. Deadlines for citizen referendum petitions have been extended from 30 to 45 days, giving citizens more time to collect petition signatures. After you’ve submitted your petition, if the Commission fails to adopt a proposed ordinance within 60 days, or fails to repeal the referred ordinance within 30 days, then they have to hold a special election and put it to the voters. That election shall be held not less than 30 days and not later than 90 days from the date the petition was determined sufficient (i.e., accepted by the City).
If there is an election already scheduled within that time frame, there would not be a special election. Instead the measure would go on the regular ballot.
If a Commissioner becomes unable to serve within 60 days of a general election, this gives the remaining Commissioners the option of either appointing someone to fill the vacant seat or operating with a Commission of four members until the election is held.
This establishes the size of City advisory boards at seven members. It gives the Mayor the right to appoint three board members and gives each Commissioner the right to appoint one board member. If passed, this would change the current system which gives sole authority for all advisory board appointments to the Mayor.
This would allow the Mayor or a Commissioner to be counted present for voting purposes if they video-conference into the meeting. The privilege would be limited to three times a year for any Commission member.
Currently, Commissioners can teleconference (audio only) in to a meeting, but they cannot vote on measures that come before that Commission meeting.
This would simply change the term of the contract for the City Auditor from three to five years.
If passed, this would strengthen the ‘non-partisan’ status of Winter Park elections by denying any candidate the right to campaign as a member of any political party or to accept campaign contributions from any political party, and it establishes penalties for candidates who do not comply.
This question would renumber the section containing the Charter Amendment Process (housekeeping), and would extend the deadline from 60 to 180 days for the City to hold an election on a Charter Amendment proposed by a citizen petition.
Not So Bad
I confess I had the same reaction many of you may have had when I first saw the ballot questions. In the end, though, they’re not so tough. And they come as a welcome reminder that our Winter Park City Charter is, indeed, a living document.