During last month’s City Commission meeting each of your elected officials nominated one member of the public to create a Charter Revision Commission (CRC). Since CRC’s are convened so infrequently many of us are not aware of why we have them and what this group does for our community. This article will attempt to answer some of these questions and give you a better understanding of the CRC. Hopefully this will also inspire you to come to some of the CRC meetings and get involved in their process.
Our City Charter states that on the 5th anniversary of the incorporation of the City and every 10 years thereafter, the City Commission shall appoint a CRC. Each elected official appoints one member of the CRC that resides in their residential area; the Mayor’s appointment can live in any area of the City. Before becoming a City Commissioner I had the opportunity to serve as the Chairperson of the first CRC when the City was five years old. Our City is now 15 years old and keeping in compliance with our Charter we have begun the process of assembling the second CRC. The CRC is a relatively short lived group as they must finish their work 90 days after formation; however their work can have long term impacts on our City.
The overall purpose of the CRC is to draft proposed amendments to our City Charter to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our City government. They submit their findings to the City Commission who then must schedule a public election, between 30 and 60 days after receiving the CRC’s recommendations, to provide our voters with the opportunity to accept or reject the proposed Charter changes. The CRC is essentially convened to review the Charter of our City, hold public hearings to solicit public input and submit findings and recommendations to amend or revise the Charter. They are subjected to the Sunshine Law, like all public officials, so all their deliberations must be open to the public.
Probably the most impactful outcome from the first CRC was the introduction of term limits. When we started the CRC proceedings ten years ago our City Charter did not include term limits for elected officials. Consequently, under the original City Charter, an elected official could have remained in office for as many times as the public was willing to reelect him or her. As the first CRC chairperson I scheduled a series of public meetings around the City and heard from many residents that they believed term limits would be an important amendment to our City Charter. As a result of the CRC process, one of our recommendations for a ballot question was for an amendment to include term limits in our City Charter.
When the public vote was held the majority of voters supported term limits and our City Charter was amended. Since that amendment a number of elected officials have been “termed out of office” due to the recommendation and adoption of term limits by the first CRC. This causes a regular turn over in the makeup of our City Commission bringing new members to the commission on a routine basis.
As you can see from the above, the Charter Revision Commission’s recommendations to our voters can have a big impact on how government functions. Although their group is relatively short lived, they provide a very important process to insure that our City continues to function in an effective and efficient manner. The five members of the 2013 Charter Revision Commission are Jorge Camaraza, Erica Chao, Jack Cohen, John Rusnak and Lew Thaler. I highly encourage you to attend one or more of the CRC meetings and get involved by submitting your ideas for proposed Charter amendments or providing feedback to their recommendations.
This is a public process and you too can have a significant impact on the outcome through your involvement.