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Get involved early

May 7, 2011
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The Charter Review Commission, which has been meeting every other month since September, is scheduled to present its recommendations to the Cape Coral City Council Monday.

It's an interesting roster of proposed amendments and we thank the appointed advisory panel for its efforts.

We also urge residents to get involved in the process early on as there are some significant changes proposed and input should help assist council in deciding which, if any, of the proposals should be brought before the voters this fall.

Recommended charter amendments include:

* How council is compensated

The commission has offered a pair of recommendations here, each of which could serve to increase council compensation significantly.

Proposal one would replace the current method of paying elected officials per registered voter with ordinance authorization that would allow council to set its own base compensation. It also would allow for automatic annual increases via ordinance. No increases would become effective until after the next election, provided at least six months had passed. Individual council members would have the ability to opt for a lower base salary, which the proposed charter amendment says "shall be comparable to those offices in cities with similar responsibilities."

The proposal also adds an another compensation source, proposing additional pay for attending meetings "beyond the usual council meetings" that council determines one or more members should attend. Payment would be based on an hourly rate to be determined by council.

The second proposed compensation change is a little more straightforward - it would change the rate of compensation from 20 cents per registered voter for the mayor and 17 cents per registered voter per council member to the same payment per resident, a move that could raise council compensation by more than 50 percent.

* Severance pay for "at will" employees

The Charter Review Commission also has targeted severance pay for department heads, who currently leave with four months pay if they are let go without cause.

The commission suggests that severance be four months maximum, with the payout for without-cause termination set at one week per year of service.

* Forfeiture of office

The Charter Review Commission recommends a charter change that would expand the forfeiture of office provision to include removal from office upon conviction of a first degree misdemeanor. Currently, the charter calls for forfeiture upon conviction of a felony. The proposed amendment also would expand the instances in which the governor could suspend a member of council. As proposed, that would be an arrest for a felony "or any misdemeanor related to the duties of the office or a misdemeanor involving a crime of theft, fraud or dishonesty or if indicted or informed against for the commission of a federal felony or misdemeanor or state felony or misdemeanor...."

* City manager's contract tenure

As proposed, fixed-term contracts for the city manager would be replaced with appointment to an indefinite term at reasonable compensation.

* Reserve cap

Undesignated reserves would not exceed 10 percent of the general fund budget. All unexpended balances in the general fund would be applied to the general fund budget for the next year.

* Petition signatures

Citizen initiatives and referendum petitions would be able to make their way onto the ballot with far fewer signatures, 5 percent of the total of voters registered at the time of the last election as opposed to 15 percent.

There's more but these are some of the highlights. As previously stated, it's an interesting set of recommendations that are likely to draw some lively debate - especially among those who recognize the evergreens that have cropped up again.

Where they go next is up to council, which will decide which among the proposed amendments will make their way onto the ballot.

If you've got a strong opinion, we suggest you gear up now and tell our elected officials what you think. If there's a charter change you agree should be made, this may be your only opportunity to push it to the ballot.

And if you're strongly opposed?

You may get two chances, one during the public hearing process, the second at the polls, but we would still weigh in early as we'll all be footing the bill for any "education campaigns" associated with those initiatives brought forward this election year.

Take the opportunity to be informed Monday.

Then get ready to have a voice in the process.

- Breeze Newspapers

Clarification: The commission has meet twice monthly since September.



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