When Clay County voters head to the polls on Nov. 6, they may be faced with more questions
than they may believe should ever be required to answer during an exercise originally designed to decide who leads our government.
Along with the plethora of proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution, many of which questions should be handled through legislation instead, there are a number of proposals asking voters to amend the governing document that shapes Clay County’s body politic.
One ballot question is the result of a vote from the Charter Review Commission that was appointed by the Board of County Commissioners in late 2017 and disbanded earlier this year.
Under Clay County’s charter form of government, the current charter requires a CRC be appointed every four years to look at what’s working in county government and what could be improved. There have been times a CRC has completed its job by not making any
recommendations for change. But, this year was not that year.
The CRC passed an amendment seeking to give county commissioners a pay increase even though a citizen’s petition drive some 10 years ago resulted in a charter amendment that froze commissioners’ annual pay at $37,500. Now, the CRC wants voters to raise BCC members’
salaries incrementally for the next four years.
While debating the pay hike, a majority of CRC members argued that if the county commissioners’ salary were higher, a “better caliber” of candidate would run for office. I continue to scratch my head at this swiss cheese logic and equate it to making as much sense as saying “wet streets cause rain.”
After all, if a person seeks higher office, they have to know going in that No.1, it’s not about the
pay, and No. 2, one should serve as part of doing his/her role to uphold the greater good of the community, not self-interest.
Which leads to the next proposed charter amendment ballot question. County Commissioners took it upon themselves to extend the amount of time they can serve in office with a ballot question that asks voters to give them a third term on the county commission. This one is going to require a lot of soul-searching.
At present, the current county charter establishes two terms, or term limits, allowing county commissioners to serve up to two consecutive terms. There is no charter provision against county commissioners coming back after a hiatus and running for office again.
Now, a separate ballot question asks voters to put in place term limits of three four-year terms for sheriff, supervisor of elections, tax collector, clerk of court and property appraiser. Why all of a sudden such change?
I question the untold motives.
And here’s the part I mentioned at the onset here about having more questions. Why did the Board of County Commissioners even set up a Charter Review Commission if they are taking it upon themselves to amend the charter? Is this a power grab? Did the county commission step out of line doing asking for more time in office? If it walks like a duck, well.
And here’s the real kicker. Clay County voters are the reason term limits exist in the first place.
Although he has been silent in the past 9 or so years, Durwood Smith, and the people-powered organization Citizens for Term Limits and Accountability led the charge for salary caps and term limits. They also helped defeat a now-deceased proposal that would have added two additional BCC seats 10 years ago. One seat was set to be an At-Large position and the other was
established to be a Super Chairman that would function much like a king. Ahem, I mean a mayor.
Another county charter ballot measure will also remove, in the future, the citizens’ right to petition and place charter amendments on the voting ballot. Can someone say U.S. Constitution?
So, as you see, Clay County voters, you have a lot to decide.
It seemed way too easy for the elected officials to sweet-talk their way into getting these pet
items on the Board of Commissioners’ agenda earlier this year. Sometimes all it takes is to flash
a deceiving shiny smile, speak a few platitudes about public service, say you are going to donate your salary hike and smile.
I guess voters will have to just keep on smilin’!