LARGO -- George Feaster became the leading motion maker as the Charter Review Committee continued its work August 10, using all of the meeting's originally allotted time to discuss the article on the City Commission.
The committee had to go overtime to begin discussion on the charter section dealing with nominations and elections.
Feaster on the one hand wanted to give the mayor and commissioners more salary money, but with the other hand wanted to take away the carousel points that will add more than $7,000 to elected officials' salaries in fiscal year 2006.
The carousel points are a little noticed source of income for the mayor and commissioners. Only those taxpayers with sharp eyes are aware of it.
A point is worth $1 and points are used to purchase health and life insurance available through city benefit plans. Or elected officials can take the carousel points as deferred income.
Feaster's motion to raise the salaries of the mayor and commissioners was passed. The mayor will be paid $25,000 annually and the commissioners $20,000 with expense accounts, to be determined, added.
His motion to eliminate the carousel points, based on his premise that the elected officials are not city employees, failed.
There was a discussion among committee members on changing the name of the commission to city council. What the discussion revealed is the incredible lack of knowledge among this group of citizens, named to the committee mainly through a process of cronyism.
As any ninth grade (well, maybe not these days, when 11 percent of those 18-24 can't find the United States on a world map) civics student knows, a commission is made up of members who are in charge of individual city departments; e.g, police, fire, public works, etc.
That is not the case in Largo. City Manager Steve Stanton is in charge of everything.
Largo's legislative body should properly be called a council. The definitive notion escaped committee members, some of whom thought the names were distinguished by city size or some other such pathetic ideas.
Clearwater correctly re-named its commission a City Council a year or so ago and, heaven forfend that Largo be seen doing anything in imitation of Clearwater (however useful that might be).
The committee is still bogged down in minutiae. The charter review process is being used as a legislative writing exercise rather than setting forth the broad outlines of government in the city's basic legal document.
The members obviously don't understand that the task is to create a document authorizing the city to do certain things granted through the power of the state and the people.
For example, when it comes to financial compensation for elected officials, a real charter would merely say, "Elected officials shall be paid." The details would be left to law writing; that is, in an ordinance. And this goes on in instance after instance.
Had the committee been properly chosen, instead of adhering to the plan of having commission members putting their pets on the committee and the rank cronyism that goes with that it might be more effective.
Further pitfalls lie ahead. The final document produced by this stumbling group goes to the City Commission (a gross mistake) which can then put in or remove anything it likes.
By the time it gets to the people for a referendum vote it will be virtually meaningless, which explains in great part, no doubt, why citizens of Largo don't care.
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