LARGO – Chester Rowe, a member of the Charter Review Committee, makes a good point in his questioning of the role of the City Commission in formulating changes in the Charter.
A list of changes will appear on the city election ballot March 7.
Rowe’s comments underline the subordinate role the review group actually played. Its members were named by members of the commission, and then when the work was done, the committee’s recommendations were made to the commission which then could ignore, change, subtract or add its own ideas.
As many observers noted during the life of the review committee, it played strictly a patsy role. The chairman of the committee often did not know what was going on and many key decisions were fobbed off on Alan Zimmet, the city’s lawyer who acted as counsel to the review committee.
It was like an Uncle Remus tale of throwing the rabbit in the briar patch.
Many wondered about the appropriateness of Zimmet’s role. He is under the direct supervision of the city manager. Most of those who followed the work of the committee, and some committee members thought that the review group should have had an independent, outside lawyer.
Rowe noted in an e-mail to the City Commission that the Charter Review Committee was empowered to make recommendations about the charter.
“Resolution 1866 empowers the committee and does not include the mayor, city commission or city management as an entity to be included in the review of recommendations of this panel,” Rowe wrote.
He went on to say, “The city commission and city management have had ample opportunity to input their ideas into this process. Their comments were given the consideration in the review process.”
Most telling in his e-mail was the comment by Rowe that “This document (was) prepared for the citizens of Largo, and not for the benefit of the political hierarchy of Largo.”
Of course, had the founding fathers who wrote the American Constitution followed the methods used by Largo in formulating its basic document of law there never would have been a Constitution.
One thing that miffed Rowe came up at a meeting when the commission was tweaking, editing and redacting the changes urged by the Charter Review Committee.
Rowe came prepared to offer some ideas but he was curtly cut off by Commissioner Pat Gerard who said in effect, “It’s our turn now, you all had your turn.”
As a result, Rowe says, he left that meeting “in disgust, feeling that my time and that of each member of the review committee was to some degree wasted. Clearly, some of the commissioners intended to make any changes that they so desired, to satisfy their own political agenda.”
Thus, the Charter Review Committee, conceived in smokescreen fashion in the view of many observers, is ultimately delivered as an exercise in duplicity of sorts.
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