By Lenny Guckenheimer, Charlotte County Dems contributing writer.
Charlotte County residents now have a once-in-six year opportunity to make major changes on how elections are held and county offices operate. These changes can be as major as changing the number of terms someone can be a county commissioner or making county commissioners nonpartisan, thus putting all candidates on the primary ballot regardless of party. We could also vote only for the commissioner in our own district rather than vote countywide for all commissioners. We could make the sheriff an appointed position rather than an elected office or change the structure of county government and how the county attorney or administrator function. The opportunity comes as the Charlotte County Charter Review Commission proposes changes to the county’s home rule charter.
What is the home rule charter and why is it being reviewed?
The home rule charter is the rulebook for Charlotte County government. The charter describes how the county government is organized, what the elected offices are and their duties. The charter also describes how taxes can be raised and used. State law requires that the home rule charter should be reviewed every six years. The last review and modification was completed in 2016.
How will the charter be revised?
County commissioners have appointed a charter review committee to propose amendments to the home rule charter. The county commissioners will decide which proposed amendments will be placed on the ballot for Charlotte County residents to vote on. If a proposed amendment is approved by the voters, it will be added to the charter.
The charter review committee has begun its work and has held hearings to gather recommendations from the county commissioners, department directors, and others. The public is invited to attend and speak at the hearings. Unfortunately, public participation has been very limited and few residents are taking the opportunity to have major impact on how county government operates
Why should I care and get involved?
Charlotte County has a different form and operation of government than many new residents are familiar with. Learning about the charter, the county structure, organization, and who the players are key for all citizens. But it is essential for us if we want to make any changes and improvements to living in Charlotte County.
Where can I learn more and get involved?
Visit the Charlotte County website where you can find a trove of information about county operations.
The Home Rule Charter Review web page describes the role of the committee, and has the agenda and minutes from committee meetings. You also can see the current Home Rule Charter and the 2016 Home Rule Charter final report.
The next Charter Review committee meeting will be held on January 12th at 3 p.m. in the Murdock Administration Center, 18500 Murdock Circle, Port Charlotte. See you there!
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