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Florida Keys News
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Three city charter amendments to be contemplated on ballot

Key West officials say they hope residents are reviewing their ballots carefully and not overlooking three proposed amendments to the City Charter they say will have important impacts on Key West's future.

Early and absentee voters are currently casting votes on the amendments, with the last votes to be taken Tuesday on Election Day.

One of the proposed amendments specifies new duties for the city's mayor, including preparation and delivery of an annual "State of the City" address. It does not change the form of government, which works on the model of a strong city manager -- weaker commission and mayor.

Another would allow a supermajority of the seven-member City Commission to approve certain actions, like the purchase of property.

Passage of the amendment would mean it would take five, not four, "yes" votes from the commission to approve those questions that normally would be put to the voters in a referendum.

Opponents of the super-majority amendment say the voice of the people should be heard on major expenditures like property purchases and sales.

Supporters say waiting for voter approval takes too long, and can stand in the way of the city taking swift action on deals that could benefit taxpayers.

The third proposed amendment would require city elections to run in cycle with state elections.

"This referendum will result in important decisions being made for the future of our city," said Mayor Craig Cates.

Commissioners Tony Yaniz and Clayton Lopez were among officials who were present to explain the amendments -- without expressing opinions on how people should vote -- during a "Souls to the Polls" rally in Bahama Village last week.

"We tried to explain every one of the referendums regarding the city," Yaniz said. "I wish we could do more."

Supporters of the election cycle amendment say having city matters like commission elections on the same ballot as state items will save the city money and eliminate duplication. People who oppose it saythat in years like this one, when ballots are heavy with choices for local, state as well as national elections, local races or initiatives might get lost in the shuffle.

Yaniz says he still has not made up his mind.

"I am torn on that," he said. "At first blush we are saving $60,000 per election cycle but we fall back on this question. If we had three commissioners running would they get lost on the ballot? At the end of the day the local candidates are going to make their points anyway but it might hurt other issues on the ballot. Is it worthwhile? I don't know."

jdesantis@keysnews.com

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