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Friday, Aug 17, 2018
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Tampa charter review board recommendations go to City Council

TAMPA —After nine months of meetings, Tampa’s first City Charter review commission has delivered its recommendations.

It’s a modest wish list but an important start, commissioners said in advance of today’s City Council workshop.

Mostly, the commission cleaned up archaic and redundant language in the charter, which hadn’t been reviewed since it was adopted more than four decades ago.

Commissioners suggested adding more protected categories to the charter’s prohibitions on discrimination and clarifying that council members have the power to hire and set the schedules of their legislative aides.

The main gripe among commissioners? The city administration didn’t publicize their work to get more public input.

"We would have had more proposals, but the city administration refused to publicize or promote the public meetings," said commission member Bill Carlson. "The only way to get meaningful input from the public is if we tell them about meetings. It’s essential in a democracy that we hear from the public."

City Council members had also complained that the commission’s meetings weren’t given much of a boost by the mayor’s office.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s spokeswoman, Ashley Bauman, disagreed.

Flyers were mailed to neighborhood association presidents, she said. More flyers were given to commissioners to pass out. The meetings were streamed online and made available on the city’s website, she said.

"I’m not sure how much more we could do," Bauman said.

One significant recommendation is to expand the city’s discrimination ban to cover more categories. The charter now prohibits discrimination against any individual or group based on race, sex, religion or natural origin.

The commission suggested adding "sexual orientation, color, pregnancy, age, marital status, familial status, disability, gender identification, genetic information, ethnicity or any other basis as prohibited by law or local ordinance."

Commissioner Lynn Hurtak said the commission wanted to go further than current law.

"We just wanted to add that extra layer of protection," she said.

The nine-member commission also debated whether to impose lifetime term limits on mayors and council members to curb politicians from serving over decades, like former Mayor Dick Greco and current council member Charlie Miranda.

That effort failed.

So did an attempt to temper the power of the city’s strong-mayor system by finding a better "balance" between the council members and the mayor.

If council members adopt any of the recommendations, they will be subject to review and possible veto by Buckhorn. Previously, Buckhorn has said he didn’t think the charter needed major fixes. Those feelings are unchanged, Bauman said.

Recommendations that pass City Council and mayoral muster would appear on the November ballot.

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. [email protected]

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