Friday, October 24, 2008

Oct. 24: Broward Charter Initiatives: Yes On More Ethics, No On Most Boards

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Broward County voters will decide 10 charter initiatives this year. The initiatives will include a projected financial impact to taxpayers.

*There are three initiatives that deal with the creation of organizations: an ethics commission, a metropolitan transit authority and a housing council. Of the three, only the ethics commission should get a Yes vote.
Right now, the commission is slated to prepare a code of ethics. It's certainly a start, but much more will be needed; such a commission will need to be independent and have true power to punish those who flout or break the law.
Voters need only to look at the disaster in Miami-Dade County for a reason to vote No on creating a metropolitan transit authority. As for a housing authority, it's throwing money toward a new board when the money is needed elsewhere. In both cases, it's also an issue of trust, and Broward residents don't trust their county government right now.

*Two ballot questions relate to the behavior of county commissioners. The first would require commissioners not to interfere with the job of the county administrator or with county employees, unless there is a formal inquiry or investigation that is needed. The second would prohibit commissioners from participating in a discussion on any issue on which they've already decided not to vote because of a conflict of interest. Voters should say Yes to both measures.

*Two ballot questions relate to the environment. The first would designate, by law, county parks as either natural area or regional parks and forbid their sale, transfer or change of use without the approval of 60 percent of county voters. The second question would add an environmental policy statement to the county charter. Voters should say Yes to both measures.

*The remaining three questions deal with general government. One would add a policy statement to the charter concerning the county's duty to develop programs and policies with a look toward the region, as well as the county. Regional thinking should have been part of the county's policy long ago.
One would have an independent redistricting consultant develop plans and standards for redistricting. Definitely. It's a first step to independently drawn districts.
And the final measure would move up the next meeting of the Management and Efficiency Study Committee, which meets every six years, to next year, to avoid a conflict with the Charter Review Commission in 2010.
Voters should say Yes to these three measures.

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