Article published Jul 10, 2006 in the sarasota Herald Tribune
Reviewing the mayor's role
Sarasota committee revisits an issue that won't go away
A brand-new Sarasota charter review committee has been constituted, but it will not boldly go where no one has gone before.
Instead, the members will re-explore an elected-mayor proposal -- variations of which have been spurned by city voters twice over the past decade.
Currently, the mayorship is largely ceremonial, and it rotates among the five city commissioners. A push for an elected mayor narrowly failed in September 1996, and a super-strong-mayor proposal went down in flames in 2002.
The charter board also will examine a possible pay raise for commissioners, who now are each paid about $24,000 a year.
Commissioners chose seven able city residents -- David Brain, Diana Hamilton, Tom Luzier, Pandora Seibert, Gretchen Serrie, Michael Shelton and Elsie Souza -- to examine these issues. They're expected to make recommendations in October; then it's up to commissioners to set an election, if they choose to take charter proposals to the voters. If so, we're told, the balloting probably wouldn't occur until March 2007 -- which is when the city's three commissioners picked by district (the other two are at-large seats) come up for re-election.
The timing could be politically charged, but we're confident that the charter review members will tackle their duties with energy and objectivity.
Revolutionary change is not proposed; commissioners set fairly restrictive study parameters that would retain the commission/manager form of government.
There's a strong element of deja vu, but the mayor question likely will recycle until citizens are satisfied with city leadership -- an elusive goal but one they're right to seek.