A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sarasota USB Monday: The will of people -- who are they and how is it determined?

At 1:30 p.m. this Monday the Sarasota County Commission will wade into water that, apparently, no other County Commission in the state of Florida has ever waded in before. They will explore whether, and under what circumstances, a referendum with enough valid signatures may be withdrawn from a ballot. 

Some have argued that pulling the measure from the ballot, if it is even legal, is a form of disenfranchisement or even 'betrayal' of the 12,500 signatories. This suggests that, once approved, the ballot measure belongs either to the citizenry as a whole or, somehow, to the signatories, but not the initiators who conceived, and nurtured the measure -- the people responsible for its existence . 

Others, the initiators and the broad spectrum consortium supporting an alternative "consensus", believe that there is both a compelling will and a legal way to retire the original ballot measure and replace it with one more agreeable to all sides. 

Here are just a few of the submerged logs and gator holes the commission and its legal staff will have to negotiate during their wade:

Who has standing to challenge withdrawal?  Any citizen? Any registered voter? Anyone who signed the petition to get the measure on the ballot? This is second cousin to the efforts of some opposing the Florida Hometown Democracy asking petition signers to rescind their signatures -- an innovative and ominous development, in my opinion. 

And what if one signer, or ten, or even five hundred petition signers show up demanding that the original measure be sent as originally drafted for a vote? Would that suggest that 12,499 signers or 12,490 or even 12,000 signers were comfortable with the alternative consensus measure?

 If so, how are their competing interests to be weighed? Simple majority? Super majority? Unanimity? 
Either way, it promises to be a milestone in local government that may set precedent for the entire state as well as either derailing or affirming an intriguing convergence of interests. 

I don't have the responsibility of deciding such matters. If I did I would be interested in two things: 1) Is their any compelling legal precedent in such matters that constrains Board action, and 2, if not; how to honor and respect both the intentions of the majority of the signatories and the historic broad spectrum consensus that has emerged. As I stated in an earlier blog, "it will be unfortunate if this historic agreement is derailed by legal hurdles that confound and contradict the wishes of the people who started the whole thing.

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