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

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is the proposed Urban Services Boundary agreement legal?

Is the proposed Urban Services Boundary agreement legal? Or can the over 12,000 people that signed the petitions demand that it go forward to a vote as drafted?

Darned if I know -- it's a legal matter. But I do have a take on it based on my own experience. 

I'm collecting signatures to get on the November ballot. [Very well, thanks -- more than halfway there.] And when I'm done there will be 2,505 Sarasota County Voters who signed documents with the intent of putting my name on the ballot. 

I initiated the process, I've overseen it and I will benefit when my petition signatures are all in and accepted. [Yes, you can download them online at www.jono08.com]. 

But I cannot, for example, transfer those signatures to another candidate -- they are valid for me only and, in that sense, exclusively mine.

So what if I contract a [knock on wood] debilitating disease that forces me to reconsider? Can the 2,505 citizens that put me on the ballot force me to run? Nope. That's my call. 

So what about the Urban Service Boundary signatures? The proponents conceived it, drafted it, circulated it and got the necessary signatures. And just as I can't transfer my signatures, they can't somehow append the signatures they collected to some other similar measure. But, I would argue, they should be able to reconsider and withdraw, just as any candidate can.

Will that reasoning hold up in a legal challenge? Who knows, but it seems to me the people that initiate the ballot measure are the people that speak for it, not the signers.

We'll see how this shakes out, but 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. 

And that outcome could have a more chilling effect on citizens interested in improving the County than concluding the function of the 12,000 signatures was to empower the initiators rather than to hamstring them. 

It is not at all clear to me if the following sentence is required or appropriate in this blog, but here is it anyway: Political advertisement paid for and approved by Jono Miller, Democrat for the Sarasota County Commission.
Please visit my website at www.jono08.com

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Now We're Talkin'! Beyond the USB fight.

The above-the-fold headline in today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune announces a proposed settlement that could lead to replacing the impending vote on making Urban Service Boundary (USB) changes subject to voter approval. The centerpiece of proposed alternative would require a unanimous county commission vote for an USB change. 

Although I can quibble with some the facts as presented in the paper, this is big stuff and the people who negotiated it deserve a lot of credit for coming to the table to explore (and hammer out!) a workable alternative. And County Administrator Ley deserves credit for providing county support for the effort. He has a pretty good eye for seeing train wrecks ahead and encouraging engineers to apply brakes and look for other track. Commissioner Staub's involvement no doubt added impetus and a needed reality factor to the proceedings.

Was I involved? Nope. Not directly anyway, and that's probably a good thing. Inserting my presence into the matter would have added an un-needed and unhelpful political spin during this campaign season. 

Was I arguing for just such a solution? Yes. I felt both sides were not acting in the best long and short term interests of the County and I was letting people know about it. 

Near the beginning of the campaign, I had emailed one of the proponents of the voter approved USB changes: "Don't expect me to support a citizen referendum on Urban Service Boundary changes.

And I had a recent meeting with a former head of  the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce in which I bemoaned the approaching confrontation and expenses both sides would incur. I also argued that recent efforts to fight measures such as the supermajority were so over the top that they were actually hurting the business community (when has telling voters THEY were engaged in a "power grab" been a good strategy?)

And while I didn't dream up a unanimous board vote as an alternative, I did suggest to the former Chamber head that a better outcome would be for the two sides to meet, pool their respective warchests for the upcoming media battle and decide to spend the money doing something they both could agree on that would improve the county. 

Some like to focus on the perceived polarization between factions in our community and, to be sure, there are some deep and substantive differences. But this breakthrough is extremely significant, not for the specifics alone, but also for the fact that one side could pick up a phone and call the other to ask if we Sarasotans couldn't do better. 

In these challenging economic times we need to pull together, expending more energy to agree on ways to protect our economy, neighborhoods and environment than on divisive contests that consume our community's energy, creativity, and dollars.

Kudos to all involved.