Longer council terms possible under changes to Sebastian Charter

SEBASTIAN – In an effort to save the City of Sebastian approximately $25,000 every other year, a committee of 15 Sebastian residents are considering changing the city’s charter to accommodate 4-year City Council terms.

To make the change – or any other tweaks to the charter documents – the committee must first get the City Council’s approval and the council must put the changes on the November ballot. Then the residents get to decide. “I know there are people I wouldn’t want up there for four years,” Charter Review Committee member Ed Dodd said of amending the charter to have four-year terms.”I think it would be a hard sale.”

Every odd-year election, the City of Sebastian spends approximately $25,000 more than on even-year elections. The cost difference is due to being able to piggyback on the county’s elections, which happen only on even years.

City Clerk Sally Maio told the committee that it is an issue – in her opinion – that should be addressed, but cautioned that prior committees have sought to move to 4-year terms and it “failed miserably” at the polls.

The economy and city finances have since changed, however, committee members agreed.

They appeared split on the issue of changing the two-year terms to four years but agreed to discuss it further at a future committee meeting.

If the committee were to recommend changing the charter to four years, they would also have to decide if the members’ elections would be staggered or if all five would be up for re-election every four years.

“We would be in a real pickle” if every council member were new, Mary McGee said.

“Like Vero Beach,” Committee Chair Louise Kautenburg said, referring to the four new members who were sworn in after this latest election in Vero Beach..

The committee also debated the merits of adding two more council members to the dais, but ultimately rejected the suggestion.

Committee members felt that there was no need to add more people to the council, which would increase city expenses, as well.

“Seven creates more politicians,” Dan Dragonetti said. “Seven creates chaos” on the dais.

When it was clear there was little support for the change, Kautenburg – who had raised the issue – let it drop.

“I can stop worrying,” she said. “I’m not married to this.”

Committee members also briefly discussed the types of issues they would want to consider under the charter, noting the limited room on the ballot for explaining the proposed change and ability to educate the public prior to the vote.

“It’s not easy to change the charter,” Kautenburg said. “In my house, it’s called ‘picking your fights.'”

The next Charter Review Board meeting will be held March 14 at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers in City Hall. The meetings are open to the public.

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