Sebastian council moves forward with recommended charter changes

SEBASTIAN – The Sebastian City Council decided Wednesday night to have its city attorney prepare the paperwork on the about a dozen proposed changes to the city’s charter documents.

Those changes range from removing archaic language and simplifying rules to extending City Council terms to four years and imposing term limits if the longer terms are approved.

The Sebastian City Council voted 4-1 to have City Attorney Robert Ginsburg to draft ordinances for each of the changes. Those ordinances are due to come back to the council for two readings and public vetting before the council decides which ones would go to the voters in November.

“This body does not have the power to make changes” to the charter, Mayor Jim Hill told the audience, only to decide if the changes should be put to the voters.

While the council seemed accepting of the Charter Review Board’s suggestions as a whole, a few had concerns about the longer council terms and the associated term limits.

Charter Review Board Chair Louise Kautenburg told the council one of the reasons they recommended the terms lengthen from two years to four is to save the city approximately $32,000 – the cost of having an election on an odd year, when the city cannot piggy-back on a county election.

Another reason, she pointed out, was the theory that if voters knew their choice would mean someone would be at the dais for four years, voters might be more careful with their vote.

Councilman Eugene Wolff, the lone dissenter, disagreed with having four-year terms and so voted against moving forward with having City Attorney Ginsburg draft the ordinances.

“We all have benefited from two-year terms,” Wolff said of his fellow members at the dais, explaining that situations arose that they were able to take advantage of and unseat the incumbents.

He expressed concerns that moving to four-year terms would limit the pool of candidates – those who would be sure enough they’d be able to serve the full term, and those who lose but want to try again could lose the momentum they had.

As for the $32,000, Wolff said he believes the money is “well worth it.”

“I don’t think it’s extravagant,” he said.

Mayor Hill and Vice Mayor Don Wright both voiced opposition to imposing term limits if the four-year term were to be approved.

“The community knows who we are,” Hill said of council members, adding that term limits work for the non-local level.

Wright agreed.

“The voters can decide very easily” if an incumbent should be placed back in office, he said.

The proposed ordinances for the changes are expected to come back before the council on June 22, when the public and council will again get to discuss which items should go to the voters.

To review the proposed charter changes, read Sebastian Charter Review prepares for public hearings with final run-down

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