A group of residents critical of current efforts to determine Pasco County’s future government structure are banding together to follow their own path toward a charter-style government.
On June 8, the newly formed Pasco Citizens Charter Coalition announced plans to gather 45,000 petition signatures needed to establish a charter commission. If successful, the commission would be a counterpoint to the 15-member charter panel appointed by the Pasco Commission and the legislative delegation.
Members had a press conference outside the Dade City Courthouse shortly before the start of the panel’s second meeting.
“We want to keep government simple…and answerable to the people,” Clay Colson, a community activist, and a former Independent candidate for the Pasco Commission, said in an interview. “We want government to be one that gives citizens control, not one that gives government control of citizens.”
Colson said the petition is being drafted with language that will make clear that the charter commission should represent all segments of Pasco County.
The existing panel has been widely criticized for its nearly exclusive makeup of white men. Only one woman serves on the panel.
“We’re ambitious,” Colson said. “We think we can do it in three months. We’ve set a goal.”
The group hopes to forge an alliance with State Rep. Richard Corcoran. The lawmaker pushed Pasco County commissioners to create a charter commission back in January.
Under state law, a charter commission – once established – must write a charter that then has to be put on the ballot for voters to decide. County commissioners could not make changes to the document.
The appointed panel, in contrast, is nonbinding with a final decision of what, if anything, goes to voters in the control of county commissioners.
The panel will consider issues such as term limits, single-member districts and whether to allow an elected county administrator or mayor. Members can take as long as 18 months to complete their task.
Meetings to date are scheduled into July.
Corcoran could not be reached for comment.
In March, he sent a letter to Chairman Ted Schrader naming the legislative delegation’s five appointments to the panel.
“We strongly urge you to make the commission’s report binding,” he wrote. But he also complimented Schrader for statements that county commissioners would distance themselves from the panel and “not micro-manage.”
Coalition members have not met with Corcoran as yet, Colson said. The lawmaker in recent weeks has been in Tallahassee attending a special session of the Florida legislature.
“We’re waiting until he is back in Land O’ Lakes,” Colson said.
The coalition and Corcoran don’t agree on every issue.
Corcoran has said he wants an elected county administrator, but coalition members want to keep that a non-elective position.
Other issues supported by the coalition include term limits, single-member and at-large districts, a $250 limit on campaign contributions, nonpartisan elections, ethics reform and a process for residents to recall elected officials.
The petition will be promoted through social media and online.
Published June 17, 2015