A panel that was appointed to examine whether Pasco County needs a new structure could be headed toward a conclusion, if panel members decide to reject a charter-style government.
On the other hand, a favorable decision would mean the panel has more work to do to craft the details of how that charter government would operate.
A vote is tentatively set for Aug. 10, on the same day the county’s legislative delegation is expected to weigh in on the topic.
The charter process began two months ago in response to a request in January from State Rep. Richard Corcoran, who supports adoption of a charter.
“It’s a pretty important topic you all are jumping into,” Pasco County Chairman Ted Schrader said, at the panel’s July 13 meeting in New Port Richey.
Schrader, and Pasco County commissioners Kathryn Starkey and Michael Moore, were invited to the charter panel’s meeting to discuss issues related to the Pasco County Commission’s duties and functions.
But panel members largely zoned in on term limits, single-member districts, and whether to have an elected administrator or mayor.
Pasco County currently is governed under home rule with five districts, each with a representative elected by countywide vote.
Moore and Starkey supported term limits ranging from 12 years to 16 years.
Starkey said commissioners need that much time to develop institutional knowledge and a thorough understanding of how government functions.
But she said, “I don’t think anyone should be in office for 50 years.”
Schrader took a different view.
“We have term limits. It’s called elections,” he said.
Commissioners generally agreed that despite Pasco’s growth spurt, there aren’t enough residents to justify a shift from countywide voting to single-member districts.
That might change in five to 10 years, but for now Starkey said,
“I feel more powerful as a voter, voting for all five.”
Weighing the pros and cons, Schrader said the advantage would be in creating the potential for a minority candidate to be elected.
“But other than that, I don’t see any real benefit from single-member districts,” he said.
Moore said the idea is worth a look.
“I don’t have a problem with single-member districts,” he said. “I think a minority district is worth investigating,” he added.
However, increasing from five to seven commissioners wouldn’t make sense now based on Pasco’s population. “We’re not there yet,” he said.
On electing an administrator, Starkey is no fan.
“It shouldn’t be a political job,” she said.
Schrader also is adamantly opposed to what he described as a “hot button issue.”
He said making it elective would invite outside financing from people “who never set foot in Pasco.”
Moore was less committal. “There’s many ways to look at this,” he said.
Commissioners appointed the 15-member charter panel in May. Members can choose to adopt a charter or not.
In contrast, state law requires that a charter commission, once formed, must produce a charter. Pasco County commissioners would not be able to amend the charter document, and voters have the final say on adoption.
Corcoran favored the commission rather than the nonbinding panel. An activist group, the Pasco County Citizens Charter Coalition, is partnering with the lawmaker in a petition campaign to secure a required 45,000 signatures needed to establish such a commission.
“I think they’ve put a great weight on you, and it’s going to take some courage,” said Dan Callaghan of the charter coalition group. He spoke to the panel during public comment.
Pasco County commissioners initially said they created a panel to have more control over the outcome. But, they also have said that they will accept whatever choice the panel makes. If a charter were chosen, then the matter would be on the ballot in November 2016.
“We’re not making any changes. We all agreed to it,” Moore said. “Whatever comes to us, we’ll abide by it.”
Published July 22, 2015