County Mayor issue discussed by County Commission by Mitch E. Perry

03/01/06

The Hillsborough County Commissioners today took time out of their Bi-Weekly meeting to discuss the citizens' oriented plan to have citizens vote for a County Mayor.

The campaign for the Charter Amendment currently is gathering signatures that they hope to bring before Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson by July.

The campaign was instigated late last year by Mary Ann Stiles, a former Hartline lobbyist, disgusted by what she calls the failures of the current Commission to address the issues affecting the Citizenry.

So today Commissioner Tom Scott said that the County Commission should discuss the issue fully, to allow voters to know what they might be voting for. (roll tape#1 o.q.�this issue�)

Tom Scott: "From my stand point, when we talk about electing a County Mayor, I sincerely believe that it's an issue the Board should take the lead on and discuss. I have problems when it's coming from a negative point of view, when people are raising their own issues and they're angry about something. I think it's healthy for the Board to dialogue and discuss this. Have the County Attorney research this issue."

Scott said there are a number of issues currently unanswered about how County Government would work under such a concept, that need to be fully reviewed.

Although insisting that he is neutral on the issue, Scott appeared to be hurt from a recent Tampa Tribune editorial endorsing the County Mayor idea, and criticizing the commission – and him directly – for again refusing to support an increase on raising impact fees at their last meeting (roll tape#2 o.q.�that’s out there�)

Scott: "[It?] goes on to state the different names of Commissioners who fail to vote and were not...kids to be in overcrowded classrooms. Well first of all, that's already the case. This goes way back. Secondly, a lot of the growth that has taken place goes back to the 1980 County Commissioners' goals. You already know that, right? (An "uhha" assent from Ronda Storms.) And so (chuckles pleasantly) we need to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. (Chuckles again.) So, when you look at this, there's a lot of misinformation that's out there."

But Although other Commissioners applauded him for ‘elevating the debate’, it appeared that commissioners were more intent on trashing the plan --– which they did for 45 minutes, though continuing to applaud themselves for the “healthy� Debate.

County Commissioner Ken Hagen (roll tape#3 o.q.�I didn’t know that�)

Hagen: "Whenever there's a movement that takes place, regardless of the issue, I like to look at who's behind it. I asked. And a couple of weeks ago I was given a list of names of people who are envolved in this issue. Commissioner Scott handed them out. I don't know if anyone else noticed this but nearly everyone on the list was a losing candidate for public office (aha!). Either that, or they were a relative of Mary Ann Stiles (ahah ha!!) who is a leader of this movement."

Ron Storms: "Who is also a losing candidate for public office."

Hagen: "Well, that increases my precentages.I didn't know that."

County Commission Chairman Jim Norman also sounded like his mind was already made up about the concept of a County Mayor. (roll tape4 o.q.�PRESENTED TO THE COMMUNITY�)

Norman: "Another thing that strikes me funny is how we applaud the Sunshine Law and we applaud how everything is open government, but then we want to consolidate the one person where most of the deals are done in the backroom (outright laughter!) So what a contradiction! Decisions wouldn't be made out in front of television any more in a debate process like this. They would be decided with a single person working behind closed doors, and then presented to the community."

Commisioner Mark Sharpe contemplated that the County Commission might ultimately come up with its own initiative, to compete potentially against a Citizens motion, if in fact it ever makes it to the ballot.

Kathy Castor said it was healthy to discuss the structure of County Government, and thought there should be a thoughtful analysis, but disagreed that the County Administrator should go out and campaign against it, which was discussed at one point.(ROL TAPE#4A “the growth�)

Castor: " I don't think this movement is as much about the structure of county government as much as it reflects the frustrations of the public with growth and development, right now with congestion....This is a fast-growing community and people......."

Storms added another element to the conversation when she said that Stiles had hinted at that time that she planned future citizen participation to amend the County charter

Commissioner Ronda Storms debated County Mayor proponent Mary Ann Stiles in January in an event sponsored by the League of Women Voters. But she added another element to the conversation when she said that Stiles has hinted that she plans future citizens petitions to amend the County Charter (roll tape#5 o.q.�what the whole plan is�)

Mary Ann Stiles said

As the discussion continued, Commissioner Mark Sharpe said he did not want the County to politicize the issue, or at least be accused of that (roll tape#6 o..q.�what this means�)

The Commission voted 7-0 to ask the County Attorney to collect information about the County Mayor concept and bring that back to the Commission in 2 weeks.

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