County Mayor Proposal will be on 2008 ballot

09/29/06

The Tampa Tribune reported today that Hillsborough County voters WILL get to vote on a County Mayor form of government – in 2008.

Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson made that declaration yesterday, after confirming the group behind the effort had enough valid signatures. He was to announce today whether a 2nd measure would also make it on the 2008 ballot.

But organizers, led by Tampa Attorney Mary Ann Stiles, were hoping to have the measures on THIS year’s ballot. But before the deadline this year, the Supervisors office rejected several thousand petitions. But Stiles says that over 9% of those signatures, or 277 out of 3,000 reviewed, should never have been thrown out.

Mary Ann Stiles says she thinks with a little luck, these measures would have been on the 2006 ballot (roll tape#1 o.q.�I do think its’ possible’)

In addition to the rejected petitions that were ruled as invalid, Stiles group, Taking Back Tampa Bay, randomly pulled l,000 petitions from the copies of the petitions relating to the creation of the county mayor, copies of which were in their possession, and had been turned in to the Supervisor’s office by the political committee. Of those l000 petitions 60 or 6% were not on the list of voters counted by the Supervisor’s office nor were they found in the rejected petitions.

Stiles attempt to get the County Mayor proposal on this year’s ballot was a trying experience. Most members of the County Commission blasted the idea, and some continue to belittle it. In Friday’s St. Petersburg Times, County Commissioner Ken Hagen said, “It’s one family, and a group of losing candidates and a company that was hired to get signatures, and that’s the reason there wasn’t an overwhelming support for this initiatve and why there were so many mistakes�.

Needless to say, Mary Ann Stiles disagrees (roll tape#2 o.q.�my family�)

Also at one point, Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson asked Attorney General Charlie Crist whether the petition drive was subject to a February 1st deadline for efforts to change the state constitution. (roll tape#3 o.q.�hadn’t missed the deadline�)

Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson was contacted by WMNF. He did not return our call by airtime. Johnson was severely criticized by both the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times editorial board for his work on the County Ballot initiative, but Mary Ann Stiles say she’s looking forward, not backwards, at this time (roll tape#4 o.q.�very necessary�) And again, Hillsborough County Voters will be able to vote on the County Mayor issue, in 2008.

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