Monday, May 27, 2013

The Bernstein Ordinance

This Wednesday, May 29 at 8:30 a.m., our City Council will be holding their monthly workshop meeting. To date, City Hall has not posted the workshop meeting agenda. However, one agenda item is sure to be included - the Bernstein Ordinance. As you may recall, the Council voted at the May 7 meeting to workshop the Bernstein Ordinance at their next meeting.

The purpose of the Bernstein Ordinance is to ensure that all Belle Isle residents are informed of the qualification dates to run for City Commissioner or Mayor. This proposed ordinance was originally suggested and drafted by Belle Isle resident Dr. Stuart Bernstein, who modeled it after Orlando ordinances 21.06 and 21.08. Dr. Bernstein's proposed ordinance reads as follows:

"Six months prior to the filing dates for election to position of mayor and/or commissioners, the mayor will issue a proclamations listing position and/or positions to be elected, relevant filing dates and election dates. This proclamation should be mailed promptly via regular mail to all Belle Isle residents as well as posted on the City of Belle Isle website. The mailing and posting should be repeated three months later."

Discussing this proposed ordinance at the last Council meeting, Mayor Brooks stated that while he supports the idea of publishing qualification deadlines, he does not believe that our City needs an ordinance requiring such publication. I respectfully disagree. Regardless of our present mayor's commitment to this cause, adoption of the Bernstein Ordinance is vital for two reasons.

Its first purpose is to ensure that qualification dates will be published in Belle Isle in perpetuity. An ordinance will ensure that all future office-holders will be bound by the same legal duty to announce qualification dates.

Its second purpose is to set specific guidelines as to how publication will be made. This ordinance represents an agreement between the government and residents of Belle Isle. So the ordinance needs to be sufficiently specific to ensure that we are all on the same page regarding the terms of that agreement and exactly how such publication shall be made.

To that end, Vice-Mayor Spaulding proposed a modification to the Bernstein Ordinance at the last council meeting. He proposed that the ordinance permit publication by way of city newsletter instead of by separate mailing. It appears that his motivation is to avoid the expense of two separate mailings if a city newsletter is already going to be mailed out to all residents.

Fiscal responsibility is always a worthy goal. However, I would hesitate to rely solely on the Belle Isle Newsletter to publish election qualification dates as I can't recall the last time one was mailed out. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that if publication is going to be made by Belle Isle Newsletter, such publication will be made at the proper time and be sufficiently prominent to ensure visibility.

In order to address Vice-Mayor Spaulding's fiscal concerns while also ensuring that the ordinance will accomplish its purpose, I hereby propose the following modified Bernstein Ordinance:

Six months prior to the qualification deadline for any election to position of mayor or commissioner, and again three months prior to the qualification deadline for any election to position of mayor or commissioner, the mayor shall issue a proclamation listing: (1) the positions to be elected, (2) the relevant filing dates and election dates, and (3) the relevant qualification requirements (or internet links thereto).

These proclamations shall be mailed to each residence in Belle Isle no earlier than one week prior to each proclamation date and no later than one week after each proclamation date. Such mailings shall be made by First Class U.S. Mail in one of the two following manners: (1) via postcard no smaller than 3 ½ inches by 5 inches in size or (2) via any other mailing so long as the proclamation is located on the front page of the mailing and no smaller than 3 ½ inches by 5 inches in size.

These proclamations shall also be sent by email to each Belle Isle "e-lert" subscriber as well as prominently posted on the City of Belle Isle website during the time frames set forth above.

Have any suggestions regarding the proposed ordinance? Feel free to email me at or leave a comment below.

Want to support the Bernstein Ordinance? Come to the workshop meeting this Wednesday, May 29 at 8:30 a.m. All council meetings are located at 1600 Nela Avenue unless otherwise noted. The mayor and council have recently been permitting comments and questions at the workshop meetings, so come prepared!


  1. Thank you for bringing this to our attention as, I like you do not remember the last time I have received a news letter. It is also imperative that the citizens of Belle Isle know what is going on in their community. Keep up the good work and maybe the citizen pressure upon the reingig Mayor/Commissioners will allow us to be informed citizens.

    Jerry Brotherton
    Belle Isle Pines

    1. with our government in the sunshine... using the sunshine law, there would be alot of change! in how we do business! The thief would be reduced.

      think about how small we are, we might be the smallest city in the state! now think about the amount of dirty politics and hands in the cookie jar we have here!

      crooks in office, we could show how to run a government, or size should make it easy to be clean and for the people!

      i'm ashamed of our government, so small and so dirty.


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