Monday, July 29, 2013

Wednesday Agenda and The Bernstein Mistake [UPDATE]

The agenda for Wednesday's workshop meeting, which begins at 8:30 a.m. in City Hall, has been posted to the City website. There are many important items on the this month's agenda including:

  • Belle Aire Luxury Homes planned development
  • An urban chickens pilot program
  • Water quality report regarding the "Wipeout" event
  • The 2013-2014 proposed budget for Belle Isle

Documents regarding each of these agenda items, including our City's proposed budget, are attached to the meeting agenda.  You can find a copy of the meeting agenda here:

Additionally, our City Attorney will be presenting on the proposed "Bernstein Ordinance," which was requested by a number of residents for the purpose of announcing candidate qualification dates. Many potential candidates for Commissioner or Mayor never get to run because they are unaware that they must qualify in a specific week in November - four months before the upcoming election in March of the following year. The Bernstein Ordinance was designed to ensure that all potential candidates will be made aware of the qualification dates.

Proposed City Ordinance 13-07, represents our City Attorney's attempt to codify the Bernstein Ordinance. You can find it attached to the last two pages of the workshop meeting agenda. As drafted, proposed Ordinance 13-07 contains a major mistake, as well as some omissions, which will undercut its entire purpose:

1.  The proposed ordinance has been drafted to announce election dates, not candidate qualification dates as requested by Dr. Bernstein and others. Although announcing election dates is great, this is not the purpose of the ordinance. The purpose is to ensure that all residents are notified of the date by which they need to register to run for office.

2.  Although the ordinance correctly requires no less than 90 days advance notice, it also needs to state the maximum number of days notice permitted. This will ensure that the announcements won't go out so early that potential candidates forget about the qualification date before it actually comes up. Under the ordinance as written, the announcements could be sent out a year or more in advance and still technically satisfy its requirements.

3.  Two qualification announcements were requested by Dr. Bernstein in his proposed ordinance. One at six months out and another at three months out from the qualification date. Although proposed ordinance 13-07 addresses the three month notice, it appears that the six month notice didn't make it into the ordinance as drafted.

Obviously, the mistake described in number 1 above is most crucial as it undercuts the entire purpose of the ordinance. While it is unclear how this mistake could have happened, since both Dr. Bernstein and I provided drafts of the proposed ordinance to the Council, it should be easy enough to address these issues at the Wednesday workshop meeting.

But here's the rub. As of this moment, the Wednesday meeting has not been designated a "special" meeting. This means that residents may not be given the opportunity to speak, and we will therefore need to ensure that our elected representatives speak for us to get this proposed ordinance corrected. So please call or email your Commissioner and make sure that he or she is aware of these problems with the proposed ordinance. Your Commissioner's contact information can be found here.

UPDATE 7/30/13:  According to Commissioner Readey, the problem noted in #1 above was an honest mistake made by the City Attorney which will be corrected before Wednesday's meeting. However, I believe it is still important to address the issue raised in #2 above. This wouldn't be difficult, simply add the following language at the beginning of line 15 of the proposed ordinance: "No more than one hundred twenty (120) days prior to and no less than ninety (90) days prior to..."


  1. If this goes through as is, then I think it is time to start a petition to put the correct one (detailing candidate qualification dates and maximum number of days the notice can be published) on a ballot for the citizens to vote on. If we are going to take the time to collect all those signatures, we might as well add a few more items on the Charter to revise-like limiting the number of appointed Commissioners to assure residents are represented by elected officials!

  2. I contacted our city attorney about his goof up this weeked after reading the draft Bernstein ordinance sending him the version that Dr, Bernstein proposed and as revised by Comm. Spaulding, He confirmed receiving it and would revise the oed, to read just like it was passed for the workshop tomorrow. He had apparently miss placed his minutes from the May 2nd meeting and that is why he messed up. Note that I had reminded the mayor, city clerk and city manager of the wording on or about August 8th as I did not have our city attorney email address at the time so he did not get my reminder notice until this weekend,
    I really like your suggestions but feel we should just pass what we got. If we try to improve it, somebody will most likely kill it before it gets to the first of 2 readings.Harvey

  3. I agree with Ms. Goodenow.
    The only way City Hall is going to start listening, is if we vote some of them out. They have been able to do whatever they want for so long, they think (especially the mayor)that they don't have to listen to the people that voted them into office. I guess since the mayor appointed most of them, that is way they blindly listen to him and not the residents.


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