Citing what he sees as a need to restore the separation of powers in city government, Pensacola City Councilman Charles Bare is proposing a number of changes to the five-year-old city charter.
The amendments from Bare -- who’s a candidate for mayor – would give the council the ability to set financial controls, including changes to the city budget, and in other ways re-determine the organization of city government. He refers back to the City of Hialeah’s charter – the basis for Pensacola’s.
“In their charter it states that city council has the power to assign duties and powers to the departments, things like that,” said Bare. “What happened was late in the process with our charter, apparently they got moved to the mayor. It creates a real problem, I think, because in most governments the legislative body sets up the structure of the government.”
In effect, that would take that power away from the mayor. Bare also wants to make the mayor an official, voting member of the city council. He’s hoping that would create more openness between the mayor’s office and the council.
But making the mayor a voting member of the council would also kick in Florida’s Sunshine Law, which would prevent him or her from meeting with individual council members outside public meetings.
In a memo set to colleagues Tuesday, Bare said not only would his changes give the mayor a vote, they would also bring him or her under the part of a state law that allows municipal voters to recall elected officials.
The goal is to get the ordinance on the ballot for the August 26 city primary – which also contains the race among Bare, incumbent Ashton Hayward, and Donna Clark. Action could begin as early as next Monday’s agenda conference. Bare expects the issue to make it to the regular Council meeting on April 24.
“The only reason we would take things off the agenda conference is if enough information was not provided,” Bare said. “I think I’ve provided plenty of information to put this up for a vote.”
Once it goes before the Council, the proposal will undergo two readings. A simple majority – five votes – is needed on both to send it to the voters.
City Council members contacted by the Pensacola News Journal appear to have mixed feelings about changing the charter. In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Mayor Ashton Hayward called Bare’s amendments “a Trojan Horse designed to dismantle the City Charter and take our city back to a form of government that simply didn’t work.”