Thomas Leonardo is Fort Myers city councilman for Ward 6
by Rick Diamond, Chairman of the Charter Review Committee in 2000 and in 2004
The deadlocked 2-2 county commission vote, that kept the motion to switch to single-member districts off the ballot, may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. That is because there is a much better alternative than either single-member districts, or the present “at large” voting system.
The alternative is a “hybrid” county commission composed of a mixture of single-member district commissioners and at-large commissioners. Five of Florida’s 20 charter, or home rule, counties now have hybrid commissions with two other counties currently considering the plan. Eight charter counties have commissioners elected at-large, including Lee County, while the remaining seven counties have single-member districts.
Once again Lee County voters will be denied their right to decide how they will choose their county commissioners — a right given them under the county charter they adopted in 1996.
What a slap in the face of democracy and responsive government. It is the product of failures by the county commission and by Gov. Charlie Crist.
A request for county commissioners to put the single-member district issue on the ballot this November, supported by a coalition of Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian groups, the NAACP and the League of Women voters, failed Tuesday.
District’s choice for its own representative, rejected by other districts in 40 % of County elections
Had Lee County Commissioner Bob Janes not died in March, the outcome of Tuesday’s commissioners meeting on the single-member district issue would have been a foregone conclusion.
It’s the kind of basic structure-of-government issue the people were meant to decide directly under charters, such as the one Lee voters adopted in 1996.
Ray Rodrigues is chair of the Coalition for Common-Sense Government, a former citizen member of The News-Press Editorial Board and 2008 Lee County Charter Review Committee.
Does the government of Lee County belong to its people?
In November 1996, Lee County voted to adopt a charter. Becoming a charter government provides citizens the opportunity for home rule, by allowing decisions on our government to be made by the voters here in Lee County, instead of the Legislature in Tallahassee.
In every other charter county, the choice of electoral method was one of the first to go to the voters. Despite being a charter county for 14 years, our citizens are still waiting for the opportunity to vote on the electoral method forced on us by Tallahassee.
In June 2008, Lee County’s Charter Review Committee voted 9-6 for single-member districts to go to the ballot.
Please attend the hearing and speak in favor of putting the proposed amendment on the November ballot.
May-11 at 5:00-PM at Commission chambers, 2120 Main St
Request Lee County Voters sign the voter list, and give them one of the reminders for the hearing.
After each list is filled, and as soon as possible, mail it to the address on the form.
The News-Press Editorial — April 3, 2010
In a charter county, such as Lee, voters should decide the basic shape of their county government. That’s the point of having the charter.
On Tuesday, Lee County commissioners will decide whether to give voters the chance to make such a decision, specifically on the way county commissioners themselves are elected. If they refuse to put this issue on the ballot, as they have in the past, then Gov. Charlie Crist’s choice to fill the vacancy left by the recent death of Commissioner Bob Janes becomes crucial.