More support to reduce Pensacola City Council

I was copied on this email to the Pensacola City Council:

Dear Members of City Council,

Due to scheduling conflicts, I will be unable to attend both the Committee of the Whole meeting tomorrow and Thursday’s City Council meeting. You will be considering a very important issue regarding the size of council. For your review and consideration, I have attached notes from the Charter Review Commission (CRC) meetings, the Public Hearings and the City Council Workshop regarding this issue. Specifically, attached are the following documents:

· March 19, 2009 Minutes from the CRC meeting in which the issue was discussed and voted upon;
· Excerpts from notes that were provided to the CRC for the March 19, 2009 vote;
· Model City Charter 8th Ed. Section on composition and commentary regarding size of Council;
· June 17, 2009 Minutes from the CRC Public Hearing on Draft Charter;
· Excerpt from the June 17th Public Hearing Power Point;
· July 9, 2009 Letter to Former Mayor Mike Wiggins enclosing the proposed revised Charter of Pensacola (with attached relevant section regarding the size of the City Council); and,
· Excerpts regarding the size of council from my summary notes on the building of the charter.

In the March 4, 2009 CRC meeting, a presentation was made by our consultant, Dr. Robert Lee. During his presentation, he recommended that the CRC reduce the size of Council. My recollection is that he advised that the City Council should be reduced to 5 members. He further recommended that all members be elected at large, among other recommendations. At that meeting, following discussion, it was voted to table the issue to the March 19, 2009 meeting. On March 19, 2009, the CRC engaged in lively debate regarding the recommended size of the City Council. The CRC voted 7-3 in favor of reducing the size of Council to 7 single member districts. While I was in favor of the reduction of the size of Council, my opinion was consistent with that of the consultant’s; that is, I believed that the size should be smaller than 7 and that all members should be elected at large (but reside within each district). Thus, I voted against the motion for the 7 single member districts.

In the excerpts from the notes from various charters the CRC studied, you will notice that all of the communities have a smaller city council than Pensacola. Further, the Model City Charter also recommends a smaller council.

On June 17, 2009 a public hearing was held on the proposed draft charter. There was no public discussion on what was then proposed, the 7 single member districts. While public input was sought on each section, no one from the public chose to address this issue. On July 8, 2009, the CRC voted 8-2 in favor of the final revised Charter of Pensacola which included a City Council made up of 7 single member districts. On July 9, 2009, the CRC submitted the Charter to former Mayor Mike Wiggins. On August 11, 2009, the City Council conducted a Charter Workshop. At that meeting, the reduction of the size of council was met with fierce opposition from the majority of the then sitting City Council members. At that meeting, it was made clear that if the CRC did not restore the 2 at-large seats, the City Council would not place the proposed revised Charter of Pensacola on a ballot. Thus, the only way the proposed revised Charter would go to the citizens of Pensacola would be through a citizen led referendum. On August 19, 2009, the CRC reconvened for the purpose of considering the City Council’s recommended changes. Again, a lively debate ensued and ultimately believing that it was in the best interest of the City for the citizens to have the timely right to vote on the Charter, the two at large positions were restored. It was specifically discussed by the CRC that this issue could and should be revisited.

As a member of the CRC who committed almost two years of volunteer time and countless hours studying the structure of the forms of government, I urge you to support the original intent of the CRC. I urge you to vote to allow the citizens of Pensaocla to be heard. Let the citizens decide if it is now time to reduce the size of the City Council.

Respectfully Submitted,
Crystal C. Spencer
Former Chair, Pensacola Charter Review Commission