FAQ

 

 

 

 

´╗┐What exactly would this charter amendment for Mayor do?
How are term limits strengthened under this proposal?
When will the vote take place?
What do the terms "weak" and "strong" mayor mean?
Does switching to a strong mayor give too much power to one person?
Who would have authority over the electric utility, the hospital, the airport, and the other assets of the city?
Could ownership of the electric utility be changed by the mayor?
If the mayor is no longer a voting member of the Commission, what happens to that vote?
Why should this reorganization occur?
What about the city manager?
Can I read the revised charter?
What is the ballot language and who wrote it?
What will the salary of the new mayor be?
Who will set the salary of all other city employees?
Who will raise or cut taxes?
Will there be checks and balances?
Will any hiring be subject to confirmation by the City Commission?
What options are available if the voters decide the mayor is doing a poor job?
Who makes the financial decisions?
What process was used to present this proposed amendment?
Who funded this effort and why?

 

 

What exactly would this charter amendment for Mayor do?

The revised charter would separate executive and legislative powers between the elected officials of the city. The mayor would take on the day-to-day executive powers currently assigned to the city manager and would no longer have a vote on the Commission. The Commission would be the legislative entity for the city and continue to have the power to pass or repeal ordinances, raise or lower taxes, appropriate funds, and administer the assets of the City. In this arrangement, the Commission would provide important checks and balances to the executive functions of the Mayor.

 

How are term limits strengthened under this proposal?

Currently, Lakeland has a confusing term limit system in which a mayor could serve three terms and still be elected as a city commissioner for a fourth term. Similarly, the city commissioners can serve three terms and still run for mayor for a fourth term.

Under our proposal, we clarify and strengthen term limits. We limit the mayor to two terms and the city commissioners to three terms, plain and simple. We believe two terms is enough for the chief executive.

 

When will the vote take place?

The City Commission set the election for November 7, 2017. During this election, the voters will also choose the next mayor and three city commissioners.

 

What do the terms "weak" and "strong" mayor mean?

There are many variations, but the terms are usually meant as follows:
•┬á a "weak" mayor votes as a city commissioner, has no executive power, and performs only ceremonial duties as mayor
• a "strong" mayor is the chief executive of the city and is allowed to directly supervise the city staff

We like the term "executive" mayor to make it more clear, though strong mayor is a term more people are familiar with.

The most important component is that under our proposal the mayor will be chosen directly by the voters: a strong, people's mayor!

 

Does switching to a strong mayor give too much power to one person?

No. On the contrary, it transfers the power of the chief executive from an appointed person to an elected person.

Currently, Lakeland's chief executive is an appointed city manager. Our opponents argue that a bad city manager could be fired by the city commission. But the previous city manager disappointed a lot of people, and he stayed in office for 13 years! The city commission never took any action. So while commission oversight may sound good, the reality is that rule-by-committee is usually indecisive and can allow power vacuums to develop.

We believe the mayor will be strong for the people. Our opponents argue that the mayor will be strong over the people, but their argument doesn't make much sense, because the people are the ones choosing the mayor in the first place, and they have the power to remove the mayor through a recall election. We find that political insiders don't like their networks to be disrupted when the city is led by a person chosen directly by the voters.

 

Who would have authority over the electric utility, the hospital, the airport, and the other assets of the city?

Stewardship of those assets will be reserved to the City Commission. The general manager of Lakeland Electric will be hired directly by the commission. We believe that Lakeland Electric is a critically important asset for the city and that it should be treated with special protection.

 

Could ownership of Lakeland Electric be changed by the mayor?

No. Nothing in this proposed charter revision would alter these requirements in Lakeland's Charter: "The City of Lakeland shall not sell, lease or otherwise dispose of any water plant, or all or substantially all of the assets of the electric utility until such sale or lease has previously been authorized by an affirmative vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the electors..."

 

If the mayor is no longer a voting member of the Commission, what happens to that vote?

The charter revision would create an additional at-large Commission seat to replace the position previously held by the Mayor so that the people of the City would continue to have the same number and proportion of district and at-large representation.

 

Why should this reorganization occur?

For accountability, transparency, and voter choice—with a single elected executive, the people of Lakeland will be able to select an individual who can advance a clear vision and have day-to-day responsibility for making that vision a reality. Rule-by-committee is not an effective way to lead.

 

What about the city manager?

The new form of government would maintain the position of a chief administrative officer (CAO) who serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. The CAO would likely have all the training and education typical of an accomplished professional in municipal government. A city manager doing an excellent job could be re-titled as the CAO under a strong mayor. The key difference is that the Mayor will be able to directly supervise the rest of the city staff; currently, all of Lakeland's elected officials are prohibited from supervising staff.

 

Can I read the revised charter?

It is available on this website at StrongLakeland_FinalCharter_2016.pdf.

 

What is the ballot language and who wrote it?

The ballot will read as follows:
"Should Lakeland change its government to a Mayor-Commission Plan; where Mayor becomes Chief Executive with authority over City operations and employees, except Lakeland Electric's Manager, with veto power over Commission's legislative actions; Commission can override Mayor's veto with 2/3 vote; changing Commission's governing authority to legislative; eliminating City Manager; creating Chief Administrative Officer serving at the pleasure of the Mayor; modifying elected officials' term limits, limiting Mayor to two terms; creating additional Commissioner?"

The ballot language was written by the City Commission, as required by law.

The complete sample ballot is 2017SampleBallot.pdf. The complete sample ballot in Spanish is 2017SampleSpanishBallot.pdf.

 

What will the salary of the new mayor be?

The City Commission will have responsibility for appropriating funds and will set the salary of the Mayor through ordinance. It will be a minimum of $100,000 per year.

 

Who will set the salary of all other city employees?

The Mayor will work with department heads and other members of the staff to set appropriate compensation amounts for the employees of the city. Final decision making will rest with the Mayor.

 

Who will raise or cut taxes?

The City Commission.

 

Will there be checks and balances?

The Mayor will have the power to veto ordinances passed by the Commission. The Commission will have the power to override any vetoes with a super majority vote. These checks and balances include line item veto of appropriations and corresponding overrides with supermajority votes.

 

Will any hiring be subject to confirmation by the City Commission?

The city attorney and the general manager of Lakeland Electric will be hired by the City Commission. The hiring and firing of the city attorney will require the approval of the mayor.

 

What options are available if the voters decide the mayor is doing a poor job?

With an election every four years, the voters are empowered to choose new leadership should they so desire. In addition, Florida municipalities are given the power to recall their elected officials and would continue to have that power under the revised charter. With petition signatures, the people can call a special election to recall the Mayor or any of the City Commissioners.

 

Who makes the financial decisions?

The proposed charter follows the model of "separation of powers," in which the legislative branch handles the finances and the executive branch handles the daily operations. The mayor will propose a budget each year; the City Commission sets the tax rates and passes the final budget. The city's property and assets are the responsibility of the Commission. The mayor can't buy or sell property without Commission approval.

The mayor can veto the entire budget or use line item veto on certain projects. This is an important tool so that the mayor can discourage pet projects without throwing out the entire budget. The City Commission can override any veto with a 5-2 super-majority vote.

The city's daily operations are the responsibility of the Mayor.

Procurement continues to be governed by the same processes in place today: the mayor would have no more authority over procurement than the city manager does currently.

A mayor cannot spend more than what has been authorized by the City Commission. A mayor could spend less than what is in the budget, and many chief executives try to stay under budget when possible. It is up to the voters of Lakeland whether they would want a mayor who will try to stay under budget or who will spend everything in the budget.

 

What process was used to present this proposed amendment?

The Committee for a Strong Lakeland created a proposed charter amendment and then gathered and submitted over 6,700 signatures from voters of Lakeland. Over 6,300 signatures were certified by the City Clerk and the City Commission subsequently decided the vote would happen on November 7, 2017.

 

Who funded this effort and why?

The Committee for a Strong Lakeland has received most of its financial support from Gregory Fancelli, a generous philanthropist from a prominent local family. Gregory has donated to many causes in Lakeland and tries to preserve important historic treasures here. After a series of disappointments in Lakeland's form of government—including the disastrous utility contract that cost the city over $50 million and the terrible scandals at Lakeland's police department several years ago —Gregory met with Dr. Bruce Anderson, who had written a column calling for Lakeland to transition to a mayor with executive authority. From there, the idea became more fully developed, the Committee was formed, the signatures were collected, and now the people of Lakeland will make the final decision about this important idea.

All of the Committee's finances are reported monthly to the Lakeland City Clerk:
http://www.lakelandgov.net/departments/city-clerk/elections/2017-ballot-issue/