The seven-member Flagler Beach Charter Review Commission that convened for the first time in 10 years this year had a hard time coming up with proposed changes to the city’s charter at its half-dozen meetings since late June. It came up with two, if that: a more contemporary gender-neutral reference to city managers, and added clarity to what commissioners and the mayor are paid, though that proposal doesn’t actually change how much they’ve been paid or the way they’ve been getting raises to their still-very modest salaries.
Technically the review commission is proposing a third amendment as well, but that’s the elimination of wording that’s no longer necessary, and that had applied 10 years ago, a transition year, when the city’s elected officials went from having two-year terms to three. It’s not an amendment so much as a retirement, but it’ll still appear as a ballot measure.
That’s assuming the city commission approves the three amendments for inclusion on the March 2020 ballot of the city’s municipal elections. The commission will accept the charter review’s recommendations at tonight’s meeting, and decide whether to approve them.
Flagler Beach’s charter is required to meet every 10 years. Late last spring each city commissioner nominated a charter review member from the community, then the charter members among themselves named a seventh member. They met six times between June 24 and Aug. 26.
The charter members and those who appointed them were former Clerk of Court Gail Wadsworth (appointed by Commissioner Rick Belhumeur), former County Commissioner Barbara Revels (Eric Cooley), former Flagler Beach City Commissioner John Feind (Jane Mealy), former Beverly Beach City Commissioner Sandra Siepietoski (Kim Carney), former City Commission candidate Deborah Phillips (Marshall Shupe), and attorney Scott Spradley, currently short-listed for a county judge appointment (Mayor Linda Provencher). The six members then named Kent Ryan, who formerly headed Daytona State College’s Palm Coast campus, as the seventh member. The meetings were also attended by City Attorney Drew Smith, City Clerk Penny Overstreet and Secretary and Deputy City Clerk Jeanelle Jarrah. The meetings reflected the commission’s make-up: they were efficient, uncomplicated and workmanlike, judging from minutes.
Specifically, the first proposed amendment would eliminate unclear language from a provision about the way commissioners and the mayor are paid–by resolution of the city commission. Commissioners and the mayor are currently paid $8,467 a year. They usually get a cost-of-living, or inflation, adjustment–assuming employees are getting raises that year. It’s up to the commission to decide whether or not to award themselves increases. That’s not changing.
Amendment 2 merely removes outdated language. Amendment 3 asks whether the charter should be “amended to be gender neutral and correct a grammatical error.” The charter currently assumes that all city managers are men. It’s not terribly off the mark: As of last year, 88 percent of city managers in the United States were men. And Flagler Beach aside–a woman managed the city early in the previous decade–none of Flagler’s other major governments have had a woman as a top executive, ever. But the amendment would ensure that all references to the city manager be made gender-neutral, as in “his or her…”
The charter review commissioners discussed other potential issues–driving on the beach as the Turtle Patrol and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during upcoming dune restoration, the power of the commission to buy lease property outside the city, boats in distress being allowed to stop in Flagler Beach, annexation issues, mooring on the beach during emergencies, even putting “sanctuary city” into law and the city seal, though in each case such matters were found to be the purview of commission decisions, not charter amendments.
The dearth of amendments isn’t unusual in such processes. That’s been the case when Palm Coast and Bunnell went through similar exercises in the past couple of years. The proposed changes that made it to the ballot in each city were likewise minor, the charter review meetings drawing little to no interest, a reflection of implied satisfaction by voters that their local governments are functioning without need for substantial changes to the equivalent of their constitutions. If each city’s charter commissioners produced a few changes for the ballot, the changes were as if token indications that charter review members did some work they could memorialize.
The full proposals are below.