Miami Gardens / Opa-locka

Opa-locka

Opa-locka residents favor term limits at meeting

 

ldixon@MiamiHerald.com

Mayor Myra Taylor and the city of Opa-locka have taken another step in their proposal to add term limits for city commissioners.

At a town hall meeting Friday, residents expressed general support of the term limits and bringing in fresh faces to city leadership, but had questions about the resolution’s language.

The resolution was initially presented at a City Commission meeting Feb. 12, but was deferred to allow for community discussion.

The language of the resolution states that, if approved, no candidate could appear on the ballot for mayor or commissioner if they had served eight consecutive years in that position. The proposed amendment gives flexibility that would allow candidates to run for mayor if they are a city commissioner and vice versa without being restricted.

Some residents said the proposed rules were not restrictive enough because they would allow candidates to sidestep them by running for a different office or sitting out one election cycle.

“Once you have served your eight years, that means you’re out and not coming back,” said Johnnie Mae Greene.

City Attorney Joseph Geller said that residents like Greene were proposing lifetime term limits, in which elected officials would serve no more than eight years and never be allowed to run again in the city.

“There are serious constitutional issues with telling somebody they cannot serve ever again,” Geller said. “It is subject to legal challenge and could be ruled improper by the Florida Supreme Court.”

Commissioner Timothy Holmes, who has hinted at the idea that the proposed limits were targeted at him, said that he didn’t think the limits were necessary and that voters already have the inherent ability to limit city leaders’ service.

“You all have the opportunity now to vote us in and vote us out, what you call that?” Holmes said. “You don’t call that term limits?”

Mayor Taylor said at that meeting that her focus was not on the current commissioners, but on bringing in new people.

“This is for the future of Opa-locka — fresh ideas, bringing in young people, giving them an opportunity to bring in some stuff,” Taylor said at the meeting. “It is not directed to anyone, and especially not you, Commissioner Holmes.”

In addition to term limits, residents also proposed splitting the city into four or five districts and having commissioners serve certain areas. Taylor said the city plans to hold additional town hall meetings to discuss the amendment.

The resolution is expected to be added to the agenda of the City Commission’s April 23 meeting. If approved, voters would have to decide on the changes to the charter in August, and they would take effect in the November elections.

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