North Miami Beach voters are being asked to say yes or no to 10 ballot measures on Nov. 8 — a rewritten city charter and nine amendments to the charter that include changing how the city manager is hired and reducing the number of required City Council meetings.
City Clerk Pamela Latimore said the measures are designed to make governing the city easier and more responsive to residents.
The first question asks voters to approve an entirely new charter for North Miami Beach. Latimore said the initiative will delete obsolete and redundant language and make the city’s charter concise, organized and easier to understand.
“We are going to ask the voters to change the whole charter, to get rid of our old charter and bring in a new charter,” she said. “Our last charter was done in 1957. A lot has changed in government and in municipal government especially.”
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Councilwoman Barbara Kramer agreed, saying the point was to “streamline and modernize the city charter.”
Although the charter would be repealed and replaced, Latimore said the overall form and function of the city would not change. The revised charter would still include the city’s “Citizen’s Bill of Rights,” boundary description, the city council-city manager form of government, charter officers, and election-related matters dealing with initiatives and referendums.
The other nine measures propose significant changes to the charter. Several involve the duties and responsibilities of city executives and how they are hired.
Currently, the city manager — the highest non-elected official in the city — is hired provisionally for six months and given one-year terms following that. After five years, the city manager is given two-year terms and can be fired only for cause. One measure would delete this provision, and allow the City Council to negotiate the terms of the city manager’s contract and duties.
A similar measure redefines the powers and duties of the city attorney and city clerk and gives the council the option of hiring a law firm to handle the city’s legal matters rather than requiring that the city attorney be a staff employee.
Latimore said her job duties are not clearly explained. The proposed change would clarify this. She said she is “very supportive” of the change.
Another amendment would move the May elections to November of even-numbered years. The change would coincide with federal, state, county, school board and judicial races on the fall ballots.
“The general thinking is that more people go to the polls to vote for presidential elections, and during the primary in August. Maybe we can get a bigger turnout,” said Latimore.
She said the city has about 20,000 registered voters, but only about 10 percent show up for municipal races. There’s a cost benefit as well.
“My elections run about $60,000, and another $60,000 if there is a runoff,” she said. “You’re looking at about $120,000, as opposed to piggybacking on the county election. This [election] is our first piggyback, so we’ll know after this what our true cost savings is.”
Other amendments would:
▪ Eliminate the Civil Service Board. Many of the board’s duties are currently taken care of by the city’s human resources department. Union rules regarding promotion and discipline would not be affected.
Kramer said the board slows down the hiring process. “Keeping it as it is now is not conducive to a highly functioning workforce and well-run organization,” she said
▪ Change the name of the governing body from “City Council” to “City Commission.” The reason for the change, said Latimore, is to make the term more gender neutral — commissioner instead of councilman or councilwoman.
▪ Allow city business to proceed with only four members present at a meeting. The charter currently requires five of the seven council members to be present in order to take action. The council has had recent problems with members leaving meetings early and losing its quorum.
▪ Limit elected officials to “two consecutive four-year terms” instead of “eight consecutive years.” Officials would be allowed to run for office again after a two-year break.
▪ Lower the minimum required number of City Council meetings from twice a month to 11 meetings per year.
▪ Change the day election results are officially accepted from election night to the second business day following the county’s official certification of the returns. It also would extend the amount of time officials have to declare a special election following a vacancy from 60 to 90 days.
A meeting has been scheduled Tuesday 6 p.m. at City Hall to discuss the measures. Latimore said officials will be on hand to answer any questions.