This essay appeared in the Aug. 2 editions of the TBN Weekly News as a letter to the editor in response to TBN's July 24 editorial, "Voters should have their say."
The title of this editorial is exactly correct and no thinking person would disagree.
The editorial makes several valid points relative to every newly elected office holder anywhere in the country. There’s no doubt that they all face a learning curve, which has always been the case.
However, Pinellas County faces a different and unique set of challenges that must be addressed. The facts relative to those challenges are clear based on the voters having had their say in 1996 when they passed the “Eight is Enough” charter amendment by more than 72 percent of the voters. While that amendment became part of the charter in 1997 it was challenged in court and the Pinellas County Commission has ignored the amendment ever since.
The Supreme Court in 2002 took up the challenge and made a decision that was completely misread by the Commission. As a result, the commission has ignored the legally passed and adopted 1996 charter amendment.
On May 12, 2012, this year, the current Supreme Court “receded” from that earlier decision and declared that term limits enacted by county charters are constitutional based on the “home rule” provisions of the Florida Constitution. That decision applies to all 67 Florida counties, including Pinellas County.
Unfortunately, the majority of our county commission has chosen to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision, which resulted in a lawsuit filed by residents of the county and is in the courts today.
The question we face today is whether four commissioners have the right to ignore a Supreme Court decision and effectively suppress the voter’s overwhelming approval of the “Eight is Enough” Charter Amendment passed in 1996.
Our system is based on the rule of law, not the rule of men. Unfortunately, four members of the commission seem to think that they are above the law and, based on their conduct, have chosen to ignore and defy the Florida Supreme Court for their own personal benefit.
Current Pinellas County Commissioners are paid between $87,000 and $99,000 a year, including benefits and “perks,” which they are clearly determined to protect, despite the court’s decision, which is now the law in Florida. That compensation is well in excess of what most county residents enjoy, particularly with respect to those of us who are retired.
While we may debate and discuss the “need” for term limits in Florida, nevertheless we are all required to obey the laws in Florida, including the 1996 charter amendment as it was passed and became effective in January 1997, more than 15 years ago.
(The graphic above was created by South Pinellas 912 member Jonathan Chambers for use by any citizen working to hold our elected officials accountable to the law).