By Dan Moffett
At the urging of the town’s civic association, Gulf Stream commissioners are planning to take a hard look at their elections and consider changes to the charter.
Last month, the civic association sent a letter to the commission that called for staggering the three-year terms of commissioners so that seats come open in different years. Currently, Gulf Stream is one of only a handful of South Florida municipalities that elects all its officials in the same year.
The civic association wants the commission to put an amendment to change that on the ballot in March. But Town Attorney John “Skip” Randolph says that isn’t feasible because there isn’t enough time, as it would take several meetings to examine the proposal properly. He urged commissioners to take a more thoughtful look at the staggered terms idea and perhaps also review the entire town charter in the process.
“The charter right now is very sparse,” Randolph said. “There’s nothing wrong with a small charter, a sparse charter.”
Commissioner Bob Ganger pointed out that the civic association represents about 75 percent of Gulf Stream’s residents, so the group’s input is important.
“I think this is big stuff,” Ganger said. “I applaud the civic association for bringing this to our attention. I’d like to find out if there’s a better way to govern and take our time to do it right.”
Commissioner Thomas Stanley said other communities that have made similar changes typically hold workshops and get residents involved in the process.
“I’m sure changes probably need to be made,” Stanley said. “But I’m unsure about the timing.”
Commissioner Garrett Dering said that term limits on commissioners should be part of the discussion, too.
Mayor Joan Orthwein said the commission would invite representatives of the civic association to come to the Dec. 13 commission meeting and discuss their proposal in greater detail. “We’re here listening with open ears,” Orthwein said.
In other business, commissioners:
• Told town consulting engineer Danny Brannon to do all that’s possible to get the landscaping for the underground utilities project moving. Brannon said contractors and landscapers are mobilizing and a “detailed, tentative plan” for moving forward should be ready early in December. “I understand your frustration,” Brannon said. “Somehow it takes longer than we all want it to take.”
• Gave unanimous approval to move money from the town’s reserves to cover a shortfall in last year’s budget, attributed largely to about $412,000 in legal expenses. Much of that came from the cost of defending 21 lawsuits filed by resident Martin O’Boyle, who sued the town over his home renovation, public records requests and the town’s sign code.