Council Corner Charter change proposed

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By: Councilman Scott Singer
More representative democracy was the subject I raised at a recent Boca Raton City Council meeting. 2016’s busy election season caused me to look again at the city charter. Under Boca’s charter, vacancies on the city council are currently filled by appointment, and that appointment can last up to two years – when the next regular city election is held. This leaves the possibility that the residents could have an appointed council member for up to two years without their input. By the same token, the deputy mayor, in replacing the mayor, could serve as mayor for up to two years, even though the position of deputy mayor historically rotated annually.
I believe this provision – a fluke from the change to three-year council terms a decade ago – leaves the residents out of the process. Voters’ lack of input has been made clear by some current discussions in other cities in Palm Beach County, where council members who also fill vacancies by appointment have had multiple meetings to winnow down the candidates they will handpick to sit beside them on the dais. The discussions on who will govern may occur at public meetings, but they lack the necessary public input.
Shouldn’t the residents have the greatest say? I think they should. That’s why I am introducing an amendment to the Boca Raton city charter to provide for elections to fill vacancies, either within 60 days of the vacancy, or within 150 days if there will be an already-scheduled upcoming election. By making appointments more temporary and providing for direct election, Boca Raton can ensure that, for the interim, the council can still do its work, and for the longer term, the people have their say.
If approved by the council, the amendment then would be voted on by the residents on the August 30th ballot.