Reviewing the City Charter ? …Maybe !

     What does this Thursday’s Fort Lauderdale Charter Review Board meeting and a train wreck have in common? 
     Hopefully nothing, say most members of this highly important City Advisory Board. But many members are concerned about the prospect for success, considering the Board’s membership, the wide range of issues that it could face, and the question of whether the Commission will even take their recommendations they might reach seriously.

      The Board is charged with reviewing the Charter, a document that spells out all the rules for the structure of running the City. Thursday, it could discuss, among other items, moving the City’s Elections to November to coincide with the country’s Presidential Elections. This would increase the length of the Commissioners’ and Mayors’ terms from three to four years. Other items being mentioned in the community include adding at-large Commissioners to the dais, adding a Commissioner to represent the Beach, changing to a Strong Mayor form of government, and allowing the Mayor and Commissioners to directly hire and/or fire the Police and Fire Chiefs.

     The Board will finally meet Thursday, after meetings were postponed due to members’ schedules. The Mayor and Commissioners each have one appointee. The Charter Board, like most of the City’s Boards, is advisory in scope, as it’s conclusions and recommendations can be accepted or rejected by the City Commission.

     Here is the type AAA roster of the Board –

     Dan Lewis – is one of the County’s most well known Political Consultants. He was a Commissioner in Miramar and a former Fort Lauderdale Mayoral candidate. He says he is “not optimistic” about the Board’s chance of success. He says the Commission will “do whatever it wants to do, regardless of any work done by the Committee”. Lewis, considered a probable Chair or Vice Chair of the committee, due to his stature and experience, says he intends on reintroducing the recommendations that the Commission ignored the last time the Board met. The previous Board sent the Commission a list of 19 suggestions, and at least three items were adopted: a City Code of Ethics, an independent Auditor, and the ability of City Commissioners to appoint there own assistants.

     Judy Stern – Probably the County’s most infamous political strategist, is widely expected to lock horns with Lewis. The two have history together – not at all good. Their relationship has been called a “political blood feud” , as evidenced by Judy’s comment on Dan… “Dan is a Madman”. and Dan’s comment on Judy …”Judy is trying to sell out the City”. Hopefully, this history will not portend the fireworks that could be coming.
     Chris Fertig – one half of the City’s power team of Chris and Mary Fertig, became famous when the duo wrestled the Broward County School Board into treating the eastern schools in Broward County better. He says he has “high hopes” that the Board can reach a consensus on some important issues. He thinks he can help keep the focus on progress. But when asked if he thinks the Commission will take their recommendations seriously, Fertig replied, “only if they agree with them!”. Fertig had floated the idea of a shift to a Strong Mayor form of government during the Board’s last effort, but said it was DOA. He doesn’t know if it will reemerge this time around.

     Susan Tramer – a former City of Fort Lauderdale Planning and Zoning Director, and Broward County Planning Council Director, is known as a reflective and bright policy wonk, and could be one of the calming influences on the Committee. She is married to Downtown Development Authority attorney John Milledge.

     Dr. Ron Wright – a former Broward County Medical Examiner, Forensic Pathologist and Attorney, has recently returned from India where he was testifying in a murder trial. The Board’s recent postponment was to accomodate Dr. Wright. He says he hopes the Board’s strong set of personalities won’t stall progress. He also said that the Board’s expected effort to endorse a November Municipal Election is “probably the right thing to do”. Asked to comment on the chances of the Board having a successful term, he said he hoped so, but that he didn’t know if he would be “holding his breath”.

     I’m taking the Doctors’ advice and continuing to breathe! ….



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