Lauderdale Lakes looks to cut seats on dais
Mar 11, 2013 (Sun Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
LAUDERDALE LAKES -- -- City government could be shrinking, or at least the number of commissioners running it.
A proposed referendum would eliminate two of six commission seats. With the mayor's position, that would give the city a five-member commission, similar to most cities in the area.
"For this size city, I think that will be better," said community activist Beatrice Esdelle. "We need to reduce our debts."
Esdelle said the reduction would save the city about $56,000 per year in commission costs.
Commissioners have given initial approval for a November referendum and are scheduled to take a final vote on Tuesday.
The city's larger contingent of commissioners dates back to when there was no city manager and each commissioner was responsible for overseeing a city department. Voters in 1998 approved moving to a city manager-mayor-commission form of government, but there was no change in the number of commissioners, who are elected citywide.
Commissioners are split on the referendum: Edwina Coleman, Eric Haynes and Eileen Rathery supported placing it on the ballot, while Patricia Hawkins-Williams, Gloria Lewis and Levoyd Williams voted no. Mayor Barrington Russell broke the tie.
Under the proposal, two of three seats up for election in November 2014 would be eliminated. Haynes, who holds one of those seats, can't run because of term limits. Lewis and Levoyd Williams would be forced to oppose each other if they wanted to retain a seat on the dais.
"The best representation is when you have more people representing you," Levoyd Williams said. "Reducing representation really does not create better government."
Lewis said the referendum was a distraction.
"We need to focus on our city and getting our city back in order," Lewis said. She's also concerned about the cost of a special election, which could top $100,000.
City Manager Jonathan Allen said the cost might be lowered if the referendum is part of the county's regular March 2014 municipal elections. Other options include making it a mail-in election or consolidating the number of precincts for the one-issue ballot, he said.
The referendum sets up a lopsided election schedule. If approved, only one commission seat would be decided in 2014, while the seats of three commissioners and the mayor would be on the 2016 ballot. Most cities elect three in one cycle and two in the next, not a four-one split.
Holding a referendum before the next regular city election in November 2014 allows any changes to take effect in that election.
"You want to give people the opportunity to plan and adjust," City Attorney James Brady said. "Everyone should have an adequate opportunity to see what the landscape is."
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