ANNA MARIA — Questions about the sufficiency of a parking petition initiative were raised almost immediately after Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat certified the petition's signatures.
Sweat’s office certified 236 of the 250 signatures collected by the committee as being those of valid registered voters. That was more than the 205 – or 15 percent – the committee was required to obtain.
The petition committee is comprised of Larry Albert, Anna DeAugustine, Judith Chable, Charlie Daniel and Carl Pearman.
But at a work session on parking regulations, Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick questioned the process.
“I’m not sure that petition is sufficient,” Mattick said. “They were supposed to attach the whole ordinance to the petition.”
Under the terms of the city charter, a petition initiative can be used to force the commission to look at what the petition addresses and to either adopt the petition’s goals or put the concept to the voters in a referendum.
Under the city charter Section 3.11, initiative and referendum, the language provides for citizens to propose ordinances to the commission.
According to the charter, “Any five qualified voters may commence initiative or referendum petition proceedings with the city clerk or other official designated by the commission and affidavit stating they will constitute the petitioners’ committee and be responsible for circulating the petition and filing it in proper form.”
This committee was formed and began collecting signatures in response to discussions of an overall parking and streetscape idea for Pine Avenue drawn by Gene Aubry and endorsed by nationally recognized walkable communities expert Dan Burden.
“The purpose of our initiative was clearly and simply stated – to clarify the existing regulations covering on-site parking in the ROR (residential/office/retail) district of our city,” Chable said earlier.
Chable said she and her fellow committee members were confident the signatures would be certified.
“The petition is governed by statute and our city charter,” she added. “We followed the process as written in the charter as did Supervisor Bob Sweat, City Clerk Alice Baird and City Attorney Jim Dye, who was consulted by Clerk Baird before she submitted the petition for certification.”
Mattick and several other residents questioned whether the petition itself meets the requirements set forth in the city charter.
The charter language states, “Each signer had an opportunity to read the full text of the ordinance proposed or sought to be reconsidered.”
Other language in the charter states that the full text of the ordinance under consideration shall be attached to the petition — something that was not done in this case.
City Clerk Alice Baird said she’s not qualified to answer the question of whether or not the petition meets all requirements other than the certification of the signatures.
“I haven’t had experience with a petition initiative, and I want to do this right,” Baird said. “I’m consulting with our city attorney, Jim Dye, to get his opinion on this.”
Dye was not available for comment.
Under the terms of the charter, the petition must be considered at the next scheduled city commission meeting, which is Aug. 26.
Other questions about the initiative arose when Sweat’s office stated that it’s too late to get the petition on a referendum in the November election.
However, the charter is mute on the subject of the need to hold the referendum during a regularly scheduled election.
The language states simply that if the petition is deemed sufficient, and if the city commission fails to consider it or fails to address it, the matter shall go to referendum no sooner than 30 days and no later than 60 days after it was certified.