Knowing they were potentially subjecting the city to another lawsuit, four of Bradenton Beach’s five city commission members displayed political courage last week when they stood up to Keep Our Residential Neighborhoods’ (KORN) political action committee members Reed Mapes and John Metz.
Based on legal grounds, the commission rejected four KORN-initiated charter amendments that the city clerk, city attorney, and city engineer deemed legally and/or administratively insufficient, according to the city charter and state law.
Mayor John Chappie and commissioners Ralph Cole, Marilyn Maro and Jake Spooner agreed that the city charter must be followed when attempting to amend it by voter referendum.
Commissioner Randy White felt differently and sided with Mapes and Metz, both of whom are longtime adversaries of the current and recent commission majorities.
Mapes, Metz and their allies hope to impose four new city charter amendments on the city and the commission – including one that would require hiring a full-time city manager who would be given complete control over city staff. This would also require the city’s weak mayor form of government to be completely restructured.
Mapes and Metz view the city charter as a binding document when it supports their political and personal views, yet they refuse to follow the charter when it comes to amending it.
Critics of the commission’s decision will claim the voice of the voters has been silenced, but that’s simply not true. The charter provides easy-to-follow, easy-to-accomplish methods to place citizen-initiated referendums on city ballots. Cole and Spooner made it clear last week that their intent is not to deny city voters the right to make important decisions, but to ensure that charter amendments are made in accordance with the charter.
Sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest thing to do, and last week four elected officials did just that. Knowing they would face severe scrutiny from KORN and its supporters, they did what they believed was best for the city and its citizens.
If Mapes and Metz do file a lawsuit, which they both suggested was possible, there’s always the chance the city could lose. That’s a risk the four commission members are willing to take in defense of the charter that serves as the city’s constitution.
And they do so as we approach the July 4 holiday that celebrates America’s independence and the constitutional structure this country is built on.