Special Election 2016
The City of North Miami Beach Charter Adoption of a New City Charter and Related Charter Amendments to Appear on November 8th Ballot. When residents go to the polls this election, there will be 10 proposed changes to the City of North Miami Beach Charter.
Below is the text of the Amendments as they will appear on the ballot.
City of North Miami Beach’s November 8, 2016 Special Election: Adoption of New City Charter & Related Charter Amendments
General Information - Dates
- October 18, 2016: City of North Miami Beach Town Hall meeting-additional opportunity for citizens to ask City Staff questions about City’s ballot issues on November 8th ballot.
- October 18, 2016: Deadline to register to vote.
- October 24-November 6, 2016: Early Voting (vote at any of the Miami-Dade County Early Voting sites (for list of County sites contact Number 305-499-VOTE (8683).
- November 2, 2016: Deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot.
- November 8, 2016: Election Day (vote at the designated precinct printed on your voter registration card issued by Miami-Dade County).
There will be a Ballot Box for Residents to Return their Mail-In-Ballots in City Hall In the City Clerks Office from 8:15 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Purpose of This Voter’s Guide
This Voter’s Guide has been prepared to provide the City of North Miami Beach’s voters with general, fact-based explanations concerning the City’s ballot measures on its November 8, 2016 Special Election ballot, so that voters may, in casting their votes, be more informed with these City issues. In addition to mailing this Voter’s Guide to City residents, the City has also placed this Voter’s Guide on the City’s website, and will periodically broadcast the Guide as well as the City’s October 18, 2016 Town Hall meeting on NMB TV at Channel 77 during the period before the November 8, 2016 Election. The public is encouraged to submit any questions related to these ballot issues by calling the City Clerk at 305-787-6001 or Email the Clerk. Additionally, voting registration and election information may be obtained by contacting the Miami-Dade County Elections Department: Telephone Number 305-499-VOTE (8683), TYY Number 305-499-8480.
On July 26, 2016, the North Miami Beach City Council scheduled a November 8, 2016 City Special Election for the purpose of presenting 10 ballot questions to the City’s voters. These 10 ballot questions all concern amendments to the City’s “Charter,” which is considered the City’s “Constitution.” The Charter establishes the City’s form of government, the general powers and duties of the City Council, provisions for elections, budgets and ordinances, and Charter officers.
Beginning in 2014, the City Council held several workshops and determined that the existing City Charter, in effect since March 9, 1958, needed revision due to obsolescent and redundant provisions. On July 21, 2015, the Council established a Charter Review Committee, to review the Charter and provide the Council with a report of recommended changes. The Charter Review Committee’s recommendations were evaluated by the City Council. Several Council workshops were held this year, resulting in the Council’s decision to present the voters with the ballot questions listed below, proposing repeal of the current City Charter and providing in its place a new Charter, and other related substantive Charter amendments.
Ballot Questions With Explanations
1. New City Charter for City of North Miami Beach
Shall the City Charter be repealed and replaced with a new reformatted/amended Charter, to conform/update municipal home rule powers granted by Florida law; incorporate non-substantive stylistic changes; delete obsolete/redundant/preempted language; restructure City’s Codebook by moving into Code “Canvassing Board” and “Water Board” sections, and Charter-designated City Departments (excluding Legal and Police); while retaining existing “Citizen’s Bill of Rights,” “Boundaries,” “Form of Government,” Charter Officer designation, and “Initiative/Referendum”?
Explanation: The City’s existing Charter dates back to 1958. Since laws governing cities in the State of Florida have changed giving cities expanded powers referred to as “municipal home rule,” the Charter has largely become obsolete, redundant and/or preempted (Federal, State or County laws control over certain Charter language), resulting in an outdated and at times unworkable Charter. The existing Charter is also lengthy and has a disorganized format, making it difficult to interpret and understand (for example, the Charter contains language dealing with matters of City administration regarding certain City Departments and Boards that will be moved from the Charter into the City Code where most of administrative matters are presently addressed). In order to address these concerns, and make the City’s Charter a concise and more clearly-worded document, the above ballot question proposes repeal of the City’s current Charter and adoption in its place of a new Charter.
The new Charter retains the existing Charter’s basic provisions (the City’s “Citizen’s Bill of Rights,” the boundary description, the “City Council-City Manager Form of Government,” the Charter Officers, and election-related matters dealing with “Initiative and Referendum”). The new Charter also retains language ensuring that it will not affect the City’s rights, obligations, contractual duties and relationships now existing by law or agreement, and provisions ensuring that all City ordinances in effect upon adoption of the new Charter (to the extent not inconsistent with said Charter) shall remain valid. Finally, the new Charter retains existing Charter language allowing the City Council as well as the City’s residents the ability to propose future amendments to the Charter.
Copies of the new City Charter (as well as a “redline” copy of the existing Charter showing specific notations reflecting basis for the proposed changes) are available by contacting the City Clerk’s Office.
2. Number of Regular City Council Meetings
Shall the City Charter be amended to reduce the number of regular City Council meetings from twice monthly to no less than 11 monthly meetings per year, with City Council to adopt by November 1 of each year a Resolution setting forth the schedule and number of Council meetings for the following calendar year?
Explanation: The City Charter requires that regular City Council meetings be held on the first and third Tuesday of each month. Rather than addressing the day-to-day needs of the residents, this twice monthly meeting schedule has required the City Administration and Legal Department to focus their time and efforts on preparing agenda items. Reducing the number of Charter-designated regularly scheduled annual meetings of the City Council to a minimum of 11 monthly meetings per year will enable the City to more efficiently organize and prepare for its Council meetings, deal with residents’ concerns and reduce expenses. The City Council will retain the ability to schedule additional meetings of the Council, if necessary.
3. City Manager
The Charter provides that City Manager is hired provisionally for first six months and thereafter reappointed for one year terms, and upon serving five or more years is reappointed for 2 year terms with removal for cause only-shall the Charter be amended to delete these restrictions thus granting City Council greater flexibility in determining terms of City Manager’s employment, and to clarify/further define existing powers and duties of City Manager?
Explanation: The City Charter provides for a “Council-Manager form of government. All power and authority to establish City policy is held by the City Council, which body appoints the City Manager, City Attorney and City Clerk. The City Manager is appointed by the City Council to serve as the Chief Administrative Officer of the City to oversee the administrative operations, implement its policies, and advise the Council. As the top appointed official in the City, the City Manager is responsible for almost all of the day-to-day administrative operations of the City government.
Under a Council-Manager form of government, City Managers remove City government from politics, and place management of the City into the hands of a professional administrator. The existing City Charter provisions, however, impede the City Council’s ability to recruit and select candidates by imposing limitations on the Council’s ability to negotiate terms and length of contract, and by imposing restrictions on the Council’s ability to remove the Manager who may only be removed “for cause.” To enhance the Council’s ability to recruit and retain qualified candidates for the office of City Manager, the City Council is proposing the above Charter amendment which deletes these Charter restrictions concerning the City Manager’s tenure, hiring and removal. Approval of this ballot measure by the voters will not change the requirement that the City Manager’s appointment take place at a public meeting of the City Council, with transparency and full disclosure of contract terms.
Finally, this proposed Charter amendment clarifies, consolidates and defines existing powers and duties of the City Manager so that the Charter’s content may be more understandable to the public.
4. City Attorney & City Clerk
Shall the City Charter be amended to clarify and further define existing powers and duties of the City Attorney and City Clerk, and to also grant City Council optional authority to retain a law firm to serve as City Attorney instead of in-house City Attorney?
Explanation: Under the City Charter, the City Council appoints a City Attorney to serve as the City’s Chief legal counsel to represent the City in all legal matters and advise the Council and City Administration, as needed. The City Attorney and staff in the Legal Department are City employees. The proposed Charter amendment grants the Council the option to appoint (as presently provided in the Charter) an attorney to serve as City Attorney or to appoint a private law firm to serve as the City’s Attorney, providing the Council with more candidates to choose in selecting a City Attorney. Finally, this proposed Charter amendment clarifies, consolidates and defines existing powers and duties of the City Attorney and those related to the City Clerk, so that the Charter’s content may be more understandable to the public.
5. Change of City’s General Election Date
Shall the City Charter be amended to change City’s General Election date from May of odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years (commencing with City’s General Election in 2018), change candidate qualifying dates to correspond to November elections, and provide a one-time limited extension of 18 months to terms of incumbent Council members to implement this change in election date?
Explanation: Currently, the City’s General Election (for election of the Mayor and Commissioners) takes place in May of every odd-numbered year, followed by a Runoff Election if such candidates do not receive a majority of votes cast. This ballot question proposes a Charter amendment to change the City’s General Election date from May of odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years, beginning with the City’s General Election in 2018. The reason for this change is that a November election (occurring during a Countywide election with Federal/State/County/School Board/Judicial races on the ballot) will increase voter participation and result in cost-savings since conducting the City’s election at the time of a Countywide election avoids the need for the City to schedule a costlier stand-alone City election. This proposed change in election date, providing for the City’s election issues to be on a Countywide November ballot, is consistent with the recommendations of the Miami- Dade County Elections Department (which conducts City elections).
Inasmuch as the proposed change in election date will require a change in the corresponding dates for qualifying for elected office, this proposed Charter amendment also provides for a change to the qualifying dates to correspond to the November election cycle. To accomplish the election date revision, this Charter change will also impose a limited one-time extension of terms/holdover for sitting members of the City Council, so that:
- -the 4-year term of office of the Mayor (Group 1) and of Commissioner groups 3, 5, and 7, which would otherwise expire in May 2019, shall instead expire in November 2020 (extending these terms of office by 18 months); and
- - the 4-year terms of office of Commissioner groups 2, 4, and 6, which would otherwise expire in May 2017, shall instead expire in November 2018 (again, extending these terms of office by 18 months).
- -Once the above has been accomplished, persons elected to the City Council will serve for the 4-year term of office currently established in the Charter.
6. Term Limit & Service of Full Term
The Charter establishes Councilmembers’ four-year “term” and eight consecutive years “term limit,” with ability to run again after 2 year break in service. Shall the Charter be amended to: clarify language by changing “eight consecutive years” to “2 consecutive four-year terms”; provide Councilmember’s service exceeding 50% of a term (including to fill Council vacancy) constitutes a full “term”; limit Councilmember to one additional term when term limit not met due to 50% rule?
Explanation: The City Charter provides that each term of office for a seat on the City Council is four years and establishes a “term limit” for Council members so that a person may serve on the City Council for up to eight consecutive years, and be able to run for office again after being out of office for two years. Inasmuch as the Charter’s reference to “eight consecutive years” is the same as “two consecutive four-year terms,” this ballot question proposes the change to clarify the Charter’s references to the word “terms.”
Also to make the Charter’s term limit provisions clear and close potential loopholes, this ballot measure provides that:
- a Council member serves a full “term” when that person serves more than 50% of a term (making clear that a Council member will have served an entire term regardless of whether that person has served the entire 4 years in office); and
- a Council member elected to two consecutive four-year terms but did not meet the Charter’s term limit due to the 50% rule (whereby that Council member did not serve more than 50% of either term), is limited to only one additional term. The Charter retains the mandatory two year break in service before he/she may run for office on the Council again.
7. Civil Service
Shall the City Charter be amended to delete the “Civil Service” (including the “Civil Service Board” and provisions concerning the Board’s composition and authority), delete limits on provisional hiring and tenure of Department Heads appointed by the City Manager, and eliminate from Civil Service certain employment rights (including removal or discipline for cause, return to civil service position, Board rules, and appeals to Board), subject to union bargaining if necessary?
Explanation: The City Charter provides for a “civil service system” for City employees. City employees are either “classified” or “unclassified.” Most employees are “classified.” The civil service system is run by a Civil Service Board composed of two employees and five voters of the City who are not employees. The Board has many functions, such as hearing employee appeals from grievances, giving employment examinations and adopting personnel rules.
The Board may overrule decisions of the City Manager or City Attorney to discipline classified employees if the discipline was not based on sufficient “cause.” The Charter also says that department heads appointed by the City Manager may only be fired for “cause” after they work for six months. It also says that, after a City Manager or any department head he or she appoints has worked for five years, they shall be reappointed for two-year terms and may only be fired for “cause.”
Most functions of the civil service system are already done by the City Department of Human Resources. For example, the contracts with labor unions include procedures for arbitration and prohibit the covered employees from using the Civil Service Board for those grievances. Human Resources handles hiring and many other personnel functions. For all employees, including those who are not represented by a union, federal, state and local laws protect them from improper employer actions that previously were the subject of civil service grievances. The civil service system often slows down personnel decisions by the City such as hiring, firing, promoting or disciplining.
8. City Council’s Acceptance of Election Returns; Election to Fill Vacancy on Council. Shall the Charter Be Amended to
change timing of City Council’s acceptance of election returns from Election night to the second business day following the official certification of final election returns; and
change timing of special election to fill vacancy on Council from 35-60 to 35 to 90 days after vacancy occurs, and establish procedures for filling of vacancy caused by resignation?
Explanation: This ballot question proposes Charter changes to update the City’s election process related to 1) the City’s acceptance of elections returns and 2) scheduling of City elections to fill a vacancy on the City Council. Voter approval of these changes will bring the Charter’s language into current practice to conform with procedures by the Miami-Dade County Elections Department.
Although the Charter states that election returns (and the related swearing in of newly-elected members of the City Council) are accepted by the City Council on election night, this Charter provision is outdated because the County’s Elections Department no longer issues the final election returns on election night but now issues the final election returns several days after the election-the swearing in of newly-elected officials on election night is not workable since the election results are not final until the County makes its official certification of final election returns. To ensure that the City’s actions accurately reflect the official final public vote count, this Charter amendment provides that the City Council’s acceptance of election returns (and swearing in of new Council members) will occur after the City’s receipt of the County’s Official Certification of Final Election Returns.
This ballot measure also addresses the City’s process related to scheduling elections to fill a vacant seat on the City Council by expanding the time for such elections from 35 to 60 days after vacancy occurs to 35 to 90 days after such vacancy-this change provides the City a greater choice in available election dates which (depending upon the timing of when a vacancy occurs and the availability of upcoming Countywide elections) allows the City greater opportunity to schedule such elections at the same time as a Countywide election (which results in greater voter turnout and cost savings to the City), while also allowing the City to address prior requests of the County Elections Department for increased advance notice preceding an election.
Finally, this Charter amendment establishes procedures to address situations when a vacancy on the City Council has occurred due to a Councilmember’s resignation, providing the City Council greater flexibility when scheduling election dates to fill such vacancy, consistent with the City’s goal of encouraging greater voter turnout and election-related cost savings to the City.
9. Reducing Quorum of City Council
The City Charter provides that in order for the City Council to take action at any Council meeting, a “quorum” of the Council consisting of five of the seven Council members must be present. Shall this “quorum” be reduced from five Council members to four Council members, as authorized by Florida law?
Explanation: The City’s Charter provides that a “quorum” of five Council members must be present at any of its meetings for the Council to take formal action. Pursuant to a 1973 Florida Statute, however, a City’s quorum may lawfully consist of a majority of its members, which in the City of North Miami Beach means that a quorum could consist of four Council members (instead of the present five). This proposed Charter amendment asks the voters if the Charter should be amended to change the City Council quorum from five Council members to four Council members.
10. Changing Name of “City Council” to “City Commission”
The City Charter refers to the seven-member governing body of the City of North Miami Beach as the “City Council,” and its members as “Mayor and Commissioner” or “Councilmembers.” Shall the Charter be amended to change the name of “City Council” to “City Commission,” change the name of its respective members from “Mayor and Councilperson”/“Commissioner” to “Mayor and City Commissioners,” and to conform all related Charter references to this name change?
Explanation: The Charter’s 1958 designation of the City’s governing body as “City Council” is unwieldy and burdensome as it requires gender references (“Councilman” or “Councilwoman”). Accordingly, this ballot question asks voters’ approval of the change in name from “City Council” to “City Commission.” This name change will not affect any other Charter provisions, including those concerning the City’s form of government and/or matters pertaining to composition and duties of the City’s elected officials.