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The city charter amendment ballot contains inaccurate information

On May 8, the Tallahassee City Commission approved language for a charter amendment that will appear on the November ballot. This amendment will double the salaries of the commissioners from $45,000 to $90,000.

The ballot language is inaccurate and misleading, and the committee should review it. This is the language they approved:

“Should the Charter of the City of Tallahassee be amended to provide that members of the City Commission shall receive an annual salary equal to the annual salary established by state law for members of the Leon County Board of County Commissioners?”

This language is wrong because the salaries of Leon County commissioners are not set by state law. In 2002, Leon became a charter county, and state law that sets commissioners’ salaries does not apply to charter counties.

The salaries of Leon County commissioners are determined by an ordinance passed by the commissioners themselves. The county ordinance copies the state formula, but that is purely voluntary on the part of the commission. There is a big difference between a provincial government voluntarily adopting a state funding formula and committing to it.

Ironically, the city’s agenda packet for the May 8 meeting clearly states that Leon County Commission salaries are set by ordinance. Still, the above incorrect language was recommended by the city attorney, and the commissioners approved it.

This incorrect language can mislead voters. A voter who has not been following the issue might read the words “state law” and think he/she must vote “yes” to follow the law.

Why would you use incorrect language in the amendment to the articles of association?

I have spoken to city staff about this issue and have not received an acceptable explanation for the wording. I was told the language was decided by a committee and they stand by the inaccurate wording. I was also told that they see my point.

I’ve spoken to a few city commissioners, but they haven’t promised to make it right. The City Commission clearly prefers to avoid any action that would create more publicity for this controversial issue. Correcting this mistake would require another public hearing and a new vote by the committee.

November ballots won’t be printed until after the August primary, so there’s still time to make the correction. It is up to voters to decide whether city commission salaries should be doubled, but voters should be given honest information on the ballot.

Emily Fritz of Tallahassee is a retired executive director of a statewide association.

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