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Publisher’s Comment: Two items have been raised since posting this article requiring clarification…1) Acting Mayor Scott Singer originally asked the City Attorney to draft Ordinance 5453; and, 2) In the discussion between the 3 council members present, the one year time element was settled upon but could be adjusted if that was the City Council’s direction. Al Zucaro, Publisher ______________________________________________________________
Ordinance 5453, dubbed the Incumbent’s Protection Relief Act (IPRA) is an ill-conceived proposal to limit residents the ability to vote for candidates of their choice. A council vote on moving forward with an August City Charter change referendum has been postponed until a date certain of May 8th for action of the full City Council.
If passed, this ordinance would place a referendum vote on the August 28th special election asking the residents to vote for its terms and conditions. The City Council action item scheduled for Tuesday night, May 8, reads in part as follows:
Ordinance No. 5453 An Ordinance of the City of Boca Raton amending Article V, “Qualifications and Elections,” Section 5.03, “Qualifications,” of the Charter of the City of Boca Raton to modify the requirements to qualify as a candidate for City Council, including the office of Mayor, by: (i) extending the length of the residency requirement, establishing certain requirements for residency, and requiring proof of such residency (to be prescribed by Ordinance), and (ii) eliminating the $25 qualifying fee and instead requiring the verified signatures of a specified number of registered voters of the City, and providing for procedures for collection, submission, and verification of such signatures (to be prescribed by Ordinance); providing for a special election regarding the proposed Charter amendments to be held on August 28, 2018 (the date of the primary election); amending Chapter 6, “Elections,” of the Code of Ordinances to create (subject to approval of one, or both, of the above Charter amendments) a new Section 6-16, “Proof of Residency,” prescribing procedures for establishing residency, and a new Section 6-17, “Filing of Petition,” prescribing procedures for the collection, submission, and verification of signatures; providing for severability; providing for repealer; providing for revisions to the City Charter and codification in the City Code, respectively; providing an effective date.
Councilwoman Andrea Levine O’Rourke is the IPRA’s leading proponent. The Councilwoman argues that these requirements are necessary to prevent unqualified candidates from running for City Council seats. The arguments offered presuppose that the residents cannot judge for themselves who should be elected; the democratic process. Argued is that one year is the magical number; that the potential candidate should be required to demonstrate residency for the prescribed period of time and that the candidate gather 200 verified signatures to qualify.
Specifically stated as what the Ordinance is protecting against are people with little or no history of Boca Raton matters; using the arbitrary time element of one year as the measurement. Another issue raised is to prevent residents from filing last minute papers to run for open seats on the council. Further argued is that surrounding jurisdictions have qualifying requirements but offers no examples to support the statement except to say that to run for President of the United States, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States; a stretch to say the least as no mention is made of the ‘natural born citizen’ requirement.
The underlying objection seems to be the March ’17 filing by Andy Thomson who moved into the city just weeks before filing to run while he maintained a homestead outside the city. Kim Do’s candidacy to run in the last election cycle is another reason cited in support of this proposed charter change. Councilwoman O’Rourke has been heard to argue that Ms. Do was not qualified because she was an unknown candidate with no apparent history in city matters although Ms. Do was a resident for the required period of time.
Finally, additional reasoning offered in support is the Armand Grossman candidacy in the March ’18 election cycle for the open council seat where Mr. Grossman filed to run on the last filing day before the window of opportunity closed. Using that logic, I suspect my candidacy to run for Mayor in the March ’17 election cycle would have been prevented as I also qualified to run on the last day of qualifying in that race.
I used the term ill-conceived earlier…Ill-conceived because there are so many challenges to the reasoning. For instance…I have lived in Boca for 10 years now…what if I moved to Boca-Del-Mar just west of Military Trail on Camino Real; resided there for say 6 months and returned to Boca. By virtue of the reasoning, I would be prevented from running for City Council in the upcoming special election for Mayor and/or the open City Council seat being vacated by Scott Singer who is an announced candidate for Mayor.
Certainly it could not be argued that I am unfamiliar with Boca matters….Another ill-conceived element is the time element of gathering 200 signatures and having them verified would take a candidate’s election strategy of registering the last minute away. Requiring a candidate to expose themselves before the qualifying window closes is simply a warning signal to the incumbent or other candidates.
I could go on and on with why this is ill-conceived argument…but my main reason to not impose additional qualifications is that residents are perfectly capable of making that decision and, as Ms. O’Rourke did in her race against Mr. Thomson, a candidate’s opposition will be the first to point out this type of deficiency.
Hence, on May 8th the City Council should shelve this idea and not bring this matter to a referendum vote in August….there are certainly more pressing items for the council to handle. but, if a charter change is desired, let’s convene a Charter Review Commission to look at this question in a holistic way…an argument well worth the time and effort….an effort to bring the city charter into modern Boca Raton, a place we all have to come to know better.
Publisher – BocaWatch
Please let me know your opinion on the residency requirement ordinance.