Council Considers Charter Changes

In an evening dominated by a discussion of charter topics, Gulfport City Council agreed on Tuesday, October 1 to consider making their regular meetings start an hour earlier, at 6 p.m. Currently, the council holds regular meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 7 p.m.

A 6 p.m. start time would mean city staff members who need to make presentations at meetings would be able to go home earlier after their full work day, said Councilmember Christine Brown.

Councilmembers Michael Fridovich and Dan Liedtke, along with Vice Mayor Paul Ray, also verbally agreed to the start time change. Next, staff will bring a resolution to a future meeting where council will consider a vote. Mayor Sam Henderson was absent from the meeting.

The council reviews the content of the city charter every 10 years.

According to city documentation, staff has recommended that the council review the 21-page charter document in segments beginning with the October 1 meeting where sections 101 through 314 were addressed. Additional sections will be reviewed during future meetings. 

As the council indicates the changes they wish to consider, city staff will then conduct research, including what type of legislative documentation is needed, such as a resolution or referendum question, said City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
Other charter topics discussed included meeting days, council compensation and term lengths.

“For some of us who travel out of town for work, Tuesday night meetings are difficult,” said Liedtke. “If we have them Monday nights, it would be less difficult.”

Other members agreed.

Brown said, “It’s awkward for us as city council members to talk about pay raises. I wonder for future councils if it would be a good idea to tie it to the city employees’ percent of increase to take out the emotion and make it a standard thing.”

Fridovich noted that Pinellas Park does this.

“Then, if there is a downturn in the economy and the employees don’t get a raise, neither does the council,” said Brown.

Increasing term lengths is a notion that is being considered by a lot of area cities, said Fridovich. An example for Gulfport would be an increase from three to four years for mayor and from two to three years for councilmembers.

“As it stands now, Gulfport has an election every year that costs the city,” he said. “We’re constantly running for things.”

Liedtke said he would support increasing term lengths “considering how calm things are when it’s not election season. If we could have that calmness a little longer that would be nice.”

Brown noted that there is also value in everyone going to four-year terms.

“There’s a lot to think about,” she said. “There’s a lot of work that gets done and then two years later, you’re taking time off to run an election you may not win and then you don’t get to see the work you’ve done come full circle.” 

2020 Election Date Set

Council unanimously approved Tuesday, March 17, 2020 as the date for the general municipal election. According to city documentation, the anticipated cost is $7,312.

Liedtke from Ward 1 and Ray from Ward 3 are up for re-election in 2020. In Gulfport, councilmembers qualify for elections by the ward they live in. Voters elect all candidates citywide. For a ward map, see mygulfport.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/CityofGulfportWardMap.jpg.

The qualifying period for the election begins Monday, December 2, 2019 at 8:30 a.m. and ends Monday, December 9, 2019 at noon.

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website, in the 2019 municipal general election on March 12, a total of 2,549 people voted in Gulfport with 764 making Election Day choices and 1,785 opting for mail-in ballots. The total turnout was 27.52 percent. For more information about voter turnout, visit votepinellas.com/General-Information/Statistics/Voter-Turnout-Statistics/Voter-Turnout-Reports-by-Election.

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