Elections 2020,  Local

Alachua County Charter Amendments on the Ballot

Alachua County voters will have the opportunity to vote for several amendments on their ballots, including six Alachua County charter amendments. These six local ballot measures proposed by both the County Commission and Charter Review Commission seek to amend the county’s charter.

Establishing County Growth Management Area

Proposed by the Charter Review Commission, this amendment proposes that Alachua County’s land development plans and regulations “exclusively govern land development in the area, whether inside or outside municipal boundaries” as well as implement ordinances that may override municipal ordinances.

Although this amendment means to provide the county with consistent planning and regulations of land development, numerous lawsuits have been filed against Alachua County by the cities of Newberry, Archer and Alachua for allegedly misleading voters in this charter amendment.

The City of Alachua’s main complaint with the amendment was due to the ballot language, claiming that the amendment makes it seem like the purpose is creating a growth management area while actually having the effect of stopping municipalities from exercising their own land use rules.

Relationship Between County and Municipal Ordinances for Protection of Certain Natural Resources

Proposed by the City Commission, this charter ballot measure seeks to “authorize countywide protection of certain natural resources by establishing that the more protective of County or Municipal ordinances.” According toAlachua County communications director Mark Sexton, the amendment enables Alachua County to “establish standards for protecting strategic ecosystems, listed species habitat, [or] significant geologic features or significant habitat.”

Identification and Elimination of Racial and Gender Bias in Alachua County Policies

This amendment, which was also proposed by the City Commission, calls upon the Board of County Commissioners to eliminate any elements of racial or gender bias within county services and programs. To maintain the provisions of the amendment if passed, an annual examination of county policies would be conducted by the Equity Manager.

The amendment, which was proposed in April by Alachua County Charter Review Commission panel member Kali Blount, passed with a vote of 8-4. The Charter Review Commission’s vice chairman Joe Little voted against the amendment, stating that “it begins to try to look inside people’s minds and souls in a manner that’s probably inappropriate for the government to do.”

Establishing Alachua County Affordable Housing Trust Fund

The amendment proposed by the Charter Review Commission creates the Alachua County Affordable Housing Fund, which would be used to sustain affordable housing. However, the amendment does not create any new taxes or fees for Alachua County residents. Instead, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund would be financed by fees on new commercial and residential development as well as donations.

The Alachua County Democratic Party, Suwannee-St. Johns Sierra Club and the Gainesville Sun have all come out in support of the amendment for addressing the housing crisis faced in Alachua County as well as the other 10 local amendments. The League of Women Voters has pointed out that the amendment would create more administrative costs.

Concerning Candidate Treasurer Report Requirements

If passed, this amendment would remove any requirement that requires candidates to file paper treasurer reports and maintain the current requirement that treasurer reports be filed electronically. This charter ballot measure was suggested by the Supervisor of Elections and seeks to modernize the campaign finance process of Alachua County.

Removing Unconstitutional Provisions

This charter ballot measure seeks to remove two provisions in the current charter that have been deemed unconstitutional: one provision prohibiting protections based on sexual orientation and sexual preference, and one provision imposing residency requirements for Alachua County Commission candidate qualifications.

The first provision has remained in the charter since 1993 despite a judge ruling it as a violation of the 14th Amendment. The second provision requires that candidates live in the area they are running in during campaigning, so if the provision is removed, candidates would be able to stay in their residing area until they are elected.

Featured image: “I Votedstickers. Unmodified photo by Element5 Digital. (https://bit.ly/2TS9aRs)

Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.   

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