As you might imagine, there has been a considerable amount written about the proposed “charter” form of government for St. Johns County – both in support and against. It has been the subject of local radio talk shows, guest columns and letters to the editor in the weekly and daily papers as well as several neighborhood “meetings” in some parts of the county.
I have watched the process by which this proposed document has been advanced and I have read it and its amendments as they were added along the way. I am not impressed with the manner in which the backers of this proposed charter first failed to railroad it through the legislative delegation and then tried to do a superficial “patch job” at holding what were ostensibly open public meetings to elicit community input.
I have also listened to people whose opinion I regard highly; people who have been elected and served on both the county and state level over the past 20 or more years. I am referring to men and women who have offered themselves to service and have the ability to see the impact of well meaning people who simply lack the vision for the “big picture” that can only be learned from experience. Several of these people have spoken out against this proposed charter and I find their objections compelling.
I also give a lot of credit to the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce. Being a businessman myself, the point of view of these community leaders is often in sync with my own and the priorities of the chamber are usually in the best interest of those who provide the jobs and financial support that finances the wants and desires of the residents and visitors to the place we call home. The Board has taken a public stand and unanimously resolved to reject the proposed charter as presented.
I often agree with Margo Pope and sometimes agree with others on the editorial board of The Record, but not always. I do believe that their paper did the right thing and based their objections to the proposed charter on an essential question, “Why now?”
Valid concerns are that there is no economic analysis of the cost of changing over the government from constitutional to charter, I can see the potential for more taxation, a future referendum to make the constitutional officers appointed and the passage of charter amendments by a simple rather than a super majority.
The Record also asked two poignant questions: “What’s the real motivation behind this charter?” and “Why are we already amending a charter that hasn’t been adopted?”
There is a principle in law known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree” that states, simply, the fruit of the poisonous tree is also poisonous. In my opinion, this proposed charter started out wrong and the manipulated document proposed today is still flawed and incomplete.
If a legitimate charter committee were to be appointed and the correct process were to be employed that allowed maximum participation by a substantial and representative number of our citizens and those efforts brought forward a complete proposed charter that had clear support from the community as a whole and not the special interests of a few, I might come to a different conclusion than I have currently.
I hope that our readers will join me in rejecting the proposed charter while keeping an open mind toward the future.