BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Only about 25 people attended the first Charter Review Commission town hall at the Midtown Cultural and Educational Center on Tuesday night. The common theme: More people need to show up.
The March 4 meeting was the first of three scheduled around the city before the commission returns to City Hall in mid-April. The purpose of the local meetings is to allow the commission an opportunity to go into the various communities within Daytona Beach and hear residents’ concerns.
Residents give input on what changes they would like to see on the Nov. 4 ballot concerning the charter of Daytona Beach.
Ponder: Gain insight
The charter is the document that states how the city is run and lets residents determine their own structure of government within state-prescribed legal limits. In this way, the charter can reflect the community’s values and allows the local government to control its own destiny.
“I understand there are a lot of things you can’t do. We are small in number but we want you to listen,” former Midtown Redevelopment Area Board Chair Johnnie Ponder said as she addressed the commission.
“If you drive around and you are proud of Daytona Beach, something is wrong. I’m not proud of this city,” Ponder added, referring to the amount of vacant homes, lots and buildings, which need more attention or code enforcement. “Everyone has an opinion, whether we like it or not, but we may gain insight from just a little nugget that someone offers just by listening.”
“It is our charge to do our best,” Charter Review Commission Chairman Glenn Ritchie said, adding that the current charter is not bad but that it is outdated. “We are gathering the information for the city commission and then that recommendation will go on the ballot. Ultimately the voters will decide.”
A city employee requested that open communication be available for employees and said that currently she feels a “lock is on my mouth.” The employee says that what bothers her the most is that intelligent people, who may have a lot of good ideas that may be beneficial to the city are looked over because of the chain of command.
Dr. Willie Kimmons, the vice chair of the commission, thanked the employee for speaking up and “having the nerve to speak.”
He remarked, “That fear factor needs to be eliminated.”
Kimmons also echoed the sentiments of other speakers who queried where everyone was. “You have to be here to have a voice,” he said.
Why make changes?
Changing the form of local government is a decision that isn’t to be taken lightly. The commission addresses the short and long-range implications potentially affecting every facet of local governance.
Although charters have been changed for many reasons, reviews of local government literature on the subject suggest that changes in forms of government are commonly caused by: A loss of trust in the integrity of the local government due to a pattern of unlawful and or scandalous behaviors on the part of local official; unmanageable conflict between local officials that hinders the performance of government; the ability of local government to successfully address unanticipated crisis; the failure of the local government to provide consistency in the delivery of services that the citizens deem to be essential; and/or interest groups seeking to increase their influence in city decision making.
Two additional town hall meetings will be held outside of City Hall. They are March 18 at the City Island Recreation Hall, 110 East Orange Ave. at 6 p.m., and April 1 at the Peabody Auditorium, Rose room, 600 Auditorium Blvd. at 6 p.m.
For more information, contact the city at 386-671-8600.