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Charter Review 2020:  CRC Meets – Revving Up to Get Something Done – Looking at Rules

Columbia County Charter Review Commission 2020
From the back of the School District auditorium the Commissioners, who look like candles on the top of a birthday cake, could barely be seen. The alternates are in front.

Read about the last CRC beginning here: Charter Review Commission up and running despite County being homeless
July, 15, 2011

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – On Monday evening, the Charter Review Commission (CRC) met at 6 pm for its first official meeting of Charter Review 2020. Two-and-a-half hours later it had elected a chairman, upgraded a few of the 2012 rules for approval at its next meeting, and decided to put out a request for an unneeded charter consultant which will most likely cost between $15,000 and $25,000 dollars.

Opera Glasses, the Homeless & Gender Inequality

In order to pick out the commission members and read their name tags one would have needed a pair of opera glasses.

The CRC from the 4th row.
From the fourth row, the commissioners were difficult to see and the name tags were impossible to read. The CRC alternates are just behind the plants.

Still homeless after all these years.

The County's elected leaders (the County 5) have never seen fit to invest in a real municipal center in which to do the people's business, conduct its business, and conduct meetings with sound and visual systems that work and are designed to get the public involved.

A Columbia County cultural condition: where are the girls?

Kim Skinner: Columbia County Charter Review Commissioner
Kim Skinner, a veteran of the CRC and school district employee, is one of only two women appointed to the Commission.

Out of the fifteen members on the Commission, there are only two women.

Commissioners Ronald Williams and Toby Witt are the only two commissioners to have appointed women to the Commission, although Commissioner Nash earned an honorable mention for appointing Sandra Buck-Camp as an alternate.

The Commission elected Robert Lane as its chairman. Mr. Lane has no on-the-ground political experience.

Late Tuesday afternoon your reporter spoke with Mr. Lane about allowing the four CRC alternates to join in the Commission conversations and deliberations.

Mr. Lane said he believed that the alternates were "there to learn."

The Meeting Location

Columbia County has a population of approximately 70,000.

Without a municipal center the County is always looking for a place to hold meetings of more than a handful of participants. It has no place of its own to accommodate the CRC, its alternates, support staff, and the public.

In its quest to find appropriate accommodations for the Commission, the CRC agreed to send Attorney Foreman, CRC member Ron Foreman, and County Manager Ben Scott to Florida Gateway College to see about using the meeting room at the Wilson Rivers Library.

While not a central location, it would be better than nothing.

Note: in 2012 the Mason City Community Center was suggested as a place to meet.

Remote Public Access

Former County Commissioner and CRC member Jody DuPree said he wanted the committee to be on TV. It is not clear if the College can do that and have the meetings be ADA accessible to viewers. Without ADA accessibility, the County is under risk of a law suit.

County Manager Scott told your reporter that using a call in system such as the one the state uses for many of its meetings would work and has none of the ADA overhead.

Public Participation

Glenel Bowden: Columbia County Charter Review Commissioner
Community activist and former City Councilman  Glenel Bowden spoke out for the public's right to have meaningful participation.

For years public participation at County 5 meetings has been problematic, although lately veteran commissioner and County 5 Chairman Ronald Williams has routinely given the public three minute increments to appear before the County 5, rather than the two minutes in the rules.

CRC member Sandra Smith said she thought the public should have two minutes to address the Commission because "the County's timer was set for two minutes."

Former City Council member Glenel Bowden said two minutes wasn't enough time and recommended three minutes.

This issue will be decided at the next meeting along with time limits for the CRC members.

DuPree – Peyton Place – A Consultant

Jody DuPree: Columbia County Charter Review Commissioner
Former County 5 member, Jody DuPree. Is he picking up where he left off in 2012?

Former County Commissioner Jody DuPree, whose 4 years on the County Commission was legendary for among other things his extemporaneous speeches, lack of regard of the non interference clause in the County Charter, lack of regard of parliamentary rules, and a level of rudeness and a hostility toward some members of the public and press which resulted in the County being dragged into federal court for civil rights violations.

While the case was eventually dismissed on technical grounds, federal judge Timothy Corrigan from the bench compared Columbia County to the legendary Peyton Place.

As the CRC meeting was drawing to a close, without any rhyme, reason, or explanation, Commissioner DuPree made a motion to put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hire a consultant.

Just like in the old days, Mr. DuPree didn't ask to have the item added to the agenda and gave no explanation of purpose or need for this consultant.

Robert Lane: Columbia County Charter Review Commissioner and Chairman
CRC Chairman Robert Lane.

Chairman Lane, who is clearly new to the legislative process, didn't object, as did none of the other commissioners, who followed along and just approved it.

Because this was not an emergency, as well as for other reasons, this type of 12th hour legislative action is in violation of established Florida law.

It is estimated that a consultant will cost between $15,000 and $25,000. This is work that can clearly be accomplished by Attorney Foreman, would be local, and would not be subject to delays from someone who is from out of town.

It is also well known that County Attorney Foreman, who is elected by the people, is a strong advocate of government transparency and Florida's Sunshine Laws.

The CRC is slated to vote on a contract for Mr. Foreman's services at the next meeting.

CRC Attorney Foreman

Joel Foreman: Columbia County Charter Review Commission Chairman
County Attorney and CRC Attorney Joel Foreman is working hard to keep the Commission on the tracks.

Late yesterday afternoon, your reporter spoke with Attorney Foreman.

His office is preparing binders for each CRC member to include relative material: the county charter, various legislation, memorandums (attorneys love these), and a copy of the Florida Government in the Sunshine Manual, which explains everything one has to know about public meetings, commissioner interactions about issues coming before the Commission, and public records.

Epilogue

Much of what goes on at the CRC will depend on the tenor of Chairman Lane: he runs the show.

Mr. Lane told your reporter that he will be meeting with Attorney Foreman to be briefed on issues facing the Commission.

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