search
top

Palm Bay Votes.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t normally do this, but we are going to “sticky” this post at the top of the blog page through tomorrow. We are doing so in order that residents of Palm Bay can read and discuss the issue and be reminded to vote on this Tuesday.)

Citizens of Palm Bay will head to the polls on November 5, 2019 to vote on three referendums that were brought about by a citizen initiated petition drive.

We want to address some of the issues the three referendum raise.

We are taking our information directly from the City’s website as we want to dissect the information the City is putting out before the voters.

A group of Palm Bay voters formed a committee to petition for a change to Section 6.02 regarding special assessments. The City Clerk delivered the petition to the County Supervisor of Elections to verify the signatures. The Supervisor of Elections rejected the form. Consequently, Council was unable to validate the signatures. Council subsequently agreed to call a special election for the proposed Charter Amendment.

If you vote ‘Yes’ – it means:

  • If a proposed project affects more than fifty property owners or costs more than $25,000, the City cannot implement a special assessment until the majority of affected property owners return a ballot approving the assessment.
  • If you vote ‘No’ – it means:

  • City Council shall have the power to impose special assessments after legal notice and public hearings as required by law
  • The “Yes” summary is essentially correct. The petition committee brought this issue to the forefront after City voters in 2016 voted to change the wording of the City Charter for special assessments to the current language. To many, it seemed like the right thing to do and City Council members promoted the change after giving hypothetical dollar amounts for the assessments to residents and proclaiming that the special assessments were the only way to get roads and drainage projects built in the certain areas. When actual dollar amounts of the assessments were published, affected property owners were shocked that the assessments were much higher than promised.

    As far as the narrative that the City Clerk delivered the petition to the County Supervisor of Elections (SOE,) that is true as far as it goes. What is left unsaid in this story being woven by the City is:

    1) The City charged the petition committee for forms that were legally insufficient for the SOE to verify the signatures. The City never contacted the SOE prior to making and charging the petition committee to ensure the forms were correct as far as the SOE’s office was concerned. In fact, the City never informed the SOE that there was a petition going around until the petition committee was well into the process. When the SOE looked at the petition forms and declared them insufficient, the City never informed the petition committee.

    2) While the City Clerk had taken the petitions to the SOE, when the SOE rejected them, the petitions were brought back to City Hall. The City misrepresented (read: lied) to the petition group as to the location of the petitions and maintained that the SOE had them for two months when in fact they were in the possession of the City and no one else.

    We find it difficult to trust the City on this issue as they were not truthful with the petition committee and ultimately the voters of Palm Bay.

    Two things happened that impacts the “no” vote on this issue.

    1) While the City is correct that the City Council would hold public hearings on the issue of special assessments, what the City is leaving out of the narrative is that the when residents affected by the special assessments came to hearings complaining about the amount, the City Council rebuffed them, argued with with residents, and eventually passed the rates above the massive protests from residents. In short, the City Council held a hearing where they didn’t “hear” anything.

    2) While Council members claimed the special assessments were the only way to get roads but in specific areas, voters proposed and eventually passed a bond issue for $150 million dollars worth of road projects.

    We don’t normally take positions on referendums and candidates, but here we believe the City continues to be dishonest on some level, proclaiming a “no” vote will still mean the City will follow the law when this entire incident has been one step after another of the City not following the law and lying to residents about it.

    We hope that you’ll forgive us if we doubt what the City is laying out for people on their website. The fact of the matter is that while technically correct, the City is leaving out many details that are important to the understanding of people on this issue. To us, a lie of omission is still a lie.


    In a Facebook post, Councilman Bailey asked a resident why they were voting against Referendum Numbers 2 and 3 which read:

    Referendum 2

    The proposed amendment would require the City Clerk to consult with the County Supervisor of Elections regarding the petition form in advance of the signature gathering. The Charter amendment would also provide authority for the following parties to verify petitions: the Supervisor of Elections, the City Clerk, or another official designated by Council.

    If you vote ‘Yes’ – it means:

    • The city clerk shall consult with the supervisor of elections to create a standard petition form for all proposed charter amendments and proposals to adopt or repeal an ordinance;
    • The city clerk, supervisor of elections, or other official selected by city council would certify the number of registered voters who signed the petition using the signature verification process in Florida Statutes;
    • The petitioning committee would be responsible for all costs involved in the petitioning process, specifically including, any fees that must be paid to the supervisor of elections to verify the petitions

    If you vote ‘No’ – it means:

    • The city clerk would not be required to consult with the supervisor of elections regarding the petition form;
    • Only the supervisor of elections would be able to verify petition signatures;
    • The petitioning committee would be responsible for all costs involved in the petitioning process
    • Referendum 3

      The petition committee requested to amend Section 3.09 to decrease the number of petition signatures required, to propose or amend an ordinance, from 10% to 5%. Council does not currently have the ability to determine whether an issue is of such importance and urgency to justify the cost of a special election. This amendment would allow Council discretion to call a special election for charter or ordinance petitions or to have the proposed changes placed on the ballot of the next regular election.

      If you vote ‘Yes’ – it means:

      • Petitions to propose or repeal ordinances must be signed by at least five percent (5%) of the registered voters as of the last preceding municipal general election;
      • Council would decide whether to call a special election or place proposed charter amendments or proposals to adopt or repeal an ordinance on the ballot of the next regular election

      If you vote ‘No’ – it means:

      • All petitions must be signed by at least ten percent (10%) of the electors of the city;
      • Proposed charter amendments or proposals to adopt or repeal ordinances would have to be held no less than ninety (90) days nor more than one hundred eighty days (180) days from the date the supervisor of elections certificate of sufficiency is presented to council if no regular election occurs during that time, council would have to call a special election

    One of our writers answered Bailey and we will copy that answer here in a moment, but we want to address something the City is saying in Referendum 2, mainly the the City Clerk would consult with the SOE to create a petition form and if not passed, the City Clerk would not be required to consult with the SOE regarding the petition form.

    A majority of citizens voting “no” on this referendum would mean the Charter language would remain the same as it is now.

    As we have said time and time and time again, Section 3.09 of the Charter deals with the petitions and in that section, you will find this:

    Section 3.09 Petitions to Amend the City Charter or to Adopt or Repeal Ordinances.

    (4) The procedures to have an issue placed on the ballot shall be as set forth in this section, and shall be subject to other governmental agencies’ requirements that may affect this section. (emphasis ours)

    The current law already requires the City to consult with another agency if the City wants to use that agency in the process. The City did not do that in with the design of the petition in this case and then contrary to laws and court rulings, tried to force the SOE to verify the petitions that were legally insufficient as per her office.

    In other words, the City is now saying the new language will compel the City to do something they were required to do in the past and did not do. Unless you have been following the case, you’d think “getting the SOE involved is a good idea.” The problem is the SOE should have been involved in the first place.

    The City failed to follow its own laws and now they are expecting people to buy into the idea that they are strengthening the laws they ignored in the first place.

    Councilman Bailey has indicated that he is voting “yes” on all three Referendums. He asked a person who stated they were voting against for Referendum #1 and against Referendums #2 and #3 as it in their opinion it would make a petition drive harder:

    Our writer’s response to him on Facebook was as follows:

    [Councilman] Jeff Bailey, we are not sure that the issue is “harder” with the passage of #2 and #3, but there are more than a few concerns. In number 2:

    “The city clerk shall consult with the supervisor of elections to create a standard petition form for all proposed charter amendments and proposals to adopt or repeal an ordinance; “

    The current regulation is that the City follow all the regulations including those set by the Supervisor of Elections. Not only did the City not do that, they did not even inform the SOE that there was even a petition going on. Why should anyone expect the City follow this new rule when in fact the City did not follow the law in this case, making the petition forms insufficient from the beginning?

    “The city clerk, supervisor of elections, or other official selected by city council would certify the number of registered voters who signed the petition using the signature verification process in Florida Statutes;”

    The signatures should not be subject to verification by the City or designee as there is too much chance for corruption there. Either the SOE or a designee with members of the petition committee present should verify the signatures.

    Also, the last time we checked, the signature verification process is not determined by statutes, but set by the [State Department of Elections.] There is a process for verification for state elections, but not for local elections under the statutes. If the City wants to adapt the [State Department of Elections] standards, that’s fine, but for local elections there is no standard as far as we are aware. Why is the City relying on regulations that do not exist?

    The state signature verification process for signatures for state issues automatically allows for a member of the petition committee to be present. This clause allows the City to bar the committee or an independent observer. It is an immediate conflict between two clauses of the referendum.

    “The petitioning committee would be responsible for all costs involved in the petitioning process, specifically including, any fees that must be paid to the supervisor of elections to verify the petitions”

    This is incredibly vague.

    Would the petition committee be responsible for the salaries of the City employees in the preparation of the petition forms? The SOE? The petition committee paid $116 for their petitions from the City. Given the number of petitions and the costs of they were charged as stated in the Charter. The City did not charge them for the actual costs. Is the petition committee responsible for salaries if the petitions are transported to the Office of the SOE? If there are irregularities and the petition committee has to go to court to get the issues resolved, is the petition committee responsible for the legal fees of the City even if the Courts rule against the City? Is the petition committee responsible for paying to determine the costs? Sorry to say this, but “specifically including” is an oxymoron. Either the cost is specific items, or the costs are inclusive.

    Referendum #3 is problematic in that it is an outlier from other municipalities in Brevard County.

    While Palm Bay may set the criteria for what happens with a successful petition drive, Referendums #2 and #3 present voters with the idea that there was a problem with the way the Charter handled petitions. There was no problem with the Charter, but there was a problem with the way the City handled the petitions and the petition process itself.

    Obviously people can vote whichever way they want on this issue.

    However, our concern is the way the City is presenting the issues, presenting the potential outcomes and all the while still not taking any responsibility for the mess they caused in this whole petition process.

    There are people out there that are blaming the petition committee for this special election and apparently never want to see another petition drive succeed again. There is even an undertone from the Council and the City that the path citizens can take to get issues on the ballot as well as seeking redress from the City need to be made harder.

    We think that is wrong.

    The bottom line to us is that City employees and the City Council never took any responsibility for their actions and failure to follow the law. By “responsibility,” we mean actions and not just words.

    Because of that, we are reluctant to vote the way the City officials are voting (at least on Referendums #2 and #3) simply because the rational the City is putting forth still takes no responsibility in addition to being poorly worded, vagueness and the door wide open for more corruption.

    No matter what, we hope you go out and vote. You may agree with City officials and vote the same way they are, or you may disagree and vote contrary to their vote. The important thing is to vote.

    Let your voice be heard at the ballot box.



    4 Responses to “Palm Bay Votes.”

    1. Thomas Gaume says:

      It’s this easy.

      #1 was a result of an action by Citizens for Citizens.

      #2 & #3 are a result of a Government who decided that there were problems with the charter and instead of taking this opportunity to increase transparency and break down barriers between their constituents and the City, decided instead to add more roadblocks.

      The argument could also be made to vote No on 2 & 3 simply based on the fact that those two questions were added by the City, not the Citizens.

      Yes on 1 Only!
      No on 2 & 3!

    2. Thomas Gaume says:

      Additional point: You can’t blame the petition committee for the election when 2 of the 3 questions on the ballot are put forth by the City. This isn’t a special election, this is a regular election day that Palm Bay generally does not participate in, so the cost has been minimized. Therefore the blaming the cost of the election on the petition committee is a bogus claim. This should have been on the 2018 ballot at no cost at all.

    3. Fed Up Freddie says:

      To the writer of this article, and to Mr. Gaume, I agree wholeheartedly. This is yet another reason why I, along with most residents of Palm Bay simply have no trust in our leadership. They continually try to cast blame on others, all the while going about their business raising taxes, imposing assessments, (Which caught us off guard) and not being transparent in their actions. Let’s not forget the audit either. I am voting YES on #1 and NO on #2 #3 Can we for once, have someone honest and trustworthy, and actually “represent” the people of Palm Bay?

    4. Randy Wickens says:

      They learned how to do a petition properly with this one, shouldn’t be any problems with the petition to recall the current city council.

    top