INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – For the next few months, IRB commissioners will be interested in hearing what local residents think of imposing term limits on their elected officials.
The idea of bringing in term limits was raised by Commissioner Phil Wrobel some weeks ago and it was discussed at the commission’s regular meeting Jan. 8.
“I think it is something we should do,” he said. “I think it will attract more people to run for office in this city.”
Indian Rocks Beach resident Steve Morris said he was against the idea of term limits.
“You would be taking my rights away,” he said. “If somebody is doing a good job, and I want to keep them around I can vote for them. If somebody is doing a poor job then I want the right not to vote for that person. I don’t want a law doing my job for me.”
Former Commissioner Jim Labadie who chose not to run two years ago also disagreed with the idea of term limits.
“I believe in quality not quantity,” he said. “The people who run and are elected are a jewel for this city; I would hate to see people forced out. I think we lose.”
Among those arguing for term limits was Kelly Cisarik.
“I think the voters should decide it,” she said. “Term limits will encourage more people to run.”
Commission candidate John Pfanstiehl also weighed in on the conversation.
“It is true you can always vote somebody out,” he said. “There is no shortage of quality people who run for office. I think it is best to let the people decide.”
Former Commissioner Bert Valery was also in favor of term limits.
“I brought it up years ago and got no support,” he said. “It is hard to beat an incumbent. This is not about replacing people but rather giving new people an opportunity.”
Commissioner Ed Hoofnagle was not in favor of the idea.
“I don’t believe incumbency is that big a barrier to keep people from running,” he said. “When you run for office you put yourself out there and every two years you have to ask yourself why are you serving as an elected official.”
Mayor Cookie Kennedy said she did not have a problem with term limits but noted that small cities such as Indian Rocks Beach don’t have a large pool of people who want to serve. She intimated that kicking out those who are serving doesn’t make sense.
Of the 24 municipalities in Pinellas County only seven have term limits. All of those have populations larger than 5,000. IRB has a population of just over 4,000.
City Attorney Randy Mora said his strong recommendation to the Commissioners is that the issue be brought to the voters in a referendum. He said it was a charter issue.
With that the Commissioners agreed to talk it up among residents then bring it back to a Commission Workshop sometime after the March election.
Even if they do agree to take the idea to a referendum that won’t happen until the 2020 election at the earliest.
Paid parking lots
Commissioners unanimously agreed to allow private property owners in the Triangle Business District to set up paid parking lots on their property.
Businessman Todd Plumlee, whose family owns a large empty lot in the district, had asked if it were OK for him to charge people to park in that lot. For years people have been parking there for free.
He brought his case to the Planning and Zoning Board which, after two meetings, voted against the idea.
Plumlee appeared at the Commission meeting and said how disappointed he was at that vote.
His mother Pat Plumlee told the Commission that for years her family allowed free parking both for beach-goers and for the overflow from Crabby Bill’s. Now she’d like things to change.
“All that time we have been paying taxes and insurance on that land and accepting the liability. We’re in the tourism business so it is not smart to have people towed away. We’ve been here for 22 years,” she said.
Commissioners agreed that the paid parking lot would be a good thing for the District because of a severe parking shortage in the area.
“A parking garage would not be a bad thing; in fact it is common sense. To do nothing isn’t good enough,” said Commissioner Ed Hoofnagle.
“We definitely have a problem with parking in that area and we need to do something,” said Commissioner Phil Wrobel.
Commissioner Phil Hanna agreed.
“We need parking and you have the land and can make some money from it, I have no problem with that.”
Commissioners unanimously agreed to allow private landowners to charge for parking on their property.
In other Commission news, City Manager Gregg Mims noted that the undergrounding work along Gulf Boulevard has already begun. The work has started at the border with Indian Shores and will move northward to Fifth Avenue.
“It will take seven months and there will be disruptions,” he said.
Mims also said the city is working with Duke Energy to identify where charging stations for electric cars can be located.
He also said the city has received the first reimbursement check from FEMA for cleanup work following Hurricane Irma.
The check for $25,000 is the first to begin to cover for the $200,000 the city spent in cleanup after the storm.
“We expect to be fully reimbursed, but it is a long process,” said Mims.