Strong-mayor city charter change tabled

Photo by Norman Schimmel

When Sarasota City Commissioner Paul Carragiulo said he wanted to introduce a strong-mayor proposal at the July 16 commission meeting, nobody quite expected how strong the proposal would be. Basically, it calls for a rewrite of the entire city charter to incorporate all of the changes Carragiulo would like to see.

The City Commission ended up tabling discussion of the amendment until Aug. 20. The delay will keep the proposal off the November ballot, but it could allow it to appear on the March 2013 ballot, when two city commissioners will be up for election.

Right now the city enjoys what some call a “ceremonial” mayor, a commissioner elected by their fellow commissioners to preside over meetings and represent the city. Actual running of the city is done by an appointed city manager.

Three commissioners represent districts, while two are elected citywide.

Carragiulo would change all that, and more. All commissioners would be elected from districts, under his plan. Only the mayor would run at-large. The mayor would no longer be a commissioner and would not be able to vote on issues. However, the elected mayor would have veto power over City Commission actions.  The veto could be overridden with a four-vote supermajority.

The mayor would make $132,500, or the equivalent of five commissioner salaries. The proposal does not call for a raise for city commissioners.

The elected mayor would hire and fire the city attorney and city clerk, with the consent of the commission. And the elected mayor would be responsible for preparing the budget.

Carragiulo’s plan effectively does away with the city manager position, although it would allow the mayor to appoint an administrator to help the mayor manage the city.

To have made it possible for Carragiulo’s plan to be considered during the November election, the City Commission would have had to hold two public hearings before the first week in August. The July 16 meeting, when the plan was presented, was the final City Commission meeting before the window closed for scheduling those public hearings. Truly, the plan was presented at the last possible instant.

If Carragiulo had been successful, this would have marked the fourth time in 16 years the city would have faced a proposal for an elected mayor. In 1996, 2002 and 2009, voters faced the issues and shot them down by 2-to-1 or greater margins.

Readers can find the proposal, including all the intricate charter changes required to make it happen, at

The proposal is the final item on this evening’s City Commission agenda, under “New Business.”