By Dale Martin, Fernandina Beach City Manager
About twice a week, I receive a collaborative email report from the Florida League of Cities (FLC) and the Florida City/County Management Association (FCCMA) entitled C-Ms: News for City and County Managers. Although so titled, I believe the distribution to be somewhat broader than simply city and county managers, so many other public officials receive the report.
The report is actually a collection of news stories from around the State that are of interest to local government. The report provides a brief summary of the topic and a link to the original source of information. So what’s happening elsewhere in Florida?
The report typically includes news of a couple of management transitions: managers “going” (or gone) and “coming.” Florida has many communities that operate under the Council-Manager form of government, so vacancies and appointments are common around the State. Incidentally, I was informed by a representative of the FCCMA that 2018 represents the 95th year that Fernandina Beach has operated under the Council-Manager form of government. With that form of government commonly believed to have been introduced in the early 1900s, that makes Fernandina Beach an early pioneer of this form of government. An FCCMA official plans to visit and recognize the City’s accomplishment soon.
With the State Legislature reconvening this week, many of the news capsules beat the “rallying drum” to prepare for more pre-emption battles. The efforts of state legislatures to introduce pre-emption legislation are a national trend. Many argue that these efforts are in direct response to the “intransigence” of local governments. State advocates argue that cities should be messing with minimum wage, immigration, or environmental regulations, insisting that those issues are within the scope of state or federal regulation. On the other side, local activists contend that if a community wants to raise the minimum wage, ban Styrofoam containers, or regulate short-term vacation rental properties, it is the will of the community that is the most appropriate determinant.
This week’s report offers comments from several sources that all echo the same serious concern regarding the pre-emption effort of the Florida Legislature, more specifically Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran (representing an area just north of Tampa). The Herald Tribune (Sarasota), the Sun Sentinel (southern Florida), the Northwest Florida Daily News, the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times, the Naples Daily News, the St. Augustine Record, and the Anna Maria Islander are all represented with links to stories regarding the threat to local government.
The subjects of the pre-emption effort are just as numerous- tree trimming and cutting, short-term vacation rentals, the prohibition of “back-in” parking in public garages (consider me overly critical, but obviously, Sen, Steube [Sarasota] who is also responsible for the tree-trimming and introduced this bill, doesn’t have more pressing issues for State Senate consideration- maybe he can consider something related to newspaper boxes, too), “sanctuary” cities, red-light cameras, Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs), and travel notifications and restrictions (which, of course, wouldn’t apply to State Legislatures). Another Steube bill seeks to circumvent current Sunshine laws regarding public meetings. The theme of the news is overwhelmingly consistent: Tallahassee politicians should not interfere with decisions best determined by local governments which are closer to the people.
Another key snippet hails the decision to eliminate Florida from consideration for offshore drilling. Governor Scott, joined in his opposition by U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, made the argument against such efforts by advocating for the role of coastal tourism in Florida.
Other topics of discussion include local government’s participation in litigation against pharmaceutical companies related to the current opioid crisis, a bill seeking to move the State Capitol from Tallahassee (apparently it is too difficult to travel to according to the sponsoring legislator), charter review opportunities, panhandling and homelessness, nursing home safety during emergencies, underground utilities, and electrical choice options for residential properties.
The variety of these issues demonstrates that the efforts of state legislators to treat every local government as a monolithic entity are severely misguided. Miami is not the same as Ocala which is not the same as Fernandina Beach- let local governments respond to and serve their residents as those residents see fit.
However difficult it may be, I look forward to travelling to Tallahassee later this month with other City officials to convey these concerns.