Polling shows 82 percent of Brevard residents prefer keeping 8-year term limit in place
WATCH REPLAY: The Brevard County Commission held a meeting in Viera on Tuesday. During the last few minutes of Tuesday evening’s Brevard County Commission meeting, District 4 Commissioner Curt Smith made his wishes known to extend Brevard County Commission member term limits from eight to 12 years.
BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA FLORIDA – During the last few minutes of Tuesday evening’s Brevard County Commission meeting, District 4 Commissioner Curt Smith made his wishes known to extend Brevard County Commission member term limits from eight to 12 years.
“I’m just curious whether my fellow county commissioners would be interested as this would be the last chance we could do it (to get it on the ballot),” said Smith.
“I’m a big term limit guy, but I think it would be a good idea to have three terms. I’d like to hear what you guys are thinking.”
According to the current Brevard County Charter, “Each Commissioner shall be elected and serve for four years, beginning on the second Tuesday after the election and continuing after such term until a successor is elected and qualified. The terms shall be staggered as presently provided by general law. No county commissioner shall serve more than two consecutive terms.”
Changing the term limits would first require a four-person affirmative vote by commissioners Rita Pritchett, Smith, John Tobia and Kristine Zonka, and then the voting public would decide as it would then be added as a referendum vote on the ballot.
The Interim County Attorney, Christine Schverak, said that the commission would have to move quickly as the required resolution form would have to be ready by August 16.
“My proposal is to allow commissioners to run for three consecutive terms,” said Smith.
This would apply to commissioners Rita Pritchett, John Tobia and Kristine Zonka as Smith is “termed out” this November.
District 2 Brevard County Commissioner Bryan Lober resigned his office earlier this year and his replacement will be elected by the voters from candidates Joey Cholewa (REP) Tom Goodson (REP), Christopher Hattaway (REP), Dave Netterstrom (REP) and Dontavious “Tay Duh Mayuh” Smith (NPA).
PAY RAISE FOR COMMISSIONERS?
Smith also suggested that the Brevard County Commissioners should receive a pay raise. County Manager Frank Abbate said that there is a window in the charter to raise the salaries every two years, with a cost of living increase.
District 1 Commissioner Rita Pritchett said, “I do like this idea, but it would have to be all four of us. I can really see the benefit to the community of having commissioners for 12 years. I would love it if it did go through as we have such a great relationship. I would support this and would be tickled if we did this. I wish we didn’t have such hard sunshine laws so that we could fuss at each other off-line. You guys are pretty awesome.”
District 5 Commissioner John Tobia said, “I would have to think about it as I made a promise when I ran. I am gone either way. You have to give me a day on this one so that I can write a position paper on it.”
District 3 Commissioner Kristine Zonka said, “I believe there is a value to having a salary that is competitive. “I will not be running for a third term but I would be happy to let the voters decide (about a third term for the other commissioners).”
WHAT THE CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION DECIDED:
During their May 12 meeting, the Brevard County Charter Review Commission voted by a 6-5 margin to terminate a proposal by former Brevard County Commissioner Robin Fisher which would have repealed the current 8-year term limits for county commissioners and implemented a 12-year limit instead.
Charter Review Commission members voting against term limits were Marcia Newell, Robin Fisher, Kendall Moore, Cole Oliver and Sue Schmitt.
Commissioners Mike Haridopolos, Marie Rogerson, Matt Nye, Gabriel Jacobs-Kierstein, Blaise Trettis and Jordin Chandler all voted in support of maintaining the voter-approved 8-year term limits.
Public polling had shown that 82 percent of Brevard residents including Republicans, Democrats and Independent voters, opposed Fisher’s proposal, preferring to keep the 8-year term limit in place.
During the Charter Review Commission debate, Trettis pointed out that it was unfair for commissioners to delegate to charter appointees a decision on term limits that would affect their own political careers.
In addition to killing the anti-term limits proposal, the Charter Review Commission allowed a pro-term limits proposal from Cocoa resident Nick Tomboulides to move forward.
“I would say it’s disgraceful,” said Tomboulides.
“These appointees (who voted against term limits) were supposed to represent the people but have instead thumbed their noses at citizens by voting against term limits. They are putting the needs of lobbyists and special interests above their duty to Brevard taxpayers. Hopefully, our county commissioners will think twice before appointing these individuals again.”
The Tomboulides proposal would strengthen the 8-year term limit for county commissioners by removing the provision which allows ex-commissioners to run again after sitting out a term. It would create a lifetime 8-year term limit which permanently blocks career politicians from returning to office.
“Our current limits work well with one exception: they do allow former commissioners to sit out and then run again,” said Tomboulides, who serves as Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits.
“So, we have a lot of zombie politicians – career politicians – still floating around and always scheming to come back. These people refuse to go away. My proposal would tighten up the 8-year term limit, so career politicians take a permanent hike.”
“Our current limits work well with one exception: they do allow former commissioners to sit out and then run again,” said Cocoa resident Nick Tomboulides, who serves as Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits.
Tomboulides said his proposal was inspired in part by a bill Governor Ron DeSantis introduced while serving in the U.S. House, which would have imposed a lifetime term limit on members of Congress. Former Brevard Clerk of Court Scott Ellis has also endorsed the measure.
Space Coast Daily contacted Tomboulides to get a comment on Smith’s idea to increase Brevard County Commission’s maximum term limits from eight to 12 years.
“At 8:17 p.m. with no one watching, Curt Smith announced the commission is going to try to lengthen its own term limits from 8 to 12,” said Tomboulides.
“This was hidden outside of the agenda for obvious reasons. He’s reviving the Fisher proposal which the CRC killed. The Commission has the power to send it to the ballot and use fake language to deceive the voters. These people are absolutely shameless. I’m starting to wonder why we have boards in this county if the commission refuses to listen to them. First, they ignored the TDC on Driftwood, now they ignored the Charter Review on this. The Charter Review already voted down this trash.”
According to Tomboulides, the Brevard County Commission would need to vote 4-0 this Thursday, August 4 to put it on the ballot. It would be a voter referendum to change the charter.
“If you watch the video, no one spoke against it, but Pritchett and Zonka are clearly in favor,” said Tomboulides.
“You might be thinking ‘voter referendum, no problem because 82% oppose it…so it will lose.’ No! Huge problem because the commission also controls the ballot language and could trick the voters with some confusing ballot language. The average honest voter might be deceived. It happens all around the country because politicians hate term limits, but voters won’t let them repeal it. So they resort to the deceptive and fraudulent ballot language,” said Tomboulides.
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