Voters in the City of High Springs will have their plates full with decisions to make on Tuesday.
Between the city commission candidates, the city charter amendments and the numerous state and county candidates and issues, the ballot High Springs citizens will see on Nov. 2 has more than 30 items to vote on, four of which are strictly local.
Only city residents can vote on these items, which include the two commission seats up for election and two proposed amendments to the city charter.
Mayor Bill Coughlin, who is running for reelection, currently occupies one of the opening seats, and Commissioner John Hill, who was appointed to replace Diane Shupe when she resigned mid-term, occupies the other.
Hill is not running in this election.
Coughlin’s four opponents in the race for city office are Bob Barnas, Linda Clark Gestrin, Sue Weller and Byran Williams.
The candidates with the highest and second highest number of votes will take seat on the commission Nov. 18.
Recently, they shared their views with each other and a public audience during an hour-long question-and-answer forum at the High Springs New Century Womens Club.
The two charter amendments that will be on the ballot next week were both submitted, with unanimous approval from the current commission, as issues that should be left to the voters to decide.
The first is titled “Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption,” and if passed, it would grant the city commission authority to offer tax exemptions to new or expanding businesses for as long as they operate in High Springs.
If the amendment is voted into law, it will expire after 10 years, at which point the city commission could put it out to voters again to reinstate it.
“Proposed Amendment to the City of High Springs Charter-Number 1” is the not-so-informative title of the second amendment item, which consists of revising the process for filling vacancies on the city commission.
The proposal originated with a suggestion from Vice Mayor Eric May, who said voters should have the final say on how elected positions are filled.
If approved, it would require that if a commissioner were to step down or die, and there were more than six months remaining before the next regular election, a mandatory special election must be held to fill the vacant seat for the remainder of its term.
If there were fewer than six months remaining, the remaining commissioners could choose to appoint someone to fill the position until the next regular election, or the commission may choose to appoint someone to the position until the special election.
Currently, the city charter calls for the remaining commissioners to appoint a replacement until the next regular election and does not require a special election.
This was the process by which John Hill was appointed, which resulted from the commission’s initial failure to agree on a replacement for Shupe.
The rules set forth by this amendment would alleviate the commission’s responsibility to decide and potentially avoid similar problems in the future.
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