Sunday, August 21, 2011

New statewide term limits blog launched

With the victory of county term limits law at the appellate court level, Palm Beach County term limits are safe, for now. The advent of term limits is leading to competitive elections with multiple challengers and the people will have a meaningful vote. Mission accomplished. Hence, this site will be updated only infrequently.

To follow the anti-term limits case to the Supreme Court, if indeed the politicians chose to appeal, please see the new statewide term limits blog here.

While you are there, you can follow the bill, just introduced by state Rep. Matt Caldwell, calling for Congressional term limits.

As polls, ballots and even the courts confirm, this issue is alive and well in our state and across the country. To stay up on it, become a 'follower' by email of the new site. You can make that election using a dialogue box in the right column of the site.


Friday, August 19, 2011

PALM BEACH POST: Court made the right decision

On Aug. 18, the Palm Beach Post editorialized on the appeals court decision that affirmed the constitutionality of county commission term limits:

"Term limits for county commissioners have survived a state appeals court's scrutiny ... By upholding voter-imposed county commission term limits, Florida's 4th District Court of Appeal was affirming counties' rights to set their own rules for who leads them and how. In this way, it was a victory for strong local governments and local control. From both a legal and a policy standpoint, it was the right decision."

For the full editorial, go here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SUN-SENTINEL: Court right to side with voters on term limits

On Aug. 15, the Sun-Sentinel weighed in on last week's appellate court decision to uphold the constitutionality of county term limits in Florida:

"...Voters have clearly decided they want term limits. The appellate court was correct to honor that decision..."

The editorial reminds us that the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board has supported term limits at the state level, including the "Eight is Enough" measure for state legislators that was approved in 1992. They don't mention it, but the paper also wrote in support of the Palm Beach County term limits referendum in 2002.

For the full story, go here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

John R. Smith: Term Limits Work

"The best political news I heard all week is that an appeals court ruled that voters can choose to amend a county’s charter to mandate term limits for county commissioners," wrote John R. Smith in the BIZPAC Review today. "Term limits work, because over the last few years we have seen what happens when we dont have them. Tenure corrupts."

"Whatever deficit problems the Washington political class tackles, or however much the local county commission raises taxes every year, their number one priority is to get re-elected. They do that by handing out public money. And the more that politicians can expand government, the more money they can dole out. Because re-election becomes their holy grail, term limits reduce corruption and government expansion because limits eliminate re-election."

For the full story, go here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Politicians to take case against voters to Florida Supreme Court?

Yesterday, the appellate court vindicated the constitutionality of Florida's county term limits, removing any immediate threat to Palm Beach County's law and re-establishing Broward County term limits that had been overturned by a lower court judge.

Now, this morning, the Palm Beach Post is reporting that the gaggle of politicians and politically connected lawyers and judges that challenged the Broward law -- which passed by 80% in 2000 -- is mulling over appealing the case to the Florida Supreme Court.

We'll continue to watch and report on the progress of the case, but are not overly concerned. The case for county term limits at the Supreme Court level is far stronger than the narrower appellate level case. In any case, due to timing, it is highly unlikely that continuation of the case will affect the legal status of Palm Beach County Commissioners Karen Marcus and Burt Aaronson.

There currently is no legal basis for Palm Beach County commissioners to challenge the law. Citizens collected 65,000 signatures to put the referendum on ther ballot, 70% of the voters approved it and now the 4th District Court of Appeals has legally signed off on it. It took a decade, but the people won.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Today the Florida 4th District Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that overturned voter-approved term limits in Broward County.

In other words, the courts have ruled that county commissioner term limits ARE constitutional in Florida.

As a result, Palm Beach County's voter-initiated and -approved county commissioner term limits law is safe from attack by local politicians via the courts!

We expected county term limits to win at the Florida Supreme Court level, but were worried about the appellate court case because it appeared to be looking at a narrower question than home rule. Our fear was that local politicians would try to use an appellate decision to void Palm Beach County's law before it got to the Supreme Court. Two Palm Beach County commissioners announced they planned to do just that. But no more.

Today marks a great victory for the voters and a loss for professional politicians.

Next stop: Washington. Please sign the online petition for Congressional term limits here.

Thank you!

Palm Beach County GOP officially embraces term limit law

In support of the Palm Beach County 8-year term limits law, the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee -- the ruling body of the local GOP -- approved the following resolution 170-0 at their Wednesday night meeting:

WHEREAS, citizens of Palm Beach County collected over 65,000 signatures to put a referendum on the countywide ballot to limit the terms of county commissioners to eight years of office;

WHEREAS, the voters of Palm Beach County approved this charter amendment by 70% of the vote in 2002;

WHEREAS, the 8-year commissioner term limit went into effect for the first time in 2010;

WHEREAS, nearly all rotation in office on the county commission in the eight years prior 2010 has been due to indictments rather than competitive elections;

WHEREAS, term limits address the issue of corruption by reducing hubris and opportunity and improving transparency by widening the circle of those with intimate knowledge and experience in local governance;

WHEREAS, term limits improve citizen access to office, broaden the range of experience on the commission and mandate competitive elections at regular intervals;

WHEREAS, politicians in other Florida counties have appealed to the courts to revoke their citizen-approved term limits;

WHEREAS, recent national, statewide and Southeast Florida polling indicates approximately 75 percent of voters of all parties continue to support term limits;

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY HEREBY RESOLVES that Palm Beach County commissioners respect the clearly expressed will of the people and retain, defend and abide by the voter-initiated and approved eight-year term limit.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Commissioner Aaronson joins Marcus in defiance of voters' term limit

Burt Aaronson told the Palm Beach Post he will 'definitely' run for his sixth term as a county commissioner if the current effort to overturn Palm Beach County's voter-approved 8-year term limits law is successful.

In doing so, the 83-year-old commissioner would be directly defying the will of the voters expressed in the overwhelming 2002 approval of the citizen-led term limits initiative at the ballot box and current expression of local support of term limits in polls. The voters called for a two-term limit for commissioners.

Aaronson joins Karen Marcus -- who hasn't faced a general election challenger in 20 years -- in clinging to the position. Four other commissioners who would otherwise have been term limited by the new law have been indicted for corruption and had to leave office, three of them for prison.

Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said she would not accept paperwork from Marcus or Aaronson to run again in defiance of the law.

However, Marcus and Aaronson are pinning their hopes on a politician-led effort from Broward County that is making its way through the courts. In Broward County, where term limits passed with an astounding 80 percent of the vote, a friendly and politically active judge -- whose husband is the term-limited former mayor of Fort Lauderdale -- struck down Broward County commission term limits.

Broward is appealing to defend the people's law, but an adverse decision at the appellate level later this year could be used by Marcus and Aaronson for a basis for a legal challenge of the Palm Beach law. Broward is confident of success of their term limits law at the Supreme Court, but you can bet the politicians won't wait.

Be sure to answer the poll question at the top right of this page. The voters have made it clear as day they want term limits. Would you vote for a politician who so brazenly defies us?

(Pictured above, Karen Marcus and Burt Aaaronson in the commission chambers)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

IT'S OFFICIAL: Charter review takes aim at voter-approved term limits

The voter-initiated term limits law that passed in 2002 with 70% of the vote was an amendment to the Palm Beach County Charter. Over the next year, the county is reviewing the charter, presumably looking for ways to update or improve the document. At a public charter review meeting last night at the library on Hagen Ranch Road in Delray Beach, it was unveiled that "eliminating term limits" is on the agenda.

TAKE ACTION: Go here to tell the charter review commission to retain our voter approved, 8-year term limits law as is.

Some background: In 1984, Palm Beach County voters approved a home rule charter form of government, sometimes called "home rule." Since then there have been changes made via citizen initiative (term limits and single member districts) and via referrals of ballot questions by the commission (the non-interference rule and ethics commission). But until now there has not been a thorough top-to-bottom review.

In preparation for this the county is sponsoring charter review presentations around the county and soliciting ideas for changes. As part of last night's excellent presentation by Assistant County Administrator Brad Merriman, a list of changes under consideration were shown. Most were from the commissioners themselves and a few from citizen input. The relevant one here is "eliminate term limits." It was followed by "retain term limits." You can guess which one came from a commissioner and which one came from a citizen!

Please participate in this important process. Please take the Review Commission's online survey (or use on of their postage-paid comment cards if you attend a charter review meeting) . Please leave a short comment on the county's charter review site urging them to keep our voter-approved, 8-year term limits law as is. This can be done here.

We expect the commissioners to argue that since a similar term limits law is being challenged in Broward and working its way through the courts that in order to "clean up" the charter the law ought to be removed before the Florida Supreme Court hears the matter. Then, when the Florida Supreme Court upholds the law, the law is no longer in the charter to enforce.

Can local politicians sink so low? One would hope not. But charter reviews are used by politicians to try to undo term limits all the time, including recently in West Palm Beach.

Let's participate in the process and show our support for the term limits law. The deadline is Aug. 26 for public comment.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

TAKE ACTION! Inform your neighbors with new palm flyers

How do we alert our neighbors about the threat to Palm Beach County's voter-initiated and -approved term limits law?

Well, to put the proposal on the ballot back in 2002, we distributed petitions to our friends, neighbors and business associates -- not to mention strangers in the streets! -- and the recipients reacted with enthusiasm. Taking a page from that successful playbook, we've created a simple palm flyer to print out and distribute.

Click on the picture above to see a larger, clearer image. To download and print (four flyers per 8.5x11 page), click here.

The flyer's message is short and clear. It tells the basics of the story, names the two commissioners (Burt Aaronson and Karen Marcus) who have announced they will defy the voters and urges our neighbors to learn more by going to this website. It also suggests they print out and distribute more palm flyers.

This is much easier than petitioning, and is nonetheless an effective way to get the word out. All you need to do is click here and print. Then pass them out at work and other places you go. Keep them at your desk and include when paying all local bills. We'll be organizing group distribution at post offices and other public places too. If you'd like to volunteer, please contact me at

Thank you for your efforts to defend this citizen-initiated law from politicians who place their own self-interest above that of their community.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Palm Beach Post on Aaronson's defiance of voters

In an outstanding May 20 editorial, Randy Schultz tells the unfolding story of Commissioner Burt Aaronson's undignified grasping for power in his final days of his legal term. Please read the entire editorial, but here's some highlights:

"Even if the courts allow Commissioner Aaronson to run, should he? Moreover, Palm Beach County's single-member districts mean that Commissioner Aaronson - and Commissioner Karen Marcus, if she ran - would have to persuade only one-seventh of the electorate. Term-limit advocates elsewhere only could fume.

"In many ways, Commissioner Aaronson has become the example of why people support term limits. As we saw during last year's Democratic Senate primary, Commissioner Aaronson fancies himself a political kingmaker. Commissioner Aaronson quietly retired 'on paper' and made himself a double-dipper, drawing a pension while still serving on the commission. Blame the Legislature, he said, for passing the law.

"If Commissioner Aaronson had been so worried about filling his days as an octogenarian, he could have led a campaign to repeal term limits. For now, though, whatever the courts say, the voters have spoken."

Aaronson seeks to evade primary as well as term limit

Commissioner Burt Aaronson, who is legally barred from running for reelection due to Palm Beach County's voter-initiated and -approved term limits law, is trying to bully a legal candidate out of the race to preserve "party unity."

That's right. According to a Palm Beach Post editorial on June 13, Aaronson is arguing that he should not be bound by the term limits law nor face an opponent.

As the Post notes, "The danger point comes when an elected official takes himself more seriously than the job. Commissioner Aaronson is way past that point."

This is one reason why the people passed term limits. Commissioner Aaronson, please respect the law, the electoral system and the citizens of this county and retire with dignity.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Isn't Burt Aaronson ALREADY retired?

Burt Aaronson, 83, has indicated he seeks to run again even though he is not a legal candidate and even though he is already collecting his pension!

In a practice called "double dipping," Aaaronson is currently receiving a state pension of $1,648 a month, or nearly $20,000 annually, while continuing to collect his $92,000 annual salary (plus lots of perks) as a county commissioner.

His defense?

"I completely abided by the laws, and rules, and regulations the legislature set," he told the Sun-Sentinel.

And to stay on this gravy train, Aaronson has announced plans on using legal technicalities to avoid the term limits that were approved by 70% of county in voters in 2002.

Please contact and thank Commissioner Burt Aaronson for his past service and ask that he retire with dignity at the end of his term.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Are Palm Beach County voter-approved term limits in danger?

As detailed in the previous post, the politicians in Broward won round one against the voter approved county commission term limits law in that county. Broward is appealing the circuit court decision. The case may ultimately go to the Florida Supreme Court.
What does the Broward case mean to Palm Beach County, where 70 percent of voters here approved 8-year county commission term limits in 2002?

  • If Broward County wins the appeal, nothing will happen in Palm Beach. The position of the voter-approved Palm Beach County law will be strengthened.

  • If the Broward County loses its appeal, the county will ask for a Supreme Court review. The case at the Supreme Court level is very strong and ultimate victory likely.

  • However, in the meantime the appellate decision could be used as a basis for a suit by county commissioners and local special interests against Palm Beach County voters to overthrow the law.

    • You can bet that the local pols will not wait for the Supreme Court to act. If what is happening in Broward is any clue, county commissioners will find a patsy to file a suit against the voters immediately and then announce their re-election campaigns. They, of course, will pretend they are not involved in the suit.

      County Commissioner Karen Marcus -- a 26-year veteran who hasn't faced a general election challenger in nearly 20 years -- has already said she plans on running again.

      Voters continue to support term limits in overwhelming numbers. We should ask Karen Marcus and Burt Aaronsen, the two commissioners affected by the law in 2012, to respect the will of the voters. They should leave our term limits law alone and not run again without sitting out a term as the law provides. Please also answer the poll question at the top right of this page. Let them know how we feel.

      Update on Broward Term Limits Case

      As noted below, a politically active circuit court judge in Broward rule last Election Day that Broward voters had no right to vote (with 80 percent of the vote!) to limit the terms of Broward County commissioners 12 years ago. Local politicians challenged the law just as it was going into effect and the judge -- whose husband is himself a term-limited former mayor of Ft. Lauderdale -- obliged them.

      Broward is appealing the case on behalf of its citizens to the 4th District Court of Appeals. In mid-March, Broward County filed its brief in defense of the voter-approved term limits law. Broward is arguing that the Supreme Court's Cook case, which the circuit judge used to justify striking down term limits, is not controlling. In that case in 2002, the Florida Supreme Court struck down term limits on county officers such as the sheriff and tax collector in Duval and Pinellas Counties.

      In its brief, Broward argues that Cook applied to a different class of office holders and different section of the county charter that uses different language than the section considered in Cook. Thus, the case of Broward County commissioner term limits is to be distinguished from the Cook case and should be decided differently and Cook is not controlling and the circuit court decision should be overturned.

      More importantly, Broward is arguing that as a home rule county (that is, with a state-sanctioned home rule charter granting significant autonomy in local government) permits charter counties to make local rules -- like term limits -- as long as the changes do not conflict with state law. No one alleges that term limits contradict state law. The politicians are arguing that because the state constitution is silent on the issue, the counties do not have the power.

      Broward is asking, what is home rule is if not the power to make local decisions on such issues?

      One might expect the Florida Association of Counties to weigh in in favor of broader home rule powers -- something they traditionally champion -- but their opposition to term limits apparently trumps their commitment to home rule. They declined to submit a amicus brief in support of Broward.

      An answer to the Broward brief is expected by mid-May. Then, Broward can file an answer brief within 20 days. The final decision can be expected at any time after that, probably by October but almost certainly by the end of the year. If Broward loses, they intend to take the case back to the Supreme Court. Their case is even stronger at that level because the primary issue will not be whether or not Cook is controlling but whether or not home rule really means home rule or if it doesn't. This broader argument is compelling and could strike down not only the politicized Broward decision, but Cook also.

      Stay tuned for more news about this historic case.

      Monday, March 7, 2011

      The rumors are true: Marcus seeks to defy voter-approved term limits

      The hubris!

      26-year incumbent Karen Marcus told the Palm Beach Post she is considering a run for re-election to her seat in defiance of the voters' clearly expressed will to limit Palm Beach County commissioners' terms.

      Karen was already a long-term incumbent when the voters approved eight-year term limits by 70% back in 2002. Now that the eight-year limit is upon her, she is seeking to get around the law and stay in office.

      It is nearly impossible to beat an incumbent in Palm Beach County. With the cost of the races so high and the advantages of incumbency so great, nearly all the rotation in office that has occurred over the last decade or so has been via indictment, not elections. In fact, the key reason given by the Palm Beach County Term Limits Committee for enacting term limits was to revive regular, competitive elections.

      The incumbency hurdle is so great that Marcus generally runs unopposed or faces only nominal opposition in a primary. Her name hasn't appeared on a general election ballot in nearly 20 years. But this year, because term limits are mandating an open, competitive election, serious candidates are lined up and ready to run.

      So, just as workable local democracy is about to return to Palm Beach County, Commissioner -- or Queen? -- Marcus is plotting to undermine it.

      Even the chairman of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County, Sid Dinerstein, believes his fellow Republican should step aside: "When 70 percent of the voters want term limits and you've been in office [26] years, maybe it's time to just say 'thank you' and move on."

      Would you vote for someone who would so brazenly combat the people's will for her own personal benefit? Please answer that poll question at the top right corner of this page and forward this link to all your friends, family and coworkers in Palm Beach County.
      The citizens of out county fought hard for change; don't let a self-interested politician toss all their hard work out the window!

      Sunday, March 6, 2011

      "We don't need term limits, that's what elections are for!"

      This is a cliche we often hear from term limits opponents who may mean well but clearly aren't paying close attention.

      The fact is that the high cost of campaigns and the advantages of incumbency are so great that it is very rare that a sitting incumbent faces serious opposition -- if they face any at all! And keep in mind that if an incumbent runs unopposed, the election is simply cancelled.

      Where there are no term limits to mandate open competitive elections at least once every eight years, it is quite likely no competitive elections are being held. The voters do not even get an opportunity to weigh in on their representatives.

      Case in point: 26-year veteran commissioner Karen Marcus last faced a general election challenger in 1992, nearly 20 years ago. Yes, 20 years!

      For the regular competitive elections and rotation in office that healthy democracy requires, elections need to be complemented by term limits.

      Wednesday, February 2, 2011

      Palm Beach County term limits are now in effect!

      In 2002, 70 percent of voters in Palm Beach County approved eight-year term limits for Palm Beach County commissioners. With that vote, the clock started ticking for all the sitting incumbents. Today, eight years later, the term limits go into full effect.

      Under the voter-approved law, neither commissioner Karen Marcus nor Burt Aaronson are eligible to run again for the county commission unless they sit out a term first. Thus, they can run again in the future but not with all the advantages of incumbency.

      Ironically, three other county commissioners who would have been term limited this year instead went to prison on corruption charges: Tony Masilotti, Warren Newell and Mary McCarty. A fourth, Jeff Koons, avoided prison by accepting a plea deal for his felony extortion charge.

      The voters' clear call for term limits in Palm Beach County followed similar 70+ percent victories in Clay and Polk Counties in 2000, as well as a term limits retention vote in Tampa which won with 68 percent. A term limits referendum in Broward County -- currently under seige by a judge and a gaggle of local politicians -- passed by 80 percent in 2000.

      The Palm Beach County referendum was the hard work of a cadre of over 150 volunteers and contributors who collected over 46,000 signatures of Palm Beach County voters, or 7 percent of the counties voters. To reach this total of valid signatures, they collected over 65,000 petitions in total and raised close to $65,000.

      The last successful countywide petition drive previously was a business-backed effort in 1998 which spent over $225,000, about $330,000 in 2002 dollars, according to the Palm Beach Post at the time.

      The difference between this ballot effort and so many others was that there was no special interest backing of term limits. This was a grass roots campaign of the sort rarely seen in today's big money politics.

      POLL: South Florida loves term limits

      A Quinnipiac University poll dated April 15, 2009, shows that in Southeast Florida, 76% of respondents opposed extending state legislative term limits from eight to 12 years. According to the executive summary, "Opposition is strong among all political groups and throughout the state."

      This is right in line with a 2010 poll that suggests that 78 percent of Americans support term limits on the U.S. Congress, including 84 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats and independents.

      In 2010 in Cape Canaveral, voters imposed 8-year term limits on their mayor and council members by a 70-30% margin.

      Closer to home, citizen opposition in West Palm Beach shot down Mayor Lois Frankel's attempt to get around her city's popular eight-year term limit last year.

      VOICES: Why term limits? (2001)

      With less than 1,000 of the 46,000 signatures they'd need to put eight-year county commission term limits on the ballot, the Palm Beach County Term Limits Committee made their case for the measure in a 2001 issue of a local newsletter titled Voices of the Florida Taxpayer. The measure passed in November 2002 by 70 percent of the vote:


      Since 1994, 50% of all potential commission races (7 out of 14) were uncontested; there were no elections. In 1998 and 2000, Karen Marcus, Carol Roberts, Mary McCarty, Warren Newell and Burt Aaronson went unopposed. In fact, Mary McCarty, who was elected in 1990, has never faced a meaningful opponent in a general election.

      Clearly, the voters have little say over who their commissioners are or what they do. Term limits are needed to rejuvenate the election process by 1) requiring elections at least every eight years (imagine that!) and 2) severing the strong tie between incumbent commissioners and local special interests.

      It may seem odd at first that there wouldn’t already be far more competition for a job as commissioner, which pays $78,000 annually and includes numerous perks. But there are three main reasons why potential challengers shy away.

      • The first is the simple power of the incumbency. The incumbent commissioner generally has much better name recognition and is owed favors from all manner of special interests and individuals who have benefited from their votes.

      As Charles Lewis director of the Center for Public Integrity told the Palm Beach Post last year: "Generally, in more than 90 percent of elections, the incumbent wins. That works for county commissioners as well as governors and senators."

      • Another major reason is money. The incumbents traditionally raise large amounts of money early in the race from developers, and other businesses and individuals. For one example, in 2000, contribution king Burt Aaronson raised over $115,000 in an election in which he had no opponent. In fact, this action insured he had no opponents! Unopposed commissioners Karen Marcus and Warren Newell both raised about $60,000 each as well.

      • A third reason that incumbents nearly always win is that special interests – who benefit directly and substantially from commission votes – are highly organized and follow the commission closely. The mass of voters are not so attentive as the effects of the commission’s decisions on them is more diffuse. Therefore, interests are willing to spend amounts of time and money that ordinary citizens are not and, in many cases, cannot.

      Taken together, incumbency seems to mean: "Once you’re in, you’re in for good." Recent history bears this out.

      It wasn’t always so. Back when it simple and inexpensive to run for office, county commission races were nearly always contested. In fact, according to the Palm Beach Post, between 1962 and 1992 no commission races went unopposed. This is the political vitality that Palm Beach County needs to recapture.

      "We already have term limits…they’re called elections!"

      Oh really? Since 1994, 7 of the 14 potential races went unopposed – that means no elections were held. Term limits would require that voters weigh in – at least every eight years — on who represents them.

      Dist. / Commissioner / Elected / Term / Last Gen. Election

      1 Karen T. Marcus 1984 5th Term Unopposed in 2000
      2 Carol Roberts 1986 4th Term Unopposed in 1998
      3 Mary McCarty 1990 3rd Term Unopposed in 1998
      4 Burt Aaronson 1992 3rd Term Unopposed in 2000
      5 Warren Newell 1992 3rd Term Unopposed in 2000
      6 Tony Masilotti 1998 1st Term Opposed in 1998
      7 Addie L. Greene 2000 1st Term Unopposed in 2000

      Palm Beach County thanks you!

      The following individuals assisted in the successful 2002 citizens referendum to limit the terms of Palm Beach County Commissioners to eight years in office. Your hard work under the hot Florida sun and/or financial contributions permitted voters -- by a 70 percent vote -- to put in place the term limits which are going into effect this year. Thank you!

      Vincent Jay West, Palm Beach
      Robert and Rachel Adams, Boynton Beach
      Steve Templeton, Royal Palm Beach
      Dean Taffel, West Palm Beach
      David Floering, Lake Worth
      George Blumel, Atlantis
      Ideal Baldoni, The Villages
      David Brunell, West Palm Beach
      Fred Gielow, Boca Raton
      Robert Franke, Jupiter
      Don & Sandra Fenton, Boynton Beach
      Harold Toppel, Boca Raton
      Sylvan Levy, Boca Raton
      Dennis Lipp, Loxahatchee
      Jim Alsis, Lake Worth
      Edward L Denison, Boca Raton
      M. L. Barley, Islamorada
      Keith Skivington, West Palm Beach
      Marv Lettenmaier, Palm Beach Gardens
      Rudy Silc, West Palm Beach
      Charles and Ruth Schisler, North Palm Beach
      David and Martha Schiltz, Delray Beach
      Sidney M. Lanier, West Palm Beach
      Rod Hartless, Palm Beach Gardens
      Jeanne and Joseph Bauman, Boca Raton
      Jack Apgar, North Palm Beach
      Lusia Bosso, Riveria Beach
      Gernie Moorhead, West Palm Beach
      Mary Kay Monen, Lake Worth
      Gerhard and Helga Lurtz, Loxahatchee
      Bill Hayes, Palm Beach Shores
      Warren And Lillia Gray, West Palm Beach
      James and Sundae Frevert, North Palm Beach
      Lee Spencer West, Palm Beach
      James and John Paglialungo, Greenacres
      Victor Spagnuolo, Boynton Beach
      Jerry And Paula Pendergast, West Palm Beach
      Wallace and Diane Bostick, Wellington
      Randy Nielsen, West Palm Beach
      Carmen And Andy Kunze, West Palm Beach
      Jan Price, Palm Beach Gardens
      Steven P. Pitts, Royal Palm Beach
      Dr. Rick Bruns, Fort Lauderdale
      Thomas Mints, Boynton Beach
      H. Fred Meyer, Chagrin Falls
      June Shepherd, Atlantis
      Jack Hardy, Davie
      Margaret Turner Rechner, Delray Beach
      Rufus and Blossom, Beckles Wellington
      G Gary Pollock, Delray Beach
      Fred Furtado, Atlantis
      Bettie L. Cooney, Atlantis
      Richard Linn, West Palm Beach
      Helen C. Schoel, Lakewood
      Spencer Murfey, Winermere
      Jo Ann McKerrow, Atlantis
      Wales and Pat Martindale III, Atlantis
      Janet and Robin McLeod, West Palm Beach
      Billie Jo Swilley, Boynton Beach
      Corinne Cascio, Boynton Beach
      Patricia Ann Morris, West Palm Beach
      Mildred Cestone, Boca Raton
      Betty Davenport, Boynton Beach
      Robert Ross, Boca Raton
      Frayne & Janet Combs, Delray Beach
      Sheila Hill, Boca Raton
      Paul Himmelrich, Deerfield Beach
      Dorothy and Austin Verity, Jupiter
      Bill Gerlach, Mangonia Park
      Lillian S Bernhard, Delray Beach
      Ronald Nelson, Palm Beach Gardens
      Joe Stelle, West Palm Beach
      Stuart G Young, Delray Beach
      Richard and Patricia Hellawell Boca Raton
      Joe Schaefer, Palm Beach Gardens
      Karen Hurley, Palm Beach Gardens
      Richard Van Gemert, Delray Beach
      Thomas and Marianne Vellis, Atlantis
      John F and Kathleen McDermott, North Palm Beach
      George and Margaret McNeill, Jupiter
      Mark M. Smith, West Palm Beach
      Frank and Diana Bubb III, Boca Raton
      Raymond and Julia Terry, Boynton Beach
      Judi W. Ake, Boca Raton
      Michael Scherer, West Palm Beach
      Sallye Vonk, Delray Beach
      John W. Bieger, Boca Raton
      James and Louise Vernadakis, Boynton Beach
      Ralph Neil Logan, West Palm Beach
      Daniel E Stedem, Atlantis
      Jack Furnari, Boca Raton
      Edward Tedtmann, Boynton Beach
      John W. Galbraith, Charlottesville
      Henry and Marie Weigl, N Palm Beach
      James and Nancy Finley, Delray Beach
      Bernard Baltic, Lakewood
      Howard and Stephanie Messeroll, Boynton Beach
      Theodore Radford, Jupiter
      Dieufaite and Nerlande Guerrier, Boynton Beach
      William Schloss, Palm Beach Gardens
      Michael DeLoye, Boynton Beach
      Doris Darling, Delray Beach
      Robert and Rita Desrochers, Boca Raton
      Gayle A Momchilovich, St Paul
      Anne Owsley Isleboro,
      Arthur Manetta, Boca Raton
      William and Hao Popp, Deland
      Paul R Farago, Portland
      Ron Price, Palm Beach Gardens
      Kenneth Eddowes, West Palm Beach
      Walter & Nancy Teninga, Village Of Golf
      Jack Merkl, Boca Raton
      Philip Blumel, Atlantis
      Jonathan S Shafer, Hypoluxo
      Sandra Blumel, Atlantis
      Bill Sadler, Boca Raton
      Rose Marie Marhefka, Boynton Beach
      Richard and Barbara Susco, Lake Worth
      Rick Shepherd, West Palm Beach
      Daniel Vogt, Ocean Ridge
      Ray Flow, Lantana
      John Earley, Loxahatchee
      John Parsons, Jupiter
      Joseph Sussen Jr, Boynton Beach
      Al Harper and Betty Butler, Jupiter
      Lydia Walker, Lake Worth
      Joseph Piccirillo, Jupiter
      Pamela And Judd Hilton, Jupiter
      Mike Sahm, Lighthouse Point
      Karl N. Dickey, Boca Raton
      Ann Peoples, West Palm Beach
      Sally F Beach, Boca Raton
      Dorothea and Lou Madrigrano, Boca Raton
      Jack Starr, Boynton Beach
      Marilyn Norton, West Palm Beach
      Kelley H Armitage, Jupiter
      Elise LaTorre, Delray Beach
      Gene McDonald, Las Vegas
      Bradley W Cline, Lake Worth
      Robert Weakley, Palm Beach Gardens
      James P Miriana, Boynton Beach
      Barbara Winther-Hansen, Boca Raton
      Ken Robertson, West Palm Beach
      John Ramon Armando, West Palm Beach
      Marta Revilla, Boca Raton
      Jack Strong, Lake Worth
      Susanne Skinner, West Palm Beach
      Bob Tinghitella, West Palm Beach
      John Brooks, North Palm Beach
      Bruce Creamer, Palm Beach Gardens
      Norman Johnson, West Palm Beach
      Don Parlamento, Lake Worth
      Mike Jimenez, Dania
      Phillip Faulk, West Palm Beach
      William P Gorman, Riviera Beach
      William Andrea, West Palm Beach
      Frances Fitzgerald, Wellington
      Brian Blumel, Palm Springs
      Daron Thompson, Lake Park
      David Pachsc,o West Palm Beach
      Jay Lowe, West Palm Beach
      Susan Pine, West Palm Beach
      George Greenberg, West Palm Beach
      Bill Timmsen, West Palm Beach
      Ed McJobian, Boca Raton
      Audrey Leas, West Palm Beach

      Tuesday, February 1, 2011

      Broward Appeals Anti-Term Limits Decision

      Broward County is appealing last November's legal decision that nixed the county's voter-approved county commissioner term limits law.

      As reported in a previous post, Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips -- wife of the term-limited ex-Mayor of Fort Lauderdale Jim Naugle -- overturned the county commission term limits that were passed in 2000 by 80 percent of voters. The decision was a victory for local politicians and power brokers led by local attorney Bill Scherer.

      Shortly after the decision was announced, Broward County announced it would appeal the decision on behalf of the voters.

      Prior to the decision Andrew Meyers, chief appellate counsel for Broward County, argued that the state constitution gives Broward broad authority through its home-rule charter to structure local government "as they see fit."
      Broward County attorneys say that Judge Phillips decision was flawed because it relies on a Supreme Court case, Cook (2002), which dealt with constitutional officers, like the Sheriff, which are covered in a different section of the Florida Constitution. Broward's brief is due in late March.
      If Judge Phillips decision is upheld in the 4th District Court of Appeals, Broward plans to petition for a Florida Supreme Court review. The Florida Supreme Court has never ruled on county commissioner term limits.
      If the 4th District Court upholds, it would also provide a basis for politicians in Palm Beach County to challenge the voter-approved law, but not directly. The politicians would first have to decide to sue the voters.
      (Pictured: Broward County interim county attorney and chief appellate counsel)

      NEW TIMES: Political judge had 'personal bias' against term limits

      As noted in an earlier post, Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips couldn't resist mocking the idea of term limits in her Nov. 2, 2010, written decision to shoot down Broward County commissioner term limits.

      "Term limits are available at this time, each election and the voters have the undeniable right, pursuant to the Constitution, to re-elect or vote them out or, as seen recently in the county, by indictment."

      To this, New Times' Bob Norman responded: "Not very objective there, Judge Phillips. It's clear from these fallacious words alone she has a personal bias against term limits. Voting and term limits aren't one and the same. Ask George Washington about that. Also, she's obviously wrong to say that voters have a say over indictments -- that's federal and state prosecutors' jurisdiction."

      He goes on: "This is a clear victory for attorney Bill Scherer and maybe for John Rodstrom, who was term-limited in 2012 and is the guy truly behind the lawsuit."

      Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom, his friend and political ally attorney Bill Scherer, term-limited former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle and his wife, Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips, are all fixtures in Broward County politics. Naturally, they could be expected to oppose term limits and, unfortunately, had the power to overturn the clearly expressed will of 80 percent of Broward voters.

      Politicians, Judge Nix Broward County Term Limits

      In 2000, Broward County voters approved term limits for their county commissioners by an 80% vote. Since then, politicians have chafed under the looming limits which go into full effect in 2012.

      They knew the voters still support term limits by a wide margin, so how can they overturn the law and keep their jobs?

      The answer: Sue the voters.

      And so far, it’s working. On Election Day 2010, Broward Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips ruled for a gaggle of local politicians that the Broward county commission term limits are null and void and that term limits can only be mandated by a state constitutional amendment, not by an amendment of the county charter by the people.

      There is no question the politicians found a friendly judge. Judge Phillips is the wife of former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle, a term-limits opponent who was term-limited out of office in 2009.

      In addition to her legal decision, Phillips adds to her ruling a personal disapproval of terms limits, claiming that “term limits are available at this time, each election and the voters have the undeniable right … to re-elect or vote them out.”

      In her ruling, Phillips claims to be bound by the Cook v. City of Jacksonville and DeBlaker v. Eight is Enough in Pinellas, 823 So.2d 86 (Fla. 2002) case. In this controversial case, the Supreme Court of Florida voted 4-3 to toss out term limits for constitutional officers in Duval and Pinellas counties saying that because some disqualifications for office are set by the state constitution, additional ones cannot be added by individual counties.

      However, that case dealt with constitutional officers – covered by article VIII section 1(d) of the Florida Constitution – not county commissioners. Constitutional officers include the sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector, supervisor of elections, etc. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of county commissioners (section 1(e)), hence Phillips decision is novel. It is currently being appealed.

      Please note also the Broward case only applies to the Broward term limits law and, even if the Phillips decision is upheld, does not apply to any other counties’ law except for Broward’s. The Supreme Court has never spoken on county commissioner term limits, but it will. This case is NOT over.

      (Pictured above: Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips hobnobs with Florida politicians, including husband Jim Naugle and former Gov. Charlie Crist.)

      Supreme Court Dissenters Say Home Rule Means, Well, Home Rule

      While the Florida Supreme Court’s Cook decision regarding constitutional officers does not apply to county commission term limits, the dissent in that controversial 4-3 decision does offer insights that do. The Florida Constitution permits home-rule charters to be adopted by counties and clearly states that “The governing body of a county operating under a charter may enact county ordinances not inconsistent with general law.” Broward County, like Palm Beach, are home-rule charter counties. As there is no inconsistency of county term limits (on officers or commissioners) with state law, the dissenters say it is within the counties’ right to enact them:


      I cannot agree with the majority that the Florida Constitution prohibits charter counties from enacting term limits for county officers. To the contrary, the constitution explicitly grants broad authority to charter counties over charter officers, and, consistent with that grant, imposes no restrictions on a county's authority to regulate those officers.

      The threshold question before this Court is whether charter counties have the authority to enact citizen-initiative term limit amendments to their county charters. A separate issue is whether the Florida Constitution expressly prohibits term limits for county officers. The majority opinion glosses over the issue of charter county government authority and, in my view, jumps straight to a flawed analysis of constitutional preemption that directly conflicts with the broad powers granted to charter counties by the Florida Constitution.


      First, article VIII, section 1(g) grants broad home-rule authority to charter counties:

      CHARTER GOVERNMENT. Counties operating under county charters shall have all powers of local self-government not inconsistent with general law, or with special law approved by vote of the electors. The governing body of a county operating under a charter may enact county ordinances not inconsistent with general law. The charter shall provide which shall prevail in the event of conflict between county and municipal ordinances.

      Article VIII, section 1(d) also expressly provides for county officers:

      COUNTY OFFICERS. There shall be elected by the electors of each county, for terms of four years, a sheriff, a tax collector, a property appraiser, a supervisor of elections, and a clerk of the circuit court; except, when provided by county charter or special law approved by vote of the electors of the county, any county officer may be chosen in another manner therein specified, or any county office may be abolished when all the duties of the office prescribed by general law are transferred to another office. When not otherwise provided by county charter or special law approved by vote of the electors, the clerk of the circuit court shall be ex officio clerk of the board of county commissioners, auditor, recorder and custodian of all county funds.

      The autonomy of local governments is at the heart of these 96*96two sections of the Florida Constitution, and the two sections vest broad authority in charter counties regarding charter governments and county officers. This broad language was obviously intended to allow charter counties wide latitude in enacting regulations governing the selection and duties of county officers. For example, article VIII, section 1(d), specifies that county officers may be elected or chosen in some other manner, and that any county office may even be abolished. By these provisions, it is apparent that the framers intended for charter counties to be self-governing in both providing for county officers and in providing for the manner in which county officials will be selected. Additionally, article VIII, section (1)(g), specifies that charter counties exercise their powers in a way that is "not inconsistent with general law." The term limit provisions in the charters in these cases are not inconsistent with any provision of general law relating to elected county officers. Given this grant of broad authority and consistency with general law, I can find no legal justification for concluding that charter counties should not be allowed to ask their citizens to vote on eligibility requirements of local elected officials, including term limits, since they could abolish the offices completely or decide to select the officers in any manner of their choosing.


      I also disagree with the majority's position that article VI, section 4(b), which lists the state elected offices that have mandatory term limits, somehow operates to exclude charter counties from exercising their authority over county officers by imposing term limits. First, article VI, section 4(b) enumerates elected offices of statewide importance, a provision which has no bearing on local county officers. Second, there is no wording in article VI, section 4(b) (or anywhere else in the Florida Constitution or the Florida Statutes) that indicates that the named officers in article VI, section 4(b) are subject to term limits to the exclusion of all other government officers, state or local, in the State of Florida. If anything, article VI, section 4(b) provides a model and framework upon which charter counties may institute similar term limits for county officers, pursuant to the constitutional provision: "Counties operating under county charters shall have all powers of local self-government not inconsistent with general law, or with special law approved by vote of the electors." Art. VIII, § 1(g), Fla. Const. (emphasis added).

      The majority also makes the distinction that article VI, section 4(b) is unique because it names the only constitutional "disqualifications" applicable to county offices in the Florida Constitution. I feel that the majority artificially puts an inordinate amount of emphasis on the word "disqualification." While term limits are eligibility requirements that may "disqualify" some incumbents, the same limits actually act to "qualify" others to hold office. Further, while we referred to term limits as a "disqualification" in Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General—Limited Political Terms in Certain Elective Offices, 592 So.2d 225, 227-28 (Fla.1991), the reference to term limits as a "disqualification" cannot logically be stretched to mean that the absence of a reference to county offices in article VI, section 4(b) precludes term limits from being enacted at the county level.

      Accordingly, I would affirm the First District's decision in Cook and the Second District's decision in Eight is Enough.