OKEECHOBEE — A newly proposed city charter will be on the ballot at the Nov. 8, 2022, election. Voting in favor of the new charter will give us the opportunity as a city to begin a new era, modernizing processes and the structure by which the city conducts business. The adoption of the charter occurs by the majority of electors voting in favor of the referendum.
The proposed charter for the city of Okeechobee will read as follows: Shall the Charter for the City of Okeechobee be updated and revised to (i) incorporate a Citizens' Bill of Rights; (ii) update and modernize the City Charter; (iii) codify a number of charter-type provisions in the City Code of Ordinance, but not in the City Charter; (iv) eliminate provisions that are obsolete or inconsistent with state law and municipal governance; and (v) render the City Clerk office from an elective position to an appointive position.
The city charter was first established in 1915, and since that time, there were no wholesale changes until the 1960s.
No municipal government may exist without a charter which is why it’s important to keep it current. Voting to approve the new charter has significance because changes haven't been made since the 1960s.
The review of the city charter is a process to keep the charter relevant and in step with the needs and priorities of the city. Most municipalities undergo a charter review process once every 10 to 20 years. The City of Okeechobee’s original charter and the last review did not specify a timetable or process for the next review. The process of initiating the current review and subsequent approved ballot referendum for the city charter was mandated by the city council.
Once a review of the city charter was approved by the city council, the council appointed a city of Okeechobee Charter Review Advisory Committee through Resolution 2020-10 on July 21, 2020. Members within the community were appointed by the city council to make up the advisory committee, and meetings subsequently started in December 2020. A new charter was ultimately approved by the city council on June 7, 2022, after 10 public meetings and a joint meeting between the city council and the Charter Review Advisory Committee.
The charter functions as the equivalent of a constitution, setting the guiding principles for governance. The charter also establishes the framework for how a city operates. It defines the city’s structure, responsibilities, functions, and processes.
The new charter format consists of eight articles and a Citizen’s Bill of Rights. The Citizen’s Bill of Rights is something new as the city of Okeechobee recognized that democracy is a form of government in which people's participation is of primary importance. Citizens must have a voice in decision-making. Decision-makers in government are accountable to the public. The orderly, efficient, and equitable governance and operation of the city is enhanced when there is informed participation of residents exercising their rights and responsibilities and for residents to respect the dignity of public office. These principles are recognized in the Citizen’s Bill of Rights.
The eight articles in the proposed City Charter consist of the following:
We are now in the final stretch for approval of the proposed city charter through the referendum process and vote on Nov. 8, 2022. Should the proposed charter pass the majority of vote by the electorate then it will take affect on Dec. 1, 2022. A new city charter will serve as the constitution by which the city will conduct business. You can read the proposed city charter on the city’s website at Referendum