By Terry Stewart, City Administrator, City of Arcadia
Hello. The City of Arcadia and I trust the month of January has been a great start to 2018. There is much happening in the city, but this month, your city council believes it’s important to inform you of a political dynamic at the state level that is having a profound effect on our City and every other municipality across the state of Florida. It is the legislative attack on local government Home Rule. In fact, the attack on Home Rule can be truly characterized as nothing less than a siege.
You may ask, “What is Home Rule?” The Florida League of Cities defines it in this manner: The most precious powers a city in Florida has are its Home Rule powers. The ability to establish its form of government through its charter, and to then enact ordinances, codes, plans and resolutions without prior state approval is a tremendous authority. To further be able to enforce them “at home,” and to make necessary changes as a city grows is a great reflection of the trust that citizens have in their respective city leaders.”
In 1968, Florida voters amended the state constitution to delegate Home Rule authority to municipalities and counties. And for a good number of years that decision by the voters was honored and respected. In the past 15 years, however, that respect the state legislature once demonstrated has all but disappeared. Each year the legislature ratchets up its attack on Home Rule and this current year is no exception. It seems they want to microscopically control every aspect of government and life in local communities from the state government houses in Tallahassee.
They seem to believe that cookie cutter solutions work the same for every community. And after 48 years in local government, having worked in six different communities, I can assure you that is not the case. Think about it, how much does our City of Arcadia have in common with Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Miami or Jacksonville. Rules made with Tampa in mind may do harm to our community and vice versa. Who can better understand and determine what is best for our community? Your city and county elected officials or elected officials in Tallahassee? But state legislators keep voting themselves more and more power over our communities and our lives while decimating our Home Rule authority with increasing pieces of legislation designed to give those powers to them.
I can honestly tell you that in my 48 years serving in local government exclusively in the state of Florida, this attack on Home Rule is the greatest single crisis I’ve witnessed for local government. It not only needs to stop, it needs to be reversed. I’m not sure how the state legislature believes it has the authority to usurp the will of the voters of Florida in their 1968 Constitutional Amendment which created Home Rule, but do it they have.
Your city council encourages you to learn more about this issue and to sign a petition created by the Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities at www.tclc.com and select Sign Our Petition. At the bottom of the petition are links to assist you in learning more.
Printed in January issue of The Arcadian.