Seth Nelson's charter amendment proposal that would eliminate Tampa City Council members from leaving early to run for County Commission

The deadline for Tampa citizens who want to throw their hat in the ring to be interim members of the council to replace John Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena is just days away now.

Last we checked,  18 people had filed applications to be considered by the five remaining members of council, who will review the applications in advance, hear two minute pitches by the candidates on July 19, and then, perhaps without any debate, go vote on who they think should serve on Council for the next 7 months plus.  The latest applicants include Barry Cohen, currently a deputy clerk under Pat Frank with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in Hillsborough County.  Restaurateur Angelica Diaz of Seminole Heights and neighborhood activist Spencer Kass.

It's not an ideal situation - having the Council, and not the public choose who will represent Districts 3 (city-wide) and District 4 (South Tampa) for over half a year, but those are the rules.  These new members of Council will soon be deliberating such critical matters as the city's budget beginning next month.  Which is why one such candidate for District 3, family attorney Seth Nelson, has an intriguing proposal so that this situation doesn't present itself in another four years.

Speaking to CL earlier this week, Nelson believes that in the future, city elections should not take place in odd years in March,  the current scenario that occurs five months after a general election that includes races for Hillsborough County Commission. A similar situation existed four years ago, and could very well be the case four years from now (unlike the city council, a County Commission seat is a full time gig, with a much higher salary and more powers).

Nelson is running for the City Council District 3 citywide next year, and has applied for the interim position as well. He  spoke on Monday about the benefits of  having the election in March of the off year election (like 2010, or 2014, or 2018).

"What would have happened is that all City Council members would have served out their complete city council terms before running for County Commission or state house or state senate seats or any of those offices that come up for election in fall of 2010," he says. "They wouldn’t have to resign to run, and they would be completing their term and then  go about their business. "

Furthermore," he continues," what’s happened a lot in previous elections is that people have run for County Commission and they’ve lost that race, or other state races, and then they immediately turn around and run for City Council.  I don’t believe that running for city council representing the city of Tampa should be a consolation process if you don’t win your election in the fall," which is actually what John Dingfelder did in 2002-2003 and Mary Mulhern in 2006-2007 (when asked about them, Nelson said he has the utmost respect for both those officials and wasn't targeting them).

Nelson says the proposal is something that should be reviewed the next time the city's Charter is examined. It actually makes a lot of sense.  Of course, the awkwardness of council members having to resign to run for the commission has taken a dramatic turn this summer, when both John Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena screwed up and failed to submit their paperwork in time, forcing them to quit their seats immediately, and now putting the power of selecting their replacements in the hands of the current five council members (and as advertised, Hillsborough Republicans are now pursuing legal action against Dingfelder, with a similar suit against Saul-Sena to come anytime now).

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.