News Section: Local Government
Growing City of North Port Wants Second MPO Seat
SARASOTA – Having more than doubled in size between the 2010 and 2011 census, North Port is now the largest city in Sarasota County by both land mass and population, and the biggest municipality in the MPO's region. with a population of more than 57,000. Given that there is still a considerable amount of undeveloped land, the city is clearly going to be a very big part of the area's future.
As such, they'd like to have the other seat that is supposed to be apportioned and are growing a little impatient given that an reapportionment is not likely to be completed by the governor's office until at least mid-2013. At Tuesday's Sarasota/Manatee MPO meeting, the board voted on sending a letter to the Governor expressing their desire that reapportionment be expedited, as well as seating a non-voting, advisory member that would be given full membership privileges as soon as legally possible.
North Port City Commissioner Jim Blucher said, “We don't understand what is taking so long.” Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson, whose district is largely comprised of the city also weighed in with support, noting that it's not just the city's size, but its position as a key economic player saying, “you've also got to consider all they bring to the table.” Tom Jones, another City Commissioner, agreed and was first to bring up the idea of a “member in waiting” that he felt would demonstrate the MPO board's commitment to bringing the city another seat.
No one on the board argued the validity of increasing North Port's influence with a second vote, and all agreed that two years after the census, an apportionment plan from Governor Scott was overdue. There were, however, some concerns over whether a second member could apportioned to a municipality that already had a vote, which the statute seemed to indicate (though in an ambiguous way) was not the case.
Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash suggested amending the motion so that it would be pending legal advice as to whether they would be making a decision that complied with the statute. Fellow Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes also noted that as of that same census, the city of Bradenton was less than 50 people away from the 50,000 citizen threshold for a second seat, to which Bradenton City Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey added her concern that a second seat for North Port not come at the expense of one to her city, which may technically be over 50,000, now two years past the census.
The 15-member board can have as many as 19 members. Currently, seven seats are from Sarasota County and its municipalities, six are from Manatee. The town of Longboat Key, parts of which are in both counties, has one, while the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority has the other. The board voted unanimously in favor of the letter, as well as seating an advisory member from North Port, pending legal confirmation.
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