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A six-month-long petition drive to promote a referendum to replace the Sarasota City Charter with a new one giving executive pow- ers to the office of mayor has fallen far short of its signature goal, and it is out of time. Although no one is talking on the record, the It's Time Sarasota steering committee acknowledged the inevitable during a meeting held Wednesday evening, July 9, The Sarasota News Leader has learned. A prior charter change approved by voters doubled the amount of time petitioners have to gather signatures for a referendum from 90 days to 180. The first validated signature for this drive was obtained on Jan. 21, making July 21 the deadline under the 180-day rule. However, the group is more than 1,000 valid signatures short of the 3,548 needed to call a referendum, with time rapidly running out. The group already failed to meet other deadlines for the regular consideration of its petition. The Sarasota City Commission has to put the issue on the ballot, and that requires a city ordinance, which must be passed after an advertisement of a public hearing. Then there are other dates for specific actions that follow passage of such an ordinance if a measure is to meet the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office's require- ments under state law. The petition group hoped to put the ques- tion on the November ballot. Instead, the News Leader has learned, it will issue a press release on Tuesday, July 15, about its failure to achieve success. City voters have rejected a strong-mayor form of government in the past. Efforts to use the city's Charter Review Board to propose the referendum question, and efforts to use the City Commission for the same, have failed as well. % (Above) Linda Holland, a past candidate for the Sarasota City Commission, is chairwoman of the It's Time initiative to change the city charter. Photo by Norman Schimmel IT'S TIME SARASOTA … NOT LATEST STRONG-MAYOR EFFORT APPEARS TO HAVE FAILED By Stan Zimmerman City Editor

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