By Larry Barszewski Sun Sentinel
10:12 a.m. EDT, March 12, 2014
Lauderdale Lakes voters did exactly what their mayor asked of them on Tuesday: They made him much more irrelevant.
Voters approved a charter amendment Mayor Barrington Russell embraced that will give future mayors more power. But the amendment also decreases Russell’s own power during his final two years in office.
Tuesday’s ballot question shrinks the number of commissioners from six to four. It changes the mayor from someone who can only vote when there’s a tie to a regularly voting fifth member of the commission.
The mayoral position does not become a regular voting member until after the November 2016 elections – after Russell is term-limited out of office.
And his role as a tie-breaker will be weakened. Currently, even if he were allowed to vote on every issue, it wouldn’t matter much.
Say a commission vote is 4-2. The mayor, if he were allowed, could either vote with the majority that’s going to win anyway, or be on the losing side that will still lose even with his vote.
It’s only when the commission splits evenly that his vote has any real meaning.
Tie commission votes will be much rarer – if not completely non-existent – during Russell’s final two years in office. That’s because the commission goes down by one seat this November and loses the second seat in November 2016.
Starting this November and for the next two years, the city will have five commissioners – an odd number that doesn’t lend itself to tie votes for Russell to break. He’ll still preside over commission meetings, but with fewer chances than ever before to participate in the decision-making.
That also means that this November’s commission races could change the balance of power on the commission.
Russell still applauds the voters for their decision. He sees it as putting the finishing touches on reforms he supported that have been approved in the past decade: Commission terms increased from three years to four years; election dates switched to coincide with November general elections for state and federal offices; term limits for the mayor and commissioners.
“I think it is the absolute correct thing to do,” Russell said Tuesday night. “This is appropriate.”
Mayor Russell’s tie-breaking role will not be missed. Look at the record. He only broke the tie when necessary in favor of the voting block of Commissioners “Mafia Don”Haynes, “Clueless” Rafferty, and “Utterly Clueless Haynes-Clone” Coleman. And on some really bad issues if you look at the record.
Russell only has until November to do this bad deed. After that it should not be an issue because Haynes will finally be term limited off the Commission. Then Russell can become the relic he should have been for his last two years. Just think the Mayor’s position goes away just as Russell is term limited out. Haynes and Russell out — now there is justice for you.