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MIAMI-DADE AMENDMENTS – May 2011 Election

Posted by FactReal on May 11, 2011

ANALYZING THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS
Analysis of the Miami-Dade County Charter amendments proposed by the Miami-Dade County Commission for the May 24, 2011 election. Each amendment has a brief summary and Norman Braman’s latest comments (May and April 2011).

AMENDMENTS:
1) Salary Increase & 12-Year Term Limit
2) No Lobbying
3) Task Force
4) Inspector
5) No Strong Mayor
6) Petitions

SOURCES:
1. Commissioners Proposing the Amendments – Special Meeting of March 24, 2011:
Background

2. Sample Ballot – May 24 Election:
Sample Ballot (PDF)

3. Norman Braman’s 5/5/2011 Article Titled ‘Why I’m Voting NO to all Charter Changes’
Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/05/05/2203188/braman-why-im-voting-no-to-all.html
After commenting on each proposed amendment, Braman concluded: “I am voting “No” to all of these self-serving amendments because, frankly, they are not true reform and the Commission knows this. I hope Miami-Dade voters will send this message to this Commission: It is time you did what is right for the community and not for your own, seat-retaining self-interests. It is my belief also that the new strong mayor, who can giveth and taketh, will make real charter reform one of his first priorities. If the Commission resists again, there always is the public option: recall.”

4. Norman Braman’s 4/1/2011 Letter to Commissioners and his Reform Plan Titled ‘A Covenant with the People’
Braman’s Letter and Plan (PDF)
FactReal’s Report

1) AMENDMENT: INCREASE SALARY & SET 12-YEAR TERM LIMIT:

SUMMARY:

To increase commissioners’ base salaries from $6,000* to $92,097** a year in exchange for them not having outside employment and to set three consecutive four-year terms limits for county commissioners beginning after the 2012 election. (*But each of the 13 commissioners already receives almost $1 million for their annual budgets which they use as they please — with few restrictions and no questions asked — plus $11,500 annual retirement contribution, unlimited free gas, $55,388 benefit package that includes an $800 monthly car allowance, etc. They will get great pensions and benefits for the rest of their lives…largely paid by taxpayers. After all the mismanagement and abuses they want to increase their salaries and guarantee themselves 12 consecutive years as commissioners. The key word here is “consecutive.” After the first 12 years, will the commissioners run for re-election after a short resting period…securing for themselves another 12 years in power? When will it end? This sounds like lifetime dictators with vacation periods in between. Would a new pension kick in every time they temporarily retire?)

(** The current salary is a fixed amount, i.e., $6,000. The proposed salary is based on an obscure formula whose variables could be manipulated. The proposal states that commissioners would receive “salary provided by state statutory formula, adjusted annually by the County’s population (currently approximately $92,097).” How many voters are familiar with the “state statutory formula”? The proposal also indicates that the formula is adjusted according to the population (as if the commissioners provide each taxpayer with personalized service), but what if the county receives a massive number of immigrants? What would be the limit of that formula/salary?)

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 5/5/2011 ARTICLE ‘WHY I’M VOTING NO TO ALL CHARTER CHANGES’:

Amendment relating to salaries, service and term limits. These three issues are lumped into one question. “Three consecutive terms” excluding all terms in office prior to 2012 simply is too long. It would allow commissioners to remain in office until 2024. (Commissioner Denis Moss, by then would have served 32 years!) The word “consecutive” also is troubling, seemingly allowing 3 terms, 1 term out and 3 more terms in.

The $92,097 salary would be adjusted annually, probably upward. Nothing was done about the $850,000 each Commissioner is allowed to spend for his or her office each year. This helps incumbents buy votes. Commissioners no longer would be allowed to “hold other employment” but “employment” is not defined and, hence, there still is no check on conflicts of interest that currently are allowed. I see this simply as a money grab and a method of preserving commissioners’ fiefdoms.

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 4/1/2011 LETTER & PROPOSAL TO THE COMMISSIONERS:

Braman’s comment: “[T]his proposal will give each Commissioner an immediate salary increase to a minimum of $92,097 and allow current members of the Commission to be reelected until 2024, with an added potential for their subsequent reelection (proposed term limit is not a lifetime ban on reelection).”

Braman’s proposal: Item #1: “Revamp the county commission and reduce the cost of government by reducing the number of commissioners from thirteen to nine.” Item #2: “Preserve political diversity while promoting a more regional focus by providing for seven district county commissioners and two at-large commissioners.” Item #3: “Transform the office of county commissioner by imposing a term limit of 2 four year terms (ensuring turnover), barring commissioners from outside employment (eliminating unseemly conflicts of interests), barring them from lobbying activities for ten years after leaving office (closing the revolving door of local politicians/lobbyists), in exchange for which they would be paid a reasonable salary (making public service accessible to young people and others who are not wealthy or willing to be corrupted).” Item #4: “Eliminate the manipulation of election dates by requiring elections for county mayor and commissioners to be held concurrently with elections for other state and national offices.” Item #5: “Resize, restructure and reduce the cost of county operations, including capping public pension costs and streamlining a top heavy bureaucracy, in order to enhance delivery of necessary and quality of life services.”

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2) AMENDMENT: NO LOBBYING

SUMMARY:

To ban elected officials from lobbying the county for compensation for a period of 2 years after leaving office.

(The keyword here is “compensation.” This would ban county officials from working as paid lobbyists. What happens if they get “gifts” for lobbying instead of compensation? Why only 2 years…how about 20 years after leaving office?)

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 5/5/2011 ARTICLE ‘WHY I’M VOTING NO TO ALL CHARTER CHANGES’:

Prohibiting lobbying by elected county officers after leaving office. The Commission decided that prohibiting lobbying by them for two years after leaving office was appropriate. But, the current ethics law already provides for this. Our Covenant sought 10 years, which would have eliminated many conflicts. Of course, the Commission proposed nothing — nada — that would prohibit a lobbyist from being paid to lobby for the county and simultaneously lobby against the county for other clients.

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 4/1/2011 LETTER & PROPOSAL TO THE COMMISSIONERS:

Braman’s comment: “[I]nstead of imposing stricter lobbying prohibitions for Commissioners, this proposal actually weakens existing County law by allowing Commissioners to lobby so long as no compensation is received. The County Ethics Code currently prohibits Commissioners from lobbying the County for two years regardless of whether they receive compensation.”

Braman’s proposal: Item #3: “Transform the office of county commissioner by…barring them from lobbying activities for ten years after leaving office (closing the revolving door of local politicians/lobbyists)…” Item #8: “Avoid conflicts of interests in county lobbying activities by requiring public disclosures related to lobbying activities and prohibiting any person or entity who lobbies on the county’s behalf from lobbying county government on behalf of others during such county representation.”

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3) AMENDMENT: TASK FORCE

SUMMARY:

To allow the Charter Review Task Force (an appointed board that reviews the county charter every five years) with super-majority vote (that is, approved by two thirds of the panel) to bring proposals directly to voters. (Currently only county commissioners or a difficult and expensive citizen’s petition initiative can propose amendments to voters.)

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 5/5/2011 ARTICLE ‘WHY I’M VOTING NO TO ALL CHARTER CHANGES’:

Creation, appointment and power of a Charter Review Task Force. This amendment would create a Charter Review Task Force that, by a two-thirds vote, could place proposed charter revisions directly on the ballot during presidential election years, bypassing the Commission which presently has the right to ignore any proposal of the Task Force — as it did in 2008. At first blush, this looks promising. However, even though county commissioners themselves may not serve on this task force, they still reserved the power to appoint task force members. The 2008 task force had 21 members — 14 of whom were appointed by the Commission and the mayor. Do the math. I would be satisfied if the task force were to be appointed by the chief judge of our courts or the presidents of our local universities. I have concluded, regrettably, that this amendment is illusory.

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 4/1/2011 LETTER & PROPOSAL TO THE COMMISSIONERS:

Braman’s proposal: Item #7: “Encourage future reform by allowing the Charter Review Committee to place directly on the ballot additional recommendations for reform.”

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4) AMENDMENT: INSPECTOR GENERAL

SUMMARY:

To put the Inspector General’s office in the county charter to supposedly bolster the office’s presence as a county watchdog and insulate it from commission intervention. (Will the commissioners appoint this “inspector”?)

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 5/5/2011 ARTICLE ‘WHY I’M VOTING NO TO ALL CHARTER CHANGES’:

Creation of an office of an independent Inspector General. This amendment, too, appears promising. But the language provides that “the appointment, term, powers, duties and responsibilities [are] to be further established by ordinance.” Unlike the county tax collector, who is now elected by the people, the IG would be appointed by the Commission, which also would fund — or not fund — the office as it saw fit. Any county officer, who is appointed by and subject to the whims of the Commission for funding, in my opinion, is not “independent,” no matter what the title of this charter amendment provides.

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 4/1/2011 LETTER & PROPOSAL TO THE COMMISSIONERS:

Braman’s comment: “[T]his proposal pays lip service to an “independent” inspector general without saying whether he is elected or appointed, and, if appointed, by whom, and to whom he or she will report.”

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5) AMENDMENT: POWER BACK TO COMMISSIONERS…NO STRONG MAYOR

SUMMARY:

To eliminate the strong-mayor and give back those powers to the commission.
(In 2007, Miamians voted to amend the charter to put the county bureaucracy directly under the control of the executive office as a way to reduce the power of the commissioners. Now the commissioners want that power back?)

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 5/5/2011 ARTICLE ‘WHY I’M VOTING NO TO ALL CHARTER CHANGES’:

Reverting to the Commission the “strong mayor” powers and creating a county manager. Incredibly, in an absolute power grab, these arrogant commissioners seek to regain the powers of the strong mayor and to reinstate the office of county manager. Voters in 2007 took these powers away from the Commission and gave them to the mayor because of the politics, corruption and mismanagement in county government under the Commission. In spite of voters having so recently taken these powers away from the Commission and eliminated the manager by vote last year, the Commission now seeks to reverse these two elections. In my view, this so-called “reform” proposal is arrogant. I favor the strong mayor form of government because it forces one elected official to answer to the voters or risk being recalled.

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 4/1/2011 LETTER & PROPOSAL TO THE COMMISSIONERS:

Braman’s comment: “[R]ather than imposing restrictions on the Commission’s power, this proposal returns powers to the Commission that the voters recently gave to the strong mayor.”

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6) AMENDMENT: EASIER PETITIONS…not really

SUMMARY:

To eliminate the requirement of having all signatures notarized for citizens’ ballot initiatives.
(All the other onerous and ridiculous requirements imposed by the commission remain).

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 5/5/2011 ARTICLE ‘WHY I’M VOTING NO TO ALL CHARTER CHANGES’:

Amendment regarding petitions. The Commission, after the earlier failed recall of Natacha Seijas, revised Section 12-23 of the Miami-Dade County Code to make citizen petitions for initiatives and recall very difficult and extremely costly. They added a host of bad provisions, for example, a “one signature per page” requirement and required notarization of signatures of those citizens who collected voters’ signatures. This amendment merely eliminates the notarization requirement but leaves intact the rest of this Code, which still does not allow ordinary citizens the right to petition their government.

NORMAN BRAMAN’S 4/1/2011 LETTER & PROPOSAL TO THE COMMISSIONERS:

Braman’s comment: “[T]his proposal fails to repeal all of the existing County Code language which serves as a major impediment to citizen recall and initiative petitions and whose existence will forever serve to restrict the public’s ability to initiate change in County government.”

Braman’s proposal: Item #6: “Restore accountability by repealing any non-charter restriction on the people’s right to petition their government for change or to recall a politician; and to require any proposed future restriction to be voted upon by the people of Miami-Dade county and be enshrined in the county charter.”

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One Response to “MIAMI-DADE AMENDMENTS – May 2011 Election”

  1. […] ELECTION – 5/24/2011: CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR (Bio, record, donors) AMENDMENTS' Analysis (Latest) […]

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