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RECOMMENDATIONS: Miami-Dade Charter Amendments (Elections: Nov. 6, 2012)

Posted by FactReal on November 4, 2012

This post was last updated on Nov. 5, 2012.

Below are the County Charter Amendment Questions via the Miami-Dade County Elections Dept. as they appear on the ballot for the General Election of November 6, 2012. The home-rule charter is the “constitution” for Miami-Dade county.

1) 8-Year Term Limit for County Commissioners
2) Editing the Charter’s Titles and sections
3) Additional Land Vote
4) New Municipalities & Annexation
5) Bill of Rights
6) Transfer of Power to Commission in Case of Vacancy
7) County Mayoral Conflicts
8) Tennis Center Expansion at Crandon Park
9) Property Tax Increase for Animal Services
10) Businesses in Countries Sponsoring Terrorism

Note: The county questions are different from the Florida Constitutional Amendments.
Note: Go here for the $1.2 Billion School Bond on the Nov. 2012 ballot.


1) QUESTION: 8-YEAR TERM LIMIT FOR COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

Title: Home Rule Charter Amendment Relating to Term Limits of County Commissioners
Resolution Reference: R-254-12
Language on the Ballot:

Shall the Charter be amended to provide that County Commissioners shall serve no more than two consecutive four-year terms in office excluding terms of service prior to 2012?

RECOMMENDATION: Vote ‘YES’ even though voters wanted more like barring commissioners from outside employment (to eliminate unseemly conflicts of interests), barring them from lobbying activities for ten years after leaving office, capping their lifetime public pension costs, and banning them from reelection. It is not retroactive, but at least this time they are not tying it to salary increases for themselves.

Commissioners’ Votes:
Commissioners passed the resolution: 8 – 5. (Agenda item Special Item No. 3 on 3/8/2012)

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2) QUESTION: EDITING THE CHARTER’S TITLES AND SECTIONS

Title: Technical Amendments to Home Rule Charter
Resolution Reference: R-653-12
Language on the Ballot:

Shall the Charter be amended to clarify the titles of subsections, correct and update cross-references between provisions, and delete references to offices and agencies which have been abolished?

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3) QUESTION: ADDITIONAL LAND VOTE

Title: Charter Amendment Requiring Extraordinary Vote to Include Additional Land within the Urban Development Boundary
Resolution Reference: R-654-12
Language on the Ballot:

Shall the Charter be amended to require a two-thirds vote of County Commissioners then in office to include additional land within the Urban Development Boundary established by the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan?

RECOMMENDATION: Vote ‘NO’ since a county ordinance already takes care of this. This proposed amendment is unnecessary, because a county ordinance already requires a two-third (2/3) vote of all commissioners to move the county’s Urban Development Boundary (UDB), which is an evolving imaginary line to manage urban growth. If this is placed in the Charter (the county’s “constitution”), it will be very difficult to change it later in the future. It is easier to change an ordinance. That is why lefty environmentalists want this 2/3 vote requirement in the Charter to make it more difficult to move the UDB. Why? Because they want urbanization only within the current boundary, which will create highly populated (high density) areas in Miami-Dade county. This will allow many of their utopian dreams to come true: Reduce auto dependency, increase use of bikes and public transportation, etc.

Video: Commissioners explaining that the 2/3 vote requirement is already in the ordinance. (Commissioners’ Agenda Item 10A2 refers to this proposed amendment)

The commissioners are proposing this change to the Charter:
(Emphasis Added)

Prepare and enforce comprehensive plans for the development of the county; provided, however, any decision to include any additional land within the Urban Development Boundary of the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan shall require a two-thirds vote of the Board of County Commissioners then in office.

Already in the County code:
Several sections of the Code of Miami-Dade County already includes the 2/3 vote requirement. For example, section 2 ‐116.1(4)(c) states: (Emphasis Added)

All amendments, modifications, additions or changes to the comprehensive development master plan shall be by ordinance enacted only upon vote of the majority of the total membership of the County Commission then in office, except that any decision to include any additional land within the Urban Development Boundary shall require a vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the total membership of the County Commission then in office.

Section 2‐116.1(3)(g) also states the same.

BACKGROUND
Commissioners passed the resolution: 10 -3 (Agenda Item 10A2 on 8/23/2012)
Resolution: R-654-12

MAPS & PLANS
UDB map (simple) | UDB map (color)
Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP)

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4) QUESTION: NEW MUNICIPALITIES & ANNEXATION

Title: Charter Amendment Pertaining to Changes in Municipal Boundaries and Creation of New Municipalities
Resolution Reference: R-655-12
Language on the Ballot:

Shall the Charter be amended to:

  • Require the County Commission to consider the benefits of any proposed annexation of commercial areas, when approving or authorizing an annexation
  • Establish alternative procedure for creation of new municipalities in unincorporated areas of the County by petition which provides conditions for creation of new municipalities and a single election to approve the creation of a new municipality and approve its Charter, instead of two elections for these purposes?

RECOMMENDATION: Vote ‘NO’: If Miami-Dade voters approve this charter amendment, it will make it easier to create cities out of unincorporated Miami-Dade which would lead to more taxes (county taxes and city taxes), more bureaucrats, more costs, etc. This charter amendment would make it easier for pro-cityhood groups to force residents of unincorporated Miami-Dade to become a city. They would need 6 months to collect the signatures from only 20% of the electors in the proposed area. The current ordinance calls for 3 months to obtain 25% of the electors’ signatures.
Go here for more details on the negative consequences of incorporation.

BACKGROUND
Videos from the commissioners special meeting on 8/23/2012:
Voters against the proposal (Video mark 42:00)
(The Charter Review Task Force spoke before the residents opposing the incorporation proposal)
Commissioners deliberating the proposal. (Agenda item 10A3 thru 10A3ALTERNATE3)

Commissioners’ Votes
Commissioners passed the resolution: 11 – 1 with 1 absent.
(Agenda item 10A3ALTERNATE1 AMENDED on 8/23/2012).

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5) QUESTION: BILL OF RIGHTS

Title: Charter Amendment Regarding Penalties and Enforcement of Citizens’ Bill of Rights
Resolution Reference: R-656-12
Language on the Ballot:

Shall the Charter be amended to eliminate the provision providing for forfeiture of office if a public official or employee willfully violates the Citizens’ Bill of Rights and allow, in addition to suit in circuit court, the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust to enforce the Citizens’ Bill of Rights with penalties authorized by the Code?

RECOMMENDATION: Vote ‘NO’ on this proposed amendment which is aimed at protecting labor unions from being penalized or losing their jobs if they violate the Citizens’ Bill of Rights. The proposed amendment will take away the current penalty of losing his job for any public official or employee who violates the Citizens’ Bill of Rights. It also gives power to the county’s ethics commission to enforce the Citizen’s Bill of Rights and impose penalties “not otherwise prohibited by a collective bargaining agreement.” So, the ethics commission will impose penalties except to those with powerful union contracts. This sounds like some union members will be protected from being penalized.

The proposed amendment still leaves citizens with the option to file suit in Circuit Court to bring forward violation complaints…for now.

Details
Currently the Citizens’ Bill of Rights, which was created to protect the citizens and to make government more accountable, states that any public employee who violates the Citizens’ Bill of Rights article must lose his job: (Emphasis added)

(C). Remedies for Violations. In any suit by a citizen alleging a violation of this Article filed in the Dade County Circuit Court pursuant to its general equity jurisdiction, the plaintiff, if successful, shall be entitled to recover costs as fixed by the Court. Any public official or employee who is found by the Court to have willfully violated this Article shall forthwith forfeit his office or employment.

BACKGROUND
Commissioners passed the resolution: 12-0 with 1 absent
(Agenda item 10A4 ALTERNATE on 8/23/2012)
Resolution Reference: R-656-12

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6) QUESTION: TRANSFER OF POWER TO COMMISSION IN CASE OF VACANCY

Title: Charter Amendment Related to Option for Filling Mayoral or County Commissioner Vacancy
Resolution Reference: R-657-12
Language on the Ballot:

Shall the Charter be amended to:

  • Extend the time to conduct an election to fill a mayoral or commissioner vacancy from 45 to 90 days from the decision to call such election and provide a timeframe for qualification and any necessary runoff;
  • Temporarily transfer, during a mayoral vacancy or incapacity, certain mayoral powers to the Commission Chairperson, Vice Chairperson or Commissioner chosen by the Board?
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7) QUESTION: COUNTY MAYORAL CONFLICTS

Title: Charter Amendment Regarding Mayoral Conflicts in County Procurement
Resolution Reference: R-658-12
Language on the Ballot:

Shall the Charter be amended to provide that when the County Mayor declares a conflict of interest in a particular procurement of a County contract, the chairperson of the Board of County Commissioners shall exercise all authority provided by the Charter or the County Commission to the Mayor with regard to such procurement including the authority to recommend a bid waiver?

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8) QUESTION: TENNIS CENTER EXPANSION AT CRANDON PARK

Title: Referendum Regarding Structures and Modification of Existing Agreements for the Tennis Center at Crandon Park
Resolution Reference: R-660-12
Language on the Ballot:

In accordance with Article 7 of the Home Rule Charter, do you approve as set forth in Resolution R-660-12:

  • Erection of permanent structures and expansion of existing structures at Crandon Park Tennis Center for public park and tennis tournament use, which shall be funded solely by tennis center and tournament revenues and private funds; and
  • Modification and extension of agreements with operator of Sony Open Tennis Tournament or its successors?

RECOMMENDATION: Vote ‘NO’: Park committee member says Miami residents could end up paying $50 million in bonds for this project. Commissioners have not provided voters with enough information on this project. Voters don’t want a repeat of the Marlins stadium fiasco.

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9) QUESTION: PROPERTY TAX INCREASE FOR ANIMAL SERVICES

Title: Non-Binding Straw Ballot on Funding Improved Animal Services Programs
Resolution Reference: R-647-12
Language on the Ballot:

Would you be in favor of the County Commission increasing the countywide general fund millage by 0.1079 mills and applying the additional ad valorem tax revenues generated thereby to fund improved animal services, including:

  • Decreasing the killing of adoptable dogs and cats (historically approximately 20,000 annually);
  • Reducing stray cat populations (currently approximately 400,000 cats); and
  • Funding free and low-cost spay/neuter programs, low-cost veterinary care programs, and responsible pet ownership educational programs?

RECOMMENDATION: Why Vote ‘NO’: We don’t need to pay more property taxes to deal with this. We cannot continue to allow Miami politicians to put our house as a collateral to fund their latest trick to get our money. They always come up with altruistic-sounding reasons to raise our taxes: “This tax is for the children,” “This one for seniors,” “This other tax will create jobs,” etc. Now they are proposing an additional tax “to decrease the killing of adoptable dogs and cats.” Who wouldn’t want to give a better life to dogs and cats? But throwing more money at the problem is not the solution. Have they considered other solutions, i.e., a temporary moratorium or the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program for a couple of years until the animal over-population is controlled?

As a result of high unemployment and a weak economic environment, property owners are struggling to pay their bills. Adding one more property tax could exacerbate their financial problems. If a homeowner doesn’t pay his property taxes, government confiscates his property, then sales it to the highest bidder via an auction website.
(See a listing of auctioned properties for delinquent real estate taxes:
http://miamitimesonline.com/news/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/MiamiTimesrealestatetaxes.pdf )

The commission has to cut excess spending like lifetime union pensions and high salaries given to public employees. By the way, the Miami-Dade School Board must do the same instead of pushing for $1.2 billion debt bond for schools…and labor unions.

And, why do we need public unions for? There are plenty of laws protecting workers.

BACKGROUND
Commissioners passed the resolution: 13-0
Resolution Reference: R-647-12

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10) QUESTION: BUSINESSES IN COUNTRIES SPONSORING TERRORISM

Title: Non-Binding Straw Ballot on Contracting with Companies Doing Business with State Sponsors of Terrorism
Resolution Reference: R-659-12
Language on the Ballot:

Would you support, to the extent permitted by law, prohibiting further the use of taxpayers’ dollars to procure services or capital improvement projects from companies actively doing business in countries that are on the U.S. Department of State’s list of state sponsors of terrorism?

RECOMMENDATION: Vote ‘YES’: “This question will serve as a good indicator of how Miami-Dade taxpayers feel about having their taxpayer dollars go to companies, e.g. Brazil’s Odebrecht, that partner with the brutal regimes of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.” The U.S. Dept. of State’s list of state sponsors of terrorism can be found at http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2011/195547.htm.

Video:
Commissioners passed the resolution: 11 – 0 with 2 absent. (Agenda item 10A16 on 8/23/2012).

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