Wednesday, January 03, 2007

20 Days Left Till Strong Mayor Vote

There are many reasons to reel in a city or county commission's power when they become corrupted by it, but this may be the most important: to keep them honest.

As we predicted, in the most recent example of in-your-face callous indifference to what we think, the city of Miami commission, led by Michelle Spence-Jones, promises to "change the rules in the middle of the game" to get what they want-- the ouster of the homeless from their shantytown called Omoja Village. The Village, built on land owned by the city of Miami-- a lot made vacant when the city tore down an apartment building in the traditionally segregated part of Miami known as Liberty City and forgot to rebuild it ten years later-- embarrasses the commissioners and, we're sure, the Mayor, and the bureaucrats down at City Hall.

"By God, we've got a Super Bowl coming up! We can't have the world's media covering a story like this! It'll make us look like psychopathic assholes! Worst yet-- it'll make us look like a third world country!"

No! Not a "third world country"! We're bigger and better than that-- so we keep telling ourselves. So, in that effort to make it go away, Ms. Spence-Jones, an African-American who represents that part of town, has introduced an ordinance that passed 3-2 to make it more difficult for you and me, and especially those without a voice or a roof over their heads, to assemble on city owned land. With a change in the law, Miami will have a legal right to remove the shantytown and everything it stands for before the Super Bowl hits town. It doesn't sound very American does it? And we wonder where our critics come up with that "third world" moniker?

The final vote comes January 11th. Will Miami commissioners rise to the occasion and surprise us by voting against this ordinance? Don't hold your breath. Although there are many characters on the commission, there is a dearth of character individually. Still, there is a ray of sunshine. If the ordinance passes, Commissioner Tomas Regalado has threatened to walk off the dais and join the poor and homeless at the Village where he expects to be arrested along with 40 other "squatters".

If he does, you and me, we should too, join him that is, down at the Village. In the words of Kathie Klarreich in an opinion piece that appeared in today's Miami Herald, "For those who believe in our responsibility for the least among us, the demolition of Umoja Village would diminish us all."

Too bad the Strong Mayor county commission vote doesn't come before this City of Miami vote. That vote is expected to win. Overwhelmingly. Just the eye-opener the city commissioners need to remind them they have been "commissioned by the people" to serve them and not their own self-interests.

If you would like to volunteer to insure the outcome of the vote or would like more information, click here.


mkh said...

I'm afraid I'll be countering your vote on this issue, MVB. I went to the debate last night, and Margolis could only make the case that the strong mayor will concentrate all the power and corruption into single person with 30,000 people dependent on him/her for their jobs. Maybe you like the idea of Jeb Bush as Miami-Dade mayor, running the joint like his brother "runs" the country (which is the rumor I've heard now from several places), but I prefer gridlock, and inept and powerless corruption.

Verticus said...

By your own words, it sounds like you're a guy who has given up, somebody perfectly happy to wallow in the status quo. Preferring "gridlock, and inept and powerless corruption" says a lot about you. I'd prefer to try something different. By the way, regarding your smug, implicit slander about me and the brothers Bush, I'm against the FCAT and want our troops out of Iraq NOW.

Frank Abignale, Jr. said...

GENTS: I think it best to focus on the words of the man himself.

Check out what ALVAREZ had to say in Miami Today this week.


Miami Today has worked hard to keep its readers informed about developments regarding the proposed Executive Mayor form of government, and I want to thank the publisher and staff for their efforts. However, the editorial viewpoints have been close-minded, one-sided, and disproportionately skewed. They fail to adequately take into account the merits of the proposed reforms. As we near the referendum on January 23, 2007, and the start of early voting on January 8, 2007, I would like to set the record straight on several issues.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that the proposal takes power away from the Miami-Dade County Commission. This is simply not true. In fact, the Third District Court of Appeals which weighed in on the proposals stated in its opinion that it is an “unassailable fact that not one single power of the County Commission… is altered in any way by the proposed amendment. Under the proposed amendment, the County Commission retains all of the power afforded to it…”

The Commission would remain the County’s governing body and retain its power to set the tax rate, legislate through ordinances and resolutions, and most importantly, approve the budget. When you control the money, you control a lot.

What the proposal does is make the Mayor – the only countywide elected official in Miami-Dade County – responsible and accountable for the day-to-day administration of county government. It is a transfer of authority from the County Manager to the Mayor. Every day, I speak with constituents who seek my help to solve a problem with a county service or department. Currently, the Miami-Dade County Mayor is prohibited from getting directly involved in these issues. I must go through the Manager. It is not efficient, and as we have seen, no one is held accountable when problems arise in departments like housing, water and sewer, and so on. Under the proposed system, the Mayor – for better or worse – will be held accountable. If you don’t like the job he/she is doing, you have the power to vote him/her out of office. The appeals court states the following, “…the voters would gain a majority power to remove the proposed head of administration (The Executive Mayor).” Simply put, the proposal empowers voters!

As part of the administrative transfer, the Mayor would retain his ability to hire and fire the County Manager. Additionally, he would be able to hire department directors. However, there are checks and balances. If the Commission disapproved of the Mayor’s selection for County Manager or a particular department, a supermajority of commissioners can override the Mayor’s decision.

The Mayor is charged with carrying out policies adopted by the County Commission, but would not:
1) Serve as a member of the Miami-Dade Commission
2) Vote at any regular or special committee meetings
3) Select the Chair or Vice-Chair of the Commission
4) Appoint Commission members to committees

Additionally, departments which were previously under the Mayor’s direction would remain in the hands of the Commission. These include the:
1) Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
2) Office of Protocol
3) Office of International Trade Consortium

It is also important to point out that while the proposed “Strong Mayor” form of government is new to Miami-Dade County, 17 of the largest 25 cities in the United States have the form of government being proposed. This includes the two largest cities – New York and Los Angeles. Despite the doomsday scenarios being painted by some, these vibrant and progressive cities are still intact and thriving.

Additionally, it is preposterous to pretend the Miami-Dade County Manager is insulated from politics. During my time in County government, I worked for five (?) County Managers, and all of whom were political to some degree. In fact, I was once offered the job of County Manager and turned it down. Why? Because who wants to answer to 14 bosses? It just doesn’t work. I have had the rare opportunity to see the situation from all sides – as Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department for 7 years, as Mayor, and as a citizen. I am more convinced than ever that change is needed. Under the proposed system, the County Manager’s job is not eliminated. In fact, he/she remains an integral part of County government, assisting the Mayor with the administration of County government. What would change is that the County Manager would report to one boss – the Mayor. That boss would answer to the voters of Miami-Dade County. It is a structure that does not, as some suggest, require a superhuman Mayor, only a Mayor who is qualified and competent, with leadership qualities, including the ability to delegate. But, don’t take my word for it. I encourage everyone to get educated on this issue and review the proposed charter by going to The powers of the Commission are detailed in Article I. The powers of the Mayor are detailed in Article II, and the powers of the County Manager are in Article 4.

In closing, let me say that no form of government is perfect. The Executive Mayor reforms being proposed will not cure all of our community’s problems. However, I believe the changes are a step in the right direction and will make our government more responsible, efficient, and respected.

Carlos Alvarez


Verticus S. Erectus said...

Thanks, Frank, for input. The mayor explained it nicely. Hopefully there will be enough people who are fed up with the status quo who will make an effort to vote on the 23rd to show they're "mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore."

mkh said...


You're on the wrong track with the "smug, implicit slander" phrase. The "you" was meant to include a broader scope, and not be directed at you. Hell, I know you personally, D., and know you aren't a Bush fan.

As to my having given up, that's far from the truth. If I've given up, why would I waste precious vacation time going to a debate on the topic? I'm not happy with the commission at all, but I'm never in favor of setting up a political machine in an area already rife with corruption.

And Frank, while I will review Alvarez's words at more length later, I tend to be innately suspicious of the arguments put forth by the guy who will benefit from the change.

Verticus said...

Look, MKH, I don't know if I like anybody knowing who I am. Next thing you know, you'll get kidnapped and will be forced to reveal who I am and then I'll be getting a knock on the door in the middle of the night from some malcontent who disagrees with my POV enough to add to Miami's rising murder rate. And if that happens, it will be all your fault. Anyway, sorry about getting all hot and bothered. I forgot you're the publisher of Hidden City, a worthy blog if ever there was one. All I saw in your post was the fact that you are threatening to NULLIFY my vote for strong mayor AND what appeared at first reading to align my politics with the Brothers. As far as I was concerned, those were fighting words. Also, I can understand how you might find suspicious the mayor's explanation for supporting his own ordinance. Maybe we can get some other favorable opinions here that will persuade you to reconsider making my effort to get out and vote superfluous.

Verticus said...

MKH, we noticed after the fact that you tacked onto this posting an "Unanswered Question." You mention that people for the strong mayor proposal seem to only want to punish the commission. Trust me, punishment is not where we at MVB are hoping for. We see this as an opportunity to make "corrections" to a system which isn't working. If we get a strong headed mayor, we can get rid of him or her in the next go around. Also, it looks like it would be easier to keep tabs on one mayor than 13 commissioners. As in art, we too believe less is more in politics. To paraphrase John Lennon, all we are asking, MKH, is give it a chance.

mkh said...

I still feel that this is a knee-jerk and reactive proposal. I have no great love for the commission at all, and have found many of their recent decisions to be wrong-headed and destructive to the community. So why don't we start with voting *them* out of office, instead of putting in place a system which could entrench a political machine for decades to come?

Perhaps I am just a little oversensitive, having lived through six years so far of a "strong president" form of government, where the rule of law is secondary to cronyism and opportunistic appointments. Frankly, I just don't see the upside, and I see many, many downsides.

In general I'm in favor of giving new ideas a chance. I'm not as favorably inclined to do so when the proposed change makes future change more difficult.

PS: No worries, Verticus, your secret is safe with me.

Lincoln Basel said...

Regarding "punishing the commission," that sounds like a perfectly wonderful idea. Personally, I don't like their tenor, especially that dirty mouth bully who won't share her water. I think they all need a good spanking except for that dear Ms. Katy Sorenson. My, my, how I'd love to join my fellow peep Mr. Souto and keep an eye on her.

Anonymous said...

MKH be not afraid...These are the wise words of the late Pope John Paul...Give this change a chance, what we have now is dysfunctional at best, and arguably corrupt. Your first paragraph says it all, what we have now is a political machinery entrenched for years now with no end in sight, these clowns have no term limits, the Mayor has two. We have a recall provision in the Charter for the BOCC and the Mayor. You talk about cronyismm, my god look at what the unions are doing and their reactions to this progressive type of change being proposed. Lastly where did you buy your crystal ball that tells you that the strong mayor form of government will make future change more difficult.