There’s accountability in Miami-Dade’s strong-mayor government

The Miami Herald – Opinion | May 15, 2011

Early voting begins on May 9th and the voters will be called upon to elect a new Mayor to administer and govern our County. There are a few candidates who are ready, willing and able to take on this challenge given the present circumstances. I’m sure we all have a favorite – I do. But, more importantly, we must ensure that our new Mayor keeps the proper tools so he can truly be accountable to the voters.

You see, aside from electing a new Mayor, the voters will also decide whether the County Charter should be amended to eliminate the tools that hold the Mayor accountable before he is even elected. This question seeks to undo the “Strong Mayor” form of government approved by the voters in 2007. This amendment would return the powers and responsibilities of administering County government to an appointed, not elected, County Manager whose replacement can only really be effectuated by the County Commission.

This Charter Amendment eliminates the new Mayor’s authority to conduct business on your behalf. In essence, your favorite candidate will be powerless as Mayor to do any of the things he promised on the campaign trail. The bold leader you voted for will not be the person responsible for running the County. The employees need not listen to him, the department directors won’t report to him and can’t be reprimanded or fired by him, nor can he change the budget or replace the County Manager unless the Commission approves it. So much for new leadership.

The new Mayor you believed in, watched debate, and followed on Twitter and Facebook will end up spending his time – on your dime – doing nothing more than issuing proclamations, attending ribbon cuttings and kissing babies. Sure, maybe you’ll get a couple of eloquent State of the County addresses, snarky veto messages or, god forbid, a hurricane press conference every now and then but most likely that will be it.

Meanwhile, if you have a problem and visit him, he’ll thank you for coming by but can’t offer you “cafecito” – coffee was cut from the budget; he’ll be gracious and charismatic and may even tell you that he is sensitive to your needs. However, at the end of your heartwarming meeting he’ll tell you that unfortunately he is limited in what he can do. He’ll end up offering to route your matter to the County Manager, who in turn will direct it to an Assistant County Manager, who will then send it to a Director who will finally assign the issue to staff for “review and appropriate action.” Thereafter, you should expect to get your first response in 60 to 90 days. Don’t get me wrong, all the professionals involved are lovely, hard working and honest people but they don’t report directly to you – the tax payer.

Now some folks say that the “Strong Mayor” powers can be abused in the hands of the “wrong person.” Maybe. Should that happen – recall that person.

Look, I don’t need to quote the Federalist Papers to tell you that in no uncertain terms this amendment will eliminate your ability – as a tax payer – to hold one elected person accountable for the operation of your County government. Whether you adored or despised the former Mayor Carlos Alvarez, you had the power to recall him, and you did. Don’t give up that power.

Repealing the “Strong Mayor” eliminates your power to directly terminate the CEO of the seven billion dollar, 27,000 employee organization that is funded by and charged to serve you – the tax payer.

Keep one individual accountable. Vote NO on # 59.

Luis Andre Gazitua, a lawyer, and Miami Lobbyist, specializing in government affairs, authored the strong-mayor charter amendment approved by the voters in January 2007. 

Read more: The Miami Herald

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Luis is an experienced procurement lawyer and Miami lobbyist serving elected officials, businesses, international clients, and trade associations. He regularly appears before local and state government in order to advance complex objectives for clients against competing interests. He has weathered various competitive processes in Florida including Home Rule Charter Amendments, Recalls, Local, State and Federal campaigns.