Reboot Miami-Dade charter reform

The Miami Herald – Opinion | June 25, 2011

You know, with all the recent excitement over the Mayor’s race, I’m afraid we – the good voters of Miami-Dade County – might have taken our eyes off the ball.

Far too much energy has been spent overanalyzing rhetoric, endorsements and gorilla campaign tactics. Those topics are all fun to talk about, but we are better served by refocusing our energy on rebooting charter reform after the Mayoral election.

Sure we rejected six lackluster charter amendments a couple of weeks ago. That episode climaxed with the manual recount of the two year lobbying ban amendment which is already included in the County Ethics Code anyway. Awesome!

To reboot, we need to generate a white hot feeling for real charter reform. We need an issue that forces real dialogue and gets folks fired up regardless of pro or con. We can start the debate by asking whether we should include at-large Commissioners in Miami-Dade County.

Before I tell you why we should add more Commissioners, please have a seat and put your iPad down so you don’t smash it.

In Miami-Dade County, at-large commissioners would provide for the inclusion of a unified set of representatives with a countywide political view. Currently, we have a Mayor elected by the county as a whole running day-to-day operations but what we lack are actual policy makers elected to have a countywide view on transportation, development and job creation. Unfortunately, our single member district commissioners are forced to spend much of their time on district issues because – quite frankly – they were elected by the voters of their district to serve the interests of that district. A single member commissioner’s primary job is to ensure that their district runs well.

Conversely, an at-large commissioner’s primary focus will be on regional issues – UDB, Airport, Seaport, Development, Workforce and similar “big picture” issues. Furthermore, an at-large commissioner will answer to the electorate at-large, much like the Mayor does for election and recall purposes.

Now, I’m the first to say that completely at-large systems dilute minority interests and that is simply unacceptable in Miami-Dade County. Our current system of single member districts does a wonderful job of representing the diverse views and ethnicities of our county. However, there are flaws: our system has created a perception of stagnancy, parochialism and ward politics. 

Since the at-large system and the single member system are not mutually exclusive we can combine the strengths of each to address the weaknesses. We would retain our current single district members and add several at-large members elected from regional “super districts.” That way, we retain the unique ethnic and cultural diversity of a region while ensuring a communitywide platform for policy making.

Like I said, this is just a starting point for an important discussion. Vote for your favorite candidate for Mayor on June 28th, but keep pushing so that the historical desire for reform doesn’t evaporate.

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.