Miami-Dade County residents will vote on proposed sweeping amendments to their Home Rule Charter that will appear on a May 24 special election ballot.
They also include boosting the pay for commissioners from $6,000 a year to $92,000 and allowing them to serve up to 12 years.
But the ballot items lump together several individual questions, such as the extended terms for commissioners and their pay hikes. And that, said residents who attended a town hall meeting on the amendments is a cause for concern.
“I look forward to you getting the [pay] increase but then I don’t appreciate the 12-year term limit,” said Mae Christian, president of the Miami-Dade Democratic Black Caucus.
“The questions should have been separate, allowing us the opportunity to think. People will vote no because of the 12 years, [yet] won’t have an issue with the income,” she said.
Elizabeth Wells agreed. “Those items should not be put together. That confuses the people,” she said.
Resident Carol Philer agreed that the commissioners “are worth a heck of a lot more than $6,000” they are getting but objected to the proposed increase to $92,000. With the county facing a big budget deficit, she said, “start with $30,000.”
The meeting was sponsored by Miami-Dade County Commission Vice-chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson and Commissioners Barbara Jordan and Jean Monestime. It took place May 5 at Miami Dade College’s North Campus, 11380 NW 27th Ave. in the north central part of the county.
Many who attended the meeting believed that each question should have been listed by itself instead of their being lumped together.
The wording is a problem, especially for senior citizens, Liberty City resident Levert Jordan said.
Jordan, who is chairman of his tenants association, said seniors are asking about the proposed amendments, what he thought about them and how he would be voting.
“Why has no other information been put out explaining this better?” Jordan said. “I mean, I didn’t want to vote for any of these items but I really want to vote for the salary increase. I need something to take back.”
Edmonson seemed to agree with such criticism. “Let the voters and citizens decide,” she said. “Done this way, I don’t think it’s going to pass.”
Tom Logue, assistant county attorney, said the ideas for the ballot questions came from county commissioners.
“The ballot questions are drafted by the county attorney’s office. We are limited to the amount of words that we use and the maximum is 75,” he said.
Commissioner Jordan added, “We are trying to simplify it for you. The fact that the county attorney’s office is limited to 75 words per question – that’s why everything seems so convoluted.”
Jordan said, on another proposed amendment, that she does not support the charter review task force being able to put items directly on the ballot.
“This is extremely dangerous,” she said. “People look at a question and think that it’s good but it’s really harmful to the community, in general.”
Roy Hardemon, a community activist, called attention to a proposal dealing with the office of inspector general. He said it was “wrong since it was created, especially for the African-American community.”
Charter question No. 4 proposes to include the office of the inspector general in the charter. The office has been created by ordinance.
“The next time around, get rid of it,” Hardemon said. “It has no purpose.”
Cynthia Roby can be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net.
Summary of proposed charter amendments on the May 24 ballot
Commissioners must be fulltime; No outside employment; State formula for salary $92,097.
Commissioners currently receive a salary of $6,000.
Commissioners can serve no more than three consecutive four-year terms in office, starting in 2012.
Commissioners, mayor property appraisers should be prohibited from lobbying Miami-Dade County for two years after leaving office.
Includes the charter review task force in the charter; Task force will consist of 21 members; Each commissioner appoints one (total of 13); One appointed by the mayor;
Four selected by each of the largest cities; Three selected by the League of Cities to represent smaller cities.
Prohibits county commissioners or mayor from sitting on task force; Allows recommendations approved by two-third vote of members to be placed directly on the ballot; Allows recommendations approved by majority of the members to the board of county commissioners for consideration.
This would include the inspector general in the Charter as opposed to now that he is only authorized by ordinance.
Abolishes strong mayor government; returns to form of government prior to 2007.
Removes the requirement of a sworn affidavit of a circulator of a petition.
Currently, charter requires an affidavit.