Miami mayor, manager plan massive reorganization
By Paola Iuspa
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and City Manager Carlos Gimenez are proposing a radical overhaul of city government, dropping eight of 29 departments, and appear to have the votes to do it.
The plan includes staffing an auditor general's office. The mayor and Mr. Gimenez say the proposal is projected to save the city more than a half-million dollars and aims to make departments more efficient and accountable.
The two plan to ask commissioners to vote Oct. 29 on their proposal.
Both began engineering changes in March, calling for replacing the three assistant managers with a chief financial officer, a chief of neighborhood services, a chief information officer and a chief of strategic planning, budgeting and performance, said Mr. Gimenez, who is leaving Jan. 6. The new manager will be the city's chief executive officer.
"The new format will increase efficiency and accountability," Mayor Diaz said Tuesday evening. The city drafted the plan after Baltimore's model, said Carlos McDonald, city communications director.
If the commission approves, the plan will be the first major restructuring since 1995, said Mr. Gimenez, who as fire chief worked on that reorganization.
Gale Sittig, a consultant who helped draft the current plan, said the chief of strategic planning, budgeting and performance will yearly update each department's priorities and evaluate performance "to see if they fulfilled their goals.... It will make each department accountable for their work."
Ms. Sittig was executive director of Miami's financial oversight board, created by the state in 1996 to help the city overcome a $67 million deficit. It was disbanded in December 2001 after the city built more than $70 million in reserves.
Mr. Diaz said Larry Gross, former director of the Florida Center for Public Management in the Institute of Science and Public Affairs in Tallahassee, has also helped with the plan. He said his team and the city manager got input from commissioners and department directors.
Mayor Diaz said he's confident commissioners will welcome the changes because he included some of their ideas. Tuesday evening, three of the five said they favor the revamp.
"I think it is about time to make those changes," said Joe Sanchez. "The mayor has shown his leadership in fine-tuning the city government. It will not solve all the problems, but it will lead us in the right direction."
He said the plan will tighten supervision of risk management, which has been bleeding money for at least a decade and last year spent $13 million more than budgeted. The plan calls for the chief financial officer to handle risk management as well as finance, purchasing, the department of economic development, department of employee relations, community development and conferences, conventions and public facilities
"Having a chief financial officer is logical," said Tomás Regalado. "The mayor wanted to make this change since he was elected."
"I am leaning toward voting in favor," said Angel Gonzalez. "I hope these changes will make the building, planning and zoning departments speed up the permitting and planning process."
Under the reorganization, the Labor Relations and Human Resources departments would come under Employee Relations. The Real Estate and Economic Development and Asset Management would merge into Economic Development, while Public Works and General Services Administration would become Department of Municipal Services.
Combining departments and reducing the number of the heads of departments, mostly vacant now, would save $520,000, Mr. Gimenez said.
If city commissioners approve the plan, said Carlos McDonald, city communications director, the city will have openings for 19 directors and the changes could come immediately.
He said the city is already taking applications, although it will not begin advertising the vacancies until November.
If the plan is approved the city will also advertise for an auditor general, a post that has been vacant and unfunded since it was approved in a 1999 referendum, Mr. McDonald said.
The internal auditor's office would not change and its director, Victor Igwe, would remain under the manager's control. On the other hand, the auditor general would respond to the commission only.
Departments that would not change include police, fire rescue, communications, solid waste, parks and recreation, finance, purchasing and the capital improvement program, which will be investing in the next 10 years almost a half-billion dollars in upgrading infrastructure.