County commissioner circulates draft of proposal to put aviation authority on ballot
By Shannon Pettypiece
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jimmy Morales is circulating a draft of a resolution that would allow voters to decide if an airport authority should be created for the county.
The resolution is likely to appear on the commission's agenda next month.
If the item goes on the ballot and voters call for the commission to relinquish its management of Miami International Airport and the other county airports, the commission would have to enact a plan it refused to support in November.
The ballot language on Mr. Morales' draft reads, "Shall the county commission be required to enact an ordinance within 90 days that provides for the creation of a Miami-Dade County aviation authority, reflecting the diversity of Miami-Dade County, to provide for the operation, development, maintenance and governance of the county's aviation system with the county commission oversight, substantially in accordance with the ordinance attached?"
With commission approval, the issue would appear on the Aug. 31 ballot.
Under the ordinance, the commission would be required to closely follow a plan drafted by a group of community business leaders outlining the structure of an airport authority. Commissioners shot down the plan in November, with opponents saying it gave too much power to a non-elected body.
The plan never went to the commission for a vote, as Chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler withdrew a resolution backing an authority because it didn't have enough support to pass.
The plan, now back on the table, would give the commission the majority of appointments for a seven-member board and allow commissioners to change or abolish the authority with a two-thirds majority vote.
Under the plan, commissioners would give up day-to-day operations at the county's five airports - including the ability to award contracts, hire or fire the aviation director, change rates and fees and control airport finances.
The majority of commissioners, even some who support the concept of an aviation authority, said they had numerous problems with the plan when it came to them in November.
Commissioner Sally Heyman expressed support for airport reform but said she would have voted against the plan if it hadn't been withdrawn.
"I supported an authority, but it had to be one of integrity and actual authority," Ms. Heyman said shortly after the plan was withdrawn. "If we are going to have an authority, let it have some authority."
With doubts about whether the commission would put the plan to a public vote, community groups haven't ruled out proceeding with their own ballot drive.
Miami Business Forum Executive Director Mario Artecona said his organization and several community groups are discussing whether to draft a new proposal for the ballot that would take even more power away from the commission.
"We are studying whether to proceed with the ad hoc ordinance or to create a truly independent authority," Mr. Artecona said.
Mr. Artecona said he would like to see the commission put the item on the ballot so the public does not have to go through a lengthy petition process.
"We strongly feel the Board of County Commissioners should put this on the ballot," he said. "This being the fifth attempt to create an authority blocked by the commission, they could at least use their power to put this on the ballot."