Panel organizing campaign for referendum on aviation authority
By Shannon Pettypiece
A full-force public campaign is under way to create an independent aviation authority even after the issue was blocked last year by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners.
At hand is a plan to let voters decide if Miami International Airport and the county's four general aviation airports should remain under county control or be turned over to an independent board.
The Independent Aviation Authority Political Action Committee has opened a bank account. The Miami Business Forum, a group of civic leaders, is spearheading the campaign. The forum's director, Mario Artecona, said donations are flowing in.
"In the process of fundraising, we are finding very broadbased support from the business and civic community," he said.
The political-action committee has hired polling firm Bendixen and Associates to study interest and determine who would support creation of an airport authority.
"To get the issue on the ballot will involve polling to focus on what the perception is out there to gauge arguments in favor or against. ... In addition to polling, there is the signature-gathering," Mr. Artecona said.
The committee will hire a professional firm in April to solicit signatures from at least 4% of the county's 950,000 registered voters, Mr. Artecona said. The committee will have about 60 days to collect the required number of signatures to get the issue on November's ballot.
A referendum can be placed on the ballot with 4% of voters' signatures, but the commission can overturn the action in one year. If 10% of voters' signatures are obtained, officials cannot overturn it.
Proponents of an aviation authority must finalize a proposal detailing how one would be created and outlining its powers.
Mr. Artecona said wording of the proposal should be finished by next month. He said it would resemble a proposal drafted by a commission-mandated ad hoc committee that was withdrawn from commission consideration in November.
The committee's plan "will be very similar to the ad hoc committee's, although a few issues are still being worked out," Mr. Artecona said.
He said that under the political-action committee's plan, fewer appointments would be made by county commissioners than was suggested in the ad-hoc committee's plan, the nominating process would be changed and legal language would protect the airport from defaulting on bonds issued to an authority if it is abolished.
Commission Chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler could still send the ad-hoc committee's proposal back to the commission - a move that could protect the commission from facing a political-action committee proposal that could call for a stronger authority than the ad-hoc committee's.
Members of the ad-hoc committee have been invited to meet with the Business Forum to discuss the ballot drive, said Allen Harper, chairman-elect for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and a member of the ad-hoc committee.
Mr. Harper said he planned to talk with other members and that he is "for an airport authority that the people will be in favor of."