Barreiro Plans Quotmass Cleanupquot Of Countys Citizen Panels
Written by Dan Dolan on December 28, 2006
By Dan Dolan
Incoming Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Bruno A. Barreiro says he will unveil sweeping changes in the way the commission does business – a move that will affect all government operations for at least two years.
After being sworn in as commission chief during a special meeting last week, Mr. Barreiro, who officially will take office Jan. 1, said reorganization is necessary to achieve his goals for improved mass transit, controlled growth, upgraded services and more housing for low- and moderate-income families. He said he’d like to do a "mass cleanup" on the 99 citizen panels that advise the commission on a variety of issues.
Mr. Barreiro wants to begin by changing internal commission rules that forbid creation of more than six standing committees, which have the power to kill any proposed legislation before it reaches the full board. He said he wants to add at least three more permanent panels – though he hasn’t revealed what they’d do – to sharpen the commission’s oversight of key issues and spending.
But to do that, Mr. Barreiro needs a majority to vote for his rule change. And some commissioners, including outgoing chairman Joe A. Martinez, are balking at the idea of more committees. Mr. Martinez said increasing the number of committees could stretch commissioners too thin.
"If we have too many committees, there may be quorum issues because we may not have enough members to attend meetings," said Mr. Martinez, who organized the committee structure to match county departments during his two-year stint as chairman. "There may be a time crunch."
Mr. Barreiro wields a powerful weapon to get his way. As chairman, he has absolute authority to decide commissioners’ committee assignments and designate the leader of each panel. Committee chairmen, in turn, control when, how – and if – a particular piece of legislation, contract, development project or zoning issue will be brought to a vote.
Last week, Mr. Barreiro held informal public powwows with commissioners Sally Heyman and Audrey Edmondson to discuss committee assignments and his reorganization plan.
During her meeting, Ms. Edmondson, who represents District 3, requested the chairmanship of the housing and economic development committee. She said she also wants to serve on social-service and zoning committees. She also asked to be named the county’s representative to the League of Cities.
Ms. Heyman, who represents District 4, told Mr. Barreiro she’d like to serve on public-safety committees. She suggested formation of a standing committee whose only job would be to oversee the aviation department and the Port of Miami-Dade. Both agencies have massive construction projects in the works and have been rocked by spending scandals in recent years.
Ms. Heyman and Ms. Edmondson said they’d support limited committee expansion. Commissioners Carlos Gimenez, Dennis Moss and incoming vice chairwoman Barbara Jordan have said they’d back some growth in the number of committees.