Charter panel to suggest raises, term limits for commissioners
By Wayne Tompkins
The Miami-Dade County Charter Review Task Force has drafted a preliminary recommendation that commissioners be paid a full-time salary and limited to serving two four-year terms.
In addition, commissioners would be barred from outside employment while in office and would forfeit all pensions and salary if found guilty of "violating the public trust."
Task force chairman Victor Diaz Jr., a Miami Beach attorney, said the recommendation is not final but designed to solicit public comment at a series of workshops.
"We want to know if the public thinks, for example, that the term limits are too high or too low," Mr. Diaz said.
Commissioners currently are paid $6,000 a year and are not term-limited.
The 21-member board has been charged with reviewing the county's 50-year-old charter, the equivalent of a constitution. The body will make recommendations that ultimately will go before voters. The task force has until Oct. 31 to complete its work but has asked commissioners for a 90-day extension.
At its Aug. 15 meeting, task force members noted that Miami-Dade voters have rejected full-time salaries for commissioners seven times but expressed optimism that voters will approve the idea if they are given something in return such as term limits and a ban on outside employment. According to state guidelines, full-time commissioners would be paid approximately $88,000 a year.
The task force has adopted more than a dozen topics to review for possible changes to put before voters.
In addition to a proposal to directly elect the county's sheriff, property appraiser, elections supervisor and tax collector, the committee will look at issues including at-large representation on the county commission, term limits for elected officials, the balance of power between the mayor and commissioners and procurement reforms.
Mr. Diaz said the task force will continue its interactive multimedia workshops after the first one Aug. 14 proved a hit with the public.
The task force workshops at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center's commission chambers will be broadcast live and viewers can submit questions by e-mail or telephone.
Residents without telephone or e-mail access will be able to view the hearing live from regional locations with phone and e-mail access. Shuttle service at those locations will transport residents to the commission chambers.
Workshops are scheduled for Tuesday and Aug. 30, both at 6 p.m. at the Clark Center, 111 NW First St. in Miami. Regional locations will be the Joseph Caleb Center, 5400 NW 22nd Ave., and the West Dade Public Library on Tuesday and the city halls of Miami Beach and Hialeah on Aug. 30.
The task force's next regular meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday (8/29) at the Miami-Dade Public Library, 101 W. Flagler St.
A 6 p.m. workshop was scheduled for Wednesday (8/22) at the South Dade Government Center in Cutler Bay. The meeting was not interactive or televised because the technology is not available, Mr. Diaz said.
The task force's membership consists of one member appointed by each of the Miami-Dade commissioners, one by Miami-Dade Mayor Alvarez, one by each of the county's four largest cities and three by the League of Cities, representing smaller municipalities.
This review is the first since Miami-Dade County adopted the strong-mayor form of government in January. Proposed changes — if adopted — could alter the balance of power between Mayor Alvarez and the 13-member commission.