Voters will decide elected property appraiser question
By Wayne Tompkins
Voters will be asked whether they want to directly elect Miami-Dade County's property appraiser, after county commissioners voted 8 to 3 Tuesday to put that question on the Jan. 29 ballot.
The commission's vote assures that at least one recommendation of the county's Charter Review Task Force will make it to the voting booth. The 21-member task force, which is reviewing and recommending changes to the county's charter, presented its interim report and initial recommendations to commissioners at Tuesday's meeting.
While the task force is recommending the direct election of the property appraiser — Miami-Dade is the only Florida county that appoints the position — the commission was actually voting on a similar resolution sponsored by Commissioner Natacha Seijas. Public anger over high property taxes is fueling the debate.
"The residents of Miami-Dade County have been asking for generations to have what other counties have: to have the property appraiser elected directly by the people," Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said. "Trust the people. When they make decisions, we have to abide by decisions they make because that is democracy."
She said an elected property appraiser will have to be more responsive in explanations and educating the public about how taxes happen and the setting of policies and formulas. "They'll have to respond to the public."
Carlos Gimenez, the only commissioner on the Charter Review Task Force, said his decision came down to "the appointed property appraiser, the loyalty lies to the government. The elected property appraiser, the loyalty lies with the people."
Chairman Bruno Barreiro said he would vote to allow people to vote on the issue — but will be campaigning against it.
"It's a hotly debated issue in our community due to the boom in property values in our county," he said. "I believe our property appraisers are professionals that have gone by the laws and rules of the state in appraising property. An election would interject very little. But the public, I believe, has spoken very loudly in having their ability to make that determination."
Commissioners Sally Heyman, Dennis Moss and Katy Sorenson voted against the proposal. Javier Souto and Barbara Jordan were absent.
"I don't think it really changes much," Mr. Moss said. "We have property appraisers who are elected throughout the state of Florida, and people are still raising Cain about their property appraisals and what they are paying in taxes."
Ms. Sorenson said that whether the property appraiser is appointed or elected is largely irrelevant, since all state property appraisers are required to follow rigid state guidelines.
"Property Appraiser is an administrative position. I think elections work best when people are electing policymakers, not administrators. We don't have elected … head of libraries, we don't have an elected fire chief. They shouldn't be politicized."
Ms. Heyman said she did not want to see the task force's package of recommendations voted on piecemeal.