Miami-Dade pushes wave of charter change efforts into future
By Ashley Hopkins
Miami-Dade commissioners voted Tuesday to delay moves to alter the county charter or create a charter review taskforce, as some said placing changes on the November 2012 ballot will give commissioners longer to weigh options and eventually draw more voters.
While Commission Chair Joe Martinez, Jose "Pepe" Diaz and Sally Heyman are already pushing divergent plans to create a charter review taskforce, other commissioners are drafting their own charter legislation.
Mr. Diaz moved successfully to defer discussions until Oct. 18, giving each commissioner a chance to push proposals and ensuring that "all voices and all opinions were heard."
"This is changing government as we know it today," he said. "If we're going to do this, let's do it right, but let's do it with everybody at the table."
Waiting until mid-October, however, could make it hard to get potential changes on the Jan. 31 presidential primary ballot, as demanded by Norman Braman, the Miami businessman who this year orchestrated the recall of former mayor Carlos Alvarez.
According to County Attorney R.A. Cuevas Jr., the commission would need to accept proposals by Dec. 2 to reach voters in January. "You should be aware that the clock is ticking."
Rather than rush to approve items prior to the Jan. 31 election, Audrey Edmonson recommended that commissioners hammer out potential changes for the November 2012 general election.
Waiting, she said, would give the commission more time to hash out how a taskforce should be set up. As voter turnout is usually higher during general elections, she said, the delay would allow more voters to weigh in on potential changes.
"We cannot govern the county under a threat," Ms. Edmonson said. "What's best for this community is when the most people can come out to vote."
Hearing Mr. Diaz and Ms. Edmonson's concerns, Rebeca Sosa asked that the commission delay talks until all had a chance to draft legislation calling for creation of a charter review taskforce.
As the county is required to review the charter at least every five years to determine whether to revise it, and as the commission created a 21-member taskforce in April 2007, Ms. Sosa also asked to revisit past recommendations before moving forward.
"We cannot hurry up and do things wrong," she said.
Barbara Jordan also asked to revisit the taskforce's 2008 report but to move quickly.
Calling the taskforce a "farce," Ms. Jordan said that she thought the commission was confusing the public by accepting charter recommendations without working to enact them.
Rather than rehashing recommendations for another three years, she said, the commission should either move recommendations forward or hold off on its push for large-scale charter change.
Mr. Diaz, who sponsored the measure that created the 2007 charter taskforce, argued that a lot has changed since that group made its report.
"We are not today at the same place we were four years ago," he said.
As the economy has changed greatly since 2007, Mr. Diaz said, he moved to defer discussion to await all recommendations Oct. 18.
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