Miami commission split on shift to strong mayor
By Patricia Hoyos
Miami commissioners are split over whether the city should adopt a strong mayor form of government, handing over the city manager's power and day-to-day responsibilities to the mayor.
But the ultimate decision would come to the voters if commissioners decided to put the proposition on the ballot. During Thursday's commission meeting they discussed the possibility of placing it on either the August or November ballot, although not all commissioners are keen on the idea.
The right person in the role of strong mayor could do great things, said Commissioner Frank Carollo, but so much power in the wrong person's hands could run the city down.
Spearheading the idea was Chairman Francis Suarez, who argued that the commission should at least give voters the option to decide what kind of government they want.
"The mayor right now has very little power or authority" right now, he said.
A strong mayor would allow Miami residents to clearly see who bears the responsibility of the local government and who is accountable for what happens in the city, he said.
Mr. Suarez said he also believes it would provide some stability, noting that the city has had 11 city mangers in the past 15 years. In addition, a strong mayor format would strengthen the commission by allowing it to name its own chairman and vice chairman, he said, and would provide for a recall provision for the mayor, which the city does not currently have.
"At the end, all I'm asking is to give the residents of the City of Miami the opportunity to vote on this measure for the residents of the city to determine their own destiny," Mr. Suarez said. "By putting it on the ballot, it would cost the taxpayers nothing."
It's time for Miami to take the next step to becoming a real big city, he said. Of the 25 most populous cities in the US, he added, 75% have a strong mayor.
But Commissioner Marc Sarnoff argued that Miami should not be compared to most of those cities because they are structured differently.
Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones said she had concerns over handing over one person so much power.
If approved, the measure would not take effect until the next mayoral election.
"It's a different job than the current job," Mr. Suarez said, "so I feel the residents of the City of Miami should have the right to choose the person that they feel has the skills to do that job."
To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e -Miami Today, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.