Commission salary hike gets new life at $46,000
By Lou Ortiz
The Miami-Dade electorate has rejected salary increases for commissioners countless times, but the streak of nays didn't stop the county's Charter Review Task Force from approving a proposed amendment to give salary hikes one more chance.
"Frankly, I think it's going to lose again," said task force vice chairman Evelyn L. Greer, one of 14 members present at the last meeting, who nonetheless voted for the proposed amendment.
The county commission formed the 20-member task force in March to review the county's Home Rule Charter and propose amendments, which, if the commission agrees, could go to voters in November.
The salary increase and an ethics amendment that could lead to commissioner ousters for a host of violations, also debated, will return for more debate June 20 or 26.
The electorate voted down pay increases for commissioners in 1963, 1976, 1984, 1990, 2006, 2008, 2010 and again in January.
Under the new proposal, commission salaries would be based on the median income in the county and only commissioners elected in 2016 would be eligible for a raise. Ms. Greer said the current median county income is about $46,000.
"In times of prosperity it will go up, and during lean times it will go down," said task force member Carlos Trujillo. "It will be fluid with the changes in time."
Task force member Hans Ottinot said drafting the ballot language is critical.
"We all agree that the salary has to be increased, but what is the appropriate number?" he said. "The language has to be simple, clear. I think if you have a reasonable numberů it's passable. Some voted for it [raises] last time."
University of Miami Professor H.T. Smith, a task force member who served on the prior group as well, said his colleagues were "in the task force danger zone voting for this proposal."
"Some people [voters] will feel good because it's not happening now," he said about the 2016 date. "I can see some pluses. [But] we have to make sure they don't get a whole lot of other money under the table."
Meanwhile, under the ethics proposal, commissioners could lose their jobs for moving outside their districts, failing to attend meetings over a period of six months without good cause, engaging in consulting or being employed by a firm doing business with the county, or becoming a candidate for any federal, state or municipal office.
The county's inspector general would investigate complaints and make a determination, with the courts having the final say.
Task force members didn't vote on the ethics proposal. They asked the county attorney's office to clarify the definitions of residency and family, which the committee is expected to include concerning potential nepotism violations.
Different entities named task force members. The commission appointed 13, one by each commissioner. The mayor made an appointment as did each mayor of the four largest cities. The Miami-Dade League of Cities appointed two.
The task force has until July 17 to present recommendations to commissioners.
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