The Buck Stops With Voters On Charter Changes 8211 So Let It
Written by Michael Lewis on July 26, 2012
By Michael Lewis
Miami-Dade commissioners decided 7-6 last week that voters aren’t smart enough to choose what’s good for us — only commissioners are.
We’ll test that notion Aug. 14, when we either vote for three people who think the public is ignorant — thereby proving the point — or pick someone else.
The issue was whether to let us vote on 16 changes to the charter, the county’s constitution. Seven commissioners stalled action until Aug. 23, after the election, although they had pledged not to obstruct our votes.
So much for their word.
The 16 proposals come from a charter team that commissioners created.
The charter requires review every five years, which commissioners reluctantly OK’d. They then vowed that unlike many times in the past, when they dumped proposals without giving voters a say, this time they would honor the public, their own charter panel and the charter’s intent.
Once again, they didn’t.
Five years ago, commissioners gave a charter team 18 months to study, then threw vital proposals into the garbage rather than allow us to vote.
On that panel was wealthy Norman Braman, who took the rejection to heart. He’s using money and sweat to oust five commissioners, including three who last week voted to stall a promised public vote on all proposals that got a two-thirds charter team OK.
You can see why Mr. Braman is frustrated. Any serious citizen should be.
Watching the commission is like watching Charlie Brown try to kick a football Lucy is holding for him. Each time, she promises that this time she’ll let him kick it — but every time she pulls it back at the last second and he falls on his derriere.
Charlie never learns.
Maybe voters will learn Aug. 14.
The three up for election who sidetracked a decision are former chairman Dennis Moss, Audrey Edmonson and Joe Martinez, now chairman but seeking to be mayor. Mr. Moss faces three other candidates, Ms. Edmonson five and Mr. Martinez six.
Surely, some of those 14 others would let us vote on our constitution. That would put them ahead of the three who stalled a vote.
Perhaps obstructionist commissioners leaned on a Miami Herald editorial calling some task force proposals knuckleheaded — their word, not ours — and urging commissioners to bar a public vote.
The Herald fell into the commission’s trap by agreeing voters are too dumb to decide. Besides, the paper said, "the process seems to have been hijacked" by task force members with whom the Herald disagrees — though all were duly chosen.
We believe, along with Commissioner Esteban Bovo, that the commission should keep its word to give voters a shot at any proposal that won a two-thirds task force OK.
"I don’t think it serves us well now to start poking holes into all the recommendations," he reasoned correctly. "It just lends itself to the same argument of the past, that the commission either stonewalled it, rejected it or tried to block it."
Come on, Lucy, give Charlie Brown a shot at the ball.
Going back on its word once again is why the commission is so mistrusted. It buttresses Mr. Braman’s effort to oust five members.
That’s not to say all proposed charter changes are wonderful. If some were on the ballot, we’d recommend a "no" vote.
But the issue is not whether the charter team was more correct, or less, than commissioners, who also have been called knuckleheaded.
The issue is whether the commission can keep its word to give voters their rightful choice.
"At the end of the day, the buck stops with us," said Lynda Bell, who of course has it backwards. At the end of the day, the buck stops with voters who put her and 12 others on the commission and who were promised their rightful vote.
Mr. Martinez pushed commission delay, saying two hours wasn’t enough to deliberate. But the charter team studied for months after a commission pledge that this time its two-thirds decisions would go to the ballot.
No commission deliberation of even two minutes was needed to give voters a choice, keeping the pledge. Hours before it let task force chairman Sen. Rene Garcia offer the proposals, the commission had already acted to delay.
That’s why the county’s governing body is mistrusted. It doesn’t listen, reneges and says voters can’t properly decide anything important.
On Aug. 14, commissioners Martinez, Edmondson and Moss will learn if they’re right about our stupidity. Voters’ choices could even cause commissioners the following week to loosen their grip and put task force proposals on the ballot — the one place where the buck truly stops.To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e -Miami Today, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.