Miamidade Commissioners Blast New Transportation Office For Lack Of Voterapproved Auditors
By Frank Norton
Miami-Dade county commissioners have already fired a few rounds of criticism at the new Office of Public Transportation Management for what one commissioner referred to as "a breach of faith with the public."
At issue is the office’s failure to get an auditing team in place to oversee spending of the half-cent transit tax passed in November, an issue they say could delay spending of the returns and cloud public faith in the $17 billion program. The county began levying the tax in January.
The office of transportation management was created specifically to oversee work done using the new funds but the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust is required to be in place to execute the funds before any can be spent.
Two weeks ago pre-selected civic groups named representatives to sit on a temporary nominating committee, now charged with putting together the full-time auditing group. The committee is to hold its first meeting Feb. 18 and Danny Alvarez, transportation management director, is to give a status report on their progress by March.
At a county planning meeting last week, commissioners and other officials grilled Mr. Alvarez as to why formation of that auditing team is taking so long.
"The plan doesn’t have what we promised the people. It’s been 90 days and we still don’t have a (auditing) trust," said Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, a member of Miami-Dade’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, which identifies and stewards urban planning and transportation projects countywide.
After passing the tax plan in November, voters were told by county transit officials that an auditing team would probably take form by January.
That unofficial deadline, however, has since rolled into March and now may be April, Mr. Alvarez told the commission.
"We’re hoping for March but mid-April would be a more realistic timeframe," he said. The formation process for the citizens group – as spelled out in the referendum – is complex, he said, and must pass through several layers of civic bureaucracy before getting into county hands.
Commissioners were not receptive to his explanations.
"I think everyone would like to know what’s taking so long," said Commissioner Katy Sorenson. "This has a lot of us very nervous."