Watchdog Group Demands Transportationspending Plan From County
By Shannon Pettypiece
Miami-Dade County commissioners won’t be allowed to tap into revenue from a half-cent sales tax until they put together a 30-year transportation spending plan, members of the watchdog group monitoring the money have decided.
The voter-mandated oversight group, the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust, voted last week to block financing for any commission-requested projects until the group gets the spending outline it has been requesting for months.
Several trust members said the move sends a signal to commissioners that the citizens’ group controls the pursestrings and is not merely an oversight or a rubber stamp.
"We are sending our sentiment to the commission and letting them know this is something we are very concerned about," said John Cosgrove, chairman of the trust. "It is certainly a very strong sign of strong sentiment and frustration."
As of July, $81 million had been collected from the tax. The county expects next year to collect $154 million.
The watchdog group asked the county last summer to submit a plan outlining anticipated revenue from the tax during the next 30 years and what projects the county would want funded.
For months county officials have said they would present the spending plan to the citizens’ watchdog group, trust spokeswoman Aurelia Vasquez said, but it has taken much longer than expected.
Some members of the trust disagreed with the vote and said cutting off commission spending of the tax would cause more harm than good.
"We might be creating a rift where we don’t need one," trust member Henry Givens said. "At this stage in the game, I don’t think this resolution is necessary."
But Mr. Cosgrove said the commission was to have created a plan a year ago, when voters approved the transportation tax in a referendum that also required creation of the accompanying citizens’ watchdog group.
"Why are we having to go through this when it is something we should have anyway?" he said.
The county’s liaison to the group, Carlos Bonzon, told members that the county will make a presentation on a 30-year spending plan at Monday’s meeting of the group’s budget and finance committee.
"Our staff has been working with financial advisers," Mr. Bonzon said. "The job is going to get done with or without this resolution."