After last year’s recall of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, charter reform was all the rage.
Businessman Norman Braman called for it. Candidates campaigned on it. And county commissioners, fearing they might be activists’ next target, made a half-hearted effort to implement some changes that, not surprisingly, were met with little public support.
Now, a year later, a group tasked with reviewing the county’s charter wants voters to weigh through more than a dozen proposed changes, many of which could have a profound effect on how county government does business.
Yet the most contentious of the proposals are a couple that weren’t even on the radar at this time last year — including a plan to create new cities or grow existing ones without any input from commissioners who represent Miami-Dade’s unincorporated neighborhoods.
Also under consideration are proposals that would require petitioners to specify reasons for recalling an elected county official, another attempt at raising commissioners’ salaries, and a plan that would set a permanent governance structure for the Jackson Health System.
“Everyone's frustrated,’’ said state Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican and the task force's chairman. “They're frustrated with the county commission not wanting to move forward with new items.’’
The charter review task force will hear from the public one last time at a 6 p.m. hearing Wednesday before voting on final recommendations next week.
Commissioners called for the task force in March after months of stalling over how to tackle charter reform, which gained political traction after last year’s recall of Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas. The commission created the new group instead of adopting proposals that a charter review group put forth in 2008 that would have largely limited the commission’s power.
Some of the new task force’s proposals are directly linked to the recall. Consider:
• Setting a line of succession of sorts for mayoral vacancies by temporarily vesting some mayoral powers in the commission chairperson (or, in that person’s absence, the vice chairperson, followed by the clerk of the courts), with one condition: the person vested with the powers would not be allowed to run for mayor in the subsequent election. That election, if called, would take place in 90 days instead of the current 45;
• Eliminating the notarization requirement that Braman and other activists have criticized as onerous and expensive for petition-initiated ballot questions;
• Requiring petitions to list a reason for recalling an official — a provision in state law not currently required by the county. Some reform proponents have already opposed that suggestion.
“For many decades, the people of Dade County have had a right to remove their elected officials without the necessity of stating a reason,” said Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, a lawyer and recall activist. “By adding a ‘for-cause’ standard, they are radically taking away a right that the people of this county just exercised in overwhelming numbers.”
When commissioners created the new task force, they agreed to place any proposed charter amendments directly before voters in the November general election if two thirds of the task force backed the measures. Commissioners would have discretion over whether any remaining proposals go on the ballot.