Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez received a clear directive last year from voters who elected him to replace his recalled predecessor, Carlos Alvarez: save money, increase transparency and reform government.
Angry voters booted Alvarez, in March 2011 for overseeing a budget that included about $132 million in salary hikes and bonuses.
Gimenez, a former county commissioner, promised to take back those raises and reform government. He was sworn into office July 1, leaving him just a couple of weeks to put together his first budget and start delivering.
PolitiFact Florida, the political fact-checking arm of the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times, created the Carlos-O-Meter to track Gimenez’s promises. It’s similar to PolitiFact’s Obameter for President Barack Obama and Scott-O-Meter for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
PolitiFact rates promises based on outcomes, not intentions. So if the county commission or the voters fail to act on a proposal, that would get a negative rating.
The Carlos-O-Meter identified 17 promises made during the campaign. At the one-year mark, here’s the scorecard:
• Promises Kept (5): Among the examples, Gimenez said he would cut the property tax rate, and he did — a crucial promise for cash-strapped homeowners. He took back the raises that went to county officials. And he avoided laying off police officers as he reined in spending.
• Compromises (3): This includes his goal to reduce the number of county departments from 60 to 25. But he set the bar too high: There are only 55 departments, agencies and offices, and 13 of those aren’t under the mayor’s purview, so he started at 42. He did reduce the number from 42 to 25.
• In the Works (4): This includes setting term limits for commissioners which is on the November ballot, and restoring all transit funding, which is pending while federal officials continue an investigation.
• Promises Broken (4): Gimenez said he would conduct a fraud audit of transit, but hasn’t — one example of a broken promise. His spokeswoman says the county has no plans for a fraud audit because the county hired a firm to do a financial audit and a federal investigation is underway.
We left one promise unrated: Gimenez said he would veto an effort to strike down domestic partner benefits, but no such effort surfaced. Also, we eliminated a promise to make commission elections concurrent with state and national elections, because that already happens.
"He did what he said he was going to do," said Katy Sorenson, a Democrat and former county commissioner who is now president of a good government initiative at the University of Miami. "He comes in pretty high on promises made and promises kept."
One central promise to reducing spending at county hall was taking back the raises, which made Gimenez unpopular with union workers.
"I must admit he did tell us ahead of time what his plans were, and he followed through," said Greg Blackman, president of the Government Supervisors Association of Florida local 100. The pay cuts "were no surprise to us."
A word about our promise meter: these ratings aren’t final. If Gimenez takes new, significant action, we re-evaluate the promise and can update the rating.
Gimenez has a short timeframe to deliver on his promises because he faces re-election one year after his mayoral victory. His main rival in the Aug. 14 primary is County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez. If any candidate wins 50 percent plus 1, he or she wins the seat. If not, the top two vote getters will square off in November.