The headlines haven’t imparted any good news about the city of Miami’s financial crisis in a while: The SEC is breathing down the city’s neck for what it says was inappropriate financial sleight of hand; the city manager declared a state of fiscal urgency; said declaration thrown out in court; three finance administrators resigned and the city’s chief financial officer, looking to get away, too, was begged to stay.
And the latest: Moody’s bond-rating agency is looking askance at the city’s fiscal solvency and a $45-million loan payment for the PortMiami Tunnel comes due in January.
So the city’s situation is not as simple as coming up with $40 million to fill a budget hole — which it must.
All this bad news indicates more deeply rooted problems in the city’s stewardship of taxpayers’ money. The city has been this way before. Back in 1996, then-Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed a Financial Oversight Board to pull the city back from the fiscal cliff, which it did by forcing city leaders to make tough decisions, unburdened by political calculation.
Now the mayor and commission are the overseers. It’s imperative that they do the same. First, the commission should immediately declare a state of fiscal urgency. A circuit court judge laid the responsibility at their feet, saying the city manager did not have the authority to do so. Then the city can reopen negotiations with its unions and, it is hoped, extract concessions to fill that $40 million hole.
But fiscal urgency is a short-term, unsustainable solution. And the city’s leaders can’t simply force its workers to give more every time they run into a fiscal problem.
Despite Mayor Tomás Regalado’s refrain that everything’s going to be all right, city residents and businesses have every right to respond: Really? Show us.