The 14th time was the charm for County Hall reformers who forced term limits on Miami-Dade commissioners — some of whom have clung onto their district seats for almost two decades.
Voters who flooded the polls Tuesday also said they wanted to make it tougher for developers to build on the county’s far western edge, and to make it easier for citizens to carve out new Miami-Dade cities.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, all 10 of the county’s proposed charter changes were adopted — reflecting a continued rejection of the status quo that swept two elected leaders from office through a recall last year.
“I voted ‘yes’ on term limits,” said Maria Lleonart, a 51-year-old Miami housewife. “These people get too comfortable in there and we’ve got to get them out.”
For the first time in five decades, voters were offered the opportunity to set term limits for commissioners without any strings attached. Commissioners would now be allowed only two four-year terms, excluding terms of service prior to 2012.
Commissioner Lynda Bell, who co-sponsored the term-limit item with Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, called it “the most substantive change we’ve had in the recent history of charter amendments.’’
Bell, one of the newest commissioners on the dais, said voters made it clear when she campaigned two years ago that “they wanted term limits, and they wanted eight years.’’
Thirteen times previously, the term-limit proposal was attached to pay increases or other benefits the public couldn’t stomach. The same question attached to a pay raise failed just last January.
Commissioners changed their approach this time, however, after voters — with the help of auto tycoon Norman Braman — overwhelmingly chose last year to recall County Mayor Carlos Alvarez and long-time Commissioner Natacha Seijas from office. Braman had threatened to campaign for charter change this time if the term-limit question wasn’t placed on the ballot all by itself.
The change won approval from flight attendant Aldo De Leonardis, who said commissioners who represent districts for more than a decade tend to “get a little bit too comfortable.”
Outside Trinity Cathedral Church in downtown Miami, voter Susan Cohn also said the choice was obvious. “Otherwise, it leads to corruption and abuse of power,” she said.
If there was a theme to Tuesday’s charter votes, it was confusion. Though all the questions were getting the thumbs up, they were voted on by far fewer people than the number who cast votes for the presidential candidates.
Most people interviewed said they couldn’t differentiate between the 10 county items and the state’s 11 lengthy constitutional amendments, which were printed without word limits.
Some voters just gave up. Others had little interest in voting for anything but the president.
“I’m hoping once I read the ballot I will remember. It’s really difficult to make these decisions,” Eric Hood, 46, said before voting as he waited outside the Trinity Cathedral Church on North Bayshore Drive. “I’m here to vote for president and I’ll read the rest. If it doesn’t make sense to me, I’ll leave it blank.”