Animal lovers, convinced that marshalling nearly half-a-million votes during the November election would herald the no kill era at Miami-Dades animal shelter, saw their dreams die Tuesday as the County Commission decided not to raise property tax rates, even the one voters said theyd gladly pay to save unwanted pets.
Welcome to politics, lobbyist Ron Book told his crestfallen clients: members of the Pets Trust Miami board, who thought theyd won an extra $19 million for rescue groups and the county shelter.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez said hed find $4 million in the budget for the Animal Services Department. Book tried to console his clients by saying there was still a chance for more, as interest groups jockey before the final budget vote in September.
We will not relent! he vowed. The effort, he told his clients, is a marathon, not a sprint.
He told the commission that in his 40-year career as a lobbyist, hed never had more calls from supporters of his client. He called them rabid without rabies.
The vote came after dozens of animal lovers begged commissioners to honor the nearly 500,000 citizens who approved a $10-per-$100,000 tax-rate increase in a non-binding straw ballot.
That money would have funded high-volume sterilization clinics, with a goal of 50,000-75,000 in a year; responsible pet-ownership education; grants to non-profit rescues; increased adoption and fostering.
Affirming the flat rate: Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, Vice Chairwoman Lynda Bell, commissioners Juan C. Zapata, Bruno Barreiro, Esteban Steve Bovo, Jose Pepe Diaz, Javier Souto and Xavier Suarez.
Bell suggested that the commission stop allowing straw ballots.
Either we vote for it or we dont, she said.
Bovo said hed toured the shelter, saw two cats and two dogs put down, and could barely stand it. Still, he said, we cant govern by petition.
He suggested clamping down on irresponsible pet owners and backyard breeders, and putting voluntary donation envelopes in TRIM (proposed property tax) notices.
Opposing the flat rate: Dennis Moss and Sally Heyman because they wanted more money for libraries, fire-rescue and animals and Barbara Jordan and Jean Monestime, who wanted more for human services. Commissioner Audrey Edmonson was absent.
Heyman said her office did not get a single call or email to say, Dont increase taxes. I did get 17 that said, Dont hurt our libraries...and Dont hurt the fire department, 66. But overall 252 said, Tax me more because...animals are part of our society.
In a hallway interview, Gimenez said that $4 million would increase the Animal Services Departments $10 million budget by 40 percent.
That will go a long way to complying with the wishes of the people without raising taxes, he said, and support the beginnings of no kill.
About half would come from more than $2 million left over from the short-lived May election to renovate Miami Dolphins stadium, the rest from a court decision reducing the countys obligation to the states Department of Juvenile Justice next year.