On Election Day, Miami-Dade voters will be asked to decide on two proposed amendments to the county’s charter. One changes the oversight and creation of Special Taxing Districts; the other clarifies public copying laws.
Charter Amendment 1
This amendment would allow cities to establish special taxing districts for private neighborhoods. A Yes vote would let the County Commission authorize cities’ governing bodies to serve as the boards of these districts when they fall within the city limits.
That means the municipalities can collect fees from property owners in certain areas and use the money to fund neighborhood services such as landscaping, lighting and security guards.
Currently, county agencies collect the money and administer the services.
But the system came under fire last year when Miami-Dade revealed surprising accounting mistakes throughout, with deficits requiring fee hikes for dozens of the 1,068 districts the county manages. Under the proposal, many more districts could be created if a majority of residents agree — and the County Commission approves.
“This is to give cities better control. Let them control the accounting aspects of this and the flow of money,” Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, who sponsored the amendment, told the Herald.
Miami-Dade administrators have no problem with the amendment, as the county often simply plays the role of middle man, when hiring for these services to be carried out in the special districts, and also bookkeeper.
The Editorial Board gets that this is a way for neighborhoods to have a direct say in their district instead of waiting for Big Government to respond to their needs. This would allow the decision-making process to be more localized.
But we’re also wary about the creation of new pots of money for municipalities as a hotbed for possible mishandling at best, and malfeasance at worst.
It creates a new responsibility and cost for a city council or commission to manage and operate the special taxing district. Are these municipalities ready for the task? How will this new money be administered by some small municipalities? Not every city is, say, Opa-locka, but you get the point. The County Commission would establish the rules for cities creating new districts. But how will these funds be monitored once the county steps out of the picture?
Here’s another down side: Municipalities would not be required to follow county contracting rules, including that contractors pay workers a living wage.
The Herald recommends NO on County Charter Amendment 1.
Charter Amendment 2
The second amendment makes it easier for members of the public to copy government records and would ratify local enforcement of an existing state rule. In an editorial last month, the Board expressed its support for this amendment.
If approved, the charter amendment would give the public the right, under the Citizens’ Bill of Rights, to copy public records, in addition to the right to inspect them. Back in 1957 when the Bill of Rights, which covers only the inspection of public records, was incorporated into the county charter, the now-routine use of duplication equipment was rare.
But don’t we already have the right to do this under Sunshine laws? Yes, but that precious right currently is enforceable only under state law, not under county provisions, which means a request to see records could be legally rejected in Miami-Dade.
The Herald recommends YES on County Charter Amendment 2.