Several cities in Miami-Dade are revamping their forms of government with a series of proposed charter amendments on the November ballot.
North Miami Beach
New city charter
Residents are being asked to repeal the old charter and replace it with a new one. City Clerk Pamela Latimore said the measures are designed to make governing the city more efficient and more responsive to residents.
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“Our old charter is dysfunctional,” City Attorney Jose Smith told the Miami Herald Editorial Board.
The new charter is 10 pages long — instead of 40.
Number of meetings
Currently, the North Miami Beach City Council has two monthly meetings, when many other municipalities have one. City officials say reducing the number of meetings would allow them to break from the cycle of constantly preparing an agenda.“I think we’ll be able to get more work done,” Mr. Smith said.
The charter provides that the city manager is hired for six months and thereafter is reappointed for one-year terms. That’s not a recipe for administrative stability. City officials want to amend the charter to eliminate these restrictive provisions and grant the City Council greater flexibility in determining the terms of city managers’ employment, while also clarifying the duties of the position.
City attorney, clerk
The measure redefines the powers and duties of the city attorney and city clerk and gives the council the option of hiring a law firm to handle the city’s legal matters rather than requiring that the city attorney be a staff employee.
New election date
As a cost-cutting measure, this charter amendment would move the May elections to November of even-numbered years. The change would coincide with federal, state, county, School Board and judicial races on the fall ballots, saving the city the expense of staging elections.
This amendment limits elected officials to “two consecutive four-year terms” instead of “eight consecutive years.” Officials would be allowed to run for office again after a two-year break.
Civil Service Board
Many of this nearly dormant board’s duties are taken care of by the city’s human resources department. So the city wants to get rid of it. For union employees, rules regarding promotion and discipline would not be affected.
For expediency, this measure would change the day election results are officially accepted — from election night to the second business day following the county’s official certification of the returns.
This would allow city business to proceed with only four council members at a meeting. The charter now requires five of the seven members to be there to take action. It’s a shame that the council has had problems with members leaving meetings early, losing its quorum.
This would rename the City Council the “City Commission.” Officials say it then would make the title of members gender neutral: commissioner instead of councilman or councilwoman.
The Miami Herald recommends a YES vote on all charter amendments in North Miami Beach.
Establish additional exception to prohibition on lobbying by city board members
Voters are being asked to approve a measure that will weaken a prohibition on the books that prohibits city board members and their associates from lobbying city personnel and agencies. This adds another needed buffer to let city administrators reach their decisions independently.
The Herald recommends a NO vote on this measure.
This measure is being sponsored by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. Miami Beach voters will be asked to amend the city’s lobbying ordinance. Currently, those who register as lobbyists are required to submit expenditure reports each year, even if they have no expenses associated with their lobbying activities. And those who neglect to do so are fined and reported to the Ethics Commission, which must then investigate the negligence.
But most of those identified as “violators” are not regular lobbyists, but professionals who are retained to work for the city on a limited basis and may not be familiar with the rules. If approved, the Ethics Commission would continue to enforce the rules for lobbyists who actually do incur expenses and fail to report them.
The Herald recommends a YES vote on this measure.
NOTE: In Miami Beach, a nonbinding straw ballot question related to alcohol regulations for Ocean Drive between 5th-15th streets has been withdrawn by the City Commission, but still appears on the ballot. Any vote cast for this public measure will not count.
(An earlier version of this story mistakenly recommended a Yes vote for the Miami Beach amendment allowing an exception on lobbying city board members)