Election season is here, and we begin our recommendations with six referendum questions Miami Beach voters are being asked to consider. They include giving a salary increase to the mayor and commissioners, naming a park and the process of filling vacancies on the commission. If approved, all would come become effective in the 2021 general election.
1. Increasing the mayor’s term and term limit:
This referendum would change the city charter to: increase mayor’s term to four years from two; change the mayor’s term limit to two four-year terms from three two-year terms; prohibit anyone from serving as mayor for more than eight years, including years previously served as mayor, except to complete a term, one-half of which has been served.
We recommend that this be approved. Here’s why: A two-year term places the mayor in the position of constantly being in campaign and fundraising mode. A longer term will allow the mayor some breathing room. Also, two four-year terms for Miami Beach’s mayor will comport with the terms of the Miami and Miami-Dade mayors. It just makes sense.
2. Increasing mayor and commissioners’ salaries
Back in 1966, the Miami Beach city charter set the annual compensation for each city commissioner at $6,000; for the mayor, $10,000.
Voters are being asked whether the charter should be amended to increase commissioners’ annual salary at $45,381 and the mayor’s to $75,636. These would increase annually based upon the Consumer Price Index, but not to exceed 3 percent a year.
We understand the salary increase would be an added financial burden on the city, but the critical detail here is “1966.” Back then, Miami Beach was a sleepier city with a specific tourism season. A mayor would be busy during the winter. But a salary set more than five decades ago no longer is adequate — in any field of endeavor, including that of city commissioner and mayor. Miami Beach is a 24/7 town, and its elected officials pretty much are on call. The out-of-date salary also means that Beach residents with middle- or working-class salaries likely can’t afford to seek office. There should be a more inclusive, rather than exclusive, pool of residents who can be public servants. That’s all to the good.
3. Filling City Commission vacancies
Should the charter be amended to change the procedure for filling vacancies on the City Commission when someone resigns? The change would mainly clarify that, in the case of any vacancy, the commission is not required to appoint someone to fill it, but instead must decide whether to appoint or schedule an election. The commission also would establish timing of appointments and elections.
This would clarify the procedure when a commission seat is left open before an election.
4. Naming the Convention Center Park “Pride Park”
Voters are being asked to name new city green space “Pride Park” in honor of the LGBTQ community. In April, the city began construction of a 5.8-acre public park in the parking lot across from the convention center, just west of Convention Center Drive, east of Meridian Avenue, and between 18th and 19th streets. The park will include wandering paths around a central lawn, play and fitness areas and a Veterans Plaza.
Green space in the middle of a concrete jungle is essential; naming it in honor of a large and valued population of the Miami Beach community is even better.
5. New floor-area ratio in historic buildings
This is a land-use item that was reviewed by the city’s planning department and received favorable recommendations from the manager’s office. This measure makes it easier to attract more offices to Miami Beach and, in turn, bring more daytime activity to the city, well-known for its night life. The city would gain more flexibility to allow the expansion of historic buildings under limited circumstances. The question is related to the floor-area ratio (FAR), which the city uses to regulate the overall size of new buildings. Currently, new floor area cannot be added to the interior of historic buildings that have no available floor area, unless city voters approve an FAR increase. We like this as long as the nature of historic buildings is unharmed. Voters can help boost foot traffic and the economy.
6. Increase floor-area ratio along Washington Avenue, Alton Road
This issue is similar to Referendum 5 aimed at making it easier to generate more daytime activity in the city, but deals with a specific business area. This measure would allow higher density in certain buildings along Washington Avenue and Alton Road, in which at least a quarter of the space is used for offices.
The Editorial Board will publish its recommendations for Miami Beach and city of Miami commissioners this week.