Letters to the Editor

Miami needs a strong-mayor system

When I became Miami’s city manager in 2003, former Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede offered to take bets on how long I’d last. I shocked him by serving nearly four years, but his instincts were right. I’ve never been politically correct, and the antiquated structure of Miami’s government requires the city manager to be a politician.

Miami’s structure is silly for two reasons. First, the city ostensibly hires a manager based on managerial and administrative skills. But those skills aren’t enough for the day-to-day reality in which the manager needs to count and court votes for even the simplest actions. Second, voters already elect politicians for mayor and city commission. Why do they need another politician operating in the shadows?

We hate the sneakiness that comes with hidden deals cut by unaccountable power-brokers. That’s why Miami needs to change to a strong-mayor form of government.

A mayor should be held accountable for successes and failures. But that’s impossible in a system defined by finger-pointing among commissioners, mayor, and manager. What we need is a system that maximizes the transparency, efficiency, and accountability of our leaders. That’s what a strong-mayor system accomplishes.

Don’t believe the critics who say strong mayors take professionalism out of public service. Great mayors — like great governors and great presidents — are aware of their own skills and shortcomings. They hire smart and talented professionals to fill the gaps and empower those people to do their jobs.

Our businesses, our public employees, and especially our residents deserve a clearly understandable form of government that responds to their needs. A strong mayor system would empower the leaders we elect and the voters who elect them.

Joe Arriola,

chairman, Public Health Trust,

Jackson Memorial Hospital,