Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Even three blind mice should vote for the executive mayor by gimleteye

In its opposition to the executive mayor referendum, the mainstream media can't stand what it sees--a public inclined to ignore despots in our midst.

Let us tell you how it is today.

Miami Dade county and its 2 million residents are governed by a county commission elected in thirteen separate, single member districts.

To get anything done, you need a majority of seven votes and sometimes, in the case of big land use deals, a supermajority of 2/3rds.

The cost of running a single campaign for a county commission seat is between $350,000 to $500,000.

So control of the county commission costs $2.1 million at the low end—and that’s only the money that is reported according to law.

Factor lobbyists and unreported cash, and the figure is easily double or triple. Still, it's a pittance for special interests.

If you look closely at reported contributions, which are available online, it is perfectly clear how industries associated with building and development plan their political investments.

Sure, a few county commissioners can be relied upon to deliver the public interest side of the equation, but they are ALWAYS a minority on the dais when it is time to vote where industry interests are involved.

So leaving aside the issue of a permanent and unassailable incumbency, there is the issue of the county manager who has nominal control of the bureaucracy serving the massive $6.5 billion annual budget.

The county commission hires the county manager. In other words, he has thirteen bosses.

We have watched county managers come and go. While some are better than others, the politicization of county departments is as bad as it could be: there are NO CHECKS OR BALANCES on the influence of special interests.

So when we read in the Sun Post that, “What will really happen is that it will be easier for special interests and political operatives to control virtually all-aspects of county government, provided their lobbyists and operatives can reach just one man — the mayor..." we shook our heads: no, no, no.

Let’s go back to the arithmetic.

In recent county commission races, challengers were only able to raise a fraction of funds raised by incumbents. In some cases, credible challengers raised less than 1/10th of the money raised by incumbents.

Any— ANY— contributor who does business with the county would not be caught dead with a record of having given to a challenger.

Why? Because special interests in Miami are absolute conformists when it comes to campaign contributions to incumbents.

The county commission is a permanent incumbency, controlled by special interests, who control a county manager.

It is an unreformable majority, we have said time and again.

We understand that once the executive mayor referendum passes, special interests will cultivate and fund their own candidate elected malleable to their needs.

But let's return to the arithmetic.

In a county-wide election for an executive mayor, special interests will raise an unlimited amount of money. Say, for instance, $10 to $15 million.

While a good government candidate (no matter how qualified or credible) would only be able to raise a fraction of that amount, we are optimistic that voters—across the county and not in single member districts—will be better focused by the opportunity of a single election, rather than 13 separate elections in which they only have one vote.

So here is the bottom line. It’s an easy decision to trade a system of government that is dyfunctional-by-design, for a new opportunity to elect an executive mayor across the county.

The public interest fares better across the county in a single election where campaign issues touch every voter, than in single member districts where voters do not even understand who is paying the incumbent or why.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your mathematical analysis, and add the following:

It is easier to "motivate" the individual commission district machinery to get them re-elected indefinitely - last election cycle only 11% of the electorate voted and incumbent commissioners won reelection with a miserly 8,000 to 12,000 votes, than it is to get 110,000 voters to support a "special interest" mayoral candidate countywide if the same 11% turnout were true.

In the meantime, we have at least 6 more years of good reform county government if we keep and re-elect Mayor Alvarez, and by then, who knows, people would have woken up and gotten used to an accountable, un-corruptable leader and will refuse to elect a special-interest funded mayor.

I still have faith in humanity!

yes, of course. said...

You forgot on your list!

* Research how to make commission districts single district or next best thing.