Thursday, January 10, 2008

Trying Times: the Miami-Dade Charter Review Commission!, by gimleteye

I choked on my coffee over this morning's paper. It wasn’t the sports section headline, “Trying Times”, in which the wasting disease afflicting Miami’s real estate markets, football and baseball teams has spread to basketball.

Reform of county government has been one of our primary topics on eyeonmiami. So the B section headline, “Dade may give voters more say”, was something of a shock notwithstanding its conditional nature.

The county charter review commission is apparently embracing the concept at the heart of Florida Hometown Democracy: that voters should have the final say on land use changes related to long-term planning. In particular, the charter review commission proposes an interesting series of steps leading to a public vote on changes to the Urban Development Boundary.

Votes, like those surrounding the UDB, have turned county government into a spectacle, a circus, a massive feeding frenzy for lobbyists by focusing all attention on zoning matters in which powerful elites form around the vast cash machinery involved in spreading suburban sprawl to farmland and open space. It is a system designed to breed speculation and excess--whose bitter fruit we are now reaping in the form of the sharpest real estate bust in a century.

The corrupting effects related to zoning changes around the UDB are massive, including what has happened to the poor and disadvantaged (ie. the county housing agency scandal). While county commissioners were wined and dined by lobbyists intent on influencing zoning decisions in farmland and open space beyond the urban service boundary, the thieves stripped bare the cupboards serving Miami's poorest communities.

It is doubly upsetting, to watch local county commissioners vent and fume about the need for “local control” when their decisions on land use plans so clearly conflict with state planning mandates, turning the zoning process outside the UDB into one big clusterf#$k, absorbing massive amounts of time and energy, sapping the vitality, spirit and promise of democracy into a flag-waving event for political sycophants and a long train of lobbyists, fee collectors and carpet baggers.

So it is interesting to read what the political appointees on the charter review committee have proposed to send to the county commission: give voters more say.

The record is clear, for all the ways the Miami Dade county commission has labored to give voters LESS say: intimidating citizens collecting referendum signatures, (remember how the Hialeah police department, last year, under pressure from County Commissioner Natacha Seijas falsely imprisoned petitioned gatherers from outside a Hialeah Publix collecting signatures for her recall?), voting to spend county money on their own propaganda machinery, raising the threshold on the format of petitions: all with a single purpose, to reinforce the charade that representative democracy at the local level has become.

In these blatantly anti-democratic measures, the Miami Dade County Commission has followed the Florida legislature, which itself (and with the support of then Governor Jeb Bush) raised the bar very high against just such a measure as being proposed by the Miami Dade Charter Review Commission.

Florida Hometown Democracy is the grass-roots citizens' movement seeking to change the constitution by referendum, in order to make the change proposed by the charter review commission a state-wide mandate. (As reported by the Miami Herald, the steps recommended by the charter review commission are an interesting take on FHD.)

In response to the threat of FHD, the Growth Machine successfully influenced the state legislature to pass a new constitutional requirement; now a 60 percent supermajority of qualified voters, not a simple majority, must sign petitions to put a referendum on state-wide ballot.

The legislature also passed a measure allowing corporations to bar signature gathering from outside their premises at places like malls where people tend to congregate, hoping to stymy FHD.

We have spent hours writing about the importance of the Charter Review Commission, that is tasked with offering up recommendations to the county commission. We have raised a skeptical voice, on whether the county commission would ever vote on substantive reform.

“We all know this is a recommendation this commission will surely ignore,” said task force member Maurice Ferre, a former Miami mayor, referring to the UDB idea.”

Just watch how voters respond, when they are finally given the chance by the state-wide referendum initiated by Florida Hometown Democracy, to vote on the same idea.


out of sight said...

I read the article this morning... and re-read it and re-read it. I was thinking that I am missing something, that certainly came out of the blue and of course, it will never happen in real life. I even can imagine that this is a way to defuse the petition drive in the county...

What's the deadline on the Hometown signatures?

Anonymous said...


You forgot to mention that there was one Commissioner among the appointees who voted to recommend this measure, Carlos Gimenez. Miami-Dade County would be a much better place if he was elevated to the position of Chairperson or County Mayor. At the end of the day, you believe that he acts in the best interests of the County and its residents. He is trying to reign in the out of control budget process in the County, he knows how to run government efficiently (see how well the City was doing under his watch, and how since he left, it has slipped and slipped and slipped).

Some "activists" are sometimes disappointed because Gimenez does not agree with them 100% of the time, but, at the end of the day, I believe that gives him way more credibility, and always better than the all or nothing approach that Commissioner Sorenson seems to employ.

As for Hometown Democracy, I do not agree with that as to regular Comp Plan amendments, however, expansion of the UDB is a different story. There will come a time when we have to expand into the UDB, that time is not now, however, to ensure that the UDB is moved, only when necessary, I think it is important to add the electorate referendum requirement to the mix. The problem with extending this to regular Comp Plan amendments is that there are so many, that voters will just vote no because they won't take the time to study each on a case by case basis and take into account the merits of each application. There is bad development and there is good development, contrary to what some may think. In the same vain, there are bad comp plan amendments and good comp plan amendments.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor, don't forget the mayor...he vetoed the package....I want to support the mayor in his re-election because of his UDB stand.

Geniusofdespair said...


Anonymous said...

I want to support the mayor in his re-election because of his UDB stand.

Do you think the mayor's staff didn't take getting your vote into account when they decided to veto?

Every move for any politico for the next year will be based on vote getting, whether is a mayor, a commissioner, a councilman, governor, congressman or President.
While it will be great for pushing your things through the political system, it is also dangerous because of the politicians doing a bait (get your vote) and switch (do what I want after the win). So, be careful what you believe. The mayor will be term limited and he very well may be building very different alliances after he is reelected and needs more than your vote to move up.

Additionally, watch any political type in their term limited seats with no political ambition after the next election. If they win, they will do whatever they feel like because they have no stake in being being reelected.

On the flip side of that, is the elected official who wants to be King and will use anything he can think of to get your attention and name recognition. We have a bit of that going on right now at state level.

Anonymous said...

You might find this interesting:

Anonymous said...

I too was surprised at the recommendation to let people vote on UDB changes. Call me a cynic, but the devil in the detail is the "independent committee" that will make recommendations to the BCC. If it is like our other "independent" boards (appointed by the BCC), I don't look for truly independent voices. If it make it to a ballot, it will pass; then the BCC can start to systematically dismantle anything that is good about it!

out of sight said...

Wow. That article cited above is great! It lays it out just like it is.


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