CORAL GABLES, Fla. – In an overwhelming vote cast last week, Miami Dade residents have chosen to abolish the position of County Manager in 2012. Now, a few days later, many are wondering how this kind of vote will affect the way government is run in Miami Dade County.
Some of you may be wondering what exactly a county manager is. Basically, a county manager is an administrative assistant to the mayor. The President of the United States has a cabinet, but the mayor of Miami-Dade County has one right hand man who handles several issues. George Burgess, the Miami Dade County manager, runs the county government day to day and is given many wide ranging responsibilities. In many cases, it is almost like having two mayors. If you are wondering why it is necessary to have two people doing the same job then you are just as perplexed and frustrated as Miami Dade residents.
The county manager position has been around for decades with ineffective opposition. However, in recent years Miami Dade residents have become accustomed to hearing about the latest financial scandal and political uproar stemming from county hall. Either residents get duped or plans never get off the table. For instance, just last week it was announced that the new Marlins Stadium, which the county manager adamantly fought for, received much more public funding than was actually necessary. The controversial measure ended up taking about $2 billion from Miami Dade taxpayers for no reason. There is also the ever-present promise of expanding the transit system, which is direly needed but never seems to happen. And then when tax hikes occur to pay for said transit expansion most of the money is squandered with little to no progress. Needless to say, Miami Dade residents have become aggravated with the way the county performs.
Supporters of the measure which would remove the county manager are rejoicing as voters practically mandated that the county start changing its bureaucratic ways. County commissioners like Carlos Gimenez are claiming that vote is simply removing an unnecessary position from the charter, calling it “a move to get rid of a vestige of government that does not exist.” Others, like the current mayor, or not at all pleased claiming that Miami Dade is risking the loss of professionalism and will see many unwanted changes in the new form of government.
In short, Miami Dade has voted to empower the mayor, which furthers the county’s experiment of a government that relies on an individual leader. It also now remains unclear as to what the current county manager will be doing in the next two years as the county prepares its transition.
Regardless of what side our elected officials are on one thing remains certain: Miami Dade voters have spoken and they want change. Whether or not this kind of change will be good remains to be seen, however now officials know that their constituents mean business.
The Miami Herald
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