|Miami-Dade votes for Strong-Mayor|
|Sunday, 28 January 2007 21:08|
“Strong mayor? What the dickens is a strong, mayor?” Nellie Foster, a Caribbean-American South Miami resident responded when CNWeekly News asked her if she was going to vote in the strong-mayor referendum held in Miami-Dade County on January 23. She was not alone in her confusion, as despite the long campaign spearheaded by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez for that county to change its mayoral status to that of a strong mayor, the majority of voters neither cared nor understand what difference a strong-mayor made to the county’s administration.
On Wednesday following the victory in the referendum Alvarez addressed media reporters at the Miami-Dade County Hall accompanied by the commission chairman, vice chairman and County Manager George Burgess.
Alvarez insisted that he won a mandate despite the turnout in the referendum. He said he'll soon tell the county's dozens of department directors what is expected of them; and issues such as the county's affordable housing crisis, cost overruns at Miami International Airport's North Terminal and public safety are high on his agenda. He also indicated that he would be speaking with Burgess to give him his vision of the future. He told the media that what would be discussed is the new relationship between himself as strong mayor and the county manager.
This was made obvious by the fact that only 14 percent of voters turned out to vote in the referendum, with 57 percent voting in favor of having a strong mayor. This means effective in the near future Mayor Alvarez will have supreme control over the County Commission. He will be responsible for hiring the county manager, who will also report to him, and the directors of most of the county departments, in addition to having authority over the management of the county’s budget, its employees and oversight of county contracts. Previously, the mayoral position was essentially ceremonial since the primary administrative person in the commission was the county manger who essentially “ran things.” Now Alvarez, as strong mayor, is one of South Florida’s most influential leaders.
Since Alvarez became mayor of Miami-Dade in 2004, he has been lobbying hard for the change to strong mayor, which in his opinion would stem the corrupt practices that have so often engulfed the Miami-Dade Commission. Alvarez thanked voters for their support, saying they had just passed the most important legislation the county has seen in 50 years. He said the people had spoken loud and clear. However, some of the people like Trevor Reid, a Jamaican barber in Perrine, feel that it is not advisable to put so much power in the hands of a mayor. “This is giving absolute power to the mayor, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said Reid, who voted no to the strong mayor proposal.
It is uncertain as to when the strong mayor will assume his new powers, although the county charter change indicates that the mayor can assume the new status in 60 days. However, there is another opinion that once Tuesday's votes are certified, which could be as early as Monday, Alvarez will assume the powers of strong mayor.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 11 February 2007 12:13|