Bell pushes term limits, recaps tax-saving effort

Commissioner Linda Bell is greeted by KFHA president Michael Rosenberg.

Miami-Dade County commissioners should be limited to two four-year terms with a limit of eight years service, Commissioner Lynda Bell told members of the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) during a meeting on Feb. 23.

In her first public appearance at a Kendall forum this year, Bell said voters are justifiably frustrated with a neverending “tug-of-war” between themselves and elected officials.

Together with District 6 Commissioner Rebecca Sosa, Bell is co-sponsoring a measure to place the matter before voters during the General Election on Nov. 6. If passed, it would become effective immediately.

Bell said a suggestion by KFHA’s Marvin Stein that salary raises could be phased-in over two- to 10-year time periods “was certainly an idea worth looking into.” She noted the $6,000 current commission salary has existed as part of the Home Rule Charter since 1957.

A Jan. 31 ballot saw county voters soundly defeat a proposal setting eightyear commission term limits (excluding time in office before 2012) while banning outside employment and raising commissioners’ salaries to about $92,097 annually.

A second amendment increasing petition time to 120 from 60 days caused former KFHA president Miles Moss to reflect that a “moratorium” on incorporation movements still exists by the need to gain 25 percent of voters’ signatures to create a ballot initiative.

While Bell had no answer for the current restriction, she stated, “I have always believed that it is up to the people to decide any issue — and if Kendall wants to incorporate, the voters have the right to petition to do so.”

Ken Karger of KHFA asked Bell if she thought Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his administration had been effective in saving taxpayers money.

“I think overall that the mayor is doing a good job,” Bell said. “He’s still working on efforts to restructure the way county government works.”

Bell did praise Gimenez’s appointment of four deputy directors while sharply reducing the number of department heads, noting “these were, I believe, effective appointments and the individuals have proven to be top-notch administrators to work with.”

She added, “However, there’s always room for improvement.”

Bell said “sticking to the 5 percent across-the-board cut” saved the county an estimated $40 million, rather than approval of a 4 percent offer from civil service negotiators to increase employee healthcare contributions.

She also pointed to her four-part ethics reform package that includes a training program for county employees and lobbyists, gift restrictions and Sunshine Law review, increasing a ban on ex-commissioner lobbying from two to four years, and a requirement for an ethics opinion in advance of county employees receiving payment from a county-funded organization.

Bell, a former Homestead mayor, was welcomed by newly elected KFHA president Michael Rosenberg who replaced Lee Zimmerman in the position. Zimmerman now serves as vice president.

Rosenberg, who currently is pushing for reform in both animal services and disputes over water bill payments, said in his inaugural remarks, “When I see something that needs fixing, I just start working on it.”

Noting “we’re going to continue even more forums to bring local issues to Kendall people in the future,” Rosenberg said KFHA will schedule Mayor Gimenez for a discussion of local issues for its next Town Hall meeting on Thursday, Mar. 22, 7 p.m., in the Kendall Village Center Civic Pavilion, 8625 SW 124 Ave.

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