Term limits pushed by Commissioner Gimenez

By Richard Yager….

Miles Moss (left) is honored by Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez during the Jan. 10 meeting as retiring KFHA president.

Promising to seek term limits for Miami-Dade commissioners by referendum, if not agreed to by his colleagues, District 7 Commissioner Carlos A. Gimenez reiterated well-known changes he favors in Miami-Dade’s charter to “reflect what people want in local government.”

His hour-long review of current recall efforts before more than 50 residents attending a Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) meeting was capped by Gimenez’s declaring Jan. 10 as “Miles Moss Day” to honor the 15 years’ service to the organization by the retiring president.

The most heartwarming applause of the evening was reserved for the surprise presentation of an official proclamation when Gimenez concluded a question-and-answer session, saying, “I have another important reason for coming here tonight.”

The East Kendall commissioner then read a document citing Moss for “extraordinary achievements” after 15 years as KFHA president, bringing the audience to its feet for a standing ovation.

Earlier in the meeting Gimenez answered questions about Home Rule Charter revision, vowing that if necessary, he would initiate and sponsor petitions asking legislation for a ballot referendum to impose two-term limits on Miami-Dade Commission to “get fresh blood into county representative government.”

His comments came before a Jan. 13 commission meeting when his colleagues were scheduled to decide both the dating of the recall election of Mayor Carlos Alvarez and the possibility that charter changes effecting mayoral succession also would be included on that ballot.

In the past, Gimenez has gone as far as refusing to attend a special meeting on the recall election to deny a quorum for action that he believed could be manipulative by replacing Alvarez by commission appointment, rather than allowing for a subsequent referendum.

“We know for certain a recall must now take place,” Gimenez pointed out. “If the voters support the mayor and vote against recall, that’s it; the question is settled.

“But if the mayor is recalled, the commission has the option of appointing one of its members to serve out the term.”

In both written articles and public stances, Gimenez has fought to combine the Alvarez and Natacha Seijas recall elections on a single ballot to save costs while declaring that changes in the home rule charter also should have a thorough public hearing and be called for countywide voting on the same ballot.

“The process of replacing a recalled mayor already exists in the charter, and if necessary, can be replaced by a transitional mayoral appointment, prior to a countywide vote for a new mayor,” Gimenez stated.

Both limitation of commission terms to two consecutive four-year terms and creation of several new “at large” (countywide) voting districts were two key changes Gimenez said were needed to respond to current voter criticisms of the existing commission.

“It’s very difficult today to defeat an incumbent commissioner seeking reelection,” Gimenez observed.

He advocated changing elective seats to “a system more like that of Jacksonville, where the commission is divided between local districts and at-large, countywide seats, to better represent countywide voter thinking.”

In other matters:

Asked about changing the appointive MDX (Miami Expressway Authority) Board to an elected body, Gimenez said, “I would agree with that and would sponsor such legislation; I favor putting government directly in the hands of people.”

On the county’s fiscal 2011-12 budget, he said, “It will need an additional $100 million to be raised to cover salary and wage increases previously voted. We’re going to have to do that without any new sources of revenue” stated Gimenez who voted against new contracts raising wages.

On international junkets by commission members and county officials, he said, “They spend more money than they need to…but certain countries, like Brazil, deserve our attention.”

On holding a higher-paying commission office, he said, “$92,000 is a decent salary, I certainly would be happy with it; the commission seat should be a fulltime job and its members should not hold down a ‘second’ job while serving the public in office.”

The session saw newly elected KFHA president Lee Zimmerman conduct his first meeting. Zimmerman noted that Mayor Carlos Alvarez has been invited to address the next KFHA Town Meeting, scheduled on Feb. 7.

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