A performance audit conducted for the City of South Miami by Dr. Howard Frank, Director of the FIU Metropolitan Center, drew a charge of racism from Mayor Philip Stoddard at the December 7 Commission meeting.
Critical of Dr. Frank’s findings reported with Anglo-Saxon and Non Anglo-Saxon breakdowns, Stoddard called that reporting “divisive and a bit racist,” claiming ethnic separations were unnecessary in lieu of more useful information.
Noting the remarks, Dr. Frank repeatedly stated that neither division or racism was ever intended in any way. The audit stems from a City charter that states each department is to be audited at least every five years with two methods used to obtain the data.
The audit includes a review of city documents and interviews with senior department manager, as well as a random survey of 400 residents. The audit process was conducted over a two-week time frame with all applicants asked the same survey questions.
According to Dr. Frank, the survey’s positive findings included the feeling that there were clear and concise roles and responsibilities among the city officials; that department heads felt empowered to perform their jobs; that people were happy with the budget for the last fiscal year and that there was good communication with the people of the community.
Negative findings included the absence of a larger sense of strategy within the city government, lack of training for city workers, and an excess of responsibility placed on employees who upon leaving a position ultimately deliver a negative impact.
On the positive side, Dr. Frank concluded that a majority of residents audited were pleased to be living in South Miami and would recommend the city for others as a residence.
Issues residents considered most salient were public safety and property taxes with top priorities for city officials listed as government accountability, crime and safety.
Commissioner Brian Beasley, expressing pleasure the audit had been completed, said “I’m glad we are moving in the right direction to correct our weaknesses and make our strengths even stronger.”
LACK OF HOLIDAY LIGHTS CRITICIZED; “WE DROPPED THE BALL’
The absence of holiday lights throughout the city saw concerned resident and business owner, John Edward Smith, criticize the City for taking holiday lights out of the current year’s budget.:
“While one of the themes of the holidays is ‘May your days be merry and bright’, we’re not going to have a bright Sunset Drive,” declared Smith, noting business merchants and residents alike complain that while parking rates increased, holiday lights were lacking.
“It’s a horrible disappointment, its tragic,” he concluded. “Where is the communication that could have gone on between management, elected officials and merchants? Right now it’s dark and the perception is not good in our community.
“ Citing a lack of budget room for the expense, City Manager Hector Mirabile noted Public Works’ manpower and time would require an expenditure of $26,000, five workers on 10-hour workdays and weekends for two consecutive weeks for decoration in 2010.
Vice Mayor Valerie Newman expressed dismay, commenting she didn’t recall making any conscious decisions not to light the city and conceded: “We messed up and it’s a colossal disappointment to me, as well. I apologize to everyone.
“We dropped the ball,” she added.