Commission needs to do more to restore faith in government

Commissioner Lynda Bell

On Tuesday, Mar. 13, I presented legislation to Miami-Dade’s Internal Management and Fiscal Responsibility Committee, (which I chair) to prevent any elected county officials from lobbying an officer of Miami-Dade County for four years after their terms of office have ended.

This essentially doubles the current twoyear ban. Committee members voted 3-3 on the legislation, a tie vote that killed the item and prevented it from being considered by the full commission.

Recently, Miami-Dade’s Commission has been moving in the right direction. We have adopted groundbreaking legislation I sponsored mandating registered lobbyists and county employees undergo ethics training.

The contentious issue of commission term limits is up for the voters to decide during November’s general election. We have worked together to make it easier for our residents to petition their government by allowing them more time to collect signatures on voter-sponsored initiatives.

However, there is more we can do to bring accountability and integrity to Miami- Dade County. My colleagues and I must still consider legislation requiring elected county officials to seek an opinion from the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust if they are employed by an entity that receives county funding. And then there is the lobbying issue that failed to pass on Mar. 13.

What do those actions suggest about us? Serve your time honorably and then with a wink and a nod suggest you’ll soon be back to make a buck? This is not what the people want.

The intention of this legislation is to help guarantee that once your term in office has ended, it is time for you to move on. What good is it to pass term limits at the ballot box if we then turn around and come back as lobbyists in two short years? This is precisely what Miami-Dade residents have been railing against justifiably for so long as it undermines the very spirit of governmental reform.

It is clear that the residents of Miami- Dade County are frustrated with the neverending tug of war between themselves and their elected officials. I joined them in their disappointment this week as several of my colleagues failed to realize the importance of stopping a “revolving door.”

Their actions only work to perpetuate the sentiment that the county commission is out of touch.

We must learn from the egregious actions of Jack Abramoff in the halls of Congress and other examples of government at its worst. We need to take steps to ensure that history is not repeated.

After so much recent political turmoil and discord, our commission has a responsibility to prevent any future public corruption. We should be the legislative body that sets precedent, not follow what has been done in other counties and in Tallahassee. It is our responsibility as commissioners to listen to our constituents and acquiesce to their needs. This legislation is just one of many needed to restore the public’s trust that has been eroding over so many years.

I thank my colleagues, Commissioners Esteban Bovo and Xavier Suarez, who supported my legislation, and I urge my fellow commissioners who were opposed to reconsider their stance on this item. I plan to resubmit this legislation as soon as allowed by the rules of the commission.

For those who did not allow a full hearing on this item, I implore you to reach out to your constituents and see what they have to say on the issue. It is not lost on me that serving as a commissioner comes with great responsibility — one that is unmatched and built on public trust. This trust is all we have and we have ignored it to further our own ambitions once again.

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