Community News publisher Grant Miller wrote a column in which he accuses unnamed South Miami City commissioners of improperly directing staff, (“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, Community News, 25 June, 2018). Grant wrote: “It’s a dirty little secret that members of the commission frequently pick up the phone and call staff and tell them what to do. Can’t help but wonder of [sic] that happens to Code Enforcement?”
Grant has not taken my twice-daily phone calls since the article came out, so I’m forced to respond in writing.
Frankly, I’m skeptical of his claim. Outside the three charter officers hired directly by the Commission (the City Manager, City Clerk and, City Attorney) no staff are directed by elected officials. If elected officials directed city staff in the past, it has certainly not happened for the past six years under our current City Manager, Steven Alexander. Mr. Alexander, INSISTS that elected officials go through him when engaging his staff, a rule enshrined in the City Charter. If Mr. Alexander approves a commissioner to engage staff directly on a specific matter, he still insists that he be copied on all correspondence with staff. If the conversation is by phone or in person, Mr. Alexander gets briefed by staff afterwards.
Grant wonders aloud about Code Enforcement. Residents and business owners frequently send complaints to the mayor or commission members, and they are always welcome to do so. When I get a code complaint by phone, text, or email, I forward it by email to the City Manager (thereby making it a public record), and the Manager relays it to staff. I may bike over and take a look myself before doing so. If the matter is easy to resolve, like a fallen traffic sign, I’ll refer it to Deputy City Manager, Shari Kamali, with a copy to the Manager. If the originator asks to have his or her identity withheld, I honor that request provided that I can verify the person’s name and address.
If I’m biking through the City and I see a trip hazard, damaged infrastructure, or a pile of trash where it doesn’t belong, I snap a cell phone photo and email it to the Manager and Ms. Kamali (who oversees Code and Public Works) for follow-up. But, if I see a problematic code infraction on private property, I’ll most often inform the property owner that the matter is a code violation, since many people simply don’t know the code rules, or don’t realize that someone actually cares. That usually does the job.
Do I have a bias? It’s surely true that I bike some routes more than others, and I’m more annoyed by illegal trash on the public easement than by a blue tarp on someone’s roof. But we have no “dirty little secrets”.
Provided Grant can lay off the undocumented innuendo, he’s safe to take my phone calls again. Grant’s son and my daughter are working in the same office this summer in DC – we proud papas always have lots to talk about.