- Faith & Family
In the January 31st Republican presidential primary election, Miami-Dade voters will get a chance to vote on three key issues for reform of the County commission, all for the price of just one vote: 1) Should commissioners be allowed to serve only two, four-year terms instead of the unlimited tenure that exists now? 2) Should commissioners be banned from all outside employment?; and 3) Should commissioners be paid $92,097 a year instead of their current $6,000?
One vote will approve (or disapprove) all three measures, leaving some county commissioners less than enthusiastic about the election itself.
“I am opposed to term limits.” said District 1 Commissioner Barbara Jordan. ”Citizens should have the right to vote for whoever they choose. After four years, you can just vote them out. There is a learning process just to learn who to call to get things done. Projects are not just bricks and mortar. It takes a while to see projects come out of the ground. You don’t see the fruits of your labors until years down the road.”
Jordan said term limits have proven costly to the people of Miami-Dade County in the past in terms of effective leaders.
“The people of south Dade lost a wonderful senator in Darryl Jones who was able to get a lot done,” she said. “Look how long it took for [District 9 Commissioner] Dennis Moss to get the cultural arts center in South Dade done. My predecessor, Betty Ferguson, was not able to get the funding in place for the recreational complex in Miami Gardens until she was walking out of the door. If you are not happy with your commissioner, vote them out!”
District 3 Commissioner Audrey Edmonson agrees.
“I generally believe that voters have the ability to set term limits at every election,” she said. “If a voter is not pleased with an elected official’s performance, they have the fundamental right to choose another. Look how term limits have affected our state governance. As soon as an elected official fully understands the process, garners support of their colleagues across party lines and prepares themselves for any leadership role, they are term-limited out. I think term limits do a disservice to the voters.”
First-term District 2 Commissioner Jean Monestime says he has always been a supporter of term limits.
Pay increase and other concerns
Edmonson opposes placing limits on someone’s earning capacity. Jordan believes it will limit the average citizen’s ability to run for office. She says that someone like Monestime, a small business owner, would have to give up his business to stay in office.
“Nowhere else in the state of Florida is this required,” she said. “Then you will have the game of people pretending to turn over their businesses to other people, just to run for office.”
Monestime believes that there should not be any restrictions on outside employment as long as that job or business does not present a conflict with the duty of a commissioner.
“Charter reform issues not only speak to the present, but also to the future,” Edmonson added. “They essentially change the way we govern. We (Blacks) must, again, get out and vote in every election regardless of how small or insignificant one may think it is.”
Monestime says he is not in favor of placing such an important referendum on the January 31st ballot, arguing that putting it on the ballot for the general election in November would have provided a greater opportunity for more voters to have their voices heard.
By Gregory W. Wright