- Faith & Family
In his first state of the county address, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that the county was in good shape financially with a balanced budget. But as most readers know, it has not been an easy process. County workers, particularly those who are members of unions, have had to make significant sacrifices as it relates to pay and health insurance. Gimenez says that he’s already working on next year’s budget and will probably need to go back to labor unions for additional concessions.
“We have to get health care costs redesigned so that the County can save money while workers contribute a greater portion of their salary to health insurance,” he said. “But the mandate when I took office was to cut taxes and balance the budget — that took some tough decisions. The commission supported the concessions needed to balance the budget, instead of laying off hundreds of public safety officers and employees. And we’re still shaking up the county bureaucracy — reducing county departments from 42 to 26.”
He adds that the budget process will begin in earnest in June when the county gets the word on the tax rolls.
“We are hopeful that we won’t see more reductions in our property values because they are part of the equation that determine the revenue we get in Miami-Dade County,” he said. “Once those numbers come out we’ll begin to hammer out the next budget. It should be less challenging than what we faced the last time around.”
Gimenez has joined other members of the commission, including Rebecca Sosa, who are pushing for term limits, in one form or another, and believes it is a move that is long overdue.
“We need to establish eight-year term limits — the mayor and the president have it — it’s time that county commissioners follow the same rules,” he said. “Incumbents seem to stay and stay and while we have had some turnover on the commission, that’s more of the exception than the rule. I think a commissioner should be able to get the job done in eight years.”
Gimenez adds that if necessary, he will participate in a petition process to get term limits on the next ballot. He supports term limits with one term retroactive.
Cutting red tape key to small business growth
One of the criticisms many citizens lodged against the county last year was the deplorable number of summer jobs for youth, whose unemployment numbers among Blacks hover at close to 50 percent. The Mayor says it will take partnerships and collaborative approaches to bring more jobs to Miami-Dade County.
“When you look at jobs in the private sector, there are a lot of regulations and red tape that make it tough for small businesses to get started,” he said. “We will maintain an adequate work force in the county so that we maintain services, but we have to find more ways to cut our costs. We do have some things to celebrate: 18,000 non-agricultural jobs were added last year; we saw the second-largest monthly job increase in the Florida this past December; and unemployment numbers are now below their peak of over 14 percent. We are also working in conjunction with South Florida Workforce and making $1.5 million dollars available to college students from disadvantaged communities throughout the county. That’s so they can participate in paid internships with local businesses this summer. Job creation is still our top priority.”
Gimenez says there is much more to be done.
“Sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in a day,” he added.
By D. Kevin McNeir