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County voters reject pay raise and term limits for commissioners

admin | 2/8/2012, 7:30 a.m.

Charter reform efforts took another step backwards in the recent Miami-Dade County elections after voters once again decided not to give county commissioners significant pay raises in exchange for term limits. Voters have repeatedly rejected proposal to raise the commissioners salaries this time almost 58 percent said no. However, those who went to the polls, mostly Republicans because of the presidential primary contest, did approve a measure that will make it easier for citizens to get charter-amendment initiatives on county ballots. Now citizens will have twice as many days to collect petition signatures. Did apathy keep most voters at home? Voters may be tired of business as usual at County Hall and want to change the way things go on in county government, but you couldnt tell from the number of people that voted. Out of 1,214,351 registered voters in Miami-Dade County, only 167,828 ballots were cast a voter turnout percentage of 13.82 percent. Efforts by The Miami Times photographers to catch voters at the polls were futile as some places in Liberty City and Little Haiti appeared to be all but deserted. Several criticisms were lodged against the proposal one being that term limits would not have applied retroactively to sitting commissioners. Two of the commissioners Dennis C. Moss and Javier Suoto have been in office for almost 20 years, according to the county commissions office of communications. The other proposal that some say was even more problematic, was using a population-based state formula to raise salaries from $6,000 to $92,097 a year. Despite the pay raise coming with the caveat that commissioners could no longer seek outside employment, some say that with todays economy the pay boost was too high to approve. Political experts believe that if true county government reform is to ever take place, it will come on the heels of citizen-led initiatives like that of Miami auto billionaire Norman Braman, who put up the dollars in last years historic recall of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez. In addition, elected officials rarely call for their own term limits and would consider it political suicide to campaign for raises in their salaries. As was mentioned earlier, voters now have 120 days for collecting petition signatures for future proposed charter amendments and they must be on the next general election ballot as opposed to being scheduled as part of a special election. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com