Who would have thought the recall could have brought this, but now we have a real opportunity within the next couple of months to make some real, lasting changes at the county about the way our leaders are elected and, maybe, even how our public money is spent.
We can (it can be done) have charter amendments included in this next special election to replace the recalled Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas. That might make the $5 million cost of he election more palatable, and a better investment.
Will the commission snatch it away from us? Don't let them. Here's the deal:
The Miami-Dade commission has apparently agreed to meet Thursday to set a date for a special election to for the recall replacements (they don't dare appoint someone). Commission Chairman Joe Martinez said in a memo to his colleagues that they might also discuss charter amendments at that meeting. But I hope they talk about the latter first. Because they may have to table the mayoral and commission election, due to a timing conflict. Once commissioners decide to have a special election, they have to set a date within 45 days. But the law requires at least 60 days before they can put charter amendments on the ballot. That's a lousy 15-day gap.
And, maybe he forgot, but Commissioner Martinez (who wants to run for mayor in 2012) knows this. He said so himself at the Latin American Business Association meeting Wednesday in Coral Gables, that "because of the time limits" they could not include charter amendments in the certain election.
But wait just one second, Joe. There is one way that the commission could indeed include charter change requests and put the horse before the cart (what a concept!). When you meet next week, rather than set a date for the mayoral meeting, set a date for a referendum on charter changes like the term limits and district wide seats the public has been clamoring for. And you can add something about limiting public spending to $xx million unless the voters say so (that's my own). Then, later, at least 45 days or less before the charter amendments ballot date, you can set the date for the mayoral and commission races on that same ballot. Bingo!
Admittedly, it's not Ladra's idea. Wish we could have thought of it first. But Ladra got a memo forwarded to her that was sent to Martinez, who is running for mayor in 2012, from Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, who is running for mayor now and is willing to wait to set the date for that race. Gimenez did the math and suggested that the commission choose May 24, which is the soonest they can set the election for the charter amendments, at Thursday's meeting. Then, he wrote, the commission should meet a second time April 11 to discuss the process to replace the mayor and District 13 commissioner, and then put it on the May 24 ballot with the charter amendments.
Yes, we realize this leaves less than two months to write ballot language and get it approved. But the language should be easy to copy and customize from other municipalities. We think it is an opportunity we can't afford to lose if we are going to spend $5 million on a post-recall election. Let's get our money's worth. What a bang for our buck!