I’m glad Representative Julio Robaina stepped up today and finally declared that through consolidation of city services, Miami-Dade taxpayers could save $50 Million Dollars. Although Robaina was speaking of only consolidating one branch of various municipal governments, it’s a step in the right direction- the direction that would consolidate all local municipalities under one effective roof. We have to stop undermining the power established by the Miami-Dade Home Rule Charter in 1957 and need to start using it to become a more efficient municipal entity. What do I mean? No more Surfside, Pinecrest, Miami Gardens, El Portal, Key Biscayne, etc. Sure the neighborhoods will still exist, but the municipal authority will be absent, consolidating their governing authority in the hands of an expanded and qualified (better paid too, obviously) county government. The majority of these municipalities are going to feel the crunch of the property tax reform anyway, bringing many of them to the brink of bankruptcy, seeing that the greater part of them are just bedroom communities without any real commerce or industry sectors. Heck, Imagine what it would look like if every census designated place became its own municipality…

It’s an idealistic situation, I’ll admit, but the fact that there isn’t a comprehensive governing body with the authority to draft area-wide planning/zoning, transit, development, greenways, etc. is pretty archaic.

Example 1:
MDT and county planning has had a plan to maximize density along the US-1 corridor (as they should) to maximize the overall system benefit of metrorail and the busway, allow for less westward growth, etc. However, each city along the corridor has final say on the TOD along their particular portion of the corridor. MDT and TOD developers have to therefore seek planning/density/zoning approval from whichever city their project resides as well as the county. It’s redundant! To make matters worse, every city has its own agenda: Pinecrest for example, has reduced density along their portion of the corridor (in a futile attempt to “prevent” further traffic.) Newsflash kids, the growth south and westward will cause far worse traffic through Pinecrest than any expanded development along US-1.

Example 2:
After the passage of the PTP in 2002, one of the first rail projects to come under consideration was the Miami-Miami Beach connection: Baylink. Despite the overall benefit (tourism, local access, etc.) the transit system would have provided to a greater proportion of the local population, Miami Beach politicians derailed the project, pushing back its earliest date for county consideration to 2015! MDT and the county could have pushed ahead without Miami Beach approval, but the elected governing body of the time lacked the political will to force the Beach agenda aside.

Neighborhoods have incorporated into proper municipalities to escape the corruption, abuse, or neglect that evolved in Miami’s County politics over time (Yes, I am aware that 25 of the 34 Municipalities were formed prior to the 1957 Charter.) Instead of adjusting the system to provide better public oversight, neighborhoods have been uniting and adding yet other layers to the local bureaucracy. Nowadays we’re looking to cut taxes, not services, why not cut the fat?

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7 Responses to It’s Time to Cut the Bureaucratic Fat Miami

  1. Anonymous says:

    Can you imagine the insanity (and the turf wars) if each municipality had its own school district? That’s what you find in many places around the country.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Actually, there is a lot of wiggle room in the Charter to regulate zoning that has countywide impact. They just haven’t really exercised it fully and have deferred to municipalities a lot. The UDB is probably the most notable example of this countywide authority.

    Even though cities do have a say in their zoning, you’d actually be surprised how many things within each city is actually [b]county[/b]-owned, especially streets. Most of your major roadways in each municipality, if they aren’t state roads, are county-owned and maintained.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You should be a little clearer and state that the $50 million savings mentioned in the article was from consolidating fire departments. A lot of services in the county already are wholly or partially consolidated, such as water and sewer, libraries, and traffic engineering.

    You only need to head north up to Broward to see what relatively ‘great’ shape Miami-Dade is in. They have at least 20+ different fire departments — we have only 6, while here in Dade 29 municipalities and the entire unincorporated area use MDFR. Consolidating police services would be another good money saver. Las Vegas and Clark County, Nevada merged their police and sheriff’s depts 30 years ago. More recently, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, NC did the same thing.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Gabriel.
    It’s easier said than done. Most municipalities, specially the wealthier ones would fight fiercely against consolidating entities.

    There are so many layers of government to have to go through to get anything done…It’s very inefficient. There has got to be more than 50 mill in savings…..

  5. Anonymous says:

    Can you imagine how many fire dept. employees would be laid off and how the fire union would react. I think this is good that Mr. Rubio is pointing out the overlap with different dept. but it is highly unlikely. Also, there is plenty of other fat that could be cut before getting into needed services.

  6. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Anon 1-
    Yeah, I’ve read/seen those and it is a nightmare, we are lucky to not be in that scenario. However, I recall just a few years ago Coral Gables was attempting to create its own school district…

    Anon 2-
    That’s precisely the point I was making, the authority exists we’re just allowing the various municipalities to undermine its authority. Plus it doesn’t help that the people in charge of the county decisions aren’t exactly the most trusted individuals…We need to elevate the importance of these positions, elect qualified individuals, and make it a Miami-Dade issue, not just unincorporated Dade’s…

    Anon 3-
    I figured by saying: “Although Robaina was speaking of only consolidating one branch of various municipal governments, it’s a step in the right direction-…” was clear enough… Yes, I understand that library, education, etc all fall under the powers of the county, but its the regional planning and transit which are constantly undermined by local municipalities…

    Anon 4-
    Thanks! We’re definitely shooting ourselves in the foot and hampering our region’s progress with so many layers of fat…

    Anon 5-
    Not necessarily, Unifying the system would mean they could be transferred to stations across the county. A hiring freeze would go into effect until the whole thing sorts itself out. What would happen is that many current ranking officials would possibly face demotions… I agree on looking into other sectors first but this multi-layer government issue is too blatant to be ignored…

    To all you Anonymous posters: You can also create “user names” by selecting other when leaving comments rather than anonymous. It would make it much easier to keep track of who is saying what when.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As hard as the City of Miami can be to deal with, every direct encounter I’ve ever had with Metro County departments and officials has been worse. Given a choice between dealing with Miami and dealing with Dade, I’ll take Miami in a heartbeat. At least the City’s employees try to be helpful. I’ve had County employees literally tell me, “Yes, I could help you… but I won’t, and I don’t have to.” The City of Miami might have bizarre bureaucracy, but the people running it generally bend over backwards to help residents navigate through it. County employees just plain don’t care, and aren’t bashful about showing it.

    Everything I said about Miami vs Dade goes for Coral Gables vs Dade, too… except Coral Gables isn’t quite as bureaucratic as Miami, and its employees are the best of all (partly because they know they could be fired and end up working for Dade if they suck).

    As for county-wide schools… that’s half the reason Dade schools suck so badly. There’s no continuity. Where I grew up, people joined the football boosters and band parents when their kids were there, and a lot of them lingered around long afterwards, and often were members of the same organization as two or more of their kids — born years apart — passed through before graduating. In Dade, a family with kids in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade could plausibly have every single one of them attending different schools, depending upon which way the wind blew the summer before their kids started high school.

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