Politics

Turns Out Voters Don't Think County Commissioners Deserve an $86,000 Raise

​After a fantastic performance over the past few years -- from backing a grotesquely bad Marlins stadium deal to voting for a billion-dollar tunnel to nowhere to faithfully rewarding their corporate backers -- Miami-Dade County commissioners sure seemed due for a hefty pay raise. Right?

Nah, Dade voters aren't that dumb. Amid the Republican shock-and-awe show yesterday, they easily voted down an amendment to give commissioners an $86,000 bump. Of course the real travesty is that the pay increase was sneakily tied into an amendment any sane voter would want -- commission term limits.


Yesterday's amendment grew out of auto magnate Norman Braman's successful recall effort against County Mayor Carlos Alvarez last year. After booting Alvarez, Braman drew up a "covenant" for the commissioners that would have imposed term limits and forbidden outside employment.

Of course, after playing nice and acting cooperative, the commission screwed up Braman's worthy idea so badly that he ended up opposing the amendment that appeared on yesterday's ballots.

Braman objected to not just the hefty pay raise -- after all, commissioners would need some kind of pay bump from their ceremonial $6,000 salary if they couldn't hold other employment -- but also the term limits, because they would be applied retroactively to the current commissioners.

"If the amendment had been approved, there would be certain commissioners that would basically be there until 2020, and that's just not acceptable to the public," Braman told the Miami Herald this morning.

Of course, commissioners knew full well that amid rampant unemployment and general disgust toward local politicos, Miamians would never back the pay increase.

To wit: At the Publix near New Times HQ yesterday, a bagger and a cashier started trashing the proposal totally unprompted. "How can they ask for a raise when we can't make a living?" the bagger asked, laughing sarcastically.

It's a conversation that surely carried out across town yesterday. In the end, 54 percent of voters rejected the measure.

Commissioners no doubt would have liked to get that extra $86,000, but you can bet they're happy this morning to keep living in the status quo, with no term limits, no ban on outside employment, and plenty of chances to keep the graft and quid pro quo faucets wide open.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink