Vanessa Brito Submits Petition for County Commissioner Term Limits

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Lost in the din of Mitt Romney's guttural Mormon victory cry and Newt Gingrich's helium-like baby whine -- we're not sure what Santorum sounds like -- was the fact that there was actually an important election last week.

Voters rejected a county charter amendment that would had slapped commissioners with term limits. It was a dispiriting set-back for Miamians still riding the high from last year's recall of Carlos Alvarez and Natacha Seijas.

The good news is that Vanessa Brito -- the woman who slayed Seijas's political career -- will turn in a petition for commissioner term limits later this morning. The bad news is that she will only have 120 days to gather at least 120,000 signatures in order to get it on the November ballot.

"Right now we have a lot of recycled politicians," says Brito, the head of PAC Miami Voice. "This gives new faces an opportunity."

Brito started planning the petition drive after term limits were rejected on January 31. But there were several problems with the amendment, she says: (1) it was proposed by the commissioners, who are about as popular as gangrene. And (2) it lumped term limits in with a ban on outside employment and, more importantly, a $92,000 salary.

The activist says it's little wonder that only 46 percent of voters supported it.

"92,000 is more than double the income of the average Miami Dade family," Brito points out. "The voters are not going to go for that. But if we start with term limits, at that point residents become more open to changing other things" like a professional salary and ban on outside employment.

Brito says that Mayor Carlos Gimenez backs the petition drive, but she says she doesn't spend much time worrying what the commissioners themselves think.

"I don't think it matters much whether they are on board or not because people don't like them," she says bluntly. "If they really want to serve Dade county, they will go along with voters' opinion."

Thanks to a charter reform that did pass last week, Miami Voice has 120 days (instead of 60) to gather at least 120,000 signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot. If successful, it would likely be put to a vote on election day in November when turn-out is highest.

"Unless (the commissioners) don't want it to pass," Brito says wryly. "Then they might put it on the August ballot."

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