Volsky on “Emulating Mayor Gimenez”

GEORGE VOLSKY

                                                                 COMMISSION: EMULATLE MAYOR GIMENEZ

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’ inaugural speech Wednesday, most local political observers concur, was one of the best by an elected official here in a long while, and because his address was also very short and to the point it was doubly convincing.

While Gimenez spoke to all 2.5 million  county residents, Coral Gables commissioners and administrators  should, and hopefully will, agree with it and emulate his political and economic premises.

Like Miami-Dade, Coral Gables is in the process of discussing and approving its 2011-2012 budget.  Gimenez is obliged to submit his budget to the County Commission by July 15. The draft of ours was made available to the public Tuesday, which has not afforded time for its proper analysis  by experts and residents at large.

But our commission would do well to apply Gimenez’s budgetary guidelines to our process. Importantly, he pledged to roll back the tax increase of his predecessor, Carlos Alvarez, whose recall by almost 80 percent of the vote, had led to the March 15 election of Gimenez, a former county commissioner and Miami city manager.

The draft of our budget reduces somewhat Coral Gables’ tax rate, but apparently not as much as many residents had expected and thought easily achievable. This could be changed by the commission which can cut redundant expenditures, mainly for inept, highly paid city employees. The commission can also order that the functions of one multi-million department be outsourced, which could save at least $2 million. That department is Information Technology  viewed by many expert city employees view as inefficient and wasteful. Even after a budget cut of $550,000, IT will continue to cost taxpayers $4.248,541 in 2011-2012, which most people regard as an extraordinary drain on the city’s tight resources.

The key paragraphs in Gimenez’s address were the following: “There is no doubt that the problems we inherited in this budget will require shared sacrifice throughout county government.  I have already taken a 50% cut in my salary and benefits and while that is not a level of sacrifice I am asking of anyone else, make no mistake, there will be salary adjustments.  I have also reached out to the unions in good faith and am hopeful we can work together to reach an agreement.”

“The taxpayers of Miami-Dade County spoke loud and clear on March 15. They demandthat we use their money wisely and we are obliged to respond accordingly. We must never forget that we work for them. (Underlined bold letters  throughout this article are in the address’ written text.)

Several of our residents, appraised of those paragraphs, said  that Gimenez’ unadorned view that elected and appointed officials must put the taxpayers’ interests well above those of  the local government’s bureaucratic structure has not been enunciated  in Coral Gables for very long time, if ever. And time will tell whether  our commission, like Gimenez,  will insist that   the 2011-2012 budget include downward salary adjustments, at least of the highest paid officials, clearly  in store for the county.

Framing a taxpayer-friendly budget for the county (as it should be for our city) will be “truly a defining moment – and a sobering one as well, ” Gimenez said. He added  that while serving the community “with honesty, integrity and transparency, his “primary goal will be to restore trust in county government.”

Fortunately for Coral Gables, our latest election restored in a considerable measure the trust in local government. But the electorate has not given  the city commission, with new mayor and one new commissioner, a carte blanche. It clearly expects,  as Gimenez said about the county, that it will do what is best for our residents and taxpayers.  

Evoking John F. Kennedy, Gimenez  concluded: “I ask my fellow citizens to join us as we work toward a better Miami-Dade County. Your participation in the important decisions that contribute to our future is essential… We need your support and your input to create a county that we all can be proud of, and community that will allow future generations to grow and prosper. There is no end to what we can accomplish together.”

About Stephen E. McGaughey
International consultant in economic development programs and projects

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