A bill sponsored by Miami Republican Frank Artilles that would bring back the position of an elected mayor position in Miami-Dade County advanced in a Florida Senate Committee on Tuesday.
The Florida Constitution requires each county to elect a county sheriff, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, tax collector, and clerk of circuit courts. However, the constitution also allowed individual counties to change the way those positions (or equivalent positions) are filled either by special vote or in the county charter. Miami-Dade is the only county out of the 67 in the state that does not elect their sheriff. In their current system of governance, Miami-Dade has an appointed chief law-enforcement officer whose title is Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Officially, the county government wants to keep things just the way they are.
“We’re opposed most significantly to the state deciding for Miami-Dade County, because even if Dade had voted against an elected sheriff, the rest of the state could impose that elected sheriff on Miami Dade County,” said Jess McCarty, a lobbyist for the Miami-Dade County government. “And I would ask each of you to think of your own communities, whether that’s what you would like – the state voting on local affairs?”
Fellow Miami resident Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat, also opposes the proposal. “I don’t think that a very, very blunt instrument going statewide is the way to resolve this.”
“We need autonomy. We need some separation of power. Otherwise you have absolute power and absolute corruption,” said John Rivera the president of both the statewide and Miami-Dade County chapter of the Florida Police Benevolent Association. He said that Carlos Gimenez, the current Miami-Dade County Mayor, prefers the status quo.
“The Mayor has too much power,” complained North Miami Beach Senate Democrat Daphne Campbell. “This is why Miami did have so much corruption going on,” she said. “Once you’re elected, you have eyes watching you. When you’re selected, you have nobody watching you.”
She also accused Gimenez of intimidating his opponents.
Gimenez has been thrust into the national spotlight in recent weeks, after he became one of the first mayors in the country to renounce his jurisdiction’s status as a sanctuary county, after President Trump threatened to yank federal funding from those cities and counties around the nation.
“It just does not compute to me that the sheriff is not elected,” said Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean. “Let’s give Miami-Dade a chance to have elected officials that are directly accountable to the people.”
And that’s exactly what the Senate Community Affairs Committee did on Tuesday, with only Campbell and Javier Rodriguez dissenting.
Artiles’ proposal needs approval by three-fifths of the Senate and three-fifths of the House, as well as support from 60 percent of voters in the 2018 election. It would apply statewide.