Miami Beach is abuzz with news and excitement over the upcoming local elections with Vote-By-Mail beginning this month, followed by Early Voting and Election Day on November 5. Mayor Gelber faced no opposition and will serve an additional two-year term. I was proud to endorse him and am delighted to see the Mayor back on the dais.
There are also six important ballot questions. I have received a number of resident inquiries and wanted to share some information and perspective that may help in your decision-making process. This link includes the actual ballot questions and official explanation from the City:
In addition, below I have summarized my opinion as to the essence of each question as well as my vote and rationale.
Ballot Question 1: Increasing Mayor’s Term and Changing Mayor’s Term
This ballot question concerns increasing the Mayor’s term from two years to four years. If approved by the City’s voters, all members of the City Commission – including the Mayor – will have a four-year term, with a maximum term limit of eight years (two four-year terms) starting in November 2021.
NO – The current Mayoral two-year term structure has served Miami Beach well and provides significant accountability for this important office to the voters. In addition, given that three Commissioners are on the ballot every cycle, keeping the Mayor on two-year terms allows residents to change the majority of their City Commission if they so choose. Finally, I believe that voter participation is important to a thriving city, and we are challenged by having our races in odd years without other major elections. A Mayoral race increases community interest and engagement, and so this change would likely decrease turnout to an even lower level.
Ballot Question 2: Amend City Charter to Increase Annual Compensation of Mayor and City Commissioners
The ballot question asks voters whether Mayor and Commissioner compensations should be increased, starting in 2021 (in other words, if approved, the increased compensations will not immediately apply to sitting members of the City Commission). Specifically, the question asks whether effective with the City’s General Election in 2021, the Mayor’s annual compensation should be increased from $10,000 to $75,636, and whether the annual compensation of each City Commissioner should be increased from $6,000 to $45,381. These new figures reflect the annual cost of living increase from 1966 to the present, and additionally, the new salaries would be increased annually based on the Consumer Price Index. Separately, elected officials will also continue to receive taxable expense allowances to pay for position-related costs.
YES – This ballot question (passed with a 6 -1 Commission vote) will not affect me or any of my colleagues in our current terms on the City Commission. In fact, I voted against a previous version of this ballot question proposed last election cycle because it would have applied to the current terms of the Commission. Higher salaries will allow more people to venture into running for office, not just those that have enough income/time flexibility to do so. A larger talent pool should ultimately produce more representative and qualified candidates, as well as more people participating in the political process. The current salaries established in 1966 do not adequately reflect the size and complexity of our current City government and the resulting time required.
Ballot Question 3: Amending Procedures for Filling of Vacancies in City Commission
The proposed amendments revise the Charter by establishing a procedure (including specific time periods) related to vacancies on the Commission caused by the resignation of a Commission member. (Note: The existing Charter language only addresses vacancies in general and does not address vacancies due to resignation.) Further, in order to clarify the Charter’s provisions governing the filling of any vacancy on the Commission, the proposed amendments make clear that the Commission is not required to appoint someone to fill the vacancy, but instead must initially decide whether to appoint or schedule an election to fill the vacancy.
YES – This ballot question will create clear procedures for the filling of a vacancy caused by the resignation of a City Commission member maintaining the two options of appointment and election. It will allow the Commission more time to make this decision and provide more opportunities to cost-effectively conduct such an election at the same time as the County or City are being held.
Ballot Question 4: Naming of the Main Convention Center Park/P-Lot as “Pride Park”
Pursuant to the City Code, a referendum is required to approve the naming of an exterior portion of a City facility, including a City park. The subject ballot question asks the City’s voters whether the main Convention Center Park/P-Lot should be named “Pride Park.”
YES – Pride Park is truly fitting for our community and sends a strong message of inclusivity.
Ballot Question 5: Ordinance Authorizing New Floor Area Within the Interior of Historic Buildings for Adaptive Reuse
This question asks whether the City Commission shall adopt an ordinance authorizing the use of new floor area within the interior of historic buildings for the adaptive reuse of such buildings. “Floor area” generally means the sum of the horizontal areas of the floors of a building. “Floor area ratio” (“FAR”) is the measure utilized by the City to regulate the overall size of a building. The City’s Land Development Regulations establish a maximum FAR for each of the City’s zoning districts. “Adaptive reuse” generally means the renovation and reuse of pre-existing buildings for new purposes.
YES – This ballot question would encourage the renovation and enhanced utilization of certain historic buildings.
Ballot Question 6: Floor Area Ratio Increase for Office Uses Along Washington Avenue and Alton Road
This question asks whether the City Commission shall adopt an Ordinance increasing FAR to 2.0 for buildings in the CD-2 district that are located along Washington Avenue and Alton Road if more than 25% of the building area is used for offices. The measure is intended to provide the same maximum FAR for buildings along Washington Avenue and Alton Road that contain offices, as the maximum FAR that currently applies to buildings in the CD-2 district that contain residential or hotel units.
YES – Washington Ave and Alton Road would benefit from additional office space and additional people during the day. This measure would allow office buildings the same FAR (ie., building size) as hotels/ residential uses.
Please note this link which shows a clip from when the Commission voted on these and rejected three other potential ballot questions:
View Video Clip Here
I hope this information was helpful as you prepare to vote on these important ballot questions!