September 1, 2014

Politics

Reform-Minded

Miami-Dade's new county mayor sets his sights on changing the way the county is governed.

David Villano | 2/1/2005
Former Miami-Dade Police Chief Carlos Alvarez defeated County Commissioner Jimmy Morales in a runoff election to replace county Mayor Alex Penelas, who couldn't run again because of term limits. The Cuban-born Alvarez, a political newcomer, has vowed to clean up county government.

FLORIDA TREND: What do you believe most needs fixing about county government?

ALVAREZ: I ran on a platform of accountability reform. I said that the process as it is now is dysfunctional. To fix it you need to have one person the public can hold accountable. That should be the mayor. The office of the mayor should be given the powers that the county manager has now, which is to select department heads and to go to those departments directly. It's all about accountability.

FT: So you're advocating a strong-mayor form of government, which would require voter approval. Is that something you will pursue?

ALVAREZ: Yes. It's very difficult to be held accountable if you can't go to, for instance, the aviation director and say what you think about what's going on at the airport.

FT: You've supported stripping the county commission of its power to award large contracts. Why?

ALVAREZ: I just don't believe that a legislative body, which is what the county commission is, should be spending 80% to 85% of its time awarding contracts. That's not their function; their function is to set county policy. And a lot of the problems in the past here in Miami-Dade have come from the commission's awarding of contracts. This system of government just doesn't make sense.

FT: You appear headed for a showdown with some of the commissioners on this.

ALVAREZ: I have no intention of going to war with the commission. The power comes from the people. And there is a mechanism in place here where you can get a percentage of signatures of registered voters in the county and then you prepare a referendum and put it before the people. I intend to do that if the commission does not want to move. This was my platform, and if I don't deliver, then I'd be defrauding the people who voted for me.

FT: What are the commissioners worried about?

ALVAREZ: It's very simple. They don't want change. The two issues of procurement reform and giving more authority and power to the mayor's office are drastic changes. But this is about the system, not about the person. With term limits and with the nature of politics, Carlos Alvarez will be long gone by the time these changes take effect. My comment to them is this: If everything was OK, I wouldn't have been elected -- not with the message I was sending to voters.

Tags: Politics & Law, Miami-Dade, Government/Politics & Law

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