Miami-Dade county mayor Carlos Alvarez's plan to create a strong-mayor form of government, after surviving a union-backed court challenge, continues to enjoy support in opinion polls as it makes its way to the ballot -- possibly as early as this fall.
Alvarez believes voters delivered a clear mandate when he swept into office nearly two years ago: End Miami-Dade's reputation for corruption and influence-peddling. "That's the message, and if you're an elected official here, you'd better pay attention," says the former county police chief, directing his comment to the county commission, which has unanimously opposed Alvarez's plan to transfer some commission powers to the mayor's office.
The strong-mayor plan -- which would allow the mayor to appoint department directors and the county manager, thus giving him more say over day-to-day operations -- is one of four initiatives in a reform package that also includes stiff regulations on lobbyists, a new county procurement procedure and a salary increase for commissioners.
Alvarez argues that a decentralized form of government promotes waste and abuse, especially in a place as large as Miami-Dade, with 30,000 employees and an annual budget approaching $7 billion. While he is pushing for a November vote, the commission could delay that to sometime early next year. Alvarez waves off charges that the move is a power grab. "Voters want accountability in county government, and they want that accountability to rest with one person," he says. "I got elected on that platform, and I have every intention of keeping my promise."