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Sunday November 4, 2012

The November 6th ballot: part 3: county charter

Well, here we are: the day before election day. I’m aware that a lot of you have already voted; this ballot was a doozie, and early voting — or particularly absentee voting, which is sort of like a take-home exam — is a smart way go to. I salute you. But for the old-school (read: procrastination-inclined) among us, going to the polls on election day is the only way to do.

So we still need to figure out how to vote on a big chunk of the ballot. See part 1 of this guide for the state charter amendments and part 2 for some ideas on voting for elected officials. Today, Miami-Dade stuff. Let’s dive in.

School Board Question

Funding Modernization and Construction of Public School Facilities Through Issuance of General Obligation Bonds

Shall the School District of Miami-Dade County fund a plan for modernization and construction of public school facilities throughout the district, including educational technology upgrades, by issuing general obligation bonds in an aggregate amount not exceeding $1,200,000,000, in one or more series, bearing interest at market rates, maturing within thirty years, and secured by the full faith and credit and ad-valorem taxing power of the district?

I’m not sure how you get around to opposing this. “We can’t afford to raise taxes for big government programs” doesn’t really work for schools, does it? Neither does, “sure we need to invest in schools, but now is not the time.” The preponderance of online opinion is pro. Vote FOR BONDS.

County Questions

Home Rule Charter Amendment Relating to Term Limits of County Commissioners

Shall the Charter be amended to provide that County Commissioners shall serve no more than two consecutive four-year terms in office excluding terms of service prior to 2012?

Here we are. TERM LIMITS. The holy grail. Stop the revolving door. Get in some fresh perspectives. But it turns out that this is actually an extremely difficult thing to reason out. There are persuasive arguments for and against. Incumbent commissioners manage their constituencies, so they’re very difficult to get rid of. Want to get fresh voices on the commission? Term limits are the only way to go. The Herald says yes to term limits.

But not so fast. Michael Lewis argues the side against term limits. It’s very much worth a read, but the short story is that limiting the terms of elected officials empowers lobbyists and government bureaucrats. It keeps relationships among commissioners fleeting. Institutional memory suffers. And commissioners who are term-limited are more likely to vote in ways that’ll benefit them once they’re out of office than to be accountable to voters. If you want to strengthen the county commission, Lewis argues, go back to county-wide elections.

But each of these arguments has a mirror-image counter-argument. You’d need deep knowledge about what happened when in term limits have passed historically on commissions like Miami’s around the country and a degree in political philosophy before you could really even discuss this question intelligently. But here’s the thing. County-wide commission elections aren’t on the ballot. Term limits are. We’ve tried the commission without term limits, and the results have left us wanting. And while it’s impossible to draw a line from the problems with the commission right now to term limits being the best solution, it’s the only tool in the box at the present moment. Will term limits be an improvement in Miami-Dade? I hate to be flip, but there’s only one way to find out. Perhaps a future charter amendment will allow us to reconsider county-wide commission elections. If this turns out to cause problems, it’ll not be difficult to get a charter amendment reversing the term limits decision. It’s an expriment. Let’s try it, and see if benefits of fresh voices are worth the certainty that their reign will be short. Vote YES.

Technical Amendments to Home Rule Charter

Shall the Charter be amended to clarify the titles of subsections, correct and update cross-references between provisions, and delete references to offices and agencies which have been abolished?

Here we are: the boring shit. I have no idea why I have to make a decision about why the titles of subsections should be clarified. If they’re unclear, isn’t “clarification” an opportunity for obfuscation? Am I not better off with a charter that’s got some obsolete stuff in it than a charter that someone gets to muck around with in the name of “clarification”? To the point: is it worth taking 5 minutes to google what the proposed amendments are? FINE. >> and << indicates stuff being inserted, [[ and ]] stuff removed. Feast your eyes. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Requiring Extraordinary Vote to Include Additional Land within the Urban Development Boundary

Shall the Charter be amended to require a two-thirds vote of County Commissioners then in office to include additional land within the Urban Development Boundary established by the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan?

Yes, it should. Not that we’re kidding ourselves that it’ll do much to bolster the integrity of the UDB, but any brakes we can apply here. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Pertaining to Changes in Municipal Boundaries and Creation of New Municipalities

Shall the Charter be amended to:
• Require the County Commission to consider the benefits of any proposed annexation of commercial areas, when approving or authorizing an annexation
• Establish alternative procedure for creation of new municipalities in unincorporated areas of the County by petition which provides conditions for creation of new municipalities and a single election to approve the creation of a new municipality and approve its Charter, instead of two elections for these purposes?*

The Herald’s discussion on this one is interesting. They support the creation of more an more cities and sub-cities, towns, and villages, but they disagree with this particular implementation. Personally, I don’t think that fragmenting what’s clearly a single municipality into fractal pieces — each with its own commission, mayor, and often police and fire services — is a good strategy. In either case, Vote NO.

Charter Amendment Regarding Penalties and Enforcement of Citizens’ Bill of Rights

Shall the Charter be amended to eliminate the provision providing for forfeiture of office if a public official or employee willfully violates the Citizens’ Bill of Rights and allow, in addition to suit in circuit court, the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust to enforce the Citizens’ Bill of Rights with penalties authorized by the Code?

Isn’t it awesome that we have a “Citizens’ Bill of Rights” and a “Commission on Ethics and Public Trust”? Doesn’t that just make you feel so good? I don’t know, I’m all for ethics commissions and Bills of Right. But it seems that the a provision that gets the person who violated the Bill of rights OUT before anything else is not something to be eliminated? Heres’s the problem: you know how it’s determined that someone violated the BoR and should be removed? In court. So as it stands, the only way to get enforcement is for YOU the citizen to sue. Guess what? It’s never happened. If this passes, you can appeal to the Ethics Commission and see what happens. It’s all weak sauce, but the new sauce turns out to be less weak than the existing sauce. Ugh. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Related to Option for Filling Mayoral or County Commissioner Vacancy

Shall the Charter be amended to:
• Extend the time to conduct an election to fill a mayoral or commissioner vacancy from 45 to 90 days from the decision to call such election and provide a timeframe for qualification and any necessary runoff;
• Temporarily transfer, during a mayoral vacancy or incapacity, certain mayoral powers to the Commission Chairperson, Vice Chairperson or Commissioner chosen by the Board?

So we’re planning on making a habit of recalling commissioners who piss us off, and we want to make the process smoother. Well color me pink and call me bamby. Don’t retreat, reload. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Regarding Mayoral Conflicts in County Procurement

Shall the Charter be amended to provide that when the County Mayor declares a conflict of interest in a particular procurement of a County contract, the chairperson of the Board of County Commissioners shall exercise all authority provided by the Charter or the County Commission to the Mayor with regard to such procurement including the authority to recommend a bid waiver?

I’m so ready to vote yes on this, but every reputable source I can find online says it’s a lame solution to a real problem, and Vote NO.

AND THERE IT IS. Oh, wait, you have city items tacked on at the end? Blah, you’re going to have to look that up yourself, as per part 2 of this guide. In Miami for instance, there’s something about a tennis center (funded solely by tournament revenues and private funs — YES), a straw poll about increasing taxes for improved animal services (I might write something about this tonight), and something about contracting with companies doing business with state sponsors of terrorism (resolved, we do not like terrorists). And you’re out of there. See: easy.

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Tuesday September 25, 2012

The November 6th ballot: part 1: state constitutional amendments

i voted today sticker The good news is that you people are all going to vote this November. You have strong feelings about whether Obama or Romney would make a better president, and it looks like Florida will be the tie breaker.

The bad news is that the ballot will be a doozie. The ballot contents document, with the various questions for each of the municipalities, runs to 100 pages(!), the ballot itself will be 5 pages long, front and back. It’s the longest ballot on record. And remember what these things look like when you get into the voting booth:

sample ballot

One day we’ll get into just printing separate ballots for English, Spanish, and Kreole speakers, and it’ll be a happy day for printing budgets and voter sanity. But for now, there it is, and all we can do is prepare. Let’s look at the proposed state constitution amendments. There are 12. Let’s see how many we can get through in one morning. I’m going to give you the text of the amendment, and tell you how you should vote. Don’t scroll down, you’ll just get dizzy with how much of this there is. Feel free to not read the amendments themselves (because they are HORRIBLE) and you’ll be through it in no time. And by the way, I’m dipping into the Collins Center’s summaries and comments and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting’s awesome trove of info. Ready? Let’s get busy:

For the love of god click the link and at least scroll through these:

READ FULL ARTICLE

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Tuesday September 4, 2012

Get your election on

elections

I know you’re disappointed with Obama. But look, you don’t want Romney and a Republican congress running the country for the country for the next four years. And if you think about it, you don’t want Obama going down as a one-term president.

And here’s the thing: Florida will decide this thing, more than likely. We’re the largest tossup state, and we’ve been picking the president since 1992 (when, amazingly, we voted to give George Bush Sr. a second term).

All of which is to say that you need to get ready to vote. If you’re registering for the first time, the application is at the bottom of this page. You should also fill out one of these if you want to change your party affiliation or if you’re moving. (Though if you’re moving within Dade County, you can just call the elections department, 305-499-VOTE, and they’ll do it over the phone.) If you’re submitting one of these forms anyway, you might consider changing your party affiliation, either to lodge your weak protest against the hegemony of the two-party system or because you’d like to vote in someone else’s primaries (like this year’s Republican primary). You should to enjoy perusing the list of political parties recognized in Florida.

Don’t get purged — make sure your Drivers License is up to date. You can update it through Florida HSMV’s charming Virtual Office. This would also be a decent time to consider becoming a Poll Worker. I bet you have no chance if you don’t speak Spanish or Creole, but you can give it a chance anyway. (As a hint, the link to the voter application PDF is broken at that link. If you click “ESPAÑOL,” you can get the application there.)

Do it today, otherwise you’ll be kicking yourself like those jackasses who voted for Nader in 2000.

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Wednesday June 11, 2008

An illustrated demonstration of the new optical voting machines and accompanying article. It’s like taking a test in college, with multiple-choice bubbles you fill in with a #2 pencil. But so then why do the scanners need to be at the polling stations? Why not a big fast scanner at election headquarters?

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Tuesday March 18, 2008

What's up with a Florida primary?

It was decided yesterday that there will not be a re-vote for Florida’s Democratic primary. The story so far (skip to next graff if you’ve been following the news): Last year, the Florida legislature decided to move our primary up to January 29th in this primary season. The Democratic National Party had previously decided that no state, except four that have historically had early primaries, could have a primary before February 5th (Super Tuesday), and threatened to not seat Florida’s delegates at the convention, i.e. to not count our votes. The conventional wisdom at the time was that since most candidates are determined on Super Tuesday, Florida’s primary would count where it mattered — by giving a candidate “momentum” — and that actual delegate votes at conventions haven’t decided a nominee in decades. Except that the subsequent primaries have been very close, and there now appears the very real chance that Florida could have been the deciding vote, leading everyone to look for a way to fix the mess.

The response that you hear often to this is, “well, Florida knew the rules when it made the decision to have an early primary.” It’s shocking how often statement to this effect are repeated without being questioned. “Florida” is not a sentient being. The decision was made by one group (Florida state legislature) and impacts another group (Florida voters). To say that our elected officials disenfranchised us and that’s all there is to it reeks. So what now? Well, counting the vote goes against the rules that were established at the beginning of the process (= not democratic). Not counting the vote disenfranchises Florida voters (= not democratic). And re-voting has been determined to be unfeasible, not to mention an affront to those that voted on January 29th (so also = also not democratic).

So what’s the solution? Well, there is none; not for this election. The whole thing is dominated by realpolitik self-interest (e.g. I’m a Barack Obama supporter, so I should be happy that Florida isn’t being counted, as it was won by Hillary Clinton). There are lessons to be learned, however, starting with the fact that the whole primary system is an anti-democratic catastrophe in need of overhaul. Other then “because it was always so,” why should Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina have a more influential voice in selecting the president then any other state? Why do some states hold “caucuses,” some “elections,” and some (I smell Texas) such convoluted combinations that nobody even tries to explain them? And what’s up with “super-delegates,” anyway?

This, my friends, is no way to elect a president. The whole system is screwed (you can tell, in part, by looking at the men it has elected for the last 40 years or so). There are lots of ways to have an election, all with their valid criticisms, but all better then this. (Interjection: And what about Ralph Nader? What’s up with him??) Let’s pick a system and go with it. Do I think that’s going to happen? No, not yet. It’s going to take a few more disasters like this first. But it’s on the way.

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Wednesday March 12, 2008

Yeah, what is it about Florida and voting? I mean, we can’t even have a vote for best burger without “voting irregularities.”

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Thursday November 8, 2007

Vote -- So You Can Bitch

SotP takes a swipe at Coconut Grove Grapevine.

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Monday November 5, 2007

Double the Vote

Double the Vote Double the Vote, a project of Category 305, is out to increase participation in local elections, starting with tomorrow’s elections in Miami Beach, Miami, Hialeah, Surfside, Homestead, and Golden Beach. Only 10% of registered voters vote in local elections in Miami-Dade. This is particularly silly when you realize that in local elections, every individual vote is proportionally much more important then a vote in national elections, and that local issues have much more effect on your day-to-day life then national ones.

Ah, but who to vote for? Who follows local politics, anyway? Well, DtV has links to information about Miami Beach candidates at Category 305, and the Sun Post and Miami Vision. See also the Herald’s recommendations for tomorrow from their politics page, which links to numerous stories related to the election(see also this). So read your ballot, do your research, tell your employer you’ll be in late tomorrow cause you’re voting (prepare for looks of shock, but most bosses have no problem with this), and off to the polls first thing in the morning.

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Monday February 12, 2007

Charlie Crist wants to get rid of all the electronic voting machines in Florida. I say great. But just before we do, I want someone to add up exactly how much they all cost (in equipment, training time, and fixing time, putting aside the priceless lost votes), and I want to sock someone in the jaw. Seriously. Find me the idiot who actually made the decision to spend that money and let me hit them just once.

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Tuesday November 7, 2006

Voting-day observations

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Thursday November 2, 2006

He touched the screen for gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis, a Democrat, but the review screen repeatedly registered the Republican, Charlie Crist.“ This is totally fucked; those electronic voting machines are a lot worse then a waste of money: they’re a complete disaster. And people told the elections officials they were a bad idea. They went ahead and bought them anyway. Bad, bad stuff. Here and here we discussed voting online, which I still think is the obvious way to the future — and with no hardware cost. (via BoingBoing) Update: At The Register. Update: Fuck me: the Herald’s doing online polls now.

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Tuesday March 28, 2006

Poquito Tuesday

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