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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sportin' News and More Guvmint Re-Form

1. Ingrates I tell you! (If you haven't been reading Steve Klotz start to immediately after reading Miamista!) The Marlins have been the perfect small market team, buying talent low and selling it high. As far as baseball, they couldn't have done things better. Obviously they need two things: an outside PR firm and some flexibility with the stadium thing.

The government should be flexible too but it may be too late. We've spent our way out of flexibility. I find it absurd that the city spent so much on the grossly over-budget and over-schedule MPAC, which should have been paid for by mostly private money (as other PAC's around the country are). At least a stadium is able to provide more services to the community and appeals to a wider base of users. Water under the bridge.

I do agree with the majority of "fans" here that Miami sports teams have to deal with the fan base they have. We need only recall the league low attendance at Heat games in rebuilding years. And a loss at a UM football game usually means the loss of fans for the rest of the season.

The other part of the equation is that Miami and Miami-Dade cannot support sports teams but Broward, Palm Beach and Dade together can. Look at the Dolphins and their fan base; largely Anglo and suburban with steadily increasing Latino fans. If half the population of your city was born elsewhere and most of them are poor, it's kinda hard to get them to concentrate on getting out to root for "the home team". (I got family in Miami who have been generational fans of the Yankees since their great grand parents lived in Cuba and would never change.) So you need to get a mix here obviously. Isn't our fault that the Marlins can't figure that out.

Still, the sound, "The MIAMI Marlins". It's gotta ring (or two).

2. In a recent Herald opinion piece, Merrett Sierheim takes a swing for the team. The team, the International City/County Management Association, has been pushing for its membership to speak out against the "Strong Mayor" form of government. By supporting the ICMA position, Stierheim seems to contradict himself from an earlier opinion. (Of course, everyone should be entitled to reversals based on new reasoning and evidence.)

Many in the community familiar with our area's history of government management and mismanagement raised a brow upon hearing Merrett's arguments. He has been, afterall a highly respected administrator of various municipal entities. Stierheim states that professionals of his caliber are far better stewards than the politicians that appoint them. Mr. Stierheim is known to have a healthy ego. I’m willing to allow him his ego; it’s been earned. IMO it is where it leads him that veers from reason.

There is little reason to believe that a strong municipal manager is necessarily more accountable or more insulated from politics. Even Stierheim’s assertion that professional manager selections are more qualified than politicians is a too broad generalization. The last two Dade County managers stand as proof. Both are/were widely regarded as highly politicized, barely competent and beholden to the political interesst of commissioners.

In fairness to Mr. Stierheim, he stresses that a city manager should have the requisite education, experience and ethical track record. That seldom happens in our various municiapal govermenments. For instance, the current City of Miami manager, Joe Arriola, has no education or track record whatsoever. No standards have been instituted by any Miami-Dade municipality.

There are other problems with his Stierheim’s argument. Managers can be blamed for failures of elected officials and often are. It is too easy to scapegoat a manager (because people seem to ignore that politicans should be held accountable for their lack of ability to hire a competent manager). I also don’t know that the process of removing a manager is that much easier than replacing an elected official. (Again, the entrenched evil troll, in the City of Miami’s manager’s office is evidence of this.)

There are answers enough to explore. The assertion that this an either/or argument is obviously a self serving characterization put forth by both sides. It is possible to create a strong mayor form of government with a professional manager, selected by a mayor and approved by commisioners. The division of power would be delineated by what represents agenda items and what represents bureaucratic management items. It should be pointed out that the nationwide movement has not been towards an either or solution but to some form of balanced government. (Municipal governments are also instituting mixed at-large seats and district seats.) Stierheim and the ICMA, as well as Miami-Dade Commsioners seem to ignore this.

There are other measures that can instituted to ensure a more answerable strong mayor. Shorter terms is an example but it leaves the question as to whether a three year term leaves enough time for policy outcomes to be judged. More reasonable would be ethics codes that with teeth. Stierheim argues this ensures professional conduct for municipal managers. It could reasonably be applied to a strong mayor. A strong mayor could be made more easy to remove through special referendum or by a no confidence by a unanimous vote. Budget approval and input by commisionerss is another way to assure a strong mayorship does not devolve into tyranny. Such measures have been used elsewhere.

Qualifications for elected officials who govern us should be something that the people pass judgement on. It is true that we usually botch the job, choosing self serving, interest driven politicians over those most qualified to run a city. If a community determines that it wants, for instance, a police administrator of a deeply troubled department who was also father to a serial rapist teenage son, rather than say a Harvard educated lawyer with demonstrated integrity who has steadfastedly pursued government reform and sound management, well, people get what they deserve. (That will be the last attack by Miamista on Mayor Alvarez until he actually DOES something. Geddit? Really, I want to like the guy.)

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