With constitutionality questions largely cleared up by the 4th District Court of Appeals in August, two more counties are advancing with plans to adopt 8-year county commission term limits by popular vote.
In Miami-Dade, reform efforts are finally making progress, starting with the spectacular recall election of Miami-Dade strong mayor Carlos Alvarez with 88 percent of the vote in March. A package of reforms -- including 8-year county commission term limits -- was put forward by the recall organizers, notably car dealer Norman Braman.
Spooked by the recall, the Miami-Dade county commission tried to co-opt the citizen movement by putting on the May 24 ballot watered-down versions of the reform proposals including that old standard of hack politicians, the 12-year term limits with a 12-year grandfather period. The reformers said no, and so did the voters. The clamor for real reform grew even louder.
On Nov. 3, the commission voted 10-3 to put a question on the Jan. 31, 2012, ballot that combined several of the reform planks: 8-year term limits, increase in salary for commissioners (currently $6,000 a year) and a ban on outside employment for commissioners. Reformers say these moves will improve representation and attract better candidates for office with less conflicts of interest.
As new Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez put it on his campaign website: "In addition to offering more choices for voters, term limits eliminate the advantages of incumbency, break ties to special interests, improve the tendency for elected officials to vote their conscience rather than engage in quid pro quo, and open the door to fresh thinking and new ideas. In short, term limits inhibit political careerism. One of my goals as county mayor would be to make sure an 'eight is enough' law is irrevocably put in place."
In Osceola County, a grass roots citizens group called Osceola Ballot Initiatives has launched a petition drive to collect the 15,000 signatures necessary to put the idea on the ballot. Osceola County Business/Taxpayers Association, or OCBTA, also was involved in the founding of Osceola Ballot Initiatives, along with activist Mark Cross, Florida chairman of the Campaign for Liberty.
Cross said the Osceola County Supervisor of Elections has already approved the language for the term limit initiative. “Term limits always serve as a way to get new people and new ideas into office,” Cross told Around Osceola, adding that former commissioners once they term limit out could serve as “political watchdogs” for the community.
Anyone interested in collecting signatures or donating money for the charter change cause can contact Osceola Ballot Initiatives at 209 S. Clyde Ave., Kissimmee, FL 34741 or at 1128 Anne Elisa Circle, St. Cloud, FL 34772. The group’s telephone number is (407) 508-1801.
(Pictured: Norman Braman, top, and Mark Cross)