Here’s a second installment of my ballot recommendations for the November 2022 general election in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
3rd DCA Retention
For the 3rd DCA, I start with the presumption that sitting judges deserve retention unless there is a good reason not to retain them. I don’t know either of the two judges up for retention this year, Judge Alexander Bokor (appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2020), and Judge Edwin Scales (appointed by Governor Rick Scott in 2013 and retained by the voters in 2016). My research has not revealed anything to disturb that retention presumption. Admittedly, though, information was hard to come by this year.
Both judges had at least very respectable approval ratings in the Florida Bar poll of its members: Judge Bokor got a 73% approval rating, and Judge Scales got a very creditable 80% approval rating. This is consistent with my informal poll of acquaintances who, to the extent they had an opinion, were favorable to Scales.
So, lacking reason not to, I’m planning to vote to retain both of them.
Amendments to Florida Constitution
Vote NO on 2 … and indeed vote NO on all of them.
There are three proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution. Amendment No. 2 is particularly bad; the others are, frankly, small potatoes, but nonetheless unattractive potatoes.
Amendment 2 would abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Committee. It’s true that the most recent instantiation of the committee was not impressive, as its membership was stacked for one party, and its outputs were offered to the voters in an unhelpful way. Nevertheless, constitutional amendments remain just about the last avenue by which we can overcome the gerrymandering of the state legislature. The gerrymandered majority has been gradually making it harder to get amendments on the ballot by petition, and this amendment feels like more of the antidemocratic (both “big D” and “small d”) same. So vote NO on Constitutional Amendment 2.
The other two proposed amendments are for smaller stakes.
Amendment 1 would take another bite out of the property tax base, by allowing the legislature to exempt improvements designed to respond to climate change from increases in rateable value of property. In principle this is a decent idea, and I know people who say climate change is such a big emergency that anything which might add to resilience is worth doing. I get that. My concern is that this will work as a subsidy to people rich enough to do improvements at the expense of those who cannot. Plus, I’m certain that—this being Florida—many many many improvements will be claimed to be about climate change when the majority are just standard maintenance or non-climate-related improvements. Which will just make the subsidy to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else to be that much worse. So I’m voting NO on Constitutional Amendment 1.
Amendment 3 would grant an additional homestead exemption to various public servants including teachers, firefighters, police, serving military, and others. Sounds like motherhood and apple pie, right? I don’t have very strong feelings here, but I think we’ve gone far enough in giving bonus homestead exemptions to various groups – and this is a big one. Remember that every dollar we don’t collect from one group comes from another. Add in policies to limit the increase in valuations, the incredible resistance to upward changes in the millage rate, and in no time you are starving local government of essential revenue. (Recall that “starving the beast” was and is the slogan of one of our major parties when it comes to preventing effective government.) So I’m voting NO on Constitutional Amendment 3.
Miami-Dade Charter Amendments: YES on 1& 2
Amendment 2 would require a referendum before privatizing MIA, the Port, or the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (who control local tolls among other things).
Let’s start by admitting the Commission’s influence on the airport has on the whole been a negative. It replaced an excellent head of MIA because she didn’t play ball with entrenched interests. Firms that provide amenities (like carts) in other airports ran away rather than pay defacto bribes that consisted of hiring expediter/lobbyists with ties to various Commissioners after it was made clear that they had to pay to play.
And the existing Expressway management is no prize either.
The problem is that the likely results of back-room privatization could easily be much worse. And there are forces in Tallahassee that want to push for the privatizations (see the recent history of the Expressway for example). Since I think this is likely to end badly—profits to private groups, costs to the rest of us–unless any privatization proposal is subject to maximum scrutiny, I support requiring a vote before approving the transfer to private hands. So YES on Charter Amendment 2.
Charter Amendment 1 creates a loyalty oath in which county commissioners and the county mayor would swear to “support, protect and defend” the county charter. This too comes out of recent controversies in which state-level groups wanted to undermine home rule. The thought is that the oath will underline the importance of local control. I guess that’s fine, although honestly it’s hard to get worked up about this one since a substantial fraction of local pols probably would swear to anything if it kept them in office.
School Board Referendum: HECK YES
This will permit a small (1 mil) increase of property taxes for the public (and, alas, charter) schools. They could use the money.