Fall 2012 – President’s Column: Time to exercise our democratic freedoms

I talk about voting all the time. I remind Brickell Board members at every meeting to carry this message back to their residents and neighbors: voting is what gets the politicians’ attention. More than haranguing and hand-wringing, they notice who goes to the polls. It’s the voters they listen to in between elections, when the work gets done.

I know my fellow board members are tired of hearing me talk about voting, but now my message is über-timely with a critically important national election coming up. Two different approaches to dealing with our national concerns have been put forth. Regardless of which strategy and belief system you agree with, please go to the polls, vote early or absentee, but add your votes, your voice, to our democratic system.

ErnestoCuestaBHA Board members heard from Bristol Tower resident Randall Litten, a volunteer who brought a non-partisan get-out-the-vote message to our September meeting. He also brought a potential “tragedy on Brickell” to our attention. Mr. Litten reminded us that there are many young professionals in the Brickell area who have moved, gotten married or otherwise made changes that might preclude them from voting in November. If that sounds like you please get in touch with the Miami-Dade County Department of Elections and make sure that you are properly registered. It would be a tragedy for would-be voters to “get to the polls and be turned away” because they are not properly registered. (See BHA website for linkages to Miami-Dade County Elections information.)

Locally, we have many issues to decide, including a Miami-Dade County Commissioner seat up in District 5, which encompasses our BHA neighbors residing north of SE 15th Road. Incumbent Bruno Barreiro is being challenged by former Florida Representative Luis Garcia. BHA has not made an endorsement this race. We do know, however, that we need the assistance of our District 5 Commissioner to represent our interests relating to safety and quality of life to the larger bodies who control our neighborhood and our destiny.

Also close to home, a number of County Charter amendments will be on the ballot. One amendment asks if we want to limit the terms of County Commissioners to “serve no more than two consecutive four-year terms in office excluding terms of service prior to 2012.” Currently, terms are unlimited. BHA hasn’t taken an official stand on term limits, but rather know that we need the support and involvement of whomever represents us at the County level.

A Miami-Dade County Public Schools District bond measure will be on the ballot asking voters to approve the issue of a bond in the amount of $1.2 billion for constructing upgrades to current school facilities and upgrading technology. The bond would be repaid through a current property tax that has been used to pay a previous bond; the tax would be extended for the life of this new bond if approved. Proponents for the bond say the schools have a considerable number of issues that need to be addressed to ensure student safety. The schools received the approval of the Florida Department of Education on their project list of fixes and upgrades to be paid for with the bond money.

According to reports in the Miami Herald, “approval would mean a slightly higher property tax bill for homeowners — initially about a $10 increase on average….It would effectively continue the tax from a construction bond issue that is set to expire in 2017.” BHA’s School Board Member Dr. Martin Karp was in favor of the measure and placing it on the ballot. BHA’s legislative agenda includes ensuring strong public schools to serve the growing number of families in our community, demonstrating our commitment to improving our county’s public school system whenever possible.

We’ll also see the typical long list of judicial seats on the ballot. And, there are 12 constitutional amendments involving a variety of topics including, but not limited to, health care, veterans, property taxes and homestead exemptions, abortion, religious freedom, the Urban Development Boundary and creation of new municipalities, among other topics. There are also some non-binding straw ballot issues on the ballot, including funding for improved animal services programs designed to reduce the population and killing of stray and abandoned cats and dogs.

At the State level, redistricting has brought a lot of changes. Florida Senator Gwen Margolis, District 35, is up for re-election, facing Republican challenger John Daniel Couriel. With redistricting last session, all of BHA will be in District 35 and not be split between it and 39 as it has been up until now. Our House District will change to 112, which will encompass all of the BHA territory. That race is being fought between Republican Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez.

Along with the presidential race, our U.S. House of Representatives Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is up for re-election for District 18, and Senator Bill Nelson is facing Republican challenger, Connie Mack.

We’ve been warned it’s a long ballot, presenting a bit of a task for each of us to get ourselves up to speed on the issues and be prepared to vote. But, as Mr. Litten aptly told BHA representatives and neighbors: “We have young men [and women] fighting and dying for our democracy. It’s shameful if we don’t do it.”

See you at the polls.

From BHA News Vol. XXII No. 2, Fall 2012