Charter reform: the latest issue du jour. Term limits, easier citizen petitions, new at large districts – these are some of the possible changes facing voters in May, and depending on the details theycould be revolutionary or they could be useless. Mayoral candidates like Commissioner Carlos Gimenez and others on the County Commission are trying to advance sweeping changes to county government. Kudos to them for trying, but without considering sweeping changes to transportation planning and funding, charter reform will not mean much to the residents of Miami-Dade County.
A truly comprehensive charter reform plan must address the inadequacies of our existing system of transportation planning and governance. Multiple overlapping and competing agencies are responsible for planning and financing roads, highways, and transit, with no coordinated, unified vision. Transit capacity is not being expanded, while roadway congestion cost Miami-Dade County residents $3.2 billion in 2009 according to the Texas Transportation Institute “National Congestion Report.”
Among the policy changes advocated by folks like Commissioner Gimenez is a change to county UDB expansion policy – making it more difficult to expand the urban development boundary, as listed in his ‘Blueprint for Charter Reform’. (Gimenez clarified his position at a Latin Builders Association luncheon last week saying he would not rule out moving the line). While Gimenez’ position on the UDB is in flux, one thing is clear: holding the UDB and encouraging infill development must be coordinated with expanded premium transit options within the urban service area. The challenges presented by growth management are intimately tied to local transit options: the two cannot be disconnected.
Voters in 2002 saw the need for the creation of a premium transit network, and passed the visionary People’s Transportation Plan and ½ cent sales tax, mandating the creation of a Citizens Independent Transportation Trust to oversee the tax and act as stewards of the PTP. Though the CITT was created, it was never truly independent, and the plan remains an unfulfilled mandate.
Charter reform is one of our best opportunities to finally take control of our transportation future – through the creation of an independent authority responsible for all transportation planning and expansion in Miami-Dade County. Led by an elected executive transportation professional, the authority would be responsible for setting policy and implementing a plan that works for allcitizens of Miami-Dade County – transit users, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike.
With gas prices certain to continue their upward rise, Mayoral candidates like Commissioner Gimenez need to be bold in addressing the imbalance of transportation options in this community. They may want to start by looking at charter reform as part of the answer.
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