County Restructuring: Start At The Top And With Vacancies

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Florida Public Employees

February 18, 2014

By Elaine De Valle, Ladra – Political Cortadito

Calos_GimenezMiami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez doesn’t only have his much-talked about five deputy mayors who, combined, make more than $1 million a year. He’s also got 12 aides, six secretaries, three assistants, three media people and one senior advisor who I think is now his chief of staff.

Oh, and two student interns.

No wonder Gimenez has time to visit the White House, hobnob with David Beckham and jet set with lobbyist pal Jorge Luis Lopez to Europe to see the Pope before or after the Paris Air Show.

As the mayor starts to more seriously take on the restructuring of the county, meeting with department directors about “their high-level view of their initiatives,” according to one of those aforementioned media people, many hope that he looks within his own house for some housecleaning — especially as the cuts promised as a result of the 5% pay restoration to employees looms like a vulture.

While last week’s meeting of department heads was not specific to the 5%, said Gimenez spokesman Fernando Figueredo, a memo sent to the directors by the mayor after his veto on the pay restoration was overridden reminds them that those cost efficiencies he was already looking for have become more important.

“The Mayor has been saying for a long time that we needed to have a structurally balanced government that was responsible in providing service while living within its means.  So the Mayor is using this as an opportunity to move forward with the structural changes to our county organization needed to establish the structurally balanced organization he has pushed for,” Figueredo said.

Several people have expressed the desire for that structural overhaul to start at the top. And they don’t mean the mini changes that Gimenez announced last week, shuffling the chess pieces around after Ruben Arias left the office to become Commissioner Lynda Bell‘s chief of staff and Lisa Martinez was named chief of staff. Her first task will be to restructure the county departments and many hope she begins at home.

The mayor’s office has a $5.5 million budget, of which nearly $3.5 million goes to salaries for 45 people. No doubt very smart people, very capable people. Ladra knows some of them. They are professional and hardworking, polite and helpful, if sometimes understandably defensive. But does Gimenez need three separate media people devoted solely to him if the county has a whole department for that already? Do commissioners, for that matter? Seems self serving to me and while I can see why the mayor might want three different spin doctors, it seems like too many.

The mayor’s personnel budget, first exposed last week on the Eye On Miami blog, has raised many eyebrows, though some county commissioners — principally Commissioners Xavier “Mayor Sir” Suarez and Juan “El Zorro” Zapata, who has already defied the mayor with the deciding veto override vote – had been planning on raising the issue anyway.

“I’m astounded,” said Suarez said about the 12 aides. He said he will “absolutely” ask that the mayor’s restructuring take a hard look at his own office. “If you eliminate positions at the top, you don’t affect services,” Suarez said, adding that nobody should make over $150,000 a year other than the mayor, the county attorney and maybe two or three others. More than 2,500 employees make six figure salaries at the county, he said. Suarez is also willing to have that look go into commissioners’ offices, who he said could share more staff and cut their $814,000 annual office budget. Other places where Suarez sees potential cuts/savings:

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