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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Vote to stop city officials from violating the Charter

The Coconut Grove Grapevine has given detailed coverage to how abuse by City officials in favor of private interests has adversely affected your community.

On November 8 the voters will have a chance to put an end to much of the backroom wheeling and dealing though an Amendment to the City Charter (Question #244 on the ballot).

A group of us who've been fighting the City Attorney over a series of development projects have pressed to get this reform measure through the Charter Reform Commission and then win approval of the City Commission to place it on the ballot.

Thanks to Ken Russell and Commissioners Suarez and Corollo it's now on the November 8th ballot.

We've organized ourselves as Vote "Yes" Miami and are now doing everything we can to inform voters and mobilize support.

We hope the Grapevine will spread the word in ways you feel appropriate.

Thanks very much for your attention to this.  And, if any question, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Many thanks,

Roger M. Craver, President
Coalition Against Causeway Chaos

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Anonymous swlip said...

If you click through enough links, you find that this is the language of the proposed ballot measure:

"Shall Section 52 of the Charter of the City of Miami, Florida, known as the 'Citizens’ Bill of Rights,' be placed at the beginning of the Charter, be amended to expressly require the City to abide by the Charter’s provisions, provide the residents the right to sue and be heard in court to enforce compliance with Charter provisions, and if successful, to recover court costs but not attorney’s fees?"

My initial reaction to this is, first, that it shouldn't really matter whether Section 52 is at the beginning of the Charter, or at the end. It would still have to be read as part of the Charter.

The existing version of Section 52 contains some platitudes regarding "the right of the people to clean air, pure water, freedom from excessive and unnecessary noise," etc., as well as a statement that it shall be the "policy of the City to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty...." None of this constitutes the sort of clear and direct language that a court could enforce against the City.

The more interesting aspect of this proposition is to grant standing to any citizen to bring suit against the City to enforce the Charter (the current Section 52 merely grants standing to enforce Section 52 - the Citizens' Bill of Rights). Courts are unlikely to interpret this grant of standing as broadly as you might think. Standing to sue typically requires that the party suing be able to demonstrate an injury in fact that arose from the conduct complained of. Likewise, if this ballot measure succeeds, I would expect a court to construe its standing provision to mean that any citizen claiming an injury in fact from a violation of the Charter has standing to sue to enforce the Charter.

To hold otherwise would open a Pandora's Box of litigation, much of it likely to be frivolous. Perhaps the lack of an attorney's fee shifting provision would make it less attractive to lawyers, but I doubt that a question of standing would take that into consideration.

The other question, of course, is whether giving citizens the right to enforce the City Charter is meaningful. The Charter is merely a statement of City's organizational structure and the powers of various offices. This includes Section 38, which vests with the city commission with the power to plan for the future development of the city, and to adopt and enforce zoning ordinances. It seems to give the City Commission pretty wide discretion in this regard.

In summary, this looks like a "feel-good" ballot measure that, if anything, is more likely to cause mischief than it is to hinder overdevelopment.

I'd be happy to hear from the measure's promoters if I've overlooked anything.

October 11, 2016 4:57 PM  

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