Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Civics 101 - North Bay Village Commission

Elections are coming up in North Bay Village this November and three of the five commission seats are up.  

The seats are for:

Mayor - 2 Year Term.
Commissioner from Harbor Island - 4 Year Term. 
Commissioner at Large - 4 Year Term.  

The qualifications to run are listed at the Village website and are pretty straightforwrd.  

I thought it would be useful though to explain the sometimes confusing system under which we are governed.  

The first point is that we have three Commissioner seats for which candidacy is restricted by where the candidate lives.  Those are Treasure Island, Harbor Island and North Bay Island.  In order to run for those seats, the candidate must live in the respective neighborhood.  

The candidate is voted on by the entire community and represents the entire community, not just the neighborhood they live in.  It's a stupid and unfair system for a municipality with a population under 10,000 and the interests of the three neighborhoods do not significantly diverge in any real aspect but it was institutionalized as a way to ensure that the demographically homogeneous North Bay Island gated community would always have representation and we seem to be stuck with it.  

The mayor and the commissioner at large can live anywhere in the Village.  

Candidates require at least 50 valid signatures from registered voters in North Bay Village to qualify along with several other factors.  Again check the Village website here for details.  

It's important to understand that our form of local government is a weak mayor-council with a strong manager.   

The mayor, apart from certain ceremonial functions, check signing authority and chair functions, is one of five votes on the commission.  In turn the commission sets overall policy, approves budgets and hires (and frequently fires) a strong village manager who is responsible for the administration of the village, with powers similar to that of a corporate CEO.  In other words, the commission acts like a Board of Directors with the manager having the responsibility and authority to create and execute policy.  

The commissioners, none of the five, do not have direct supervision responsibilities, only general policy direction.   Their role is often to be the voice of the public, bringing concerns and ideas forward, but the implementation is the job of the manager.   

This style of government is common throughout Florida and was the model for Miami-Dade County.  As you might remember, in 2007, Miami-Dade County changed to a "strong mayor" where the responsibility of the administration sits with the mayor, an elected position.   The City of Miami is considering a shift to this model too and it seems to be picking up steam nationwide as well.  The argument in favor is that it holds an elected official directly accountable for the administration of the municipality.  The argument against is that it means that the municipality is administered by someone without the professional experience needed to manage complex systems.  This tends to lead to a requirement for more experienced professionals to head each department.  

But for now, it's important to understand - all 5 represent us, the North Bay Villagers.  

So that's the Civics Lesson for today.  Next up - What is a Charter?  
Kevin Vericker
July 24, 2018

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