One year in, the Carlos-O-Meter rates Mayor Gimenez’s promises
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez received a clear directive last year from voters who elected him to replace his recalled predecessor Carlos Alvarez: save money, increase transparency and reform government.
Angry voters booted Alvarez, in March 2011 for overseeing a budget that included about $132 million in salary raises and bonuses.
Gimenez, a former county commissioner, promised to take back those raises and reform government. He was sworn into office July 1, leaving him just a couple of weeks to put together his first budget and start delivering.
PolitiFact Florida, the political fact-checking arm of the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times, created the Carlos-O-Meter to track the Gimenez’s promises. It’s similar to PolitiFact's Obameter for President Barack Obama and the Scott-O-Meter for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
PolitiFact rates promises based on outcomes, not intentions. So if the county commission or the voters fail to act on a proposal, that would get a negative rating.
The Carlos-O-Meter identified 17 promises made during the campaign. At the one-year mark, here's the scorecard:
Promise Kept: 5 Among the examples: Gimenez said he would cut the property tax rate, and he did -- a crucial promise for cash-strapped homeowners. He took back the raises that went to county officials. And he avoided laying off police officers as he reined in spending.
Compromise: 3 This includes his goal to reduce the number of county departments from 60 to 25. But he set the bar too high: There are only 55 departments, agencies and offices, and 13 of those aren’t under the mayor’s purview, so he could only start at 42. He did reduce the number from 42 to 25.
In the Works: 4 This includes setting term limits for commissioners which is on the November ballot, and Gimenez’s goal of restoring all transit funding which is pending while federal officials continue an investigation.
Promise Broken: 4 Gimenez said he would conduct a fraud audit of transit, but hasn’t -- one example of a broken promise. His spokeswoman says the county has no plans for a fraud audit, since the county hired a firm to do a financial audit, and a federal investigation is underway.
We left one promise unrated: Gimenez said he would veto an effort to strike down domestic partner benefits but no such effort surfaced. Also, we removed one promise to make commission elections concurrent with state and national elections, because that already happens.
"He did what he said he was going to do," said Katy Sorenson, a Democrat and former county commissioner who is now president of a good government initiative at the University of Miami. "He comes in pretty high on promises made and promises kept."
One central promise to reducing spending at county hall was taking back the raises, which made Gimenez unpopular with union workers.
"I must admit he did tell us ahead of time what his plans were, and he followed through," said Greg Blackman, president of the Government Supervisors Association of Florida local 100. The pay cuts "were no surprise to us."
A word about our promise meter: these ratings aren’t final. If Gimenez takes new significant action, we re-evaluate the promise and can update the rating.
Gimenez, who was sworn into office July 1, 2011, has a short timeframe to deliver on his promises, because he faces re-election one year after his mayoral victory. His main rival in the Aug. 14 primary is County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez. If any candidate wins 50 percent plus 1, the candidate wins the seat. If not, the top two vote getters will square off in November.
Martinez told the Miami Herald that Gimenez shouldn’t get too much credit for his moves so far. For example, when Gimenez talks about cutting hundreds of jobs and executive benefits, Martinez noted that "every single $100,000 salary is still there. Less responsibility, but same money." Martinez also notes that although Gimenez proposed the lower tax rate, the commission voted for it, so the mayor has to share credit.
In July, shortly after he took office, Gimenez proposed reversing his predecessor’s tax rate hike, and commissioners complied. To balance that move, he cut more than 1,100 jobs -- most were vacant, but 127 were laid off and 11 retired.
Gimenez also delivered on his promise to slash his own paycheck immediately. About a year later, he got rid of his own executive benefit.
Gimenez said in an interview with PolitiFact Florida that he intends to keep the same tax rate or even propose another reduction this year.
Keeping one promise was simple: posting Gimenez’s calendar on the Internet. Anyone can go online and find out who Gimenez met with at county hall or in the community on any day, and why.
We gave Gimenez an In the Works for his promise to post most county records online. Within a couple of months on the job, the county posted an online checkbook showing disbursements. His office said the county plans to add employee salary information.
Gimenez vowed that eight years should be enough for someone to serve as a county commissioner. The county has term limits for the mayor, but not for the commissioners.
Commissioners put the four-year term limits item on the ballot.
In November, voters will decide if they want to limit commissioners to two four-year terms, with the clock starting fresh so that incumbents can serve eight more years.
Gimenez told us that he supports this ballot question. "After a long battle with commissioners we finally got a question everybody wanted on the ballot about term limits up or down eight years," he said.
In January, voters approved some changes toward making the recall process easier which earned Gimenez an In the Works. The charter review task force has recommended getting rid of the requirement to notarize signatures -- county commissioners will review those ideas later this summer.
Gimenez kept his key promises to reduce spending. The promises he made that relate to charter reform may be harder to implement -- some have been debated for years and can lie in the hands of voters.
Gimenez said his No. 1 priority will be job creation, although unlike Gov. Rick Scott, he hasn’t attached a number to that goal that would make him more vulnerable to falling short of it.
Gimenez said the hardest promise to accomplish is to restore faith and confidence in Miami-Dade County government. That’s something that the Carlos-O-Meter isn’t evaluating as an individual promise, because it’s something that you can’t measure.
"That is the one that is hardest to accomplish because that takes time," Gimenez said. "You only accomplish it through deeds and carrying out what you said you were going to do. That is the hardest one to keep. … It takes a long time to turn that needle."
If you have information about a promise by the mayor or a factual claim about or by Gimenez, email [email protected]