During the 2011 campaign for Miami-Dade Mayor, Carlos Gimenez promised to slash the number of county departments.
Gimenez wrote on his campaign website April 26, 2011: "Although the economic downturn has forced a contraction in the size of county government, it remains bloated, with over 60 departments, agencies and offices -– some of them employing only a handful of people, and a director making over $200,000. One of my top priorities is to reorganize and consolidate county departments, bringing the total number to no more that 25 – the same as the State of Florida. By eliminating unnecessary departments we can reduce the tax burden on Miami-Dade residents."
He made the same promise in a Miami Herald editorial board questionnaire:
"County government is far too bloated. It currently has 60 departments, agencies and offices and could function efficiently with 25 departments, the same as the State. We will reorganize and consolidate county departments, eliminate unnecessary positions, and reduce top-level salaries and executive benefits."
As we started to research Gimenez's pledge, we quickly noticed something: Gimenez can't cut the number of departments from 60 to 25. For starters, there are only 55 departments, agencies and offices, according to county spokeswoman Suzy Trutie. And of the 55, Gimenez can't get rid of or merge 13 -- for example the county attorney's office and the property appraiser. So that means Gimenez is starting with a list of 42 to work from. (That could factor into our final ruling.)
On Sept. 2 -- about two months after he won his election -- Gimenez unveiled his plan to reduce county departments in a memo posted on the county's website.
Gimenez stated in the memo that the goal of his reorganization is to "reduce overhead" and "minimize the duplication of efforts." Gimenez's proposal doesn't eliminate any services -- although he said in his memo that this is just the first phase and left open that possibility in the future.
The memo lists departments, agencies offices that remain unchanged -- such as police, transit and animal services. And it shows departments, agencies or offices that were combined -- below are a few examples:
• Community Action and Human Services: Combines Community Action Agency, Department of Human Services and the Office of Human Rights and Fair Employment Practices.
• Fire Rescue: Merges with Office of Emergency Management
• Public Works: Consolidates Solid Waste Management along with the public works functions not transferred to the parks department
Gimenez estimates that the reorganization will save about $5 million through eliminating 40 filled positions during the 2011-12 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. The layoffs are in addition to the ones already included for elimination in the proposed budget: about 1,300 positions, about 500 vacant and 800 filled.
The layoffs from the reorganization are positions Trutie described as "mostly administrative -- back of the house." None of the proposed layoffs are department managers -- the mayor won't name department managers and assistant managers until after county commissioners vote on a final budget Sept. 22. But since this is Gimenez's first phase, that doesn't rule out getting rid of some managers in the future.
Commissioners are expected to discuss Gimenez's plan at budget meetings Sept. 8 and 22. Technically, commissioners aren't expected to take an up or down vote on Gimenez's reorganization proposal, but they do have power over it because they set the budget.
Gimenez could face some resistance from county commissioners.
"It's not so simple because a lot of these commissioners have personal relationships with the directors, the executive director," FIU professor and Gimenez campaign pollster Dario Moreno told PolitiFact in July. What makes Gimenez's promise easy, said Moreno, is there is a lot of duplication among departments.
Moreno added in a Sept. 6 interview: "Also there are commissioners who have departments that they think are important, especially some of the economic development departments, which are all being collapsed into one."
Gimenez's proposal includes a Sustainability, Planning and Economic Enhancement Department.
County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, who plans to run against Gimenez next year for mayor, said in a Sept. 6 interview that he agrees with the majority of Gimenez's proposed mergers but not all of them -- for example, he disagrees with the suggestion to merge solid waste and public works.
Gimenez promised to reduce county departments to 25 during his campaign. He unveiled a plan that meets that goal on Sept. 2 but emphasized that this is only phase one of the reorganization. Now the proposal is in the hands of county commissioners who will finalize the budget on Sept. 22. Gimenez could face blowback from commissioners on at least some parts of his proposed reorganization, but for now we rate his promise In the Works.