To: George Burgess, County Manager
From: Commissioner Javier Souto
Re: Friday Inspection of Municipal Issues in Unincorporated Miami-Dade County
Date: July 31, 2009, Friday 7:15 PM
I called you today and was told by one of your 18 Assistant County Managers, that you were on vacation in Australia and you could not call me because you were out of reach. I tried to get the telephone number to your hotel, but they would not give it to me.
Last week, your secretary called my secretary to inform me that you could no longer attend or provide an Assistant County Manager, a Senior Advisor to the County Manager, an Executive Assistant to the County Manager, a Special Assistant to the County Manager, or one of your 18 Assistant County Managers to examine municipal problems in Fontainebleau, Westchester and Kendall (District 10) (UMSA – Unincorporated Municipal Service Area). We have checked the salaries of all these assistants of yours, and they total over $3.5 million. You can probably add another half a million dollars in benefits. I want to know if any percentage of these salaries are paid with UMSA tax dollars. I want you to know that the community is pretty angry about the high salaries in Miami-Dade County government in general. Now is the time to do more with less. But I see that you don’t know how to manage in difficult times. Managing when there is lots of money around is easy. Let me remind you that the Westchester-Kendall area is the top per capita vote producer area in Miami-Dade County. Everyone is watching.
As you are aware, I have expected all your predecessors, County Managers, over the past 15 years: Joaquin Avino, Armando Vidal, Merritt Stierheim, and Steve Shiver to dedicate 2 or 3 hours a week to their other responsibilities, as the Municipal Managers for the tax payers and residents of UMSA (Unincorporated Municipal Service Area). (In District 10, that I represent, we are 100% UMSA.) They all understood this as an important function and responsibility since in addition to their responsibility as County Manager, they are responsible for overseeing the services provided to the residents of UMSA (the largest “city” in Miami-Dade County) for the $481 million in taxes that they paid last year alone. In the past, all your predecessors attended these Friday tours of the Unincorporated areas of Westchester, Fontainebleau and Kendall themselves, even though they all had less than half the number of Assistant County Managers to help them than you have today. Over the past three years, you began attending less and less frequently and sending your Assistant County Managers instead. Lately, you send the Assistant to the Assistant County Manager and I have not complained about your diminishing involvement in overseeing the Unincorporated Areas and the municipal services provided to the Unincorporated Areas.
You have shortchanged my constituents of District 10 by dedicating your time to other “more important” matters to you, like the tunnel or the baseball stadium. I too have a busy schedule as an elected official. However, I tour my district almost daily, including evenings and weekends to make sure that storm drains are functioning, street lights are working, shopping centers are illuminated, bulky waste trash piles are being collected, etc. You can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new departments like 311, on management strategies and plans, on studies, on surveys and opinion polls, but unless you go into the neighborhoods to look at the problems that are clearly visible and talk to the people paying the taxes and using the services, you are wasting millions of dollars in tax payers monies.
All the studies, theories and surveys won’t uncover deterioration of municipal services, and get the pulse of the community. By the way, since you moved from Budget Director to County Manager, the number of departments has increased from 34 to 50, most of it under your administration. While the County Administration was growing, the services were diminishing and the areas of County responsibility were diminishing too. Dade County lost eight large areas of Unincorporated Miami-Dade County, where we provided municipal services ten years ago, as new cities incorporated (Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach, Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Miami Gardens, Miami Lakes, and Doral). However, you kept creating departments and inflating the budget.
The time for bureaucrats in fancy offices is gone. It is time for pounding the pavement to see firsthand the pain and suffering that our tax payers and small businesses are experiencing, in these difficult moments of deep economic recession that we are living.
I am very disappointed in your decision of not touring District 10, 100% UMSA, anymore on a weekly basis, and in the manner in which you communicated this decision through your secretary. This means that you do not have the time or staff to dedicate to the tax payers of Westchester, Fontainebleau, and Kendall (District 10).
I can see that you are “too busy” to talk to me, the Commissioner of the area. If you insult me, you are in fact insulting the community that I represent.
I won’t forget these actions.
cc: Mayor Carlos Alvarez
Chairman Dennis Moss
Members Board of County Commissioners
County Attorney Bob Cuevas
Media, Constituents and Friends