Politics

Poll: Miami-Dade Voters Uncertain About Commission Pay Hike

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MIAMI (CBS4) A new poll of voters likely to take part in the January 31st primary shows a plan to raise the pay of Miami-Dade commissioners by tying it to term limits may be in trouble, with supporters and opponents in a virtual dead heat.

The poll also shows shows likely voters don’t think much of the job Major Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade commissioners are doing, are very unhappy with the battle of cutting benefits for county employees, and really don’t know who the next county mayor should be, as long as it’s not Gimenez.

The poll, conducted for CBS4, the Miami Herald, and Univision earlier this week, looks at county issues and the perception likely voters have of the people running county government.

CHARTER AMENDMENTS

When it comes to the amendments sharing space on the Presidential Primary ballot, the poll shows that those supporting and and opposing the term limit/pay hike charter amendment are tied at 41% each, with 18% of the voters undecided.

Anglo voters tend to favor the plan slightly, with 44% saying they’d vote for it, while 42% of Hispanic voters say they’d vote it down. Both groups have just under 20% who have yet to make up their mind.

Miami-Dade commissioners have tried, and failed, for decades to raise the pay of commissioners, which is still locked in the 1950′s at $6 Thousand a year. They hope that the term limits, as well as a provision that commissioners can’t hold another job, would allow them to raise their pay to more than $90 thousand a year.

According to those who said they’d vote for the amendment, that is important, with 33% saying no outside employment is their key reason for voting yes. 22% said they agree with term limits, and 14% simply saying they agree with the amendment.

For those who say they’d vote no, a whopping 43% said they believe commissioners simply don’t deserve a pay raise. 17% said they don’t believe the amendment will fix anything.

Critics have said the 8 year term limits don’t mean anything because they ignore the time commissioners have already served.

In contrast, the second charter amendment, which doubles the time allowed to circulate petitions for charter change to 120 days, appears headed to likely victory. 45% of those questioned said they would support it, with 32% opposed. However, a large number of voters — 23% — have yet to make up their mind. The measure would also allow charter chances to be scheduled for the next general election, which could be a big cost saver.

37% of the supporters said they think petitions should have more time, but 13% said they would vote for it to eliminate the need for special elections.

33% of those against it thought exactly the opposite, the petitions did NOT need more time, but a full 10% said they were voting no because they didn’t understand what the measure was about.

HOW THEY’RE DOING

One of the reasons commissioners placed the charter change on the ballot was to mollify voter anger that led to the recall of former Mayor Carlos Alvarez and commissioner Natacha Seijas. However, the poll results show voters are still unhappy, even with the new mayor they swept into office.

When asked to rate the job Mayor Carlos Gimenez is doing, only 5% thought it was excellent, with a total of 38% saying he’d done an overall good job. 43% had a negative opinion, with 11% saying he was doing a poor job.

Those were great numbers when compared to what the poll participants thought of the Miami-Dade Commission. just 22% had a positive opinion, with only 3% saying the commission was doing an excellent job. 40% of the participants said the commission was at best mediocre, with 18% saying they were doing a poor job.

Part of that negative opinion could be reaction to how voters feel about the ongoing public battle between unions and the county on pension and benefit cuts. When asked, “Do you support or oppose significant cuts to the pensions and benefits of county and municipal workers?” almost 2/3 of the voters, 61%, said they opposed the cuts. Only 30 percent support them, and just 9% were uncertain.

This has got to have the commissioners and Mayor Gimenez confused, because just 6 months ago voters were demanding tax cuts, and winning givebacks from employees was a clear part of the Mayor’s plan, originally endorsed by the commission.

WHO FOR MAYOR?

The clear rejection of the Mayor’s strategy indicated by the poll could spell problems for Gimenez, who must run for re-election this year. Of those taking part in the poll, supporters, opponents, and the undecided were in a virtual 3 way tie, with the 38% undecided voters having the edge.

Of those supporting Gimenez, almost half, 46%, said simply he was doing a good job so far. Only 14% said he’d handled the budget debate well.

33% of those who would not support him said he was doing a bad job, and 22% specifically pointed out the employee benefit cuts. In an interesting complaint for someone in office barely half a year, 11% if the poll participants said they wanted him out because “we need new blood.”

So if not Gimenez, then who? The poll asked that question, and found voters months before the election are a mass of uncertainty. 54% said if the election were held today, they would have no idea who to vote for. Gimenez took 27% for number 2, and Commission Chair Joe Martinez, seen by many as Gaminess’ strongest opponent, drew just 8%.

And the poll results indicate that among Black voters, Mayor Gimenez has some real trouble. Fully 70% of the poll participants are undecided, and only 4% favored Gimenez, compared to 33% of Hispanic voters and 31% of anglo voters. Martinez actually outperforms Gimenez 2 to 1 among Black voters.

Pollster Bendixen & Amandi conducted two polls in Miami-Dade County on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, for The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald, WFOR CBS 4 and Univision 23. One poll, about county charter amendments, queried 400 voters likely to participate in the GOP presidential primary. The other poll — about casino gambling, county politicians and county issues — queried 400 registered voters. Both had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.9 percentage points.

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