On November 5, voters in Hialeah, Fl will not only get to decide whether to keep incumbents in power or change the Mayor and two council members. They will also have to make up their mind about a special referendum demanded by the City Council.
The question voters will be asked is about elected officials' pensions. In Hialeah, as of today, an elected member of the council is entitled to a pension after the age of 55, if in power for 12 years or more. This has led to many controversies.
Former mayor Raul Martinez, for instance, has been gathering $180,000 a year from Hialeah taxpayers since he left office in the early 2000s. Today's mayor, Carlos Hernandez, is poised to receive almost $190,000 in pension funds every year after leaving office.
The referendum will give voters the opportunity to close down the pension fund for all new elected officials starting January 2014.
In addition, it will add a provision to the City Charter that will force every change to the elected officials' pension fund to be approved by voters beforehand.
The special question has brought a lot of controversy in Hialeah, however. Many have seen this special question as nothing more than an electoral trick. Indeed, back in 2011, the City Council had tied a similar measure to the general election.
According to council candidate Marcos Miralles, the referendum itself is a good one and should be approved by voters. But it does nothing about today's pension recipients.
Raul Martinez and Carlos Hernandez will keep their funds even if the law is approved in November. According to City Attorney William Grodnick, Florida laws prevent the council from acting anyhow towards pensions already being received. But Miralles claims that Hialeah has the lobbying power to change Florida laws.
Anthony Luis, president of the local Police Benevolent Association has stated at a hearing that he saw the referendum as unfair to future candidates, who had "signed up to something else" when they filed to be candidates.
Nonetheless, it is clear that the City of Hialeah has serious budgeting issues, while entering its seventh consecutive year with a tax base decrease. According to mayoral candidate Juan Santana, the referendum is just an excuse. "They don't have money anymore. They're gutting the pension fund because it can't be funded anymore. But they're making it seem as if they were doing something heroic, of their own choice."
Elected officials are the ultimate public servants. Libertarian principles dictate that they should not only not receive any pension, but they should not even receive any salary.
Many South Florida cities, such as Coral Gables and Surfside, don't compensate their mayors at all. The same ought to be done in Hialeah.
This is why the Miami-Dade Libertarian Examiner recommends all Hialeah voters to vote YES on the municipal special referendum about pensions.