I am pleased that Mayor Carlos Gimenez has dropped his request to raise a portion of the millage rate to fund the animal care initiative, but I firmly believe that the County Commission owes it to Miami-Dade taxpayers to explore alternative funding sources. As we begin considering different options to fund this initiative, I plan to present a resolution to create a mechanism for private fund raising and voluntary donations that has County oversight and accountability to ensure money is properly spent for animal welfare. The Parks Foundation is an excellent precedent and model for fulfilling intent and spirit of last year's animal welfare ballot question.
The non-binding straw ballot question that was put forth to voters on the Miami-Dade November 2012 ballot asked whether the County should raise property taxes to help fund enhanced animal services in our community. Sixty four percent of voters supported the question posed and the idea of saving pets' lives. Unfortunately, the voters were given only one choice to make: raise taxes to provide for animal welfare or let the pets die. As an owner of two Golden Retrievers, I am committed to working to achieve the goal set out by the Straw Ballot Question.
However, using a millage increase to fund enhanced animal services sets a very dangerous precedent and invites philanthropic organizations to pursue future non-binding straw polls as a vehicle for funding. A few weeks ago a representative from the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers, an organization that delivers meals to some of our community’s most needy seniors, testified before the County Commission that it was facing serious financial constraints and would be curtailing services due to a lack of county funding. There a dozens of these worthy funding needs yet the County turns away many of these deserving organizations citing a lack of public dollars.
The people of Hialeah, Miami Lakes and the rest of District 13 elected me to make tough decisions and to act as a steward of their hard earned tax dollars. I owe it to them to ask tough questions and exhaust all other options before raising taxes is considered. No straw poll will ever relieve me of that responsibility.