An initiative proposed by Carlton Fields associate Justin Wales will ask Miami residents in November if they want to give citizens the right to sue the city of Miami if it violates its own charter.
If ballot question 4 is approved, residents will have the legal standing to challenge the city in court if they believe its governing document has been overstepped. City commissioners approved the ballot question July 29, and it was authorized by Mayor Tomas Regalado on July 1.
“We’ve seen a number of instances where the city has acted in a way that some citizens alleged was in violation of the charter,” said Wales, who sits on Miami’s Charter Review and Reform Committee. “The charter is the constitution of the city of Miami. So the question becomes, ‘What are the remedies available for the rights bestowed to people in the charter?'”
The city has repeatedly argued issues of standing against residents claiming charter violations, many of which involve major real estate developments.
Wales said the standing argument has made it “almost impossible” for citizens to enforce the charter.
Last year, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled, “A city charter does not rise to the level of the Florida Constitution for purposes of creating an exception to standing.” The opinion rose from a case involving Miami resident Graciela Solares, whose effort to halt what she alleged to be a wrongly executed lease deal between the city and a developer planning to upgrade public waterfront land in Coconut Grove was rejected. The court found she was unable to show she was uniquely injured in a manner different from the rest of the community. She, therefore, lacked standing to sue the city.
This ballot question was proposed in response to the appellate ruling.
If passed, the public would be able to hold city government accountable without waiting for city commission elections, said City Commissioner Ken Russell.
There are times when the government may need to act quicker than usual. Even when it believes it’s acting in the best interests of the community, it’ll find the means to accomplish its political goal, Russell said. But that may not always be the right thing to do.
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