Residents vote to keep Miami a separate city Merger with Dade Co. is rejected by 85%


MIAMI -- Voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure yesterday preserving the city as a distinct legal entity and rejecting arguments that it was too poor and mismanaged to thrive alone and should be merged with surrounding Dade County.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, the vote was 26,095, or 85.1 percent, in favor of retaining the city, and 4,570, or 14.9 percent, voting to abolish it.

Those who favored abolishing the city noted a series of municipal corruption scandals and fiscal troubles. They envisioned a cut in property taxes, the highest in the region, if the county took over duties now handled by the city, such as police protection, firefighting and garbage collection.

But many voters emerging from the polls seemed reluctant to take a step as extreme as abolishing their city.

"Every city has gone through corruption and crooked politicians, but you have a lot of folks that mean well," said Thomas Marshall Wilkerson, 41, a concert promoter. "We need to give it a chance."

Mayor Joe Carollo said the effort arose from resentment of Hispanic political power in the city. Three of the five members of the City Commission are Cuban. Of the city's 370,000 residents, more than 60 percent are Hispanic.

Another ballot measure that was expected to pass would give the mayor veto power over the City Commission and the authority to remove the city manager. Many saw this vote as a way to hold elected officials accountable.

The vote was 22,387, or 79.5 percent, in favor of the measure, and 5,784, or 20.5 percent, opposed.

The measure also included district voting for city commissioners, each of whom is now elected citywide. It is widely believed that the new method would make it easier to elect black members.

"We've sent a very distinct message to the nation and the world that Miamians love Miami and are happy with the way the city is being run," Carollo said.

Miami is the fourth-poorest large city in the United States. Many of those who opposed abolishing the city said that if it were done, the city's wealthier areas, like Brickell and Coconut Grove, would form their own cities and Dade County would be left with the bill for the poorer communities of Miami.

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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