Miami-Dade County voters recall local elected officials by a landslide.

03/16/11 Joshua Lee Holton
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

South Florida residents voted yesterday to recall Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. Amid the massive recall campaign building in Wisconsin, public outcry over state budget deficits, government corruption, and incompetence has now led to one of the first major recalls of local elected officials in the country.

Alvarez drew criticism for cutting public worker salaries by 5% while raising the salaries of his personal staff. Political activist Millie Herrera says that many of the county staff were overpaid.

"So instead of just reducing those salaries by 5 per cent, do it in a tiers manner. The county manager who, by the way, resigned today was making $450,000 a year, himself. He couldn't have cut his salary in half? Come on, nobody wants to cut their salary. They need to understand, this is not the private sector. They're not there to make money. They're there to serve the public. If they took that job they knew they were going into government, they were going into public service. Don't you tell me that you're going to reduce 5 per cent the salary of somebody who's making $40,000 a year and you're only going to reduce 5 per cent for those who are making more money? That's not right."

Alvarez drew fire for giving millions of taxpayer dollars to a new Florida Marlins Baseball stadium, which she has called excessive.

"The Marlins refused to open up their books. They said 'oh, we're not making any money.' et cetera, and it just came out at the end of last year, around October or so, that the Marlins had declared one of the biggest profits in the past 5 to 10 years. So, they lied to us. You know, I don't blame the Marlins. I blame our elected officials who were not diligent in doing their job of protecting our interests."

County Commissioner Natascha Seijas was also recalled yesterday, and was criticized for supporting development into the Everglades.

"She led the effort to move the urban development boundaries which is 1970's. Miami-Dade set a boundary so that we would not move west of that for it's urban development."

Herrera says that the public sentiment that led to the recall came from years of accumulated frustration, in which the voters are tired of paying huge salaries to elected officials who refuse to take responsibility for the struggling economy.

"We need to take back control of our government and make sure that they make wise decisions with our money. There's so much waste in the state of Florida and what they're wanting to do is they're wanting to blame the unemployed for the lack of vision and the administrative faults that they have created. They want to blame the hard working people. They want to blame the unions. ... They're the ones who make the bad decisions, they're the ones who wasted money, they're the ones who are taking advantage and have these outrageous salaries and perks while people are going hungry in the streets. Literally. In Miami-Dade County we have one of the highest unemployment, if not the highest unemployment in the whole United States."

Herrera predicts that after the recalls in Miami-Dade County, there will continue to be mounting support in demands to recall newly elected Governor Rick Scott.

"I think that Mr. Scott is not in touch with reality. I think that Mr. Scott is completely removed from the troubles that working people ... you know, I'm a small business owner. So when they said that 'well, you know, businesses need breaks', I'm sorry. Large businesses already have all of the breaks they need and it's the small business owners that are being trampled on by all the laws. We're the ones who do not employ people because our educational system is producing undereducated graduates. We are taking money away from our educational system and we have to suffer for it. We already have the lowest business tax rate in the nation."

In Florida, there’s no way to recall an official elected statewide, but there is a proposed bill by Representative Rick Kriseman that would allow this to happen. With Governor Rick Scott’s proposed budget cuts protests to demand his recall will continue throughout the month.

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Whishful Thinking

About what to expect from WMNF reporting. Get perspective from a defeated "progressive" candidate and report wishful thinking as fact. You state, "Alvarez drew criticism for cutting public worker salaries by 5%". Many reputable news sources reported he was recalled "after raising taxes and boosting the pay of public-sector union employees". Missing too was this item, "The Miami-Dade effort was largely orchestrated by former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman and supported by Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, a tea party favorite" making any correlation to Wisconsin misleading. Your assessment of him drawing fire for supporting a new Marlins stadium was correct though.


It's ironic, Rick, but I took the same information and came up with the opposite conclusion. This is exactly why we need independent media like WMNF. The national stories only reported or headlined the real estate tax as a reason for the recall. That was inaccurate and misleading, the WMNF story is much more definitive. If the recall went through at 88 per cent, it had to be more than just property owners who were doing the voting. And although Ms. Herrera mentioned unions, she did not make the connection to Wisconsin, you did that on your own. Also, as she is a small business owner, would you say that she represents the view of the Chamber of Commerce as well? Not likely, is it.

Music to the choir's ear.

I bet you did come up with an opposite conclusion while listening along with the choir. The article brought up Wisconsin in the first paragraph. I merely pointed out there were no real parallels. A poll taken prior to the recall vote revealed the tax increase was the major factor by a large margin. As far as the two recalled, it was also reported elsewhere, "Their only support base are Miami-Dade County’s powerful labor unions that are working to deliver votes in a county bureaucracy numbering more than 27,000 employees". And this, "But the election on March 15 in Miami-Dade will be the first time that two union-backed candidates are running to avoid being recalled from office by voters who disapproved of their vote to raise county taxes". And, "When Alvarez pushed for a 12 percent property tax-rate increase in September, it was the last straw for many voters. Particularly galling to many, Alvarez pushed for the increase while supporting labor agreements that included salary increases this year". It was two arrogant career politicians that were embarrassingly rejected and to hear the spin from a rejected candidate is not definitive in the least. A better perspective on the vote could have come from Vanessa Brito, a 27-year-old political activist. Brito started Miami Voice, a political action committee, to target county commissioners who had supported the budget. She is a board member of Unity Coalition, a Hispanic LGBT political group in Miami-Dade County that led the movement to recall Seijas. By spearheading the Seijas recall effort, Brito is a true activist and not a wannabe politician like Herrera.