Miami-Dade County voters recall local elected officials by a landslide. listen03/16/11 Joshua Lee Holton
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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.