Carlos Alvarez and Natacha Seijas recall, Miami-Dade County, Florida (2011)

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A vote on whether to recall Carlos Alvarez, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County in Florida, will take place on March 15, 2011.[1] [2][3]

The recall effort against Mayor Alvarez that culminates with the March 15, 2011 vote began September 2010 after county commissioners passed a budget that raised property taxes while at the same increasing the salaries of county employees. On Thursday, September 23rd, the Miami-Dade County Commission, on an eight-to-five vote, passed a $7.3 million budget, which included increases in salaries for county employees worth a total of $132 million as well as a rise in property taxes by "as much as 14 percent in some cases." [4]

2009 recall effort


A report from The Miami Herald in August 2009 stated that Alvarez had given his Director of Communications, Victoria Mallete, a fifty-four percent raise in 2008, which brought her annual salary to $125,000. The Mayor argued that the raise actually saved the county more than $100,000 since Mallete replaced two other executives. The problem with this claim, however, is that, according to county records, the two replaced employees were still on the county payroll when the change was made in 2008. County documents show that both employees made $315,839 in 2007. And even though they had been replaced in 2008, each of the former public employees was receiving $350,243 annual salary, an increase from the previous year.

Mallete, however, was not alone in receiving a raise; in fact, "12 employees of the mayor have received raises of more than 10 percent since last year." [5] What made this worse in the public's eyes was that, at the same time this was occurring, Mayor Alvarez was "calling for 5% salary cuts of Miami Dade Employees in the proposed budget." [5]

At this point, public sentiment seemed split on the issue of a recall. A local survey commissioned by Local 10 News and conducted by Bendixen & Associates, a multilingual and multiethnic research group, showed that in September 2009 approximately forty-six percent of voters would support a recall of Mayor Alvarez while forty-seven percent said they would oppose it. Additionally, forty-five percent of those interviewed stated that they had a negative opinion of the county commission for its recent budget decisions. [6]

Petition lawsuit

Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi filed a suit on September 14, 2009 in hopes of undoing a controversial requirement that has been effect for three years. The requirement that was a point of contention for Pizzi stated that there can be only one signature per page and an allowance of a signer to rescind their signature within two weeks of signing, a stipulation, he argued, made it especially difficult for initiatives to gain ballot access. If the requirement had been overturned, it would have made it easier to force a recall election targeting Mayor Alvarez. [7]

Path to the ballot

A previous effort to recall Alvarez has been launched in December 2009. The Miami-Dade County Clerk of Court approved the intent to recall petition filed by Lázaro R. González, a local 63-year old former lab technician, on Friday, December 4th. [8] Supporters of the petition argued that the Mayor's inability to properly deal with the county's $427 million budget deficit, along with his controversial decision to issue double-digit raises to county advisors, led to their decision to demand he be recalled. [9] In January 2010, several local unions including AFSCME Local 121, which represents 1,700 employees in the county's water and sewer department, and Transport Workers Union Local 291, which represents 2,500 employees in the county's transportation department, voiced their support for the petition. [10]

The recall movement, however, was ultimately squashed after supporters fell short of collecting the necessary 52,108 signatures required to force a recall election. [11]

2011 recall effort


Rumblings about another recall effort against Mayor Alvarez began in September 2010 after county commissioners passed a budget that raised property taxes while at the same increasing the salaries of county employees. On Thursday, September 23rd, the Miami-Dade County Commission, on an eight-to-five vote, passed a $7.3 million budget, which included increases in salaries for county employees worth a total of $132 million as well as a rise in property taxes by "as much as 14 percent in some cases." [4]


Norm Braman, the former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles football team and now the owner of a string of automative dealerships throughout Southern Florida, vowed shortly after the votes came down to launch a recall campaign against Alvarez. Braman is not a stranger to battling tax increases. He helped kill a Miami City sales tax proposal in 1982 that would have helped renovate the Orange Bowl for the Miami Dolphins football program. Most recently, Braman filed suit against "a giant $3 billion public works deal that includes a long-sought stadium for baseball's Florida Marlins." [12] He contends that the deal, approved by the Miami-Dade County Commission in December 2007, violates Florida's Sunshine Law requiring open government since negotiations were conducted in private sessions. Braman's suit argued further that the proposal "improperly uses money intended to cure urban blight and help poor people." [12] Braman's main point of contention with the proposal is that either the matter should be privately financed, something the cost-conscious Marlins owners are adverse to discussing, or it should be put before the voters as a referendum. While his suit failed in State Circuit Court, Braman said that he is willing to bringing it before the State Supreme Court, if necessary.

Path to the ballot

On Monday, September 27th, 2010, Braman, who was joined by Carlos Lopez-Cantera, majority whip in the State Legislature and a Miami Republican, held a press conference where he announced his campaign to recall Mayor Alvarez. The tipping point for him was what he considered to be the "outrageous tax increase" enacted by the County Commission in the midst of a recession in which "citizens are suffering economically, property values have crumbled, foreclosures are rampant, and unemployment has reached almost 13 percent in our county." [13]

In response, Alvarez came out swinging against Braman, arguing that property tax rates had to be increased to protect vital services, such as local police and fire departments. Not mincing words, the Alvarez said he didn't "want to be the mayor that frankly craps on public service and the quality of life for our people." [14] As for the salary increases for county employees, he claims they were locked in by contracts that could not be reworked. "We have explained this ad nauseum," he stated in a press conference, "I guess the Miami Herald does not have the brain capacity to understand what we have tried to explain." [14]

A few days later, Alvarez demonstrated that he was taking Braman's petition seriously by forming a brand new political action committee called Citizens For Truth, which "allows the mayor to accept unlimited financial donations from fundraisers to bankroll his fight," and retaining Bruce Rogow, "a veteran litigator and appellate attorney, who aided the county leader's successful ballot initiative in 2007 to win strong-mayor powers." [15] [16]

Norman Braman spoke with Enrique Santos, a radio and television personality, on his radio program for WRTO 98.3 FM in Miami about the recall campaign:

On Friday, November 5th, Norman Braman personally delivered 112,849 recall petitions to Harvey Ruvin, Miami-Dade County's Clerk of Courts. [17] Short thereafter, however, Mayor Alvarez filed suit to have those petitions tossed based on a technicality, claiming that the October 6th "letter from the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts approving the petition that cleared the way for recall signatures to be gathered was improperly signed." [18] The letter in question was signed by Diane Collins, a deputy clerk, not Harvey Ruvin, the Clerk of Courts, something Bruce Rogow, Alvarez's attorney, contends violates the Charter. The suit flies in the face of an argument made by The Miami Herald which stated that "Alvarez's petition drive for strong mayor powers was approved in 2005 by a letter signed by a deputy clerk as well." [18]

The recall campaign against Mayor Alvarez received a major boost on November 16th when United States Senator-elect Marco Rubio stated the he backed Braman's efforts and he himself had signed the petition. Rubio argued that what "they did with property taxes, it's just completely out of line with the reality of the economic circumstances that residents in Miami-Dade are facing." [19] The up and coming Republican politician had been at one point considered a challenger against Alvarez in 2008.

Nearly a month after filing in court to have the recall petitions against him dismissed, Mayor Alvarez dropped his lawsuit after testimony from Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin demonstrated that he "did actually have personal involvement in the approval." [20]

The Clerk of Courts for Miami-Dade County announced on Tuesday, December 21st that the necessary signatures were legally collected and officially certified the petitions. [21] County commissioners would have ninety days thereafter to hold a recall election.

See also

External links


  1. The Miami Herald "No quorum: Mayor Carlos Alvarez recall election meeting canceled" 29 Dec. 2010
  2. The Miami Herald "March 15 recall-vote date chosen by Miami-Dade Commission" 13 Jan. 2011
  3. The Miami Herald "No quorum: Mayor Carlos Alvarez recall election meeting canceled" 29 Dec. 2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 NBC Miami "Braman Begins Recall Battle With Miami-Dade Mayor" 28 Sept. 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 Eye on Miami "This is not okay Mayor Alvarez" 23 Aug. 2009
  6. Miami New Times "Two-Thirds of Voters Have Negative Opinion of Mayor Alvarez, 46 Percent Support Recall" 10 Sept. 2009
  7. The Miami Herald "Lawsuit challenges Miami-Dade recall petition rules" 15 Sept. 2009
  8. The Miami Herald "Miami-Dade Mayor Alvarez's recall goal of man's petition drive" 5 Dec. 2009
  9. The Miami Herald "So much for Mayor Alvarez, the crusader" 29 Aug. 2009
  10. The Miami Herald "Unions joining recall effort against Miami-Dade mayor" 7 Jan. 2010
  11. The Miami Herald "Bid to recall Miami-Dade mayor fails" 2 Feb. 2010
  12. 12.0 12.1 ESPN "Braman says Marlins stadium should be privately financed" 7 March, 2008
  13. The Miami Herald "Norman Braman launches drive to recall Mayor Carlos Alvarez" 27 Sept. 2010
  14. 14.0 14.1 NBC Miami "Carlos Alvarez Doesn't Want to Crap on the County" 27 Sept. 2010
  15. The Miami Herald "Mayor Carlos Alvarez strikes back against recall effort" 1 Oct. 2010
  16. Miami New Times "Carlos Alvarez Prepares to Battle Braman's Recall Effort" 1 Oct. 2010
  17. VodPod "Petitions delivered to recall Mayor Carlos Alvarez" 7 Nov. 2010
  18. 18.0 18.1 The Miami Herald "Miami-Dade Mayor Alvarez files suit over recall" 5 Nov. 2010
  19. The Miami Herald "Marco Rubio, far from home, still backs Carlos Alvarez recall" 16 Nov. 2010
  20. The Miami Herald "Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez drops recall lawsuit" 2 Dec. 2010
  21. Miami New Times "Carlos Alvarez Recall Certified By Harvey Ruvin, Likely Headed To Voters Next Year" 21 Dec. 2010