Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Recall Election for Miami-Dade Mayor and Commission

Looking outside our islands, the biggest issue likely to have dramatic short term effects on North Bay Village is the recall election on March 15. Carlos Alvarez, the mayor, and Natacha Seijas, a commissioner, have been targeted by local businessman Norman Braman as the subject of recalls.

I've heard both Braman and Alvarez present their cases at the Downtown Bay Forum. Braman's argument is that Alvarez has done a bad job of managing the budget and raised taxes during the worst recession since the 1930's. Braman is particularly concerned about the stadium and that public workers were not targeted for more cuts. Braman therefore states that Alvarez should be removed and has put his considerable resources behind the recall effort.

Alvarez for his part defends the decision to build the stadium where it is now and does not apologize for his support for public employees, who have seen pay and benefit cuts for three years running. He points to Miami-Dade's current economic situation as something that would have been much worse had he not taken the steps he did.

Natacha Seijas and her recall seem to be a side show. Braman is clear that he wants to recall the whole commission and Seijas was a convenient target.

Now Alvarez and the Commission in general have done some very good things for North Bay Village. We have received a higher percentage of grant money than other cities, the commission and the county have made themselves available to help North Bay Village deal with our uniquely bad real estate market although we are not taking advantage of this and seem to be committed to leading the county through this recession. A good deal of the credit belongs to Sally Heyman, our county commissioner who is always available to us and who knows how to work with the county and with the mayor.

From a purely local perspective then, I believe it is to our advantage in North Bay Village to vote no on the recall.

In the larger sense, I have problems with the whole idea of recalls. Alvarez was elected in 2004 and again in 2008, neither time with my vote. I did not vote for him because I disliked his stand in 2004 on the addition of sexual orientation to the county human rights ordinance (He was against it in Spanish and for it in English, another problem) and in 2008, I didn't like where the stadium is located.

Neither of these disagreements constitute an emergency requiring a recall. They are political disagreements, policies that matter, but the recall effort would be better focused on changing the county policies, not on punishing individuals for political stands.

I'm afraid this recall will be successful and that will be bad for North Bay Village, and bad for the county. Miami-Dade could easily wind up like California, where a recall of Gray Davis resulted in Arnold Schwarzenegger being installed as governor. That recall expressed the frustration of the voters in a declining economy but few seemed to notice that Arnold governed almost exactly like Davis. It was a waste of money in California.

If the court approves the election, as it looks like it will, we will also be wasting time and money in Miami-Dade and unlike California, where the replacement candidates were on the same ballot, we have no idea who will step into the office if the recall is successful. I understand that people are frustrated. I am. But it's probably a good idea to live with the frustration and focus on what should be done to actually make things better here.

Update: I saw this from the Miami Herald today after I posted the above. It's worth reading: Braman outlines reforms for county government - Miami-Dade Breaking News - MiamiHerald.com

Kevin Vericker
February 16, 2011

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