Monday, September 27, 2010
I don’t usually trust billionaires when discussing politics.
In this case, however, my sympathy goes to Normal Braman, one of the richest men in Florida whose interests or beliefs surprisingly coincide with those of the common citizen of Miami.
The City of Miami and Miami-Dade County have never been an example of incorruptible public officers.
I recall the Marlins' Stadium outrageous situation when the City and County of Miami agreed to finance it at taxpayer's expense. A team worth hundreds of millions of dollars was blackmailing a city in need of every penny to improve public services and education.
With a totally convoluted reasoning, Miami commissioners never talked and acted businesslike when confronted to shrewd corporate interests.
They could have asked for partial ownership of the team, or repayment of the city's loan with part of the team's revenue. But we would listen for hours to their speeches and discourse, never to get any reasonable explanation.
And in spite of the strong opposition and action of Norman Braman, and most of Miami's people, it just passed. The Marlins Stadium will be built by Miami.
And at the present time,while the Marlins are making a handsome profit, Miami is increasing its tax rate by a shameful percentage.
Too late, it seems, to reclaim taxpayer's money. But never too late to add to the suffering of their beleaguered citizens.
Here is what I read today, that sounds like a payback, but is more like a little bit of justice.
Norman Braman launches drive to recall Mayor Carlos Alvarez
Billionaire businessman Norman Braman announced Monday he is launching a petition drive to recall Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez. He said, however, he will not seek the recall of sitting county commissioners -- at least not yet.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez boosted the authority of his office and became a ``strong mayor'' through a petition drive. But now, a new ballot initiative could trigger his political undoing.
For the second time this year, an effort to recall the county mayor has been launched. Unlike the unsuccessful effort waged on a shoe-string budget by a Coral Gables retiree, the new campaign is backed by Norman Braman -- an auto dealer not shy to use his private fortune to battle public officials.
The move comes after the mayor and eight county commissioners approved a 13 percent property tax rate increase last week to plug a budget hole for the coming fiscal year, and after mounting criticism over other county spending.
Braman had pledged to launch recall efforts of the mayor and any commissioners who backed the tax hike. On Monday he followed through with the promise to target the county mayor, but said he's not currently pursuing sitting commissioners.
``This outrageous tax increase has been enacted while citizens are suffering economically, property values have crumbled, foreclosures are rampant, and unemployment has reached almost 13 percent in our county,'' Braman said.
The businessman said he's launching the campaign so ``the citizens of this community finally may have their voices heard.''
In a mid-day news conference, Alvarez responded that the property tax rate had to be increased to protect vital services, like fire and police.
" It is Mr. Braman's right to do this,'' said Alvarez, with County Manager George Burgess at his side. ``Quite frankly, I don't worry about things I can't control.''
The mayor later added: ``I will worry about running county government until the citizens of Miami-Dade County tell me otherwise.''
The recall reflects the shifting political fortunes of a county mayor ushered into office in 2004 as a former police director bent on bringing common sense reform to a county government frequently embroiled in scandal.
Indeed, in 2007 voters backed a petition-drive by Alvarez to further empower him by shifting the county manager's office and the entire county bureaucracy under the mayor's direct control. The move was supported, in part, because vesting power in a single, term-limited leader -- namely, Alvarez -- was viewed as the best alternative to improve county government.
But as the economy has worsened, Alvarez has come under fire.
In 2009 he declared that government ``must do more with less'' but then handed out double-digit pay raises to his top aides.
Separately, Alvarez initially defended his chief of staff -- whom he'd given a hefty raise on the grounds of increased responsibility -- after Miami Herald reports the top staffer was working as a private consultant in Panama on county time. He later demoted the aide amid escalating criticism.
Other criticism centers on the county's decision to use public funding for a new Florida Marlins baseball stadium in Little Havana. The mayor said the stadium is bringing jobs to an economy in desperate need of them.
Braman, joined at the press conference by state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, majority whip in the Legislature and a Miami Republican, said it is time for change.