In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: Muscle-bound former mayor Alvarez a cautionary tale

Uh-oh.… What have we done to Carlos Alvarez?

We were so unkind. Tossed him out of office. Crushed his self-esteem. And now, in a final humiliation, Carlos has been Photoshopped.

Two years after Miami-Dade voters dealt the mayor such a soul-crushing rebuke, 88 percent of them casting ballots in favor of his recall, Alvarez has reappeared in public. But not the entire Alvarez. I only recognized his grandfatherly head, which seemed to have been cleverly grafted onto an alien body.

So we now have this familiar 60-year-old noggin with the salt-and-pepper hair (heavy on the salt) set atop an anatomical incongruity, a study in oily tumefaction, clad in teensy black swimwear no bigger than a skullcap.

All I could think when I picked up Wednesday’s Herald and saw that startling photograph, Carlos the body builder, was that we did this. We took this nice public servant, who spent 35 years toiling in county government, who had worked his way up from street cop to police chief and was finally elected mayor; then, in a burst of pique over a baseball stadium, we separated his head from his actual body.

There he was, the former mayor nobody ever called a showboat, strutting around a Miami stage and affecting heroic poses and eliciting cheers. He won the body-building contest staged in November by the National Physique Committee, in the over-60 category.

I’m over 60 myself, and can attest that most of us consigned to that particular category would consider it a trophy-worthy triumph if we could just look down from a standing position and see feet unobstructed by a protruding abdomen. But most of us are without the brutal motivation of an ego-crushing recall vote. Most of us weren’t publically outwitted by a sports team named after a fish.

The images of the scantily clad Alvarez became the visual equivalent of a cautionary tale Wednesday, when the Miami Dolphins came to county hall with a pitch for public money to upgrade Sun Life Stadium.

The county commissioners may have been talking about hotel taxes and Super Bowls and the economic benefits of giant sporting events, but that specter of Carlos Alvarez haunted the subtext. Every politician in the room Wednesday knew that the Marlins deal had put the most powerful politician in Miami-Dade County into a Speedo. It was a terrifying image. Every pol there knew that, perhaps with less well-defined pecs, a less ripped ab, “that could be me.”

“The stench of the Marlins deal is in the pores of everything,” Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. said, trying to explain his no vote without saying he just didn’t want to end up like Alvarez, prancing about before a hooting audience, stricken by the exhibitionist disorder psychologists call “muscle dysmorphia.”

One by one, the commissioners, then Mayor Carlos Gimenez, bemoaned the awfulness of the Marlins deal. They promised that if they agreed to throw some public money the Dolphins’ way, they would not be Marlined into another bad deal.

“This will be different,” said Gimenez whose political raison d’être had been his howling opposition to that lousy, insanely expensive baseball stadium deal, which the pols now say had been based on mendacious representations by the baseball team. But of the Dolphins, he said, “I don’t believe they’re the same corporate citizens.”

“They’re a different fish,” Commissioner Barbara Jordan said. Of course, Dolphins are not fish at all, but Jordan was probably too busy worrying that she might end up like Alvarez to worry about precise designations for the various aquatic species in need of public financing.

Of course, no one mentioned the buffed and oiled former mayor aloud. Instead, they talked in euphemisms. “We cannot in any way deceive the people,” warned Commissioner Xavier Suarez as he contemplated another stadium deal. “If we do, we will never get another bond issue passed.” Though, in fairness, Suarez looks to be in pretty fair shape, if not exactly chiseled, for another fellow in the “over 60” category.

The commissioners passed a resolution “urging the Florida Legislature to enact legislation to enable the county to levy an additional penny of professional sports bed tax and permit the state to grant a state sales tax rebate from the sale of goods and services at Sun Life Stadium.”

It was not a done deal, they emphasized. The vote was only the beginning. Mayor Gimenez promised that he would now enter into tough, decidedly unMarlins-like negotiations with the Dolphins before he brought back a financing proposal to the commission.

The mayor emphasized, “I won’t be bargaining from position of weakness.”

Perhaps, when he said “weakness,” he was thinking of his predecessor, who didn’t pump up his prodigious muscles until long after the bully Marlins had kicked sand in his face and went off with about $2.4 billion of the weakling’s lunch money.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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