No drawing took place any time before Friday’s news conference, Rosenberg said. “We had originally talked about doing a drawing the night before the commission meeting on Tuesday,” he said. “Then we said it’d be better to do it live, and whatever happens, happens.”
“Lynda Bell’s been very good to me,” he added. “This is not easy for me, knowing it’s her.”
The talking points were nestled in folders passed out to reporters by Deborah Dion, president of the Miami Economic Sustainability Alliance, a nonprofit group also sponsoring the recall drive. Its vice president is Fred Frost, a former head of the South Florida AFL-CIO.
Bell said she was disappointed in being targeted, “as a lifelong owner and lover of animals and a strong advocate for animal welfare initiatives…. Given the current state of the economy, I stand by my vote to not raise taxes on the residents of Miami-Dade County.”
The name-drawing had the air of a publicity stunt intended to put pressure on commissioners four days before they hold their first public hearing on the proposed 2013-14 budget.
“We’re going to start with one” commissioner, Rosenberg warned. “On Wednesday, we might come back for drawing number two.”
Rosenberg and Frost said they hope commissioners will change their mind Tuesday and raise the tax rate, as Pets’ Trust backers and advocates for public libraries and fire stations facing budget cuts have requested.
But while a tax-rate hike is technically a possibility, it is unlikely. A reversal would require spending about $700,000 to mail all property owners new tax estimates, according to Gimenez’s office. Final budget approval would be pushed back by a month.
“We’re going to send a message now,” Frost said. “We’re going to take our government back.”
Frost pumped his fist in the air when Bell’s name was chosen out of the hat. The woman making the pick, Marta Pedrosa, said she was a passerby who, on her way into the downtown Miami courthouse, happened upon the event and supported the cause.
After the name-drawing in front of a gaggle of television cameras, activists visited Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin to deliver their recall petition form. It was formally received, and now Ruvin’s office must review it for legal sufficiency. If the form is approved, the campaign would need to collect signatures from 4 percent of the registered voters in Bell's district over 120 days.
The name-drawing tactic runs the risk of not being taken seriously, by leaving to chance the commissioner’s name in a county that in 2011 experienced the deliberate, costly and tumultuous recalls of Alvarez and Seijas.
A conservative Republican in a nonpartisan post whose district covers a portion of South Dade, Bell seems like a clear target for pro-labor political interests. But she already faces reelection next year, so even a successful — and expensive — recall would only oust her from office a few months before she would have been on the ballot anyway.
Rosenberg dismissed suggestions that the activists’ recall effort is anything but genuine. He noted that the Pets’ Trust campaign to stop killing unwanted dogs and cats at the county’s animal shelter was initially discounted — until the group managed to get the nonbinding question on the ballot last November.
“They all told us that we would lose,” he said. “So far we’re 1-0 when it comes to elections.”