The Miami commissioner who’s often the lone voice of dissent on the dais is now defending his seat against a candidate who thinks nobody in the commission has done enough to keep the city from becoming the Wild West.
Alex Dominguez, who sells pharmaceutical products for a living, is the only challenger running against Commissioner Frank Carollo in the Nov. 5 race for District 3.
Carollo, who has a huge advantage in contributions, says he is proud to have become “the independent voice” on the commission.
“Many would say that I am the voice of reason and that I bring a financial perspective the city needs,” said Carollo, a certified public accountant. “But you can’t be effective alone; you also need your colleagues to implement legislation.”
If reelected, Carollo, who is 42, said he will continue to focus on strengthening the city’s financial team, building the emergency reserve funds without raising taxes, and challenging city business decisions that don’t benefit residents.
Dominguez’s criticisms are levied more squarely at the city administration under Mayor Tomás Regalado than at the commissioner he aims to replace.
“They have left the city in ruins in the last four years,” said Domínguez, 43. “We need to change the culture of the city, where anything goes and it’s become like the wild wild West.”
Dominguez said that if elected, he’d be willing to raise property taxes in order to bolster the city’s reserves and hire more police officers. He said he’ll also criticize questionable management decisions and hiring practices such as favoritism.
District 3 is largely made up of the impoverished Little Havana neighborhood, though it also includes the more affluent areas of The Roads and a section of Coral Way. About 78,000 residents live in the district, a third of whom are registered voters, according to Miami-Dade County’s elections department. It’s divided fairly evenly among Democratic, Republican and independent voters. The majority of voters — 81 percent — are Hispanic.
Political consultant Dario Moreno called it the “traditionally Cuban district of Miami.” The district, along with District 4, which includes Coral Way and Shenandoah, is known for its high voting rate.
“Districts 3 and 4 represented 60 percent of all votes in the last mayoral election, which is why it’s considered the heart of Miami’s electoral districts,” Moreno said. “This is where the next mayors come from.”
Carollo, of Cuban parents, was born and raised in Miami. He was a Miami-Dade police officer before studying to be an accountant at Barry University and later at St. Thomas University. He has worked for the firm Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, LLC, since 2002. On three occasions before being elected in 2009, Carollo, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully for state representative. The city commission seat is non partisan.
Carollo was only a child when his older brother, Joe Carollo, got involved in Miami politics as a commissioner and mayor. Joe Carollo is now the city manager of Doral, where in recent weeks he has waged a public war against the mayor of that city.
“When my brother was first elected, I was still in diapers,” Frank Carollo said. “I grew up with politics.”
Carollo is married to a librarian, Monica, and they have a 2-year-old daughter, Briana. After his daughter was born, Carollo learned that many city restrooms lacked diaper-changing stations, so he raised money from the private sector to install them.
He has gained a reputation for questioning even the seemingly smallest details about the finances of city projects and management’s financial decisions. During his first public hearing on the 2010 budget, for example, he criticized expenses for paper and postage stamps.
This year he opposed a proposal to extend a lease contract for the would-be developers of Watson Island, whose project has been stalled for more than a decade, arguing that the contract should go back to voters in a new referendum.
The commissioner is under investigation by the county’s Ethics Commission. Last year, a local blogger filed a complaint against Carollo alleging abuse of power when the commissioner called the police chief after a traffic stop in Coconut Grove.
Domínguez was born in Boston to Argentinian parents who moved to Miami when he was 2. He studied finance and international business at Florida International University and received a master’s degree in business administration at Barry University. He is a realtor, like his father. He also works in sales for a pharmaceutical company.
He is married to a psychotherapist, Erika, and they have two children, Alejandro, 7, and Nina, 5. He has no relatives in politics, but last year he decided to run for state representative because he said he was fed up with “irresponsible government,” and also because he wanted to be a model for his children. He lost in the Democratic primary election.
“I lost by barely 600 votes,” he said. “It was a good experience and I believe it prepared me for what I am doing now.”
Domínguez has been knocking on doors in the district since February. Nearly every Saturday he talks to voters, whether in the district’s public housing projects for the elderly, like Robert King High, or with his own neighbors in The Roads.
One of Domiguez’s campaign promises is that he will not accept contributions from lobbyists. Until the end of September, when the latest finance reports were presented, Domínguez had raised $44,000, half of which came from his own pocket. Meanwhile, Carollo had raised about $233,000.
“If I begin to accept money from those lawyers, then I’ll become part of the problem I want to resolve,” Domínguez said.