Miami city commissioners confirm new city manager — then offer him their sympathy

02/27/2014 12:38 PM

02/27/2014 8:29 PM

After unanimously confirming newly appointed City Manager Daniel Alfonso on Thursday, Miami city commissioners issued words of warning, then offered him their prayers.

He surely needed them. Within hours of Alfonso’s confirmation, more than 50 city police officers stormed into City Hall hoisting placards in the air and demanding restoration of benefits lost during leaner times.

Prior to the impromptu City Hall takeover, commissioners sought to explain the demands of the city manager job.

“This is a very tough position,” Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said. “It is a full-contact sport.” He recommended his colleagues consider adding a disability policy for Alfonso.

“It’s a high pressure job,” he said.

Outgoing City Manager Johnny Martinez suffered a stroke last year, Sarnoff noted. He did not have a disability policy.

Alfonso is the fifth city manager since Mayor Tomás Regalado took office in November 2009.

Regalado said Alfonso, the city’s former chief financial officer, will bring stability to the city.

“I believe that Danny is up to the challenge,” Regalado said.

Commissioners did not paint a rosy picture of the job. They said the city manager can expect sometimes-contentious meetings, long work days and not much glory.

“Sometimes you get blamed for things you don’t deserve to get blamed for,” Commissioner Francis Suarez said.

It is a job of subtleties, added Sarnoff.

Alfonso will oversee more than 3,000 employees while delicately balancing the priorities of the mayor and the five-member City Commission.

Already, commissioners have started laying out issues for him to address: hiring more police officers, cleaning up the city and maintaining financial integrity.

Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort said he knows Alfonso will be a disciplined professional, but he asked that the new manager not forget his duties.

“Don’t be a politician; leave the politics to us,” he said.

Alfonso thanked the commissioners for their words of wisdom.

Later, the boisterous demonstration by Miami police officers caused the meeting to halt momentarily and immediately threw into the spotlight one of the challenges Alfonso will face: contract negotiations.

Dozens of officers streamed into City Hall banging on the commission chamber’s glass windows and doors chanting, “Overworked, underpaid.” Commissioners walked off the dais, returning about 20 minutes later, after the ruckus ended.

“The officers are extremely angry,” said Javier Ortiz, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, minutes before the takeover. “We are at the tipping point.”

Alfonso said he was prepared to bring back some of the benefits that were lost, but added the city is not in a position financially to restore everything.

“We do not have the ability to incur that recurring expense,” Alfonso said. “It’s a balancing act.

The commission will address Alfonso’s compensation package at its March 13 meeting. Regalado said Alfonso was willing to take the same package as his predecessor.

Former City Manager Martinez was paid $195,000 annually, not including other benefits and allowances.

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