Tense moments and shouting from the dais are nothing new during Miami Lakes council meetings, so when it happened on Groundhog Day, it wasn’t too far from the ordinary.
Tuesday’s tension was between resident Josh Dieguez, Mayor Michael Pizzi and Councilman Tony Lama, who jumped in to defend Dieguez.
The town’s Charter Revision Commission, on which Dieguez is a member, is considering a controversial charter change that would make the mayoral seat a rotating position instead of an elected one.
“There is nothing underhanded about what we are proposing,” said Dieguez, when he spoke about the issue during the public comment portion of the meeting.
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Sporting a blue Tony Lama campaign T-shirt, Dieguez used his three minutes to explain that the intention of the move is to end the “bickering” behind the mayor seat.
As proposed, the town’s mayor would be selected by the majority vote of the council for a one-year term, with a term limit of two consecutive years, instead of being elected every four years.
It should be noted that the commission is only able to suggest changes to the charter, any actual changes to the language of the charter would have to be approved by voters.
“The mayoralship should not be used as a stepping stone towards higher office, nor should it be a toy of career politicians seeking their third or fourth terms — to be perfectly blunt,” Dieguez said.
Those words didn’t sit well with Pizzi, who opposes the change.
He questioned Dieguez about the proposed charter amendment, before taking a moment of “personal privilege,” and asking for Dieguez to stick around to hear him talk.
Pizzi spoke about the work he and Wayne Slaton, who is Pizzi’s political foe, have done during their terms as mayor, and their dedication to public service.
“There was a comment made by Mr. Dieguez that the mayor’s job should not be a toy for career politicians,” Pizzi said from the dais, before raising his voice. “I don’t appreciate someone disrespecting Mayor Slaton or myself. This is not a toy, and we should not disparage the people who serve the people of this town.”
Pizzi then called for respect.
His words were met by some claps from the audience, but that was quickly replaced by shouts from the dais, with council members yelling “point of personal privilege,” in an attempt to be recognized to speak.
Lama ended up taking the floor, and dove in to defend Dieguez.
“These are volunteers,” Lama said. “That’s not fair for you to do that, now chastising Josh for the comments that he made. That’s not fair.”
He then walked out of the meeting for about 15 minutes.
The rest of the meeting went forward with a level of peace between Lama and Pizzi, who even agreed on some items, including the town’s traffic woes.
Watch the meeting
Click here to watch Tuesday night’s meeting on the town of Miami Lakes website. This exchange happened about an hour into the public comments segment.