Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade Mayor recall effort draws crowds

Long lines of voters formed in Miami-Dade County Thursday to sign petitions calling for the recall of Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

"The passion is there. The people are fed up," said voter Rafael Belez as he waited in a line several dozen people long at a strip shopping center in Kendall.

The recall effort was launched by auto magnate Norman Braman after county commissioners approved Alvarez's budget for the coming year that raises the property tax rate and raises the salaries of most county employees.

A rally to support the recall drive was held Thursday in Miami Lakes. Mayor Michael Pizzi joined a small group of residents, other city officials from Miami Lakes and Hialeah in signing the petition to recall Mayor Alvarez.

"I want to be the first mayor of Miami Dade county to officially sign my signature as Mayor of Miami Lakes to recall Carlos Alvarez because of the tax increase he is imposing," said Pizzi.

Juan Hernandez waited in line to sign the recall petition in Miami., the frail retiree using a cane to steady himself. Hernandez said he lives on a fixed income.

"My retirement is very small," Hernandez said. "And still, they raise our taxes."

Alfredo Delagarza said he was particularly disturbed that the higher tax rate will generate revenue to give raises and bonuses to county workers.

"It's just absurd what they're doing, it's unbelievable," Delagarza said.

Rafael Diaz said he was infuriated over the new Marlins baseball park project. The facility is being built largely with tax dollars. Mayor Alvarez was a major booster of the stadium. Diaz said Alvarez and other leaders failed to adequately scrutinize the Marlins finances. The team offered a plea of poverty in asking for public funding. It has since been revealed that the club was netting millions of dollars.

"I think they knew about the economic situation of the owners, of the Marlins, and they kept it secret," Diaz said.

One man asked not to be named or photographed.

"I'm supposed to be working," he said, "But I just had to come do this."

The recall effort must gather the signatures of some 52,000 registered voters by December 5th in order for a special election to be held on whether Alvarez should be removed from office.

Braman, the recall organizer, said he was surprised by the huge turnout at locations that have opened this week to gather signatures.

"I expected it to taper off each day, and it's only intensified," Braman said. "This is what this effort is all about. It's about empowering the people of the community."

Braman said he did not know how many signatures have been collected in the first few days of the petition drive, but that it appeared to be thousands. Braman said he will most likely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own fortune to bankroll the recall signature effort.

Workers at the collection site on Miller Drive in Kendall said they were not paid, but volunteers.

"This is about my convictions, my community," said one man who was explaining petition forms to those waiting to sign. Workers were still painting the interior walls of the office that was not yet ready to be occupied. Portable tables were set up on the sidewalk out front.

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