Joe Carollo can be a force for progress

Miami Herald Editorial Board

On Tuesday, former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo made a triumphant return to politics by winning the District 3 commission seat.
On Tuesday, former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo made a triumphant return to politics by winning the District 3 commission seat. MIAMI HERALD

As Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez, elected two weeks ago, looks to the city’s future, he might have to resist being tugged back into the past.

On Tuesday, voters in District 3, which encompasses Little Havana, helped engineer the political comeback of former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo. He was elected in a runoff after leaving the city 16 years ago.

We congratulate the former mayor, 62, who defeated Alfonso “Alfie” Leon, 32, by more than 250 votes. Still, for all his political smarts, his governmental know-how, and his accomplishment — because of Carollo, Miamians get to vote on whether to turn over city-owned waterfront land to developers — we remain concerned about his ability to work with colleagues and disagree without rancor. That’s one reason why we recommended Leon in this race.

Suarez appears destined to be a dynamic and energetic mayor, nothing like the departing mayor who favored the status quo. Suarez will shake things up. He has promised to come up with innovative solutions for Miami’s longstanding problems; traffic, sea-level rise, affordable housing, crime.

“One of Miami’s main challenges is its limited mobility and transportation infrastructure,” the new mayor wrote in a Miami Herald opinion piece.

True. His solution?

“If we want to decongest the roads, we must aggregate people and move them. Put more simply, we need mass transit. I am less concerned about the technology we use to do this than I am about finding a technology that works and that people will be inclined to use.”

A nice plan. Will Carollo join in helping it come to fruition? Let’s hope so.

Carollo has been to Miami politics what President Trump is to Washington politics: a major disruptor.

To his credit, Suarez says he’s optimistic about Carollo’s return, he told the Editorial Board Tuesday night. “I wish Joe Carollo the very best and look forward to working with him. I plan to serve, not only the people in his district, but all of Miami in a harmonious way,” Suarez said. The key word here is “harmonious.”

We, indeed welcome Carollo back to the political arena. With his return, however, we hope not to hear words — inflammatory accusations, really — such as comunista or chavista from the dais. And though we welcome, too, his healthy skepticism, Carollo needs to better articulate his view of Miami’s future in a way that doesn’t drag it back to past hostilities.

The mayor’s father, Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who has longstanding bad blood with Carollo, worked to get Leon elected. He recruited powerful volunteers to help. On Spanish-language radio, long testimonials supporting Leon and reminding voters of Carollo’s disruptive ways failed to sway enough voters.

Was it simply name recognition? There has been a Carollo in Miami politics for decades. In fact, Joe Carollo is taking over the seat of his younger brother, Frank Carollo, who was term-limited.

Or is this about the voters’ thirst for maverick candidates?

Carollo will be joined on the dais by another newly elected politician from the past: Manolo Reyes, 73, now a school teacher. Willy Gort, Keon Hardemon, and Ken Russell round out the commission. Clearly, there’s a new dynamic on the commission, that will demand that Carollo work effectively or risk being made irrelevant.