MIAMI (CBS4)- When Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado was elected to office it was with the support of the police and firefighters’ unions.
Consider the honeymoon over.
The leadership of the first responders’ unions have voted to lead a recall effort against Regalado. The rank and file membership of both unions are expected to vote on the proposed campaign next week.
In 2009, cops and firefighters agreed to wage and benefit concessions. Last year, the Mayor and city commission unilaterally imposed more cuts.
“Our benefits and pensions were totally devastated,” said Fraternal Order of Police President Armando Aguilar on Thursday. “They cut our salaries significantly, our pension benefits were destroyed.”
And for the third year, the mayor and commission are looking to fill a $27 million budget hole by giving employees, including cops and firefighters, less.
“They’re telling us there’s no money in the city and they’re going to have to cut salaries again or cut benefits,” said Aguilar. “I have members calling me and telling me they’re about to lose their home, they can’t afford another pay cut.”
Aguilar said the last straw, prompting the recall consideration, were golden parachutes handed out to departing city executives. The unions were particularly offended that the administration offered Police Chief Miguel Exposito, a Regalado foe, $400,000 to go away.
Is Mayor Regalado afraid of the unions’ potential recall effort?
“No, I’m not,” an emphatic mayor told CBS4’s Gary Nelson on Thursday.
Regalado said he doesn’t believe the unions can collect sufficient petition signatures to hold a recall vote, but if they do he’s confident they will be rebuked by voters.
“The people of Miami will have the opportunity of deciding if we should continue with big salaries and big pensions or reductions in taxes,” Regalado said.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff told CBS4 he doesn’t believe residents, struggling in a difficult economy, will take kindly to poor-mouthing by police and firefighters.
“I think it’s potentially going to backfire on them,” Sarnoff said. “I think what we need to do as a city is is try to get unified, and try to proceed forward in the face of very touch economic times.”
Sarnoff said there are reductions in spending that must happen for the city to function.
Aguilar said city officials have ignored substantial cost-saving recommendations offered by the unions and have instead decided to balance the budget on the backs of those who protect and save lives.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez was recalled by voters this year, outraged that he presided over a tax hike in order to give pay raises to county employees, including police and firefighters.
In Miami Regalado has done just the opposite, and has won the support of the leader of the Alvarez recall effort, auto magnate Norman Braman.
Braman sent Regalado this text message via cell phone: “Heard about recall. Be assured I will do everything possible to help you. Best regards, Norman Braman.”