MIAMI (CBS4) – One day after Miami police union members voted overwhelmingly to lead an effort to recall Mayor Tomas Regalado, the city’s unionized firefighters discussed whether to support them.
Late Wednesday night the fire union tabled a scheduled vote on the recall attempt so the leadership could provide more information to the members.
The fire union president says the consensus is that they are frustrated and want the mayor out.
Relations between the mayor and the unions have soured over the last few years. In 2009, cops and firefighters agreed to wage and benefit concessions. Last year, the Mayor and city commission unilaterally imposed more cuts. Union officials are upset that the mayor is once again seeking union concessions to avoid increasing property taxes in the city which is facing a $61 million deficit for the next fiscal year.
On Tuesday, the final tally for the police union vote was 432 for the recall effort and 16 against; nearly half of the union’s members cast ballots.
Captain Craig Radelman was one of hundreds of Miami firefighters who hit the streets campaigning to get Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado elected two years ago. He now plans to vote for spearheading the recall effort.
“It’s not a personal attack against Regalado or anybody else. It’s the fact that they’ve made an attack against the employees of the City of Miami,” he told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.
He says he believes the Mayor has mismanaged money, and he’s concerned about a third year of cuts to firefighter benefits.
“I’ve been here for 25 years, I’ve contributed for 25 years. 10% of my salary for 25 years has gone to my pension and now they’re telling me you know what you don’t deserve it,” said Capt. Radelman.
The last straw, according to union leaders, were the golden parachutes handed out to departing city executives. The unions were particularly offended that the administration reportedly offered Police Chief Miguel Exposito, a Regalado foe, $400,000 to go away.
Fire union president Robert Suarez has also accused Regalado of mismanagement.
“While we’re cutting back on city services and on employees, we’re seeing political cronies and hacks being hired,” said Suarez.
Mayor Regalado cancelled a scheduled interview with CBS4 Tuesday evening but he released this statement:
“The goal of this administration is to balance the budget, get the city’s fiscal house in order and create jobs without raising taxes. That is what taxpayers asked me to do, and that is what I am doing. By refusing to increase taxes we are improving the business climate and seeing concrete results.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez was recalled by voters 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.
Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s vote, expect a legal challenge from the City Attorney, on whether the City Charter allows for a recall.
Political analyst Fernand Amandi says budget cuts have created fractured relationships between local governments and first responders across South Florida.
“Something has got to give, and I think that’s why you see the leadership of these municipalities trying to re-sit down at the table with union officials to renegotiate.”