MIAMI (CBSMiami) – An attempt to recall Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez took center stage at County Hall Monday when organizers of a new political action committee called “A Better Dade”, spoke to reporters about their recall effort.
Retired Miami-Dade firefighter Jack Garcia is heading the effort, joined by a group of college students involved in local politics.
“I’m doing this because this mayor has decimated public safety in this county and public services,” said Garcia.
Garcia first told CBS4 News that he was launching a petition to recall Gimenez following the death of his son during a July 4th boating accident. Garcia blames the Mayor for cutting the fire department’s budget, which led it to take emergency fireboats out of service three years ago.
Garcia’s son, Andy, along with Victoria Dempsey, Kelsie Karpiak and Jason Solemani lost their lives on Biscayne Bay July 4th while those fireboats remained in dry-dock near PortMiami.
Garcia suggested in a press conference shortly after the accident that having the vessel in the water might have helped find any survivors not killed on impact.
The Miami-Dade Fire Union has been supportive of Garcia since the accident and has publicly criticized the Mayor on the fireboat issue. The Mayor’s office, though, said the union can only blame themselves for shooting down his proposal to only staff the fireboats when needed—instead of keeping a full time crew on the boats.
Retired Miami Dade Firefighter Pete Shea says he supports the recall effort. “When I retired there were two fireboats in service and now there’s none, so I’d call that a decline in service,” he said.
Members of A Better Dade insist the recall effort is about more than the fireboat issue.
Vice chair of the political action committee, Tony J. Diaz said, “We’re seeing a lot of public safety sacrifices when they start cutting police services when they start cutting fire services,”
The mayor is in the midst of a budget battle which could lead to police layoffs. The mayor has said it’s up to the union to make concessions to prevent the layoffs.
“He would put a rickshaw out there with two paramedics and a Band-aid box if he could get away with it and then blame the unions,” said Garcia.
A statement released by the Mayor’s Office reads, “Mayor Gimenez refuses to be distracted by a recall effort. The previous mayor was recalled in part because he raised taxes in order to fund salary and benefit increases for union members. Mayor Gimenez has not increased overall tax rates and has held the line on employee salaries and benefits.”
Organizers of this recall effort say they’re modeling it after the previous one, but without the backing of billionaire Norman Braman. Instead they’re working to raise funds and gain support through a Facebook page and website, recallgimenez.com.
Monday, a plane with a banner that read recallgimenez.com flew circles around County Hall.
Garcia plans to file the official paperwork launching the recall drive in October. Garcia’s committee would then have 120 days to collect more than 50,000 signatures.
Gimenez is up for re-election in two years.