MIAMI-DADE (CBS4) – Early voting began Monday that will help decide the fate of embattled Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez. He and Commissioner Natacha Seijas face a March 15th recall election, one sparked by anger over their support for a property tax rate hike last fall.

Alvarez said it was either that or cuts to police, fire, parks, social services. He stands by what he says was a tough but necessary choice. His chief opponent in the recall effort, Miami auto tycoon Norman Braman sees those choices far differently. He argues the county has been horribly mismanaged, and says a tax rate hike of any size was precisely the wrong course to take when so many residents are struggling.

Braman and Alvarez are not pulling any verbal punches. Braman thinks the mayor is out of touch and told CBS4’s Michael Williams, “It is an arrogant behavior. The mayor has two SUV’s at his disposal with drivers and the mayor decided he wanted to drive a BMW and requested $800 a month.”

In fact that money was a car lease allowance that county executives enjoyed and Alvarez says he was driving a BMW long before he became mayor. But Braman argues it is one more example of a mayor who didn’t think he needed to show a spirit of personal sacrifice in hard times.

Alvarez responded, “A billionaire that lives in a mansion, spends six months a year in France, and has a yacht about the size of a destroyer is saying I am insensitive. (I’m) a middle class, blue collar guy who spent 28 years in police (department.)”

Mayor Alvarez hopes to convince voters he feels their pain and deserves to finish out his second term in 2012. Braman is convinced he has tapped into voter anger over how the public purse is spent and he wants the recall vote to be the start of broad charter reform. Voters will have their final say on March 15th.


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