MIAMI – (CBSMiami.com) – The voters have spoken, and what they said to Miami-Dade Mayor and District 13 commissioner Natacha Seijas is “Good-bye.” By a margin of almost 9-1, voters recalled the veteran politicians and set the stage for a new day in Miami-Dade politics.
At 10:30 p.m., with 100 Percent of the vote tabulated, 88%, or 180,152 voters voted to remove Alvarez from office, the first time this has ever happened in a municipal government as large as Miami-Dade.
In District 13, Voters chose to remove Commissioner Seijas by the same margin, 88%-12%, with 16,999 voters deciding Seijas should go.
The final results must be approved by the county canvassing board before they are official.
Alvarez and Seijas faced removal from office because both supported a county budget that raised the tax rate, and the taxes of many Miami-Dade residents, even as it granted raises to thousands of county employees, including some members of Alvarez’s personal staff.
Neither Seijas nor Alvarez would speak with reporters Tuesday, and neither were available for comment as the results come in, but Alvarez released a statement through his county office.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve this community for the past 35 years,” Alvarez said in his statement. “The voters have spoken and a time of healing and reconciliation must now begin. No matter which side of the recall issue, one thing is certain: we all care very deeply about this community.”
“I wish the next Mayor of Miami-Dade County much success.”
BILLIONAIRE WON’T GLOAT
Billionaire businessman Norman Braman, architect of the recall vote, said he was surprised by the margin voters approved the recall.
“I’m frankly overwhelmed,” said Braman at a news conference as the last of the numbers rolled in. “We felt confident but to be very candid not this type of overwhelming response.”
Barman threatened to recall the mayor if a tax hike plan to raise property taxes by up to 14% was passed. Alvarez pressed on the plan was passed. Braman got right to work.
“We’re afraid of the county,” Braman said in Tuesday night’s press conference. “We’re afraid of the city. We’re afraid of that. Well damn it, I’m not afraid.”
Alvarez stood his ground defending his budget.
“I don’t want to be the mayor that quiet frankly craps on public service,” Alvarez said.
On November 5, Braman hauled 113,000 signed petitions to have a recall election.
“I have never lost any sleep over any election, and you know why? Because at the end of the day the citizens will decide,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez did try to stop the election though. He filed two separate lawsuits.
“I’m not going to appeal it I won an election and people will decide if March 15 I’m their mayor or not,’ Alvarez said earlier.
Braman said the recall of Mayor Alvarez is just the first step, and called upon the Commission to immediately schedule a vote to elect a replacement.
“It is important that the new mayor be elected by the voters,” Braman said, “and not appointed by the county commission.”
Braman said electing a new mayor won’t fix many of the county’s problems, and called upon commissioners to consider serious charter reform, and allow voters to put changes in the county charter directly on the ballot.
He said he planned to endorse no candidate for mayor. “I am not a kingmaker,” he promised. However, he said he would present his reform plan to candidates and make it clear to voters who supports it, and who does not.
CANDIDATES SPEAK OUT
Hialeah Mayor Julio Robiana, who announced months ago he would run for Mayor if Alvarez was removed, appears to be on board the Braman bandwagon.
“The voters of this community have spoken clearly,” he said in a statement Tuesday night, “and it is now time to begin to work to foster a new era that must start with Charter Reform, lower taxes and fiscal discipline.
“I am confident that voters will be given the opportunity to elect in a Special Election the leadership that will guide the County through this new phase.”
WHAT COMES NEXT
Even though voters approved the recall, Alvarez and Seijas will remain mayor and commissioner respectively tomorrow. The recall and removal from office will only go into effect after the election canvassing board meets to certify the results, a process that could take a few days to complete, but which should be completed by Friday
If the vote is certified, the Miami-Dade commission has 30 days to appoint a replacement for Alvarez. If they appoint someone, that replacement will be mayor until the next countywide election which is scheduled for January 2012, during the Republican presidential primary.
The winner of that election would have run again in November 2012 when Alvarez’s term is up. An appointed replacement will not serve out the remainder of Alvarez’s term. They will only serve till January.
If the commission does not appoint a replacement then they have to set a day for an election, to be held within 60 days, probably sometime around end of May or early June.
The winner of that election would serve out the remainder of Alvarez’s term, which ends in November 2012.
A number of candidates have already said they plan to run for the Mayor’s job if Alvarez is ousted, but in a recent Miami Herald-CBS4-Univision poll no clear front runner had emerged.