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Front Page » Top Stories » Alvarez Would Lose Office If Referendum Passes Commissioners Say

Alvarez Would Lose Office If Referendum Passes Commissioners Say

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Written by on December 21, 2006

By Dan Dolan
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez will be forced to seek reelection or leave office if voters approve charter change referendum Jan. 23 that would give the chief executive sweeping new powers, county commissioners said this week.

Commission chairman Joe A. Martinez, vice chairman Dennis C. Moss and chairman-elect Bruno Barreiro said a special mayoral election next year would be required if voters give the county’s elected chief executive administrative powers, including hiring and firing of department heads, currently held by the appointed county administrator.

"This has nothing to do with who’s currently in the mayor’s office," Mr. Moss said. "It’s not about personalities. I think if you give the mayor new powers, you’ll have to have a new election because the job has changed."

Although the three commissioners said they have not asked the county’s lawyers to review the issue, they say they are convinced a charter change would legally require a new election. All three are equally certain passage would trigger a lawsuit to decide the matter.

And so is Mayor Alvarez, who’s pushing to expand his executive powers. During campaign stops, Mr. Alvarez has told voters he expects a lawsuit designed to void the remainder of his current term and force a new election. He said he doesn’t believe a new election would be necessary but would run if there is one.

"I’m sure the special election issue would end up facing a court challenge," said Mr. Barreiro, who noted the commission has no plans to initiate legal action on the matter. "I’ve had several attorneys tell me a judge would have no choice but to order a special election. That would cost the county another $3 million. And that’s 3 million more reasons for voters to reject the strong-mayor plan."

All 13 county commissioners have publicly opposed expanding the mayor’s powers. They fear it would breed a political patronage system and dilute the commission’s authority.

Mayor Alvarez says it would increase government efficiency. His supporters plan to spend $300,000 on a media blitz to convince voters that he’s right.

Commissioners haven’t organized a united campaign to stop the plan. However, Mr. Martinez and Mr. Barreiro said political committees are being formed to raise funds to block the charter change. They expect the effort to be geared up before early voting begins Jan. 8.

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