Miamidade County Mayor Alvarez Is Making His Opponents Case For Them
Written by Michael Lewis on February 10, 2011
By Michael Lewis
Mayor Carlos Alvarez is in court to block a recall because his opponents paid consultants, but he marshals taxpayer-paid county staff and facilities to take his case to voters. How ironic.
He’s being less than subtle. His chief aide, County Manager George Burgess, inflated recall election costs, then with fanfare threatened a 3% county cutback should the votes proceed.
The mayor’s spokesperson, Vicki Mallette, who benefitted from one of the large inner-circle raises that inflamed voters, works at county hall to issue each of the mayor’s statements headed "News Release" to battle the recall.
Her latest, on Friday, was the mayor’s one-paragraph statement on why he has filed his second personal legal challenge to prevent the vote, now slated for March 15. The statement through the Office of the Mayor fights a personal battle. It’s not county business.
When the recall petitions were certified valid, Ms. Mallette through the mayor’s office issued the mayor’s personal one-paragraph statement in three languages.
When the mayor last October was facing petitioners throughout the county seeking signatures that would initiate the recall based in part on large raises the mayor handed to his confidants, including herself, Ms. Mallette issued a release talking of "careful budget management and tight spending controls" on the mayor’s watch.
The county machine, on the taxpayer’s dollar, has been mobilized to keep the mayor safely in office. As he initiated one suit after the other to block the recall that voters seek in far more than necessary numbers, county-paid aides have been there for him.
A notable exception has been Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin, who is himself elected, doesn’t report to the mayor and was drawn into the dispute because he had to oversee careful study of each of more than 112,000 petitions seeking to recall the mayor. Mr. Ruvin has refused to play the political game and has been in the line of fire from both sides as a result.
The mayor couldn’t enlist Mr. Ruvin’s aid, so he first alleged in court that because Mr. Ruvin — who was away — didn’t personally certify petitions, the effort had failed.
Now, in a second suit to block a vote, he’s trying to split enough hairs via technicalities to have the courts cancel the election. Mr. Ruvin is still having none of it.
Still, Mr. Alvarez can count on the massive administration he does control to do its part to derail the will of the voters.
As we’ve said before, there should have been no recall drive in the first place. We should reserve recalls for far more heinous actions than the mayor’s terrible policy decisions, which the ballot box could resolve if he weren’t already in his last term. Once we base recalls on policy, they chill debate and petrify necessary decision-making.
But given that a recall drive did take place, that it’s perfectly legal if not perfectly proper, and that it’s been impartially certified, picayune impediments the mayor has hauled out typify a very weak strong mayor.
Mr. Alvarez should be fighting for his position with the voters, not with the judges. And he should be doing it without spending taxpayers’ money to save his own job.
Louis XIV of France might or might not have actually said "L’État, c’est moi" ("I am the State"), but Mayor Alvarez is living it.
If what he’s doing isn’t illegal, it’s surely a conflict of interest — the kind a recall vote is built to resolve once and for all if the law won’t.
In the way he’s fighting the recall, Mayor Alvarez is validating it.