Mayor Carlos Alvarez of Miami has been ousted from his post by a special vote which was spearheaded by billionaire anti-tax crusader Norman Braman.
Anger Over Property Tax Hikes
Mayor Alvarez was popular with the voters, winning a second term as mayor in 2008, until he began to address the record high 12% unemployment and budget deficits in Miami-Dade County, home to approximately 2.5 million citizens. At a time when many other municipalities were facing similar troubles, and real estate values were plummeting in south Florida along with the rest of the country, Alvarez imposed a 14% tax hike on property in order to fund the city’s vital services such as schools and the police.
Anti-Tax Activist Begins the Fight
Auto dealer tycoon Norman Braman decided to do something. As one of America’s wealthiest men- Forbes lists him among the top 400- it was not difficult for him to invest $1 million in 2 political action committees which began a petition drive which eventually led to the vote on Tuesday which gave Alvarez the boot.In the 1990 Braman lead a campaign to prevent a 1-cent sales tax increase which would have gone to improving mass transit. He also was against a deal to build a baseball stadium.In January Braman told Reuters, “We’ve been hit hard,” referring to the property tax hike. “The federal government is cutting taxes; state governments have cut taxes to stimulate the economy. But here we’re doing the opposite — we’re raising them,” he said.
Inappropriate Use of Funds
Alvarez also came under fire for increasing the salaries for some county employees and supporting a deal to build a new baseball stadium in Miami’s Little Havana district for the Florida Martins at a cost of almost $350 million in public monies.”Why would you raise property taxes when many people are fighting just to hold on to their homes? And then he raises salaries for some county workers,” said 45-year-old housewife, Olga Navon, who voted in favor of ousting Alvarez.”He should have looked for another solution and been more sensitive at a time when people are worried about the economy and their jobs,” she added.
Carlos Alvarez is 58 years old and a Republican, who was first elected to the office of mayor in 2004. He was re-elected in 2008 and should have served until 2012, but because of the vote on Tuesday county commissioners will now have to choose whether to call a special election for a new mayor or to appoint an executive to serve out what remains of Alvarez’s term.