Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez was ousted Tuesday by voters angry over a property tax rate increase and salary raise for county employees in a county struggling to recover from the recession.
With 100 percent of precinct votes counted, 88 percent voted to oust the mayor, making Miami-Dade the most populous area — with more than 2.5 million people — ever to recall a local official. Just 12 percent of the 204,500 who cast ballots were in favor of allowing Alvarez to finish his second term which ends in 2012.
The county commission will most likely schedule a special election to fill the remainder of his term.
The effort to remove Alvarez was led by billionaire car dealer Norman Braman.
“County voters have demonstrated by their ballots that they are tired of unaccountable officials, of being ignored and of being overtaxed in this very difficult recessionary time,” Braman said at a news conference.
Alvarez maintained throughout the recall effort that raising taxes was necessary to fill a $444 million gap and avoid cuts to critical social services. He said those affected by the property tax increase had enjoyed an artificially low three percent annual cap on tax increases during the real estate boom and that the last round of contract negotiations had authorized most of the employee raises.
There have been numerous recalls of state officials in recent years but not any of a local government official in an area as big as Miami-Dade County, said Joshua Spivak, a recall expert and senior fellow at Wagner College in New York. The Los Angeles mayor was recalled in 1938 but Spivak said the population at that time was smaller.
Alvarez, a former county police chief, said Braman was angry over losing an effort to block the county from funding a new $600 million stadium for the Florida Marlins baseball team.
At Alvarez's urging, the county commission approved it.
Braman, a former Philadelphia Eagles owner, gathered twice the 51,000 signatures needed to recall the mayor. County Commissioner Natacha Seijas was also on the recall ballot and she too was removed from office.
Under the county's charter, having lost the recall vote, Alvarez must leave the job immediately after the election results are certified by the canvassing board, likely to take place Friday. The County Commission will decide whether to name an interim mayor pending the next countywide election or hold a special election to replace him.
Meanwhile, in the first fallout from Alvarez’s recall, County Manager George Burgess announced his resignation on Wednesday. Alina Hudak, an assistant county manager, took over the post on an interim basis, The Miami Herald reported.