The Return of Loco Joe

Miami's mayoral meltdown has a long and nasty history

Former mayors Ferre and Suarez are disgusted by Carollo's performances.

"That's the guy who is out in the public representing Miami?" Ferre scoffs. "That's where he excels: insulting people."

"I would have had myself as mayor hitting the street with the chief alongside me and the commissioner from the district in question to calm the masses," Suarez notes. He echoes a commonly held sentiment: Carollo aggravated an already tense situation.

But Carollo relished the attention; the more the cameras focused on him, the more combative he became. "He would call and ask if you saw him on the national television show," says one political consultant, who asked for anonymity because of close ties to the mayor. "He thought he was great, but I never saw him win one. His own ego kept him on those shows."

Recent weeks of political turmoil have taken a toll. Sources describe walking into Carollo's office on Dinner Key and finding the mayor snoozing in the middle of the afternoon. He has spent many nights on the Marta Flores late-night talk show La Noche y Usted (The Night and You) on Radio Mambí. The performances are full of hyperbole and venom. During a May 3 performance, for instance, he termed Warshaw "a descendant of Rasputin," one of the most notorious behind-the-scenes political manipulators in history.

Some community activists and political consultants are trying to tap the resentment against the mayor in the city's Anglo and African-American neighborhoods. They are pondering a recall effort. That signals political trouble for Carollo, who counted on strong support from those two groups in his three previous elections. But if he can sustain his current popularity in the Cuban community, he may retain his post. "Joe is not nuts. He is very focused," says a former campaign worker. "Joe knows what plays in Peoria, or in this case, Little Havana. It's good politics."

Most city hall observers concede the mayor made some political gain from the Elian mess. But even his friends are asking: At what cost? "It's upsetting. Joe was beginning to look like a responsible mayor. Then he just went crazy," says George DePontis, a campaign consultant who worked with Carollo. "I'm a long-time friend and I'm heartsick over it."

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