Carlos Alvarez's Sexual Problem

The mayoral candidate's bilingual campaign has a message that doesn't translate

To Jimmy Morales, this was a no-brainer: "I support domestic benefits rules at the county. The school board has them, Broward County has them, Walt Disney World has them."

Alvarez, likely aware of how his extreme views would be received in this forum, couched his demurral in dollars and cents. "I don't think there has been a study," he stammered. "We have to determine, what is the cost? What is the cost to the county?" There was no mention of his opposition not just to same-sex domestic partnership benefits, but to same-sex domestic partnerships period.

Morales campaign staffers were understandably frustrated with Alvarez's ongoing reenactment of The Three Faces of Eve, a complaint brought to the Herald's Oglesby before he moderated the final English-language mayoral debate on October 15. Asked by Oglesby to explain his conflicting positions on the gay rights ordinance, Alvarez fell back on his tried-and-true line. "It is the law," he said matter-of-factly. "As the mayor, your job is to uphold the law."

When it comes to gay rights, Carlos Alvarez can't give a straight answer
Jonathan Postal
When it comes to gay rights, Carlos Alvarez can't give a straight answer

A clearly exasperated Morales jumped in: "It's true, an elected official is sworn to uphold the laws and constitution. But I think people have a right to know where you stand on the issues. It's one thing to say you'll enforce the law. It's another to say you support it. Do you believe in it? Are you going to fight for it? If, for example, the commission was to overturn the law, would you veto that overturning?"

We'll never know. Oglesby couldn't be bothered to ask that all-important follow-up question. And Alvarez has refused to return repeated phone calls from Kulchur.


The irony here is that most English-language media coverage of this race has focused on precisely the issue where Alvarez and Morales are of one mind -- the need to stanch public corruption. Indeed of the original crowded field of candidates, Alvarez and Morales are the two with the clearest history of actually trying to clean up county hall and the seemingly endless flow of questionable multimillion-dollar contracts that pour out of it.

Both men have certainly made their share of ethical fumbles on the campaign trail of late -- from Alvarez's use as an "advisor" of notorious fundraiser Camilo Padreda, a convicted felon who has admitted in court to bribing city and county commissioners, to Morales's hiring as a "consultant" the disgraced but apparently still well-connected ex-cop Dante Starks.

Despite these recent missteps, though, both Alvarez and Morales have long records they can hold up proudly. As Miami-Dade police director, Alvarez was one of the few law enforcement officials willing to follow the money wherever it led, his career be damned. This past January, in what seemed like a real-life episode of The Wire, he even publicly called out U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez for dragging his heels in prosecuting an airport corruption case that implicated close allies of current county Mayor Alex Penelas.

Likewise Morales has spent eight years as one of the few consistent voices of reform on the county commission, pushing for ethics and campaign finance legislation, regardless of how many enemies he made along the way.

All of which makes the final contrast between Alvarez and Morales all the more telling. Yes, in a town where indictments of elected officials are as common as hurricane warnings, public corruption demands attention. But becoming Miami-Dade's new mayor has to be about more than simply chasing lobbyists out from under the dais. As clichéd as the phrase may sound, becoming mayor is primarily about offering leadership, articulating a vision of not only what's wrong with Miami, but also the kind of community it could become.

In that light, gays and lesbians aren't simply a sideshow to this city's progress, an interest group to be alternately appeased or used for a political prop. As Miami's electoral course unfolds, the struggle over gay and lesbian civil rights will no doubt become just as divisive -- and, ultimately, just as broadly character-defining -- as the African-American civil rights movement was to the Sixties. And eventually the current outrage over gay marriage will seem just as shameful as the now-forgotten protests over interracial marriage, a sepia-toned memory to be awkwardly recalled in museum exhibits alongside aging photos of " whites-only" water fountains.

Just how long it'll take to reach that day is unclear. But a good way to make it arrive sooner rather than later comes on November 2. You can cast your vote for Jimmy Morales, who's already embraced the future. Or you can throw your lot in with Carlos Alvarez, a man who still refers to gays and lesbians as people with "sexual problems."

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