Recall Carlos Alvarez

But that leaves a fundamental question unanswered: Did the mayor help the Marlins screw us? Or was he just too incompetent to stop them?

4. Raises, Part Deux

You'd think a mayor who already survived one recall over his first raise-related scandal (a citizen-funded petition that fell short earlier this year) might have learned his lesson.

But faced with an even steeper budget deficit than in 2009 — a $444 million gap — Alvarez made the logical choice facing any good CEO: Raises for everyone! The budget he delivered to the county commission last month included 3 to 5 percent bumps for almost all of the nearly 28,000 folks lucky enough to work for the county. (Cops get a 13 percent raise.)

Sure, there were sacrifices too — about 300 layoffs and several hundred other jobs lost through attrition.

But those raises will total $132 million this year.

Homeowners — just short of half of them — will pay higher taxes.

The mayor points out that overall, the county will still take in $50 million less than last year. Unions also agreed to save $90 million by paying more toward their health care. And heck, he says, he's not even really guilty: He proposed the raises, but the commissioners approved them.

"We want to ensure that we do not unfairly place the entire burden of this recession on either taxpayers who fund our services or the residents who depend upon them to survive," he says.

But Alvarez spent three years and $5 million in tax dollars to win the title of "strong mayor." It's time for him to man up.

So can the recall effort fly? Unlike the 2006 attempt to remove Commissioner Natacha Seijas, which failed, this one has a strong focus. Perhaps it's more like the 1972 push, the last successful one, when voters removed Commissioners Robert Hardy Matheson, Alex Gordon, Earl J. Carroll, and Ben Shepard after they refused to build a promised public hospital.

First Braman needs a little more than 50,000 signatures by December 5. Thanks to onerous new rules passed by the commission (rules so strict a federal judge said they are unconstitutional, before a higher court tossed out his decision on a technicality), Braman plans to gather up to 90,000 just to be safe.

If he succeeds, the earliest a public vote could happen is probably next spring — by which time Alvarez will have only a little more than a year left in office. Why bother?

"Because the system is rigged," Braman says, "and this is the only way to spark a change... People feel empowered by the recall. They're ready to stop complaining and to do something."

Alvarez questions Braman's motives, saying the recall is personal, sour grapes from Braman's failed legal fight against the Marlins stadium. "[He] suffered a very expensive and public defeat," Alvarez says. "Billionaires are used to getting their way."

The truth is that none of this would matter much without people like Tony Palazzo. The walrus-mustached Miami lifer recently signed up to oust his mayor. "We paid for a stadium we didn't need; we give raises to officials who don't need them," he says, shaking his head. "I don't think Braman has any personal reason to wage this fight. He's just as fed up with these guys as I am."

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