Miami hasn't seen any coronavirus cases, but an epidemic of a different sort appears to have taken hold in the city: recall fever. A coalition of homeowners associations and residents says it's considering a mass recall campaign targeting as many as four of the Miami City Commission's five members. The announcement, made by members of the coalition, Concerned Committee for Citizens of Miami, comes just weeks after a separate effort was launched to oust Commissioner Joe Carollo from his post.
This week, Chelin Duran, president of the Point View condo homeowners association in Brickell, took to the radio to blast Carollo and Commissioners Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Manolo Reyes for some of their recent votes and general behavior on the dais.
"There's no democracy here in Miami. With those three men that are sitting there, there's no democracy," Duran proclaims in a 13-minute paid spot broadcasted in Spanish on Radio Caracol (1260 AM). "We are going to see who we're going to recall, because Carollo is only the first, Carollo is only the first. This is a domino effect that starts now."
The spot takes the form of an interview wherein Duran excoriates the commissioners for intimidating and censoring local residents. She criticizes them for infringing on the interests of residents of District 2 — which includes Coconut Grove and extends north from Brickell to Edgewater — by voting to scrap a part of the city's Miami 21 zoning code. And she claims the commission's assault on District 2 includes its vote to strip Commissioner Ken Russell of his chairmanship of the city's Downtown Development Authority and Omni Community Redevelopment Agency.
The ad was paid for by Take Back Our City, a political committee created earlier this year to catalyze a recall effort targeting Carollo. Take Back Our City purchased airtime this week for similar ads on Radio Caracol.
According to Brickell Homeowners Association president Ernesto Cuesta, who is a member of the Concerned Committee for Citizens of Miami, Russell is the only commissioner considered "safe" from a potential recall effort. If that's the case, Reyes, de la Portilla, and Keon Hardemon have joined Carollo in the crosshairs.
Cuesta says the group intends to form a political action committee to back its sweeping recall plans. He declined to say whether the group wants to target Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. Duran claims to have the support of more than 150 residents and other associations but wouldn't name those groups. Neither Cuesta nor Duran would supply a timeline for filing paperwork regarding the threatened recall efforts, but Duran tells New Times to "stay tuned" for an announcement this Sunday at 8 p.m. on Mega TV.
Earlier this week, the City Commission voted to move forward with an ordinance that limits the number of times a commissioner can be targeted by recall efforts to once per year. The vote sparked controversy: Critics claimed the measure could give commissioners a loophole to protect themselves from serious recall efforts by orchestrating intentionally failed straw-man petitions. If the ordinance is passed on a second reading, it will be sent to the mayor's desk.
Cuesta says the Concerned Committee for Citizens of Miami will strongly consider filing a lawsuit if the measure is signed into law.
The ordinance's first reading comes less than a month after former Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Juan Cuba and a team of local activists announced its effort to recall Carollo.
Commissioners have said the measure has nothing to do with that recall effort.
In order to be successful, a recall effort must obtain signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in a candidate's district in a span of 30 days. After that, petitioners must start over and gather signatures from 15 percent of the district within 60 days, triggering a special election.
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According to attorney Juan-Carlos "J.C." Planas, who's working with the movement to recall Carollo, the campaign is confident it will collect the necessary 1,500 signatures, though he would not say how many it has gathered so far.
The recall effort against Carollo could be a trial balloon for groups such as the Concerned Committee for Citizens of Miami.
The last successful recall effort in Miami-Dade came in 2011, when County Mayor Carlos Alvarez was removed from office for his role in the Marlins Park taxpayer boondoggle. It's commonly believed billionaire car dealer Norman Braman backed that recall push.
Cuesta tells New Times he recently met with Braman. Asked to comment about the current recall fervor, Braman says he has nothing to do with it.