When you've got 30 days to collect enough signatures to start the process of removing a mayor from office, there are no days off. Not even Thanksgiving.
"We don't have a second to waste," says Fernando Godo, one of the Hialeah residents leading the campaign to recall Mayor Carlos Hernandez.
Godo and several volunteers have spent every day since announcing the recall effort knocking on doors and setting up outside businesses to reach out to residents. The organizers say they're about halfway to their initial goal of obtaining roughly 5,200 signatures.
Godo and fellow campaign organizer Eduardo Macaya, who both ran for Hialeah city council in the most recent election, say they've collected about 2,500 signatures in the two weeks since the launch. They're hustling to collect more and looking to add volunteers.
The recall petition accuses Hernandez of various instances of malfeasance, including shaking down businesses and charging for fraudulent temporary business permits. Univision and the Miami Herald have reported that the City of Hialeah issued the permits and collected tens of thousands of dollars in violation of county regulations on sewage flows and a federal order between Miami-Dade County and the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection that requires $1.6 billion in repairs to the county's sewer system. Hernandez has yet to make public comments about the recall attempt and didn't return a phone call from New Times seeking his response.
Yesterday, several Hialeah residents stopped at Macaya's tent near the Farm Store on West 12th Avenue and 72nd Street to sign the petition. Juan Santana, a Hialeah resident who has previously run for mayor, also mans a tent at a shopping center on West 12th Avenue near 49th Street. He collected about 80 signatures by afternoon and planned to knock on doors in hopes of getting 100 more. Residents can stop by either of the tents between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day.
Macaya asks residents to talk to family, friends, and neighbors about signing the documents. On the way back to her car, one woman told Macaya she doesn't support government officials who "plant themselves and don't want to leave." She says Hialeah needs a change.
Two city sources who asked to remain anonymous say some employees feel the same way. One source tells New Times they know multiple employees who want to fill out the petition but worry about taking a public stand against the mayor or divulging their personal information. (Signatories need to provide their name, date of birth, address, and voter registration number.)
The organizers say setting up shop across the city has been a challenge and say they have been kicked off several properties while trying to collect signatures, even when they've been given permission to be there.
Nevertheless, they say it's important to maintain visibility. Godo, who has made TV and radio appearances to tell Hialeah residents about the recall effort, says there are still a lot of people who don't know about it.
"We put ourselves out there to do this," Godo says. "Now it's up to the people to support it."
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