Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez came away a winner in the eyes of a majority of a Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) audience that sharply quizzed and criticized his policies at a Feb. 7 meeting.
Nearly 200 turned out for his appearance to discuss policy decisions leading up to his potential recall, still legally challenged three weeks before early voting begins Feb. 28 prior to a Mar. 15 countywide balloting.
Typical of the give-and-take:
“We had to save $900 in movie tickets last year to keep up with a $900 higher tax bill,” declared Michael Rosenberg, KFHA vice president. “Now, we’ll have to find another way to save next year.”
“You weren’t there when we needed you,” declared co-chair Miller Myers of a “Roll Back the Tolls” drive as the evening drew to a close. “Why should we support you now?”
However, nearly an hour into the session, KFHA board member Lawrence G. Percival declared, “I’ve heard what you’ve had to say and made up my mind to support you,” causing the nearly packed Kendall Village Center Pavilion crowd to erupt into the heaviest cheering and applause of the night.
“Be careful when you make your decision, that’s all I ask,” added Alvarez, a former Miami-Dade Police Kendall District commander, who began his remarks: “As someone who lived here for more than 20 years, I feel I know you well. I feel at home.”
Alvarez spent 90 minutes deftly fielding critics of the 2010-11 “commission- ordered rollback” tax plan instead of his recommended “flat rate” that wound up creating increases for many properties with declining values, as well as Alvarez-approved staff salary increases.
”Yes, I gave a raise to the mayor’s director of communications [from $95,000 to $125,000],” Alvarez declared. “She replaced the county director who earned $187,000, and now does both jobs,” saving a net $62,000.
Alvarez earlier defended taxing to maintain service levels, saying, “I’ve come to know what the public expects, and I know you don’t want parking fees to use park facilities.”
Pointing to budget cuts that “have now totaled $1 billion over the past four fiscal years, we’re still going to have to find ways to cover a predicted $200 million gap in fiscal 2011-12,” he stated. “So the question becomes: Where do you make even more cutbacks to maintain service levels?”
Should a recall oust him from office, Alvarez made it plain that he opposed an appointive mayor.
“I don’t believe anyone in this position should be elected by 13 politicians.”
Commissioners have the option of appointing a temporary mayor until Nov. 2012 to complete Alvarez’s current term, or call a special election within 60 days that Alvarez said “would cost the county $5 million.”