Joe Carollo: The Eczema of Miami Politics

Joe Carollo
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Grant Miller

GRANT MILLER OPINION PIECE: American publisher Elbert Hubbert once wrote: “Every tyrant who has lived has believed in freedom for himself.”

A tyrant is a cancer; a petty tyrant is more like a rash, irritating, but eventually it fades and goes away.

Joe Carollo has long been the eczema of Miami politics.

Joe once was a member of the City of Miami Commission. Later, he became mayor, was succeeded by Xavier Suarez, and returned to office as mayor after Suarez. He then would find himself in political exile, taking the office of city manager of Doral, a town named for a golf course that Donald Trump would later buy.

Along the way, Joe’s behavior earned him the moniker of “Crazy Joe”. But there is a darker side to Carollo. In a memo dated June 22, 1982, Miami Police Chief Kenneth Harms wrote that he had never encountered a public official as crazy, conspiratorial, and transparently corrupt as Carollo.

During his career, he attended a press conference where he was expected to endorse Maurice Ferre for mayor, but instead double-crossed Ferre and denounced him in front of the press. Carollo has delighted in calling his opponents communists. His base has always been the abuelos and abuelas who faithfully tuned into the Cuban radio stations that broadcast up and down the dial.

Appealing to this base, Carollo regained office in 2017, elected to the seat of his term-limited brother, Frank Carollo. That campaign set Carollo off into a new direction of petty tyranny.

Joe Carollo

Bill Fuller, a co-owner of the Little Havana nightclub Ball & Chain, allowed Carollo’s runoff opponent to hold a rally on one of his properties. Leon didn’t win, but Carollo does not either forget or forgive.

Carollo, like a creature of the night, began a series of late-night stakeouts of Ball & Chain’s valet parking lot. He’s denounced Fuller on Spanish-language radio, making up accusations that Fuller had leftist ties. At Miami Commission meetings, he rails against Ball & Chain and Fuller’s other businesses.

Following the election, Carollo began focusing the power of the City of Miami to destroy Fuller’s businesses in Little Havana. Carollo has wielded the city’s Code Enforcement Office like a cudgel. He is accused of demanding and directing that Code Enforcement Officers carry out selective inspections of the businesses.

If that is true, then Carollo, who pretends to be an advocate of law and order, violated the provision in the city’s laws that prohibit a city commissioner from giving direction to a city employee. Those rules apparently apply to everyone — except Joe Carollo.

Carollo’s war against Ball & Chain resulted first in a complaint filed against him with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. Fuller later withdrew that complaint, but filed a lawsuit in federal court against Carollo.

The lawsuit begins by stating: “The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees every citizen the absolute and fundamental rights to freedom of speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.” It then goes on to allege that Carollo trampled on the rights of Fuller and his business partner, Martin Pinilla, “by using the power and influence of his government office to engage in a campaign of harassment, retribution, and retaliation against plaintiffs.”

Miami City Hall

The lawsuit accuses Carollo of the same critique he uses against his enemies: “Unchecked retaliation and political payback on this scale would lead the United States down the path of Cuba and Venezuela today.”

Carollo defends his actions, claiming his mission is to rid Little Havana of “corrupt businessmen” trying to gentrify and “de-Latinize” it. It is a textbook defense of a demagogue. Joe has a charismatic and bombastic appeal to a small slice of the electorate who fear a world that is passing them by. Like the strong men who have preceded him, only Carollo knows how to fix the problems.

Fuller’s lawsuit will grind slowly forward in the judicial machinery. Carollo will benefit from a defense paid for by city taxpayers. He will use the lawsuit as proof of his victimhood and the righteousness of his cause. If Fuller wins, any damages will likely come out of the city treasury and not Carollo’s pockets.

A Joe Carollo can happen in any town, anywhere. Appeals to resentment, hate, rage, retribution, and paranoia always have been part of the political mix in America. However, Carollo’s brand of politics may be fading in Miami.

The AM radio stations, like their elderly Cuban listeners, have been dying off for decades. Carollo’s base is fading away. Fidel Castro is dead and his brother Raúl has retired. The kids and grandkids of those who came in exilio don’t see politics the way their parents and grandparents did. They don’t listen to Cuban radio.

Time may clear the political rash that is Joe Carollo. He might be able to gain reelection, but will be term limited out like his brother was. In the meantime, both the city and the state attorneys should boldly enforce the provisions of the law that prohibit Carollo and other commissioners from trying to take the law into their own hands.

If he won’t act lawfully, then those who have the power should show Joe Carollo the door.

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  1. While you are right about Joe Carollo hypocrecy and bad politics, it is also evident in your writing two bias:
    1- You are resentfully
    and hatefully against the Cuban community which has provided for decades ample benefits to this City
    2- You seems to dislike our President Donald Trump and that shows your quasi disdain mentioning the golf couese at Doral that has nothing to do with the core of your writing Carollo

    Really you bias does not entice reading your petty publication
    Good day

  2. This is one of the most bigoted articles I have ever read. You can express your opinion on Mr. Carollo, or the President for that matter, without spreading your hateful message on the Cuban American community in South Florida. This broadside attack on “elderly cubans” , based solely on your political beliefs, is completely uncalled for. You should be ashamed of yourself. How does this paper even print this racist garbage?

  3. Joe Carollo is not only a devious, corrupt, tyrant… he’s also a bona fide petty *and most likely not so petty) CRIMINAL. He was never caught in the act, but I know for a FACT… personally… that he smoked crack in the 90’s. There other far more heinous acts and occurrences that I’m aware of personally which he was at least on the periphery of, but I don’t need anymore trouble than I’ve already had in my life – so I’ll let sleeping dogs lie.

  4. I would like to start by saying that I haven’t closely followed the feud between Carollo and Fuller, or Carollo’s role in Miami’s politics, with the exception of a few tidbits I catch here and there on the news. I did see a news segment a while back covering what appeared to be Carollo bragging about some kind of a win against Fuller in Little Havana about Friday Nights. I have also heard his criticism of Francis Suarez and Suarez’s bold efforts to make tangible progress for the city. These things have lead me to view Carollo with suspicion. Now reading here that he has a habit of framing his enemies as “communists” only reinforces my suspicions about him.

    I don’t appreciate corruption, tyranny, or hair-trigger “commie”-scare hysteria any more than you might, but I don’t think it is necessary to resort to what basically comes across as anti-Cuban discourse here. I am not Cuban myself, but I do share in Latin heritage, and I find the anti-Cuban subtext and attitude in this piece hurtful. Perhaps not so much hurtful towards me directly, but to the wider community as well as to your outright insensitive comment about “elderly Cuban” people dying. Sure, people die, everyone dies, but these are not just some annoying listeners of certain AM radio stations, but someone’s mother, father, wife, husband, etc. The power and direction of your message is lost when you add in all this insensitivity and anti-Cuban undertones which teeter on the verge of xenophobia.

    Even if I were not of a Latin background, I would still find this hurtful. If your piece expressed the same attitude towards the local Jewish, African American, Irish, Greek, Russian, or any other ethnic/cultural/religious/etc group, I would still find it hurtful.

    It’s a slippery slope, and letting this kind of anti-Cuban subtext go, when this piece is supposedly meant to focus and discuss one individual example of a tyrant in our local politics, is the kind of incremental step that leads to more and more hateful rhetoric. I do not want to see that happen here. It’s bad enough with the racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia that already goes on on a daily basis across the country and world in general.

    As I said, I’m not a fan of Joe Carollo. But I’m even less of a fan of hate. If you want people to listen, read, and learn from you, don’t lose them by alienating them.

  5. Grant can say this because he’s in South Miami, not City of Miami, but still probably risky. Kudos to Grant for saying what needs to be said…I sure as hell wouldn’t.

  6. Grant Miller does not live in South Miami – he lives in Palmetto Bay. He once set up a cot in his printing house in South Miami and ran for South Miami City Commission. He was outed and lost. Sorry but not surprised to see him painting Cubans with a broad brush. The Miller brothers have the morality of Joe Carrollo.

  7. I suffer from eczema and I hate to be compared to such garbage. I would think an educated Anglo as yourself would be able to express his opinion and dislike of an individual, could do so without disparaging a whole group of elderly United States Citizens. You Sir by all accounts just as much of an jackass as Mr. CORROLO.

  8. The best piece of editorial journalism you’ve ever written, Grant. Crazy Joe is a cancer on Miami that needs chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy to stop his metastasis. He’s a boil on the ass of Miami that needs lancing. An embarassment to this vibrant community.

    Grant, you are 100% correct. Crazy Joe is a demagogue, an ideolouge and a tyrant not unlike Fidel and Che, his mentors. It’s ironic that his abuelas y abuelos can often be found dancing to Salsa and Timba at Ball & chain WITHOUT CHARGE, day and night, seven days a week, to enjoy life and to capture the spirit of times gone by, alongside the flow of tourists whose dollars keep the area pulsing.

    Ball & Chain is the heart and soul of Little Havana. If Crazy Joe cared so much about gentrification, he would work to stop Brickell developers from eyeing Calle Ocho as the next valley of the sky scrapers, rather than target Bill Fuller, who obviously incites jealousy in Crazy Joe. Crazy Joe should also get down on his hands and kness and kiss Bill Fuller’s ass for having the foresight to invest in Little Havana, rather than leave it to crumble like the real Havana. It’s time for Crazy Joe to go.

  9. It is no surprise to many of us what Joe Carollo has been all about for the last 30 years; however, I find it encouraging that someone has taken the time to expose Joe Carollo on his recent activities. Abuse of power has been a common factor in his political career. One should expect that someone with Carollo’s reputation would not be elected, but irresponsible and ignorant voters are active and many.
    In my opinion, the article could have a better effect if the author had given all the facts without detracting from the older Cuban exiles, even if they have voted for Carollo or not. Despite the fact that racism and xenophobia are rampant in the nation, especially during the last couple of years, a serious writer with a message to convey should stay away from that hateful trend.
    Kudos for exposing Joe Carollo. Criticism for attacking the old Cuban folks.

  10. Should the City of Miami taxpayers pay for Carollo’s defense? I DON’T THINK SO!!! If Fuller wins, any damages will likely come out of the city treasury not from Carollo’s pocket. “Carollo will benefit from a defense paid for by city taxpayers. He will use the lawsuit as proof of his victimhood and the righteousness of his cause. If Fuller wins, any damages will likely come out of the city treasury and not Carollo’s pockets.

  11. Dear Mr. Miller:
    With all do respect Sir, although WE all agree with your take on Joe Carrollo, I believe you meant to say that Joe Carollo was “the Herpes of South Florida”, not the Eczema…yet, I could be wrong…
    Thank you kindly for your valuable analysis of Joe Carollo.

  12. As residents in Commissioner Carollo’s district, we applaud the work of his brother, Frank. Frank Carollo was responsible for getting a park/playground on 12th Ave. that is used by many old and young, as well as the Net office that services us all. He did good by moving on the creation of the 13th Ave. walkway, used safely at all hours.
    Why is Joe now tearing up so much of the pavement on the 13th Ave. walkway to replace it, when it does not appear to need any change? The pavement change to soften the curbs and allow for bikes, wheelchairs,etc. are fine, but there is much unnecessary work that is happening. That money and effort would be better used in other parts of Miami.
    Joe has a history in our city of being tyrannical and corrupt. He doesn’t seem to have learned how to ‘play/work well with others’. Not to disparage him because he is Cuban, but because he is just not a good representative in our government.

  13. After reading the above comments, I re-read the story with an intent to finding the “racist” tone. I must say that, in my opinion, the only item in the article that fringes on racism is the quote by Carollo about Fuller trying to “de-Latinize” the area. What’s that about? Encouragement of Hispanics NOT to assimilate into the American culture has caused an environment of separation instead of unity. Too bad Miami insists on recycling bad representatives in the first place.

    This guy is bad news and has a reputation of corruption and retaliation against those who may oppose him. And we thought bars on windows in Calle Ocho were installed for anti-theft reasons … perhaps those who live there know more about government “visits in the night” than those of us who have always live in a free country!

    Perhaps a little crass when speaking of the old Cuban immigrants dying off, but racist? No way.

  14. All of you saying “shame on you”, etc. for Grant writing this piece and not being able to handle the truth…educate yourselves on what an “EDITORIAL” is and “free speech”. Take that censorship mentality back to Cuba. And I’ll say it, a mass influx of people from another country who failed to assimilate and merely dropped their third world way of life onto a city such as Miami (Carollo being a shining example of this), have not contributed ANYTHING positively. Stop being so offended by getting called out. Or better yet, take a page out of this country’s playbook and stand up to tyranny instead of fleeing it like cowards.

  15. I am shocked that Joe Carollo is still a politician, but I suppose that is the only way he can make a living. Calling someone a Communist no longer has the same shock value as during the Cold War or during the reign of the Castro brothers. The media, citizens of Miami, and law enforcement should keep an eye on him. The only good thing is that he can only harm one city. Your article was spot on, despite the PC comments.

  16. Those saying “shame on you” for Grant writing this article need to educate yourselves on what an “editorial” is and “free press”. Take that censorship mentality back to Cuba. And I’ll say it, nothing positive ever came from decades of mass influx of people from another country who fail to assimilate and dump their third world way of life onto a city such as Miami (Carollo is a shining example of the results of this). Stop getting offended when a spade is called a spade instead of calling it “anti-Cuban”–or better yet, stand up to tyranny (as the US has done for hundreds of years), instead of fleeing from it like cowards.

  17. I am about as Cuban as it gets…and I know Grant Miller. To say Grant Miller is “anti-Cuban” is ridiculous. He is entitled to his opinion, just like every American, and that is all that matters.

  18. Anyone who supports Joe Corollo supports Fidel Castro. They are one and the same. I know for a fact Crazy Joe has verbally abused his neice. He is a tyrant even with his own family. Since he refuses to take his meds, he needs to be committed for psychiatric evaluation.

  19. I remember Carollo and Suarez appearing before the commission in 1986 or so. So … I dunno; I see them. THey are still around. I like the article. Public officials ought not be going against private people; Trump Carollo… I dunno… so that is 33 years ago; and now I see him again.. LIfe goes along. Some leaders are pericles; some are great. Some are not. time goes; death comes; some are remembered; for good; some for bad; no one is going to remember this guy; article is ok no duty to like the guy or not be critical; government is best where power is questioned. Government is worse where not. just how it is.

  20. I am a Cuban-American and I know Grant Miller. There is nothing racist about him that I’ve seen. I like my Cuban viejitos but they did get suckered in by Joe Carollo and his politically dirty cronies. How Carollo got elected I don’t know! After his massive fiasco as City Manager in the great City of Doral, how can anyone believe in this lying, corrupt POS? We have to be more vigilant because corruption is rampant in the City of Miami. As in Venezuela and Cuba, ignorant folks were painted green pastures by morally despicable people, and they elected Crazy Joe Carollo!

  21. Does no one care for Joe Carollo’s abandoned home in Schenley Park? It just sits there, rotting to death. Is it just not salacious enough? He maintains it (I’ve seen him) just enough to keep inspectors at bay, but it has been abandoned for more than a decade. I wish he’d sell the damn thing so it wouldn’t be such an eye rot, devaluing our community.


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