Voters toss out Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Commissioner Natacha Seijashttp://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/elections/mh-miami-dade-recall-vote-20110315,0,2092635.story
By Jaweed Kaleem and David Smiley, The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald
10:35 p.m. EDT, March 15, 2011
MIAMI Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas have been ousted from office.
With results from all precincts reported in the controversial recall election, a vast majority of voters -- about 88 percent
-- want to kick the politicians out of office.
Results will be certified Friday, which is when Alvarez and Seijas must vacate their offices.
Both politicians kept a low profile as results came in.
Turnout was mixed at the polls, with a few clashes between voters with differing opinions on the recall in some parts of the county, such as Hialeah and Miami Lakes, and little activity in other areas.
Alvarez and Seijas were subjects of a recall vote after petition efforts championed by billionaire auto magnate Norman Braman and political action committee Miami Voice. The two drives began after Alvarez pushed through a budget that hiked the county's tax rate and gave raises to county employees. Seijas voted for the budget.
Both Alvarez and Seijas tried to kill the recall vote in court.
In Miami Lakes and Hialeah — communities that are a part of Seijas' district — most voters who talked to The Herald said they voted to recall both Alvarez and Seijas.
Anger over Alvarez's policies, as well as his support of a publicly funded Marlins Stadium in Little Havana, persisted in other communities as well.
Noel Sanz, of Kendall, said he wants new blood at County Hall.
"I think it's time to get some of these guys out of power and get someone else to do the job," Sanz said.
Few problems were reported throughout the day at precincts, according to the county's elections department. But on Miami Beach, a number of voters were angry that several polling places had been moved. Elections spokeswoman Christina White said the department notifies all voters via postcard when their precincts are relocated, and that advertisements are placed in newspapers.
Aside from the confusion on Miami Beach — and a case in which voters at the precinct at University Lakes mobile home development said they became lost in the community because elections workers didn't put up the usual directional signs to the polling place — voting was smooth.
Yet, emotions ran high.
Tuesday morning, Miami Voice chairwoman Vanessa Brito told an El Nuevo Herald reporter that she was campaigning with a bullhorn when Seijas pulled up and threatened to call police.
"Call the police, I'm not doing anything illegal," Brito said she told Seijas.
Meanwhile, Alvarez continued to defend his budget and policies.
Speaking to a Spanish-language radio station, Alvarez said if he could go back to last fall, he would recommend the same budget.
"I knew the decision was not going to be popular," Alvarez told WURN-Actualidad 1020 AM. Alvarez said his budget preserved "basic" services.
"If I had done what Mr. Braman wanted me to do...I would be facing a recall by the other people" whose funding for arts and social services was cut, Alvarez said.
About 130,000 of Miami-Dade's 1.2 million registered voters cast early or absentee ballots prior to Tuesday's recall election.
Though often out-numbered, supporters of Seijas and Alvarez were voting Tuesday morning as well.
Back in Miami Lakes, Isidro Carmenate, 52, said Seijas shouldn't be removed from office.
"I think she was blackballed," Carmenate said. "I have nothing against her."
At the Coral Reef Branch Library west of Palmetto Bay, Albert Vavrina was the lone voice of support for Alvarez Tuesday morning.
"He wanted to preserve jobs for police and firefighters," Vavrina said of Alvarez's controversial budget.
Vavrina said that the higher taxes enabled Alvarez to support nonprofits, such as Farm Share, which donates food to hungry families and individuals in South Dade. "That money wouldn't come if he didn't increase the taxes. Alvarez might have made some mistakes, but I don't think it was for his personal gain."
Miami Herald staff writers Martha Brannigan, Howard Cohen, John Dorschner, Laura Isensee, Patricia Ma--ei, Tania Valdemoro, and Jay Weaver contributed.