Norman Braman, the man behind the effort to oust Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez from office, faced had a tough crowd at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables Wednesday night where he spoke to more than 100 business owners and executives at a Latin American Business Association meeting.
Light, polite applause was rare and mostly when Braman acknowledge that Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, who announced he would run for county mayor, was in the room and at the end of his speech, when he quoted Jose Marti. Even Marili Cancio, one of the original recall and a failed hopeful for the Republican box in the U.S. house race won by David Rivera, acknowledged that the crowd was not too receptive. "I was the one who started the clapping every time," she said.
Braman made the visit to the group for equal facetime (Alvarez was there in November) and went over the reasons why he had sought the recall: the tax hike, administrative salaries over $200,000, mismanagement at JMH, the Marlins stadium deal and the proposed port tunnel topped those. "I could go on and on," he said, and did, adding misinvestment of federal monies and foreclosure rates.
Then he went over a list of accomplishments the mayor had been cited for and one-by-one ridiculed them or diminished them. Electronic voting machines? "I applaud the mayor for that. I give him full credit," Braman said. "I expect them to work on March 15."
He talked about other resources and obscure initiatives and asked people who used or benefited from them to raise their hands. "One person. Oh, two."
The sarcasm was met with silence.
"I have mixed emotions," Raul Garcia told Ladra later, echoing many others who spoke on condition they not be quoted.
Barbara Howard, a government consultant who sits on the LABA board and does not support the mayor's recall, was the only person who asked a question publicly -- and her tone might have been mistaken for almost hostile.
"Was it not possible to wait until his term was up? He cannot run again," Howard said. "Is it worth what it's going to cost the county."
Braman had estimated the special election will cost the county $5 million. But he added that the mayor's term does not end for another two years. "That's two more budgets. I don't think we can afford to more budgets.
"And $5 million is a very inexpensive price to pay for a change in government," Braman said.
LABA Vice Chairman Rick Rodriguez Piña confirmed to Ladra that much of the group was still on the fence about the mayoral recall. "They're undecided," he said, although he thinks it will pass because the people who signed the petition will be more motivated to vote than those who didn't.
"This is a good group. It is a business organization. These are people who are impacted by this initiative," Rodriguez Piña said. "We heard Mayor Alvarez. It's important for our community to hear Mr. Braman's position. Now let us make our own decision."
LABA will likely have Robaina and Marcelo Lorens, another mayoral candidate, speak at the next meeting, Rodriguez Piña said.
"We want to educate our business community and let them hear from the candidates."