MIAMI - The people of Miami-Dade County voted overwhelmingly in favor of ousting Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas in Tuesday's recall election.
With all the precincts reporting, 88.1 percent had voted in favor of recalling the mayor, and 87.8 percent had voted in favor of recalling Seijas.
Alvarez released the following statement Tuesday evening:
"It has been an honor and privilege to serve this community for the past 35 years. The voters have spoken, and a time of healing and reconciliation must now begin. No matter which side of the recall issue, one thing is certain: We all care very deeply about this community. A professional management team remains in place in Miami-Dade County government, and I know they will work hard to ensure the smoothest transition possible in the coming days. I wish the next mayor of Miami-Dade County much success.
"Public service is an honorable profession, and I want to thank county employees for the good work they do day in and day out. I want to thank all of the volunteers and supporters who have worked so hard on my behalf and ask that they move beyond the recall election and continue to work for the betterment of our community in new and different ways. I wish nothing but the best for Miami-Dade County -- a place I love and will continue to call home."
Frustrations over an unpopular budget that raised property taxes for some county homeowners sparked the movements to recall the mayor and the commissioner. South Florida businessman Norman Braman, who spearheaded the effort to recall the mayor, spoke out about the results Tuesday night.
"Today is the first day, frankly, of a new day for Miami-Dade County. County voters have demonstrated by an overwhelming majority that they feel that they're tired of unaccountable officials, of being ignored and of being overtaxed in these very difficult, difficult economic times that we are continuing to endure," Braman said. "I say tonight proudly, I congratulate the citizens of our community. You have demonstrated that you truly care about your community. Today's voting represents, truly, a referendum for change. The people are not just voting against Mayor Alvarez and Commissioner Seijas. They were voting against business as usual in Miami-Dade."
Braman said none of this was personal. He called on the county commission to immediately schedule a new election for mayor and said he would back candidates who promise to change the structure of county government through charter reform.
Alvarez will remain in office until the election is certified, which could happen as early as Thursday or Friday. The Miami-Dade County Commission has 30 days to decide whether to appoint the mayor until the next general election, which is in January. If not, commissioners could call another special election for the mayor that would be held within 45 days.
Miami Voice, a local political group that spearheaded the effort to recall Seijas, celebrated at a Miami Lakes billiards hall Tuesday night after it was evident Seijas would be voted out of office.
"We have set a precedent for Miami-Dade County," said Miami Voice president Vanessa Brito. "We started with nothing and we ended with nothing except our dignity and the restoration of what democracy is really supposed to be."
"Finally, after 18 years, the people of District 13 have restored democracy," said Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi.
Seijas, a longtime politician who had been easily re-elected since becoming a commissioner in 1993, had said recently that it was an "honor and a privilege" to serve the people of Miami-Dade County.
Despite numerous attempts, Seijas could not be reached for comment. Her aide said late Tuesday that she would not be making any comments nor issuing a written statement.
Joe Martinez, the chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission, released a statement Tuesday evening assuring Miami-Dade residents that county services would not be affected by the recalls.
"The residents of Miami-Dade County have exercised their civic right and we must all now work together to rebuild our community," Martinez said. "I assure you that the hardworking employees of Miami-Dade County will continue to provide the residents the same level of service we have all grown to appreciate. As chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, I will work diligently with my colleagues and the administration to make certain that the transition is smooth, transparent, and done as quickly as possible. I encourage any resident to contact my office with any concerns."
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