Miami-Dade commissioner target of recall effort

Advisors angry with commissioner who voted not to raise tax rate

By Glenna Milberg - Reporter

MIAMI - A group of activists launched a recall petition Friday against a Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell, angry that she and seven others voted to keep the county's tax rate flat.

The activists staged a drawing Friday morning on the steps of the Dade County Courthouse, and claimed they randomly pulled Bell's name out of a hat.

However, the paperwork of speaking notes they brought with them to the event indicates they had already decided to target Bell on Thursday night. They declined to show reporters the names on the other cards they had put into the red, white and blue top-hat they used, or to prove the drawing wasn't rigged.

The group is angry that a flat-tax rate means budget cuts for firefighting and the library system, and no comprehensive funding of a no-kill animal shelter that voters supported last November.

One of the organizers is Michael Rosenberg, founder of the Pets' Trust.

"They voted against the will of the people," said Fred Frost, who retired from the AFL-CIO and is now part of the activists' coalition. "How much more malfeasance can you get than when you don't honor democracy?"

Besides Bell, the seven others who voted against a tax rate increase in July were Commission Chair Rebeca Sosa, Juan Zapata, Bruno Barreiro, Esteban Bovo, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Javier Souto and Xavier Suarez.

Four commissioners voted to raise the tax rate: Dennis Moss, Barbara Jordan, Sally Heyman and Jean Monestime. Commissioner Audrey Edmonson was absent.

Bell emailed a response late Friday that said she was disappointed in being targeted by the recall.

"Over the course of several months, I have heard from many of my constituents, as well as from residents throughout the county, pleading with me to not raise their taxes. Given the current state of the economy, I stand by my vote to not raise taxes on the residents of Miami-Dade County," the email read.

Bell called the recall effort and hat stunt an "ill-conceived plot" and "a distraction."

The activists said their recall petition drive and funding for it will be a grassroots effort.

The county's Clerk of Courts will review their petition delivered Friday and it if passes legal muster, signature gathering may begin.

Ironically, the county recall drives two years ago that successfully removed then-Mayor Carlos Alvarez and then-commissioner Natacha Seijas from office were launched because they supported a raise in the tax rate, a move believed to be a signal to those commissioners who voted not to, this time.

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