Voters in Miami-Dade County, Fla., were voting today on whether to recall the county’s mayor and a commissioner over controversial budget-cutting plans – an echo of another recall effort under way in Wisconsin over a bill passed by that state’s governor, also aimed at balancing the budget.
Although unrelated, the two outbreaks of “recall fever” in Florida and Wisconsin may be signs of a rising discontent among middle class voters against politics-as-usual.
In Florida, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas are both in a political fight to save their jobs from voters who are angry over the county’s 2011 budget, which increased property taxes and gave pay raises to county employees. Alvarez engineered the budget, while Seijas voted for it.
Popular anger over the plan led to an effort to recall the men, spearheaded by billionaire and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman. The larger aim of the recall movement, according to the Miami Herald, is to make it easier for the public to amend the county’s governing charter and to control lobbyists by getting new blood on a commission dominated by entrenched politicians.
According to a poll conducted by the Herald, 67 percent of likely voters plan to turn Alvarez out of office.
Meanwhile in Wisconsin – where over 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets over the weekend to protest a budget-slashing bill – efforts are under way to recall three legislators and turn control of that state’s Senate over to Democrats.
Unlike Florida, the public’s rage in Wisconsin has nothing to do with raised taxes. Gov. Scott Walker, along with fellow Republicans in the state Assembly and Senate, pushed through a bill that would strip most unionized state workers of their collective bargaining rights in the name of controlling state spending. The move was widely seen as an attack on unions in general, and the governor’s strong-arm methods, including a last minute parliamentary maneuver that passed the bill, caused howls of protests from Democrats and large segments of the public.
After the vote, a large number of recall efforts were begun against both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. However, Democrats and supporters of public unions have focused their efforts on the recall against GOP senators. A successful recall effort against only three of them could shift the numerical balance in the Senate and give Democrats control of that body, thus blocking Walker’s legislative agenda.
Even though the recall efforts in both states are unrelated, Joshua Spivak, a senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College, told Bloomberg News that both reflect a polarized national mood. That mood, Spivak said, has focused into direct political action through the use of the Internet and other social media.