A fledgling attempt to recall Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez entered an early paperwork phase this week, with its organizer creating a committee to back the challenge.
Retired firefighter Jack Garcia is heading the effort, joined by a group of college students involved in local politics. The campaign has a Facebook page with 2,800 likes, a new website, recallgimenez.com, and now a political committee called "A Better Dade."
Hand-written forms creating A Better Dade were filed with county election officials Wednesday, and a County Hall press conference inaugurating the push is set for noon on Monday.
"There's no billionaire here,'' Garcia, 55, said in reference to Norman Braman, the auto magnate who successfully led (and funded) the 2011 recall effort against Gimenez's predecessor, Carlos Alvarez. "I'm a novice in all this."
In a statement, Gimenez's chief spokesman said the mayor "refuses to be distracted by a recall effort."
"The previous mayor was recalled in part because he raised taxes in order to fund salary and benefit increases for union workers,'' wrote Mike Hernandez, Gimenez's communications chief. "Mayor Gimenez has not increased tax rates and has held the line on employee salaries and benefits."
Garcia entered the media spotlight this summer when his adult son died in a July 4 boating accident off Biscayne Bay. He had been a leading critic of Miami-Dade not funding a dedicated squad for the county's largest fireboat. Garcia suggested in a press conference shortly after the accident that having the vessel in the water might have helped find any survivors not killed on impact.
Four people died, and police have not released their final report detailing the causes of the collision.
On Friday, Garcia said "the whole purpose of this recall is not only the boating accident. Nothing would have prevented that."
Instead, he's taking aim at Gimenez's repeated budget cuts and general opposition to tax increases. "Nobody wants to raise taxes,'' Garcia said. "But they're cutting on the wrong end." He cited Gimenez's backing new subsidies for the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Beach Convention Center without steering significant new dollars to the fire department and other services.
A Facebook posting announcing the press conference includes the hashtag "#RecallTheRodent." "A lot of the guys I work with think he is a rat,'' Garcia said.
For now, there is no official recall effort. Garcia said the plan is to file the actual paperwork launching the recall drive in October. Once the forms are submitted, Garcia's group would have 120 days to collect more than 50,000 signatures.
A Better Dade lists Garcia as chairman, with the vice-chairman title going to Antonio J. Diaz, a 19-year-old junior at Florida International University. Diaz is also running for a seat on the Miami city council, and he and friends formed a company last year to help with local races. He said they contacted Garcia once his recall push began receiving media attention in recent weeks.
While new to the political scene, Diaz said he was surprised to discover what he called a rookie mistake by Gimenez's team. Nobody had registered the website recallgimenez.com.
"When you run for office," he said, "the first thing you do is buy 'recallyourname.com'"