MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Even before his landslide victory in November, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has worked to be a strong mayor.
Under the current system he can only appoint a city manager, who commissioners can fire, and he cannot direct the city manager to do anything.
"The city of Miami, in its current form, doesn't work. We have had like 15 city managers in the last 20 years and it's impossible to establish a culture," Suarez told CBS4 News Thursday.
Under Suarez's proposal, he would hire and fire city department heads and direct everything from potholes to parks, not unlike Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and other strong mayors in major cities.
"When you go and see your mayor, you expect him to be able to do his job for you, and when he doesn't have the ability or power to do that then it's frustrating the entire functioning of the city of Miami," Suarez said.
There has been no organized opposition to Suarez's strong mayor effort as yet. In fact voters have favored a strong mayor in a previous referendum.
But Commissioner Joe Carollo, A long time political nemesis of Suarez and his father County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, says the mayor is proposing a power grab that would benefit special interests.
"This is not something that is coming from the people," Carollo told CBS4 News.
"His only concern is 'I want more power for myself.' Well, if he has a problem now, why didn't he have a problem when he was running for this office," Carollo said.
Carollo said Suarez's plan would go beyond installing a strong mayor, and have him chairing the commission, setting agendas and policy.
Carollo has compared Suarez's effort to Venezuelan strong man Nicolas Maduro, who unilaterally rewrote the nation's constitution to maintain his power.
Suarez calls the comparison insulting to desperate Venezuelans.
"To compare to a dictatorship from South America, for the people that are suffering under those dictatorships, to me that's totally out of bounds, it's crossing the line," Suarez said.
Carollo wasn't moved.
"I do not apologize for the statements that I've made," Carollo said.
Never one to apologize, Carollo vows to battle Miami's mayor's efforts to flex his muscles.
It would appear the voters who overwhelmingly elected Francis Suarez mayor will decide if he becomes a strong mayor. He is using part of at least $1 million in leftover campaign money to finance a petition drive to put the question on the November ballot.
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