District 3 voters divided due to recent issues surrounding Joe Carollo

Christian Lozano, 24, is a U.S. Marine veteran now studying international and public affairs at Florida International University who doesn’t like City of Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo. 

Lozano believes the city where he has lived most of his life  “bleeds with corruption” reflected by the commissioner. 

“He abused his powers and should be held responsible,” says the veteran who resides near the club that is the heart of the opposition to Carollo, Ball & Chain. 

Carollo, who did not reach back after multiple attempts had released a statement with NBC6 that he had done nothing wrong and after an appeal, he is confident the verdict will be overturned. Carollo has been a divisive figure in city politics for a half-century,  most recently dividing his District 3 residents over whether he is abusing his power while doing his duty. 

Many older Miami residents say he’s a great commissioner who gets the job done while some younger ones like Lozano believe he’s out of control and needs to resign. Over the years, while he has done much good for constituents he has been dogged by claims ranging from domestic violence to, most recently, violating Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla’s First Amendment rights, which cost him – and maybe city taxpayers, a $63 million judgment. 

Claims of corruption have recently escalated in the City of Miami. On September 14, Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who represents the neighborhoods of Allapattah, Flagami, and certain areas of Little Havana, was arrested for bribery and money laundering charges. He pleaded not guilty.

City Mayor Francis Suarez is currently being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for allegedly securing bribes from a company called Location Ventures to help with building permits, a claim he has strenuously denied with the Miami Herald

This has left many residents wondering who in political leadership is truly innocent and trustworthy. 

Carollo has been politically involved with the City of Miami since 1979 when he became the youngest city commissioner ever at age 24. 

His political success did not stop there.

He ran for Miami mayor in a special election and won in 1996 and though he was defeated the following year by Xavier Suarez, Carollo became mayor once again in 1998 after Suarez’s mayoral victory was proven to be fraudulent. 

Twenty years later, Carollo returned as commissioner for District 3, which includes Little Havana, Shenandoah, Silver Bluff and the Roads, and held that office ever since. 

Along with all that success came controversy. In 1983, in what commentators call “the betrayal”, when the mayor at the time, Maurice Ferre called a press conference with Joe Carollo to endorse him for his campaign, ended Carollo stating in a room full of press reporters “I will not vote for Maurice Ferre” which shocked not only the reporters but also Ferre himself. In 2001, he was charged with domestic violence and battery after allegedly throwing a terracotta tea pot at his wife, but the charge was dropped after he agreed to go to anger-management courses. 

In January of 2013, he was appointed Doral city manager by Mayor Luigi Boria and the city council in a unanimous vote. A year and three months later, he was removed from his position by a 3-2 vote as council members reported he was creating a toxic work environment. 

Fast forward to June 2023, residents in District 3 have had bad news when it comes to City Hall, as their commissioner continues to make headlines.

In 2018, Carollo was hit with a $63 million lawsuit after the Barlington Group, a commercial real estate company known for their popular locations on SW 8th St, Ball and Chain, Azucar, Havana Classic etc. 

Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla, who are with the Barlington Group, said Carollo had harassed them by having code enforcers crack down and even shut down other properties they owned due to their public support for the commissioner’s political opponent, Alfie Leon back in 2017. 

On June 1, Carollo was found guilty of violating the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights and was required to pay $63 million to Fuller and Pinilla, which he announced he planned to appeal following the verdict. 

Though the general manager at Ball & Chain declined to comment due to still ongoing legal matters, many residents in district 3 have an opinion on Carollo.

Following the judgment, Christi Tasker, who is currently running for district 2 commissioner, voiced strong opinions about Carollo; she called for the district 3 commissioner’s resignation, but Carollo had declined her request, citing the face that he garnered 65% of the vote in his election in 2021, according to the CBS News

District 3 citizen Ray Gonzalez arrived in the U.S. from Cuba in November 1961. Having lived in Miami for 62 years, he said he has seen the city change every year and has watched Carollo with interest. 

Gonzalez believes the commissioner does a good job. For example, every Thanksgiving, Carollo and his team distribute turkey baskets for the senior community in Shenandoah. 

He does not know Carollo personally. However, he’s concerned about the $63 million judgment. He believes that the taxpayers should not be held responsible. 

“I don’t agree with having to pay for his mistakes,” said Gonzalez, “But there is not much we can do,” he then further adds, “All politicians are crooked at some point.”

Another one of Carollo’s supporters is Ray’s sister, Leticia Gonzalez, 69. She has been following Carollo and his services for years. 

She explains, “He is always giving back with just little things like when the pandemic had started in 2020, he was giving out boxes with hand sanitizers and masks.” 

She adds, “I was there too to see that, and to me that shows that he cares, as simple as that.” she says.

In District 3, there are some voters who have a middle stance on Carollo’s response to his duties. Anthony, (whose last name was not given due to privacy and work conflict) 43, is a firefighter and resides in between Shenandoah and The Roads. The firefighter gives his opinion of the pros and cons about living in Carollo’s district. 

He states: “While there are positives, like the establishment of parks, there have been concerns that continue to remain unaddressed. Even after a few years the damaged sidewalks, rainwater barriers on 16th St and the need for speed bumps because of traffic concerns in East of Shenandoah have still not been resolved.”

He also adds, “I do appreciate the parks he has established which have been super beneficial for my kids, and his office has called residents including myself once on how they could assist in the area.”

However Anthony believes his interactions with Carollo should remain on local issues, but if he was found liable in the $63 million judgement, he addresses, “…then he should be held accountable for his actions.”

Others in district 3 do not believe Carollo is a caring commissioner, nor a truthful one. 

Daniel Gravier, 22, believes that Carollo’s actions are possibly aligned with a personal vendetta the commissioner may have. 

He comments “He is shameful to our city. If he truly had our [the citizens of district 3] back, this whole chaos would have never happened in the first place.”

Gravier also emphasizes along with comments that the taxpayers would most likely be the ones to pay for the $63 million fine. 

“We should not have to carry that burden. Last time I checked he was the one who broke the law, not us,” states Gravier. 

Christian Lozano also says that the outcome of this trial had hurt the city’s reputation, “It does draw attention to the change we need to make to our city laws to make sure that nobody ever abuses them again like him.”

Joe Carollo plans to appeal the court decision.

Emma Alonso is a senior majoring in Digital Broadcast Media. She is passionate about photography and videography. After graduation she hopes to work in the photojournalism field, more specifically on the sidelines of an NFL or NBA team capturing stories through her camera.

Isabella Martinez is a junior majoring in digital journalism with plans to minor in business. She enjoys social media and learning how businesses can use social media to target and connect with audiences. After her studies, she wishes to pursue a career in social media marketing.