MIAMI, Florida – Tomás Regalado got his way Wednesday even before he was sworn in as Miami’s new mayor when Police Chief John Timoney handed in his resignation.
Mayor Regalado, a popular long-time commentator on Miami Spanish radio and TV and four-term city commissioner, had vowed during the campaign that Mr. Timoney had to go. It’s unfortunate, because the police chief set Miami on the right course during the past seven years, bringing professionalism to the ranks of a city department infamous for its shenanigans.
That Mr. Timoney’s leadership produced a vote of no confidence from the police union speaks to the chief’s wise focus of putting public safety ahead of any union-run popularity contest. Among his successes: new rules so that police shootings of unarmed people would be substantially reduced, training so that police could better deal with mentally ill homeless people on the streets and a dictum that mostly ended the Wild West practice of shooting during high-speed chases where innocent lives are endangered.
Mr. Regalado is expected to tap a new police chief in a matter of days as Mr. Timoney transitions out by January. The populist mayor, elected by about 70 percent of the vote in a low turnout in which only one in every five registered voters participated, has a chance to show he will be an inclusive mayor beyond his Little Havana stronghold.
Indeed, Mr. Regalado points out with pride that he received the majority vote in key African-American precincts, as well as from non-Hispanic whites. Residents of poor communities in Overtown and Liberty City expect to see a mayoral management team that reflects this city’s diversity and includes them, particularly as they try to battle crime and bring businesses to an area that has faced empty promises for too long. Miami’s black community makes up more than a fifth of the city’s population of some 450,000.
Mr. Regalado now has the chance to show he’s serious about handing responsibility of key departments, like police, to qualified leaders who reflect diversity.
The mayor, who had the police union’s endorsement, also has promised to hold a public meeting soon to hash out ways to reduce Miami’s escalating liability in overly generous city pensions and out-of-sync salaries for first responders. Taxpayers expect him to follow through, particularly in these difficult economic times.
Mr. Regalado’s fiscal conservatism can bode well in this economy, but he still must lead beyond saying no, as he often did as a commissioner. This is his moment to show he has the right stuff.