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Lessons from a recall

Voters in Miami-Dade recalled Mayor Carlos Alvarez on Tuesday. The recall campaign was launched in October by billionaire auto dealer Norman Braman.

Braman, also a former owner of the Florida Marlins, reportedly spent $1 million in the campaign, which cited Alvarez's recent record in raising property taxes 12 percent while giving raises and restoring some benefits for municipal workers, and bigger raises for Alvarez appointees.

There are several ways to interpret this.

Some see it as part of a larger anti-union, anti-tax movement, tying it to Wisconsin.

Some see a Braman vendetta against Alvarez, who clashed over public funding for a $600 million stadium for the Marlins (Braman opposed public funds). Certainly Alvarez tried to paint it that way.

Some see it in terms of tea party activists forcing Republicans like Alvarez to become even more conservative.

I see mostly local politics in the American throw-the-rascals-out tradition. Alvarez lost because voters thought Braman was talking straighter.

But I note the wide margin of Alvarez's defeat, almost 9 to 1 for a guy elected as a reformer, and a big turnout for a one-issue ballot, almost as high as last fall's election with a U.S. senate seat and governorship at stake.

Maybe Americans just have had a bellyful of political shadiness. Tell the truth. Do what you say you will.

It's a short stop from demanding transparency in government to demanding openness in business deals. And that public impatience is an opportunity most auto dealers are already tapped into.

The industry is transitioning how it sells cars. The old model of dealerships having all the financial knowledge and smooth-talking customers is largely dead. Today's customers walk in with reams of research: list prices, dealer costs, discounts, exactly what features they want, and what their trade-in should be.

The dealers I talk with have already largely embraced the change. Less bull. More satisfied customers who come back.

My one conclusion: It's better to be on the side of the angels.

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