Coral Gables is Having an Election

In keeping with its unfortunate pattern of having elections when nobody else does1 the City of Coral Gables is having an election April 9, 2013, for three seats on the Commission (one of whom is the Mayor who has a shorter term than other Commissioners). The electorate is small, as is the City: out of a population of about 48,000 there were 29,355 registered voters in Coral Gables as of 6/25/12. Voter registration for the coming election closes March 9 (29 days prior to the election).

Having the election in April of an off year may increase the odds that participants are higher-information or more motivated voters, but it surely must cost more than adding a few lines to the November ballot. I’d also think it tends to depress turnout — which could I suppose be seen as a feature by insiders.

The candidates in Group I (Mayor, two year term) are Ralph Cabrera and incumbent James Cason. Cabrera is an incumbent Commissioner but is term-limited for running to retain his current seat. Cabrera’s challenges in this campaign will be making a positive case for himself as a better choice than Cason. Although I’m no great fan of Cason’s, I would imagine few voters could identify much they think he’s done wrong; of those things, how many would Cabrera have done differently? Just saying that we’re better off with a long-term resident — Cabrera’s opening line — isn’t going to cut it. Suggestions floating around that Cabrera is former Mayor Slesnick’s revenge candidate probably won’t help much either. On the other hand, if you are like me, you might be put off by Cason’s anti-city-worker vibe, which manifested itself in Cason’s masterminding unilateral cuts to the City’s police pensions. Then again, I imagine that many city voters may approve.

Candidates in Group II (Commissioner, four year term) are Marlin Holland Ebbert, Ross Hancock, and Vicente Carlos Lago. Lago has the most signs in my neighborhood, possibly because he’s moving into a house down the street in a few weeks. Ross Hancock is the guy who came from nowhere to get within 1% — 2000 votes — of unseating Erik Freisen, our appallingly bad and until then seemingly impregnable State Rep., in the November 2012 election.

Group III (Commissioner, four year term) has five candidates: Jackson Rip Holmes, Patricia A. Keon, P.J. Mitchell, Norman Anthony Newell, and Mary Martin Young. Jackson Rip Holmes is a convicted felon who ran in 2011 and got 100 votes.

I may be a motivated voter but, like almost everyone I know in Coral Gables, I don’t start out as as particularly well informed about most of the candidates in this election — other than maybe the incumbents and repeat candidates. So far the few mailers we have had to the house are the kind consultants suggest candidates use as a get-acquainted device: they are all biography and civic memberships, and have nice pictures of the candidates with multi-generational families. They tell me almost nothing that I for one want to know.

So, in an effort to find out what I want to know, I’ve written to each of the candidates to ask them what they think the biggest issues are and what they would do about them. I’ll report here with the answers if I get them.

(Anyone know when the candidates’ forums will be held?)


  1. If memory serves, candidate and now Commissioner Frank C. Quesada promised to try to fix that? []
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4 Responses to Coral Gables is Having an Election

  1. Ross says:

    The major candidate fora are the Ponce Business Association’s forum on March 14 at 7 pm at Coral Gables Congregational Church, and the Chamber of Commerce’s forum at 6 pm on March 26 at UM’s BankUnited Center Field House.

  2. derrick says:

    Look forward to hearing more about the candidates in Group 3 (other than Holmes). Not familiar with any of them.

  3. Irene says:

    As of today, the following are the scheduled mayoral candidate forums and debates:

    Ponce Business Association, March 21st @ Coral Gables Congregational Church @ 6:30 PM

    Latin Builders Association, March 22nd location TBD @ Noon

    Coral Gables Chamber, March 26th , UM @ 8 PM

  4. Maria Anderson says:

    From my vantage point of 12 years on the Coral Gables City Commission, this will be the first time since 2001 that there will be 2 – 3 new faces serving our City. These new faces on our Commission will create an entirely new dynamic at City Hall. I am humbled for the three times Coral Gables residents elected me to office, however, as I leave public service, I am deeply worried about the future of my hometown.

    The Mayor’s race in particular is pivotal. The standing mayor has become the puppet for a despotic City Manager. Furthermore the Mayor never truly expresses an opinion of his own. He is scripted by the manager, whose best interest does not seem to me to be in the best interest of Coral Gables.

    Cason’s popularity with Cubans because of his Cuban Foreign Service work makes no sense to me. After all, I am a Cuban-born, 53-year resident of Coral Gables and my colleague, Ralph Cabrera is a Cuban born, 47 year resident. Our parents lost everything, and then made a life again in Coral Gables.

    Shoddily re-paved streets and skinny palm trees do not a good mayor make. They are merely cosmetic cover-ups that hide the true issues. During his tenure as mayor:

    1. Jim Cason refuses to admit that the City has had a 13%+ increase in crime.
    2. Jim Cason approved an unprecedented number of no-bid contracts that cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. A no-bid contract give one or two people or companies an exclusive “in” to make money without having to prove they are giving the best service. It’s the “good old boy” network at it worst.
    3. Jim Cason views city employees like actuarial statistics and the manager behaves as if these employees are chattel because of a failure in leadership by the Mayor. Morale has flat-lined in City Hall. Jim Cason has not figured out that fairly treated employees give the quality service residents expect.

    I have served with Ralph Cabrera for 12 years. He knows Coral Gables and has served the city for over 20 years. He raises his family and built his business here. As commissioner:

    1. He has voted against increased fees for over eleven years.
    2. He has demanded the truth on crime issues be released and educated the public on the matter by speaking to WPLG just two weeks ago.
    3. He has voted against every no-bid contract proposed by the manager and the mayor, believing that waving the rules is wrong for the City and an abuse of the process.

    I am voting for Ralph Cabrera and asking my friends and neighbors to do the same, because it is that important for our City!

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