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?)