Monthly Archives: March 2013

Thoughts on the Race for Mayor of Coral Gables

Absentee ballots are out and being returned, so I should try to figure out what I think of the Mayor’s race between incumbent Jim Cason and challenger Ralph Cabrera.

As a lawyer, my training is to make the case for and against both sides and then weigh them. It’s not easy, since the key issues seem to require a closer observation of the workings of the Coral Gables Commission than I have been able to make. The fact is that, like many voters, I don’t follow Coral Gables politics much — except in the run-up to elections. But here’s how it looks to one voter who is trying to make sense of things. I welcome comments and corrections.

Both candidates are endorsed by people with good track records and who are more attuned to Coral Gables politics than I am, so that doesn’t help me much. Similarly, both candidates have run mildly ugly campaigns, so I’m prepared to treat this as a wash. Cason repeatedly quoted Cabrera ludicrously out of context to try make him look bad on the pensions issue when the original remark clearly meant the opposite of what Cason was trying to suggest. Cabrera has been pushing dated statistics on crime – a real, if arguably misguided, concern of many residents. In an effort to make Cason look bad, an independent expenditure committee linked to Cabrera’s people also sent out an anti-Cason mailer with a cropped photo of Cason with a ceremonial cognac bottle.

The Case For/Against Jim Cason

The case for Jim Cason is based on the substance of his plans for Coral Gables and his demonstrated muscularity at getting what he wants. Cason also has articulated a big-picture vision of his plans for Coral Gables that has many attractive qualities – making the City a place where young professionals want to spend an evening, and worrying about competition from South Miami seem like the right sort of things a Mayor should be thinking about. (Its main deficiency is a missing concern for the regional planning and environmental issues that Group II Candidate Ross Hancock has been championing.) Cason has worked hard, and can boast a two-year track record of delivering on promises, both good and bad.

The heart of the case against Jim Cason is what appears — from a distance — to be a disdain for process values. It is no secret that the Commission has been factionalized these past two years, and that Cason has been part of a 3-2 majority. Both Cabrera and the other Commissioner in the minority are term-limited this year. To me, the most significant of Cabrera’s criticisms of the Mayor is that major decisions are made in private, with the City Manger, and not subject to much discussion or review at full commission meetings. Commissioner Anderson, who I think of as a pretty reasonable voice, has made public comments that suggest information-sharing is at a low ebb. That isn’t good.

On substance, the biggest negative is the City’s treatment of its lower-paid workers, or rather Cason’s seeming disinterest in the issue. Chopping 20% of their take-home pay is not a joke; that some have allegedly been driven to food stamps as a result should be ringing alarm bells for all.

Another knock on Cason is his support, along with other Commissioners, for big spending on things like palm islands on LeJeune – a project whose effect on property values seems likely to be small, whose cost will be ongoing, and whose effect on traffic is unwelcome.

The Case For/Against Ralph Cabrera

Commissioner Cabrera wins big on process values. Both because of temperament and experience it seems likely he would run a more open ship. This is no small thing, especially if, as seems more likely than not, the Kerdyk-Quesada-Cason faction will likely pick up at least one more vote from the Group II or Group III elections. I think we would benefit from some debate on the Commission and I worry about ideological monoculture.

Substance is a more mixed bag. Cabrera is convincing when he says the small declines in the millage rate that the incumbent Mayor brags about are mostly counter-balanced by the increases in fees (although there is a distribution effect that is beyond my abilities to figure out). And Cabrera can point to his opposition to plans (like those expensive palm islands) that seem like mis-steps, but he has, at least in this campaign, done a better job of explaining what he is against than what he would be for. And some of what he is for – like more traffic calming – I don’t especially like because, in my neighborhood at least, it produces far more inconvenience than calming.

Cabrera will undoubtedly foster an atmosphere that will be better for workers, especially those further down the totem pole. And he likely will exercise greater oversight over salaries – and especially the number of positions – for more highly paid employees.

The case against Ralph Cabrera starts with an absence of the vision thing. Maybe having a 12-year track record means there’s less call for a vision – what you’ve seen is what you’ll get. But it also means Cabrera hardly qualifies as new blood. In this campaign, Cabrera has seemed more reactive than proactive. Perhaps that is a consequence of being cut out of the information loop. Or it may be that Cason is right, and being a full-time Mayor with a federal pension is an advantage over having to earn a living.

It’s clear Cabrera and the City Manager do not get on well; it’s clear also the City Manager and Cason are so tight that the City Manger feels empowered to diss other Commissioners from the dais. Voting for Cason will keep things cozy, and keep the rest of us more in the dark, but more may get done. Voting for Cabrera suggests we’ll get more sunshine, but raises the possibility of strife.

Well, Who Then?

The Kantian choice – based on the maxim that we should treat people as ends rather than means – leans strongly for Cabrera. The Habermasian choice – based on the principle that no political decision is legitimate unless it is the outcome of a fair process — also weighs a bit for Cabrera. But the realpolitik choice is less clear. If you are the sort that likes omelets but doesn’t care about how eggs get broken along the way, there is a case for Cason’s damn-the-torpedoes approach to governance so long as you agree with his overall goals.

The good news is that Coral Gables sounds like it is in decent shape, and neither of these candidates is going to run it into the ground. They actually seem to agree on many issues. I think at the end of the day, I’d feel better about a City that prized treating its lowest-paid workers well, and that was a model of openness. The price of that decision is losing an energetic ambassador for the City who does have some good ideas.

I guess I am leaning Cabrera. But just a bit.

[See my previous Coral Gables posts.]

Posted in Coral Gables | 2 Comments

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Have I mentioned recently that Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national treasure? His series on learning French alone would make the case, and it’s not even his most important work. Latest piece at Departures, Cont. I loved the ending.

Posted in Readings | Leave a comment

Summary of Group 3 Portion of Chamber of Commerce Candidate Event

I attended Coral Gables candidate event sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce held at UM’s Fieldhouse on Tuesday, March 26. There were well over 100 people there, including a lot of familiar faces from previous debates and from Coral Gables politics. The speaker from the Chamber said the event was for “discourse and exchange” but the ground rules said otherwise.

The event was moderated by Perry Adair, the chair-elect of the CG Chamber of Commerce, who explained how the clickers would work, and admonished the audience to maintain “decorum” i.e. not to boo, heckle or the like.

The total event included three panels, one for each of the contested seats. I’ve posted my first impressions of the entire event earlier. What follows are my notes from the Group 3 portion of the meeting, which to me was the most interesting part. (I may post the others if I get motivated.) Nothing below is verbatim unless I put it in “quote marks”. I have also added some personal comments in [brackets].

The Chamber offered the audience ‘clickers’ which can be used to poll an audience. As the moderator noted, since the audience isn’t a representative sample (indeed, although he didn’t say this, the Chamber had invited the candidates to pack the meeting with supporters), the results are not scientific. Mostly it seemed a pointless distraction. Totals for the polls don’t add up to 100% because some people pushed buttons other than the approved choices. Below I report the winners, not the total breakdowns, because they didn’t leave them up very long and I don’t type that quickly.

Group III

Group 3 went first. There are five candidates: Jackson Rip Holmes, Patricia A. Keon, P.J. Mitchell, Norman Anthony Newell, and Mary Martin Young. [The kindest word to use for Jackson Holmes’s candidacy is daft. He has a place in history, but not one on the Commission.] The Herald recently published profiles of the candidates.

In the fist clicker POLL the audience was asked if they have decided who they will vote for. 44% said yes, 54% no.

Introductory Statements

Holmes: Many of you in the audience would make a better commissioner than me. [Comment: I agree!]

Keon: Almost 40 years in the Gables, last 9 in south part of city. History of civic activities, PTA, City boards including 8 years on planning & zoning.

Mitchell: Live and practice law in Coral Gables. I have some concerns: $230m of unfunded liabilities. My generation didn’t run up the debts, but my generation will have to pay for those, and that’s why I’m running.

Newell: We all want lower taxes, for pension reform, improvement ot neighborhoods, for Streetscape, we are all pro-good and anti-bad…that’s what you’ve heard. I encourage you to seek some depth.

Young: I have a history as a business leader, neighbor, disability board member, award winner, served on Coral Gables parking board, I have “been by your side these many years and am ready to be your Commissioner”.

Q: What prompted you to get into this race?

Keon: History of public service, starting as a nurse, raised a family, worked in government. I have experience, time to be full-time commissioner>

Mitchell: Unfunded liabilities. Twelve years of experience as a lawyer convinces me I am the person for the job.

Newell: I wasn’t going to run, didn’t start until February, when others suggested I should. I am the youngest candidate here, thus I have the most at stake in the race. I plan to retire in the Gables –”hopefully there will be a Senior Center by then”. We lost a lot of momentum — the old guard did us a wrong — a little new blood might be what this city needs.

Young: I think I am the most qualified. I understand what your concerns are. I was the first to run.

Q: Pick one major Commission decision that you would have handled differently in the last 5-10 years.

Keon: Unless you are sitting in that person’s shoes, it is very hard to second guess them. I think they had good intentions. I am not here to pass judgement. [Comment: This felt to me like ducking the issue.]

Mitchell: Back to the pension issue. I would have handled it differently; we wouldn’t have “given everything away” to the unions.

Newell: The way we handled pensions – to go from $8 million to $230 million in a decade, that shouldn’t sneak up on us. It was a prosperous decade, “that covered up a big hole.” We have our own social security problem here in the city. [Comment: oh boy that is BAD ANALOGY - social security isn't the deficit problem, health care is.] The sky isn’t falling, we are not about to be bankrupt.

Young: There is still no formal plan in place to fund pensions. We need a strategic and executable plan for fiscal responsibility.

Q: What is your position on historic preservation — preservation of property rights and the tension between that and the pressure for development?

Mitchell: Have to preserve Gables, have to respect owners’ property rights. Have to balance it out. There is not one standard fits all, have to look at totality of the circumstances. Have to have a balanced approach. [Comment: believe it or not, that sounded even more vague in person. And yet it is probably not a bad answer.]

Newell: ‘Balance,’ yes but what is that? It’s like being for ‘better’ again. We have community standards. The problem is that there is ambiguity in the code. There is too much discretion in enforcement. A more carefully written code that would allow for less arbitrary enforcement is the key. [Comment: that sounded good in person, but may reflect an engineer's unreasonable optimism about the extent to which codes can be drafted to provide certainty in the face of life's complexities. As a lawyer I think it is wildly unreasonable optimism.]

Young: Historic preservation is a key value, Need to ensure that modifications are in keeping with neighborhoods

Holmes: I’d like to live next door to an exciting building like the Freedom Tower.

Keon: We have a preservation officer and board; and an obligation to protect rights. These tensions are dealt with on an incident-by-incident basis.

Q: The trolley — what are your thoughts on the system?

Newell: I’m fine with it if money comes from outside the city; there’s a “kerfuffle” with Coconut grove residents, one possibility is to go across US1 , which would let residents use it and also correct a problem for UM students crossing US 1 if we can’t get County to move on a bridge.

Young: I started my career by working for Gables gallery night, which used trolleys. It’s a way to think green [Comment: ducked Grove garage issue.]

Holmes: I agree with others.

Keon: Trolley has been very successful; it is supported by gas tax money. Route should be expanded onto Grand avenue. Also look into possibly extending hours to early evening..

Mitchell: Does the trolley have a purpose? Is there a need for the expansion? If so, we can address that need, but first need to assess the need, otherwise increase costs for no reason. [Comment: ducked Grove garage issue]

Q: Views on Miracle Mile Streetscape?

Keon: Sidewalks and drainage is first priority. Streetscape has a preliminary plan, not yet approved; need to understand affordablility. “Most of you know” that there is a set-aside for it.

Holmes: I am critical of two aspects of Streetscape. My grandfather knew George Merrick. Timing is wrong – cost factor for stores may be too high: can be $60,000 for a store, could cause bankruptcy for them. Changing from angle to parallel parking would reduce parking when we need more, not less.

Keon: I like the conceptual plan. I think it is a great plan. Miracle Mile is unattractive and needs to be redone. Garages should be rebuilt first, make parking available for changes to Miracle Mile. Women are not comfortable in parking garages, need to design them for safety, comfort, so people are not fearful of parking. [Comment: this was Keon's best answer.]

Mitchell: I endorse plan conceptually; have some concerns such as angle parking. Need more parking.

Newell: I am all for this. Needs to be done yesterday. Will be funded by bonds and interest rates are very cheap right now, don’t want to wait until bonds cost more. 25% of money is put aside. 50% is special assessment on businesses and 25% is based on tax receipts based on higher property values, but if they do not materialize then businesses pay . Need to change parking from current system to get wide sidewalks for dining.

Moderator polled audience on whether Commissioners and City Managers maintain proper decorum in meetings. [Comment: this was a really weird question. How many people WATCH the meetings? And what if you think some do fine and others misbehave?] 52% polled (34 people) said they didn’t maintain proper decorum.

Q: Do you think Commissioners and City Manager maintain proper decorum in meetings?

Holmes: Recession meant I couldn’t go to commission meetings for last 2 years. I have a plan on my web page on how to fix the recession

Keon: Both Commission and Manager are there for a good purpose and good reason and they are passionate as to how they feel about a variety of issues [Comment: this felt like another ducking.] Upcoming election will tell us if community is happy with that

Mitchell: As an attorney I wonder how you define ‘proper decorum’. Procedurally it is run appropriately. But voters think it is an issue. Personalities can “overshadow”.

Newell: Everyone knows that there is conflict between manager and some elements on Commission. It is harmful in my opinion. Reasons may run deep, may be personal. We’re better than that.

Young: “As a public servant you look to us as a role model. More importantly, our youth looks to us a role model:” [Comment: she went on to say more, but I was so disgusted at the 'think of the children' line being injected into this ridiculous context – how may kids other than a young Ralph Cabrera avidly follow Commission proceedings? – that I froze up in horror.]

Poll of audience: Who responded to that question best?

Newell had the best score, with 45%
Holmes got 5%, which was was sort of amazing.

Q: Pensions: one side says a deal is a deal, other side says it is unsustainable. What are your ideas on how to address pensions that is both fair, but also averts the problem?

Keon: We relied on inaccurate actuarial numbers that underestimated costs, and inflated investment numbers. Pensions are negotiated. [Comment: this answer too seemed very tentative.]

Mitchell: Must keep our promises. Look at all new employees, Defined benefit? Restructured pension plan? Won’t resolve over night. Must work with unions.

Newell: Police & Teamsters now brought in line with market rate, and multiplier reduced. If you switch to 401k employees now paying 20% so city would lose. [Comment: As the change would only affect obligations going forward, this doesn't appear to be correct.] Market rate ensures fairness. Investment return assumption should be lowered and pegged to Treasuries. and restructure pension board so it’s not dominated by unions.

Young: Need to have a plan [Comment: that is not very specific!] We have to look at efficiencies and have voters hold us accountable. City has $21m in reserves up from $12m last year. If it is unaffordable, have to change plans for new employees, but have to be respectful to people who have already planned their lives.

Closing Statements (90 seconds)

Young: I was the first to file to run. 352 days of knocking on neighborhood doors. I will be here as your neighbor and your advocate.

Holmes: You are world-class people. I am thrilled to be here. I came up with my own solution to ending the Great Recession, you can see it on my web site. Miami-Dade County is a gateway to Latin trade, need to remove restrictions on hemispheric trade. I’m a big picture guy for a big picture City.

Newell: I’m not going to ask for your vote – I’m supposed to earn your vote. We need substance, I’m not sure we did that [in this hour]. We have to demonstrate some depth and offer vision, not platitudes, namedropping, or “I love you more”. The old guard did the retail politics, and what did they do, create 30 times debt. We focus on the wrong things. I hope in the closing weeks I can offer you more substance.

Mitchell: I believe that pension issue is “where we’re at, what we need to resolve”. I promise I will do everything I can to resolve the unfunded liabilities issue.

Keon: We can make Coral Gables even better. See postcards I am sending to homes on important issues. Greater accountability on city finance, performance measures, working with school board, quality of life, traffic, public safety. Experience matters.

Poll, based on tonight have you changed your mind
A Yes 68% (61 people)
B No 27%

[Final comment: having reviewed my notes, I still think Mr. Newall was the most impressive performer...but having had more time to think, I'm troubled by the substance of quite a bit of what he said, especially the naive optimism about re-writing the code. So I'm guess I'm leaning lightly Keon at present, mostly on the strength of what other people say about her and her relevant experience.]

Posted in Coral Gables | 1 Comment

Endorsements in Coral Gables Commission Races?

I thought I would create a place for people to post information about endorsements in the Coral Gables Commission and Mayor races. I’m primarily interested here in organizational endorsements, not individual endorsements by local elected officials and worthies.

Thus, for example, I emailed the Christian Family Coalition, which usually endorses in County races, and was told they have not endorsed anyone.

I emailed SAVE-DADE, but haven’t heard back yet, and will post an update when I do. (I couldn’t find anything on their web page.) [Update 4/1: Still nothing on the web page, but multiple sources tell me that SAVE-DADE endorses Ralph Cabrera, Ross Hancock, and Mary Young.]

Ross Hancock said at the most recent forum that he was the only candidate in his group endorsed by the Sierra Club. Have they endorsed in any of the other groups?

Please let me know in comments of any endorsements, or of other groups that you think I should contact.

Update 3/29/13:
From President John Baublitz, Fraternal Order Of Police, Coral Gables Lodge #7

The Coral Gables Fraternal Order of Police Walter F. Stathers Memorial Lodge No. 7 has endorsed the following candidates for their hard stance on crime in the “City Beautiful”. These candidates have acknowledged that crime is on the increase and are committed to providing our members with the tools needed to fight these increases in crime.

Mayor: Ralph Cabrera
Commission Group II: Ross Hancock
Commission Group III: Pat Keon

Update 3/30:

Democracy for America has a web page endorsing Ross Hancock

I’ve got more emails out to local groups, and welcome your comments and suggestions for who to contact.

Update 4/6:

Forgot to link to Miami Herald Editorial Board Weighs Into the Coral Gables Commission Election, discussing the Miami Herald’s endorsement of Jim Cason, Vince Lago, and Pat Keon.

Posted in Coral Gables | 4 Comments

Research Assistant Wanted

Apologies, blog readers, but this announcement is for UM Law 1L & 2L students only:

I would like to hire a part-time summer research assistant. The hours are negotiable, but likely would be in the 15-20 hours per week range. It would be best if you could start very soon after exams finish. Current UM 1Ls and 2Ls are welcome to apply.

My research assistant will help me with my summer writing projects. The job requires someone who can write clearly, is well-organized, and who is really good at finding things in libraries and on the Internet. There may be some bluebooking involved too. (If you happen to have some web or programming skills (some or all of HTML, MySQL, Perl, Debian), that could be useful, but it is not in any way a requirement.)

The hourly pay of $ 13 is set by the university, and is not as high as you deserve, but the work is sometimes interesting.

If you are interested, please send me an e-mail with the words RESEARCH ASSISTANT (in all caps) followed by your name in the subject line. In the email tell me:

- how many hours you’d ideally like to work per week and what other jobs/courses you have planned for the summer (if any),
- when you are free to start, and whether you have vacation plans (no problem if you are planning to take a week or two off during the summer)
- your phone number and email address.
- whether it is OK for me to share your application with other interested faculty members who might also want a summer research assistant.
- whether, if things work out, you might be interested in continuing on at 10/hrs week during the next academic year.

Please attach the following to your email:

1. A copy of your resume (c.v.),

2. A short writing sample (non-legal is preferred — in any case, please do NOT send your LCOMM memo),

3. A transcript (need not be an official copy).

(You might also mention that you saw the ad here. Can’t hurt.)

Please note that this job is different from the Jotwell summer editor position.

Posted in Law School | Leave a comment

Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Commission Candidate Forum – First Reactions

Here’s a quick write-up of my first impressions of tonight’s candidate forum. I will post something much more detailed and somewhat less opinionated later. Be patient: It was a long event so it might take me a while. The event was recorded for Coral Gables TV so if you have cable, or can figure out how to navigate their web page, you can see the whole thing for yourself.

Coral Gables Commission races attract high-quality candidates. It gives you a degree of faith in democracy, one that participation in national politics can so easily leach away.

The Structure of the Event

Thanks in large part to the Chamber keeping the use of the clickers to a minimum, the Forum went off significantly better than I had feared: it wasn’t a circus. Parts of it were even informative despite the very short time-limits for candidate statements.

The focus on “decorum” and the prohibition of having candidates address each other directly turned out not to be a problem in the two Commission races where there is no incumbent.

Unfortunately, this ground rule did harm the discussion in the Mayor’s part of the program, as a significant aspect of the Mayoralty race is that it is a referendum on Mayor James Cason‘s tenure – and arguably that of Commissioner Ralph Cabrera too. As applied, the rule seemed like an effort to protect the Mayor from Cabrera’s criticism, and the moderator’s genial but yet slightly barbed banter with Commissioner Cabrera about his tendency to talk a lot (e.g “you just beat the over/under” for when he might go over time) might have raised an issue of partiality in the eyes of a suspicious watcher. Then again, for all I know, maybe they are all drinking buddies. I am not part of the Chamber and wouldn’t know.

Group 3

I was most interested in the first event, the Group 3 race, because I had to miss the previous debate. I came into the room thinking that the candidates I most wanted to see were Mary Martin Young and Patricia A. Keon, whom the conventional wisdom sees as the front-runners. I was also curious about P.J. Mitchell, who I thought wrote one of the better candidate statements. Of these, I was maybe leaning a tiny bit towards Patricia Keon, just based on her c.v. and what other people had said to me about her, but I was mostly undecided. And, to be honest, I just hadn’t focused on Norman Anthony Newell at all.

Ms. Keon, to my surprise, was just not impressive. Fresh off the Herald’s endorsement, she was overly cautious and unspecific and just plain ducked some questions. Maybe this was a calculated caution strategy to preserve a lead, but it came off as either unwilling to commit, or just uncertain. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t vote for her, but it didn’t make the sale. Ms. Young also ducked and weaved, plus managed to be at times sound-bite grating and often needlessly patting herself on the back for her achievements both in scripted and unscripted moments. It was so bad that I won’t vote for her. Mr. Mitchell was also a bit of a disappointment: he was (over?) folksy, but for most of the event struck a one-note candidacy: pensionspensionspensionspensionspensions. There is more to being a Commissioner than just that one issue, especially as most if not all of the candidates seem in fairly broad agreement about it. Jackson Rip Holmes is not a serious candidate in either sense of the word “serious”.

In contrast, Mr. Newell was thoughtful and substantive (and seemed justifiably to chafe at the format). He didn’t duck the questions. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but he made the case that the Commission needs some new blood and he, the youngest candidate in the race, might be the person to provide it.

Bottom line: I left very impressed by Mr. Newell. I don’t know if he has a chance in this race, but even if he doesn’t win, maybe he ought to keep running until he does.

Group 2

On the whole there were not that many differences from the Coral Gables Commission Candidates’ Forum (Group II) meeting a couple of weeks ago. I thought Marlin Holland Ebbert did considerably better than the first time; I still thought Ross Hancock had the best policies (and he’s endorsed by the Sierra Club!), but he came off as a bit more pugnacious than last time which probably won’t help him with the average voter. He had the best and most detailed answer to the trolley question. Vicente Carlos Lago was more subdued than he had been. I had some trouble with his reply to the question about historic preservation which, although saying it matters, also seemed suggest an appetite for development that plays into the ‘special interest candidate supported by developers’ story that the other two candidates were selling with various degrees of gentleness. Mr. Lago also was the only candidate who ducked the hard part of the question about whether the Commission was right to site the Trolley garage in the Grove over the objections of local residents. (The other two said that at least we could extend the service to them, which I think is right.) Off the dais Mr. Lago is about as friendly and charming as a person can get, and I think he’ll be a great neighbor, Commissioner or not. But I don’t think what the Gables needs right now is a development boom (although I am persuaded it needs a downtown makeover of some sort), so that made me a bit nervous about adding another pro-developer vote to the Commission.

Bottom line: Still leaning pretty strongly Hancock, but feeling OK about all the candidates as individuals (the issue of their effect on the overall makeup of the Commission is something I’m only starting to think about).

Mayor

Again, the substance of this debate was largely a replay of last week’s debate. I was a bit shocked that incumbent Mayor Jim Cason again quoted Commissioner Ralph Cabrera out of context in order to try to make it look like he was ignoring the pensions crisis when in context the remark Cason seized on clearly meant the exact opposite. This is really a cheap shot. It has to make you wonder.

On the other hand, I was also surprised that Cabrera is still flogging the crime issue to the point that his campaign workers were handing out copies of my post Is Crime Up or Down in Coral Gables? Yes. (which would have been fine if they had included the Creative Commons copyright information) since that blog post suggests Cason’s numbers were on the whole better than Cabrera’s. I guess the crime issue polls well. I’d feel better about it if Cabrera had something more specific to say other than ‘we should give the police the tools they need’. What tools those are, he does not say.

Bottom line: Still undecided. Ouch.

Posted in Coral Gables | 6 Comments

Appalling Ground Rules for Coral Gables Candidates Event

Large cattle-call events are never a very good way to figure out who to vote for. Even so, tonight’s Coral Gables Commission candidate event at UM seems to have been expressly designed to be about as awful as possible.

Consider this trifecta of horribleness:

  • The candidates have only sound-bite-size times to speak.
  • The candidates are discouraged from responding to each other: the event is “not designed or intended to be an opportunity to engage and debate your fellow candidates”.
  • Candidates are expressly encouraged to pack the meeting with partisans — and their responses will be monitored in real time with electronic clicker-style devices.

This is a recipe for a circus, not an meaningful moment of civic deliberation. Clicker rating of candidate statements makes sense if you have a panel of representative voters but not if the sample is biased by who bused in the most partisans (read, who has the most money to spend).

Shame on the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce for emphasizing the superficial and making meaningful discussion not just unlikely but nearly impossible. And shame of then again for going for glitz over meaningful data.

Here is the text of the ground rules circulated by the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce for the event tonight at the University of Miami Field House.

Based on the large number of candidates who have qualified, we will be modifying the format of the Forum slightly from our original plan. The new format is as follows:

1) Group III, which has 5 candidates, will take part in the first session, commencing at 6pm
2) Group II, which has 3 candidates, will begin at approximately 7:15pm
3) Group I, the mayoral candidates, will begin around 8pm

There will be a short break in between sessions to allow for re-set of the dais. Coral Gables TV will be televising the program, live to tape.

Each candidate will have one minute for his or her opening statement, 90 seconds for closing remarks and one minute to answer each question posed by the moderator. We strongly encourage candidates to use their time to promote their platforms and to share their ideas and experiences. The Forum is not designed or intended to be an opportunity to engage and debate your fellow candidates.

Each candidate is encouraged to invite his or her supporters to attend the Forum. We have included the event invitation for you to post and share (attached). Each candidate will also be provided a 6-foot table outside the venue to place campaign literature. No distribution of campaign materials will be allowed inside the Field House.

Appropriate decorum from all candidates and their supporters is expected at all times. Any disruption or outburst takes away from the seriousness of the occasion.

We invite each candidate to submit one question that will be asked, without attribution, to all the candidates in your Group. Please submit your question by Friday, March 22nd at 4 pm directly to Patrick O’Connell at [email address] for inclusion.

Our moderator will be Perry Adair, Incoming Chairman of the Chamber and Managing Shareholder of the Coral Gables office of Becker & Poliakoff. It will be his responsibility to make sure the candidates abide by the rules of the event, and in particular, the time allotted to each candidate for opening/closing statements and to answer each question. The moderator will have the authority to ask follow-up questions. If he does so, he will announce the time allotted for the candidates to answer the follow-up question.

This will be an interactive event. There will be real-time audience participation in the Forum via a “clicker” system. Much like the “ask the audience lifeline” we are all familiar with, members of the audience will be given wireless devices that they can use to give their input. For example, on some questions, the audience will be given an opportunity to indicate which candidate’s answer to the question was the best. At the beginning and end of each session, the audience will be asked to indicate which candidate they are leaning towards supporting.

Coral Gables deserves better than this.

Posted in Coral Gables | 3 Comments