The Issues in Coral Gables–A Personal View

As I try to figure out who to vote for in the Coral Gables Commission elections coming up on April 14, I’ve identified the following issues that seem most important to me.

Development It seems to me that the biggest issues are development-related, but that they go beyond the Agave project. Agave is an important short-term issue that understandably has gotten the most attention in debates, but there’s more to consider. In particular, the sudden – and until recently rather poorly publicized – growth spurt also raises the question whether Coral Gables’s master plan might need some updating or revision. In particular, should the City be trying to create more green spaces? Should we be worrying more about sea level rise or other green issues?

The coming tax revenue spike Like it or not, there’s going to be a whole lot of development in the Gables in the next year or two. Depending on what the Commission does there might be a bit more or a bit less, but there’s going to be plenty. Among other effects, that new construction is going to create a substantial increase in our City’s tax base. A critical issue that the Commission will need to address in the next two to four years is how to allocate that new revenue stream.

Experience and conflicts of interests It’s good to have Commissioners who bring relevant experience to the dias; it’s bad to have Commissioners with significant conflicts of interest especially if they would need to recuse themselves with any frequency. It’s also good to have people familiar with how the Commission works, people who have been going to meetings or at least follow proceedings carefully on Coral Gables TV. Similarly, I think on balance experience with a wide range of Coral Gables committees and civic groups is a plus.

Garbage Fee Ariel Fernandez has suggested that we eliminate the annual garbage fee, and fund the current garbage collection, several million dollars, out of general revue. Is this a good idea?

Solving the problem of current electoral system Our current electoral system has two problems: because the election date is in April in an off-year, turnout is very low. Second, as there no run-off election, if there are multiple candidates a person can be elected with a very small fraction of the vote. This year, in theory, a candidate could win Group V with under 17% of the vote. What if anything should we do about these issues?

I sought out a few of the candidates for the Coral Gables commission to ask their views on these issues, and I’ll be publishing the results in the next few days. I didn’t get to talk to everyone, and that is my fault not theirs: I prioritized talking to candidates I was thinking of voting for in the Group V race because that’s an open seat, and because that is the race where I’m most undecided.

I also spoke to Mayoral candidate Ralph Cabrera, even though I was planning to vote for him on the ABC theory (“Anyone But Cason”) because I wanted more affirmative reasons to vote for him. I’ll be publishing that one first.

I asked each of the candidates I spoke to pretty much the same set of questions relating to the issues above. In the next few days, again subject to a busy work schedule, I’ll be posting summaries of their answers.

Spoiler alert: We have a lot of good candidates – but there are some substantial differences between them in substance, experience, style, and tone.

I corrected a typo in the above – the interviews are with Group V candidates, not Group IV!

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