Welcome Messrs. Cason, Quesada and Kerdyk: A List of Some of Your Considerable Challenges

Congratulations to Messrs. Cason, Quesada and Kerdyk.  Thank you for your willingness to take on the big issues of the city of Coral Gables.

We trust you will forge hard questions about the considerable problems we are facing.

Here are a few big challenges for the near term:

  • Shift the financial and institutional  leadership back to the commission from the city manager.  This means more commission involvement in pension reform, financial planning and organizational restructuring.
  • Create true financial transparency, not hiding audits, honesty about reserves, no more games with the budget–people are expecting no more tax increases.
  • Do some minimal long-term financial planning.
  • Introduce new practices of citizen involvement and participation.
  • You need to think the unthinkable.   Shouldn’t the city  consider the full range of alternatives for the Biltmore, including its semi-privatization or its return to the federal government, with all of its liabilities (I know, that’s unthinkable).  Can the city cannot continue with the Biltmore as a large financial albatross–let’s hear a serious discussion of this in the commission.
  • Take a hard look at the city’s public security costs.  Will the commission and city manager please evaluate publicaly the police and firefighter needs at a technical and administrative level, rather treating these services as “untouchables.”
  • Pension reform requires an active commission with clear goals and plans, not just piecemeal negotiations.
  • The city seems to be stuck with a nonfunctional museum that may need its permanent financial support.  Can someone make an open and honest appraisal of what is going on at the museum.
  • Miracle Mile now denotes a certain declining quality in its retail businesses, rather than it being a leading and dynamic retail center.  Miracle Mile has lost its way–can we get an objective view of that before we spend millions on its so-called “streetscape.”

For Whom I Would NOT Vote In The Coral Gables Election

Following a process of elimination, I would not vote for the following:

I would not vote for Mr. Slesnick.  He has had 10 years in government and has led to city to its present state.  We lived with a corrupt and unethical city manager, we had taxes increased even in bad times, we saw the virtual collapse of the Country Club and, of course, we have the still secret audit of the Biltmore lease, and unrestrained support for city unions and pensions.  Add to this a poorly run IT Department and EDEN software, a weak Finance Department and a widely criticized Building and Zoning Department.  You have  here a good number of reasons to end the Slesnick Era.

I would not vote for Mr. Rosenblatt.  His program is to continue more of the same with lots of sponding on rehabilitating Miracle Mile (where he has a business), settle the Biltmore lease and keeping taxes low.  I am glad to know that taxes are low and, presumably, potentially could be raised just a little more in the future.

I would not vote for Mr. Sanabria.  He is supported by the Fraternity of Police who are completely and virgorously defending the benefits of good salaries and even better pensions that they have acquired over the years with the acquiescence of the mayor and city commission.   I don’t believe that Mr. Sanabria can be counted on to defend the voters against more taxes and fees.

We need three strong votes against more taxes for the future–we will not get them from Commissioners Anderson, Kerdyk and candidate Sanabria, so electing Mr. Sanabria would be budgetary lethal for the taxpayers of Coral Gables.

I might not vote for Mr. Kedyk.  I don’t see that he has contributed any heroic measures to the city (I know that many don’t agree with that view), and he has clearly voted for taxes, but not as many taxes as Mr. Slesnick might desire, nor more than Mr. Cabrera would have wanted.  The facts are that he has consistently voted for taxes.  He never raised a voice against the former city manager, had no problem to approve the UM Grid and he has been relatively quiet about the Biltmore, the Country Club and similar issues.  He is not a reformer and we need real reforms in the organization and financial management of the city of Coral Gables.  Almost certainly he will be elected so one should be careful about the other candidates that you vote for, if you want real reform and to reduce your taxes.

I might not vote for Mr. Quesada.  He appears to be a nice enough fellow, but he is a totally unknown quantity in the city.  He seems like the continuation of the Slesnick-Kerdick-Withers coalition and  the business-led support for the unbridled commercial growth of the city, which sucks in police, fire protection and other resources away from the residents and taxpayers who are having a hard time paying their taxes and fees.

Rosenblatt and Sanabria

I have enjoyed the interest in the subject of Rosenblatt and Sanbria.  (FYI, I have not indicated if I would vote for them or any other candidate.)

However, I would say the following:

Any candidate who accepts the support of groups who are at the heart of the city’s financial problems should not be supported by the community if you really want a change in city finances and in taxes.

As far as I know, Mr. Rosenblatt was not convicted of a crime, that seems clear to me.  The appearance of guilty disqualifies him for many people.  That is just fine and that is a personal choice.

For The Candidates: A Proposal For A NEW AGENDA For The City of Coral Gables

This is the list of issues, problems and ideas for the future of the city Coral Gables Watch for inclusion in a needed New Agenda for the City of Coral Gables. Following is a list of examples of possible NEW AGENDA items.

  • Prepare and discuss with the public a NEW AGENDA for the City to face the major pending problems, such as unfunded benefits, taxation, staffing and organization;
  • The City Manager should routinely report to taxpayers the progress on the budget and organizational changes;
  • The city commission should agree on a new Code of Ethics;
  • Change the election dates for the city of Coral Gables to coincide with national and state elections.
  • Prepare and publicly discussion a long-range financial plan for the City of Coral Gables
  • Target a freeze and/or reduce actual amounts of taxes paid by citizens (not just millage rates) during the next three years;
  • Accelerate a plan of reducing pensions and health benefits, especially for firefighters and police;
  • Prepare a plan and publicly discuss how to reduce unfunded pension liabilities during the next five years;
  • Have a community town hall meeting at least twice a year to discuss the budget and other current issues;
  • Develop a realistic and flexible agreement with the Biltmore that protects the taxpayers not just now, but in the coming years from subsidizing the operators;
  • Undertake a review of financial mechanisms and the defective EDEN system to establish a modern, functional accounting of spending and revenues.

Government Jobs have to Go in Miami

No doubt we are just at the start of the reduction of city employment throughout the country and in region.  Unions have resisted salary and benefit reductions, but appear to accept employee layoffs, especially of lower category workers.

The next stage will be to really reduce salaries and benefits on a grand scale and cut back jobs of the better paid management, police and firefighters.

One field that remained strong in the face of the downturn was government work, where 151,000 jobs in September were almost 14% of the county’s total. While construction jobs were declining 41% over three years, government jobs fell 6,500, just 4%, despite governments claiming austerity budgets as they raised taxes — about 15% at Miami-Dade County Hall alone.

via Bite your tongue and thank your blessed governments too.

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