City of Coral Gables: Salerno’s Achievements

The recently resigned city manager of the city of Coral Gables, Pat Salerno, published a list of achievements of his period of administration.

I think that these are his main achievements:

  • Strong and decisive management.
  • Minimization of the involvement of city commissioners in the day-to-day life of the municipal government.
  • Weakening of the culture of fiefdoms in the city offices.
  • Implementing sound financial management, including reducing taxes and growing reserves.
  • Ameliorating exaggerated salaries, benefits, and pensions of police and fire services.
  • Planned, organized and financed improvements in the city’s infrastructure and beautification.

Hopefully, the city commissioners will direct the new city manager to sustain the above culture, and not fall pry to the Slesnick/Brown culture of city commission intromission and micro-management.

Coral Gables Can’t Manage The Biltmore

I have written before that the city of Coral Gables has no business owning a large, historic hotel, and the last few years have shown us is that the city is over its head. The city management have been incapable of auditing and managing the hotel’s lease.

Perhaps the hotel should be returned to the federal government and the National Park Service, which has the policies and the money to keep track of what is happening at the hotel without getting itself tied up in unseemly relations with the hotel’s management.

The city will not have the resources and willpower in the future to keep track of the Biltmore, even if it wins a costly legal battle with the lessee, and we will then return to the same problem again.  Certainly, the Biltmore is a great asset for Miami-Dade county, but the city of Coral Gables is too small an operation to care for its historic qualities.

More On Gov. Scott Killing Florida’s Growth and Environmental Management

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Future Role of Florida’s Regional Planning Councils?

We now understand that when he signed the budget last week, Gov. Scott line-item vetoed $2.5 million of general revenue in state funding for Florida’s Regional Planning Councils. In return for a portion of this funding, every year the state’s 11 RPCs each enter into contracts with the Department of Community Affairs to provide specified regional planning services.

Effective July 1, the RPCs will no longer receive this funding and will need to determine what services they will provide for their state-mandated functions. It is important to note that this funding is typically a small portion of each RPC’s annual budget.

While HB 7207 made sweeping changes to many aspects of Florida’s growth management system, it left the statutory functions of the RPCs largely intact. How or if RPCs will interact with local governments on the review of comprehensive plans, amendments and Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs) as required by state law is unknown at this time.

On a related issue, the growth management bill HB 7207 was transmitted to the Governor’s Office last week and he has 15 days to sign it into law.

1000 Friends will continue to provide regular updates on the many changes to Florida’s growth management process brought about by the 2011 Legislature and Governor Scott. Please visit www.1000fof.org, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@floridafriends) for timely updates.

(Repeated) A City Agenda For Coral Gables

This is the list of issues, problems and ideas that might form part of an Agenda for the City of Coral Gables.

  • Prepare and discuss an overall NEW AGENDA for the City of Coral Gables to face the major pending problems, such as unfunded benefits, taxation, staffing and organization;
  • City Manager should routinely report to taxpayers progress on the budget and organizational changes;
  • The city needs a new Code of Ethics;
  • Change the election dates for 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 amount of taxes paid by citizens (not 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;
  • Undertake a review of financial mechanisms and the defective EDEN system to establish a modern, functional accounting of spending and revenues.

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.”
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