The Country Club Again–Let Me Get This Straight

Years ago the Country Club, which I understand was more or less dilapidated, was contracted out to a local company (friends of the city) that failed to get it to function as a stand alone “enterprise”.  This process included and was made possible by huge payments from the Coral Gables citizens to make physical improvements and upgrades in the building and a failure to collect the lease for many months. There are ongoing court fights over who owes what.

The renovated Country Club was operated as an elite neighborhood-friendly and membership-only club that benefited just a few people in Coral Gables (I assume mostly city old-timers, but I cannot swear by this)–again–at a huge multimillion dollar cost to the taxpayers of Coral Gables.  Apparently, there was virtually no oversight over the management of the club by the city, including by a neighbor who is on the City Commission, because the operation of the Club was looked upon favorably by the neighbors as retaining a quiet, sophisticated, Biltmore Hotel-like image for the area in front of the golf course.  Again, please remember that this whole business is being financed by all Coral Gables taxpayers, and very little was financed out of dues or their own taxes by the direct beneficiaries of the Country Club who paid highly subsidized membership fees.

Therefore, we note that the taxpayers of Coral Gables are deep in hock because of the poor past management, costly reconstruction and limited oversight by our city managers and our financially blind city commissioners.  Someone (a neighbor) recently proposed that the Country Club be converted into a senior citizens center.  Well, senior citizens are by-and-large not a rowdy group, so a senior citizen center would be very nice for the neighbors, but would not benefit in the least the bulk of the taxpayers, now major co-owners of the Club.  Please, let us not look for another group to subsidize in the middle of our financial and economic crisis.

Now, it is most curious that we have two commissioners voting against converting the Country Club into a fully functioning commercial enterprise because it will impact the upstanding neighbors of the Country Club, especially Messrs Damian (Coral Gables Political Action Committee) and the Mayor.  Mr. Withers has smartly favored the new enterprise (Mr. Damian may be sorry about his personal tirade against Mr. Withers over the new museum during the debate over the millage rate).  Ms. Anderson voted in favor of the Canadian company the last time around.  Mr. Cabrera has run for cover.  Just wondering who will change their vote and how this will end up.

About Stephen E. McGaughey
International consultant in economic development programs and projects

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