Volsky on “Slesnick Counts on the Voters’ Short Memory”



Pre-election periods, observers of politics have averred for centuries, are marred by prolixity of humbug, dubious promises,  exaggerations and of late mendacity galore. Moving toward the April 12 vote, Coral Gables has not been spared from that epistolary  and verbal barrage.  It will be compounded: our election for two commissioners and mayor will be preceded by an equally important Miami-Dade County March 15 vote, whose appropriate theme is “get the rascals out.”

As every local observer tells you, the most discordant and jarring note in our pre-election static has been provided by Mayor Don Slesnick. While nominally an attorney, he is today generally regarded as a low-level manipulative politician, who after 10 ignominious years in office wants residents to reelect him again.

Slesnick’s electoral posture, as one astute resident said, “has not changed. In an undisguised fashion, Don insults the intelligence of Coral Gables  voters, counting on their short memory.”

The statement is not off-base; none of what Slesnick has recently said or written can be imbued with faith and troth.  Thus residents will hopefully judge which and how many negative features – from humbug to prevarication – fit his pre-electoral behavior and his constant self-promotion.

1. To run or not to run.  For half of 2010, Slesnick had been assuring countless persons, including his closest supporters that he would not run for re-lection and, personally, told James Cason and Tom Korge who had already announced their mayoral candidacy, that he wouldn’t  be their opponent.  Then, suddenly, Slesnick runs again.  What does it say about him? At least that his word is not his bond and that his trustworthiness is zero.

2. Why after 10 years in office would Slesnick want to run again?  During the January  18 mayoral debate at the Congregational Church, Slesnick was asked that  very question.: “I have a passion for it,” he replied. Does this ebullition of passion merit two more years?  The majority of voters, one presumes, would say absolutely not.  (Not all, though. Commenting on a recent column criticizing the mayor, one person wrote – of course, anonymously – to the Gazette that the anti-mayor “rant” notwithstanding she – or conceivably he – would continue “to love” Slesnick. Carry on the lover girl or  boy.)

3. On Jan. 17, Slesnick wrote to the Herald assuring the paper that under his leadership Coral Gables has become a paragon of transparency. The editor of the editorial page, without any fact-checking, unprofessionally printed Slesnick’s  statement with her own  headline: “Coral Gables makes information easy to access.” Ironically, a week later, the falsehood of that statement was patented by a seminal event. An important briefing by PriceWaterhouseCoopers about a $4 million that the management of the Biltmore Hotel owes the city and cannot repay, was given in high secrecy to the five city commissioners, as a result, according to several very reliable sources, of Slesnick’s insistence that the public and the media be excluded from listening to it. Lourdes Alfonsin, Interim City Attorney, inquired about the secret sessions, said she was not involved in the decision to conceal the vital information from residents.

4. On February 2, Slesnick published in the Herald’s Neighbors section a one-page advertisement replete with misstatements and trite and vacuous phrases. It was printed in the publication whose back page has long been reserved for the ads of the Slesnick family real estate company. (While to the best of anybody’s knowledge and belief Slesnick is not pressed in pecuniary matters, it would be highly venturesome to say that his post as mayor has not helped  “Slesnick And Associates.” There is a documented proof – written by the mayor on the city-owned email – that he recommended that family firm for real estate purposes to an acquaintance who wanted to be a city vendor, clearly a neat quid-pro-quo.

5. The Slesnick Herald advertisement begins with a hackney statement: “Dedicated Proven Leadership.”  It is important to remember that for almost nine of the ten years that Slesnick has been mayor, he has worked closely and shared his “leadership” with the disgraced city manager David Brown, the convicted falsifier of city documents. In fact for about four years, both shared single aide,  Olga Garcia. Olguita, as she was called in City Hall where she  would let everybody know her  influence, served as the mayor’s administrative assistant. She  performed other duties for Brown whom she later sued (as well as the commission) for sexual harassment. Garcia, lest voters forget, exited the city with a bundle of cash and lifelong pension, clearly proof of Slesnik’s leadership.

6. The advertisement continued with several cornier and more meaningless statements: “Constantly working to make Coral Gables Better;” “Preserving our past;” “Reaching out to the world to strengthen our international business community;” “Streamlining governmental bureaucracy;” “Greening the Gables;” “Beautifying the central business district.”         Slesnick’s predecessor, Raul Valdes-Fauli, had one assistant, Slesnick has two, that’s a 50 percent upward “streamlining.”  As to the central district’s “beautification,” it is reported that the placement around Coral Gables of countless fuchsia-colored huge plastic snails – correctly described as a “hideous” by the prominent city resident Marvin Ross Friedman –  was Slesnick’s idea. Several years ago, Slesnick was also behind the installation all over downtown of other plastic “artistic ” toy, only slightly less ugly than the snails. Incidentally, residents of Miami Beach, from where the snails travelled to the “City Beautiful,” were so offended by the gastropods that they threw one of these Slesnick’s ugly fatsos into the ocean.

7. But the biggest misstatement of facts – exceeding, as several irate residents have called it, the limit of mendacity –   was Slesnick’s taking credit for “Stabilizing our city’s financial foundations.”  Simple facts are as follows: when Slesnick arrived in City Hall, Coral Gables’ finances were in excellent shape. Employees were being paid about 35 percent in benefits in addition to their salaries, our pension fund was stable: income received covered current and future obligations. The city has substantial reserves; Miracle Mile got its median and the necessary City Hall Annex was being built. Today,  after 10 years of the Slesnick-Brown misrule, employee benefits reach about 70 percent – unsustainable for any enterprise; the pension fund has a $200 million deficit, proportionally the second worst in Florida; reserves are non-existent, drained by the Biltmore and other debts, and by Brown’s $1 million FEMA double-billing, of which the mayor could not have been unaware.  These are just a few of the misdeeds of the disastrous Slesnick-Brown administration that the mayor with his Herald ad – and others that presumably will follow – is trying to cover-up.

There is one sentence in Slesnick’s Feb. 2 advertisement which presages an outcome of the election not to the mayor’s liking. “On April 12,” he wrote, “Vote to keep Coral Gables on the Right Track…” In all probability that track will lead to a better  future for the city but without the man who in speech and writing is incapable of telling the truth.

About Stephen E. McGaughey
Resident of the City of Coral Gables

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