Volsky on Slesnick: “You Can Look at Facts 5 Different Ways”

SLESNICK: “YOU CAN LOOK AT FACTS 5 DIFFERENT WAYS”

By George Volsky

Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick, evasive as it is his wont,  has been put  on defense by his two opponents in the April 12 election during  the  second debate mayoral Thursday at the Coral Gables Country Club.

Former diplomat James Cason and Coral Gables attorney Tom Korge repeatedly pinpointed the many failures of the mayor’s ten-year long tenure. But their charges, given the  less-than-informative and sharp format of the debate that followed the Rotary Club’s regular luncheon, failed to deliver a propaganda knockout to Slesnick.

Still, the mayor,  constantly circumventing the questions, at one point appeared to reveal a defeatist demeanor. He said that he and his wife would be “proud” of his mayoralty’s accomplishments if he is not re-elected in April.  And he even praised his two opponents as being worthy mayoral candidates.

According to one resident who observed the debate – and who used to be  Slesnick’s supporter – both Cason of Korge would have scored the debate’s winning points had they referred to Slesnick’s penchant for distorting facts, (or as he put it “for lying,”)  an example of which, he said, actually happed today.

“This morning,” said the residents who asked not be identified, “I read Don’s advertisement in the Miami Herald’s Neighbor section and there, to my surprise,  he took credit for the Coral Gables Trolley System as his ‘major accomplishment.’”

The resident continued: “I don’t think there is anyone in this audience – and we, the Rotarians, are quite aware of what it’s going on in the city – who doesn’t know that it was Bill Kerdyk, not Slesnick,- who proposed and fought for the trolleys  and that, on the contrary,  Don first tried to kill the project and when he failed to do it, he insisted unsuccessfully that its users pay a quarter per ride, which would have immediately scuttled the system. When I read the ad, I couldn’t believe that Don had published it. It offends us and our intelligence. Does Don really believe Coral Gables voters  are stupid?”

Like in the first debate, Cason stated that he would look at the city’s many and serious financial and administrative problems with “new eyes and ears,” and would insist on a total reorganization of its administration. He also told the audience that as mayor he would put transparency at the top of his agenda.

In that context, Cason accused Slesnick of hiding from voters – until after the election – a comprehensive analysis of the city’s controversial financial relations with the Biltmore Hotel by PriceWaterhouseCoopers,  reportedly completed after almost a year of work.  (The report, authoritative sources have told the  Gazette, concludes that Coral Gables should not hope to ever be repaid about $5 million, if not more, that the Biltmore management owes the city.)

Korge, as he has done before, charged Slesnick with negligence in not reacting for a long time to  the hotel’s managers who wanted to discuss their  financial problems with the city, and who in view of the mayor’s refusal to talk stopped paying the rent.

But Slesnick ignored his opponents’ statements. Neither did the Rotary Club moderator ask the mayor – as he could have done – to explain why  the PWC report should not be released before April 12 vote. Neither was the mayor asked what was his position on that very important city issue, as well as on an equally critical huge pension shortfall,  a question from the public which the mayor pointedly ignored.

Slesnick’s  replies to difficult questions were: “alter all,  the sun shines on Coral Gables;” “George Merrick would be proud if he saw the city today;” “we have the most civil city commission in South Florida;” and a new Slesnick gem: “you can look at the facts five different ways.”

At the outset of the debate, it was expected that the Rotarians, many of whom have been the mayor’s political and personal friends  for years would have received him with warm and thunderous applause.  That, significantly, did not happen. Applause was generally evenhanded and if anything it showed the audience’s lack of enthusiasm for Slesnick’s re-election bid.

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

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