My Summary: Candidates for Mayor, Candidate Forum of the Chamber of Commerce (3)

This is a pretty highly summarize view of what was said.  See Coral Gables TV for this event.

Korge:  favors Miracle Mile project, better sidewalks and drainage, better streets; for pension reforms, favors defined benefit 401(k), will negotiate hard with unions and go to impasse;  will defend a strong Biltmore negotiation; says has a plan to hold down taxes, promote business focusing on finances and pensions.  Emphasis key is his experience of 10 years on CGs boards and living 21 years here.  He will be active and aggressive vis-a-vis city management and policies.

Cason:  Highly critical of the mayor; concern with improving efficiency of government; will hold the line on taxes, favor promoting international business in CGs;, do business want it, revitalize; favors fixing pensions; claims that for Biltmore problem we don’t have the information;  will favor regular meetings with citizens on problems of the city;  will push management to urgent solutions.  Emphasizes his international diplomatic and management experience.

Slesnick:  Favors Miracle Mile project, voted to move forward on project and is waiting for the final concept; on pensions won’t apologize for working with labor; biltmore negotiations are underway and can be resolved;  he works on a day to day basis to solve city problems;  our reserves have grown to $6 million;  emphasizes basically his job over the last ten years and he will continue for the next two years–if you are satisfied with the last ten years, he asks for your support.

My Summary: Candidates for Commissioner at the Candidate Forum (2)

CANDIDATES FOR COMMISSIONER (My Quick Overview of their Comments; I Apologize for Any Deficiencies in These Comments; Please See Coral Gables TV)

Alvarez:

  • Unclear about Miracle Mile project, says city needs more night life, let taxpayers pay for the project;  on pensions, favors 401(k) for employees; he would promote Coral Gables with new business; CG should balance schools and and the number of residents.  Favors Building and  Zoning reforms;  don’t increase property taxes, and don’t use property taxes as a business incentive.

Holmes;

  • Has serious reservations about Miracle Mile project, against cutting parking, favors renovation of sidewalks, says needs more trees; favors bringing in a department store to Miracle mile; favors 401k and cut number of employees; concerned about CGs preferences in contracting local firms since CG firms might be cut out by other cities; favors education for CG, and says really CGs can’t do much education; Building and Zoning needs ombudsman; favor lower taxes for business.

Martin:

  • No to Miracle Mile project, city can’t afford it and will take too long; unfunded pension contribution biggest problem;  401(k) plans should be for new employees;  would work to bring in business by annexing new areas into the city.  Against Somerset School rezoning; says Building and Zoning Department is not that bad; favors more money on maintaining the city, maintenance of city owned  assets;

Quesada:

  • Favors bringing Miracle Mile updating, more dining outside, favors dealing first with the pension issue and not spend money on Miracle Mile right now, put it off; pensions need to look at different alternatives, doesn’t have a specific proposal, defined contribution is probably better; preferences for contracting local business is ok; supports the schools; would be more aggressive in consolidation Bluilding and Zoning; favors reducing budget and cutting taxes.

Rosenblatt:

  • Favors the full Miracle Mile project and says it won’t cost the citizens; he says that the downtown pays 50% of the revenues;  pensions are a serious problem, put new employees on 401(k) plans?; he would promote more businesses that are needed here; Somerset School expansion, might support this it seems; Building and Zoning Department  needs consolidation, need to revamp IT Department and possible outsourcing; don’t need financial incentives for businesses; keep employees to sustain city services.

Sanabria:

  • Against Miracle Mile because we have neglected historical reservations, fix the sidewalk; we will be liable for the $14m;  pension is a big problem and need a big change using 401(k), employee contributions increased; local venders could get an advantages with Coral Gables; Somerset School has to be a harmony with the community; Building and Zoning should have 30 day building permit process; the city attracts companies to the city, don’t need special incentives.

Kerdyk;

  • Favors Miracle Mile project, favors the use CGs money, interest rates are low and project should not increase taxes to taxpayers in CG; Has a solid plan for pensions and city has made big progress with impasse with labor unions; city has created a pension rate stabilization fund, $3.3 million each year; favors more city contracts for local businesses and this is in ordinance form;  CG tries to work with board of education on education issues; Building and Zoning Department going in the right direction; Favors economic incentives for businesses and they depend on quality of services of the city.

Namon;

  • Questions Miracle Mile project and trolley money could help pay for Miracle Mile; pension problem is because of low earning in the stock market; property taxes are too high on low rise building; use abandoned properties and use rezoning for private schools; pass Building and Zoning to the county.  Favors incentives for business, lower property taxes for low rise bulding;

Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum: Selling the Miracle Mile & Giralda “Streetscape” Project (1)

The event was a slow starter as people filled the auditorium to about half full or so.   The candidates were initially seated by Commission group No. 4 and 5.  The mayoral candidates were treated in a separate session.  The auditorium was partially filled for this event and the candidates circulated freely beforehand.  I would call this a disappointing turn out, although the event will be shown on Coral Gables TV.

This was not a politically neutral forum in one sense of the word:   the Chamber of Commerce used the event to sell the financing of the Miracle Mile & Grialda Streetscape Project.  I believe the promises of the Chamber of Commerce are still to be shown whether the rehabilitation of Miracle Mile and Giralda (new narrower street, wider sidewalks, less on-street parking) will be paid for by businesses mainly, additional tax revenues and “$250,000” already in the budget, and some money from Miami-Dade County.

I think that the implication that this project is nearly free for taxpayers is an error.   There seems to be plenty of people that have doubts about this project.  Some wonder about the final cost of the projects, the time it will take to construct, the cost to businesses and whether there are other smaller scale alternatives.

For those interested in the so-called Miracle Mile & Giralda Streetscape Project see

http://shopcoralgables.com/blog/category/streetscape/

Volsky on “Romeo and Juliet Best MCB’s Production Ever”

ROMEO AND JULIET BEST MCB’S PRODUCTION EVER

By George Volsky

Miami City Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet, the universal story of love at first sight, was the most  professional, convincing, and even for a jaded reviewer the most moving production in the company’s quarter century existence. And it was a triumph for Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg who masterfully combined  multi-nuanced dancing  and  acting that the Juliet role requires.

Carlos Guerra, Kronenberg’s  partner in the ballet, as he is in real life,  was an excellent Romeo.  He portrayed with authority the role of a young, eye-roving aristocrat seized  by a sudden paroxysm of irresistible attraction for a girl, the instant he  sees her for the first time.

That seminal moment, when Romeo’s and Juliet’s eyes meet,  both are struck by the arrows of Eros which inexorably  seal their fate. The moment is only second-long, yet it marks the turning point in the ballet  which, within an tale of a long-standing and bloody family discord,  portrays a dramatic change, an instant growth of the two protagonists. That process of physical and mental growth necessitates from both, especially Juliet,  very considerable acting skills, interwoven into the whole gamut of balletic expertise.

Presiding over Romeo and Juliet, as it were, is the Sergei Prokofiev majestic music score written  in the middle of the 1930’s for Leningrad’s Kirov Theater. The ballet  was not produced for several years because the Soviet Moscow cultural censors wanted it to have a happy ending, theatrically not difficult to stage since it would involve Romeo arriving on the stage only a few seconds later, the moment Juliet awakes from the potion-induced death-like state. Finally the faithful Soviet  Shakespeare lovers prevailed and the 4-act ballet   by Eugeni Lavrovsky opened in Leningrad in 1940, with the legendary Galina Ulanova in the Juliet role.

Other versions of R&J followed, all with Prokofiev’s music and the Bard’s story. The one presented by the MCB was choreographed by  John Cranko and performed for the first time in 1962 by the Stuttgart Ballet of which he was director. Cranko’s  3-act ballet is regarded as the best of all R&J created so far. All of them are based on Shakespeare’s time-honored play in which virtually all of the most memorable sentences are pronounced by Juliet.

Kronenberg obviously could not declaim: “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo;” or “What’s in the name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet;” or “Parting is such sweet sorrow/ That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”

Sill, through her dancing Kronenberg seemed to be expressing her new,  love-inspired wisdom which, as though influenced by Cupid she had developed shedding her initial almost child-like behavior.

At first, after greeting  Romeo shyly, Juliet does not want to be touched by him, or allows him to kiss her hand, as tough afraid of an emotional volcano such contacts would produce in her body and mind. But love and desire prevail. Totally smitten by Romeo, Juliet abandons  all conventions – social and religious – invites her inamorato to her bed, ties her destiny to him, and ends her life when instead of joining him and live happily ever after as she was told to expect she sees him dead.

The most moving part of the ballet is the almost ten minute long pas de deux, at the end of the first act. The two lovers, mostly by embraces, lifts and intimate gestures, develop without inhibitions their emotional and carnal love – Juliet is actually a bit more sexually aggressive than Romeo –  and determine to be united for ever come what it may.

(Of course, the philosophical question can be posed whether the total but shot marital ecstasy is worth more than what it could follow: possible prolonged, bitter disappointments  and years of gnawing unhappiness.)

But Romeo and Juliet is not only about the two lovers. It is a narrative about generation-long enmity between two extended aristocratic clans in Renaissance’s Verona, the House of Capulet of which Romeo is the crown prince, and the House of Montague, whose female crown jewel is Juliet.  Members of the clans perforce meet in Verona’s streets and central plaza and often clash.

Sword fights take place despite stern, pacifying admonishments by the ruling Duke of Verona. Tybald, the menacingly dressed and coifed Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez, who oozes hatred of the Capulet clan and  looks like the Montague enforcer, duels and kills Mercutio, a Capulet and a friend of Romeo, who soon takes revenge and swords Tybald through.  The two cadavers make the clans’ enmity irreconcilable, while at the same time the love between Romeo and Juliet deepens.  (Shakespeare, after the lovers’ death, reconciles the two houses; not so Cranko and the other choreographers; Prokofiev’s music ends on a grave tone as well.)

Still, the ballet has many delightful and joyous moments not related to love – after all life is fun in Verona too. For example, Romeo, before being fletched by Juliet, was a fun-seeking young blade, anything but a chaste, brooding Hamlet. There is a lively and male pas de trios – Guerra, Rabello and Renan Cardeiro – the last two are certainly up and coming MCG dancers – and very well rehearsed and physically dangerous sword plays. (Unlike theater actors, dancers are not usually taught to fence.)

And there is the incomparable dancing by the amazing MCB core de ballet which, it gives me pleasure to repeat, is the backbone of the company.  These amazing very young women and men provide the necessary supporting context for all MCB productions, certainly for this one. Everybody was helped by the splendid costumes and scenery, courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada, and the public enthusiastically applauded both.

Romeo and Juliet represents a very important addition to the MCB’s repertoire, and another shining milestone in the long  career of its Artistic Director, Edward Villella.  Thanking  the person who deserves it, one has to mention that last weekend’s presentation probably would not take place except for the perseverance of Mike Eidson, former MCB chairman, who   for years had been promoting  Cranko’s R&J version and had worked assiduously to secure funding for it.

Romeo and Juliet ended, regally one might say, the MCB’s 25th consecutive season. The season was appropriately dedicated to the company’s founding chair, Toby Lerner Ansin.  And, as the saying goes, after the first quarter century the best is yet to come.

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.

Coral Gables Government Needs a New Code and Culture of Ethics

Strengthening ethical standards in Coral Gables is a prime need of a new commission.  There has been a total lack of interest in transparency and too much of a tolerance of unethical behavior and indifference to community participation.  What passes as transparency is a weak system of one way communication with the community.

“There is an atmosphere that is a pressure-bubble building,” said Roy Rogers, CEO of Lighthouse Point and chairman of the commssion. Across the state, there “is a need as expressed by the community to do better ethically.”

He warned that amid the ethics scandals in local communities, many local governments have  been “coming up with their own interpretation of how ethics shold be dealt with” and absent a strong state standard that “haphazard” approach to ethics reform could have a unintended result: repressing people with “the right stuff” to seek public office.

via Ethics Commission tells legislators ‘do better ethically’ | Florida politics blog: The Buzz | tampabay.com & St. Petersburg Times.

Management Counts for Good Education

I have always thought that there has been little public discussion on poor school management (principals, especially) and leadership (school boards, especially).  Too much attention has been given to teachers.   Teachers lack support and motivation by school leaders.

Of all the factors common to successful schools, it is puzzling that so little weight is given to leadership. In the film Waiting for Superman, excellent teaching is rightly given credit as a major factor in student achievement, but there is no discussion of the exceptional principals leading the schools shown.

via On Leadership Panelists: For education reform, turning our attention to principals – Michael Maccoby.