And The City of Coral Gables Going In Debt!

The irrationality of the city manager’s proposal and the commissioners’ approval of a new spending and debt package for Coral Gables is now crowned by the persistent double dip in housing prices across the country.

The blind push for spending and debt, sacrificing taxpayers and employees in the process, is a hugely disappointing outcome of the recent election.

The ominous new drop for the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of 20 cities, a key measure that is closely watched by economists, casts further doubt about the future of the housing market’s recovery. The index pushed below its previous bottom hit in April 2009, confirming a much-feared double-dip in home prices.

via Case-Shiller home-price index hits new low – latimes.com.

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.”

Louis Vuitton on Miracle Mile?

Executives of the French brand known for its trademark handbags and accessories said this week they will leave the Bal Harbour Shops at the end of June and move to Aventura Mall where they will eventually more than double the size of their store. Also on the agenda: opening a second store in the burgeoning Miami Design District by 2014.

via Louis Vuitton moving to Aventura Mall, Design District – Business – MiamiHerald.com.

This counters the many unrealistic expectations about the future of Miracle Mile, except from the property owners who would like to have taxpayer subsidies.  Miracle Mile will never be much more than it is now, even with new shrubs, sidewalks and thoroughfares, even with a pile of subsidies from the taxpayers.  Miracle Mile will never be a Dadeland Mall, a Merrick Park, the Design District and surely not Aventura Mall.  The adjacent Museum has apparently failed from the start.

Then what is the justification for spending a risky $16 million of city debt on this street, eliminating parking, cutting down the existing trees…

A task for the new commission of the city of Coral Gables is to bring this project into a realistic perspective.

Coral Gables: Assessed Property Values versus Real Estate Prices

Take a look at the real estate section of the Neighborhood Section  of the Miami Herald any recent Sunday.

You will find that the assessed values of the properties are, on average, 35% higher than the sale prices  of the properties (more or less selected at random).

Friends, assessed property values will continue to decline in Coral Gables.  The city will be under pressure to keep raising our taxes.

The only real question for commission and mayoral candidates in the city of Coral Gables:  What is your position on property taxes and fees?

Coral Gables, Wake Up: State Situation is More Pressure to Raise Property Taxes

This describes a Florida, Miami-Dade and Coral Gables that will face more property tax declines.  Unless governments keep reducing outrageous public salaries and benefits and control other spending and staffing, Coral Gables’ taxpayers will have to pay more next year, without doubt.

This is a strong reason to bring in a new mayor and commissioners.

Jobs growth is anemic, she said, and the housing market is still in the tank. Florida’s gross-domestic product was 45th in the country in 2009, and dead last in 2008. In comparison,  Florida’s GDP was fourth-best in the country in 2005.

Personal income has been slowly growing since the second quarter of 2009 in Florida, but the state still ranks only 37th in this category. The state’s October unemployment rate of 11.9 percent was the nation’s fourth-worst, and population growth is nearly flat.

At the same time, existing home sales are slowing, prices are flat and Florida had the second-highest foreclosure rates in the country in October. Cape Coral-Fort Myers had the second-highest number of foreclosures among metro markets in the country in October, Miami-Fort Lauderdale was the seventh-worst, and Orlando-Kissimmee was the 10th-worst.

“It is still very slow, a very gradual recovery,” Baker told the Senate Budget Committee Tuesday morning, cautioning that Florida’s time frame for an economic rebound would lag the national picture “because it’s driving both our tourism and our population growth.”

via State economist: Revenues down, Medicaid costs up – Central Florida Political Pulse – Orlando Sentinel.