The City of Coral Gables and the FPL

The mayor and city commissioners of the City of Coral Gables questioned from the start the preparation and response of the FPL in reactivating the cities’ electric power system, which was disproportionately hit by a relatively intensive  tropical storm (out of Hurricane Irma) on September 9 and 10.  The municipality of Coral Gables was hit  by the large number of fallen trees, broken trunks and branches and the subsequent loss of electric power, telephone, cable services throughout the city, with some sections more than the others.

The City of Coral Gables leadership states that the reason for the larger impact of the storm on the cities’ trees and the electric power outages was that the FPL electric system was deficient and that the power company had not done enough to construct and manage a more resistant system.  Also, FPL failed to follow up to protect the system consistently from prior years hurricanes that had smaller impacts but were stronger hurricanes and tropical storms.  Based on this writers personal observation the effect of the IRMA tropical storm was equivalent or greater that previous hurricanes.

To this date the city still shows a lot of fallen trees and branches.



Volsky on Cason-Cabrera Debate


By George Volsky

Coral Gables, March 10. Last night’s mayoral debate, a confrontation between Mayor Jim Cason and his repeated challenger, former commissioner Ralph Cabrera, did not, for me, change anything. It will not to be a surprise to the readers of this column when I say that I support Cason for mayor in the April 14 election. I did it two years ago when his reelection bid was also contested by Cabrera, and in 2011 when his principal opponent was former mayor Don Slesnick.

In 2011, the Slesnick electoral machine was out in force supporting Cabrera. That cabal, as many people call it, was humiliated more than Cabrera by his unprecedented trouncing. This time the “Slesnickites” are less visible in Ralph’s corner because they have three other candidates to support and fund.

These are: 1. Jeannett Slesnick who practically at the 11th hour decided to run for commissioner in Group 5; 2. Ariel Fernandez, a candidate in the same group, whose campaign was badly shaken last week by the disclosure that he had hidden from his pre-election political résumé two years of his life when he was a top aide of the former U.S. congressman David Rivera, said to be under criminal investigation by the FBI; 3. Enrique Lopez – a close ally of the Slesnicks and a very close friend of the disgraced city manager David Brown – who wants to replace Commissioner Frank Quesada. (Quesada and Lopez will debate March 16, and all 10 candidates again March 30.)

While the Monday night debate, moderated expertly by Elliott Rodriguez, did not change my preference, it apparently influenced some in the numerous public watching it at the Congregational Church: when the debate started more people applauded Cabrera, but after it ended Cason’s applause was much louder than that his opponent’s.

As is usual with challengers, Cabrera went on the offensive: he blamed Cason for: 1. supposedly not doing enough for public safety; 2. allegedly supporting overdevelopment ; 3. thus endangering “our style of life.” (For a good measure he also censured the mayor for traffic congestion.) Not coincidently, the three issues are exact copies of the platform of Jeannett Slesnick, as printed in her Herald advertisement Sunday.

Public Safety is a bogus but inflammatory issue that comes up periodically in the city. About 20 years ago, a number of mothers with children, residents of North Gables, in a well-orchestrated campaign, jammed the commission chambers demanding that streets leading to SW 8th Street be cordoned off to fend them from a “wave of crime” invading their neighborhood from Miami and threatening their lifestyle.

The commission closed 8th Street exits of some streets and nothing happened in the neighborhood except that owners of several houses, whose value increased by the closure, sold them quite profitably and moved elsewhere.

This time the “crime” campaign, launched at the beginning of 2014 by the Slesnicks’ lobby ”Good Government,” opened its first salvo last September when a number of people, among them Ariel Fernandez, addressing the City Commission accused the Police Department of “doctoring” crime reports to show that criminality was declining.

When an FBI inspection team certified the veracity the PD’s reporting – and thus of the decline in the city’s crime – the “crime vigilantes” changed gears. ”Yeah,” they began saying, as did Jeannett in her political advertisement and Cabrera on Monday, “but you [the mayor and the commission] did nothing to fill up the 18 vacancies on the police force”

When told by Cason that it takes a long time to recruit the best qualified police officers, and that the city is already getting them, Cabrera (no longer questioning the statistics reporting our crime decline) backed off the subject and moved to “over-development.”

What I found most objectionable in Cabrera’s Monday appearance was his suggestion that because Cason has received campaign contributions from several developers he would favor their plans with his influence and vote. This coming from someone who has insurance business in Coral Gables (and who also reported developer donations) was totally out of place. (Cason let it pass.)

Knowing Ralph as I do, I suspect that the Cason conflict of interest statement was insinuated upon him by some of his backers, and he, unwisely voiced it. It backfired,

Jim Cason is a retired U.S. diplomat with an unimpeachable record, the best proof of which is that he was asked by the State Department to inspect the operations of the U.S. Bagdad Embassy, America’s largest. Neither he or any member of his family is engaged in business activities. He and his wife Carmen live modestly in a comfortable Alhambra Circle house – not a mansion. Having observed his actions for the past four years, I can unambiguously state that he has been inspired – right or wrong – only by what he believes are the best interests of his city.

That brings me to the much repeated political slogan “the preservation of our lifestyle,” which Cabrera – and virtually all local politicians – want to ”fight for.”

The slogan seems to me as phony as they come. Has any politician defined what “style of life” he or she is being talked about? Is it the lifestyle of this city’s residents of the 1930s, 1940s, 1970s, or 2010s?

Let me explain it better describing my “historic” house build by a prominent architect in 1937. Its first owner, a physician, saw nothing wrong in that the house had small closets, that its bathrooms could barely accommodate one person and that its kitchen was minute. Between the 1930s and 1960s he probably had a cook. That she worked in a hot, cramped ambience that wasn’t his concern. (Having bought it 50 years ago, I had no means to make major internal changes.)

My house was built for the lifestyle of the 1930s or 1940s. Is this what we want to preserve? Residences today – even modest ones, have spacious bathrooms and a very ample kitchen where the family’s life is practically centered. This is the contemporary lifestyle that we enjoy, nobody knows what the next one will be like. So let’s stop exaggerating that subject, sometimes to the point of platonic absurdity.

I have known Ralph a long time and, although he might not think so, I like him. But because for years he has been susceptible to wrong advice, he has invariably been on the losing side of political battles. Following others, who have used him (often as a sacrificial lamb) for their own nefarious goals, he has failed to develop the quality of “gravitas,” the Roman virtue which in that time encompassed seriousness, dignity and importance. Jim Cason had it all along.

Sandra Murado Tops (George Volsky)

SANDRA MURADO TOPS                                                                GROUP 5 COMMISSION SEBATE

By George Volsky

Coral Gables, March 4. The first thing that most people ask after a political debate is: “Who won?” This is a sport-related question, and even in some sports there is a draw. The proper question is who was the best between two or among several debate participants. In politics voters anoint the winners. (And not even voters. George W. Bush in affect became president after five conservative members of the Supreme Court stopped the counting of Florida votes when it appeared they were favoring Al Gore.)

Monday night the Coral Gables Forum sponsored the first debate leading to our April 14 election. At stake are the post of mayor, in which Mayor Jim Cason, seeking his second reelection, is challenged by former commissioner Ralph Cabrera, in his second try to defeat Cason. Then Commissioner Frank Quesada faces Enrique Lopez, involved in local politics as an acolyte of former mayor Don Slesnick and a close friend of the former, disgraced city manager David Brown.

The third position on the April 14 ballot is the open seat of Vice Mayor William Kerdyk, Jr. who had decided to take a two-year hiatus from active politics for business and family reasons. Six contenders in this contest are: Ariel Fernandez, whose own résumé stresses his 11 years of unspecified service for Con. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R.FL); Rip Holmes, a perennial, unsuccessful commission candidate who says he runs so that his views can be heard; attorney J.P. Mitchell and business executive Tony Newall, both commission candidates two years ago; attorney Sandra Murado, in her first electoral try; and Jeannett Slesnick, the wife of the former mayor, who had run for the same job 32 years ago.

In the April 12, 1983 election she was one of nine candidates who vied for the seat of William Kerdyk, Sr. She was trounced. She came sixth, leaving in her wake only three virtually unknown men.

Back to the Monday debate. The view of a number of serious, independent viewers, and my own, is that Sandra Murado – surprisingly because that was her political debut – topped the group. Why? The consensus of opinion was that she was the only one who answered the debate moderator’s questions with clear, well-articulated declarative sentences; she was a young, serious woman who projected quiet authority and good grasp of city affairs. She did not begin – as many politician do – replying a question with “this is a very good question” or ending with “we have to study this problem carefully,” both trite phrases indicating a lack of knowledge of the subject. In the course of the 100 minute debate several candidates even deferred to Sandra’s previously-expressed views.

A couple of my friends also stated that Tony Newell also did well. But all agreed that the two losers were Jeannett Slesnick and Ariel Fernandez. They opined that the Jeannett candidacy was harking back the voters to the unfortunate, decade-long Slesnick-Brown rule, which everybody wants to forget. The Slesnicks would have us forget it too, commented one humorously: “Before Jeannett threw in her towel, the family at least paid the city $846 which their son, Don III, owned for unpaid garbage collection.”

Why is Jeanett Slesnick now running for office? residents are asking. It’s because on Dec. 22, 2014, a few weeks before she filed her candidate application, she sent out a public letter to friends stating: “I have Lymphoma Cancer.” Explaining in detail her extensive cancer treatment, including “two surgeries,” and “chemo” sessions that would end in January, she declined a request from a close friend to chair a volunteer effort this Summer. “I also thank several hundred of you who continually ask me to run for mayor or commissioner… However, I am devoting myself to the healing process at the moment. It is amazing how time consuming it is to get well (and how expensive too).”

Jeannett, one supporter wrote, “is arguably more popular and better known than her husband… a seasoned pro who has run all his campaigns.” While the “more popular & better known” is making the eagle scream, she has been – and at the end of the debate she acknowledged it – totally in league with Don’s leadership.

Thus the first topic of the evening – the $245 million deficit in the city’s pension obligations – must have been embarrassing to Jeannett. The pension debt is the most infamous and long-lasting “gift” that the Slesnick/Brown 10-year long regime left to Coral Gables’ present and future taxpayers. In 2001, when Slesnick was elected mayor, Coral Gable’s current and future pension obligations were fully funded, and the city had a sizeable cash reserve. When the Slesnick-Brown administration ended, it left the city almost cash empty.

The entry of Jeannett Slesnick into electoral arena also means that the Slesnicks have candidates in the three races. Enrique Lopez could not be more a Slesnick poodle. He was chairman of a small Slesnick publicity group called “Good Government,” and is, or was, with Don Slesnick an executive of the controversial Dade Medical College, whose president/owner, according to the Herald a convicted felon, was charged in Miami “with two counts of perjury.”

Ariel Fernandez is also on the Slesnick bandwagon. Last September he participated in what residents saw and one described as a “Jeannett-orchestrated crime scare.” Ariel, witnesses recall, after talking at length with Jeannett outside the City Commission chamber, spoke to the commissioners supporting her view that crime was on an increase in Coral Gables, insinuating that the Police Department was covering it up. Several weeks later, an FBI inspection team concluded that our police reporting was totally accurate.

Considerably incorrect, however, are the numbers in Ariel Fernandez’s chronology of his “life achievements.” He says he graduated from high school in 1999 and that in his senior year he was an intern in the office of Con. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Then (presumably after four years) in 2003 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from FIU, after which he worked in the Ros-Lehtinen office for 11 years, without indicating where and in what capacity. That brings Ariel up to 2014 and his job as president of a PR and marketing firm.

Ariel’s chronology is wrong, disturbingly wrong. According to the U.S. Congress House Staff Directory, only between 2009 and 2011 Fernandez was “Congressional Aide” of Rep. Ros-Lehtinen – 3 years not 11 as his résumé states. Moreover, in 2011, 2012 and 2013 Ariel was “Deputy District Director” of Con. David Rivera.

Can a man, especially one who aspires for an elected position, forget several years of his life when he was the “Deputy District Director,” a high post on an U.S. congressman’s staff, maybe even with a high security clearance?

According to multiple news reports, while Fernandez was working for Rivera over $85,000 in cash was given to a penniless politician to run in his reelection race, presumably to syphon off votes from his Democratic Party opponent. Two persons connected with the case, including the recipient of the cash. have already been convicted of felony by a Miami Federal District Court.

Climate Change USA

The Brookings Institution nicely summarizes the main conclusions of the recently published National Climate Assessment (NCA).

1. Warming has been driven by human activity.

Human activities are the primary cause of warming over the past 50 years. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by more than 40 percent since the industrial revolution, through the burning of fossil fuels and continued deforestation…

2. Climate change impacts are happening now.

Temperatures in the United States have already increased 1.3 to 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895 (most of it since 1970) and in most areas of the United States temperatures are projected to rise by another 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit over the next few decades…

3. Climate change impacts will continue into the future.

Temperatures across the United States as well as in oceans and freshwater lakes are projected to rise. This will be accompanied by more heavy downpours, severe droughts, and wildfires. Sea levels are projected to rise by another 1 to 4 feet this century.

4. Climate change will adversely affect the economy and quality of life.

These impacts will have negative repercussions for human health, water supply, agriculture, transportation, energy, and coastal areas where nearly 5 million Americans and billions of dollars worth of property are located…

5. Vulnerable regions and sectors will be disproportionately affected.

Doubts about the US as Democracy