An Interview With City Commissioner Jorge Fors, Jr.
In April, Coral Gables attorney Jorge Fors, Jr. defeated Ralph Cabrera in a runoff for the Group IV seat on the Coral Gables City Commission. We sat with Commissioner Fors in his office at City Hall to ask him about the election, and what his priorities are for the coming four years of his term. These are his answers, edited for brevity and clarity.
Why Did You Run For Office?
I moved here when I was 14. Later, I bought my own home here. And, as former president of the Coral Gables Bar Association, I started becoming more involved with the city… The turning point was when I had my daughter, who is 10- months-old now. From one day to the next, I started looking more toward the future. I started identifying threats to our quality of life and ways to improve our quality of life… So I thought, “What better way to ensure those things – that she is able to grow up in the same Coral Gables that I was able to grow up in – than to try to get into City Hall?’
How Did You Win The Election?
It was a tough campaign, a contentious race [but] I think I won really for two reasons. I think the residents wanted to see a new face here they hadn’t seen before, and secondly because I really made an effort to reach out, on a one-to-one basis, with so many residents. By the end I had knocked on close to 5,000 doors [and] I think when speaking to me, they could tell that I really had the best intentions of trying to do what they wanted for the city.
Do You Feel You Know What The Citizens Want?
I found that [going door to door] put me in touch with what the people really want, what they were feeling. In many cases I found that we shared the same views, but in some cases I found that we didn’t. Nothing really hooks you up the heartbeat of the community like talking to 5,000 folks face to face… There were many cases when I spoke to people for an hour.
Are You For Or Against The Annexation of Little Gables?
I’ve expressed concerns and criticized the plan for the annexation of Little Gables, specifically because there are a lot of things about the deal that don’t make sense to me from a financial perspective… I’m also opposed to the general proposition of expanding our city or our government. [Nonetheless] if it makes sense at the end of the day, I’ll be onboard with it. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t be.
What About High Pines/Ponce Davis
It makes more sense for the simple reason that High Pines and Ponce Davis will to pay for itself when we annex them, and not only pay for themselves, but result in a windfall. So right out of the gates, the main issue I take with Little Gables is not present in High Pines/Ponce Davis.
Are We Being Overdeveloped?
I don’t think you can say across the board that we are being overdeveloped. I think you can certainly say that we are at risk of being overdeveloped, and that the appetite for development in Coral Gables is more aggressive than it’s ever been – and for that reason we have to be very careful with how we proceed during the next 10 years. If we simply permit developers to build, build, build, we will no longer have the Coral Gables that we have come to know and love.
I think that the real answer is to create a true master plan… It’s obviously a huge undertaking to create a master plan, but I think it needs to be done, because we need to come to terms with the fact that the city is going to grow. We don’t want to wake up one morning after permitting ad hoc developments here, and ad hoc developments there, to find out that we’ve overdeveloped our city. Because once we have overdeveloped our city there is really no coming back.
What Other Issues Are Important To You?
Other issues important to me include supporting downtown businesses and our downtown economy… I’d also like to work toward improving our education options. Another thing that’s important to me is that we preserve the historic character and artistic culture of our city.
My overall vision for Coral Gables is to have a city where the downtown is on par with any other, but at the same time be three minutes away from suburban homes where people can raise their children. The city has been trying to accomplish this for as long as it’s been around, and it’s what I would like to continue to work for.