Latest News From City Hall

At Its December Meeting, The Coral Gables City Commission: 

Voted 4-0 to Support “Codemania,” a coding competition for high school students. The three-week competition will culminate with an event on March 3 at the University of Miami. Students will be prompted to provide “real-world solutions for things that involve the city, such as helping a resident connect with community groups or resources or helping someone plan a day in the city or… figure out how to take public transit,” said assistant city attorney Naomi Levi Garcia. The solution may be used in the city’s website. (Sponsored by Commissioner Menendez)

Listened to an update on plans to improve Biltmore Way. The update: initial street improvements, including suggestions for a bike lane, will be presented on January 19 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the First United Methodist Church, 536 Coral Way. (Sponsored by Commissioner Anderson)

On second (final) readings, confirmed 4-0 the new city ordinances: 1) requiring residents to cooperate with FPL in the undergrounding of power lines attached to homes, 2) prohibiting smoking in any city-owned parks, and 3) limiting the heights of plants set in public rights of way.

Voted 4-0 on first reading to officially dissolve the special Business Improvement District (BID) in the downtown.

Voted 4-0 on First Reading to Change the way letters of historic determination are issued. Currently, such letters are sent only to the homeowner. The new ordinance requires the historic designations (or lack thereof ) to be posted online, along with all supporting documents. There is then a 10-day period for anyone to request an appeal of the decision, followed by three weeks to provide a full report by the person making the appeal. After that, the decision cannot be challenged. (Sponsored by Commissioner Anderson)

Voted 4-0 to authorize the city manager and City Attorney to negotiate the sale of the Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs) for Miracle Theatre and Fink Studio. These are rights – to build an extra floor, for example – that can be sold to a developer for use in another location. Monies raised would go into a historic building fund. “This is part of an ongoing effort by this commission to get additional funds for our landmarks, historic buildings, and historic structures,” said Commissioner Menendez, and a “very helpful and creative way” to get funds for the upkeep of older buildings.

Commissioner Menendez’s photo of Catalonia Park

Listened to a presentation by commissioner Menendez regarding the first free-run dog area in the city at Catalonia Park. “I pulled over because I couldn’t believe what I saw,” he said. “I walked over and introduced myself… The most interesting thing was that, without me asking, they started chanting, ‘Thank you Coral Gables.’”

Listened to a presentation by city Communications Director Martha Pantin on plans to celebrate the city’s Centennial in 2025. The city will begin a year’s worth of festivities at the end of 2024 with the lighting of the city Christmas tree. “We want to build and strengthen the sense of community,” said Pantin. “We want it to be a celebration that is not only in Coral Gables, but one that recognizes us… as a great city.” Among numerous ideas suggested were lighting up buildings, opening the police and fire departments to public visits, and commissioning a sculpture to commemorate the importance of the Bahamian immigrants and workers to the community. The city will coordinate centennial celebrations with the University of Miami, the Coral Gables Garden Club, and the Church of the Little Flower, all also founded in 1925.

Voted 4-0 to appoint former Mayor Jim Cason to fill the City Commission seat vacated by Jorge Fors. Prior to the vote, the Commission listened to pro and con comments about Maria Cruz, a resident who also applied for the position. Mrs. Cruz, a citizen advocate who regularly criticizes the Commission, was endorsed by the Coral Gables Neighbors Association. Opponents to Mrs. Cruz’ appointment had cited an old ethics violation, and Mrs. Cruz tearfully read from a 15-year-old letter exonerating her from the charges. She asked to read the letter into the public record for the sake of her reputation.

“Miss Cruz, I’m sorry you had to experience this. It’s tough,” Vice Mayor Michael Mena then told her. “It’s part of sitting up here, though. A lot of us have felt the way you felt today,” he said, then naming City Asset Manager Zeida Sardinas, City Attorney Miriam Ramos, Mayor Lago, and City Manager Peter Iglesias, all of whom have come under attack by blogs associated with Mrs. Cruz. “I think their spouses and children have felt the way you felt today, when ethics complaints are filed against people with no basis, when articles are written that are baseless, and based on a lot of misinformation.” Mena then added, “Rather than decide [the Commission seat] based on internet polls and neighborhood associations, let’s decide who the people’s choice is the way Americans do it – with an election in April.”