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At Its Last Meeting in December, the City Commission: 

Listened to Fire Chief Marcos de La Rosa commend his firefighters for taking 1st place in the North American Vehicle Rescue Association’s annual competition for speedy, safe rescue operations. The team had practiced in an auto junk yard, with off duty firefighters volunteering as trapped victims. 

Gave the key to the city to Raúl Valdés-Fauli for his years of service as a City Commissioner and Mayor (twice). Mayor Vince Lago apologized for the long wait to give the ex-mayor the key, but Lago refused to give any keys to the city that were not made in America (the previous stock of keys had been made in Communist China). 

Squelched rumors that Gables billionaire John Ruiz was moving ahead with plans to tear down Coral Gables High School to build a football stadium for the University of Miami. “This is not the first time that misinformation has circulated like wildfire,” said Mayor Lago, adding that the rumors were “ludicrous and reckless.” 

Reiterated its commitment to never support curbside pickup of garbage, rather than backyard removal. “That is against the quality of life in Coral Gables,” said Mayor Lago, who also implored residents to get rid of trash pits in the swales in front of their homes. “The city will fill in your trash pit and replace it with grass, for free,” he said. 

Reviewed the projected cost and income from the planned Mobility Hub on Andalusia Avenue. The commission was responding to concerns by the Coral Gables Neighborhood Association that costs of the $42 million parking structure would be a money drain. While estimates of parking income do fall below the cost of borrowing to build, income from retail on the ground floor, and events on the rooftop park, would put the project into the black. 

Rejected 3-1 commissioner Rhonda Anderson’s request to send the design of the Mobility Hub back to the city’s Board of Architects for revisions. Anderson expressed concerns that the surface of the building would reflect heat onto the street, and that it’s steep entrance ramp would be difficult for elderly drivers. Commissioner Kirk Menendez was absent for the vote. 

Reviewed the city’s options to enforce requirements that businesses keep the front and back of their properties clean, including removing weeds, pressure cleaning sidewalks, and picking up any trash. Warnings began in December, and citations will begin this month. 

Voted 4-0 to approve a $2 million giant, bronze KAWS mouse statue by artist Brian Donnelly, (shown above) to be placed in the courtyard of Plaza Coral Gables. Installation is planned for January 2023. “It is very family friendly,” said Carlos Beckmann, managing director of the Plaza project. “We wanted to stay away from controversial sculpture.” Commissioner Menendez was absent for the vote. 

Rejected appeals from different community leaders and activists that alternatives for the design of the futuristic Mobility Hub be presented to the public. “How many versions of this were shown? One. That is disappointing,” said Dr. Gordon Sokoloff to commissioners. “For $2 million [in design fees] we deserve to see more.” Vice Mayor Michael Mena, an advocate for the modern design, said the Mediterranean style parking lot on Aragon Avenue was an alternative look. Commissioner Jorge Fors, noting that a 961-signature petition to stop the modern design represented less than two percent of Gables residents, said, “It’s intellectually dishonest to assume that the majority of people are against this.” 

Rejected requests from Sue Kawalerski, chair of the Transportation Advisory Board, that the ground floor of the new Mobility Hub be entirely devoted to micro-mobility – with bike lanes, bike storage, scooter parking, charging stations, etc. Retail on the ground floor will remain, at least for now. 

Voted 4-0 to deny an eight percent cost of living increase for city employees retired before 2014. Commissioner Menendez was absent for the vote.

Listened to progress on Mayor Lago’s agenda to build additional sidewalks, and sidewalk access to bridges, in the Gables.

Listened to a presentation by Julian Perez, director of the Economic Development Department, on a proposal by Mayor Lago, for a series of five international cultural events in the Gables, to celebrate the city’s cultural diversity and to lure more foreign consulates to the city. One event will be the Mexican “Dia de los Muertos.” 

By: James Broida