Talk of the Town in July

Not the Batmobile, but still… 

On a recent morning it straddled a half dozen parking spaces in front of City Hall, its antenna raised some 50 feet into the air, its sides emblazoned with city seals and the words “Mobile Command Center.” On display for the public and city commissioners, it is the city’s latest high-tech tool to deal with emergencies – a rolling package of computers and communication systems that can serve as a command central should anything happen to the Public Safety Building. “The idea is that, in this unit, if we were to lose our main 911 center and our backup 911 center, we could run the entire city’s operations – police and fire – all from this vehicle, via satellite,” said Police Chief Ed Hudak. “Everything is computerized and self-contained.” The $1.2 million command vehicle had been on Chief Hudak’s wish list for years and was only affordable through the sale of property confiscated from criminals by the city’s police department. Inside are seats for five operators, each with a screen that can monitor the city’s street camera system – or use cameras atop the satellite poles to see miles in any direction. There is also a mini conference room (accommodated by the outward expansion of the vehicle’s walls) where city officials can meet to deal with emergencies. We are not sure what kind of natural disaster could level the Public Safety Building, but it’s good to know that we can handle it.

Talk of the Town July

Kudos for Fairchild 

Talk of the Town July

The USA TODAY 10 Best travel guide, which is a readers’ choice award, just voted Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden as the best Botanic Garden in the nation. Something about “the warm climate of Coral Gables” that allows tropical plants to grow all year outdoors. Plus, those exotic butterflies in the conservatory. But we knew that! 

A Win for Autistic Kids (and their parents) 

After years of lobbying by parents and healthcare activists, the Miami-Dade County school system is adding a self-contained autism program at Ponce de Leon Middle School for the 2022-2023 school year. Previously, parents of middle-school age children with autism had to enroll in private academies or leave the Gables. “This is a huge win for Coral Gables residents,” says Mary Palacio (above), founder of the Crystal Academy [for children with autism]. 

Jeannett Gets It 

Former city commissioner and realtor Jeannett Slesnick has been feted with the 2022 Martin Hughes Coral Gables Citizen of the Year Award by the Rotary Club. The award cited Slesnick’s numerous contributions, including as president of the Jr. Orange Bowl, chair of the Coral Gables Community Foundation, secretary of
the Coral Gables Museum, vice chair of the Historic Preservation Board, and for ten years 1st Lady of Coral Gables (when husband Don was mayor). She and Don recently donated $100,000 to the foundation for scholarships. Jeannett also publishes Jeannett’s Journal with news about the town. 

A Poetic Remembrance 

Talk of the Town July

In early June, the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables held a second annual ceremony in observation of Founder’s Day at the 1920s Fink-designed home of Brett Gillis, a board member of the Association. The event garnered about 30 guests who came to listen to Miami-Dade’s first poet laureate, Richard Blanco, who read from city founder George Merrick’s 1920 book “Songs of the Wind on a Southern Shore, and other Poems of Florida.” In attendance were Mayor Vince Lago; former Mayor Dorothy Thomson; Joanne Meagher, Chair of the Merrick House; Jane Maranos, Vice Chair of the Landmarks Advisory Board; Rafi Maldonado-Lopez, Principal Managing Director, Sanctuary of the Arts; and Warren Adams, Director Historical Resources, Coral Gables. “We had a poet celeb in our midst, and George was smiling,” said Karelia Carbonell, president of the Historic Preservation Association. 

A Record Windfall from the State 

The Florida legislature approved a record $3.5 million for projects in Coral Gables, of which $2.525 million survived Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto (he killed $975,000 for the proposed Mobility Hub). Among the approved allocations were $750,000 for the restoration of the historic Gondola Building and $500,000 for the city’s stormwater system. The only downside is that, except for two $200,000 park grants, all the funds required a 50 percent match from the city. Nonetheless, hats off to Mayor Vince Lago and the City Commission for their lobbying efforts. 

High Ratings for Gables Eateries 

Three Coral Gables restaurants were recently named to the Michelin guide’s Bib Gourmand category, an award that recognizes “good quality, good value restaurants.” Bachour, Zitz Sum, and Tinta Y Café, were all awarded – Zitz Sum despite a somewhat pricey menu. Zitz Sum also made it to the semifinalists for Best New Restaurant in the James Beard Awards earlier this year, as well as chef Antonio Bachour for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Niven Patel, of Orno and Mamey, was also a semifinalist in the Best Chef South category, although the Gables did not produce any winners, which were named on June 13. 

Advancing the Cure 

UM’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center has announced the construction of a new 244,000-square-foot advanced research and treatment facility on campus. The building, which UM calls “trans-formational,” will provide research and “ultramodern patient care” within the same facility. It will also focus on cancer treatment for minorities. Thanks to Miami’s diverse demographics, “We have an opportunity in Miami to design cures for different populations and amplify our impact to global communities,” said Julio Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., president of the University of Miami. 

The Power of Friends 

With the departure first of Nat Chediak, and then his replacement April Dobbins, the Coral Gables Art Cinema has been left without a programming director. Into the breach jumps executive director Brenda Moe, who says she always felt “left out of programming conversations and decisions” and is now enjoying the responsibility. To help her with the more arcane choices, Moe has launched a series called “In Exhibition With…” in which a friend from the film industry programs a month-long series. In June, it was “The Children of David Lynch and the New Surreal” programmed by Indie film producer Ted Hope, the man who launched Amazon’s movie production unit. In July, it will be “In Exhibition with… Flaming Classics,” flicks from the “queer canon” curated by film critic Juan Barquin and former Cosford Cinema executive director Trae DeLellis. The films will be shown in the “after hours” time slot Saturday nights.