Each September, our mayor gives his State of the City address to the assembled membership of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, during the chamber’s annual induction of its new chairman and board. This year was a little bit different, as Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli addressed the chamber via Zoom. Still, it went fairly smoothly, even the traditional handing over of the gavel, which occurred magically (okay, the recipient had an exact copy stashed nearby).
For those who missed it, here are the salient points from the mayor’s speech: Invoking the words of Charles Darwin, the mayor noted that it was not the strongest or most intelligent of species that survived, but rather “the most adaptable.” The good news, says the mayor, is that “the city and the Chamber have adapted to the reality of COVID, making the changes needed to support our affected businesses through the pandemic.” He lauded the city, with chamber help, for the following:
- Setting up an Economic Recovery Task Force that combined the efforts of the city, the chamber and the downtown business improvement district (BID).
- Allowing restaurants, closed by the county, to use sidewalks, city property and street parking spaces to put tables outside for their diners.
- Issuing ongoing permits for zoning, new construction and remodeling without pause, moving its operations to the courtyard of City Hall.
- Providing rental lease deferments to tenants on city property, as well as micro-grants and technology webinars for small businesses.
The mayor praised the efforts by all to support outdoor art, including the upcoming projects to paint murals along Miracle Mile (November), to hang crystal and plexiglass “constellations” over Giralda Plaza (January) and to inaugurate the first Illuminate Coral Gables project to dramatically light up downtown buildings (January).
Mayor Valdés-Fauli also pointed out the city’s nimble adaption of technology, including virtual city commission meetings, virtual Adult Activity Center classes and support group forums, and the ongoing conduct of all city business through remote technology.
In the end, said the mayor, “If there’s any bright side to this pandemic, it’s been the time it’s given us to spend together with our loved ones and enjoy the nature that surrounds us” – and to reboot “our physical and technological infrastructure” in order “that Coral Gables will keep on adapting, just as we did in our early history, to ensure continued economic prosperity for all.”