Mayor Lago Lays Out His Priorities
When Vince Lago was elected mayor earlier this year, he launched something he called the 100 Days of Listening tour. From May 1 to August 13, Mayor Lago met with homeowners’ associations, civic organizations, business leaders, city employees, and individual citizens visiting his office. He also issued an online survey/ questionnaire that was filled out by 1,100 residents.
The results of that input have now been formulated into a Strategic Priorities Plan. All are part of his mission, says the mayor, to govern with integrity and transparency. “I think there has been a perception on the part of residents that city hall has not been responsive to what they want,” says Mayor Lago. “There is also a sense that the government here has not been sufficiently transparent. This was clear in what people told me, and this is something we will change.”
The Priorities of the Strategic Plan
Priority #1 Transparency
To operate an open form government where information is disclosed and easy to access, including via an improved city website.
Priority #2 Accountability
Create independent bodies to make sure the city acts responsibly in finance and development, and task forces for transportation and environmental issues.
Priority #3 Engage Everyone in Outreach
Expand all opportunities for more citizen input, including community forums, town hall meetings, weekly office hour sessions, and a council of neighborhood associations.
Priority #4 Enhance Quality of Life, Business, and Culture
Make the city more livable via better public transport, safer streets, more parks, expanded cultural events, and completion of the Gables segment of the Underline.
Priority #5 Environmental Stewardship
Create a more sustainable city, reduce our carbon footprint, improve energy savings and educate the community on the importance of caring for the environment.
Priority #6 Preserve the Historic Integrity of the City
Stick to the city’s zoning codes, reevaluate the Mediterranean Bonus program (that allows for the zoning code to be broken), and under- ground the FPL power lines.
Priority #7 Maintain A Safe and Healthy City
Take all safety precautions for Covid-19, complete the new fire station, and conduct a referendum on annexing High Pines and Ponce Davis to make the city’s borders more secure.
Priority #8 Improve Customer-Focused Service
Improve the Building Department’s turnaround times for residential and commercial permits, make a mobile-permit program available, and make the city website more user friendly.
The State of the City Address
At the end of September, Mayor Lago delivered his first State of the City Address to the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, an annual tradition. This year’s address was made to a smaller than usual group of civic and business leaders, in deference to the pandemic.
Mayor Lago’s theme was “Reimagining Coral Gables,” something he said entails putting in place “strategies that will enable our city to stay ahead of the curve in meeting the demands of the 21st Century.” A key part of that reimagining involves the use of technology, “a place where we really shine,” said Mayor Lago. He cited the new Smart City Pole on Alhambra Circle, which includes environmental sensors, as well as the city’s current transition to online applications for permits and its plan for a downtown Mobility Hub with shared ride services and electric charging stations.
The Mayor also hit on themes he has long championed as a city commissioner, including efforts to create more open, green spaces in the city (with dog parks, too). “A reimagined future means residents and visitors can enjoy a park or open space within a 10-minute walk of any place in the city,” he told the audience. He also committed the city to pursue more cultural events downtown, and to create a new farmers’ and crafts’ market in the north Ponce de Leon neighborhood.
Sustainability is another area the mayor has staunchly advocated, and he announced that the city will set aside $100 million for sea-level rise mitigation by 2040. He also lauded the program (which he sponsored) to waive permit fees for solar installations, and the city’s requirement that future buildings larger than 20,000 square feet be built to LEED standards for water and energy efficiency.