The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Cason, Lago, Keon get nod


OUR OPINION: Herald’s picks for Coral Gables elections

Coral Gables has come out of the Great Recession stronger than ever. The budget is balanced, pension reform is under way and the property tax rate has been lowered — all promises kept by Mayor James Cason, who ran two years ago as a no-nonsense fix-it man.

Mr. Cason is facing Commissioner Ralph Cabrera, who is term-limited after 12 years in the Group 2 seat.

Mr. Cabrera cares for his city, but unfortunately his disagreements with City Manager Pat Salerno seem to have clouded his better judgment.

His campaign has turned negative and inaccurate. For instance, campaign ads claim a crime wave under the mayor’s watch, yet crime overall is way down compared to years ago.

Property crime — such as stolen bicycles and objects stolen from unlocked cars — has inched up, but the city is looking at police strategies to reverse the trend.

The mayor was not our pick two years ago, mostly because he had not lived in the city for long. But Mr. Cason has proved he’s a strong leader who works well with an able administrator. And he has a vision to improve Miracle Mile and make it more pedestrian-friendly.

Mr. Cason has done a good job of focusing the city on economic development, downtown improvements and reducing the financial burden on taxpayers to cover out-of-control city pensions that represent a $235 million unfunded liability. He has much more work to do to finish the job, including the city’s contract negotiations with the firefighters’ union.

Mayor Cason wants to use his second term to build up the city’s $12.5 million reserves to $20 million and improve public services and the Neighborhood Renaissance Program that has paved miles of city streets and restored the city’s historic entrances. He’s also looking to build a senior center as part of that program.

For Coral Gables mayor, The Miami Herald recommends the reelection of JAMES C. CASON.

Group 2

The candidates to replace Commissioner Ralph Cabrera are an engaging trio, all with strong roots in the city.

Ross Hancock, 58, is communications director for the American Welding Society. He wants to bring a voice concerned with local issues and those that extend beyond city borders, such as climate change. However, he is noncommital in his support of City Manager Pat Salerno, whose effectiveness and demeanor have become an issue in the mayor’s race.

Marlin Ebbert, 65, is a long-time Gables resident with an impressive record as an effective volunteer. She has been active in preservation, education and foster-care issues and is pleased with the job Mr. Salerno is doing.

This was a tough call, but this time Vicente Lago, 35, gets the Editorial Board’s nod.

A project executive for a construction firm, Mr. Lago has been an energetic member of the city’s planning and zoning board, which has given him a good look at how the city works. He supports the Miracle Mile Streetscape project, thinks pension reform is headed in the right direction and says he has a lot of respect for the city manager, saying Mr. Salerno has been “fiscally effective.”

For Coral Gables Commission, Group 2, The Miami Herald recommends VICENTE LAGO.

Group 3

Five candidates are running to replace Commissioner Maria Anderson, who is term-limited, in a race that includes some relatively new faces and others with a history of civic activity in Coral Gables.

The most prominent candidates are Patricia Brady Keon, 64, and Mary Young, 55, both of whom have served on a variety of city boards dealing with critical issues ranging from parking to property values. Jackson Rip Holmes, 62, a commercial property owner, is also running, along with energetic newcomers Tony Newell, 30, and P.J. Mitchell, 39.

Ms. Keon, who seemed particularly well versed on pensions — a major issue in the race — said the city manager has taken steps to resolve the problem, but she was highly critical of errors in actuarial estimates that created a near crisis in city finances. Ms. Young said revised packages for new employees should be considered in the future.

Both Ms. Young and Mr. Keon are strong candidates, with Ms. Young’s business experience a solid factor in her favor. Our choice, however, is Ms. Keon, whose thorough knowledge of the issues and years of experience on Coral Gables issues give her an edge.

For Coral Gables Commission, Group 3, The Miami Herald recommends PATRICIA BRADY KEON.

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