As planning and zoning director for the city of Coral Gables, I would like to dispel the misinformation being disseminated in your letters page. In the latest case, a letter published Sept. 15, Coral Gables resident Vilma Banks writes that she is worried that the city plans to amend its zoning code to allow night clubs and late-night bars in downtown to “please the younger generation.”
This letter echoes the unfounded statements made by former mayor Don Slesnick in a letter published Aug. 25. It is well known among the writing profession that the truth seldom catches up with an untruth. Therefore it is important to respond once again.
We had hoped that the response from our development services director, Jane Tompkins, who oversees my office, would have set the record straight. As she so aptly put it, the former mayor’s “misrepresentations, along with the statement that the city would allow ‘flashing neon signs and 5 a.m. closing times,’ are akin to someone setting a fire and, then, pulling the alarm to save the day.” In her letter, Banks seems to be answering that false alarm.
As the city’s planning and zoning director, I can assure Banks that her concern that the city would forget “ ‘elderly’ citizens who [want] to keep the city safe from wild parties that may disrupt … our charming city” is unfounded. There is no plan to amend the zoning code to allow “wild parties” or disruptive uses.
In fact, the city remains strongly committed to our seniors. To meet the demands of this growing population, the City Commission has recently funded Coral Gables’ first full-service Senior Center, filling a need that had long been neglected.
Our goal is to keep the city’s downtown a beautiful place of world-class sophistication, preserving our city’s heritage while enhancing its beauty — creating a place of lasting value.
We can only hope these facts will catch up with the untruths being spread.
Ramon Trias, Planning & Zoning Director, City of Coral Gables
A tax by any other name
The city of Coral Gables, like several other municipalities, is resorting to games in order to claim that they are holding the line on taxes and budget. However, over the past few years residents have seen new and increasing “fees” that allow the City Commission and the City Manager to move tax receipts to areas of their interest. The latest is the increase in the fire fee from $50 to $70, which frees up $800,000 of tax revenues for other uses. This would be an interesting sleight of hand if done by a magician, but it doesn’t seem appropriate in the context of city financing.
For sure, some city services seem appropriate as fees. For example, building permits or trash-collection costs should be allocated to those residences using the services. But fire protection? Is this not a general-interest service that is provided, like police protection, across the community? Why should this be funded in part or in whole differently from any other basic city service. The answer is simple — "because we can!" And, by doing so, we get to claim holding the line on taxes, if anyone believes this story.
If it looks like a tax, and smells like a tax, then it is a tax. Come on, commissioners, let’s be honest with the residents and stop playing games.